Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/18/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/18/2009A suicide bomber has killed twenty people in the province of Ingushetia in Russia’s Caucasus region. Meanwhile, Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei has called for a worldwide Muslim army — led by Iran, naturally — to hasten the arrival of the Mahdi.

In other news, Sweden is denying asylum to homosexual Iraqis.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Fjordman, Gaia, Insubria, JD, Lexington, Lurker from Tulsa, Sean O’Brian, TB, Tuan Jim, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
– – – – – – – –

Financial Crisis
Bahrain: Credit Crisis Hits Housing Market Deals
Japan: Record Drop of 8.5 Per Cent in July’s Wholesale Prices
Spain: Crisis Multiplies Number of Security Forces Candidates
Texas: More Than 30% of D-FW Mortgages Are Underwater, Study Says
40 Percent of Top DOD Appointments Unfilled
Artist of Obama “Joker” Poster Image Identified — And He’s Not a Conservative
Civil Debate at Congressman Dan Boren’s Town Hall Meetings
Democrats Engaged in Bait and Switch
Erick Stakelbeck: CBN Uncovers Exclusive New Details on N. Carolina Terror Cell
Forced Vaccines: Ready for Yours?
If You Saw it in a Movie, It Must be True. Right?
Is ‘Death Panels’ Charge Over the Top?
Lynndie England Lecture Nixed After Threats
Pro-Muslim TV — Coming to Your Town?
Reader’s Digest Plans Prearranged Bankruptcy
Swine Flu Vaccine Linked to Paralysis, Leaked Memo Reveals
The Return of the Radical Right
The Socialists Within Want to Take Over
Tulsa: Workers at Sand Springs Steel Mill Get Layoff Notices
US Census to Utah: Missionaries Don’t Count
Yale’s Latest Cowardice
Europe and the EU
Berlusconi in a Bathrobe: Silvio Dresses Down as He Holidays on Yacht in Italy… Surrounded by Armed Guards
Britain Allows £300m for EU Fines
Danish Conservatives Call for Burqa Ban
EU Veiled Soldiers Swimming in Turbulent Water
Ireland: Voters Being ‘Threatened’ On Lisbon
Ireland: Women Granted Immunity in Sex-Trafficking Case
Italy: Ferrero: Dismantle Left? No, Alternative Federation
Italy: Berlusconi Joins Feuding Family in Sardinia
Lockerbie: Mandelson Met Gaddafi’s Son Before Lockerbie Bomber Move
Netherlands: Websites Not Prosecuted for Danish Cartoons
Netherlands: Rotterdam Sacks Integration Advisor
Radiation Tests on Shipload of Lumber?
Russia Detains Ship ‘Hijackers’
Spain: Pay-for-View Digital Terrestrial TV Bill Approved
Spain: NATO Marines Disembark on Beach, Vigo Protests
Spain: Health Ministry Wants Smoking Banned in Public Places
Sweden: Police Raid Occupied Youth Centre in Lund
UK: Libya’s National Oil, Essar Bid for Shell Refinery, Times Says
UK: Planning Laws Do Favour Gipsies and Travellers, Says Minister
Bono ‘May be Stripped of Bosnian Passport’
North Africa
Algeria: Measures Not Retroactive for Foreign Companies
Archaeology: Algeria, 117 Stolen Finds Seized
Egypt: Mr. Mubarak and Son Go to Washington
Ramadan: Algeria, Doctors Warn Diabetics
Israel and the Palestinians
Call to Boycott Israeli Goods in Ramadan
Middle East
Arabs Want Israeli Concessions, Says Mubarak
Female Marines Don Head Scarves in Afghanistan
Iran: Opposition Daily ‘Shut Down’
Iran: Ayatollah Sees Global Islamic ‘Mahdi’ Army
Iranian Ayatollah Creates ‘Private’ Militia
Major Doha Supermarkets Issue Ramadan Price List
Middle East Cycles: Are We Stuck in This Era?
Oil: Qatar Petroleum to Launch Bids for Al-Shaheen Project
UAE: Red Crescent Launches Annual Ramadan Charity Campaign
Russia: Suicide Bomber Kills 20, Wounds 138 in Ingushetia
South Asia
Afghan Election Fraud is Unearthed
EU: Tighter Sanctions Imposed on Burma
Taliban ‘Confirms Mehsud’s Death’
Why the Hindu Right Wing Loves Mr Jinnah
Far East
Heavy Losses for the Chinese Stock Exchanges, Including Decline in Foreign Investment
Kuwait, China Agree on New Site for USD 9 Bln Refinery
Water Crisis to Hit Asian Food
Australia — Pacific
Australia/Environment: Bring it on, Labor, Pull That Trigger
Sub-Saharan Africa
Nigerians Protest Lybia’s Plan to Execute 220 Nigerians
Boom in Marriages of Convenience in Spain
Danish Conservatives: Immigrant Illness Register
Spain: Illegal Landings -40% Jan-Jul 2009
Sweden Refuses Asylum to Homosexual Iraqis
It All Depends…

Financial Crisis

Bahrain: Credit Crisis Hits Housing Market Deals

(ANSAmed) — MANAMA, AUGUST 13 — Transactions in Bahrain’s housing market have fallen sharply due to the financial crisis, and activity will remain subdued over the summer period, a real estate services firm said as reported by Gulf Daily news. “Transactions during the second quarter came to a standstill in the off-plan market, although secondary market transactions are still taking place in small numbers,” CB Richard Ellis said in a report. “Entering the summer and subsequent Ramadan period, it is unlikely that this situation will change with transaction activity likely to remain at historic lows.” Bahrain’s mortgage market declined in the first and second quarters, and the slowdown is likely to continue in the short term, it said. Leading providers forecast the mortgage market to double to more than BD700 million ($1.86 billion) by 2012, it said. The number of projects cancelled in the second quarter was “minimal” compared with other regional centres, it said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Japan: Record Drop of 8.5 Per Cent in July’s Wholesale Prices

Lower prices follow a drop in domestic demand but also a decline in the price of raw materials.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Japanese wholesale prices fell a record 8.5 per cent in the year to July, the biggest drop since Japan’s central bank started compiling reports in 1960. Experts fear a deflationary spiral of unpredictable consequences.

Most alarmingly, weak domestic demand means wholesale price declines might persist. And this could have perverse effects on the market. Expectations for lower prices may in fact spur companies and consumers to delay purchases, thus eroding corporate profits and forcing firms to cut wages.

However, the Bank of Japan is less pessimistic about the trend. In a press conference Bank officials said that in addition to the global crisis the trend is due to structural factors.

Overall prices declined because of a drop in oil prices from a year ago. Lower prices for steel, chemicals, non-ferrous metals and scrap metal also weighed on wholesale prices.

By contrast, in June the corporate goods price index rose by 0.4 per cent.

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

Spain: Crisis Multiplies Number of Security Forces Candidates

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, AUGUST 17 — An investigation published today from El Pais reveals that the economic crisis has multiplied the number of candidates enrolling in the armed forces, the police and the prison service as guards. The prospect of an lifelong job in a market hit by a low level of work offers and a rate of unemployment close to 20%, has seen to it that there are 58,428 applications for the 1,949 places available this year in the national police corps, almost double the number in 2008. Similarly there has been an increase of 54% on the year in registrations for the Master-D, an agency with offices throughout the country, which prepares candidates for entrance exams as policemen and agents of the Civil Guard. Candidates are also frequently in competition with immigrants, above all Latin Americans, for whom enrolment in the armed forces has for many years been a way of leaving behind job insecurity.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Texas: More Than 30% of D-FW Mortgages Are Underwater, Study Says

Nationwide, almost a third of houses with loans are worth less than the debt

More than 30 percent of Dallas-Fort Worth mortgage holders now owe more than their property is worth.

That’s a big increase from the 21 percent of local home borrowers who were underwater at the end of 2008, according to a study released Monday by First American CoreLogic.

Nationwide, almost a third of houses with loans are now worth less than the debt, the California-based mortgage and real estate analysts said in its June report.

“Negative equity continues to be the dominant driver of the mortgage market because it leads to foreclosures in the event a borrower experiences some kind of economic shock,” First American CoreLogic chief economist Mark Fleming said. “Until negative equity recedes and unemployment declines, mortgage risk will continue to be very elevated.”

More than 15 million U.S. mortgages are underwater, the researchers said.

In the D-FW area, about 337,563 residents owe more than their property was worth at the end of June. That works out to more than $49 billion in debt, they estimate.

The top states for homes with negative equity at the end of June were California (2.9 million), Florida (2.3 million), Ohio (862,000), Texas (777,000) and Arizona (706,000).

First American CoreLogic estimates that about a quarter of Texas mortgage holders are upside down in their loans.

While not all mortgages with negative equity wind up in default, homeowners are much more likely to give up a house if they are underwater in the value.

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


40 Percent of Top DOD Appointments Unfilled

Seven months into the Obama administration, key senior U.S. Defense Department jobs remain vacant even as the Pentagon reshapes its strategic focus and molds the 2011 spending plan.

Of 47 Pentagon posts that require Senate confirmation, eight are filled by holdovers appointed by former President George W. Bush. The Obama administration has filled an additional 20. That leaves 19 vacant positions scattered across the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the three military departments.

After winning the election, Obama transition officials talked of quickly populating Pentagon and service jobs. Defense experts say the administration is behind schedule, thanks to vetting miscues, an unplanned appointment and stringent new ethics rules.

“This is only the beginning of the budget process,” said Dov Zakheim, Pentagon comptroller under Bush and now an executive at Booz Allen Hamilton. “But the kinds of people in OSD’s personnel and readiness and acquisition shops, as well as some important roles within the services, are not going to be involved. So the people you would expect to make the most forceful cases [about budget decisions] simply won’t be around.”

“This is very worrisome,” said Zakheim, also a Defense Business Board member. “The secretary [Robert Gates] has a problem.”

Jacques Gansler, a former Defense Department acquisition chief, said filling the jobs “certainly has gone slower than I expected, especially considering the acquisition and service vacancies at a time when the country is fighting two wars and with the budget issues the Pentagon is facing.”

Empty Seats in Readiness Office

Defense experts said the most eyebrow-raising openings were the lack of service acquisition chiefs and comptrollers and various slots in the OSD personnel and readiness shop.

They include the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, the principal deputy in that office, and the assistant secretary for health affairs. Several former defense officials who worked under Republican and Democratic administrations said those posts should have been filled months ago. Military health care costs are growing, they said, and the Pentagon is beginning to address the costs of adding nearly 115,000 troops since 2007.

Meanwhile, the Air Force is without a confirmed undersecretary or an acquisition executive. But the air service is still better off than the Army and Navy, which also lack a Senate-approved comptroller.

The Army’s upper echelon is particularly empty, with no undersecretary or acquisition executive or assistant secretaries for civil works, installations and environment. The Navy lacks a comptroller and an assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs.

In the meantime, many of the jobs are being performed by acting secretaries, many of whom are career civil servants, who will return to their former roles when the White House’s picks are confirmed.

The administration spent several months finding a Pentagon acquisition chief. After Ashton Carter was tapped, several months passed before Frank Kendall was tapped to be Carter’s top deputy. The nomination was made on the eve of Congress’ August recess.

OSD’s acquisition shop is without a deputy undersecretary for logistics and materiel readiness, and a director for defense research and engineering.

“Acquisition leaders, particularly the services acquisition executives, are not making strategic decisions,” so their impact has likely not hindered 2010 QDR work, Gansler said.

“But those are the people who do things like write acquisition strategies and handle contracts,” he said. “I’m a little worried that we’re almost a year into this administration and these kinds of jobs are not filled.”

Those on the Cusp

Seven of the vacant posts have nominees waiting for approval, such as Michael Gilmore for the director of operational test and evaluation.

The post of Army secretary is currently filled by Bush appointee Pete Geren, who is sticking around until Obama’s pick, former Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y., is confirmed.

Like McHugh, some of these picks have even appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee for confirmation hearings. But with Congress on its annual August recess, not one will report for work until at least mid-September, defense observers say. For most of those eight, the administration will be lucky to get them through the Senate process by year’s end, these observers predict.

Zakheim called the situation “a commentary on a confirmation system that has gotten totally out of control.”

Steve Grundman, a former Pentagon industrial affairs chief and currently an aerospace and defense consultant at Charles River Associates in Boston, said the 19 remaining vacancies in mid-August would concern him if the Pentagon was about to drastically reshape its plans. “But I don’t think we’re at that kind of major inflection point,” he said.

Yet Grundman said not having officials at the levels of undersecretary, deputy undersecretary and below could hinder the implementation of decisions and policies. “For any administration, the transmission belt usually slips in the implementation phase.”

Others criticized the administration.

“The hidden message in the Pentagon personnel data is that this White House really doesn’t care much about defense,” said Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute. “The picture I get from all this is that President Obama’s main security goal is just to keep defense off the front page. As long as the Pentagon doesn’t present him with any political problems, he’s content to focus on his domestic agenda and let military matters drift.”

Mackenzie Eaglen of the Heritage Foundation said, “the number of vacancies is surprising … especially when you consider that the Pentagon started vetting candidates with both [presidential] campaigns last year.”

Citing “this White House’s lack of experience running large organizations,” she gave the administration a D grade. Eaglen added, “And that equates to a failing grade when the subject is national security.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Artist of Obama “Joker” Poster Image Identified — And He’s Not a Conservative

The Los Angeles Times tracked down the artist of the unflattering depiction of President Obama as The Joker from The Dark Knight and he may not be whom you pictured.

Firas Alkhateeb, a 20-year-old senior history major at the University of Illinois, took a TIME cover photo of the President and with Adobe’s Photoshop software crafted the grim image. Two days before President Obama’s inauguration, Alkhateeb uploaded the photo and put it on his Flickr site.

Someone else downloaded the image, removed the references to TIME, added the word “socialism,” and created a poster that has appeared all over the country.

“After Obama was elected, you had all of these people who basically saw him as the second coming of Christ,” Alkhateeb told the Times. “From my perspective, there wasn’t much substance to him.”

Alkhateeb clearly didn’t care much for President Obama appointing Rahm Emanuel as his Chief of Staff.

“Emanuel is a fervent anti-Islam voice in Washington,” he wrote on his Flickr page. “A Zionist, he takes a hard line stance against the Palestinian cause, and shows a clear anti-Muslim racism. Besides that, he is the embodiment of ‘political partisanship’ that Obama was supposedly going to change!”

He wrote: “Note: I am neither Democrat nor Republican, Conservative nor Liberal, didn’t support Obama or McCain. I just call it like I see it.”

Alkhateeb’s politics are clearly not that of the conservative Republicans who have embraced the image he created. He told the Times that the “Socialist” label on the posters “doesn’t make any sense to me at all. To accuse him of being a socialist is really … immature. First of all, who said being a socialist is evil?”…

[Return to headlines]

Civil Debate at Congressman Dan Boren’s Town Hall Meetings

UNDATED — Oklahoma’s Second District Congressman Dan Boren met Tuesday with his constituents face-to-face, holding a series of town hall meetings where people sounded off about the future of the health care system.

“I had to be here. I’m really concerned about what’s happened to our country,” said Lonnie Lu Anderson, a Crowder resident.

“We are not against health reform. We need health reform, but we are against the government taking over,” said Phyllis Fallen, a Wagoner resident.

Spirited, but civil debate took place at the town hall meetings held in McAlester, Muskogee and Pryor.

Congressman Boren started the day in McAlester. Some there said Congressman Boren, a democrat, sounded a lot like a republican.

The attendees came with their game face on.

“I think everybody should pay their own. I don’t think we should go in there and buy insurance for everyone, they would abuse it,” said Mary Kay, a McAlester resident.

But if the crowd was looking for a fight, they wouldn’t get much of one.

Congressman Dan Boren says he’s voting no on the current house bill before him and he has no intention of defending a bill he doesn’t agree with.

“I have a real problem with the public option, because I think it crowds out other plans. It becomes a single payer system where you have government run healthcare,” said Rep. Dan Boren, (D) Oklahoma.

Boren says he can’t back a bill that would increase taxes and possibly hurt small businesses. And while the majority of the crowd seemed pleased, there were a few who wondered if they wandered into the wrong town hall.

“Democrats say something else, I’m confused about what party you’re really in,” an attendee said to Rep. Dan Boren.

With 26% of his district uninsured, Boren admits the status quo isn’t working. He says something should be done, but for now he’s listening to those who put him in office.

“At the end of the day, that’s who I represent, are the people who elected me and that’s what I’m going to continue to do,” said Rep. Dan Boren.

Congressman Boren’s second town hall meeting was in Muskogee. Hundreds of people didn’t hesitate to show their anger over the proposed health care overhaul.

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

Democrats Engaged in Bait and Switch

Barack Obama won the presidency under the persona of healer. He promised to unify a divided nation and said how he would do this.

He’d put ideology aside and solve problems. And he’d bring new open, bipartisan governing to Washington, devoid of special interests.

Now, six months into this presidency, we have exactly the opposite.

Rather than temperatures dropping, they have steadily risen to their current fever pitch.

Rather than becoming more unified, we’ve never been more divided.

According to the Pew Research Center, the gap between approval rates for the president from Democrats (85 percent) and Republicans (19 percent) is now 66 points. For George W. Bush at about the same time in his presidency, this gap was 51 points. For Bill Clinton it was 45, George H.W. Bush 38, Reagan 46, Carter 25, and Nixon 29.

It’s not just Republicans. The gap between the president’s approval from Democrats and from independents has expanded from 25 points last February to 37 points today.

And the new open, bipartisan approach to governing?

Listen to remarks (posted on You Tube) by Rep. Tom Price, a Republican from Georgia, to Democratic committee chairman George Miller, during mark-up several weeks ago of the health care bill.

Here’s an excerpt: “… we would have loved to have worked with you on this … but you know there was no opportunity to do that … Speaker Pelosi told a member of your conference that if you talk with Republicans about this, you’ll be shut out of the room … you know that this hasn’t been a bipartisan effort.”

Price, a soft-spoken physician who practiced medicine for more than 25 years, brandished the thousand-page bill and went on about what the government takeover of medicine will do to health care in this country.

The sheer arrogance of trying to rewrite the rules for almost one-fifth of the American economy, more than $2.5 trillion in annual expenditures, with a few weeks of deliberation is without precedent. How can such an effort be done openly or responsibly?

Now we learn that the pharmaceutical industry’s support for this initiative has been bought by the administration with promises that, in exchange, there will be no government meddling in the pricing of drugs.

Soon we’ll see glowing TV ads extolling the virtues of the Democrats’ health-care plan, probably talking about the special interests trying to stop it, being paid for by those special interests. The report is that PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry trade association, is kicking in $150 million.

The head of PhRMA, Billy Tauzin, who negotiated with the administration on behalf of his member drug companies, is a Washington insider poster child. He was a 25-year Louisiana congressman who then parlayed his accumulated contacts and influence to get hired to head PhRMA for a reported $2.5 million in compensation.

This is the new way we do business in Washington? How we reform health care? How Washington operators tirelessly protect the interests of citizens and work to preserve a great country?

Six months into this Democrat administration, we find that Americans have been duped by a great bait and switch.

We were sold promises of a sparkling new era, stripped down of ideology and influence peddling.

What we have gotten is a hyper-ambitious government takeover of our economy, driven by left-wing ideology, carried out using the most cynical business-as-usual inside Washington influence peddling.

And to lend irony to it all, when outraged citizens grasp what is happening and protest, they are accused of disrupting democracy and racism.

To recall the words of economist Herbert Stein, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”

Hopefully, this will stop before we’ll need history books to recall the once American dream of freedom and prosperity.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Erick Stakelbeck: CBN Uncovers Exclusive New Details on N. Carolina Terror Cell

I spent most of last week in Raleigh, North Carolina, where I investigated firsthand the alleged Islamic terrorist cell that was broken up there last month.

I interviewed neighbors and co-workers of the cell’s accused ringleader, Daniel Boyd, and also spoke to Raleigh area Muslims.

In the process, I was able to uncover important new details about Boyd that have yet to be reported elsewhere.

You can read my blog about my findings at the above link.

I will also file a report on my NC trip that will air on CBN Thursday. I’ll be sure to send around the link to view.

[Return to headlines]

Forced Vaccines: Ready for Yours?

Exclusive: Janet Porter discusses signs of possible swine flu ‘pandemic’ mandate

Former Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey, made a prediction:

In September or October there will be a hyped up outbreak of the swine flu which they’ll say is as bad as the bubonic plague to scare the bed-wetters to vote for health care reform. … That is the only way they can push something on to the American people that the American people don’t want.

What they may be pushing, along with government-run health care (even by another name), is a vaccination you’re not going to want.

A confidential letter from the United Kingdom Health Protection Agency was sent to about 600 neurologists alerting them to watch for an increase in Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) as a result of the swine flu vaccination. GBS can be fatal as it attacks the nerve lining, causing paralysis and suffocation — as those affected are unable to breath.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

If You Saw it in a Movie, It Must be True. Right?

Students substitute Hollywood fiction for real historical fact, study finds

If you thought Tom Cruise’s character in “The Last Samurai” represented a real figure from history, you were wrong. But don’t feel ashamed. A new study shows that even students, with facts staring them in the face, tend to substitute Hollywood fiction for historical fact in their minds.

“What we found is that there’s something really special about watching a film that lets people retain information from that film, even when they had read a contradictory account in the textbook,” said Andrew Butler, a psychology researcher at Washington University in St. Louis during the time he and his colleagues conducted the study.

There’s a positive flip-side to this memory for movies: Researchers also found that historically accurate films can actually boost student learning alongside the usual textbook reading. That represents the good news for history teachers who screen Hollywood fare such as “Elizabeth,” “Marie Antoinette” or “U-571” in their classrooms, because films apparently stick in students’ memories regardless of whether they are right or wrong.

Warning: This film is …

Films that gloss over some truths could still prove useful viewing, as long as teachers warn students beforehand about the specific historical inaccuracies. General warnings about films being inaccurate proved about as useful as no warning at all.

Two experiments involving 108 students had different groups watch film clips from nine different movies. Students also read an accurate historical text blurb relating to each of the movies, and received different levels of warnings regarding the accuracy of the films.

The power of Hollywood clearly emerged when the film’s historical information matched the information in the text. Students who watched such film clips had about 50 percent greater correct recall of facts a week later, as opposed to students who just read a text.

But when the film’s information contradicted the text, students often wrongly recalled the misinformation up to half the time. Many students expressed their wrong information confidently, and sometimes even misattributed the source of their information as coming from the text, rather than from the film.

Only having the specific warning ahead of time reduced the misinformation effect, which previous studies have also found. Even so, researchers cautioned that future studies would have to examine whether the warning sticks in students’ memories for more than a week.

“Over time, it may be that they forget about the warning and just retain that [wrong] information,” Butler told LiveScience. The current study is forthcoming in the journal Psychological Science.

Hollywood as sole source

Butler plans to conduct follow-up studies on the power of film as a postdoctoral researcher at Duke University in North Carolina. One study would even have participants either watch a movie or read a screenplay, and gauge the different effects of film versus text on memory recall.

“There is nothing wrong with what Hollywood is doing, because these are supposed to be entertaining films,” Butler said. “But people should be aware, because for the vast majority of the American public, all they know about some of these specialized topics is what they see in the movie theater.”

Keep in mind that such specialized topics may easily run the gamut from history to science. For now, moviegoers might do well to take the Hollywood words “inspired by true events” with a very large pinch of salt.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Is ‘Death Panels’ Charge Over the Top?

People are taking that personally— as they should. Your life and death, and that of your loved ones, is as personal as it gets.

The mainstream media are again circling the wagons to protect Barack Obama, but this time it may not work. One of those front-page editorials disguised as a news article in the New York Times begins: “The stubborn yet false rumor that President Obama’s health care proposals would create government-sponsored ‘death panels’ to decide which patients were worthy of living seemed to arise from nowhere in recent weeks.”

Nowhere? Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel is “special adviser for health policy” for the Obama administration. That’s nowhere? He is also co-author of an article on Americans’ “over-utilization” of medical care in the June 18, 2008, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Is that nowhere?

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Lynndie England Lecture Nixed After Threats

A Friday lecture at the Library of Congress by Lynndie England, one of the most recognizable figures of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, was scratched over safety concerns after opposition from library employees produced violent threats, the organizer said.

In addition, organizer David Moore said he canceled the entire series of lectures on veterans’ issues, saying free speech “is pretty well dead” because of the ability of a vocal few to make a public fuss.

Ms. England, a 26-year-old former Army Reservist, had been scheduled to discuss her authorized biography as part of the ongoing lecture series sponsored by the Library of Congress Professional Association, an employee group.

The book, titled “Tortured: Lynndie England, Abu Ghraib and the Photographs That Shocked the World,” was written by Gary S. Winkler, who was not invited to the event, said a spokeswoman for Ms. England.

Mr. Moore, a German acquisitions specialist at the library, said he received several “vicious” e-mails and telephone calls threatening violence.

After informing police and the library’s inspector general of the threats, library President Angela Kinney called him Thursday evening to say the event would be canceled.

Mr. Moore, who has worked at the library for 20 years, said Friday he was disappointed with the cancellation but agreed that it would be unwise to go ahead with the lecture.

“It’s really uncalled for,” he said of the threats. “I began to take it serious because of the nuts from outside.”

Mr. Moore said some of the threats grew out of opposition to the lecture by a “ringleader and four other employees” who posted their displeasure on outside blogs.

Mr. Moore declined to name the protesters, but a posting on the Small Wars Journal blog by a “Morris Davis,” who says he is a Library of Congress employee, was particularly critical of Ms. England’s scheduled appearance.

“Thousands and thousands of honorable men and women have and are serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places. They don’t get book deals and invited to lecture at the Library of Congress,” the posting states. “It’s a disgrace that the dishonorable profit and that we use government property and resources to glorify the gutless.”

The posting had 25 comments by Friday evening. While none of the comments contained violent threats, several were critical of Ms. England.

Mr. Moore, a Vietnam War veteran, said he doesn’t agree with or condone the actions of all of the series’ speakers but that it’s important to “hear all sides.”

“I try to be apolitical and have left- and right-[leaning speakers], and that’s why it was very popular,” he said.

As a counterpoint to Ms. England’s talk, Mr. Moore had planned a later event with the prosecutor who handled the former soldier’s case.

Ms. England was a private in the Army Reserve when she was shown in lurid photos holding a naked prisoner on a leash and posing with a pyramid of naked detainees.

One of 11 soldiers convicted of singled out for wrongdoing at the Iraqi prison, she was convicted in 2005 of six of seven counts involving prisoner mistreatment, and acquitted on a second conspiracy count. She was sentenced to three years in prison, of which she served about 17 months.

Mr. Moore, who has had booked about 50 speakers for the veterans forum during the past eight years, said he has decided to discontinue the series effective immediately because he fears that future guests may bring additional threats.

“I can’t operate in an environment like that,” he said. “I think enough if enough. I can’t do something that might embarrass the library.”

Mr. Moore said he is frustrated that a small group of protesters can stifle free speech for others, comparing the situation to disruptions caused by protesters at recent congressional town hall meetings.

“I guess that’s just the environment right now,” he said, adding that free speech in “is pretty well dead” in the U.S.

A request to interview Ms. England through a publicist Friday was unsuccessful.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Pro-Muslim TV — Coming to Your Town?

An author and critic of Islam doesn’t think it would be a good idea for the English language version of Al Jazeera to have a stronger footprint in the United States.

Since launching on November 15, 2006, Al Jazeera English has exceeded its founders’ expectations. The Qatar government-owned channel had expected to reach around 40 million households when it went on the air, but far exceeded that launch target by reaching 80 million households.

And a station spokeswoman said as of 2009, Al Jazeera English is available to 140 million homes in over 100 countries through cable and satellite. But its penetration into the North American market is virtually non-existent, only appearing on four outlets. Now the pro-Muslim network is launching an online campaign to try to expand its North American reach.

Robert Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch, says more Al Jazeera English in the United States would not be a good thing.

“It’s just more Jihadist propaganda in the United States,” he notes. “But in a certain sense, we’ve already had an English language Al Jazeera in the United States for quite some time — it’s called The New York Times.”

According to Spencer, other mainstream media networks tend to give Al Jazeera-type coverage as well.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Reader’s Digest Plans Prearranged Bankruptcy

[Comments from JD: I’m not surprised. Pick up any Readers Digest from the 1950s. Quality articles. Today — pure propaganda and drivel.]

NEW YORK (Reuters) — Reader’s Digest Association Inc, whose namesake magazine has been a staple of dentists’ offices for generations, said on Monday it planned to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for its U.S. businesses as part of a prearranged plan with lenders to cut debt by 75 percent.

The media company, known worldwide for its family magazine filled with general-interest and inspirational stories, has been trying to cut costs since it was bought in 2007 by an investor group led by Ripplewood Holdings LLC.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Swine Flu Vaccine Linked to Paralysis, Leaked Memo Reveals

(NaturalNews) A warning letter about the swine flu vaccine was leaked to the DailyMail over the weekend. Written by Professor Elizabeth Miller, head of the Health Protection Agency’s Immunization Department, it warns neurologists that the influenza vaccine of 1976 was linked to a devastating neurological condition called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). “The vaccines used to combat an expected swine influenza pandemic in 1976 were shown to be associated with GBS and were withdrawn from use,” says the July 29 letter.

GBS can cause paralysis and death. One woman mentioned in the DailyMail story — Hilary Wilkinson — was stricken with GBS and had to be fed through a drip while needing a tracheotomy just to breathe. It took her three months in the hospital to learn how to walk and talk again. On the topic of the swine flu vaccine, she says today, “It makes me feel wary that the Government is rolling out this vaccine without any clear idea of the GBS risk, if any. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone… I’m frightened to have the swine flu vaccine if this might happen again — it’s a frightening illness and I think more research needs to be done on the effect of the vaccine.”

An 800 percent increase in GBS risk A second letter has also surfaced with a warning about the swine flu vaccine. It’s from the Association of British Neurologists and is authored by Dr. Rustam Al-Shahi Salman and Professor Patrick Chinnery. It says “Following the 1976 program of vaccination against swine influenza in the US, a retrospective study found a possible eight-fold increase in the incidence of GBS.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

The Return of the Radical Right

What happened to the Age of Obama?

Glancing over the New York Times Book Review Sunday, one finds three of the top four non-fiction best-sellers were written by conservatives—columnist Michelle Malkin, talk-show host Mark Levin and Fox News contributor Dick Morris.

At No. 10, in its 40th week on the list, is Bill O’Reilly’s memoir.

No. 1 best-seller in paperback: Glenn Beck’s “Common Sense.”

Moreover, the altarpiece of the transformational presidency, universal health insurance, is on life support, as huge crowds pour into town hall meetings to denounce it. Responding to the protests, the Obamaites have dumped the end-of-life counselors (aka “Death Panels”) and declared the government option expendable.

But what are we to make of these “evil-mongers” of Harry Reid’s depiction, these “mobs” of “thugs” organized by K Street lobbyists and “right-wing extremists” who engage in “un-American” activity at town hall meetings? Surely, all Americans must detest them.

To the contrary. According to a Pew poll, by 61 percent to 34 percent, Americans think the protesters are behaving properly. Gallup found that by 34 percent to 21 percent Americans identify with them. For these folks at the town hall meetings are not overprivileged Ivy League brats seizing campus buildings and holding the dean hostage. They look and talk just like them.

What President Obama is losing is not the far right but the center of the country. Nor is this the first time liberals have misread America.

During the 1968 Democratic convention, liberals sided with the antiwar demonstrators in Grant Park. And the country sided with the Chicago cops who went into the park and gave them a good thrashing.

In 1969, the national press was writing that President Nixon must yield to the hundreds of thousands ringing the White House. Nixon went on national TV to call on the Silent Majority to stand by him.

They did, for four years.

One recalls Sen. Ed Muskie blurting out, after being crushed in the Florida primary by George Wallace, that he didn’t know there were that many racists in Florida. That was the end of Ed. And in the fall, the Floridians flooded to Nixon, who did not insult them.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

The Socialists Within Want to Take Over

Shall we allow them? The United States is close to be taken over from within by Barack Hussein Obama, a development similar to those in Germany at the beginning of the 1930s.

I grew up under the Nazis, and what I saw then there I see now here. There is nothing theoretical when I speak about what happens when a nation throws God out of government and society and when Christians become religious bystanders. I am not part of those who want some people to look bad by calling them Nazis, as Nancy Pelosi and so many people do nowadays. My writing is based on my own experience and that of my family. We were there.

The White House launched what could be called a “snitch” program by asking Americans to forward to a White House e-mail address anything regarding health care reform that they consider “fishy.” This should help the government, explains the White House director of new media, Macon Phillips, to uncover the truth about the president’s position and find the “disinformation” about health care “reform.” The “snitch” program is opening the door to Gestapo methods.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Tulsa: Workers at Sand Springs Steel Mill Get Layoff Notices

SAND SPRINGS, OK — Gerdau Ameristeel has notified its employees in Sand Springs it plans to idle its facility and layoff those employees in 60 days.

About 300 people will lose their jobs.

Under the Worker Adjustment & Retraining Notification Act (WARN) notifications were sent to workers in Sand Springs on Monday.

The WARN Act is a federal law which requires employers to give advance notification to workers when faced with layoffs.

“The WARN notifications are intended to give our employees a 60-day notice and provide transition time to adjust to the prospective loss of employment, pursue other employment opportunities and seek assistance with training and other programs that will help them successfully compete in the job market”, said Robert Bullard, Vice-President and General Manager of the Sand Springs mill…

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

US Census to Utah: Missionaries Don’t Count

SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. Census Bureau has told Utah’s elected leaders it won’t count Mormon missionaries serving overseas in the nation’s next head count.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: And presumably non-Mormon missionaries don’t count either?]

Census Bureau officials, rejecting Utah’s lobbying efforts for the better part of a decade, say there’s no way to reliably count the overseas missionaries.

Utah leaders say the omission cost the state an extra congressional seat in 2000, when the state fell just 857 people short of receiving the last available slot in the U.S. House.

The Census Bureau does count military and federal employees serving overseas, and Rob Bishop, R-Utah, says it should include Mormons on proselytizing missions.

“The bottom line should still be fairness and accuracy,” Bishop said. “If we are currently counting some people abroad and not others, there is just no logic to that whatsoever.”

An experiment in counting Americans abroad in 2004 turned into a “colossal failure,” said Louis Kincannon, a former Census Bureau director under President Bill Clinton. Few Americans responded to an outreach program in three sample countries — Mexico, France and Kuwait.

A government consulting firm, Election Data Services, estimates that 6 million Americans are living overseas. But federal officials say there’s no dependable way to track down citizens who move around and may not want to be found because they don’t want to pay U.S. taxes.

A review by the Government Accountability Office found that counting Americans overseas is impractical, and it suggested the Census Bureau abandon the effort. The bureau says overseas counts produce erratic results that could distort state-by-state counts.

Census officials said that if Congress wants them to count all citizens overseas, it will have to enact legislation making it a requirement.

Utah sued the Census Bureau in 2001 in an attempt to get the military count thrown out, saying it unfairly benefited North Carolina, which claimed the 435th House seat a year earlier largely because of the state’s military bases, such as the U.S. Army’s Fort Bragg and the Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Utah’s claims and ruled the Census Bureau enjoys wide discretion on counting.

In early June, Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, included a provision in a bill that would require the secretary of state, attorney general and the Census Bureau to study whether they could use passports to track citizens internationally. The legislation, however, has no effect on requirements for the 2010 Census.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Yale’s Latest Cowardice

As reported — to its credit — in the New York Times last week, Yale University Press has banned the publication of any picture of Muhammad from a book it is about to publish on the Muhammad cartoons controversy, “The Cartoons That Shook the World.”

Imagine that. Not only will Yale prohibit a scholarly book on the Muhammad cartoon controversy from publishing the cartoons that are the subject of the book; the university will not allow any picture of Muhammad, even those painted or drawn by Muslims through the ages.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Berlusconi in a Bathrobe: Silvio Dresses Down as He Holidays on Yacht in Italy… Surrounded by Armed Guards

The sun was shining, it was a beautiful day…

But thankfully Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi didn’t take that as his cue to bare the flesh as he headed for a yacht while holidaying in Italy.

Instead the 72-year-old covered up in a white robe in a surprisingly modest turn for the womanising politician.

The lothario is currently on a three-week break where he is due to spend time with his family and celebrate the birthday of his daughter Marina.

Perhaps he decided to dress down after pictures emerged of Peter Mandelson on holiday in Corfu dressed in a series unflattering overly casual outfits, including linen drawstring trousers.

As Mr Berlusconi made his way on to the yacht, armed guards were pictured surrounding him.

Earlier this week the politician said he had nothing to apologise for over the sex scandals that have surrounded him.


His reputation has been battered by often explicit disclosures about his womanising and instead boasted about his support among Italians.

‘Nobody can blackmail me and I have no skeletons in the closet. I have nothing to apologise for in my private life,’ he said at a news conference.

Mr Berlusconi’s wife Veronica Lario said in May that she wanted a divorce over his relationship with a teenage girl from Naples.


The disclosure was followed by stories of escorts spending the night at his home and reports of intimate conversations secretly taped by one woman, Patrizia D’Addario.

Mr Berlusconi, who denies ever paying for sex, has acknowledged he is ‘no saint’.

But at the news conference he denied accusations of chauvinism, fuelled by his sexist jokes and preference for pretty women for political posts.

‘The foreign press has written that I hate women,’ he said. ‘If there is one thing I adore, it is women.’

An opposition senator said it was a ‘sad spectacle’ to see Mr Berlusconi saying his government was the best while Italy was mired in recession.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Britain Allows £300m for EU Fines

Britain has set aside nearly £300m to cover fines and potential fines from Brussels over irregularities in monitoring European regional aid.

The Department for Communities and Local Government reveals in its annual report that it has made “repayments” of £40m in the last year and made contingent liabilities of up to £284m. This marks a rise of £74m from earlier in the year when officials were forced to admit the scale of the problem.

The European Commission is carrying out a dozen audits of Britain’s European regional development fund programmes from 2000 to 2006, covering almost every region of the UK.

The communities department said it had acted “prudently” in making provision for the fines, but said: “We don’t expect to repay anything like these amounts.”

The repayments relate to administrative mistakes over the grants, including failure to follow procurement rules and a lack of documentation to account for expenditure.

Caroline Spelman, the shadow communities secretary, called for a full ministerial statement on the issue.

Ms Spelman said the fines would mean cuts to regeneration and business support at a time when companies were struggling and the public finances were already strained.

“Rather than trying to bury this scandal in the small print of financial accounts, Labour ministers need to come clean and make a public full statement over this sorry tale of incompetence,” she said.

The communities department claimed it would not have to cut its spending allocations to the degree implied by the headline figures.

Although it had planned for all eventualities it did not expect the financial corrections to be anywhere near as large.

However, earlier this year the department cut £22m from various budgets, including the Homes and Communities Agency, the fire improvement programme and mapping services, specifically to help pay the fines.

In a report, the Commons’ communities committee criticised the “incompetence and mismanagement” of the programmes.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Danish Conservatives Call for Burqa Ban

‘Not Islamic’

The immigration spokesman for Denmark’s Conservative Party is calling for a ban on the wearing of burqas in public. He says the garment was introduced by the Taliban and is “not Islamic at all.”

Denmark’s Conservative Party said this week it wants to introduce a ban on Muslim burqa or niqab dress codes which require women to completely cover their faces in public.

“We don’t want to see burqas in Denmark. We simply can’t accept that some of our citizens walk around with their faces covered,” Naser Khader, a Danish member of parliament of Syrian-Palestinian extraction who was recently appointed spokesman for integration issues for the Conservative Party, told the newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

In comments published on Sunday, Khader said the burqa is un-Danish and oppressive towards women and should be completely banned. He and his party say that what people do in their own homes is their business, but as soon as they walk into the public domain, one should be able to see their faces.

The Danish People’s Party and the Social Democratic Party have welcomed the proposal, while the Liberal Party, which is the senior partner in Denmark’s coalition government, rejects the idea of legislating about citizens’ clothing, provided they are not employed in a public function.

“It’s going too far if we start legislating on what sort of clothes people can and cannot wear. The burqa and covered faces should not be allowed if you work with people in the public sector — but that is where we draw the line,” says Liberal Party political spokesman Peter Christensen, who adds that it is important that politicians know where to draw the line in introducing policy.

Khader, however, says a ban is the only solution. “My view is that (the burqa) is not Islamic at all,” Khader says. “The modern burqa was introduced by the Taliban when the movement came to power. So I associate the burqa with the Taliban.”

The burqa ban is part of an integration initiative that the Conservatives’ parliamentary group approved on Friday, although the party has not decided what punishment should be meted out to those who break the ban.

“Initially we’re sending out a signal by saying that it should be banned. Then it’s up to the lawyers to find out what sanctions should be introduced,” Khader told the Jyllands-Posten.

Denmark is not the only European country where politicians have proposed a ban on burqas. French President Nicolas Sarkozy recently said that the burqa was “not welcome” in France, while France’s urban regeneration minister, Fadela Amara, told the Saturday edition of the Financial Times that she was in favor of the burqa “not existing in my country.” The Netherlands has also considered a ban on burqas.

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

EU Veiled Soldiers Swimming in Turbulent Water

By Euro-Muslims Editorial Desk

A new wind of change related to the Islamic dress code blows in France and Denmark. After Marwa Al-Sherbini’s discrimination against her hijab in Germany, two new cases are now in the spotlight in the European continent — Carole, a French Muslim convert and Maria Mawla, a Danish Home Guard* soldier.

While the burkini has been quietly integrated into the Netherlands according to the Dutch National Platform of Swimming Pools, in France the case is completely different. Carole was allowed to use hers in Emerainville’s public pool one month ago, but this August her situation changed. Officials denied Carole access to the same pool because due to her Islamic swimsuit.

Following 2004’s French ban on “religious symbols” in public schools, including the hijab, and the recent setting up of the Parliamentary commission for a possible ban on burqa, veiled women in France, of the biggest European Muslim minority, encounter a new situation which motivates them to fight for their rights. “Quite simply, this is segregation…I will fight to try to change things,” Carole declared. Burqa “is not welcome in France” according to its president Nicolas Sarkozy. What about the women who wear it? Are they welcome? Is Carole still welcomed in her home country while wearing burqa or burkini?

In Denmark, a different EU Member State, Maria Mawla finds her story in the newspapers due to a change, too. Mawla had been allowed to wear a headscarf under her helmet and her case was even portrayed on the Home Guard’s site. Yet, recently Maria has not been allowed to use the headscarf at work anymore. Denmark’s Defense Minister, Soren Gade, told the Parliament “I find wearing for example a headscarf to be incompatible with a military uniform. Both in the regular Defense and the Home Guard.”

“United in diversity,” European Union’s motto, emphasizes that the many cultures, traditions and languages in Europe are a positive asset. Adopting the same slogan by the European Muslim women community while coming together to fight discrimination will make their voices heard and may be an effective solution to Islamophobia. Whether veiled or not, they face similar challenges in terms of integration. Yet, those who are not willing to make compromises when it comes to their religion encounter more provocations which lead to dilemmas almost everywhere.

How can European Muslim women combat discrimination without giving up hijab which is a significant component of their identity? Is it safe for European veiled women to stand up for their rights? Will France and Denmark’s steps be followed by other countries? Since there is no consensus on a vision of what equality for Muslims looks like in the EU, how can their rights be protected?

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Ireland: Voters Being ‘Threatened’ On Lisbon

The Irish electorate is being “threatened, cajoled and lied to” in relation to the Lisbon Treaty, a group calling for a No vote in the second referendum has claimed.

The Vote No to Lisbon group, formerly the Campaign Against the EU Constitution, today opened its campaign calling for a rejection of the treaty on October 2nd.

It claimed ‘guarantees’ secured by the Government from the EU in relation to issues such as abortion and neutrality did not alter the treaty in any way and that voters were being asked to ballot on exactly the same document they rejected in a referendum last June.

Speakers at the group’s press conference in Dublin included recently elected MEP and Socialist Party leader Joe Higgins, Sinn Féin vice president and former MEP Mary Lou McDonald, and People Before Profit councillor Bríd Smith.

“These empty political promises do not alter Lisbon in any way,” the group said in a statement. “They merely restate what exists already, or is in Lisbon. At the meeting where they were agreed, the European Council declared the promised protocol would ‘clarify’, but not change, either the content or application of the Lisbon Treaty.”

Ratification of the treaty would, members of the group claimed, reinforce the “centrality of the market” to the detriment of public services. It would also ensure workers’ rights continued to take “second place” to those of “big business”, as enshrined in EU treaties and reinforced by the European Court of Justice.

Mr Higgins said the treaty was a “profoundly undemocratic” document and that it “enshrines as the norm the running of essential public services for profit, including health and education”.

He added: “If it is passed, the EU Commission would uphold the right of big business to profit from public services, over and above the rights of workers to take action to defend these services.

“Likewise, it would intervene to prevent even a mildly progressive government from investing to improve public services as this, in their view, ‘distorts the market’.”

Mr Higgins rejected the claims of the treaty’s supporters — including the Labour Party — that the inclusion of the Charter of Fundamental Rights into treaty law would improve workers’ rights. He said almost all the provisions of the charter were subject to “national laws and practices” which restrict workers rights.

The group noted EU trade unionists had called for the inclusion of a “social solidarity clause” in the treaty.

Ms McDonald said such a clause would ensure that “where the rights of the market come into conflict with the rights of workers, that the rights of the workers prevail”. She said the Government should be asked why it had not sought the inclusion of such a protocol.

On neutrality, the group rejected the Yes side’s contention that Ireland’s military neutrality is safeguarded under Lisbon and the ‘guarantees’, claiming the Government parties were helping to facilitate the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“The Lisbon ‘promises’ restate that Ireland will not be forced into a formal military alliance. But this is subverted by the treaty’s commitment to further militarise the EU, all in the framework of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, to extend the ground for EU military interventions, and to build up European military industries through the European Defence Agency (EDA),” its campaign statement said.

Representatives of a number other groups on the left who are affiliated to the campaign were also at today’s launch. They included the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (Pana), the Irish Republican Socialist Party, Irish Friends of Palestine Against Lisbon and socialist republican group Eirigí.

The Lisbon Treaty was rejected in a referendum held on June 12th last year by 53.4 per cent to 46.6 per cent. The turnout was just over 53 per cent of eligible voters.

[Return to headlines]

Ireland: Women Granted Immunity in Sex-Trafficking Case

THE DIRECTOR of Public Prosecutions is to grant immunity from prosecution to two Nigerian women to allow them give evidence in the trial in Wales of an Irishman for sex-trafficking.

Next Monday is the deadline for the delivery of statements to the Welsh court, where Thomas John Carroll (47), of Castlemartin, Pembrokeshire, west Wales, faces prosecution for trafficking, controlling prostitution and the operation of brothels across Britain and Northern Ireland.

His arrest last December in Wales was the result of joint operation by An Garda Síochána, the PSNI and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) in Britain.

The operation involved raiding brothels in Cavan, Drogheda, Mullingar, Sligo, Carlow, Kilkenny, Enniscorthy, Newbridge, Waterford, and others in the North and in Britain.

Seven women from Namibia, Nigeria and Brazil were rescued by the PSNI.

The police said the women had been regularly threatened, assaulted and raped.

Two alleged victims — one of whom was a minor when allegedly trafficked — who were found in brothels in the Republic, agreed to give statements against him.

As they may be liable for prosecution themselves for the possession of false immigration papers and involvement in prostitution, as well as for other matters that may arise in relation to their evidence, they sought immunity from prosecution.

Article 26 of the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings contains a “non-punishment provision” that allows “for the possibility of not imposing penalties on victims for their involvement in unlawful activities, to the extent that they have been compelled to do so” — ie, that they were forced to commit crimes by the nature of having been trafficked.

The Nigerian women’s solicitor, Ann Fitzgibbon, had applied for immunity for the women in April and in June.

She received news yesterday that the DPP would grant immunity.

“I have not got the letters in my hand yet but I have just had a call saying they were being written as we speak.”

She said it would have been less stressful if the applications had been processed in reasonable time.

“Obviously now we and the GNIB are going to have to pull out all the stops to take the statements and get them to Wales by next Monday. We have a very tiny window but it’s a good problem really. At least we can get the statements included.”

All evidence had to be presented at court on Monday and Mr Carroll and his counsel would then decide how he would plea. A date for his full trial will be set in coming weeks.

Ms Fitzgibbon said the two women were “severely traumatised” and described them a “brave” to agree to give evidence against their alleged captors.

They had been granted temporary residence in the Republic and were undertaking courses.

Also arrested in connection with the alleged offences were Mr Carroll’s ex-wife, his son, daughter, and his partner, a South African national Shamiela Clark (31).

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Italy: Ferrero: Dismantle Left? No, Alternative Federation

(AGI) — Rome, 14 Aug. — The question of whether to dismantle the left to build a party on the basis of the PSI at the end of the 1800s is the same proposal that was made at the PRC congress, while the leader of Rifondazione Communista Paolo Ferrero said that the party’s new proposal is instead that of building a federation of the left which respects the different identities and histories of those involved and which is an alternative to the capitalist system — in contrast with the proposal by former speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Fausto Bertinotti. “History does not repeat itself, and the model of the PSI at the end of the 1800s is a bit outdated. I instead look to the model used in Latin America,” said Ferrero, pointing out that, in view of recent events, “dismantling the left to make a new party would imply further schisms. We only have to see the experiment of Vendola. Today we need to build a left-wing federation which unites and avoids divisions and is an alternative to the idea of merchandise as the only social criterion.” Therefore, rejection of the looking at work, social relations and the environment simply as merchandise.

“Let’s put it this way: a federation as alternative to the PD in Italy and in Europe with leftist parties to the left of Social Democrats. I am as far from Franceschini as I am from Fassino as concerns social issues.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Joins Feuding Family in Sardinia

Punto Lada, 17 August (AKI) — Italy’s scandal-plagued prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Monday joined his children and grandchildren at his Sardinian villa amid reports of a bitter quarrel between his daughter from his first marriage, Marina, and her half-sister Barbara, who are both at the villa.

The growing feud between Berlusconi’s children from his first and second marriage over the inheritance of his media empire has reportedly marred the family vacation which Berlusconi had hoped to use to rebuild his reputation.

“What bitterness, nobody had warned me. A real bolt from the blue,” Berlusconi was quoted as telling his entourage.

Besides Marina and Barbara, Berlusconi’s two other children from his second marriage to former actress Veronica Lario, Eleonora and Luigi are also at Villa Certosa.

His eldest son from his first marriage, Piersilvio, who heads Berlusconi’s Mediaset television empire, is reportedly vacationing in the Bahamas with his girlfriend.

Forty-three-year-old Marina last week threatened not to celebrate her birthday in Sardinia with her step-siblings.

The spat occurred after 24-year-old Barbara, in a recent magazine interview staked a blatant claim to Mondadori, Italy’s largest publishing house, part of Berlusconi’s publishing empire, which is run by Marina.

The frequently outspoken Barbara told the Italian edition of Vanity Fair: “I’m fascinated by publishing. My father has always thought that, when I become capable of it, I would take care of Mondadori.”

She reportedly further infuriated her father by saying: “I don’t think a politician can allow himself to make a difference between his private and public life.”

Berlusconi has in recent months been at the centre of embarrassing allegations that he slept with prostitutes, threw parties attended by escorts at his various residences, and frequented under-age girls.

Lario in May announced plans to divorce Berlusconi, after the left-leaning daily, La Repubblica, reported his attendance at the 18th birthday party of lingerie model and aspiring actress, Noemi Letizia.

She also received a 6,000 euro gold and pearl pendant from the prime minister.

Lario said she could no longer stay with a man who was “unwell” and who “frequented minors”.

Lario is reportedly determined to ensure Berlusconi’s five children by his two marriages should each receive and equal, 20 percent share of his fortune, worth an estimated 8.1 billion euros.

The inheritance is currently split 50-50 between Marina and Pier Silvio on one hand and Lario’s three children on the other.

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

Lockerbie: Mandelson Met Gaddafi’s Son Before Lockerbie Bomber Move

Lord Mandelson met Colonel Gaddafi’s son at a Corfu villa only a week before the announcement that the perpetrator of the Lockerbie bombing could be released from prison, the Financial Times has learnt.

Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, widely seen as the Libyan leader’s most likely successor, was a fellow guest of the Rothschild family at its Greek property a fortnight ago in a wider annual gathering of powerful friends.

Stays by the two men overlapped by only one night, according to Lord Mandelson’s spokesman.

He said the pair spoke only briefly but they did discuss Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrah. “There was a fleeting conversation about the prisoner; Peter was completely unsighted on the subject,” he said.

It was only one week later that news emerged that Mr

Megrah could get an early release on compassionate grounds because he is suffering from terminal cancer.

Lord Mandelson said through his spokesman that he had had no involvement in the decision and only learnt of it through the BBC. Mr Megrah’s possible release was a decision entirely for the Scottish government rather than London.

“It was entirely coincidental,” the spokesman said.

The government is likely to portray the meeting as unexceptional because relations between the UK and Libya have normalised in recent years.

It was in 2003 that Muammer Gaddafi surrendered his weapons of mass destruction programmes and helped deliver the Lockerbie bombing suspects for trial. In November 2008 he agreed a $1.8bn (£1.1bn) compensation package for bomb victims.

Libya’s role as a large oil producer, with the potential for much greater mineral discoveries in the future, has made it a magnet for international business — including British oil companies.

“Libya is . . . very much back in the mainstream of international affairs,” the British ambassador to Libya, Sir Vincent Fean, said this summer.

However, news of the meeting could renew questions about Lord Mandelson’s affinity for rich and powerful individuals and his ability to create controversy.

Seif Gaddafi antagonised relatives of some of the 270 Lockerbie victims last year when he said in a BBC interview that they were “very greedy” and “trading with the blood of their sons and daughters”.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Websites Not Prosecuted for Danish Cartoons

Tv programme Nova and politician Geert Wilders will not be prosecuted for publishing controversial Danish cartoons which poke fun at Mohammed, the public prosecution department said on Tuesday.

The department said reproducing the 12 cartoons, which led to worldwide unrest when published in a Danish newspaper in 2006, is not punishable by law because they target Mohammed not Muslims in general.

The cartoons ‘do not insult Muslims nor incite hatred’, the department said in a statement.

However, the pro-Arab Arabische Europese Liga has been told it does face prosecution unless it removes a cartoon featuring two Jews inventing the holocaust.


That cartoon does ‘insult Jews because of their race and/or religion’ because it implies Jews themselves invented the idea that six million were killed during World War II, the department said.

The AEL told the department it would continue to remove the cartoons from websites targeting the Dutch public. According to news agency ANP, the cartoons were taken off the site three years ago.

A further legal case centering on cartoons by an artist known as Gregorious Nekschot is still under investigation.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Rotterdam Sacks Integration Advisor

Rotterdam city council has sacked its controversial advisor on integration Tariq Ramadan, the NRC reports on Tuesday, quoting council sources.

The paper says officials believe Ramadan can no longer ‘lead the dialogue in the city’ because he himself has become part of the debate. Last week it emerged that Ramadan presents a weekly programme on Iran’s Press TV which is paid for by the Iranian authorities.

Ramadan, 46, has been attached to the city council for two years and is a visiting professor at Erasmus University, a post paid for by Rotterdam, the paper says.

In an open letter in the NRC on Tuesday, Ramadan says: ‘The present controversy says far more about the alarming state of politics in the Netherlands than about my person.’

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Radiation Tests on Shipload of Lumber?

Mysteries of hijacked ship raise concerns

LONDON — Claims that the Arctic Sea — the Russian ship apparently hijacked and missing for two weeks — was carrying a nuclear weapon bound for Osama bin Laden are being investigate by agents for the British intelligence service MI6, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

The ship was found today 300 miles off the West African coast and the crew was safe, but a team of specialists in locating nuclear substances was dispatched from Moscow to the scene.

The possibility that the ship was carrying a lot more than the lumber that it was reported to hold coincided with bin Laden’s most recent public claim that he will “soon have a nuclear weapon in my hands.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Russia Detains Ship ‘Hijackers’

Eight people have been arrested for hijacking the cargo ship Arctic Sea, Russia’s defence minister says.

Anatoly Serdyukov said the group of suspects included Russian, Estonian and Latvian nationals.

The Arctic Sea went off the radar after passing through the English Channel in late July, but was found late on Sunday far south in the Atlantic.

Speculation about what happened to the ship included suggestions of piracy, a mafia dispute or a commercial row.

The ship’s owners had reported that the vessel was attacked 24 July in Swedish waters.

The hijackers had approached the Arctic Sea in a dinghy, claiming they needed help to repair their vessel, Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Mr Serdyukov as saying.

But once on board the cargo ship, they threatened the crew with guns and forced them to sail south, the defence minister said.

Second attack?

The suspects include four Estonians, two Latvians and two Russians.

Mr Serdyukov said an investigation was under way aboard the Russian warship Ladny, where the Arctic Sea’s 15-strong crew members and the suspected pirates were being questioned.

The Ladny joined the hunt for the missing ship last week after Moscow deployed the strength of its Atlantic fleet to find the Maltese-flagged ship.

Carrying timber reportedly worth $1.8m (£1.1m), the 4,000-tonne Arctic Sea sailed from Finland and had been scheduled to dock in the Algerian port of Bejaia on 4 August.

The crew reported having been boarded by up to 10 armed men as the ship sailed through the Baltic Sea, but the intruders were reported to have left the vessel on an inflatable boat after 12 hours.

Ransom demand

There are also reports of the ship being attacked a second time off the Portuguese coast.

However, the vessel’s operators said they had no knowledge of the incident and Portugal said the ship was never in its territorial waters.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Spain: Pay-for-View Digital Terrestrial TV Bill Approved

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, AUGUST 13 — Parliament approved the bill to regulate pay-for-view digital terrestrial television in Spain today, announced deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega. National operators who have requested licences will be able to broadcast material on payment through one of the channels of which they are proprietor. The Government says that the system will favour new sources of funding and will open up a wider range of choices for viewers. ‘It was necessary and urgent to regulate this type of provision” said the deputy Prime Minister about the need to pass an emergency measure despite the negative but non-binding opinion of the Council of State, which rejected the Ministry for Industry’s arguments for the regulation of digital terrestrial pay-for-view tv. The opinion of the consultational body, which was cited by the media, was that the broadcast system did not have sufficient ‘legal foundation”, nor was it in the public interest, and moreover, violated the administration’s law of contracts from the moment when several operators requesting pay-for-view digital terrestrial television received concessions to broadcast openly. Until now pay-for-view digital terrestrial television has only been available from Canal+, part of the Sogecable group. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: NATO Marines Disembark on Beach, Vigo Protests

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, AUGUST 13 — Stupefied and frightened holidaymakers were bathing on the Samil beach in Vigo, Galicia, when they found themselves in the middle of a disembarkment of Danish marines, as they made their way towards the shore in NATO dinghies. The Vigo City council will make an official protest to the Danish embassy today over the dangerous manoeuvre performed by a group of marines on the beach at Samil, sources from the municipal council told the Efe press agency. The mayor of the city, Abel Caballero, will meet the Danish consul and the captains of the boats to decide what kind of protest to make. The holidaymakers called local police, frightened by the dangerous manoeuvre performed by the dinghies just a few metres from the shore. The marines had come from the Danish ship Thetis, which docked yesterday at the port of Vigo. Sources from the police say that the incident did not at any time put the safety of the bathers at risk. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: Health Ministry Wants Smoking Banned in Public Places

(ANSAmed) — Madrid, AUGUST 17 — Spanish society “is mature enough” to accept “a decision by healthcare authorities to prohibit smoking in all public places”, according to Health Minister Trinidad Jimenez, who today told national broadcaster Cadena Ser that 70% of Spanish citizens were in favour of a “total ban”. Current legislation lets owners of places with a surface area of less than 100 square metres decide whether to allow smoking or not. In Spain 80% of public places have a surface area of less than 100 square metres, and only 40,000 of the 350,000 ban smoking or have non-smoking areas. In June the country’s Congress urged the Socialist government to bring in harsher laws against smoking, “moving in a progressive manner towards an increase in spaces free from smoke”. Parliamentary groups have asked the government to draw up an assessment report on the impact and observation of the current law. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Police Raid Occupied Youth Centre in Lund

Ten people were arrested following a dawn police raid on a Romani youth centre in Lund in southern Sweden.

The arrested people were all aged between 18 and 25-years-old and had been occupying the Romano Trajo after-school recreation centre in the Norra Fäladen area of the city.

The occupying youths were demonstrating as part of a network calling itself “Lund residents against cutbacks”.

The arrests were conducted without any major incidents. Two of the occupiers attempted to flee but were swiftly apprehended by police.

The ten people were later transferred to Lund police station and are being held on suspicion of aggravated trespass and criminal damage.

Romano Trajo opened in 1989 to provide support to Romani children living in the area.

In 2004 the centre received the City of Lund’s integration prize. But this year it was announced that the centre, in the face of outspoken protests, would be closed.

Lund’s child and education committee considered that the services offered by Romano Trajo could be managed by other recreation centres in the area.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

UK: Libya’s National Oil, Essar Bid for Shell Refinery, Times Says

Aug. 9 (Bloomberg) — Libya’s National Oil Corp. and Essar Group are among the contenders to buy Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s Stanlow complex in northern England, the Sunday Times reported without saying where it obtained the information.

The complex in Cheshire, the company’s only refinery in Britain, is being sold in a bid by Shell to cut costs, the newspaper reported. The company is also selling two refineries at Heide and Harburg in Germany, the Times said.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Planning Laws Do Favour Gipsies and Travellers, Says Minister

After years of official denials on the issue, Communities Secretary Shahid Malik confessed that travelling families are treated differently from ‘the settled community’.

Justifying the policy, the minister said: ‘Fairness does not mean treating people equally; it means addressing the different needs of different people.’

Mr Malik’s confession has been hailed by campaigners as a ‘long-awaited admission of the truth’ which they say reveals the way planning laws are weighted in favour of gipsies and travellers.

And it explains why many, if not most, local campaigns against unauthorised or proposed encampments are doomed to failure, no matter how justified the objections may be.

Mr Malik made his comment during a little-noticed parliamentary debate last month.

Liberal Democrat MP Steve Webb told the minister that his Gloucestershire constituents were furious that gipsies had been allowed to camp on protected Green Belt land that had previously been turned down for residential housing.

Mr Webb claimed that ‘planning anarchy’ had set in whereby travelling people deliberately flout planning law in the knowledge that local councils — which are under Government pressure to find more caravan sites — would eventually rule in their favour.

The MP said: ‘There is a feeling among those who have contacted me that people do not have equal rights and responsibilities, but that there are separate rules and outcomes for different groups.’

The system, claimed Mr Webb, is making his constituents resentful.

Mr Malik replied: ‘Fairness is what the Department for Communities and Local Government — my department — and the Government are all about; but fairness does not mean treating people equally; it means addressing the different needs of different people.

‘The need to provide adequate sites for gipsies and travellers is a challenging one for local authorities, but that is just one of the many challenges that authorities regularly deal with.’

The Chambers English Dictionary defines fairness as ‘honesty, impartiality, justice’.

Mr Malik’s apparent redefinition of the word stems from the Government’s decision in 2000 to classify gipsies and Irish travellers as distinct racial groups under the Race Relations Act.

This decision — coupled with changes to planning law and a desire to build many more gipsy and traveller sites — conferred extra rights upon these groups under both race relations and human rights legislation.

In 2005, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister issued council planners with a so-called ‘good practice guide’ telling them how to deal with gipsy and traveller camps.

The guide says: ‘Some planners…think that “treating everyone the same” helps to ensure equality. But this is not the case.

‘Explicit recognition of difference is needed to ensure that the right action can be taken to deliver a planning service responsive to different needs within the communities it serves.’

Critics say this means that in any planning battle, an argument between a ‘settled’ family and their traveller neighbours is a dispute not between equals, but two groups with different legal rights and privileges.

In June, the Daily Mail revealed that the number of legal gipsy and traveller sites has quadrupled to 1,279 over the past ten years.

Over the same period, illegal sites more than doubled to 3,680. Some illegal sites are thrown up over a Bank Holiday weekend, when council planning enforcement officers are away from their desks. By the time they return, it is too late to do anything about the encampments.

Conservative local government spokesman Bob Neill said: ‘It’s not fair that planning applications are treated differently purely because of the type of person who is applying the same, consistent rules should apply whatever your background.

‘Under Labour, law-abiding families who work hard and pay their taxes face reams of red tape to extend their houses, whilst travellers are given special treatment to concrete over the Green Belt and defy planning rules.’

           — Hat tip: Lexington [Return to headlines]


Bono ‘May be Stripped of Bosnian Passport’

Bono could be stripped of his honorary Bosnian passport presented to him more than 10 years ago, according to reports.

The U2 frontman, as famous for his humanitarian work as his music, received the honorary passport from late president Alija Izetbegovic in 1997 when the band performed in Sarajevo, in recognition of his work in the country during the war.

At the time he likened Bosnia to Northern Ireland, saying: “It’s a small country and we have been divided also. We are trying to wrestle our world from the fools of the past and give it to the wise men of the future.”

But Bosnia’s Council of Ministers now claim the country’s laws do not allow for the conferral of honorary citizenships and are reportedly planning to have it revoked.

According to Bosnian media sources, the dispute was raised when Bono recently commented during U2 concerts in Zagreb, Croatia, that his Bosnian passport was one of his most treasured possessions.

“If we establish that a passport was given outside a regular legal procedure, we will have no other option but to take it away. We cut no slack to anybody, not even for Bono,” Bosnia’s Civil Affairs Minister Sredoje Novic reportedly said.

Over the past year Bosnia has been reviewing and cancelling citizenships granted in an illegal manner over the previous two decades, with many concerning former Islamic fighters who fought alongside Bosnian Muslim forces during the war.

Bono has been both praised and criticised for his activism. He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and was granted an honorary knighthood by the Queen.

He is the only person who has been nominated for an Oscar, Grammy, Golden Globe, and for the Nobel Prize.

[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Measures Not Retroactive for Foreign Companies

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, AUGUST 13 — New measures in force in Algeria which obligate foreign import companies to cede 30% of their capital to a local partner are not retroactive. The news was confirmed by the Algerian Finance minister, Karim Djoudi, in an interview with the APS agency. “As regards import companies, the decision taken in the 2009 Supplementary Budget Law does not provide for any provision being retroactive,” explained Djoudi, specifying that the new regulation “comes into force with the 2009 Supplementary Budget Law” published in the Official Gazette on July 29. Announced in March by Premier Ahmed Ouyahia, the decision caused controversy and while the Algerian authorities say it is a provision which aims to reduce imports, others believe it is a move towards protectionism in Algeria. A second ‘Ouyahia law’ obligates foreign companies to have an Algerian partner with a stake of 50% in every investment project, in the same way as already happens in the fuel sector. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Archaeology: Algeria, 117 Stolen Finds Seized

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, AUGUST 11 — A large number of archaeological finds and works of art have been seized by special cells of the Algerian gendarme working in the fight against smuggling of this type of good. According to reports by the National Gendarme, 117 artefacts and works of art, including 17 bronze, silver and copper statues, 15 paintings, 2 vases, candelabra and clocks have been recovered by security forces in Skikda, 350 kilometres east of Algiers. The law which came into force in June 1992 prohibits the taking in, possession, theft or trade in artefacts and works of art classified as part of the country’s protected heritage. However, every year hundreds of finds are smuggled out of the North African country. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Egypt: Mr. Mubarak and Son Go to Washington

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is visiting Washington for the first time in five years for talks with President Obama. But it’s his choice of traveling companion that’s causing a stir back home: Gamal Mubarak, the president son and possible successor, is tagging along.

One of the most debated issues among Egyptians these days is who will follow their 81-year-old leader. The regime rarely tips its hand, but many Egyptians fear that Gamal Mubarak, a member of the ruling National Democratic Party, is being groomed to take over when his father leaves office.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Ramadan: Algeria, Doctors Warn Diabetics

(ANSAmed)- ALGIERS, AUGUST 13 — As is the case every year, just before this year’s Ramadan (to begin between August 20 and 22) doctors in Algeria and the rest of the Muslim world are discouraging diabetics from engaging in the traditional fast for the holy month. “Those who stop their treatment or insulin injections may die from it,” doctors have unanimously warned on the awareness day for the illness organised in Batna, 400 kilometres east of Algiers. Ramadan “must not be assimilated with any sort of torture or tormenting of oneself,” said Cheik Omar Daoudi, doctor of theology, quoted by APS as saying that “the Koran authorises those who are ill to refrain from fasting and to compensate for it by making a donation.” According to the precepts of Islam, during this month nothing should “go down one’s throat” from dawn to dusk: hence, food, water and smoking are all off-limits. In addition, during the day believers are prohibited from engaging in sexual intercourse, having injections or inserting anything in body cavities. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Call to Boycott Israeli Goods in Ramadan

Nables — A popular campaign has been called to boycott Israeli goods in the West Bank during the holy month of Ramadan.

The campaign called to avoid purchasing goods that are made in Israel. According to a campaign statement ‘this is to destroy the economy of a state which usurps and Judaizes our lands and pursues criminal polices to expel our people who aim to achieve their ambition of independence and right to return. We call upon all those who fast in Ramadan to promote popular resistance against the occupation through the boycotting of Israeli goods, especially the products of the ELET, OSEM, TNUVA, TBOZINA and MTERNA Companies.’

The campaign stressed that ‘buying these goods will contribute in supporting the economy of the occupiers, promote the capacities of their army which kills Palestinian children, women and old men, burns their fields, destroy their houses and Holy places.’

Ramadan: Month of piety and resistance

The campaigners said that ‘Ramadan has been a month of piety and resistance through the years. The Muslim should not eat food, which is produced by the occupiers. The believer must know that by eating Israeli food, he will support and serve the enemy.’

The campaigners demanded that the Palestinian Ministry of Religious Endowments and Imams of the Mosques enlightens citizens and urges them to avoid eating food stuff produced in Israel.

They said that “there are national, Arab and foreign alternatives available instead of purchasing Israeli products.”

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Arabs Want Israeli Concessions, Says Mubarak

Washington, 17 August (AKI) — Arab states will not normalise ties with Israel until a formal peace deal is signed with the Palestinians, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak said on Monday. In an interview with the Egyptian daily Ah-Ahram, Mubarak said the experience of 1991’s Madrid peace conference had discouraged Arab states from further normalising ties without reciprocal gestures from Israel.

The interview was cited by the Palestinian news service, Maan, as Mubarak was due to arrive in Washington on Monday.

Mubarak was slated to meet key US government officials, including secretary of state Hillary Clinton, before his first White House visit in five years.

Egyptian officials said Mubarak would also hold talks with national security advisor, James Jones, and director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, and have a private meeting with representatives from eight US Jewish groups.

Among the Jewish organisations were the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — the leading pro-Israel lobby in the United States — J Street and the Anti-Defamation League.

Mubarak’s meeting with president Barack Obama will be the third time the leaders have met. Since his election, Obama stressed early in his term his desire to make the stalled Middle East peace process a top priority of his administration.

Obama has asked Arab countries to make overtures toward Israel as a way to advance peace talks between Israel and Palestine, by allowing Israel to use their airspace or opening economic interest offices.

The US has also demanded Israel freeze settlements, including any natural growth, but all sides have refused to take the first step with Palestinians having ended negotiations with Israel during the Gaza assault last winter.

The Madrid conference, held in October 1991, was hosted by Spain and co-sponsored by the United States and the former USSR.

It was an attempt by the international community to start a peace process through negotiations involving Israel and the Palestinians as well as Arab countries including Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War.

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

Female Marines Don Head Scarves in Afghanistan

Marines try submitting to sharia law to reach Afghan hearts

KHAWJA JAMAL, Afghanistan — Put on body armor, check weapons, cover head and shoulders with a scarf.

That was the drill for female American Marines who set out on patrol this week with a mission to make friends with Afghan women in a war zone by showing respect for Muslim standards of modesty.

The all-female unit of 46 Marines is the military’s latest innovation in its rivalry with the Taliban for the populace’s loyalty. Afghan women are viewed as good intelligence sources, and more open to the basics of the military’s hearts-and-minds effort — hygiene, education and an end to the violence.

“It’s part of the effort to show we’re sensitive to local culture,” said Capt. Jennifer Gregoire, of East Strasburg, Pennsylvania. She leads the Female Engagement Team in the Now Zad Valley of Helmand province, the heartland of the Taliban insurgency.

“If you show your hair, its kind of like seeing a nude picture here, because women are very covered up,” she said.

Women are technically barred from combat units in the Marines, and some infantrymen have been surprised to see them in brightly colored head scarves under their helmets, deployed in the most intense combat zones in the country.

“But … I think they understand that what we’re doing is vital to operations and vital to the counterinsurgency program they want to run,” said Gregoire.

Women soldiers were assigned to search women at checkpoints in Iraq, and the experience fed into the Afghan effort, said Cpl. Sarah Furrer, from Colorado Springs, Colorado, who served in both war zones.

“I’m not married and I don’t have children, so they think that’s awkward because I’m 24,” Furrer said of her Iraq experience. But as a result, “we’re not so much afraid of engaging the women” in Afghanistan, she said.

“I’ve found you get great intel from the female population,” said Capt. Zachary Martin, who commands the Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, stationed in Now Zad. “The women don’t want their men out there conducting jihad and getting killed.”

Martin said units have frequently received tips from women about weapons caches or hidden bombs.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Iran: Opposition Daily ‘Shut Down’

Tehran, 17 August (AKI) — Iran’s main opposition daily, Etemad Melli, run by cleric and defeated presidential candidate, Mehdi Karoubi, according to his website. The website said on Monday that the paper had been closed because it had angered many hardliners when it alleged in several articles that said protesters of the 12 June election had been raped in jail.

The website said Tehran’s prosecutor’s office late on Sunday ordered Etehmad Melli to close temporarily and for this reason the paper was not published on Monday.

But Iran’s official English language Press TV on Monday quoted Tehran’s prosecutor as denying it had closed the paper.

“Etemad Melli has not been shut down,” Press TV cited prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi saying.

The paper was not distributed on Monday “following problems in its printing-office,” Mortazavi was quoted as saying.

The paper was earlier closed down after comments made by Karoubi on Etemad Melli’s website in early July in which he called re-elected hardine president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration illegitimate.

Karoubi and another defeated opposition candidate, Mir Houssein Mousavi, who was runner-up to Ahmadinejad, claimed the disupted 12 June election was rigged to secure president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election. They have vowed to continue protesting the results.

Many hundreds of people were arrested during what were the biggest mass protests seen since the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

Two hundred are still detained and over 100 are facing trial on a range of charges including spying, conspiracy, rioting and vandalism.

The country’s political elite has been been in open disagreement about how to react to the protests.

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

Iran: Ayatollah Sees Global Islamic ‘Mahdi’ Army

Calls for Muslim nations to unite militarily under messianic figure

WASHINGTON — Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei yesterday called on Muslim nations around the world to united militarily in response to the imminent coming of Islam’s messianic savior — the Mahdi.

Khamenei, through his spokesman Ali Saeedi, specifically beckoned the nations of Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan and Afghanistan to join together with Iran in preparation for the Mahdi’s soon coming.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Iranian Ayatollah Creates ‘Private’ Militia

Iran’s top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has established a new security force personally loyal to him. The organization, called Haydaryan, is a small, elite militia dedicated to preserving the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader.

News of the Haydaryan militia was reported by Strategic Forecasting Inc. (Stratfor), an independent intelligence firm, on August 17, 2009. However, Stratfor analysts said, members of the force were involved in the violent suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations following Iran’s elections in June.

The Haydaryan is modeled on the well-known Basij paramilitary militia, which is generally recognized as fanatically loyal to the Islamist regime in Tehran. Some of “the more zealous members from the Basij” have been drafted into Haydaryan ranks, according to Stratfor.

The decision to establish a “royal guard” of sorts is an indication that Khamenei “is feeling vulnerable,” the analysts explained. “Khamenei realizes that his position has been weakened” in the aftermath of the elections, and he “will need to increasingly rely on the use of force to maintain his position at the apex of the complex Iranian political system.”

According to Iranian dissidents, the military forces seemed least willing to carry out orders to violently attack or confront protesters. Instead, the Islamic regime reportedly imported thousands of Arab terrorists from Hamas and Hizbullah to act as muscle in the street. Without ethnic, familial or national sympathies, and with a debt to repay to the Iranian government for ongoing support, the Arab terrorist hired guns were reportedly unquestioningly brutal to enemies of the Islamist regime.

The Arab mercenaries, the police, the secret police of the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security of Iran (VEVAK), the regular military, the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, the Basij, and now the Haydaryan are all competing forces within the totalitarian regime of Iran.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Major Doha Supermarkets Issue Ramadan Price List

(ANSAmed) — DOHA, AUGUST 13 — Qatar officials have issued a price list for 105 food items which they say should not increase during the holy month of Ramadan, Arabian Business online reports. The list, compiled by the Consumer Protection Department, has been issued to 10 major shopping outlets, including Carrefour and Mega Mart, across Doha, according to a report in the Peninsula. Food items included on the price guide are rice, wheat flour, oil, eggs, butter and fresh milk. “All these products are fast-moving and it is clear from the list supplied to us that the ministry has done tremendous research on what food items are of mass use,” a spokesman from the Family Food Center (FFC told the paper. “Our management has, for example, decided to sell these items cost-to-cost and add some more products on our own,” he added. The 10 shopping outlets which have been given the price list are; Carrefour, Lulu, Family Food Center, Giant Stores, Mega Mart, Dasman, Safari, Al Safeer, Duhail Shopping Complex and the Al Meera chain of cooperatives. Retailers do not have to follow the price guide by law, but have agreed not to raise the prices of essential commodities during the fasting month, the paper said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East Cycles: Are We Stuck in This Era?

by Barry Rubin

After watching Middle East politics for more than 30 years, it is clear that these events—and the perceptions of them—move in cycles. At times, developments force a more realistic, and at other times a less realistic, understanding of what’s going on. Sometimes, sadly, it is only when things go wrong that people in the West wake up.

Let’s take some “positive examples,” in terms of negative developments, as examples

1. 1967 war: Israel is not going to be wiped out, as many in West and Arab world predicted. Its defeat of Soviet allies is perceived as a victory for the West, and Israel begins to be appreciated as a strategic asset. The Arab world’s rejection of peace after the war is clearly recognized.

2. Iranian revolution and hostage crisis, 1979: Despite predictions that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini will either be shoved aside after the revolution or is a moderate reformer, the regime becomes a very radical one, anti-American and a menace to the region. The danger of radical Islamism is recognized as is the fact that measures must be taken to counter Iran, mainly to save Arab regimes in the Persian Gulf.

3. Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, 1990-1991: The prediction that all Arabs will support Saddam Hussein if the West attacks is shown to be ridiculous (I debated Madeleine Albright in December 1990 and that’s what she said). The idea of unitary Arab nationalism and the Palestinian issue as the only thing that matters is exposed as false. Along with the USSR’s collapse, the Western defeat of Iraq, and the PLO’s mistake in backing Saddam, this gives the opportunity for moving ahead on peace efforts. It also shut up the Palestinian-issue-is-all-that-matters crowd for about five years or so.

4. The failure of the Camp David meeting and the Clinton-Assad meetings, 2000: The Clinton Administration sees that neither Yasir Arafat nor Syrian President Hafiz al-Assad want peace. The failure of the peace process is put on their shoulders by American policymakers (this is where the Bush Administration got the basis for its policy), but this lesson isn’t remembered very long by the public.

5. The September 11 attacks, 2001: Things will never be the same, it was said on that day, but of course, the cycle always continues. Radical Islamism is recognized as a major threat both to America and the region. This one lasts about four years but is cancelled out largely by the Iraq war.

I could also give examples of the alternative part of the cycle, but let me just use the current one as the example…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]

Oil: Qatar Petroleum to Launch Bids for Al-Shaheen Project

(ANSAmed) — DOHA, AUGUST 13 — Qatar Petroleum is expected to invite bids for engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts for the multi-billion dollar Al-Shaheen refinery project in October, according to Arturo Grimaldi, senior vice president of French oil and gas contracting giant Technip. “The owners of the projects want to issue the instructions of the EPC to bidders in the month of October,” Grimaldi said in an exclusive interview with “They will award the contracts in March 2010” he added. The project was put under review last March in a bid by the state-owned hydrocarbons giant to trim construction costs. The budget for the Al-Shaheen refinery has ballooned to $13bn, but recent reports suggest that Qatar Petroleum is confident it can get this to below $10bn. Technip Abu Dhabi was awarded the FEED contract for the project in August 2007, which took 12 months to complete. “We did the FEED [at Shaheen], but then received a call by the client saying that they were reconsidering the scheme,” said Grimaldi. Many major energy companies have revised plans for new projects due to the lower oil price and falling demand, but also in view of cheaper costs for raw materials. The Al-Shaheen grassroots refinery will be located at Mesaieed Industrial City in the Qatar. With a capacity of 250,000 bpd and will produce high quality products, mainly gasoline, diesel oil and jet fuel and other hydrocarbon derivatives. Feedstock for the refinery will be sourced from the offshore Al-Shaheen field. The project is expected to be completed by 2014.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UAE: Red Crescent Launches Annual Ramadan Charity Campaign

(ANSAmed) — ABU DHABI, AUGUST 13 — The UAE Red Crescent launched its annual Ramadan charity campaign yesterday, aiming to distribute nearly Dh30 million (US$8m) worth of aid to the needy in 60 countries, The National online reports. Most of the money, about Dh21.5m, would be used to support Ramadan charities in the UAE, while about Dh8m would be disbursed among charities abroad through UAE embassies. The charitable campaign includes the Ramadan tents set up earlier this month to distribute an estimated daily 31,500 free pre-dawn and sundown meals — suhur and iftar — at designated points in each emirate. Any member of the public can obtain a meal. Throughout the Muslim world, suhur and iftar are distributed during the holy month, when believers are required to share their wealth with the less fortunate. Needy families will also receive the traditional Eid packages of new clothing, toys for children and other non-essential goods that are customary for the three-day holiday at the end of Ramadan. During the holiday, it is also customary to slaughter sheep and distribute the meat among poor families along with zakat, money collected as a tax from all Muslims who are able to pay it. Zakat proceeds are distributed through charities such as the Red Crescent. Funding for the food distribution programme, in which as many as one million cooked meals may be handed out, comes from private donations and government charities. The campaign is sponsored by 10 major establishments including Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Dubai Islamic Bank, Health Authority-Abu Dhabi and the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Company. While these sponsors donate funds to charity for separate projects, they are not listed in this effort as donors but as facilitators for collecting donations. The Red Crescent currently provides such aid on a regular basis in 60 Arab or Muslim countries. It provided a total of Dh301.4m in assistance in 2008, according to its prospectus. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Russia: Suicide Bomber Kills 20, Wounds 138 in Ingushetia

NAZRAN, Russia (Reuters) — A suicide bomber killed 20 people and wounded 138 in Russia’s Ingushetia region on Monday, turning a simmering Islamist insurgency there into the biggest test of Kremlin control of its southern flank.

“Every day something happens on (Ingushetia’s)…territory,” President Dmitry Medvedev told senior officials in the southern city of Astrakhan. “And they are all links in the same chain, all consequences of terrorist activity.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghan Election Fraud is Unearthed

An investigation by the BBC has found evidence of fraud and corruption in Afghanistan’s presidential election. Thousands of voting cards have been offered for sale and thousands of dollars have been offered in bribes to buy votes.

The Afghan Independent Election Commission that oversees the poll has also been accused of not doing enough to prevent abuses.

We were passed information that voting cards were being sold in the capital. An Afghan working for the BBC went undercover, posing as a potential buyer. He was offered 1,000 cards on the spot. Each one would cost about $10 (£6).

We were given some samples as proof of what was being offered. They are all authentic with the name, photo and home details of the voter on them.

Widespread abuses

The cards have been returned to the seller and no money changed hands. Others have also offered to sell us thousands of votes and some traders have even been arrested.

The Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA), an independent monitoring group, has collected evidence of fraud, in particular during the registration process.

It found that in many places people were being issued with more than one voting card, that children were being given them and that stacks of cards were issued to men who falsely claimed they were for women in their household.

Government workers — supposed to be impartial — have actively and illegally campaigned for candidates.

Shahrzad Akbar, a senior analyst with FEFA, says that because they were only able to investigate a few parts of the country, the abuses could be even more widespread.

“We couldn’t observe how it went in every single district or village. I am sure that there are cases of multiple card distribution that we don’t know about.

“But those incidents that we do know about caused us enough concern to contact the Independent Election Commission and say, ‘please prevent this!’“

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

EU: Tighter Sanctions Imposed on Burma

Brussels, 14 August (AKI) — The European Union has imposed tighter sanctions on Burma’s ruling military junta after a court in Rangoon sentenced opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to a further 18 months under house arrest.

In a statement, the EU council (photo) said the members of Burma’s judiciary responsible for the verdict had been added to a list of some 500 government officials whose assets have been frozen in the EU and who are banned from travel to the EU’s 27-member bloc.

It said that its existing assets freeze would now also cover businesses owned and controlled by members of the military government and their associates.

The UN security council late on Thursday agreed to a statement expressing “serious concern” about the extended detention of Suu Kyi after China urged the world body to respect Burma’s judicial sovereignty.

“The members of the security council express serious concern at the conviction and sentencing of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and its political impact,” ambassador John Sawers of the United Kingdom, which holds the rotating council presidency this month, said in a statement.

Suu Kyi, who leads the banned opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party, was convicted on 11 August of violating state security laws after an uninvited United States citizen to gain access to her home.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, has already spent over 12 years under house arrest.

The Security Council text replaces an earlier US-drafted version that had condemned the conviction and sentencing of Suu Kyi and called for her release as well as that of other political prisoners detained in Burma.

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

Taliban ‘Confirms Mehsud’s Death’

The chief spokesman for the Taliban in Pakistan, who was arrested on Monday, has confirmed that the group’s leader is dead, Pakistani officials have said.

A minister from North West Frontier Province said Maulvi Omar had stated that Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone attack earlier this month.

The Taliban had previously denied US and Pakistani reports that he was dead.

Maulvi Omar was arrested in the Mohmand tribal area while travelling to South Waziristan, near the Afghan border.

He was later questioned by Pakistani intelligence officials, whom he allegedly told that Mehsud was dead.

“Everybody knows that Maulvi Omar has been arrested. He was a spokesman for the Taliban,” Mian Iftikhar Hussain, North West Frontier Province’s information minister, told the AFP news agency.

“We will catch them all. All Taliban will have to face the same fate,” he said, adding that the latest detainee had been moved to the provincial capital, Peshawar.

“Intelligence agencies have given me information that Maulvi Omar has confirmed the death of Baitullah during interrogation,” he said.

Pakistani and US officials have said that Mehsud was killed — along with one of his wives — in a US missile strike on his father-in-law’s house in the Zangarha area, north-east of Ladha, on 5 August.

Despite both sides’ declarations, there has been no proof from the Taliban that Mehsud is alive or from the government that he is dead.

Believed to command as many as 20,000 pro-Taliban militants, Mehsud came to worldwide attention in the aftermath of the 2007 Red Mosque siege in Islamabad — in which the security forces confronted and forcibly ejected militant students loyal to him.

He has been blamed by both Pakistan and the US for a series of suicide bomb attacks in the country, as well as suicide attacks on Western forces across the border in Afghanistan.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Why the Hindu Right Wing Loves Mr Jinnah

Why are some of India’s Hindu nationalist leaders in love with Mohammed Ali Jinnah? The founder of Pakistan is a much reviled man in India, treated as a minor conspiratorial figure, and considered to be the architect of the bloody partition of the country on religious lines in 1947. Even the secular Congress party abhors him.

So when leaders of the Hindu right sing praises for Mr Jinnah, they stir up a hornet’s nest. Four years ago, the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) LK Advani, who led a successful Hindu revivalist movement in the early 1990s, praised the founder of Pakistan during a visit to the country. This raised the hackles of Hindu fellow travellers and invited scorn from the Congress party. The BJP leader even offered to put in his papers after the kerfuffle.

Now Jaswant Singh, a doughty senior party leader and former finance and external affairs minister, who counts people like Strobe Talbott as his friends and chess, golf and polo as his pursuits, has praised Mr Jinnah as a “self made man” who “created something out of nothing and single-handedly stood up against the might of the Congress party and against the British who didn’t really like him.” He has expanded on his thesis in his new, unimaginatively titled 669-page book Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence, which released this week.

What is surprising is Mr Singh’s defence of Mr Jinnah in a TV interview in the run-up to the book release where he is even more effusive in his praise of the Quaid-e-Azam (Great Leader) as Mr Jinnah is remembered as in his homeland. He demolishes the popular Indian historiography of Mr Jinnah being a Hindu-basher and a born demagogue. “That certainly he was not,” says the BJP leader. “His principal disagreement was with the Congress party. Repeatedly he says and he says this even in his last statements to the press and to the constituent Assembly of Pakistan.”

Then Mr Singh goes on to say that India misunderstood Mr Jinnah “because we needed to create a demon”. He insists the Congress party’s majoritarian instincts were responsible for the federalist Mr Jinnah turning away from the idea of India and asking for a separate nation for Muslims.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Far East

Heavy Losses for the Chinese Stock Exchanges, Including Decline in Foreign Investment

Shanghai -5.8%, -2.6% Hong Kong. The Shanghai Stock Exchange confirms last week’s losses. Experts: The financial world doubts declared recovery in China.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The descent of the stock market in Shanghai continued today, with losses of 5.8%, its largest in two months. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong also suffered losses, closing with -2.64%.

Shanghai had already lost 6.6% last week, due to sharp drops in the energy and metals sector, after an increases in prices of petroleum and coal.

Experts point out that the market does not share the confidence of many countries , including China, regarding the proclaimed beginning of an economy recovery. is not confident of the economic

The analyst Zhou Lin commented to the South China Morning Post that “the market volatility continues today and will continue in the short term, due to the uncertainty surrounding the recovery of the Chinese economy and government policy toward the stock market.” Investors are also cautious after the heavy losses in stock markets a few months ago. Beijing had already announced to have overcome the worst of the crisis with a growth rate around 8% but the figure has been criticized by experts because it does not provide sufficient information for a serious review.

The losses are also considered the result of a knock-on effect from losses on Wall Street last week and pessimistic U.S. data, which is struggling to show signs of a recovery.

Meanwhile, Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in China continued to decline in the first 7 months of 2009 falling by over 20.3% over the same period in 2008. According to data reported today by Yao Jian, of the Ministry of Commerce, the deterioration was greater in July, with investment of 5.36 billion dollars and a loss of 35.7% compared to July 2008, while in June, the decrease was smaller (-6.8%). In 2008, investment had reached a record level of 92.4 billion dollars.

Experts note that the decline may also be a result of the dispute between the Chinese authorities and the mining company Rio Tinto. China has arrested four employees of the firm on charges of industrial espionage, and the company replied that so far it has not been shown any evidence. Many feel that the story is part of battle between Chinese state companies and Rio Tinto to determine the new prices of iron ore, essential for production and the economy of China.

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

Kuwait, China Agree on New Site for USD 9 Bln Refinery

(ANSAmed) — KUWAIT CITY, AUGUST 11 — Kuwait and China have decided on a new location for a $9bn mega refinery and petrochemical project in the southwestern Guangdong Province, state-run Kuwait Petroleum International (KPI) has said. The long-awaited project, jointly owned by KPI’s parent KPC, Asia’s top refiner Sinopec and potential international partners, hopes to gain final approval from China’s top economic planning agency in the coming few months. “After thorough review by the senior managements of Sinopec and Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC), it was decided to accept Donghai Island in the southwestern coastal city of Zhanjiang as the site of the joint venture project,” KPI said in a statement to Kuwait News Agency (KUNA). The plant is slated for completion by the end of 2013, according to KPI. “The preliminary cost estimate of the joint venture project was approximately $9 billion and it will be adjusted, suitable for the conditions of the new site,” the company added. The giant facilities will have a crude oil refining capacity of 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) and ethylene production capacity of 1 million tons per year. The proposed project would become one of the largest Sino-foreign joint ventures in China. In 2006, the Chinese government gave a preliminary approval to construct the integrated complex and designated the Nansha district of provincial capital Guangzhou as the site. However, the project stalled due to concern over the environment impact on the densely populated area. The project is expected to serve as a driving force for the Gulf state towards achieving its China-bound crude oil export target of 500,000 bpd by 2015, given that KPC will supply 100 percent of the crude to be processed in the plant. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Water Crisis to Hit Asian Food

Scientists have warned Asian countries that they face chronic food shortages and likely social unrest if they do not improve water management.

The water experts are meeting at a UN-sponsored conference in Sweden.

They say countries in south and east Asia must spend billions of dollars to improve antiquated crop irrigation to cope with rapid population increases.

That estimate does not yet take into account the possible impact of global warming on water supplies, they said.

Asia’s population is forecast to increase by 1.5bn people over the next 40 years.

Going hungry

The findings are published in a new joint report by the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

They suggest that Asian countries will need to import more than a quarter of their rice and other staples to feed their populations.

“Asia’s food and feed demand is expected to double by 2050,” said IWMI director general Colin Chartres.

“Relying on trade to meet a large part of this demand will impose a huge and politically untenable burden on the economies of many developing countries.

“The best bet for Asia lies in revitalising its vast irrigation systems, which account for 70% of the world’s total irrigated land,” he said.

With new agricultural land in short supply, the solution, he said, is to intensify irrigation methods, modernising old systems built in the 1970s and 1980s.

But that, he says will require billions of dollars of investment.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australia/Environment: Bring it on, Labor, Pull That Trigger

. When the Government’s chief climate change science adviser, Professor Will Steffen, was asked to participate in an open debate this week for the benefit of senators about to vote on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill, he refused. Instead, he sent the independent senator Steve Fielding a letter belittling the scientist he was asked to debate.

Steffen, a research chemist with an interest in “Earth System science”, accused Professor Bob Carter, a palaeoclimatologist, and other eminent scientists who have questioned the Government’s scientific advice, of “flawed logic, misleading and inaccurate statements and confused and inconsistent analyses” not even worthy of university science students.

Steffen’s reasons for his no-show? “By going there I would have given exactly the wrong impression, simply by being there, that there is a debate.”

Steffen’s attitude flies in the face of 1000 years of scientific method — of open inquiry, of encouraging the objective search for truth, sharing knowledge, testing hypotheses, welcoming challenges in order to demonstrate the robustness of your theories or help you develop new ones.

Something stinks in the climate science industry. The confected sense of urgency. The comic predictions by the United Nations that we have only “four months” to save the planet or that next year as many as 50 million climate refugees will be “displaced” by human-caused climate change. The fantasy that imposing a new tax on Australians will make any difference to the age-old phenomenon of climate change.

Here we had the Senate voting on Thursday on what both sides describe as one of the most significant pieces of legislation since Federation. Yet there has been little debate about the impact on jobs, household budgets, agriculture and industry, on electricity, gas and petrol prices, no consideration of nuclear energy, and scarce information about how we will do without the cheap baseload energy from coal-fired power stations which underpins Australia’s high standard of living. Instead we have McCarthyist bullying of critics. At least Fielding, an engineer, is strong-minded enough to seek his own answers.

As it happened on Wednesday, the day before the vote, just 13 MPs and senators showed up to the debate he organised that had become a one-man talk by Carter. None were from the Government. Just 6 per cent of the Parliament could spare an hour to hear what the fuss was about.

What misgivings did Carter and three other scientists advising Fielding (the climatologist William Kininmonth, the former head of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology National Climate Centre; the hydro-climatologist Dr Stewart Franks; and the mathematician Dr David Evans, the former Australian Greenhouse Office carbon modeller) have about the science underpinning the Government’s legislation?

Even if you reject the sceptical view, Australia produces just 1 per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions so if we were to shut down the country, the impact on global climate would still be negligible.

The Government is determined to resubmit its legislation to the Senate in November, under the threat of a double dissolution election, so that it is completed before the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen in December. Malcolm Turnbull is busy drafting amendments in an attempt to make the legislation palatable.

But the Coalition should embrace a double dissolution on climate change. Bring it on. Call the Government’s bluff. It’ll be their best chance of winning back office for years.

As Barnaby Joyce reminded everyone this week, by winning the “unwinnable” 1993 election, Paul Keating showed John Hewson how difficult it was to go to the Australian people with a new tax — which is what the emissions trading scheme is — an energy tax.

In Turnbull, the Coalition has the perfect man for the job of winning an election on an energy tax. He is enough of a genuine climate change alarmist to reassure green-minded voters, yet he is also a successful capitalist who knows the value of preserving a healthy economy.

Crafting complex deals, such as an ETS that might work, is his forte.

It’s probably his only chance of being prime minister, so he will fight for all he’s worth.

An early election will also force the Coalition to rally behind its leader, removing the unsettling effect of all that free speech they are currently engaging in. Plus it’s just the kind of reckless gamble for which Turnbull is famed, and which he occasionally pulls off. It’s right up his alley, if Utegate hasn’t taken all his bottle.

You can bet money from industry would roll into Coalition coffers to help fight such an election, easily rivalling the union advertising largesse against Work Choices in the last poll.

And as Steve Fielding has found from the supportive emails and letters flooding his office, the public mood is turning resolutely against rash measures to stop climate change.

A Newspoll last month found 53 per cent of Australians want the Government to delay the ETS legislation until after Copenhagen, or not introduce it at all. Six per cent are uncommitted.

Only 41 per cent think Australia should pass the legislation before Copenhagen.

So what’s the big hurry? In the Senate on Thursday after losing the vote, Penny Wong revealed the reason: “Because if we don’t [bring the bill back in November], this nation goes to Copenhagen with no means to deliver on its targets.” It’s to give Kevin Rudd something to strut with on the global stage.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigerians Protest Lybia’s Plan to Execute 220 Nigerians

By: Uduma Kalu

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Nigerians all over the world have reacted to alleged plans by the Libya plans to execute 220 Nigerians for immigration violations. To save the Nigerian from death, Nigerians in the diaspora have therefore asked the country embassy in Lybia as well as the federal government to intervene saying that already, 30 have been executed by the Libyan authorities.

They have also sent out email accounts of Nigerian embassy officials in Lybia for people to force the embassy to intervene. Already, Sudanese embassy officials are aid to have protested to Lybia against the execution of their citizens. Nigerian government is yet to act.

Reports came yesterday that by today, over 220 illegal immigrants in Libya mostly Nigerians may be executed. It said that out of this number, 30 were allegedly executed in the early hours of Thursday in the prison yard in Tripoli, the Libyan capital.

Among the Nigerian illegal immigrants awaiting execution in Libya is a 37-year-old Benedict Ukoma Jude from Imo State who was arrested along with other Nigerians for entering the country without valid documents.

The arrested Nigerians are said to be kept separately from other nationals from Ghana, Niger, Cameroun ,Algeria and Mali just as the Nigerians are said to being dehumanized before their alleged execution. An official of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja however was said to have reported that the Nigerian

government was not aware of such development.

But the Benedict Ukoma Jude who spoke from his prison cell in Libya Thusrday said most Nigerian illegal immigrants were arrested in the desert while trying to cross to Europe. Benedict, denied being involved in any criminal activity in Libya, adding that the illegal aliens were arraigned before a court after the arrest, and that the charges against them were read to them in the language they could not understand while the judicial officers feigned not to understand English.

He alleged that the Libyan authorities have been killing illegal aliens in batches since last week, stressing that the remaining prisoners would be executed tomorrow as over 10 Nigerians were amongthose executed Thursday.

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


Boom in Marriages of Convenience in Spain

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, AUGUST 13 — Hundreds of Spaniards are offering white weddings’ over the internet to non-European immigrants who want to obtain a residency permit in Spain: reports daily newspaper El Periodico. The phenomenon has increased during the last year because of the economic crisis. ‘When unemployment benefit ends, when the savings run out, some people sell their motorbike, some their car, some their jewellery: some people are also trying to sell their single status” writes the paper. Marriages in exchange for payment are being offered online at between three and six thousand euros. ‘Seeking woman for marriage of convenience in exchange for money” writes a young man calling himself Mayo12 on one website. ‘I am not looking for anything serious, just papers for you and money for me” says Pedro. Some, like Adrian, are even saying that they are willing to marry men or women: ‘I am offering a marriage of convenience to boys or girls in return for legal status”. Requests by non-Europeans are flooding into this new market. Karoll wisely says that she wants ‘only papers: ‘I am Brazilian, I am looking for a serious boy for a marriage of convenience. I only want marriage”. Carmen, a 28 year-old Peruvian, is explicit: ‘I will pay three thousand euros on the wedding day. I will then pay for the divorce and give you another thousand euros”. One Moroccan girl has specific requirements: ‘I am looking for a marriage in exchange for money to come to Spain. Do not apply if you are not willing to have an Islamic wedding”. Luis, who was contacted by the paper, explains that ‘the reason for all this is the crisis. I have been unemployed since January, I have just one more month of benefits and I cannot find work. I have to carry on paying the rent or I will end up on the streets”. Spain now has an army of four million unemployed, at a record rate of 17.4%, double the EU average. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Danish Conservatives: Immigrant Illness Register

Denmark’s junior minority coalition Conservative Party is calling for taboos on talking about immigrant illnesses to be broken.

The Danish Conservative Party wants to combat immigrant illnesses by registering those who are ill according to their ethnicity.

The proposal will require new guidelines, as it is currently illegal to map illnesses according to ethnicity.

“As far as we’re concerned there are some immigrant illnesses, among others diabetes-2,” says the Conservative Party’s new Integration Spokesman Naser Khader, MP, himself an immigrant of Syrian-Palestinian extraction.


“Some children are born with handicaps and there are many cases of relationships with near relatives among immigrants. If we are to do something about it, it is important that we begin to register the relationship of sickness to ethnicity,” says Khader.

“As things are now hospitals cannot register a newly-born’s handicap according to its ethnicity, so you can’t research the relationship between cousin marriages and handicap births,” the Conservatives say.

“If a handicapped child is born, it would be reasonable to register where its parents come from,” says Khader.

Khader’s proposal is a repeat of a similar complaint he issued in 2003 when he was Health Spokesman of the Social Liberal Party.

“When I visit hospitals and institutions, (cousin marriages) are mentioned as a problem. There are more handicapped children from ethnic minorities, but it is difficult to get an overall picture of the extent of the problem,” Khader said at the time.

He since left the Social Liberals, started a new party and subsequently left that for the Conservative Party.

National register

The Conservatives want to open a National Centre for Ethnic Minorities and Health to strengthen research on health and prophylactics among immigrants.

“Sometimes, the politically correct tone has meant that you mustn’t say things straight out. You mustn’t say that there are immigrant illnesses and that many immigrants get diabetes 2. That is something we will now do, because there are some people who need a helping hand with their health,” says Conservative Party Leader Lene Espersen.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Spain: Illegal Landings -40% Jan-Jul 2009

(ANSAmed) — MADRID — The number of illegal immigrants that have reached the Spanish coast since went down in the first 7 months of the year by 40%, compared to the same period of 2008, sources from the Interior Ministry informed ANSAmed. In total, 4,457 illegal immigrants landed in the period up to July, equal to a 40% decrease compared to just a year ago and -74.4% compared to the same period of 2006. For the first time in 10 years, during the month of April and May, not a single landing was recorded in the Canary Islands, where the number of illegal immigrants, though the number landed in the first 7 months was 1,798, equal to -63.3% compared to the same period of 2008 and -87% compared to the same period of 2006. The decrease in immigrant landings on the Spanish coast is due to, according to sources, the efficiency of the controls that have been implemented, particularly along Africa’s Atlantic coast, that have been undertaken in collaboration with the countries of origin and transit. At the end of July, the Minister of the Interior, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, went to Mali and Senegal to strengthen cooperation in the fight against illegal immigration and to propose new agreements for European patrols off the coast of Senegal to avoid departures towards Europe. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Sweden Refuses Asylum to Homosexual Iraqis

A Swedish gay rights organisation has called on the government not to deport any homosexual Iraqi asylum seekers in the light of a shocking new report categorising an extermination campaign against gay men in the Middle Eastern country.

According to a new report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) gay men in Iraq run a high risk of being tortured or murdered by Iraqi militias.

The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) has now called on the Swedish government to halt all deportations to Iraq of people who have sought asylum on the basis of sexual orientation or gender.

“We urge Sweden to investigate the possibility of evacuating homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people who are at risk of being subjected to ‘sexual cleansing’,” RFSL’s chairperson Sören Juvas writes in a press release on Monday.

The HRW report, entitled “‘They Want Us Exterminated’: Murder, Torture, Sexual Orientation and Gender in Iraq,”, details that Mahdi army militias are behind a campaign that began in the western Baghdad suburb of Sadr City and has now spread to cities across the country.

“A wide-reaching campaign of extrajudicial executions, kidnappings, and torture of gay men…began in early 2009,” the human rights group writes in a 67-page report published on Monday.

According to Amnesty International, cited by the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper, 25 gay men have been murdered in Iraq so far this year.

According to Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) figures around 300 people apply for asylum in Sweden each year on the grounds of their homosexuality.

There are no official figures for how many are approved or denied but according to cases witnessed by RFSL’s refugee administrator in Stockholm as many as a third may be refused, DN writes.

According to the 2005 Swedish Aliens Act a refugee is classified as an “alien” who “feels a well-founded fear of persecution on grounds of race, nationality, religious or political belief, or on grounds of gender, sexual orientation…or because of his or her fear is unwilling, to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country.”

“It is unreasonable to blow your own trumpet with a law that should give protection but in practice is not used. Then it would be better if the government were honest and says that it does not consider it an important issue,” Sören Juvas at RFSL says.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]


It All Depends…

On this day in 1945, Indonesian nationalists declared their independence from the Netherlands. What’s this got to do with America or Americans? Not a great deal, on the face of it, but it does touch on a few issues we discuss here.

I’ve written before that the Dutch who had resided in Indonesia or the ‘Dutch East Indies’ as was, were repatriated back to the Netherlands after the revolution establishing Indonesia’s independence. I learned about this in college, but I find that very scant information on it is to be found on the Internet or elsewhere. Here’s one brief paragraph about it:

“To withdraw all the troops and all the colonial Dutch families after independence became a big headache for the Dutch government. Many of the Dutch colonial people had never seen the mainland. Some of them had lived in Indonesia from generation to generation and hated the cold climate in Holland. Many were given a chance to emigrate to the U.S.A. or Australia. Many of them took that opportunity and started a new life in those countries. There were many Dutch Indonesians who immigrated to California. Still many of them stayed in Holland and mingled in with the Dutch society.”

So these people, of Dutch and sometimes mixed ancestry, who had never laid eyes on the Netherlands in many cases, were shipped ‘back’ to a country they had never seen. Why are cases like this never mentioned when somebody is wringing their hands over how we ‘can’t’ repatriate aliens or in plain language, send them home? Our European kin were forced out, in some cases, of areas they had colonized centuries before. Yet in a sense they were going home, to the home of their ancestors and their natural kin. Still, they and their children, and perhaps several generations before them, had never known any other home than the colony in which they were born and lived. Do you reckon many native Indonesians fretted over how cruel and unfair it was to ‘deport’ people who were born in their islands? Somehow I doubt there was little public agonizing over it. Yet some Westerners tend to go into hysterics over the idea of sending anybody home, though in most cases the people in question have only recently transplanted themselves to American soil, unlike the Dutch and the mixed-race ‘Indos’ who were shipped to the Netherlands circa 1950.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

One thought on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/18/2009

  1. I recently read a book on a similar topic to the Dutch experience. Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922 (Giles Milton) deals with English merchant families that had been in that city for centuries, to the point that England and it’s culture were foreign to them. Their world came crashing down with the Young Turks conquest on the heals of the over-eager, over-stretched Greeks who ran back to Smyrna from disasater in Anatolia.

Comments are closed.