Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/3/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/3/2009Two interesting items from the epidemiology front: a new strain of HIV has leapt from gorillas to humans, and an entire town in China has been quarantined in an attempt to contain an outbreak of pneumonic plague.

In other news, after a change in the law, a few Saudi women are now going to work as maids (in Saudi Arabia this job category had previously been reserved mainly for Malaysians and Filipinas).

Thanks to AA, Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, CSP, JD, Nilk, Sean O’Brian, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
– – – – – – – –

Financial Crisis
Salaries Slide in Japan: -7.1% in June
2 Obama Officials: No Guarantee Taxes Won’t Go Up
AP Sources: Military-Civilian Terror Prison Eyed
Crosses Removed From Airports
Do All the World’s Countries Really Love the Obama Administration? A Survey
Obama’s Radical Pal Slams Racist ‘American Empire’
Pentagon Eyes Accelerated “Bunker Buster” Bomb
The Problem With Obama is …
Europe and the EU
American-Venetian Burnout
Austria: Speculation Over ÖVP-FPÖ Coalition
Ireland: Robinson ‘Bullied’ By Pro-Israel Lobbyists
Ireland: Girl (15) Faces Permanent Disfigurement as Cutbacks Delay Vital Spinal Operation
Italy: Price Hikes Dampen Dolce Vita
UK: Apple Tried to Silence Owner of Exploding Ipod With Gag Order
UK: Galloway TV Shows ‘Broke Rules’
UK: PCSO Gives Boy, 9, ‘Blue Warning Ticket’ For Climbing a Tree While on Holiday
UK: Rough Justice — Victorian Style
UK: Three Policewomen Spend Full Day Dressed in Muslim Burkhas in Controversial ‘In Your Shoes’ Exercise
UK: Tanker Driver Dragged to Court for Smoking — Even Though it Was a Fake Cigarette
North Africa
Algeria: Al-Qaeda Suspects Killed in Offensive
Israel and the Palestinians
The Case for Anti-Freeze: Regarding Israeli Construction on Settlements
Middle East
First Saudi Women Work as Maids
Frank Gaffney: A World of Hurt
Lebanon: Jumblatt to Leave Anti-Syrian Alliance
Obama to Allow Iran to Acquire Nuclear Arms
South Asia
ASEAN to Protect Human Rights But Only With Consent of Violating Nation
India: Court Overturns Ban on Gay Sex
Pakistan: Christians Close Schools to Mourn Brutal Killings
Pakistan: Unrest in East: Christian Community Protests and Demands Justice
Pakistan Christians shut schools to mourn killings
Far East
Entire Town in Quarantine After Two Die From Pneumonic Plague in China
Japan Relaunches Trials by Jury
Australia — Pacific
Police Swoop on Melbourne Homes After Somali Islamists’ Terror Plot Exposed
Sub-Saharan Africa
Ethiopia Jails Canadian for Life
Ransom Delivered to Pirates on German Freighter
Scores Dead in South Sudan Clash
Sudan Trouser Woman ‘Ready for 40,000 Lashes’
Latin America
Venezuela Seizes Coffee Companies
Ireland: €39m a Year Spent on Failed Asylum Applicants, Says FG
New HIV Strain Leapt to Humans From Gorillas
The Jews Have Beaten the Pious Muslims to it Yet Again

Financial Crisis

Salaries Slide in Japan: -7.1% in June

The decrease in income has an impact on consumer products and provokes increased deflation. Now there is the fear that the economic recovery, announced as imminent, is still far off.

Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Employee compensation decreased by 7.1% in June compared to June 2008, the largest decrease in 20 years. Experts fear a heavy impact on domestic consumption, with increased risks of deflation.

The Ministry for Labor said that the drop in salaries has increased threefold since May with a record negative since 1990. The figure was almost expected, after unemployment rose by 31.3% (+ 831 thousand) in June, compared to June 2008, reaching 3.48 million unemployed (5.5% of the workforce). This also a result of the progressive massive job layoffs in leading companies such as Nissan, Sony and Sharp.

But the figure is high and raises fears of the real possibility of an economic recovery early in 2010, as forecast by the Central Bank of Japan. In the country there was a cautious optimism after the industrial production in the second quarter of 2009 had recorded a modest increase of 0.4%, after shrinking by 3.8% in the first quarter.

The BOJ has predicted that deflation will last until mid-2011.

The massive job losses and uncertainty for the future are causing a gradual contraction of domestic consumption: in July the prices of consumer products, excluding food, decreased by 1.7% compared to a year earlier. Domestic consumption accounts for about 60% of Gross Domestic Product and all agree that there can be no real economic recovery without the support of domestic consumption.

Masami Adachi, expert JPMorgan Securities in Tokyo, states that “this situation causes more downward pressure on prices; deflation will worsen in 2010. The interventions of the central bank can not change this situation”.

In July, the BOJ purchased licenses of banks to avoid their collapse and gave the banks long term loans at only 0.1% interest.

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


2 Obama Officials: No Guarantee Taxes Won’t Go Up

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s treasury secretary said Sunday he cannot rule out higher taxes to help tame an exploding budget deficit, and his chief economic adviser would not dismiss raising them on middle-class Americans as part of a health care overhaul. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

AP Sources: Military-Civilian Terror Prison Eyed

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is looking at creating a courtroom-within-a-prison complex in the U.S. to house suspected terrorists, combining military and civilian detention facilities at a single maximum-security prison.

Several senior U.S. officials said the administration is eyeing a soon-to-be-shuttered state maximum security prison in Michigan and the military penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., as possible locations for a heavily guarded site to hold the 229 suspected al-Qaida, Taliban and foreign fighters now jailed at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.

The officials outlined the plans — the latest effort to comply with President Barack Obama’s order to close the prison camp by Jan. 22, 2010, and satisfy congressional and public fears about incarcerating terror suspects on American soil — on condition of anonymity because the options are under review.

White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said Friday that no decisions have been made about the proposal. But the White House considers the courtroom-prison complex as the best among a series of bad options, an administration official said.

To the House Republican leader, it’s an “ill-conceived plan” that would bring terrorists into the U.S. despite opposition by Congress and the American people. “The administration is going to face a severe public backlash unless it shelves this plan and goes back to the drawing board,” said Antonia Ferrier, spokeswoman for Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio.

For months, government lawyers and senior officials at the Pentagon, Justice Department and the White House have struggled with how to close the internationally reviled U.S. Navy prison at Guantanamo. Congress has blocked $80 million intended to bring the detainees to the United States. Lawmakers want the administration to say how it plans to make the moves without putting Americans at risk.

The facility would operate as a hybrid prison system jointly operated by the Justice Department, the military and the Department of Homeland Security. The administration’s plan, according to three government officials, calls for:

  • Moving all the Guantanamo detainees to a single U.S. prison. The Justice Department has identified between 60 and 80 who could be prosecuted, either in military or federal criminal courts. The Pentagon would oversee the detainees who would face trial in military tribunals. The Bureau of Prisons, an arm of the Justice Department, would manage defendants in federal courts.
  • Building a court facility within the prison site where military or criminal defendants would be tried. Doing so would create a single venue for almost all the criminal defendants, ending the need to transport them elsewhere in the U.S. for trial.
  • Providing long-term holding cells for a small but still undetermined number of detainees who will not face trial because intelligence and counterterror officials conclude they are too dangerous to risk being freed.
  • Building immigration detention cells for detainees ordered released by courts but still behind bars because countries are unwilling to take them.

Each proposal, according to experts in constitutional and national security law, faces legal and logistics problems.

Scott Silliman, director of Duke University’s Center on Law, Ethics and National Security, called the proposal “totally unprecedented” and said he doubts the plan would work without Congress’ involvement because new laws probably would be needed. Otherwise, “we gain nothing — all we do is create a Guantanamo in Kansas or wherever,” Silliman said. “You’ve got very strict jurisdictional issues on venue of a federal court. Why would you bring courts from all over the country to one facility, rather than having them prosecuted in the district where the courts sit?”

Legal experts said civilian trials held inside the prison could face jury-selection dilemmas in rural areas because of the limited number of potential jurors available. One solution, Silliman said, would be to bring jurors from elsewhere. But that step, one official said, could also compromise security by opening up the prison to outsiders.

It is unclear whether victims — particularly survivors of Sept. 11 victims — would be allowed into the courtroom to watch the trials. Victims and family members have no assumed right under current law to attend military commissions, although the Pentagon does allow them to attend hearings at Guantanamo under a random selection process. That right is automatic in civilian federal courthouses. “They’ll have to sort it out,” said Douglas Beloof, a professor at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Ore., and expert on crime victims’ rights. He said the new system “could create tension with victims who would protest.”

The officials said that another uncertainty remains how many Guantanamo detainees would end up housed in the hybrid prison.

As many as an estimated 170 of the detainees now at Guantanamo are unlikely to be prosecuted. Some are being held indefinitely because government officials do not want to take the chance of seeing them acquitted in a trial. The rest are considered candidates for release, but the U.S. cannot find foreign countries willing to take them. Almost all have yet to be charged with crimes.

Two senior U.S. officials said one option for the proposed hybrid prison would be to use the soon-to-be-shuttered Standish maximum-security state prison in northeast Michigan. The facility already has individual cells and ample security for detainees. Getting the Standish prison ready for the detainees would be costly. One official estimated it would cost over $100 million for security and other building upgrades.

Several Michigan lawmakers, including Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin and Rep. Bart Stupak, both Democrats, have said they would be open to moving detainees to Michigan as long as there is broad local support.

But the political support is not unanimous. Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra, top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor next year, is against the idea.

Administration officials said the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth is under consideration because it is already a hardened high-security facility that could be further protected by the surrounding military base. It’s not clear what would happen to the military’s inmates already being held there. Nearly half are members of the U.S. armed forces, and by law, cannot be housed with foreign prisoners.

Kansas’ GOP-dominated congressional delegation is dead set against moving Guantanamo detainees to Leavenworth. Residents told Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., at a town hall meeting in May that 95 percent of the local community opposes it. Sen. Sam Brownback and Rep. Lynn Jenkins planned a news conference in Leavenworth on Monday to “discuss opposition to any efforts to move detainees to Fort Leavenworth.”

Administration officials say they are determined to keep to his promise of closing Guantanamo in January as a worldwide example of America’s commitment to humane and just treatment of the detainees. Glenn Sulmasy, an international law professor at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., said the prison-court complex will “be difficult, but it’s logical.”

“This is all based on Closing Gitmo by 2010, which seems to be a priority, and if we are going to do it, we have to step up to the plate and find solutions to the conundrum we’re facing,” said Sulmasy, who agrees with the administration’s efforts. “And this seems to be the most pragmatic way ahead.”

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Crosses Removed From Airports

While U.S. airports often have chapels, many of them no longer display crosses or other symbols that would make them specific to a particular faith.

The chapel at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport features a silhouette of a person kneeling and a generic stained-glass window.

It also has a library stocking everything from Gideon Bibles to Jewish mystical texts, and a large floor mat provides a cushiony spot to kneel for prayer.

A large compass on the chapel floor helps guide Muslims who pray toward Mecca.

Atlanta’s airport chaplain is a United Methodist, but has become a jack of all faiths. He says rosaries, yarmulkes, prayer shawls, and a Catholic Mass kit are tucked away for use as needed.

[Return to headlines]

Do All the World’s Countries Really Love the Obama Administration? A Survey

by Barry Rubin

We think and hope you will find this article of special interest because it makes some important and original points. Please feel free to reprint as long as you include prominently the url and mention it is reprinted from RubinReports.

A recent article lists seven countries, aside from Israel, where it argues relations with the U.S. have declined since Obama took office, responding to a Washington Post editorial lavishing praise on the Obama administration and saying relations are better with every country in the world except Israel.

Shockingly, the Post’s main “proof” is public opinion polls saying Obama is more popular than Bush. Before January 20 would any serious policy analyst or journalist have argued that this is the main element in relations between two countries? Haven’t these people ever heard the expression, “Nice guys finish last”?

The list offered by the article includes: Canada (trade disputes), China (worries over the U.S. economy), Colombia (trade), Honduras (coup), Panama and South Korea (both trade), and the United Kingdom (snubs and calling into question the special relationship).

BUT I think it leaves out a lot of others…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]

Obama’s Radical Pal Slams Racist ‘American Empire’

Gates associate said 9-11 gave whites glimpse of ‘what it means to be black’

A close associate and colleague of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. linked to black radicals introduced President Obama at a 2007 Harlem fundraiser by first railing against the “racist” criminal justice system of the “American empire.”

A scan of YouTube clips found controversial race scholar Cornel West introducing Obama at the fundraiser while stating the “American empire is in such a deep crisis” and slamming the “racist criminal justice system” and “disgraceful schools in our city.”

“He is my brother and my companion and comrade,” said West of Obama.

WND found a video of Obama, upon taking the stage just after West’s introduction, expressing his gratitude to West, calling him “not only a genius, a public intellectual, a preacher, an oracle … he’s also a loving person.”

Obama asked the audience for a round of applause for West.

West, currently a professor at Princeton University, served as an adviser on Louis Farrakhan’s Million Man March and is a personal friend of Farrakhan. He serves as honorary chair of a U.S. socialist group and has ties to black extremists.

West has branded the U.S. a “racist patriarchal” nation where “white supremacy” continues to define everyday life and once stated the 9-11 attacks gave whites a glimpse of what it means to be a black person in the U.S.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Pentagon Eyes Accelerated “Bunker Buster” Bomb

The Pentagon is seeking to speed deployment of an ultra-large “bunker-buster” bomb on the most advanced U.S. bomber as soon as July 2010, the Air Force said on Sunday, amid concerns over perceived nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran.

The non-nuclear, 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator, or MOP, which is still being tested, is designed to destroy deeply buried bunkers beyond the reach of existing bombs.

If Congress agrees to shift enough funds to the program, Northrop Grumman Corp’s radar-evading B-2 bomber “would be capable of carrying the bomb by July 2010,” said Andy Bourland, an Air Force spokesman.

“The Air Force and Department of Defense are looking at the possibility of accelerating the program,” he said. “There have been discussions with the four congressional committees with oversight responsibilities. No final decision has been made.”

The precision-guided weapon, built by Boeing Co, could become the biggest conventional bomb the United States has ever used.

Carrying more than 5,300 pounds of explosives. it would deliver more than 10 times the explosive power of its predecessor, the 2,000-pound BLU-109, according to the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency, which has funded and managed the seed program.

Chicago-based Boeing, the Pentagon’s No. 2 supplier by sales, could be put on contract within 72 hours to build the first MOP production models if Congress signs off, Bourland said.

The threat reduction agency is working with the Air Force to transition the program from “technology demonstration” to acquisition, said Betsy Freeman, an agency spokeswoman.

Both the U.S. Pacific Command, which takes the lead in U.S. military planning for North Korea, and the Central Command, which prepares for contingencies with Iran, appeared to be backing the acceleration request, said Kenneth Katzman, an expert on Iran at the Congressional Research Service, the research arm of Congress.

“It’s very possible that the Pentagon wants to send a signal to various countries, particularly Iran and North Korea, that the United States is developing a viable military option against their nuclear programs,” Katzman said. But he cautioned against concluding there was any specific mission in mind at this time.


The MOP would be about one-third heavier than the 21,000-pound (9.5 million kg) GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb — dubbed the “mother of all bombs” — that was dropped twice in tests at a Florida range in 2003. The 20-foot-long (6-meter) MOP is built to be dropped from either the B-52 or the B-2 “stealth” bomber. It is designed to penetrate up to 200 feet underground before exploding, according to the U.S. Air Force.

The suspected nuclear facilities of Iran and North Korea are believed to be largely buried underground to escape detection and boost their chances of surviving attack. During a visit to Jerusalem last week, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates sought to reassure Israel that a drive by President Barack Obama to talk Iran into giving up its nuclear work was not “open-ended.”

Iran says its uranium enrichment — a process with bomb-making potential — is for energy only and has rejected U.S.-led demands to curb the program. For its part, North Korea responded to new United Nations sanctions, imposed after it detonated a second nuclear device, by vowing in June to press the production of nuclear weapons and act against international efforts to isolate it.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

The Problem With Obama is …

It is accurate, but not enough, to say that Obama is transforming the United States of America into a socialist nation. The term “socialist” no longer carries the fear-and-trembling reaction it evoked during the Cold War years. Since the “boomer” generation, the term has lost its meaning — and when the eloquent Obama pitches his socialist snake oil, the alleged cure sounds reasonable.

It sounds reasonable, for example, to take the profit out of the college loan program. The government subsidizes and guarantees student loans already. Why not just make government loans directly to the students, cut out the middle-man — and the profits they make — and save all that money now going to the greedy shareholders.

Think about it. In order to get the money needed to lend, private lenders ask ordinary citizens to invest in their company with a promise to the investor to pay a profitable return on his investment. On the other hand, government gets its money to lend by taking money from everyone in the form of taxes. A student may inquire among hundreds of lenders to find the best possible rate and repayment terms. If there is only one source for student loans, the lender may set the rate and the terms with no concern that a competing lender might provide a better deal.

Private lenders couldn’t care less what subjects a student might pursue; timely repayment is the only concern. Not so when the government is the only lender. At any time, the government could decide that there are enough nuclear engineers in the world and provide no loans to nuclear engineering applicants. The government could decide there are not enough teachers and choose to fund loans for teachers only. When the government controls the source of a commodity, the commodity users become little more than slaves.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

American-Venetian Burnout

Peter Sellars’ “Othello” which premiered last week at the Viennese Festwochen is a psychological study with political muscle. Barbara Villiger Heilig was impressed.

The greatest warring power in today’s world is the USA, whose occidental interventions go hand-in-hand with sex and crime scandals. This is the stuff of Peter Sellars’ “Othello”. In the hands of this American director, Shakespeare’s Venetians, who speak the original text word for word, are Afro-Americans and Latinos, communicating in their dark blue uniforms over cell phones. The decision to send General Othello to Cyprus to defend the outpost against the Turks is reached via telephone conference. And Sellars has updated both skin colours and sexes to fit today’s reality. The governor of Cyprus is a woman, Signora Montano, which in the course of this epic tale, leads to complications. She becomes a rape victim. On the surface, military life is dictated by prudery. It doesn’t take much to topple inhibitions. A few beers to celebrate the defeat of the Turkish fleet — Lieutenant Cassio loses control and turns on his female comrade…

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

Austria: Speculation Over ÖVP-FPÖ Coalition

Speculation is growing that the next government could be right-wing after Freedom Party (FPÖ) boss Heinz-Christian Strache praised the work of Vice Chancellor Josef Pröll.

Speaking to newspaper Kurier for its Saturday edition, Strache said: “Pröll does a better job than Chancellor Werner Faymann. It seems he is the secret Chancellor.”

Strache, whose opposition FPÖ party recently enjoyed good election results, also said the atmosphere between the ÖVP and the FPÖ has improved since Pröll and Karlheinz Kopf — as ÖVP whip — has been in charge.

Social Democratic (SPÖ) Chancellor Werner Faymann has recently faced criticism from within his own party for allegedly giving in too often when debating issues with coalition partner ÖVP.

And Faymann was also made responsible for the historic defeat of the SPÖ and June’s European Parliament (EP) election in which the SPÖ only garnered 23.8 per cent of the vote, down 9.5 per cent. It was the party’s worst ever result in an election on federal level. SPÖ members were outraged when Faymann failed to turn up at the election night party but only sent out a statement on how disappointing the result was.

The FPÖ- ÖVP government, which existed between 2000 and 2007, sparked international outrage as Jörg Haider led the party at the time. Haider, who was killed in a car crash last year, was however never member of the government but remained governor of Carinthia. But Austria swung sharply to the right under ÖVP Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel after being ruled by SPÖ Chancellors for 30 years.

Strache’s recent announcements have been seen as trying to curry favour in a bid to form the next government with the ÖVP, which leads the SPÖ in most polls.

Asked whether he could imagine cooperating with the SPÖ, Strache said: “The SPÖ has segregated itself by constantly excluding the FPÖ. How they acted in the debate about Graf has nothing to do with democracy.”

Strache was referring to the controversy about the FPÖ’s Martin Graf, who is third president of the parliament. The SPÖ has called for a change in legislation to allow Graf to be sacked after the longstanding FPÖ MP said the leader of the Jewish Community in Austria (IKG) was the “godfather of anti-fascist left-wing terrorism in Austria.”

The ÖVP disassociated itself from Graf’s statements but rejected calls to sack him.

Graf also hit the headlines recently when he called for a referendum on whether the Italian province of South Tyrol should join Austria again. Strache said he is of the same opinion as Graf.

Asked what he thinks of the SPÖ-ÖVP coalition’s performance, Strache said the government was “acting like a sleeping pill” when it came to reacting to the crisis.

“The government should not throw money after the banks but offer affordable credits to Austrian companies,” Strache said.

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

Ireland: Robinson ‘Bullied’ By Pro-Israel Lobbyists

FORMER President Mary Robinson accused “certain elements” of the Jewish community of bullying after a number of pro-Israel lobby groups voiced concerns over her being awarded the top US civilian honour.

US President Barack Obama has come under fire from a number of pro-Israeli online sources for honouring Ms Robinson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

But Ms Robinson hit back yesterday at what she described as allegations “totally without foundation” of her condoning anti-Semitic behaviour at the Durban World Conference Against Racism in 2001.

“It’s totally without foundation but when stuff is out on the internet, I’m not quite sure what you can do,” Ms Robinson told RTE Radio One yesterday.

Ms Robinson insisted that she never supported any anti-Semitism and cited her decision at the conference to reject a civil society document which she deemed racist.

“There’s a lot of bullying by certain elements of the Jewish community. They bully people who try to address the severe situation in Gaza and the West Bank. Archbishop Desmond Tutu gets the same criticism.”

Ms Robinson said she was “very honoured” to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

[Return to headlines]

Ireland: Girl (15) Faces Permanent Disfigurement as Cutbacks Delay Vital Spinal Operation

A TEENAGE girl who faces permanent disfigurement without surgery has been told she faces another agonising delay before she can have a vital operation.

Shannon Condon was told that it will be at least October and possibly next year before she can have the operation she needs at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, Dublin.

Delays in providing operations at the hospital have still not been resolved.

The hospital issued a statement yesterday saying it is meeting the HSE to discuss “potential initiatives in relation to reducing waiting times for orthopaedic surgery”.

Shannon (15), from Clashmore, Co Waterford, has a severe spinal disorder. She was advised last November that she needs an operation to correct it sooner rather than later.

However, despite actually losing height in recent months because of the severity of her condition, her parents say that cutbacks are preventing her getting the procedure for several more months.

“If you had a date, you could work towards it, but it’s very distressing at the moment,” her father Maurice told the Irish Independent.

“My daughter is a bubbly girl and used to play camogie, but now she can’t really do that any more. She gets upset about it and is crying, asking why we can’t get her the operation.”

Her parents have been told that the fitter Shannon is when the operation does come around, the better her recovery chances will be. “But sometimes she would go off for a walk and I’d get a phone call from her, to come and pick her up because of her back,” said Mr Condon.

The six-hour operation Shannon needs will involve inserting two titanium rods into her back, at either side of her spine, and screwing her vertebrae to the rods.

An interim appointment due to take place in May was cancelled “due to cutbacks” and the family was given a new appointment for December. “This was only a check-up — as I call it, an appointment to see if she is still alive,” said Mr Condon. After pressure from Mr Condon, Shannon was given a date in June and they said the consultant told her she needed “immediate surgery”.

October was the earliest possibility for the operation, the Condons were told by their consultant, but they fear it could be next year before it actually gets scheduled.


In a letter to Health Minister Mary Harney, Mr Condon said: “Shannon does not want to hear about the amount of money that you have invested in the health service, most of which goes to new levels and tiers of management anyway.

“Shannon does not understand why you will not give her and other young children the operation that they so desperately need.”

Fine Gael TD John Deasy said the potential disfigurement of a teenage girl must be treated as an emergency. “If that isn’t, what is? The HSE throws it back to the hospital and the hospital throws it back to Mary Harney’s office. Nobody is prepared to take a decision. Some kids are looking at death if they don’t have the operation they need,” he said.

Crumlin Children’s Hospital said it cannot comment on individual cases. The hospital has closed 25 beds and an operating theatre.

[Return to headlines]

Italy: Price Hikes Dampen Dolce Vita

Rome, 3 August (AKI) — Sharp price hikes from Venice to Rome have left tourists with a bitter taste for Italy’s Dolce Vita. The tourist protection association, Telefono Blu, said it has received numerous calls complaining about steep price increases in bars, restaurants, pubs and nightclubs in the main cities.

“We fear this will fuel inflation,” said the association, which runs a telephone hotline for tourists.

“What is truly incredible is that prices of coffees, water, soft drinks and beverages have suddenly increased compared with June and July — not to mention the many receipts that are not issued.”

“The problem is actually even much more serious than sensationalist news headlines make it appear,” said Telefono Blu. The association called on local media to report all cases where tourists have been ripped off.

Telefono Blu said it wanted to see Italian police carry out regular checks on prices being charged to tourists.

Last month two Japanese couples were charged between 400 and 700 euros for a simple meal at a restaurant located in the centre of the Italian capital.

News of the first Japanese couple was widely reported by Japanese newspapers and television, prompting many Japanese tourists on vacation in Italy to report other complaints to police, including inflated taxi fares.

Italy’s tourism minister, Michela Brambilla, announced the Japanese couple would be offered a free holiday in Italy and vowed to ensure measures are put in place to prevent tourists from being exploited in future.

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

UK: Apple Tried to Silence Owner of Exploding Ipod With Gag Order

Apple attempted to silence a father and daughter with a gagging order after the child’s iPod music player exploded and the family sought a refund from the company.

The Times has learnt that the company would offer the family a full refund only if they were willing to sign a settlement form. The proposed agreement left them open to legal action if they ever disclosed the terms of the settlement.

The case echoes previous circumstances in which Apple attempted to hush up incidents when its devices overheated.

Ken Stanborough, 47, from Liverpool, dropped his 11-year-old daughter Ellie’s iPod Touch last month. “It made a hissing noise,” he said. “I could feel it getting hotter in my hand, and I thought I could see vapour”. Mr Stanborough said he threw the device out of his back door, where “within 30 seconds there was a pop, a big puff of smoke and it went 10ft in the air”.

Mr Stanborough contacted Apple and Argos, where he had bought the device for £162. After being passed around several departments, he spoke to an Apple executive on the telephone. As a result of the conversation, Apple sent a letter to Mr Stanborough denying liability but offering a refund.

The letter also stated that, in accepting the money, Mr Stanborough was to “agree that you will keep the terms and existence of this settlement agreement completely confidential”, and that any breach of confidentiality “may result in Apple seeking injunctive relief, damages and legal costs against the defaulting persons or parties”.

“I thought it was a very disturbing letter,” said Mr Stanborough, who is self-employed and works in electronic security. He refused to sign it.

“They’re putting a life sentence on myself, my daughter and Ellie’s mum, not to say anything to anyone. If we inadvertently did say anything, no matter what, they would take litigation against us. I thought that was absolutely appalling.

“We didn’t ask for compensation, we just asked for our money back,” he added.

Last week it emerged that Apple had tried to keep a number of cases where its iPod digital music players had started to smoke, burst into flames and even burned their owners, out of the public eye.

An American reporter obtained 800 pages of documentation on the cases from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) following a Freedom of Information Act request in that country. However, she was unable to get hold of the documents for months after “Apple’s lawyers filed exemption after exemption”.


[Return to headlines]

UK: Galloway TV Shows ‘Broke Rules’

George Galloway’s shows on an Iranian-funded TV channel broke broadcasting rules on impartiality, Ofcom has said.

Two shows hosted by the Respect MP during the Gaza conflict in January did not give enough weight to pro-Israeli views, the regulator ruled.

The “overwhelming majority” of content was pro-Palestinian and no phone calls reflected pro-Israeli opinion, it said.

Press TV argued it had met the broadcasting code by giving viewers of differing opinions a chance to respond.

Two editions of the shows — a weekly phone-in programme called Comment and a current affairs show The Real Deal — prompted some complaints to Ofcom.

Alternative views

Ofcom said Mr Galloway, who earlier this year was given a Palestinian passport from a Hamas leader in Gaza for his support for the Palestinian people, was entitled to express his opinions.

But it ruled that alternative viewpoints had to be aired on controversial issues. It said no telephone calls and only limited texts and e-mails were taken from people with pro-Israeli views.

“Taking the programmes as a whole, Ofcom noted that there were some but extremely limited contributions that could be labelled as being broadly supportive of the actions of the Israeli state in Gaza during January 2009.

“It should be noted that where a matter of major political controversy is being discussed, as here, the broadcaster must ensure that an appropriately wide range of significant views must be included and given due weight in each programme or in clearly linked and timely programmes.

“This is especially important where a presenter is known to have strongly held views on the subject being discussed in the programme and clearly makes his position clear throughout the programme.”

Balance of opinion

Press TV, an English language satellite station funded by the Iranian government, said it had complied with the broadcasting code by giving viewers the chance to respond.

It said its contributions to the show reflected the balance of opinion.

Ofcom rejected an argument that the presence of journalist Jeff Steinberg on The Real Deal gave an Israeli viewpoint — as he was appearing as a commentator rather than giving the Israeli position.

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

UK: PCSO Gives Boy, 9, ‘Blue Warning Ticket’ For Climbing a Tree While on Holiday

For Kade-Liam Read, his summer holiday was meant to be filled with happy memories of the five cousins he rarely sees.

Instead the nine-year-old was left ‘terrified’ after a PCSO gave him a stern warning for climbing a tree, leaving him standing in the park with paperwork to fill out.

The boy, who lives in Germany, was visiting his cousins in Churchdown, Gloucester, and his parents now fear he will be too scared to return to England.

His father Bryan Read, 45, said: ‘They were just playing on the park and climbing the tree when the community police came and gave them a blue slip for anti-social behaviour.

‘They said they were abusive but my son can’t even speak English so how could he be abusive?

‘It is the summer holidays and they were just in the park enjoying themselves — they were really scared and my son doesn’t know what to think.

‘This is the only holiday we will have this year and it has been spoilt by this nasty experience.’

He is now worried his son will be too frightened to come back to see his cousins Melissa Read, seven, Jessica Read and Abby Read, both 12, Beth Powell, 11, and Joe Powell 10.

Gloucestershire Police defended their decision and said they had received a complaint from a resident near the park which borders three streets.

A force spokeswoman said today: ‘While we would not discourage any child from playing and having fun in a park we must also respond to official complaints made from the public.

‘A report was made to us by a resident who complained of rude and anti-social behaviour from a group of children playing in a nearby tree.

‘A PCSO was sent to talk to the children who explained to them that their behaviour had upset one of the neighbours, and that it would be better if they played further away from the houses to avoid any further upset.

‘It was explained that no criminal offence had taken place and that they were not in trouble but, in accordance to national policy, they had to be given a Stop and Account form to show where and why they were spoken to.

‘It is up to the children whether they show their parents these forms and the parents are then welcome to call the officer and discuss the matter further.

‘The PCSO in question has spoken to the parents of all the children to explain the situation.’

[Return to headlines]

UK: Rough Justice — Victorian Style

Stealing from a rabbit warren or impersonating a Chelsea Pensioner may not sound like crimes of the century, but in Victorian England they could land you with a hangman’s noose round your neck.

Trial records newly released by the National Archives and put online have lifted the lid on a brutal penal system and showcased some of the most infamous criminal cases.

In a world without a police force and a rapidly growing population, early Victorian England was not a place to get caught on the wrong side of the law.

By 1815 — two decades before the Peelers started patrolling the streets — there were more than 200 offences which carried the death penalty.

Hapless highwayman

The infamous system in England and Wales, which relied on its strong deterrent qualities, was dubbed the “Bloody Code” for good reason.

Executions were public spectacles, with the wealthy hiring balconies to get better views, and it did not take much to book yourself a spot at the gallows.

Being in the company of gipsies for a month, damaging Westminster Bridge, cutting down trees, stealing livestock — or anything worth more than five shillings (£30 today) for that matter — would do it.

The death sentence also applied to pick pockets, destroying turnpike roads, general poaching, stealing from a shipwreck and being out at night with a blackened face, which made people assume you were a burglar.

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

UK: Three Policewomen Spend Full Day Dressed in Muslim Burkhas in Controversial ‘In Your Shoes’ Exercise

A police exercise which saw female officers spending a day dressed in full Muslim dress has been blasted ‘a complete waste of time’.

Two sergeants and a community support officer dressed in head-to-foot burkhas, jilbabs, hijabs and niqabs — with only narrow eye slits to see through as they accompanied four Muslim women.

Another officer wore Muslim dress and a head scarf showing her face as part of the scheme, called ‘In Your Shoes’, organised by South Yorkshire Police in Sheffield.

Sergeant Deb Leonard, Sergeant Deb Pickering and PCSO Helen Turner put on the dress to help them learn more about the faith and the issues affecting Muslim women.

But critics have labelled the exercise a ‘gimmick’ and an ‘absurd diversion from real policing’.

Douglas Murray, of the Centre for Social Cohesion, said: ‘You just couldn’t make it up. The victims of crime must be amazed that the police have so much time on their hands that they can spend a day playing dress-up.

‘This is a complete waste of police time and taxpayers’ money. It’s not their job to be going round dressing up.

‘It’s another indication that the police in this country are having a nervous breakdown and have been having one for the past 10 years.

‘It’s not the duty of police to empathise with particular sections of the community. It is the duty of the police to prevent crime and catch criminals.’

Sid Cordle, Sheffield-based Yorkshire regional organiser of the Christian People’s Alliance said: ‘My major concern is that the police are using tax payers money in order to go around in Muslim clothing.

‘After this are they planning to dress as members of other communities such as Hindus and Buddhists? Because if I was a member of one of those communities, and they had been dressing up as Muslims, I would be asking why not us?

‘As far as we are concerned this form of dress is a symbol of oppression of women.

‘The Koran clearly says a man is superior to a woman. This symbol of oppression is unwanted in our society and the police should not be encouraging it.

‘Where will the police draw the line with dressing up? Are they going to go out dressed as prostitutes or the homeless to see how they feel?

‘If they really want to know how Muslim women feel they could learn far more by going and living amongst them and talking to them.’

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘This is an absurd diversion from real policing. People want the police out catching criminals, not indulging in politically correct gimmicks.

‘The police are overstretched as it is without officers being paid to do other things than their real job.’

But a South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman defended the exercise.

She said: ‘This exercise is just one of many activities South Yorkshire Police have planned with communities and ethnic minority leaders to secure strong relationships, celebrate diversity and encourage integration, working towards a safer, closer society.

‘Two of the Muslim women anticipated that people may stare and possibly make comment, whilst the police officers entered this exercise with an open mind not knowing quite what to expect.

‘They also managed to attract quite a few stares in the street, particularly from young children, but again, whether their curiosity was based on admiration, confusion, or anything else, wasn’t clear — something which Muslim women would have to encounter and contemplate as a regular part of their lives.’

Sergeant Deb Leonard — who wore one of the burkhas, said: “I have gained an appreciation and understanding of what Muslim females experience when they walk out in public in clothing appropriate to their beliefs…

[Return to headlines]

UK: Tanker Driver Dragged to Court for Smoking — Even Though it Was a Fake Cigarette

When new laws made it illegal to smoke in a company vehicle, tanker driver Chris Minihan accepted that his days of puffing away at the wheel were over.

In the two years since then he has been trying hard to kick the habit — and even invested in a fake electronic cigarette to help him.

But today the father of one will be in court to fight possible fines of up to £2,700 for smoking in a public place and dropping ash.

He claims a council enforcement officer mistook the fake cigarette for a real one when she spotted Mr Minihan during his rest-break at a picnic area.

Mr Minihan, 52, was initially issued with fixed penalty notices for £125 but elected to go to court and try to persuade magistrates he was ‘smoking’ his £38 Gamucci microelectronic cigarette.

The device contains a tiny rechargeable battery and an atomising chamber. Users plug a liquid nicotine cartridge into the chamber and their sucking on the ‘cigarette’ causes it to heat up, turning the liquid into vapour which looks like smoke.

The ‘cigarette’ lets users satisfy their nicotine craving without carcinogens or tar and without the problems of second-hand smoke associated with cigarettes.

It is exempt from the anti-smoking legislation.

Users can slowly reduce the strength of the nicotine cartridges until they have kicked the habit.

Mr Minihan, of Anfield, Liverpool, said: ‘I have been trying to quit for years, but after they made it illegal to smoke in the cab, I decided to quit for good.

‘I had heard about these devices and decided to give them a try. They do look and feel exactly like a cigarette, so I can understand why the council enforcement officer could have been mistaken.’

The officer took three photographs of Mr Minihan’s tanker at the Wigg Island nature reserve in Runcorn, Cheshire, which is managed by Halton Borough Council.

He said: ‘If she had approached me on the day I could have shown her what I was doing and the whole thing could’ve been nipped in the bud then.

‘Instead, I only found out what she had done when an official arrived at the company yard two days later to issue me with the fixed penalty notices.’

Mr Minihan claims the ‘aggressive’ official refused to accept his explanation.

He was given a fixed penalty notice of £75 for littering, which could be reduced to £50 if paid within ten days, and a second of £50 for smoking in a public place..

The driver refused to accept the penalties and was summonsed to Runcorn Magistrates’ Court. If found guilty he could be fined up to £2,700 plus costs.

Mr Minihan, who has since been made redundant from Neston Tank Cleaners in Kirkby, Merseyside, bought the fake cigarette from the online store

He will represent himself in court, but the firm has offered to pay any costs if he loses the case.

The Health Act 2006, which came into force in July 2007, made almost all enclosed public places and workplaces smoke free. It includes work vehicles and applies to staff, customers and visitors.

Halton Borough Council said last night: ‘We cannot comment while legal proceedings are ongoing.’

Last month, Cardiff taxi driver Goldeep Singh, 46, was fined £65 with £135 costs for smoking in his cab. Singh, of Llanishen, Cardiff, had refused to pay a fixed penalty notice.

Read more:

[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Al-Qaeda Suspects Killed in Offensive

Algiers, 3 August(AKI) — Algerian security forces have reportedly killed at least 18 suspected militants with links to Al-Qaeda in the past week. According to the Arab TV network, Al-Jazeera, the Algerian military has been conducting an offensive in the region of Batna, 500 kilometres southeast of Algiers.

The offensive reportedly began with a number of bomb attacks over a week ago against a number of terror cells.

Last Thursday soldiers discovered several bodies when they patrolled areas in the region, where militants were believed to have been hiding.

Security forces decided to conduct the military offensive in Batna after they discovered that a group of foreign fighters had entered the country to back local elements of Al-Qaeda.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

The Case for Anti-Freeze: Regarding Israeli Construction on Settlements

by Barry Rubin

Let me begin by saying that in exchange for full peace and an end to the conflict, I not only support the dismantling of all Jewish settlements on the territory of Palestine, I enthusiastically endorse it. Why then am I against freezing construction on existing Jewish settlements?

I’m focusing now on the freeze question. Since we are so far away from a peace settlement, I will save the other, hypothetical issue for some future time.

Here, in brief, are reasons why I oppose a freeze on construction within existing settlements…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]

Middle East

First Saudi Women Work as Maids

The first group of Saudi housemaids has begun work under a government scheme, say reports from Saudi Arabia.

Until now, the job — which is regarded by many Saudis as demeaning — had been mostly restricted to Asian women.

The Saudi Ministry of Labour permitted Saudi women to work as maids two years ago, but there has been strong resistance to the move.

Thirty Saudi women aged between 20 and 45 have started work in Jeddah, according to the al-Madina newspaper.

Housemaids can face harsh conditions, including long hours, broken contracts and sexual abuse.

Intensive training

The women are contracted to work eight hours a day for a monthly wage of 1,500 Saudi riyal (£238; $400).

None of them is reported to have a primary school certificate.

Hana Uthman, an employment agency manager, told al-Madina that they had been selected after a series of interviews and intensive training.

He said another 100 women had applied for housemaid posts and were awaiting interview.

Mr Uthman added that the women were supposed to carry out their duties when the male heads of household were out.

Their employers are reported to have signed forms pledging to treat the housemaids in accordance with the law.

The labour ministry’s decision two years ago to allow Saudi women to work as maids provoked controversy.

There is a strong social stigma attached to the work, but supporters, such as impoverished widows, argue they need opportunities for honest work.

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

Frank Gaffney: A World of Hurt

As an increasing number of roadside bombs, suicidal jihadists and cars packed with high explosives kill and maim in Afghanistan and Iraq, it seemed like a good time to take in a feature film that pays well-deserved tribute to the American servicemen in the frontlines of countering such horrors. “The Hurt Locker” is an unflinching and powerful testimonial to those George Orwell thanked with his timeless quote: “Men sleep peacefully in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

The movie follows the daily fare of one of the most dangerous specialties in the U.S. military — a bomb disposal unit — as its deployment in Iraq winds down. The main story line is the tension-filled interactions between the squad’s three members as they contend with a series of crises that were all-too-common in Baghdad and other parts of the Iraqi theater in 2004, and that may be in the process of becoming so again…

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Jumblatt to Leave Anti-Syrian Alliance

( Lebanese Druze political leader Walid Jumblatt made waves this week when he announced his party’s withdrawal from the majority anti-Syrian coalition known as the “March 14” alliance. “Our alliance with March 14 forces was driven by necessity and must not continue,” he said.

The March 14 alliance is the coalition of Sunni, Christian and Druze parties that allied against the pro-Syrian parties led by Hizbullah. The coalition, currently the majority in Lebanon, is led by Saad el-Hariri.

Jumblatt has shown increasing discomfort with the coalition’s opposition to Syrian influence in Lebanon and to Hizbullah. His followers battled Hizbullah supporters during violent clashes last summer, but this year, he called for Hizbullah to be invited into the government. In June, he met with Hizbullah head Hassan Nasrallah to discuss Lebanese unity and reconciliation.

According to reports in Lebanese and other Arab media, Jumblatt may be traveling to Damascus as early as this week to meet with Syrian leaders.

In an interview with the UAE-based paper The National, Jumblatt explained his decision to leave the coalition as a step away from sectarian politics and towards his party’s pan-Arab, anti-Israel and anti-Western roots. “The 2009 parliamentary elections resulted in sectarian alliances that should be eliminated,” he said.

Jumblatt said he plans to work on repairing his relationship with Syria. “Looking back, I think I committed the sin of voicing too many anti-Syrian slogans,” he explained.

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

Obama to Allow Iran to Acquire Nuclear Arms

Pres. Barack Obama has decided to let Iran acquire nuclear arms. Unless Israel acts in self-defense against the president’s wishes, the world’s most dangerous regime will command the world’s most dangerous weapon.

Notwithstanding the White House’s misinformation campaign to the contrary, the evidence of the president’s agenda is incontrovertible…

           — Hat tip: AA [Return to headlines]

South Asia

ASEAN to Protect Human Rights But Only With Consent of Violating Nation

The 42nd ASEAN foreign ministers summit is underway in Phuket. The regional association has decided to set up a human rights commission. Experts note that the proposal is flawed because to intervene the new organisation will need the unanimous consent of all member states. Economy, trade and the fight against terrorism are also on the table of discussion.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Foreign ministers from the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed to boost trade, fight terrorism and set up a commission to monitor human rights in member states.

The proposal has however met with widespread scepticism because ASEAN (Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam) has always refrained from interfering in the domestic affairs of its member states, which include a military dictatorship (Myanmar) and regimes (Vietnam) that have been accused of human rights violations.

What powers such a commission will exercise remains unclear, but ASEAN officials said the group had agreed to take into account the “special circumstances” of the ten members.

For experts such an organisation will not be very useful since it will have no independent authority to investigate member states and any action it might undertake is conditional on the unanimous agreement of member states.

Still “it is better to make a start than leave this hanging with no purpose at all,” Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejiajiva said. “We want to establish a body that begins with the issue of promotion (of rights). Once that is put into place, there will be more teeth for the body in terms of protection.”

At the same meeting ASEAN members agreed to resist protectionism and boost economic growth in a region with a total population of 570 million people and an annual economic output of US$ 1.1 trillion.

The worldwide economic downturn has left ASEAN economies reeling. Foreign direct investment into the region fell 13 per cent last year to US$ 60.1 billion.

Export-dependent countries like Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia are all facing a sharp decline in exports.

The group, along with China, Japan and South Korea which have been present as observers at ASEAN summits for some years, was working on making an emergency rice reserve a permanent fixture.

US Secretary of state Hillary Clinton is also scheduled to attend the summit to discuss terrorism, the North Korean nuclear issue and border disputes between ASEAN member states.

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

India: Court Overturns Ban on Gay Sex

New Delhi, 2 July(AKI) — An Indian court on Thursday has ruled that gay sex between consenting adults is not a crime. The ruling is likely to boost efforts to overturn a 148-year-old colonial law which describes a same sex relationship as an “unnatural offence”.

Homosexual acts were punishable by a 10-year prison sentence in India where public affection and kissing, even among heterosexual couples, may attract attention.

Many people in India regard gay relationships as illegitimate and rights groups have long argued that the law contravened human rights.

Delhi’s High Court ruled that the law outlawing homosexual acts was discriminatory and a “violation of fundamental rights”.

The court said that a statute in Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which defines homosexual acts as “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” and made them illegal, was an “antithesis of the right to equality”.

“Consensual sex amongst adults is legal which includes even gay sex and sex among the same sexes,” said a two-member bench of the court.

Gay rights activists said the court victory was an historic breakthrough.

“We have finally entered the 21st century,” said Anjali Gopalan, leader of Naz Foundation, a leading health and gay rights lobby.

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

Pakistan: Christians Close Schools to Mourn Brutal Killings

Islamabad, 3 Aug(AKI/DAWN) — Pakistani Christians closed their schools and colleges across the country for three days from Monday to protest against the killings of eight Christians burnt to death at the weekend.

Hundreds of Muslims, apparently spurred by a banned militant group, stormed a Christian neighbourhood in the eastern city of Gojra on Saturday, burning dozens of houses after reports surfaced that some Christians had desecrated a Koran.

Six Christians died in flames, while two were killed by gunshots.

Christian leaders and Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said an initial probe had debunked the Koran defilement rumour.

“We are closing the schools to show our anger and concern,” Bishop Sadiq Daniel told the media. “We want the government to bring all perpetrators of the crime to justice.”

Paramilitary troops and other security forces were patrolling the city Monday and an official inquiry will be held into the incident.

Christians and Muslims usually live together peacefully in Pakistan, which is overwhelmingly Muslim.

However, Christians and other minority religious groups are vulnerable to discriminatory laws, including an edict against blasphemy that carries death penalty for derogatory remarks or any other action against Islam, the Koran or the Prophet Mohammed.

Hundreds of Muslim protesters set fire to several Christians’ houses in the first two days, but the violence reached its peak Saturday.

Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti said the attackers belonged to a banned Sunni Muslim extremist group, Sipah-i-Sahaba. Officials have tried to calm the situation.

“This is not the work of Muslims. A group of extremists have exploited the situation,” Sanaullah told a group of Christians after the funeral prayers for the deceased late Sunday.

Sipah-i-Sahaba is also linked to Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, which is believed to have links to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

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

Pakistan: Unrest in East: Christian Community Protests and Demands Justice

After occupying the railway that takes from Multan to Faisalabad, the Christian community have closed down their schools across the country in protest against violence by hundreds of Muslims on Friday and Saturday in the eastern city of Gojra. The violence, apparently spurned by the Muslim Sipah-i-Sahaba extremist group, left at least eight dead, based on a first reconstruction. The Pakistani ‘Dawn’ newspaper reports that security forces are patrolling the streets of Gojra to avoid further unrest. Various officials and police confirmed the role of the extremist group in sparking the violence by issuing reports — later denied — that some Christians desecrated the Koran. “This is not the work of Muslims. A group of extremists have exploited the situation”, said Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah. Christians called on authorities to guarantee security and reiterated their opposition to discriminatory laws, including an edict against blasphemy that carries death penalty for derogatory remarks against Islam and can lead to arrest even on the suspicion or accusation of two people, which they claim is used for other means against minority religious groups.

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

Pakistan Christians shut schools to mourn killings

Pakistani Christians were closing their schools across the country for three days starting Monday to protest the killings of eight members of their community by Muslims, violence that drew condemnation from Pope Benedict XVI.

Hundreds of Muslims, allegedly spurred on by a radical Islamist group, stormed a Christian neighborhood in the eastern city of Gojra on Saturday, burning dozens of houses after reports surfaced that some Christians had desecrated a Quran.

Six Christians died in the flames, while two were killed by gunshots, as police did little to stop the attackers.

Christian leaders and Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said an initial probe had debunked the Quran defilement rumor.

“We are closing the schools to show our anger and concern,” Bishop Sadiq Daniel told The Associated Press, noting the move was a peaceful tactic. “We want the government to bring all perpetrators of the crime to justice.”

In a telegram Monday, the pope said he was “deeply grieved” to hear of the “senseless attack.”

Benedict sent his condolences to families of the victims and called on the Christians “not to be deterred in their efforts to help build a society which, with a profound sense of trust in religious and human values, is marked by mutual respect among all its members.”

In a statement, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the incident in the “strongest words.”

Paramilitary troops and other security forces were patrolling the city Monday. Farhatullah Babar, a spokesman for Pakistan’s president, said a judicial panel will probe the incident. It was not immediately clear exactly how many schools would be shuttered.

Christians make up less than 5 percent of Pakistan’s 175 million people, and they generally live in peace with their Muslim neighbors.

Extremists, however, have made Christians and other minority religious groups a target. Earlier this summer in the Kasur area a group of Muslims set fire to dozens of Christian homes, according to local news accounts.

Shiite Muslims, also a minority when compared to the Sunni sect of Islam, are also often targeted, although Sunnis too have been targeted in the past by Shiite extremists. But the anti-minority phenomenon seems to be getting worse as the Taliban militancy has gained strength in Pakistan…

[Return to headlines]

Far East

Entire Town in Quarantine After Two Die From Pneumonic Plague in China

by Jane Macartney in Beijing

An outbreak of pneumonic plague has killed two people in China and forced the lockdown of a remote town of 10,000 to halt the further spread of one of the world’s deadliest and most contagious diseases.

The first victim, a 32-year-old herdsman, fell ill a day after burying his dog, which had died suddenly. Two days later the man was dead and friends and relatives attended his funeral in the ethnically Tibetan region of Ziketan in western Qinghai province.

Of those mourners, 11 soon fell ill. One man, 37-year-old Danzin, a neighbour of the first victim, died on Sunday. Investigating the disease that had infected so many people so quickly, medical authorities soon established that all were infected with pneumonic plague.

Those infected were undergoing treatment in isolation in a local Tibetan hospital while all 10,000 residents of Ziketan were placed in quarantine to try to halt the spread of one of the deadliest diseases in history.

Pneumonic plague is spread through the air and can be passed from person to person through coughing, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is caused by the same bacteria that occurs in bubonic plague — the Black Death that killed an estimated 25 million people in Europe during the Middle Ages.

The WHO said that it was not unduly concerned by the outbreak. Beijing-based spokeswoman Vivian Tan said: “This is not new. There have been sporadic cases reported over the years. We’re not surprised that it’s come up. We’re in constant contact with the authorities to make sure things are under control.”

China has eradicated the plague from most parts of the country, but still reports occasional cases in remote western Tibetan areas where the disease is carried by rats and the marmots that live across the huge Himalayan plateau. Outbreaks can be caused when Tibetans eat an infected marmot or come into contact with fleas carried by rats.

The WHO said that it was not unduly concerned by the outbreak. Beijing-based spokeswoman Vivian Tan said: “This is not new. There have been sporadic cases reported over the years. We’re not surprised that it’s come up. We’re in constant contact with the authorities to make sure things are under control.”

China has eradicated the plague from most parts of the country, but still reports occasional cases in remote western Tibetan areas where the disease is carried by rats and the marmots that live across the huge Himalayan plateau. Outbreaks can be caused when Tibetans eat an infected marmot or come into contact with fleas carried by rats.

The local government has already launched a campaign to kill rats, marmots and other possible carriers in the area where the latest outbreak was reported. One medical expert said that it was important for Tibetans to take great care when burying their meat in the ground for cooler storage to prevent rodents from finding the stash and infecting it…

[Return to headlines]

Japan Relaunches Trials by Jury

Japan has opened its first jury trial for more than 60 years, after making changes to a legal system which has often been criticised as unfair.

Six jurors are working with three judges to decide a verdict in the case of 72-year-old Katsuyoshi Fujii, who has been charged with murder.

Until now Japanese trials have been decided by a panel of judges.

Critics say the old system was too slow, lacked transparency and was out of touch.

But some legal experts remain concerned that randomly selected members of the public are not fit to decide the outcome of serious crime cases, especially those involving a possible death penalty.

False confessions?

In the past the justice system in Japan has been notoriously secretive, with a system of judge-only trials and private police interrogations.

Criminal trials currently have a 99% conviction rate, and there are increasing concerns that the system of judge-only trials and private police interrogations leads to false confessions and the conviction of innocent people.

The jurors at Tokyo District Court have four days to decide the verdict and, if guilty, the sentence for Katsuyoshi Fujii.

He is charged with the fatal stabbing of a 66-year-old neighbour in May.

At least one of three professional judges presiding over the trial must agree with the jury’s decision for it to stand.

“We hope to achieve a justice system that is speedier, more accessible and reliable,” Justice Minister Eisuke Sato told reporters.

“With the change, trials will become more democratic,” he added.

In all there are set to be about 2,000 to 3,000 jury trials a year, all of them for serious crimes such as murder and rape.

Japan has the death penalty, but this is only usually given for multiple murders.

Candidates for jury service will be randomly selected from eligible voters nationwide.

About 300 mock trials have already been held in preparation for the new system.

Japan first launched a jury system in 1928, but dropped it in 1943 during World War II.

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

Australia — Pacific

Police Swoop on Melbourne Homes After Somali Islamists’ Terror Plot Exposed

A PLOT by Islamic extremists in Melbourne to launch a suicide attack on an Australian Army base has been uncovered by national security agencies.

Four men — all Australian citizens — were arrested this morning as federal and state police, armed with search warrants, swooped on members of the suspected terror cell this morning in the second-largest counter-terrorism operation in the nation’s history.

Those arrested included a 26-year-old Carlton man, a 25-year-old Preston man, a 25-year-old Glenroy man and a man, 22, from Meadow Heights

About 400 police raided homes in the northern Melbourne suburbs of Glenroy, Meadow Heights, Roxburgh Park, Broadmeadows, Westmeadows, Preston and Epping. They also raided homes at Carlton in inner Melbourne and Colac in southwestern Victoria.

“Police believe members of a Melbourne-based group have been undertaking planning to carry out a terrorist attack in Australia and allegedly involved in hostilities in Somalia,” a joint police statement said.

The men are expected to be charged with a range of terrorism-related offences.

Authorities believe the group is at an advanced stage of preparing to storm an Australian Army base, using automatic weapons, as punishment for Australia’s military involvement in Muslim countries. It is understood the men plan to kill as many soldiers as possible before they are themselves killed.

Members of the group have been observed carrying out surveillance of Holsworthy Barracks in western Sydney and other suspicious activity around defence bases in Victoria.

Electronic surveillance on the suspects is believed to have picked up discussions about ways to obtain weapons to carry out what would be the worst terror attack on Australian soil.

The cell has been inspired by the Somalia-based terrorist movement al-Shabaab, with two Melbourne men, both Somalis, having travelled to Somalia in recent months to obtain training with the extremist organisation, which is aligned with al-Qa’ida.

One of those men has already returned to Melbourne. The other is still in Somalia.

Al-Shabaab, which is using suicide bombers and jihadist fighters to try to overthrow the Somali government, seeks to impose a pure, hardline form of Islam, and sees the West as its enemy. It has been declared a terrorist organisation by the US and it has close links with al-Qa’ida leaders, including Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, an architect of the 1998 attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in which 223 people died.

The investigation of the group, dubbed Operation Neath, involves about 150 members of the Australian Federal Police, Victoria Police and ASIO. It was launched in late January.

Search warrants for at least 19 properties across Melbourne have been prepared to allow authorities to obtain more evidence against the group, which is believed to number about 18, with a smaller, hardcore element.

The suspects include Australians of Somali and Lebanese decent, most of whom are labourers employed in Melbourne’s construction industry, or taxi drivers.

It is understood that several members of the group also wanted to travel to Somalia to fight with al-Shabaab, but when travel became difficult, they turned their attention to carrying out a terrorist attack in Australia.

Al-Shabaab is currently searching for jihadist recruits around the world, including in Australia. Authorities fear that Australian Muslims who travel to Somalia to fight for al-Shabaab could return to Australia as sleeper agents for future attacks in this country.

In the US, more than 20 Somali American men have disappeared from their Midwest homes in recent months to fight alongside al-Shabaab troops in Somalia.

The FBI’s investigation into the radicalisation of Somali refugees in the US, via al-Shabaab, was described by The New York Times last month as “the most significant domestic terror investigation since September 11”.

The AFP is understood to have recently presented its evidence against the Melbourne cell to the Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, which advised that the evidence was sufficient to support charges being laid under national terrorism laws.

A previous AFP investigation _ Operation Rochester, in 2007 _ into extremist activities within small pockets of the nation’s 16,000-strong Muslim Somali community petered out after it was established there was no evidence of wrongdoing.

Only a small number of Australia’s Somali community adopt the hardline Wahabist view of Islam, but authorities fear radicalism among this minority is being fanned by recent events in Somalia.

Intelligence analysts warn that Somalia has become the new breeding for international Islamic terrorists, as extremists seek revenge for the events of December 2006, when US-backed forces from Christian Ethiopia toppled the hardline government known as the Islamic Courts Union.

The US and Australia defended the Ethiopian invasion as a front in the global war on terror, but it awakened the nationalism of many Somalis in Australia, as well as Muslims of other ethnic backgrounds, who viewed it as a Christian crusade into a Muslim land.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Ethiopia Jails Canadian for Life

A Canadian citizen has been jailed for life after being convicted of terrorism charges in an Ethiopian court.

Judges found Ethiopian-born Bashir Makhtal was a member of a separatist group fighting for independence for an ethnically Somali part of the country.

Prosecutors had wanted him executed, but the judges decided against it.

Rights groups say the prosecution failed to produce any credible witnesses and Bashir’s lawyers say he will appeal against the conviction.

The Ethiopian government has denied the trial was unfair.

Bashir had repeatedly denied being the leader of the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), saying he was being persecuted because his grandfather had helped found the rebel group decades ago.

He was among dozens of people arrested when Ethiopia invaded Somalia in 2006.

Second-hand clothes

Bashir’s family in Canada say he was held in solitary for nearly two years with no access to lawyers or embassy officials.

His relatives say he was a businessman, trading in second-hand clothes and was in Mogadishu on a business trip when the Ethiopians invaded.

But the Addis Ababa court found him guilty of four charges:

  • that he was a member of the ONLF central committee between 1999 and 2006
  • that he recruited and trained ONLF members at a military camp in Eritrea
  • that he led a contingent of the ONLF in the field against the Ethiopian army in Ethiopia’s Somali region
  • that he collaborated with Somalia’s Union of Islamic Courts in Eritrea in an effort to overthrow the Ethiopian government

The ONLF, founded in 1984, is fighting for the Somali-speaking population in Ethiopia’s oil-rich Ogaden region, saying it has been marginalised by Addis Ababa.

Reports say Bashir left Ethiopia aged 11 and does not speak the local Amharic language.

The 40-year-old, who has a Canadian passport, was arrested crossing the border between Somalia and Kenya.

His family say he was trying to get away from the fighting.

Other foreigners detained in 2006 — among them Swedes, Americans and Kenyans — were questioned and eventually released into the custody of their own governments.

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

Ransom Delivered to Pirates on German Freighter

The end of the pirate-hijack drama could be in sight for the crew of the freighter Hansa Stavanger. A ransom payment worth millions has been made, the EU’s Operation Atlanta has confirmed. But it is still uncertain when the crew, who have been held for four months, will be released.

There’s new hope for the crew of the hijacked German-owned ship, the Hansa Stavanger. This Monday a ransom of millions was handed over to the pirates holding the ship off the coast of Somalia — the pirates have been holding the freighter, owned by Hamburg shipping firm, Leonhardt and Blumberg, for several months now.

A spokesperson for the European Union counter-piracy operation, Operation Atalanta, which has several warships patrolling the pirate-infested area, confirmed the ransom transfer. “The money is on board and the pirates are counting it,” the spokesperson told SPIEGEL ONLINE, although he would not elaborate further.

Through sources close to German intelligence agencies and local sourcees, SPIEGEL ONLINE has learned that a small plane was used to throw a package containing $2.75 million (€1.9 million) worth of ransom onto the Hansa Stavanger. It is hoped that when the money has been counted the ship and the crewwill be set free. Whether that will still happen on Monday is uncertain although the security authorities estimate a release should happen within 24 hours.

The government in Berlin could not confirm the reports. The German Foreign Ministry has a policy of only commenting on kidnappings when diplomats are certain that the hostages are safe. The Federal Criminal Police Office was also unable to confirm the reports.

However news agency Reuters spoke with one of the pirates by phone on Monday morning. The man, who gave his name as Abdi, confirmed the delivery of the ransom and said that once the money has been divided, the crew would be let go.

The Hansa Stavanger was hijacked by pirates on April 4 this year, around 400 sea miles (645 kilometers) off Somalia. There are five Germans, three Russians, two Ukrainians and 14 Filipinos in the crew.

Gangs of Somali pirates have made millions of dollars in ransom payments by kidnapping ships that sail the shipping lanes linking Asia and Europe.

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

Scores Dead in South Sudan Clash

At least 185 people — mostly women and children — have been killed in ethnic violence in South Sudan, officials say.

Members of the Lou Nuer community had gone fishing south of Akobo town amid a severe food shortage when ethnic Murle fighters reportedly attacked them.

Eleven soldiers from the South Sudan army, the SPLA, who were protecting the Lou Nuer, were among those killed.

Several hundred people have died in such clashes this year — more than in Sudan’s Darfur conflict, the UN says.

Most of the victims of the latest attack, which took place in the early hours of Sunday morning, were from the Lou Nuer.

Their camp is some 25 miles (40km) south-west of Akobo town, in Jonglei state.

Awash with weapons

Akobo commissioner Goi Jooyul Yol said that 185 bodies had been counted, including those of 12 soldiers.

He warned that more dead may yet be found.

“There may still be bodies in the bush, we don’t yet know the full number,” Mr Yol added.

He later told the BBC: “The attack was well coordinated and planned, and there was a lot of reconnaissance before the attack because they knew exactly who they were targeting.”

The BBC’s James Copnall, in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, says inter-ethnic clashes are common in this part of Sudan, where people are desperately poor.

The state’s governor, Kuol Manyang, told the BBC that a few survivors had made it back to Akobo town, though many of them were wounded.

Those killed, he said, were on the fishing expedition because food supplies were running out following an attack in June on river barges carrying aid.

He appealed to the UN World Food Programme to find a way of getting food to them.

Violence over land and cattle in South Sudan is exacerbated by a ready supply of firearms following the end of the civil war with the North in 2005.

Analysts say the violence comes at a critical time for Sudan, as tensions grow in the north-south unity government.

Elections are due in April 2010, the first chance to vote for many in decades.

After that, a 2011 independence referendum is due for the south, which many believe will see Africa’s biggest nation split fully in two.

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

Sudan Trouser Woman ‘Ready for 40,000 Lashes’

A Sudanese journalist facing 40 lashes for wearing “indecent” trousers vowed on the eve of her judgment that she is ready to be whipped 40,000 times in her bid to change the country’s harsh laws.

Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein, who works for the media department of the United Nations Mission in Sudan, is to be judged on Tuesday after waiving the immunity granted to UN workers.

She is to be judged under Article 152 of Sudanese law, which promises 40 lashes for anyone “who commits an indecent act which violates public morality or wears indecent clothing.”


Police arrested Hussein and 12 other women wearing trousers at a Khartoum restaurant on July 3. Two days later 10 of the women accepted a punishment of 10 lashes, but Hussein is appealing in a bid to eliminate such rough justice.

The other two women are also facing charges.

“If I’m sentenced to be whipped, or to anything else, I will appeal. I will see it through to the end, to the constitutional court if necessary,” Hussein said.

“And if the constitutional court says the law is constitutional, I’m ready to be whipped not 40 but 40,000 times.”


“My main objective is to get rid of Article 152,” Hussein said. “This article is against both the constitution and sharia,” the Islamic law ruling northern Sudan.

Adding insult to injury, some of the women whipped in July were from animist and Christian south Sudan where sharia law does not apply.

“If some people refer to the sharia to justify flagellating women because of what they wear, then let them show me which Koranic verses or hadith (sayings of the Prophet Mohammed) say so. I haven’t found them.”

Unlike many other Arab countries, particularly in the Gulf, women have a prominent place in Sudanese public life. Nevertheless, human rights organisations say some of the country’s laws discriminate against women.

“Tens of thousands of women and girls have been whipped for their clothes these last 20 years. It’s not rare in Sudan,” Hussein said.

“It’s just that none of them would dare complain, because who would believe that they were whipped just for wearing trousers? They’re afraid of scandal, of raising doubts about their morals.

“I want people to know. I want these women’s voices to be heard.”


[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Venezuela Seizes Coffee Companies

The Venezuelan government has seized temporary control of the processing plants of two of the country’s biggest coffee companies.

Officials said the measure was designed to guarantee supply to consumers.

They said the plants, Fama de America and Cafe Madrid, would be audited for any irregularities and could face nationalisation if these were proved.

In March, the government set quotas for 12 basic foods, including coffee, to be produced at regulated prices.

Venezuelan Agriculture Minister Elias Jaua said that the government would take control of the coffee plants for three months to allow an audit.

“If at the end of the audit, we can show there has been smuggling, hoarding, disloyal and monopolistic practices, we could consider nationalising the companies,” he said.

The companies had said they would be forced to close because they were running low on supplies of coffee to be processed.

Earlier this year, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered the expropriation of a rice mill, owned by a subsidiary of US food giant Cargill, accusing the company of not distributing rice at government-set prices.

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


Ireland: €39m a Year Spent on Failed Asylum Applicants, Says FG

THE STATE is spending some €39 million a year to house unsuccessful asylum applicants because of delays in the Government’s decision-making process, Fine Gael has suggested.

The party’s immigration spokesman Denis Naughten said that as of the end of June, there were 4,018 asylum applications awaiting a decision, either at first instance or on appeal, although there were 6,961 people in asylum accommodation.

Based on a reply from Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern to a parliamentary question, he calculated that housing the remaining 2,943 people cost the State almost €39 million.

“The vast majority of these failed applicants are part of a 14,000 backlog of leave-to-remain applicants,” Mr Naughten said.

“It is the Minister for Justice’s sole responsibility to make a decision on their cases,” he added.

“However, the Minister is only processing 2,000 applications annually, which means some asylum seekers will have to wait up to seven years for a decision to be made on their case, at the current rate.”

At a time when the need for efficiencies and savings was clear, Mr Naughten said the Minister had shown “no initiative, no reform proposals” to address the backlog of applications.

“Ireland’s asylum system is broken and this is costing asylum seekers and taxpayers,” he said.

Since 2002, the State had spent €300 million a year on the asylum system, despite a dramatic decline in the number of new asylum claims being lodged since that year, Mr Naughten added.

In reply to a separate parliamentary question earlier this month, Mr Ahern said there were indications that many of those who were awaiting a decision on their leave-to-remain applications may already have left the State without notifying the department.

Others had submitted separate applications for residency — for example, on the basis of their marriage to an Irish or EU national — and decisions on these must be made before their applications for leave to remain could be finalised.

Mr Ahern said the consideration of applications for leave to remain was a “resource-intensive” process. “The deputy can be assured that strenuous efforts have been and continue to be made to ensure that applications are processed as promptly as possible,” he added.

“Additional staff have been deployed to the area and considerable investment has been made in the development of technology required to support the processing of such applications.”

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


New HIV Strain Leapt to Humans From Gorillas

French virologists on Sunday said they had found a new subtype of the AIDS virus that appears to have jumped the species barrier to humans from gorillas.

The new strain, found in a woman from Cameroon, West Africa, is part of the HIV-1 family of microbes that account for the vast majority of cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), they said.

Until now, all have been linked to the chimpanzee.

The new subtype has been called P, adding to three established HIV-1 subtypes — M, by far the most prevalent, and O and N, which are rare.

There is also an HIV-2 which is a minority viral family and is also suspected to have origins in non-human primates.

The virus was sequenced from a blood sample taken from an unnamed 62-year-old woman who moved to Paris from Cameroon, according to a letter published by the journal Nature Medicine.

In 2004, shortly after moving to the French capital, the woman was tested for HIV. She responded to diagnostic tests for HIV-1 but further tests failed to pinpoint the viral subtype.

The virus was genetically decoded and then put through a computer model to compare its evolutionary past against known viruses, both HIV and its equivalent in apes, called simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV).

The strain was a “significant” match with SIVgor — an immune deficiency virus found in gorillas…

[Return to headlines]

The Jews Have Beaten the Pious Muslims to it Yet Again

Dawn 04.07.2009 (Pakistan)

Tut-tut, the Jews have beaten the pious Muslims to it yet again, Tazeen Javed informs us. “A new ‘kosher’ search engine called Koogle has been launched for orthodox Jews living in Israel, which will allow them to surf cyberspace without ever encountering unbecoming images or faith wavering text and keep the dangers of subversion and temptation at bay. Koogle will follow the religious standards set by the rabbis and is aimed at helping orthodox Jews stay on the stipulated path. Apparently a jibe at Google, Koogle will filter out forbidden material and provide its consumers kosher bits and pieces from the net. This provides an impetus to our more religious-minded Muslim brothers to come up with a halal search engine or perhaps something even better: a halal browser. The halal browser could scan the web and act all big brotherly for the benefit of its devout and virtuous users.

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

11 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/3/2009

  1. A few Saudi women are now going to work as maids

    I’m surprised. Why would any Saudi woman want to do that? Surely it’s common knowledge that Saudi “maids” are really sex slaves that are routinely raped by their masters.

  2. It might be a response to the overwhelming unemployment among certain sectors of the Saudi population. Granted, it makes sense for the lower status females to go to work first rather than the males – but there might also be something about allowing “widows” or unmarried women to do it since they need some way to support themselves.

    Reading a transcript of a Saudi show the other day though – 1500 riyals sounds like what the max monthly welfare payment was (but perhaps that was the monthly payout for a single man, not a woman). I’ll try and find the numbers again.

  3. Baron

    This is totally OT

    Australia jihad bust: “The alleged offenders were prepared to inflict a sustained attack on military personnel until they themselves were killed”

    Australia jihad bust

    These actions by Muslims against the country that gave them shelter, will happen with ever increasing frequency because of our military involvment in Muslim countries. In Afghanistan, virtually all Western countries are militarily involved one way or other. Ofcourse Afghanistan is that important except in the larger scheme of things. If in the future we ge involved in pakistan, then another, I see “state actions” taking place in the West. In the UK, it is already mooted that those immigrants who oppose British military actions will be refused citizenship. This is what I pointed out almost a year ago. Our politicians maybe stupid but the country has always been governed by the likes of Sir Humphrey Appleby.

    Hope you see this post.

  4. Verified, but no link 🙁 – numbers from official gov’t figures.

    Saudi Poverty line defined as 1120 riyals/mo.

    Saudi Subsistence line defined as 1600 riyals/mo.

    Retirement/Social Security – apparently automatic for anyone working more than one day in the “Kingdom” – 1500 riyal/mo.

    Soooo, looks like some big pay…

  5. Solkhar’s repeated claim that “the combination of Obama’s message to the Iranian People and the Cairo Speech resulted in the demonstrations that have altered the policial (sic) support for the Iranian government” is giving credit where credit is most certainly not due and Obama’s early lack of support for the Iranian unrest proves it. He wanted to and still wants to deal with the Iranian mullahs undivided, not with an emerging democracy where citizens are free to speak. Obama did nothing to encourage the latter, just left them twisting in the cruel winds apparently hoping for a quick return to silence through gagging by the ruling elite.

    It was only when some Westerners remarked on his reticence to help the common people in Iran that he came up with some mumbo jumbo that was tepid compared to his earlier outreach to Muslim autocrats.

    Obama is no emancipator of the common Muslim man much less woman. George Bush did much more in that regard than Obama will ever do. As it’s turning out, except for possibly the Kurds in Iraq, there is little point in spending western blood and treasure on freeing Muslims in Muslim countries when they promptly voluntarily slap the shackles of sharia law on themselves instead of separating mosque and state.

    Let Muslims fix their own problems and meanwhile Obama should stop giving their oppressive leadership legitimacy, even rewriting history and contemporary events to flatter them. If he is not a Muslim (technically by the rules of Islam he is still a Muslim advancing their interests under deep takiya cover, either that or an apostate) he is at least a Muslimophile.

Comments are closed.