Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/4/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/4/2009Bill Clinton went to North Korea, and now the two American journalists have been freed. John Bolton sees Clinton’s actions as a reward for North Korea’s bad behavior.

In other news, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the new secretary-general of NATO, has made it a priority to improve his relations with Muslims.

Thanks to Amil Imani, CSP, Diana West, ESW, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JCPA, JD, Sean O’Brian, Thrasymachus, Tuan Jim, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Issa to Emanuel: Back Off!
Saudi Arabia: USD 20 Billion Projects Cancelled
Are You Ready to Kiss Your Freedom Goodbye?
Fed Judges Order California to Slash Prison Population
Group Files Suit Against Suicide Barrier Plan
Guard Troops May be Needed in Troubled Alabama County
Harry Reid: Not 1 Minute for ‘Phony Issue’ Of Birth
Jobless Grad Sues College for 70k Tuition
Media’s Glaring Mistakes in Eligibility Coverage
Media Blackout on Obama Eligibility Dates Back to November
Obama Hates the White Man
Obama Can’t Afford to Tell Truth on Health Care
Time to Go, Grandpa
Why Most Journalists Are Democrats: A View From the Soviet Socialist Trenches
Europe and the EU
3 More Prisoners Escape in Belgium
Agreement in Romania Leads to Reinstatement of Ethnic Hungarians
Catholics Alarmed by EU Equal Rights Law
Czech Leader Questions Path for Europe
French Farmers Reject EU Call to Pay Back Aid
Germany: ‘Muhammad Knows Nothing About Football’
Hindu Guru Unlocks Key to Uniting Divided Hungary
Hungary: Another Minister Drops Another Terror Bombshell Dud
Italy: Boastful Silvio Berlusconi Buys Off His Party Rebels
Italy: ‘Gotha’ Trial, 10 Years for Ex MP Mercadante
Italy: School Reform: League Calls for Regional Tests — No From Fini
Neo-Nazi Demo Scares Off German Football Team
Rasmussen Eyes Good Ties With Muslims
Turkey Marks 50 Years as EU Suitor
UK: Grieving Mother Fined £86 by Crematorium for Taking Too Long to Say Goodbye to Dead Baby Boy
UK: Mod Spin Doctor ‘Suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder After Being Forced to Lie That Army Vehicles Were Safe’
UK: Property Agents Keeping Out East European Tenants
UK: The Death of the Citizen MP and Why I’m Quitting Politics
North Africa
Algeria: 4 Civilians Killed by Terrorists in Kabylie
Israel and the Palestinians
Hamas-Funded Film Opens in Gaza
Israelis Want Arabs to Leave
Jews & Sheikh Jarrah
Music: Polemics Over Leonard Cohen Concert
Palestinian Refugees: 30 Mln UNRWA Deficit
Palestinians to Keep Resistance an Option: Abbas
Rabbi: Only Jews in Upper Nazareth
Will Fatah Give Up the Armed Struggle at Its Sixth General Congress?
Middle East
Amil Imani: Saluting Chancellor Merkel
H.Clinton Condemns Expulsions From East Jerusalem
Iraq Censorship Laws Move Ahead
Jordan Adopts Measures to Streamline Work of Expatriates
Jordan: Guide to Fight Violence Against Women Launched
Qatar Launches Year-Long Campaign to Protect Workers
Saudi Prison Starts Beauty Salon
The Black Hole of CMU: Muslims Isolated in Special US Prisons
EU Warns Georgia, South Ossetia Against Raising Tension
Russian Troops on High Readiness in South Ossetia
South Asia
Diana West: Our Piece of the Pie
Helicopters for Afghanistan ‘Not Fit for Use’
Indian Villagers’ Tales of Injustice
NATO OKs New Operational Command for Afghanistan
Nuclear Watchdog Urged to Seek Answers From Burma
Far East
Bill Clinton Rewarding N Korea for Bad Behavior: Bolton
Bill Clinton Gets Reporters Out of North Korea
Australia — Pacific
400 Australian Police Arrest Islamic Extremists Planning to ‘Kill as Many Soldiers as Possible’ In Melbourne Raids
Terrorism Suspects ‘Sought Religious Approval’
Sub-Saharan Africa
Is Al-Qaeda Working in Nigeria?
Khartoum ‘Arming Sudan Militias’
Out of Africa, A New Terrorism Threat Dawns
Sudan: Tear Gas Fired at Protesters Outside Lubna Hussein Trial
Latin America
Nicole Ferrand in the Americas Report: What’s Wrong With Insulza and the OAS
Boost for Migrants Who Choose to Come to Scotland
Italy: La Russa, 4,250 Soldiers in Cities Starting Tomorrow
Italy: League in School Dialect Row
Italy: Human Trafficking in Abruzzo, 17 Arrested
Culture Wars
3 Gay Priests Make Short List for Episcopal Bishop Posts
Get Ready for an Islamic Antichrist, Warns New Book
Zawahiri Blasts Obama, Says ‘Israel is a Crime That Must be Eliminated’

Financial Crisis

Issa to Emanuel: Back Off!

Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

WASHINGTON. D.C. — Following reports that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has been orchestrating an effort to intimidate members of Congress and Governors who raise legitimate concerns regarding the effectiveness of the stimulus, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Darrell Issa (R-CA) sent a letter to Emanuel saying “While this type of scare tactic may work In Chicago, it will not work to intimidate me or other Members of the United States Congress.”

“I and others have dared to bring these facts to the attention of President Obama, the Congress and the American people,” Issa wrote. “You’ve unfortunately reacted by once again resorting to the playbook of the Chicago political machine.”

Last month, Politico reported that Emanuel had “launched a coordinated effort to jam” Senator Kyl and other Administration critics… “[A]fter seeing Kyl and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) again paint the legislation as a failure on Sunday talk shows, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel directed that the letters from the Cabinet secretaries be sent to [Governor] Brewer, according to two administration officials.”

Issa noted, “The fact that the letters were coordinated by you to maximize the level of intimidation is supported by the timing, structure, and content of each letter. Not only were the four letters all sent the day following Senator Kyl’s remarks, but they were also remarkably similar in tone and sentence structure.”

Letter from Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation:

On Sunday, Arizona Senator Jon Kyl publicly questioned whether the stimulus is working and stated that he wants to cancel projects that aren’t presently underway. I believe the stimulus has been very effective in creating job opportunities throughout the country. However, if you prefer to forfeit the money we are making available to your state, as Senator Kyl suggests, please let me know [emphasis added].

Letter from Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior:

Some key Republican leaders in Congress have publicly questioned whether the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is working and suggested cancelling all projects that are not currently in progress. I believe they are wrong. The stimulus funds provided through the Recovery Act are a very effective way to create job opportunities throughout the Country. However, if you prefer to forfeit the money we are making available to Arizona, please let me know [emphasis added].

“At what point do you believe your practice of Chicago-style politics violates a public official’s right to speak out in favor of alternative policies,” Issa asks. “The American people have a right to know what role you played in developing the threatening letters to Governor Brewer and whether you intend to continue to engage in these tactics in the future.”

In order to assist the Committee with its investigation of this issue, please provide the following information by close of business on Tuesday, August 11, 2009:

1.Your response to Politico’s report that “White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel directed that the letters from the Cabinet secretaries be sent to [Governor] Brewer, according to two administration officials.”

2.A full and complete explanation of the development of the four July 13 letters from the cabinet secretaries to Governor Brewer, including but not limited to the role you or any other White House official played in writing the letters or encouraging the writing of the letters.

3.All records and communications between you and Secretary LaHood, Secretary Salazar, Secretary Donovan, and Secretary Vilsack referring or relating to the decision to send the July 13 letters to Governor Brewer.

4.A full and complete explanation of the role of the Democratic National Committee and the White House Office of Political Affairs in authoring, encouraging, facilitating, or directing the four July 13 letters from the cabinet secretaries to Governor Brewer.

You can view a copy of the full letter to Emanuel by clicking here.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: USD 20 Billion Projects Cancelled

(ANSAmed) — ABU DHABI, AUGUST 3 — Less than 80 active projects, with a total value of around $20bn, have been put on hold or cancelled in Saudi Arabia, Dubai-based research house Proleads Group said as reported by Arabian Business online. By contrast, more than 400 projects with a total value of over $300bn have been suspended or cancelled in the UAE, Proleads said last week. The Saudi study examined more than 720 construction projects with a total budget of more than $430bn across the commercial and retail; education and healthcare; leisure and entertainment; and residential sectors. The economic crisis has not had a great effect on the rate at which projects have been cancelled in Saudi Arabia,” said Emil Rademeyer, director of Proleads Global. Cashflow in the Saudi construction industry grew throughout 2008 and stabilised in 2009. “The market in Saudi Arabia is expected to maintain current levels throughout 2010, although slight decline is expected in the education and healthcare sectors countered with an expected slight growth in commercial and retail,” Rademeyer said. Residential projects made up the biggest share of the market in terms of value but education and healthcare had the most projects. Significant project completions are expected in 2011, Proleads said. A less open economy, restrictions on foreign ownership and a smaller expatriate population has meant Saudi Arabia largely avoided the real estate bubble that sent property prices tumbling in the UAE. The government in December announced a SAR475bn ($126.7bn) economic stimulus package for 2009. Real estate consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle has said the Kingdom’s burgeoning young population means the country will face a housing shortage of up to one million homes over the next three years. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Are You Ready to Kiss Your Freedom Goodbye?

“Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” We have heard that many times. What is also the price of freedom is the toleration of imperfections. If everything that is wrong with the world becomes a reason to turn more power over to some political savior, then freedom is going to erode away, while we are mindlessly repeating the catchwords of the hour, whether “change,” “universal health care” or “social justice.”

If we can be so easily stampeded by rhetoric that neither the public nor the Congress can be bothered to read, much less analyze, bills making massive changes in medical care, then do not be surprised when life-and-death decisions about you or your family are taken out of your hands — and out of the hands of your doctor — and transferred to bureaucrats in Washington.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Fed Judges Order California to Slash Prison Population

A federal judicial panel on Tuesday ordered California to reduce its prison population by 40,000 to improve treatment of ailing and mentally ill inmates.

The three-judge panel ruled that cutting the number of inmates is the only way to bring the system’s medical care up to adequate standards

“California’s prisons are bursting at the seams and are impossible to manage,” the judges wrote.

They gave the state 45 days to develop a plan to reduce the number of inmates in the 33 adult prisons from about 150,000 to 110,000 over two years.

About 8,000 additional inmates have been sent to prisons in other states, while nearly 10,000 more are in “conservation camps” and community correctional facilities.

Judges said the billions of dollars the state has spent on prisons has not kept inmates from dying regularly from suicides or medical neglect.

Federal courts previously found the level of care was so poor that it violated inmates’ constitutional rights. Conditions remain so cramped that they are leading to increased violence and speeding the transmission of infectious diseases, the judges said.

[Return to headlines]

Group Files Suit Against Suicide Barrier Plan

A longstanding opponent of plans to place suicide barriers along the Cold Spring Canyon Bridge on Highway 154 has filed a civil lawsuit against Caltrans alleging the state agency botched portions of its environmental review of the safety project.

Friends of the Bridge, an informal group of community members opposed to the barrier concept, cited three specific violations of state environmental law and asked Caltrans to set aside its approval of the $3 million project.

“We are trying to stop the wasteful expenditure of funds for legitimate traffic safety programs, including the widening of [Highway] 101 and many, many others,” said Marc McGinnes, an outspoken critic of the plan and spokesman for Friends of the Bridge. “We don’t do things just to delay. We have fought this in every way to make sure that this project doesn’t get done.”

Caltrans officials, who had yet to see the official court complaint, declined to comment on pending litigation but noted that the suicide barrier project has received widespread community support, including backing by suicide prevention advocates and law enforcement officials…

[Return to headlines]

Guard Troops May be Needed in Troubled Alabama County

The sheriff in Alabama’s most populous county may call for the National Guard to help maintain order, a spokesman said Tuesday, after a judge cleared the way for cuts in the sheriff’s budget and hopes dimmed for a quick end to a budget crisis.

Circuit Judge Joseph L. Boohaker ruled that leaders in Jefferson County — now trying to head off a municipal bankruptcy filing of historic proportions — could go ahead with plans to slash $4.1 million from the budget of Sheriff Mike Hale, who had filed a lawsuit that temporarily blocked spending cuts for his office.

About 1,000 county workers already are on unpaid leave because courts threw out a key county tax, and Hale has warned that reductions to his budget would mean fewer patrols by deputies and decreased courthouse security.


Hale may have to cut as many as 188 deputies and almost 300 civilian workers out of more than 700 employees total because of Boohaker’s ruling, Christian said. That would leave just enough workers to staff the county’s two jails, which hold about 1,000 prisoners on average.

Christian said the department couldn’t close either jail or release inmates, but it would send as many prisoners as possible to the state prison system, which already is badly overcrowded.

Riley previously refused to declare a state of emergency in Jefferson County, which has about 640,000 residents and includes the state’s largest city, Birmingham. But he hasn’t ruled out sending in Guard members or state troopers if needed…

[Return to headlines]

Harry Reid: Not 1 Minute for ‘Phony Issue’ Of Birth

Senate floor criticisms make sure dispute is in Congressional Record

Only a day after a document purporting to be President Obama’s birth certificate from Kenya was submitted to a court in California, the long-running dispute over his birth and eligibility to occupy the Oval Office has been entered into the Congressional Record — by a Democrat no less.


But now the Senate has plunged into the dispute, even if unwillingly, with a statement from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who formally elevated it to arguably the highest debate level in the land.

“Let’s be clear. It’s a phony issue and does not deserve even a minute of our attention on the floor of the United States Senate,” Reid announced today, giving the issue just that minute. “It’s absurd, irresponsible, baseless and the false claims of long ago have been refuted.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Jobless Grad Sues College for 70k Tuition

She has given new meaning to a class-action lawsuit.

Trina Thompson gave it the old college try, but couldn’t find work. Now she thinks her sheepskin wasn’t worth her time, and is suing her alma mater for her money back.

The Monroe College grad wants the $70,000 she spent on tuition because she hasn’t found gainful employment since earning her bachelor’s degree in April, according to a suit filed in Bronx Supreme Court on July 24.

The 27-year-old alleges the business-oriented Bronx school hasn’t lived up to its end of the bargain, and has not done enough to find her a job.

The information-technology student blames Monroe’s Office of Career Advancement for not providing her with the leads and career advice it promised.

“They have not tried hard enough to help me,” the frustrated Bronx resident wrote about the school in her lawsuit.

“She’s angry,” said Thompson’s mother, Carol. “She’s very angry at her situation. She put all her faith in them, and so did I. They’re not making an effort.

“She’s finally finished [with school], and I’m so proud of her. She just wants a job.”

The mother and daughter live together, but are struggling to get by. Carol, a substitute teacher, has been the only breadwinner.

“This is not the way we want to live our life,” the mom said. “This is not what we planned.”

As if being unemployed weren’t enough, Trina’s student loans are coming due, saddling the family with more debt, the mom said.

“We’re going to be homeless, and we’ll still have a student loan to pay,” Carol said.

Monroe insists it helps graduates in their careers.

“The lawsuit is completely without merit,” school spokesman Gary Axelbank said. “The college prides itself on the excellent career-development support that we provide to each of our students, and this case does not deserve further consideration.”

The college’s Office of Career Advancement advertises lifetime free service for graduates, and boasts on the school’s Web site: “We have many resources available for students at any stage of their college career, and even after graduation.”

[Return to headlines]

Media’s Glaring Mistakes in Eligibility Coverage

After stalling, the old-line media is beginning to cover the controversy around the failure of our political system to test Barack Obama’s eligibility under the U.S. Constitution to serve as president. For months now, Internet-launched campaigns have flooded traditional newsrooms with tens of thousands of personalized faxes, e-mails and petitions, all with the goal of spurring coverage. But old-line coverage persistently is riddled with errors, full of vitriol and dishonesty.

Most of the coverage carries the same tone as this Miami Herald headline, “Here’s the truth: ‘Birther’ claims are just plain nuts.” But let’s do more than name-calling and examine the arguments in the old-line media stories. Their arguments fall into three categories.

Their first line of argument is evidenced by this sentence from the Kansas City Star: “White House aides say only that Obama has produced his birth certificate. That’s true. It is a birth certificate, issued by the state Health Department and acceptable to prove citizenship to the federal government for purposes of obtaining a passport. It’s also true that it isn’t THE original birth certificate.”

We call this the “what I’ve produced is good enough” argument. Most coverage then references the website, which has a dubious record and is funded by the same Annenberg Foundation that funneled money to Obama’s early career. Sorry, but our days of trusting government officials and their echo choir in the media are over.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Media Blackout on Obama Eligibility Dates Back to November

Do you remember Watergate? Thirty-five years ago this Sunday, U.S. President Richard M. Nixon submitted his letter of resignation for his role in the scandal. There was the crime — the break-in, and then there was the cover-up by the Nixon administration. There were threats, media manipulation and disinformation. It was the cover-up more than the crime itself in the aftermath of the Watergate break-in that led to the downfall of the Nixon administration. It was a politically critical time for our country, but we survived because of the strength of the U.S. constitution.

Now, we potentially face a new constitutional crisis stemming from the refusal of Barack Hussein Obama to produce a one-page document that would confirm his eligibility to hold the highest office in the land. Eligibility to hold office is not a “fringe” matter, but a core constitutional issue that lies at the very heart of a growing controversy.

Although we do not have the birth certificate or proof of ineligibility, the Northeast Intelligence Network and Canada Free Press have documentation of a cover-up relating to the issue of Obama’s eligibility to hold office. The proof we possess not only exposes a well orchestrated cover-up, but also provides critical insight into why the topic of Obama’s eligibility has failed to gain traction in the corporate media.

The Northeast Intelligence Network and Canada Free Press are in possession of extremely sensitive investigative documents, including a stunning written admission by a nationally known talk show host stating that he was threatened with his career — or worse — should he talk about the issue of Barack Hussein Obama’s birth records to a national audience. This document was obtained on December 10, 2008, and provides explicit detail of a “gag order” imposed on this host before and immediately following the national election last November.

After receiving and authenticating the document, US based veteran private investigator Douglas J. Hagmann opened a full scale investigation into the media blackout, with specific emphasis on tracing the blackout origins to those issuing them. This investigation was conducted in conjunction with Judi McLeod, founding editor of Canada Free Press and Brian Thompson, CFP Information Technology chief following a meeting near Toronto, Ontario last December. At that meeting, it was decided to keep the existence of the document secret until additional evidence could be obtained.

Today, after an extensive eight month investigation, the Northeast Intelligence Network and Canada Free Press are breaking their silence and revealing explosive information about a widespread cover-up that began at the earliest stages of the Obama presidential campaign. The cover-up traces back to some of the most powerful and influential people in the U.S. and continues today.

Summary of the Evidence…

[Return to headlines]

Obama Hates the White Man

… an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil. — Luke 6:45

Barack Obama hates white people — especially white men. Sorry folks, but the truth will set you free!

Why else would Obama falsely accuse Sgt. James Crowley and other Cambridge Police officers of “racial profiling” and claim they “acted stupidly” — creating a national racial controversy?

For months, I have said that Barack Obama was elected as a result of white fear (guilt) and black racism. Whites voted for him because of guilt and the fear of being called “racist.” And the 96 percent of blacks who voted for the “Messiah” did so because of his race and his “spread the wealth” notions.

Despite the stark reality of Obama’s close association with black racists like the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., many white Americans hoped for the best and cast their ballot for the “post-racial” candidate, Obama.

The new president assembled his left-wing policy wonks and Chicago henchmen, and within six months into his presidency he has tried to radically alter and fundamentally socialize every major American industry from banking to health care.

When Obama intentionally maligned the Cambridge police officers it shocked America, especially whites. A growing number of Americans were questioning his out-of-control spending ($1 trillion in six months), but they didn’t see him as racially polarizing. That all changed after he weighed in on the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and accused the white cops of racial profiling without knowing the facts. For the first time he spoke from his heart without the aid of a teleprompter, and we saw the real Barack Obama. (Now we know why he relies on the teleprompter!)

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama Can’t Afford to Tell Truth on Health Care

In “The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care,” Sally Pipes points out that while there are some Americans who simply can’t afford health insurance, many millions who can afford insurance choose not to buy it and “very likely would not want to be ‘rescued’ by mandatory socialized medicine.”

In the first place, the 47 million number is grossly inflated. The Congressional Budget Office survey generating it included those who were uninsured for any part of a year, despite the fact that almost half of these remain uninsured for an average of only four months.


So while Obama tells us that almost 8 million children lack health insurance, he doesn’t disclose that 5 million of them only lack insurance because they haven’t been enrolled in the available programs. Not only would this fact undermine the urgency of his appeal; it illustrates that even under his “universal access” plan, not everyone would acquire coverage anyway. Indeed, the CBO has estimated that some 17 million would remain uninsured if the Democrats’ plan were implemented.

Yes, there are people who fall through the cracks (Pipes’ words) — mostly those who earn less than $50,000 per year but too much to qualify for government help. When it’s all said and done, there are probably about 8 million of these “chronically uninsured,” who really can’t afford insurance and don’t qualify for help — though they are able to receive emergency room care. And many of these 8 million would be better able to afford coverage if government regulations and mandates hadn’t driven up the costs so much.

But how urgent do you suppose Obama’s call for universal coverage would sound if he were to come clean with these figures? The truth is he couldn’t get to first base if he used the 8 million figure instead of 47 million.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Time to Go, Grandpa

With “controlling costs” a primary goal of Obamacare, and half of all medical costs coming in the last six months of life, “rationed care” takes on a new meaning for us all.

London’s Telegraph reported Sunday that the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence, known by its Orwellian acronym NICE, intends to slash by 95 percent the number of steroid injections, such as cortisone, given to people who suffer severe and chronic back pain.

“Specialists fear,” said the Telegraph, “tens of thousands of people, mainly the elderly and frail, will be left to suffer excruciating levels of pain or pay as much as 500 pounds each for private treatment.”

Now, twin this story with the weekend Washington Post story about Obamacare’s “proposal to pay physicians who counsel elderly or terminally ill patients about what medical treatment they would prefer near the end of life and how to prepare instructions such as living wills,” and there is little doubt as to what is coming.

The Post portrayed the controversy as stoked by “right-leaning radio” using explosive language like “guiding you in how to die” and government plans to “kill Granny.” Yet, is not the logical purpose of paying doctors for house calls to the terminally ill, whose medical costs are killing Medicare, to suggest a pleasant and early exit from a pain-filled and costly life?

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Why Most Journalists Are Democrats: A View From the Soviet Socialist Trenches

Several decades ago, I spent a couple seasons working for the Soviets as a Russian translator—hauling in fish by day and slugging back samogon by night. (Well, sometimes slugging back homemade vodka by day, too—that’s the Russians for you.) I was curious about one of politics’ biggest questions: is extreme socialism beneficial?

What I found was so much propaganda about the wonders of Soviet Socialist Mankind and the horrors of Western Democracy that the people exposed to it might as well have had electrodes implanted to control their thoughts. There were no governmental checks and balances and nothing even close to a free press—so positions of power were filled by nasty sorts who kept good people in fear for their lives if they didn’t think the right thoughts. Soviet Socialism, as it turned out, was a perverse system that killed motivation even as it made fear as natural as breathing.

Why wasn’t this widely reported in the Western press?

As it turns out, the preponderance of journalists are Democrats. And socialism, with its idyllic, “progressive” programs, has formed an increasingly important role in Democratic policies. Who wants to investigate a possible dark side of your own party’s plank?

We’ll get to that. First—why are most journalists Democrats?

Unsurprisingly, self-selection plays an important role in choosing a job. People choosing to do work related to prisons, for example, commonly show quite different characteristics than those who volunteer for work in helping disadvantaged youths. Academicians have very different characteristics than CEOs—or politicians, for that matter.

Harry Stein, former ethics editor of Esquire, once said: “Journalism, like social work, tends to attract individuals with a keen interest in bettering the world.” In other words, journalists self-select based on a desire to help others. Socialism, with its “spread the wealth” mentality intended to help society’s underdogs, sounds ideal.

Most journalists take a number of psychology, sociology, political science, and humanities courses during their early years in college. Unfortunately, these courses have long served as ideological training programs—ignoring biological sources of self-serving, corrupt, and criminal behavior for a number of reasons, including lack of scientific training; postmodern, antiscience bias; and well-intentioned, facts-be-damned desire to have their students view the world from an egalitarian perspective.


Professors in the humanities and social sciences are taken aback by the kinds of claims I’m making here. How could there possibly be such problems within a discipline—or multiple disciplines—without most academicians being aware of them? But, having worked among the Soviets, I know that large groups of very intelligent people can fall into a collective delusion that what they are doing in certain areas is the right thing, when it’s actually not the right thing at all. It’s rather like the Skinnerian viewpoint on psychology. For a full half century, psychologists insisted it wasn’t proper to posit anything going on inside people’s heads. Advances in psychology ground to a halt during that time, but it was impossible to convince mainstream psychologists that there was anything wrong to their approach. After all—everybody was using Skinner’s approach, and everybody couldn’t be wrong.

As far as investigating the dark side of the Major Issues, there’s a critically important concept that students of journalism are rarely taught. It’s easy to find any number of targets to write about in capitalist societies with an open press. But totalitarian governments are journalistic black holes. Journalists can tickle their self-righteous neurocircuitry every day (and many do), by exposing easy-to-find faults in democratic societies. But beyond their event horizon is the bigger story that often remains untold as it occurs—the horrific deaths of millions in totalitarian regimes like the former Soviet Union, Communist China, North Korea and, yes, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. That’s why, when Robert Conquest was asked whether he wanted to retitle his updated ‘The Great Terror’, about the Soviet purges, his answer was: Yes, how about ‘I Told You So, You F**king Fools’?

If you’re a journalist, want to help people and want to tell the truth, what truth are you going to tell? Why, the truth you think helps people, of course!

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

Europe and the EU

3 More Prisoners Escape in Belgium

BRUSSELS — Belgian authorities were chasing three more escaped prisoners on Tuesday, bringing the total to 12 over the past two weeks.

The ongoing news of escapes has heaped embarrassment on the government, which claims its plans to better secure key jails and courthouses have been held back by budget constraints and administrative burdens.

The justice ministry says the three escaped early Tuesday from the sprawling Palace of Justice courthouse in central Brussels when two armed men burst into a court hearing and took them with them.

Two weeks ago, three convicts broke out of a high-security prison near Bruges when a helicopter flew into the compound to take them away. Last week, six prisoners escaped from a prison near the port city of Antwerp by scaling the wall with a ladder.

In all, five of the escaped inmates have been caught again, but seven remain at large.

There have been plans to put nets over exercise yards to make it impossible for helicopters to land, but implementation has been slow.

Plans to seal off parts of the building to secure the Palace of Justice, one of Brussels’ best-known landmarks, have been met with opposition from a foundation seeking to protect the monumental 19th century beaux-arts structure, whose 104-foot (32-meter)-high dome hulks over the capital.

“It is an icon for Belgium and the capital. It is a monument of beautiful architecture but it cannot be secured,” complained Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck. “There are so many hallways, so many entries.”

There had already been a similar escape from the Palace of Justice in January. De Clerck told VRT Television he had a plan to seal off a section of the building for high-security cases “but it clashed with the concept of the heritage foundation.” He said he could not even install cameras in the building.

De Clerck is not new to dealing with prison breaks. He resigned a decade ago as justice minister when convicted pedophile Marc Dutroux escaped from custody.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Agreement in Romania Leads to Reinstatement of Ethnic Hungarians

Several ethnic Hungarian institution chief executives have been reinstated to their posts following an agreement reached by the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ) and Romanian governing parties.

Former Szatmár county deputy prefect István Gáti has been appointed director at the Ministry of Public Administration and Interior Ministry where he will oversee a decentralisation project.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Catholics Alarmed by EU Equal Rights Law

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Atheists could attack galleries for showing religious art and witches could claim the right to use church halls under a draft EU equal rights law, the Roman Catholic church has warned.

The EU bill aims to curtail discrimination on grounds of religion, disability, age or sexual preference in social situations not covered by existing labour law, such as renting properties.

The directive could enter into force in 2011 if member states give unanimous approval in discussions planned for November by the Swedish EU presidency.

The criticism was put forward in recent days by the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales as part of a British government consultation procedure.

The bishops’ group “commends” the EU effort to protect “the innate dignity of every person.”

But it calls for the legal text to soften a clause against creating an “offensive environment” and to add an exemption to let religious organisations “function in accordance with [their] ethos.”

“There is a risk that practical implementation may effectively turn the directive into an instrument of oppression against one or other group,” the church paper, signed by bishops’ conference general secretary Monsignor Andrew Summersgill, says.

“Homosexual groups …may declare themselves offended by the presentation of the Catholic Church’s moral teaching on homosexual acts; Catholics may declare themselves offended by a ‘Gay Pride’ march; an atheist may be offended by religious pictures in an art gallery.”

“It is not clear whether [the bill] would apply to the activities of a Catholic priest, if, as recently occurred, he were to refuse to take a booking for a Church Hall from a group of witches,” it adds.

The European Parliament passed the draft law in April by 363 votes against 226. Left-leaning and liberal MEPs championed the bill. But centre-right deputies said it will create too much red tape.

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

Czech Leader Questions Path for Europe

PRAGUE — When the European Union and Russia held their most recent summit meeting in May, the Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, stunned European diplomats when he passed out copies of his book denouncing the fight against global warming — a central policy of the 27-nation bloc he was supposed to lead.

Just before the summit meeting, Mr. Klaus, whose country held the rotating presidency of the European Union, warned his European colleagues that they should take greater heed of Russian concerns than those of “small Estonia or Lithuania” — two former Soviet republics that are now, like the Czech Republic, members of the union.

The European Union is the world’s biggest political and economic bloc, and it often aspires to global leadership. But Mr. Klaus, a contrarian agitator who is also the head of state of one of Eastern Europe’s wealthiest democracies, does not agree with many things the European Union espouses — or even that Europe should have a strong union. He declined to display its gold-starred flag in his office during his nation’s presidential term.

The fact that he was one of Europe’s top representatives at the height of the global economic crisis reveals the difficult trade-offs made to achieve the semblance of unity, as well as the limits of Europe’s clout. The European Union rotates the top leadership post among its members in half-year increments, irrespective of their size or, in some cases, commitment to its professed goals.

Mr. Klaus helped topple the Czech government in March midway through the Czech presidency, embarrassing many supporters of Europe in his homeland and leaving the bloc of 495 million people rudderless during the financial crisis.

Even after the Czechs ceded the presidency to Sweden at the end of June, Mr. Klaus remains a potent symbol of the difficulties of acting collectively in a union divided between leaders who favor greater integration, and those like Mr. Klaus who cling to national sovereignty.

Soon Mr. Klaus may have the opportunity for the ultimate act of sabotage. In a few months he will be asked to sign the Lisbon Treaty, which aims to enhance the bloc’s role on the world stage by creating, among other things, a permanent European presidency. The treaty has finally approached ratification after years of setbacks, but Mr. Klaus, one of its fiercest critics, has warned that it will create a centralized “superstate.”

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

French Farmers Reject EU Call to Pay Back Aid

French farmers have refused the government’s call to pay back €330 million of state aid distributed to fruit and vegetable producers between 1992 to 2002 and later ruled illegal by the European Commission.

“It’s clear we must get farmers to start reimbursing the funds,” French agriculture minister Bruno Le Maire said in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper published on Monday (3 August).

Promising he would “do nothing that could compromise the future of the sector,” Mr Le Maire explained that the government would have to start collecting the money from September, so as to complete the task by the commission’s January 2010 deadline.

The EU executive earlier this year ruled that the state aid, initially introduced at a time of poor weather conditions, turned into a source of secure finance for investments in tractors and marketing schemes.

The commission highlighted “subsidising sales prices, storage or the destruction of part of the crop as well as financial incentives for processing the fresh product” as examples of illegal measures which harmed farmers from other countries. It also mentioned “export subsidies based on prices and quantities produced.”

The EU regulator said that “such measures are clearly likely to distort competition on the community market by promoting the disposal of French fruit and vegetables to the detriment of produce from other member states.”

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

Germany: ‘Muhammad Knows Nothing About Football’

Muslims Angered by Verse in German Soccer Club Song

The verse “Muhammad Was a Prophet Who Knows Nothing About Football” in the official song of German soccer club Schalke 04 has sparked more than 100 complaints from Muslims. The club says it’s looking into the matter.

German Bundesliga soccer club Schalke 04 has received more than 100 complaints from Muslims about its club song which contains the verse: “Muhammad was a Prophet who knows nothing about football.”

Schalke supporters are among Germany’s most emotional fans.

The song with the title “White and Blue, How I Love You” has been around for decades but only recently came to the attention of Turkish media which said it insults the Prophet.

Muslims are now demanding that the offending line be struck from the song, which is chanted by Schalke’s fans before every match.

The management of the club, based in the western town of Gelsenkirchen in the industrial Ruhr region, is concerned about the complaints and says it is consulting an expert on Islam.

It’s unclear why the song contains the reference to Muhammad given that the rest of the lyrics focus on the beauty of the team colors white and blue and on the fact that Schalke will never die.

“The song is age old. Both sides should sit down and discuss this, we’re all sensible people,” Schalke’s former manager Rudi Assauer told the mass circulationBild newspaper.

Shalke has established itself as one of the dominant clubs in the German football in recent years, capturing the German Cup two years in a row in 2001 and 2002. It earned second place in the Bundesliga in 2001, 2005 and 2007, allowing the team to compete in the Champions League

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Hindu Guru Unlocks Key to Uniting Divided Hungary

[Political Pest]

This morning we received a press release from one Rajan Zed, a Nevada-based “acclaimed Hindu statesman” saying that “Hindus are asking for immediate intervention” by the EU in Hungary to protect the Roma against violence by non-Roma Hungarians. We kid you not. Here’s an excerpt:

Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, argued that Hungary and European Union should make sure that racism and hatred did not grow in Hungary and all crimes against Roma people should be immediately solved. Rajan Zed further said that in Hungary, despite various government initiatives, Roma reportedly continued to face blatant discrimination, shanty town living, an atmosphere of hostility, huge unemployment rate, lower life expectancy, prejudice, significantly higher school dropout rate, racism, bias and stereotyping, school segregation, social exclusion, mistrust, human rights violations, etc. According to an estimate, less than 1% of Roma obtained higher education degrees. Zed pointed out that instead of reportedly continuing to marginalize Roma socially, this country of Lake Balaton, romantic Danube River, Franz Liszt and Bela Bartok, should be more embracing of Roma brothers and sisters who had been reportedly living with them since 14th century.

Our only suggestion to Zed is that he might not want to rush to visit Hungary and make his case in person

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Hungary: Another Minister Drops Another Terror Bombshell Dud

It’s hard to believe this could possibly be true, but just a few days after the Justice Ministry was forced to issue a humiliating apology for its minister’s use of bogus video to dramatize the government’s efforts to clamp down on domestic terrorism, it seems that another senior government official has been caught talking utter BS on a related topic. According to this MTI brief on and other similar pieces, Chancellery Minister (i.e. prime ministerial chief of staff) Csaba Molnár said yesterday that the savage shooting of a Roma woman and her daughter early on Monday had been timed to coincide with Sunday’s Roma Holocaust memorial observances.

The reports are (as so often) a bit vague, but no matter how Molnár said what he said, it seems that he was either making this up, or improperly divulging otherwise confidential police evidence. So unless we receive any evidence to the contrary, we will assume he had timed his statements to coincide with the government’s ever-present need for a distraction from its other myriad problems.

           — Hat tip: Thrasymachus [Return to headlines]

Italy: Boastful Silvio Berlusconi Buys Off His Party Rebels

Sex scandals still dog Italy’s prime minister, but cash handouts have quelled revolt in his ranks

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi at the Economic and Financial forum for the Mediterranean, Milan, Italy, Monday, July 20, 2009. Photograph: Luca Bruno/AP

Before they could slip away for the summer recess, Silvio Berlusconi called about 30 of his MPs to a meeting in his 17th-century Roman palazzo, where an “escort”, Patrizia D’Addario, claims to have recorded her pillow talk with him.

According to an account in the newspaper La Repubblica, as the meeting was about to break up, Italy’s prime minister, who recently admitted he was “no saint”, asked his followers: “Have you heard the latest one about La D’Addario?” Egged on by their denials, he is reported to have added: “She says Berlusconi may not, in fact, be a saint. But he

s like a god!”

As millions of Italians yesterday packed for their holidays and prepared to forget politics till the autumn, their endlessly controversial leader never looked less like resigning. Newspapers worldwide may have written off his chances of surviving a double-barrelled scandal that would long ago have felled even the most revered statesman elsewhere. But Berlusconi seems bullet-proof.

He could, of course, fall to new revelations. In an apparent reference to her night with the Prime Minister, Patrizia D’Addario said on Friday night : “At those parties in which I took part worse things happened, I can assure you.”

But if a 72-year-old married grandfather can get away with refusing to explain his relationship with a girl of 18 and then survive the dissemination of a recording in which he purportedly discusses orgasms and masturbation while in bed with a prostitute, it may be wondered what could possibly bring him down. The last seven days, moreover, have seen Berlusconi’s position shored up on two fronts.

On Thursday, Italians were given a dramatic reminder that the investigation that brought to light their prime minister’s relationship with D’Addario and other “escorts” was not directed at possible wrongdoing on the right but the left. Police in Bari raided the offices of five opposition parties. They were armed with warrants issued by prosecutors looking into suspected illegal party funding over a period from 2005 to the present. Bari is the capital of Apulia, a region governed by Nichi Vendola, one of the left’s few charismatic figures.

The suspicion is that politicians in his administration steered health service contracts to suppliers in exchange for kickbacks to their parties’ coffers. Among the prosecutors is one attached to the organised crime department — indicating the possible involvement of Apulia’s mafia.

Vendola has denied wrongdoing and no charges have been laid.

But, for some, the raids put a different slant on the Berlusconi scandals. “It is to be asked whether the fierce attacks by the entire opposition front on the prime minister and his undoubtedly questionable behaviour might not perhaps have sought to cover up fears of what the inquiry could bring to light,” wrote a Corriere della Sera commentator, Antonio Macaluso.

Apulia was not the only part of the south on Berlusconi’s mind last week, as he sought to put down a rebellion in his party. His Freedom People movement is allied to two regional groups: the Northern League and a smaller group, the MPA, which seeks broader self-government for Sicily.

Exasperated by what he saw as the prime minister’s repeated concessions to the League, a junior minister, Gianfranco Miccichè, threatened to lead a group of fellow rebels out of the Freedom People and link up with the MPA. The aim was to create a new “Party of the South” that would enjoy the same leverage as the League, on which the government relies for its majority.

By yesterday Berlusconi had neutralised the threat in the time-honoured fashion of Italian prime ministers — by throwing money at the Mezzogiorno. He promised to unblock some €4bn of development funds for Sicily, start talks on extra financing for other southern regions, and create a new government agency and public bank for the Mezzogiorno.

But the speed with which the revolt was stifled diverted attention from two facts that could foreshadow trouble for Italy’s ebullient leader when politics return to normal in the autumn. This was the first internal party revolt Berlusconi has faced. The scandals may not have finished him, but they have weakened him.

It was perhaps no coincidence that when the most senior member of his cabinet, finance minister Giulio Tremonti, was interviewed on television on Friday, he was asked if he considered himself Berlusconi’s heir. Tremonti replied that it was difficult “to imagine succeeding such an extraordinary person”. Which was not quite a denial.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: ‘Gotha’ Trial, 10 Years for Ex MP Mercadante

(AGI) — Palermo, 28 Jul. — During the night the sentencing of the former regional MP from the Forza Italia party, Giovanni Mercadante, was decided. The judges of the second section of the Palermo Court, presided over by Bruno Fasciana, sentenced the radiologist to 10 years and 8 months on charges of association with the mafia (the public prosecutor had requested a sentence of 14 years). The court took 16 hours to finalise the sentencing in the ‘Gotha’ trial — from 9.45am yesterday to 1.40am today. A total of five people were sentenced to a total of just over 40 years. Dr Nino Cina’ was found guilty of association with the mafia and extortion and sentenced to 16 years in continuation with a previous conviction, Torretta mafia boss Lorenzo Di Maggio (Lorenzino) received 9 years and 4 months for extortion (he was absolved of other charges), Bernardo Provenzano received 6 years for extortion in this case (reduced to an attempt to extort), and finally 6 months for Paolo Buscemi, owner of the ‘Boca Chica’, charged with aiding and abetting for not have admitted to paying protection money.

Four people were acquitted: Marcello Parisi, ex district councillor for the Forza Italia party, aspiring candidate (with the support of the bosses) to the Town Council of Palermo, and three tradesmen; and business owners charged with aiding and abetting for not reporting the protection racket. The latter include Maurizio Buscemi (Paolo’s brother), Calogero Immordino and Vito Lo Scrudato, owners of the construction company Dau Sistemi of San Giovanni Gemini (Agrigento). The public prosecutors Nino Di Matteo and Gaetano Paci had requested sentences for all of the men charged.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: School Reform: League Calls for Regional Tests — No From Fini

(AGI) — Rome, 28 July — Italy’s Northern League has proposed a test for school teachers based on knowledge of the language and traditions of the region in which they are applying to teach.

But the head the Culture Commission of Italy’s Lower House, Valentina Aprea, as well as being rapporteur for self-government for scholastic institutions and liberty of educational choice, as well as of reform for the legal status of teachers, has decided to suspend the commission of nine which was examining the text of the proposal and sent it to the party whips’ conference for examination. The matter was raised in the house by PD deputy Emilia De Biasi. She was quickly put on guard by House Speaker, Gianfranco Fini: “During the reading of the reform, the first commission and the house should evaluate its full and total compliance with the basic principles of the constitution — this is not a matter open to opinions but which should limit itself solely to what is written in the constitutional charter”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Neo-Nazi Demo Scares Off German Football Team

An eastern German town ventured to make a political statement by hosting a soccer match under a slogan of racial tolerance. But when the far-right, neo-Nazi NPD announced it was going to demonstrate, the opposing team, Energie Cottbus, backed out.

The eastern German town of Storkow had planned to host a soccer match this Saturday to celebrate tolerance. But then the opposing team cancelled — out of concerns about a far-right demonstration.

Energie Cottbus, a team in Germany’s second league, was set for a friendly pre-season match against Storkow’s football club Germania but pulled out on Wednesday, having learned that the extreme-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) would be protesting the event. Energie’s manager claimed he could not guarantee his players’ safety.

Storkow, a town of just 800 in the eastern German state of Brandenburg, had been planning Saturday’s “soccer fest” under the motto “With Energie for Tolerance” for months. It invited Energie Cottbus to participate because the club, also based in Brandenburg, has taken an especially aggressive approach to racism in football in the past, launching a campaign under the slogan “Show racism the red card” in 1999.

But when last week the NPD announced it would be demonstrating on the day of the match, Energie decided to take no risks and pulled out. The Storkow organizers have voiced their disappointment, seeing the cancellation as a concession to the right wing extremists.

Germania club chairman Johann Kney told reporters on Thursday, “Of all teams, we would have expected Energie to show some spine.”

The NPD had written an open letter to Germania, demanding the club change the name of the match. “If Germania Stockow’s management can’t find a more appropriate motto for the event, the directors of Brandenburg’s NPD would be more the willing to help find a name under which the event could be celebrated as a pure sporting event,” the letter offered. It also called on its followers to protest.

In the 2008 municipal elections, the NPD took 7.3 percent of the vote in Stockow and it has representation in two eastern German state parliaments.

Racism and soccer have a complicated history in Germany. Many fan clubs, particularly in eastern Germany, have become bastions fo the neo-Nazi movement. Some far-right groups even sponsor local soccer clubs. And non-white players often come in for racist abuse from the stands.

In 2006, a former government spokesman cast a shadow over the excited lead-up to the World Cup in Germany by warning non-white visitors not to go to parts of the former East German. Some called his reference to “no-go” areas exaggerated but when the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) distributed a pamphlet suggesting that national team defender Patrick Owomoyela, of mixed German Nigerian birth, wasn’t white enough to play on the team, many felt confirmed in their suspicion that there was a problem with racism in football. Two senior members of the NPD were later charged and convicted of inciting racial hated.

A regional politician, however, is determined that the NPD won’t have the last say on the game planned for this weekend. Following Energie’s cancellation, Brandenburg’s Finance Minister Rainer Speer stepped in. As president of a local regional club, he has cobbled together an improvised team which will go up against Germania on Saturday.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Rasmussen Eyes Good Ties With Muslims

BRUSSELS: NATO’s new secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said Monday that he has scheduled talks with diplomats from countries in North Africa and the Middle East amid lingering concerns over his relations with the Muslim world.

Rasmussen was Denmark’s prime minister in 2005 when a series of cartoons in a Copenhagen newspaper with caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) angered Muslims. Monday was his first day in his new position.

“Let me assure the governments and people (in NATO partner states in the Mediterranean and Middle East) that I am fully committed to building stronger relations with them on the basis of mutual respect, understanding and trust,” Rasmussen said.

“I will take concrete steps, starting today, to engage with the countries of the Mediterranean Dialogue … I will personally engage in dialogue with all of them to hear their views,” he said.

The cartoons controversy is “an element of the past,” Rasmussen stressed, saying that he was looking forward to working with Muslim leaders in Afghanistan, in particular.

Rasmussen said that he had already invited the ambassadors of Mediterranean states including Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia for one-on-one talks. Those meetings should focus on “how to take relations forward,” he added. NATO founded its Mediterranean Dialogue in 1994 in a bid to build closer ties and improve security cooperation around its southern borders.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Turkey Marks 50 Years as EU Suitor

Turkey has marked a sad anniversary of 50 years knocking on Europe’s door, with some enthusiasts hoping that the EU’s recent deal on the Nabucco gas pipeline could speed up Ankara’s membership bid.

The Eurasian country of 74 million on Friday (31 July) marked a half century from the first official announcement of its application to join the EU, which was then called the European Economic Community.

On the same day in 1959, Turkey’s prime minister Adnan Menderes made the first partnership application to join the economic bloc of what was then six countries, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, created only two years before in 1957.

Ankara’s bid came before several other EU countries now seen as the bloc’s heavyweights, such as Britain or Spain, joined the currently 27-member club. But it has proceeded in a death-slow tempo and along with re-emerging doubts about the ultimate goal of the mutual relationship and contacts between Turkey and Europe.

First off, the EEC turned down the country’s application. In 1963 however, the two sides adopted an association agreement which did mention the membership prospects for Turkey. But it took almost 40 years for Ankara to acquire a formal candidate status and six more years to kick off the actual talks on the conditions to join the bloc, in 2005.

“Our country has no longer any tolerance for time wasting and delays,” Turkey’s chief negotiator with the EU, Egemen Bagis, said in a statement on the anniversary which he said the country remembers but is “not a cause for celebration,” AFP reported.

“We have to learn lessons from past mistakes, fulfil our responsibilities and achieve the goal of full membership as soon as possible,” Mr Bagis added, stressing Ankara’s determination to continue on the path of reform.

After four years of accession talks, Turkey has opened 11 chapters out of 35 policy areas which contain existing rules that need to be transcribed into all candidate countries’ national legislation.

From the outset, the process of opening and provisionally closing its negotiating chapters has been halted due to disagreements with Cyprus — as all current EU members need to give their formal blessing to any progress in the talks of candidates.

The dispute between the two countries dates back to Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974, which took place five days after a brief Greek-inspired coup. Ankara has been present with its troops in the northern part of the island, as the only country recognising the state of Turkish Cypriots.

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

UK: Grieving Mother Fined £86 by Crematorium for Taking Too Long to Say Goodbye to Dead Baby Boy

When her son died at the age of only five weeks, Terrie Rouse was naturally heartbroken.

At his funeral, she could not bear to leave his tiny coffin and spent a few extra precious minutes with it before allowing it to be taken away for cremation.

Her grief turned to shock, however, when officials told her she had taken too long to say goodbye — and fined her £86.

The 32-year-old said: ‘The vicar had asked if I would like to spend a bit more time saying goodbye.

‘I sat by the coffin for ten minutes, telling my son how much we loved him and begging him not to be scared.’

But officials at the crematorium, which is run by Milton Keynes Borough Council, routinely impose an extra charge if any funeral runs over its 30-minute slot.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Mod Spin Doctor ‘Suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder After Being Forced to Lie That Army Vehicles Were Safe’

A press officer for the Ministry of Defence says he was traumatised after being forced to promote ‘Government lies’ that army vehicles were up to standard in Iraq and now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

John Salisbury-Baker says he was left haunted by the thought that his pronouncements on the safety of vehicles may have led to the deaths of soldiers, it was claimed.

The 62-year-old who was based at the Imphal Barracks in York, will attend an employment tribunal later this year.

He is still currently employed by the MOD, on half pay.

His partner, Christine Brooke, said Mr Salisbury-Baker had to “defend the morally indefensible” when he told the media that Snatch Land Rovers were adequately equipped to withstand roadside bombs.

She described Mr Salisbury-Baker, as an “honest, sensitive and moral person,” and he had visited more than a dozen families devastated by the loss of loved ones in Iraq, often through such bombs. “He felt responsible,” she said.

Miss Brooke said a doctor had diagnosed him as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and he was pursuing a claim for disability discrimination.

She said: “John is an honest, sensitive and moral person, and he was having to peddle Government lies that soldiers in vehicles such as the Snatch Land Rovers were safe from roadside bombs made him very stressed indeed.

“He was particularly plagued by the thought that some of the bereaved families he was visiting might have previously believed their loved ones were safe, because of what he himself had told the media.

“He felt responsible. He felt he was having to defend the morally indefensible.

The vehicles clearly did not give adequate protection from bombs.

‘Morally indefensible’: The spin doctor was forced to tell the media that Snatch Land Rovers, which have been blamed for dozens of soldiers deaths, were safe

“He has been diagnosed as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder by his doctor and is pursuing a claim for disability discrimination, on the grounds that the stress of what he was being asked to do effectively made him disabled.

“John worked at Imphal from 1996 until he went on sick leave in August 2007, in the latter years as Defence Press Officer for the three Armed Services in the North-East.

“About 30 per cent of the Army’s soldiers are recruited from this region, and therefore about 30 per cent of the deaths in Iraq happened on his patch.

“His job was to visit families just hours after an officer had called to tell them the news that their loved ones were dead.

“His job role was to provide a ‘media shield’ to help them deal with media interest after their deaths had been made public and would often attend their funerals later.

“He helped more than a dozen families through this traumatic time, whereas I

believe the officers deployed to give the bad news to families only had this duty once, with the role passed on to someone else the next time.

“He sometimes attended funerals at the same church one more than one occasion.”

Mr Salisbury-Baker is a father of two, and also has a step-son and a step-daughter. His step-son was in the Navy during the Falklands War.

Miss Brooke said: “John would hear from journalists and families on many

occasions that equipment was not adequate.

“He was told there were shortcomings in the body armour and with the vehicles.

“Of course, John was with the families, and would have to steer them away

from sharper questions from reporters about equipment.

“I think morally he had difficulties with that. However John would speak to superiors within the MOD, and they would tell him that equipment was adequate.”

Miss Brooke had also prepared a statement about her partner’s trauma.

She said: “I have known John for two years, and during that time he has

mentioned things to me about his unacceptable role whilst working for the


“For John there are aspects of his role that he cannot come to terms with, and consequently suffers greatly with his moral dilemma.

“He was expected to lie for the MOD. These lies were centred around members of he armed forces being satisfactorily equipped to do their duty in Iraq and latterly Afghanistan.

“Sadly most of the time they were ill equipped to do their duty.

“This meant to John that when attending military funerals and speaking with the

families of the deceased, he felt that he was being frugal with the truth.

“He felt that his integrity was in doubt. He was very uncomfortable about the situation.

“He wanted to say that many fatal situations were needless and could have

been avoided if the correct equipment was provided to the individuals.

“John cannot find it in his heart to forgive himself, let alone expect others to forgive him and this tears him apart.”

She claimed he had not been given specific training to deal with the stress of such work.

She said other factors had played a part in his ill health, including angina and office changes in 2007 which had contributed to his stress.

She also said the claim had already been to a number of preliminary hearings in Leeds, and was likely to go to a full employment tribunal later this year unless a compromise is reached.

Asked to comment on Ms Brooke’s claims an MOD spokesman said: “It would be inappropriate to comment when employment tribunal proceedings are pending.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Property Agents Keeping Out East European Tenants

London, Aug 4 : Encouraged by landlords, British property agents are illegally keeping out prospective east European tenants from renting properties, the BBC reported Tuesday. It echoes similar problems in India, where Bollywood actor Emraan Hashmi complained last week that a housing society in Mumbai had blocked his purchase of a luxury flat because he is a Muslim.

Housing agents in Boston, a seaside town in east England, were found to be using illegal techniques to fend off foreign workers viewing properties that had been put up for rent, a BBC undercover investigation found.

One firm told a Polish worker that an advertised property had already been let out while allowing a BBC television news employee to view the same property.

It is illegal in Britain to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, colour, religious beliefs, national or ethnic origins.

Although one firm said it had created a new race-relations policy, human rights lawyers said the behaviour was a “disturbing and shocking” breach of the Race Relations Act of 1976.

In addition, discrimination against potential tenants or even planning to do so with a landlord is a breach of a mandatory code of practice drawn up by the National Association of Estate Agents.

In India, Emraan Hashmi, who featured in films like “Murder” and “Gangster — A Love Story”, wanted to buy a house in Mumbai’s Pali Hill so that he could stay close to his parents.

He said he was refused the No Objection Certificate despite paying the token amount of Rs.100,000 and the society management ignored his parents’ requests to meet them over the issue.

In the BBC report, an undercover reporter posing as a landlord was told by one estate agent employee, recorded covertly: “You can tell as soon as they speak, you can’t tell by looking at them; particularly the Eastern Europeans.

“We say to the migrants — well, which ones do you want to look at? Then we ring them back and say? ‘Sorry, well, that one’s gone’.”

British discrimination lawyers, as well as other estate agents, said landlords making such illegal demands on estate agents should be turned away immediately.

Arpita Dutt of the law firm Russell Jones and Walker, said: “What they should be saying is, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t act on those instructions. I can get you the best tenant for your property and try to meet those needs. But if I did it in the way you are asking me to do it, then that’s against the law’.”

“It feels like we may as well, in some cases, be going back to the days of ‘no blacks, no dogs, no Irish’, because that’s what is being perpetuated at the moment by some of the agents and the landlords.”

Award-winning human rights lawyer Louise Christian told the BBC: “I felt horrified, that in this modern day, the provision of housing is being withheld from people who need it because of their nationality or their race. Housing is an essential service that everyone needs over their head.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: The Death of the Citizen MP and Why I’m Quitting Politics

Truly, I love the House of Commons — its history, its inheritance. I like my colleagues — most of them, at any rate.

I’m treated generously by my constituents in High Wycombe. I’ve a reasonable chance of being appointed a minister in a Conservative government led by David Cameron, who I admire and support.

Nonetheless, I’m turning my back on this glittering prospect. I recently announced, with sadness but relief, that I’m standing down at the next election.

I’m not the only one; 12 of my Conservative colleagues have announced that they, too, will not stand for re-election, and Tory Party chairman Eric Pickles expects 17 more to follow suit.

There’s always a personal element to such decisions. MPs are public people who must interact with those they represent. They’re never off duty. Such a life isn’t for everyone.

But I’ve made my choice essentially for a bigger reason. The key problem with today’s House of Commons is that it’s slowly but inexorably travelling towards the wrong destination. And I want to get off before it crashes into the buffers.

In short, the Commons is set to become a chamber of professional politicians, dependent on the taxpayer, and therefore remote from the millions of Britons who aren’t — especially the hard-pressed and overtaxed middle classes. The tragic result of the expenses disaster will be that the House will speed in this direction even faster.

Not so long ago, the Commons was a chamber of elected representatives who were free to earn outside it, and thus had real knowledge and expertise of the world beyond Westminster.

The House’s prime purpose was to debate and resolve the clash of different interests within and between parties. The Conservatives drew from the City, business, the law and farming. Labour recruited from the shop and the factory floor.

There was, and remains, a smattering of doctors and soldiers. The Commons sat late into the night, niggling away at the detail of legislation.

The system wasn’t perfect, by any means. Women were ludicrously under-represented. So was much of Britain’s middle class, including its growing ethnic minorities. Nor was there ever a golden age in which independent-minded backbenchers sent bad legislation packing: nearly always, governments were able to get their business through.

‘MPs are public people who must interact with those they represent. They’re never off duty. Such a life isn’t for everyone’

So one shouldn’t be beguiled by nostalgia, into believing that everything always gets worse, or be befuddled into thinking that the House was free of misconduct until recently.

But at least when misdemeanours took place, they weren’t funded, by and large, with taxpayers’ money — as the recent expenses abuses were.

Any MP writing on this matter should own up to his own claims. A few of mine are embarrassing. In 2004, I paid several bills late, including a council tax bill so tardy that I was forced to pay the rest of the year’s payments in advance.

The Commons authorities rejected two of my claims — one for a bed, one for a mattress. But I’ve never flipped a property or inflated my claims to the maximum, and my housing bills were described as ‘modest’ by the Press.

Of course, it’s undeniable that the expenses scandal is precisely that — a real scandal, and one that simply wouldn’t have been possible without the hydra-headed growth of a taxpayer-funded political class, which has dramatically accelerated in pace and scale during the New Labour years.

But what is just as depressing is the way the Commons has connived in its own destruction. First, during the Seventies, the House began the transfer of its powers overseas to what became the EU.

Then, under Tony Blair, it ceded more responsibilities to the new Scottish Parliament, and the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies.

Meanwhile, the quangocracy mushroomed. So did the executive — as the size of Government swelled and the number of Ministers proliferated. The courts flourished, too, in this publicly funded bonanza.

Local councils, like the House, lost powers. Yet as the authority of councillors and MPs shrank, their staff grew. At Westminster, an extension in Parliament Street was followed by a new Portcullis House building, as the administrators and regulators moved into offices MPs had once occupied. All-party groups of MPs to discuss ‘important issues’ multiplied.

Early Day Motions — proposals for debate which are often trivial, seldom debated and nicknamed ‘Parliamentary graffiti’ abounded. A new MPs’ debating forum, Westminster Hall, came into being.

Some of this change is for the better. Much of it, however, is displacement activity — a hamster wheel on which MPs ceaselessly scramble, as if to justify their Parliamentary presence. And, all the while, they’re gradually but inexorably being transformed from elected representatives into professional politicians.

Earlier this summer came a decisive turn of the screw. Gordon Brown, in an act of class revenge, pushed a measure through the House requiring MPs to declare exactly how many hours they work outside it.

‘For better or worse, this future House of Commons is certainly not for me’

This marks the beginning of the end, for the forseeable future, of a chamber of citizen MPs, rather than professional ones. Few working business people, lawyers, doctors and, yes, even journalists will long be able to fend off rivals who pledge to be in the House for every hour of the working day to scratch away at the hamster wheel.

The consequences are predictable — especially if, as some now urge, MPs’ taxpayer-funded salaries should be reduced if they make money privately.

Some of the younger talent may leave, quietly telling friends that the loss of earnings, on top of declining status and vanishing privacy, is the straw that broke the camel’s back. The best of the next generation will get in quick, struggle to the top — and, once there, get out quicker to make money.

Experience in the Commons will be reduced, its institutional memory weakened. With some exceptions, MPs will become cowed and toiling drudges. Forceful ministers and effective Select Committee chairmen will be scarce in such a shallow pool. And the reputation of Parliament will continue its downward spiral.

In summary, the Commons is set to swallow more of the medicine — professional politics — that is making it ill in the first place.

Obviously, I’m not implacably against all professional politicians. Parliament couldn’t function without a sprinkling of professionals. They sometimes make outstanding Ministers. But if the Commons has too many, it will lose its purpose.

And this is surely the shape of things to come. David Cameron will be a strong and effective Prime Minister — so I believe the executive branch of government will soon, voters willing, be in good hands.

But my optimism about the executive is balanced by pessimism about the legislature — about the future of a House in which professional politics predominates, entrenching and empowering a taxpayer-dependent political class distinct and separate from those who elect them, isolated from the lives of those they represent.

For better or worse, this future Commons isn’t for me. Sometimes one has to see a duty through. But I’ve made a contract with the people of Wycombe for five years, not sworn an oath to serve for life. With regret, I won’t be applying to renew it.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: 4 Civilians Killed by Terrorists in Kabylie

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, AUGUST 4 — Four people were killed yesterday by an armed group in Tadmait, not far from Tizi Ouzou in Kabylie (100km east of Algiers). Information about the incident was learned from local residents and has not been confirmed by official sources. A presumed group of armed Islamists opened fire on a vehicle with four civilians on board who died at the scene, added the same source. The attack, according to residents, occurred three kilometres outside of Tadmait. The Maghreb branch of Al Qaida has been known to operate in the area. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Hamas-Funded Film Opens in Gaza

The first film backed by the Palestinian militant group Hamas is showing in cinemas in Gaza.

It tells the story of Hamas member Imad Aqel, who led many attacks on Israel before he was killed in 1993.

The making of the film is a sign of how Hamas is increasingly trying to extend its influence through cultural as well as political and military means.

Israel, the US and EU say Hamas is a terrorist group. Its supporters say it defends Palestinians from occupation.

Media work

Imad Aqel was a young Hamas militant regarded as a hero in Gaza and a terrorist in Israel.

He was involved in a number of attacks on Israeli targets in the early 1990s.

Israel holds him responsible for the killing of 13 soldiers and settlers.

His hideout in Gaza was finally surrounded by Israeli forces in 1993 and he was killed at the age of 22.

Hamas has chosen his life story as the subject of the first feature film that it has funded.

The film cost $120,000 (£71,000) and was written by a senior Hamas member.

Newspaper reports say the line that has brought the biggest cheer from the audience is when one of the characters declares: “To kill Israeli soldiers is to worship God”.

The film was shot over several months last year. Since then, four of the actors have been killed in an offensive Israel launched against Hamas in Gaza back in January.

The director has said he hopes to enter the film for the Cannes Festival, although there is no indication that Cannes would accept it.

Hamas already has a formidable media operation — it runs a television station, a radio network and several newspapers.

It sponsors arts festivals, plays and poems, most of which highlight the harshness of Gazan life.

The financing of this film is the latest development in what Hamas calls its “culture of resistance”.

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

Israelis Want Arabs to Leave

RAMALLAH: Fifty-three percent of the Jewish public supports encouraging Arab Palestinians to emigrate from Israel. Seventy-seven percent of immigrants from the former Soviet Union support this idea, compared with 47 percent of the veteran public, so finds the Israel Democracy Institute in its annual Index, published Monday.

The survey was carried out in March 2009 on a sample representative of the adult population in Israel of 1,191 respondents. The respondents were interviewed in three languages: Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian. The sampling error is 2.8 percent.

Only 27 percent of respondents objected to the statement that there should be “a Jewish majority in decisions relating to the fate of the country,” by comparison with 2003, when 38 percent objected to the same statement. These figures indicate broad support for decreasing the political rights of Arab minority.

Fifty-four percent of the general public (Jews and Arabs) feels that “only citizens loyal to the state are entitled to benefit from civil rights” (56 percent of the veterans, 67 percent of immigrants and 30 percent of the Arabs). Thirty-eight percent of the entire Jewish public believes that Jewish citizens should have more rights than non-Jewish citizens. In addition, 41 percent of veteran Jews are of the opinion that “Israeli Arabs face greater discrimination than Jewish Israelis,” compared to 28 percent of immigrants holding this view.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Parliament on Monday passed a controversial land reform law that allows local officials to privatize state land in urban centers, triggering the ire of Israel’s Arab minority.

The law, which had the backing of Netanyahu, was passed in the third and last reading by 61 votes against 45 in the 120-seat Knesset.

Arab MPs denounced the law which they said would block efforts by Palestinians who fled the creation of Israel in 1948 to recover their property or seek compensation.

Arab Israelis account for some 20 percent of Israel’s population.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Jews & Sheikh Jarrah

It was not a pretty picture. The belongings of two Palestinian Arab families dumped in the street after they were evicted from their homes in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. They were expelled on Sunday after Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the land upon which their homes were built belonged to the Sephardi Jewish community.

This area, also known as “Simon the Just,” was purchased by Jews at the end of the 19th century during the Ottoman Empire. According to The New York Times, the evacuated houses were built in the 1950s by the United Nations for refugees who had fled west Jerusalem during the 1948 war. When Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan and united the city, after the 1967 Six Day War, the families were permitted to stay on as tenants. At some point, they stopped paying rent having become convinced — we know not by whom — that the Jews’ deed to the land was a forgery.

It took a large force of police to carry out the evictions in the face of opposition from the residents, left-wing Jewish supporters and foreign demonstrators.

Coming on the heels of the controversy surrounding the nearby Shepherd Hotel complex, which was also purchased to create Jewish residential housing, the evictions drew worldwide condemnation. The international community says Israel has no legal claim to east Jerusalem; nor does it accept Israeli sovereignty over west Jerusalem.

Israel finds itself in the anomalous position in which not a single nation recognizes Jerusalem as our capital. All foreign embassies are located in Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, European governments, with Britain often in the lead, have invested vast resources, sometimes surreptitiously, in promoting Arab claims to east Jerusalem (and the West Bank), bankrolling organizations, many staffed with Israelis and sporting Hebrew names, whose mandate is, in effect, to promote EU policy vis-à-vis Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The British Consulate in Jerusalem explicitly denies that Israeli courts have jurisdiction over east Jerusalem. Its diplomats term the Arab connection to Sheikh Jarrah “ancient.”

Media coverage of the issue has been overwhelmingly supportive of the Palestinian position.

THERE happens to be another side to this argument.

Put aside, for our purposes here, the ancient Jewish connection to Jerusalem and Zion’s centrality to Jewish civilization over the millennia.

Begin instead with the fact that there is no neatly delineated “east” and “west” Jerusalem — one section housing Arabs and the other Jews. Jerusalem beyond the Green Line is home to some 200,000 Jews and 270,000 Arabs, though 66 percent of all residents are Jewish. The city is built on a range of hills and valleys. Arab and Jewish neighborhoods crisscross in the north, east and southern sectors.

Sheikh Jarrah, in the northeast, is strategically situated on the way to the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University. During the 1948 war, Arabs massacred 78 doctors and others who were heading by convoy to Hadassah hospital, also on Mount Scopus. Today, in addition to the hospital (which serves both Israelis and Palestinians) and the university (which has thousands of Arab students), the area is also home to Israel’s police headquarters and Justice Ministry.

Staunchly right-wing Orthodox groups have been competing with Gulf Arabs in the quest to purchase properties in the area. (Israel does not forbid Arabs from buying land in Jerusalem.)

In this particular rivalry, we side with the Jewish groups, even if this newspaper is sometimes put-off by the way they see the world, because whatever arrangements may ultimately be negotiated for sharing Jerusalem, mainstream Israelis will insist on unfettered access to Mount Scopus via Sheikh Jarrah.

As far as British claims of an “ancient” Arab connection to the area, Nadav Shragai convincingly documents, in the latest “Jerusalem Issue Brief” published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (, that the Jewish connection to what is today Sheikh Jarrah predates the founding of both Christianity and Islam.

That said, we are not enthusiastic about the purchase of property or the construction of Jewish residential housing in heavily Arab neighborhoods when not dictated by strategic imperatives.

Jews and Arabs are destined to share this city. Both peoples would be wise to avoid actions that exacerbate tensions.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Music: Polemics Over Leonard Cohen Concert

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JULY 30 — Tension is running high among the 40,000 Israelis planning to attend the eagerly-awaited Leonard Cohen concert on September 24 in Tel Aviv. Many have been waiting for weeks to see tickets go on sale — which they will on Saturday evening, with prices starting at 80 euros. However, polemics at the international level show no sign of abating, with the possibility that Cohen may be forced to forgo the Tel Aviv concert after already cancelling the one in Ramallah (the West Bank) which was harshly criticised by pro-Palestinian groups. A few days ago Cohen announced his decision to donate all of the proceeds from his concert in Tel Aviv to organisations involved in bringing together Israelis and Palestinians, and said that he had asked for assistance in doing so from Amnesty International. However, not even this pledge has managed to silence his critics. Some pro-Palestinian groups in the United States have sent an urgent appeal to Amnesty International to ask that the group withdraw from the initiative. According to the groups, it is necessary to impose a total academic and cultural boycott on Israel. They have spoken out against participation by the Israeli Discount Bank, which is said to “be heavily involved in settlement activities”, in the organisation of Cohen’s concert. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Palestinian Refugees: 30 Mln UNRWA Deficit

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, AUGUST 3 — The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has to close a deficit of 30 million dollars to cover its 2009 expenses of USD 545 million. So said the head of the operations Richard Cook. The Lebanese press reported today that Cook has specified that “the UNRWA urgently needs at least 30 million dollars, but that number is flexible, everything depends on donations.” A dramatic situation, Cook underlined, “the worst in the 24 years I’ve spent here.” The situation is unlikely to improve in the coming two years, in his eyes. “The agency has chronic financial problems” Cook continued from his office in Amman, “but we hope that our usual donors continue to be generous.” According to UNRWA figures the organisation is currently taking care of 4.2 million Palestinian refugees in several countries in the region: Jordan (1.8 million refugees), Lebanon (423,000), Syria (462,000), West-Bank (762,000), the Gaza Strip (1,073,000). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Palestinians to Keep Resistance an Option: Abbas

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (Reuters) — President Mahmoud Abbas told his Fatah movement’s first congress in 20 years on Tuesday that Palestinians sought peace with Israel but “resistance” would remain an option.

Strengthening the democratic credentials of the Western-backed leader under challenge by Hamas Islamists is part of a drive to revive a peace process by U.S. President Barack Obama, who is expected to present a new plan within weeks.

“Although peace is our choice, we reserve the right to resistance, legitimate under international law,” Abbas said in a policy speech opening the congress, using a term that encompasses armed confrontation as well as non-violent protests.

Officials said a draft of Fatah’s program called for new forms of resistance, such as civil disobedience, against Jewish settlement expansion and a West Bank barrier Israel says is for security but which Palestinians see as a land grab.

The draft leaves the option of “armed struggle” on the charter of Fatah if talks with Israel fail, and does not rule out a unilateral declaration of statehood in the West Bank and Gaza Strip if negotiations remain at a stalemate.

But Abbas stressed to the congress that Fatah had endorsed the 1993 Oslo Accords which specifically recognize Israel, and was abiding by all of its obligations under the 2003 “road map” to peace and a two-state agreement with Israel.

Asked about Abbas’s reference to “resistance,” Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Israel seeks historic reconciliation with our Palestinian neighbors — we want peace and the best way to achieve that is around the negotiating table.”

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who has held a series of meetings with Obama’s Middle East envoy George Mitchell, said Israel should accept a plan Mitchell was expected to present to the parties “in the coming weeks.”

“I believe that Israel must take the lead in accepting the plan,” he was quoted as telling Israel’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He gave no details of its likely contents.


Tight security was in place as more than 2,000 delegates convened in a Christian school near the Church of the Nativity, Jesus’s traditional birthplace, for the first Fatah congress since a gathering in Tunis in 1989.

Bemused Christian pilgrims threaded through lines of riot police and between knots of heavily armed special forces troops as the movement held its first congress on Palestinian soil.

More than 300 Fatah delegates living in the Gaza Strip were banned from going to Bethlehem by Gaza’s ruler, Hamas, whose fighters kicked Fatah out of the enclave in 2007.

Despite months of reconciliation efforts by Egyptian mediators, the two factions remain mutually hostile.

Abbas said neither Hamas nor any other Palestinian faction had the right to choose on its own what future “resistance” against Israeli occupation should entail.

“No one can … take us to where we do not want be,” he said, echoing past criticism of Hamas suicide attacks which many believe hurt the Palestinian cause.

But Abbas also cautioned that Palestinians would not give up a right to meet violence with violence, saying: “We will not stand helpless in the face of Israeli incursions.”

In Gaza, Hamas official Ayman Taha said the speech reflected “a sick mentality representing a narrow factional vision.”

Fatah over the next two days aims to elect a new central committee and ruling council, in hope of giving more of a say to a younger generation that grew up fighting Israel’s occupation of the West Bank since it captured the territory in a 1967 war.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Rabbi: Only Jews in Upper Nazareth

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JULY 28 — The recent visit paid by a nationalist Rabbi to the locality of Nazrat Illit (Upper Nazareth) a few kilometres from Nazareth (Galilee) would appear to be destined to pour petrol on a fire already burning. According to reports on the Yediot Ahronot web site, last Saturday, Rabbi Dov Lior went to visit Nazrat Illit with dozens of his pupils from the rabbinical college of Kiryat Arba (Hebron, West Bank) and said that the area “needs to be Jewified’“. In other words, the presence of non-Jews is no longer to be welcomed. “We have to act to have a Jewish Nazrat Illit” Rabbi Lior said, “Here, as in Hebron, there should be a Jewish population which is determined to see this town, which has always been Jewish and is now populated by Arabs, return to being an area blooming with Jewish life, renewed and stimulating”. Nazrat Illit was founded in 1974, above Nazareth, with the intended purpose of welcoming Jewish families. Today the community numbers 43 thousand inhabitants, three quarters of whom are Jews. Moslem Arabs make up only 4 percent, Christian Arabs 10 percent. The remainder are Russian citizens who have moved to Israel, as spouses of Jews who took advantage of the Return Law’. In the nearby city of Nazareth (66 thousand inhabitants) Moslems make up 70 percent and Christians30 percent of the population. Due to overcrowding, (4,700 people per square kilometre) over the years many have opted to move to the nearby and modern Nazrat Illit, where there are only 1,300 people per square kilometre. In last February’s general election, Nazrat Illit came out en masse for the nationalist Israel Beitenu party of Avigdor Lieberman. Rabbi Lior’s move, as one of the religious leaders of the colonists’ movement, risks augmenting tensions in the area. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Will Fatah Give Up the Armed Struggle at Its Sixth General Congress?

by Pinhas Inbari

  • To what extent will Fatah’s Sixth General Congress advance or retard the prospects for re-launching the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Is Fatah goi ng to waive its historical principle of “armed struggle” and devote itself to peace negotiations based on compromise?
  • Fatah’s “Internal Order”document retains the armed struggle as a strategy in order to liberate the whole of Palestinian and eliminate Israel. Article 12 calls for “the liberation of Palestine completely and the elimination of the state of the Zionist occupation economically, politically, militarily, and culturally.”
  • The Congress is considering two documents: one for international consumption and the other for internal use.While Fatah’s Political Program sought to subordinate the struggle to the need for “international legitimacy,” the Internal Order is very clear in rejecting all international peace initiatives.
  • The Political Program lists the “one-state solution” as an option in case the “two-state solution” fails,while the Internal Order document mentions the “one-state solution” as the only solution.
  • Should there be any question regarding Fatah’s objectives, Article 17 states: “The armed popular revolution is the only inevitable way to the liberation of Palestine,” while Article 19 notes: “The struggle will not end until the elimination of the Zionist entity and the liberation of Palestine.”…

           — Hat tip: JCPA [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Amil Imani: Saluting Chancellor Merkel

Standing on two feet doesn’t make a person human, only standing on principles does. It is for this reason that I am saluting Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany: A German woman who has bravely divorced herself and her nation from the ignominious past of Nazi Germany. A German woman who is standing for principles at the risk of her nation losing considerable profits from recognizing the legitimacy of a fraudulent government of neo-Nazi Mahmood Ahmadinejad.

Chancellor Merkel has unequivocally expressed her revulsion at the fraud and violence by the Islamic republic in reinstalling the maniacal Ahmadinejad in office for another four years. She has seen irrefutable evidences of heartless beating, torture, and murder of Iranians who aimed to free themselves and their country, by peaceful means and through the ballet box, from the mullahs’ suffocating medieval rule.

In contrast to the Russians Putin and Medeved and their fellow travelers, Chinese Commiserates, who lost no time tripping over each other in expressing their effusive congratulatory greetings to Ahmadinejad for his “reelection.”

Chancellor Merkel courageously voiced her repugnance at the election charade and its bloody aftermath…

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani [Return to headlines]

H.Clinton Condemns Expulsions From East Jerusalem

(ANSAmed) — WASHINGTON, AUGUST 3 — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defined the expulsions of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem by the Israeli authorities as “deeply regrettable”. “This acts are deeply regrettable,” said Hillary Clinton in a joint press conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. “I have already said that the expulsion of families and destruction of homes in East Jerusalem are not in line with the commitments made by Israel.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Iraq Censorship Laws Move Ahead

BAGHDAD — The doors of the communications revolution were thrown open in Iraq after the American-led invasion in 2003: In rushed a wave of music videos featuring scantily clad Turkish singers, Web sites recruiting suicide bombers, racy Egyptian soap operas, pornography, romance novels, and American and Israeli news and entertainment sites that had long been blocked under Saddam Hussein’s rule.

Now those doors may be shut again, at least partially, as the Iraqi government moves to ban sites deemed harmful to the public, to require Internet cafes to register with the authorities and to press publishers to censor books.

The government, which has been proceeding quietly on the new censorship laws, said prohibitions were necessary because material currently available in the country had had the effect of encouraging sectarian violence in the fragile democracy and of warping the minds of the young.

“Our Constitution respects freedom of thought and freedom of expression, but that should come with respect for society as a whole, and for moral behavior,” said Taher Naser al-Hmood, Iraq’s deputy cultural minister. “It is not easy to balance security and democracy. It is like being a tightrope walker.”

But opponents of the proposals question why Iraq would seek to impose the same sorts of censorship that had been among the most loathed aspects of daily life under Saddam Hussein and suggest that they are another example of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s working to consolidate his power. The new policies will put Iraq more in line with neighboring Islamic states.

The new rules constitute a “return of dictatorship,” said Ziad al-Ajeeli, who directs the Society to Defend the Freedom of the Press, a nonprofit Iraqi group.

“Imposing censorship represents an end of the freedom of expression and thought that arrived in Iraq after April 9, 2003,” he said, referring to the date a towering statue of Mr. Hussein was knocked down in Baghdad.

Iraq’s Constitution is not clear on the matter. It guarantees freedom of expression, but only if it “does not violate public order and morality.”

The Constitution specifically prohibits material that includes accusations of being an apostate, a justification used by Sunni extremists to kill Shiites — and a particular concern to Iraq’s Shiite-led government.

This month, the government has started to require dozens of Internet cafes to register with the government or be closed.

“We are living in such a dangerous time that we need to control things,” said Majeed H. Jasim, director of the State Company for Internet Services.

The attempt to limit access to information was prompted by a meeting in May in which Mr. Maliki asked his ministers to develop methods to halt material entering Iraq — whether via the Internet or over its borders — that advocated violence or included sexual content.

In July, a government committee recommended that the drafting of a law allowing for official Internet monitoring and the prosecution of violators be expedited.

Among the prohibited sites, according to the committee’s report, would be those with subject matter including “drugs, terrorism, gambling, negative remarks about Islam and pornography.”

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

Jordan Adopts Measures to Streamline Work of Expatriates

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, JULY 29 — Authorities have put in place measures to facilitate the arrival of guest workers in a bid to lure more investors into the cash strapped kingdom in light of high wages demand by local workforce, an official said today. Some of the procedures that were revisited by the Labour ministry include cutting by half the bank guarantee required of employers who seek to recruit non-Jordanian workers. But authorities also decided to increase work permit fees by USD 100, with the money generated to be utilized for funding unemployment schemes, according to Jordan’s ministry Ghazi Shbeikat. According to the government, the fee raise is “insignificant” with Shbeikat ruling out a negative impact on the industrial sector. Under the new regulations, workers construction and agriculture can change their workplace within the same sector, said the minister. Jordan is home to nerly 300,000 legal expatriates, most of them come from Egypt and Syria. There is also an army of illegal workers who arrive on tourism visas and remain working in construction and other sectors shunned by local workforce. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Jordan: Guide to Fight Violence Against Women Launched

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, JULY 30 — Activists have unveiled a special guide to help physicians and other health care officials detect and deal with cases of violence against women, an official said today. The guide named: ‘Training Manual for Private Health Care Providers in Management of Victims of Violence against Women’, is an initiative from The Noor Al Hussein Foundation’s Institute of Family Health (IFH). Officials involved in the project said they hope the guide would help health staff in the detection, diagnosis and referral of victims to support services. “This is a practical and effective tool for assisting women victims of violence,” NHF Executive Director Hana Shahin said. Contents of the book were collected using practitioner expertise from the legal, social, psychological and medical fields, as well as from medical records. The tribal dominated kingdom is notorious for high level of abuse towards women, although the phenomena is often brushed under the carpet. Activists say at least one in three married Jordanian women between the ages of 15 and 49 has been subjected to some form of violence in her life. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Qatar Launches Year-Long Campaign to Protect Workers

(ANSAmed) — DOHA, AUGUST 3 — Government inspectors have launched a year-long campaign to crack down on violations by employers across Qatar. The Labour Inspection Department at the Ministry of Labour is planning to check the behaviour of at least 100 businesses per month as part of the new initiative. Speaking to Gulf Times, department manager Mohamed Saeed al-Naimi said that the country had been divided into 26 zones, with as many teams inspecting employees’ health and safety, the condition at labour accommodation and other benefits granted by the state’s laws. “This is a year-long plan to check everything from accommodation to payment of salaries on time, and will end on July 1, 2010 covering the whole of Qatar,” al-Naimi told the paper. Each team comprises a health and safety inspector, an official checking on salaries and records and a team leader who writes the final remarks. “This shows the importance the government lays on protecting labour rights in Qatar. In addition to the current campaign, there will be random checks on companies that are referred to us by the Labour Relations Department,” al-Naimi added. He said the number one complaint that the inspection department received was about delayed salaries. Poor accommodation ranked second on the list. “As a matter of procedure, we warn the violators and suspend granting them new visas. We also take up their RP (residence permit) renewal requests one by one to make it more difficult for them. We hope they learn to abide by rules after encountering these difficulties,” the official said. However, no company is “blacklisted” by the Labour Department as popularly assumed. The department merely rejects the application of defaulting employers for new visas. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Saudi Prison Starts Beauty Salon

(ANSAmed) — JEDDAH, AUGUST 3 — Jeddah’s Briman prison has started a beauty salon for female inmates as part of its effort to rehabilitate prisoners and help them assimilate into society. The project expects to train and rehabilitate 50 women during the holy month of Ramadan, Saudi daily Al Riyadh wrote. Nahla Al Mutairi, who supervises the project, said that all women would undergo intensive training by beauty experts, and that the programme would also teach them how to communicate with customers and set up a small business. She said the scheme aims to build the women’s self confidence and called on potential employers in the Kingdom to take advantage of their new skills. Management at the notorious Briman prison has pledged to support ex-convicts financially and morally as part of an increased focus on rehabilitation. It also provides nursing courses for wives and daughters of male prisoners who have difficulty finding a job after leaving jail. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

The Black Hole of CMU: Muslims Isolated in Special US Prisons

2009-08-04 | Not much is known about the new federal prisons called Communications Management Units (CMUs), that house primarily Muslims and political activists, except that they are located in Terre Haute, Indiana and Marion, Illinois. Although the US government refuses to disclose the list of prisoners to the public, inmates include Enaam Arnaout, founder of Islamic charity Benevolence International Foundation, Dr. Rafil Dhafir, physician and founder of Iraqi charity Help the Needy, Ghassan Elashi, founder of Holy Land Foundation and CAIR Dallas, Randall Royer, Muslim civil rights activist, Yassin Aref, imam and Kurdish refugee, Sabri Benkahla, an American who was abducted the day before his wedding while studying in Saudi Arabia, and John Walker Lindh, an American convert to Islam who was captured in Afghanistan, plus some non-Muslim political activists. Most of these prisoners were falsely accused of terrorist offenses and then imprisoned for lesser charges but given sentences meant for serious terrorism-related crimes…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]


EU Warns Georgia, South Ossetia Against Raising Tension

BRUSSELS (Reuters) — The European Union urged Georgia and South Ossetia Monday not to raise tensions around the rebel territory, calling for “unrestricted access” for EU monitors to both sides of its administrative boundary.

Tension has escalated in the region after South Ossetia accused Georgian forces of firing mortars at it over the weekend. Russia warned Tbilisi it reserved the right to use force to defend civilians a year after their five-day war.

The Georgian Interior Ministry said late Monday that three rocket-propelled grenades were fired from South Ossetia at a Georgian village near the boundary. No one was hurt.

The anniversary of the war falls this week, on August 7.

“The European Union notes with concern the recent accusations of shellings and other incidents on both sides of the South Ossetian administrative boundary line,” current EU president Sweden said in a statement.

“The EU urges all sides to refrain from any statement or action that may lead to increased tensions at this particularly sensitive time,” said the statement, issued on behalf of the EU’s 27 countries. Sweden is EU president until the end of 2009.

“The EU further calls on all sides to give the EUMM (European Union Monitoring Mission) unrestricted access to both sides of the South Ossetian administrative boundary line.”

In August 2008, Russia crushed a Georgian assault on South Ossetia after months of escalating tension, sending tanks deep into Georgia proper and shaking Western confidence in oil and gas routes running through the volatile South Caucasus.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Russian Troops on High Readiness in South Ossetia

By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, Associated Press Writer Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press Writer

MOSCOW — Russian troops in the breakaway province of South Ossetia have been put on increased combat readiness amid rising tensions on the de facto border with Georgia, officials said Tuesday.

Andrei Nesterenko, the spokesman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, said the move was a response to Georgian “provocations” and meant to prevent more violence.

“The most important thing now is to prevent escalation and not to allow skirmishes to grow into bigger clashes,” Nesterenko said.

The situation near South Ossetia has become increasingly tense as the first anniversary of the Russian-Georgian war approaches Friday, with Georgia and Russia blaming each other for provocations and intentions to resume fighting.

The August 2008 conflict erupted after escalating exchanges of fire between Georgia and Moscow-backed South Ossetian forces.

South Ossetia’s separatists and Georgian authorities have accused each other of firing guns and mortar rounds on several occasions over the past few days.

In the latest incident, Monday night, South Ossetia’s separatist authorities said three mortar rounds were fired into South Ossetia from Georgian-controlled territory. Georgian authorities denied the claim and accused separatists of firing rocket-propelled grenades at a Georgian checkpoint near South Ossetia. No one was hurt.

The European Union said it was concerned about mutual accusations of shelling and other incidents, but added that EU monitors in Georgia had seen no evidence confirming them so far.

“The EU urges all sides to refrain from any statement or action that may lead to increased tensions at this particularly sensitive time,” the international organization said in a statement late Monday.

EU monitors are the only international ones remaining in Georgia, but they are blocked from traveling inside South Ossetia and Abkhazia. A EU-brokered truce ended the five-day August war between Georgia and Russia. Russia sent in thousands of troops and tanks that routed the Georgian military and drove deep into Georgia.

Georgian authorities claimed they had to launch the artillery barrage on Tskhinvali, the provincial capital, because Russian troops had moved into South Ossetia hours earlier. Russian officials denied this, and claimed the country acted to protect its peacekeepers and civilians there.

After the war, Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another separatist region in Georgia, as independent nations and permanently deployed thousands of troops there.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said in an interview with France’s RTL radio broadcast Tuesday that there is a risk of a new conflict because Russia was putting constant pressure on Georgia. He said Georgia would not engage in conflict with Russia but would defend itself if necessary.

Meanwhile, a senior Russian diplomat voiced concern about what he said were U.S. plans to provide military assistance to Georgia.

“Washington is playing the key role in rearming the Georgian military machine,” Grigory Karasin, a deputy foreign minister, said in comments reported Tuesday by the Interfax agency. “It would be in the interests of Georgian democracy … to refuse to arm this country at all.”

The U.S. is discussing a Georgian request for $16 million in military aid this year, with most of the money intended for training and technical assistance. But Washington reacted coolly after Saakashvili told The Washington Post that Georgia was interested in acquiring heavy weapons for defensive purposes

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Diana West: Our Piece of the Pie

Time for some arithmetic, folks.

Behold the pie chart, which comes from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). It shows all sources of Afghan civilian casualties to date this year. Such casualties are widely, if not exclusively, portrayed by US civilian and military leadership as The Stumbling Block to our winning “hearts and minds,” or “trust,” in Afghanistan. Such trust is widely, if not exclusively, depicted at the key to victory. As a starry-eyed Brig. Gen. Steven Kwast, commander of 5,000 airmen at Bagram Field, Afghanistan, put it to the Air Force Times yesterday: “Victory in this conflict is about winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people and engendering their trust. When the Afghan people trust us and believe us when we tell them what we’re going to do, we will win this overnight.”

When the Afghan people trust us…How long, oh Lord, does this line of hooey subsitute for war strategy?

Back to the issue of Afghan civilian casualties, a leading “priority” in formulating US policy in Afghanistan. As our Afghanistan commander Gen Stanley McChrystal recently put it to the BBC, he “would love to say we’d get to zero.”…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]

Helicopters for Afghanistan ‘Not Fit for Use’

LONDON (AFP) — Military helicopters set to be deployed to Afghanistan were not properly equipped to fly combat missions, a newspaper said on Tuesday, fuelling a row over adequate resources for troops.

The helicopters were not fitted with special armour, leaving them vulnerable to attack by Taliban extremists while transporting troops, the Daily Telegraph newspaper said, citing unnamed Royal Air Force sources.

The Ministry of Defence rejected the report, saying the six aircraft set to be deployed by the end of the year were “fit for operational use.”

“Our Merlin Mk3 helicopters have ballistic protection as standard, and are being fitted with a range of modifications to make them fit for operational use,” a spokesman said.

The newspaper said pilots wanted the helicopters fitted with Kevlar armour, which would cost about 100,000 pounds for each aircraft, to protect them from bullets and rocket-propelled grenades.

Claims of a shortage of helicopters have been at the centre of a political row over adequate equipment for the armed forces amid a surge in the British death toll in Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been forced to defend the government’s strategy in Afghanistan amid ongoing questions about Britain’s involvement in the conflict.

British forces have suffered their highest casualty rate since the US-led invasion of the country in late 2001.

Twenty-two soldiers were killed in July fighting Taliban insurgents in southern Helmand province, as troops waged the attack phase of an offensive, beating back the extremists ahead of elections on August 20.

The row has been deepened by a legal battle by the government to cut the compensation awarded to two injured soldiers.

A soldier also faced court-martial Monday for refusing to return to Afghanistan as the armed forces minister insisted that the fight against the Taliban was improving Afghan lives.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Indian Villagers’ Tales of Injustice

In the wake of a Human Rights Watch report alleging widespread abuse by Indian police, BBC South Asia Correspondent Damian Grammaticas visits a village where residents say four innocent men were gunned down by officers.

As we enter the village of Khanpurkalla, in Uttar Pradesh, a crowd gathers round.

There is a buzz of expectation and soon more than 100 people are jostling to get close, all wanting us to hear their story.

It is a tale of injustice, grief and neglect. People here believe the police, who are meant to protect them, are guilty of getting away with murder, quite literally.

According to the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released today, their story is far from unusual. Indian police stand accused of human rights violations including arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and unlawful killings.

The village is reached down a bumpy track. It is home to former gypsies who have settled here, surrounded by lush, green sugar cane fields.

Water buffalo wallow in muddy canals. It is poor and appears tranquil enough, but there is real anger beneath the surface.

‘Good man’

A young woman comes forward carrying a child with one hand and a wedding photo in another. Tears flow down Janaki’s cheeks as she remembers the events of two years ago.

The picture shows Janaki in her wedding finery and her husband, 18-year-old Ram Darashi, digitally superimposed on a fancy mansion complete with marble and chandeliers.

It is a far cry from their bare cottage but says much about the hopes the young couple had.

Just a few months after the photo was taken Ram Darashi was shot dead with three friends by the police.

“He was a gentle man, a good man,” Janaki says. “He was not a criminal like the police say. Now he is gone, I have nothing. I want to kill myself, but I can’t because otherwise who will care for my child?”

On her lap, two-year-old Gulshan cries as she talks.

Ram Darashi, she says, had gone with three young men from the village to celebrate his wedding.

Riding two motorbikes they had gone to the foothills of the Himalayas, where they vanished.

Their bodies turned up in two different locations, all shot dead by police who claimed they were thieves resisting arrest.

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

NATO OKs New Operational Command for Afghanistan

BRUSSELS — NATO’s governing body approved a plan on Tuesday to reorganize the alliance’s command structure in Afghanistan by setting up a new headquarters to handle the day-to-day running of the war.

NATO spokesman James Appathurai said the new Intermediate Joint Headquarters in Kabul will be commanded by U.S. Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez. Rodriguez participated in Tuesday’s deliberations of the North Atlantic Council governing body by videoconference along with his boss, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

The decision is part of a reorganization of the U.S. and NATO command structure aimed at easing the pressure on McChrystal by removing his burden of the day-to-day operation of the war. It is similar to the model used in Iraq, where overall command of the multinational forces was under a four-star American general, while a three-star general ran daily operations.

NATO has about 64,000 troops — half of them Americans — in Afghanistan.

The new headquarters will control only the NATO-led International Stabilization Force, known as ISAF, Appathurai said. It will not be in charge of a separate U.S. contingent of about 10,000 soldiers also serving in Afghanistan.

Appathurai said the videoconference — the first meeting of NATO’s decision-making panel chaired by the organization’s new secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen — also discussed other aspects of the war.

Fogh Rasmussen; U.S. Adm. James Stavridis, the new supreme allied commander; and McChrystal “all stressed … the equipping and training of Afghan security forces as a principal priority for NATO,” Appathurai said.

NATO is sending additional reinforcements to help stabilize the country ahead of Afghanistan’s presidential elections on Aug. 20.

“The assessment around the table was that elections will not be easy to secure, but that (NATO forces) will provide as much support for the Afghan security forces as we can for elections to be credible in the eyes of the Afghan people,” the NATO spokesman said.

During the meeting, Fogh Rasmussen briefed the council on his priorities as secretary general, including focusing on the war in Afghanistan, seeking to improve NATO’s testy relations with a resurgent Russia, and furthering cooperation with NATO’s partner nations in North Africa and the Middle East.

“The secretary general outlined his priorities to the council and received full support for them,” Appathurai said.

Traditionally, an American officer commands the alliance’s military forces from NATO headquarters in Mons, Belgium, while a European civilian heads its political office in Brussels. Both Fogh Rasmussen and Stavridis are new to their posts, part of a new team that will direct the conflict in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, talked over the weekend at a NATO air base in Belgium with Gen. David Petraeus, who has overall responsibility for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Gates and Mullen were given an interim report on security in Afghanistan.

McChrystal is putting together an assessment of the war that may include a request for additional U.S. forces and resources.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Nuclear Watchdog Urged to Seek Answers From Burma

AMERICAN non-proliferation experts have called on the international nuclear watchdog to seek clarification from the Burmese Government over its nuclear program after a Herald report that quoted defectors claiming there was a secret military nuclear program.

The report, based on interviews by Professor Desmond Ball of the Australian National University and a journalist, Phil Thornton, said the country had been developing a secret nuclear program. It revealed Burma was building a secret reactor, with North Korea’s assistance, at Nuang Laing, close to Mandalay.

The report has prompted intense interest among US security experts, particularly in the light of comments by the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in Thailand.

She said there had been “co-operation between North Korea and Burma in the past” and that North Korea had provided Burma with high-technology materials barred by the United Nations Security Council.

She made the remarks while praising Burma for having co-operated in the enforcement of UN resolution 1874, which is designed to prevent North Korea from shipping nuclear materials to other nations.

A North Korean ship turned back after being shadowed by the US Navy en route to Burma last month.

Daryl Kimball, of the Arms Control Association, told the Nelson Report, an influential online security report, that although there had been no evidence of a Burmese nuclear-weapons quest, whatever the North Koreans were doing must be made a priority by the International Atomic Energy Agency, of which Burma is a member.

“The report is probably enough cause for the IAEA director-general [and Russia] to seek clarification from Myanmar [Burma] and request a special inspection,” Mr Kimball said.

Russia is said to have agreed in 2007 to provide the Burmese with a small, civilian light-water reactor, which would be subject to agency inspections, although the project’s exact status is disputed.

David Albright, the head of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, which monitors nuclear proliferation said: “There’s no hard evidence, just suspicions right now. We are watching it.”

He pointed out visits to Burma by executives from the North Korean firm, Namchongang Trading Corporation, which is under sanctions for its role in trading nuclear technology. Western officials say it channelled equipment and material for the nuclear reactor in Syria, which was destroyed in an Israeli air strike in September 2007.

Mr Albright also pointed to sales of technology used in ballistic missile manufacture from North Korea to Burma.

On Monday the Institute for Science and International Security posted links to photos on the YaleGlobal site, which show extensive tunnel construction in Burma overseen by North Korean engineers. They are understood to be separate to tunnelling related to the nuclear program referred to by the defectors.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Far East

Bill Clinton Rewarding N Korea for Bad Behavior: Bolton

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The Obama administration is rewarding North Korea for its bad behavior by sending ex-president Bill Clinton to Pyongyang to win the release of two US journalists, the former US ambassador to the UN said Tuesday.

John Bolton, an outspoken hardliner in the previous administration of George W. Bush, told AFP that Clinton’s mission to Pyongyang undermines a number of public stands held by his own wife, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“It comes perilously close to negotiating with terrorists,” Bolton told AFP when asked about Bill Clinton’s trip to secure the release of journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee.

The pair were sentenced in June to 12 years in a labor camp for an illegal border crossing and an unspecified “grave crime,” after they were detained by North Korean border guards on March 17 while working on a story.

“I think this is a very bad signal because it does exactly what we always try and avoid doing with terrorists, or with rogue states in general, and that’s encouraging their bad behavior,” Bolton said.

In a US television interview here on July 26, Secretary Clinton warned North Korea that even its traditional allies had turned against it and that the communist state’s rogue behavior will no longer “be rewarded.”

Bolton also scoffed the White House’s contention that Bill Clinton’s visit is “solely a private mission” when he said “this is a former president who is married to the secretary of state. There’s nothing private about this.”

The visit also undermines Secretary Clinton’s public remarks in which she separates the case of the two journalist from efforts to force North Korea to return to six-party nuclear disarmament talks, he said.

“Hillary has said she wanted to delink the two but (Bill) Clinton was met at the airport by Kim Kye-Gwan who is the lead and has been for 15 years or more the lead North Korean nuclear negotiator,” he added.

He added it “is hard to imagine” that Clinton did not talk about the nuclear issue when he had dinner with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, given the nuclear negotiations that Clinton pursued when he was president in the 1990s.

“If you wanted to divorce the kidnapping, abduction issue of the two reporters from the nuclear issue, you couldn’t have picked a less likely envoy than president Clinton,” Bolton said.

“I think this is a win-win for North Korea,” according to Bolton, who believes all negotiations are useless in trying to force North Korea to abandon its weapons-grade nuclear program.

           — Hat tip: ESW [Return to headlines]

Bill Clinton Gets Reporters Out of North Korea

Bill Clinton has flown out of North Korea accompanied by Laura Ling and Euna Lee — the two American journalists pardoned last night by Kim Jong Il himself after the former US president’s spectacular Tuesday swoop on Pyongyang.

The visit prompted cautious speculation that the “Dear Leader” may eventually be enticed back to the negotiating table for talks on dismantling his nuclear weapons programme.

A leading South Korean newspaper declared in its editorial this morning that it was now “a matter of time” before North Korea and the US engage in bilateral talks.

Mr Clinton’s spokesman confirmed overnight speculation that the former president’s jet had left Pyongyang and that Ms Ling, 32, and Ms Lee, 36, were indeed travelling with him. The women were photographed carrying luggage as they prepared to board Mr Clinton’s chartered plane at an airport in Pyongyang.

“They are en route to Los Angeles where Laura and Euna will be reunite with their families,” said Matt McKenna. A support website created in March after the two women’s arrest posted a statement saying that their families were “overjoyed by the news of the pardon.”

The lightning visit, which lasted less than 24 hours appeared to some to be a carefully choreographed diplomatic success for both sides: Mr Clinton secured the high-profile pardon from an unpredictable and seemingly implacable regime, while North Korea is able to present the former US president’s visit to its domestic audience as an act of supplication by Washington…

[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

400 Australian Police Arrest Islamic Extremists Planning to ‘Kill as Many Soldiers as Possible’ In Melbourne Raids

Hundreds of police swooped on suspected terrorists in Melbourne early today amid fears suicide attacks were about to be launched on army bases in Australia.

Police from around the country were quietly moved to Melbourne before launching their raids on homes in at least seven suburbs.

Several men of Somali and Lebanese backgrounds were arrested and were expected to appear in court later on terrorism-related charges.

Police sources said it would be claimed the men were planning to attack a barracks in western Sydney and other defence bases in Victoria.

The suspected terrorists were said to be plotting to force their way into the bases to kill as many soldiers as possible before turning guns on themselves.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Terrorism Suspects ‘Sought Religious Approval’

Five men being questioned over an alleged terrorist conspiracy had sought a religious ruling to authorise an attack in Australia, a court has heard.

Their arrests come after a seven-month counter-terrorism operation and police raids across Melbourne this morning.

It is alleged five men were planning to carry out an armed attack on the Holsworthy army base in Sydney.

The Melbourne Magistrates Court heard some of them discussed obtaining a religious ruling from overseas or interstate in support of their alleged plans.

One of the suspects, Nayef El Sayed, 25, of Glenroy, has been charged with a terrorism-related offence.

During his brief court appearance he sat behind a window and refused to stand to acknowledge the magistrate because, as his lawyer explained, his religious beliefs meant he felt he should only stand for God and not a man.

He did not apply for bail and was remanded in custody to face court again in October.

Federal Police also won an application to further question three other suspects who appeared in court today but have not been charged.

Victorian Magistrate Peter Reardon acts of terrorism in Madrid, Mumbai and London have struck at the heart of democratic society and investigators should be allowed to fully investigate such serious allegations.

A fifth suspect is in custody on other matters.


About 400 law enforcement officers took part in the series of raids that led to today’s arrests.

The 19 raids took place across Melbourne and regional Victoria.

Australian Federal Police Acting Chief Commissioner Tony Negus says the operation was the result of seven months’ work by several agencies.

He says more arrests are possible.

“There are further inquiries being conducted both in Australia and overseas,” he said.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says Australia will not be increasing its terror alert level.

“Our assessment of the terrorist threat in Australia is that it comes from a small number of individuals who should in no way be taken as a wider reflection of any group within Australian society,” he said.

But he says today’s events are a strong reminder of the security threats facing the nation.

“The threat of terrorism is alive and well and this requires continued vigilance,” he said.

Call for calm

Some of those arrested have a Somalian background and Islamic groups are urging people not to seek retaliation against Melbourne’s African community.

Shereen Hassan, the vice-president of the Islamic Council of Victoria, says Muslims have been shocked by the raids and are calling for calm amid fears of a backlash.

“But we have faith that the overwhelming majority of Australians will not react in this way and remain calm,” she said.

“[We] urge the wider community and the media to respect the privacy of the families concerned.

“The overwhelming majority of Australian Muslims unequivocally condemn all forms of terrorism.”

Mohamed Baaruud from the Somalia Advocacy Action Group says the community cannot believe some Somali Australians have been implicated.

“We are all shocked,” he said.

“This is the last thing we were expecting.

“Our community came to Australia about 17 years ago when the civil war started in Somalia and it took us a long time to recover from the trauma that we have experienced in our country of origin and start a new life here in Australia.”

Doctor Jamal Rifi from the Lebanese Muslim Association says the authorities are to be congratulated for preventing the alleged attack.

“We’ll do our best for anyone who will have any information to actually contact the relevant authority and to work cooperatively to uncover any or similar events that may take place,” he said.

New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione says authorities feared the group was planning to carry out its attack in the near future.

“It was likely imminent and that was part of the reason behind moving as we have,” he said.


NSW Premier Nathan Rees says he is satisfied the security at Sydney’s Holsworthy Barracks is adequate.

Mr Scipione says security at the barracks was stepped up earlier this year, shortly after police became aware of the alleged plot.

Private guards are in charge of perimeter security at Holsworthy and other army bases.

Mr Rees says he has no problems with the arrangements in place at the state’s military facilities.

“I have every confidence that the Australian Defence Force is more than adequately capable of looking after their assets, their bases and so on,” he said.

Newspaper investigated

Meanwhile, Victoria Police is also investigating The Australian newspaper for publishing details of the raids about the time they were occurring.

Police claim the story was available before some of the arrests took place and could have compromised the operation.

But The Australian says the story only ran in its late edition which was not available until after the raids.

It says its online publishing schedule was altered to ensure the story was not made public until the raids had occurred.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Simon Overland says he will investigate the timing of the story.

‘Matter of time’

In other developments, a Somali community leader and Islamic scholar says he warned the Federal Government two years ago that a terrorist incident could occur in Australia.

Dr Herse Hilole, now a resident academic at the International Islamic University in Kuala Lumpur, told The World Today that he has expected such activities.

“My suspicion was that young Somali Muslims could be or may be used in the future to carry out some terrorist activities in Australia,” he said.

He criticised the Federal Government’s response to his warning.

“The response at the beginning was good, but the current government of Australia … [it] seems that they did not take this seriously,” he said.

“I proposed last year a project to help this situation, but my project was rejected by the Government.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Is Al-Qaeda Working in Nigeria?

Mohammed Yusuf, leader of the Islamic sect whose members staged attacks across north Nigeria leaving 700 people dead last week, was facing charges that he had received money from an al-Qaeda linked organisation, defence analysts have revealed.

For years diplomats have feared a Nigerian al-Qaeda sleeper cell might launch attacks on the country’s oil infrastructure, which is increasingly important to the US.

Nigeria, with its large number of impoverished, disenfranchised and devoutly Muslim young men, easy access to weapons and endemic corruption may seem to be the ideal breeding ground for anti-western radicals.

The presence of an al-Qaeda branch operating across the Sahara Desert in Mauritania, Morocco, Mali and Niger and Nigeria’s porous borders have sharpened such fears.

But so far there has been no evidence of Osama Bin Laden’s group in Nigeria, despite several arrests by the government and two warnings from the US about potential attacks on its interests in the country in as many years.

And analysts remain sceptical about any link between Nigerian radical Muslims and global jihadists.

Koranic school

The charges against Mr Yusuf were brought by the Nigerian government in 2006, but have never reached a court, says Will Hartley of Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre.

Mr Yusuf was accused of receiving money from an alleged al-Qaeda group in Sudan to recruit young men to his organisation.

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

Khartoum ‘Arming Sudan Militias’

A general in South Sudan’s army has told the BBC the government in the north is arming militias accused of being behind recent ethnic violence.

Maj-Gen Kuol Deim Kuol said his SPLA army was trying to disarm the local population but was being hampered by the continuing supply of weapons.

At least 185 Lou Nuer people were killed in Jonglei state when reportedly attacked by Murle fighters on Sunday.

Several hundred people have died in such clashes this year.

The UN says this is more than in Sudan’s Darfur conflict.

Violence over land and cattle in South Sudan is exacerbated by a ready supply of firearms following the 22-year civil war with the north, which ended in 2005.

“There must be a force somewhere, a force that keeps arming these militias, a force that keeps sending ammunition to the militias,” Maj-Gen Kuol told the BBC’s Network Africa programme.

“There is not another force in this way that can keep arming and sending ammunition to the local population apart from the Sudanese army and the [northern governing] National Congress Party,” he said.

Northerner officials have previously denied similar accusations, claiming southern politicians want to shift the blame for their failure to establish peace and restore security since the end of the war.

Officials in Jonglei said members of the Lou Nuer community had gone fishing south of Akobo town amid a severe food shortage when they were attacked.

Eleven SPLA soldiers, who were guarding their camp, were among those killed.

An aid worker who has worked in the area told the BBC’s World Today programme that the clashes in Jonglei have escalated.

“Many people have been displaced into Akobo town, some have gone south into Pibor — everyone is worried because this hasn’t happened on this scale before,” she said.

“Since 2005 there have been some disarmaments but there are still very many people in South Sudan in these two tribes who are still armed,” she added.

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]

Out of Africa, A New Terrorism Threat Dawns

THE global reach of Islamic terrorism has been grimly underlined by news that an extremist movement from a failed African nation has served as the inspiration for a group of men in the suburbs of Melbourne to hatch a plan to kill innocent Australians.

The extraordinary plot, revealed exclusively by The Australian today, shows how easily the toxic philosophies of militant Islam can infect the minds of those who are susceptible to its call, wherever in the world they may be.

In this case, it was a nondescript group of Melbourne labourers and taxi drivers, of Somali and Lebanese descent, who were seduced by the lure of the violent Somali extremist group al-Shabaab.

They were attracted to the group despite apparently having little understanding of Somali politics or theology.

Al-Shabaab (meaning The Youth, in Arabic) is a shadowy militant organisation that has risen to prominence only since the overthrow in late 2006 of the hardline Islamic government in Somalia by US-based forces from Christian Ethiopia.

Western intelligence agencies are still learning about the fast-rising group, which they believe is closely aligned to al-Qa’ida. The US lists al-Shabaab as a terrorist organisation, but Australia does not. This case is likely to change that.

Since early 2007, al-Shabaab has become the face of Islamic resistance to the Western-backed government in Mogadishu. The group’s success is partly due to its ability to market itself to hardline Islamists as a movement that seeks to impose the rule of Islam around the world, rather than as a narrow group seeking to gain power in a country that has been dysfunctional for the past 17 years.

Sourcing money and arms from nearby Eritrea, al-Shabaab has signed up thousands of jihadist recruits in the past two years. Its followers shun alcohol, cigarettes, music and videos, choosing an austere, violent interpretation of Islam.

The group imposes strict sharia law and has carried out beheadings of its enemies, amputations of the limbs of thieves and the stoning of women accused of adultery.

What also disturbs Western intelligence agencies is that the group has been remarkably successful in recruiting foreign fighters, who see its struggle in terms of global jihad. In Melbourne, several of those suspected of providing support to al-Shabaab are Lebanese.

In the US, the FBI has been alarmed by the fact that 20 former Somali refugees who are now American citizens have recently been lured back to their homeland to join the jihadist struggle. This represents the largest group of American citizens suspected of joining an extremist movement affiliated with al-Qa’ida and it is clearly a trend Australian security authorities do not want to see repeated here.

Last October, one of the US recruits, Shirwa Ahmed, blew himself up in Somalia, becoming the first known American suicide bomber.

Al-Shabaab now controls most of southern Somalia and chunks of the capital, Mogadishu. In recent months the group has led a renewed push to topple the government of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, leading an assault which has killed more than 300 people.

The group has close links with Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, a suspected member of al-Qa’ida and an architect of the 1998 US embassy bombings in Africa.

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

Sudan: Tear Gas Fired at Protesters Outside Lubna Hussein Trial

Sudanese riot police fired teargas to disperse protesters who gathered outside a Khartoum courthouse yesterday to support a woman journalist who faces up to 40 lashes for wearing trousers.

Lubna Hussein, a widow in her thirties, has drawn attention to her case in an attempt to change a Sudanese law that allows women to be flogged for dressing in breach of the country’s strict indecency laws.

Since her arrest last month she has courted media coverage of her plight and sent out 500 invitations to her trial, which began last week.

In response, about a hundred men and women, some wearing trousers in solidarity with Ms Hussein, began to gather on a main street in Khartoum near the court yesterday. “We are here to protest against this law that oppresses women and debases them,” said Amal Habani, another journalist, who was also arrested last month for writing a column in support of Ms Hussein.

The judge adjourned Ms Hussein’s case until September 7, saying that he needed to seek clarity on whether the defendant was immune from prosecution. He said that the issue would be referred to the Foreign Ministry.

As a trouser-clad Ms Hussein emerged from court after the adjournment, protesters cheered. Some waved banners, one of which read: “No return to the Dark Ages”.

A squad of riot police bore down on them, beating their batons on their shields, and witnesses said that teargas was fired. Manal Awal Khogali, one of Ms Hussein’s lawyers, was reportedly beaten by police.

Among the protesters were representatives of the Sudanese Communist Party and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which rules the semiautonomous Christian south of the divided country. SPLM officials have complained that some of the 12 women originally arrested with Ms Hussein at a restaurant in Khartoum for wearing trousers were southern women. Ten have been flogged after pleading guilty to infringing Sudan’s public decency laws. Although Islamic law prevails in the north, under a power-sharing deal Christian southerners are supposed to be exempt from Sharia punishments…

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Latin America

Nicole Ferrand in the Americas Report: What’s Wrong With Insulza and the OAS

By now, we are all aware of the situation in Honduras where President Manuel Zelaya tried unsuccessfully to use the nation’s institutions to illegally convoke a referendum in order to change the constitution and perpetuate himself in power.

Zelaya took office in 2006 as the leader of one of the two center-right parties that have dominated Honduran politics for decades. His general platform, his support for the Central American Free Trade Agreement with the United States and his alliances with business organizations gave no hint that halfway into his term he would make a radical U turn. Suddenly, in 2007, he declared himself a socialist and began to establish close ties with Venezuela. He incorporated Honduras into PetroCaribe, a mechanism set up by Hugo Chávez for lavishing oil subsidies on Latin American and Caribbean countries in exchange for political subservience. Then his government joined the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean (ALBA), Venezuela’s answer to the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas. ALBA is ostensibly a commercial alliance but in practice a political movement that seeks to expand populist dictatorship to the rest of Latin America…

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]


Boost for Migrants Who Choose to Come to Scotland

IMMIGRANTS who come to live and work in Scotland could have a better chance of earning full UK citizenship, it was revealed yesterday.

The Home Office unveiled plans for an Australian-style points systems for foreigners who want to settle in Britain.

Workers from overseas will receive extra points based on their skills and qualifications. Once they have enough points, they will be able to move to Britain permanently.

It also emerged yesterday that extra points will be given to migrants who settle in parts of the UK where population is set to fall — such as Scotland.

The move would build on the Fresh Talent Initiative, set up by former first minister Jack McConnell to let foreign students stay after graduation.

A Home Office spokesman said: “There are parts of the country where spaces in the workforce aren’t being filled by UK residents and could very easily be filled by hard-working migrants.”

Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy last night said he was “pleased” at the move.

He added:”Our need for a growing population is ranked alongside the need to recruit to occupations where we have a shortage.”

SNP MP Pete Wishart gave the plans a cautious welcome. He said:”The Home Office must demonstrate the new points based immigration system is fit for Scottish purpose.

“Scotland’s population and immigration requirements are completely different from the rest of the UK and this has to be recognised when points are added up.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Italy: La Russa, 4,250 Soldiers in Cities Starting Tomorrow

(AGI) — Rome, 3 Aug — “I would like to thank Minister Maroni for having agreed on my proposal to intensify the use of soldiers in operation “Safe Streets” for the next year, said Ignazio La Russa, Defence Minister. “The use of 3,000 soldiers that was going to expire on August 4 has been extended and the Defence Ministry has been able to add another 1,250 young soldiers who will collaborate with police in high risk neighbourhoods to monitor sensitive sites (embassies, airports, stations, etc) and monitoring immigration identification and deportation centres. A substantial increase in med, thanks to the work done by the Defence Ministry, will not result in increased resources and this gives me a great feeling of satisfaction. I would like to thank the commitment of officials in the Army”. “In total, the number of soldiers that will be present for patrols and monitoring will total 1,467 over 19 provinces (there were 11 as of today). There will also be 1513 men working with police in monitoring sensitive sites in 11 provinces and will 1270 men will carry out monitoring and safety operations in the 30 immigration centres or other capacities in 16 provinces”. “In total,” continued La Russa, “the number of soldiers will total 4,250, in addition to the great professionalism of the Carabinieri and police with whom they will be deployed.” “I am highly satisfied,” concluded the Defence Minister, “for the appreciation towards the work of our soldiers, who operate exceptionally which has come, as the Interior Minister and Premier pointed out, with great appreciation by the citizens and with an objective success that has resulted in a substantial lowering of crimes where the operation was used. I am happy to report the decision to use soldiers in Genoa, Venice, Bergamo, Rimini, Messina, and other locations where they will be available to the Prefects”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: League in School Dialect Row

Teachers must know regional lingo, govt ally demands

(ANSA) — Rome, July 29 — The devolutionist Northern League has sparked a furore by proposing that teachers should know the dialect of the region in which they work in what critics say is a thinly disguised attack on the many southern Italians who teach in the north of the country.

The League, the government’s most important ally, is insisting that new school reforms should include a measure that requires teachers to pass a test “on the culture, traditions and dialect of the regions in which they intend to teach”.

“This is aimed at reaching a balance between teachers from the north and those from the south,” said League MP Paola Goisis, the author of the proposal.

“It’s impossible that most of the teachers who work in the North are from southern Italy,” she added.

The proposal provoked furious reactions from southerners and opposition politicians but also failed to find favour with members of Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party.

Neapolitan teacher and author, Marcello D’Orta, said the proposal was “a joke, but also the umpteenth offense to all southerners” “It’s ridiculous that a Sicilian should have to know how to speak Bergamo dialect. (League leader Umberto) Bossi knows that many of the teachers in the north come from the south and he would like them to stay there rather than have a schoolboy from Padua taught by a Sicilian teacher,” he said.

“If there’s a language that teachers from the north and the south should learn, it’s Neapolitan,” he added. “Everyone knows the songs. It’s the language of the films of Toto’ and Peppino. It’s much more accredited in the world as a language compared to dialects from Bergamo or Verona”.

Manuela Ghizzoni of the opposition Democratic Party (PD) slammed the League’s proposal, saying that education was “too serious a matter to become the object of dangerous ideological incursions”, while a PD senator, Mariapia Garavaglia, stressed that teachers’ competence “is not based on residence and birthplace”.

“It would be nice if nobody, including the many teachers from the south who work in the north, had to leave their hometowns to work, but that doesn’t mean that anyone should be excluded from doing so,” she said.

Garavaglia said southern teachers had educated “generations of students” in the north, who were none the worse for the experience.


Italian Communists’ Party leader Paolo Ferrero said the League was talking “bull***t’ in a bid to deflect serious discussion about the country’s real problems.

A champion of Milanese dialect, Nobel prize winner Dario Fo, also ridiculed the idea, saying it would take ten years to train the dialect teachers who would then have to teach the teachers.

“They’d need to print 2,000 dictionaries (of different dialects) right now”.

PdL politicians who slammed their ally’s proposal included Renzo Tondo, governor of the nothern Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, who said it was “useless” and that there were more seious problems in education to be addressed.

The head of the PdL’s MEPs, Mario Mauro, said that since the League’s proposal “clearly refers to the presence of the major ethnic groups in each region”, teachers in Lombardy — the region around Milan — should be examined in “Pugliese, Calabrese, and eventually Arabic and Spanish” because of the number of southerners and immigrants living in the region.

League House Whip Roberto Cota defended the proposal Wednesday, saying it had been dumbed down by critics but had the serious aim of eliminating the unfairness of assessing teachers only on academic qualifications, since “we know that there are more generous universities and those that are more rigorous”.

The Northern League has long fought for greater autonomy for the northern regions and regularly complains about the number of southern teachers and public administrators working in the north.

In the past the League has also demanded a “federalist” channel at state broadcaster RAI, while Bossi once opened an unofficial ‘northern parliament’ and coined the phrase ‘Roma Ladrona’ (Thieving Rome) to criticise the concentration of power in the capital.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Human Trafficking in Abruzzo, 17 Arrested

(AGI) — Teramo, 29 July — Seventeen Italians and foreigners, arrested by the police of Teramo with the help of the flying squads of Ancona, Macerata, Chieti and Pescara, have been charged with human trafficking of hundreds of non-EU citizens (part of whom Bengali and Pakistani). The arrest, the investigators explain, “form the conclusion of a complex and extensive investigation, in which was shown that the foreign nationals paid around 10,000 euros to inter the Schengen region. The gang also helped them find a job for that money, mostly in agriculture. The criminal organisation had a widespread network, able to get the immigrants across the borders”. Further details on operation “Money per Visa” will be announced in a press conference at the police headquarters at 11.30am.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

3 Gay Priests Make Short List for Episcopal Bishop Posts

(CNN) — Episcopal churches in California and Minnesota moved towards appointing gay bishops over the weekend, less than a month after the denomination lifted a self-imposed freeze on promoting open gay clergy into the top ranks of the church.

The Diocese of Los Angeles, one of the largest in the country, included a gay man and a lesbian on its short list for assistant bishop positions on Sunday.

A day earlier, the Diocese of Minnesota put a lesbian priest on its list of three candidates to lead the statewide religious community.

The nominations seem likely to increase tensions in the 70-million-member Anglican Communion, the world’s third-largest Christian community.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Get Ready for an Islamic Antichrist, Warns New Book

Author: Euro-centric prophecy scholars looking to Rome all wrong

After decades of reading popular prophecy books and even best-selling fiction like the “Left Behind” series, millions of evangelical Christians around the world are dreading the day when a beastly figure known as the Antichrist emerges as a global political and religious dictator.

Most expect him to come from a revived Roman Empire, which many have assumed is associated with the Roman Catholic Church and the European Union.

Not so, argues a controversial new book that makes the case that the biblical Antichrist is one and the same as the Quran’s Muslim Mahdi.


In “The Islamic Antichrist,” Richardson, a student of Islam, exposes Western Christians to the Muslim traditions. He says most Christians have no idea of the stunning similarities between biblical Antichrist and the “Islamic Jesus.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Zawahiri Blasts Obama, Says ‘Israel is a Crime That Must be Eliminated’

Islamabad, Aug 4 : Al-Qaeda second-in-command, Aymaan al Zawahiri, has accused US President Barack Obama of continuing to spill the blood of Muslims, and said Israel is a ‘crime’ that must be wiped out.

He also dismissed Obama’s Middle East peace push as a deception, and accused the US President of seeking to create a “Palestinian state that works as a branch of the Israeli intelligence,” according to a transcript published by the SITE Intelligence Group.

“Israel is a crime that must be eliminated,” al-Zawahiri said in a newly released video interview.

Zawahiri also rejected Obama’s overtures to the Muslim world as an illusion, pointing to raids in Pakistan’s tribal regions and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and speaking of “bloody massacres.”

Zawahiri extended a truce offer from the terrorist group to President Obama if the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan.

Zawahiri said the truce was a continuation of Osama bin Laden’s 2006 offer to then President George W. Bush, which required that US forces leave Afghanistan as well as all Muslim countries in the Middle East.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

5 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/4/2009

  1. I think John Bolton was one of the best people associated with the former administration. He was able to express his views in a credible, classy way and also had the audacity to stand up to the UN, though many before him had simply caved to its demands.

    He is an excellent analyst of foreign relations and isn’t afraid to say what he thinks about rogue nations that the rest of the world pander to.

    Finally, he understands something so frequently forgotten by so-called proponents of diplomacy: even when one engages in diplomatic relations with another country, one must always stick to one’s convictions–otherwise, it’s not diplomacy that is being practiced, but rather capitulation.

  2. “Boost for Migrants Who Choose to Come to Scotland”

    What planet are the political elite on, A Scottish housing report states that –

    “At current rates it would take almost seven years to find a house for everyone already on housing waiting lists”

    “The number of people stuck in temporary accommodation – often expensive accommodation provided to people who are homeless – has soared by 135 per cent between 2001 and 2008. This means there are at least 17,000 people (including 7,000 children) in temporary housing”

  3. The mahoundians can dig holes in the ground and live there for all I care if they now must stay here at all. They couldn’t expect better living conditions in the countries they “fled” from anyway.

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