Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/9/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/9/2009The Indonesian government is still trying to decide whether citizens who test positive for the swine flu virus will be allowed to make the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

In other news, the Russian ship that was briefly hijacked in the Baltic last month has disappeared off the coast of Portugal. The ship was reportedly carrying timber, and was bound for Algiers. The Russian security services are searching for it.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Fausta, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JD, Sean O’Brian, TB, Vlad Tepes, Zenster, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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‘End-of-Life’ Counseling Intensifies Health Care Debate
Obama Warned at Summit: No North American Union
Europe and the EU
Alfonso Sabella: The New Old Mafia
Germany: Jung Calls for Army to Tackle Pirates
Ireland: ‘Welfare Scrounge’ Family Fumes Over Benefits Story
Large Hadron Collider Sparks New ‘Black Hole’ Concerns
Principality of Andorra Holds Life Expectancy Record
Saudi Princess Robbed in Sardinia
Scotland: Man’s Face Slashed in Race Attack
UK: Gang Uses Snake in Street Attack
UK: Gang Hurls Bottle Into Ambulance a Gang of Youths Hurled a Bottle of Alcoholic Drink Through an Ambulance Window While Medics Were Treating an Elderly Woman.
UK: This Swine Flu Plan is Nuts
Croatian Vat Raised From 22 to 23%
North Africa
Migrant Dies in Patrol Boat Crash
Summer of Arab Films Dedicated to Egypt
Israel and the Palestinians
European-Israeli in Sderot Sues EU for Rocket Protection
Israel: Fatah: We’ll Sacrifice Victims Until Jerusalem is Ours
Middle East
Analysis: Arab States ‘Just Say No’ To Normalization
Walid Jumblatt is No Weather Vane
Will Muslim Messiah Mark the End of the Age?
Putin’s Popularity Not Oil Dependent
Russian Crew Ship ‘Disappears’
South Asia
Anti Terrorism Clashes in Central Java. Noordin M Top Believed Dead
Indonesia: Govt to Decide if Swine-Flu Victims May Attend Hajj
Reports: Twin Blows to Taliban, Al Qaeda
Two Muslim Village Chiefs Killed in Thai South
Far East
Rio Tinto’s Spying Cost Steel Industry $102 Billion, China Says
Australia — Pacific
Catholic Seminaries Full as Religion Resurges
Sub-Saharan Africa
Mauritania Bomber Targets Embassy
Saudi Investors Launch USD 1 Bln Africa Rice Plan
Latin America
Chávez: Israeli Foreign Minister “A Thug”, Claims Colombia is Ready to Attack Venezuela
Honduras Has Won
Paraguayan Man Finds His Baby Son Alive After Opening His Coffin
Australia: Officials Investigated Over Child’s Removal
Culture Wars
Hareidi Man Arrested for ‘Tired of Gays’ T-Shirt
Al-Shabaab Attracts Fighters From the US to the Netherlands
The Most Inclusive Day Ever


‘End-of-Life’ Counseling Intensifies Health Care Debate

A provision in President Obama’s health care reform bill encourages “end-of-life” counseling for seniors — sparking euthanasia fears among some of the legislation’s critics and leading others to believe that the White House is looking to save money by pressuring insurers to provide less coverage to seniors.

The provision, tucked deep within the House bill, would provide Medicare coverage for an end-of-life consultation every five years, and more frequent sessions if a person is suffering a life-threatening disease.

Health providers would be required to explain to seniors the end-of-life services available, including “palliative care and hospice.”

“This provision may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia if enacted into law,” House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich. said in a statement last month.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama Warned at Summit: No North American Union

Legislator blasts lack of transparency, ‘erosion of our national sovereignty’

With President Obama expected tomorrow for the North American Leaders’ Summit in Guadalajara, Mexico, a coalition of American legislators and activists took a message to the Mexican media, denouncing economic partnerships that would undermine national sovereignty and blasting Obama’s failure to keep his promises on transparency and the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Howard Phillips, chairman of The Conservative Caucus and head of the Coalition to Block the North American Union, spoke to Mexican print, television and radio media about the summit, which was known in previous years as the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership, or SPP.

“They’re talking more and more about economic integration, which is also what preceded the creation of the European Union, incrementally,” Phllips told WND. “We made the point that one of the real issues is accountability. Already there are more than 20 SPP working groups and more and more decisions are being turned over to unelected bureaucrats, without any review by the legislatures of Mexico, Canada or the U.S.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Alfonso Sabella: The New Old Mafia

When the mafia becomes silent, it means that it is engrossed in business.

If, in the Sicilian streets, the killings are not as they once were, If the season of attacks is finished, in short, if Cosa Nostra seems to have disappeared, with the exception of sporadic and ephemeral spurts of flame, this we owe to the actions of Magistrates, Police and Carabinieri, who have arrested the bigger bosses, hundred of “picciotti” (those in the bottom ranks of the mafia) and collectors of the “pizzo” (protection money), but it could also be the result of a strategic choice.

The phenomenon of the present “submersion” of the mafia, of its capacity to adapt itself to the changing social, economic and political conditions is the theme that confronts Alfonso Sabella, Magistrate of the Anti-mafia District Direction, a man who has hunted down some of the most infamous and ferocious fugitives from justice.

What’s become of Cosa Nostra? Where is it that, up to ten years ago, was believed to be the most dangerous criminal organization in the whole western world?

The question is more than legitimate…

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Germany: Jung Calls for Army to Tackle Pirates

Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung intends to change the constitution to allow the army to deal with hostage situations, after the German ship held by Somalian pirates since April docked in Mombasa, Kenya.

The Hansa Stavanger arrived in Mombasa on Saturday after a reported €2 million was paid by the owners for the boat and the 24 crew members, which includes five Germans.

Now Jung says he wants the army to have the constitutional powers to deal with such situations, saying the police, which currently have jurisdiction, simply took too long to act.

He told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, “According to our constitution, the police are responsible for dealing with hostage freeing operations. But the situation had got much worse by the time the police arrived in the Horn of Africa.”

“First of all there were five pirates on the Hansa Stavanger — later there were up to 35 pirates and the situation was much more difficult.”

He said he intended to introduce the subject for debate after September’s election.

“We should think about a constitutional amendment which would enable the army to tackle situations if the police cannot,” he said.

He also said he wanted to increase the options for military cooperation in such situations, particularly with French forces. “During the red-green coalition government, it was decided in 2003 that we would not order our own helicopter carrier ship. Today I believe that we should at least create the possibility to be able to use such a vessel.”

Owner of the Hansa Stavanger, Frank Leonhardt, told the same paper he hoped to get some of the ransom money from his insurers.

“We expect that at least part of the cost will be carried by insurance,” he said.

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

Ireland: ‘Welfare Scrounge’ Family Fumes Over Benefits Story

They live in an eight-bed house and get over €3,000 in support a month


THEY set out to court publicity hoping to force Clare County Council to provide them with a permanent home but ended up being shamed as social welfare scroungers accused of milking the system for €3,800 a month.

‘Meet the Hartes’ went the headline of a newspaper article last week which featured the rented eight-bedroom home where they live with six children, two cars, and the 50-inch television, beside which the unsuspecting family posed.

Ger and Danielle Harte have unwittingly found themselves held up as a poster couple for state sponsored living, collecting an income that many families have to put in a 40-hour week to earn.

Sitting in the living room of the sparsely furnished house in Ardnacrusha last week, the Hartes were fuming.

The couple claim they have been misrepresented, vilified, and have dreaded putting their noses outside the door since the social welfare benefits they rattled off to a journalist became a front-page headline. Ger, 33, said he couldn’t go to Xtra-vision with his son last Wednesday to buy “a €29 Nokia phone” without people commenting.

To say that they are “hurt” is very much an understatement, said Danielle.

They are soon to be homeless, awaiting eviction from the privately owned house over rent arrears. The family was due to move out on August 5 but has refused to leave because they have nowhere to go. Danielle, 31, however, points to their belongings packed in black bin bags.

And for the record, they say they have one laptop, not two, and bought the 50-inch television for €400; and the cars are clapped-out bangers that cost €800 and €600 respectively. But for low paid workers it was the €3,800 a month in state benefits that was most galling.

Hot on the heels of an OECD report that suggested Ireland’s generous benefits encouraged more people to stay on the dole came An Bord Snip Nua, which recommended cutting social welfare by five per cent to save €850m in a full year.

“Yes I accept that there is anger over it. I understand why there is anger over it, to be honest,” said Danielle, 31. “I think the anger is because people have now been given the impression of the money we are in receipt of, whereas in actual fact, that’s not fact. We worked it out. Our total is €1,920 a month.”

She hasn’t included in that figure the €1,144 in child benefit, which gives them a monthly income of €3,064. Danielle said that’s because they used the child benefit to pay the €1,000 a month rent for the eight-bedroom home since Clare County Council turned them down for rent allowance. They used to get €800 a month but the €430,000 mini-mansion in Ardnacrusha doesn’t meet the standards to qualify.

That was why the Hartes went to the newspapers in the first place. They say all they were trying to do was highlight their campaign to get the council to give them a permanent council home so that Ger can return to work.

Ger claimed he only gave up his job in a cash and carry in late 2004 because his wife fell ill while pregnant with their sixth child. But he is at pains to point out that he paid his taxes for 10 years.

“I helped the economy if you ask me. Before the Celtic Tiger came along, I was holding down three jobs. . .”

So what about getting a job now?

“Of course I want to go back to work. I can’t wait to go back to work. I am absolutely craving, I am a workaholic. I’ve been working since I was 16 years of age. At 16 years of age I worked in a bakery from 10pm until 7am, six days a week. I was coming out with £100 which was a fortune in 1990,” said Ger.

But Danielle pointed out: “We’re homeless at the moment, how can he go back to work? For the last few months our whole focus has been on trying to find a home. It’s only common sense; how can Ger go out and find a job when all his family are on the verge of being made homeless?” she asked.

There is no doubt that the Hartes have had their share of difficulties and have not enjoyed the advantages of third-level education. And they are not slow to blame others for their troubles.

They once had a council house of their own. But it was in Moyross, a troubled and impoverished Limerick suburb where they did not want to raise their children.

They have lived in a succession of rented homes ever since — paid for by the council — including an emergency stint in Jurys Inn (“a nightmare”, said Danielle, “six children stuck in a hotel room, bored stiff”).

Their current troubles began when they moved to Killaloe, 20 minutes from Parteen National School which their children attended. The commute got too much for the family, and the Hartes claim they were going to switch the children to a closer school. They were persuaded to keep the children in Parteen, with a local councillor Cathal Crowe, finding them a house, and the parish priest, Fr Tom Carroll, giving them €1,000 towards the deposit.

The Hartes had already moved in when Clare County Council inspected the property and found it didn’t meet the required standards for rent allowance. And so the Hartes found themselves living in a house that the council wouldn’t pay for.

Fr Carroll and Cllr Crowe denied putting any pressure on the family. Fr Carroll would only say: “We have supported that family. We welcomed them into the school from the first day and we have supported them since.”

The Hartes could do with a bit of local support. “The country now views us as a couple that are just sitting back, chilling out, enjoying life, that we’ve plenty of money on state benefits. That’s what the country now thinks of us. So I am very upset and angry by it because, in fact, it’s the total opposite,” said Danielle, again failing to include the €1,144 child benefit in her calculations. “We are surviving on the breadline. We can barely survive on that.”

Perhaps the Hartes could spare a thought for John, an IT salesman who didn’t want to give his name. He is married with five young children, travels a two-hour commute to work, and brings home a net income of €1,900 per month.

His salary of €32,000 a year is their only income; his wife stays at home to care for their five children. Once tax and PRSI are taken into account, and his €244 in travel expenses deducted (that’s the monthly cost of a return train ticket to work each day), he gets €1,900 into his hand. The €941 child benefit brings his income to €2,841, still less than the Harte’s €3,000-plus.

The money disappears rapidly; €850 goes to pay the mortgage; €144 on family health insurance; and at least €300 a week on food.

He applied for a GP card.

When they had trouble meeting their electricity bill last year, their pleas for state assistance were turned down.

John admits he has been tempted to quit work.

“I pay over a grand in tax every month. We don’t milk the system. We pay for everything we have for our kids.

“I know numerous people who get so many benefits that life doesn’t cost them anything. Make it worthwhile for people to work. Don’t make it difficult,” he said.

[Return to headlines]

Large Hadron Collider Sparks New ‘Black Hole’ Concerns

GENEVA — When launched to great fanfare nearly a year ago, some feared the Large Hadron Collider would create a black hole that would suck in the world. It turns out the Hadron may be the black hole.

The world’s largest scientific machine has cost $10 billion, has worked only nine days and has yet to smash an atom. The unique equipment in a 17-mile circular tunnel with cathedral-sized detectors deep beneath the Swiss-French border has been assembled by specialists in many countries, with 8,970 physicists eagerly awaiting the startup.

But despite the expense, thousands of physicists around the world, many of whom hope to conduct experiments here, insist that it will work and that it is crucial to mankind’s understanding of the universe.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, said Friday it would restart the collider in November at half power under pressure from scientists eager to conduct experiments to unlock secrets of the universe.

But spokesman James Gillies told The Associated Press they would have to shut down yet again next year to finish repairs so that the Large Hadron Collider can operate at full energy of 7 trillion electron volts — seven times higher than any other machine in the world.

CERN has been working since late last year to repair the damage caused by a faulty electrical joint. The breakdown occurred nine days after the spectacular start up of the $10 billion machine last Sept. 10 when beams of subatomic particles were sent around the accelerator in opposite directions.

Fifty-three massive electrical magnets had to be cleaned and repaired after the failure. Tons of supercold liquid helium spilled out of the system, and a sooty residue had to be cleared from the tubes that are meant to be pristine, holding a vacuum in which subatomic particles can whiz around the tunnel at near the speed of light at temperatures colder than outer space.


CERN expects repairs and additional safety systems to cost about 40 million Swiss francs ($37 million) over the course of several years, covered by the 20-nation organization’s budget.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Principality of Andorra Holds Life Expectancy Record

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JULY 27 — The small principality of Andorra which borders with Catalonia on the Pyrenees is the Country with the highest life expectancy in the world. The latest report issued by the US population census office indicated an average age of 82.51 years and was cited by the Spanish media. The World health Organisation instead ranks Andorra tenth on its life expectancy list. Local authorities claim that one of the reasons for this record life expectancy is that immigrants which normally move into the principality are young and in good health. The principality applies strict health criteria before granting work and residence permits, and many immigrants return to their home country upon retirement, which also helps to cut down the average mortality rate. But life expectancy also benefits from social policies enacted by the successive Andorran governments, who went so far as to equip parishes with sporting facilities in order to promote social activities and relaxation. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Saudi Princess Robbed in Sardinia

Italian police are investigating the theft of some $16m (£10m) in cash and jewellery from a Saudi princess staying on the Italian island of Sardinia.

The thieves used a master key to gain entry to her luxury hotel suite in Porto Cervo before ripping a safe from the wall, Italian media reports say.

They said the safe was only fixed with silicon to the wall in the suite.

Officials have not named the princess but say Italian and Saudi diplomats have had talks about the incident.

“The thieves used a master key. In 10 minutes at dinner time, without making any noise, they managed to remove the safe from a suite occupied by the Saudi princess,” Italy’s La Stampa newspaper reported.

The hotel is located in one of the most chic resort areas on the Italian island.

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

Scotland: Man’s Face Slashed in Race Attack

An Asian man has had his face slashed with a knife after being attacked by a gang of white youths in Glasgow.

The 34-year-old was walking in the city’s Shawlands area when he was approached by the three teenagers, who hurled racial abuse at him.

One of the group then attacked the man with a knife.

The victim was treated at the Victoria Infirmary before being allowed home following the incident, at about 2220 BST on Saturday.

The attackers, who approached the man outside the Martin & Co Solicitors office on Kilmarnock Road, were described as 17 to 18-years-old.

One wore a blue top, another had on a green top and the third was wearing a black top.

Strathclyde Police appealed for anyone with information about the incident to come forward.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

UK: Gang Uses Snake in Street Attack

A gang brandishing a snake as a ‘weapon’ attacked a 14-year-old boy with a 4ft (1.2m) python, forcing the reptile to bite the teenager’s arm.

Police suspect the attack, in Bradley Stoke, South Gloucestershire, may have had a racist element to it and officers are appealing for witnesses.

The boy was pinned to the floor on Saturday afternoon, as one gang member forced the green python to attack.

Two youths aged 16 and 17, both boys, are being questioned.

The teenager was taken to Frenchay Hospital for checks.

Ambush predators

Police and the RSPCA are now investigating the incident, which took place at about 1500 BST.

Paramedics who attended the scene were left baffled by the injury and called Bristol Zoo for advice.

A spokesman for Great Western Ambulance service (GWAS) said: “Ambulance staff consulted Google and Bristol Zoo experts after a teenager was attacked by a group of youths.”

The spokesman added that the group forced the snake to bite the boy on the arm, leaving two puncture wounds.

Pythons are ambush predators which rely on crushing their prey, and are not venomous.

GWAS incident support officer Michael Howells, who was at the scene, said: “Although the patient was suffering breathing difficulties after the attack, this was probably due to panic rather than a reaction to the bite. I would probably be panicky if that happened to me.”

An Avon and Somerset Police spokesman said: “The teenager had been subject to racist comments and was then reportedly held down as a snake was held in front of him, which bit his right arm.

“The boy was taken to Frenchay Hospital with breathing problems, where he was treated for the injury to his arm.

“Police would like to hear from anyone who was in Merryweather Close at the time of the incident.”

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

UK: Gang Hurls Bottle Into Ambulance a Gang of Youths Hurled a Bottle of Alcoholic Drink Through an Ambulance Window While Medics Were Treating an Elderly Woman.

Glass and the remains of the drink, Buckfast, hit the two crew and their 70-year-old patient in the incident near Banknock in Stirlingshire.

A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service branded the attack an “absolute disgrace”.

The woman was taken to Stirling Royal Infirmary in another ambulance.

The attack happened at about 1525 BST

The ambulance service spokesman said: “This incident is an absolute disgrace and could have resulted in serious injury to both the ambulance crew and the elderly patient in their care.

“Unfortunately this sort of drink-fuelled behaviour is becoming more prevalent and we will continue to take every available measure to protect our staff and patients.”

The ambulance had been requested by a doctor, and it was not a 999 call. Central Scotland Police said officers responded quickly but, by the time they arrived, the gang had scattered.

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

UK: This Swine Flu Plan is Nuts

A few months ago I waxed lyrical about the British National Health Service, or NHS, which brought my friend back from the edge of eternal darkness. I myself have felt well-inclined towards the NHS for thirty-odd years, but in recent weeks I feel as if I am becoming part of a Monty Python spoof.

First, let us look at the current World Health Organization figures on swine flu, also known as H1N1. As of early August the good news is that Madagascar and Greenland are swine flu-free. The bad news is that the United Kingdom is suffering more cases than most other European countries. Why is this? There appears to be no clinical explanation for this at present, although I could tell readers stories to make their hair stand on end about hygiene in British eating establishments or the latest tales of men urinating in theater aisles during performances.

So this brings me to the government’s pandemic flu strategy. In the popular Evening Standard newspaper’s August 3 edition, there is a full two-page spread advising the public on how to deal with symptoms. We are told we must designate a “flu buddy” — oops, in England this is called a “flu friend.” We are instructed to initiate a complicated string of processes once ill. (Have you, dear reader, ever had really bad flu? Ever felt as if you will die and can barely stagger to the bathroom, only to fall over from fever, the shakes, and delirium?)

This ludicrous ad, which I calculate must have cost the NHS about $400,000, (a tabloid quarter page averages £80,000) tells flu sufferers to stay away from the doctors’ offices and call a helpline. You are then put through a series of questions about your condition, temperature, medical history, current health issues, and symptoms. You will be asked for your address and postcode. If you are not unconscious by the time this is over, you are then — wait for it — given an “authorization number.” Incidentally, the person “assessing” your qualification for a “flu authorization number” is one of two thousand folks recently picked from a motley queue of the unemployed who, from what we television-watchers could establish from the interviews given, are largely medically unqualified call center staff.

Sky News reported on June 23: “Many have jumped at the chance of at least three weeks’ work at £6.60 an hour — without even having to undergo an interview. The advertisement looking for recruits was posted on various websites calling for people to take on a customer service role assisting a medical institution. … Requirements include being fluent in English and some experience of dealing with customers in retail, catering, or office work.” On the Sky blog worried medical professionals, including one intensive care nurse, complained, “They may have been trained in retail or catering, they may be high-caliber lawyers who cannot get work, but surely this does not qualify anyone appropriately to assess over the phone whether someone is ill enough to be passed over to a medical professional.”

So let’s get back to the Evening Standard advertisement. It tells the sick person to write down the authorization number, which must then be communicated to your “designated flu friend.” What happens if the buddy has fallen ill? The purpose of the unique number is to give that person a course of anti-viral drugs for you from a “designated” (there’s that word again) collection center. The advertisement does not say if this person, who will have had to drive or take public transport to the collection center, will then have to pay the requisite £7.20 ($13.50) per prescription. When the buddy gets to the distribution center, he or she must then produce ID and ID for the patient.

Then the buddy gets the drugs and takes them to the patient. See the rub? If the whole point of the scheme for the sick person not to come into contact with a doctor’s office is to prevent spread of the illness, how is the buddy going to get the pills to the gravely ill patient? Okay, the buddy might have keys and will simply open the door and dump the wee bag on the welcome mat and flee for his or her life. But the sick person might languish in bed and even die before being able to stagger to the welcome mat.

What I find so ludicrous about this grand scheme is that it fails to take into account a true pandemic situation as that of December 1999, when several friends and I were so ill we could not stand up and indeed my colleague Jim Baird, a strapping fifty-nine-year-old, succumbed after two days of illness. Thousands died and people were being sent to France as there were not enough places for patients or the dead. So, if people start dropping like flies, who will get the Tamiflu or Relenza for their friends?

My solution is a costly but simple one, and I suggested this at the last meeting I attended of my central London health care panel: the NHS should deliver a box of Tamiflu to every household in the UK. If it was possible for the NHS to deliver a “swine flu leaflet” to every house, would it not be an idea to do the same with anti-viral? If it was possible for British Gas to deliver energy-efficient bulbs to millions of households in Britain, might this not be an option for medication? We are told the symptoms come on rapidly and people are dying. If one had the pills on hand by one’s bedside table and a bottle of water, might this not save lives?

Having just seen an advertisement for a consultant to the NHS at a rate of pay of £700 a day (that is $1,300), it seems the health service has its priorities skewed. I hope the United States has a better way of dealing with a pandemic and that this article will be instructive on the way not to go.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]


Croatian Vat Raised From 22 to 23%

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, AUGUST 5 — Beginning last Saturday, in Croatia the national Value Added Tax (PDV) has no longer been 22% but 23%. As the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) office in Zagreb reported, it is one of the measures adopted by Parliament to shore up state coffers in 2009, with an estimated revenue of HRK 1.5 billion (205 million euros). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Migrant Dies in Patrol Boat Crash

One person has died and at least 11 are missing after an Algerian coast guard vessel collided with boats carrying would-be migrants, reports say.

The collision happened off the eastern port city of Annaba after three migrant boats rejected calls for them to stop, an official told El Watan newspaper.

Those on board chanted “we’ll pass or we’ll die” when they were surrounded.

More than 70 people have made failed attempts to escape by boat in the past two days, Algerian radio said.

It said more than 400 people had been intercepted by the Annaba coast guard this year.

El Watan reported that two migrant boats had sunk in the stand-off with the coast guards, which began late on Saturday night.

In total 18 people were injured, including one person who had to have a leg amputated, the paper said.

Annaba is a focal point in Algeria for young, unemployed men who attempt to escape on ill-equipped boats, hoping to find a better life in Europe.

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

Summer of Arab Films Dedicated to Egypt

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, AUGUST 4 — The third edition of Summer of Arab Film in Paris is dedicated to those of Egyptian production. The event was organised by the Saudi prince, Al Walid bin Talal, owner of the George V Hotel of the Rotana Group which also owns a production house and distribution network. It will be a luxurious festival, set to take place in the prestigious Elysées Biarritz hall. Just steps from the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysées, where in addition to the shows organised for the public, there will also be special shows organised by reservation, after midnight, with the possibility of dining. The festival, which will close before the beginning of Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims (around August 21), proposes 7 films, all projected in their original versions without subtitles, an inconvenience that excludes the French public, which was unwanted by the organisers that stressed the difficulty, usually overcome in film festivals, of subtitling first run films. The films, scheduled in collaboration with the distribution houses Good News and Rotana, are Egyptian, produced in Egypt, the Bollywood of North Africa and in the tradition of Egyptian film reflect contemporary reality in the Arab world. Among others, ‘Bobbos’ by Wael Ihsan with national star Adel Iman, a comic satire on the vicissitudes of a couple experiencing a complete economic breakdown; Ramadan Mabrouk, in which the comedian Mohamed Henidi impersonates a professor up against rebellious students; and then Ibrahim Labyad by Marwan Hamed, the director of Yacoubian Palace. The festival attracts Arab audiences because certain films are often censured or prohibited in specific countries, and it also offers the opportunity for Arab women to gather in movie-theatres where, according to the organisers of the event “they can even smoke in peace”. In September the festival, whose mascot is the actress Hafsia Herzi (Cous-Cous), will move on to Marseille for its first southern edition, which was also wanted by the Saudi prince (who is also a partner in Mediaset) whom we can thank for Menahi, the first film produced in Saudi Arabia, by Rotana, in nearly 40 years. The film has been shown in Jeddah and Tàif. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

European-Israeli in Sderot Sues EU for Rocket Protection A precedent-setting court suit has been filed with the European Union’s High Court, demanding that the EU provide protection to its citizens living in Israel.

Just this morning (Sunday), Hamas terrorists in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket at Israel’s Negev region. The rocket landed near Kibbutz Alumim, causing no casualties or damage. It was the second attack of this nature in several weeks.

Eyal Katorza, a resident of the Kassam-beleaguered city of Sderot and a European Union citizen of French nationality, filed the suit, at the initiative of the European Citizens Council in Israel, a nonprofit organization representing Israelis of EU nationalities.

Represented by attorneys Mordechai Tzivin, Nechama Tzivin, and Mordechai Eisenberg of Tel Aviv, Katorza demands that the EU carry out a series of measures, both passive and active, to ensure his safety as a EU citizen living within range of potentially lethal rockets. The suit was also filed with the European Union Commission with the help of a Belgian lawyer, a member of the Belgian Parliament.

The suit notes that Article 3.2 of the European Treaty stipulates that the EU shall “offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers, in which the free movement of persons is ensured.” Article 3.5 of the same treaty states that the EU shall uphold and promote its values and interests and contribute to the protection of its citizens.

In addition to the EU’s obligation to protect and provide security for its citizens even if they live abroad, the suit states, the European Union must specifically protect its citizens against terrorism. This is confirmed by a note of December 12, 2005 from the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator to the European Council on “The Implementation of the Action Plan to Combat Terrorism.”

EU Must Pay for Protection and Stop Money Transfers to Gaza

Specifically, the suit demands that the EU provide protection in the form of reinforced buildings and the like in areas adjacent to Hamas-run Gaza. The EU must also cease transferring monies to the Palestinian Authority government in Gaza, as well as to organizations that are likely, for lack of supervision, to use the money to fund terrorism.

“We plan to add to the claim any Israeli who holds a European passport and who lives within terrorist-rocket range,” said Attorney Tzivin. “There are about 300,000 European citizens living in Israel, and thousands of them are estimated to be living in range of terrorist rockets. The EU grants hundreds of millions of euros a year in aid to Gaza, and it is inconceivable that European citizens should be harmed by money supplied by the EU. It’s time that the EU takes responsibility.”

“The EU Commission must stop transferring money to Gaza,” Tzivin says, “and must reimburse its citizens for their reinforcement expenses — in fulfillment of its obligations to protect its citizens.”

EU citizens living in Israel within rocket range who wish to join the suit are invited to write to .

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

Israel: Fatah: We’ll Sacrifice Victims Until Jerusalem is Ours

The status of Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state is a red line that no Palestinian leader is permitted to cross, President Mahmoud Abbas’ ruling Fatah faction declared in the West Bank on Saturday.

According to Israel Radio, the Fatah general conference, which convened in Bethlehem for a three-day gathering, adopted a position paper which also states that the Palestinian national enterprise will not reach fruition until all of Jerusalem, including the outlying villages, come under Palestinian sovereignty.

Fatah, which rules the West Bank but was ousted from power in Gaza by the Islamist Hamas movement, also ruled out any interim agreements with Israel. Advertisement

“Fatah will continue to sacrifice victims until Jerusalem will be returned [to the Palestinians], clean of settlements and settlers,” the paper states.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Analysis: Arab States ‘Just Say No’ To Normalization

By Jonathan Spyer

The idea of gestures of ‘normalization’ from Arab states to Israel is a central component in the US administration’s plan for reviving the Mideast peace process. The notion represents a variant of the Oslo-style approach whereby a series of confidence-building measures will create a climate conducive to the successful conclusion of final-status negotiations. President Barack Obama’s approach seeks to expand the circle of confidence-building, so that the Arab states, and not only the Palestinians and Israelis, will be drawn into it.

According to reports, the US is now in the final stages before the announcement of its new, comprehensive peace plan. In the past week, meanwhile, three Arab states appear to have rejected the possibility of gestures of normalization.

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal last Friday openly dismissed the idea of “incrementalism” and “confidence-building measures.” Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh took a more ambiguous but still critical stance regarding such measures early this week in a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Kuwaiti Emir Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, meanwhile, reiterated his country’s support for the Arab peace initiative after a meeting with Obama. By failing to give any hint of a forthcoming gesture to Israel, or to express any support for the idea of normalization in principle, the emir appeared to be adding Kuwait to the list of Arab countries who prefer to politely decline the administration’s request for assistance.

So far, the score-card for gestures of normalization from the Arab states to Israel stands at close to zero. Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait are all close allies of the US. Yet none have yet been willing to make a positive gesture in Washington’s direction on this issue. What lies behind their refusal?

One explanation for this holds that the administration’s pressure on Israel is leading to a hardening of Arab positions. Since Obama demanded a complete freeze on all construction in settlements, it would now be futile to expect Arab gestures of normalization unless Israel first accepts this demand. However, the Arab rejection of incremental measures has not been solely predicated on Israel’s refusal of a comprehensive freeze on all construction in West Bank settlements. Rather, the very principle of normalization in the period prior to a final-status accord between Israelis and Palestinians appears to be rejected.

The rejection of this idea derives from two elements…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]

Walid Jumblatt is No Weather Vane

Will the leader of Lebanon’s Druze really form an alliance with Hezbollah?

Lebanese parliamentarian Walid Jumblatt created an uproar this week when, in a speech delivered to members of his Progressive Socialist Party, he seemed to separate himself from the March 14 movement that he has been part of since its inception more than four years ago. If Jumblatt took his party into the Hezbollah-led opposition camp, it would erase March 14’s recent electoral victories and tilt the political balance against Lebanon’s pro-democracy forces. Now, after meeting with a Saudi official, Jumblatt says that his words were misinterpreted and that he would never abandon Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri. But it seems likely that Jumblatt has more gyrations in store.

In the meantime, he has offered no apologies or corrections to placate his one-time U.S. allies. Under the cover of self-criticism, Jumblatt took a swipe, in his speech, at the oft-demonized and now irrelevant Bush administration. “[It] was illogical when we met with the neoconservatives in Washington,” said Jumblatt. “It was unnatural … to meet with those who spread chaos in the Middle East and destroyed Iraq and Palestine.”

His former American friends are not amused. “I don’t believe for a minute that he’s sorry he met with the dreaded neocons, and I’m sorry he feels somehow compelled to say that,” said Elliott Abrams, the Bush administration’s deputy national security adviser for global democracy strategy. “I just hope he keeps sending all of us that nice wine from the Bekaa.”

Abrams is referring to Jumblatt’s generous habit of sending jeroboams of Lebanese wine to those who earn his gratitude. The last time I visited Jumblatt in his ancestral estate at Moukhtara was with a group of foreign journalists that included Slate’s Christopher Hitchens. We all left with bottles of Kefraya, produced by the winemaker of which Jumblatt is majority owner. After a big lunch and plentiful Kefraya, I am pretty sure that Hitchens and the head of the PSP called each other “comrade”—though whether that designation referred to their shared histories as men of the left or as current quasi-neocon icons is now even hazier. I know for certain that Jumblatt showed us a picture of himself with the neocons’ enabler in chief, a certain former leader of the free world. Granted, the photograph does not have pride of place, as does the uniform of a Soviet naval officer mounted above his desk, but there is no erasing the record. Nor, I suspect, would Jumblatt really want to do so.

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

Will Muslim Messiah Mark the End of the Age?

By going to Islamic source documents, such as the Hadith, Richardson does important original research. And with Iran’s mullahs now openly enthusiastic for the return of the “Twelfth Imam,” their last-days messiah, Richardson’s book is all the more timely for Christians.

A major theme of Richardson’s book is that Islam’s eschatology overlaps the Bible’s in myriad ways. This is another indication that Muhammad borrowed heavily from the Hebrew Scriptures as he compiled his supernatural “revelation.” This overlap will be a surprise to many Westerners, and Richardson’s easy writing style make this a scholarly work accessible for laypersons. Bible prophecy students in particular simply must read this book as they study where we are at on the prophetic clock.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Putin’s Popularity Not Oil Dependent

Vladimir Putin has been accused of undemocratic behavior, of staging unfair elections and of holding on to power like a dictator. But he can point to a strong basis for his legitimacy: He is unbeatably popular among his electorate.

In fact, since Putin’s unexpected rise from little-known bureaucrat to prime minister in August 1999 and president a few months later, his popularity has rarely been rivaled by any other politician in the country. Only his protege and chosen presidential successor, Dmitry Medvedev, has come close to his sky-high figures.

Surveys from the Levada Center, an independent polling agency, show that Putin’s approval ratings shot from zero to more than 70 percent in 1999 and have never dropped below 40 percent for any prolonged period since then. Recent polls provide ample evidence that Putin’s popularity has not suffered from the economic downturn that has hit the country hard since last fall. In fact, the figures may serve as a crushing defeat to predictions that the crisis could bring down or weaken his reign.

Western media have been awash with reports since the crisis began that Putin had just been riding high on the country’s oil-driven economic boom and that now the time had come for the people to renege their informal contract with him — that the government could freely stifle democracy as long as the people could enjoy new cars, well-stocked supermarkets and cheap vacations in Egypt.

But despite the fact that millions of people have lost their jobs and the incomes of those still working have been significantly reduced through pay cuts and the ruble’s devaluation, approval of Putin, who as prime minister has taken the role of personally overseeing the economy, stood firm at 78 percent in July.

The idea of Putin as an oil-fueled leader contains a lot of wishful thinking, analysts said.

“It is true that the country’s economic well-being depends a lot on the oil price. But it is not always true that Putin’s popularity depends on the economy alone,” said Denis Volkov, a researcher with the Levada Center.

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

Russian Crew Ship ‘Disappears’

A cargo ship with a Russian crew has disappeared off the coast of Portugal in the Atlantic Ocean, the Russian maritime journal Sovfracht reports.

It says contact with the Maltese-flagged Arctic Sea vessel, with a crew of 13, was lost on 28 July.

Russia’s navy and security services are trying to locate the ship.

The same vessel was boarded by armed men in the Baltic Sea on 24 July. The attackers later left without taking any money or valuables, Sovfracht says.

It adds that the vessel — which was reportedly carrying timber — was due to arrive at an Algerian port on 4 August.

Arctic Sea was built in 1991 and is operated by a firm based in Russia’s northern city of Arkhangelsk, Sovfracht says.

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

South Asia

Anti Terrorism Clashes in Central Java. Noordin M Top Believed Dead

Special police raids and gun battles that last since yesterday afternoon. Suspects are arrested in Jakarta and a car full of explosives is found, perhaps for an attack on the president, Susilo and the diplomatic corps. The suicide bombers who attacked the Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotel in Jakarta are identified.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Noordin Mohammed Top, the most wanted terrorist in Southeast Asia is believed to have been killed in the course of a shout with Indonesian anti-terrorism forces. Noordin, of Malaysian origin and considered “enemy number one”, id rumoured to be among those killed during a police raid on Temanggung, about 80 km from Semarang, capital of Central Java. Noordin is held to have been behind diverse attacks in recent years: the Marriott hotel in Jakarta in 2003, the Australian embassy in 2004, and in restaurants in Bali in 2005, as well as the attacks on two hotels in the capital last July 17.

The house where Noordin was in hiding is owned by a local resident, a certain Mohzari, a teacher in an Islamic school. Police also found and confiscated explosives in the house.

The gun battle began yesterday afternoon, after the arrest of two suspected terrorists in Temanggung market. Even now there is sporadic crossfire. The police has not yet issued any official communication confirming the death of the number one terrorist.

Another anti-terrorist operation is under way in Jatiasih of Bekasi, about 25 km east of Jakarta east, where the police killed two suspected terrorists. The victims were identified: Air Setiawan and Eko Peyang, both former prisoners and members of the “Taliban Islamic terrorists” responsible for the attack at the Marriott in 2003 and the Australian embassy in 2004. At the scene of the crime, police arrested two more suspects and confiscated weapons and explosives.

The police also confiscated a car full of bombs and three belts for a suicide attack. The bombs consist of 5 blocks containing between 100 and 500 kilos of explosives, and were hidden in a private home rented by Ahmad Fery, who was arrested before dawn this morning while driving the car from Solo (Central Java) to Jatisih.

The police believe that an attack on the private residence of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, which is located in east Jakarta, was being planned. Solo is the home city of the Islamic school of Abu Bakar Baasyir, who is believed to have spiritual inspired Jemaah Islamiya.

From the interrogation of those arrested, the police came to know that terrorists were preparing an attack on the foreign diplomatic corps, during the celebration of Indonesian Independence Day, on 17 August.

The Indonesian police chief, Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri, today also confirmed the identity of the suicide bombers in the attacks on the Marriott hotel and the Ritz Carlton last July. They are two young men, Nana Ichwan Maulana (who blew himself up in the Ritz Carton) and Dani Dwi Permani (who detonated his explosives vest in the Marriott). The latter lived in Telaga Kahuripan of Parung (near Bogor, West Java), but had left his home over two years ago.

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

Indonesia: Govt to Decide if Swine-Flu Victims May Attend Hajj

Jakarta, 7 August (AKI/Jakarta Post) — The Indonesian government has not yet decided if would-be Hajj pilgrims who test positive for the swine flu (H1N1) virus may visit Saudi Arabia during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadhan, which begins later in August.

“We are still waiting for an official letter about it from the government of Saudi Arabia,” the health ministry director general for disease control and environmental health, Tjandra Yoga Aditama, told The Jakarta Post.

He said the ministry had warned people with the H1N1 virus against traveling to prevent the virus from spreading.

“But we will follow any regulations the Saudi government may enact,” he said.

Saudi Arabia has said it will require millions of inbound pilgrims from across the world to produce health certificates stating they do not have any chronic disease as part of the country’s efforts to fight the H1N1 virus.

Spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s ministry of health Khaled al-Merghalani said the country would ban adults over 65 and children under 12 who, the ministry says, are the most prone to swine flu. The ministry will also require pilgrims to show proof they have received flu shots at home.

“These conditions came after consultations with top international experts in the field,” al-Merghalani said. “No one will be able to get a visa without fulfilling these new rules.”

Iran has banned all pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia during Ramadan this year, which begins on 22 August and ends on 20 September.

Around three million Muslim pilgrims from over 160 countries head for the holy city of Mecca in western Saudi Arabia each year for the Haj — one of the world’s biggest religious gatherings.

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

Reports: Twin Blows to Taliban, Al Qaeda

A top al Qaeda bomb maker blamed for last month’s bombings of two U.S. hotels in Jakarta was believed captured or killed in a gunfight with police, authorities said Saturday.

If confirmed, it would be the second major blow to Islamic militants, coming hours after reports of the death of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.

Indonesian police said that they raided a workshop in Temanggung in Central Java, and that militants belonging to a group headed by Noordin Mohammad Top were inside.

The Al Jazeera television network said Noordin had been captured, but an Indonesian police source told Reuters news agency that a militant killed in the gunfight was believed to be Noordin. The source said authorities were trying to positively identify the body.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Two Muslim Village Chiefs Killed in Thai South

Two Muslim village leaders were killed in drive-by shootings in Thailand’s restive southernmost provinces, police said on Sunday.

The attacks took place at the weekend in Yala and Pattani, two of the three mainly Muslim provinces in predominantly Buddhist Thailand, which have been plagued by five years of separatist violence.

Gunmen on a motorcycle killed an assistant village chief in the Muang district of Yala early Sunday, police said.

Late on Saturday, a village headman was shot dead in front of his home in Yaring, Pattani by unknown assailants riding in a pickup truck armed with M-16 assault rifles.

The attacks came during a two-day visit to the region by Bangkok-based diplomats from member countries of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), the world’s largest Muslim body, which has criticized Thai security forces for their handling of the conflict.

The OIC demanded an end to attacks on Muslims after 11 were shot dead while praying in a mosque in southern Thailand in June.

Close to 3,500 people have been killed since 2004 in Thailand’s deep south. The 30,000 troops deployed to the region, which was once an independent Malay-Muslim sultanate, have made little progress towards quelling the unrest.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Far East

Rio Tinto’s Spying Cost Steel Industry $102 Billion, China Says

Aug. 10 (Bloomberg) — Rio Tinto Plc spied on China’s steelmakers for six years, costing them 700 billion yuan ($102 billion) in excessive charges for iron ore, according to a report published yesterday on a Chinese government-run Web site.

Government agencies should enhance surveillance of the secret-protection work at key companies they supervise, said the article on http://www.baomi,org, which is affiliated with the National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets.

China, destination for half the $52 billion global seaborne trade in iron ore, has detained four members of Rio’s Shanghai team, including Australian Stern Hu, on charges they stole state secrets. The detentions have strained relations between China and Australia and followed Rio’s abandoning of a $19.5 billion deal with Aluminum Corp. of China four months after agreeing to what would have been China’s biggest overseas investment.

“That means China gave the employer of those economic spies more than $100 billion for free, which is about 10 percent of Australia’s GDP,” the article said. “It also caused the serious consequence of climbing losses in China’s pillar industry of steelmaking.”

Hu and three other Rio executives were detained by Chinese authorities on July 5 for allegedly stealing state secrets and actions that harmed the nation’s economic interests and security. Australia, which has said the detentions may be connected to annual price talks for iron ore, is seeking more information and has urged China to deal with the case expeditiously.

‘Step Forward’

“This is another step forward and we are moving toward the Rio employees being charged,” said Michael McKinley, a professor of global politics at Australian National University in Canberra. “History tells us that if someone is charged, there is a strong prime facie case and they will most likely be found guilty.”

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told reporters July 15 that the world was “watching closely” how China handled the Hu case. China is the world’s largest buyer of iron ore and Australia’s second-biggest trading partner, with two-way trade valued at A$68 billion ($57 billion) in 2008, and is also its largest source of foreign investment.

Rio Tinto’s Melbourne-based spokeswoman Amanda Buckley declined to comment on the report when contacted on her mobile phone.

The Web site is operated by the Gold Wall Press, which is administered by the Secrets Office of the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee, according to an introduction on the Web site. The article’s author is Jiang Ruqin, the Web site said, without providing further information.

“The case will still take some time,” McKinley said, “and China has a different definition of national security.”

           — Hat tip: Zenster [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Catholic Seminaries Full as Religion Resurges

AFTER years of decline, the number of priests in the Catholic Church in NSW is on the rise.

Sydney seminaries are full of holy hopefuls for the first time in 10 years, as 60 men prepare for a life in the priesthood — three times as many as there were in 2000.

Eighty per cent of them are under the age of 30.

While some cite World Youth Day as their inspiration, others describe a calling they just couldn’t ignore.

The youngest is 19, and the majority are in their early or mid-20s. They may be young, but they are determined to be part of a revolution bringing people back to the Catholic Church.

Homebush’s Seminary of the Good Shepherd is one of two seminaries in Sydney and houses 40 of those in the midst of their seven-year learning curve. Of those enrolled, 31 are under the age of 30.

Father Anthony Percy, who runs the seminary, said having the younger generation aspire to be priests was encouraging, and would help resolve the problem of Sydney’s priest shortage.

“There is definitely a renewed interest in the Church and the priesthood,” Father Percy said.

“We had the ordination of four priests a few months ago — that hasn’t happened since 1983.”

He said one reason for the shift in attitude was a reaction to a post-modern world with fluid values.

Blacktown 19-year-old Mark Aarts told The Sunday Telegraph he was accepted into the seminary when he was 18, and couldn’t be happier.

“As difficult as it is, there is something very firm about my desire because I see it as a gift from God,” he said. “My parents were very accepting.”

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Mauritania Bomber Targets Embassy

A suicide bomber has set off an explosion outside the French embassy in the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott.

Two guards at the embassy were slightly wounded, and the bomber died.

The bomber had been wearing a belt packed with explosives which he detonated at 1900 (1900 GMT), just outside the embassy compound wall.

The blast comes three days after Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who took power in a coup last year, was sworn in as president after recent elections.

No immediate claim of responsibility was reported.

Mauritanian authorities have blamed Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which has been active in several north-western African states, for previous attacks.

These included an attack by gunmen on the Israeli embassy in Nouakchott in February last year, and the killing of four French tourists in December 2007.

In June, the group claimed the killing of a US aid worker who was working in Mauritania.

General Abdelaziz promised to tackle terrorism after his recent election victory.

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

Saudi Investors Launch USD 1 Bln Africa Rice Plan

(ANSAmed) — RIYADH, AUGUST 5 — A group of Saudi-based investors, including the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), will launch later this year a seven-year plan worth $1 billion in Africa to reduce dependency on rice imports and supply the Middle East region. The so-called 7X7 project aims at developing and planting 700,000 hectares of farm land to produce within seven years seven million tonnes of rice, said Foras International Investment Company investments head Salim Lalani, “We are looking at three to four countries: Mali, Senegal and may be Sudan and Uganda,” Lalani said as reported by Gulf Daily online. Food security has topped the policy agenda in the arid Gulf region following rampant inflation last year that underscored its dependence on imports and forced countries to invest abroad to ensure supplies of staples such as rice and wheat. The project’s political backers are the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which groups more than 50 countries, and the governments of Mali and Senegal, both of which are OIC members. “On the financial front, there is the IDB and the Private Sector Islamic Development Corporation,” Foras said. The project’s focus on rice aims at catering to the needs of West African and Middle Eastern countries in the commodity. “West Africa’s annual deficit in rice reaches about 2m tonnes,” Foras said. Saudi Arabia imported a little over 1m tonnes of rice last year, according to US Department of Agriculture. West African giant Nigeria produces only a fifth of its 2.5m tonnes annual rice needs.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Latin America

Chávez: Israeli Foreign Minister “A Thug”, Claims Colombia is Ready to Attack Venezuela

Hugo Chávez calls Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister of Israel Avigdor Lieberman “a thug, a thief, a murderer.”

And if that weren’t enough, he accuses the US of instigating Colombia to start a war with Venezuela. Chávez doesn’t want Colombia to allow the US the use of seven Colombian military installations for counter-drug operations.

During his latest Alo Presidente show, he let it rip…

           — Hat tip: Fausta [Return to headlines]

Honduras Has Won

Diplomacy: In a quiet victory for a tiny democracy, U.S. buttinskies have stopped trying to restore a dictator to power in South America. Tiny Honduras is winning its fight for freedom.

In a welcome about-face, the State Department told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Richard Lugar, R-Ind., in a letter Tuesday that the U.S. would no longer threaten sanctions on Honduras for ousting its president, Mel Zelaya, last June 28.

Nor will it insist on Zelaya’s return to power. As it turns out, the U.S. Senate can’t find any legal reason why the Honduran Supreme Court’s refusal to let Zelaya stay in office beyond the time allowed by Honduran law constitutes a “military coup.”

This marks a shift. The U.S. at first supported Zelaya, a man who had been elected democratically but didn’t govern that way. Now they’re reaching out to average Hondurans, the real democrats.

Sure, the U.S. continues to condemn Zelaya’s ouster and still seeks mediation of the dispute through Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. But no U.S. sanctions means Hondurans have won.

Things could have worked out differently. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez first called for invading Honduras. That threat passed as it became clear Chavez couldn’t project his power there.

Next, civil unrest was threatened by Zelaya. But Hondurans astounded the world by standing by their Congress, Supreme Court, attorney general, businesses and the church, all of which declared that Zelaya had violated the constitution and had to go.

Zelaya might have regained power, but only by becoming a dictator and ending Honduras’ democracy. The people ended that.

The scariest outcome for Honduras was U.S. sanctions. They would have crushed the tiny country dependent on the U.S. for 80% of its trade. No sanctions, no Zelaya.

This isn’t to say U.S. policymakers are happy or that the dispute is over. Honduras is still suspended from the Organization of American States, its trade has been disrupted, Venezuela’s oil is still cut off, and its officials still can’t get U.S. visas. But the worst is over. Whatever changes that come will be by Honduran consent alone.

The U.S. still supports Arias’ mediation, and if that helps, good.

By ending the threats, talks can begin. Constructive solutions, like early elections or persuading Honduras’ congress to add an impeachment law to its constitution, can now be put on the table.

The reality is, the Hondurans shouldn’t be on the spot at all. What happened wasn’t a coup; it was a good-faith effort by decent people to fix a difficult situation that threatened their democracy.

This, by the way, also opens the door to a return of democracy in troubled nations like Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela. People in those nations can take courage from Honduras.

The U.S. was smart to take the side of freedom. The Hondurans, however, were right all along. After all, it’s their democracy. And now they’ve won it back.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Paraguayan Man Finds His Baby Son Alive After Opening His Coffin

Jose Alvarenga was told by doctors at a state hospital in Asuncion, the Paraguayan capital, that his son had been pronounced dead shortly after birth.

Hospital orderlies delivered the premature baby’s body, which had been placed in a temporary coffin, to Mr Alvarenga’s home fours hours later.

Shortly afterwards, the grieving father opened the coffin to bid an emotional farewell to the infant.

“I opened it to look at his remains and found that the baby was breathing,” Mr Alvarenga recounted. “I began to cry.”

He rushed back to the hospital with his unnamed son in his arms and nurses placed the infant in an oxygen chamber.

Doctors seemed hopeful that tragedy would not strike again, describing the boy’s condition as “stable”.

The news of the child’s miraculous recovery was then taken to his mother, who was in a bed in the same hospital.

An investigation has been launched to establish how the blunder was made.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Australia: Officials Investigated Over Child’s Removal

POLICE are investigating immigration officials for possible criminal conduct in the kidnapping of a seven-year-old girl without her asylum seeker father’s knowledge.

In 2003 immigration staff hatched an elaborate plot to spirit the child away to her mother in Tehran as her father, the legal custodian, was in solitary confinement at Baxter Detention Centre. Baxter closed in 2007.

Australian Federal Police are now investigating to see whether officials committed a crime under South Australian law, overstepping federal deportation powers. Children cannot be removed from South Australia without a parent’s consent.

The national co-ordinator for A Just Australia, Kate Gauthier, who brought the allegations, said immigration staff acted criminally. “It’s this simple: someone took his child without permission and without his knowledge. You cannot tell me that is not a crime.”

In this case, the then Baxter officer tricked the asylum seeker, Mr X, asking permission for he and his wife to take the little girl shopping. Mr X said: “No problem. Yes, go and enjoy yourself.”

Instead, an immigration official put the girl on a plane to Iran, plotting to distract her with toys if she resisted and asked to say goodbye to her father.

Yesterday, the former immigration minister Philip Ruddock said he was not aware of police investigations and knew of Mr X’s case only from reports. “Was I aware of the precise management of the issue? No. Would I have been micro-managing it and familiar with every detail? The answer is no,” he said.

The seriousness of criminal allegations in Mr X’s case have forced an internal review by Jeff Lamond — who was formerly employed by the Immigration Department — to be referred to Dennis Pearce, a former Commonwealth Ombudsman and expert in Commonwealth administrative law. Professor Pearce’s appointment clears a perception of bias created by Mr Lamond’s past employment with the department. It is expected the review will be finalised by the end of October.

Ms Gauthier said the case demonstrated a power imbalance between asylum seekers and their keepers which allowed the abuse of detainees to continue unchecked. “He was an asylum seeker and the Port Augusta police don’t give a s—- about what happens in Baxter detention centre.”

Inspector Peter Crouch, of the South Australian police, said any complaints made against a prison were taken seriously. A spokesman for the Federal Police said police diligently investigated such complaints.

Mr X has since been granted asylum in Melbourne. He attempted suicide in the months after the girl’s abduction and is seeking compensation.

His wife and daughter will be helped to reunite in Australia if they wish, a departmental spokesman said.

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

Culture Wars

Hareidi Man Arrested for ‘Tired of Gays’ T-Shirt

( Police arrested a hareidi man, Aryeh Yerushalmi, for wearing a T-shirt that said “Homos, We are Tired of You” to a rally by homosexuals at Tel Aviv’s main square Saturday night.

It is not known what law Yerushalmi is suspected of breaking.

According to NRG, police asked him to leave the area and when he refused, arrested him. “They arrest people here because you cannot express yourself in this country,” Yerushalmi said before being forced into a squad car.

Yerushalmi, 27, is known for two earlier provocative one-man demonstrations that he held at branches of the Tiv Ta’am supermarket chain. For two years in a row, he took off almost all of his clothes near the bread shelves in the store during Pesach (Passover) to protest a court ruling that allowed the store to sell chametz (leavened, and therefore unkosher for Pesach) products during the holiday.

Yerushalmi explained that the protest was meant to highlight the absurdity of the ruling which determined that the store was not a public place and could therefore stock chametz without breaking the Chametz Law. Yerushalmi reasoned that if the store was not a public place, he should be allowed to take off his clothes there. To drive home the point, he wrote “it’s not public” on his body.

Those protests received much media attention, but Yerushalmi admitted he could be kicked out of his yeshiva for the indecent act. After the second demonstration he was brought before a judge, but was not charged.

Thousands attend rally

Thousands of people flooded into Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square Saturday night in memory of two people murdered in a shooting spree at a club for homosexual youth exactly one week ago. The mass gathering was accompanied by well-known Israeli musicians and was addressed by President Shimon Peres, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai as well as a young man wounded in the shooting and a sister of one of the murder victims.

In his comments, Peres said that the shooter was aiming at all the citizens of Israel, even though he physically attacked the gay youth organization. “Preventing murder is our uncompromising duty,” Peres declared. “We have no right to rummage around in the lives of others, as long as they obey the law and maintain order. Only tyrants in dictatorships give themselves permission to do so.”

The president added that the security services would not rest until the perpetrator was captured.

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


Al-Shabaab Attracts Fighters From the US to the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, Australia and the US, radical Muslims are being linked with the group Al-Shabaab in Somalia.

The name Al-Shabaab (Arabic for ‘the youth’) has sprung up suddenly in various places around the world over the past weeks, from the Netherlands to Australia, and from the US to Indonesia.

Four men from the Netherlands who were arrested in Kenya last week were reportedly en route to an Al-Shabaab training camp. They were arrested in Brussels, Belgium, after they were deported from Kenya, and they have since been extradited to the Netherlands, where they are being held on suspicion of participation in a terrorist organisation.

Limited international agenda

This week four men were arrested in Australia on suspicion of planning an attack on a military base. They reportedly have ties with Al-Shabaab and some of them are said to have fought in Somalia.

Al-Shabaab is thought to have attracted hundreds of foreign supporters of the jihad, primarily from countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the group seems to have a limited international agenda. Leading Al-Qaeda figures such as Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri have called for a jihad in Somalia via video messages in the past, but analysts say that ties between Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabaab have never been definitively proven.

“As far as we know, Shabaab fighters have had sporadic contact with extremists in Yemen and sympathisers from Indonesia and Australia earlier this year,” says a source involved with UN peacekeeping operations who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “A suicide bomber with Somali connections blew himself up in Yemen earlier this year. Al-Shabaab also maintains good contacts with arms suppliers in Yemen.”

But there are no concrete indications that they are leading international terrorist actions, says the source. “Presumably they do not have the capacity for that.”

Order restored

At least two young men from Minneapolis, Minnesota, a city with a Somali community of more than 30,000, admitted in court this year that they followed armed training from Al-Shabaab in Somalia. In October of last year a 26-year-old Somali-American blew himself up in the semi-autonomous Somali region of Puntland, becoming the first known American suicide terrorist ever.

Al-Shabaab emerged as the vanguard of the fight against the Somali government after the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) was driven out in December 2006. The ICU, an alliance of radical and moderate Muslims, was in power for six months. In the summer of 2006 the ICU had succeeded in seizing power with broad popular support from a group of corrupt warlords who were supported by the United States in the hopes that they would help apprehend terrorists.

Under the fundamentalist rule of the ICU in the capital of Mogadishu, some form of order was restored to the failed state of Somalia, where any form of effective central authority had disappeared with the end of the dictatorship in 1991. Citizens went out on the streets unarmed again, the roadblocks were lifted and piracy off the coast largely came to an end.

The ICU was driven out at the end of 2006 by troops from Ethiopia, which feared the fundamentalist government at its border. The radical military wing of the ICU, Al-Shabaab, continued the fight under the leadership of Aden Hashi Ayro.

Ayro led Al-Shabaab during the six months of fundamentalist government in Mogadishu. He also led the puritanical campaign against television and the use of the mild stimulant drug khat. In 2005 he reportedly ordered the murder, in Mogadishu, of British BBC correspondent Kate Peyton.

Controversial agenda

From December 2006, Al-Shabaab, under Ayro’s leadership, fought the troops from Christian Ethiopia, which were regarded by many Somalis as occupiers. Ayro is considered responsible for the murders of Somali and foreign aid workers and journalists in Somalia. The attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and on an Israeli hotel on the Kenyan coast in 2002 were reported prepared by Al-Qaeda in Somalia, with Ayro’s cooperation.

American bombs killed Ayro last year. Since Ayro’s death Al-Shabaab has been led by his comrade-in-arms Hassan Turki. The group now controls virtually all of southern Somalia and parts of central Somalia.

The political agenda of the fundamentalists is controversial in Somalia. Politically-inspired Islam in Somalia dates back to the nineteen sixties when the first radical Muslim group was established there. For centuries Somalis have practised their Islam in a way that respects other faiths, with tolerance and moderateness. The rigid code of conduct of the fundamentalists has provoked opposition, as does their prohibition on the use of the popular mild narcotic khat.

The radicals have caused great annoyance among Somali Islamic scholars by their destruction of the tombs of respected Sufi saints, since according to the Wahhabi Islam adhered to by Al-Shabaab, ancestors may not be honoured. Under the rule of Al-Shabaab, adulterous men and women have been stoned and thieves have had their hands chopped off in public.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

The Most Inclusive Day Ever

just found out that on August 9th I should observe the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. In light of this event, Navanethem Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, emphasized the poor living conditions of this apparently long-disadvantaged group. I don’t always follow the advice graciously shoved down my throat by enthusiastic globalist organizations. However, this time I got a bit curious: Pillay’s lengthy press release failed to define what exactly constitutes an indigene.

According to the High Commissioner, after centuries of oppression, these peoples, all 370 million of them, have truly earned the international and state-based protection of their rights and way of life. Her statements imply that “indigenous” exclusively refers to ethnic minority groups such as the native tribes in the Amazon. In fact, Pillay asserts, the tribes practice environmentally sustainable forestry, contribute to saving the planet, and thus deserve recognition.

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples does not seem to offer any more explicit clues. This document was accepted by the United Nations’ General Assembly in 2007. My Motherland, Russia, abstained, my Adoptedland, Canada, voted against it, as did the United States.

Bad Canada! Not very friendly, now, are you? Very bad United States! (By default.) Moderately crappy Russian Federation!

The Declaration’s FAQ synopsis, for example, uses standard language, promising to allow the indigenous peoples to “live in dignity, to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures, and traditions” and requires “new approaches to global issues, such as development, decentralization and multicultural democracy”. Grammar and syntax are, as always, interchangeable. How about “multicultural approaches to new developmental issues, such as decentralization and global democracy”?

I am going to slip into snooty academic mode for a second here: I don’t think those signifiers ever met their signified.

Okay, I’m done.

Evidently, this document does not refer to large indigenous populations in places like India and China. These two surely exceed 370 million! Is this the case because they are majority groups, or because they are growing? Then why not call this agreement the “Declaration on the Rights of Declining Indigenous Minorities”?

What about the rapidly declining local populations in multiple European countries and their consequent replacement by non-European migrants? (Oh no, I didn’t!) Do they not qualify because of their fairly high standard of living? Then why not call the August-9th event the “International Day of the World’s Declining and Economically Disadvantaged Indigenous Minorities”?

Since I was unable to find adequate clarification on the United Nations’ own website, I typed the entire title of the Day, first established in 1994, into the search engine. The automatic form filler suggested other top hitters. Apparently, Google did not know much about this event either, so I didn’t feel all that bad about my own ignorance. Instead, the engine wanted me to take a look at the International Day against 1) Racial Discrimination; 2) Homophobia; 3) Police Brutality; 4) Bullying; 5) …

In a true spirit of equality, I did not list these web search items hierarchically. And wouldn’t it be more inclusive to create a single, superior International, no, Universal Ãœber-Day against Commonly Established Massively Bad Keywords? Maybe we’d even earn the respect of aboriginal foresters in the Amazon by saving on all print-based public service advertising…

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

2 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/9/2009

  1. «Bei Türken und Ex-Jugoslawen gibt es mehr Betrügereien»

    The head of the Swiss Social Security Disability Fund in fact admits that fraud in Switzerland is actually highest among Moslems.

    Due to Moslem led claims, the Swiss social security disability fund the so called IV (Invalidenversicherung) fund will soon be bankrupt unless new funds are provided. The government is now considering to increase the value added tax in order to fund the shortfall. The rise in disability claims is led by Turks and ex-Yugoslavian fraudsters. Bear in mind that most of the euphemistically called “ex-Yugoslavian” refugees in Switzerland are Kosovo Albanians. These have driven up the Moslem population to close to 5% of the Swiss population in the last decade. The head of the disability fund hastens to add that most of the disability claims are still paid out to Swiss citizens. But this almost certainly belies the fact that among Swiss citizens, the abuse of the disability fund by Moslems is probably very high as well. It must be noted that among former foreigners, naturalized citizens and their children who are called ‘secondos’ in Switzerland, fraud is about 10 times as high as among indigenous Swiss.

  2. There are many forms of jihad, and the financial jihad bleeds the West dry supporting the enemy in its midst.

    Muslims are one of the immigrant groups whose cost to contributions ratio is high. Jamaicans are another.

    The “reasoning” of devout Muslims directed by Islam is that all the world belongs to Allah and it is the duty of every Muslim to reclaim his property from infidels who have no right to it. Infidels also have no right to rule over Muslims, even the Muslims who voluntarily immigrate to infidel lands!

    The huge costs of Muslims to host countries in Welfare, wasted education, penalties for human rights complaints and crime control are symbolic jyzia, the special tax collected by Muslims from non-Muslim dhimmis.

    So far the West keeps bowing its head to its inferiors judged by the 57 uniformly crappy societies the eternal whiners have constructed and paying up.

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