Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/10/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/10/2009French president Nicolas Sarkozy has announced that France will introduce a new carbon tax next year. It will cover coal, gas, and oil, and will affect households and enterprises, but not heavy industries, which will be covered by the EU’s trading regime.

In other news, Egyptian police are arresting both Muslims and Christians for eating during Ramadan, even there is no statute in the Egyptian legal code that covers such offenses.

Thanks to A Greek Friend, Barry Rubin, CB, heroyalwhyness, JD, Lurker from Tulsa, Sean O’Brian, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Doing the Math on Obama’s Debt
European Commission Sees Galloping UK Debt Crisis
Taxpayers Unlikely to Recover GM, Chrysler Investment
U.S. Poverty Rate Hits 11-Year High
Barack Ozymandias
Bernie Kerik: The Trial of an American Hero
Chinese Flag to Flutter Over Ellipse in D.C.
Destroying America’s Fair Elections
Forget the Swamp: Drain the Cesspool in New York!
Interview With the Man Who Predicted 9/11
Liberal Lies About National Health Care, Part 4
Oklahomans React to President’s Health Care Speech
Patriots to Storm Washington, Target Out-of-Control Spending
Studies: One Dose of Swine Flu Vaccine Works
This Just in… Obama is a Leftist!
Treasury: Millions More Foreclosures Coming
US Girl Scouts Prepare for War, Pestilence
Montreal: Military Helicopters in Downtown Exercise
Europe and the EU
Book Says Rigged Party Vote for French Socialists
Can He Fix it? Sarkozy’s Carbon-Tax Plan Derided by Environmentalists
Commission Considers €15bn Climate Aid Plan
Czech Constitutional Court Cancels Early Elections
EU Steps Up Efforts for New Global Climate Pact
European Experts Argue Against Lisbon Treaty in Dublin; “The Nature of Democracy is Truly at Stake”
France Set to Impose Carbon Tax
Irish MEPs Urge Church to Act Over Anti-Lisbon Advert
Italy Wraps Up Women Conference
Mohammed is Now the Third Most Popular Boys’ Name in England.
Multiculturalism: Europeans Guillotined From Their Cultures
Netherlands: Leftwing Greens: ‘Of Course Islam is a Problem’
Sweden: Police ‘Nab’ 7-Year-Old Homeschooler
Swiss to Keep Painting Taken From Jews During WWII
UK Cabbies Protest Killer Joining Their Ranks
UK: Backpacker ‘Begged for Mercy as She Was Gang-Raped in Park Next to Buckingham Palace’
UK: Back on the Streets of Britain: 20 Convicted Islamic Terrorists Freed From Jail Early
UK: Boy, 4, Scarred for Life by Henna Flower Tattoo
UK: Couple Wins Apology After Council Fakes Car Photographs in Planning Row Over Field
UK: Now Big Brother Targets Helpful Parents as 1 in 4 Britons Are to be Vetted for Giant New Child Protection Database
UK: Soft Justice Fails as ‘Pocket Money’ Thug Paid Not to Steal… Is Jailed for Knifepoint Robbery
UK: Vetting Database Will Cost NHS and Public Bodies £170m
North Africa
Egyptian Police Arrest Christians, Muslims for Eating
Egyptian Guards Kill Migrants Crossing to Israel
Libya, IRA and the West
Israel and the Palestinians
Barry Rubin: the Ignorant Arrogance of the Advice-Givers
For Second Time in One Day, IDF Forces Come Under Fire Near Security Fence
Gas Bonanza Investors Ready to Dive in Dead Sea for Black Gold
High Court: Demolish Illegal Palestinian Homes
IDF Arrests Palestinian Who Crossed Into Israel From Gaza
IDF Preparing for US Missile Systems
IDF Uncovers Hamas ‘Tora Bora’ Cave System
Palestinians to Boycott Toronto Film Festival Over Movie on Tel Aviv
‘We Tried to Kill Carter and Blair’
Middle East
Hariri Steps Down After Hizbullah Rejects Cabinet List
Iran: Raped and Beaten for Daring to Question President Ahmadinejad’s Election
Netanyahu’s ‘Secret Visit to Moscow to Stop Putin Selling Weapons to Iran’
Time’s Up on Iran
Top French General: Iran Intervention Not Viable
Where Will You Keep the Millions of Women Subjected to Violence?
Yemen Claims Success Over Rebels
European Envoy Asks Russia About NGO Killing
South Asia
Afghanistan: Hero Squaddie Who Saved 30 Lives by Rugby-Tackling Suicide Bomber to Get Military Cross
Jakarta Warns Against Timor Probe
Australia — Pacific
Where Violence is Constant — and Personal
Sub-Saharan Africa
Briton Linked to Hostage Deal With Somali Pirates is Arrested
Entebbe Raid: ‘I Dressed the Bodies’
Gender-Row Runner Caster Semenya ‘Is a Hermaphrodite With No Womb or Ovaries’
Top South African Communist Chided Over Luxury Car
Ireland: FF Accused of Making Citizenship a ‘Money-Spinner’
UK: Visa Sham as Just 29 Out of 66,000 Applicants From Pakistan Interviewed Despite Supposed ‘Crackdown’
Culture Wars
‘Gay’ Man Sues Bible Publisher for ‘Mental Anguish’
Violence Against Women a Global Problem, Says Minister

Financial Crisis

Doing the Math on Obama’s Debt

How much is a trillion dollars? Mathematically it would be expressed with this simple equation: A trillion dollars = $1,000,000,000,000.

It takes 12 zeroes to the left of the decimal point to make a trillion. Or, in other words, a trillion is a million million dollars.

The website expressed it this way: “The U.S. government spends more than the entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Australia, China and Spain combined. If you laid one-dollar bills end to end, you could make a chain that stretches from earth to the moon and back again 200 times before you ran out of dollar bills! One trillion dollars would stretch nearly from the earth to the sun. It would take a military jet flying at the speed of sound, reeling out a roll of dollar bills behind it, 14 years before it reeled out one trillion dollar bills.”

We find it hard to wrap our minds around such a large number. Barack Obama doesn’t share this affliction. He is pushing the U.S. Senate to raise the U.S. debt ceiling beyond $12.1 trillion. This year’s deficit alone is set to surpass $1.8 trillion.


Nobel laureate and economist James Buchanan told the London Telegraph this week, “We have learned some things from comparable experiences of the 1930s’ Great Depression, perhaps enough to reduce the severity of the current contraction. But we have made no progress toward putting limits on political leaders, who act out their natural proclivities without any basic understanding of what makes capitalism work.”

Buchanan’s prescription is to do the exact opposite of Obama. He would restrain spending while the economy heals.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

European Commission Sees Galloping UK Debt Crisis

Britain’s public debt will explode to 180pc of GDP within a decade unless future governments take drastic measures to restore fiscal probity, according to a confidential study by the European Commission.

The projection is more than twice the level forecast by the UK Treasury, which expects the debt to peak at around 80pc before gradually falling as growth revives and tax revenues come back to life.

What is shocking is that UK risks decoupling from the other major economies in Europe, vaulting past Germany, France and even Italy into a wholly different league. Ireland is in the worst shape, with debt projected to reach 200pc of GDP.

The report is being prepared for the October meeting of EU finance ministers in Göteborg, which will focus on the exit strategy from the economic crisis and the long-term sustainability of EU public finances.

The figures are based on the assumption that the emergency fiscal support of the last year is withdrawn in an orderly way by 2011, but that there is no further retrenchment thereafter. “It is a no-policy-change scenario, not a prediction of what will happen,” said one official.

The Commission fears Britain will suffer lasting damage as result of the financial crisis and the bursting of the property bubble. Neither banking nor construction will recover quickly, relegating the country to a lower growth trajectory.

Brussels warned Britain before the onset of the crisis that public spending was out of hand, repeatedly reminding Gordon Brown that the credit boom was masking the true scale of the problem. The UK ran deficits of 3pc of GDP at the top of the cycle, while Spain was running a surplus of 2pc. Britain was the only major country to face the EU’s excessive deficit procedure in 2007, even before recession played havoc with state finances.

Stephen Lewis, chief strategist at Monument Securities, said that once public debt goes much above 100pc of GDP it becomes hard to reverse. “The debt snowballs because interest costs alone push up the deficit, so you can race up to 180pc very fast.”

Attempts to bring the debt down by a spending squeeze can prove counter-productive because lack of growth itself drives the deficit higher. “Once you get there your trapped,” he said.

Britain’s debt briefly touched 252pc of GDP after World War Two, but the circumstances were then entirely different. War-time spending could be slashed instantly and the demographic balance of young and old was still positive.

Debt anywhere near 180pc of GDP today would test the UK Gilt market to destruction. While Japan is still able to fund an even higher level of debt without paying exorbitant rates, it is does not depend on foreigners to cover the bond auctions.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Taxpayers Unlikely to Recover GM, Chrysler Investment

Sept. 9 (Bloomberg) — U.S. taxpayers are unlikely to recover their $81 billion investment in General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC and were “left in the dark” on specifics of a decision to aid automakers, a congressional panel said.

The Treasury Department should consider placing its GM and Chrysler ownership stakes into an independent trust to prevent “political pressure and government interference,” the Congressional Oversight Panel said in a report today.

“Even if no direct conflict exists, a trust could prevent the use or appearance of political influence in the government’s ownership,” the panel concluded.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

U.S. Poverty Rate Hits 11-Year High

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The U.S. poverty rate hit its highest level in 11 years in 2008 as the worst recession since the Great Depression threw millions of Americans out of work, a government report showed on Thursday.

The Census Bureau said the poverty rate — the percentage of people living in poverty — jumped to 13.2 percent, the highest level since 1997, from 12.5 percent in 2007.

About 39.8 million Americans were living in poverty, up from 37.3 million in 2007.

Despite signs the economy was showing signs of crawling out the slump that started in December 2007, the poverty rate would rise gain this year and beyond 2010 as unemployment would stay elevated for a while, analysts and the government warned.

“Unfortunately, even with an improving economy, the higher unemployment rates during 2009 will almost surely lead to further declines in income and further increases in poverty,” Rebecca Blank, Undersecretary for Economic Affairs at the Commerce Department told Senate’s Joint Economic Committee.

The government defines poverty as an annual income of $22,025 for a family of four, $17,163 for a family of three and $14,051 for a family of two.

With unemployment rising, real median household income fell 3.6 percent to $50,303 in 2008, a 10-year low. The percentage decline was the biggest annual drop since 1991 and snapped a three year streak of annual income increases.

The longest and deepest recession in 70 years has been marked by escalating unemployment as companies aggressively cut payrolls to cope with slumping demand. The unemployment rate was at 7.2 percent at the end of last year.

As of August, the unemployment rate was at 9.7 percent, the highest in 26 years, and is expected to peak just above 10 percent early next year. Almost 7 million people had lost their jobs since the start of the recession.


“The poverty rate will not fall back to the 2007 rate until the economy expands enough that the unemployment rate falls back below 5 percent. This is not likely to happen for several years,” said Sheldon Danziger, a Russell Sage Foundation fellow and professor at the University of Michigan.

“Government policies must stay focused on helping those among the poor and near-poor who have been left behind by economic growth in recent years.”

The Census Bureau also said 46.3 million Americans were without health insurance last year compared to 45.7 million in 2007. The numbers could feature in arguments over President Barack Obama’s plans to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system and dramatically expand medical insurance coverage.

The family poverty rate rose to 10.3 percent last year and 8.1 million families were classified as poor, the Bureau said, compared to 9.8 percent and 7.6 million respectively in 2007.

Analysts said rising poverty underscored the need for the government to strengthen its safety net, which many argue is inadequate.

“Unemployment insurance will need to be extended beyond the provisions in this year’s recovery legislation,” said Harry Holzer, professor of public policy at Georgetown University in Washington.

“For low-income and part-time workers ineligible for unemployment insurance, other forms of cash assistance and perhaps community service jobs will need to be provided,” said Henry Holzer, a professor of public policy at Georgetown University in Washington.

Poverty was higher among blacks and Hispanics, the report showed. About 14.1 million children under the age of 18 lived in poverty last year, up from 13.3 million in 2007.

“We project that with the continuing deterioration in the labor market, by 2009 a quarter of all children in this country will be living in poverty,” said Heidi Shierholz, a labor market economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]


Barack Ozymandias

Obama’s template was the New Deal. The country was in a similar state of crisis, enduring the worst economic slump since the 30s (or the 70s, or the medieval depression, depending on who you talked to). Desperate voters were willing to accept measures that they would have found intolerable at any other time. As in 1933, there existed a brief window for dramatic transformation, one that might not reappear for generations.

The New Deal was intended, if not by FDR himself, then by the Brain Trust, specifically Adolf Berle and Rexford G. Tugwell, as a means of reworking American society from the ground up. Both men believed they could recast the U.S. in the mold of fascist Italy and the Soviet Union, but without such unappealing features as concentration camps, massacres, artificial famines, and the like.


Obama’s revolution was divided into three major parts — government takeover of large industrial sectors, the imposition of a Green ideology to justify government intervention on any scale, and federal takeover of the health-care industry. Once these steps were taken, the result would be state control of American society on an unprecedented scale, along with a state-approved ideological superstructure (environmentalism) to act as the framework for the new system. All this was supposed to be carried out with military swiftness, within weeks or months of Obama’s inauguration, before any questions could be asked or opposition mounted.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Bernie Kerik: The Trial of an American Hero

Overzealous federal prosecutors. A public figure who allegedly got home renovations as a gift. A massive federal investigation. A slew of charges. The target appears guilty, but a careful review of the evidence suggests otherwise.


But the federal indictment had all the earmarks of a kangaroo prosecution from the start. One indication that federal prosecutors were out to get Kerik was their handling of the serious allegations Michael Caruso levied in a federal lawsuit. Caruso, who was inspector general for the New York City Department of Correction, filed the suit soon after the Bronx probe of Kerik had been completed.

Caruso’s suit alleged that he was terminated by the commissioner of the Department of Investigation, Rose Gill Hearn, after he refused to testify falsely that Kerik had pushed for the home contractor to garner city business. Rather than investigate Caruso’s claim that city officials sought to obstruct justice by having him commit perjury in the local grand jury probe, the U.S. attorney prosecuting Kerik, Elliott Jacobson, moved to prevent Caruso’s case from going forward. By staying Caruso’s civil suit, Jacobson insured that evidence that might exonerate Kerik won’t surface until his criminal trial is complete.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Chinese Flag to Flutter Over Ellipse in D.C.

White House confirms event near president’s residence

The White House has confirmed that the flag of Communist China will flutter over the lawn of the Ellipse, the public area adjacent to the president’s residence, later this month in a ceremony that is to recognize the 60th anniversary of the regime.

WND reported last week on the plans announced by several English-language Chinese media outlets to raise the flag over the south lawn.

The White House’ confirmation said the event is to be Sept. 20 over the adjacent Ellipse. The Fox News report carrying the word from the administration said the event will be on the other side of E Street from the White House.

The distinction was lost to some participating in a forum page on the Fox website.

“This is an outrage. So now the White House says the Ellipse lawn is no longer a part of the White House? … It’s actually owned by the national forest service. Wow! That made me feel so much better. At first I thought they sold the White House lawn to the Chinese already,” wrote one.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Destroying America’s Fair Elections

Perhaps the March 2009 Citizen Magazine of Focus on the Family has the answer. It tells about the “Secretary of State Project (SOS). Believing that who counts the votes is more important then who votes, a leftist front started the effort, which is tied to “Democracy Alliance — the network of about 100 very wealthy liberal donors, including George Soros, the man behind America’s leftist “Obamanation.” In the fall of 2008 SOS poured a half million dollars into four secretary-of-state races in battleground states: Missouri, Montana, OREGON, West Virginia and won them all. The Capital Research Center describes the candidates supported by SOS as secretary of state candidates who take the position that voter fraud is largely a myth; that vote suppression is widely solely used by Republicans; that it’s a waste of time to remove obviously fraudulent names from voter rolls; and the legal requirements that voters show identification discriminates against racial minorities. The Soros money helped the candidates who support this SOS position to win the Secretary of State Office, and then they help the “Democrats in thwarting pre-election efforts to crack down on voter-registration fraud.”

Thanks to a researcher friend who submitted the above information to me several months ago along with the following excerpts from the book The Shadow Party written in 2006 by former leftist David Horowitz and Richard Poe, I’m now attempting to warn people of what is heading our way. Glenn Beck had Horowitz on his TV show recently and on Bill O’Reilly’s show on September 8th he had Glenn as his weekly guest. Always playing the Devil’s advocate, O’Reilly said he wasn’t concerned about communism. Go figure!


Soros stole the Democrat party by pushing McCain-Feingold through Congress cutting off the Democrats’ soft-money supply. By forming the Shadow Party, Soros offered the Democrats an alternate source — one that he personally controlled. He has nothing to fear from them. They faithfully echo his line and play by his rules. Every new law they promulgate leaves a multitude of loopholes, which the Shadow Party is well equipped to exploit. (p. 208) The unions now give the money to his Shadow Party conduits instead. (p.176) December 9, 2004 Eli Pariser, head of MoveOnPac boasted: “Now its our party. We bought it, we own it.” Soros claims to dislike politics and denies his involvement even as he writes a half-million dollar check to America Votes (p.212) If Americans understood the intentions of the Shadow Party organizers, they would recoil in revulsion and reject its overtures. For these reasons, the Shadow Party network must proceed by stealth. It must (and does) use secretive, deceptive, and extra-constitutional means to achieve its objectives. It must infiltrate government bureaucracies, corrupt public officials and manipulate the press. And it must conceal who and what it is. (p.xii)

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Forget the Swamp: Drain the Cesspool in New York!

Now it’s Pelosi’s turn to feed one of her own to the sharks, New York Rep. Charlie Rangel. If she doesn’t, her promise to “drain the swamp” will be turned into a campaign ad that can and should be used to drain Congress of every Democrat in leadership.

Swamp water is clean compared to the cesspool surrounding Rangel, the man who holds one of the most important leadership posts in Pelosi’s fiefdom.


The amended form reveals that Rangel’s net worth is about twice the amount previously listed, somewhere between $1,028,024 and $2,495,000. Not bad for a congressman who came into office with no money, raised a family and has had to maintain residences in D.C. and New York — two of the most expenses places on earth — on a paltry congressional salary.

Some say the $174,000 he receives per year wouldn’t pay the clothing bill for Rangel, who is one of the flashiest dressers in Congress this side of Pelosi.

We now know that Rangel doesn’t simply have two residences. In addition to his D.C. pad, which he claimed as his primary residence, he maintained as many as four rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem, which may have violated laws in D.C. and New York. However, the big thing about those Harlem apartments is that each one was worth thousands of dollars more than Rangel paid per month, which has the smell of an illegal gift from a Manhattan developer.

We also know that Rangel owns a luxurious villa in the Dominican Republic, which he rents and forgot to declare on his tax returns. Then, there is the condominium in Florida, which was underreported, and a Harlem townhouse that just surfaced.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Interview With the Man Who Predicted 9/11

Earlier this year, quite by happenstance, I read a book written by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter James B. Stewart.

“Heart of a Soldier” tells the story of two men who, well before it happened, foretold not only of the terrorist attack of 9/11 but also the 1993 bombing in the World Trade Center parking garage that preceded it.

One of the men, Rick Rescorla, was chief of security for Morgan Stanley with an office in the World Trade Center. He died on 9/11, but not before he shepherded all but six of Morgan Stanley’s 2,700 employees to safety because of a well-prepared and well-executed evacuation plan. He’d have made it out, too, had he not gone back in the building looking for those six.

The other man, Daniel J. Hill, is still alive.

With another Sept. 11 approaching I wanted to talk to The Man Who Predicted 9/11.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Liberal Lies About National Health Care, Part 4

12) Only national health care can provide “coverage that will stay with you whether you move, change your job or lose your job” — as Obama said in a New York Times op-ed.

This is obviously a matter of great importance to all Americans, because, with Obama’s economic policies, none of us may have jobs by year’s end.

The only reason you can’t keep — or often obtain — health insurance if you move or lose your job now is because of … government intrusion into the free market.

You will notice that if you move or lose your job, you can obtain car and home insurance, hairdressers, baby sitters, dog walkers, computer technicians, cars, houses, food and every other product and service not heavily regulated by the government. (Although it does become a bit harder to obtain free office supplies.)

Federal tax incentives have created a world in which the vast majority of people get health insurance through their employers. Then to really screw ordinary Americans, the tax code actually punishes people who don’t get their health insurance through an employer by denying individuals the tax deduction for health insurance that their employers get.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Oklahomans React to President’s Health Care Speech

UNDATED — Despite President Barack Obama’s primetime appeal to the nation and a joint session of Congress, health care reform may still be a tough sell for Oklahomans and their representatives in Washington, D.C.

Obama used the hour-long speech to dispel some of the rumors about his call for reform and outline his views. Some of the bullet points of the administration’s plan included, it would be against the law for insurers to drop coverage to those who become ill or deny coverage for those with preexisting conditions, zero dollars from the Medicare trust will be used to fund the plan.

Six in the Morning talked with two members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation Thursday, Mary Fallin and Dan Boren.

Republican Congresswoman Fallin says the cost will be passed on to our grandchildren.

Congressman Dan Boren felt the President left some room for compromise.

Obama spoke in favor of a provision for the federal government to sell insurance in competition with private industry. But he did not insist on it, and said he was open to other alternatives that create choices for consumers.

University of Oklahoma political science professor Keith Gaddie said polls indicated many Oklahomans are for health care reform but do not want a public, government-run option.

“The solution presented by the president moves towards a market based solution, so the final bill will not be as scary as thought,” Gaddie said.

Congressman Tom Cole said in a statement following the address that his constituents do not want a public option and fear the government intruding on health care.

“They don’t want bureaucracy wedged between them and their personal physicians,” Congressman Cole said. “I want to prevent the government takeover of our health care system, not just postpone it.”

Congressman Frank Lucas also said the speech did not settle his doubts the viability of a public health care option.

“If there is one thing that I heard loud and clear from my constituents during the 18 town halls I held throughout my district in August, it is that they dissatisfied with the pieces of health care legislation currently before Congress,” Lucas said in a statement.

“Yet, after listening to the president’s speech this evening, it has become clear that he plans to continue to disregard what the American people want and push for government-run health care. We need to get back to the drawing board on health care reform.”

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

Patriots to Storm Washington, Target Out-of-Control Spending

Taxpayers swarm capitol, launch massive tea party

Just one day after President Obama plans tries to recapture the initiative in the health-care debate with a speech to a joint session of Congress, thousands of taxpayers plan to storm Washington, D.C., in a three-day event to take their fight against excessive spending, bailouts, growth of big government and soaring deficits to the front door of the U.S. Capitol.

In a major movement unaffiliated with — but inspired by — Fox News’ Glenn Beck’s 9-12 Project, called the National Taxpayer Protest, thousands of Americans are answering the call and traveling to make their voices heard at Capitol Hill. Sept. 10 marks the kickoff of the three-day march on Washington.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Studies: One Dose of Swine Flu Vaccine Works

WASHINGTON — Good news in the world’s flu fight: One dose of the new swine flu vaccine looks strong enough to protect adults — and can spark protection within 10 days of the shot, Australian and U.S. researchers said Thursday.

Australian shot maker CSL Ltd. published results of a study that found between 75 percent and 96 percent of vaccinated people should be protected with one dose — the same degree of effectiveness as the regular winter flu shot. That’s remarkable considering scientists thought it would take two doses.

U.S. data to be released Friday confirm those findings, and show the protection starts rapidly, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health told The Associated Press.

“This is quite good news,” Fauci said.

The dose question has an important ramification: It means people will have to line up for influenza vaccinations twice this year instead of three times — once for the regular winter flu shot and a second time to be inoculated against swine flu, what doctors call the 2009 H1N1 strain.

Thursday’s swine flu vaccine reports center on adults; studies in children aren’t finished yet.

But scientists had feared that people of all ages would need two shots about a month apart because the new H1N1 strain is so genetically different from normally circulating flu strains that most of the population has little if any immunity.

Chinese manufacturers gave the first hint a week ago that one dose could be enough. But different manufacturers make different formulations of the vaccine, so more evidence was needed.

Thus the CSL study, rushed out by the New England Journal of Medicine late Thursday, is welcome news. In a study of 240 adults, half younger than 50 and half over, one shot prompted the same kind of immune response indicating protection that is seen with regular flu vaccine. And a standard 15-microgram dose — not the double dose that also was tested — was enough.

“It’s really striking how incredibly similar this is to every other study of a seasonal flu vaccine I’ve ever seen,” said Dr. John Treanor, a flu specialist at the University of Rochester who examined the data.

CSL, which is one U.S. vaccine supplier, found the same side effects in its study that people experience with regular flu vaccine, which is no surprise since this shot is merely a recipe change from the annual standby. About 45 percent of recipients had mild reactions such as a headache, sore arm or redness at the shot site.

On Friday, the NIH is set to release results of its own studies of hundreds of adults that confirm that one shot works, Fauci said. Plus, the U.S. work shows that people are protected between eight days and 10 days after that inoculation, he said.

One dose means tight supplies of H1N1 vaccine won’t be stretched so badly after all. The U.S. has ordered 195 million doses, based on the hope that 15 micrograms was indeed the right dose. Had it taken twice that dose, or two shots apiece, half as many people could have received the vaccine.

The winter flu vaccine is widely available now, and U.S. health authorities urged people Thursday to get it out of the way now before swine flu shots start arriving in mid-October.

Despite all the headlines about swine flu, which has become the main influenza strain circulating in the world, doctors do expect some garden-variety flu to hit this fall too — the kind that every year kills 36,000 Americans and hospitalizes 200,000.

“Take some individual responsibility to stay healthy during the flu season,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who scheduled her own seasonal shot for Friday.

Waiting to get the first inoculation out of the way “is not in anybody’s best interest,” added Dr. Nancy Nielsen, past president of the American Medical Association. She said busy doctors need to have completed regular vaccinations by the time they have to deal with H1N1 shots.

There’s no way to predict how much of either flu strain will circulate.

“This year, we are in uncharted territory,” warned Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

He said some parts of the Southeast in the past few weeks have experienced as much flu as is usually seen in the middle of winter. So far, it’s all the H1N1 variety, with schools and colleges experiencing outbreaks almost as soon as classes began.

Indeed, a typical school student who catches swine flu will spread it to two to three classmates, says a stark new estimate published Thursday in the journal Science. Flu specialist Ira Longini of the University of Washington in Seattle based the estimate on how swine flu spread through a New York City school in April, and some other schools since.

A separate report in Thursday’s New England Journal suggested European manufacturers might get away with an even smaller dose. Novartis Vaccines added what’s called an adjuvant, or immune-boosting chemical, to its version of the swine flu shot and found a 7.5-microgram dose was effective. It did, however, spark more of those reactions like injection-site pain.

Numerous countries allow flu vaccines with adjuvants to sell every year, but the U.S. has never approved an adjuvant-containing flu shot.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

This Just in… Obama is a Leftist!

“Now I’m truly scared.”

A friend wrote this after she watched Fox News’ Glenn Beck’s series on the “alarming number of far-left radicals the President is surrounded by” — referring to some of the president’s special advisers and “czars.” President Barack Obama, my friend tells me, is “a true left-winger.” So, now she knows.

She didn’t know after the president signed the $800 billion so-called “stimulus program.” She didn’t know after government takeovers/bailouts of banks, insurance companies and auto companies.

She didn’t know after Obama campaigned in favor of protectionism by promising to unilaterally change free trade agreements, such as NAFTA, or after the inclusion of “Buy American” provisions in the “stimulus package.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Treasury: Millions More Foreclosures Coming

Only 12 percent of U.S. homeowners eligible for loan modifications under the Obama administration’s housing rescue plan have had their mortgages reworked, and millions more foreclosures are coming, the Treasury Department said on Wednesday.

A Treasury report showed 360,165 people had their monthly payments reduced through August, up from 235,247 through July, but a senior Treasury official conceded much more must be done to soften the impact of a severe and prolonged housing crisis.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

US Girl Scouts Prepare for War, Pestilence

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States wants to enlist its 3.4 million Girl Scouts in the effort to combat hurricanes, pandemics, terror attacks and other disasters.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) launched a campaign Tuesday to entice the blue, brown and green-clad multitudes to be even more prepared, with the promise of a new patch if they pitch in.


The unveiling of the patch marks a partnership between the scouts and Citizen Corps, a community-based initiative under the DHS’s Federal Emergency Management Agency, which coordinates national response to disasters.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Montreal: Military Helicopters in Downtown Exercise

Don’t be alarmed if you see military helicopters flying over downtown Montreal. Two Canadian Forces CH-146 Griffon helicopters from the 427th Special Operations Aviation Squadron have begun three evenings of training manoeuvres, from Wednesday to Friday night. Flying from the St. Hubert airport, the choppers will approach Complexe Desjardins (at Ste. Catherine and Bleury Sts.) from various directions and hover over the building for brief periods between 6 p.m. and midnight to practise night approaches to high-rise buildings.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Book Says Rigged Party Vote for French Socialists

PARIS — A new book alleges that a vote last year to elect the leader of France’s Socialist Party was rigged, sparking further disarray among the once-mighty champions of the left.

The fallout has given conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy a lot of political breathing room and means the squabbling Socialists will have to figure out how to unite before they can mount any credible challenge to him.

The book by journalists Antonin Andre and Karim Rissouli, whose title translates as “Hold-Ups, Swindles and Treasons,” hit store shelves Thursday after the weekly Le Point published excerpts online a day earlier.

It examines the Socialists’ runoff vote in November between former Labor Minister Martine Aubry and Segolene Royal, the Socialist candidate who lost to Sarkozy in the 2007 presidential race.

Aubry won the 2008 party balloting by just 102 votes — out of nearly 135,000 cast.

The book quotes an Aubry political director, Guillaume Blanc, as telling a secretary in the party’s office in the northern city of Lille — where Aubry is mayor — to tinker with the vote.

“Off with the gloves, stuff the ballot boxes,” he was quoted as saying twice to the unidentified secretary.

The book claims that during the balloting, the votes in the north were “frozen so they could be ‘adjusted’ up to the last moment in order to ensure a sufficient lead for Martine Aubry.” It cites anonymous sources as estimating the fraud at 1,000 votes in favor for Aubry.

After the vote, Royal’s camp alleged fraud but stopped short of taking legal action.

“We knew there had been cheating, but we didn’t know it was with this breadth,” Royal said Wednesday on France-2 TV.

Aubry, questioned as she left a meeting Wednesday at the presidential palace, said the book seemed “malevolent.”

On Thursday, former Prime Minister Lionel Jospin urged his party to regroup.

“I propose the Socialists to turn the pages of this book, put it on the table, and then continue their effort of rebuilding,” he told Europe-1 radio, adding “scratching old wounds” was not the way to move forward.

The Socialists, whose party was built and dominated by the late Francois Mitterrand, have faced several rifts since 2005, when a referendum on the European Union constitution exposed huge fault lines within their ranks.

The main question facing the party is whether it can unite. Royal wants to tack toward the political center while others want to beat back challenges from the far left, which has siphoned off some support.

The Socialists’ next big test with voters comes in regional elections in March. France’s next presidential election is in 2012.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Can He Fix it? Sarkozy’s Carbon-Tax Plan Derided by Environmentalists

‘Green’ law balancing levies with tax breaks proves more whimper than bang

Nicolas Sarkozy with his Energy Minister Jean-Louis Borloo, on a visit to a heating factory owned by the Ciat group yesterday

A “carbon” tax on transport, homes and factories, intended to make France a “green” model for other large economies, was unveiled yesterday by President Nicolas Sarkozy.

But the convoluted proposals, including mechanisms to refund most of the new energy levies through tax breaks and “green cheques”, were condemned by critics as half-hearted and a bureaucratic nightmare.

President Sarkozy insisted, however, that the carbon tax or “climate contribution” would put France on track to fulfill its promise to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions to a quarter of their present levels in the next 40 years. In theory, the taxes will grow steeper in the years ahead but the proposals are already contested by two-thirds of French voters and by many politicians on the left and within the President’s own centre-right party.

Mr Sarkozy wants, in the first stage, to impose a tax of €17 (£15) per tonne of carbon dioxide on all forms of energy, except electricity.

This will increase heating fuel and petrol pump prices by around four centimes a litre and also place a modest charge on gas bills. Electricity has been exempted because 80 per cent of French supplies are nuclear-generated and carbon-free. After a tumultuous row within his own party, and public differences with his Prime Minister, François Fillon, Mr Sarkozy promised that tax-payers and businesses would be fully compensated for the new levies through cuts in their income and pay-roll taxes. Poor people who paid no income tax would receive a “green” cheque. People living in rural areas, who need to use their cars, would qualify for higher tax breaks than city-dwellers.

In a speech at a heat-pump factory near Lyons, televised to the nation, the President said: “Every centime taken from families will be returned to families… The aim of this ecological fiscal policy is not to fill the state’s coffers but to encourage the French people and companies to change their behaviour.

“The gravest challenge that we face is climate change,” he went on. “Every one of our compatriots must feel concerned.”

In other words, while families and businesses that change their energy consumption patterns for the better would pay less tax, those which fail to do so would face no fiscal penalty.

Green politicians and climate campaigners said yesterday that the tax was a step in the right direction but half-hearted and set too low to make a real impact on the use of energy. They had been campaigning for a tax of at least €30 for every tonne of carbon dioxide.

In theory, almost the whole of the French political establishment is committed to the principle of a “carbon tax”. France’s favourite TV ecologist, Nicolas Hulot, extracted a promise from all leading candidates during the 2007 presidential election that they would introduce the idea, if elected. Carbon taxes were also approved by an environmental conference, uniting politicians of all parties, pressure groups, unions and industry, in October 2007, a few months after President Sarkozy was elected.

Although Sweden already has a similar tax, France would be the first large industrial economy to introduce a systematic, environmental levy of this kind. In recent weeks, however, the consensus supporting a carbon tax has evaporated.

The former Socialist presidential candidate Ségolene Royal abandoned her campaign promise and said the tax would be unfair to poorer people. Politicians within Mr Sarkozy’s party, the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), complained that the tax would place a disastrous brake on France’s recovery from recession.

President Sarkozy, who had himself seemed to waver from introducing the policy just a few days ago, attempted to respond to all these criticisms yesterday. It remains uncertain, however, whether he can force the proposals through the two houses of the French parliament in time to be included, on schedule, in next year’s state budget.

Green schemes or white elephants? How governments are tackling climate change

UK Ed Miliband’s Low Carbon Transition Plan calls for 40 per cent of energy needs to be met by “clean” renewable technology by 2020. A 2050 goal had been set at 80 per cent, but the Government admitted this week that the aviation industry’s continued growth could mean other sectors could need to meet a 90 per cent target.

AUSTRALIA Kevin Rudd’s government was forced last month to divide a climate change bill in two. The original bill had included proposals for 20 per cent of electricity to come from renewable sources, which was supported by opposition parties, alongside the carbon emissions scheme — which conservatives bitterly opposed.

JAPAN The incoming Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama this week repeated a promise he made during the recent election campaign to cut emissions by 25 per cent from 1990 levels. But there was a crucial caveat: the deal is contingent on December’s Copenhagen meeting ending in an international deal.

USA Environmentalists were elated at the election of Barack Obama, and his appointment of the Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Chu as Energy Secretary; since then, though, it has become clear that the economy and healthcare come first, and his climate-change plan still awaits the approval of a reluctant Senate.

GERMANY Angela Merkel has made Germany a leading nation in the fight against climate change, and a rare success story. She brokered an important G8 deal in 2007 and aims to reduce emissions 36 per cent by 2020. She has also introduced ambitious goals on renewable power. All major parties in Germany support that consensus.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Commission Considers €15bn Climate Aid Plan

Commission proposal suggests giving between €2bn and €15bn each year to help developing countries cope with climate change.

Developing countries might get as much as €15bn per year from the EU by 2020 to help them pay the costs of climate change, according to a draft European Commission proposal published today (10 September).

The numbers emerged as preparations for UN-sponsored talks in Copenhagen in December look increasingly troubled.

“With fewer than 90 days before Copenhagen we need to make serious progress in these negotiations,” said José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, in a statement.

The paper is “the first meaningful proposal on the table on how we might finance the battle against climate change”, Barroso said, with sums that are “potentially significant, both ambitious and fair”.

Developing countries will need €100bn per year by 2020 to adapt to inevitable climate change and cut greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Commission’s paper. Around €22bn-€50bn per year could come from rich countries. The rest would come from carbon markets or from developing countries themselves.

“These are not precise figures. These are rough estimates, which depend on many assumptions,” said a Commission official. EU leaders will discuss the proposals in October.

To reduce tension within the EU, the Commission will draft a re-distribution formula to ensure that poorer EU countries will not be worse off as a result of the climate deal.

The EU also wants money for developing countries made available before the new climate deal comes into force. The Commission has calculated that EU countries would need to find between €500 million and €2.1bn in 2010, but would like EU governments to make a bigger financial offer. Stavros Dimas, the European commissioner for the environment, said that the EU would not sign a blank cheque to fight climate change in developing countries.

Green campaigners and parliamentarians said the offer was too low. Satu Hassi, a Finnish Green MEP, said: “€2bn-€15 billion is far from being enough. This sounds like a negotiating position set at the lowest possible end of the range. The order of magnitude should be between €30bn-40bn from the EU to developing countries,” she said.

Joris den Blanken of Greenpeace said that €15bn was “too low” but welcomed the paper as a “concrete proposal” that showed the Commission’s readiness to negotiate.

But he warned that the Commission was being too optimistic about developing countries’ prospects of raising money themselves to pay for improvements in energy efficiency. “The reality is that if you want a more energy efficient factory it requires a lot more capital. The huge potential of energy efficiency in the EU isn’t being used, so you cannot assume this will be easy for developing countries.”

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

Czech Constitutional Court Cancels Early Elections

PRAGUE — The Czech Constitutional Court ruled Thursday that early national elections scheduled for Oct. 9-10 will not take place because the law that allowed them to occur suspended the constitution.

President Vaclav Klaus had set the election date in July after Parliament approved a new law requiring that the vote be held no later than mid-October.

The court issued its decision Thursday after assessing a complaint by a lawmaker who challenged the new law, saying the decision to hold early elections violated his constitutional right to serve a four-year term.

Court chief judge Pavel Rychetsky said the election date as well the new law were invalid immediately.

Judge Pavel Hollander said the law was canceled because it suspended the constitution, was not general and dealt with one particular case. Hollander said the constitution could be suspended by an ad hoc law only in cases of emergency, such as war.

General elections for Parliament’s 200-seat lower house had been planned for mid-2010, but Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek’s government lost a parliamentary no-confidence vote on March 24. The Czech Republic has been run by a caretaker government since May 8.

Lawmakers say the country is facing an economic crisis and needs a strong government as soon as possible. They claimed that solutions offered by the constitution would take too much time.

Klaus accused the court of “consciously and intentionally deepening the political crisis in our country.”

“The time is coming that a new definition of the Constitutional Court’s rights will have to be adopted,” he said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear when the ballot would be held. The parliament’s lower chamber could vote on a general amendment to the constitution that would allow a vote as early as November.

Thursday’s ruling came as political parties were in the middle of their election campaigns.

Social Democratic chief Jiri Paroubek, whose party was leading in polls, said he was sure the court’s ruling was “in breach of the constitution.”

Topolanek, head of the conservative Civic Democrats, who are second in the polls, said he fully accepted the ruling and urged other parties to do what they could to hold the ballot as soon as possible.

Anticipating the court’s decision, major political parties have tentatively agreed to hold the vote on Nov 6-7.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

EU Steps Up Efforts for New Global Climate Pact

COPENHAGEN — Fearing that a possible global deal on climate change is in danger, European foreign ministers announced Thursday they were stepping up efforts to make sure that nations around the world face up to global warming.

Five EU foreign ministers have been traveling to European capitals for the last week to press the issue — and now they are taking the case for tackling climate change to other world capitals.

The complexity of disputes between industrialized and developing nations over how to cut greenhouse gas emissions without derailing economic growth have threatened the climate change negotiations.

“Time is now short and the need is urgent,” British Foreign Minister David Miliband said Thursday at Copenhagen University.

His Danish counterpart, Per Stig Moeller, said the EU “must also do all it can to engage key players.”

A series of EU meetings were planned with Brazil, India, China, the United States and Russia, said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.

The prime ministers of Sweden and Denmark, meanwhile, were traveling to South Africa and India, two of the world’s major polluters, to discuss the climate change treaty. Sweden holds the rotating EU presidency while the U.N. climate change summit is being held in Copenhagen in December.

At that summit, negotiators will attempt to strike a pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which bound 37 industrial countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent of 1990 levels by 2012.

The Kyoto accord placed no obligations on developing countries, but now industrialized nations want countries including India and China — seen by many as the world’s largest polluter — to agree to stall and eventually cut their emissions.

The United States, which did not sign the Kyoto Protocol, agreed with nearly 200 other nations at a conference in Bali in December to negotiate a new agreement by the end of 2009.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

European Experts Argue Against Lisbon Treaty in Dublin; “The Nature of Democracy is Truly at Stake”

Open Europe yesterday hosted a lunchtime debate on the Lisbon Treaty in Dublin, called “Europeans for democracy”. The discussion focussed on the detail of the Treaty, such as the implications for national parliaments, and the flexibility clause, which will allow the EU to extend its own competences.

British Labour MP Gisela Stuart, who was a member of the European Convention which drew up the Treaty, said that a basic test for democracy should be whether citizens can get rid of politicians, and that “Lisbon does not give you, as a citizen, the means to control the executive or the politicians who decide on your behalf, and that’s the hurdle it falls on in my view.” She added that, “whilst I am a deeply committed pro-European…this is not a structure that will take us forward”.

She said there would be no increase in powers for national parliaments, saying “all national parliaments have got is more opportunity for information and discussion, and that’s not power in my book.” Gisela warned that “under Lisbon, there will be no more treaties, no more referendums anywhere” on EU integration, and noted that one of the big dangers of Lisbon is the bullying of the smaller countries by the big ones. She said: “The nature of democracy is truly at stake.” Asked what would happen if Ireland votes ‘no’, she said: “We are dealing with an organisation which is very good at making rules but which is completely un-bound by rules itself”.

Dr Jochen Bittner, Europe Correspondent for German daily Die Zeit, said the Treaty “allows for something unique in human history and that is the possibility that states may constitute laws for other states, in areas which formerly were reserved for national sovereignty.” He said, “Whereas in the past the possibility to make laws for other states was confined to common market issues, with the Lisbon Treaty it will additionally cover justice and internal issues, and potentially foreign policy.” He added that, with the Treaty, “sovereignty would be shifted from the people to the next higher level — the governments” and that “this is a major step, and one should discuss the wisdom of this step”.

He added: “With the Lisbon Treaty, I think we are seeing the emergence of a state-like system in the EU. A state-like system which behaves like a state, without providing for the essential ingredients of a democratic state, and my fundamental question would be whether we want this.”

He said that proponents of the Treaty claim it will make the EU both more democratic and efficient, but said the two are not compatible, adding “You simply cannot argue that the Lisbon Treaty makes the EU both efficient and democratic.” Noting that China is “very quick at decision-making…because it is a dictatorship”, he added that “politicians should be so honest to say that we have a choice between more efficiency or old-fashioned democracy as we are used to. I think that would be the right question to ask.” Dr Bittner added that in Brussels people were already saying, “We can’t have the Treaty being stopped by 5 million people.”

Swedish political consultant Erik Lakomaa said that his main problem with the Treaty was that “the EU will get, not only the power to decide on a list of areas but also, this most important question… the right to decide on what it could decide on, without further consulting the people.”

He said: “The Swedish parliament voted by about 80% in favour of the Lisbon Treaty last year…but if you look at the polls, a majority of voters of every party is in favour of having a referendum on the Treaty and they would also vote no, with the exception of supporters of one party in Sweden — the People’s Party. If you ask a more general question like ‘are you in favour of transferring more power to the EU’, you have a 90/10 split against that.”

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

France Set to Impose Carbon Tax

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced plans for a new carbon tax aimed at combating global warming.

The tax will be introduced next year and will cover the use of oil, gas and coal, he said.

The new tax will be 17 euros (£15) per tonne of emitted carbon dioxide (CO2). It will be phased in gradually.

It will apply to households as well as enterprises, but not to the heavy industries and power firms included in the EU’s emissions trading scheme.

Most electricity in France — excluded from the new carbon tax — is nuclear generated.

Mr Sarkozy said revenues from the new tax would be ploughed back into taxpayers’ pockets through cuts in other taxes and “green cheques”.

The carbon tax plans have already encountered stiff opposition across the political spectrum.

France’s Le Monde newspaper says the tax will cover 70% of the country’s carbon emissions and bring in about 4.3bn euros (£3.8bn) of revenue annually.

Mr Sarkozy insists the new tax is all about persuading the French to change their habits and cut energy consumption, the BBC’s Emma Jane Kirby reports from Paris.

Critics say it is just a ploy to boost ailing state finances.

Two-thirds of French voters say they are opposed to the new levy, fearing they will struggle to pay higher bills.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon had previously set the new tax rate at 14 euros per tonne of CO2.

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

Irish MEPs Urge Church to Act Over Anti-Lisbon Advert

IRISH MEPs have called on the Catholic Church to take a stand against the monthly newspaper Alive for publishing an advert claiming the Lisbon Treaty could lead to the detention of children of mild alcoholics.

At the launch of the Europe for Ireland campaign in Brussels yesterday, Marian Harkin MEP said the claims made in the advert were “disgraceful” and “deliberately constructed to frighten people”.

“I have had calls from carers who read this and are worried the treaty could lead to children being taken into care and for the seizure of possessions from people suffering from depression or alcoholism,” said Ms Harkin.

The advert, which was placed by the anti-Lisbon group Éire go Brách, alleges that under the treaty “the EU could seize elderly people’s savings and homes and can take children off people who suffer from mild forms of alcoholism or depression, or who do not own a family home”.

It also quotes a paragraph that it claims is contained in Article 6 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights — a new rights charter that will be made legally binding if the treaty is ratified. In fact, Article 6 of the charter simply states that “everyone has the right to liberty and security”.

Éire go Brách is a Cork-based group opposing the treaty. The group’s campaign director Máire de Faoite said the paragraph quoted in the advert in Alive was contained in an explanatory note on the charter, which was contained in a consolidated version of the EU treaties. She denied the group was scaremongering by selectively reading different EU texts to spread irrational fears that would confuse the public. The group’s website claims the treaty would make Ireland a subject province of an EU empire, force abortion on Ireland and create an EU immigration plantation that would destroy Irish identity.

Ms Harkin said the church should take action to ensure that Alive is not being distributed in the porches of any of its churches.

Fine Gael MEP Mairéad McGuinness said the advert was scandalous, and the church needed to take on any groups that made statements in its name.

A spokesman for the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference said the only official publication provided by the church was the magazine Intercom . He said removing unauthorised material from church property was a matter for parish priests, and was something that many already undertook to do.

Fr Brian McKevitt, managing editor of Alive , said it was interesting that liberals who proclaim to be in favour of freedom of speech often want to silence criticism. He said he would not comment on the veracity of the advertisement’s claims. “People have to judge for themselves the advert, like they do for adverts for plumbers in other newspapers,” he added.

Alive describes itself as a Catholic monthly newspaper which is a response to pope John Paul II’s call for “an evangelisation that is new in its fervour, new in its methods and new in its expression”. It had a circulation of 359,000 per month, with copies delivered door-to-door or left in churches.

Europe for Ireland, which was launched by nine of Ireland’s 12 MEPs yesterday, is a campaign group seeking a Yes vote in the referendum. It was set up by Irish people working in Brussels.

[Return to headlines]

Italy Wraps Up Women Conference

ROME — Participants at a conference on violence against women vowed Thursday to put women’s rights at the center of the international agenda, saying world peace and security depended on women’s leadership in government and society.

U.N. officials, government representatives and activists participating in the two-day meeting approved a final declaration that will be presented to a Group of Eight foreign ministers’ meeting later this month in New York.

“Violence against women and children is an unacceptable violation and privation of human rights,” the declaration read. “Women are agents of peace.”

The meeting was hosted by Italy, which holds this year’s G-8 presidency. It explored rape and domestic violence and included panels on genital mutilation, access to education and violence against young girls.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Mohammed is Now the Third Most Popular Boys’ Name in England.

So why this shabby effort to conceal it?

This week, the Office of National Statistics published a list of the most popular boys’ names in Britain: Jack, Oliver, Thomas, Harry, Joshua, Alfie, Charlie, Daniel.

They reflect a cultural tradition as old as the nation’s history, and would provoke approving nods from Jack the Ripper, Oliver Cromwell, Thomas Becket and Harry Hotspur.

There is just one small problem: the list is deceitful. In reality, the third most popular choice for boy children born last year in England and Wales was not Thomas, but Mohammed.

The ONS explains blithely that it had no intent to deceive. Its normal practice is to catalogue different spellings separately, as in Mohammed, Muhammed and so on.

But if you add these variants together, as surely seems logical, then Mohammed is right up there, near the top of the list.

Unfortunately, in recent times we have been given plentiful cause for paranoia about attempts by official bodies to conceal from us information about the changing face of Britain which our rulers know that many people will not like.

Immigration figures are routinely distorted. In a rare moment of honesty, a Labour Home Secretary conceded that he had no idea just how many migrants dwell in this country, because of the huge and unquantified pool of illegals.

Many EU nations decline to collate statistics about the religious affiliations of their populations, to avoid rousing sentiment against Muslims.

The ONS’s hit parade of children’s names, as released for publication, seemed designed to mask a simple truth which dismays millions of people, and which politicians and bureaucracies go to great lengths to bury: the Muslim population of Britain is growing extraordinarily fast.

In 2007, 28 per cent of children born in England and Wales, rising to 54 per cent in London, had at least one foreign-born parent. In 2008, 14.4 per cent of primary school children claimed some other tongue than English as their first language.

The Muslim population is now close to two million, over 3 per cent, and rising fast because Muslim families have more children than most of the rest of us, many of them named Mohammed or Muhammed.

Muslim population has doubled in 30 years, and will double again on present projections by 2015. By 2060, Britain is expected to be the most populous nation in the EU, with 77 million people — this, though today Germany’s population is 20 million larger than ours.

A bleak body of pundits, many of them American neoconservatives rather than spokesmen of the British National Party, believe that Europe, and Britain in particular, is threatened by a Muslim tide which will not merely transform its traditional culture but, frankly, bury it.

In a series of recent books, they argue that Islam is colonising this continent in a fashion that will render it unrecognisable a generation or two hence.

Even if this is overstated, the statistics paint a grim picture for those of us who do not wish to live in a small island crowded with 77 million people, even if most of the newcomers were white Australian Christians.

No government massage of the numbers can blunt the fact that a host of migrants is here, most of whom espouse an entirely different cultural tradition from our own.

If a fraction of what we are told about the threat posed by climate change to the world’s poorer societies is true, then vastly more of their inhabitants will seek to move West in the decades ahead.

It seems fantastically na’ve to suppose that many of these newcomers — or even their children born here — will start reading Jane Austen or tuning in to The Archers. They are likely to change Britain, and indeed Europe, more than we shall change them.

The big thing that makes this wave of immigrants so different from those of the past, who became integrated into our society and our ways, is that it is so vast. After World War II, some thousands of Poles settled here, who could not face returning to a communist tyranny.

Many of them had names like Wladyslaw or Miroslaw. Yet when they married and had children, few gave these Polish names. Most became Jacks and Olivers and Harrys. Today, their grandchildren are indistinguishable from ours.

It is hard to believe the same will be true in Birmingham or Leicester, where Muslims are soon expected to outnumber whites. Today, the adolescent children of immigrants tell pollsters that they feel much less integrated into British society than many of their parents profess.

The problem is intensified by cultural problems which are entirely of our own creation: we, the old British, have grown deeply unsure about what we believe in. This helps to explain our fervent attachment to the memory of World War II.

It is a much more powerful force than Christianity. It was the last event in our collective experience about which we are sure we were on the right side, and did well.


· I called my daughter Ottoline, no wonder I have baby name remorse…

Ed Husain, the former Muslim radical whose 2007 book The Islamist painted vivid images both of the shortcomings of British society and Muslim attitudes towards this, wrote: ‘In mosques, after prayers, many of my Muslim friends rightly ask what we are supposed to integrate into. ‘Big Brother’ lifestyle? Ladette culture? Binge drinking? Gambling?’

A society capable of elevating Jade Goody from victim into iconic martyr; whose juries repeatedly refuse to convict footballers even on overwhelming evidence because they are granted the privileges of secular saints; where four-letter language is happily indulged by the BBC and schools seem unable to produce literate children, is scarcely in a strong position to pontificate about British values.

In any discussion about Muslims, we should acknowledge that the morality prevailing in many of their households is at least the equal of ours, and sometimes superior to it.

Because we know this, because we have lost confidence in our own cultural identity, we flail and blather about how to respond to the unprecedented ethnic and demographic turmoil which our politicians have unleashed upon us.

Muslims in Britain will become eager to integrate only when they perceive our society as possessing equal or superior virtues to their own, as today many do not. Only in the treatment of women can we claim to occupy conspicuously higher ground.

Even those of us who deplore the almost uncontrolled tide of immigration should acknowledge huge problems in our own society — the loss of shared disciplines, values and respect — for which newcomers bear no responsibility.

Britain, two generations hence, threatens to become a mere camp site for 77 million people of many races, for whom this represents a mere place to sleep, eat and make money. To avert this, we must address a series of related challenges.

First the next British government must effectively limit immigration. Thereafter, we should follow the French in outlawing the most conspicuous manifestations of cultural separateness, notably the face veil in schools, in law courts and other publicly administered institutions, and at airport security.

Most important, we must rediscover a belief in ourselves, a sense not so much of British nationality as of British community, which others can see the merits of sharing. Parts of this country — its middle-class islands — are still wonderful places to inhabit. They are still definably old Britain.

Others, above all the inner cities, seem lost to civilisation. Everyone outside them, and especially our politicians, have abandoned them to unemployed families, feral children, unchecked crime and huge immigrant communities which may live in this country, but are tragically not of it.

Unless we can reclaim these huge areas, and their inhabitants, we shall become a divided society, no longer recognisably British, of which a host of young Mohammeds and Muhammeds will be the symbols.

           — Hat tip: CB [Return to headlines]

Multiculturalism: Europeans Guillotined From Their Cultures

If you look at the horrendous social consequences growing in France, United Kingdom, Holland, Sweden, Belgium, Austria, Spain, Canada and elsewhere—you cannot wonder who dreamed up the concept of ‘multiculturalism’. Did they take into account human nature? Anthropological realities? Different tribes? Antagonistic cultures?

Immigrant citizens now bomb subways in England, trains in Spain, riots in Sweden and create growing slums in Amsterdam.

Given enough time, every human tribe attempts to become dominant. By sheer numbers, cultures work toward power. Notice that major religions like Catholics attempt to become dominant. You may observe Mormons sending their kids out across the world for two years to add more numbers. Muslims invaded Europe centuries ago, but suffered defeat. Today, Libya’s Kaddafi said, “Allah smiles upon us in that we do not need to bomb or conquer Europe. Islam will become the dominant culture by mid century by peaceful immigration.”

Sweden, called the most successful society on this planet, recently suffered horrific clashes from its growing Muslim population that hates Jews. Instead of enjoying a tennis match with Israel in Malpo, Sweden, Swedish-Muslims firebombed and threatened to kill the Jews. You may see the results of multiculturalism here.

If not for those Muslim immigrants, the tennis matched would have been enjoyed by all Swedes! With 70 percent unemployment among Muslims, crime exploded, rapes tripled—but the local Islam imam said, “The best Islamic state in the world is Sweden!”

If you look into British society, you find two distinct and separate sections of once peaceful England. Muslims don’t like the British and the British tolerate the Muslims.

The same separation occurs in France. A French reader, Brigitte, said. “I believe the unfettered immigration into the USA is but one aspect of the “divide and conquer” rule of imperialism. As long as immigrants from all over the world are permitted to remain in the US, the “living space” (Lebensraum of the Nazis) they occupy—is denied English-speaking U.S. citizens.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Leftwing Greens: ‘Of Course Islam is a Problem’

THE HAGUE, 10/09/09 — Leftwing Green (GroenLinks) leader Femke Halsema has, unusually for her, expressed criticism of Islam. This religion is “of course a problem,” she said yesterday in an interview with free newspaper De Pers. Confronted with the statement by the newspaper that the ‘progressive’ GroenLinks does not campaign against orthodox Islam, Halsema reacted dismissively. “We do (criticise it). I am one of the few that criticises Saudi Arabia, along with (Geert) Wilders, for the violation of women’s rights. I will always campaign fiercely against any suspected introduction of the Sharia.” Asked next when she last made a vigorous attack, Halsema said this was three years ago. “The Budget Debate of 2006.” At the time she characterised “fundamental Muslims, fundamental American Christians and the Roman Catholic Church” as “an axis of religious evil,” because they oppress women. “That is my most famous attack. I got in a lot a trouble.” Invited to criticise Islam without making a parallel attack on Catholicism, Halsema did not shy away. “I notice it in my district: of course Islam is a problem. Anyway, specifically Islam in combination with illiteracy. It is: having few of your own opinions about the good life. (…) Being fearful of our society and thereby becoming very susceptible to what the Imam thinks, who is often very conservative.” “When I come to my children’s school, it is sometimes difficult for me — I really come from the feminist movement — that I am then sitting between all kinds of veiled women. I will not attack their rights for this. But I cannot wait for the moment when they will freely throw off their headscarves. I would prefer to see every woman in the Netherlands scarf-less. And completely free. I do not believe that any God whatever imposes clothing demands. This has been done by the men who explain the faith.”

Halsema is sending her children to a ‘black’ school in Amsterdam-Oost, but the GroenLinks leader confirmed that she is considering removing them. “The school performs well and they have their friends. But Islamic girls are often not allowed to come home to us to play, because my boyfriend collects the children in the afternoons. This has so far been no problem, because my daughter has other friends, but should she become lonely because of this, then we will look at it again.”

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Police ‘Nab’ 7-Year-Old Homeschooler

Take child from plane ready for flight

A mother and father are going public with details about how social-services officials had police halt a plane en route to takeoff in order to take custody of their 7-year-old son after they had argued with local school officials about his homeschooling.

“I’m no better than other people. I’m just a normal human being, trying my best to do what I feel is important both in my life and in this world. My family is maybe a little different from the norm, but, when did that become a crime,” the father, Christer Johannson, has written on the Swedish website Vaken.

“Why this article? There are courts to decide what’s right in cases like this! Yes … but when the social services and [their] lawyers started to lie and mix facts I decided to go public! The last thing I heard from the social services was — Dominic is traumatized now, so he needs to be in a calm and peaceful environment. We agree, let him come home then! That is not a suggestion, that is our demand!” he wrote.


The Johannsons were on the plane, which was due to leave the gate in one minute when the Swedish police descended on it. Like commandos, they stormed the plane and took Dominic into custody, without stating any reason for doing so. Dominic was so traumatized he later threw up. Annie later fell unconscious to the floor of the police station. The police did nothing to help.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Swiss to Keep Painting Taken From Jews During WWII

GENEVA — Swiss law bars a museum from surrendering a 19th-century painting that it was given after it had been stolen from a Jewish family in Paris by the pro-Nazi Vichy French regime during World War II, authorities said Thursday.

More than 40 years after the war, a subsequent owner of “The Valley of the Stour” by British painter John Constable gave it to the city of La Chaux-de Fonds in her will, on condition that the work remain in the local museum, said Remy Gogniat, a city spokesman.

When a relative of the original owner claimed the painting in 2006, the city near Switzerland’s western border with France sought two expert legal opinions in the case.

“The first one explains that under Swiss law there is no obligation of restitution,” Gogniat said Thursday. The second one concludes that the city is bound by the will of Madeleine Junod, who bestowed the painting along with a series of others to the city in 1986, he said.

Under the will, her collection has to be housed in a specific room of the city’s Fine Arts Museum and not to be split up.

“So we don’t have the right to return it,” Gogniat said.

The painting, which today has an estimated value of around 1 million Swiss francs ($958,000), was confiscated from the Paris home of Anna Jaffe after she died in 1942 at age 90, according to a press release by the city of La Chaux-de-Fonds.

It was in a collection taken by French Vichy authorities who were collaborating with the Nazis and was auctioned the following year and subsequently changed hands several times.

The London-based Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property says Jaffe, a British Jew living in France, had a large collection of artworks that included paintings from famous artists, such as Goya, Rembrandt and Turner.

“Vichy-imposed laws mandated that all Jewish properties were to be confiscated and sold at public auctions,” it said.

The auction took place in July 1943 in Nice, France, according to the registry.

“In 48 hours, the Jaffe collection — one of the most sumptuous in all of France — had been stripped from the family and reduced to cut-rate heirlooms hawked in what was less an auction than a crude flea market,” it said.

La Chaux-de-Fonds said the Swiss couple Rene and Madeleine Junod bought the painting as part of a collection in 1946.

On Thursday, the claimant of the painting, Alain Monteagle of Montreuil, France, could not immediately be reached for comment about the city’s decision. Its museum will put a plaque next to the painting on the wall telling visitors the history of it, Gogniat said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK Cabbies Protest Killer Joining Their Ranks

LONDON — Hundreds of drivers of London’s iconic black taxis Thursday protested a decision that could allow a man to become a cabbie despite having been convicted of manslaughter for strangling his wife.

“I feel very strongly about this. We won’t let it erode away our reputation,” said Catherine Michael, 51, showing her green badge that allows cabbies to work as licensed drivers. “We want to stay the best in the world.”

Long lines of protesting taxi drivers, estimated by police to reach 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers), surrounded the Public Carriage Office — which is responsible for administering the taxi test — in north London.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was found guilty in 2001 and has applied to take a test called “The Knowledge” — which all London cabbies must pass to drive a black taxi.

The 38-year-old, diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic at the time of his trial, was released in 2005 and is no longer on parole.

Jim Kelly of the Unite union said that allowing the man to become a cab driver could damage London’s reputation for having the safest taxis in the world.

“We feel the traveling public would be at risk,” he said.

Black taxis are considered one of the safest forms of transport by Londoners trying to get home after a night out.

But their reputation was dented earlier this year when one driver was found guilty of raping or sexually assaulting several female passengers after drugging them in his cab. John Worboys, 51, was convicted in March of 12 attacks, but dozens of other victims came forward in April to say they, too, had been attacked.

Transport for London officials said there were no grounds to refuse the new application as the man had served his time for manslaughter and passed background and medical checks. It said an independent committee is reviewing the case before a final decision is reached.

“The issue uppermost in our minds is the safety of passengers — nothing more, nothing less,” said a spokesman for the transport body who asked not to be named because of departmental policy. “That’s why there is an urgent independent review of the facts.”

But this has not appeased cab drivers who dismiss the decision to let the man take the test as being too politically correct.

“Everyone is given an equal chance but the cabs’ reputation will go down the toilet. We’re not prepared to lose it, no way,” said Grant Davis, chairman of the London Cab Drivers’ Club union.

“I keep asking, would you like to be the woman at the back of this guy’s taxi the day he forgets to take his medication?”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Backpacker ‘Begged for Mercy as She Was Gang-Raped in Park Next to Buckingham Palace’

A backpacker from New Zealand begged for mercy as she was ‘violently’ gang-raped near Buckingham Palace, a court heard today.

The sobbing 20-year-old, who had been heading home after partying with friends when she was attacked, was threatened with death if she dared reveal what had happened, it was claimed.

As her ordeal unfolded, self-confessed ‘ringleader’ Acar Ismail, 21, and his two alleged partners-in-crime took turns to subject the distraught woman to a prolonged attack in St James’s Park, just yards from the royal residence.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Back on the Streets of Britain: 20 Convicted Islamic Terrorists Freed From Jail Early

Dozens of convicted Islamic terrorists are back on the streets after being freed early from jail.

Taxpayers now face a multi-million pound bill to keep tabs on the dangerous fanatics as 20 are set free and another 75 terrorists are due to be released over the next few years.

Among them are Muslim extremists jailed for offences including planning to kill soldiers, attending terror training camps and helping suicide bombers.

Most of those convicted of terrorism offences received short fixed jail terms and were released after serving two thirds of their sentence.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Boy, 4, Scarred for Life by Henna Flower Tattoo

A horrified mother today warned of the dangers of temporary henna tattoos after her four-year-old son was left with a permanent flower-shaped scar.

Charlie Latimer suffered horrific burns to his arm after he was given the floral design on holiday in Portugal.

Charlie begged his parents to let him have the tattoo after they walked past a street artist on the Algarve.


Henna, a natural plant extract, fades within 10 days and is usually completely harmless.

But some unscrupulous artists mix henna with a cheap hair dye paraphenylenediamine, or PPD, which can burn the skin.

Charlie’s skin began peeling within days of their return to the UK and he was given a course of antibiotics.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Couple Wins Apology After Council Fakes Car Photographs in Planning Row Over Field

Planners have apologised and paid compensation to a couple for using ‘misleading’ photographs in a bid to prove they were turning a field near their home into a garden.

Bernard Gooch and his wife Julia were surprised to see pictures of a strange car parked on the field being used as evidence against them.

They were even more surprised when Mrs Gooch discovered the blue Vauxhall Corsa belonged to a planning official involved in the case.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Now Big Brother Targets Helpful Parents as 1 in 4 Britons Are to be Vetted for Giant New Child Protection Database

Parents could face a £5,000 fine for driving their children’s friends to a sports event or Cub Scout meeting.

They face punishment and a criminal record if they have not been vetted first by a massive new government agency.

An astonishing 11.3million people — one adult in four — are likely to come under the watchful eye of the Independent Safeguarding Authority.

Launched next month, it will be the biggest vetting and clearing system in the world.

Every person who comes into regular contact with children or the elderly, through work or volunteering, must be approved by ISA officials checking for criminal convictions, disciplinary action and even unproven allegations.

It goes way beyond the current Criminal Records Bureau system, which covers only six million people.

For the first time, 300,000 school governors, dinner ladies and parents who visit schools or nurseries to read to children will be involved.

It will even apply to parents who, at the request of organisations like junior football teams or the Guides, give their children’s friends lifts to or from events.

If they do so without first being vetted by the ISA’s 200 staff, they could be fined up to £5,000 and given a criminal record.


Liberal Democrat spokesman Chris Huhne said: ‘We are in danger of creating a world in which we think every adult who approaches children means to do them harm.

‘The creation of the world’s biggest checking system is a disproportionate response to the problem it is trying to solve.’

The Office of the Information Commissioner said there were ‘inevitable’ security risks in collecting large amounts of personal data.

Philip Pullman, best-selling author of His Dark Materials, has already pledged to stop giving readings in schools in protest at the scheme.

He has called it ‘corrosive to healthy social interaction’ because it will encourage children to see everyone as a potential rapist or killer.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Soft Justice Fails as ‘Pocket Money’ Thug Paid Not to Steal… Is Jailed for Knifepoint Robbery

A scheme which saw a teenage robber handed £60 a week not to steal by the Government has been exposed as a dismal failure after he was jailed for a terrifying knifepoint robbery.

Career criminal Casey Bowen, 28, burst into a shop in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, and subjected staff to a terrifying raid in May.

He punched a customer in the face and forced two members of staff to open the shop safe before stuffing the cash in a plastic box and cycling off.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Vetting Database Will Cost NHS and Public Bodies £170m

The Government’s controversial vetting database will cost the British public at least £170m, The Independent can disclose.

The Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS), which comes into force next month and is intended to prevent unsuitable people from working with children and vulnerable adults, has already cost the Government £84m to set up.

Now, public bodies such as the NHS and the Prison Service will be forced to spend millions of pounds registering their employees on the scheme, at a time when their budgets have already been squeezed. Anyone who wants to work with children or vulnerable adults must pay a mandatory, one-off registration fee of £64. Almost all of the NHS’s 1.3 million employees will have to join, leaving the organisation facing a total bill of about £83m.

Although each NHS trust can instruct its employees to pay their own fees, The Independent understands that almost all intend to foot the bill themselves, in much the same way as they have covered existing Criminal Records Bureau checks.

Prisoners are also classed as vulnerable adults, so the country’s 40,000 registered prison officers will also need to register. The Prison Service has agreed to meet their registration costs, which amount to more than £2.5m.

Each individual must be cleared by the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), which will employ 200 case workers to sift through information passed to them by the police, professional bodies and employers before making a judgement.

From 12 October, it will become a criminal offence for people on the ISA’s barred list to seek employment with children or vulnerable adults, and for employers to hire them. The offence carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the individual and six months for the employer, and fines of £5,000.

Within five years, the Government estimates that the details of 11.3 million people will be stored on the database, making it the largest of its kind in the world. The tighter rules mean that the number of people barred from working with vulnerable groups in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will double from 20,000 to 40,000.

Other affected groups include local councils — many of which will be expected to cover the registration costs of social workers and children’s services teams — and police forces which have officers working in child protection units.

The Local Government Association said it was concerned about the increased cost to councils and their staff, and that “questions need to be asked” about the £64 fee. Public anger over the intrusive nature of the VBS has grown since this newspaper revealed that a group of respected British children’s authors and illustrators intended to stop visiting schools in protest.

Parents who help out at sports or social clubs such as the Cub Scouts will also have to be cleared by the ISA, as will those who host foreign pupils as part of school exchange trips, although they will not have to pay the fee.

The Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne, said the scheme was a “disproportionate response” that risked deterring people from volunteering.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptian Police Arrest Christians, Muslims for Eating

By Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — On August 30, 2009 Egyptian police forces in the Upper Egyptian town of Aswan, launched an unprecedented and unconstitutional campaign to enforce the Ramadan fast, the Muslim month of fasting, arresting 150 for publicly eating, drinking or smoking.

These arrests were seen by many as a step closer towards adopting an Egyptian model of the Saudi Arabian “Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice” Police Squads.

“There is no such offence in the Egyptian law,” said lawyer Khaled Ali, executive director of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center. “The Interior Ministry, to justify the arrests, has twisted “violating public decency,” which is punishable under Egyptian law, by making eating and drinking publicly in Ramadan to fall under this category.”

Faced with a public outcry, the Ministry of Interior denied the arrests, and the Aswan head of Criminal Investigations stated, contrary to published reports, that the arrests never happened at all. This was followed by the Ministry of Interior saying the public has misunderstood the campaign, which is aimed at combating crime in general and drugs in particular during the holy month, and that those arrested ‘looked suspicious’ to the police.

Coptic lawyer and activist, Mamdouh Ramzy told the Egyptian newspaper al-Youm al-Saba’a on 9/8/2009 that the police in the Governorates of Hurgada and Dakahlia have been following suit. He called on the Minister of Interior to investigate the police officers involved in these campaigns, and failing that, Ramzy threatened to file a complaint with the Attorney General.

Ramzy fears that Egypt is becoming another “Taliban State,” and described the Interior Ministry’s actions as persecution of Christians, who naturally don’t fast during Ramadan and are prone to arrests. He cites these actions as strong evidence of the “radicalization” of the Egyptian police forces.

Al Arabiya News reported on 9/9/2009 the governor of Hurgada ordered all cafes and restaurants to be closed for business during the day, despite the city’s popularity as a tourist destination. It also reported that in the Delta governorate of Dakahlia, seven youths were arrested for smoking in the street and were later released after paying a fine of LE 500 ($90).

Jurists and human rights organizations in Egypt condemned the raids, saying that there is no article in the law nor in the Constitution, which provides for arresting those who publicly broke the fast. In addition, it is against the civil rights of citizens, and neither the police nor others are allowed to violate them.

Gamal Eid, head of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), cites this incident as evidence that “the government is implicitly endorsing turning Egypt into a religious state,” in an interview with the Egyptian newspaper al-Youm al-Saba’a. “Silence over the actions of its police force in Aswan only proves that the Interior Ministry is in collusion and approves this illegal behavior.”

Eid also says this is not the first time the government tried to adopt these Ramadan non-fasting campaigns. “Two years ago, the government tried them in Cairo and several arrests were made at the time, but it had to back down because they were unconstitutional”

Mohamed Al-Jilani, Assistant Secretary-General of the Free Constitutional Party and founder of “Egypt for Egyptians” Association said that Egypt now lives in the “Golden Age of Wahhabism”

Coptic activist General Nasry Girgis told Copts United that history tells us that until the beginning of the reign of Khedive Muhammad Ali, Christians were forbidden to manifest publicly breaking fast in Ramadan. “Does this means we are moving backwards 200 years in time?”

Members of the Islamic Research Academy called on 8/9/2009 for a law to be passed which makes breaking Ramadan fast in public punishable. One of its members, Dr. Mohamed Othman, told the Egyptian Rosel Youssef newspaper “to profess breaking Ramadan fast is a disrespect to the feelings of those who fast, and if there is an excuse for not fasting, then a person should stay out of public sight.”

Dr. Mohamed el-Gindy, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, gives the authorities the right to arrest those who publicly break Ramadan fast, and should issue a binding ruling to punish them. He explains that those who are not fasting should not leave their homes, and venture out into the street, as this is something which is contrary to the norm, therefore the public authority is authorized and can act to prevent committing such a “sin.”

Muslim Salafis greeted the arrests as a step forward towards implementing Shari’a laws in Egypt. Sheikh Adel al-Sayed, deputy chairman of the religious non-governmental organization Ansar al-Sunnah (Supporters of the Prophet’s Teachings) in Egypt, told Al Arabiya News that although fasting is between Allah and His worshiper, flaunting sins publicly is against Shari’a and the police initiative promotes virtue and prevents vice. “If a man drinks at home, I cannot arrest him but if he drinks in public, I am fully entitled to pursue him in the name of the law; there is a clear clause in Egyptian law against violating ethics and morals.”

During Ramadan in September 2008, the police in the north-eastern city of Port Said, near the Suez Canal, raided and demolished the cafe of six Christian brothers and brutally assaulted them for opening for business during Ramadan. The Ghattas brothers were sentenced in January 2009 to three years imprisonment with hard labor, charged with resisting arrest and assaulting the police. Although a video of the police raid, shot by a passerby, was presented to court by their defense lawyer, Ramsis el-Naggar, the judge dismissed it.

In the latest campaigns, police officers have actually used their official position and made use of the government’s organs to limit the freedom of citizens and criminalized their behavior without any legal basis. The great concern is the lack of clarity on the law of “violating public decency.”

Video may be found at

[Return to headlines]

Egyptian Guards Kill Migrants Crossing to Israel

EL-ARISH, Egypt (AFP) — Egyptian border guards shot dead four sub-Saharan migrants as they tried to illegally enter Israel, a security official said.

The men were caught by border guards as they tried to slip past a barbed wire fence marking the border with Israel south of the town of Rafah, he said.

“They tried to flee and were shot,” the official said, adding that two other migrants, both Ethiopians, were wounded, one of them seriously.

Another migrant in the same group was arrested, said the official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media.

The migrants killed were not carrying identification papers and their nationalities were not immediately clear, the official said,

The incident was the deadliest yet in a series of shootings of migrants near the border with Israel.

Egyptian border guards have shot dead eight migrants this year, and at least 28 migrants were killed trying to cross the border last year.

The porous 250-kilometre (155-mile) frontier has become a major transit route for migrants, asylum-seekers and drug smugglers. Israel has asked Egypt to clamp down on the traffic.

Egypt’s policy of shooting migrants has generated harsh criticism from human rights groups. The migrants say they try to leave Egypt because of poverty and racism.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Libya, IRA and the West

After the endless circus over the release of Abdel Basset Al-Megrahi, Britain now wants Libya to compensate the families of Irish Republic Army victims. Why? Because, you see, the Irish Republican Army terrorists had been once supported by Libya. Poor Gordon Brown, already under fire over his “collusion” with Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi for the release of Al-Megrahi, the terminally ill, alleged planner of Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie, has been hauled over the coals by the Sunday Times suggesting the prime minister had “failed to press” Tripoli for compensation to the families of the IRA bomb victims in the turbulent 1980s and 1990s.

Now a red-faced Brown has turned around on the Libyans demanding they compensate the IRA victims’ families. Insisting, he “desperately” cares about the IRA victims, Brown has vowed to send a team of top diplomats and officials to Tripoli to negotiate the “compensation” deal with Libya.

Britain claims Libya financially supported the IRA for years and even shipped the notorious Semtex plastic explosives used by the Irish guerrillas in their fight against the British rule over Northern Ireland.

Ever since Qaddafi came in from the cold following the US invasion of Iraq and bought his peace with the West by offering a whopping $2.7 billion in compensation to the families of Lockerbie bombing victims, there’s been an endless parade of fortune seekers salivating over easy Arab money.

Even though Libya never conceded its role in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 that killed 270 people, most of them Americans, it agreed to pay because it was desperate to bury the hatchet with the West and move on. (Few people know that six months before the Pan Am tragedy, on July 3, 1988, another civilian airliner was blown up in the air. The Iran Air Flight IR655 was on its way to Dubai when it was shot down over the Straits of Hormuz by the USS Vincennes, killing all 290 passengers and crew aboard, including 66 children. Strangely, Iran has never demanded any compensation from the US!)

Now that political desperation of Qaddafi has brought all the vultures out with everyone seeking a slice of the Libyan pie. I have nothing against the families of the IRA bombing victims. In fact, they deserve all our support and sympathy for what they have been through.

I don’t know what international laws and conventions have to say on this. But if Libya had indeed materially supported the IRA and provided those deadly plastic explosives, it should do something to reach out to those families and compensate for their invaluable loss.

But going by the same logic and reasoning, shouldn’t other countries, far bigger players and states than Libya, do the same to pay for their crimes?

I am no fan of Qaddafi. He makes both his friends and foes nervous around him. His shenanigans at Arab summits are a constant source of fun for the media. If Libya has remained stuck in a time warp over the past four decades despite its rich natural resources, chief of them being oil, you know where the blame lies. But Qaddafi’s “crimes” appear almost juvenile compared to what the big boys of our world have repeatedly inflicted on us.

If Libya has to pay for supporting and arming IRA guerrillas against innocent British civilians, what about those who have constantly financed the mighty State of Israel, supplying it with the deadliest arms and ammo known to man that are routinely used against a defenseless Palestinian population?

It is hardly a secret that Israel is the largest recipient of financial, economic and military aid from the US. In fact, without the crutches of Uncle Sam and the political and economic lifeline provided by the US establishment and Israeli lobby, Israel wouldn’t last one day out there. >From Israeli tanks and bulldozers that routinely annihilate everything in their way — Palestinian homes with their owners inside and even noble souls like the young American peace activist Rachel Corrie — to F-16 jets that recently bombed Gaza back to the Stone Age, everything in Israel’s arsenal comes with love from Uncle Sam. The monstrous killing machine that is Israel runs on the fuel provided by the world’s self-styled champion of freedom and human rights. As former US president Jimmy Carter and many others blessed with a conscience have repeatedly pointed out, it is the US arms, tanks and jets that have been used over the past half a century against a people enslaved and imprisoned in their own homes and land. The awesome might of the greatest power in history has been repeatedly used against a completely helpless, unarmed people.

More innocents have died in Israel’s war on Gaza earlier this year than the IRA might have killed in its entire history. How come nobody calls for compensating Palestinians for all that they have suffered at the hands of Israelis and its Western backers?

Or how about compensating the people of Iraq for what they have been through over the past six years? A million people killed and a whole country — the cradle of civilization — has been completely destroyed. All for a Himalayan lie and Oedipal complexes of a politician! Who will compensate them? Who will pay for the crimes against Iraqi people? And what about the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan? Who will pay for the endless trauma and loss of thousands of precious lives? Who will compensate for all those airstrikes and drone attacks targeting schools, hospitals, wedding parties and even funerals?

The US commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal has ordered an inquiry into this week’s coalition air attack in Kunduz province, which killed nearly a hundred people. At least, 70 of those killed were innocent civilians who had gathered to collect fuel from two tankers impounded by Taleban.

This is not the first incident of the coalition of the willing killing the very people it claims to protect and help. And this wouldn’t be the last. Just Google “Afghan casualties” and see how many innocents have died in the West’s war for “freedom and democracy.”

Bush told us this war was necessary to protect America and protect Afghan people from the terrorists. It’s a strange way of protecting people. This year alone, between January and May, at least 800 civilians died in the coalition airstrikes. Last year, according to the UN, 828 people were killed. I can go on. How about compensating those Afghans — and Pakistanis — for the endless nightmare of the past eight years?

Shouldn’t the US, UK, Germany and other leading lights of the coalition pay for what their fighter jets, drones and tanks have inflicted on a proud people who never harmed anyone and never stole anyone’s land or home? Or do we have two sets of rules and standards, one for the powerful and another for the vulnerable?

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Barry Rubin: the Ignorant Arrogance of the Advice-Givers

One remarkable thing about watching the Middle East is how what’s celebrated as brilliant in Europe or America is errant nonsense.

Writing such stuff makes people successful and gives them an audience of millions. What they say is so ridiculous that one wants to laugh, yet so totally accepted as true in Washington and European capitals that the laughter would be laughed at.

The article to which I refer is by Jacob Weisberg in the June 22 Newsweek, entitled, “A Friend in Need: Barack gets tough on Bibi.” It is far more terrible because Weisberg is neither leftist nor anti-Israel but has simply imbibed what “everyone says.”

Let me quickly add that while I don’t know Weisberg personally, I’m confident in saying he has no serious training in the Middle East, speaks neither Arabic nor Hebrew, spends little time researching the region, and has no real qualification for making the judgments he does.

Here’s the theme: Israelis are so stupid about their country, situation, and region on the life-and-death issues which they have been dealing with for decades that they must be saved in spite of themselves by people who have no knowledge or experience on any of these things. No other country in the world is so frequently told this kind of thing which I hear all the time from Europeans, too.

Is it so hard to comprehend that our views and behavior are based on years of experience and study? That we know best how to save ourselves and have been doing a far better job of it, against tremendous odds and unhelpful kibbitzers,than many others? That heeding their prescriptions would be disastrous, in fact have already proven so? After all, the tragic history of the last 20 years has largely resulted from listening to the same advice he gives now…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]

For Second Time in One Day, IDF Forces Come Under Fire Near Security Fence

IDF troops came under fire near the security fence on Thursday, in the second such incident in one day..

An army unit was fired upon in the afternoon while performing reinforcement work on an electronic security fence next to Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha.

In the earlier incident, an IDF unit was fired upon at the Gaza perimeter fence on Thursday morning, and returned fire with mortar rounds.

No injuries were reported.

           — Hat tip: A Greek Friend [Return to headlines]

Gas Bonanza Investors Ready to Dive in Dead Sea for Black Gold

An oil drilling consortium which includes companies that found billions of dollars in natural gas off the Haifa coast will begin in October to look for black gold in an area along the Dead Sea, according to Delek Group chief executive officer Yitzchak Tshuva.

He said that the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) has consented to the drilling after the consortium agreed to invest half a million dollars to protect the rich nature reserves in the area from damage during the exploration.

Investors’ hopes of finding oil in Israel are based on seismic surveys that estimate that Dead Sea oil reserves are worth nearly half a billion dollars.

Delek heads the consortium that earlier this year discovered rich gas reserves approximately 50 miles west of Haifa, and estimates of the value of the gas have more than doubled since the first reports. Tshuva said last month that he foresees Israel becoming self-sufficient in energy in the near future, with the Jewish State possibly becoming an exporter of gas.

A discovery of large oil reserves would further an economic revolution in Israel, which has until now been dependent on foreign countries for oil and gas.

The term Dead Sea is a faulty translation of the Hebrew phrase “Salt Sea” as is written in the Bible. It refers to water that has the densest concentration of salt and other minerals in the world and is found at the lowest point on Earth. Although fish and plant life do not exist in the highly salty waters, its potassium and potash have made the Dead Sea Works one of the world’s largest exporters of the material used for fertilizers.

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

High Court: Demolish Illegal Palestinian Homes

For the first time, the High Court of Justice on Wednesday ordered the state to demolish illegal structures built by Palestinians in the West Bank. Until now, the court had only ordered the state to implement demolition orders against illegal construction by Jewish settlers, since these were the only kinds of petitions that had been filed.

In Wednesday’s decision, Justices Edna Arbel, Elyakim Rubinstein and Hanan Meltzer ordered the state to implement demolition orders that the civil administration had issued against two Palestinian houses near the villages of Sauya and Yatma in the West Bank. It also ordered the state to prepare a schedule for demolishing other illegally built Palestinian houses against which it had issued but failed to execute demolition orders.

The decision came in response to a petition filed by Regavim, which describes itself as “a non-political movement whose aim is to protect national lands and properties and to prevent other elements from illegally taking over national land resources.”

It is the first time that the High Court has ordered the state to demolish Palestinian buildings against which demolition orders have been served. Regavim’s lawyer, Amir Fisher, said in the wake of the ruling that “as of tomorrow, we will file more petitions pointing to illegal construction and Palestinian outposts [a reference to clusters of illegally built housing] in Judea and Samaria.”

The court has already ordered the state to submit timetables for the demolition of illegal construction by Jewish settlers in many settlements and outposts.

“The difference,” said Michael Sfard, who has represented many of the petitioners, “is that in my cases, the settlers built on privately-owned Palestinian land.”

In the case of the two buildings in Sauya and Yatma, the ownership of the land is unknown but there is virtually no possibility that it is privately owned by Jews.

In Wednesday’s decision, the High Court quoted statistics presented by the state according to which the civil administration has issued 50 demolition orders against illegal construction in Sauya since 1996, but has only executed three of them. In Yatma, the civil administration has demolished 10 illegal houses since 1986 and has issued demolition orders against 30 others.

During a hearing of the petition on September 3, Justice Edna Arbel expressed dismay at the figures.

“Everyone would agree that it is very strange that over 14 years only three demolition orders were carried out in Sauya out of 50 that were issued,” she said.

At the same hearing, Justice Hanan Meltzer asked the state whether “the attitude towards illegal construction by Palestinians is the same as it is towards Jewish settlers? Is there a difference in the order of priorities?”

The state’s representative, Hila Gorny, had argued that the state could not be obliged to demolish illegal Palestinian buildings according to which ones were the subject of petitions to the High Court.

Meanwhile, Alon Cohen-Lifshitz of the human rights organization Bimkom, told The Jerusalem Post that Israel has pursued a consistent policy of preventing new construction by Palestinians in Area C, which is under Israeli administrative and security control and compromises 60 percent of the entire West Bank. Sauya and Yatma are both located in Area C.

“In the years between 2000 and 2007, the civil administration has issued an average of 60 demolition orders per month against Palestinian buildings in Area C and, at the same time, has approved an average of one request per month for building permits by Palestinians,” he said. He added that building plans for the Palestinian villages in Area C were very limited and restricted, which meant that Palestinians cannot build there legally. =

           — Hat tip: A Greek Friend [Return to headlines]

IDF Arrests Palestinian Who Crossed Into Israel From Gaza

IDF troops on Thursday afternoon arrested a Palestinian man who crossed into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip, near the Kissufim crossing.

The detainee was transferred for interrogation.

           — Hat tip: A Greek Friend [Return to headlines]

IDF Preparing for US Missile Systems

The Defense Ministry is preparing for the possibility that the United States will decide to leave missile defense systems in Israel following a joint missile defense exercise the two countries will hold next month, senior officials said Sunday.

While the US has yet to announce that it will leave systems in place here, the possibility is strong, one official said, particularly in light of reports that the Pentagon was conducting a review of its European missile shield and was leaning towards deploying the systems in Turkey.

The Israeli Air Force’s Air Defense Division will hold a joint drill, called Juniper Cobra, with the US Military’s European Command (EUCOM) and the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) next month in what is being described as the largest joint exercise ever held by the two countries, during which they will jointly test three different ballistic missile defense systems.

On Monday, Czech Defense Minister Martin Barták will meet with Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv to discuss a wide range of issues, including the Iranian nuclear threat and the US review of the missile shield in Europe.

Under the original plan, initiated by the Bush administration, an advanced radar was to be deployed in the Czech Republic and to be connected to some 10 missile interceptors based in Poland. The plan has been met by fierce Russian opposition, which led to the current reevaluation being conducted in Washington.

According to various European news reports, Turkey, Israel and the Balkans are under evaluation as alternative sites for the systems. A senior Israeli defense official told The Jerusalem Post that while the US has not made an official request to deploy the systems here, the topic was being discussed in unofficial channels.

“There is some sense in deploying additional systems here since the US already has the X-Band radar in the Negev, storehouses with equipment and close cooperation with the IDF,” the official said.

Juniper Cobra, which will be held in October in Israel, will include the newly-developed Arrow 2 as well as America’s THAAD (Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense) and the ship-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System. While Israel and the US have held Juniper Cobra exercises for the past five years, the upcoming drill is planned to be the most complex and extensive to date.

Meanwhile Sunday, Iranian television claimed that the Iranian military had developed an anti-cruise missile system. Announcing the latest milestone in domestic military-industrial achievements, Air Force Brig.-Gen. Ahmad Miqani said, “[Despite] 30 years of military sanctions by the enemy, the armed forces have taken appropriate steps toward self-sufficiency and have been able not only to update their equipment, but also to achieve wide-ranging progress in the military and aerospace sector.”

The Khatam al-Anbiya Air Base, which operates under Miqani’s command, coordinates and oversees the nationwide defense of Iran’s airspace.

Miqani pointed to ongoing improvements of existing systems, domestic construction of dozens of anti-aircraft artillery pieces at a level that is comparable with latest international systems, construction of air defense missiles, and active and passive radars.

“Today we are able not only to identify stealth cruise missiles, but also to destroy them,” he elaborated on Press TV.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report

           — Hat tip: A Greek Friend [Return to headlines]

IDF Uncovers Hamas ‘Tora Bora’ Cave System

Acting on intelligence, the IDF recently raided a mountainous area in the Judean Desert filled with caves that lead to underground tunnel networks and have been used as training camps for Hamas operatives in the West Bank, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

A lone vehicle travels in the Judean Desert.

Photo: Channel 2

SLIDESHOW: Israel & Region | World

The raid was carried out earlier this summer by the Etzion Brigade, under the command of Col. Eran Makov, and after receiving intelligence from the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) regarding Hamas activities in the cave-filled desert area.

“It is like the Tora Bora of the West Bank,” a senior Central Command officer said, in reference to the cave complex situated in eastern Afghanistan and suspected to have been a hideout for Taliban and al-Qaida fighters.

During the raid, the IDF discovered a few remnants of military training, including empty bullet casings and cartridges, another senior officer said.

The IDF believes that Hamas would use the area to train a few fighters at a time as part of an effort to retain military skills despite the Israel and Palestinian Authority crackdown on the terror group’s West Bank infrastructure.

While underground tunnel systems are mostly used by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, in recent years the IDF has noted an increase in the use of tunnels and underground caves by terror operatives in the West Bank.

Last October, the IDF discovered a massive 150-meter long tunnel in Hebron that was packed with explosives. The tunnel was being dug in the general direction of Route 35 near Tarkumiya.

In 2007, the IDF uncovered a network of tunnels in the Nablus Casba used by terrorists to hide and to launch attacks against IDF troops.

           — Hat tip: A Greek Friend [Return to headlines]

Palestinians to Boycott Toronto Film Festival Over Movie on Tel Aviv

Palestinian artists are calling for a boycott of the Toronto International Film Festival for screening a series of movies about Tel Aviv.

Dozens of Palestinian filmmakers, writers and artists protested Thursday outside the offices of the Canadian representative in Ramallah.

Protesters earlier handed the Canadian mission a letter condemning the festival for showcasing Tel Aviv.

A number of international filmmakers and activists also signed a petition criticizing the festival for that decision, saying that made it “complicit in the Israeli propaganda machine.” Among the signatories are actress Jane Fonda and writer Alice Walker.

The festival, one of the world’s most diverse movie showcases, opens Thursday.

           — Hat tip: A Greek Friend [Return to headlines]

‘We Tried to Kill Carter and Blair’

[Dhimmi Carter was planned to be taken down by his very own “pals”! in Greek we say “with friends like this, who needs enemies?”]

The leader of an al-Qaida-inspired group in the Gaza Strip revealed on Sunday that his men recently tried to assassinate former US president Jimmy Carter and Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair.

Mahmoud Taleb, a former commander of Hamas’s armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, also threatened that his supporters were planning to launch attacks on Hamas.

Taleb, who is wanted by Hamas’s security forces, has been in hiding for more than two years. Several attempts by Hamas to arrest him have failed, prompting the movement to detain many of his friends and relatives.

A veteran journalist in the Gaza Strip described Taleb as the Palestinian Osama bin Laden. The journalist said that Taleb’s group was seeking to establish an Islamic “emirate” in the Gaza Strip.

Last month, Hamas’s security forces killed Abdel Latif Moussa, founder and head of a similar fundamentalist group called Jund Ansar Allah. Moussa was killed along with 30 other Palestinians, most of them his supporters, during a standoff in the southern city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas officials believe that Taleb’s group, which is called Jaljalat (Thunder), was behind last week’s bomb explosions outside two government-controlled security institutions in Gaza City. The attacks, they said, were apparently designed to avenge the crackdown on Jund Ansar Allah.

Gaza Strip sources said that Jaljalat consists of dozens of former Hamas militiamen who left because of their movement’s move toward “moderation.”

Taleb, who is better known in the Gaza Strip by his nom de guerre Abu Mutasem al-Maqdisi, walked out of Hamas when the movement decided to participate in the Palestinian Legislative Council election that was held in January 2006.

In a recent e-mail message to the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Taleb declared that his loyalists considered Osama bin Laden to be the “emir” and “guardian” of all Muslims.

“We don’t belong to al-Qaida organizationally, but we follow their ideology,” Taleb wrote. “We pray to Allah that we will become part of them. They are our brothers and it’s our duty to support them.”

Taleb said he was aware of the fact that he had become No. 1 on Hamas’s list of wanted men. He claimed that Hamas was also preventing his followers from launching terrorist attacks on Israel.

“They [Hamas] confiscated much of our weapons and ammunition,” he added. “Hamas also arrested many of our warriors upon their return from jihad missions.”

He also disclosed that his men had planned to kill Carter and Blair, both of whom he dubbed “infidels,” during their recent visits to the Gaza Strip. “The hands of Carter and Blair are stained with Muslim blood,” he said. “It was our duty to kill the two.”

Taleb said that Hamas foiled the assassination plots and arrested the men who had set out to carry them out.

           — Hat tip: A Greek Friend [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Hariri Steps Down After Hizbullah Rejects Cabinet List

Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Sa’ad Hariri on Thursday said he is abandoning efforts to form a new government after the Hizbullah-led parliament minority rejected his list for a national unity cabinet.

Hariri’s move takes Lebanon into more political uncertainty. Lebanese President Michel Suleiman will have to start consultations from scratch with lawmakers on naming a new premier.

Hariri’s step-down comes two days after Hizbullah and its allies rejected his proposed team for the 30-member cabinet.

Hariri, who has unsuccessfully tried to form a government since the June parliament elections, named his own picks for the cabinet posts.

           — Hat tip: A Greek Friend [Return to headlines]

Iran: Raped and Beaten for Daring to Question President Ahmadinejad’s Election

Ardeshir, an engineering student dressed in jeans and T-shirt, tells his story in a corner of a Tehran park obscured by trees — he no longer trusts telephones or the internet.

He smokes, fidgets, has bags beneath his eyes. Sometimes he cries. At one point he has to break off and return another day. His distress is hardly surprising: he was locked up, beaten and raped multiple times for daring to protest against President Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election.

A psychologist said Ardeshir, 19, is depressed and may be suicidal: “He has extreme feelings of self-hatred resulting from a sense that he will never be clean again, and from shame over the repeated rapes.”

A hospital report confirms he suffered anal damage. He has temporarily abandoned his studies temporarily and seeks solace by playing the santur, an Iranian instrument.

Ardeshir said: “When I first participated in the protests I was not demonstrating against the Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] or the Islamic Republic. I was protesting Ahmadinejad’s cheating. But today, I say ‘Death to Khamenei’, and having been raped by his henchmen I also say ‘Death to the Dogs of Khamenei’.”

Ardeshir — not his real name — is one of scores, perhaps hundreds, of detainees who have been raped and tortured by their jailers in the past three months in what appears to be a systematic attempt to break their will.

Mehdi Karoubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, the defeated presidential candidates, accused a regime, which claims to champion Islamic values, of raping opposition supporters.

The regime responded by accusing them of peddling lies to help enemies of Iran and, earlier this week, shut the offices where the opposition was collecting evidence and confiscated documents and CDs, and arrested key employees.

Ardeshir was no political activist but took to the streets on June 20 to protest at the election. He and his friends were attacked by Basij, the Islamic volunteer militia, and separated.

As the violence increased Ardeshir headed to a metro station but was seized by plain-clothed police and thrown into a windowless van containing 14 other bruised and bloodied demonstrators.

They were driven to an apartment building 90 minutes away that was clearly an unofficial detention centre. Ardeshir believes that 60 to 70 detainees were held there.

The new arrivals were ordered to strip to their underwear and stand in lines. Two Basiji “rubbed our genital areas with their batons, calling us ‘scum’ and saying ‘Ah, yes, the balls of the foot soldiers of the heretic Mousavi’,” Ardeshir recalled. “They then promised that we would confess to trying to overthrow the divine regime.”

The next day two Basiji took a 17-year-old schoolboy from the cell that Ardeshir was in. “Ten minutes later we heard him screaming and crying. It then went suddenly silent,” Ardeshir said.

“A couple of minutes later two Basiji grabbed me … I felt faint and wanted to cry when faced with a scene I had never before in my life imagined … The boy, completely naked, was seemingly unconscious on the mat, his face in a pile of vomit and with blood around his rectum.

“A Basiji called Mahmoud said, ‘Take a good look. That will happen to you if you resist, you faggot lover of Mousavi’.

“The Basiji then said: ‘Now you.’ “They threw me on my back on the ground. Mahmoud then urinated on my face, saying that this would teach me not to oppose the divine wishes of the Great Leader of the Revolution. ‘We have been sent to re-educate you, you spoilt Western piece of shit,’ he said.

“They took off my underwear and made me go around on all fours. Then Mahmoud said it was time for my punishment. I was still on all fours when he began to rape me. As he penetrated me I cried out and felt as if I would throw up. He told me that if I didn’t stop screaming he would stick his baton up me.

“When he was done, another Basiji came up and raped me. At this point I felt that I was not me. I seemed to have shut down and separated from my body. All I could think of when it was going to end, andwas why these people who claim to be the most religious in our society can do such things?”

Every other day Basiji would choose detainees from the cell to rape. “The third time they dragged me from the cell, I momentarily escaped their grip and ran to a corner. I screamed, ‘You say you are Muslim. How can you rape and humiliate us in this way?’. They laughed and said they had religious sanction from the Leader [Ayatollah Khamenei] to do so because we had gone against his word.

“Three guys then dragged me from the corner. I was shoved against the wall, face first. Two guys spread my legs and once again I was raped by them. I just cried and prayed for God to take my life. After the third man finished Mahmoud said, ‘This is for insubordination. I warned you. I then felt a large object shoved up my rectum. I think I lost consciousness because the next thing I knew I was back in the cell.

“It’s hard to explain what it was like in that cell. All of us were in shock. Those of us who had been raped spoke the least and cried the most.

“They also liked to take several of us out at the same time and forced us to ride each other, doggy-style, whilst naked. They laughed and took pictures with their mobile phones. They would watch this for ten minutes and then proceed to rape.”

Ardeshir spent 23 days in the makeshift prison before his father secured his release on bail with the help of an influential friend. Before he was freed he was taken to meet the commander in the flat above his cell. When the commander ordered him to sign a confession he refused and told him what was happening.

“He asked me why I was once again slandering the Islamic Republic. ‘Nothing illegal is taking place here. Everything that has happened has been religiously sanctioned by the Leader in his battle against you, Mousavi and Karoubi scum. Now sign.’. I again refused. He punched me in the face and then hit me above my eye with his pistol,” Ardeshir said.

After being beaten and raped again by two Basiji Ardeshir finally signed the “confession” which said that opposition leaders and the foreign media had encouraged him to engage in anti-regime activities, and was released.

“He’s a broken boy,” his father told The Times. “I just pray that we can put him back together, although I know he will never be the same gregarious, optimistic, sensitive boy we brought up How could this so-called Islamic regime do this?”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Netanyahu’s ‘Secret Visit to Moscow to Stop Putin Selling Weapons to Iran’

Israeli media has reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly visited Moscow on Monday in a bid to dissuade Russia from selling weapons to Iran.

In Moscow, a spokesman for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin denied the reports.

A spokesman for Netanyahu said he had visited a security installation in Israel, reiterating a statement issued by his office on Monday amid media speculation about his whereabouts.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Time’s Up on Iran

Over the past few weeks evidence has piled up that Iran is not years away from being capable of building nuclear bombs at will. It is months away. As the latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency on Teheran’s nuclear program makes clear, at its present rate of uranium enrichment, Iran will have sufficient quantities of enriched uranium to build two atomic bombs by February.


Moreover, as a recent study by Israeli missile expert Uzi Rubin shows, Iran already has several delivery options for its burgeoning nuclear arsenal. In a report published by The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Rubin, who has been awarded the Israel Defense Prize and oversaw the development of Israel’s Arrow missile defense system, concludes that Iran today has the capacity to develop solid-fuel-based intermediate ballistic missiles with a range of 3,600 kilometers. That is, today, Iran has the capacity to attack not only Israel and other states in the Middle East. Since its successful test of its solid-fuel based Sejil missile in May, it has the demonstrated capacity to attack Europe as well.

Furthermore, Teheran’s successful upgrade of its ballistic missiles to satellite launchers has given it the capacity to launch nuclear weapons into the atmosphere. This renders Iran capable of launching an electromagnetic pulse attack from sea against just about any country. An EMP attack can destroy a state’s electromagnetic grid and thus take a 21st-century economy back to the pre-industrial era. Such an attack on the US, for instance, would cripple the American economy, and render the US government at all levels incapable of restoring order or preventing mass starvation.


But while the West has consistently postponed imposing such sanctions, the Islamic republic has taken the prospect seriously. Over the past four years, Iran moved to reduce its vulnerability to such a ban. It has required citizens to adapt their cars to run on natural gas, which Iran has in abundance. Furthermore, in a joint venture with China, Teheran has launched a crash program to expand its domestic oil refining capabilities. With Chinese assistance, Iran is expected to have the refining capacity to meet its domestic needs by 2012.

Beyond that, as former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton noted this week in The Wall Street Journal, even if the West were to impose such sanctions on Iran today, they would not impact the Iranian military’s ability to operate. The only people who would be impacted by such sanctions are Iranian civilians.

Here, too, it should be noted that the entire rationale of the ban on refined oil imports to Iran is that oil shortages will turn the public against the regime and the regime in turn will be forced to stand down against the international community in order to placate its gasoline-starved constituents. But if the regime’s brutal repression of its opponents in the wake of the stolen June 12 presidential elections tells us anything, it tells us that the regime doesn’t care about what the Iranian public thinks of it. Indeed, in the face of rising domestic opposition to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the regime’s best bet may be to launch a war against the hated Jews in order to unify the clerical leadership — which is now split between those supporting the regime and those supporting the opposition — behind the regime.

Finally, the discussion of sanctions is irrelevant because every move that Iran is making shows that the regime is determined to go to war. Its massive diversion of resources to its nuclear and ballistic missile program shows that the regime is absolutely committed to becoming a nuclear power. Its move to build an open military alliance with the Lebanese government, together with its expansion of its military ties to Syria through the financing of the sale of advanced Russian aircraft to Damascus and the proliferation of nuclear technology, shows that it is building up the capabilities of its underlings. Then, too, this week’s report that the Hizbullah weapons cache in southern Lebanon which exploded in July contained chemical weapons indicates that Iran is already providing its terror proxies with nonconventional arsenals to expand its war-making capabilities against Israel and the West.

ALL IN all, the totality of Iran’s moves make clear that it is not interested in using its nuclear program as a bargaining chip to gain all manner of goodies from the West. It is planning to use its nuclear program as a means of becoming a nuclear power. And it wishes to become a nuclear power because it wishes to wage war against its enemies.


The question then is whether Israel has the ability to effectively attack Iran even if the US opposes such a strike. Based on open source material, the answer to this central question is yes, Israel can launch an effective strike against Iran.

Over the past several years, the IAF has demonstrated that it has the power-projection capability to reach Iran’s nuclear installations, strike and return home. The key nuclear installations have been visited by IAEA inspectors. They are not hundreds of meters underground. They are not invulnerable to ordnance Israel already possesses. They can be destroyed or at least severely impaired.

The route to Iran is also open. Various leaked reports indicate that Saudi Arabia has given Israel a green light to overfly its airspace en route to Iran.

Finally, consistent polling data shows that the Israeli public understands the need for a strike and would be willing to accept whatever consequences flow in its wake. The public will support a government decision to strike even if the strike is not a one-off like the 1981 IAF strike that destroyed Iraq’s Osirak reactor. The public will support the government even if the strike precipitates a condemnation by the US and a resumption of hostilities with Lebanon and even with Syria.

With each passing day, Iran moves closer to the bomb and closer to initiating war on its terms. The international community will do nothing to preempt this danger. Israel must act. Fighting a war on our terms is eminently preferable to fighting one on Iran’s.

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

Top French General: Iran Intervention Not Viable

WASHINGTON — The head of the French military says military intervention is not a viable option to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear capability.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Jean-Louis Georgelin told a Washington-based foreign policy group that he believes a military approach would be too risky.

Georgelin’s comment came in response to a question after a speech Thursday at the Atlantic Council. He said it was just his opinion.

The general said it would be difficult to plan an operation in Iran because there’s no guarantee that one shot would solve the problem. And he said, “If you fail in one shot, it is a catastrophe.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Where Will You Keep the Millions of Women Subjected to Violence?

These two events were the news on violence toward women that attracted my attention from yesterday’s papers alone:

Two young women were gunned down in a park in Mersin.

One is dead, the other is heavily wounded.

In Zonguldak, an angry husband hospitalized his wife with his fist while arguing on the street.

There is not a day that passes without two or three of this type of news making it to the papers. Violence against women in this country is on the rise for various reasons.

I will not go into the details of the reasons but the precautions taken by the government are insufficient, even though we are a country that receives penalties from the European Court of Human Rights.

Dr. Selma Acuner, deputy president of the Democrat Party, member of the ruling board of the European Women’s Lobby, and scholar at Ankara University on women’s studies, is rightly troubled by last week’s statement by Selma Kavaf, state minister of women and family affairs.

What did Kavaf say?

“There is no sending violated women back home. We will see on the forms whether the person that was subjected to violence wanted to return to her home or wanted to stay in our institutions. We will follow it.”

Acuner asked this question to Kavaf in the statement she released with the title of deputy president of the Democrat Party:

“Where will you keep the millions of women subjected to violence?”

1,200 beds for 18 million victims

The numbers from Acuner, who was also the first assigned director of the General Directorate of Women’s Status, are clear.

The population of women in Turkey is 36 million.

According to the official data from the General Directorate of Women’s Status, four out of every 10 women are being subjected to violence.

In rural areas the rate increases to five.

This means 18 million women in Turkey are subjected to violence.

The number is even higher in academic research, according to Acuner

The number of shelters for women subjected to violence is only 52.

While Turkey has 52 women’s shelters for its population of almost 75 million, Sweden has 160 for its nine million people, and there are 109 shelters in Slovenia for its population of 5.5 million.

Although Emine Bozkurt, member of the European Parliament, wrote on the insufficiency of shelters twice in the reports of “The state of women in Turkey,” the problem has not been solved.

If we return to the numbers by Acuner, the total of the number of beds in shelters in Turkey is 1,200.

On the other hand, the number of women subjected to violence is 18 million.

Empty Promises

Let us say that most of the victimized women that would fill out the forms mentioned by Kavaf preferred the shelters.

Then, would not the question, “With 1,200 beds, which victimized women would you place in which shelter?” come to mind, as it was stated by Acuner.

Eventually, the statement, “There is no sending violated women back to home,” by State Minister Kavaf is an empty promise.

We do not have space to house the victimized women.

That is why Acuner makes the call: “Let us increase the number of shelters first and foremost.”

She also reminds: “It is a legal obligation for municipalities exceeding a population of 50,000 to open shelters.”

Despite the legal obligation, the number of existing shelters among the municipalities with populations exceeding 50,000 is only 19.

We would have come a long way if just the municipalities would fulfill this legal obligation.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Yemen Claims Success Over Rebels

Yemeni officials say 17 Shia rebels have been killed in the latest fighting in the north of the country.

Four other rebels, known as Houthis, were arrested as they fled the battleground in Saada province, the official news agency reported.

The government claimed to have pushed rebels back from a number of positions.

It says the rebels are trying to impose Shia religious law. Rebels say the government is corrupt, beholden to the West and persecuting Shias.

The rebels have accused the government of carrying out air attacks on villages in the region, killing a number of civilians.

The international Red Cross says thousands of people displaced by the fighting in Saada remain in urgent need of assistance.

ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan told the BBC many people have been forced into tented camps, including pregnant women, children and the elderly, and require better shelter as the weather turns colder.

He also said the Red Cross was unable to reach rural areas caught up in the fighting.

The latest violence follows a brief truce, aimed at allowing in humanitarian aid.

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


European Envoy Asks Russia About NGO Killing

MOSCOW — The Council of Europe’s commissioner on human rights says Russia must prosecute the killers of a human rights activist in Chechnya this year, if it is to break a cycle of violence in the region.

Thomas Hammarberg said Thursday that bringing the killers of Natalya Estemirova to justice will help dissipate the atmosphere of impunity that pervades Russia’s violent southern fringe.

Estemirova worked for the rights group Memorial, and her reports on alleged rights abuses in Chechnya made her unpopular with the region’s strongman leader.

She was abducted in the Chechen capital, Grozny, on July 15 and found dead later that day.

Other rights activists accuse Chechen authorities of being behind her death.

Hammarberg spoke in Moscow after a fourth visit to Chechnya.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Hero Squaddie Who Saved 30 Lives by Rugby-Tackling Suicide Bomber to Get Military Cross

A Royal Marine is to be awarded a Military Cross after saving up to 30 lives by ‘rugby-tackling’ a suicide bomber.

Sergeant Noel Connolly was serving in Afghanistan last November when a bomber rode towards his troop on a motorbike packed with 150lb of explosives.

Sgt Connolly dived on the bomber, grabbed him by the shirt and hauled him from the bike before he was able to detonate the explosives.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Jakarta Warns Against Timor Probe

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says ties with Australia may be harmed by a war crimes inquiry into five journalists’ deaths in East Timor.

Australian police earlier announced the inquiry into the deaths of the “Balibo Five” which happened during Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor in 1975.

President Susilo said to reopen the case was not in the spirit of the relationship the two countries shared.

Indonesia maintains the journalists were killed accidentally in cross-fire.

This version of events has been accepted by successive Australian governments.

But in 2007 an Australian coroner found that the the two Australians, two Britons and a New Zealander were executed by Indonesian special forces in the border town of Balibo to stop them revealing details of an impending Indonesian invasion.

‘Past mistakes’

Mr Yudhoyono implied that Australian history showed it was not free from its own mistakes in the past.

“Frankly if we were to focus on the past, then we can look at the era of slavery, crimes against humanity, colonialism. All gross human rights violations,” he said.

“But a smart and wise nation looks forward. I am urging Australia’s foreign minister to manage this problem wisely so that it won’t disrupt our good relations with Australia.”

Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah told the BBC that Jakarta considered the matter closed and had no intention of reopening it.

He said an investigation would be difficult as many witnesses may no longer be alive.

The announcement of the Australian inquiry comes weeks after the release of a hard-hitting film, Balibo, which shows the five being murdered by Indonesian troops.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Indonesia had been “surprised” by the police decision but played down talk of a rift.

“I believe we can manage these challenges,” he told Australian broadcaster ABC.

“There are bumps in the road with most relationships around the world and I think we’ll have to manage this one as well.”

Indonesia invaded East Timor after the territory descended into civil war following the end of Portuguese colonial rule.

At least 100,000 people are believed to have died as a result of Indonesia’s 25-year occupation. East Timor achieved formal independence in 2002.

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

Australia — Pacific

Where Violence is Constant — and Personal

ON HIS last tour with Medecins Sans Frontieres, the Czech surgeon Filip Krygel found himself operating in Pakistan’s strife-torn Swat Valley. Nadia Perreault, a nurse from Quebec, was working in the war zone in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

These are not people easily shocked by the harm humans do to one another. And yet every day, working in Tari Hospital in Papua New Guinea’s Southern Highlands, they are confounded by the endless stream of people bloodied, beaten and butchered with bush knives.

Ms Perreault says it is nothing like she has seen before — “a totally different culture, a totally different world”.

“I was surprised at the amount of violence people could do against each other,” she says.

“The people are super nice, very affectionate, very welcoming. Then you see them coming into the hospital, and one brother has slashed the other brother, and they do things that to me, to my eyes, seem horrible to do to family.

“In [Congo] I was in a war zone. One group would rape another group, or would kill another group. You kill or rape the enemy.”

In Tari it is different. Many of the victims of bloodshed have been attacked by their husbands, their brothers, their women rivals. “Here it is very different, much more personal. Families, their own people, hurt each other,” says Ms Perreault, who arrived in June for a six-month tour.

The intimacy of the violent relationships, together with clan clashes and rivalries, makes security a constant concern, even within the hospital. Until late last year there had been no doctor in Tari hospital for more than a decade. The nearest hospital doctor was a rough, five-hour road trip away.

A 12-month research effort by an Oxfam team from New Zealand documented the emergency in the district — on average three or four victims of violence arrived daily, more than two-thirds of them women. It was clear many more badly injured people, especially gunshot victims, never made it to the hospital.

A survey of the casualties identified a list of usual suspects: alcohol, drugs, payback for previous attacks, money and sex, or the denial of them. The new hospital chief, Bravy Koensong, blames it on a collision of ancient tribal culture and rapid change.

Last September Medecins Sans Frontieres sent in a surgical team. The theatre works all day, every day, attending to the constant stream of wounded as well as the gamut of medical cases.

Dr Koensong arrived in Tari at the same time as the surgical team, appointed by the Government to head the effort to get the hospital functioning again. Money has been pledged to build a new facility.

Dr Koensong is a local boy. He grew up in a village in the nearby mountains, walking three days to Tari to board at school each term. In recent years he earned big money as a doctor for a resources company “but I felt guilty. This is my community — I really wanted to come back here to help.”

Violence has always been part of the culture, fed by continual competition among men, the “big man” tradition. But the consequences have grown worse as constraints that once tempered behaviour have broken down.

“I see this is the last place in PNG to come up, the last to advance in more than 30 years of independence,” Dr Koensong says. Government services barely existed for many years. Ancient customs and subsistence living are only now being displaced.

All that is likely to change in the next few years. Tari is only a few hours’ drive from the site of what is likely to be the nation’s biggest resources investment — the $US14 billion ($16 billion) liquefied petroleum gas project.

Dr Koensong says the provincial and national governments have recognised the emergency in Tari and committed money and support. But “a lot of work must go into preparing people mentally for what will happen here”, he says, or the consequences will be more conflict, more disease.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Briton Linked to Hostage Deal With Somali Pirates is Arrested

A Briton is facing trial in Somalia after being caught up in an exchange of hostages and pirates between the Horn of Africa and the Seychelles.

The Briton, whose name has not been released, has been described by authorities in Puntland region as a “facilitator” in a plan to hand a party of arrested Somali pirates back to their gang in return for the release of three sailors from the Seychelles.

The arrested man and a Kenyan citizen are believed to be security contractors who had accompanied 23 suspected pirates who had been handed over to Seychelles authorities earlier this year.

With Somalia gripped by a civil war and pirate gangs demanding million-dollar ransoms, an increasing number of private security firms are working in the region.

The pirates were transported to Somalia on a clandestine flight on board two planes last Sunday.

Ahmed Ali Salad, governor of Mudug region in the semiautonomous region of Puntland, said the pilots told authorities they were carrying humanitarian goods.

This is disputed by authorities in the Seychelles, who have denied any involvement in illegal prisoner swaps. Joel Morgan, the small nation’s minister in charge of piracy, denied any deal was struck, saying the men were released due to a lack of evidence.

Governor Salad painted a different picture. “We sent the police force but by the time they arrived the planes were already in the air, so you can imagine how well-organised the plan was,” he said.

The police caught up with the planes at a refuelling stop on Sunday, arresting everyone on board.

The three sailors, who have been held by pirates since being taken hostage last February, have been handed over to the International Red Cross and are expected to be sent home.

The fate of the Briton and Kenyan will be decided by a Puntland court in the coming days.

The Seychelles, which relies on international fishing licences to support its economy, would be seriously compromised if it emerged that it was releasing pirates arrested on the archipelago for trial by international patrols.

At present it is one of only two countries, along with Kenya, where the international armada policing the Indian Ocean near Somalia can take suspected pirates for trial.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Entebbe Raid: ‘I Dressed the Bodies’

Ugandan Captain Reverend Isaac Bakka tells the BBC about the day of the Israeli raid in 1976 to free more than 100 hostages from Entebbe airport as Israel’s foreign minister lays a wreath to remember the victims.

Three hostages and the Israeli commander overseeing the mission were killed. Uganda’s military ruler at the time, Idi Amin, was furious at the operation, which was carried out without his permission.

“At the time of the raid in Entebbe I was military chaplain.

When the hijackers came and landed in Entebbe they were quickly taken to the old airport building. We were then told negotiations were going on with Amin acting as a mediator between the Palestinian hijackers and the Israeli government.

He visited the hostages from time to time.

A [Ugandan] infantry battalion was deployed in the airport, which was closed to all international flights because the government feared that Israel could use a trick of using a normal airline to bring in an invasion force.

That night at around midnight that all of a sudden lights in the airport went off and there was a sound of aircraft cruising.

I think the Israelis had initially planned it to coincide it with Amin’s arrival from Mauritius, where he had been to hand over the chairmanship of the Organisation of African Unity, so we would not know there were different planes.

They also had another agenda — to get hold of Amin — I think that was part of their plans.

But Amin had come earlier — he had wanted to stay with troops in Entebbe, to take charge of the command himself.

But he was advised against it as the army commander said he didn’t trust the Israelis.

“The Israelis are dying to take you alive,” he said.

He’d left by about 20 minutes when the raid took place.

The whole area was filled with a lot of noise and some shooting started — and our infantry battalion also started an exchange of fire for about 15-20 minutes.

Ugandan split

Everything happened quickly. Two planes landed and the [Israeli] guys stormed where the hostages were kept in the old airport building — in about three to five minutes the hijackers were all dead.

They were now ferrying the hostages to the plane, that I think was empty, so that they could take off as quickly as possible.

The Israelis — to my opinion — were working in a hurry in case the Ugandan forces sent in strong reinforcements.

But they did not know that there was a divided opinion in the Ugandan infantry contingent at the airport.

Some of the Christian commanders at the airport ordered soldiers not to shoot at the planes.

They didn’t see it wise to take on the Israeli firepower — knowing what Israel is — in case they were accompanied by other bombers that would lead to loss of life in Entebbe town.

They felt the best thing was to confine it to the airport. They said: “Let them take their people and go away.”

The Israeli colonel [Yoni Netanyahu] was giving his orders on the top of the terminal building.

But a Ugandan major was in the building and as the colonel was issuing directives here and there, the major came slowly at a close range and shot him dead.

And so the noise of ordering: “That way, that way,” ceased.

Immediately there was some sort of change in the movement of the [Israeli troops] — the realisation that the commander had been hit.

There was a lull, then they tried to make it as if nothing had happened so it didn’t disintegrate into disarray.

After the planes took off, our men rushed in to check the situation and restored power from a generator left by the Israelis.

Finally we found 15 of our soldiers and two officers were killed.

No army gives accurate casualty figures, but I am able to because I am the one who dressed the bodies and put them into coffins.

On the Israeli side, we knew that the colonel had died, but to the best of our knowledge at least four other soldiers were killed because we found pieces of fingers, legs and arms — these limbs were on the area where there was military confrontation not where the hostages were.”

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

Gender-Row Runner Caster Semenya ‘Is a Hermaphrodite With No Womb or Ovaries’

The runner at the centre of the ‘is she or isn’t he?’ gender controversy has both male and female organs, it was reported last night.

Caster Semenya, the 18-year-old South African women’s world champion, is a hermaphrodite, according to an Australian newspaper.

It said the world governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, is expected to disqualify Semenya from future events and advise an operation because the condition carries grave health risks.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Top South African Communist Chided Over Luxury Car

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s top communist is in danger of losing his working-class hero status after treating himself to the latest BMW 750i and using $120,000 in taxpayers’ money to buy it.

Blade Nzimande, general secretary of the South African Communist Party and a Cabinet member, is often seen wearing a Mao cap and is known for breaking into his favorite tune: “My mother was a kitchen girl, my father was a garden boy. That’s why I am a communist.”

But his new wheels have soured his relationship with his close ally COSATU, the country’s largest labor organization.

COSATU says the purchase of expensive cars by Nzimande, who is the country’s higher education minister, and other Cabinet members is a “slap in the face” of millions of poor South Africans. About a quarter of South Africans are unemployed and the country is suffering from its first recession in more than a decade.

“It gives an impression that they do not care about the message this opulence gives to the poor,” COSATU said. “It encourages the view that government office is a stepping stone to quick and easy personal wealth.”

COSATU has asked ministers to return their costly cars and instead opt for cheaper ones favored by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who bought two cars for the same price as Nzimande’s one.

The SACP is a powerful lobby group that helped Jacob Zuma get to the presidency. But the party is also being increasingly ridiculed: Its leaders are among some of South Africa’s richest men and women, who have made their fortunes through ministerial positions or lucrative government contracts.

“Nzimande was the one least likely to go on a profligate expedition … when the (SACP) often rails against the excesses of unchecked capitalism,” said a Wednesday editorial in Johannesburg’s daily newspaper The Star.

The SACP has defended Nzimande, saying the German luxury sedan was bought on the recommendations of the police VIP protection unit. The rule book for ministers allows for such purchases.

COSATU and the SACP on Tuesday denied the car kerfuffle has cause a rift between the two organizations and said Nzimande has apologized for “any offense.”

But there is no sign of Nzimande returning the car.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]


Ireland: FF Accused of Making Citizenship a ‘Money-Spinner’

FIANNA FAIL has reduced Irish citizenship to a “meaningless money-spinner” used by some immigrants solely as a means of exiting the immigration system, Fine Gael has claimed.

Calling for the publication of a Green Paper on citizenship, the party’s spokesman on immigration and integration, Denis Naughten, said the concept had become “devoid of any value or pride” and endorsed the introduction of language and culture tests for those applying for naturalisation.

He pointed out that a recent decision by the Minister for Justice to impose a €500 fee for long-term residence applications meant a citizenship application now cost just €450 more. Applicants for both citizenship and long-term residence have to prove they have been legally resident in the State for at least five years, and processing delays mean the waiting times for each application are similar.

This created an incentive for foreign nationals to opt for citizenship, which allowed them “avoid some of the bureaucracy and red tape in having to renew their residency and having to carry a Garda registration card at all times,” Mr Naughten said. “Irish citizenship is therefore becoming a meaningless vehicle for exiting the immigration system. It is a sad state of affairs that Irish citizenship has become devoid of any value or pride. To Fianna Fáil, it has become a meaningless money spinner and for some migrants it is just a vehicle to exit the immigration system.”

Urging reform of the process, Mr Naughten said the naturalisation should be reached by way of a series of “stepping stones” that would encourage applicants’ social integration. These would include civics classes and tests of language competence and knowledge of Irish history and culture.

Citizenship ceremonies could be introduced so that new Irish citizens and their families could publicly declare their desire to integrate into Irish society, he added.

“The present system is such a mess, it is open to abuse. At present, our naturalisation rates are extremely low when compared to other countries and as a result we prevent any meaningful participation of newcomers into Irish society.” A Green Paper on citizenship would allow for an informed debate on the subject, he said.

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

UK: Visa Sham as Just 29 Out of 66,000 Applicants From Pakistan Interviewed Despite Supposed ‘Crackdown’

Visa checks on immigrants from Pakistan have been condemned as a sham.

Figures showed that just 29 out of 66,000 applicants were interviewed by officials since a ‘rigorous new system’ began operating last October.

The Home Office set up the ‘hub and spoke’ scheme last year to prevent terrorists, extremists, illegals and criminals from entering the UK.

The plan was to scrutinise candidates’ paper work in the Middle East before they travelled to Britain.

But data has revealed that just one in a thousand of those granted visas was quizzed face to face.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson has also admitted that not one applicant faced a telephone interview in the first nine months of the scheme.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

‘Gay’ Man Sues Bible Publisher for ‘Mental Anguish’

$10 million sought for ‘negative connotation’ toward homosexuals

A homosexual man is suing a third national Bible publisher for “mental anguish” after he says the company published Bibles with a negative connotation toward homosexuals.

Bradley LaShawn Fowler of Canton, Mich., alleges William Tyndale Publishing manipulated Scripture when it published Tyndale’s New Living Translation Holy Bible and the New Life Application Study Bible by using the term “homosexuals” in a New Testament passage, 1 Corinthians 6:9.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Violence Against Women a Global Problem, Says Minister

Violence against women is a global problem, the state minister for women and family affairs said in Rome on Thursday.

State Minister Selma Aliye Kavaf said preventing all types of discrimination against women, and eliminating gender inequality and violence against women were issues that were of concern to the entire world.

“Cooperation is obligatory to solve this problem,” Kavaf said in the Italian capital of Rome, where she is participating in the International Conference on Violence Against Women at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Italy is hosting the conference as the current president of the G-8 countries.

Kavaf said violence against women could be seen both in developed and underdeveloped countries.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

2 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/10/2009

  1. Egyptian Police Arrest Christians, Muslims for Eating

    Egyptian police are arresting both Muslims and Christians for eating during Ramadan, even there is no statute in the Egyptian legal code that covers such offenses.

    When will people understand that Muslims don’t give a damn about legalities or anything of the sort. They will even violate every last tenet of the Qur’an or shari’a law just so long as the agenda of whatever they perceive as being jihad or “holy” is being pushed.

    Nothing else really matters, and why should it? The Master Race™ answers to no one, not even themselves. Why do you think Muslims excel first and formemost at killing other Muslims?

    The decentralized nature of Islam allows for, if not outright demands, a maximum of mayhem and chaos.

  2. Top French General: Iran Intervention Not Viable

    WASHINGTON — The head of the French military says military intervention is not a viable option to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear capability.

    Whereas endless talk has produced one stunning diplomatic breakthrough after another. What does this guy want to try next, sign language, semaphore flags?

    The general said it would be difficult to plan an operation in Iran because there’s no guarantee that one shot would solve the problem. And he said, “If you fail in one shot, it is a catastrophe.”.

    “[O]ne shot”, who is this guy kidding? One shot is for Single Bullet Theory™ conspiracists and other loonies. You don’t win military conflicts by firing “one shot”, they are won by being willing to fire more shots than your enemy.

    Worst of all is how this sort of pre-emptive surrender language only reassures and emboldens Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons.

    One more time:


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