Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/1/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/1/2009The Beslan massacre took place five years ago today. Gateway Pundit has a poignant memorial post with images and video. See the “Caucasus” section below for the link.

In other news, in what may have been an Enricher vs. Enricher incident, a man was stabbed to death in an internet café in Malmö in southern Sweden.

Thanks to A Greek Friend, C. Cantoni, Diana West, Fjordman, Insubria, JD, TB, Tuan Jim, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Ireland: Birth Rise May Stem From Boom Optimism
CIA Counterterrorism Expert: Obama and Holder ‘At War’ With Agency
Examiner Editorial: Why Democrats Won’t Cross Trial Lawyers
No Child Left Behind Was Kennedy’s Bill, Too
Obama’s Desecrators of 9/11
Obama, Gates Are Gutting America’s Defense Industry
Playing the Race Card, Again, And Again, And…
The Marbury V. Madison Mantra
U of T Student Accused of Faking His Own Kidnapping
Europe and the EU
Czech Extreme Nationalists Warn of Islamisation Outside Mosque
Danish Children Abducted Abroad
EU: Advisory Role for Cox is Defended
Germany: In Turnaround, Muslim Author to Receive German Culture Prize
Germany: Man Knifes Teen Girl and Threatens to Blow Up Building
Iranians Sponsoring Copenhagen Mosque
Italy: US Author to Receive Literary Award
Lockerbie Paper Trail Leads to Gordon Brown
Look Who Muslims Promote as ‘Antichrist’
More Guns in Denmark
Netherlands: Detainees Die in Police Custody
Ramadan: Italian Muslims Now Disagree on End Date
Study: UK Muslim Youth Feel Demonized
Sweden: Israel Organ Harvesting Scandal ‘Medically Impossible’
Sweden: Man Stabbed to Death in Malmö
UK: Terror Alert as Bomb-Making Notes Found on Train Heading for Station Used by 7/7 Bombers
Croatia: President and Church Disagree on Crucifix
Russian Patriarch Backs Serbia Attempt to Contest Kosovo Independence
North Africa
AU — Gaddafi Calls for Closure of Israel’s African Embassies
Building a Church is a ‘Sin’ Against God, Says Egyptian Muslim Council
Fishing Industry: Italian-Tunisian Pilot Project
Italy-Libya: Ambassador, First Treaty Payment in 2010
Libya May Pay IRA Victims’ Families
Tunisia: Agriculture, Table Grape Production on the Rise
Tunisia: Exceptional Cereal Crop, Problems With Storage
UNESCO: Hosni: Not Hostile to Israel But Expect Just Peace
Israel and the Palestinians
Barak: ‘Less Whining’ About Shalit
Hilltop Youth. Report From Judea and Samaria
Islamist ‘Militant’ Accused of Murder Plot
Jerusalem: ‘War’ Between Police and Orthodox Jews
Schools Open: Peres Among Arab Pupils With Veils
Middle East
Arab Government Official Tells CBN: Hezbollah Threat Growing
Cyprus: Turks Killed 300 Civilians in August ‘74, Newspaper
Italy-Lebanon: Milan-Style Aperitifs Now Also in Beirut
Lebanon: Mega Anti-Drug Operation in Bekaa Valley
Lebanon: USD 4 Mln From USAID to Set Up Sewage System
Lebanon: New Arrest for Suspected Spy Working for Israel
‘Strong Army, Strong Turkey’ Mark Independence
Syria: Assad Attacks Iraqi Charges as “Immoral”
Turkey: Erdogan and the Christians. Few Promises, Zero Action
Crew of Arctic Sea Released After Nearly Two Weeks
Don’t Get Scammed by Russia Again
Russia: USSR Didn’t Need Allies to Win WWII — Survey
Remembering the Massacre at Beslan — 5 Years Ago Today
South Asia
Diana West: Out of Afghanistan
India: Burqa ‘Ban’ Rocks Hyderabad College
Mutilated Afghan Farmer Regrets Going to Vote
Pakistan: Foreigners on Way to Waziristan Held Near D.G. Khan
The Road Home From Afghanistan
US Pressures Myanmar as Nervous Refugees Head Home
Far East
Vietnam: Dissident Priest Not on Vietnam Amnesty List
Sub-Saharan Africa
White Flees ‘SA Oppression’
Africa: Frattini, Italy Proposes SME Model for Development
Berlusconi Threatens to Block EU
Berlusconi: Block EU Because of Spokespersons
Denmark: Squabbling Over Asylum Statistics
Italy: Immigrants May be Deported for Prostitution
Netherlands Not Allowed to Extradite Afghans
Repulsed From Italy to Libya as Protest Mounts
Culture Wars
Parker: A Time for Truth on Abortion
Socialism’s Losing Bet

Financial Crisis

Ireland: Birth Rise May Stem From Boom Optimism

THE RECORD number of babies born last year has been attributed to the optimism felt during the economic boom. Prof Tony Fahey, head of UCD’s school of applied social science, said it appeared the economic boom had been good for Ireland’s birth rate. “But it will be interesting to see what happens in the next 12 months.”

He said there was a sharp decline in the birth rate during the last recession in the 1980s but the number of births gathered pace as economic conditions improved.

However, this also coincided with a significant rise in the price of housing and childcare and an increased availability of jobs, which might have been expected to reduce the birth rate, Prof Fahey said.

He said the increased birth rate during the boom seemed to be linked with a general sense of optimism over what the future held. Immediate concerns such as childcare costs did not seem to matter so much.

The continued rise in the birth rate was welcomed by Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin, who said a younger workforce was needed to supplement future pension payments. “Obviously one likes to see a population regenerating itself but [it is] also very useful . . . for the future payment of pensions, that we will have young workers,” Ms Hanafin said on RTÉ’s News at One yesterday.

“At the moment, we have six workers for every person on pension but in 40 years’ time, that’s going to be down to two workers for every person on pension so it’s certainly very encouraging to see the birth rate rising,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Crisis Pregnancy Agency drew attention to the decrease in the number of births to teenagers last year.

The number of births to women under 20 fell slightly from 2,464 in 2007 to 2,426 in 2008.

Crisis Pregnancy Agency director Caroline Spillane said there had been a 21 per cent decrease in the number of births to teenagers since the agency was set up in 2001.

The total number of births across all age groups rose by 30 per cent in the same period.

“Research has found that children and teenagers who have an open and communicative relationship with their parents in talking about relationships and sex are less likely to engage in risk-taking behaviour and more likely to use contraception at first sex,” Ms Spillane said.

Ava and Jack are top baby names

Jack has been the most popular name for six of the last 10 years and has not left the top three during that time. Some 9,697 Jacks have been registered since 1998, according to the CSO.

In the early years, Jack Charlton was pointed to as a reason for the name’s popularity. Then Leonardo Di Caprio’s character Jack from the film Titanic was cited.

Now, it seems, it is just a popular name in its own right.

Ava was the sixth most popular girl’s name in 2007, so her rise to the top spot has been swift. There were 685 girls named Ava last year, 22 more than the number for Katie, the second most popular girls’ name. They were followed by Sarah, Emma and Emily.

The top five boys’ names last year, Jack, Seán, Conor, Daniel and James, also made up the top five in 2007, in the same order.

There has been more variation in the girls’ top five, with Emily and Ava entering the top five for the first time.

Emma and Sarah have been in the top five since 1998 but Katie has only been in the top five since 2003.

The figures show five first-time entries to the top 100 for boys. They are Jakub, Kacper, Filip, Billy and Patryk. Hugh returned to the top 100 after a two-year absence and Odhran and Lorcan returned after a three-year absence.

There were four first-time entries to the top 100 for girls: Maja, Natalia, Zuzanna and Meabh. Michelle returned to the top 100 after a two-year absence.

The figures show that girls are given a wider variety of names than boys, with 43.1 per cent of girls given a name not in the top 100, compared with 34.9 per cent of boys.

There are some similarities between this list and the names chosen by parents who announced their babies’ births in the columns of The Irish Times last year. James, Jack and Daniel were the most popular boys’ names, with Grace, Anna and Emily the most popular girls’ names.

[Return to headlines]


CIA Counterterrorism Expert: Obama and Holder ‘At War’ With Agency

In contrast, where was Eric Holder? Before leaving President Clintonï¿1/2s employ, he orchestrated the pardons of several Puerto Rican separatist terrorists. Then in 2003, as a partner in the Washington law firm of Covington & Burling, Holderï¿1/2s client, Chiquita Brands, admitted paying to support terrorist death squads in Colombia and paid a $25 million fine. During the time my friends worked to disrupt and destroy terrorist networks threatening America, Holderï¿1/2s firm represented ï¿1/2 for free ï¿1/2 16 terrorist detainees at Guantanamo.

Has he made any personal or professional sacrifices since his country was attacked in 2001? If he has, it is difficult to find them. When the special prosecutor comes calling, maybe someone from Covington & Burling can represent my colleagues for free, like they did for Lakhdar Boumedienne and 10 other terrorists in Gitmo.

The Holder/Obama Global War on the CIA (GWCIA) has only just begun, as it debuted with ï¿1/2grisly revelationsï¿1/2 of revving drills, gunshots in the next cell, and threats against a terroristï¿1/2s children. The GWOT is not for the faint of heart, nor the queasy. No war ever has been. There may be slight improprieties stashed in the CIAï¿1/2s closets, but the liberal-appeasing GWCIA is foolhardy and dangerous.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Examiner Editorial: Why Democrats Won’t Cross Trial Lawyers

Howard Dean proved last week at Rep. Jim Moran’s health care town hall meeting that even a veteran Washington, D.C., politician can level with people once in a while. A former Vermont governor and Democratic presidential aspirant, Dean was a practicing physician before he entered politics, so perhaps we should not be surprised by his explanation for why medical malpractice caps (i.e., tort reform) is not in Obamacare.

“The reason tort reform is not in the bill is because the people who wrote it did not want to take on the trial lawyers in addition to everybody else they were taking on,” Dean said. “And that’s the plain and simple truth.”

Put otherwise, trial lawyers have effectively bought themselves veto power.

In the ranking by of campaign contributions by the top 100 special interests during the past 20 years, the American Association for Justice — formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America — ranks sixth. The AAJ is trial lawyers’ Washington lobbying group, and 90 percent of its $30.7 million in contributions since 1989 went to Democrats. At the other end of this pay-to-play process in the Capitol, AAJ has spent nearly $14 million lobbying Congress just since Democrats won control of both chambers, including $2.3 million so far this year.

The Democratic focus of the plaintiffs’ bar is even more obvious from campaign contributions of National Journal’s top 15 class-action trial attorney firms.

As the Examiner’s David Freddoso and Kevin Mooney reported last week, those firms have in 2009 contributed more than $636,000, 99 percent of which went to Democrats. And employees of those firms have given more than $236,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee this year. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid faces an uphill re-election battle, but the top trial lawyers’ firms are right there for him, with contributions totaling some $54,000 to date.

As governors like Texas’ Rick Perry and Mississippi’s Haley Barbour have demonstrated in recent years, capping medical malpractice suits can save billions of dollars by lowering the cost of insurance for providers and increasing access to quality care. Without such caps, trial lawyers stand to continue raking in millions of dollars in fees by bringing suspect suits. And, as the aforementioned data show, it’s easy to see where those dollars end up. With such a lucrative quid pro quo, Democrats in the White House and Congress aren’t likely to do anything to cross this special interest.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

No Child Left Behind Was Kennedy’s Bill, Too

Isn’t it odd that Sen. Edward Kennedy had to die before we were reminded by some of his many admirers in the mainstream media that he was one of the primary legislators who backed the No Child Left Behind Act?

If I had a buck for every time that I heard since 2001 how horrible NCLB is, and how that horrible man — that would be former President George W. Bush — was the one responsible for cramming it down the throat of an unwilling nation, I could retire early.

Black journalists, in particular — most of whom tend to be liberal — were notorious for excoriating Bush about NCLB, while mentioning the Massachusetts Democrat’s role in it not once.

To hear some black journalists and newspaper columnists tell it — although this perception was fairly common among blacks not in either of those categories — NCLB was some great anti-Negro plot inspired and executed by that great anti-Negro leader Bush. And if any of those pundits praised Kennedy in the past few days, you can bet they never mentioned his support of NCLB.

Perhaps the most egregious of the Bush-NCLB bashers was the black columnist who, at a convention of black newspaper columnists held in Washington, D.C., last November, told Hilary Shelton of the District’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter how horrible NCLB was. “And it’s underfunded,” she added.

It was at that point I was tempted to bolt from the room, run screaming down the hall at the top of my lungs and bang my head repeatedly against the wall while shouting, “Why don’t liberals just stop it, stop it, stop it?”

Bad government programs shouldn’t be funded at all. Government should “underfund” them out of existence. That obviously never occurred to my colleague suffering from what I call “incurable liberalitis.”

Kennedy had the same disease. While no NCLB-basher, he wrote in a January 2008 newspaper column, “We can’t achieve progress for all students on the cheap. No child should have to attend crumbling schools or learn from an outdated textbook. … It’s disgraceful that President Bush has failed to include adequate funding for school reforms in his education budget. Struggling schools can only do so much on a tin-cup budget.”

Here is where the “liberal lion” revealed the essence of modern American liberalism: the belief that, while government shouldn’t carefully monitor how taxpayers’ dollars are spent, it is entitled to spend those taxpayer dollars as government pleases.

The “liberal lion’s” older brother, the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, D-N.Y., also felt the government had unlimited access to taxpayers’ wallets. Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom, in their book “No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning,” attributed this quote to Robert Kennedy about Title I funds for education:”What I want to make sure of is not just that the money is not wasted, because you can find more money, but the fact that the lives of these children are not wasted.”

But if RFK had a redeeming grace — and this is where he differed from today’s liberals — it was in his insistence that if the federal government puts up money for education, then somebody had darned well better be educated. That sounds obvious almost to the point of being tautological, but today’s liberal dogma says, “Pour unlimited money into public schools whether pouring more money in works or not.”

When the liberal lion was piously chiding Bush for shortchanging education — and let’s not forget there is evidence that Bush did no such thing — Ted Kennedy’s memory must have failed him about Kansas City, Mo., a city that spent $2 billion on public education over a 15-year period with no discernible improvement in student achievement.

It was just this kind of government hosing of the taxpayers that NCLB was meant to prevent. Whatever the flaws of NCLB are, both Kennedy and Bush deserve credit for at least wanting to hold public schools accountable for educating students. And both men, not just one, should take the heat if NCLB is as horrible as its critics say it is.

But we all know it isn’t. For all the criticism, no state — not even Smurf-blue ones like Maryland and Massachusetts — has considered NCLB bad enough to tell the federal government to take its education money and cram it. And in New York and Baltimore, test scores for students in public schools have risen for the first time in years.

Everybody and everything is getting credit for that, except NCLB.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Obama’s Desecrators of 9/11

President Obama is counting on two Marxists who blame America for the 9/11 terrorist attacks to help turn Sept. 11 from a day of solemn remembrance into an unseemly celebration of radical environmentalism and Big Government.

The two men charged with this politically correct exercise in desecration and icon-smashing are the boorish, self-absorbed Rev. Lennox Yearwood and the comparatively suave, articulate Van Jones. Jones is adept at concealing his radicalism; Yearwood is incapable of doing so.


As I wrote last week, about 60 groups including those associated with Yearwood and Jones, are planning to help the Obama administration greenwash the meaning of 9/11. They want to turn each Sept. 11 into a National Day of Service focused on the importance of bicycle paths, ethanol, carbon emission controls, putting solar panels on your roof, and radical community organizing. It has nothing to do with healing the nation and everything to do with easing the nation along in the ongoing radical transformation of America that President Obama promised during last year’s election campaign.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama, Gates Are Gutting America’s Defense Industry

It isn’t easy to put U.S. defenses back on track after they’ve endured a season of neglect. Gen. William Snow found that out firsthand.

Snow’s job, when he arrived in Washington in the World War I era, was to direct the buildup of artillery for the Allied Expeditionary Force. He thought his office should have stationery reflecting the importance of the task. His request was rejected. Rather than fund this extravagance, it was suggested the general purchase a rubber stamp to mark his correspondence.

Snow had joined a War Department completely unprepared to fight a war. The Army hadn’t been used to buying much of anything since the Civil War. It had forgotten how.

Nor was there much to buy. The United States had virtually no defense industrial base. When America entered the war, Congress handed out unprecedented contracts for artillery, tanks and planes. The war was over before U.S. industry could deliver any of them. Doughboys went into battle riding British tanks, piloting French planes and firing artillery made by their allies.

America in 2009 is returning to the 19th century, a world where America will be incapable of producing the instruments needed to defend America. Worse, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ defense policies are pumping steroids into the speed of that decline.

Both houses of Congress have passed the defense authorization bill, giving their rubber stamp to dismantling the defense industrial base. Last week, President Barack Obama made a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars cheerleading the decision.

The White House has couched many of these defense cuts in rhetoric that makes them sound like smart business decisions — axing unneeded weapons and killing costly programs. We’ve seen massive cuts to everything from missile defense to how many ships and planes America needs.

The truth is that the administration is more interested in budget slashing than smart buying. And its ill-advised cuts are endangering operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The proof of this is simple. They are cutting programs and replacing them with … nothing. The Pentagon plan is to simply ignore future needs or else push the decision to buy new equipment far into the future, when paying for new planes, combat vehicles, missile defenses and ships will be somebody else’s problem.

What Washington has not explained is how it’s going to sustain a defense industrial base when it doesn’t buy anything. Today, defense purchases account for about 10 percent of the nation’s industrial output. In a decade, that production could virtually vanish.

In fairness, Obama did not invent this problem. Washington has not seriously worried about the industrial base since the end of the Cold War. While Gates’ cuts have been trumpeted from the Pentagon’s E-Ring, folks forget that his predecessor, Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, slashed about 100 procurement programs.

The problem is that neither administration really considered the effect of these decisions on the capacity of the American industrial base to support any future Pentagon strategy. A recent study by the Aerospace Industries Association found that some of our defense sectors were already on life support. Regardless of any strategy the Pentagon might pick, the industrial base for developing rotary-wing systems (like combat helicopters), long-range bombers and some space assets is now so crippled that companies would have a difficult time responding to new requirements, even if the military decided today that it wanted a lot more new stuff.

There is only one answer. The Pentagon should immediately start a sustained program of modernizing its military capabilities.

Otherwise, the defense industrial base is going to dry up and blow away. With it will go more than just high-paying jobs and technical innovation. We’ll be saying goodbye to America’s capacity to defend itself at a reasonable cost. And that’s simply unacceptable.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Playing the Race Card, Again, And Again, And…

“Instead of a multicultural tableau of beaming young idealists on screen, we see ugly scenes of mostly older and white malcontents, disrupting forums where others have come to actually learn something. Instead of hope, we get swastikas, death threats and T-shirts proclaiming “Proud Member of the Mob.” — New York Times writer Maureen Dowd describing a town hall meeting

“On an altar of prejudice we crucify our own, yet the blood of all children is the color of God.”—Don E. Williams Jr.

Conservatives seem to catch on pretty quickly to the fact that they are not fascists, but our liberal friends seem to have a hard time wrapping their heads around the concept. So, for their sake—one last time.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

The Marbury V. Madison Mantra

The arguments against the power of the states to arrest federal tyranny are as predictable as the sun coming up in the morning, and they are as philosophical in nature as the Declaration of Independence. One of the most commonly used arguments against such a State power is the United States Supreme Court (US S CT) dicta opinion in Marbury v. Madison in 1803, written by Chief Justice John Marshall. Before getting into the misunderstandings and misapplications of that infamous decision, we must first recognize the source and character of Marshall’s opinion.


By definition, issues of State sovereignty are in their nature political, just as a treaty between the USA and foreign countries regards the matter of political sovereignty. Therefore, when our states begin to assert their natural and sovereign right of self-defense against federal tyranny, each State will answer to their sovereign—the people—and NOT to the United States Supreme Court.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


U of T Student Accused of Faking His Own Kidnapping

Can attend classes this fall after family pays $20,000 bail

After a three-day search, U of T student Furqan Muhammad-Haroon has surfaced in St. Catharines and been charged with public mischief for faking his own abduction. Yesterday, the 22-year-old stared at his shoes in the prisoner box and avoided his parents’ gaze as Crown attorney Paul Amenta described in the accusations against him. He was released on strict conditions and $20,000 bail. Evidence and proceedings other than bail fall under a publication ban and cannot be reported.

On Saturday afternoon Muhammad-Haroon was carrying $2,000 en route to a Scarborough travel agent to pick up an airline ticket when he went missing. The electrical engineering student made a call from his car in the Midwest Road—Midland Avenue area at 3:28 p.m., saying three black men with a gun were following him. Police found his car shortly after, keys still in the ignition.

The family of the accused held an emotional press conference on Monday seeking the return of their son.

But when neither local surveillances tapes nor witnesses could confirm Muhammad-Haroon’s story, police stopped treating his as an abduction case.

After receiving an anonymous tip, Niagara Regional Police arrested Muhammad-Haroon without incident near a mosque in St. Catharines. Police questioned him and held him in a Scarborough jail overnight Tuesday. The plane ticket he was en route to buying when he went missing on Saturday was for a flight to Dubai, which posed a potential problem because he was facing unrelated criminal charges and not allowed to leave the province until his trial on Sept. 15.

He was recently fired from a summer internship with IBM Canada in Markham after security tapes showed him carrying a recycling bin filled with computer equipment on Aug. 7. Six days later, Muhammad-Haroon was arrested and was charged with theft under $5,000. IBM did not reply to emails asking if the internship was connected to a U of T program.

Muhammad-Haroon held his parents’ hands tightly on Wednesday as they fled the courthouse silently through a swarm of cameramen. “The family is very relieved that he has been found safe,” said Shahzad Siddiqui, the lawyer speaking for the family. Siddiqui said the family will thank police privately and noted that a criminal lawyer will be Muhammad-Haroon’s legal counsel.

Yesterday, the family agreed to pay $20,000 upfront and assist in placing him under house arrest. He is allowed to leave home only if accompanied by his mother or a brother and only to finish his last year of classes, or visit his lawyer or doctor.

Prior to his being found, Facebook groups publicizing his abduction offered prayers for his family. Now the sites include both messages of joy and harsh insults.

Muhammad-Haroon served as one of three elected Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering representatives to UTSU in 2007-2008 after campaigning on the Your Team slate.

Muhammad-Haroon is to reappear at the same Eglinton East courthouse on Sept. 29. If convicted, his sentence could carry a maximum penalty of five years in jail.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Czech Extreme Nationalists Warn of Islamisation Outside Mosque

Brno — Eight followers of the Czech extreme rightist National Party (NS) today attended a demonstration outside the Brno mosque during which they distributed leaflets warning of Islamisation to passers-by.

The demonstrators wanted to voice disagreement with the planned construction of a new mosque in Brno.

There was no incident during the rally.

The demonstration was not officially announced and the NS only spoke about it it at its web page.

However, party official Jiri Gaudin said this was no public rally.

“There will not be any march. We will disperse ourselves in small groups to the neighbouring street and distribute leaflets. In all, we have some 2500 pieces of them,” Gaudin told journalists.

Lukas Lhotan, Czech-born chairman of the civic group Libertas Independent Agency that associates the Brno Muslims, said the rallies staged by the NS “were nothing but acts of desperation.”

The NS is trying to create the false impression that it is supported by the Brno public, Lhotan said.

Representative of the Brno Muslim community Munib Hasan said some time ago that Muslims would like to have another place for prayer in Brno as the existing one was not sufficient.

The Muslims now have a mosque in Brno that was opened 11 years ago but they say it no longer meets their requirements as it is small and it does not have the study and lecture rooms.

Some 120 Islam followers meet in it and their number is growing.

Another mosque in the Czech Republic is in Prague.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Danish Children Abducted Abroad

Some 81 Danish children are abroad after being abducted by a parent

At least 81 children with close relations to Denmark are currently abroad after being abducted by a parent, according to JydskeVestkysten.

Seventy-three of them are in countries such as Syria, Lebanon and Somalia, none of whom are parties to the convention that requires them to return children that have been illegally taken out of Denmark.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: What a surprise.]

The Foreign Ministry has received a large number of new cases following the summer vacations, with the 73 children in question having been abducted predominantly to Arab countries. The 2009 figure is an increase of almost 75 percent on autumn 2007 figures when 42 children were abducted.

“In about half of the cases we are able to get the children back again within a year — but it can also take a lot longer,” says Foreign Ministry Head of Section Jette Samuel Jeppesen.

Family Agency Head of Section Mariam Khalil tells JydskeVestkysten that most of the abductions take place in connection with parental separations or divorces in which one of the parents wants to take the children to their country of origin.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

EU: Advisory Role for Cox is Defended

EU APPOINTMENT: THE EUROPEAN Commission has defended the appointment of Pat Cox as a special adviser after suggestions his corporate activities could lead to a conflict of interest.

“I was fully aware of Mr Cox’s activities when I examined the possible conflicts of interest. I do not consider these activities to be incompatible with his tasks at the commission,” said consumer affairs commission Meglena Kuneva in a letter responding to a complaint lodged by a Dutch NGO.

Ms Kuneva appointed Mr Cox, who is head of the Ireland for Europe campaign for a Yes vote in the Lisbon Treaty referendum, as an unpaid special adviser to the EU executive in April 2007 to help her communicate consumer policy.

The appointment prompted the Dutch-based NGO Corporate Observatory Europe, which is dedicated to boosting transparency in EU activities, to complain.

In a letter to the commission yesterday, the NGO details its concerns that Mr Cox’s corporate ties with Microsoft, Pfizer and Michelin and a Brussels-based lobbying firm called APCO could influence commission policy.

Corporate Observatory Europe also strongly criticises a decision by the commission not to make public a declaration of activities to highlight the extent of Mr Cox’s corporate links.

EU anti-fraud commissioner Siim Kallas responded to this aspect of the complaint for the commission. In a letter dated June 23rd he said the declaration of activities of special advisers was excluded from publication due to data protection rules.

Mr Cox told The Irish Times last night that he was not a lobbyist and the commission had been fully informed about all his corporate activities before he took up the position. He sat on several advisory boards for corporations such as Microsoft and was listed as sitting on an advisory council for the lobbying firm APCO but he had never lobbied any EU institution with APCO and his work with the commission never touched on the formulation of EU policy.

[Return to headlines]

Germany: In Turnaround, Muslim Author to Receive German Culture Prize

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Shock! Horror! Criticism of a key Christian symbol by a Muslim is resolved by several hours of dialogue! (Whether all parties were satisfied is negligible).]

An ongoing controversy over a German culture prize has been resolved. An Islamic writer is set to get his part of an important award for intercultural understanding, despite initial opposition.

A two-hour talk between all parties involved has led to a turning point in the decision over who will be awarded an important German culture prize.

The dispute over the 45,000-euro ($61,000) Hesse Culture Prize first broke out in May. Initially, the award was slated to go to four men from four different world religions — a Catholic, a Lutheran, a Muslim and a Jew — in honor of the value of religious dialogue.

Controversial article

But Muslim author Navid Kermani was dropped from the quartet after he wrote an article that was critical of Christian imagery of the crucifixion. Catholic Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz and Peter Steinacker, the former head of the Lutheran church of Hesse and Nassau, objected to sharing the prize with Kermani, a Cologne-based writer who was born in Iran.

In March, Kermani had penned an article for Switzerland’s Neue Zuercher Zeitung about a trip to Rome, where he went to see a 17th century painting by Guido Reni depicting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Kermani’s piece begins as an analysis of the painting, leading him into a philosophical discussion of the crucifix as a religious symbol.

“I’d express my personal rejection of the theology of the cross frankly with ‘blasphemy and idolatry,’“ he writes.

“Not that I respect people who pray before the cross any less than other people at prayer. This isn’t an accusation. It’s a rejection.”

Ongoing debate

In response, Lehmann and Steinacker formally complained to the Cultural Committee of the state of Hesse, which had planned to award the prize on July 5. Giving in to the pressure, the committee responded by withdrawing the prize from Kermani.

The issue did not die there, but continued to be debated in the media and among the general public. The prize committee pushed back the awards ceremony to the autumn, hoping to give the four participants (the fourth being the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Salomon Korn) time for a healing dialogue. Indeed, the issue seems to have been resolved by a private talk, which took place last Friday in Mainz. Lehmann, Steinacker and Korn left the meeting saying Kermani “should also get the prize,” according to a statement issued by the Diocese of Mainz released on Friday evening.

The talk took place “without anyone else present, and covered all aspects of the controversy,” according to the statement. The participants said that the atmosphere of the talks was respectful, open and objective.

Muslims welcome ‘late victory’

“This is exactly the development we were hoping for,” said Dirk Metz, a spokesman for the state of Hesse.

The chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Axel Ayyub Koehler, welcomed the decision, telling the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper that it was a “late victory for reason.”

However, he said, it would have been better “if the representatives of the church had had a less emotional response from the beginning.”

The conflict unleashed “a lot of hurt” in the Muslim community, Koehler said. “Muslims need to learn to be more relaxed and generous about these things too,” he added.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Germany: Man Knifes Teen Girl and Threatens to Blow Up Building

[Comment from Tuan Jim: See pic at link — that’s some beard.]

An Aachen man injured a 15-year-old girl with a knife and then threatened to blow up his apartment building on Monday evening, police reported.

The 42-year old man fought with the girl for unexplained reasons before lightly injuring her and fleeing to his apartment. There he spent the next one and a half hours throwing flower pots and other objects from his balcony while threatening to blow up the building, police said.

“He was in a very agitated state,” police spokesperson Michael Houba told daily Aachener Zeitung.

Special commando officers were eventually able to apprehend the man inside his apartment in the city centre and said he remained uninjured during the incident. They were unable to explain his motives.

Further investigation by state prosecutors and bomb experts revealed no evidence of explosives and residents of the building were allowed to return to their homes around 9:30 pm, police in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Iranians Sponsoring Copenhagen Mosque

Iranian financial backing prompts calls from politicians to halt building of mosque in the capital

The project is being headed by the Shia Muslim organisation Ahlul Bait and is expected to cost 50 million kroner. It was previously thought that the mosque would be funded solely by private donations from Danish Muslims.

The building’s architect, Bijan Eskandani, referred to a meeting in Tehran between the architect and financial backers in a letter to the City Council in May.

Eskandani confirmed that about 15 million kroner of financing had been secured from ‘two or three rich Iranians’. He stressed the Iranian government was not providing any funding.

Integration spokespeople from both the Liberal and opposition Social Democrat parties have called for greater transparency when it comes to financing religious projects to ensure religious extremists and radicals are not involved.

The Danish People’s Party has gone one step further and called for the building of the mosque to be halted. The party has been a detractor of the project from the outset.

MP Martin Henriksen has written to the justice and integration ministers asking them to stop the project.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Italy: US Author to Receive Literary Award

Rome, 17 August (AKI) — By Christina Fox — Author Lawrence G. Smith became intrigued by one of Italy’s finest writers Cesare Pavese when he discovered the Italian’s unusual love for American literature. Smith, a New York academic, wrote a book about Pavese’s ties with the United States and is one of four artists who will receive the Premio Pavese award near Turin, on 30 August.

“What’s fascinating about Pavese is that you have this really fine and important Italian writer who for ten years of his life was crazy about American literature,” Smith told Adnkronos International (AKI) in a telephone interview.

“What interests me is what is it he found in our literature, what is it that attracted him to our literature.”

Cesare Pavese is one of Italy’s most famous 20th century poets and novelists. He was also a literary critic and a translator.

Smith dedicated four years of his life to writing his book, entitled ‘Cesare Pavese and America: Life, Love, and Literature’ about Pavese’s relationship and fascination with America.

It is the first critical study written about him in English in over 20 years.

During Italy’s Fascist period between 1922 to 1943, Pavese focused on American literature, including greats such as Walt Whitman and Herman Melville.

He made his living as a translator, tackling Melville’s great classic, Moby Dick, while also writing essays on famous authors.

“Pavese was unique in the depths of knowledge that he developed on his own, because he primarily taught himself English and in that he was different to any of the other writers of that period,” continued Smith.

“What also makes it interesting is not that he was just interested in America, but that he was interested in America and went on to become the important writer that he was. If he was just another Italian that liked American literature, that would be interesting but it wouldn’t be important.”

Smith was fascinated by Pavese’s profound love for the United States, which the New York academic thought was strange because it was a fictitious image he created through the literature and films in which he immersed himself without ever leaving Italy.

“The America that he discovered during the Fascist period was a mythical America. He never set foot in America. In fact he never left Italy.”

Smith said that even though in the beginning Pavese was profoundly influenced by American literature, his opinions changed dramatically after World War II.

“His discovery of America was when he was a teenager and a university student and it was linked very much to Pavese the young man. Pavese the young man was actually quite optimistic and quite hopeful about the world and about his own possibilities,” said Smith.

While Pavese opposed the Fascists, he declined to fight with the partisan movement like many of his friends. After the war, he became more critical of the US and its role in post-war Italy.

“He saw the world more darkly and America didn’t interest him any more. He wrote the famous phrase, ‘storia passata’, the times are over in which we discovered America,” Smith said.

“America became just another county and I think it became a symbol of his youth that he wanted to forget.”

When the war ended, Pavese joined the Communist party out of a feeling of indebtedness to the friends he lost during WWII.

He said Pavese’s anti-American sentiments grew after the war when the US sought to influence Italian politics and block the Communist party from participating in the elections of 1948.

Smith said he was disappointed that Pavese did not have a higher profile as a writer in America but said that foreign authors often faced difficulties having their books translated for the US market.

Smith and the other winners will be honoured in a special ceremony in Pavese’s hometown of Santo Stefano Belbo, 60 km south of Turin, next week.

“I could not be more pleased, you know to accept this in Santo Stefano, I’m going to go there personally,” said Smith.

“I feel very very pleased and with my book I was kind of repaying a debt. He did great honour to our writers and I figured I could do a little bit for him,” said Smith.

The Premio Pavese is presented by the Cepam-Centro Pavesiano Museo Casa Natale, the Foundation for Books, Music and Culture, with support from the regional and city authorities.

Smith studied and taught at America’s prestigious Harvard University. He also attended Padua University in northern Italy before pursuing a career in banking and finance.

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

Lockerbie Paper Trail Leads to Gordon Brown

Minutes of the meeting also show the pressure exerted by the Libyan government

Gordon Brown was accused of double dealing last night after an official document emerged claiming that Libya was told that he wanted the Lockerbie bomber to die a free man.

The disclosure threatens to undermine the Government’s determinedly neutral stance over the release of Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi.

It could also deepen the rift with the Obama administration, which yesterday demanded answers from the Government over its role in the affair.

Papers released by the Scottish government included the minutes of a meeting with Libya earlier this year during which it was stated that Bill Rammell, then a foreign office minister, told Tripioli that neither the Prime Minister nor David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, “would want Mr Megrahi to pass away in prison”.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but . . .

Britain is already under pressure over its decision to strike a prisoner transfer deal with Libya in defiance of a decade-old pledge to Washington. The Foreign Office insists that the US was never given an absolute commitment, but revelations that Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, believed that such a deal would be in the “overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom” have infuriated US diplomats.

Philip Crowley, chief spokesman for the US State Department, told The Times: “In the late 1990s, as the US and the UK were putting in place the legal framework for the trial of the perpetrators of Pan Am 103, it was our collective view that any suspect found guilty would serve out his entire sentence in Scotland. The US did not change its position but the UK did . . . It’s really up to the UK to explain its current position.”

Yesterday’s release of documents in both London and Edinburgh also show the pressure being applied by business leaders on the Scottish government to release al-Megrahi.

Lord Trefgarne, chairman of the Libyan British Business Council, wrote saying that the possibility of al-Megrahi dying in prison would have “serious implications for UK-Libyan relations”. If his return under the prisoner agreement was not possible then the executive should consider compassionate release, the Tory peer added.

Mr Rammell, who visited Tripoli in February, last night did not dispute Libyan claims about the views he attrributed to Mr Brown and Mr Miliband.

In a statement, he merely reiterated that the bitterly-contested decision to release al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds had been one solely for the Scottish government.

“Neither the Libyans or the Scottish Executive were left in any doubt throughout this entire process that this was a decision for the Scottish Executive over which the UK Government sought no influence,” he added.

Downing Street sources last night did not comment directly on the claims. But they pointed out that even the words attributed to Mr Rammell had been followed by an explicit statement that the matter of al-Megrahi’s future was for the Scottish executive to decide. Aides said Mr Brown has always felt it wrong to express publicly a personal view on a quasi-judicial decision that was in the hands of the Scottish executive.

The disclosures, however, prompted David Cameron to accuse Mr Brown of “double dealing and demand an independent inquiry. “The British Prime Minister has got to be straight with the British people, said the Conservative leader. “For weeks he’s been refusing to say publicly what he wanted to happen to al-Megrahi, yet we now learn apparently privately the message was being given to the Libyans that he should be released.”

In the midst of the gathering storm, the man at the centre of it was said to be close to death. A Libyan government spokesman said al-Megrahi was “deteriorating fast”, adding: “Only God knows when it will be over but he is dying now.”

[Return to headlines]

Look Who Muslims Promote as ‘Antichrist’

Guess who is being promoted as the “Antichrist” in a new 52-part video documentary making the rounds on YouTube?

The Islamic production company responsible makes the case that the endtimes global leader, also known as “the Beast of Revelation,” will actually be the Christian and Jewish Messiah.

Since being posted on YouTube in June, “The Arrivals” has gone viral with more than a quarter million views to date. According to sources in the United Kingdom, writes Joel Richardson, author of the new book, “The Islamic Antichrist,” in a WND commentary today, the documentary has become extremely popular among Britain’s Muslim youth population.

[Return to headlines]

More Guns in Denmark

Gun registrations triple in a decade, in large part due to a upsurge in hunting rifles licenses

The number of legally owned guns in this country has tripled in the last 10 years, Berlingske Tidende newspaper reports.

Figures from the National Police show that 13,875 guns were registered nationwide in 1999. By last year the number had soared to 38,519.

The rise in the number of registered weapons is according to Berlingske Tidende, due to the many new hunting rifle licences issued through the Forest and Nature Agency. In 2000, the law was changed to require that those guns be registered with the agency. Yet the number of hunting permits has remained relatively constant since the 1990s at between 160,000 and 170,000 people.

But even without those rifles the number of guns registered with the police has doubled over the past decade.

According to the Forest and Nature Agency, many of the new gun owners were retirees, often those from the cities who had more disposable income than in the past.

The agency also said people with hunting licences tended to buy more than one or two rifles nowadays.

The number of illegal guns in Denmark has also risen sharply, according to the National Police. There are specific figures to support that, however.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Detainees Die in Police Custody

In two separate incidents on Monday, detainees were found dead in their cells.

A man aged 54 was discovered lifeless in a Groningen police station cell and, in Houten near Utrecht, a 40-year-old man also died in police custody. He was in the Netherlands illegally and had been arrested for relieving himself in public.

The cause of death of the two men remains unclear. National police detectives are attempting to establish what happened.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Ramadan: Italian Muslims Now Disagree on End Date

(by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 28 — After disagreements on when to begin fasting, now there is controversy on when to end the month of purification and prayer. A week after the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim community in Italy is considering reorganising a situation that, some complain, led to disarray and confusion among worshippers and could result in different dates for Eid ul-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that marks the end of the holy month, for people living in the same city, neighbourhood, and even in the same family. The decision of the Italian Islamic Cultural Centre, which oversees the Grand Mosque of Rome, to begin Ramadan on August 21 (based on astronomical calculations), rather than on Saturday August 22, as decided in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries based on the visibility of the moon, “led to a break in the ill-informed Italian Muslim community, as well as further uncertainty on when to start Eid ul-Fitr,” said Sami Salem to ANSAmed, the imam of the mosque in the Magliana neighbourhood in Rome, where fasting began on Saturday. The neighbourhood is one of the most highly populated in the capital, which gathers, he said, about 10,000 worshippers from the EUR, Marconi, and Porta Portese neighbourhoods in Rome. “Many,” he underlined, “ask me the reason for this change and for concrete evidence about how the decision was made.” The choice made in the end by the Grand Mosque, in line with the recent fatwa from the European Council for Fatwa and Research, coincided with the decision made by UCOII, the Union of the Islamic Communities in Italy, which had already chosen to favour an astronomical-related date over the traditional observance of the lunar phases. But this also resulted in the Islamic Centre of Monte Antenne taking a different path than what was decided upon in Saudi Arabia, its main economic and diplomatic supporter, and by many Italian Muslims who kept to tradition. The mosques on Viale Jenner and Via Padua in Milan, and the mosque in Piazza Mercato in Naples as well as the Islamic Religious Community (COREIS) opted for Saturday. “Now” said the 42-year-old imam of the Magliana neighbourhood, “together we need to find a solution that unites us, from north to south, at least on the end of the holy month of fasting”. He expects “in the coming days for Monte Antenne to organise a meeting with the religious heads of the various institutions present in Rome to find a solution that can restore order.” There was not a right or a wrong date, he added, “but the situation needs to be clarified”. In the Centocelle neighbourhood in Rome the Al Huda mosque, which is part of the UCOII and on Friday has about 1,200 worshippers, is taking part in the initiative. “We were also invited,” said imam Mohammed ben Mohammed, “to participate in this initiative that I believe will be held during the last 10 days of Ramadan.” Before taking part in it, continued Mohammed, “I will listen to the opinion of the community and UCOII officials”. For ambassador Mario Scialoja, a board member of the Grand Mosque, the fact that some Muslims began on Friday and others on Saturday “simply will result in some starting Eid ul-Fitr on September 19 and others on September 20. There is nothing wrong with it, because in the whole world people began, like each year, fasting at different times”. The choice of secretary general Redouane to follow astronomical calculations, said Scialoja, “was done to unite, and not to divide Muslims in Italy”. With few worries about the holiday marking the end of Ramadan falling on different dates in the same country was also COREIS spokesperson Younis Distefano: “I know that there is an attempt to unify the data at a European level,” he observed, “but the unity that we hope for certainly has nothing to do with these external matters.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Study: UK Muslim Youth Feel Demonized

Many young British Muslims feel they have been demonized and under attack by the UK police and media ever since the September 11 events and 2005 London bombings, a study shows.

The study, carried out by an Islamic Think Tank called the Policy Research Center, reported on Monday that since the September 11 attacks and 2005 London bombings, Muslims in Britain have been under pressure to prove they can be both British and Muslim at the same time.

Moreover, they believe that Britain’s role in Iraq and Afghanistan has only increased the pressure.

The report also revealed young Muslims feel they are under attack by the media, saying that it portrays them as a threat to society.

“This is especially damaging when myths and stereotypes surmount accurate information, resulting in young British Muslims being portrayed as a threat to the wellbeing of the wider British communities,” it said.

The think tank added that many young British Muslims not only say they do not trust the police, but feel harassed by them, as well.

This comes as the report cited a dramatic rise in Muslims being stopped and searched in the street after the July 2005 bombings, which killed 52 people in London.

The police blamed the attack on four British Muslims, three of Pakistani origin.

According to the last census in 2001, there are currently more than 1.6 million Muslims residing in Britain. Unofficial estimates, however, suggest the number could now be well above 2 million.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Israel Organ Harvesting Scandal ‘Medically Impossible’

Aftonbladet’s organ harvesting allegations are ludicrous from a medical perspective, writes Andrea Meyerhoff MD, Associate Professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who also argues that Sweden missed an opportunity to “reject anti-Semitism and reaffirm principles of good journalism.”

The saga of the Aftonbladet article — an allegation in a Swedish tabloid that Israeli soldiers steal the organs of Palestinian teenagers — caught me right between the eyes. I’m an American doctor. I’m Jewish; I have Swedish roots. In the supermarket I pick the longest line so I can catch up on the tabloids while I wait.

I read the English translation of this article (‘Our sons are plundered of their organs’ Aftonbladet 8/26/09, original in Swedish 8/17/09). It’s a hoot. Rambling and disjointed, it’s rife with irrelevant statistics and unproven statements, not unlike a recent favourite of mine in the Weekly World News, ‘Dick Cheney Abducted by Aliens.’ That one had photos too.

The Aftonbladet piece raises some medical issues I’d like to address. Among the organs successfully transplanted are heart and lungs- harvested from the chest- and kidneys, liver, pancreas, and intestine-harvested from the abdomen. Two critical issues that determine the ‘health’ of the harvested organ and therefore whether the transplant will be successful are its blood supply and its freedom from infection.

The story relies heavily on the author’s eyewitness account of a tense night on the West Bank seventeen years ago. Recall of the details of an event deteriorates over a matter of weeks or months and concurrent stress such as the presence of gunfire serves as a ‘memory distraction’ that makes accurate recall even more difficult.

Nonetheless the author describes for us what happened in 1992 to one Palestinian teenager whose organs, he believes, were stolen. According to his account, Israeli soldiers shot the young guy in the chest, then in each leg, then once ‘in the stomach.’

I take this last to mean the abdomen, since it isn’t possible to see the individual organ called the stomach from the outside of the body.

A gunshot wound to the chest or abdomen is a serious injury because it can damage internal organs- either by interruption of the blood supply, which causes hemorrhage, or because it causes infection via perforation of the intestine and/or the introduction of a foreign body. A guy shot in both legs can’t go far. Why, if the goal is to steal organs worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, would soldiers shoot an individual in both the chest and abdomen and risk damage to the valuable organs in these body cavities? Such organs are not usable for transplant.

The quality of the argument does not merit too much more ink. The writer of the Aftonbladet article made his most important contribution to our understanding of his work when he acknowledged that he’d not verified any of the claims he made. Most recently, the family of the young Palestinian whose organs were supposedly swiped said they’d never talked with the journalist and had no reason to think any of his allegations of organ theft were true.

As much as I enjoy the medical side of things, I think there’s a more instructive reading of this article. When I look at it with historical eyes, it has a macabre humour of its own. Is this writer serious? This story is such an old one, a twenty-first century version of the blood libel that has fueled brutality against Jews for centuries. The Aftonbladet piece made much of the story of the recent corruption bust in New Jersey that snared a couple of disgraced rabbis allegedly brokering human organs for cash. How is it that an American scandal that resulted in the arrest of 30 people, among them elected officials with the last names van Pelt, Cammarano, Elwell, and Vega, ends up a Scandinavian-modern version of medieval anti-Semitism?

The Swedish ambassador to Israel should be recognized for her recent condemnation of Aftonbladet’s revival of this hardy perennial of anti-Semitism. But the Swedish foreign ministry looks only disingenuous with its flat-footed protestations of respect for freedom of the press. That’s not what this is about. A modern European nation gave up a chance to make a simple statement to both reject anti-Semitism and reaffirm principles of good journalism.

Why they chose the route they did I don’t know, but Sweden looks parochial and out of step. We live in the information age. Read the blogs of any major news story. The public is wise to low journalism and increasingly rejects hate-mongering. The government of Sweden should get with the programme and do the same.

Andrea Meyerhoff MD is a faculty member at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Man Stabbed to Death in Malmö

33-year-old man was stabbed to death in an internet café on Drottninggatan in Malmö at around 4.30 on Tuesday afternoon.

The knife attack occurred in a staff area, newspaper Sydsvenskan reports.

Police and the emergency services rushed to the scene, and the male victim was rushed by ambulance to the University Hospital MAS at 4.45pm. One hour later the police announced that the man had died from his injuries.

A 37-year-old male suspect was detained nearby.

“He was arrested in a restaurant around 10 metres from the café. A knife was also found there,” police spokesman Micke Persson told news agency TT.

It is not clear whether the victim and his attacker knew each other.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Terror Alert as Bomb-Making Notes Found on Train Heading for Station Used by 7/7 Bombers

Bank holiday travellers were caught up in the security alert after cleaners found documents describing ‘how to make a bomb’ on the train at Bedford station.

The notes were found at 8.23pm — but the train left for Luton with around 50 passengers before the cleaning staff could raise the alarm.

Luton station was where the 7/7 bombers were captured on CCTV, putting on their rucksacks and heading into central London, where they killed 52 people.

Armed police last night cleared the passengers off at Luton and searched the train and another one which had also arrived from Bedford.

Both trains were delayed for nearly an hour before the all-clear was given, and the trains and their passengers were allowed to continue.

A spokesman for Bedfordshire Police said: ‘We can only apologise for the inconvenience that was caused…but in light of the information contained in the notes found it was felt necessary to take this course of action.

He added: ‘A thorough search of the carriages was necessary not only to capture any additional evidence that maybe present but also to ensure passenger safety.

‘Once we were satisfied that their safety could be guaranteed, we were happy for passengers to continue on their way.’

Inquiries into the notes were continuing, the spokesman added.

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


Croatia: President and Church Disagree on Crucifix

(by Franko Dota) (ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, SEPTEMBER 1 — Stipe Mesic’s last summer as Croatian President has almost been a crusade against crucifixes in public spaces, an initiative that further angered the Catholic Church, which already was not in favour of the Premier, considered to be too liberal and too quarrelsome. The first stone was cast by the magazine Glas Koncila, published by the Archbishopric of Zagreb and considered by many as the voice of bishops in Croatia. A few months ago, in a leading article, editor-in-chief, Ivan Miklenic, accused Mesic of “high national treason”, mostly referring to the fervour with which the President had always supported Croatia’s collaboration with the Hague International Court of Justice for the war crimes committed in former-Yugoslavia. Mesic’s response to the attack of the Catholic publication was a blow to the Church as a whole. In an interview on national radio, clearly stating that his was not a conflict with the Church but only with some of its representatives, Mesic invited the Catholic hierarchy to accept his proposal to remove crucifixes from all public places. “Religious symbols should not have a place within the army, within State institutions or within Local Authorities but they are there, nonetheless,” Mesic said, thinking back to the Nineties when, “in a state of euphoria” following the declaration of independence and religious freedom, many people put up a crucifix in their offices, also as a sign of national pride. Mesic believes that this no longer makes sense today and he appeals to the Constitution, which defines Croatia as a lay State. But no law has ever been approved on the matter and, formally, there is no way to forbid the presence of crucifixes or any other religious symbols in a classroom or a courtroom. Mesic’s initiative sparked a heated, albeit brief, debate. Bishops defended crucifixes; centre-right organizations, both political and cultural, took side against the president; the Left applauded but also criticized him for having waited until the last few months of his mandate to demand the removal of all religious symbols. Many analysts did not take him seriously, interpreting the whole incident as a new chapter of the never-ending bickering between the president and the bishops. Glas Koncila replied in the same way in which it had unleashed the President’s anger before: in an editorial, Miklenic hoped that the new president will be “a sane and psychologically sound individual”, a clear allusion to Mesic, even though it was later denied. The summer scuffle between the Head of State and part of the Croatian Church ended with this comment. The only consequence, it seems, is that the crucifix dispute will become one of the most discussed issues in the presidential election campaigns, next December. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Russian Patriarch Backs Serbia Attempt to Contest Kosovo Independence

Moscow, September 1, Interfax — Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has expressed support for the Serbian government’s attempts to contest the recognition of Kosovo’s independence.

“We know that the Serbian government has filed a lawsuit with the UN International Court, contesting Kosovo’s independence as illegal. I have familiarized myself with the Russian Foreign Ministry’s reaction on it and I agree with this position,” the Russian Patriarch told Serbian Ambassador to Russia Jelica Kurjak in Moscow on Tuesday.

“The situation, which the recognition of Kosovo by a whole number of states will create, will not be favorable enough for the litigation,” Patriarch Kirill said. But hopefully, he said, “the norms of international law will be defended by the court, or else a different turn of events may follow, leading to a destabilization in international relations,” he said.

Patriarch Kirill again urged the world community to do all it can to guarantee the rights and security of Kosovo Serbs and to protect Orthodox Churches in the region. He described as “an absolute outrage” the destruction of Orthodox shrines in Kosovo in the early 2000s, adding that the insecure position of Kosovo believers today “can once again incite violence and loss of life.”

“We belong to a single world and we share the same spiritual values and moral tradition, which links our peoples very strongly. We care for what is happening in the life of the Serbian people. Therefore, we take the Serbs’ grief over the loss of Kosovo close to our hearts,” he said.

Kurjak thanked Patriarch Kirill, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian leadership “for their permanent support for the idea of preserving the territorial integrity of our country.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

North Africa

AU — Gaddafi Calls for Closure of Israel’s African Embassies

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, AUGUST 31 — It is Israel that lies behind all of the conflicts in Africa: which is why “all of its embassies on the continent should be shut down”. These are some of the words used by Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi in his attack on the state of Israel during the opening of the African Union summit in Tripoli. According to the colonel, Israel, “is fuelling the crises in Darfur, Southern Sudan and Chad in order to exploit the riches held by those areas. Which is why we call on Israel’s ambassadors to leave Africa”. In Gaddafi’s view, only the African Union can take on the task, and has the “duty and right” to place the issues behind African conflicts on its agenda “in order to help Africans find peaceful solutions to conflicts that are under way”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Building a Church is a ‘Sin’ Against God, Says Egyptian Muslim Council

By Mary Abdelmassih

Cairo (AINA) — A controversial Fatwa (Islamic edict) prohibiting the construction of new churches in Egypt has provoked considerable discussion and spiraled into a crisis, involving the Fatwa Council, Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh, Christian and Muslim religious personalities, and the media. It was also reported on 8/26/2009 that the jurists who issued the Fatwa are under investigation on orders of the Grand Mufti and the Justice Minister.

The Fatwa (Arabic) in question was issued by the Al-Azhar affiliated “Dar el-Eftta” — Fatwa Council for Islamic interpretations of laws in Islam. It stated “the will of a Muslim towards building a Church is a sin against God, just as if he left his inheritance towards building a nightclub, a gambling casino, or building a barn for rearing pigs, cats or dogs.”

It was issued in response to an inquiry sent to the Fatwa Council by Dr. Naguib Gabraeel, President of the Egyptian Union Human Rights Organization (EUHRO), asking its opinion as to what he read in an article written by a prominent writer about what was stated in a textbook taught to third year students, Muslims and Christians, at the Faculty of Law, Cairo University, on Inheritance and execution of wills. Gabraeel’s inquiry pertained specifically to a quotation from the textbook “it is forbidden for a person to donate money for what would lead to sin, such as donating in his will money towards build a church, a nightclub, a gambling casino, towards promoting the alcohol industry or for building a barn for rearing pigs, cats or dogs.” He went on to inquire “So what is the Shari’a position to what was mentioned especially concerning the will of a Muslim to donate for the building of a church or a monk’s cell? If the answer is prohibition, aren’t these houses where the name of God is mentioned? Is not Christianity a recognized religion according to the Egyptian constitution? There are also a lot of wealthy Copts and Coptic businessmen who donate towards the building of mosques.”

The Fatwa Council replied affirming the correctness of what came in the textbook and issued a Fatwa on September 10, 2008 (document number 1809), which is also published on its official website.

To highlight the reason for this “sin” the Fatwa went on to state: “Salvation in the Christian religion is the belief in Jesus as Lord, where Muslims fundamentally disagree on it. Muslims believe that Issa [Jesus in Arabic] peace be upon him, is a slave of Allah and His Messenger, and that Allah is one. He begets not and He is not begotten and there is none like unto Him. So if it is seen that one sect has deviated from this absolute Monotheism, then according to that person’s own religion he is forbidden to donate for the erection of buildings where Allah is not worshiped alone.”

According to Mohammed el-Maghrabbi, deputy chief of the Faculty of Law, and author of the controversial textbook, what he wrote is a principle agreed upon by all Islamic jurists. He added that a will, if devoted by a Christian for building a Church, is forbidden and sinful and is considered in Islam as separation from God. So it is also illegal if a non-Muslim wills his inheritance towards building a Church or a Synagogue.

This Fatwa has shocked many as it classified churches with nightclub, gambling casinos, and places for rearing pigs and dogs, which are considered ‘unclean’ animals according to Islam and Muslims.

Christians were angered and considered it a clear and explicit insult to all Christians. The renowned theologian Reverend Abdelmassih Bassit, Professor at the Coptic Orthodox Clerical Institute, called it “a shocking Fatwa.”

Gabraeel called on the government and Al-Azhar to state their position clearly on the building of churches, as well as prayer meetings held in premises even if they were ‘unlicensed’ as churches.

On August 19, 2009, a delegation from EUHRO, headed by Dr. Gabraeel, paid a visit to Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, who said that the Fatwa was wrong and untrue and that Muslims can make voluntary contributions to build churches, as a church is a house for “worshiping and tolerance” and that “Shari’a does not prevent Muslims from donating to the building of a church, as it is his free money. He also affirmed that Al-Azhar does not object to the “unified law for building places of worship.”

Tantawi added that building churches should be left to the Christians and Muslims are not allowed according to Shari’a to interfere in other faiths, “because religion, faith and what a person believes in is a relationship between him and his God.” He also called on the Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa to hold the five jurists who issued the Fatwa accountable.

Reactions to Tantawi’s statements resulted in a crisis in the Islamic circles. Most Muslim leaders criticized him publicly and supported the Fatwa “as being issued by people qualified in Islamic Shari’a law” or “a Muslim should not donate to the building of a church when Christians do not believe in the religion of Mohammed, or him being a prophet.”

Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa gave the excuse that he never ratified the Fatwa. Nevertheless, his answer was not convincing as it was an official Fatwa issued by the authority headed by him, stamped and signed by five of the Council’s jurists. He failed to give an opinion about it.

Less than 24 hours after the EUHRO visit, Grand Sheikh Tantawi backtracked on his statements saying it was a misunderstanding on the part of the EUHRO delegation and the newspapers. He commented that what he meant was for non-Muslims to donate in their wills for church building and reaffirmed that it is forbidden for a person to donate money for the construction of “sinful” places, such as bars and nightclubs.

The reason for his change of heart, according to the Egyptian independent newspaper Al-Destour, was that ‘high sources’ contacted the Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh and the Grand Mufti to resolve the crisis raised over the Fatwa “in order to avoid any sectarian strife or an inconsistency between Al-Azhar and the Fatwa Council.”

On his part EUHRO chief Dr. Gabraeel answered the Grand Sheikh saying that it is his right to change his mind but he cannot deny what he said during the visit, and that his statements were caught on the video recording of their meeting. He added that when Grand Sheikh Tantawi was asked by the delegation if a Muslim can donate from his own funds towards building a church, he answered that he is free to do so, and when asked if this was his personal opinion or the Shari’a stand on this issue, Tantawi answered that it was according to Shari’a Law. The video was sent to the media and was uploaded on all Coptic advocacy websites.

Many Christians believe that this Fatwa has exposed the true stance of the religious authorities and the government towards churches, and the reason why it refrains from passing the long awaited bill on the “unified law for building places of worship,” which would put an end to all problems related to building and restoring places of worship. It is also believed that since Islam views church building as a sin, passing this bill would therefore be in conflict with Shari’a Law — which is the main source of legislation as stipulated in the Constitution — and this would be something that the government would avoid at all costs.

[Return to headlines]

Fishing Industry: Italian-Tunisian Pilot Project

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, SEPTEMBER 1 — A pilot project for mullet and eel farming is underway in Tabarka, as part of a joint effort of the Italian Co-operation for the Development of Emerging Countries (COSPE) and the Tunisian Interprofessional Fishing Products Group (GIPP). The expected annual production for the project, which will be completed in 2011, is 400,000 fry for each species. The estimated cost of the project is 2.6 million dinars (1.34 million euros). The north-eastern region of Tunisia (where Tabarka is set) has been chosen because its water resources represet 60% of the overall national potential. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy-Libya: Ambassador, First Treaty Payment in 2010

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 28 — The first payment for the Friendship and Cooperation Treaty signed by Italy and Libya will be disbursed in 2010 said the Libyan Ambassador to Italy Abdulhafed Gaddur to ANSA, explaining that there are still “mechanisms” to be defined in the agreement. The agreement signed on last August 30 in Bengasi that Premier Silvio Berlusconi will celebrate the day after tomorrow in Tripoli calls for Italy to finance infrastructure in Libya for a total of 5 billion dollars (about 4 billion euros) over 20 years. These projects should be contracted to Italian businesses. This was confirmed by the ambassador who assured that an Italian company will build the coastal motorway. In Tripoli Berlusconi along with Gaddafi will lay the first stone for the future motorway that should cross all of Libya, from Egypt to Tunisia. Today, Foreign Minister Frattini said that Silvio Berlusconi’s presence in Tripoli responds to “Italy’s fundamental interests with Libya in the Mediterranean, from immigration to border controls, and bilateral economic interests”. He specified that Berlusconi will be in Tripoli “not to celebrate” the anniversary of the revolution, but “two days beforehand, for the first year of the bilateral treaty”. Frattini underlined that Italy will participate in the event on September 1 with the Frecce Tricolori, “not in isolation” because “Zapatero’s Spain will also be participating in the 40th anniversary of the revolution”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Libya May Pay IRA Victims’ Families

LIBYA HAS hinted for the first time that it is considering compensating the families of IRA victims in recognition that it armed the terrorists.

Colonel Muammar Gadaffi supplied arms and explosives to IRA paramilitaries during the Troubles and the recent release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, has seen renewed calls for an apology and compensation from Tripoli for its role in the IRA killings.

Libya’s deputy minister for foreign affairs indicated yesterday that the IRA compensation claims were part of on-going discussions between Tripoli and London and that they could be approaching some form of agreement.

Asked what was happening with the claims, Mohammed Siala, the Secretary for International Cooperation, said: “It is a special case. We have a good understanding with the UK.”

In the 1970s and 1980s, Col Gadaffi became an international pariah with his sponsorship of terrorist organisations, whom he refers to as freedom fighters. During this period, Libya sent several shipments of weapons and ammunition to the IRA which were used in a number of attacks in the UK.

British prime minister Gordon Brown assured victims of Libyan-sponsored IRA attacks that he would do everything in his power to support the campaign for compensation at a meeting in December last year.

In 2003 Libya paid out $2.7bn (€1.8bn) in compensation to the families of those killed on Pan Am flight 103 when it exploded over Lockerbie.

[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Agriculture, Table Grape Production on the Rise

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, AUGUST 19 — Tunisia’s production of table grapes, according to forecasts, will reach 95,000 tonnes this year with a 20% increase on last year. Production of grapes to be further processed is expected to remain unvaried at 42,000 tonnes. The data was provided by Secretary of State Abderzzek Daaloul at the inauguration of the 51st Grape Festival in Grombalia (governorate of Nabeul, Cap Bon). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Exceptional Cereal Crop, Problems With Storage

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, AUGUST 14 — Cereal production in Tunisia has recorded a result considered to be exceptional and which is not even the final figure yet. According to figures supplied by the National Committee which follows the performance of the harvest, on August 13 the harvest had reached 10.7 million tonnes. This is thanks, in the traditional farming regions of the north and north east, not only to favourable climate conditions, but also to a series of measures adopted to boost the sector and an increase in irrigated surfaces (around 17,000 hectares today). This abundance however creates the problem of storage capacity which is currently insufficient. The leading example is the governorate of Le Kef which has a production of two million tonnes (95 tonnes per hectare) and a storage capacity in silos of only 1.1 million tonnes. Tunisia, with 258kg per capita, is amongst the world’s largest grain consumers in the world. This year’s abundance will allow it to reduce the importing of grain, contributing to a partial rebalancing of the deficit of the food budget. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UNESCO: Hosni: Not Hostile to Israel But Expect Just Peace

(by Luciana Borsatti) (ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 31 — “I am not nursing any personal hostility towards Israel and even less so towards the Israeli people, but I expect, like millions of Arabs, a just peace for the Palestinians”. Ahead of the approaching elections for the new director general of UNESCO, Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni, who is a candidate for the post, replied in an interview with ANSAmed to accusations of anti-semitism which have recently resurfaced. About a hundred Italian intellectuals including Franco Zeffirelli and Gian Luigi Rondi, who made an appeal in favour of his candidacy, have recently distanced themselves from these accusations. “Unesco is a formidable international platform for exploring channels for dialogue and rapprochement. We are the antithesis of racism and in the heart of tolerance”, he said. As far as Egyptian public opinion is concerned “there are no anti-semitic feeling in the Arab world. Anti-Israel feeling is strong, but shouldn’t we point out the same strong anti-Arab feeling in Israel?” Today “we are all seeking justice, because we understand that it is one of humanity’s blessings. Equality is in the interests of everyone”. With regard to the controversial statement he made in Parliament in 2008, saying he was ready to burn Israeli books, “I admit my lack of wisdom” says Hosni, who in April wrote in Le Monde that he regretted those words, “but the very idea of burning any book is not me at all. We live in continuous tension in our region, tied to the extremely negative developments in the peace process and in the future which awaits the Palestinian people. Extremists feed on this tension to attack, accuse, delegitimise. I simply wanted to respond to a fundamentalist parliamentarian who stated the existence of Israeli books which insulted Islam in Egyptian public libraries, although there were none”. The response was provoked by “exasperation”, he added, and was indeed “vulgar”. But currently, according to Hosni “a cultural normalisation with the State of Israel is not mature, for the simple reason that culture is not a matter of ministerial decrees and government decisions. It is a matter of the people. If they are not willing to create this normalisation, the leaders can do nothing. I am not against cultural normalisation with Israel, I say that the time has not yet arrived”. Hosni once again stressed, in answer to an interview with Pierluigi Battista in today’s Corriere della Sera, that it was he who supported the project to create a museum of Jewish art and culture in Egypt, and that he was not friends with the denialist(as Battista described him today) Roger Garaudy, but simply met him at the Cairo Book Fair. Hosni has been working in recent days on his programme for Unesco, whose general council will choose between nine candidates, at the end of September, including Algerian Mohamed Bejaoui. “I am the only candidate supported by the Arab League”, he replied, “and I was presented by my country. I also have the support of most of the countries in the various regions”. Israel has withdrawn its reservations on his candidacy last May. As for his programme for the UN agency for Education, Science and Culture, it includes the prospect of a “new era in which balance and pluralism correct one-way domination” which have penalised the countries which have been described as “third world” in the past. A central theme in his programme is a greater effort to reach the objectives set out in 2000 in Dakar by 2015: to guarantee children a basic education, to increase literacy by 50% and to ensure sexual equality in education. But Hosni is also proposing to increase efforts in research on climate change, to promote cultural diversity, and to close the gaps in technology and access to information and culture which still exist. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Barak: ‘Less Whining’ About Shalit

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, SEPTEMBER 1 — “I advise everyone to whine less” about Ghilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held prisoner for over three years by Hamas in Gaza. This was the response today by Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak to a question from a student. Barak said that the government is committed in a serious effort to obtain Shalit’s freedom “but not at all costs”. Hamas is asking for the release of 450 Palestinian prisoners, many of whom are responsible for many of the most savage and bloody attacks against Israeli civilians, in addition to another hundred prisoners being held for less serious crimes. The soldier’s father, Noam Shalit, responded to Barak’s statements saying: “Less talk, less quotes, and more action”. Responding to a student about to be conscripted who asked him if the state can guarantee his safety if he is taken prisoner, Barak said: “The state cannot guarantee your safety, life, or that you won’t be taken prisoner. You are conscripted to fight. This is not Western Europe. Here those who don’t bat an eye in the face of rocket fire, kidnappings, and military cemeteries survive.”(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Hilltop Youth. Report From Judea and Samaria

A trip among the new generation of Israeli settlers. Anarchical and visionary, they are defying the prohibitions of their government and the hostility, not only of the Arabs, but of the world. “We are the people of the Bible. We have come back home.” A major on-site investigation

ROME, August 20, 2009 — They are the children and grandchildren of the first settlers sent by the Israeli government to “make the desert bloom” in the territories disputed after the Six-Day War in 1967. Bible in hand and rifle on shoulder, many children, a life of sacrifices, a nationalist soul and a religious one.

There are about three hundred thousand settlers in all, and American president Barack Obama, in his speech in Cairo, called them the main obstacle on the road to peace between “two peoples and two states,” which is also the objective of Vatican policy.

For three fourths of them, the obstacle does not appear insurmountable. They live not far from the Green Line of the old armistice between between Israel and Jordan, east of Jerusalem and in the big settlements of Ariel, Gush Etzion, Ma’aleh Adumim, Givat Zeev, and Latrun, not covering more than five percent of the disputed territories, and negotiable.

And then there are the others. The fifty thousand who live in small or even tiny settlements of a few hundred or a few dozen inhabitants. Or in the outposts.

The outposts, in the most inaccessible and isolated places, are the new reality of the settlements. There are now about one hundred of them. They have multiplied in recent years, together with the Hilltop Youth, the new generation of settlers. All of the outposts are illegal. The young people build them, and the Israeli army dismantles them. But new ones are always springing up.

Who are these Hilltop Youth? How do they live? What biblical vision motivates them? Why do they venture out there? Will they agree to leave?

The following report answers these questions. Its author is Giulio Meotti, already known to the readers of www.chiesa for a shocking survey of Muslim Rotterdam that has been read around the world in multiple languages.

The article was published on August 8, 2009, in the newspaper “il Foglio,” with a follow-up article in the same newspaper on August 13. An investigative book on Israel by Meotti will be published in September.


“Our job is to build little paradises”

by Giulio Meotti

“We have come back home,” proclaims the placard at the entrance to Givat Assaf, an Israeli outpost named after a Jewish settler killed by the Palestinians. The leader of the community, Benny Gal, explains their presence: “On this exact spot, 3,800 years ago, the land of Israel was promised to the Hebrew people. If they take us away from here, the Ben Gurion international airport will be in danger.”

Givat Assaf is one of the key members of the “Hilltop Youth,” the second generation of settlers who are organizing the resistance to the evacuation of the settlements ruled to be illegal, the so-called “outposts,” at the center of negotiations between Israeli prime minister Netanyahu and the Obama administration.

For these young people, the Jewish resurgence comes, as it did at the beginning of the twentieth century, through a toe-to-toe confrontation with the Arabs. The rules of the peace process do not seem to hold any weight with them. The Israeli soldiers, whose brigades and uniform the settlers share, have to drag them away by force when the evacuation order comes from Jerusalem. Those who stay live a whisper’s distance from death. Last April, one of these young people was killed with an ax. In case of conflict, what counts is not the law of the state, but the law of the Lord. It’s like the American frontier of the Wild West.

No one should think this is a phenomenon of the extreme right, a category that has no meaning in Israel. With Ariel Sharon as prime minister, 44 outposts were created. Another 39, according to the data of Peace Now, were built under Rabin, Peres, and Barak, the participants in the Oslo negotiations. The Labor governments have done almost nothing to prevent the multiplication of the outposts. Israel does not consider them rebel enclaves, at least judging from the significant security forces sent to protect them. Some of them have paved roads, bus stops, synagogues, even sports fields. The houses range from simple containers placed at the top of a hill, or a few rows of barracks, to genuine settlements made with the kind of prefabricated buildings that are used to rebuild after an earthquake. For prayers on the sabbath, there needs to be a minyam, the necessary quorum of ten men. That’s all it takes to make an outpost. Like the ten families of Peruvian converts to Judaism at an outpost just outside of the settlement of Efrat, between Bethlehem and Hebron.

David Ha’ivri, originally from Long Island, is one of the leaders of the Hilltop Youth, and lives with his wife and children in Kfar Tapuach. The village is famous for the honey produced there, but above all for the fact that it is mentioned in the Bible, in chapter 12 of the book of Joshua. It is one of the thirty cities conquered by the Hebrews at their arrival thousands of years ago. Today it is one of the most prominent settlements in the West Bank, which the settlers call by the biblical names of Judea and Samaria. The members of Hilltop Youth are the young people born and raised in the settlements who have decided to leave their parents’ homes in the huge conglomerates to go nest in the hills. The synagogues they pray in are often made of baked clay. They build their homes with their own hands, they are single or recently married with young children. They believe they are the new vanguard of the settlements. Their motto is, “We will build, and the permission will come.” They live a stone’s throw from the Arabs. They get around on horseback or by donkey. It is a new generation imbued with a mystical nationalism combined with a pioneering, ascetic spirit; it rejects the consumerism of the big cities on the coast, and lives by ideology and zeal. The women wear the mitpahat, the Jewish equivalent — less concealing and more delicate — of the Islamic chador. The men have tousled hair with long sidelocks, and plaid shirts.

“They are young people who embody the ideology of the Torah and self-sacrifice,” explains Ha’ivri. “The salvation of Israel and of the Jewish people cannot come from politicians who think that the battle for the land is a tactical game. We began to create outposts ten years ago. They are very young couples who have decided to be pioneers like their parents, they believe in Zionism, they are idealists, ready to leave any comfortable existence in the big cities or in the big settlements. They want to be self-sufficient, with all the limitations that this involves.”

Shani Simkovitz directs the Gush Etzion Foundation. She is American, and has five children. “This is disputed land, to be negotiated, not occupied land,” she explains. “More than three thousand years ago our fathers gave us a land, which is not Rome, it is not New York, but this: the Jewish land. They sent us here to build, to plant, to live, they have always supported us, especially Rabin, Peres, and the other Labor leaders. Up until today. My children were born here, but there is no more land on which to build legally, for a long time the government has not given us permission for homes, and this has led to the creation of the outposts. The outposts are extensions of the existing community. But the same thing happens in Jerusalem, where thousands of Israelis live on the other side of the Green Line.”

Another leader of the hillside settlements lives in a cluster of trailers clinging to the side of Mount Artis, called Pisgat Yaakov, which means Jacob’s hill. It snows so much in the winter that the area is cut off. The thirty families there include that of Yishai Fleischer. Yishai is the founder of Kumah, an organization that promotes alyah, meaning Jewish immigration into Israel, and he hosts a very popular radio program. “We have an idyllic, naturalistic life, this is a beautiful area, in the middle of the mountains,” Yishai says. “Our fathers walked here three thousand years ago. We’re a little bit like the new hippies. We work the land. There’s a lot of music, religion, it’s a happy life. We pray, we meditate, we live a spiritual existence. We are the aboriginal people. I was in New York, as a student I believed in Zionism, and I decided that this would be the place where I had to live. We have what we need. We feel like pioneers, we are true Zionists. Many of my friends are extremely religious, and work in the high-tech sector. Our children are growing up with authentic values.” It is, Yishai admits, a very dangerous life. “I go around armed. I hate guns, it doesn’t mean I have to use them, but I have to protect my family. Our village is mentioned a number of times in the Bible, and for this reason it attracts many people. You live in Rome, a city that is sacred to your people, mine were born and raised in Israel. Here you feel part of the land and the sky. We have grown up knowing that the next step would be our own.”

Yishai is well aware that the settlers are not loved by the Israelis who live on the coast. “We are isolated in public opinion, but we try every day to improve that. Today nationalism is not ‘cool’, it is not politically correct. I do not expect to win the hearts of people who do not live here. It is simple: this is our land. According to international norms, according to the Bible, according to history. We live in exciting times, in which the Jewish people are returning home. When we wake up in the morning, we are not thinking about peace, but about living a life that is happy, dignified, and full of love. We must be vigilant, there are people here who want to kill us because we are Jews. They have the same ideology as the Nazis. The Europeans were not interested in the fate of the Jews sixty years ago, so they should stay far away from us now. We know why we are here, we have a mission that we carry forward every day. Our place is here.”

This is how David Ha’ivri describes the Hilltop Youth: “Many of them are farmers or shepherds, there are students, all of them pioneers living in deserted places, empty, without inhabitants, there are no Palestinians to be deprived of anything. The settlers plant trees, they work the land, they bring water, food, electricity. In the large settlements security is well-organized, but in these communities of a few families the burden of security is enormous. The second generation is much more attached to the land than the first, they were born here, their blood comes from here. They are even more religious than their parents.”

Many of these outposts have been created over the years in the places where the Palestinians had killed a settler. Itay Zar lives in an outpost named after his brother, who was killed. Twenty families, a dozen metal boxes, forty children, and a corral for the horses. “We didn’t come here to have fun. This was desert, today the land is blooming.” The spiritual leader of the outpost, Ariel Lipo, says that their job is to build “little paradises.”

Maoz Esther, an outpost of seven corrugated metal barracks and five families, not far from Ramallah, was the first outpost targeted by Netanyahu after he came to power. It has been removed three times. And rebuilt three times. Most recently a few days ago. The leader of the community, Avraham Sandack, came to this hill straight from one of the settlements in Gaza that had been dismantled by Ariel Sharon. He is studying to become a rabbi, and in the meantime he does the cleaning at a synagogue. “Our spirit is the same as that of our fathers,” Avraham says. “Two years ago on the feast of Hannukah, we left a nearby settlement and built a stone house. One mother, alone with her three little daughters, moved to the hillside for two months. They had no electricity or water. But they knew that they belonged to the land of Israel. In the Bible, this land is spoken about in the prophecies about the kingdom of God. That gives us strength to continue forward. Yesterday we began to rebuild what the army has destroyed. Here we are able to be at peace with our souls. There is something metaphysical here. God is not in heaven or somewhere else. God is part of us, he is in our whole life.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Islamist ‘Militant’ Accused of Murder Plot

Jerusalem, 31 August (AKI) — An Israeli Arab man has been indicted for allegedly serving as an agent of the Islamist Lebanese militant group Hezbollah with plans to assassinate the head of the Israel’s defence forces. The suspect, identified as 23-year-old Tira resident Rawi Sultani, had allegedly been dispatched by Hezbollah to assassinate Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi.

According to the Israeli daily, Sultani was arrested by the internal security agency Shin Bet and Israeli police earlier this month.

The indictment presented at the Haifa district court alleged Sultani first made contact with Hezbollah agents at a summer camp organised by the Balad movement in Morocco.

A Lebanese Hezbollah agent who also took part in the camp allegedly recruited Sultani, after the latter informed him that he and the IDF chief worked out at the same Kfar Sava gym.

Sultani is the son of a prominent lawyer and member of the Israeli Arab Balad movement.

Israeli intelligence sources believe that Hezbollah chose the IDF chief as a target to avenge the death of slain militant leader Imad Mughniyeh, believed to have been assassinated by Israel.

In March, another Israeli Arab citizen suspected of being a prospective Hezbollah spy was indicted on charges of contact with a foreign agent.

Ismail Saleiman, a 27-year-old man from the Jezreel Valley town of Hajajra, was suspected of being in contact with a Hezbollah operative and planning to spy on Israel for the terror group.

In recent years, Israeli Arabs and Israeli identity card-carrying Palestinians in East Jerusalem have become increasingly involved in terrorist acts against various targets in the country.

Over the course of the last five years, Haaretz said there have been at least six documented instances of attacks committed by Israeli Arabs or East Jerusalem residents.

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

Jerusalem: ‘War’ Between Police and Orthodox Jews

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, AUGUST 31 — The Israeli orthodox press called yesterday’s hard clashes in the centre of Jerusalem between groups of religious demonstrators and the police a “day of war.” The clashes started when the police decided to remove the body of a Jewish man who was murdered by a Palestinian man after a quarrel, to take it to the forensic medicine institute for examination, a practice which orthodox rabbis strongly oppose. The police had to use teargas to force a passage through the crowd. According to some orthodox media, one of the demonstrators was seriously injured by a police vehicle, and one vehicle was set on fire by the protesters. The orthodox population of Jerusalem has been protesting for weeks against the opening for the public, on Saturdays, of a car park of the municipality near the wall of the Old City. The situation was made worse when two months ago an orthodox woman was accused of seriously neglecting her 3-year-old son. Rumours are going round in the orthodox quarters of Jerusalem that the four children of this woman will be entrusted to another family. In the district where the woman in question lives, demonstrators have attacked the social security offices; the director was rescued just in time by a police cordon. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Schools Open: Peres Among Arab Pupils With Veils

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, SEPTEMBER 1 — Well wishing for all of the students in Israel with an audience made up almost entirely of Arab girls, almost all of which wore the traditional white veil. It is a symbolic choice with which the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, chose to greet the beginning of the academic year at the Al-Mamunya Lyceum, an institute attended mostly by non-Israeli girls in Sheikh Jarrah, a mostly Arab neighbourhood in East Jerusalem that is often the centre of controversy. Accompanied by the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, Peres celebrated the first day of school with the parents, joked with them and invited the country’s entire academic community “to concentrate on their studies” in a climate of serenity, highlighting that “there is no war” today. The meeting did not take place without hints at current political conflicts. It occurred when a young student asked the president what he thought of the expansion of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem (for which the international community does not recognise Israel’s sovereignty, in spite of the annexation of 1967) and the construction activity currently in course in Sheikh Jarrah, increasingly criticised in recent months by the US and EU, as well as the Palestinian National Authority. “I believe that”, Peres responded, “Jews and Arabs most both be free to construct (houses in East Jerusalem) according to their necessities”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Arab Government Official Tells CBN: Hezbollah Threat Growing

by Erick Stakelbeck

I recently sat down with an Arab government official who is plugged in to security issues in the Middle East and North Africa.

Some of what he shared with me:

  • Hezbollah is seeking to develop chemical and biological weapons capabilities.
  • Hezbollah “will be making front page news soon. They are just waiting for the orders to act—they are not in a hurry.”
  • Hezbollah is expanding its operations in Africa, where it is working with Latin American drug cartels in an unholy alliance. The terror group has long used drug money to help fund its operations.
  • Al Qaeda’s North Africa branch is becoming a serious threat with global reach.

You can read my entire report on our conversation by clicking the above link.

[Return to headlines]

Cyprus: Turks Killed 300 Civilians in August ‘74, Newspaper

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 31 — Tens of Greek-Cypriot civilians were reportedly killed by Turkish troops in the summer of 1974, at the start of the invasion of Cyprus, in the port city of Kyrenia. The news was announced by the Turkish-Cypriot newspaper Africa, which quotes a Turkish-Cypriot man who claims that he has witnessed the massacre, which he says took place at Kyrenia, the first city to be occupied by the Turkish troops. According to the eyewitness, the soldiers used their bayonets to kill civilians who arrived in the port region on some busses. The civilians, more than 300, were to be deported to Turkey. The eyewitness also said that the bodies of the victims were buried in a mass grave near the MareMonte hotel in Kyrenia. In the past weeks the remains of five soldiers of the National Guard, killed on August 14 1974 by a shot in the head, were found. The bodies had been thrown in a well in the village of Tziaos. The five Greek-Cypriot soldiers were photographed a few hours before their execution by Turkish reporter Ergin Konuksever, while sitting on their knees with their hands up. The remains of the five were found thanks to the work of a commission composed of a Greek-Cypriot man, a Turkish-Cypriot man and a UN representative. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy-Lebanon: Milan-Style Aperitifs Now Also in Beirut

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, AUGUST 26 — The Milanese tradition of the aperitif has reached Lebanon: as of tomorrow it will be possible in Beirut to sample a rich buffet, each Thursday after work, together with Campari, Prosecco and other drinks while listening to music with a strong “Italian influence”. The initiative was taken by a young man from Bologna, Federico De Nardo (35), who has lived in Lebanon for two years as director of a project for an Italian NGO. “There is no place for aperitifs in Beirut, therefore we have created one. It’s only a hobby for me,” De Nardo told ANSA. Co-owner in Italy of a company that organises parties and events, De Nardo will weekly receive his clients in bar-restaurant ‘Reservoir Beirut’, in the Ramlet al Bayda district, named after the largest public beach of the Lebanese capital. “I am from Bologna, but this initiative was modeled on the Milanese tradition of the aperitif,” said De Nardo. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Mega Anti-Drug Operation in Bekaa Valley

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, AUGUST 19 — The huge anti-drug operation currently under way in the eastern Bekaa valley in Lebanon will last 25 days, reports the Beirut press today, adding that police and soldiers from the Lebanese army will work on destroying more than 2,000 hectares of hashish crops up to September 15. “We are hoping that everything will end without incident” said the military units responsible for the operation, adding that “the security forces are ready to tackle anyone who tries to interfere with our work”. During a similar anti-drugs operation in April five soldiers were killed in an ambush carried out by criminal gangs who manage the trafficking of hashish and stolen cars in the area. Since the civil war (1975-1990) the eastern Bekaa Valley has been the site of a flourishing drugs trafficking industry which has made the Shiite and Christian clans from the area rich, and whose proceeds are often used to provide basic services to the local population, which has traditionally been neglected by the Beirut authorities.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Lebanon: USD 4 Mln From USAID to Set Up Sewage System

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 26 — The United States Agency for International Development (Usaid) has donated USD 4 million for the construction of a sewage system in the Bekaa valley, Lebanon, according to Ice Beirut. The plant will have a capacity of 200.000 daily cubic meters of water and will built up by construction society CampDresser&McKee. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Lebanon: New Arrest for Suspected Spy Working for Israel

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT,AUGUST 31 — A suspected Lebanese spy accused of working for Israel has been arrested by special Lebanese forces in southern Lebanon, close to the provisional border with Israel. Lebanese TV reported today that the man is a former member of the South Lebanon Army (SLA), the army battalion made up of mainly Christians, set up by the Israelis during the years of occupation (1978-200). Hussein al Asmar (40), who was at one time the bodyguard of on of the SLA’s top officials, was arrested for the first time in 2001 for collaborating with Israel. Asmar served six months in the Rumiye prison, north west of Beirut. He was arrested yesterday in his home village of Adayse, a few kilometres from the Blue Line which marks the border between Lebanon an Israel. In recent months around seventy Lebanese have been arrested by the Beirut authorities suspected of working as spies for the “enemy”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

‘Strong Army, Strong Turkey’ Mark Independence

Turkey’s powerful military has organized a series of events to celebrate the country’s independence from foreign occupation, while Chief of General Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug highlighted on Friday that the value of an army is measured by the value of its officers and commanders.

“The Turkish Armed Forces is the defender of the nation-state and its secular and unitary structure and will always be so,” Basbug said at a military ceremony.

“The value of an army is measured by the value of its officers and commanders. There is no doubt that a strong army means a strong Turkey,” he said.

“Strong Army, Strong Turkey,” is the motto of this year’s Victory Week celebrations from Aug. 25 through 30, which are unfolding even more gloriously than in previous years.

“This has no special meaning,” said General Staff Secretary-General Maj. Gen. Ferit Güler, when asked by reporters why this year was different from the past. “We have intensified activities to make it more glorious,” he said, without elaborating.

Some 4,000 guests are expected to participate in the reception on Sunday at 8:30 p.m. and, differing from past events, 100 citizens, authors, artists and businessmen will be present besides the commanders, high-ranking state officials and members of the press. The citizens’ invitations have already been dispatched to the Ankara Governor’s Office, said Güler.

The “Sari Seybek” fashion exhibit by Turkey’s well-known designer Faruk Saraç, which is made up of the clothes worn by the Republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, will be on display during the reception.

“We hope that the Victory Bayram we are celebrating this year will take place in such a fashion that it will be an indicator of our determination to maintain forever our nation’s spirit of unity from 87 years ago,” he stressed.

The official ceremony will begin Sunday morning at Atatürk’s Mausoleum, to be followed by a muster parade at the Atatürk Culture Center. Aug. 30, which is also known as the day of the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, will be marked by a 21-gun salute. A battalion from the president’s guard will march from Sihhiye to Kizilay and on to Parliament. At 4 p.m., a diploma ceremony will take place at the War Academy.

Güler said the number of military personnel who will attend the Aug. 30 parade has increased to 8,881 this year from 4,512 the previous year. The number of armored vehicles rose to 94 from 42, the number of aircrafts to 56 and helicopters to 25, he said.

In previous years, only the flags of units deployed at the Ankara Garrison were being represented at the ceremonies, but this year the flags of all units throughout Turkey are represented, said the official.

“This year it will be the first time that the Turkish flag, the symbol of our national unity and integrity, will be carried by a unit made up of 660 soldiers belonging to the land, naval, air forces and the gendarmerie command,” stressed Güler.

The military has organized activities from the beginning of the week for the citizens as well. At the big shopping malls in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, Bursa, Eskisehir, Samsun and Erzurum, pavilions promoting the TSK were opened. Aug. 30 brochures and promotion CDs have been handed out to the citizens who will attend the ceremonies and representatives of foreign missions in Turkey.

On Saturday, Turkish pop singer Kiraç will give a public concert in Ankara to be followed by a performance by the military band. In Istanbul, 22 ships, 11 aircrafts and helicopters will parade along the Bosphorus strait on Sunday.

Anecdotes from history

Gen. Basbug decorated newly promoted commanders with awards for honor and eminent services on Friday. In his speech prior to the ceremony, he highlighted that the Aug. 30 Independence Day marked the birth of the Republic. Sharing anecdotes from history, the top commander said that the number of members in the Turkish army during the 1922 war almost equaled the number of Greek army members, with the involvement of all of the citizens of Anatolia.

“The last conflicts in Anatolia took place in Erdek,” he said, referring to a district of Balikesir province in the Marmara region. “After the conflict there, Anatolia was cleared of Greek soldiers on Sept. 18, 1922. The period when the victory was declared lasted for 24 days from Aug. 26 to Sept. 18,” added Gen. Basbug.

Giving figures from the war, he said: “The number of fallen soldiers from the Turkish army was 2,543 and the number of the wounded was 9,855. The losses of the Greek army were over 100,000. From the 230,000-person Greek army, 20,000 were taken prisoners by the Turkish army and 80,000 fled from Anatolia. Such a campaign is unique in world history.”

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

Syria: Assad Attacks Iraqi Charges as “Immoral”

Baghdad, 31 August (AKI) — Syrian president Bashar al-Assad on Monday rejected accusations from the Iraqi government that Damascus was involved in violent attacks inside the country. Assad said the claims were “immoral,” given the fact that Syria is “hosting” 1.2 million Iraqis.

Assad’s remarks were the latest in an escalating war of words between the two neighbours since Iraqi officials accused Syria of complicity in a several major violent attacks in Iraq.

“When Syria is accused of killing Iraqis, while it is housing around 1.2 million Iraqis … this is considered an immoral accusation,” Assad told a joint news conference with visiting Cypriot President Demetris Christofias in Damascus.

“When Syria is accused of supporting terrorism, while it has been fighting it for decades … this is a political accusation that follows no political logic. And when it is accused of terrorism without proof, it is outside any legal logic.”

Iraq and Syria recalled their ambassadors last week after Baghdad demanded that Damascus hand over two alleged masterminds of devastating bomb attacks that killed almost 100 people, mainly at two government ministries, in Baghdad.

On Sunday, Iraq aired a confession from a suspected Al-Qaeda militant who accused Syrian intelligence agents of training foreign fighters like himself before sending them to fight in Iraq.

Assad said Syria was still waiting for Iraq to send a delegation with documented evidence of the charges.

Iran has called for talks among Iraq and its neighbours in the wake of the accusations, aned Turkey’s foreign minister was visiting Baghdad on Monday to try to soothe relations between the two.

Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu held talks with his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad.

Zebari told reporters that Iraq did not need “international mediation to resolve its differences with Syria, but needed its help to ensure the security and stability of the country and the region.

Baghad has asked for an international inquiry to investigate the attacks while stressing it does not want to escalate the crisis. “We want the truth to be revealed,” he said.

Davutoglu was also due to meet Iraqi president Jalal Talabani before proceeding to the Syrian capital Damascus to meet president Bashar al-Assad and foreign minister Walid Muallem.

Relations between Iraq and Syria deteriorated after Baghdad alleged that Damascus was harboring leaders behind one of two devastating truck bombings that killed 95 people and wounded about 600 others in the Iraqi capital on 19 August.

Last week, Iraq recalled its ambassador in Damascus and Syria retaliated within hours by ordering back its envoy from Baghdad.

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

Turkey: Erdogan and the Christians. Few Promises, Zero Action

A surprise visit from the Turkish prime minister to Bartholomew I. But like other conciliatory gestures in the past, this one also risks producing no results. Benedict XVI’s reservations on the entry of Turkey into the European Union. The caution of Vatican diplomacy

ROME, August 27, 2009 — Samuel Huntington called Turkey “Janus-faced,” you never know if it’s a friend or enemy of the West.

The same thought must have come to mind for Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, when last August 15 he welcomed Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for a visit to the orphanage and monastery of Saint George Koudounas on the Princes’ Islands in the Marmara Sea.

It was the first time that a Turkish prime minister had gone to the Princes Islands, traditionally inhabited by Christians, and to a building, the orphanage, which after being requisitioned by the Turkish authorities was ruled to belong to the ecumenical patriarchate by the court of Strasbourg in June of 2008.

During his visit, Erdogan, accompanied by four of his ministers, had lunch with Bartholomew I and with representatives of the religious minorities in Turkey — Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Jewish, Syriac Orthodox, and Catholic — to whom he made guarantees against all forms of religious and ethnic discrimination.

“My neighbor must be met with love, because he is also a creature of God,” Erdogan said, citing a maxim from the Mevlevi Shiite confraternity, which emerged on Konya in the 13th century, with some elements taken from Christianity.

Asked for a comment, Bartholomew I told Asia News: “Erdogan’s presence was an honor for us, and it gave us an opportunity to present our problems directly, although he already knows about them. We invited the prime minister to the see of the ecumenical patriarchate and to Halki, and Erdogan thanked us for the invitation.”

Halki is another island, the site of the seminary of theological formation for the ecumenical patriarchate, which was closed by the Turkish authorities in 1971. Last June 10, in Brussels, Olli Rehn, the European Union commissioner for enlargement and therefore also overseeing the possible entry of Turkey, stated that this entry is conditional in part on the reopening of the Halki seminary.

Erdogan has until December of 2009 to present the authorities in Brussels with an account of the progress that Turkey has made in meeting the standards necessary for entry into the EU. For the patriarchate, this is one more reason to hope that the theological seminary of Halki will finally be reopened and resume its functions.

Unfortunately, however, “Janus” has repeatedly frustrated expectations, showing this and other religious minorities in Turkey not its friendly face, but its hostile one.

Regarding the patriarchate, for example, the Turkish state continues to decline to recognize its religious “ecumenicity.” It treats it as a local body established for the worship of the Greek Orthodox, headed by a leader who must be born a Turkish citizen, devoid of legal personality and therefore also of the right to property. The annihilation of the patriarchate — which in Turkey today has been reduced to a few more than 3,000 faithful — has so far shown no serious signs of turning around.

This also applies to the other Christian minorities. The most substantial community, that of the Armenians, was decimated less than a century ago by a genocide that the authorities in Ankara refuse to acknowledge, and today there are just a few tens of thousands of them left, out of a population of more than 70 million inhabitants, almost all of them Muslim. There are about 25,000 Catholics, with six bishops, 10,000 Syriac Orthodox, and 3,000 Protestants of various denominations.

Like Erdogan, but not for the same reasons, all of these religious minorities have high hopes for Turkey’s entry into the European Union. For them, this entry would mean the recognition of room for freedom that they fear will otherwise continue to be significantly limited.

In Europe itself, however, their reasoning receives little consideration. Some governments there, including those of Italy and Germany, are in favor of Turkey’s entry into the EU, while others, like that of France, are against it. Nonetheless, both sides are thinking in terms of national interest. Calculations involving the oil and gas pipelines that originate in Turkish-speaking, Muslim countries in central Asia, and pass through Turkey, take precedence over those concerning religious freedom.


Against this background, the position of the Holy See also appears two-faced.

On the one hand, Vatican diplomacy takes into account both the expectations of the Catholics and the other religious minorities in Turkey, and the geopolitical factors seen as favoring its entry into the EU. The man most candid in expressing this cautiously optimistic view has been Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state, in an interview with “La Documentation Catholique” at the beginning of 2007.

Having stated that the Catholic Church has no “special power to promote the entry of Turkey into Europe, or to veto this,” Bertone said in the interview that “without Turkey, Europe would no longer benefit from that bridge between East and West which this country has always been in the course of history. […] Leaving Turkey outside of Europe also risks fostering Islamist fundamentalism within the country.”

On the other hand, however, Church authorities are also sensitive to the opposing dangers that the entry of Turkey into the European Union could bring: not a beneficial integration of Turkey into Europe, but a “catastrophe” for a continent that has renounced its Christian identity.

The word “catastrophe” is in the title of a book that contains the most incisive overview of these objections. Published in Italy this year, the book was written by historian Roberto de Mattei, vice president of the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche and director of the magazine “Radici Cristiane.” It is entitled “La Turchia in Europa: beneficio o catastrofe?”, and opts decisively for the second of these two hypotheses.

In effect, the historical precedents are not encouraging. Modern-day Turkey was one of the most vital areas of Christianity during its first centuries, and still at the beginning of the 20th century, after centuries of Ottoman rule, it still had deep imprints of this Christian identity, and numerous faithful. Over a few decades, these imprints have also been nearly wiped out by the combined pressure of the exaggerated secularism of Kemal Atatürk and of the Islamist resurgence that ultimately came to power with Erdogan.

Benedict XVI is fully aware of these dangers. When he went to Turkey in November of 2006, it was just a few months after the killing of a Catholic priest, Andrea Santoro, who was shot to death by an Islamist fanatic while he was kneeling in prayer in the little church of Trabzon.

During his trip to Turkey, Benedict XVI did not say a single word about the entry of this country into the European Union. And the international press interpreted this silence as assent, confirmed by a few comments made by Erdogan after his meeting with the pope. But there is no reason to think that Joseph Ratzinger has softened, as pope, the strong reservations that he expressed on this matter before being elected successor of Peter.

Ratzinger spoke out in this topic twice, within a short span of time, during the summer of 2004. The first time was in an interview with Sophie de Ravinel, for “Le Figaro Magazine” on August 13:

“Europe is a cultural continent, not a geographical one. It is its culture that gives it a common identity. The roots that have formed it, that have permitted the formation of this continent, are those of Christianity. […] In this sense, throughout history Turkey has always represented another continent, in permanent contrast with Europe. There were the wars against the Byzantine empire, the fall of Constantinople, the Balkan wars, and the threat against Vienna and Austria. That is why I think it would be an error to equate the two continents. It would mean a loss of richness, the disappearance of culture for the sake of economic benefits. Turkey, which is considered a secular country but is founded upon Islam, could instead attempt to bring to life a cultural continent together with some neighboring Arab countries, and thus become the protagonist of a culture that would possess its own identity but would also share the great humanistic values that we should all acknowledge. This idea is not incompatible with close and friendly forms of association and collaboration with Europe, and would permit the development of unified strength in opposition to any form of fundamentalism.”

The second time, he was speaking to the pastoral workers of the diocese of Velletri, on September 18:

“Historically and culturally, Turkey has little in common with Europe; for this reason, it would be a great error to incorporate it into the European Union. It would be better for Turkey to become a bridge between Europe and the Arab world, or to form together with that world its own cultural continent. Europe is not a geographical concept, but a cultural one, formed in a sometimes conflictual historical process centered upon the Christian faith, and it is a matter of fact that the Ottoman empire was always in opposition to Europe. Even though Kemal Atatürk constructed a secular Turkey during the 1920’s, the country remains the nucleus of the old Ottoman empire; it has an Islamic foundation, and is thus very different from Europe, which is a collection of secular states with Christian foundations, although today these countries seem to deny this without justification. Thus the entry of Turkey into the EU would be anti-historical.”

As pope, Benedict XVI has always demonstrated that he has at heart, more than the political destiny of Turkey, the fate of the Christians of that country and the efforts at reconciliation between the Church of Rome and the ecumenical patriarchate, relations with which are excellent.

But all the same, the Holy See is also a political player. And concerning the entry of Turkey into the European Union, there is a middle way between those for and those against, which the Vatican seems increasingly inclined to support.

It is the stance that Cardinal Bertone himself hinted at in the cited interview with “La Documentation Catholique”: not the complete integration of Turkey into Europe, but participation on a strictly economic level.


The book:

Roberto de Mattei, “La Turchia in Europa: beneficio o catastrofe?”, Sugarco, Milan, 2009, pp. 152, euro 15.00.


One very reliable source of information on relations between the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople and Turkey is the online agency of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions:

> Asia News


For the previous articles from www.chiesa on Turkey and on the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople, see:

> Focus on ISLAM



English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.

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


Crew of Arctic Sea Released After Nearly Two Weeks

Prime Minsiter Vanhanen to ask Putin about investigation on Tuesday

The Russian security service released the crew of the Arctic Sea in Moscow on Sunday.

The 11 members of the crew of the hijacked ship were flown from Cape Verde to Russia nearly two weeks ago.

The Russian news agency Interfax reports that the men returned to their home town of Archangelsk, where they were met by their families.

On Sunday, Russian authorities gave conflicting accounts of whether or not all of the crew would be released.

The online portal reported that only nine members of the crew had been released.

Rabbe von Hertzen of the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said that no information had come to Finland during the weekend about the release of the crew.

Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) described the hijacking on Sunday as a confused situation. He was speaking on a monthly radio interview programme of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE).

The motives behind the hijacking remained confused. Vanhanen says that he will discuss the matter with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin when the two meet on Tuesday.

The investigation into the hijacking is made more complicated by the fact that the ship flies under the Maltese flag, the shipping line is Finnish, but is under Russian ownership, the entire crew are Russian, and the hijackers are apparently from the Baltic countries.

The crew and the hijackers are nevertheless being interrogated in Russia, whose navy captured the hijackers near Cape Verde on August 17th.

The Arctic Sea was hijacked in Swedish waters in late July.

Many rumours still circulate around the motives for the hijacking, the reasons for the massive Russian response, and the possible additional cargo — in addition to Finnish timber — that might have been on board the vessel.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Don’t Get Scammed by Russia Again

AMERICAN and Russian teams will start another round of talks in Vienna as early as today on a new nuclear-arms-reduction pact to replace the expiring Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Problem is Russia isn’t meeting its obligations on some old arms-control agreements.

It’s no small matter — but the question is: Will the Obama administration make an issue of it?

Some analysts fear that, with President Obama keen for a nuke-free world, US negotiators might be willing to look the other way to reach an accord with Russia, despite a record of non-compliance with existing arms-control agreements.

So what are the Russkies scamming on?

Tactical nuclear weapons: President George Bush (41) and his Soviet/Russian counterparts, Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, adopted the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives (PNI) to dramatically reduce tactical nuke arsenals.

Earlier this year, a congressional panel, the Strategic Posture Commission, reported that Russia is “no longer in compliance with its PNI commitments” — leaving Moscow with what some say could be a 10:1 advantage in “battlefield” nukes.

Nuke testing: America, Russia and others have undertaken an informal moratorium on nuclear-weapons tests based on the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which President Bill Clinton signed but the Senate never ratified.

But an SPC member warned recently that Russian “nuclear labs have been growing, their budgets have been increasing and they continue an active underground test program at Novaya Zemlya, which includes the release of low levels of nuclear energy.”

This conflicts with America’s no-bang, “zero-yield” standard and suggests Moscow is doing some low-yield testing that could lead to new weapons’ development. (Russian doctrine puts a premium on fighting battlefield nuclear war.)

Strategic arms: Even as it negotiates a new START treaty, the Kremlin is fudging on the existing one. A 2005 State Department report points to multiple Russian violations, including restrictions on inspections of its intercontinental ballistic missiles and warheads.

There’s more: One expert recently noted Russia is testing its SS-27 ICBM with multiple warheads. But START identifies the SS-27 as a single-warhead missile — and permits testing/deployment only in that configuration.

Proliferation: Others say Russia has been cutting corners on accepted non-proliferation standards — notably, by helping Iran and North Korea develop ballistic missiles and nuclear know-how. This is no small matter, considering the threat to America.

Indeed, the director of national intelligence sent a letter to the State Department in March 2007, stating: “We assess that individual Russian entities continue to provide assistance to Iran’s ballistic-missile programs” — which implies either Kremlin involvement in, knowledge of, or failure to intervene into these activities.

Some analysts also think North Korea got Russian help in the form of key components for its April long-range-missile test. Others see Moscow’s aid to the Iranian nuclear program going beyond the reactor it’s building at Bushehr.

Adding to fears Obama’s negotiators won’t bring up these issues in the Vienna talks is the tentative deal he struck with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev on dual-use strategic-delivery systems this summer, drastically cutting US subs and bombers that have conventional military roles, too. They may also throw Iran-focused, Europe-based US missile defense, which the Russkies hate, under the bus in order close a deal.

Successful arms control depends on actually controlling weapons in ways that serve US national-security interests, not by merely inking new pacts for the sake of concluding a deal that sounds good.

Before we rush into signing onto any more arms-control treaties, we need to get to the bottom of Russia’s non-compliance with existing arms-control and non-proliferation promises.

If we don’t, the Russians will have little if any incentive to correctly implement any new treaty — and every reason to find clever ways to cheat, as it looks like they’re doing now, further jeopardizing our national security.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Russia: USSR Didn’t Need Allies to Win WWII — Survey

[Comment from Tuan Jim: What are they teaching in school these days?]

Almost two thirds of Russians (63%) are confident the USSR could have won the Second World War without any help from the Allies, a nationwide survey has concluded.

However, according to the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, the number of respondents sharing this opinion has fallen from 71% in 2001, Interfax news agency reports.

The number of those who recognize the role of the US, Britain and France in defeating fascism, is just 23%.

The survey conducted in anticipation of the 70th anniversary of the beginning of World War II also revealed the double in numbers of those who have no answer to the question (from 7% to 15%).

As before, most of the Russians (87%) consider the Soviet Union’s contribution to the victory as decisive. The role of Great Britain and France, as a rule, is considered insignificant (36% and 34%, respectively) or quite large (26% and 22%, respectively).

For the US, the respondents are equally likely to express both points of view (30%). In addition, a significant number of respondents (47%) think China did not help in fighting the Nazis at all.

According to the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, for the past seven years the opinion of Russian citizens about the role of certain countries in the victory in World War II has changed.

The proportion of Russians who think the USSR contributed the most has decreased from 92% to 87%.

Less people consider Britain’s role as minor (36% instead of 42%), along with China’s (18% instead of 27%), America’s (30% instead of 39%) and France’s (34% instead of 39%).

At the same time, more respondents give credit to the US, considering America to be the main force in putting Hitler down.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]


Remembering the Massacre at Beslan — 5 Years Ago Today

[See linked article for photos and video]

It was the first day of school.

A group of 32 armed Chechen separatists and Islamic fundamentalists, including one Saudi national, took more than 1,200 schoolchildren and adults hostage at School Number One (SNO) in the town of Beslan, North Ossetia-Alania.

Little did the children and parents know what the next 56 hours would bring.

KC the Kat put together this beautiful tribute to the children of Beslan.

(Warning: This will break your heart)

Guns, wires, and bombs.

During the siege the terrorists separated young girls from the other children and took them out of the gym to be raped. The Islamists forced their hostages to clean up blood off the floors from the dead children and adults. It was so hot the children were forced to strip off their new clothes. They drank their own urine to stay alive. They were not allowed to move. After the explosions in the gym one boy dragged his younger brother through the halls. He pulled his limp body through a broken window.

The boy from Beslan…

One of the most striking images coming from the Beslan School gymnasium during the early hours after the siege was this shot of a terrified young Beslan boy sitting in the gymnasium where he was being held by the Chechen terrorists…

[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Diana West: Out of Afghanistan

“Time to Get Out of Afghanistan” is the headline of George Will’s column today, a welcome affirmation by a conservative of my own rather lonesome position as first expressed five months ago in “Let Afghanistan Go”, which draws on the military expertise of Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely (USA ret.), and in various writings since.

Will’s heavy-weight weighing in prompted headlines everywhere, driving Surger-cons at NRO’s The Corner and Hot Air, into rapid-response-mode to bat down Will’s heterodoxy. This is a good thing because there has been no debate on the Right on this vital national concern.

It will be a hard slog, however. What animates and drives the more or less institutional Right is its vision of Iraq as a “success,” and its desire to repeat that “success” in Afghanistan. But, as noted here, “an infidel nation cannot fight for the soul of an islamic nation.” Correction, it can fight — which US forces have been doing for the past eight years — but it cannot win. There is nothing to win, which is why, for example Iraq, after six awful years of US involvement, is still just another stinkin’ OPEC-belonging, Israel-boycotting, Hezbollah-sympathetic, anti-US entity with new and improved ties to Iran…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]

India: Burqa ‘Ban’ Rocks Hyderabad College

HYDERABAD: Trouble erupted in Muslim dominated Mehdipatnam after burqa-clad young girl students held a massive agitation outside Vani College (Junior and Degree) on Friday morning after the college principal, Y Annapurna, allegedly asked students not to wear burqa to class and shut the college gates on them.

The agitation soon degenerated into a stone pelting session with male students fron neigbouring colleges and parents of the girls joining in. The situation came under control only after the police — called in by the college management — resorted to a lathi charge.

The agitation came a day after a dharna by the students on Thursday protesting against what was termed by them as “the failure of the college management to react to the abduction of a girl student” from the institution earlier this week. The college management had looked the other way as they perceived that the girl had eloped with her boyfriend. In the event, the girl had returned by evening.

On Friday morning, the students charged that the principal had been berating them for wearing burqa for over a week saying that it did not comply with the uniform (salwar kameez) worn by other students. But the immediate trigger for the Friday trouble was the refusal of the principal to allow entry to late coming students, which soon degenerated into an argument about burqa, the month of Ramzaan and other matters like ‘promiscuity’ of girls.

“About 300 local youth joined the protesting girls and when police asked them to leave the place, some of them pelted stones at the police and college building,” deputy commissioner of police C Ravi Varma said. Eye witnesses said that male students of Gowtham Junior and Narayana Junior College who have their friends studying in Vani College joined in and started the bedlam.

“We were asked why are you wearing burqa when you are not particular about keeping our modesty. These comments are too much to bear,” a student from the college claimed. “The principal’s attitude irked us and hence we decided to take help from our parents,” a student of the college, Nadima Rahman told TOI.

The principal, Annapurna, however, told TOI, that she did not make any objectionable comment against the burqa. “The students were coming late for class and I had scolded them. They objected to this and staged a protest,” she said. The students, however, said that they were getting delayed because of the ongoing month of Ramzan and they had to offer Namaz before coming to college. They said, the college should not object to religious practices. “The college authorities blame us saying that we are spending more time in the mosque than with our books. This is objectionable,” a student said.

Analysts were amazed at the turn of events because the college has predominantly Muslims students. “I could understand such things happening in hardcore Hindu colleges and only with a few Muslim students. But not here,” said Salim Khan, a local resident. But an analyst — a Muslim-who does not want to be named said that “girls are girls, Hindu or Muslim. Their aspirations will be the same. Young girls will want to mingle with young boys, whether they wear burqa or not. Obviously, the principal is unable to appreciate this. She wants to say why are you friends with boys when you wear a burqa? This is the genesis of the trouble,” he added.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Mutilated Afghan Farmer Regrets Going to Vote

KABUL (Reuters) — Lal Mohammad, a 40-year-old Afghan farmer, was one of millions of people who defied Taliban threats against voters and set out to cast his ballot in this month’s presidential election. But he soon regretted his defiance.

Fighters ambushed Mohammad as he was walking to a polling station and cut off part of his nose and his ears.

The Taliban vowed to disrupt the Aug. 20 vote, threatening reprisals against voters and staging scores of rocket attacks and several bombings across the country on election day.

The threats and violence failed to stop the election from taking place, but they do seem to have hurt turnout in some areas, especially the Taliban heartland in the south.

Mohammad, speaking haltingly in a hospital in the capital, Kabul, described how militants stopped and searched him while he was on his way to a polling booth.

They beat him with the butt of an assault rifle after they found his voting card.

Then they took out a knife.

“I saw one reaching my nose with a knife. I asked him to stop, but it was useless,” Mohammad said…

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Foreigners on Way to Waziristan Held Near D.G. Khan

DERA GHAZI KHAN, Aug 28: Police claimed on Friday to have arrested 12 foreigners, a couple and their child among them, at the Ramak checkpoint on the Punjab-NWFP border.

The suspected militants — seven Turks, three Swedes, a Russian and an Iranian — were detained when the van carrying them tried to enter the NWFP from Dera Ghazi Khan.

They had entered Dera Ghazi Khan from Balochistan through the Bowata checkpoint.

According to APP, they possessed CDs, foreign currency and jihadi literature.

Police sources said the suspects claimed to be members of the Tableeghi Jamaat and said that they were on a preaching mission.

AP adds: An official said the suspects “had links with Taliban” and they wanted to go to South Waziristan after having sneaked into the country from Iran.

Police had seized a laptop computer and $10,000 from them, he said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

The Road Home From Afghanistan

Why a flexible timetable to withdraw U.S. troops will best advance our national security interests.

After nearly eight long years, we seem to be no closer to the end of the war in Afghanistan. In fact, given the current buildup of U.S. troops and the possibility that even more may be deploying soon, many Americans, and many Afghans, wonder what we hope to achieve-and when our service members will start to come home.

We went into Afghanistan with a clear mission: to destroy those who helped to perpetrate the horrific 9/11 attacks. I voted to authorize sending our forces there because it was vital to our national security, and I strongly criticized the previous administration for shortchanging that mission in favor of a misguided war in Iraq.

President Barack Obama is rightly focusing on this critical part of the world. But I cannot support an open-ended commitment to an escalating war in Afghanistan when the al Qaeda operatives we sought have largely been captured or killed or crossed the border to Pakistan.

Ending al Qaeda’s safe haven in Pakistan is a top national security priority. Yet our operations in Afghanistan will not do so, and they could actually contribute to further destabilization of Pakistan. Meanwhile, we’ve become embroiled in a nation-building experiment that may distract us from combating al Qaeda and its affiliates, not just in Pakistan, but in Yemen, the Horn of Africa and other terrorist sanctuaries.

We need to start discussing a flexible timetable to bring our brave troops out of Afghanistan. Proposing a timetable doesn’t mean giving up our ability to go after al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Far from it: We should continue a more focused military mission that includes targeted strikes on Taliban and al Qaeda leaders, and we should step up our long-term civilian efforts to deal with the corruption in the Afghan government that has helped the Taliban to thrive. But we must recognize that our troop presence contributes to resentment in some quarters and hinders our ability to achieve our broader national security goals.

Some may argue that if we leave now, the Taliban will expand its control over parts of Afghanistan and provide a wider safe haven for al Qaeda. But dedicating a disproportionate amount of our resources to the military occupation of one country is not the most effective way to combat the terrorist threat we face. Even if we invest billions more dollars annually for the next 10 years and sacrifice hundreds more American lives, we are unlikely to get a credible government capable of governing all Afghan territory.

Instead, we should seek to deny al Qaeda a safe haven in Afghanistan in the long term with a civilian-led strategy discouraging any support for the Taliban by Pakistani security forces, and offer assistance to improve Afghanistan’s economy while fighting corruption in its government. This should be coupled with targeted military operations and a diplomatic strategy that incorporates all the countries in the region. We will never relent in our pursuit of al Qaeda, nor will we “walk away” from Afghanistan. But our massive military presence there is driving our enemies together and may well be counterproductive.

There is a very real possibility that our military presence in Afghanistan will drive militant extremists south and east into Pakistan, al Qaeda’s primary sanctuary. Pakistan is a nuclear power beset by poverty, sectarian conflict, ineffectual government, instability and an inconsistent record of fighting militancy. It is a witch’s brew of threats to our national security that we cannot afford to further destabilize. Yet we may unwittingly do just that. Especially before Pakistan’s government has demonstrated a firm commitment to denying sanctuary to Taliban leadership it has long harbored, further destabilization could undermine our own security.

I’m not alone in being troubled by the prospect of destabilizing Pakistan. During hearings in May at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I asked the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, and Special Representative Richard Holbrooke, whether our troop increases might worsen instability in Pakistan. Adm. Mullen candidly said he shared that concern.

Mr. Holbrooke went even further. “You’re absolutely correct,” he said, “that an additional amount of American troops, and particularly if they’re successful in Helmand and Kandahar, could end up creating a pressure in Pakistan which would add to the instability.”

There were even more candid answers to questions about the length of the mission in Afghanistan and the metrics we should use to measure its success. Mr. Holbrooke was asked at the Center for American Progress on Aug. 13 how we will know we have succeeded in Afghanistan. “We’ll know it when we see it,” he replied. On the same day, Defense Secretary Robert Gates gave a similar answer at a Pentagon briefing when asked how long U.S. forces would be fighting in Afghanistan, likening it to a mystery with too many variables to predict. But we must have much more concrete measures, and a much clearer strategy, when we are committing so many American lives and dollars to this cause.

We also ignore the lessons of history by pursuing a drawn-out military mission in Afghanistan. The experiences of the Soviets and the British make it painfully clear just how elusive a military victory in Afghanistan can be. That alone should give us reason to rethink an open-ended military presence in Afghanistan.

In light of their country’s history with great powers, it should come as no surprise that Afghans are increasingly skeptical of our military presence. A 2007 poll (conducted by ABC News, the BBC and ARD German TV) showed most Afghans in the Southwest no longer support the presence of foreign troops, and a poll this year (conducted ABC News and the BBC) found that nationwide a plurality of Afghans want troop levels reduced, not increased.

Announcing a flexible timetable for when our massive military presence will end would be one of the best things we could do to advance our national security interests in Afghanistan. By doing so, we would undercut the misperception of the U.S. as an occupying force that has propped up a weak, corrupt and unpopular government, while at the same time removing a tremendous strain on our troops and our economy.

While we have many important goals in Afghanistan, we must be realistic about our limited ability to quickly change the fundamental political realities on the ground. The recent presidential election shows there will be no easy solution to the sectarianism, corruption and warlordism that plague that country. We should seriously question putting so many American lives at risk to expand, through military force, the reach of a government that has failed to win the support of its own people.

Instead of increasing troop levels in Afghanistan, we should start talking about a flexible timetable to begin drawing those levels down. It is time to ask the hard questions-and accept the candid answers-about how our military presence in Afghanistan may be undermining our national security.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

US Pressures Myanmar as Nervous Refugees Head Home

NANSAN, China — The United States on Monday urged Myanmar to cease attacks on ethnic groups as refugees who fled into China after deadly clashes between junta forces and ethnic rebels nervously headed home.

Washington stepped in, piling pressure on Myanmar, after thousands of people poured into China fleeing fighting in the country’s remote north west in recent weeks and Beijing complained of attacks on Chinese-owned businesses.

“We urge the Burmese authorities to cease their military campaign and to develop a genuine dialogue with the ethnic minority groups, as well as with Burma’s democratic opposition,” US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said.

“The brutal fighting has forced thousands of civilians to flee their homes for safety in Thailand and China, and has reduced both stability and the prospects for national reconciliation in Burma,” he said. Washington was working on a “Burma strategy,” he added.

Officials in China’s southwestern Yunnan province have said 37,000 refugees streamed into their country after days of fighting in Kokang, a mainly ethnic Chinese region of Myanmar’s Shan state.

Eight rebel fighters and 26 security forces were killed in clashes, Myanmar state media said on Sunday, adding the unrest had ended. Two Chinese nationals were also killed, Chinese officials said.

As the fighting has subsided, refugees in the Chinese border town of Nansan crossed back into Myanmar on Monday in groups of about 40, AFP reporters witnessed.

“The Myanmar government has told us through diplomatic channels to send them back,” Yunnan provincial government spokesman Li Hui told reporters.

“Those who want to go back can return. We are finding that most of these people want to go back,” he added.

“The Myanmar government is saying that it is calm over there. From what we see, we don’t think that there is any armed fighting.”

But refugees interviewed by AFP in Nansan said they were not convinced by the junta’s claims that calm had returned to Kokang, a town of about 150,000.

“They were shooting ordinary people. I saw it myself. We don’t believe what they say. We’re afraid to go back,” said 24-year-old farmer Li Jun.

“They say they will not shoot again but they will shoot.”

Rows of blue tents have been set up in Nansan, nestled in rugged and lush mountains, for the refugees. China has provided food and medical care, while warning Myanmar to resolve the conflict quickly.

Li, the provincial government spokesman, said 13,000 refugees were staying in camps, while 10,000-20,000 more were believed to be living with friends and relatives.

A Chinese clothing shop owner, who gave only his surname Chen, said he had left Kokang with his wife amid the fighting.

“We have heard that our stores were being looted and that they are attacking the Chinese stores. We don’t know what happened to our store,” he told AFP.

His wife added: “We are afraid to go back.”

A reporter for the Global Times, an English-language state daily in China, who crossed the border into Kokang at the weekend also reported Chinese-owned restaurants and stores had been looted.

“The Myanmar government has committed to protect the safety and property of Chinese citizens,” the Yunnan government spokesman said, adding that Beijing had “expressed concern” on the issue.

China is one of the few allies of Myanmar’s isolated junta, which is under US and EU sanctions. Beijing provides the ruling generals with military hardware and is a major consumer of the country’s vast natural resources.

Few details have emerged about the clashes, which violated a 20-year ceasefire and prompted fears of all-out civil war. Fighting first erupted after police on August 8 raided an illegal weapons factory.

The Kokang forces — known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army — agreed to a ceasefire with the government in 1989 after fighting for autonomy in the region.

But the group split after recent pressure from the junta, which ordered the ethnic army to come under its command as “border guard forces”. One faction agreed to do so while the other, led by Peng Jiasheng, refused.

Peng said in an interview at the weekend with the Global Times that he had not surrendered, and regretted signing a peace deal with the junta.

“The central government has broken its promises,” Peng told the newspaper.

Yao Fu, a 46-year-old doctor who opened a hospital in Kokang about 10 years ago, described the situation in the town last week as “very desperate.”

“The Burma army had come in and started to fire on rebels… The Burmese military also was attacking Chinese businesses,” Yao said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Far East

Vietnam: Dissident Priest Not on Vietnam Amnesty List

HANOI — A dissident Catholic priest whose release has been sought by US lawmakers failed to make an amnesty list of more than 5,000 prisoners announced by Vietnam on Monday.

Nguyen Van Ly, jailed for eight years in 2007, is in deteriorating health, his sister told AFP shortly before government officials announced the amnesty to mark Vietnam’s September 2 National Day.

Ly was convicted at a half-day trial in the city of Hue for spreading propaganda against the communist state, in a case that drew condemnation from diplomats, Vietnam watchers and human rights groups.

Prosecutors said Ly was a founding member of the banned “Bloc 8406” pro-democracy coalition, named after the April 8, 2006 date on which it was launched, and that he was also a driving force behind the outlawed Vietnam Progression Party (VPP).

“Nguyen Van Ly this time is not granted amnesty because… amnesty is only granted to persons who make progress in their rehabilitation,” Le The Tiem, Vice Minister of Public Security, told a news conference.

Tiem said Ly had received amnesty once “but then he committed new violations.”

Ly, who is in his early 60s, has been jailed three times since the 1970s for a total of 14 years.

In early July a bipartisan group of 37 United States senators sent a letter to Vietnam’s President Nguyen Minh Triet calling for Ly’s “immediate and unconditional release,” saying his trial appeared “seriously flawed.”

Triet signed the decision granting amnesty to 5,459 prisoners.

“The state of my brother’s health has deteriorated since mid-July,” after a fall in his cell in May, said Ly’s sister, Nguyen Thi Hieu, who visited him last Wednesday.

“His arm and his right foot are lightly paralysed. He was walking with difficulty and needs people at his side to help him move around the room,” she said, adding prison officials had given him medication.

Tiem said Ly’s health “is now good.”

He said that 13 people who broke national security laws were granted amnesty.

These included 11 ethnic minorities from the Central Highlands. They were convicted between 2003 and 2006 for sabotaging the policy of “national unity” or for disturbing security, a separate government statement said.

Two others, convicted in 2004 of opposition to the regime, were also freed, it said.

The amnesty comes as Vietnam says it is preparing to try another national security case involving human rights lawyer Le Cong Dinh and others recently arrested and accused of anti-state activities.

US ambassador Michael Michalak last week expressed concern over those arrests as well as Vietnam’s efforts to crack down on the media and to “criminalise free speech.”

Among those granted amnesty were 794 women and 19 foreigners: four Chinese, two South Koreans, four Cambodians, two Canadians, an American, one Australian, two from Taiwan and one each from Laos, Myanmar and Congo, Tiem said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

White Flees ‘SA Oppression’

A WHITE South African man has been granted refugee status in Canada after an immigration board ruled that his “fear of persecution by African South Africans” was justified.

Brandon Huntley, 31, who grew up in Mowbray, Cape Town, made his refugee claim in April last year.

On Thursday, in Ottawa, Ontario, the only member of the immigration board to hear Huntley’s application, William Davis, ruled that Huntley would “stick out like a sore thumb due to his colour in any part of the country”.

Davis added that the unemployed irrigation sprinkler salesman had given “clear and convincing” proof of the state’s “inability or unwillingness to protect him”.

Huntley’s lawyer, Russell Kaplan, said that he is a human-rights lawyer who emigrated to Canada 20 years ago to escape the apartheid government’s discrimination against black South Africans.

Kaplan told The Times that Huntley had been attacked seven times in South Africa by black people who called him a “settler” and a “white dog”.

Kaplan’s sister, Lara, who emigrated to Canada last year, testified about the torture and murder of her other brother, Robert, by robbers in South Africa in 1997. Both Lara and Huntley gave evidence in camera in a full-day hearing on August 18.

Between 30 and 40 newspaper clippings were presented as evidence of life in South Africa.

“One article exhibited was published in [the Daily Sun in 2004] by Africa Ka Mahamba. [It was] entitled ‘Taking from whites is not a crime’,” Kaplan said.

The article quotes the leader of the “Uhuru cultural club” as telling youngsters who attended a Human Rights Day celebration to steal from whites because “it is the right thing to do”.

“The judgment was a direct criticism of the South African government,” Kaplan said.

He said that affirmative action and black economic empowerment were two of the aspects that were taken into account in considering Huntley’s application for refugee status in Canada. “These legislated policies, even though there is an explanation for them, are discriminatory. “

Huntley first went to Canada on a six-month work permit in 2004, working as a carnival attendant. He returned in 2005, staying on illegally.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said it would have been “preferable, before such a decision was made, that the South African government’s view was sought. “Quite clearly, the allegations are as preposterous as they are laughable — which they would be if they were not serious,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Africa: Frattini, Italy Proposes SME Model for Development

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 24 — In an interview with and as part of the run-up to his speech at a seminar during the Rimini meeting on “Africa: Forgotten Conflicts”, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said that “Italy has much to offer” to Africa, beginning with its “model for small and medium-sized enterprises which could spark development in many local realities”, as well as “technology for infrastructure and humanitarian assistance for the fight against endemic diseases”. “In North Africa Italy is already the top European trade partner. If it makes use of sustainable development, the African continent is destined to become an important market for our products. However, the challenge concerns immigration. We must help development, otherwise the tide of illegal immigrants heading for Europe will inevitably become unstoppable and unsustainable in humanitarian terms as well as in terms of security.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Berlusconi Threatens to Block EU

Only EC president should speak on immigration, he says

(ANSA) — Gdansk, September 1 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday said Italy was ready to block the European Council if members of the European Commission or their spokespersons continued to make statements on matters regarding member states.

At the same time, the premier denied there were any contrasts between Italy and the EC on the issue of immigration.

According to the premier, “only the president of the European Commission or his direct spokesman should make statements” because those made by other members of the EU executive “get twisted around… and give the opposition in each country ammunition which has no reason to exist”.

Berlusconi said he would take the matter up at the next EU summit “and my position will be clear and precise: we will not give our vote, thus blocking the function of European Council, unless it is clear that no commissioner or their spokesperson can speak in public about any issue”.

“We intend to ask that any commissioner or spokesperson who insists on doing so be definitively removed from their position,” he added. The European Council is the EU’s supreme body and is made up of the heads of state or government from all 27 members.

Berlusconi’s remarks came after Dennis Abbott, a spokesman for EC Vice President Jacques Barrot, said on Monday that letters had been sent to Italy and Malta asking for details on an incident regarding 75 African migrants intercepted at sea and sent back to Libya Sunday.

On Tuesday Abbot added such a request was “normal procedure in these circumstances because the EU executive wants to help and to do so it needs information”.

Abbott later said he was “surprised, very surprised” by Berlusconi’s statements “because for days we have been saying that the EC is not criticising anyone” in their handling of the phenomenon of illegal immigration.

In regard to his own role, Abbott explained “if I am asked a question I reply based on the clear instructions given to me by the office of EC Vice President Jacques Barrot,” who is responsible for justice and security at the EU executive, a post previously held by Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. EC spokesman Johannes Laitenberger later clarified that “if we ask for information this in no way represents any form of criticism”.

Laitenberger added that he had not seen Berlusconi’s comments but observed that “on the issue of immigration as with other issues we work with Italy in an objective and correct way”.

Statements from the EC, the spokesman explained, are released “according to the EU’s governing treaties and the executive commission works “as a collective body”.

In regard to Berlusconi’s criticisms, Laitenberger said “we see no reason to enter into polemics and prefer to concentrate on substance. With Italy as with all the other member states there is work which needs to be done and that is what we intend to do”. Members of the premier’s entourage later expressed their “satisfaction” for the statements made by Laitenberger, defined as “the spokesman for European Commission President Jose’ Manuel Durao Barroso who has made it clear that he never criticised Italy”.

For this reason, members of Berlusconi’s staff added,”any other interpretation is to be considered the result of political manipulation for domestic aims”. Berlusconi made his remarks on the sidelines of events here in this Polish port city marking the start of the Second World War 70 years ago.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Berlusconi: Block EU Because of Spokespersons

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 1 — “We will not give our vote anymore, which will stop the EU from functioning” and “we will ask for the commissioners to be dismissed” if spokespersons continue to speak instead of the President of the Commission, said Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi in Gdansk when asked about Brussels’ request for clarification from Italy on the immigration issue. Berlusconi’s remarks came after Dennis Abbott, a spokesman for EC Vice President Jacques Barrot, said on Monday that letters had been sent to Italy and Malta asking for details on an incident regarding 75 African migrants intercepted at sea and sent back to Libya Sunday. While speaking with journalists, the premier first denied that there is tension between Brussels and Italy regarding immigration issues. “Statements made by spokespersons are exploited,” he then added, “it is a problem that we will discuss in the upcoming heads of state and government council and my position will be decisive and precise. We will no longer give our vote, blocking on the function of the Council of Europe if it is not decided that no European Commissioner and no spokespeople can speak publically anymore about any topics”. The European Council is the EU’s supreme body and is made up of the heads of state or government from all 27 members. For Berlusconi, “it is up to the president of the European Commission alone or his spokesperson to speak” and “I will ask the commissioners and their spokespersons who have continued this poor practice for all of these years to be definitively dismissed.” “This is one thing that cannot be accepted any longer because it provides the opposition government in every country ammunition that does not exist.” Dennis Abbott, one of the spokespersons for the European Commission, was surprised by Berlusconi’s statements. “I am surprised, really surprised,” he said, “because these are days when we are saying that the Commission is not criticising any EU states” on immigration management. “If I am asked a question I respond on the basis of clear instructions that I receive from the office of the Vice-President of the European Commission Jacques Barrot,” he observed, underlining how a request for information, in this case from Italy and Malta, is a normal procedure. “The European Commission is not criticising Italy in any way,” he concluded, they are trying to support Italy and all of the EU states exposed to greater pressure due to migrations. European Commission spokesperson Johannes Laitenberger also responded to Berlusconi. “If we ask for information, this is not a form of criticism,” he said to journalists informing him of the Italian premier’s position. “I have not seen these comments,” he added, underlining that “immigration, like other issues, are things that we work on with Italy in an objective and correct manner.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Denmark: Squabbling Over Asylum Statistics

The number of successful asylum seekers has dropped markedly but the relative proportion has risen

Media reports of Iraqis refused asylum and the Integration Ministry’s alleged crackdown on refugees do not reflect the proportion of asylum seekers who are being granted temporary residency, reports Politiken newspaper.

According to the Immigration Service’s figures for the past two years, more than half of all requests for asylum have been granted. In 2007, 56 percent of applications were approved, while last year the figure was an even 50 percent.

The current Liberal-Conservative government campaigned that it would make immigration policies stricter when it took power in 2000, and initially asylum figures did drop. But since 2004, when only 10 percent of asylum applications were approved, the percentages have gradually risen. Yet the government maintains that its policies have reduced the number of those granted asylum because far fewer are applying.

And Integration Minister Birthe Rønn Hormbech says the figures bear that out. In 2000 a total of 5,156 got asylum compared to 1453 last year.

‘The government’s immigration policies are being fulfilled,’ she said.

‘Far fewer people are coming to Denmark to work, while the number of asylum and residency approvals has fallen drastically.’

Refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and Russia have had the most success, while six out of 10 Iraqis who received initial rejections were granted asylum on appeal to the Refugee Board.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Italy: Immigrants May be Deported for Prostitution

Rome, 31 August (AKI) — Italian immigration officials are carrying out checks on nine suspected illegal immigrants who allegedly worked as prostitutes. They were among 42 prostitutes detained by police in the country’s capital, Rome, in a series of raids that ended on Friday.

The police action is part of the conservative Italian government’s ongoing law and order crackdown.

Of the women detained by police, thirty-four are Romanian, four Ukrainian, two Albanian and two Bulgarian.

Three of their alleged clients have received heavy fines.

Under laws passed in Italy at the end of 2008, anyone “involved in prostitution or benefiting from it in public places” faces prison terms of up to 15 days and fines of up to 13,000 euros.

The clients of under age sex workers will be sent to prison for between six months and four years with fines of up to 6,000 euros, while sex workers under the age of 18 without Italian citizenship may be sent back to their countries of origin.

An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 women are engaged in prostitution in Italy.

A third of them are foreigners, largely from Eastern European countries such as Albania and Romania, as well as Russia and west Africa.

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

Netherlands Not Allowed to Extradite Afghans

The European Court of Human Rights is blocking Dutch attempts to extradite rejected Afghan asylum seekers who are suspected of war crimes, Dutch daily Trouw reports.

Six Afghans have been sent back to Afghanistan since January 2008, but at least six other extraditions appear to have have been thwarted by the Court.

There are an estimated 350 aliens in the Netherlands who are suspected of having committed war crimes in their countries of origin. Most of them are Afghans who worked for the secret service of the communists regime in the 1980s. They had a reputation for torturing political opponents.

The Ministry of Justice wants to repatriate them, but the European Court in Strasbourg doubts whether it is safe for them to return and is blocking the transfer by a so-called intermediate verdict. It can take a number of years before a definitive verdict will be issued. Meanwhile, the Netherlands will have to provide shelter for the Afghans.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Repulsed From Italy to Libya as Protest Mounts

(by Francesco Nuccio) (ANSAmed) — PALERMO, AUGUST 31 — A wake of controversy and of protests has been left behind by the latest repulsion, decided on by the Italian government, of a group of Somali migrants, intercepted on board a dinghy off the Sicilian coast. To begin with the letter sent by the European Commission to the Italian and Maltese governments, calling for “clarification” of the events involving the two nations. In the view of the UN’s High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), this is a very serious affair: “they were only asking for political asylum”. But there were also moments of tension on board the coastal vessel belonging to Italy’s excise police, the Guardia di Finanza, which transported the refugees back to Libya. When they realised that they were being returned to their port of departure, the immigrants started to protest, refusing to be transferred on board the vessels of the Libyan military forces. The operation was further hampered by difficult sea conditions. In the end, safety considerations led to the decision to take the patrol boat to the Libyan port of Al Zuwarah, which is one of the main ports used by person smuggling gangs for the trip across the Straits of Sicily. “We are exhausted, some of us are ill. We can see the houses of a city in the distance and we fear being forced to disembark. We ask you to help us”, is the desperate appeal launched via satellite by Ahmed, one of the 75 refugees on board the Italian military vessel, in a telephone interview given to a correspondent of the BBC’s African Service. From the patrol boat, as it still lies off the Libyan coast, the tearful voice of Anab, a young Somali, can be heard: “During the crossing, which lasted four days, a mother and her new-born child were transported to hospital by a Maltese launch, along with two men who were in a bad way. But there are other women and youngsters on board in need of treatment”. Then it is Ahmed once more, explaining the worries of the Somalis, while his companions clamour behind him: “We asked the Italian officers to acknowledge that we are requesting political asylum, we appealed to them not to hand us over to the Libyans, because wére worried wéll end up in prison, but they didn’t pay any attention to us”. Indeed, some hours later, despite the shouted protests, the immigrants are disembarked and transferred to Tripoli. This provokes an immediate protest from Laura Boldrini, the UNHCR’s spokesperson in Italy: “Men, women and children appealing for political asylum and imploring not to be sent back to Libya have been repulsed. Despite being on board an Italian vessel, they were not granted this opportunity. A right recognised by international conventions has de facto been denied them”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Parker: A Time for Truth on Abortion

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin missed a great opportunity to personally kick off an issue of enormous importance to her state and to the nation.

She was scheduled to appear with me at an Alaska Family Council event in Anchorage to launch Alaska’s Parental Involvement Initiative, which will require parental notification of teenage girls under age 18 before they can get an abortion. But, the schedules of we mortals cannot retard the imperatives of history, so, despite Mrs. Palin’s absence, we’ve gone to war with the army we have. Currently 35 states have laws that require either parental consent or notification in order for a teenage girl to receive an abortion. Alaska passed one in 1997.

However, after ten years on the books, in 2007 the Alaska Supreme Court, arguing that sharing this information with parents violated the privacy of their teenage daughters, found the law unconstitutional. So now a 13 year old can get an abortion without the knowledge of her parents.

A large percentage of these abortions are paid for with state Medicaid funds, but no one seems to think that parents’ privacy is being violated using their tax funds to pay for these.

Research shows the remedial benefits of parental involvement when a pregnant teenager considers abortion. And research shows the profound psychological damage caused by teenage abortion.

But, perhaps we should be wondering who we are today that we need to gather data to address an issue as intuitively obvious as whether a teenage girl may abort her child without her parents knowing.

Of course there are exceptional considerations, like abusive parents. But the Alaska initiative deals with this, as did a similar initiative in California, which was defeated last November.

No, this is not about being reasonable. It is about ideology. And what we have are opposing worldviews that cannot be reconciled. It’s about choosing one or the other. One view is secular, materialistic, and sees only individuals and the rights they claim.

The other view is about truths that precede individuals, and social realities of which individuals are a part, like family.

This contrast and conflict could not have been more clearly laid out than in an exchange at a congressional hearing last April between pro-life New Jersey congressman Chris Smith and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Smith was questioning current Administration policies to promote abortion internationally. As part of his questioning, he waxed philosophic and asked Mrs. Clinton about her recent acceptance of Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger award. Sanger founded Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. He pointed out to Mrs. Clinton that Sanger was a eugenicist and racist who said “The most merciful thing a family does for one of its infant members is to kill it.” The Secretary of State listened stoically and then replied: “We have a fundamental disagreement …We happen to think that family planning is an important part of women’s health, and reproductive health includes access to abortion.”

A century and a half ago, a fundamental conflict in values in our nation came to a head. In one view, black African slaves were not human, so the question of slavery was about political, not moral, reality. The other view saw the slaves as human and slavery as a moral outrage. The conflict fomented at the nation’s grass roots until it exploded in the national arena.

The parental involvement ballot initiative in Alaska is about Americans again grappling at our grass roots with crucial basic questions that divide us that must be resolved.

Are we a people that see the unborn, family, and individuals as all part of the fundamental fabric of life? Or are we a materialistic, secular nation of individuals making political claims on each other?

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]


Socialism’s Losing Bet

Humans are at their very basic nature, capitalists. We buy and we sell, and when we do that we try to sell at the highest price and buy at the lowest price. Underlying every economic system, from laissez faire capitalism to communism is the reality that the underlying human nature of the people within that system will not change, they will only adapt those same tactics to function within that system. Economic systems may come and go, but people do not change.

When socialism is applied, it does not transform human nature, it is overlaid over human nature. When a socialist system attempts to artificially control the price of a commodity or access to a resource, a black market in that commodity or resource is created. With medical care it can take the form of Canada’s illegal health care clinics at one end of the spectrum or the “bribe economy” that is common throughout Communist countries in which people are expected to bribe doctors, nurses and just about everyone within the system to receive even basics such as a change of sheets. In Israel it can take the form of doctors who work in both the public system and see patients privately, doing their best to push patients into paying to see them privately. There are numerous examples throughout the world, but what matters is that all of them represent profiteering behaviors that have adapted to a government health care system. Because once again, people don’t change.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

2 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/1/2009

  1. Remembering the Massacre at Beslan — 5 Years Ago Today

    If the 9-11 Atrocity wasn’t proof enough of Islam’s depravity, Beslan should have left no doubt.

    That anyone can continue to fool themselves about the existential threat that Muslims pose to our world is stark testimony about the willful blindness of some people.

    Beslan should have been the last straw for this world’s tolerance of jihad and Islam in general.

  2. “More Guns in Denmark”

    “The rise in the number of registered weapons is…due to the many new hunting rifle licences issued…”

    Ahem…for those of you in the USA who may not be hunters, or for those of you from outside the US who may not be familiar with english language jargon/slang pertaining to hunting…here, let me explain to you some of the slang that hunters use so that you may better interpret this news item from Denmark:

    In American english, hunting for large animals like deer or bear is called “big game hunting.” That is, deer or bear are called “big game.”

    Hunting for small animals, like rabbits or squirrels, is called “small game hunting.” Hunting for birds (“bird hunting”) is also popular and you can even specify the type of bird (or other game) that you like to hunt. For example, my uncle (God rest his soul) used to like to go “pheasant hunting” and “rabbit hunting.” I used to do a lot of “deer hunting” but I’ve also, on occasion, done some “squirrel hunting” and a good friend of mine, in his younger days used to do a lot of “bear hunting” up in Maine.

    Note that all of the “game” (hunted animals) listed above are EDIBLE and, indeed, properly prepared, can be absolutely delicious. I have personally had a good deal of venison (deer) and also I have tried bear, pheasant, rabbit, wild goose and wild turkey.

    However, some animals are really not very tasty and are considered to be just PESTS. Farmers, for example, don’t like ground hogs, woodchucks, or prairie dogs as these animals tend to tear up the farmers fields. Such animals are called “varmints” and although they are just pests, hunting them can be interesting, challenging, and fun.
    This is called “varmint hunting.”

    Languages often work by analogy and this jargon, on occasion, can be extended. Thus after a well publicised crime, such as a bank robbery, is committed, and the criminals are still at large, some of my hunting buddies may joke about going hunting for “two legged varmints.”
    I strongly suspect that the Danes are stocking up now on guns and ammo because they are anticipating that in the future, many opportunities may become available in Denmark for some “varmint hunting.”

    “Two legged varmints.”

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