Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/12/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/12/2009In the wake of the incriminating underage prostitution videos (see Dymphna’s post from a couple of nights ago), the U.S. Census Bureau has cut all ties with ACORN, and will not allow the “community organizing group” to help with next year’s census.

In other news, rioting has broken out in Hamburg amongst left-wing groups that originally gathered to protest a planned street festival organized by neo-Nazis.

Thanks to A Greek Friend, C. Cantoni, DT, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JD, Sean O’Brian, Steen, TB, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Cass Sunstein: Regulating America to Death
Census Bureau Severs Ties With ACORN
Congress Playing With Toymakers’ Livelihoods
HR 2749: The Food Safety Act — The Pale Horse
Michigan Man Accused of Murder in Shootings of Abortion Foe, Businessman
New York’s Sept 11 Museum to Display Hijacker Perspective
No Gardasil? No Citizenship, Says U.S.
Obama’s Bitter Medicine
Save Our Constitution!
Sources: Ex-Blagojevich Fundraiser Kelly Dead
Texas Governor Sends Rangers to Mexico Border
The “True Identity” Of Van Jones
What Does Pelosi Know About Obama’s Eligibility?
Police Hunt Burqa Bandit
Europe and the EU
Anti-Semitism: The Italy-Sweden Controversy Continues
Belgian Schools Ban Muslim Veil in Classes
France: Disappointing Arab Lessons in School, Boom in Mosques
Germany: Rioting in Hamburg Increases Tension Ahead of Street Fest
Germany: Leftist Leader in Thuringia Employing Ex-Stasi Officer as Secretary
How the Irish Can Save Civilization (Again)
Ireland: Lisbon No Vote Will be Seen as Spiritual ‘Withdrawal’ In EU
Islam: France’s Burqa Debate Blows Up
Italy: Top Filmmaker Calls on Italians to “Get Rid” of PM
Italy: Premier Rejects ‘Dictator’ Claims
Italy: Rome’s Mayor Target of Far-Left Graffiti
Italy: Berlusconi Denies Claims of Church Rift
Netherlands: Father Acquitted of Daughter’s Genital Mutilation
Slovenia Unblocks Croatian EU Bid
Spain Dumps Lieberman for Chavez
Swedish Cities Hit by Spate of Arson and Unrest
Tony Blair Endorses Yale’s Cartoon Censorship
UK Mosque Protest Signals Fascists’ Return
UK: ‘You’Re Not Intelligent Enough to Marry’, Bride Told
UK: A Senior Minister Has Said the Self-Styled Anti-Islamic Extremist Group the English Defence League’s Tactics Are Designed to Provoke Violence
UK: Green Shop Owner is Fined by Council… for Not Producing Any Rubbish
UK: Majority of Teachers Don’t Want to Promote ‘Brainwashing’ Patriotism to Pupils
UK: Now the SAS Has to Train Libyan Troops
UK: Police Pelted With Bricks and Bottles as London Mosque Protests Turn Violent
UK: Tension in London Flares in Mosque Stand-Off
UK: Trio to Face ‘Bomb Plot’ Retrial
UK: What Kind of Country Has This Become When We Are All Treated as Potential Paedophiles?
Vatican: Religion Should be a ‘School Subject’
EU-Serbia: Jeremic, Membership is Foreign Policy Priority
North Africa
Church Firebombed in Egypt After Opposition From Muslim Neighbors
Morocco: Journalists on Trial for False News on the King
Ramadan: Algeria, Arrests for Not Fasting
SAS Trains Libyan Troops
Israel and the Palestinians
‘Israel and Egypt to Reveal New Understandings on Schalit, Peace Process’
Israel’s UN Envoy Blames Lebanese Gov’t for Firing of Katyusha Rockets
Palestinian Man Killed When Smuggling Tunnel Collapses in Gaza
Police Raises Alert in East Jerusalem Following Shooting Incident
Science: Italy-Israel, Start of Joint Laboratories
Middle East
Iran Ready to Negotiate Nuclear Proposals: FM
Iran’s Defense Minister: Nuclear Weapons Are Against Our Religion
Jordan: Muslim Brotherhood in Crisis Over Ties With Hamas
Muslim Women Get “Halal” Cosmetics
Turkey Approves Kurdish Studies
U.S., 5 Partner Countries Accept Iran’s Offer to Hold International Talks
A Byzantine Vision for Russia
South Asia
Top Taliban Arrested in Pakistan
Far East
China Buying Up North American Oil
China Sentences 3 to Prison Over Syringe Attacks
US Ready for Direct Talks With North Korea
Latin America
US Stops Honduran Leader’s Visa
Ireland: Department Urged Speedier Deportations to Save Money
Sweden: Migration Board Earns High Marks
Culture Wars
‘Gay’ Train Wreck Swept Under Rug
Schools’ Ban on Christmas Tunes Challenged


Cass Sunstein: Regulating America to Death

Animals should be allowed to sue their owners.

~ Cass Sunstein

Because people ascribe a degree of respectability to academics, intellectuals, philosophers and scholars, they can disregard the rights of the people much easier than a naked tyrant. In fact, Rousseau, Darwin and Nietzsche can go places Hitler, Stalin, Chavez and Obama could never dream.

As I have written many times, the Obama administration are the masters of misdirection and chaos theory; therefore, while the America people last week were transfixed on the resignation of “Green Czar” Van Jones, another even more dangerous fascist from the academy quietly slipped through the portals of power.

Last Thursday Cass Sunstein, a former colleague and mentor of Obama’s at the University of Chicago Law School, was confirmed by a Senate vote of 57-40 as the new director of regulatory affairs and information, an obscure but powerful agency within the Office of Management and Budget. Here is what the “regulatory czar” does: He regulates laws — past, present and future.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Census Bureau Severs Ties With ACORN

The Census Director has sent a letter to the National Headquarters of ACORN notifying the group that the Census Bureau is severing all ties with the community organizing group for all work having to do with the 2010 census.

“Over the last several months, through ongoing communication with our regional offices, it is clear that ACORN’s affiliation with the 2010 Census promotion has caused sufficient concern in the general public, has indeed become a distraction from our mission, and may even become a discouragement to public cooperation, negatively impacting 2010 Census efforts,” read a letter from Census Director Robert M. Groves to the president of ACORN.

“Unfortunately, we no longer have confidence that our national partnership agreement is being effectively managed through your many local offices. For the reasons stated, we therefore have decided to terminate the partnership,” the letter said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Congress Playing With Toymakers’ Livelihoods

Small businesses struggle to comply with testing while big companies get a pass

After a government regulation had thousands of retailers, thrift stores and small businesses worried they would be forced to permanently close their doors and destroy their merchandise due to strict lead and phthalate testing requirements, toymakers and children’s product manufacturers are urging Congress to consider the legislation’s “unintended consequences” on small businesses.

As WND reported in January, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, or HR 4040, a retroactive rule mandating that all items sold for use by children under 12 must be tested by an independent party for lead and phthalates, which are chemicals used to make plastics more pliable. President George Bush signed it into law on Aug. 14, 2008.

Under the law, all untested items, regardless of lead content, are to be declared “banned hazardous products.” The CPSC determined the law applies to every children’s item on shelves, not just to items made beginning Feb. 10.

Under the measure, new children’s products with more than 600 ppm total lead cannot lawfully be sold in the United States on or after Feb. 10, 2009, even if they were manufactured before that date. The total lead limit dropped to 300 ppm on Aug. 14, 2009. Also, products manufactured on or after that date cannot be sold if they contain more than 0.1% of certain phthalates.

Some small toy businesses say lead testing alone costs more than $4,000 per item — a price some say only large companies like Mattel and Fisher Price can afford to pay.


According to Consumer Reports, Mattel was given special permission in August to oversee its own product testing rather than depending on expensive independent labs.

Meanwhile, small businesses struggle and face elimination because they cannot afford to pay the high costs of lead and phthalate testing.

“The only people who can do that now are the ones who actually put this scare into effect and actually caused the problem,” Amy Evan’s, owner of Baby’s Boutique in Chico, Calif., told CBS’ KHSL.

Shelsie Hall told California’s KXTV News 10 she makes hair bows and jewelry for children and sells them online to support her family.

She said she believes her small business is threatened by the measure because those products must be tested.

“[M]y items sell for $4 to $10 and I make a lot of different things. So I couldn’t just test one; I would have to test every item,” she said.

One blogger who identifies herself as “Tina” has a home-based business making and selling cloth diapers online. She said a U.S. lab quoted a price of $75 to test each component of her diapers.

“I have at least two different fabrics, thread, snaps and elastic in a diaper,” she wrote. “$375 to test each different combination of fabrics/snaps/thread/size combinations? That is insane.”

She continued, “I am but one of many micro-manufacturers who will be forced to give up the American dream of owning my own business because of this legislation.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

HR 2749: The Food Safety Act — The Pale Horse

If you’re impressed with the FDA’s track record on drug safety you’ll love how it all pans out when they’re in control of our food supply. Control is the operative word here because efforts underway in Washington will give the Food and Drug Administration unprecedented authority to determine what we eat, where we get our food and even whether we can access the bounty of our neighbors’ vegetable stand.

Even BusinessWeek addressed the increased powers proposed for the FDA noting: “the FDA will have authority under the legislation to inspect the business records of food producers at any time, free of the current limitation that requires a reasonable belief that adulterated food is being sold.” According to the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, “FDA would now be empowered to go on a ‘fishing expedition’ and search records without any evidence whatsoever that there has been a violation.” For all those who believe government is always looking out for our best interests, remember that our Founders established the 4th Amendment for just such “fishing expeditions” by nosy government agents.

The Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 purports to “improve the safety of food in the global market, and for other purposes.” It’s the “other purposes” that are cause for concern. The bill which has passed the House and now awaits Senate approval is a frightening testament to what happens when people don’t pay attention to what’s happening in D.C… Using recent food recalls of peanuts, spinach and beef as evidence of the need for more stringent controls over the food supply, the legislation would require that food producers, including the local farmer who grows pumpkins once a year just for grins, would have to comply with a time consuming record keeping scheme, and adds a new tax to all “facilities” which produce food, (which could be anyplace where food is grown or prepared). In addition, food in “holding facilities” would be under the control of the FDA.


HR 2749 would drive small, independent farmers out of business and hand Big Agribusiness Carte Blanche to push on us whatever Genetically Modified Frankenfoods they choose. HR 2749 would function as the backdoor assault on small, organic, family farming which will sound the death knell for our most basic freedom- the freedom to grow, sell and eat what we choose.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Michigan Man Accused of Murder in Shootings of Abortion Foe, Businessman

A 33-year-old Michigan man has been charged with murder in the shootings this morning of an anti-abortion protester outside a high school and the owner of a gravel company found dead in his office.

Harlan Drake of Owosso, near Lansing, was arraigned on two counts of first-degree murder and other gun-related crimes. Prosecutors said Drake also had planned to kill a third, unidentified person.

Longtime anti-abortion activist James Pouillon, 63, was shot multiple times from a passing car about 7:20 a.m. ET. He was protesting across the street from Owosso High School as students were arriving for classes. Witnesses, including students, provided the gunman’s license plate.

About the same time Mike Fuoss, 61, was found dead in his office at Fuoss Gravel in Owosso Township.

Drake was arrested at home about an hour later. Police said he stated he had also shot Fuoss.

“The indication is that he had ill will… a grudge against these three individuals,” said Shiawassee County Prosecutor Randy Colbry. “The defendant was offended by the manner of Mr. Pouillon’s message.”

This profile says Pouillon was known as a “peaceful abortion sign guy.”

Authorities are looking for the guns used in the killings — a.45 caliber and a.22 caliber. Drake was licensed to carry a concealed firearm, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Drake was arraigned this afternoon. He was ordered held without bond and is due back in court Sept. 25.

The head of Planned Parenthood for East Central Michigan expressed shock and sadness at the news of Pouillon’s killing.

“We want to be very clear that we have no idea if this was related to his views, but Planned Parenthood would never condone any sort of violence against anyone, regardless of their views,” said Lori Lamerand, president and CEO. Read more local coverage from the Owosso Argus-Press, the Lansing State Journal and the Flint Journal.

As for Owosso, its official website describes the city as “a pleasant, unpretentious community of fewer than 20,000 people, with solid midwestern values — a place where residents clearly take pride in their property.”

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

New York’s Sept 11 Museum to Display Hijacker Perspective

NEW YORK (Reuters) — A museum dedicated to the September 11 attacks will display written quotations drawn from “martyrdom” videos made by the hijackers, along with witness testimonials that will be screened to prevent sympathizers from praising the perpetrators, museum officials said on Thursday.

Previous attempts to put into context the motivation of the men who used hijacked passenger planes to attack the United States on September 11, 2001, have been met with emotional public opposition, with politicians canceling plans for an “International Freedom Center” in 2005.

But the president of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum said photographs of the 19 hijackers would be displayed along with the quotes as part of the “witness testimony” in the museum.

The memorial and museum are planned for the World Trade Center site undergoing reconstruction in lower Manhattan. The underground museum should open by 2013.

Museum president Joe Daniels told reporters the exhibit would present the facts, focusing on “what happened on that day, why it happened, what does it mean to live in a 9/11 world.”

“Let the perpetrators speak for themselves,” Daniels said.

The museum has possession of videotapes the hijackers made in preparation for the suicide attacks and Reuters previously reported that visitors could play back the tapes, citing Daniels.

“That’s a powerful and important thing that visitors to this museum need to hear — bearing witness to the actual testimonials of those who committed the atrocities,” Daniels told a news conference.

However, Daniels later told Reuters by telephone that the exhibit would be limited to photos and written text from the martyrdom tapes.

The museum is inviting people around the world to send in pictures and recorded recollections about the attacks that will be displayed on its website after being screened for sentiments lionizing the hijackers. (

“No one will come to this museum and leave with a feeling of heroism for the people who committed the crimes that we bear witness to today,” Daniels told reporters.

Museum officials are treading carefully. Initial plans for rebuilding the World Trade Center included the International Freedom Center, which would have covered subjects unrelated to the 2001 attacks and discussed themes such as tolerance and diversity.

But Former New York Governor George Pataki canceled the Freedom Center after critics, including survivors and relatives of the nearly 3,000 who died, said the museum should instead be dedicated exclusively to the day known as 9/11 and the 1993 truck bombing of the World Trade Center.

As an example of what will be included, Daniels said the 1979 invasion of the Soviet Union by Afghanistan was vital in understanding “the roots of Al Qaeda.”

The most horrific pictures, such as those of people who jumped from the top floors of the Twin Towers to escape the heat and flames, will be segregated.

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

No Gardasil? No Citizenship, Says U.S.

Teen facing deportation for refusing unneeded meds for STD

The controversial medication Gardasil created and marketed by Merck & Co. to battle a sexually transmitted disease is causing problems for a Florida teenager: It could cost her U.S. citizenship.

Simone Davis, born in 1992 in Britain, was abandoned by her parents and adopted at age 3 by Jean Davis, her paternal grandmother, who then married and moved to Florida, ABC News reported.

However, her adoption in Britain wasn’t recognized in the U.S., the report said, so the process was begun again in the U.S. The 17-year-old was on track for citizenship, attendance at Pensacola Christian College and a career as a teacher, until she ran into Gardasil.

The drug was added to the list of vaccinations required for female immigrants in 2008, but the teen has declined it. For one thing, its purpose is to protect against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus only. Simone has taken a virginity pledge and doesn’t see she why she should be forced to take it.


“Given all the questions about Gardasil, the best public health policy would be to re-evaluate its safety and to prohibit its distribution to minors. In the least, governments should rethink any efforts to mandate or promote this vaccine for children,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

The document reveals the case of an 18-year-old woman who received the Gardasil vaccine, was found unconscious that evening and died. Another woman, age 19, got the drug and the next morning was found dead in her bed.

Thousands of “Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System” cases have been documented.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama’s Bitter Medicine

We have a friend, Bruce Woodall, who is a family physician in a rural hospital. He wrote an article for the local newspaper on the ramifications of government-run health care. I received permission to quote heavily from his article.

Unlike most physicians, Bruce has worked in foreign countries under socialized medicine. He’s also worked in poverty-stricken sections in our country where there is intergenerational dependence on government entitlements. He’s seen the good, the bad and the ugly on government-run health care — and therefore can assess the issue far more intelligently than those who have never seen socialized medicine in action.


Can you briefly explain your experience with socialized medicine? I was prohibited from performing caesarian sections, from ordering CT scans or echocardiograms…. I had to work from a ridiculously limited prescription formulary. The hoops that had to be jumped through to get anything done were time consuming and demeaning. The system infuriated patients and providers alike.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Save Our Constitution!

The genius of the Constitution is the built-in tension that must exist between the members of Congress, the two houses of Congress, between the Congress and the Executive, and between the Judiciary and both the Congress and the Executive. This design requires that each participant and each branch continuously fight to keep others, and the other branches of government, from usurping their power.

The system worked reasonably well until the Franklin Roosevelt administration. Much of Roosevelt’s New Deal exercised powers not enumerated in Article I, Section 8. When the Supreme Court began to nullify elements of his New Deal, Roosevelt tried unsuccessfully to expand the Supreme Court in order to appoint more judges who would uphold his expansion of powers.

To some extent, every president since Roosevelt has tried to expand presidential powers, and every Congress has turned a blind eye to the limitations of power imposed by Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. Consequently, the government now in power in Washington has abandoned any care or concern about the constitutional limitations of power, and some are even trying to revamp the Supreme Court to insure that it poses no threat to the power-grabbing aspiration of the new crowd in Washington.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Sources: Ex-Blagojevich Fundraiser Kelly Dead

Two sources with knowledge of the situation told the Tribune today they have been notified that Christopher Kelly, a key figure in the federal corruption probe into former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, is dead.

The Cook County medical examiner’s office today confirmed that a body identified as Christopher Kelly was brought to the morgue from Stroger Hospital. The office said Kelly died of salicylate intoxication.

According to medical reference guides, salicylates are used in anti-inflammatory and pain relief medications. An autopsy is scheduled for Sunday.

Kelly’s attorney, Michael Monico, declined to comment today when reached by a Tribune reporter.

Blagojevich, who is out of state on his book tour, released a statement through his publicist offering condolences.

“I am deeply saddened to hear that Chris has died. My heart goes out to his wife, Carmen, his three daughters, Grace, Jacqueline, and Claire and his entire family. They are in our prayers,” the statement read.

Kelly is a former confidant and top fundraiser for Blagojevich, who was accused of using his office to leverage campaign donations and benefits for himself and his family.

Kelly, who was indicted alongside Blagojevich in April, pleaded guilty this week in a related federal case

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Texas Governor Sends Rangers to Mexico Border

HOUSTON — Special teams of Texas Rangers will be deployed to the Texas-Mexico border to deal with increasing violence because the federal government has failed to address growing problems there, Gov. Rick Perry said Thursday.

“It is an expansive effort with the Rangers playing a more high-profile role than they’ve ever played before,” Perry said of the Department of Public Safety’s elite investigative unit.

The forces, dubbed “Ranger recon” teams, are the latest effort “to fill the gap that’s been left by the federal government’s ongoing failure to adequately secure our international border with Mexico,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

The “True Identity” Of Van Jones

Meanwhile, representatives of various George Soros-funded organizations are coming to the defense of the identified communist.

John Podesta, the President and CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, hailed Jones as an “exceptional and inspired leader who has fought to bring economic and environmental justice to communities across our country.”

Justin Ruben of said Jones had “worked tirelessly to bring jobs and environmental progress to some of the poorest communities in our nation. His dedication and leadership are exactly what we need more of in Washington. And his resignation is a loss to this Administration.”

Josh Silver of the Free Press calls Jones “one of our most visionary and principled young leaders.”

Questions about Van Jones personally are not over, either. It’s been reported that Van Jones is not his real name. He is really Anthony Jones.


In his statement, Podesta said that Jones, whatever his real name and true identity, had “chosen to resign because he believed he was serving as a distraction to the President’s agenda. I respect that decision.” Podesta was co-chair of the Obama-Biden Transition project and employed Jones before he went to the White House CEQ.

But how could he have been a “distraction” when the major media had been ignoring the story? Jones was forced to resign, as the Marxist “progressives” at the Rag Blog website fully understand, because the investigation of Jones was getting too close for comfort for Obama and his inner circle. Sacking Jones was a way for the White House and the major media, just beginning to take an interest in the story, to move on.

It is apparent that Jones was thrown “under the bus” because too many of Obama’s close associates, including Jarrett, are implicated in his hiring. Jarrett had said that “we” had recruited Jones. Who is “we?”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

What Does Pelosi Know About Obama’s Eligibility?

Online images for certification of nomination raise questions

A commentator at Canada Free Press says he has obtained copies of two documents apparently prepared by Democrats to certify Barack Obama as their nominee for president in 2008 that suggest House Speaker Nancy Pelosi knew there was an unresolved issue with his eligibility under the U.S. Constitution.


“Now this is the stuff real conspiracies are made of!” Williams, who also maintains his own website, wrote. “Please allow me to connect the dots here…”

“The DNC drafted, signed and notarized TWO slightly different versions of their Official Certification of Nomination documents, not one,” he wrote. “One of those documents had complete legal language, and one of them was missing the text concerning the constitutional eligibility of Barack Hussein Obama.

“The version which is absent any certification of constitutional standing for the office of president is the version that was filed with every state in the country, and the one used by the DNC to elect Barack Obama president,” he wrote.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Police Hunt Burqa Bandit

An armed man who was dressed in a burqa this afternoon when he robbed the Scotiabank at Applewood Village Plaza is being hunted by police.

Peel Regional Police say the man, disguised in the head-to-foot garment worn by women in some Islamic traditions, walked into the North Service Rd. bank just before 1:30 p.m. and indicated he had a gun. The butt-end of a revolver was seen by bank employees.

Police say the robber demanded cash from a teller and made off with an undisclosed amount of money.

He was last seen fleeing on foot with a woman. The two then got into a black Honda Civic and headed westbound, according to witnesses. The licence plate marker is believed to be BFKW 217.

Both culprits are described as East Indian, and the woman has long, black, curly hair.

Anyone with information is asked to call police at 905-453-2121, ext. 3410.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Anti-Semitism: The Italy-Sweden Controversy Continues

Statement by MP Fiamma Nirenstein, Vice-President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies

Visby, Sweden, 7 September 2009

During the discussion following the speech of Sweden Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Bildt, at the meeting of the EU member States’ Foreign Affairs Committees, which was held today in Visby, Sweden, MP Fiamma Nirenstein, Vice-President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, asked the Minister to clarify his program for combating anti-semitism in Europe. The phenomenon is dramatically increasing, as demonstrated by the 2009 report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA): the study, which examined the trend from 2001 to 2008, has — in fact — demonstrated the rise of anti-semitism throughout Europe, and throughout Northern European countries as well. It’s a phenomenon which can partly be explained as a consequence of the increasing tensions in the Middle East and as result of the recent global economic crisis.

Among the most significant episodes as of late, MP Nirenstein cited to Minister Bildt the article on

IDF killing Palestinians in order to traffic in their organs, published this August by the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, a report that the Swedish government refused to condemn.

MP Nirenstein told that the fight against anti-semitism is an essential priority in the continent where the Shoah was perpetrated, as well as emphasized that contemporary anti-semitism feeds on radical, anti-Israel prejudices: the moral clarity of Europe, and moreover its authoritativeness, cannot but reaffirm the priority in relation to the fight against this disease of the conscience.

Since Minister Bildt, in his response, has totally ignored the demand of a clear commitment against anti-semitism and has denied the attested growth of this phenomenon also in his area, and since he has felt the need to protest against a presumed “attempt of some countries to dictate to Sweden the content of its own newspapers, which is against the principle of free speech”, Nirenstein declared: “I’m stunned that Bildt, after the authentic blood libel of the Swedish newspaper, ignored the occasion to firmly condemn anti-semitism. A condemnation that Sweden refused to express numerous times in these days”; a condemnation, she asserted, that “has nothing to do with limitations of free speech”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Belgian Schools Ban Muslim Veil in Classes

Dutch-language public schools in Belgium will ban the wearing of Muslim veils in classes, school officials in the Flanders region announced Friday.

The ban affects 700 schools in the northern region of Flanders, including some in Brussels.

It follows protests after two schools in Antwerp this month joined other schools where the veil is already banned.

Responding to a complaint by a student at one of the schools, Belgium’s highest administrative tribunal ruled on Tuesday that schools could not take such decisions on their own.

The tribunal will rule on the student’s appeal next Tuesday — prompting the community’s education board to make public its unified stance on Friday.

Belgian schools have previously enjoyed autonomy in such decisions, with one third authorizing the wearing of Muslim veils, another forbidding them and the remainder giving no formal guidance.

The Flemish school board said the ban in communal schools would be introduced gradually to give time to those establishments which have not banned the veil to do so.

Schools in Flanders that are financed by other Belgian communities — mostly Catholic schools run by municipalities — are not bound by the order.

School authorities in the main Flemish town of Antwerp announced a ban on the veil from the start of the next academic year.

A similar debate is underway in Belgium’s French-speaking Wallonia, and the Brussels capital region.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

France: Disappointing Arab Lessons in School, Boom in Mosques

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, SEPTEMBER 8 — Young French of Arab descent are studying their native language in mosques, while in recent years primary and secondary schools have limited the number of lessons. The number of students studying Arab has been halved since 1970, and the latest report by the ministry of Education emphasised that Arab lessons in State schools are “disappointing”. In effects, these lessons, which are assigned to the Countries of origin under French control, are limited to extra-scholastic activities. Compared to other “rare” languages such as Chinese, Portuguese, Russian and Hebrew, the Arab language is drawing an ever decreasing number of students to public schools. While Arab classes at university level are doing relatively well, the methods of teaching the language to younger students are considered obsolete and lacking a link to the Countries of origin. The only other alternative is signing up for classes held in Mosques, which are experiencing a proper boom in France. Today there was the report of the first private Arab school to open in Marseilles. And the Al-Ihsane school in Val d’Argenteuil in Val-d’Oise boasts 635 registered students from 6 to 16 years of age. Another mosque in the same city has 400 students. And these numbers are set to increase. In the meantime many state schools have phased out Arab lessons, Aran teachers are the bottom of the pile and there are no lessons in technical and professional schools.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Germany: Rioting in Hamburg Increases Tension Ahead of Street Fest

An initially peaceful demonstration against neo-Nazis in Hamburg turned into a riot on Friday night, as police use water cannons and tear gas to regain control. One officer even fired warning shots as his car was attacked with stones.

Around 90 members of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) had gathered to demonstrate against a street festival planned for Saturday in the alternative Schanzenviertel district.

The left-wing festival was organised as a reply to events last July, when police stormed the area in a manner which many locals felt was unnecessarily aggressive and provocative. But officers pointed to around 1,000 left-wing rioters who were challenging the police at the time.

As the NPD held their demonstration on Friday, an estimated 2,700 people of all kinds came to demonstrate their opposition to the neo-Nazis. The crowd included trade unionists, political parties, various organisations and individuals.

The police — there are around 2,000 on special duty this weekend in Hamburg — said their job was to allow the legal NPD demonstration, while trying to keep the two sides apart from each other.

The police came under what spokesman Ralf Meyer said was, “massive attack,” from around 700 leftists who threw stones and fireworks at the officers, set rubbish bins on fire to serve as street barricades, and smashed up a number of cars.

One police vehicle was attacked with stones and a paving stone was used to smash through the windscreen, prompting an officer to fire warning shots from his pistol.

Police have been expecting trouble on Saturday evening after the street festival — before Friday’s riot — yet Meyer stressed that the current situation could not be compared to that of May 1 last year, when street battles between thousands of leftist rioters, neo-Nazis and police officers shocked the city.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Germany: Leftist Leader in Thuringia Employing Ex-Stasi Officer as Secretary

Bodo Ramelow, the politician from Germany’s socialist party The Left hoping to become the state premier of Thuringia, has reportedly been employing a former Stasi officer in his parliamentary office for years.

Der Spiegel magazine reported on Saturday that Marion Wallrodt worked in Section III of East Germany’s Ministry of State Security, which was responsible for the bugging of politicians as well as normal citizens in West Germany. She now works in Ramelow’s Berlin office as secretary.

The news comes just two weeks before the general election, as the leftists were performing better than ever in opinion polls.

Her Stasi file says that she joined the dreaded secret police force aged just 18, in 1969, and proceeded on a fast career path. She stayed there until the end, being decorated several times for her service to the ministry — the last time in February 1989.

The job that she holds with Ramelow means that although she works in the Bundestag, she did not need to be routinely checked for a Stasi background.

She told the magazine, “Ramelow knows of my former job. I was responsible above all for Russian translation at the Ministry for State Security.

“That is obviously not a problem for my work as an employee in the parliament.”

The Left could ill-afford to have the Stasi background of an employee be blown up to taint its image nationally. It recently reached its best level of support, at 14 percent nationally according to an opinion poll, and performed well in last month’s state elections in Thuringia and Saarland.

Ramelow is hoping to forge a left-wing coalition in Thuringia with the centre-left Social Democrats and the Greens, but those two parties have both criticised The Left for backing people with questionable ties to the Stasi. The latest revelation about Ramelow’s secretary could kibosh his hopes for become the first state premier from The Left party.

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

How the Irish Can Save Civilization (Again)

Just say no to the Lisbon Treaty. Again.

In three weeks’ time, Ireland will, for a moment, hold the fate of Europe in its hands. Through a quirk of Irish constitutional procedure, on Oct. 2 the Republic of Ireland will be the only European Union nation to hold a referendum on a treaty to revamp how the EU, home to half a billion people, does business. The Lisbon Treaty, therefore, will stand or fall on the votes of perhaps one and a half million Irishmen and women.

From the perspective of Brussels, this is grossly unfair—a miscarriage of democracy masquerading as democracy. The Irish have stymied the denizens of Brussels’ European Quarter before, most recently the first time they voted against the Lisbon Treaty last year.

Back then, the establishment in Brussels blamed one man above all for the defeat. His name is Declan Ganley. He was one of the driving forces behind the No campaign the last time around, and he’s back to do it again. Your correspondent recently sat down with him to find out what he’s fighting for in trying to see to it that Ireland once again votes No to Lisbon—and in the process, he hopes, forces the EU to choose a different path.

I put it to Mr. Ganley, an impeccably dressed, balding Irishman of 42, that from Brussels, this whole referendum looks profoundly unjust. Why should 1.5 million Irish voters get the opportunity to hold back the progress of 500 million citizens of Europe?

“I would look at it a very different way,” he shoots back. “It’s profoundly undemocratic to walk all over democracy… The Irish people had a vote on the Lisbon Treaty. They voted no. A higher percentage of the electorate voted no than voted for Barack Obama in the United States of America. No one’s suggesting he should run for re-election next month. But—hey, presto!—15 months later we’re being told to vote again on exactly the same treaty.” He taps the table for emphasis: “Not one comma has changed in the document.”

But the insult to democracy is more egregious, in his view, than simply asking the Irish to vote twice—that was already done to Ireland with the Nice Treaty in 2002. In this case, it is not just the Irish whose democratic prerogatives are being trampled, but the French and the Dutch, among others, as well.

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

Ireland: Lisbon No Vote Will be Seen as Spiritual ‘Withdrawal’ In EU

A NO vote in the upcoming Lisbon Treaty referendum would represent a “spiritual withdrawal”, from Europe, Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan has warned.

Mr Lenihan said it seemed many voters, “born since 1973” when Ireland joined the then European Economic Community, were unaware of the extent to which Ireland owed its economic development to the European Union.

“A No vote will be seen inevitably, if wrongly, as a retreat into economic isolationism by Ireland; it will be seen as a spiritual withdrawal from Europe,” he said.

Mr Lenihan said younger voters needed to be reminded that before 1973 Ireland was hugely dependent on Britain for exports, whereas exports had grown by 600 per cent since then.

“Certainly what I’ve said is not to be taken in any way in disrespect to younger voters. It’s just to say that younger voters have treated our European membership as so axiomatic in their lives, and in this referendum we have to re-examine the importance of that axiom,” he said.

The Minister said the European Central Bank (ECB) had provided a lifeline to Ireland’s financial system, as foreign banks withdrew funding. Without the support of the ECB, the financial system would have collapsed.

“And if anyone has any doubt about that, all they have to do is look at Iceland which is now very keen to become a member of the European Union,” he said.

Mr Lenihan said the ECB would support the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) by swapping Government bonds for cash.

A Yes vote in the referendum would earn Ireland the continued goodwill and support of the EU in tackling the banking crisis, he added.

It was clear that economic recovery and job creation would be led by exports, as it was in the 1990s. He said Ireland’s EU partners bought nearly two-thirds of its exports. “You don’t need a pie chart to see just how large a share of our exports go to other European countries.”

Mr Lenihan said the choice that voters faced in three weeks’ time could not be starker, and that the referendum would define Ireland’s relationship with its European partners for years to come.

“It is not a cost-free choice. We need Europe in order to overcome our shared problems. We need the reforms contained in the Lisbon Treaty in order to tackle those shared problems,” he said.

A No vote would signal to the rest of the world that Ireland has retreated into economic isolation, he said.

He insisted that a Yes vote would be a vote for economic recovery.

The Minister acknowledged the “tremendous support” for the treaty from the Fine Gael and Labour parties.

[Return to headlines]

Islam: France’s Burqa Debate Blows Up

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, SEPTEMBER 11 — The sensitive debate over the wearing of the burqa in France has flared up once again after the country’s Commissioner for Diversity and Equality, Yazid Sabeg, stated that it was necessary to concentrate on “real problems” instead. Nine MPs in the parliamentary mission on the whole-face veil, belonging to the majority party, the UMP, have called on him to resign while the Chair of the mission, André Gerin, and his spokesperson, Eric Raoult, have written to Prime Minister François Fillon in protest and to criticise the “misplaced” remarks in a debate that is open to MPs. The row broke out on Tuesday when the Catholic paper La Croix published an interview in which the Algerian-born Commissioner stated that the debate on the burqa could be “a new trap to ensnare our country”. “The confusion this has led to in people’s minds has merely cause the real debate on real problems to be put off and muddied: problems which are mainly economic and social”, he said. “The crisis in the bainlieu is worsening and social tensions are at breaking point: there isn’t any work; there is a shortage of accommodation and the school system isn’t up to its task… Let us tackle these real problems: the row over the burqa will only reopen frustrations, old grudges and racisms while what we need to do is just the opposite — to unite the French people”. In the view of Yazid Sabeg, “you can think what you like about the burqa, you can find it aggressive or not: these are personal opinions. It is not up to the state to rule on how the French should dress. Are we to ban people from wearing Turkish slippers or going to the beach in monokinis?”. “These statements directly jeopardize the work of the Parliamentary mission and make fun of sexual equality and personal dignity”, the nine MPs retaliate. They find that Sabeg “no longer enjoys the credibility to continue as a minister of the republic and should therefore hand in his resignation”. In the letter sent to Fillon, Gerin and Raoult state that Sabeg has called the validity of the mission into the doubt as well as the willingness of MP to work peacefully with an objective view of the burqa issue. Made up of MPs from the four political groupings in the lower house, the mission set up at the start of July had began a series of hearings to “open a dialogue” on the wearing of the full-face veil in France. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Top Filmmaker Calls on Italians to “Get Rid” of PM

Venice, 7 Sept. (AKI) — American documentary filmmaker Michael Moore says that Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is an embarrassment for the country and suggested people “get rid” of him. “Why do they vote for him? It is an embarrasment for Italy, and I know what I am talking about, because we have also done things in the US to be embarrased about,” said Moore (photo) in an interview with Italian daily La Repubblica.

“What I don’t understand is who are these people that vote for him and his party? Because I can never find them when I come to Italy.

“Try to solve the Berlusconi problem and please hurry up, because you are not making yourselves look good as Italians,” he said.

Moore, an Academy-Award winning filmmaker is in Venice presenting his latest documentary film, Capitalism: A Love Story, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival.

Moore spoke out against the Italian leader as a Swedish/Italian documentary about Berlusconi’s media empire and its extensive influence opened strongly at the box office at the weekend.

Media reports said on Monday that the film, Videocracy, was fourth at the Italian box office.

However, Videocracy’s trailers were censored by the Italian state broadcaster RAI and the movie was shown in only 70 cinemas nationwide.

A rejection letter from RAI said the movie’s trailers were “offensive to the honour and reputation of the prime minister”.

Mediaset, the media company, founded by Berlusconi also refused to run advertisements promoting the movie.

Mediaset and RAI’s three state channels comprise over 90 percent of the country’s free-to-air channels in Italy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Premier Rejects ‘Dictator’ Claims

Milan, 8 Sept. (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday resumed his attack on the media and rejected accusations that he is some kind of dictator. The premier’s comments were contained in a speech delivered at the opening of the Textile Fair in Milan, following the recent controversy surrounding the resignation of the editor of a Catholic newspaper.

“The first thing a dictator usually does is to act on censorship and then close the newspapers,” Berlusconi said. “These days in Italy we have seen the distortion of liberty, slander and defamation. This is not a dictatorship.”

Turning his attention to the state of the global economy, Berlusconi said it was necessary to work as a team to overcome the current difficulties, and that there were signs of recovery.

“There are signs of recovery and beyond that there are men, entrepreneurs, intelligent politicians and the desire to put aside everything that makes us afraid. It is necessary to put every dispute to one side to effectively recover from the crisis.”

Fighting financial speculation is much more important than putting a ceiling on bank bonuses, he said.

“The worst is over, we are in the final phase of the crisis even if it is clear that there are many things still to be done,” Berlusconi said.

He said US president Barack Obama, the International Monetary Fund, the US Federal Reserve and the European Commission have all said that.

“Unfortunately, politics is not helping, the situation is disastrous, every one is pitched against each other.

“Politicians need to follow the example of entrpreneurs and leave aside disputes because our objective is to put the crisis behind us,” Berlusconi stated.

Boffo, editor of Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI) stood down last week, claiming he was the victim of a ‘gay smear’ campaign mounted against him by conservative Il Giornale daily, owned by Berlusconi’s brother.

Avvenire has been critical of scandal-plagued Berlusconi’s private life, which allegedly includes dalliances with young women and parties at his residences attended by prostitutes.

Il Giornale’s attack on Boffo sparked a rift between Berlusconi and the Catholic church, which he is eager to mend. Vatican number two Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state in late August cancelled a dinner with the premier in the quake-stricken city of L’Aquila.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Rome’s Mayor Target of Far-Left Graffiti

Rome, 8 Sept. (AKI) — Anti-terror police are investigating graffiti that appeared in a Rome suburb on Tuesday insulting the city’s right-wing mayor Gianni Alemanno. The graffiti appeared in the suburb of Forte Bravetta a day before a local park is due to be opened commemorating Italian anti-fascists killed in World War II.

“Long live the partisans. Alemanno is a piece of shit!” read one six-metre slab of red graffiti, with the Marxist-Lenninist Italian Red Brigades’ five-point star symbol and the Communist hammer and sickle scrawled alongside.

“Alemanno’s a dirty fascist, long live anti-fascist militancy!” read another piece of graffiti with two more Red Brigades symbols daubed beside it.

“Long live communism. With the workers against capitalism!” read a 15-metre high slogan with the Red Brigade symbol and the hammer and sickle sprayed in red beside it.

Another 2.5 metre sign read: “10, 100, 1,000 Piazzale Loreto.”

Piazzale Loreto was the square in the northern Italian city of Milan where Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s corpse and that of his mistress Clara Petacci was strung up on 27 April 1945 after their capture and execution by partisans.

“I believe there are people who want to stoke hatred in our city, rekindling old loathings and divisions,” Alemanno said, referring to the graffiti.

Alemanno belonged to the post-fascist National Alliance party, which earlier this year merged with Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative Forza Italia party to form Italy’s ruling conservative People of Freedom party.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Denies Claims of Church Rift

Rome, 7 Sept. (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Monday rejected suggestions that there is a growing rift between his government and the Catholic church. Berlusconi told a morning TV show that the government’s relations with the church were “excellent”.

He dismissed as “lies” reports of a bitter row sparked by the controversial resignation of Catholic newspaper editor Dino Boffo last week after what he described as a “gay smear campaign” by the conservative daily Il Giornale.

“The government’s and my personal relations with the church are excellent. The church has always managed these with distinction and authority, aided by a continuous dialogue,” Berlusconi told the ‘Mattino Cinque’ news programme, aired by Channel 5 which is part of his own media empire.

Il Giornale’s attack on Boffo prompted the Vatican to call off a dinner that Berlusconi and Vatican secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone were due to attend in the quake-stricken city of L’Aquila last month.

No future meeting between Berlusconi and Boffo has been scheduled.

Berlusconi said: “But this isn’t necessary. I haven’t asked for a meeting as I haven’t anything to ask.”

Cardinal Camillo Ruini at the weekend said he was “concerned” the government’s relations with the church were “at risk” after Boffo’s resignation.

Ruini is the former head of the Italian Bishops Conference, from whose daily newspaper, Avvenire, Boffo stepped down last month.

He expressed regret that Boffo had stepped down saying it would be hard to replace someone “with such a profound understanding of Italian Catholics, of Italian families”.

Il Giornale last month reported that Boffo, whose paper has been critical of Berlusconi’s private life, accepted a plea bargain and paid a fine in 2004 after being accused of harassing a woman.

The paper also said Boffo had a gay relationship with the woman’s unnamed partner. It added Boffo was a homosexual known to police for such activity.

Il Giornale, which is owned by Berlusconi’s brother, called Boffo a hypocritical moralist who was ill placed to criticise Berlusconi for his alleged extramarital relationships with young women.

Boffo, one of the most influential Catholic opinion makers and editor of Avvenire for 15 years, denied Il Giornale’s claims and said the woman was harassed by someone else using his mobile phone.

He resigned last Thursday, saying his name had been sullied “in a war of words which has wrecked my family and stunned Italians.”

Berlusconi, one of Italy’s wealthiest men who is the owner of a media empire that includes the country’s three biggest private television stations.

He has been on the defensive ever since his wife Veronica Lario announced she was divorcing him earlier this year after he attended the 18th birthday party of Naples lingerie model, Noemi Letizia.

Italian media subsequently reported that women had been paid to attend parties at the premier’s official residences in Rome and Sardinia and that high-class prostitute Patrizia D’Addario had spent the night with him in November last year.

Berlusconi, 72, has denied having had “improper relations” and claims the Italian bishops “have been taken in by left-wing lies”.

“Many Italians would like to be like me. They are not stupid, and that’s why they vote for me and my government… we have kept our promises,” he told ‘Mattino Cinque’.

Citing opinion polls, Berlusconi claimed around 70 percent of Italians would still vote for him.

“No western government has that level of support, especially one that has been in office for over a year,” he said.

Berlusconi accused the Italian left of waging a “subversive” campaign against him “against the will of the Italian people.”

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

Netherlands: Father Acquitted of Daughter’s Genital Mutilation

HAARLEM, 12/09/09 — A 30 year old father has been acquitted of the genital mutilation of his 6 year old daughter. In the first female circumcision case ever in the Netherlands, the district court in Haarlem on Friday did convict the man for hitting and biting the girl — to three months in jail.

The girl’s clitoris and labia minora are missing. The child lives with foster-parents. Her foster-mother discovered the mutilation when the child told her: ‘pappa cut me up with a big scissors’, the woman and the little girl told the court.

Nonetheless, the court took the view that the statements of the foster-mother and that of the girl are insufficient as evidence that the father is the perpetrator. According to the Public Prosecutor (OM), the father, Mustapha El M., should have been given six years in jail. The OM will appeal.

El M. of Moroccan origin, accused the OM of discrimination. According to him, the real perpetrators threaten to get away with it.

The judges did consider it proven that the father had bitten the girl in the cheeks several times and hit her on her back and in her face. El M. however only received three months jail for this. He had already served this in pre-trial custody, so that he was immediately released Friday.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Slovenia Unblocks Croatian EU Bid

Slovenia says it is ready to lift its block on Croatia’s bid to join the European Union.

The announcement came after talks between Prime Minister Borut Pahor and his Croat counterpart Jadranka Kosor.

They also said they had agreed that a continuing 18-year-old border dispute would not prejudice Croatia’s accession talks with the EU.

Slovenia had blocked Croatia’s EU negotiations since December because of the border dispute.

Prime Minister Pahor said the government would immediately propose to parliament that “Slovenia removes restraints for Croatia’s EU negotiating process”.

For her part, Croatia’s prime minister said she had faxed a letter to the Swedish EU presidency saying they had “reached an agreement on the continuation of talks with the EU and continuation of the border talks”.

“No document can be prejudicial to the final border solution,” Ms Kosor added.

Croatia had hoped to complete accession talks with the EU this year, and become the 28th member of the bloc by 2010 or 2011.

International mediation

The border row dates back to 1991, when the two countries declared independence from the former Yugoslavia.

The dispute centres mainly on the small bay of Piran in the Adriatic Sea.

Croatia has wanted the border to be drawn down the middle of the bay.

But Slovenia, which has a much shorter coastline than its neighbour, fears this would deny its ships direct passage to the high seas.

Last December, Slovenia vetoed a large chunk of the talks, saying Croatia had provided maps and documents in the EU negotiations that would have prejudged a solution to the border dispute.

The two prime ministers said on Friday talks on the border issue would continue with international mediation, Reuters news agency reports.

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

Spain Dumps Lieberman for Chavez

( Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos cancelled a scheduled meeting with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday. The meeting was called off in order to allow Moratinos to meet with a different senior official — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Moratinos, who was visiting Israel, flew back to Spain to meet Chavez after the latter arrived earlier than planned, Spanish officials explained. Officials said Moratinos had cancelled meetings with Palestinian Authority officials as well.

Chavez is known as a staunch supporter of Iran and a fierce critic of Israel. Prior to his visit to Spain, Chavez had visited Syria, where he called Israel “genocidal” and “anti-peace” during a press conference with Syrian President Bashar Assad. The day before, Chavez gave an interview to a French paper in which he accused Israel of committing genocide against Arabs in Gaza.

Chavez also visited Iran this week, and promised to supply that country with gasoline if Iran faces sanctions over its refusal to freeze its nuclear program.

Lieberman’s aides downplayed the Spanish minister’s early departure. Lieberman and Moratinos have spoken by phone throughout the week, and will continue to work together, they said.

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

Swedish Cities Hit by Spate of Arson and Unrest

Friday night was a troublesome one for many police forces across Sweden with several reports of arson and unrest. Police fear an escalation in the violence.

Violence continued in the Uppsala suburbs of Gottsunda, Valsätra and Eriksberg as at least eight cars were destroyed in arson attacks.

A police car was subjected to a shower of stones in Gottsunda as the unit was sent to investigate reports of vandalism by youth gangs.

At around 11pm further reports of burning cars were called in by concerned residents in Gottsunda and Valsätra, who have had to sustain continued unrest since the troubles broke out two weeks ago.

“It started on August 28th when the police were called to Gottsunda to investigate a car fire, and were then met with stone-throwing youths. It has since gone in waves, escalated, and spread to other neighbourhoods,” Christer Nordström at Uppsala police told the news website

In Södertälje, south of Stockholm, there were reports of serious damage to at least seven cars. Police suspect arson.

The unrest was not however limited to Sweden’s east coast with further reports of arson at several locations in western Sweden.

In the Bergsjön area of Gothenburg flammable liquid was sprayed on a tram and set alight. The fire however extinguished itself and the tram was able to continue its journey.

In Kungälv, north of the city, a car was set alight at a parking lot at around 10pm which then spread to a further three vehicles. A bus was also attacked by stone-throwing youths and a fire started outside a local school.

The town of Falkenberg was also the scene of arson attacks, as was the Gothenburg suburb of Hammarkullen.

Christer Nordström reported that many of the members of the public calling the emergency services expressed dismay at the developments in their neighbourhoods.

“That which is very serious is that we have noticed how racist tendencies are starting to grow. This prompts some very strong emotions, even if the majority of those that call are level-headed people,” he said to

Police in Södertälje meanwhile played down the recent spate of vandalism and unrest.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Tony Blair Endorses Yale’s Cartoon Censorship

In an interview with the Yale Daily News, former prime minsiter Tony Blair, who is teaching a course at Yale this year, has come out supporting Yale’s censorship of historical depictions of Muhammad as well as the Danish cartoons, in a Yale University Press book about the Danish cartoon controversy:

“Q: I wanted to ask you about the cartoon controversy at Yale. How would you have approached that matter and is that an example of the sort of ails of globalization?

A: It’s certainly an example — I mean, the whole fury is an example of how it’s important to get a better and easier way of having a dialogue about things of religious sensitivity for sure. But I mean, I was heavily involved at this, I was Prime Minister at the time all this broke, and obviously it was condemned very strongly, the violence that surrounded it, but I really think from Yale’s perspective it made the right decision. Because this is not a piece of original research that Yale has suppressed. That would obviously be a completely different issue. The question is, does it reignite a controversy that has already been there or not. I think it was an entirely responsible and sensible thing that they did.”

Actually, the book is an original piece of research and by Blair’s yardstick, all illustrations could therefore be suppressed. It really is troubling that avoiding controversy trumps the principle of free speech in Tony Blair’s mind, and in Yale’s policy.

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

UK Mosque Protest Signals Fascists’ Return

LONDON — An anti-Muslim protest outside a London mosque raises the spectre of a return of the 1930s fascists and threatens to fuel violence and hatred in Britain, a senior minister warned Saturday, September 12.

“If you look at the types of demonstrations they have organised, the language used and the targets chosen, it looks pretty clear that it’s a tactic designed to provoke, to get a response and create violence,” John Denham, the secretary of state for communities and local government, told the BBC News Online.

He drew parallels between the English Defence League, which organized an anti-Muslim protest outside the Harrow Central Mosque to incendiary marches by Oswald Mosley’s Black Shirts through Jewish areas of east London in the 1930s.

“You could go back to the 1930s if you wanted to — Cable Street and all of those types of things,” he said.

“The tactic of trying to provoke a response in the hope of causing wider violence and mayhem is long established on the far-right and among extremist groups.”

Clashes erupted late Friday after the EDL organized an anti-Muslim protest outside the Harrow mosque.

“Items including bricks and bottles have been thrown at officers,” said a spokesman for London’s Metropolitan Police.

Police arrested 8 people after the anti-Muslim protestors scuffled with Muslims and members of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) defending the mosque.

The EDL is affiliated to Casuals United, former football hooligans who want to “fight Jihadists in the community”.

The protest was also organized by a small right-wing group calling itself Stop Islamification of Europe, which claims that “Islamophobia is the height of commonsense”.


Khairul Khan, 34, stood guard outside the Harrow mosque to defend it against any attack by the right-wing protestors.

“We are just defending our own mosque. We are doing nothing wrong,” he said.

“We are just trying to stop them attacking the house of our God.”

Muslims accused the anti-Muslim protestors of stirring violence and hatred in the country.

“Anyone should be allowed to demonstrate all they want, but if you are inciting hatred against any human being, then you should not be allowed to do that, said Abdullah Al-Andalusi, 30.

“And under English law you can’t do that.”

The EDL has held several anti-Muslim rallies in several cities.

More than 30 people were arrested last weekend at a similar protest in Birmingham.

“It’s important that we, right across government, make sure this does not happen,” Denham, the cabinet minister, said.

“We need to make sure people realise we are going to deal with this and that people recognise there is not a need to tackle this through counter confrontation.”

British Muslims, estimated at nearly two million, have been in the eye of storm since the 7/7 attacks.

They have repeatedly complained of maltreatment by police for no apparent reason other than being Muslim.

A Financial Times opinion poll showed that Britain is the most suspicious nation about Muslims.

A poll of the Evening Standard found that a sizable section of London residents harbor negative opinions about Muslims.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

UK: ‘You’Re Not Intelligent Enough to Marry’, Bride Told

Social workers banned a young woman from her own wedding in an extraordinary row over whether she is bright enough to get married.

Kerry Robertson, who has mild learning difficulties, was told her wedding was being halted just 48 hours before she was to walk up the aisle with fiance Mark McDougall.

Miss Robertson, 17, had bought her wedding dress and the couple had booked the church ceremony, bought the rings and organised a reception to be held last Saturday.

But two days before they were due to say their vows in front of 20 guests, social services told the bride-to-be that she would have to cancel the big day because she ‘did not understand the implications of getting married’.

Yesterday, Miss Robertson, who is five months pregnant, said the decision was cruel.

She said: ‘I am still so upset about everything. I know what marriage is. It is when two folks want to spend the rest of their lives together. I love Mark and I want to get married to him.’


Mr McDougall claims Miss Robertson’s learning difficulties are not severe. ‘It’s true she is not very academic,’ he said. ‘But she is nowhere near as stupid as social services are making out.

‘She is a loving caring person. She can also read and write, although not very well, and was going to college to catch up.

‘I didn’t even know she had learning difficulties until we’d been dating for two months.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: A Senior Minister Has Said the Self-Styled Anti-Islamic Extremist Group the English Defence League’s Tactics Are Designed to Provoke Violence

Mr Denham made his comments after clashes at a protest against a new mosque in north-west London.

Ten people were arrested after scuffles broke out as police attempted to separate protesters from a large number of people who opposed the group.

The EDL has recently been involved in a number of confrontations in Birmingham.

In a statement to the BBC, Mr Denham said: “I believe the English Defence League is not a large group, but they clearly have amongst them people who know exactly what they are doing.

“If you look at the types of demonstrations they have organised, the language used and the targets chosen, it looks pretty clear that it’s a tactic designed to provoke, to get a response and create violence.

“It’s important that we, right across government, make sure this does not happen.

“We need to make sure people realise we are going to deal with this and that people recognise there is not a need to tackle this through counter confrontation.”


The English Defence League, which has organised a series of recent protests that have resulted in violence, have further demonstrations planned for Manchester, Leeds and Luton over the next few weeks.

They are also expected to draw hundreds of supporters to a demonstration in Trafalgar Square on Sunday.

Mr Denham said there was a clear link between increasing support for the far-right and discontent in predominantly white working class communities.

He said this is due to fears that they are not being listened to.

At least 1,000 people gathered outside Harrow Central Mosque as activists from Stop Islamification of Europe — a group associated with the EDL — planned a demonstration there.

The group said they intended to hold a peaceful protest against the building of a five-storey mosque next to the Harrow Central Mosque.

Local Muslims and members of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) confronted the protesters, saying they had come to “defend the mosque”.

Offensive weapons

Eyewitnesses say members of the anti-Islam group were chased away by a large group of young Muslims — a minority of whom then turned on the police.

Bricks, bottles and firecrackers were thrown at police officers, who were wearing riot gear.

Nine people were arrested for possession of offensive weapons including a hammer, a chisel and bottles of bleach.

Another person was arrested at the scene to prevent a breach of the peace, but he was released soon after, police said.

About a 1,000 people turned up for the demonstration

The Department of Communities said Mr Denham’s comments are the start of concerted efforts to undercut the growth of far-right extremism.

A campaign will begin “during the autumn” to address the sense of alienation and disaffection some people are feeling.

It will include intensive engagement at neighbourhood level and greater effort to understand why some people currently feel overlooked or that system is weighted against them.

For example, the department says, there will be more effort to make sure money for job schemes and social homes are going to the right places and local residents feel fully involved in how government funding is spent.

The EDL’s website says the group exists to oppose Islamic extremism, but it is not against individual Muslims.

Anti-racist campaigners say the League has links with the far-right and with football hooliganism.

Unite Against Fascism says that the EDL is “a racist group, out to attack Asians”.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

UK: Green Shop Owner is Fined by Council… for Not Producing Any Rubbish

With its emphasis on re-using old materials or selling them as scrap, Mark Howard’s bicycle shop is a model of environmental efficiency.

So you might have imagined that his local council would be grateful to him for enhancing the area’s green credentials.

But instead the father of four has been hit with a £180 fine — because officers refuse to believe he doesn’t create any commercial waste.

If the charge is not paid within ten days it will rise to £300, and ultimately Mr Howard could be hauled before a court.

Mr Howard stores surplus materials such as cardboard boxes and old pedals away for re-use, while bent steel or aluminium frames that can’t be salvaged are sold for scrap.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Majority of Teachers Don’t Want to Promote ‘Brainwashing’ Patriotism to Pupils

Three-quarters of teachers in Britain’s schools believe they should warn pupils about the dangers of patriotism — which some regard as a form of ‘brainwashing’, researchers have found.

A nationwide study found the majority of teachers felt they should not be promoting the subject at all in the classroom, with some preferring to instruct their pupils in the benefits of ‘universal brotherhood’.

And even those who felt positively about patriotism felt the need to qualify and tone down their support, stressing that they disliked ‘jingoistic flag-waving’.

The findings are a blow for the Government after Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke out in favour of encouraging pupils to be patriotic, calling for ‘Britishness’ lessons to be part of the curriculum.

The study by the Institute of Education at the University of London surveyed teachers and pupils at 20 secondary schools, and found 74 per cent believed it was their duty to point out the danger of patriotic sentiments.

‘Praising patriotism excludes non-British pupils,’ one teacher told researchers.

‘Patriotism about being British divides groups along racial lines, when we aim to bring pupils to an understanding of what makes us the same.’

Other responses included:

  • ‘We shouldn’t be promoting patriotism. We should be promoting universal brotherhood.’
  • ‘I think we should identify as humans.’
  • ‘I don’t think you should be grooming children to be patriotic. That’s as bad as telling everyone that they’ve got to be a certain religion — I am not going to brainwash anyone.’

While two-thirds of teachers claimed they encouraged discussion of patriotism in their classrooms, more than half of pupils said patriotism was never discussed at school.

In their report, Dr Joanne Pearce and Dr Michael Hand argue much of history and politics is incomprehensible without understanding of the power of patriotic sentiment.

They told the Times Educational Supplement: ‘Schools have a responsibility to ensure that students not only understand the phenomenon of patriotism, but are equipped to make reasoned judgments about the place it should occupy in their own emotional lives.’

Novelist and commentator Frederick Forsyth said: ‘I wish these teachers would see that patriotism in the sense of that quiet pride is nothing to be afraid of. It’s not aggressive. It doesn’t put down foreigners. It doesn’t noisily wave flags and it certainly doesn’t swerve towards the BNP.’

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

UK: Now the SAS Has to Train Libyan Troops

The SAS is training Libyan troops, it emerged last night.

The elite special forces unit has been passing on its combat expertise to Colonel Gaddafi’s soldiers for the last six months.

The move, another sign of the growing relationship between the UK and the oil-rich country, has appalled military veterans who recall how Libya supplied the Provisional IRA with guns and explosives to kill British soldiers.

Though the Ministry of Defence refused to comment, the Foreign Office confirmed last night: ‘We have got an ongoing co-operation with Libya in the field of defence.’

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Police Pelted With Bricks and Bottles as London Mosque Protests Turn Violent

At least ten people were arrested after police were attacked with bricks and bottles as demonstrations outside the Harrow Central Mosque in north London turned violent.

Officers were caught in a stand-off between hundreds of anti-Islam and Muslim protesters outside the mosque, in Station Road, Harrow late on Friday.

Heavily armed police struggled to contain the escalating violence and at least 10 people were arrested as more than a 1,000 people descended on the area.

Asian youths attack police in Luton Scotland Yard condemned the violent protesters, many of whom had covered their faces with ski masks, motorcycle helmets and scarves.

The violence came after the Stop Islamification of Europe (SIOE) group pledged to hold a peaceful protest outside the mosque, which coincided with the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Counter protests were also planned at the site, where a new five-floor mosque is under construction.

After a day of peaceful protests, tensions reached boiling point when a gang of at least 100 pro-Islamic demonstrators broke away from the main body to chase away a small number of the anti-Mosque marchers.

Police wearing riot gear responded by closing roads and kettling in the protesters outside the mosque, refusing to allow movement between their lines.

Angry groups continued shouting and throwing sticks, bricks and bottles at the police lines.

Police said nine arrests were made for possession of offensive weapons.

Items recovered included bottles of bleach, a hammer and a chisel but police said the arrests were not believed to be linked to the SIOE demonstration.

Another was made to prevent a breach of the peace, but police said he was released after “the threat had passed”.

Scotland Yard superintendent Julia Pendry, who lead the operation, condemned the “events that had played out on the streets of Harrow”.

She said they were “completely unacceptable to everyone”.

“Unfortunately what unfolded was a series of acts of disorder and even cases of violence,” she said.

“Officers came under attack from bricks and bottles and we had to deploy our staff in protective equipment a number of times.

“It is completely unacceptable for people to use the excuse of protest to break the law and behave in this way.”

She added: “We’ve been told that the majority of people that gathered in Station Road… were not even part of the local community.”

Councillor David Ashton, leader of Harrow Council, added: “We are saddened and dismayed that groups from outside the borough have come here and caused unrest.

“Harrow has an excellent record in community relations and we condemn those who came to our borough from elsewhere to either foist extreme political opinions on us or use religion as a cover for causing trouble.

“I would like to pay tribute to Harrow Mosque and its officials for their earlier calls for restraint and moderation. It is a pity those words were not heard by those who came to Harrow from outside our area.”

Last Saturday a similar protest — organised by the English Defence League (EDL) — descended into violence as bottles and bricks were hurled on the streets of Birmingham.

Anti-fascists and EDL supporters clashed in the city centre as a heavily-policed protest spilled over into the main shopping area.

West Midlands Police made ninety arrests and detectives predict more will follow as officers trawl CCTV footage of the violence.

           — Hat tip: DT [Return to headlines]

UK: Tension in London Flares in Mosque Stand-Off

Britain needs new policies to tackle issues that racists exploit, the communities secretary said Saturday, following ugly scenes outside a London mosque.

Riot police arrested 10 people Friday as they intervened to quell clashes outside the mosque in Harrow, northwest London, on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

About 1,000 mostly Muslim protestors, many with masks over their faces, were involved in running scuffles following a demonstration by a small anti-Islamic group.

Communities Secretary John Denham told The Guardian newspaper that there was a need for a broader strategy from government to “undercut issues that racists try to exploit.”

Ministers would in the coming weeks unveil a government program targeted at mainly white, working class communities, he said, according to the daily.

“You need to be prepared to let people’s real underlying fears and concerns come out, but to be able to address them frankly and openly,” he said.

He gave the example of perceptions of unfair allocation of public housing and new jobs, and hinted at changes to let local people to “influence and shape” better how resources are distributed in their area.

Police said they were attacked with bricks and bottles outside Harrow Central Mosque.

One person was arrested to prevent a breach of the peace, and nine others for possession of offensive weapons including bottles of bleach, a hammer and a chisel.

Police moved in after a crowd of angry Muslim youths, some wearing masks over their faces, threw sticks and stones at a small group of about a dozen mostly shaven-headed protestors.

Compared to fascists

Denham compared those behind the anti-Islamic protest to the 1930s British Union of Fascists.

“If you look at the types of demonstrations they’ve organised… it looks pretty clear that it’s a tactic designed to provoke and to get a response and hopefully create violence,” he said.

They “have among them people who know what exactly they’re doing.

“The tactic of trying to provoke a response in the hope of causing wider violence and mayhem is long established on the far-right and among extremist groups.”

The demonstration in Harrow was organized by Stop Islamification of Europe, which said ahead of the demo that it planned to remain peaceful.

Stephen Gash of the SIOE — whose motto is “Racism is the lowest form of human stupidity, but Islamophobia is the height of common sense” — said before the demo: “We don’t want any more mosques until all this hatred is sorted out.”

But the violence erupted when they were confronted by hundreds of protestors who the police said were either members of a group called United Against Fascism, or Muslims providing support to the mosque.

Concerns about violence have been heightened by clashes last weekend at a rally against Islamic fundamentalism held by a right-wing group, the English Defense League.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

UK: Trio to Face ‘Bomb Plot’ Retrial

Prosecutors say they will seek a retrial of three men who had been accused of taking part in a plan to blow up transatlantic airliners.

Ibrahim Savant, 28, Arafat Khan, 28, and Waheed Zaman, 25, were found not guilty of plotting to bomb aircraft.

But jurors at Woolwich Crown Court on Monday, failed to decide whether they were guilty of conspiracy to murder.

Three other men were convicted of plotting to bomb planes flying between London to North America.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, said he had “considered very carefully” whether to seek the retrial.

He added that he had judged that “there remains a realistic prospect of a conviction against each defendant on the charge of conspiracy to murder” even though two previous juries had been unable to agree on the charge.

He added: “I have concluded that, in this exceptional case, it is in the public interest to seek a further retrial.”

A judge will decide whether the men should face a third trial.

The independent reviewer of terrorism laws, Lord Carlile, said: “We have to trust judges of that seniority and quality to decide whether it is oppressive to have a third trial or whether in a case of this huge importance, it is in the public interest to see whether a jury can reach a verdict.

“It may be a verdict of guilty. It may be a verdict which may exonerate these men.”

Mr Savant is from Stoke Newington, east London, and Mr Khan and Mr Zaman, are both from Walthamstow, east London.

On Monday, Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28, of Walthamstow, Tanvir Hussain, 28, of Leyton, east London, and Assad Sarwar, 29, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, were all found guilty of conspiring to activate bombs disguised as drinks.

The arrests in connection with the plot in August 2006 caused chaos to international aviation and prompted the current restrictions on bringing liquids on board aircraft.

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

UK: What Kind of Country Has This Become When We Are All Treated as Potential Paedophiles?

You are a pervert and a danger to children — unless you can prove otherwise. If you disagree, pay a fine of £5,000. That is the message that could potentially be given out by a newly-formed government quango to a staggering 11.3 million people in this country.

The Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), which comes into being next month, sets out to be the biggest vetting and clearing system in the world. In order to ‘protect’ your children, it will insist on vetting everyone who comes into possible contact with them.

If you help with the local football team, or the Guides; if you help out with lifts, driving other people’s children to sporting events; if you help to host visits by foreign schoolchildren, you will become a criminal unless you consent to the ISA vetting you.

From time to time, I visit schools to help give English classes, or to talk about books or history. I do it because I like children, and I miss my years as a teacher. (Very sinister! I can hear the ISA inspector saying to herself.)

These school visits of mine will now become illegal unless I allow myself to be investigated by the ISA and can provide them with the necessary documentation.

Is this England or the Soviet Union? Best-selling author Philip Pullman — himself once a legendarily good teacher at an Oxford comprehensive — has said that he will stop giving readings at schools, in protest against the new scheme.

The Liberal Democrat spokesperson Chris Huhne said: ‘We are in danger of creating a world in which we think every adult who approaches children means to do them harm.The creation of the world’s biggest checking system is a disproportionate response to the problem it is trying to solve.’

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Vatican: Religion Should be a ‘School Subject’

Vatican City, 9 Sept. (AKI) — The Vatican is demanding that religion have the status of a school subject. The Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education expressed the view in a letter sent to the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI).

“It must show the Christian event with the same seriousness and depth by which other subjects present their knowledge,” read the letter.

“The specificity of this teaching, does not take away its nature of a school subject.

“It is necessary, therefore, that religious teaching at school appears as a school subject with the same demands of orderliness and rigour of other subjects.”

The Vatican said that the teaching of different religions could generate religious relativism and discouraged it because it could cause “confusion” or “damage”.

“The marginalisation of the teaching of religion in schools is equivalent, at least in practice, to assuming an ideological position that could lead to error, or cause severe damage to pupils,” it said.

“Furthermore, it could create confusion or generate religious indifference and relativism if the teaching of religion is limited to a neutral or comparative exposure of the various other religions.”

Italy’s public schools offer an optional “religion hour” in which students may study the Catholic religion or other faiths.

However, under a 2007 ruling only students taking Catholicism were able to receive academic credit.

In mid-August, an Italian court ruling said that high school students may no longer receive academic credit for studying Catholicism, sparking criticism from conservative centre-right politicians, including the education minister, Mariastella Gelmini.

In the letter, the Vatican also asked for parents to be allowed to choose a Catholic school as an alternative to a public school, thus ending what it called “any form of scholastic monopoly.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


EU-Serbia: Jeremic, Membership is Foreign Policy Priority

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, SEPTEMBER 10 — EU membership remains Serbia’s top foreign policy priority. The country intends to continue to strengthen cooperation with Russia, China, the United States, and with nearby countries, said Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic today. The minister added that a long-term solution to the Kosovo issue is among on the Belgrade’s basic diplomatic objectives. “Despite all of the obstacles, EU membership remains our central strategic priority, not only for geographic, cultural, or economic reasons, but also due to our common basic values,” said Jeremic, speaking in Belgrade at a conference of young diplomats. The Foreign Minister underlined that Serbia and Russia’s long time friendship will continue to strengthen, as will cooperation with the United States and China as well as all other nations throughout the world, many of which are members of the Non-Aligned Movement. Jeremic then reiterated Belgrade’s position as contrary to Kosovo’s independence, which violates the principles of international law and the UN Charter. “Serbia has decided to respond to Pristina’s secessionist decision with peaceful means and with the maximum discretion,” said Jeremic. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Church Firebombed in Egypt After Opposition From Muslim Neighbors

By Mary Abdelmassih

Cairo (AINA) — The Coptic Church of Saint Paul and Saint Peter in the town of Shebin el Kom, 60 kilometers northwest of Cairo, was burnt on 9/1/2009, No casualties were reported. There were conflicting reports as to the cause of the fire, the Egyptian police told the media that it was caused by a “short circuit” even before carrying out an arson investigation, while others believe it was arson.

Church authorities are keeping tight-lipped over the fire and refusing to comment before the results of the investigation are out. According to Free Copts, the priest and witnesses dismissed the possibility of an electric short circuit or a candle as the cause of the fire.

The fire started at about 3:00 PM, when the church was closed, after having had a morning service. It began at the central entrance door and spread inside to damage the church’s interior. People who tried to help could not get into the locked church, “it was very frustrating to see the church burning inside and fire tongues coming out of the windows. We just stood there helplessly watching,” a witness told Middle East Christian Association (MECA).

When the fire brigade arrived, the inside of the church was completely gutted. “Only the Holy Alter remained miraculously unharmed, but all the Saints’ relics, icons and pictures were reduced to charcoal,” commented a church worker. “All the beautiful features inside the church are now gone. It is evident by looking at the fire photos that they were targeted deliberately and maliciously in order to destroy them.”

Several sources close to the church were interviewed, who asked to remain anonymous, believed that the fire was arson, caused by Muslim neighbors who were against having the church in their vicinity. They said that they have received numerous threats to have the Church firebombed. “We were enraged when they told us that the police report would be issued, as usual, blaming a short circuit for causing the fire, or in the worst scenario the arsonists would get off scot-free through the State Security’s unofficial reconciliation meetings, in which Copts are forced to give up their rights for criminal charges,” said one church member.

“The police decided before any forensics were carried out that the cause of the fire was caused by a short-circuit,” said an unofficial Church source. “This cannot be true, as the electricity was shut off as usual before locking the Church and the panel boards are intact as the photos show.”

Sherif Ramzy of Free Copts said that Coptic witnesses told him that while the fire was burning, Muslim neighbors were elated. To portray their happiness, Muslim women were letting out the traditional celebration sound “zaghroota.”

Copts United were told “The reasons behind the church fire are the problems between the Church and the Muslim neighbors who are unhappy with the presence of the Church in their vicinity. The congregation was harassed, the priests insulted and threatened, and Koran chanting was played over the loud speakers during the Church services.”

Coptic News Bulletin aired an audio with members of the Church who said that two Muslim men were always hovering near the Church since its inauguration a year ago, threatening and intimidating the congregation. “Everytime the Church priest reported them to the State Security, they disappeared for a while before coming back with more threats,” said a Church member.

The Saint Paul and Saint Peter Church was originally an old Roman Catholic church, but due to the dwindling number of Catholics in Shebin el Kom, it was purchased by the Coptic church three years ago, and the interior was partly converted to Coptic Orthodox liturgical use. Coptic Church services started under last year. “The Catholic church was closed for a long time, so when the Coptic church started its services, the Muslims in the neighborhood became very angry,” said one of the parishioners to Coptic News. “The neighbors were throwing dirty water from their balconies over us as we walked. The Muslims also complained that when weddings were held at Church, the number of invited guests with cars, led to traffic congestion.”

On 9/12/2009 the Church congregation held a mass in the open air on the Church grounds.

[Return to headlines]

Morocco: Journalists on Trial for False News on the King

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, SEPTEMBER 8 — The editor and a journalist from independent Moroccan newspaper ‘Al Jarida Al Oula’, Ali Anouzla and Bouchra Edaou, will appear before judges at the court of first instance in Rabat, on September 29. They are charged with having published, on August 27, false news on the king’s health. On the previous day, an official statement announced that the king had been ordered five days of rest to cure a mild viral infection. The newspaper, quoting an anonymous medical source, presented a different version. This started an inquiry and a committal for trial with the charge, according to press agency Map, “the crime of publication, with malicious intention, of false information, of deceitful statements and facts”. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Ramadan: Algeria, Arrests for Not Fasting

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, SEPTEMBER 10 — Ten young people have been arrested in Setif, Algeria (300 km east of Algiers) for smoking during the day, breaking the fast of the holy month of Ramadan. According to an El Watan report six people, including two underage girls, were arrested at the start of the week in the Larassa suburban neighbourhood of Setif and four other young people were stopped for the same reason in a park in the centre of the city. In Algiers two more people were arrested during the first week of Ramadan for eating during the day. After twenty four hours in jail, says the Algerian press report, “they were released thanks to the intervention of an important person”. Algerian law does not expressly condemn not respecting the fast during the holy month but establishes from three to five years in prison and fines of between 50 thousand and 100 thousand dinars for anyone “who offends the Prophet or one of Gods messengers or denigrates the dogma and the precepts of Islam”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

SAS Trains Libyan Troops

The SAS has been ordered by the Government to train Libyan special forces despite the country having armed the IRA, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

For the past six months Britain’s elite troops have been schooling soldiers working for Col Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, which for years provided Republican terrorists with the Semtex explosive, machine-guns and anti-aircraft missiles used against British troops during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Sources within the SAS have expressed distaste at the agreement, which they believe could be connected to the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

Britain’s relationship with Libya has been under the spotlight since Abdelbaset al Megrahi was freed from a Scottish jail on compassionate grounds last month after being diagnosed as suffering from terminal prostate cancer and given three months to live.

Gordon Brown has faced claims that his Government helped engineer Megrahi’s release to promote Britain’s commercial interests, particularly energy, in Libya.

Downing Street has denied the allegations, but Jack Straw, the Justice Minister, has admitted that trade was a factor in deciding to include Megrahi in an earlier prisoner transfer agreement with Libya. Megrahi was the only person convicted for the murder of 270 people killed in the bombing in 1988 of Pan Am flight 103.

The disclosure that members of the SAS are training their Libyan counterparts will further raise suspicions about exactly what has been agreed behind the scenes between Tripoli and Britain.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

‘Israel and Egypt to Reveal New Understandings on Schalit, Peace Process’

Israel and Egypt will soon announce understandings that the two countries have reached on the negotiations for the release of Gilad Schalit as well as the peace process with the Palestinians, London-based Arab newspaper Asharq Alawsat reported Saturday.

The paper, which based its report on unnamed Israel and Egyptian sources in Cairo, stated that these understandings would lead to new decisions on the issues. These will be revealed following the meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Sunday, the paper claimed.

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

Israel’s UN Envoy Blames Lebanese Gov’t for Firing of Katyusha Rockets

Israel filed a request at the United Nations Friday evening following the firing of at least two Katyusha rockets into northern Israel earlier in the afternoon. Israel blamed the Lebanese government for the latest violation of Resolution 1701, the UN decision from August 2006 which ended hostilities between Israel and Hizbullah in Lebanon.

Gabriela Shalev, Israel’s envoy at the UN, sent a letter to Susan Rice, US envoy at the UN currently holding the rotating Security Council presidency, and to Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, where she said the attack was an additional example of the presence of munitions and terror activity south of the Litani River — a direct contravention of UNSC Resolution 1701.

Israel accused the Lebanese government of not ensuring that the territory will be clear of armed individuals who are not official Lebanese Armed Forces troops or UNIFIL peacekeepers.

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

Palestinian Man Killed When Smuggling Tunnel Collapses in Gaza

A Palestinian man was killed Saturday and three others were injured when a smuggling tunnel collapsed on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, reports from Gaza indicate.

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

Police Raises Alert in East Jerusalem Following Shooting Incident

[six muslims against one person! now that’s brave! Thank God, the True God, this Israeli was armed]

Police raised its alert in east Jerusalem on Friday night and will remain on high alert on Saturday following an incident where a 20-year-old Jewish Israeli man shot and wounded two Arabs at Jerusalem’s Givati parking lot on Friday evening, near Silwan.

The casualties, a 40-year-old and a 16-year-old, were lightly to moderately wounded, and evacuated to an east Jerusalem hospital.

Police arrested the gunman, and said that during questioning he claimed that he had been attacked by six Arabs from east Jerusalem, and was acting in self defense.

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

Science: Italy-Israel, Start of Joint Laboratories

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV — The joint commission set up by Italy and Israel’s Agreement for Scientific, Technological and Industrial Cooperation has approved the funding for 17 new R&D projects between the two countries and the setting up of three shared laboratories: on solar and alternative energy between Ben Gurion university in Negev and ENEA; on cold atomic physics between the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot and Florence’s Lens di Firenze; on neuroscience between Tel Aviv University and CNR. The accord, which was announced by Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on his visit to Israel in July 2008, and approved by parliament in June, is based on an endowment of a growing fund. The setting up of the joint laboratories will offer 15 Italian researchers the chance to work for five years alongside some of Israel’s most prestigious universities in realising research projects with important experimental and technological implications, strengthening exchange opportunities for young Italian scientists in one of the world’s leading high-tech countries. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran Ready to Negotiate Nuclear Proposals: FM

“By giving this package, the Islamic Republic of Iran has shown its determination to enter into negotiation on the main topics in the package,” Mottaki told reporters in Tehran.

“I think that if one takes into account separate statements made by these powers, they acknowledge that our package has major topics for holding constructive negotiations,” he said.

“This can be the basis of negotiations… we hope that they (the six world powers) address our package seriously, deeply and analytically.”

His comments came as six world powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — considered new proposals handed over by Iran on Wednesday to delay Western concerns about the real purpose of its nuclear program.

No WMDsMeanwhile, Iran’s Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said Tehran has no ambitions to develop an atomic bomb.

The Fars news agency quoted Vahidi as saying: “We regard production of weapons of mass destruction as contrary to our religious, human and national principles.”

“Manufacturing nuclear weapons is not, and has never been, on our agenda,” it added.

Vahidi is wanted by Argentina in connection with a deadly 1994 bombing against a Jewish center in Buenos Aires but was unanimously approved as defense minister in a vote of confidence in parliament last week.

Talks with major powersThe United States said on Friday it would accept Iran’s offer of wide-ranging talks with major powers but expressed disappointment with the proposals.

“It is not really responsive to our greatest concern,” assistant secretary of state for public affairs, Philip Crowley, told reporters on Thursday.

“We will seek an early meeting and we will seek to test Iran’s willingness to engage,” Crowley said.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana issued a statement in Brussels saying he was seeking an urgent meeting with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, to try to resolve Western concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.

U.S. President Barack Obama came into office pledging a policy of engagement toward Iran and the State Department said it wanted the so-called P5+1 nations to meet Iranian officials now to see if they were willing to talk substantively.

U.S. proposes nuclear disarmament

Meanwhile the U.S. circulated a draft Security Council resolution calling on all nations to cooperate to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

The text, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, is up for a vote during a special Security Council meeting on nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament.

Obama is scheduled to preside over the Sept. 24 meeting, a day after he is scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly session.

Although the draft does not explicitly refer to Iran or North Korea, it does point to recently adopted Security Council resolutions that imposes sanctions for their nuclear or ballistic activities.

The measure called on states that have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) “to comply fully with all their obligations under the treaty” and for others to become signatories “so as to achieve its universality at an early date, and in any case to adhere to its terms.”

The NPT, which is up for review in May, is increasingly challenged by countries like Iran and North Korea that seek nuclear state status. The last NPT review conference ended in disarray in May 2005 with no agreement from its 189 signatory countries.

Israel, widely considered the Middle East’s sole albeit undeclared nuclear power, is not party to the treaty. Nuclear-armed rival states India and Pakistan have also not signed, while North Korea withdrew from the treaty in 2003.

The resolution urged all countries to back efforts “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to nuclear arms reduction and disarmament and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Iran’s Defense Minister: Nuclear Weapons Are Against Our Religion

New Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi denied on Saturday that the Islamic Republic was striving to acquire nuclear weapons, and said that construction of such weapons was against the principals of Islam, the AFP news agency reported.

“We regard production of weapons of mass destruction as contrary to our religious, human and national principles,” the Fars news agency quoted Vahidi as saying. “Manufacturing nuclear weapons is not, and has never been, on our agenda.”

According to a report by Iran’s ISNA news agency, Vahidi accused the US of seeking to exert its will over countries in the region through “deterrent strategy.”

Vahidi also referred to comments made by US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who last week called on US allies in the Middle East to strengthen their respective militaries to deter Iran from continuing its suspected nuclear weapons program.

“Since the first discussions on Iran’s nuclear issue, the US made wrong judgments based on false information, devised a wrong strategy and tried to suggest it to regional countries and Iran’s neighbors,” Vahidi said. “Through the measure, the US authorities will both plunder reserves of regional countries and put the interests of American people at risk in long-term.”

“We advise US authorities not to try to militarize the region and make up for their past failures through a shift in their wrong strategy,” he added.

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

Jordan: Muslim Brotherhood in Crisis Over Ties With Hamas

(ANSAmed) SEPTEMBER 8 — The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan movement is trying to avoid an internal crisis from spinning out of control after four of its top leaders resigned in protest to the group’s continued ties with Hamas. ‘Efforts are ongoing to contain the crisis. I am very confident this issue will be resolved very soon’, Jameel Abu Baker, Muslim Brotherhood spokesman told ANSAmed on Tuesday. The four men belong to the doves camp, which has been pushing for an end to links with Hamas movement under pressure from Jordanian authorities. A recent meeting for the MB shurah council, the highest decision making body in the group, failed to put an end to the sage, after the hawks insisted ties with Hamas is crucial and can not be avoided. The Jordanian government had joined the bandwagon of the US, the EU and Israel in their anti-Hamas policy. Abu Baker said the resignations have been handed to the group’s executive office, but yet to be approved. The Muslim Brotherhood has been very influential in the political scene in Jordan since six decades thanks to its charity work. The group’s political wing, the Islamic Action Front (IAF) is the strongest party in the kingdom and the group’s members control most of the professional associations and labour syndicates. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Muslim Women Get “Halal” Cosmetics

The Canadian makeup artist who converted to Islam is marketing cosmetics called OnePure, which she says have the luxury feel of international brands minus the elements banned under Islamic law.

“There are pork derivatives and alcohol in most cosmetics products, so Muslims should really use something else,” Mandi said.

Increasingly popular

From Islamic banking to alcohol-free hotels, products tagged as halal have become popular among devout Muslims.

Under the concept of halal — which means “lawful” in Arabic — pork and its by-products, alcohol and animals not slaughtered according to Quranic procedures are all forbidden.

Strict Muslims the world over only buy halal food but the market for halal cosmetics is still in its infancy in Asia and a mere novelty for Muslims in the Arab world.

Such products are not usually sold across the counter but can be bought on the Internet from online stores in Malaysia, Jordan and Britain.

“Muslims don’t want to go around and pray five times a day having pork residues on their body,” said Mandi, in her early thirties and swathed in a slim black abaya, or cloak, with wisps of blond hair sticking from under her head scarf.

“I came to the Middle East to learn more about people’s needs. Most were pretty shocked when I told them there were pork products in their skin care items so they were very interested.”

Free of pork and alcohol

According to Mandi, fatty acids and gelatin used in moisturizers, shampoos, face masks and lipsticks as well as other items are often extracted from pigs.

Determined to create a halal product, Mandi brought together a dermatologist and a chemist and told them the deal: cosmetics and skin-care products free of pork and alcohol.

OnePure is guaranteed to be just that, she said. And to get a foothold in the highly competitive business, Mandi is offering products that come in glitzy wrappings.

“I wanted the packaging to be really luxurious, to speak to young people and old people, to everyone. I didn’t want people to say ‘I’d really like to buy a halal product but the packaging doesn’t look cool,’“ she said.

Touted as the first halal cosmetics brand in the Middle East, OnePure products are certified in Malaysia by an Islamic body that also certifies meats and other consumer goods for Muslims.

So far Mandi has been selling them online, on Saudi Airlines — her first customer since July — and a small boutique in the upscale Souk al-Bahar in the Burj Dubai complex that houses the world’s tallest tower.

“It’s most specifically designed for women in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council). I plan to launch a line for men but for now, it’s just women,” Mandi said. “There is appetite for it in this region.”

Marketing Ploys

But some in the make-up industry have expressed skepticism about halal cosmetics, dismissing ideas such as Mandi’s as marketing ploys that feed on the need of some for religiously-correct products.

“I feel it’s more about marketing,” said Noura Hamdi, marketing manager at a Body Shop boutique in Dubai.

“We are not using any animal products in our products anyway,” said Hamdi, adding that the alcohol contained in the cosmetics and skin-care products sold in her shop “is not pure alcohol.”

“The customer is not going to drink it. It’s something to apply on your body or clothes so it’s not related to halal or haram or religion,” Hamdi said. “The issue is not whether it’s halal or haram, it’s more about the benefits of the product.”

But a senior cleric at the United Arab Emirates’ Dar al-Iftaa, which issues fatwas, or religious edicts, disagreed.

“If any of the cosmetic products contained pig derivatives or alcohol they should not be used because this is contaminated and one does not want to apply contaminated (products) on one’s body,” said the cleric, who is not authorised to identify himself in his task in answering Muslims’ queries by telephone.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Turkey Approves Kurdish Studies

A Turkish university will for the first time teach the Kurdish language, which was banned throughout the country until 1991, Turkish officials say.

Postgraduate studies in Kurdish will begin at Artuklu University, in the southeastern province of Mardin.

The language will be offered alongside Farsi, Arabic and Syriac, at a new “Living Languages in Turkey” institute.

Expanding Kurdish language rights is part of a government drive to end years of conflict with armed Kurdish rebels.

In January, Turkey’s public broadcaster launched a 24-hour Kurdish-language television channel.

As many as one in five people in Turkey are ethnically Kurdish, most of them living in the country’s south-east.

The head of Turkey’s higher education board, Yusuf Ziya Ozcan, announced the new language course on Thursday, saying the goal would be to train academics to teach the minority languages.

The EU has urged Turkey to do more to improve Kurdish cultural rights, among a package of reforms demanded by the EU as conditions for joining the 27-nation bloc.

Turkey’s EU accession talks opened in October 2005, but progress has been slow.

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

U.S., 5 Partner Countries Accept Iran’s Offer to Hold International Talks

WASHINGTON — The United States and five partner countries have accepted Iran’s new offer to hold talks, even though Iran insists it will not negotiate over its disputed nuclear program, the State Department said Friday.

Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters that although Iran’s proposal for international talks — presented to the six powers on Wednesday — was disappointing for sidestepping the nuclear issue, it represented a chance to begin a direct dialogue.

[Comments from JD: Talk about what? The weather? Iran is refusing to discuss it nuclear program.]

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


A Byzantine Vision for Russia

By Dmitry Shlapentokh

The views of a ruling elite’s inner world are often hard to penetrate. This is especially the case with the Russian elite. Still, it is possible to glean something of Russia’s geopolitical vision as held in the mind of former president and now Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

This is because Putin, and very possibly most of the Russian elite, has a peculiar spokesman — Arkhimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov, superior of the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow.

Tikhon befriended Putin a long time ago, becoming, according to rumor, his confessor, and he continues to be close to Putin. When Putin laid flowers on the graves of post-revolutionary emigres whose remains were recently returned from abroad, Tikhon was among the few who accompanied him.

The Russian elite’s views on the present are often shrouded in historical allusion. The past has become politicized; a special government commission was recently formed to fight “falsification of history”.

Of the myriad historical books and, especially, historical movies that have been produced with direct encouragement from the government, none provides as comprehensive a vision of Russia’s global role as the movie The Fall of an Empire — the Lesson of Byzantium…

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Top Taliban Arrested in Pakistan

One of the highest ranking Taliban officials in Pakistan has been arrested with four other senior militants in the country’s north-west, officials say.

Muslim Khan was a key spokesman for the Taliban in the Swat valley as well as one of the most senior militant commanders in the region.

The army recently staged an offensive in Swat, which it declared a success.

The BBC’s M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says this is a milestone for the army’s operation there.

One of the chief criticisms of the operation had been that it had failed to net the top Taliban leadership, our correspondent says. These are the first significant arrests.

“Five Taliban commanders, including Muslim Khan, were arrested in a raid,” Pakistan army spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas told the BBC.

He gave no details of the raid but strongly denied local media reports that the men had been lured under the guise of talks by the army and then taken into custody.

“This is absolutely incorrect,” he said.

See a map of the region

Despite the latest arrests, the whereabouts and fate of the Taliban leader in Swat, Maulana Fazlullah, are unknown.

After reports that he had been wounded and was close to death earlier this year, it was Muslim Khan that contacted the BBC to say the Taliban chief was “alive and healthy”.

Muslim Khan is one of the most recognised faces of the Taliban in the Swat valley.

He frequently spoke to journalists on behalf of Maulana Fazlullah. He was articulate and skilled in handling the media, our correspondent says, giving interviews in both English and Arabic.

He spent two years as a seaman with a British shipping company in the 1970s and lived in the US in the late 1990s, where he worked as a house painter.

The military earlier said Mr Khan was apprehended after a “successful operation”.

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

Far East

China Buying Up North American Oil

U.S. access to energy threatened by ‘green’ objections

The Chinese — and soon Middle East interests — are preparing to buy up oil resources in North America even as “green” interests threaten to short-circuit U.S. access to the same energy, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

While the U.S. State Department has issued a permit for a multibillion-dollar pipeline to carry crude oil from Canada’s tar sands to U.S. refineries, environmental groups are threatening to impede its construction. Some are trying to delay the project for years by putting it in the middle of the court system.

Meanwhile, the Chinese are in the process of spending billions of dollars to develop the resource and possibly deny the U.S. a secure strategic source of oil.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

China Sentences 3 to Prison Over Syringe Attacks

China has sentenced three people to prison terms of up to 15 years for a series of mysterious syringe attacks in the restive region of Xinjiang.

The official Xinhua News Agency said on Saturday that 19-year-old Yilipan Yilihamu was given 15 years for inserting a needle into a woman’s buttock.

A 34-year-old man and a 22-year-old woman were sentenced to 10 years and seven years respectively for threatening a taxi driver with a syringe and robbing him.

Their names suggest all three are members of China’s Uighur minority, who make up most of the population of Xinjiang. The bizarre stabbings led to mass demonstrations by tens of thousands of Han Chinese earlier this month against what they said was a government that can’t guarantee their safety.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

US Ready for Direct Talks With North Korea

The administration — which has conditioned talks with North Korea on Pyongyang’s agreeing to return to a nuclear deal it quit in April — made the offer after consulting partners China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.”We had consultations with our partners in the six-party process,” Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley told reporters at the daily news briefing.

“We are prepared to enter into a bilateral discussion with North Korea, but it’s important to characterize it properly,” Crowley added.

“It’s a bilateral discussion that (is) hopefully… within the six-party context, and it’s designed to convince North Korea to come back to the six-party process and to take affirmative steps towards denuclearization,” he said.

Tactical shift

Crowley denied the move amounted to a significant policy change, but suggested it amounted to a tactical shift when he called it a “short-term” measure to bring the reclusive Stalinist state back to talks.

He said it is too early to say when and where envoys such as Stephen Bosworth, the point man for North Korea in Obama’s administration, and his deputy Sung Kim would meet their North Korean counterparts.

“Given the consultations that we have, given the invitation that was extended (from North Korea for direct talks), we’ll make some decisions, you know, in the next couple of weeks,” Crowley said.

He was referring to consultations that Bosworth had with his counterparts from China, South Korea and Japan during a tour of Asia in the last week. Kim stayed on in Asia to consult with his Russian counterpart.

Bosworth gave no hint of a change in plan when he spoke in Tokyo on Tuesday.

Six-party talks

On Aug. 25, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the U.S. would sit down with the North Koreans only if they agreed to return to six-party disarmament talks.

North Korea quit the six-way talks grouping in April in protest at U.N. censure of a rocket launch. The U.N. Security Council then tightened sanctions on North Korea after it staged an underground nuclear weapons test in May.

The six-party consultations came after North Korea began to soften its posture recently and sought bilateral talks with Washington, while attempting to scrap the six-way talks aimed at ending its nuclear ambitions.

But Pyongyang said last week it had reached the final stages of enriching uranium and was also building more plutonium-based atomic weapons.

A senior State Department official told reporters on the condition of anonymity that “it will probably be Ambassador Bosworth” who meets with the North Koreans.

“I wouldn’t say it’s imminent, probably not before UNGA,” the official added.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Latin America

US Stops Honduran Leader’s Visa

The Honduran interim President, Roberto Micheletti, says the US has revoked his diplomatic and tourist visas.

Mr Micheletti, who came to power in June through a military coup, said the move was a “sign of the pressure the US government was exerting” on Honduras.

The US has condemned the coup and demanded the return to power of the deposed president, Manuel Zelaya.

Mr Micheletti said he was not pleased that the US Consulate addressed him as president of Congress — his prior role.

Left-leaning President Zelaya was ousted from power and forced to leave the country on 28 June.

Last week, the US halted all non-humanitarian aid to Honduras — about $30m (£18.4m) — in the wake of the coup.

The State Department said the US needed to take strong action given the failure of the replacement regime to restore “democratic, constitutional rule”.

In July it had stripped four other officials associated with the coup of their US visas.

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


Ireland: Department Urged Speedier Deportations to Save Money

THE DEPARTMENT of Finance urged the immigration authorities earlier this year to ensure the deportation of unsuccessful asylum seekers “as quickly as possible” to reduce the cost of supporting them.

In a briefing paper prepared for the McCarthy expenditure review group in April, officials noted while the numbers of new asylum applications had been declining in recent years, there was no corresponding fall in the number of people living in asylum accommodation centres.

The document attributed the rising costs of these centres — the total allocation in 2008 was €91.5 million — to difficulties encountered in trying to remove unsuccessful asylum applicants from the State, with “almost every proposed deportee fighting every step through the courts. A priority should be put on ensuring that those who fail in their asylum applications are removed from the State as quickly as possible,” the memo advised.

“While the cost of removing certain groups of failed asylum seekers is relatively expensive… it outweighs the cost of accommodation and certainly of incarceration in the State.”

Charter flights to Nigeria have in the past cost the State up to €270,000. According to official figures, 176 foreign nationals have been deported to their countries of origin so far this year — more than were expelled in the whole of last year — while a further 167 have been transferred to other European states.

Some of these removals have been co-ordinated by Warsaw-based EU border security agency Frontex, which organises joint deportations between member states and allows them to share travel costs. In its own submission to the McCarthy group, the Department of Justice expressed confidence the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill, currently making its way through the Oireachtas, would provide a “faster removals process” and shorten delays across the system.

However, the Human Rights Commission, the Law Society and other bodies have raised concern about the potential impact of the Bill’s provisions for summary deportation and new limitations on access to judicial review. The UN refugee agency has warned sections of the draft law allow for a person who might be in need of protection to be summarily sent to their country of origin without their claim being properly examined.

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

Sweden: Migration Board Earns High Marks

The majority of asylum seekers and other non-citizens are pleased with the service they’ve received at the Swedish Migration Board, news service TT reports. According to an evaluation commissioned by the Board, just over 70% of those surveyed were satisfied.

Migration Board General Director Dan Eliasson says that he’s “happy that so many people feel like they’ve experienced good service. It shows that our development efforts are beginning to bear fruit.”

But the Migration Board has been criticized as well. People often complain about the long waits before a decision is issued, for example, and there have been reports of Board employees behaving unethically or even illegally.

General Director Eliasson admits that “public authority cannot vaccinate itself against stupidity. There are also some employees here that do stupid things, but the important thing is that applicants have great confidence in us.”

The survey was sent to 3,700 people, of whom 41% answered.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

‘Gay’ Train Wreck Swept Under Rug

Precisely one year ago, on Sept. 12, 2008, 25 people died and many more were seriously injured in a commuter train wreck in California. For two days the horrific accident was front-page news, and then suddenly the story died. By the first week of November, Internet search engines for the most part found only stories that followed the initial crash. News of the individual victims and their lives became virtually non-existent. Even lawsuits filed by survivors with injuries and by the families of those killed were no longer reported on by California newspapers or by national media.

In contrast, the Metrorail accident in Washington, D.C., that killed nine people in June 2009 has received massive media coverage. An Internet search of the operator’s name, Jeanice McMillan, yields dozens of results despite the fact that she was blameless in the crash. Why, then, was the larger and more fatal accident dropped from the news in just a few days?

The answer: The engineer, Robert M. Sanchez, 46, was a homosexual, and he was sending a text message to a teenage boy when he blew through a red light, crashing head-on into an oncoming freight train. Because being “gay” is a media cause in America, and particularly in California, virtually no gay crime is reported. Domestic violence involving gays is rarely if ever reported in California newspapers despite the fact that it represents a disproportionate number of police calls. Simply put, the minute the individual who caused the train crash was identified as being homosexual, reporting on the disaster came to a virtual stop.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Schools’ Ban on Christmas Tunes Challenged

District won’t even allow instrumental pieces related to holiday

Arguments are scheduled Monday in the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia on a school district’s decision to censor Christmas carols — even holiday melodies without words.

Attorneys with the Thomas More Law Center say they will argue to reverse a lower court ruling affirming a policy in the South Orange-Maplewood School District that banned the music after someone complained.

The law firm says the school’s ban was specifically aimed at preventing Christmas music, including simple instrumentals without words, during holiday concernts. The district had allowed the performance of traditional Christmas music for more than 60 years but in 2004 suddenly banned it.

“This blatant anti-Christian policy is yet another example of the total and militant hostility that many public schools have towards Christians and Christmas,” said Richard Thompson, Thomas More’s president and chief counsel.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

5 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/12/2009

  1. Interesting, how some news outlets (on second thought let us add scare quotes and make that “news” outlets)have chosen to report violent leftist (‘anti-nazi’) riots as “Several hurt during neo-Nazi rally”. For another, at the present time (GMT 1700) the BBC covers the event, but has managed to bump and links to their own coverage completely off the BBC web site before 24hrs is up. A two day old story of Elton John wanting to adopt an orphan is still present however, as is a three day old article about Turish relations witht he Kurds.

    Screw you, BBC. We are watching your bias, not your slanted news feed. When you are not telling lies, you are drowning the inconvenient stories under white noise.

  2. As somebody clever said on another site, instead of ACORN helping with the census, BCORN will be helping.

    Leftist cockroaches never give up. When light is shed on one of their criminal activities and fumigated, they scuttle into the dark to do mischief elsewhere.

    You’d need a full time government department of conservatives to scour the body politic of leftist malfeasance. For a long time open conservatives haven’t been able to be hired to be dogcatcher in a government bureaucracy that perpetuates its leftist self regardless of what political party is in power and sabotages its political “masters” when they are Republican.

  3. Fellow Peacekeeper,

    Why does someone in Britain not start a letter writing campaign to all politicians about the provable leftist bias of the BBC and how this is completely unacceptable from a state broadcaster supported by funds forcibly taken from all the public while the conservative half of that public gets no service?

    The Conservative Party at least should see the advantage to itself of stopping a leftist propaganda mouthpiece and make it an election issue.

    Are Brits truly in such a “slough of despond” that they cannot rouse themselves to demand their rights as Americans are doing now at tea parties and the September 12th demo in Washington?

    Forget the stiff upper lip (tolerating the intolerable). Get a stiffer spine.

    Is the British lion as toothless as the Swedes now?

  4. Laine, I’m not a Brit :), but one of those reactionary East Europeans. But the oh-so-obvious and slimy BBC gets my goat (its broadcast here on satellite, cable and even rebroadcast on local FM radio).

    I too have no idea why the brits are not more upset by it, after all they directly pay for it with the ridiculous TV licence scheme (complete with inspectors, with tv detectors and undemocratic rights of entry to one’s home…), after which they have zero say in the way the beeb is actually run.

    Would a privatize the beeb (or at least expose it to public votes, as they are effectively involuntary share holders – no taxation without representation and all that) campaign not be popular? Why don’t the tories try it, or at least the BNP?

    Can any of our British friends here at least explain why any of the right parties are not attacking the slimy leftoid BBC?

  5. FP,

    Can any of our British friends here at least explain why any of the right parties are not attacking the slimy leftoid BBC?

    I’m not British but I think I can answer that. The TV presenter Noel Edwards recently announced in public that he was going to stop paying the BBC licence fee. Unfortunately right-wing papers like the Telegraph and the Mail could not endorse this and make a general boycott of it because they cannot tell their readers to break the law.

    As for the Conservative Party forget about it. The BBC is doing its best to get the Conservatives elected because they rightly believe the Blairite New Labour project project is safe in David Cameron’s hands. Cameron is a former PR man who knows lots of journalists personally. He is their chum.

    As for the smaller right-wing parties, it was just announced last week that Nick Griffin of the BNP will be given a seat on an upcoming Question Time panel. He has previously been interviewed on Newnight. Nigel Farage of UKIP was on Question Time last year. It’s good exposure for them to appear on BBC programmes and no point in rocking the boat.

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