Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/4/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/4/2009The big news today concerns a split within the British Labour Party over the conduct of the war in Afghanistan. Labour dissidents want to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and bring them back to Britain where they can police the country’s borders and protect the homeland.

In other news, the Russian government is moving to change the law on religious freedom in order to restrict the activities of Evangelical Christians in the country.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Cimmerian, Diana West, Esther, Fjordman, Insubria, JD, JP, KGS, Nilk, Sean O’Brian, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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“Half of US Intelligence Info Came From Detainees”
Al Gore Admits CO2 Does Not Cause Majority of Global Warming
CAIR: We Have a Problem
It’s Barack Obama’s First Anniversary — But There’s Precious Little to Celebrate
Judge Orders: Return ‘Muslim Mafia’ Docs
MS-13 Gang Leaders Puts Out Hit on ICE Agent Assigned to Crackdown
NEA Raves to Teachers About Alinsky ‘Guidebook’
Silent Screams and Stifled Statistics
US Puts Climate Debate on Hold for Five Weeks Despite Plea by Merkel
Video: Obamacare is Worse Than Terrorism
Europe and the EU
Berlusconi: Excellent Personal Relationship With Obama
‘Consensus’ Around Belgian PM for Top EU Job: Diplomats
Egyptian Parents Don’t Want to Raise Their Children in the Netherlands
Europe’s New Outer Frontier Hungary Battles Illegal Migrants
Italy: Bangladeshi Immigrant Severely Beaten
Italy: Court Crucifix ‘Ban’ Provokes Fiery Debate
Italy: Crucifixes: Schifani, Symbol Rooted in Our Consciences
Italy: Alemanno Wants Drug Tests for Pols
Italy Appeals Crucifix Ruling
Italy:CIA Convicted in Cleric Rendition
KLM to Start Using Bio-Fuel
‘Left With Pumpkins, ‘ Vatican Says
Lisbon Treaty Signing Leads to New Dawn in Europe
McCain’s Mother Suffers Fall in Portugal
Nobel Prize to Vaclav Klaus
Obama Schedule in Oslo
Referendums Are Useless
Switzerland Falls Into Line With EU Laws
Switzerland: Visa Crackdown Urged in Libya Spat
Switzerland: Business Leaders Warn Against Minaret Ban
UK: A Referendum Mr Cameron Could Give the People
UK: Army Veteran Banned From Selling Poppies in Shopping Centre Over Health and Safety Rules
UK: Could Your Child be Branded a Racist Next? It Beggars Belief That Thousands of Primary School Children Are Being Reported by the Authorities
UK: Councils Will Lose the Right to Snoop Using Terror Law
UK: It’s Time to Pull Out of Afghanistan and Take the Fight to Bin Laden in Britain
UK: It’s Non-Fire Night! Thousands Forced to Watch Big-Screen TV Bonfire…
UK: Middle-Class Students Face University Place Struggle as Mandelson Gives Poorer Students Two-Grade ‘Head Start’
UK: Now Judge Puts Green Beliefs of a Worker on a Par With Christianity
UK: When Nazis Marched Through London
North Africa
Clinton, Libyan Spy Chief Meet in Marrakech
Israel and the Palestinians
Army Chief Says Hamas Has Rocket That Can Reach Tel Aviv
Hamas Militants Test Fire Long-Range Rocket Capable of Striking Tel Aviv
Settlements by Israel Obstacle to Peace, Miliband
Support Abbas. We Ask Israel to Do More, Frattini
Watch-Women Complain, IDF Orders Biblical Verse Removed
Middle East
Islamic Business Wins Academic Following
King Abdullah Warns Khamenei: No to the “Politicization” Of the Pilgrimage to Mecca
Raid on Ship: Iranian Weapons Heading Towards Syria
Saudi Paedophile to be Beheaded
Yemen Rebels ‘Seize Saudi Area’
Russian World
The Russian State Wants to Restrict the Activities of Evangelicals
South Asia
Afghanistan Divides Labour as Army Death Toll Rises
Afghanistan: Groundhog Day
Afghanistan: “But it Was Unclear What the Motive Was…”
Analysis: Soldiers’ Deaths Adds to Concern Over Afghanistan Strategy
Fatwa Against Indian National Song
Incompetence and Treachery Rife in Afghan Police
Is This the Best Case Yet for Pulling Out of Afghanistan?
Rogue Afghan Cop Shoots Dead Five British Soldiers in Cold Blood at Military Compound
Sexy Costumes Spark Halloween Raids in Indonesia’s Kalimantan
Far East
Chinese Giant to Buy US Oil Assets: Company
Australia — Pacific
Police Name 20 Notorious Gang Members
Sub-Saharan Africa
Obama’s Brother Has Different Dreams From His Father
Somalia: Norwegian Army Kills Innocent Fishermen
Somalis Can Only Use Koran Ringtones
Somali Rebels Close Women’s Organizations
250,000 Migrant Children to Become Greek Citizens
700 Million Worldwide Desire to Migrate Permanently
Amnesty to be ‘Coup De Grace’ To United States?
Aussies Want a Tougher Stand on Boatpeople
Finland: Migration Minister Would Force Municipalities to Take Refugees
Finnish Immigrant Forces Italian Schools to Remove Crosses
Franco-Italian Call for ‘Regular’ Deportations Goes Unheeded
UK Keeps Partial Block on EU Immigrants From Romania and Bulgaria
Vatican: World Congress to Focus on Migration
Culture Wars
If They Feel ‘Offended, ‘ You’re Fired
UK: Transsexual Jesus Sparks Protests
Dads Are Key to Making Us Human
Destroy the World…But Not the Kaaba!
Smashing the Axis of Financial Fraud


“Half of US Intelligence Info Came From Detainees”

Recently declassified documents reveal that half of all human intelligence the US government had on Al-Qaeda was discovered through detainee interrogations, Christopher Farrell from Judicial Watch told RT.

“It hadn’t been previously produced in any other record,” he said.

At the end of October, the US Justice Department released documents that revealed the FBI was investigating CIA prisons. On a 2002 visit to a CIA jail, officials found prisoners “manacled to the ceiling and subjected to blaring music around the clock”.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Al Gore Admits CO2 Does Not Cause Majority of Global Warming

In a new development that is potentially devastating to the agenda to introduce a global carbon tax and a cap and trade system, Al Gore admits that the majority of global warming that occurred until 2001 was not primarily caused by CO2.

Before we get too excited, Gore is not backing away from his support for the theory of man-made climate change, but his concession that carbon dioxide only accounted for 40% of warming according to new studies could seriously harm efforts to tax CO2, that evil, life-giving gas that humans exhale and plants absorb.

“Gore acknowledged to Newsweek that the findings could complicate efforts to build a political consensus around the need to limit carbon emissions,” reports BB News.

Yesterday we reported on how Gore was set to become the first “carbon billionaire” on the back of vast profits from companies invested in the “green revolution” that the former vice-president has a hefty stake in.

We also highlighted how the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) has direct ties to both Al Gore and Maurice Strong, two figures intimately involved with a long standing movement to use the theory of man made global warming as a mechanism for profit and social engineering. Gore’s investment company, Generation Investment Management, which sells carbon offset opportunities, is the largest shareholder of CCX.

Gore stands to make windfall profits from his stake in carbon trading systems that would be used to manage the cap and trade system currently being readied for passage in the Senate, but his admission that CO2 is far less of a threat than global warming alarmists have been claiming could be a terminal blow for such a proposal.

[Return to headlines]

CAIR: We Have a Problem

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Dave Gaubatz, the first U.S. civilian (1811) Federal Agent deployed to Iraq in 2003. He is the owner of DG Counter-terrorism Publishing. He is currently conducting a 50 State Counter-terrorism Research Tour (CTRT). He is the co-author (with Paul Sperry) of the new book, Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld that’s Conspiring to Islamize America. He can be contacted at

FP: Dave Gaubatz, congratulations on your new book Muslim Mafia. Last time you were here we discussed the charges CAIR is making against you and allowed you to answer the charges.

Today I would like to give you some time to provide more intelligence pertaining to the tactics and operational methods of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), specifically CAIR, from the documentation and discussions your researchers had with their leaders.

Gaubatz: Thanks Jamie.

It is very important that people understand that the MB is comprised of numerous non- profit Islamic organizations, and CAIR is just one. Our book clarifies the various organizations that are part of this terrorist enterprise, but ISNA, MSA, MAC, MSA, and MANA are just a few. In essence their leaders often rotate from one organization to another to confuse law enforcement. Several of these leaders are not even U.S. citizens.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

It’s Barack Obama’s First Anniversary — But There’s Precious Little to Celebrate

The US President’s performance has dismayed even his biggest admirers, writes Simon Heffer.

A year ago, almost to the minute, I was here in New York, watching television reports of the aftermath of the election of Barack Obama as 44th President of the United States of America. I recall the sight of a lachrymose woman from the Midwest, standing outside her run-down house as the sun rose, giving thanks for her deliverance: not from George W Bush, but from the threat of foreclosure. I have no idea whether this poor woman kept the roof over her head; all I know is, if she did, it would have been no thanks to Mr Obama.

On the anniversary of his election, he is busy with unpleasant confrontations with reality. As my colleague Toby Harnden reported so graphically last week, the honeymoon is over. Never in American politics has someone come to power on such a bubble of expectation; never, inevitably, has the pricking of that bubble caused such shock. America may just have come out of recession, but things remain bad. Ten per cent of the workforce is unemployed: here in New York, perhaps the most dynamic and prosperous city on the planet, the figure is even higher.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Judge Orders: Return ‘Muslim Mafia’ Docs

Incriminating material obtained in probe of CAIR’s connection to Islamic terrorism

A federal judge in Washington today ordered a co-author of the book “Muslim Mafia” and his son to return internal documents, recordings and records obtained in a six-month undercover operation of the Council on American-Islamic Relations that presented further evidence of the D.C.-based group’s ties to terrorism.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly granted CAIR’s request for a temporary restraining order barring P. David Gaubatz and his son, Chris Gaubatz, from further use or publication of the material and demanding that they return it to the Muslim group’s lawyers by midnight Nov. 18.

Kollar-Kotelly — who as head of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court made several controversial decisions against the Bush administration’s counter-terrorism policies — was criticized recently by many security experts for ruling against the military’s designation of a Guantanamo detainee as an enemy combatant, allowing the Obama administration to send him home.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

MS-13 Gang Leaders Puts Out Hit on ICE Agent Assigned to Crackdown

El Salvadoran leaders of the MS-13 gang allegedly put out a contract on the federal agent responsible for a crackdown on its New York factions, the Daily News has learned.

The brazen plot to assassinate the unidentified Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent was revealed in an arrest warrant for reputed gang member Walter (Duke) Torres.

Torres tipped authorities to the plan after he and four other MS-13 members were stopped by NYPD detectives for hassling passersby on Northern Blvd. in Queens last month.

He told cops he had information to pass on, and was debriefed Oct. 22 at Rikers Island, where he was being held on a warrant issued in Virginia, according to court papers.

Torres said “the order for the murder came from gang leadership in El Salvador,” ICE agent Sean Sweeney wrote in an affidavit for a new warrant charging Torres with conspiracy.

Torres, who belonged to an MS-13 “clique” in Virginia, said he was put in charge, and traveled to New York in August “for the specific purpose of participating in the planning and execution of the murder plot,” Sweeney wrote.

Gang members were trying to get their hands on a high-powered assault rifle, like an M-16. to penetrate the agent’s bulletproof vest.

Another MS-13 informant told authorities the agent was marked for death because the gang was “exceedingly angry” at him for arresting many members in the past three years, the affidavit states.

The murder was supposed to be carried out by the Flushing clique, according to the informant.

Federal prosecutors have indicted numerous MS-13 gang members on racketeering, murder and drug trafficking charges. The targeted agent was the lead investigator on many of the cases.

Brooklyn Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann ordered Torres held without bail Friday. His public defender did not return a message seeking comment.

Torres immigrated to the U.S. in 2001 from El Salvador and is a legal resident.

The feds have identified various neighborhoods in Queens and Long Island as hotbeds of MS-13 criminal activity — including Jamaica, Flushing, Far Rockaway, Hempstead, Roosevelt, Brentwood and Islip.

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

NEA Raves to Teachers About Alinsky ‘Guidebook’

Recommends texts by radical community organizer who ‘encouraged positive social change’

The National Education Association has made a glowing assessment of radical socialist community organizer Saul Alinsky and is enthusiastically recommending American public school teachers read two of his books, including one dedicated to Satan.

On its website, the NEA dubs Alinsky “an inspiration to anyone contemplating action in their community! And to every organizer!”

It recommends Alinsky’s “Reveille for Radicals,” a 1946 book about the principles and tactics of “community organizing,” and “Rules for Radicals,” a 1971 text that articulated a socialist strategy for gaining political power to redistribute wealth from the “haves” to the “have-nots.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Silent Screams and Stifled Statistics

Twenty year-old Noor Faleh Almaleki of suburban Phoenix died Monday, becoming the latest non-statistic in a rising number of honor killings taking place across the U.S. by Muslims. These honor killings are perpetrated by practicing Muslims against their own family members who believe such action is sanctioned by (Islamic) Sharia law. In the case of the young Ms. Almaleki, her Iraqi-born father, Faleh Hassan Almaleki, has been charged with running over his own daughter and her boyfriend’s mother with his vehicle for allegedly engaging in behavior considered “shameful” under Islam. It is interesting and relevant to note that although Faleh Almaleki admitted his actions to police, authorities have steadfastly declined to release any information about what the suspect actually said during police questioning.

While the murder of Ms. Almaleki is itself significant, murder and other crimes of violence taking place in the U.S., Canada and throughout the West by Muslim adherents of Islamic jurisprudence should be ringing some very serious statistical alarm bells within the law enforcement community, prosecutorial agencies and judicial venues. Instead, the exact opposite is taking place due to carefully crafted influence exerted on and within the United States Department of Justice. That influence is well over a decade old, but gained significant ground with the creation and implementation of “outreach programs” at the federal level following the attacks of 9/11.

It is not merely enough that murder and other domestic crimes of violence as a result of the religious and cultural tenets of Islam are not being publicly acknowledged, they are not being statistically identified. Consequently, the adverse impact by the adherents to fundamentalist Islam on our society and to our culture is not being routinely addressed. Further, the threats to non-Muslims as “collateral damage” in Muslim honor killings, as clearly illustrated in the Almaleki case, are not being properly disclosed.

Moreover, violent domestic crime that is directly related to the Islamic culture that continues to be imported into the U.S. is easily downplayed in the absence of any reliable justice department statistics showing otherwise. Not only is this practice deceptive by design, it has the potential to create more victims like Ms. Almaleki. Left unchanged, it will.

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US Puts Climate Debate on Hold for Five Weeks Despite Plea by Merkel

International negotiators lost one of the key elements to a successful deal on global warming today after Democratic leaders in the US Congress ruled out passing a climate change law before 2010. In the latest obstacle on the road to the UN summit in Copenhagen next month, Senate leaders ordered a five-week pause to review the costs of the legislation.

The delay, which would push a Senate vote on a climate change bill into next year, frustrates a last-minute push by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, to get America to commit itself at home to cut greenhouse gas emissions before the Copenhagen meeting. World leaders — and US officials — have repeatedly said US legislation is crucial to a deal on global warming.

Merkel used a historic address to a joint session of Congress today to urge America to act on climate change, stating that success at Copenhagen rested on the willingness of all countries to accept binding reductions in carbon emissions.

The first German leader to ever address both houses of Congress, Merkel said a deal was comparable in importance to the tearing down of the Berlin wall 20 years ago. “We need the readiness of all countries to accept internationally binding obligations,” she said to loud applause from Democrats. Republicans largely sat in silence. “There is no doubt about it. In December, the world will look to us: the Europeans and the Americans. I am convinced once we … show ourselves ready to adopt binding agreements we will also be able to persuade China and India.”

Merkel also raised her concerns with Barack Obama in a visit to the White House earlier today. He told reporters: “Chancellor Merkel has been an extraordinary leader on the issue of climate change. And the US, Germany, and countries around the world are all beginning to recognise why it is so important that we work in common to stem the potential catastrophe that could result if we see global warming continuing unabated.”

Ban is also pressing the Senate to act before Copenhagen. Speaking in London, he said he would next week meet all the US senators involved in the deliberations over the energy and climate bill. Agreement on that bill is seen as vital: without it, the US team in Copenhagen will have little domestic mandate to agree a deal. The announcement of the personal intervention of the UN secretary general is a clear sign of the importance of the matter.

However, the appeals for urgent action were overridden by political concerns in the Senate, which formally began debate on a proposed climate change law last week. The House of Representatives narrowly passed a climate change bill in June. But the Senate version has been repeatedly delayed, first by the battle over healthcare reform and now by Republican demands for more time to study the proposals.

In a move to stem the Republican protest, and quieten Democrat critics, the Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, said he would ask the Environmental Protection Agency to spend five weeks reviewing the potential costs of the bill. Opponents of the proposal argue the target of a 20% cut in emissions on 2005 levels by 2020 is overly ambitious, and will be too costly for US businesses and families.

The five-week delay would all but rule out passage of a bill before the Copenhagen meeting begins on 7 December.

The president of the European commission, José Manuel Barroso, acknowledged progress before the Copenhagen meeting was likely to be limited: “Of course we are not going to have a full-fledged binding treaty, Kyoto-type, by Copenhagen,” he told reporters today, before meeting Obama. “There is no time for that.”

Ban also pressed another key component to a deal: climate finance. He said countries would have to increase the $100bn (£61bn) a year on offer for developing countries to deal with climate change. “Financial support is the key,” said Ban. “I think this can be a good start, which needs to be scaled up as we go on.”

Development groups have estimated the money needed at up to $400bn a year. But the amount was uncertain, Ban said: “We have to see how measures are effective. As time goes by we may need to change arrangements.”

Ban’s senior climate adviser, Janos Pasztor, added: “The needs are obviously much larger over time and [the funding] will need to be scaled up.”Developing countries are demanding significant new funding at the climate negotiations, which are continuing this week in Barcelona, and deep cuts in rich countries’ emissions in exchange for pledges to curb their own emissions. Problems in the talks erupted in public today with African nations boycotting meetings, forcing their cancellation. They want rich nations to promise much bigger cuts in their emissions than they have so far, arguing that African countries will suffer most from global warming, yet are least responsible.

[Return to headlines]

Video: Obamacare is Worse Than Terrorism

Three cheers for Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C.

In a blistering critique of the socialized health-care bill expected to be passed by the House this Friday, she said: “I believe we have more to fear from the potential of that bill than we do from any terrorist right now in any country.”

She’s fundamentally right — though she has taken a pounding from many in the media who see such rhetoric as inflammatory.

In fact, she has clarified the issue for many Americans.

Terrorists can only kill some of us.

But unconstitutional legislation that corrupts the very soul of America can kill our spirit. It can kill the rule of law. It can kill the notion that the will of the people is pre-eminent, not the will of some vaunted elite.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Berlusconi: Excellent Personal Relationship With Obama

(AGI) — Rome, 4 Nov — “An excellent personal relationship has been established with Obama and his staff”, said Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at the GR1, following a letter sent to him by Obama. “Obama has already expressed his appreciation over the G20 summit. We are working in a most positive manner with them”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

‘Consensus’ Around Belgian PM for Top EU Job: Diplomats

Brussels — “There is a consensus around his name, which is rare among the 27” EU nations, said one European diplomat. “No-one is opposed to him and many (leaders) are asking him to accept.”

A second source echoed that stance, saying “no-one else can get unanimity” following informal discussions between EU heads of government and state at a two-day summit in Brussels last week.

Centre-right van Rompuy’s spokesman Dirk De Backer issued a straight “no comment” when contacted by AFP on Monday.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said at the summit’s end on Friday that France and Germany will join forces to choose Europe’s first full-time president, after sweeping Tony Blair towards the Brussels exit.

Sarkozy said he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had agreed to back “the same candidate,” adding that the pair shared the same “vision” for two new top jobs to be created under the Lisbon Treaty, and their favoured runners.

Van Rompuy, 62, is “not a candidate, but he is the favourite,” wrote Belgian daily De Standaard on Monday, adding that he could be “the most acceptable (name) under a Franco-German ‘deal’.”

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Egyptian Parents Don’t Want to Raise Their Children in the Netherlands

Three hundred children from Amsterdam were sent to schools in Egypt last year — twice as many as to Morocco. An undesirable development, says the education ministry. But why are they leaving the Netherlands in the first place?

By Alexander Weissink in Cairo

Adel, his wife and five young children live above his car repair shop on a busy thoroughfare between Cairo and the Nile delta. On a recent Friday, with no school, the children were bored. They hung around the shop because playing outside was not an option, with the traffic out front and a railway out the back. Until a year ago Adel and his family lived in the Osdorp neighbourhood of Amsterdam.

“I miss Holland,” said 12-year-old Samira, the eldest daughter. In Amsterdam she attended As-Seddieq, an Islamic school that has been at odds with the education inspectors for years. In Egypt she goes to a public school where classes are in Arabic, a language she barely speaks. “It will come with time,” said Adel.

Adel too would rather have stayed in the Netherlands. “Everything is taken care of there.” But he lost the lease on his shawarma restaurant, and he felt hounded by the child protection services. “In the Netherlands you are not allowed to raise your children the way you should.”

Quality of education

Last year as many as three hundred Egyptian-Dutch children were moved from Amsterdam to Egypt by their parents. (There are no national statistics.) This is twice as many as Moroccan-Dutch children moving back to Morocco. The numbers have alarmed deputy education minister Sharon Dijkstra who asked the education inspectorate to investigate them. Dijkstra called the trend ‘undesirable’, because it is an obstacle to integration if the children return to the Netherlands later in life. Potential fraud

The Social Security Bank (SVB), the organisation that implements national insurance schemes in the Netherlands, will send an inspection team to Egypt next month to check whether the child support received by parents of Egyptian-Dutch kids is legitimate.

The quasi non-governmental organisation reported 124 Egyptian-Dutch kids receive double benefits because they are studying abroad while their parents are still registered in the Netherlands.

The same is true for 144 Moroccan children, while the Moroccan-Dutch community far exceeds the Egyptian. The statistics bureau counts 341,528 first and second generation Moroccan immigrants and 19,976 from Egypt.

All parent who contribute to the social security system in the Netherlands are entitled to child support. Parents whose children live away from home are usually entitled to double benefits.

The SVB recently announced it would impose stricter checks on Moroccan and Turkish families with regard to the double child support. A spot check showed potential fraud with 54 percent of Moroccan and 31 percent of Turkish families.

The SVB will visit all the families to see if the children really live away from home. The question is whether the children really attend school in the country of origin and if they are not in fact living with one of their parents.

The ministry’s investigation revealed several reasons why parents in Amsterdam are sending their children to Egypt. “It appears that the parents feel the quality of education in Egypt is higher than in the Netherlands,” Dijkstra wrote to parliament in April. “A number of them feel the culture and the education package in Egypt is more appropriate.” Other parents cited conflicts between ethnic groups at school, or personal reasons like divorce or illness.

A more varied picture emerges from a dozen interviews with the parents of Egyptian-Dutch children conducted by NRC Handelsblad in Egypt. None of the parents wanted to see their full name in print, mostly because they were afraid to lose child support or other benefits.

Adel may say his main motive was economic, but he complained most about the freedom and rights granted to children in the Netherlands. He is afraid to lose custody if he spanks his children. His brother’s conviction for child kidnapping scared him. After divorcing his Dutch wife, Adel’s brother had taken their two children to Egypt in violation of the custody agreement. When he returned to the Netherlands for work he was arrested and sent to prison for three years.

That wasn’t the last of it. “When I sent my wife and children to Egypt last year I too was immediately suspected of child kidnapping.” Someone at his children’s school had reported Adel to the authorities, and he was arrested upon his return to the Netherlands. His wife had to phone the authorities from Egypt, and tell them she and the children had moved there of their own accord, to get Adel released.

Child abuse

“If your name is Ahmed or Abdullah appearances are against you,” Adel said. “All it takes is a rumour to have the police or child services knock on your door.”

It is a recurrent theme among Egyptian fathers. Just because they have different ideas about how to raise their children, people in the Netherlands are quick to suspect them of child abuse, they say.

“My nightmare is to see my 16-year-old daughter walk in the door with a boyfriend and not being able to do anything about it,” said Mohamed in his apartment on the 15th floor in Shubra, a busy popular neighbourhood in Cairo. Mohamed, who owned a restaurant in Amsterdam, moved his Dutch wife and four children back to Egypt seven years ago. He joined them three years ago.

Like Adel, Mohamed first offered an economic explanation. “The cost of life in Egypt is much lower.” But he also told of his fear the ethnic neighbourhood in Amsterdam where the family lived, and the ethnic school his daughter attended, would have a negative impact on her.

“All it takes is a couple of bad friends,” he said. “We were all deadly afraid our kids would turn out like those young kids hanging out in the streets and ruining it for everybody. We wanted to be able to step in, forcefully if necessary, but you can’t do that in the Netherlands. How can you control your children if you’re not even allowed to slap them?”

Hostile environment

Religion also plays a role. “The Netherlands is becoming less and less tolerant,” said Ashraf, who moved back to Cairo with his family two years ago. “Why would I want to see my kids grow up in such a hostile environment?”

The same argument could be heard from Amira, a native Dutch woman who converted to Islam. “Our children are proud of their origins now. In the Netherlands they were always made to feel a little ashamed of them,” Amira wrote in an email because she didn’t want to meet in person for religious reasons. Amira’s children also attended the As-Seddieq school in the Netherlands; now the family lives in a small village north of Cairo. “It’s not good to live in a non-Islamic country. There is a lot of discrimination in the Netherlands; I didn’t want to put my children through that.”

Aisha, another Dutch convert and a mother of three, moved to Egypt five years ago. “Because we Muslims no longer felt at home in the Netherlands,” she wrote in an email. “The last straw was when my neighbours called the police because they said I was abusing my children.”

She thinks the anti-Muslim climate in the Netherlands has hastened the departure of many Egyptians. “At least now my daughter is no longer bullied when she goes to school wearing a headscarf. When I go to the parents’ meeting veiled I am respected.”


Education is another issue that often comes up. Many parents feel Dutch education doesn’t offer many opportunities for their children. “Children from an immigrant background are almost always directed towards vocational education, even if they do well,” said Mahmoud, who sent his two youngest children to Egypt last summer while he stayed in the Netherlands for work.

“Education is very important to us Egyptians,” he said. “If your child doesn’t finish his studies you have failed as a parent.” When his children graduate from their English-language high school in Egypt, he expects them to go to university in Europe or the US.

Adel has similar hopes for his children. “In the Netherlands, immigrants are often said to lack ambition, but people there don’t really want us to be ambitious. You’re only welcome if your ambition is to be a cleaner or a street-sweeper. I have spent years removing bloody tampons from the waste baskets in public lavatories. I don’t want that for my children.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Europe’s New Outer Frontier Hungary Battles Illegal Migrants

Roszke, Hungary — At dusk, Sergeant Levente Saja stands in the open countryside and scans the horizon through binoculars. A dirt road separates a field of maize from a wide expanse of scrub and grass. “This corn makes our job a lot more difficult,” he says.

The cornfield is in Hungary, a member of the European Union and part of the Schengen Zone, which stretches west to Portugal and north to Scandinavia with no internal border checks or further passport scrutiny.

The other field is in war-scarred Serbia, which is not an EU member and where the Balkan ethnic conflicts of the 1990s left the economy and much of its infrastructure in ruins.


Most of those apprehended on the “green border,” as it is known, are Roma, or gypsies, from Serbia, and Kosovo Albanians. Africans appear periodically and in recent months the number of Afghan refugees has noticeably increased, says border police officer Major Szabolcs Revesz.

“Hungary is still not a target country for illegal immigrants,” says Lieutenant Colonel Gabor Eberhardt in his office at police headquarters in the university town of Szeged, southern Hungary.

Last week, the EU border control agency Frontex said illegal border crossings into the European Union declined by 20 per cent in the first half of 2009, largely due to stronger border controls and the economic crisis.

However, the agency noted that illegal immigration into Hungary has climbed exponentially.

Eberhardt said: “Most who cross the border illegally are heading for Germany, Switzerland or other wealthier countries.”

His department patrols 62 kilometres of Hungary’s border with Serbia and its 68-kilometre border with Romania, containing five official border crossings.

Since joining the Schengen Zone in January 2008, Hungary has emerged as an attractive destination for migrants keen to get into Western Europe without the proper papers. This rising demand, coupled with the stepped-up security, is reflected in the prices charged by criminal gangs that provide false papers and transport.

“People traffickers in Kosovo used to charge 1,500 euros (2,200 dollars). Now they are demanding 3,000 euros,” says Eberhardt.

In practice, this fee will often only get the migrant as far as the border: “Clients” are told to split up and make their own way into Hungary before regrouping. This is when they are usually picked up by border police and either sent back to Serbia or into the slow system for processing asylum claims.

Many, who might have already handed over every cent they had for transport to the West, are simply abandoned in Hungary, sometimes even told that they are already in Switzerland or Germany.

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

Italy: Bangladeshi Immigrant Severely Beaten

Acilia, 3 Nov. (AKI) — At least 30 people have been detained by Italian police after a vicious attack on a Bangladeshi immigrant on the outskirts of Rome. The 29-year-old immigrant reportedly suffered head injuries and a nose fracture in the attack.

Police said the attack occurred on Sunday at the Arcobaleno or Rainbow park in Acilia, on the outskirts of the capital.

The attackers were reportedly aged between 15 and 20 years of age. They were at a cafe across the street from the park when they spotted the migrants.

A witness quoted by the Italian daily Il Messaggero heard them say “We must make these niggers disappear. We can’t allow these niggers to roam around Acilia any longer.”

At that point the young men approached four Bangladeshi migrants who were sitting at a park bench.

“You are a bunch of dirty people, we do not want you here in Acilia, you must all leave,” one of the young men reportedly shouted.

“You dirty niggers we will show you that you have to do what we say,” said another one.

Three of the immigrants reportedly ran away after being kicked and punched.

One of the Bangladeshi migrants, Mohammed P. however, did not escape and was brutally beaten by the youths who surrounded him while shouting “Leave here you dirty nigger.”

A witness called the police and the victim was quickly taken to hospital where doctors treated him for head trauma and a nose fracture.

Police set-up checkpoints near the park and detained at least 30 people.

In February 2009, Bangladesh’s ambassador to Italy, Masud Bin Momen, said he deplored a series of attacks on Bangladeshi immigrants in Rome.

Resentment towards immigrants appears to have increased in Italy in recent years, after an increase in mass immigration has produced social tension in some areas.

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

Italy: Court Crucifix ‘Ban’ Provokes Fiery Debate

Rome, 4 Nov. (AKI) — A decision by the European Court of Human Rights opposing the presence of crucifixes in Italian classrooms has provoked a furious response from the Italian government and the Catholic Church. The Italian minister of European affairs, Andrea Ronchi, on Wednesday rejected the decision during an interview on one of the TV channels owned by prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

“The crucifix will never be taken away, not from any secular place nor from anywhere in our Italy. I think the government should and will appeal this sentence,” Ronchi said (photo).

Speaking on the television programme, La Telefonata aired on Canale 5, Ronchi said that the court’s controversial verdict was “a symptom, a worrying sign of anti-sprituality in Europe.”

The Vatican on Tuesday strongly rejected the ruling, saying it was “wrong and myopic” to exclude a symbol of charity from education.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the European court had no right intervening in such a profoundly Italian issue.

Ronchi was once a member of the former post-fascist, National Alliance, which recently became part of Berlusconi’s ruling coalition, the People of Freedom party.

He dismissed the idea of Italy being fined for not following the court’s decision.

“I do not think (Italy) can be fined,” he said. “However, I believe we could be warned.”

The court case was brought by an Italian mother, Soile Lautsi, who wanted to offer her children a secular education in the state system.

Lautsi, from Abano Terme, near the northern city of Padua, had lodged the case to protest against the crucifix at the state school. She was also awarded 5,000 euros in damages.

The Strasbourg court found that: “The compulsory display of a symbol of a given confession in premises used by the public authorities… restricted the right of parents to educate their children in conformity with their convictions.”

Opposition politician Emma Bonino from the centre-left Democratic Party and deputy president of the Italian senate told the government not to react angrily at the decision.

“There is no scandal, there is no secular frenzy that inspired the sentence of the European Court in Strasbourg,” she told Italian daily, Il Sole 24 Ore.

“There is only the simple confirmation that public places belong to everyone. Secularism is inclusive and respects everyone.”

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

Italy: Crucifixes: Schifani, Symbol Rooted in Our Consciences

(AGI) — Rome, November 3 — “I can’t not express my great bitterness for the sentence on hanging crucifizes in school classrooms”, said Senate president Renato Schifani on the European Court’s decision in Strasburg. “The display of a symbol rooted in the conscience of many Italians, is nothing if not the recognition of a cultural identity that no stroke of a pen can ever cancel”, continued Schifani. “It would be a great error to make Europe an empty space, empty of symbols, of thought, of traditions, of culture. This would be a Europe destined to disappear”, he concluded.

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

Italy: Alemanno Wants Drug Tests for Pols

Rome mayor’s initiative comes after Marrazzo scandal

(ANSA) — Rome, November 4 — Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno on Wednesday said he intended to impose mandatory drug testing for all city government officials and people with institutional responsibility.

“As far as I’m concern these tests should be obligatory for everyone in municipal, provincial and regional government as a guarantee for all citizens,” Alemanno added.

“In fact, the tests should also be carried out on all MPs and government ministers, as well,” the right-wing mayor said.

“We are not dealing with a question of privacy here because people who use drugs could lose their lucidity and I think that institutional authority and responsibility demand that they be in full possession of their faculties,” Alemanno explained. The mayor’s initiative comes in the wake of the admission by the disgraced ex-governor of the region of Lazio, Piero Marrazzo, that he bought and consumed cocaine.

Marrazzo stepped down last month after it was revealed that he had frequented a transsexual prostitute and had been caught with the prostitute by crooked cops in an apartment where cocaine was present.

Last year, two members of a cult TV prank show were fined for apparently exposing drug use by Italian MPs.

Italy’s top court rejected the show’s plea that the alleged drug takers had their faces and voices masked.

The Cassation Court said the pair were guilty of “deceitful and fraudulent” behaviour by secretly testing 50 MPs in 2006.

The sneak tests showed that one in three had apparently taken cannabis and cocaine in the preceding 36 hours.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy Appeals Crucifix Ruling

ECtHR verdict causes uproar

(ANSA) — Rome, November 3 — Italy has appealed a landmark European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruling against crucifixes in Italian classrooms that sparked a storm Tuesday in this heavily Catholic country. The appeal was announced by Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini who stressed that crosses were “a symbol of Italian tradition” and did not signify affiliation to the Catholic Church. A successful appeal to the ECtHR would lead to Tuesday’s ruling being reconsidered, state judge Nicola Lettieri said, but the verdict will become effective in three months if the appeal is turned down.

The ruling panel of the 47-member Council of Europe, which the court represents, will then have six months to decide what action the Italian government should take to avoid future suits, Lettieri said.

The ruling on a suit filed by a Finnish-born mother of two sparked outrage among Italian conservatives but was praised by progressives.

Italian bishops slammed it as “biased” but the Vatican said it would have to wait to examine the judges’ explanation.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini called the ruling “a death blow for a Europe of values and rights,” He said Europe’s roots lay in its “Christian identity”.

He added that the ruling was “a very bad precedent for other religions”.

“At a time when we’re trying to bring religions closer, the Christian religion gets whacked”.

“The Italian government will appeal; we criticise the ruling for the implications it may have”.

Italy’s new opposition leader Pierluigi Bersani said the case showed that sometimes the law didn’t have enough common sense.

“I think that on delicate issues like this, sometimes common sense falls victim to the law,” said Bersani, who was recently elected head of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), Italy’s largest opposition party.

“I think a longstanding tradition like the crucifix can’t be offensive to anyone,” said Bersani, a former Communist. Earlier, several members of the PD praised the ruling while others were less keen, spurring a call for the party to avoid a public spat on the issue.

Hard-left parties like the Italian Communists defended the court for upholding secular values and the separation of Church and State.

Catholic MPs called the ruling “disgraceful” with many repeating that Europe was betraying its identity.

In other reactions, the small hard-right Forza Nuova party vowed to “form a human wall, if necessary” to protect Italy’s heritage from European jurists.

In its ruling, the ECtHR found that crucifixes in Italian classrooms were a violation of parents’ rights to educate their children according to their principles.

Upholding a suit from Finnish immigrant Soile Lautsi, the Strasbourg-based court also said the crosses ran counter to a child’s own rights to freedom of choice.

The Italian government was ordered to pay Lautsi, an Italian citizen, 5,000 euros in “moral damages”.

The school near Padua attended by Lautsi’s two daughters said it would to read the sentence before deciding whether to take its crosses down.


Crucifixes are a fixture in Italian public buildings although the postwar Constitution ordered a separation of Church and State and Catholicism ceased to be Italy’s state religion in 1984.

Using a legal loophole, two Fascist-era laws have sometimes been used to justify their status.

Tuesday’s uproar was the latest in a string of flaps over crosses that began at the start of the decade.

A Muslim parent, Adel Smith, and a Jewish Italian judge, Luigi Tosti, have tried to have them removed while at least one teacher has been disciplined for protesting about them. Smith, the head of the small Union of Italian Muslims, succeeded in getting a court order in 2003 to have crosses removed from the school his children attended.

But the order was later reversed after a nationwide protest. Tosti has received suspended jail terms and bans from public office for refusing to enter courtrooms unless crucifixes are removed.

On Tuesday Tosti praised the ECtHR, saying it had had the courage which Italian courts had not shown on the issue.

Legal experts say crucifixes are not mandatory but customary in Italy’s public buildings.

With Catholicism being such a part of Italy’s cultural identity, local bodies decide whether they want crosses in schools and courthouses, and the majority of them do.

In 2004 Italy’s Constitutional Court ruled that crosses should stay in courts and classrooms but did not give a juridical explanation for its ruling.

Many felt it had washed its hands of a political hot potato.

If it had upheld the separation of Church and State, the high court would have sparked outraged reactions from conservatives who were already incensed when some schools dropped Christmas plays and creches to avoid hurting the feelings of Muslim children.

The ECtHR upholds the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights to which the Council of Europe, Europe’s only human rights body, adheres.

It is sometimes confused with the European Court of Justice, in Luxembourg, the EU’s highest court.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy:CIA Convicted in Cleric Rendition

Milan court gives 5-8 years for 22, immunity for 3

(by Denis Greenan.) (ANSA) — Milan, November 4 — An Italian judge on Wednesday convicted 22 CIA agents and a US Air Force colonel in absentia for the abduction of a Milan-based Egyptian cleric in 2003.

In the first, long-awaited verdict on the controversial US practice of ‘extraordinary rendition’, they received sentences ranging from five to eight years.

But the top US defendant, former CIA Milan station chief Jeff Castelli, saw his diplomatic immunity plea granted.

Two other CIA agents, Betnie Medero and Ralph Russomando, were also granted immunity while two top Italian ex-spies were acquitted because of state secrecy norms.

Among those found guilty were the CIA’s ex-Rome station chief Robert Seldon Lady and a former US consular official prosecutors say was an undercover agent, Sabrina De Sousa.

The former head of Italian military intelligence SISMI, Nicolo’ Pollari, and his ex-No.2, Marco Mancini, were acquitted but two other ex-SISMI agents, Pio Pompa and Luciano Seno, were found guilty of aiding and abetting. Prosecutor Armando Spataro had sought 13 years for Castelli and Pollari; 12 years for Lady and De Sousa; 11 for the agents who actually snatched Nasr; and ten for Mancini.

Despite not securing all his convictions, Spataro said he felt vindicated by the result of the trial.

“The verdicts have established the truth uncovered by our investigation,” he said.

Defence lawyers had argued they were unable to defend their clients because of a state secrecy injunction obtained by the Italian government.

The Americans have never been in any danger of extradition, the US and Italy have repeatedly stressed.

The rendition victim, Hassan Mustafa Omar Nasr, was awarded a provisional one million euros in damages from each of the convicted, while his wife was awarded a provisional 500,000 euros.

The eventual size of the damages will be determined by a later civil trial, the judge said. Nasr, who is also known as Abu Omar, did not attend the trial because he was unable to leave Egypt.

But he says he wants to return to Italy despite an ongoing probe into his alleged association with an Islamist group.

Nasr disappeared from a Milan street in February 2003 and emerged from an Egyptian prison four years later, after a brief parole in 2004.


The trial has caused friction between the US and Italian intelligence communities.

It has also seen a tussle between prosecutors and the Italian government, which obtained a Constitutional Court ruling that some evidence was covered by state secrecy norms.

During the two-year trial ago the CIA refused to comment and its officers were silent until Lady, the ex-Rome chief, told an Italian daily this summer that he was only following orders.

Lady, who has now retired, said from an undisclosed location that he was “a soldier…in a war against terrorism”.

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and his predecessor Romano Prodi obtained a Constitutional Court ruling in March that forced prosecutors to do without swathes of evidence.

The ruling also exempted Berlusconi and Prodi from testifying.

Italian governments have denied any role in Nasr’s disappearance.

The trial of Nasr has claimed headlines worldwide and stoked discussion of rendition, which was extended by President Barack Obama earlier this year under the proviso that detainees’ rights should be respected.

The Council of Europe has called Nasr’s case a “perfect example of rendition”.

The imam disappeared from the northern Italian city on February 17, 2003.

Prosecutors say he was snatched by a team of CIA operatives with SISMI’s help and taken to a NATO base in Ramstein, Germany.

From there they say he was taken to Egypt to be interrogated.

Berlusconi was in power at the time of the abduction.

Prodi succeeded him in 2006 but was defeated by him two years later.

The CIA was first granted permission to use rendition in a presidential directive signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995 and the practice grew sharply after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

KLM to Start Using Bio-Fuel

From Dutch: First flight November 23rd

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

‘Left With Pumpkins, ‘ Vatican Says

Cross ruling ‘takes away our dearest symbols’

(ANSA) — Vatican City, November 4 — Pumpkins will be more common than crosses in Italian classrooms if a European court ruling is confirmed, the Vatican’s top official said Wednesday.

“This Europe of the third millennium only leaves us with Halloween pumpkins and takes away our dearest symbols,” said the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

Bertone, the Vatican’s equivalent of an interior minister, said he had not yet spoken to Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday’s ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ordering Italy to remove crosses from classrooms. “I’ll see (the pope) tomorrow,” Bertone said.

The Vatican on Tuesday evening condemned the ruling as “short-sighted” while the Italian government announced an appeal, saying crosses were an important part of Italian tradition and culture.

Bertone said the Holy See “appreciated” the appeal.

Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini said Wednesday that the ECtHR’s “serious act” showed an “ideological” bias that “sends the wrong message to youngsters”.

European Affairs Minister Andrea Ronchi said no crosses would be removed.

Unless the Italian appeal is successful, the ruling goes into effect in three months’ time.

The ruling was made on a suit from a Finnish-born Italian citizen who had vainly made her case in Italian courts.

The ECtHR ruled parents must be allowed to educate their children as they saw fit and children must also have freedom of religion.

It also said crosses might offend or frighten children brought up in other religions.

Italian Catholic politicians reacted with outrage, saying the court was betraying Europe’s Christian roots.

The leader of Italy’s largest opposition party, an ex-Communist, said the court should have shown more “common sense”.

The European Commission said Wednesday it could not comment on the ruling because it came from a non-European Union court.

The Strasbourg-based ECtHR upholds the 1950 Convention on Human Rights for the 47-member Council of Europe.

The Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice is the EU’s top court.

The EU’s new Lisbon Treaty, set to come into force in January, does not cite Christianity as part of the Union’s common heritage despite heavy lobbying from conservatives.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Lisbon Treaty Signing Leads to New Dawn in Europe

Europe’s elite celebrated the imminent arrival of its first president last night as the last lingering resistance to the Lisbon treaty fell away with the stroke of a pen in Prague.

Gordon Brown and other leaders hailed a new era of expanded powers for the European Union to act on the world stage after the Eurosceptic President of the Czech Republic signed the treaty. The relief across European capitals was palpable as the eight-year journey of an accord that gives Europe a president and a new chief of foreign affairs came to an end.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

McCain’s Mother Suffers Fall in Portugal

A Lisbon hospital says it has discharged the 97-year-old mother of U.S. Senator John McCain after a weeklong stay following a fall.

The Sao Jose hospital said Wednesday that Roberta McCain left the neurology ward where she had been under observation.

Senator McCain’s office in Washington said his mother had fainted and injured her head last Thursday while on vacation in the Portuguese capital.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Nobel Prize to Vaclav Klaus

From Danish: Danish People’s Party suggests Czech president Vaclav Klaus should receive the next Noble Prize for his fight against the Lisbon Treaty.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Obama Schedule in Oslo

From Norwegian: According to a preliminary announcement from the White House, Barack and Michelle Obama will come to Norway Dec 10th, and leave the next day (missing the Noble concert). Planned for Obama: Noble prize ceremony + reception, lunch by the Norwegian king and queen, visit of the Noble institute and meeting the Noble committee. The Obama’s will also inaugurate an exhibition about the peace prize winner (Obama) by British photographer Marcus Bleasdale. According to one report Obama will meet with PM Stoltenberg and talk about climate, energy and Afghanistan.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Referendums Are Useless

I really don’t know why people get diverted into futile demands for referendums on the EU issue, or on anything else for that matter. Referendums have many things wrong with them. They only work in genuine democracies such as Switzerland where the electors, not the authorities, decide what questions should be asked, how and when. And even poor Switzerland is now exhausted by the number of votes it has had to hold.

They don’t bind governments to accept them, and can be held again and again until they come up with the answer the government wants. The question can be skewed (just as in opinion polls) to obtain the result the government wants. There are, in Britain, no rules about how they are to be held. In 1975, the Government took sides, and the entire print media were in favour of a ‘Yes’ vote. You can imagine how the BBC treated it. That referendum was only held to get Harold Wilson off the hook, because his Labour Cabinet was so divided against itself.

In the unlikely event of a ‘No’ vote, I imagine Mr Wilson would have gone off to Brussels and negotiated a few more empty ‘opt-outs’ and concessions, and then held the vote again.

No, the only way out of the EU for Britain is the election to government of a party committed in its manifesto to withdraw.

That party needs to accept, and state, that this is an issue of principle. Does this country control its own destiny, or not? It cannot do so in a political structure specifically designed to drain sovereignty from national governments. An election held with this as a major issue would at last compel the pro-EU factions to explain their intentions or desires, or damage themselves by refusing to do so. It would also make it clear that Britain could easily exist outside the EU, having good relations with it but not subject to Commission directives or the Luxembourg Court.

Only if such a party existed, and was prepared to argue this, would the debate about ‘Europe’ shift from its present fatuous, babyish level about ‘scepticism’ and ‘negotiating the return of powers’. ‘Scepticism’ is a meaningless position, summed up as ‘opposition to the EU in opposition, support for it in office’. What exactly has become of the ‘Sceptic’ hero Daniel Hannan MEP during the collapse of the Tory Party policy on Lisbon? As for ‘return of powers’ it is as likely that the Titanic will be raised, and Mr Cameron knows it. Why do people dare to mouth this drivel?

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

Switzerland Falls Into Line With EU Laws

Switzerland has been taking on an increasing number of laws from the European Union over the past two decades even though it is not a member of the 27-nation bloc.

Thomas Cottier, a professor of European and economic law at Bern University tells to what extent legislation in Switzerland has already become compatible with the EU.

Switzerland is staying on the sidelines of the EU and a formal application for membership remains frozen. The government decided to focus on bilateral treaties with Brussels until further notice.

Nevertheless, a cabinet minister recently tried to reactivate a public debate about the advantages of EU membership for Switzerland. Do you agree with the Swiss government which warns that the bilateral path with the EU is becoming increasingly narrow?

Thomas Cottier: I do, and for several reasons. For one the EU is today made up of an increasing number of members. In addition the issues to be negotiated are rather complex.

Agreement has to be found on different issues with all the members. As a result it takes more and more compromises to find a solution.

The EU has to be wary not to grant Switzerland any privileges which could make EU member states jealous. Is the rightwing Swiss People’s Party justified in arguing that EU membership would mean a loss of sovereignty for Switzerland?

T.C.: Strictly speaking this is correct. Membership in a supranational organisation results in a transfer of rights away from a sovereign country. The scope, so to say, would be reduced from the situation as it is today.

But in reality Switzerland is already suffering a considerable loss in sovereign rights. We take on EU legislation without having been able to influence its creation, let alone participate in the drafting of the bills.

From this point of view Switzerland position as non-EU member — or passive membership if you like — is to blame for this.

Thomas Cottier ( Would EU membership necessarily spell the end of Switzerland’s cherished system of direct democracy?

T.C.: Not at all. Our research has shown that about 50 per cent of Swiss laws are directly affected by the EU. However, there is no or only an indirect impact on the rest of the legal regulations.

This is notably true for large parts of the law on cantonal and local levels where the instruments of direct democracy remain intact.

Direct democracy still has a role to play in the implementation of EU laws. A regulation could be rejected in a referendum for instance.

This is already the case with the packages of bilateral treaties which interlink accords — a model which has its pros and cons. How could Switzerland improve its international standing if it were to join the EU?

T.C.: Switzerland would be able to break its isolation in Europe and could participate in networks on the level of governments, their administrations and parliament.

The country could take part in the legislative process, help set the political agenda and live up to its own democratic ideals.

At the moment this is made increasingly difficult because Switzerland has become dependent on decisions taken in Brussels or in other European capitals.

“ Switzerland has become dependent on decisions taken in Brussels or in other European capitals. “ You’re saying Switzerland is already part of the EU, but has no say?

T.C.: That’s right. Switzerland adopts as many EU rules and regulations as EU member state Austria. So there are no longer fundamental differences between the two countries.

But people in Switzerland are simply not aware of this in my opinion. The influence of the EU on Switzerland has a beneficial impact on life in Switzerland.

Take air traffic for example. It would not be possible to fly cheaply if it was not for EU laws. There are plenty of other examples. But why would Swiss voters probably still come out against membership at the ballot box?

T.C.: It could be because they don’t want to know better. On a political level the People’s Party has been very successful with its anti-EU stance. Other parties were compelled to tread cautiously.

There is also a lack of transparency about the influence of EU legislation, as no official statistics are available on the issue.

Many wrongly believe that the impact of EU laws is limited to technical regulations, but far from it. Crucial legal areas, including cartel laws, social law and legislation on food are defined to a large extent by Brussels.

What’s more the media tell you on a daily basis that the government is planning further legal amendments in line with the EU to strengthen Switzerland’s economy and eliminate unnecessary trade barriers. The newly-elected interior minister, Didier Burkhalter, is known for his pro-European stance. Transport Minister Moritz Leuenberger recently called for EU membership. How justified is the apparent confidence?

T.C.: Switzerland has gone through difficult periods with its foreign policy. There is growing awareness that the government can no longer represent the interests of the country sufficiently if it continues to go it alone.

I think that the concerns of citizens about an alleged loss of our tradition of direct democracy will be lessened when they realize how close Switzerland is to the EU.

Jean-Michel Berthoud, (adapted from German by Urs Geiser)

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

Switzerland: Visa Crackdown Urged in Libya Spat

A parliamentary commission has called for a tougher stance against Libya by imposing visa restrictions, but stopped short of advising a complete break in relations.

The recommendation by the foreign affairs committee of the House of Representatives was made in response to on-going problematic relations between the two countries — under strain since the arrest of a son of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi in Geneva last year.

The commission voiced support for current cabinet measures, but adopted by 12 votes to 11 a motion to restrict visas issued to Libyans travelling to Switzerland. A proposal to break off diplomatic relations with Libya was rejected by 14 votes to seven.

It also filed a complaint over the leak of a confidential government document to the Sonntag newspaper into the affair.

The document alleges President Hans-Rudolf Merz did not fully inform the cabinet about his planned visit to Tripoli to address the spat and that former Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin had written to Libya to apologise for the arrest.

“This [leak] was unacceptable,” said commission president Geri Müller, adding that it painted only part of the picture.

The moves come two weeks after a 60-day deadline for normalising relations between Switzerland and Libya ran out with no word on the fate of the two Swiss businessmen detained in Libya for more than a year. Their exit visas were revoked as part of a number of retaliatory measures against Switzerland following the arrest of Hannibal Gaddafi.

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey has accused Libya of “kidnapping” them and “flagrant violation” of international conventions. Libya rejects the abduction charge.


In its latest communication on relations, the Swiss cabinet expressed irritation over the “systematic refusal” of Libya to implement agreements between the two countries. But despite talking tough, there was no mention of sanctions or details of Switzerland’s future strategy.

Changes may be afoot however. For more than a year Switzerland has been isolated internationally over the diplomatic fall-out. But during the past few weeks, two nations have spoken publicly about the dispute.

The United States ambassador to Bern, Donald Beyer, said the US was “concerned” over the two missing Swiss businessmen and “would welcome their return”. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos also indicated that Spain might be willing to mediate between the two countries.

Freed brother

The agreement signed in Tripoli in August by Merz and the Libyan prime minister included a stipulation that an independent tribunal would be set up to look into the circumstances surrounding the detention of Gaddafi and his wife.

The couple was arrested at a Geneva hotel in July 2008 over reports that they mistreated two servants. Charges of causing physical injury were later dropped after a settlement was reached.

One of the servant’s brothers was reported missing soon after Gaddafi’s arrest and his case was brought to the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations. In a related development on Monday, a Geneva lawyer announced that the brother had been freed.

His family had confirmed his release on October 24, François Membrez told the Associated Press.

“His freedom was obtained as a result of repeated requests by the United Nations. He has returned to live in Morocco,” Membrez said.

He added that the families of the two Swiss detainees could also launch the same procedure through the UN commission to obtain their freedom.

The moves were supported by Amnesty International. On Monday, the human rights group said it had sent a letter to the Libyan authorities demanding the release of the two men.

Short of that, Amnesty said Libya should make known where they are being held, and contact with their families and lawyers should be restored.

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

Switzerland: Business Leaders Warn Against Minaret Ban

The Swiss Business Federation (economiesuisse) has warned against a proposed ban on minarets ahead of a nationwide vote on the issue on November 29.

The organisation said the initiative by members of rightwing parties could damage the competitive edge of the Swiss economy and dent the country’s tolerant and open-minded reputation.

“The initiative goes against liberal thinking; it is not Swiss and damages our reputation abroad,” federation president Gerold Bührer told a news conference on Monday.

He said Swiss firms and products could be threatened by a boycott if the initiative won a majority at the polls.

Bührer said Muslim countries had a considerable economic potential for Switzerland’s export sector, notably its engineering firms, as well as its banking and its tourism industries.

Exports to Muslim countries in the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia amount to about SFr15 billion ($14.7 billion) and also affect the pharmaceutical companies, the food and the watchmaking industries, according to economiesuissse.

“We depend on a workforce which has different cultural backgrounds,” said Rudolf Stämpfli, president of the Swiss Employers’ Association.

He said the vote was a referendum on how the Swiss treat members of other religions and that Switzerland would be wise to create a friendly environment for people who come to work here.

The federation said it had granted “limited financial support” for a publicity campaign against the initiative, but it refused to give details.

But efforts to combat another proposal — an initiative by pacifists to ban the export of weapons to come to a vote on the same day — is receiving more funds from the federation, according to Bührer.

In a related development, a committee of young rightwing politicians has called for a ban on minarets.

It said it was necessary to put a halt to what it described as the growing influence of Islam on Swiss schools and to the potential threat to fundamental Swiss values.

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

UK: A Referendum Mr Cameron Could Give the People

Tory grandee David Davis today issues a direct challenge to David Cameron’s authority on Conservative policy towards Europe.

Writing in the Mail, the former shadow home secretary calls on the Tory leader to offer the public a referendum on the future of Britain’s relationship with the EU.

He says that a nationwide vote should be the first announcement of a future Conservative government and the referendum should take place during Mr Cameron’s first three months in Downing Street.

His challenge to Mr Cameron comes after last night’s admission by the Tory high command that they would no longer honour their pledge to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Army Veteran Banned From Selling Poppies in Shopping Centre Over Health and Safety Rules

An army veteran in full military garb was told to stop selling poppies at a shopping centre — because he wouldn’t undergo a risk assessment.

Jean Reno, who fought in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq, was selling the poppies at a shopping centre when he was stopped by a security guard.

The 36-year-old was asked if he had permission to sell the plastic flowers. But when he refused to fill in a permission slip, which included a risk assessment, the guard asked him to leave the building.

Mr Reno raised more than £1,500 for the Royal British Legion’s poppy appeal by selling poppies at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth last year.

This year he managed just £250 before being told to leave.

Mr Reno said today: ‘I didn’t require a risk assessment when I was sent to Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Afghanistan, or Iraq.

‘But I require one to stand on Gunwharf Quays property to sell poppies. I’m utterly disgusted.’

The former artillery regiment soldier left the army in 2007 after suffering serious brain injuries in a road accident.

On his discharge from the forces he was helped into a new flat by service charities, and has been collecting for the poppy appeal out of gratitude.

‘I started working for the first time last year and spent a week at Gunwharf. I had little interference or hindrance from the on-site security and raised over £1,500.

‘But this year I had only been there for an hour when the man came up to me and asked if I had permission to be here.

‘I don’t normally make a habit of leaving my house wearing my regimental blazer with medals on my chest, a box full of poppies and a collection tin, so I thought it was obvious that I had permission.

‘I said I had but he said there was already one gentleman selling poppies, and because he had done the risk assessment he was the only one allowed to sell in Gunwharf Quays.’

Today shopping centre director Peter Emery said the incident was a regrettable misunderstanding.

‘Unfortunately Mr Reno fell foul of our own system to prevent bogus charity sellers,’ he said.

‘We were given a list from the Royal British Legion of the people who would be collecting for them this year.

‘But Mr Reno was not on it. We approached him to try and make him official and get him on the list but he took offence.

It is regrettable that it came to this but Mr Reno has now signed the form and we are happy to have him back selling poppies on the site. We fully support the poppy appeal.’

Mr Reno’s argument is one of a spate of controversies involving poppy sellers.

One county council, Derbyshire, has banned poppy collection boxes from its libraries on the grounds that it would not ‘favour particular charities at the expense of others.’

Royal British Legion collectors have also been angered by rules that prevent them from shaking tins to encourage donations. The Legion has been reminding its collectors of the curbs on their behaviour.

Charity laws say that on private land — such as shopping malls, railway stations or council-run libraries — the decison to allow collections and the regulation of the behaviour of collectors is a matter for the landowner.

Laws governing street collections are more complex and are currently in the throes of reform.

Collectors are regulated under the Police, Factories etc (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1916, which says local councils should set their own rules for charity fundraising on the street.

This bars ‘inconvenience or annoyance to another person’ — hence the ban on aggressive tin-rattling.

However councils are themselves constrained by the 1974 Charitable Collections (Transitional Provisions) Order, which says ministers must approve rules set by local councils to prevent absurd local regulation. Cabinet Office minister Tessa Jowell is at present in charge of approving local rules.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: ‘We expect local authorities to take a common sense approach. To over-interpret the rules would be absurd.’

Whitehall believes tin-rattling can cause annoyance if it is done aggressively or if people are approached persistently for money in residential streets rather than busy town centres.

Reforms are under way thanks to the Charities Act 2006. This proposes a system under which a charity wishing to collect money would have to apply to the Charity Commission for a certificate, which would confirm its status as a proper charity. It would then go to the local council for a permit to collect at a particular time and place.

The new law also says ministers may regulate to stop annoyance by collectors. Ministers will be advised by the Charity Commission.

The new system is not yet in force, and the Charity Commission, which was set up by the 2006 Act, had no role in drawing up the existing rules.

Cabinet Office officials are currently looking at the detail of how the new system will work and a consultation is likely next year.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Could Your Child be Branded a Racist Next? It Beggars Belief That Thousands of Primary School Children Are Being Reported by the Authorities

A six-year-old child cowers tearfully in her school’s office. She knows she is in serious trouble for uttering a ‘bad’ word. Her fear is compounded by confusion.

She has been accused of racism but is far too young to understand the gravity of the charge or grasp its dire implications.

But she knows her transgression is a dreadful one: a phone call has been made to her parents; official forms have been filled in; the adults around her wear dutifully censorious expressions.

The little girl is in tumult. She has to be reassured that the police will not come and take her away.

What heinous crime has she committed? During the course of a playground game, she has called another child ‘blacky’.

The ‘victim’ has neither complained about, nor even noticed, the remark. But a playground supervisor has.

Diligently — and observing the Government procedures requiring all our schools to report ‘racist incidents’ — she has frog-marched the culprit to the office. In due course the little girl’s ‘crime’ is logged on local authority files.

>From there it becomes an official Government statistic.

The incident is not an isolated one. Similar scenes are enacted in primary and even nursery schools every day, all over Britain.

Local government race officials now urge schools to operate a zero-tolerance approach to anyone — even infants and toddlers — who could be construed as racist. As a result, children’s playground spats are elevated into full-blown dramas.

A nine-year-old child calls another a ‘chocolate bar’. The culprit’s parents and head teacher are duly informed; the child is reprimanded and denied play-time.

During a boisterous game of football, a girl calls a boy ‘white trash’. The heavy machinery cranks into motion again: she, too, becomes one of the estimated tens of thousands of children deemed guilty of racism since the Government’s racist incident reporting policy was implemented in 2002.

A recent survey reported 5,000 ‘racist’ incidents in Yorkshire schools alone, between 2006 and 2007.

In Essex 1,566 cases were noted in the three years up to 2005. Spurred on by a notion that even two-year-olds are capable of prejudice, Kent kindergartens have finalised a project to train staff in challenging racist statements from toddlers.

Battalions of diversity officers and ethnic minority coordinators the length and breadth of the country are doubtless applauding Kent’s brave initiative, while pursuing, with messianic zeal, their mission to unmask legions of name-calling infants as incipient racists.

Is Britain really a country mired in such bigotry? Actually — and controversially — I am daring to say it is not. Doubtless I will be accused by the anti-racist zealots of heresy, but I believe it is a myth that racism is rife in British schools.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Councils Will Lose the Right to Snoop Using Terror Law

Town halls will today be banned by law from using anti-terror powers to spy on ‘bin criminals’ and litter louts.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson says that using controversial Big Brother powers for trivial reasons is undermining faith in the surveillance regime.

He will outline legislation preventing councils from using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act unless they are probing a serious crime.

This could include commercial fly-tipping or benefit fraud.

It follows a string of revelations by the Daily Mail about over-zealous officials tracking the law-abiding public.

These include spying on people suspected of putting their bins out on the wrong day, those who drop litter and parents attempting to cheat school catchment area rules.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: It’s Time to Pull Out of Afghanistan and Take the Fight to Bin Laden in Britain

I backed the war, but the chance looks squandered. Local agencies battling terrorism need the funds being spilt in Helmand

For the best part of seven years the British public appeared to accept the argument that, if we didn’t deploy our troops to fight al-Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan, we might be forced to fight them on the streets of Britain. In recent months, however, it seems that public support for our military involvement in that United Nations-led operation is diminishing.

There are a number of possible reasons for this. The public may be asking whether deploying large numbers of British forces to Afghanistan at great cost, in lives lost as well as in pounds sterling, is actually the most effective way of preventing Islamic terrorist murders in the UK. Perhaps, like me, they are considering that there may be more effective alternatives to the deployment and wondering why there has been little discussion about them, save for the usual “if we are nice to violent jihadists they might be nice to us” variety.

Seven years of military involvement and civilian aid in Afghanistan have succeeded in subduing al-Qaida’s activities in that country, but have not destroyed the organisation or its leader, Osama bin Laden. Nor have they succeeded in eliminating al-Qaida’s protectors, the Taliban. There can be no guarantee that the next seven years will bring significantly greater success and, even if they do, it is salutary to remember that Afghanistan has never been the sole location of terrorist training camps.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: It’s Non-Fire Night! Thousands Forced to Watch Big-Screen TV Bonfire…

…after ‘elf and safety killjoys ban the real thing

Thousands of people will celebrate Guy Fawkes night tomorrow evening, crowded around a large TV after health and safety killjoys forced them to stage a virtual bonfire.

The event — dubbed ‘non fire night’ — will see dozens of families hold sparklers and gather around a massive screen showing film footage of a bonfire.

Recorded images of a roaring real fire will be projected onto a 16ft by 12ft screen mounted on a scaffolding stand — at a cost of £300.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Middle-Class Students Face University Place Struggle as Mandelson Gives Poorer Students Two-Grade ‘Head Start’

Middle-class pupils face being bumped off prestigious university courses under plans to give youngsters from poor homes an A-level ‘head start’, it emerged yesterday.

Unveiling a ten-year blueprint for universities, Lord Mandelson declared that published or predicted A-level grades would not be enough to win places at leading universities.

He urged universities to take pupils’ school and family backgrounds into account when allocating places and setting conditional offers.

The First Secretary of State also backed schemes already operating which involve lowering entry requirements for students from disadvantaged backgrounds by two or more A-level grades.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Now Judge Puts Green Beliefs of a Worker on a Par With Christianity

Green beliefs are as worthy of protection in the workplace as religious ones, a judge ruled yesterday in a landmark case.

Christian groups said the decision was further evidence of Britain ‘abandoning its Christian heritage’ at a time of increasing discrimination against religion.

Legal experts warned the case would ‘open the floodgates’ for claims of unfair dismissal based on someone’s environmental beliefs.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: When Nazis Marched Through London

This newly-released footage is really quite terrifying.

It was unearthed by a Discovery Channel programme to be aired next week called Wartime London, presented by London cabby Harry Harris.

It shows the funeral, in 1936, of the German Ambassador to Britain, Leopold von Hoesch in 1936.

After a fatal stroke a state funeral was held for him, a salute of nineteen guns was fired in Hyde Park, and Grenadier Guards marched down the Mall. Shoulder to shoulder with Nazi soldiers.

They carried a coffin draped in a swastika, while crowds lined the road and balconies, a terrifyingly large number of them giving the Nazi salute.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Clinton, Libyan Spy Chief Meet in Marrakech

The Obama administration remains livid with Libya for welcoming home Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. But that didn’t stop Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from meeting with Tripoli’s longtime spy chief in Marrakech today.

Clinton, attending a regional-development conference in Morocco, met for 10- to 15-minutes with Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa, according to State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley.

Kusa served as Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s intelligence chief during the 1990s and had been posted overseas in Tripoli’s diplomatic missions a decade earlier. Kusa was never changed with involvement in any specific terrorist act, but Britain expelled him in 1980 for his alleged involvement in assassinating a Gadhafi opponent in London. He’s also been accused of complicity in the Lockerbie bombing and a second attack on a French airliner traveling in Africa.

Crowley said Clinton didn’t raise Lockerbie or the al-Megrahi case during the meeting, focusing instead on issues like counterterrorism cooperation and Libya’s efforts to help stabilize Sudan.

“Libya has a perspective on the region. They’ve been very helpful and intimately involved in Sudan and Darfur,” Crowley told reporters aboard Clinton’s jet en route to Egypt Tuesday night.

“The issue of Megrahi did not come up,” hr said. “Our views on that have not changed. The Libyans understand our concerns.”

Since U.S. relations with Libya began to normalize in 2003, Kusa and his spy service became significant partners with the Central Intelligence Agency in tracking al Qaeda operatives in North Africa. Earlier this year, Kusa switched jobs and became Libya’s foreign minister.

U.S. officials who’ve met him say he’s a graduate of Michigan State and a major fan of American football.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Army Chief Says Hamas Has Rocket That Can Reach Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv, 3 Nov. (AKI) — The military wing of the Gaza-ruling movement Hamas possesses an Iranian-made missile that can reach the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv, according to Israel’s military intelligence chief. Top Israeli Army General General Amos Yadlin made the remarks in front of a parliamentary panel in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Israeli media said.

According to Yadlin, Hamas has allegedly carried out at least one successful trial launch of a rocket with a 60-kilometre range in the Mediterranean Sea. The missile is capable of reaching Tel Aviv when launched from the war-torn Gaza Strip.

He also told the Knesset foreign affairs and defence committee that he is concerned about Hamas having possibly smuggled Fajr-style rockets, which were used by the militant Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah during the war against Lebanon in 2006.

However, according to Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post, it was not clear whethe he meant the Fajr-3 of Fajr-5 missile, which have ranges of 50 and 70 kilometres respectively.

During Israel’s December 2008 and January 2009 offensive, termed ‘Operation Cast Lead’, the Islamist movement launched a 40-kilometre rocket which reached the Israeli city of Beersheba.

During the Israeli offensive, more than 50,000 homes were destroyed by the Israeli army, as well as 29 mosques, two churches and 200 schools.

The 22-day Israeli military operation, launched with the stated aim of ending Hamas rocket attacks against Israel, killed some 1,400 Palestinians and injured more than 5,400 others, according to UN figures.

Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians hit by cross-border rocket fire were killed in the conflict.

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

Hamas Militants Test Fire Long-Range Rocket Capable of Striking Tel Aviv

Hamas militants in Gaza have successfully test-fired an Iranian rocket able to reach Israel’s largest urban centre, Israel’s head of military intelligence revealed.

Major General Amos Yadlin told parliament’s foreign affairs and defence committee that the rocket could fly 37 miles and strike metropolitan Tel Aviv.

Until now, rockets fired from Gaza have reached up to 25 miles putting one-eighth of Israel’s population within rocket range.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Settlements by Israel Obstacle to Peace, Miliband

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, NOVEMBER 3- British foreign Secretary David Miliband said settlement construction is an obstacle peace and expressed concern over the take over of a Palestinian home by Israeli settlers. Miliband arrived in Jordan for talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah on efforts to kick start the stalled peace. “The current situation is, tense in respect of Jerusalem. We view events there with considerable concern along with our EU and our international partners,” said Miliband. “I come here from Moscow where I was with foreign minister foreign Lavrove yesterday. We view with particular concern the evictions that have taken place, some of the settlers violence and the recent report of settlers moving into a Palestinian family’s home,” he added. Israeli settlers moved into a home of a Palestinian from Jerusalem following a ruling by Israeli court to evict the Palestinians from their home, on ground they were built without permit. Palestinians say obtaining a permit is impossible under Israeli controlled rules. Miliband also described settlements construction as illegal. “Our view on settlements is simply stated, which is that settlements are illegal in our view so an obstacle to peace. Settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.” Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has stated that he will not sit down for talks with Israel as long as settlement construction continues. “I think settlements has become a growing issue, obviously because they challenge the heart of the issue of the borders of the Palestinian state that is the territory of the Palestinian state. In that sense the settlement issue is a subset of the territorial questions,” he concluded. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Support Abbas. We Ask Israel to Do More, Frattini

(ANSAmed) — MARRAKECH — “We must strongly support Mahmoud Abbas” (Abu Mazen) because we cannot think “that the frustration and humiliation prevail in the Palestinian population, because this would open murky scenarios”. So said Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, speaking in Marrakech after a bilateral meeting with USA secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Frattini added that Italy is a friend to Israel, “but this does not prevent us from asking them to do more”, he stressed. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Watch-Women Complain, IDF Orders Biblical Verse Removed Soldiers have been ordered to redesign their regiment sign at the checkpoint at which they serve — and to leave out a Biblical verse deemed “offensive.”

Arutz-7’s Shimon Cohen reports that the soldiers of Batallion 13 of the Golani Brigade decorated the Shomron checkpoint at Hawara, where they spend most of their days and nights, with a special sign indicating their pride in their regiment. The famous Golani oak tree insignia is flanked by a soldier aiming his gun, with the digits of the number 13 on either side, aside an Israeli flag. On top appears part of a verse from Psalms 18, which deals with King David’s thanks to G-d for having helped him fight his enemies; the verse reads, “I did not return until they were destroyed.”

The beginning of the verse reads, “I pursued my enemies and overtook them.” The soldiers explained that the verse is appopriate in that it refers to enemies such as terrorists, and that the objective of their checkpoint activity is to stop them from carrying out their plans to murder Israelis.

Women of MachsomWatch, however — an extremist left-wing group that sends representatives to various checkpoints to “supervise” the soldiers’ behavior — give the verse another interpretation. They complained to the IDF commanders that the verse is offensive to the Arab population of the Palestinian Authority and demanded that the sign be taken down.

The army agreed, and the sign has been removed.

In response to Arutz-7’s query as to why the army did not choose to go by the accepted meaning of the verse as referring to the country’s enemies, an IDF spokesman explained, “The sign in question, which was placed at a control point, was taken down in order to avoid offense to a population sector and to prevent distress on the part of the local residents.”

Cohen added, “I tried to understand why the army chose to understand the verse as referring to innocent people, instead of the enemies that are clearly mentioned there. I further noted that the verse, in Biblical Hebrew, is not something that most PA Arabs can be expected to understand or be offended by. The response was that as far as the army is concerned, there is a fear the a population sector will be offended and distressed and therefore the sign was taken down.”

“In short,” Cohen concluded, “the women of MachsomWatch felt insulted in the name of the Arabs, and therefore the IDF folded the sign, the flag and the verse.”

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

Middle East

Islamic Business Wins Academic Following

At semiannual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Istanbul last month, talk was largely dominated, inevitably, by the economic crisis and its aftermath. But suitably enough, given the location, another topic also came to the fore: the role of Islamic finance, a fast-developing sector of the global banking industry that has remained remarkably resilient through the slowdown.

With the value of assets in Islamic banks now close to $1 trillion and the industry growing at an estimated annual rate of 15 to 20 percent, business students are increasingly eager to cash in. Universities are increasingly offering new postgraduate programs in Islamic finance to help them do it.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

King Abdullah Warns Khamenei: No to the “Politicization” Of the Pilgrimage to Mecca

The “Guardian” of the holy places of Islam stresses that demonstrations or activities that threaten the safety of the faithful will not be tolerated. A veiled reference to the Supreme Leader of Iran’s call on Shiite pilgrims to demonstrate against the West and the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Pakistan.

Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Saudi Arabia will not allow anyone to “disturb the atmosphere of Hajj, endangering the safety of pilgrims, or create divisions among Muslims.” This was stated yesterday by King Abdullah, Custodian of the holy places of Islam, during a meeting of the executive. The reference, without specifically mentioning it was to Iran, which in recent days called on the Shiite faithful on their way to Mecca to promote demonstrations against the West and ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Palestine.

On November 25, the Hajj begins, the pilgrimage to the most holy places of Islam, that every Muslim must make once in their life. Saudi authorities are concerned that the event — which attracts more than two million people to Mecca — will serve as a pretext to organize demonstrations and street protests that are banned by law in the Kingdom.

In a press release, the Arabian executive stresses that “the policy of the Kingdom does not allow anyone to interfere with the peaceful operations of the events Hajj and jeopardize the safety of pilgrims.” Every move aimed at “creating divisions” among Muslims is forbidden, the faithful, added the government, should use the visit to the holy places to “establish a closer relationship with God through prayer, worship, meditation.”

The warning issued by Saudi authorities, without an explicit reference, is a response to the words spoken by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran. He had asked Shiite pilgrims leaving for the Hajj to “show the clear intention of the Muslim nation to confront the attempts to undermine unity and progress.” “The pilgrims can not ignore — added Khamenei — the events that are happening in the Muslim world. Today Iraq, Afghanistan, occupied Palestine, parts of Pakistan are under pressure from foreign troops”.

Previously, the Hajj has experienced serious accidents, which caused the deaths of hundreds of faithful. In 1987 a demonstration against the United States and Israel, suppressed by force by the Saudi police, left 402 people dead, most of them Iranian Shiites. Following the incident, Tehran imposed a boycott of three years on the pilgrimage.

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

Raid on Ship: Iranian Weapons Heading Towards Syria

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV — Israeli command units have raided and taken possession of a ship flying the Antiguan flag this morning off the coast of Israel. According to the allegations, the ship was transporting Iranian arms heading for Syria. The news was reported on Israeli military radio. The seized ship was taken to the port of Ashdod, south of Tel Aviv, and the crew members were put under arrest. According to reports, numerous weapons were hidden onboard under a civilian freight and it is suspected that these were due to end up in the hands of terrorist organisations. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Saudi Paedophile to be Beheaded

A Saudi court has ruled that a man convicted of raping five children will be beheaded and crucified.

Muhammad Basheer al-Ramaly, 22, left his youngest victim, aged three, stranded in the desert to die.

He was caught when he tried to abduct another boy by offering him a lift home from school in his car.

The court of appeal in Riyadh approved the death sentence handed down in June. Beheading is permitted for serious offences in the conservative kingdom.

More than 40 people have been executed in such a fashion this year.

Reports suggest Ramaly lured children into his car near their school, near the town of Hail, and took them to isolated areas to rape them.

Human rights group Amnesty International has criticized the court proceedings saying Ramaly did not have access to a lawyer during his trial and that there are reports he may suffer from a psychological disorder.

International rights advocates have long been critical of the death sentences in Saudi Arabia, but the authorities defend the practice as a quick and clean form of execution sanctioned by the Islamic faith.

Crucifixion means the body will be attached to wooden beams and displayed in public after the beheading.

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

Yemen Rebels ‘Seize Saudi Area’

Rebels from Yemen have fought their way across the border into Saudi Arabia, where they are now holding out against the military.

The rebels have killed a Saudi officer and injured 11 others, the Saudi authorities confirmed on Wednesday.

The rebels said they had taken “full control” of a mountainous section of the border region of Jabal al-Dukhan.

The Yemen government has been waging a campaign against the Zaidi Shia rebels, also known as Houthis, since 2004.

The Houthis have long accused Riyadh of supporting the Yemeni government in attacks against them.

In October there were clashes between Houthis and Saudi security forces near the border.

Yemen is one of the world’s poorest countries and analysts question the ability of the government to assert control over the country.

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


Russian World

A new term could be introduced which would denote a community of the countries united by the Russian culture, said Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.

“The term ‘a Russian world country’ could be introduced into usage. It would mean that a country sees itself as part of the Russian world, if it uses Russian as the language of international communication, promotes the Russian culture, and preserves the general historical memory,” Patriarch Kirill said at the opening of the 3rd Russian World Assembly in Moscow on Tuesday.

Today the nations inhabiting the area of the historical Rus should “realize their being part of the same civilization and see the Russian world as their common supranational project,” the Patriarch said.

It is important to preserve the unique deep meaning of the term “Russian world” and to preserve original Russian cultural tradition, Patriarch Kirill said.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

The Russian State Wants to Restrict the Activities of Evangelicals

Only evangelical leaders can preach the Gospel. The faithful must have permission from the government. Forbidden to evangelize those who “had a criminal record.” Fines for those who pray or preach without authorization.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — The Russian Ministry for Justice has proposed amendments to the law on “Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations” that, if adopted, will introduce stronger restrictions on the activities of Evangelicals in the country. The community is on alert: If the proposal becomes law, among other things the evangelicals can no longer pray freely without a permit and people with a “criminal record” will not be allowed become members of their communities. The latter condition, which also concerns other religious groups because it would clear the path for state interference in the individual freedom of conscience.

The document that first appeared in mid-October at the Ministry for Justice — later reported by — contains, for the first time, a precise definition for “evangelical activities”; the text speaks of ‘activities of a religious association aimed at spreading its confessional beliefs among people who are not members with the intent to attract these people to the association itself. “

The evangelical communities are known for their aggressive proselytizing in war zones and even at the risk of their own life. In Russia, on the other hand, the Orthodox Church has always been very careful to protect its sphere of influence, and opposed to all forms of proselytizing.

According to the proposal of the Ministry of Justice, only the leaders of evangelical organizations will have the right to preach. All the others (for the evangelicals every believer is also a priest, ed) will need a permit from the authorities. Even foreigners will be required to have written authorization to spread their teaching. The document prohibits preachers, both Russian and foreign, from leading prayers in churches and monasteries of other communities, offering material or social benefits to potential new recruits and the use the use of force, psychological pressure or manipulation of consciences.

If the amendments are adopted, in the declaration to register as a religious community, information about leaders must be provided to authorities. A fundamental requirement is the exclusion of persons from the community who are convicted of inciting religious or ethnic hatred and other crimes of extremist nature. “The problem is that you may not know the criminal background of all the faithful — says Deacon Andrei Kuraev, professor at the Moscow Ecclesiastical Academy — nor on the other hand can you close the door on him.” “In this way — complains Kuraev — the state will decide who is entitled or not to belong to a religious organization”.

Penalties for any offenders are mostly financial: those who involve children in religious activities without parental consent, must pay a fine of between 2 and 5 thousand rubles. Evangelical worship without authorization will cost up to 7 thousand rubles. Those who, despite a criminal conviction for extremism, continue to preach will be fined from 7 to 10 thousand rubles. Those who allow evangelical activities to take place in the churches of other communities, hospitals or government buildings will be sanctioned with fines of up to 15 thousand rubles.

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

South Asia

Afghanistan Divides Labour as Army Death Toll Rises

Former minister Kim Howells calls for pullout from Afghanistan and more domestic spying

A major fissure has opened up in Labour’s support for the Afghan war with a call from the former Foreign Office minister Kim Howells for the phased withdrawal of British troops from Helmand.

Howells, who is now Gordon Brown’s intelligence and security watchdog, said the billions of pounds saved should be redirected to defending the UK from terrorist attacks by al-Qaida.

Writing in the Guardian, Howells, who had ministerial responsibility for Afghanistan until 2008, said: “It would be better to bring home the great majority of our fighting men and women and concentrate, instead, on using the money saved to secure our own borders, gather intelligence on terrorist activities inside Britain.”

Controversially, he accepts that such an approach would result in “more intrusive surveillance in certain communities” — a tacit acknowledgment that Britain’s Muslims would be subject to greater scrutiny by police and intelligence services.

He also calls for an expansion of UK intelligence operations abroad, greater co-operation with foreign intelligence services, and more spending on propaganda designed to counter those who encourage terrorism.

Howells’s comments came as the Ministry of Defence announced the death of five soldiers when a “rogue” Afghan policeman turned his gun on allied and Afghan troops at a checkpoint in Helmand province. Several soldiers were also injured, some seriously. The deaths make this the bloodiest year for the armed forces since the Falklands war. The number of dead stands at 94 for this year, bringing the total number of fatalities since the Afghan conflict began in 2001 to 229.

Afghanistan’s politicians do not want to see a cut in foreign troops. Abdullah Abdullah, President Hamid Karzai’s closest challenger in the disputed presidential election, today called for more, not fewer, foreign troops as the only way to support the regime.

Howells’s call for a “Fortress Britain” security strategy will have added force because he was a strong supporter of the war during his time as foreign affairs minister between 2005 and 2008. Until now, backbench Labour opposition has been largely confined to the left of the party.

His remarks may also provide political cover for one of the two main opposition parties, probably the Liberal Democrats, to go into the general election calling for the withdrawal of British troops.

Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, has so far stopped short of calling for withdrawal, but said on Monday that British troops were “being asked to prop up a government in which no one believes”.

Howells stresses that his call for a UK troop withdrawal is personal, but it is thought to reflect growing doubts inside the intelligence services as to the wisdom of devoting so many counter-terrorism resources to denying al-Qaida a training base in Afghanistan. His intervention comes after Karzai was reappointed president of Afghanistan following the decision of Abdullah, not to compete in an election runoff, arguing that Karzai planned to steal the election through fraud.

Deeply embarrassed western governments have been forced to seek assurances that Karzai will finally end corruption and establish a government of national unity.

Howells accuses the Kabul government of “largely squandering the opportunity offered to it by the UN-led occupation”.

He argues: “Sooner rather than later a properly planned phased withdrawal of our forces from Helmand province has to be announced. If it is an answer that serves, also, to focus the minds of those in the Kabul government who have shown such a poverty of leadership over the past seven years, then so much the better.

“Seven years of military involvement and civilian aid in Afghanistan has succeeded in subduing al-Qaida’s activities in that country but it hasn’t destroyed the organisation or its leader, Osama bin Laden. Nor has it succeeded in eliminating al-Qaida’s protectors, the Taliban.

“There can be no guarantee that the next seven years will bring significantly greater success and, even if they do, it is salutary to remember that Afghanistan has never been the sole location of terrorist training camps.”

Even the proposed additional 40,000 US troops, he argues, will not guarantee that the Taliban are contained. “Recent attacks in Kabul and other centres suggest that the present balance of territorial control is at best likely to remain, or more likely to shift in favour of the Taliban.”

Securing the remote mountainous borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan in which the Taliban and al-Qaida thrive is impossible, he contends.

Howells suggests that because al-Qaida can readily change the locations of its bases and modify its attack plans, it makes sense for Britain to reprioritise counter-terrorism spending by focusing on defending the homeland.

He concedes a withdrawal would have momentous consequences for British relations with Nato, and especially the US.

It would also require much more intrusive surveillance in the UK, more police patrols, more border officials at harbours and airports, and more inspectors of vehicles and vessels entering the UK. Britain spent £2.6bn on its military involvement in Afghanistan last year and is due to increase its troop numbers to 10,000 in the next few months. So far 224 UK service personnel have died. Brown has promised that as the Afghan army is trained up it will be possible for the UK forces to be withdrawn, but has not been able to put a timetable on this.

Howells says that it only takes a small number of Afghans to harbour the terrorists to undermine a large military. “Stories emerging from Afghanistan tell of the sense of futility felt by tough, well-trained troops who witness, firsthand, the death of comrades who have fallen, protecting an Afghan population that refuses frequently not only to help their protectors but, sometimes, conspires with the Taliban to kill them.”

Howells argues that a fundamental rethink may be forced on the government as public support for the war rapidly erodes.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Afghanistan: Groundhog Day

The dimensions of the unfolding disaster in Afghanistan are becoming bigger and more daunting by the day.. Once-staunch defenders of the “good war” are starting to break ranks. Kim Howells, a former Foreign Office minister with responsibility for Afghanistan and current chairman of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, questions in our newspaper today the central tenet of the government’s case for fighting in Afghanistan: that it is the frontline of a war that would otherwise be conducted on British streets. Mr Howells said counter-terrorism would be better served by bringing the majority of servicemen home. Better, he argues, to concentrate on protecting our borders and gathering intelligence at home and abroad.

He is saying publicly what many in government must be thinking privately: that troops are dying needlessly in a war that is unwinnable, with a strategy that is unworkable, and that we should be thinking of the alternative now. We do not agree with everything Mr Howells says, but at least he is saying it, which puts him in a class above most other politicians. Mr Howells may have cast the first stone, but the current consensus is wearing so thin that it would not take much to shatter.

Afghanistan is a political failure, a fact over which the international community continue to be in denial. If they were not, neither America nor Britain would be toying with the notion that they can pressure Mr Karzai into forming a clean government. Flanked by two vice-presidents, including a notorious warlord that Mr Karzai accepted as a running mate, Mr Karzai vowed yesterday to tackle corruption. This was rather like a cat promising abstinence on the subject of mice. The election has been more than just messy — Barack Obama’s word. It has been oxymoronic. A process run by the UN has made a nonsense of the very standard the UN exists to uphold. The result has highlighted just how elusive the dream of a working democratic state is. It begs a serious question: what does territory cleared, even temporarily, of the Taliban look like? The families of the soldiers fighting for this territory are entitled to an answer. So are the Afghans, who have suffered disportionately more. They are far from getting one.

Mr Obama is now left clinging to one tarnished man — not an institution or national assembly of tribal chiefs — to deliver the central plank of his fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida. And while he clings to him, any hope of recentring aid efforts on local communities or on reforming parliament will be subverted just as the election was. Wait for the next announcement on troop levels. It will be groundhog day — all over again.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Afghanistan: “But it Was Unclear What the Motive Was…”

Five British soldiers are dead today, fatalities of see-no-Islam political correctness. The story from the AP:

KABUL— An Afghan policeman opened fire on British soldiers in the volatile southern province of Helmand, killing five before fleeing, British and Afghan authorities said Wednesday, raising concerns about discipline within the Afghan forces and possible infiltration by insurgents.

Possible infiltration?

The attack Tuesday afternoon came a month after an Afghan policeman on patrol with U.S. soldiers fired on the Americans, killing two.

And a couple of months after an Afghan policeman in Kabul shot and seriously wounded an American soldier on a “U.S. police mentoring team.”

Training and operating jointly with Afghan police and soldiers is key to NATO’s strategy of dealing with the spreading Taliban-led insurgency and, ultimately, allowing international forces to leave Afghanistan.

Attacks such as these will heighten concern about the effectiveness of the Afghan forces.

The effectiveness???? How about concern about their loyalty?…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]

Analysis: Soldiers’ Deaths Adds to Concern Over Afghanistan Strategy

Five British soldiers were shot dead by an Afghan policeman in an incident that strikes at the heart of the government’s new strategy for the country

Concerned about growing opposition to Britain’s military presence in Afghanistan — underlined by Kim Howells, a senior Labour MP and former Foreign Office minister, in today’s Guardian — ministers are pinning their hopes on British soldiers training, mentoring, and “partnering” the Afghan national police force and army. That, they add, is the key to an exit strategy.. Bill Rammell, the armed forces minister, admitted as much by saying that building up Afghan forces was the right component of a new strategy since, as he put it, “we do not want to be there for ever”.

That is why Gordon Brown is insisting the training and mentoring programme is “essential” — a word he used more than once during prime minister’s question time and one echoed by the defence secretary, Bob Ainsworth. It was “essential”, Brown added, so that British and other foreign troops were not seen as an “occupying army”, and that “one day [Afghan forces] can take responsibility for the security of their country”.

British commanders have been warning for some time about how the Afghan police force is riddled with corruption, with officers both consumers of, and dealers in, drugs. The added danger now is that Afghan forces are being infiltrated by the Taliban.

If this was a planned attack, it is another worrying indication that the Taliban is ahead of the game. Ministers here and the government in Kabul promised to introduce better vetting procedures. But that is easier said than done, especially when the emphasis of both US and UK policy is on recruiting tens of thousands of Afghan police and soldiers over the next 12 months. The Taliban can infiltrate — and it has claimed responsibility for the attack. It can also intimidate Afghan police recruits and their families.

The problem was underlined by Peter Galbraith, who left his post as deputy head of the UN mission in Afghanistan amid disagreements over the presidential elections. He said the “rushed” bid to train extra Afghan officers for the poll meant such deaths were to be expected.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Fatwa Against Indian National Song

NEW DELHI: Darul Uloom Deoband has asked Muslims in India to stop reciting Vande Mataram.

Concluding a three-day conference on Tuesday held in Deoband, the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind declared the act unislamic. Home Minister P Chidambaram was also present. The conference adopted 25 resolutions demanding the government stop interfering in affairs of minorities.

“The fatwa by the Darul Uloom opposing recitation of Vande Mataram is correct,” said one of the resolutions.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Incompetence and Treachery Rife in Afghan Police

Mentoring the Afghan army is a popular job with British troops, many of whom develop close bonds with the Afghan soldiers they serve alongside, but training Afghan police units is a different matter.

The latter are seen as very much the lower end of the quality scale and are widely deemed to be uncertain allies — even though the task of bringing them up to acceptable standards is seen as vital to any Western exit strategy from Afghanistan.

While Afghan army units have undoubted esprit de corps and are recruited countrywide with selection standards for entry, the Afghan police have few if any such standards.

The police tend to be recruited at a local level rather than centrally and, despite efforts to increase their competence through remedial training and improved pay and equipment, they have struggled to emerge as a credible force. ‘Robbers with Uniforms’ is just one of their nicknames among the local populace in southern Afghanistan.

“They’re really a militia, a tribal police whose allegiances are not necessarily to the government or even to the provincial governor. It is normally to their village or tribe or the area they come from,” said Captain Doug Beattie, who worked with the AMP during tours of Afghanistan in 2006-07 and 2008.

“Because they’re militia they can be bought and paid off at will. If the government’s paying them they’re reasonably happy. But if they don’t get enough money they’re quite happy to be paid by the insurgency.”

American mentors with an Afghan police unit in southern Helmand this summer estimated that 20 per cent of their charges had some physical disability and over 90 per cent were wholly illiterate. Just 30 per cent showed any motivation to do the job.

A third of police recruits quit each year, many taking their weapon, their training and their contacts straight over to the Taleban.

Ahmad Shah, 27, quit the police in 2003 and joined the Taleban in Warden. “Back then the salary was only $60 (£36) a month,” he said. “We were always getting attacked by the Taleban and I couldn’t visit my family in Jagatai because the Taleban controlled the area. Now I joined the Taleban, I don’t get a regular salary but I get around $300 month and it’s much safer.”

While some units, particularly those near the capital, have shown progress under mentoring, at worst the police remain little more than the dregs of Afghan society, a motley crew of drug addicts, petty criminals and former illegal militiamen.

For Afghans travelling through Helmand, running into a police check post is something to be feared. Unless Western mentors are present it will probably result in demands for bribes. Worse can follow, with reports of theft of vehicles, goods, assaults on travellers and even murder by the police. It is common to hear local people compare the police unfavourably with the behaviour of Taleban fighters.

Their local makeup and short training span also makes them vulnerable to local tribal issues and grievances. In the Ned Ali area the police are dominated by the Norway tribe, which also controls the huge local opium trade. The kingpin in the local drugs industry, Abdul Raman Jan, was also the provincial police commander until 2006.

Most serious is the level to which the police, particularly in Helmand, have been infiltrated and maintain links with the Taleban. In April local people in Bashkir Gar told The Times that this process was reaching endemic levels.

“More and more local police are making relationships with the Taleban,” one local man in Bashkir Gar claimed. “If they are not linked with the militants they can’t live. If 100 men are in one police station — at least 80 are in touch with the militants.”

A local journalist claimed that police with links to the Taleban were now working on the insurgents’ behalf inside the provincial capital.

“I can tell you for sure that if Taleban want a person, he is not safe even in the governor’s house. They can’t reach themselves there but they use police. The police are facilitating it. People working with the government must cooperate because they are afraid. In the market I can see the Taleban moving around. They don’t have weapons but you can see them one by one. They control the situation and they know it.”

Profit is another motive for collaboration. A Taleban commander in Bashkir Gar told The Times last year that he was refitting and resupplying his unit with ammunition purchased for 10 Pakistani rupees a bullet from the local Afghan police. Such stories are routine.

There have now been several episodes in which Afghan policemen have suddenly turned their weapons on Western mentors or their fellow policemen.

In September a policeman opened fire on an American soldier in the capital, Kabul, seriously wounding him, because the American was drinking water during the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims traditionally fast during the day. Two Americans died in an unexpected attack in Warden province on October 2. Two weeks later an Afghan policeman hurled a grenade and opened fire on American mentors in eastern Afghanistan, killing one.

While some past attacks appeared to result from cultural misunderstanding and personal disputes, yesterday’s is the third attack in just over a month, suggesting that the incidents may be more than coincidence and the Taleban has begun to plan such episodes.

Captain Beattie believes that an ambush of his unit in Garmsir in Helmand Province in 2006 was set up between the Taleban and the AMP.

He also alleged that a former chief of police in Helmand was caught talking directly to the Taleban on his personal phone on several occasions.

“It is absolutely right to say that the Afghan police are infiltrated by the Taleban at every level, from the very lowest to the very highest,” he said.

Peter Galbraith, former deputy head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, said that the “rushed” bid to train extra Afghan officers in time to police the presidential elections meant that violent incidents were increasingly to be expected.

“The process of police training and recruiting has been very rushed, and there isn’t a lot of vetting of police before they are hired,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“In recent months, they shortened the training programme from eight weeks to five weeks because they wanted to get more police boots on the ground in advance of the elections. So there was a real rush to recruit an additional 10,000, particularly in the South, particularly in Kandahar and Helmand provinces.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Is This the Best Case Yet for Pulling Out of Afghanistan?

Kelly on MPs’ expenses and Dave on Europe will dominate the news today, but we should not lose sight of Afghanistan and the bombshell of Kim Howells’ call for a withdrawal and a change of priorities. Mr Howells is not a cut-and-run guy by nature. He’s from the right of the Labour party and has always taken a robust view of the need to confront beardie terrorism wherever we find it. For him to say it’s time to go is a huge filip to those who believe our continued presence in Afghanistan is a waste of men and money.

His argument that we were wrong to hope that Afghans would chose peace over theocracy is reinforced in the most terrible way possible by the murder of five British soldiers in their base yesterday by a rogue Afghan policeman.

But what is striking about Mr Howells’ intervention is that he goes a step further than the anti-war brigade by suggesting specifically what we should do with the money we would save: spend it on defending ourselves at home from the continuing threat of violent Islamism, and with difficult consequences including “more intrusive surveillance in certain communities” and a “re-examination of arrangements” for the free movement of goods and people across our border from the rest of the EU. For my money this is the must-read of the week.

He says: “It would be better, in other words, to bring home the great majority of our fighting men and women and concentrate on using the money saved to secure our own borders, gather intelligence on terrorist activities inside Britain, expand our intelligence operations abroad, co-operate with foreign intelligence services, and counter the propaganda of those who encourage terrorism.

“Such a shift in focus would have the benefit of exposing far fewer British servicemen and women to the deadly threats of Taliban snipers and roadside bombs, but would also have momentous implications for UK foreign and defence policy. We would need to reinvent ourselves diplomatically and militarily. Treaties and international agreements would have to be renegotiated. In particular, relationships with our Nato partners, especially with the Americans — our most trusted and valued allies — would alter fundamentally.

“Life inside the UK would have to change. There would be more intrusive surveillance in certain communities, more police officers on the streets, more border officials at harbours and airports, more inspectors of vehicles and vessels entering the country, and a re-examination of arrangements that facilitate the ‘free movement’ of people and products across our frontiers with the rest of the EU.

“Some of these changes will generate great opposition, but many of them will be welcomed. If media reports are true, the British public is becoming increasingly hostile to the notion that any of our service personnel should be killed or wounded in support of difficult outcomes and flawed regimes in faraway countries.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Rogue Afghan Cop Shoots Dead Five British Soldiers in Cold Blood at Military Compound

Five British soldiers have been killed by a rogue policeman as they drank tea inside a military compound in Afghanistan.

The gunman opened fire on the soldiers — only one of whom was armed — with an AK47 after they had removed their body armour and helmets.

He fled the scene on a motorbike, sparking a huge manhunt in the Nad-e’Ali district of Helmand Province, where the attack took place.


Abdul Ahad Helmandwal, head of the district council in Nad Ali, described how Afghan police and British forces were drinking tea together when the attacker opened fire.

‘He first fired on the commander of the police and his deputy then on the British soldiers. He escaped on a motorbike,’ he said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Sexy Costumes Spark Halloween Raids in Indonesia’s Kalimantan

A Halloween party in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, on Saturday night got more spooks than it hoped for when public order officers arrived to break up the festivities apparently because some of the young women were wearing costumes deemed too revealing.

The city’s spokesman, Muhammad Faisal, said on Sunday that about 10 young women under the age of 22 were arrested at 11 p.m. after celebrating at a local nightspot called Platinum. The women, he said, tried to hide but the officers were able to find them.

“They were released this morning. They only had to bring their ID cards and did not need wear costumes like that to the party,” he said.

“We had received complaints from residents that they were disturbed by such parties.”

Although Samarinda does not have any regulations regarding inappropriate dress, Faisal said some residents had complained.

He said the raid was part of the public order officers’ program to maintain peace and security, as well as to settle neighborhood disputes.

According to Faisal, a separate Halloween party was also broken up by officers at a house in Sei Pinang subdistrict. He said five young women were found without proper identification and wearing “sexy attire.”

Faisal said reports from residents had said that the house was being used as a brothel, however he could not comment further about the case.

“The case has just been handed over to the police and they are currently investigating the rumors,” he said.

Separately, the municipal administration has closed down two bars because prostitutes were found to be operating on the premises and they were also selling hard liquor without the proper licenses.

“Two bars in the city were closed down last Wednesday but we will let them reopen again next month,” Faisal said.

He said that the bars would be allowed to reopen after they signed an agreement with the city not to sell the restricted alcohol. “We only permitted them to sell class-A alcohol, which is beer, and they violated this,” he said.

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

Far East

Chinese Giant to Buy US Oil Assets: Company

Norwegian energy group Statoil said on Wednesday it was selling some of its oil assets in the United States to China’s state-owned CNOOC, marking the first step by a Chinese energy major into the US market.

The sale, announced along with the company’s quarterly results, involves a limited stake in four exploitation licences acquired by Statoil in 2007 and 2008 for deep-water blocks.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Police Name 20 Notorious Gang Members

POLICE have named 20 people they say are members of Sydney’s notorious bikie gang including four Ibrahim family brothers. See the full police list of names

The police list is the most extensive dossier released so far of who the authorities allege are members of the Notorious gang.

The names released by police are:

  • Ali Akbari
  • Masood Atai
  • Imad Barghachoun
  • Mahmoud Bazzi
  • Joseph Dersahabian
  • Ewing Joseph Filipo
  • Ahmed Ghulamaskhi
  • Hassib Hassani
  • Christian Edward
  • Herrera
  • Sam Ibrahim
  • John Ibrahim
  • Fadi Ibrahim
  • Michael Ibrahim
  • Alla Kassoua
  • Kelepi Kolopeaua
  • Dan Levi
  • Sofe Levi (David
  • Lima)
  • Uitime Levi
  • Sam Lutau
  • Aki Machee

Meanwhile in an incident unrelated to the release of the names, a Sydney family innocently caught up in a bikie gang war have vowed to move after a bullet believed to be meant for the previous tenant narrowly missed a sleeping teenage girl yesterday.

The bullet slammed into the 16-year-old’s bedhead during the second of two drive-by shootings in Sydney’s southwest about 1am yesterday.

The shootings have been linked to the pseudo-bikie gang Notorious, police sources told The Daily Telegraph.

A couple and their two teenage children were sleeping inside their rented home in Edensor Park when a number of shots were fired through a bedroom window.

The attack came just minutes after another drive-by shooting at a home in Triten Ave, Greenfield Park, less than 2km away.

The family, who did not want to be named, said they had been “horribly” mistaken for another man who used to live in the home.

The father said they had already had “the boys” around, referring to men of Middle Eastern appearance who had turned up at the house looking for the previous tenant.

The previous renter is believed to have been shot several times in the arm in another incident some years ago.

The father said the bullet had missed his daughter by only centimetres and could have killed her.

“It is a case of mistaken identity and we want the people responsible to know that,” he said.

“I need to be able to let my daughter know that she can sleep at night.

“They’re after a past tenant who used to live here but we still get all his mail and have had a few incidents involving people who thought he was still living here. We’ve been here two years but we can’t stay here any more.

“We’ve spoken to our landlord and we’re going to try to find a new place.”

The distraught mother said she now worried for the welfare of her children.

Pointing at the bullet hole in the bedhead, she said: “I’m a mother, that’s too close for me.

“My daughter is sitting her school certificate exams next week and I worry about how her and my son will cope with all this.”

Inspector Simon Maund said police were continuing to investigate possible links between the two shootings.

Detectives spoke again to the couple at home yesterday and said they would investigate their claims.

Five people were inside the Greenfield Park house when the shots were fired.

A day earlier, police attached to Strike Force Raptor named people they believed are members of Notorious in court documents.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Obama’s Brother Has Different Dreams From His Father

UANGZHOU, Nov 4 — US President Barack Obama’s half-brother made a rare appearance today in southern China, his home for seven years, to launch a novel he says draws on his painful childhood under an abusive father.

Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo — who had the same, late, father as the US President — has kept a low public profile since reports surfaced last year that he was living and working in the southern Chinese capitalist and manufacturing haven of Shenzhen, around an hour’s train ride from Hong Kong.

After repeatedly shunning media attention, Ndesandjo’s first major public appearance to launch his debut novel comes less than two weeks before the US president travels to China for the first time.

While he said his work, “Nairobi to Shenzhen” is a fictional account, it started off nearly 10 years ago as an autobiography and “reflects many experiences in my own life as a child brought up in Kenya” including a troubled relationship with his father.

“My mother used to say of my father, he’s a brilliant man but a social failure,” Ndesandjo told reporters at a press conference in Guangzhou, near his adopted city of Shenzhen.

“I remember times in my house when I would hear screams and I would hear my mother’s pain.” His American mother Ruth was his father’s third wife.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Somalia: Norwegian Army Kills Innocent Fishermen

From Norwegian: Somalis accuse Norwegian soldiers of killing two fishermen off the coast of Somalia. The Norwegians claim they were fired upon first. One fisherman was Somali, the other from Yemen. Three others were wounded in the incident.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Somalis Can Only Use Koran Ringtones

From Dutch: A 19 year old was whipped for having an illegal ringtone in Kismayo.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Somali Rebels Close Women’s Organizations

Somalia’s hardline al Shabaab insurgents closed three grassroots women’s organizations in the rebel-held town of Balad Hawa to stop women from going to work, a rebel leader said.

The group wants to impose its own version of Islamic law on areas it controls, and Washington says it is al Qaeda’s proxy in the Horn of African nation.

“We have taken this step after we recognized that women need to stay in their homes and take care of their children … Islam does not allow women to go to offices,” Maalim Daaud Mohmed, the chairman of Balad Hawa, told Reuters by telephone.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]


250,000 Migrant Children to Become Greek Citizens

Greece, long criticised for its handling of immigrants, will grant citizenship to some 250,000 migrant children but will also send thousands of detained illegal immigrants away, a senior official told Reuters.

Human rights groups for years have denounced Greece’s handling of migrants and appalling conditions in migrant detention centres in a country struggling to cope with swelling numbers of people seeking refuge in Europe.

“It’s irrational that a child born and educated here cannot receive Greek nationality,” Deputy Citizen Protection Minister Spyros Vougias said in an interview today.

“There will be a regulation that will rectify this inequality between immigrants’ and Greeks’ children,” he said.

“It’s about 250,000 children.”

Whether the parents were legal or illegal migrants would not be an issue provided the children were born in Greece or had arrived at an early age and had received basic education in Greek schools, Vougias said.

Asked if parents of these children also would be granted citizenship, Vougias said the government was still studying the matter. He did not say when the new legislation would be passed.

The Socialists, who won a snap election on Oct.4, have set immigration at the top of their agenda, but with most Greeks believing their crisis-hit country cannot take in more migrants, striking the right balance will be a tough challenge.

Vougias said Greece would send thousands of illegal migrants away to their home country, unless they were accused of crimes. They would be offered money and given a month to leave.


The new government announced earlier this week the temporary closure of a migrant centre on Lesbos island, which Vougias had described as “Dante’s hell” during a visit in October.

“We started from what was a blot in our reputation,” Vougias said of the centre in which hundreds shared very few toilets and often slept on mattresses on the floor.

Vougias said a new centre in Lesbos would be ready to operate by autumn next year, while the rest of Greece’s migrant centres gradually would be upgraded.

About 14,000 illegal migrants crossed the Aegean Sea in the first half of 2009, nearly twice as much as in 2008, often risking their lives in an effort to reach EU-member Greece.

The increase is partly due to the effective policies of other Mediterranean countries, such as Italy and Spain, that have cut down on sea arrival numbers, with migrants taking alternative routes even if the journey is longer, Vougias said.

Although Greece is one of Europe’s main entry points for illegal immigrants, it also is the country with the lowest approval rate of asylum claims, accepting 379 people in 2008 out of nearly 20,000 requests.

Vougias said this was mainly due to inexperienced police staff at Greek borders, who could not confirm whether asylum requests were justified. He said they would be replaced by specialists.

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

700 Million Worldwide Desire to Migrate Permanently

Every day, immigrants leave their homelands behind for new lives in other countries. Reflecting this desire, rather than the reality of the numbers that actually migrate, Gallup finds about 16% of the world’s adults would like to move to another country permanently if they had the chance. This translates to roughly 700 million worldwide — more than the entire adult population of North and South America combined.

From its surveys in 135 countries between 2007 and 2009, Gallup finds residents of sub-Saharan African countries are most likely to express a desire to move abroad permanently. Thirty-eight percent of the adult population in the region — or an estimated 165 million — say they would like to do this if the opportunity arises. Residents in Asian countries are the least likely to say they would like to move — with 10% of the adult population, or roughly 250 million, expressing a desire to migrate permanently.

The United States is the top desired destination country for the 700 million adults who would like to relocate permanently to another country. Nearly one-quarter (24%) of these respondents, which translates to more than 165 million adults worldwide, name the United States as their desired future residence. With an additional estimated 45 million saying they would like to move to Canada, Northern America is one of the two most desired regions.

The rest of the top desired destination countries (those where an estimated 25 million or more adults would like to go) are predominantly European. Forty-five million adults who would like to move name the United Kingdom or France as their desired destination, while 35 million would like to go to Spain and 25 million would like to relocate to Germany. Thirty million name Saudi Arabia and 25 million name Australia. Roughly 210 million adults around the world would like to move to a country in the European Union, which is similar to the estimated number who would like to move to Northern America. However, about half of the estimated 80 million adults who live in the EU and would like to move permanently to another country would like to move to another country within the EU — the highest desired intra-regional migration rate in the world.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Amnesty to be ‘Coup De Grace’ To United States?

‘We are calling for a peaceful, political revolution in America now’

The chief of an organization that has been fighting plans to grant amnesty to millions, perhaps tens of millions of illegal aliens now within the United States, has launched a campaign for a series of “tea parties” on Nov. 14 to let Washington know what Americans want.

“I’m not going to mince words,” said William Gheen, chief of Americans for Legal Immigration, “We are calling for a peaceful, political revolution and uprising in America now.”

Dozens of events already have been planned, but more are needed, Gheen said today. That’s simply because while President George W. Bush’s plans for immigration reform and amnesty for illegals were bad, under President Obama the situation is deteriorating quickly.

“The globalists that are behind illegal immigration intend to replace heartland Americans with new voters who previously were illegal aliens,” Gheen told WND. “If that occurs it won’t matter what your issue is, they will control that voting population, effectively destroying the conservative base of the Republican Party. … There will be no peaceful or political hope for future immigration enforcement of the borders of the United States.

“It will be a country that no longer exists,” he said. “It will be the coup de grace.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Aussies Want a Tougher Stand on Boatpeople

MOST voters believe Government weakness on border protection is to blame for the rising number of boats in Australian waters, according to a new poll.

The Essential Media poll, reported on The Punch today, also finds more than half of voters believe there is a “real prospect” there are terrorists aboard the boats and say the Government is doing the right thing in trying to turn the boats away.

The findings coincide with the latest Newspoll showing a 7 point rise in primary vote support for the Coalition and a corresponding fall for the Rudd Government.

This spectacular swing comes amid a mounting sense of crisis surrounding the arrivals of asylum-seekers in Australian waters.

Only one in three respondents in the Essential poll said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was doing an “excellent or good” job on border protection. More than half rated his performance as “not so good” or poor.

But the Essential research finds a majority of voters also agrees that asylum seekers are coming from countries that have seen an escalation in violence and persecution.

Writing on The Punch, director of Essential Media and Communications Peter Lewis said the findings showed Mr Rudd’s “attempts to play tough cop are failing to translate into public approval for his handling of the issue.”

Mr Lewis said the public understanding that asylum seekers were fleeing violent countries “suggests that if the public were presented with a story that humanised the plight of the asylum seekers they would be more likely to take a global view” and less likely to blame the Government for the current troubles.

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

Finland: Migration Minister Would Force Municipalities to Take Refugees

Municipalities should be forced to make more places available for refugees, says Minister of Migration and European Affairs Astrid Thors. She feels stinginess on a local level is hurting Finland’s credibility on the world stage, as well as forcing refugee centres to house the backlog of people for whom no home can be found.

“The situation is bad for Finland’s credibility. If we can’t get municipalities to accept refugees, we aren’t a reliable partner for UN organisations,” says Thors.

“We have people in serious distress who can’t come to Finland because municipalities are refusing to accept refugees at the moment.”

A solution, she feels, is to force local governments to make room for Finland’s refugee quota, though she is fully aware that local governments will balk at the idea.

“I’m absolutely positive that the standard reaction from municipalities will be that they don’t like it,” she says. “But this is just to open a discussion.”

More Applications than Ever

According to the Finnish Immigration Service, a record number of people will seek a refugee placement in Finland this year. They are expecting nearly 6000 applications by the end of the year. In 2008, which was also a record year, the number of applications topped 4000.

The numbers are swelling largely due to an influx of Bulgarian Roma.

Both Helsinki and Paimio are opening brand new refugee centres this month.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Finnish Immigrant Forces Italian Schools to Remove Crosses

(ANSA) — Strasbourg, November 3 — In a legal landmark that sparked a storm in Italy, the European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ruled that crucifixes in Italian classrooms were a violation of parents’ rights to educate their kids according to their principles.

Upholding a plea from a Finnish immigrant to Italy, the Strasbourg-based court also said the crosses ran counter to a child’s own rights to freedom of religious choice.

The Finnish woman, Soile Lautsi, had vainly sued in various Italian courts to have crosses removed from her children’s classroom near Padua before she turned to the European court.

The Italian government was ordered to pay Lautsi, an Italian citizen, 5,000 euros in “moral damages”.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Franco-Italian Call for ‘Regular’ Deportations Goes Unheeded

EU leaders back closer co-operation with Libya on immigration, but reject French and Italian call for regular EU-funded deportations.

The Italian and French governments today failed to convince other EU leaders that the EU should organise and pay for regular flights to deport illegal immigrants.

EU leaders, meeting at a summit in Brussels today, agreed that they would “examine” the idea, but offered no clear endorsement of the idea, which Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France, and Silvio Berlusconi, the prime minister of Italy, presented in a joint letter to the Swedish presidency of the EU last week (23 October).

The French and Italian presidents said it would be an “indispensable” enhancement of the activities Frontex, the EU’s border agency, if it were allowed to “regularly charter” flights to deport illegal immigrants from the EU.

Sarkozy and Berlusconi sent the letter following widespread criticism by human-rights groups after the UK and French governments on 21 October jointly deported Afghan migrants back to Afghanistan. The French government said initially that the three immigrants it placed on the flight were from Kabul and that there was no significant threat to their safety.

The Afghan government, however, said that the three were from more dangerous parts of the country and should not have been sent back. The flight prompted the European Commission to issue a statement saying that EU countries should not send migrants back to countries where their lives would be in danger.

The incident is understood to have reinforced the French government’s long-held belief that member states should hand greater control over immigration and asylum decisions to European authorities. France has in the past called unsuccessfully for a joint EU office to decide asylum claims.

EU leaders did back a call from Berlusconi and Sarkozy for increased co-operation on immigration matters with Libya. The North African state is the main transit country for migrants seeking to reach the EU across the Mediterranean, and Italy — and, to a lesser extent, Malta — have this year intercepted boats with migrants and returned them to Libya, a policy that has drawn criticism from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and from human-rights organisations.

The Italian and French governments failed to convince their counterparts of the need for a common EU training programme for border guards, and the creation of regional offices for Frontex.

The summit’s conclusions make no reference to another issue that Berlusconi and Sarkozy raised in their letter, Turkey’s control of its borders. The two wrote that Turkey should make a greater effort to patrol its borders, and should readmit migrants that cross its territory to reach the EU.

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

UK Keeps Partial Block on EU Immigrants From Romania and Bulgaria

Immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria will be denied open door access to Britain for at least another two years, the Government said yesterday.

The two countries have been clamouring for the same rights of unrestricted movement given to other Eastern European countries, such as Poland, when they joined the EU.

But the Home Office has opted to keep in place restrictions on the right of Romanians and Bulgarians to take jobs in the UK until at least the end of 2011.

Ministers said the decision had been taken to protect British workers and the ‘national interest’. So far the restrictions have been reviewed annually.

A maximum of 21,250 agricultural workers from Romania and Bulgaria will be allowed to enter Britain each year, plus a further 3,500 people to fill food processing jobs.

When eight former Eastern Bloc countries joined the EU in 2004, they were allowed free access to the labour market. More than one million have since arrived from those countries.

As a result, Romanians and Bulgarians were told their access would be restricted when they joined the EU in 2007.

On Monday, Home Secretary Alan Johnson admitted the Government had mishandled immigration, and that it had placed a ‘strain’ on jobs and services.

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

Vatican: World Congress to Focus on Migration

Vatican, 3 Nov. (AKI) — Migration and globalisation will be the theme of the Vatican’s sixth world congress on migrants and refugees to be held in Rome next week.

“Globalisation has created a new labour market and, consequently, forced many to emigrate, also in order to flee from poverty, misery, natural catastrophes and local and international conflicts, as well as from political or religious persecution,” the Vatican’s top migration official Archbishop Antonio Maria Veglio, told journalists.

“This has opened markets to international intervention, but it has not torn down the walls of national boundaries to allow the free circulation of people, even with due respect for the sovereignty of states and their constitutional charters, safeguarding legality and security,” he added.

Veglio, who is president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, urged host countries to welcome migrants of other nationalities, ethnicities and religions.

Churches are often working at the frontline of the phenomenon of migration — its causes and consequences, he said. Cooperation between churches in migrants’ home countries, transit and host countries is “fundamental” Veglio stated.

The Catholic church works closely with migrants, especially human trafficking victims, refugees and asylum seekers.

It also works towards local and international laws favouring immigrants’ genuine integration in host societies, Veglio stated.

Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone will open the congress on 9 November with a mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. During the opening session of the congress, around 300 participants will be received by Pope Benedict XVI.

The congress will cover population movements, both as cause and effect of globalisation, care of young migrants and refugees, and co-operation between churches, dialogue and collaboration.

The conference will also include a round table discussion on the theme of “the pastoral care of migrants and refugees in prison and in detention camps” on 11 November.

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

Culture Wars

If They Feel ‘Offended, ‘ You’re Fired

Professor claims he was canned on mystery harassment charge

A college professor in Georgia is whirling in confusion right now, reprimanded and apparently threatened with termination without any specific charges, hearings or evidence of wrongdoing — only the school administration’s allegation that he “offended” someone.

The troubles for Professor Thomas Thibeault of East Georgia College seem to have begun during an Aug. 5 faculty sexual harassment training seminar, when he questioned the assertion — as he understood it — being presented by Mary Smith, the school’s vice president for legal affairs, that the feelings of the offended constituted proof of offensive behavior.

“What provision is there in the sexual harassment policy to protect the accused against complaints which are malicious or … ridiculous?” Thibeault asked.

According to Thibeault’s description of the events, Smith replied, “There is no provision in the policy. I must emphasize that if the person feels offended then the incident must be reported to the college authorities.”

“So there is no protection against a false accusation?” Thibeault pressed.

“No,” Smith is said to have responded.

“Then the policy itself is flawed,” commented Thibeault.

Two days later, a police chief was waiting to escort Thibeault off campus. The professor, under the circumstances, believed he was fired.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Transsexual Jesus Sparks Protests

About 300 protesters held a candlelit protest outside a Glasgow theatre over the staging of a play which portrays Jesus as a transsexual.

The protest was held outside the Tron Theatre, where Jesus, Queen of Heaven — in which Christ is a transsexual woman — is being staged.

It is part of the Glasgay! arts festival, a celebration of Scotland’s gay, bi-sexual and transsexual culture.

Festival organisers said it had not intended to incite or offend anyone.

The Christian protesters gathered outside the theatre ahead of the opening night of the production on Tuesday.

Jesus, Queen of Heaven, which runs until Saturday, is written and performed by transsexual playwright Jo Clifford.

The demonstrators sang hymns and waved placards.

One read: “Jesus, King of Kings, Not Queen of Heaven.”

Another said: “God: My Son Is Not A Pervert.”

Festival organisers described the banners as “fairly provocative” and said they could be viewed as inciting homophobia.

Glasgay! producer Steven Thomson said: “Jesus Queen of Heaven is a literary work of fiction exploring the artist’s own personal journey of faith as a transgendered person.

“Glasgay! supports the right to freedom of expression and offers audiences a diverse view of LGBT life.

“This work is not intended to incite or offend anyone of any belief system. However, we respect your right to disagree with that opinion.”

He added: “We welcome genuinely interested audience members who wish to understand the artistic intention behind this work.”

‘Christianity marginalised’

Pastor Jack Bell, of the Zion Baptist Church in Glasgow, who took part in the protest, said: “We didn’t threaten anyone going into the play or any of the cast members.

“It was a peaceful protest with hymns and placards.

“You can’t blaspheme God and use freedom of speech as an excuse for that.”

He added: “True biblical Christianity is becoming marginalised through political correctness.

“If this play had treated the prophet Mohammed in the same way there would have been a strong reaction from the Islamic community, but that just wouldn’t happen.”

Glasgay! is described as “Scotland’s annual celebration of queer culture” and is funded by the Scottish Arts Council, Event Scotland, Glasgow City Marketing Bureau and Glasgow City Council.

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


Dads Are Key to Making Us Human

Some 95 percent of male mammals have little to no interaction with their children. Homo sapiens are one of the most notable exceptions, leading some scientists to think fatherhood is an important part of what makes us human.

Most theories for the family involvement of fathers invoke the familiar “Man the Hunter” characterization, in which dad protects and provides for his young.

While fathers do play key roles in securing the physical health of their children, they also can be important for the optimum development of psychological and emotional traits considered to be primarily human, such as empathy, emotional control and the ability to navigate complex social relationships.

Unlike many other animals, humans need their fathers well beyond the act that leads to conception, researchers are coming to realize.

Paternal prep school

There is plenty of time for this emotional hand-off. While other primate babies can fend for themselves in roughly a decade, human childhood stretches 18 to 20 years, said David Geary of the University of Missouri and author of “Male, Female: Evolution of Human Sex Differences” (American Psychological Association, 1998).

Also, anthropologists speculate that the relative helplessness of human children has made multiple caregivers a vital necessity — that encourages bringing dad into the picture. Even today, in both traditional and industrialized communities, a father’s presence correlates with improved health and decreased child mortality, Geary said.

Evolutionarily speaking, he added, the kid-phase probably lengthened as dads got more involved. With an extra person dedicated to caring for them, kids have no need to rush towards adulthood.

Perhaps out of worry for their kids’ future financial security, dads across human cultures mostly focus on preparing children to compete within society. They give advice, encourage academic success and stress achievement, Geary said. But it is not all lesson plans and lectures.

Kids also learn from fathers during a unique form of papa play. Unlike mothers, fathers tend to roughhouse with their children.

“They rile them up, almost to the point that they are going to snap, and then calm them down,” Geary said.

This pattern teaches kids to control their emotions — a trait that garners them popularity among superiors and peers, he said.

Parenting for the grandkids

Good fathers are rewarded with quality family relationships across the board, Geary said.

When children have warm relationships with their father, as well as calm home lives, they tend to sexually mature later. Their bodies intuit they are safe and time is taken perfecting social skills before entering the real world, Geary said.

The extra practice gives children a competitive edge. As adults, they are more likely to form secure relationships, achieve stable social standing and become able parents. In this sense, a father who takes care of his children also gives his grandchildren a leg up.

Not that involved dads must wait to be grandpas to reap rewards from pitching in with childcare. In addition to experiencing the tenderness of the father-child bond, many dads gain a feeling of camaraderie by providing support for mom. Also, the more help a mother receives after giving birth, the faster she becomes fertile again.

Being raised by more than one person also enhances social skills, theorizes anthropologist Sarah Hrdy, author of “Mothers and Others” (Belknap Press, 2009). Children not only grow up more emotionally secure, they are better at taking another’s perspective — a skill critical to our socially-reliant species.

In traditional communities, especially during infancy, extra caregivers are usually female kin, such as grandmothers and aunts, Hrdy writes. But in nuclear families, fathers play this role.

When father-child relations are strained or chaotic, the insecurity can translate biologically as a message to grow up fast, Geary said. There is an unconscious sense that “if you are going to reproduce at all, you better start early,” he said. As a result, girls reach menarche sooner and form clingy relationships, while boys become aggressive and sexually exploitive.

This rarely bodes well for the next generation.

Biological roots of paternalism

The emotional contribution of dads might have some biological roots. Despite conventional wisdom, men experience biological changes during a pregnancy, albeit not as extensively as women do.

Men who are emotionally close to — and usually cohabiting with — a pregnant woman, go through their own hormonal surges, especially just before and after birth, said David Bjorklund of Florida Atlantic University. For example, a new father has elevated levels of the hormone prolactin — usually associated with lactation in women — that trigger his nurturing instinct.

This may be evolution’s way of ensuring more constant care for a baby that is more dependent and demanding than any other newborn in the animal kingdom.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Destroy the World…But Not the Kaaba!

For his new film “2012,” director Roland Emmerich set his sites on destroying the some biggest landmarks around the world, from Rome to Rio. But there’s one place that Emmerich wanted to demolish but didn’t: the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure located in the center of Mecca. It’s the focus of prayers and the site of the Hajj, the biggest, most important pilgrimage in Islam.

“Well, I wanted to do that, I have to admit,” the filmmaker told “But my co-writer Harald [Kloser] said, ‘I will not have a fatwa on my head because of a movie.’ And he was right.”

Emmerich went on: “We have to all, in the western world, think about this. You can actually let Christian symbols fall apart, but if you would do this with [an] Arab symbol, you would have … a fatwa, and that sounds a little bit like what the state of this world is. So it’s just something which I kind of didn’t [think] was [an] important element, anyway, in the film, so I kind of left it out.”

Traditionally, a fatwa has meant religious opinion by an Islamic scholar or imam. The term has gained currency in the West after Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued a death sentence in the form of a fatwa against British author Salman Rushdie for alleged blasphemies in his book “The Satanic Verses” in 1989. As a result, the Indian-born writer was forced into hiding for most of the ‘90s.

Emmerich has no qualms about wrecking other major landmarks, however. The massive dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican rolls on top of a crowd of churchgoers. The huge Christ the Redeemer statue that looms over Rio de Janeiro disintegrates. And, of course, the White House gets crushed when a wave drops the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy on top of it.

           — Hat tip: Cimmerian [Return to headlines]

Smashing the Axis of Financial Fraud

The more things change, the more they remain the same. In 1814, in an address to the House of Representatives, Daniel Webster observed that

“public credit, the last reliance of government, * * * does not exist. This is a state of things calling for the soberest counsels, and yet it seems to meet only the wildest speculations. Nothing is talked of but banks, and a circulating paper medium, and exchequer notes, and the thousand other contrivances which ingenuity, vexed and goaded by the direst necessity, can devise, with the vain hope of giving value to mere paper. All these things are not revenue, nor do they produce it. * * * [N]or is there a device more shallow or more mischievous, than to pour forth new floods of paper without credit as a remedy for the evils which paper without credit has already created.[1]”


Currency generated out of debt rests upon the delusion that increases in the stock of society’s medium of exchange will cause corresponding increases in society’s real wealth—that is, that debt can be the source of and foundation for wealth because real economic development can always be “stimulated” with new doses of debt. Of course, this naive notion that “having more money equals having more wealth” ignores the questions of whether increases in the supply of money decrease the purchasing power of all money, and of whether such increases actually undermine or even sabotage the operation of the free market, thereby decreasing real wealth. It also ignores the reality that every emission of new currency results in a redistribution of real wealth to the currency’s issuer from the society that initially accepts the new currency at its full face value and then continues to use it as it depreciates in purchasing power—that is, that the issuers of currency generated from debt are in fact embezzling wealth from everyone else.

The generation of currency out of debt is a confidence game, because it depends for its continuation upon the average citizen’s misplaced confidence in the efficacy and especially the stability of the system emitting that currency. As with every confidence game, however, reality eventually supplants illusion. As time goes by, society suffers an ever-increasing dependence upon ever-expanding increments of debt in order to generate ever-contracting increments of purported “economic growth”. The economy supersaturates with debt. Then, like the drug addict who chokes to death on his own vomit as a result of an overdose, the economy finds itself strangled by the ever-tightening cords of unpayable debt—and slips into the fatal coma of stagnation, then depression, and perhaps hyperinflation, too.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

4 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/4/2009

  1. Quite : For the best part of seven years the British public appeared to accept the argument that, if we didn’t deploy our troops to fight al-Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan, we might be forced to fight them on the streets of Britain

    One does not need the army to interdict terrorists. One needs good Intelligence, followed by arrest or stoppage, using special SWAT teams.

    The argument for bringing back the troops is valid, if one assumes that any further terrorist outrages in the UK will break the spirit of tolerance of the British people. If that happens, then yes indeed, there will be a requirement for troops.

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