Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/2/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/2/2009A Chechen insurgent group known as the “Caucasian Mujahadeen” has claimed credit for last Friday’s train bombing in Russia. The explosion beneath the Nevsky Express derailed three cars and killed at least 26 people.

In other news, a mosque in West Sacramento, California was vandalized by persons unknown. The FBI and the Sacramento police are investigating what potentially may be a hate crime.

Thanks to Andy Bostom, C. Cantoni, Diana West, El Inglés, Esther, Fjordman, Insubria, JD, JP, Lurker from Tulsa, Sean O’Brian, Steen, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
– – – – – – – –

Financial Crisis
Is a Newspaper Bailout in the Works?
Another Spying Scandal at Gitmo
Be Scared: Obamacare Endangers Our Life Spans
Democrats Thrive on ‘Dead Zones’
Drawing Attention
International Officials Knew 9/11 Was Brewing
Is This the Challenger Who Will Eject Pelosi?
James Madison vs. Snotty Prof
Marine Faces Final Hurdle in Haditha Case
Obama: Transformational, Consequential and Catastrophic
On the Money Trail
See No Jihad, Hear No Jihad, Speak No Jihad
The Al-Qaeda Bar
West Sacramento Mosque Vandalized
Europe and the EU
Defending Popular Rights — by Limiting Them?
Denmark: Foreign Languages Banished From the Playground
Denmark: Party Wants to Ban Minarets
Denmark Rife With CO2 Fraud
First Impact of Minaret Ban Felt
France: Iraqi Shoe-Thrower Suffers Copycat Attack as He Has One Thrown at Him During News Conference
France: Barbe’s — an Update
Germany: Jewish Leader Says Swiss Vote Shows Europe’s Growing Anti-Muslim Views
Guantanamo: Tunisia’s Nasri at San Vittore Prison in Milan
Guantanamo: 2 Tunisians in Milan Investigated for Terrorism
Guantanamo Detainee Arrives in France a Free Man
Islam: Minarets; Maroni, People Have the Right to Decide
Italy: League Wants Minaret Referendum in Italy
Italy: Council Defies Court Ruling and Displays Crucifix
Italy: Mussolini ‘Sex Video Offered to Berlusconi’
Italy May Accept More Gitmo Detainees
Obama’s Visit — DKK 50 Million
Some Post-Communist Dos and Don’ts
UK: Lib Dems End EU Referendum Call
UK: Prince Charles: Alternative Medicine Must be Saved From New EU Rules
UK: Smart Meters That Only Save Families £28 a Year — to Cost £340 Per Household
UK: Special Report: Face to Face With the Muslim Fanatics Who Attacked Baroness Warsi
UK: The Best Savings Account You’ve Never Heard of
UK: The Burglars’ Code: Criminals Chalk Messages Which Pinpoint Targets for Other Villains
UK: Would-be Councillor in Queen ‘Vermin’ Slur Off List
UK: Woman Told to Repay £5 of Fraud
White Power Groups on the Increase: Report
Kosovo: EU Police Investigate ‘Political Murder’ Claims
North Africa
Egypt: Village Changes Name After Algerian Clashes
Egyptian University Orders Veil Ban During Exam Sessions
Egypt: Weapons and Explosive Vests Found Near Rafah
Police Shoot: New Victim at Egyptian Border
Israel and the Palestinians
EU to Give East Jerusalem to Palestinians: Report
High Court Asked to Stop Building Freeze
Rabbis Slam Jewish Construction Freeze
Middle East
Dubai: Debt Restructuring Underway, Jump-Starts World Markets
Dubai and Abu Dhabi Stock Markets Down Again
Fr. Samir: Islam in Paralysis and War; The West Without a Memory
Iran Bans Make-Up for Women on TV
Iran: Women Banned From Wearing Make-Up on TV
Muslims Will Empty Their Swiss Accounts: Turkish Minister
Turkey-Syria: Erdogan in Damascus to Sign 42 Agreements
Video: Stalin Lookalike Treated ‘Like a Rock Star’
North Caucasus Group in Russia Train Bomb Web Claim
South Asia
Andrew Bostom: Pointed Islamic Hypocrisy: Religious Symbols for Thee, But Not for Me?
Danish Defence Chief on Foot Patrol in Helmand
Dhaka: A Jobless Catholic Widow in a Tragic Situation
Diana West: How Important is Marjeh?
Indonesia ‘Bans’ Film on Journalists’ Deaths in E Timor
NATO Chief: Nobody is Speaking an Exit Strategy
Obama Should Call Spain or Italy
Obama’s Afghan Surge is Not About Winning the War, But Managing Our Looming Failure
Pakistan: India Not Sincere About Talks, Says Gilani
Setting Timeline for Withdrawal in Afghanistan “Could be Fatal”, Warns Mercer
Taliban Pledge to Fight US Troop Surge in Afghanistan
Three Churches Attacked in Two Days in Tamil Nadu
UN Calls for ‘Transition Strategy’ In Afghanistan
Far East
Digital Tiger in Chinese
Growing Debt From Unpaid Credit Cards and Chinese Banks
North Korea to Stand Trial for Supporting Terror in Israel
Seoul: Filipinas Forced Into Sex Trade With Foreigners and US Soldiers
Australia: New Liberal Leader Tony Abbott Says He Would Have ‘Removed’ Oceanic Viking Asylum Seekers
Cyprus House Ratifies Agreement With Lebanon
European Asylum Request Office on Malta
Culture Wars
Anti-Santa Claus Group Wins Support of Thousands
‘Cuz ‘Season’s Greetings’ Just Ain’t Good Enough
Bionic Hands ‘Just a Few Years Away’
Fight U.N. Censorship in Copenhagen
The 9/11 of 1859: Is Al-Qaeda an Abolitionist Movement?
The Other Idol-Breaker: Owen Barfield and the Plenitude of the Word

Financial Crisis

Is a Newspaper Bailout in the Works?

What might be the results of an old media, or Newspaper bailout? Well, FTC Chair Jon Leibowitz’s wife would likely stay employed, for one. . . .. I’d keep an eye on this one, folks. Government (read politicians) would love to be able to pick winners and losers in the news media…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Another Spying Scandal at Gitmo

The possible new spy ring involves several Arabic linguists, some also Egyptian and Syrian immigrants. They’re suspected of, among other things:

  • Omitting valuable intelligence from their translations of interrogations.
  • Slipping notes to detainees inside copies of the Koran.
  • Coaching detainees to make allegations of abuse against interrogators.
  • Meeting with suspects on the terror watchlist while back in the United States.

Officials say some of the suspected “dirty” linguists — who met privately in a locked mosque at Gitmo — have had access to 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other high-value al Qaeda detainees.

“Three years of investigations have revealed the presence of pro-jihad/anti-Western activities among the civilian-contractor and military-linguist population serving Joint Task Force Guantanamo,” states a copy of a classified Gitmo briefing, prepared in May for the FBI, CIA and Congress’ intelligence committees.

The report explains that dirty Arabic linguists have gathered classified data involving detainees, interrogations and security operations in an effort to “disrupt” Gitmo operations and US “intelligence-collection capabilities.”

It goes on to specifically finger the Muslim Brotherhood, a terrorist organization. The US operations and front groups of the Egypt-based brotherhood are the subject of my recently released book, “Muslim Mafia,” which first revealed the contents of the secret Gitmo report.

“These actions are deliberate, carefully planned, global, and to the benefit of the detainees and multiple terrorist organizations, to include al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood,” the briefing states.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Be Scared: Obamacare Endangers Our Life Spans

Much of the press coverage of the Democrats’ health-care legislation, now fiercely embattled in Congress, focuses on the public option, the actual long-term costs and tax increases, and the amendment barring funding for abortions, but the cold heart of Obamacare is its overpowering of the doctor-patient relationship — eventually resulting in the premature ending of many Americans’ lives for being too costly.

To call the dangers of this legislation “death panels” obscures the real-life consequences to Americans, not only the elderly, of a federal government-run health-care bureaucracy. In the Senate bill, for instance, Medicare doctors whose treatments of certain, mostly elderly, patients costs more than a set government figure each year, will be punished by losing part of their own incomes.

Not only Medicare doctors will be monitored for their cost effectiveness. In the House bill, as Cato Institute’s health-care specialist Michael Tanner explains (New York Post, Nov. 8), “111 government agencies, boards, commissions and other bureaucracies — all overseen by a new health-care czar,” the commissioner of Health Care Choices, will keep watch on what the president has called excessive, wasteful health-care expenditures.

Moreover, President Obama has made clear that eventually he desires a U.S. equivalent of the British National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), a commission that decides which drugs and procedures for patients are within the national budget for health care. The current baseline expenditure for each Briton, according to Michael Tanner, is $44,305 per year.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Democrats Thrive on ‘Dead Zones’

Voters dependent upon federal social welfare to survive

America’s inner cities have become “dead zones” of predominately Democratic-voting African-American ghettos of poverty, Jerome Corsi’s Red Alert reports.

“It’s a reality that has become politically incorrect to discuss in an era where President Obama occupies the White House and the Democratic Party controls Congress,” Corsi wrote.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Drawing Attention

‘The Cartoons that Shook the World’ author taps background for insight

By Colleen Walsh

Harvard Staff Writer

Heightened censorship, both within the Arab world and the West, was one of the lasting repercussions from the crisis, with her own work a partial casualty, said Jytte Klausen, author of “The Cartoons that Shook the World.” After consulting with some authorities on Islam, officials at Yale University Press chose not to reprint the cartoons and removed all illustrations of Muhammad from her book.

In 2005, a Danish newspaper published a dozen editorial cartoons that would ignite an international controversy involving free speech and discrimination.

Many of the images depicted the Islamic prophet Muhammad. In the most memorable and inflammatory of the drawings, the religious messenger was seen with a bomb tucked in his black turban. The cartoons appeared with an editorial about the importance of tolerance by the Muslim community and the paper’s growing concern over self-censorship. The images ran under the headline “The face of Muhammad.”

Muhammad’s image has appeared in print for centuries, but many Muslims believe that depicting the prophet is blasphemous. Ensuing anger over the caricatures resulted in riots in several countries, and more than 200 people died.

It was largely political posturing that sparked the furor over the depictions of the Islamic prophet rather than universal indignation, said Jytte Klausen, a Brandeis professor of politics who recently wrote “The Cartoons that Shook the World.”

Klausen, who is also a research associate at Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, addressed a crowd Tuesday (Dec. 1) at the Barker Center about the upheaval, which she researched in detail for her new book, interviewing almost all of the key players. The center’s Islam in the West program sponsored the discussion.

“It very quickly became clear to me that I was in a unique position to write about this topic,” said Klausen, in part because of her Danish roots and familiarity with the newspaper that was always in her home during her childhood. “The sentiments that used to inform the paper were well-known to me,” she said, adding that in recent years the newspaper had adopted a much more libertarian leaning, in keeping with a trend in Europe toward a more populist form of conservatism, one focused on immigration as a key issue, with Islam and Muslims often viewed as a challenge to national identities.

Klausen had strong contacts in the Muslim community, having recently finished a book on politics and religion in western Europe, based on interviews with Muslim leaders there.

The Muslim outrage, argued the author, had two main sources, including the Egyptian government’s decision to make a “diplomatic issue” of the cartoons and complain to both the Danish government and the United Nations. With Egyptian elections pending, she said, officials in Cairo used the cartoons to “push back against the American agenda for democratization as a forward security strategy in the Middle East.”

For Egypt, said Klausen, the controversy represented an opportunity “to put on the record that the West abuses human rights as well.”

The other source of unrest, she said, was a group of imams and a coalition of religious activists in Denmark who were increasingly frustrated with what they felt was an unacceptable level of Muslim stereotyping.

“The cartoons were the last drop in a glass that was already pretty filled with bitterness,” she said.

But the violence and deaths occurred in faraway countries such as Nigeria, where preexisting tensions or “pre-existing theaters of war” were already in place, said Klausen, adding that the cartoons were not the real culprit.

The legacy of the cartoon controversy was a “sad and mixed one,” said Klausen. “Everybody was looking at the same 12 drawings … but people had very different interpretations of what they saw.”

Heightened censorship, both within the Arab world and the West, was one of the lasting repercussions from the crisis, she said, with her own work a partial casualty. After consulting with some authorities on Islam, officials at Yale University Press chose not to reprint the cartoons and removed all illustrations of Muhammad from her book.

In a final twist of irony, a technical oversight stranded the author without a projector to show the crowd her slides, which included the offending cartoons. She was left simply to describe the images to the audience.

Ultimately, Klausen said, her desire to instruct and educate outweighed her frustration and anger with Yale’s decision to remove the images, and she chose to publish the book anyway. Still, her anger over the censorship was evident in her voice.

“My argument is that in order to understand why Muslims were upset by these cartoons, we need to look at them and discuss them and understand. That cannot be done now,” she said. “I didn’t think it’s the sort of thing that would happen in the United States.”

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

International Officials Knew 9/11 Was Brewing

Evidence that may be used in terror trials suggests signals were there

There is evidence that officials at high levels in Syria, Germany and even inside the Central Intelligence Agency had information about the 9/11 terror hijackers’ hatred for Americans and their desire to attack the U.S. before the mass murders were carried out, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Evidence suggests that authorities may not have known the specific plans to hijack passenger jets and turn them into flying torpedoes but they knew something was developing.

And some of the information, heretofore not even provided to the 9/11 commission, known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, could become available to defense attorneys for the civilian court trials Attorney General Eric Holder has planned for the confessed terrorists in New York, just blocks from where nearly 3,000 people were killed.

The information could be embarrassing for both the U.S. and Germany, and also could create ripples through the intelligence community because of the security classifications assigned to information involving links from Germany to Syria to Spain to Saudi Arabia and the U.S.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Is This the Challenger Who Will Eject Pelosi?

‘People in this district are getting just as sick of her as everyone else’

A libertarian conservative has declared his plans to “take out Nancy Pelosi” in the 2010 election to stop her from devastating the nation.

John Dennis, a businessman and real-estate investor in California’s 8th congressional district, told WND, “I’ve decided to run because the statist Pelosi agenda will destroy America.”

Rep. Pelosi’s district covers most of San Francisco, and Democrats have held the seat since 1949. Since first winning the House seat in a 1987 special election, Pelosi, 69, has breezed to re-election 10 times. President Obama received 85 percent of the vote there in 2008.


Dennis expressed deep concern over the “looming dollar crisis,” the nation’s “mountain of debt” and what he considers the federal government’s unconstitutional expansion of power.

He blasted Pelosi’s “disastrous” legislative agenda advocating government-run health care, cap and trade and the Cybersecurity Act of 2009, a bill that would give the president “emergency” control of the Internet.

“Everything that Nancy Pelosi has her hands on is anti-liberty and pro-government power,” Dennis said, with a laugh. “I defy anybody to show me a speech or a press release that says she’s going to somehow protect their liberties and reduce the size of government.”


Cap and trade: ‘Almost laughable’

Dennis blasted Pelosi’s support for the cap-and-trade bill, calling the legislation a “poor excuse for a new tax.”

“I’m very leery of the government,” he said. “When I read the Constitution, I see our founders writing the document when they are very concerned about the potential abuse of power from the federal government. Every time I hear of a new scheme like cap and trade, it makes me ask, where’s the constitutional authorization to do this? Of course, it’s not there.”

He called the science behind the climate legislation “almost laughable.”

“The people who are advocating this say it will maybe reduce global temperatures by half of a percent by the year 2100,” he said. “Good luck getting me behind that legislation.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

James Madison vs. Snotty Prof

Well, now. As Steve Martin used to say, “Excuuuuuuuse me!” All I did was ask University of Maryland political science teacher Thomas F. Schaller a simple question: “Where in the Constitution, sir, do you see it authorized that Congress can be involved with ‘health care,’ or fund ‘health care’? I added: “I am asking here about the Constitution, not any court rulings.” And the guy went bananas.

In a snide and snotty e-mail response, Schaller, a columnist for the Baltimore Sun who advocates federal “health-care reform,” said my “arguments” were “silly” — though I had not yet made any “argument.” He said my question was “absurd” and “irrelevant” and “bogus.” He said he always gets “a chuckle” out of constitutional originalists because, he implies, they are hypocrites who invoke the document selectively. He concludes his tirade: “So save me the insinuations that you’ve somehow caught me in a constitutional-historical trap, because you haven’t. You need a more nuanced view of how the Constitution does — and did, from its inception — work. …”

Wow. All this and more billingsgate just because I asked Schaller a simple question about the constitutionality of something he advocates. In any event, in a subsequent article prompted by my piercing question, Schaller writes about what he says are “absurd fallacies” about the Constitution. Remember now, this guy teaches political science — another example of why, literally, I thank God I never went to college.

Fallacy One: “First, there is the fallacy that anything not specifically prescribed by the Constitution is unconstitutional.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Marine Faces Final Hurdle in Haditha Case

Cleared of wrongdoing at every step, officer must fight accusations again

Four years after the so-called “Haditha Massacre,” cited by U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., to publicly accuse U.S. Marines of being cold-blooded killers, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani faces a board of inquiry tomorrow, hoping to clear his name yet again of alleged wrongdoing.

As WND reported, Chessani was the highest-ranking officer charged in the Haditha incident, when insurgents attacked U.S. Marines in Iraq while using civilians as shields. A series of investigations found nothing wrong until Murtha publicly accused the Marines of murdering Iraqis.

Government prosecutors charging Chessani with criminal wrongdoing lost at every stage. The case was thrown out of military court, and an appellate court affirmed the decision.

But in this final trial, Chessani faces a board of inquiry in a military courtroom at the Marine base at Camp Pendleton, Calif., that doesn’t require the same standards of evidence and conviction as a criminal court. If found guilty of misconduct, Chessani could be compelled to retire from service at a lesser rank.

Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center, which forms part of Chessani’s defense team, has consistently maintained Chessani’s innocence.

“I’m outraged at the obvious double standard the government used as it gave Army Major Nidal Hasson every benefit of the doubt because of political correctness. Yet, they had no problem persecuting this loyal Marine officer because he refused to throw his men under the bus to appease an anti-war politician and the Iraqi government,” Thompson said in a statement. “Any finding of misconduct handed down by the board of inquiry would be a miscarriage of justice because Lt. Col. Chessani did nothing wrong.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama: Transformational, Consequential and Catastrophic

I definitely lean toward defining his presidency as “catastrophic” in more than a general sense. I read a piece by Jacob Weisberg in Salon that managed to inadvertantly define the idelogocial rift between the right and left very well (not that it is any secret, but it is interesting to see it laid out so blatantly at times) and understand how catastrophic Obama could be to our existing way of life if not vigorously opposed.

In his article, Weisberg is essentially trying to explain away Obama’s lack of accomplishment in this first 10 months in office by saying that should he pass just one of his “transformational” agenda items before his first State of the Union address, he will be the most accomplished president in the last 70 years.

“If, as seems increasingly likely, Obama wins passage of a health care reform a bill by that date, he will deliver his first State of the Union address having accomplished more than any other postwar American president at a comparable point in his presidency. This isn’t an ideological point or one that depends on agreement with his policies. It’s a neutral assessment of his emerging record-how many big, transformational things Obama is likely to have made happen in his first 12 months in office.”

Of course Weisberg’s “neutral assessment” isn’t at all neutral. His assertion that what Obama is trying to accomplish are “transformational” implies that they’re also positive. And that’s the difference between the right and the left as we consider these “things” Obama wants passed into law. The right, of course, wouldn’t consider passing Obama’s agenda to be an accomplishment at all. In fact, the right considers that agenda to be destructive, not transformational. If the right was to use the term “transformational”, it would do so describe the agenda as destructive to the traditions which made America’s great. Or, more succinctly, the right sees his agenda as an erosion of freedom and liberty and a huge step toward the collectivism of America.

But how does Weisberg — and the left — see them?

“We are so submerged in the details of this debate-whether the bill will include a “public option,” limit coverage for abortion, or tax Botox-that it’s easy to lose sight of the magnitude of the impending change.. For the federal government to take responsibility for health coverage will be a transformation of the American social contract and the single biggest change in government’s role since the New Deal.”

Weisberg sees this huge expansion of government control as a feature, not a bug. This is a “good thing”, and he implies even more would be better. So there’s little doubt that he will consider such an “accomplishment” as wonderful and Obama as a “consequential” president in a most positive way. Meanwhile the right will also see him as a consequential president but in a catastrophic way — essentially changing forever the dynamic that has made America the exception in the world and instead turning it into another western European semi-socialist “paradise” destined for mediocrity and decline.

And guys like Jacob Weisberg will be standing on the sidelines applauding the whole way down. It is that applause, so to speak, that absolutely puzzles the right. We’ve yet to understand, given what this country has accomplished and done in its short history — its short exceptional history — why people like Weisberg want to so fundamentally change it and make it like the rest of the mediocre countries of the world. It’s simply unfathomable to most of us.

Interestingly, many of those who bought into the campaigning Obama’s promise to be “transformational” are finding his definition (and that of the liberal left) as put into practice to not at all be the transformation they were assuming when they supported him. They’re beginning to realize they were gulled. The problem, however, is now they’re stuck with him, can see the catastrophe on the horizon and can’t really do a whole heck of a lot about it. It’s like New Orleans with Katrina bearing down on it. Stuck in town without a bus ride and getting ready to see life become a whole lot worse than it is now.

Obama the political Katrina, about to lay waste to the exception that has been America and Weisberg and his ilk will tout the destruction as an “accomplishment” and be cheering it on the entire time.

That’s just wrong. It’s also why there can never be accommodation or compromise with the political left.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

On the Money Trail

ACORN current CEO and chief organizer Bertha Lewis claimed in October that ACORN had an “average budget” between “$20 [million] and $25 million a year for everything, all of the offices combined.”

ACORN national president Maude Hurd reported in the ACORN entry of Erica Payne’s handbook for liberal activists, The Practical Progressive, that ACORN’s annual budget last year was $50 million.

That’s double the figure quoted by Lewis, yet even $50 million seems impossibly low given ACORN’s lucrative ongoing corporate shakedown rackets and other revenue sources. The four main ACORN affiliates alone — ACORN Housing Corp. Inc., Project Vote, American Institute for Social Justice Inc., and ACORN Institute Inc — took in a total of at least $106.9 million in donations from foundations and individuals from 1993 through 2008. And ACORN takes in untold millions every year in member dues from its 400,000 members — a figure that has crept up to 500,000 in Bertha Lewis’s recent public statements.

In “Understanding ACORN,” an essay published earlier this year, ACORN founder Wade Rathke said ACORN’s annual budget was north of $100 million. “Each year we raise and spend over $100 million, of which a significant part comes from dues and internal fundraising, but big chunks come from campaign support and labor and corporate partnerships,” he wrote.

So, is it $100 million, $50 million, or $25 million?

No one seems to know just how large the entire ACORN network’s budget is. One of the reasons is that housing and community development grants administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are difficult to track.

ACORN has received at least $53 million in federal funds since 1993, much of it through HUD. HUD often distributes the money to states and localities, which then allot the funds to many different nonprofit groups. Getting a total financial picture would require enlisting an army of Freedom of Information Act requesters and forensic accountants.

Complicating the accounting further, ACORN Housing Corp. Inc., one of the ACORN network’s largest affiliate members and ACORN’s primary recipient of federal funding, throws money around like a drunken congressman trying to get reelected.

Taxpayer dollars go into the ACORN network through ACORN Housing and then they somehow disappear. Some of the money leaves ACORN Housing in the form of huge cash transfers to other affiliates within the ACORN network.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

See No Jihad, Hear No Jihad, Speak No Jihad

Why government, media seem oblivious to widespread infiltration by Islamic radicals

Why do you suppose, whenever there’s a terror attack on American soil, the FBI always announces immediately — before it could possibly know — that the massacre is not terror-related?

Why do the media concoct the most moronic explanations for terrorism — such as Time magazine blaming post traumatic stress disorder for Hasan’s Fort Hood rampage (even though he was never deployed in a war zone) or the Associated Press’s revelation that the shooter was “lonely”? Or why did the press advance six different theories to explain the terror reign of Beltway sniper John Muhammad, but not one mentioned jihad as a possible motive?

Why does President Obama take every opportunity to criticize America and fawn over Islam — even calling America “one of the largest Muslim countries in the world” and bowing obsequiously before the Muslim king of Saudi Arabia? Meanwhile, Department of Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano, who demonizes pro-lifers and war veterans as Tim McVeigh wannabes, appoints to her advisory council Kareem Shora, national executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, whose officials have labeled deadly anti-U.S. jihadists as “heroes” and opposed referring to Hamas as a terrorist organization.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

The Al-Qaeda Bar

by Rowan Scarborough

Some of the nation’s wealthiest and most powerful law firms have donated hundreds of millions of dollars in free legal services to terror suspects at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

Their work, bolstered by left-wing activists groups, has helped to free, or force the transfer, of hundreds of al Qaeda suspects to third countries. Some have gone back to terrorism and the job of trying to kill Americans.

The work of big American law firms on behalf of al Qaeda is drawing new attention since Attorney General Eric Holder decided this month that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who orchestrated the murder of over 3,000 9-11, is coming to New York City for trial. Holder was a partner at Covington & Burling, which in 2005 gave one its attorneys an award for aiding 17 Yemeni suspects at Guantanamo.

It was the constant pressure of activist defense lawyers, in the courts and in public debate, that helped persuade the Obama administration to bring KSM, as he is known, to Manhattan from his Guantanamo Bay prison cell for a civilian, rather than, a military trial.

Andrew McCarthy, a former U.S. attorney who led the prosecution of the Islamist who planned the first World Trade Center terror attack in 1993, told Human Events the American lawyers are not only helping individual detainees. They are helping radical Islam.

“They can’t beat us on the battlefield so what they need to do strategically is move the battle to a place where they are more likely prevail,” McCarthy said. “And it’s a much more even playing field for them in the courts. By getting into the court, they’ve basically drained the resources and the public will necessary to wage the war effectively. It’s been a propaganda coup for them to switch the debate from the atrocities that they have committed to the purported violations of law that have been committed by the United States.”

The army of lawyers, number over 500 by some counts, tied up the commission system in series of law suits and appeals, making it impossible to put any of the war criminals on trial for years. They have used the courts to assault the commission system as unconstitutional, even though there is a history here and internationally of trying war criminals such as KSM in special tribunals.

In the process, some American lawyers have helped the image of radical Islamists.

Marc D. Falkoff, a college professor who aided Yemeni detainees while at Covington & Burling, edited a book of prison poetry, “Poems from Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak.” He spoke fondly of his terror suspect clients and poets.

One of them, Abdullah Saleh Al-Ajmi, a 29-year-old Kuwaiti, won release in 2005. He was aided by the firm of Shearman & Sterling, who represented 11 other Kuwaiti detainees. Falkoff read al-Ajmi’s poetry at a public event, but did not include it in his book.

Last year, al-Ajmi remerged, not as a poet, but as a deadly suicide bomber in Iraq, killing 11 Iraqi security forces in Iraq.

Al Qaeda’s courtroom advocates generally have fought two battles: filing habeas corpus petitions to gain jurisdiction in federal courts; and defending detainees within the military tribunals.

A former U.S. government attorney told Human Events law firms have devoted “hundreds of millions of dollars” in pro bono, or free, legal services.

Said McCarthy, “I certainly think it’s in the tens of millions. A lot, a lot of money.”

There were once over 800 detainees in Cuba, compared with just over 200 today. Intelligence sources tell Human Events there is evidence that more than 100 released suspects have gone back to terrorism.

Advocates say the pro bono work for al Qaeda and Taliban operatives, is in the best legal transition of America where every defendant, no matter how vile, gets his day in court.

But there are critics who say the defense has gone beyond court room advocacy.

One is Debra Burlingame, who has a campaigned to keep America safe ever since 9-11. Her brother, Charles F. “Chic” Burlingame III, was the pilot of American flight 77, which al Qaeda crashed into the Pentagon.

“When you consider the billable hours donated to enemies of America by some of the top firms and legal talent this country has to offer I think that is deeply disturbing,” said Burlingame, who refers to the al Qaeda bar as “Gitmo’s guerrilla lawyers.”

“We’re at war,” she said. “We’re a country at war. We have men and women that we’ve sent out into the world into some of the most dangerous places in the world. Iraq and Afghanistan. They are shedding blood. They are taking fire with the very people these law firms are defending. I find that an absolutely perversion. I can’t think of a precedent in the history of our country in all the wars we fought where you would have civilian lawyers donating their time to help secure the freedom of our enemies so they can go back to the battlefield and kill more of our soldiers.”

McCarthy believes the lawyers are wrapping themselves in the Constitution to make an otherwise odious exercise look patriotic.

“One of the things I think is primarily wrong with it is the way it has been pitched to the public, which is that everybody is entitled to counsel and they’re just fulfilling constitutional obligation,” McCarthy said. “Therefore they created a fictional narrative that they’re not really representing the enemy, they’re representing the Constitution as they put it. It’s a fairy tale and it’s not true. Most of these cases are detainee cases. They’re detention under the laws of war. They’re habeas corpus cases in which people are not entitled to counsel…

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

West Sacramento Mosque Vandalized

WEST SACRAMENTO, CA — The FBI and West Sacramento Police were investigating a case of vandalism Monday at the Sacramento Islamic Community Center on Glide Avenue.

Investigators say someone broke into the building and overturned a bookcase that held Korans, ruined windows and religious ornaments. An outside air conditioning unit was also vandalized.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Defending Popular Rights — by Limiting Them?

Switzerland’s system of direct democracy has won it praise in the past, but a vote to ban minarets has led many to question the much vaunted ideal.

Much of the feedback received on the vote has focused on this aspect of the Swiss political system, which means that ordinary people have the right to shape laws.

But the history of direct democracy over the past 150 years is one of slow evolution and adaptation, and the result of the minaret vote has resulted in calls for change.

In the opinion of many lawyers, the decision to ban minarets is a clear infringement of articles of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), to which Switzerland is a signatory.

The problem is that there is currently nothing to stop an initiative being submitted to a popular vote which cannot legally be implemented if it is accepted.

At the moment the only grounds on which an initiative can be declared invalid before a vote is held is if it violates “peremptory norms”, in other words norms which are obligatory under international law. These include such things as the prohibition of crimes against humanity, genocide, slavery and torture.

The provisions of the ECHR are not regarded as peremptory norms — but Switzerland is nevertheless obliged to follow them.

Two years ago Daniel Vischer, a Green Party member of the commission on political institutions of the House of Representatives, submitted a parliamentary motion to make popular initiatives invalid if they violate fundamental rights.

Vischer wanted to avoid situations where voters are invited to make changes to the constitution which cannot be implemented.

His proposal is currently making its way through Switzerland’s complex parliamentary system.

Incompatible demands

Vischer is not the only person to be concerned about the anomaly in the law governing direct democracy.

“We must find how we can prevent people from launching initiatives that directly violate internationally guaranteed human rights,” Andreas Auer, professor of constitutional law at Zurich university and director of the centre for democracy in Aarau, told

Such a move would not call direct democracy into question, he stressed.

“We defend it to the last, and it’s precisely because we defend it that we must recognise that there are some limits to it.”

He pointed out that popular votes at cantonal level have for years had to be compatible with federal law and with human rights requirements. The same should apply at federal level, he believes.

How exactly this is to be done is something that still has to be worked out but needs to be discussed, he added.

Auer thinks that the government and parliament could examine proposals that are put forward, but that they should not have the final say on whether a vote can be submitted to the people or not.

“It must end up in a court. This is my conviction. These questions cannot be decided by political bodies like parliament or the government, but by judges. Human rights questions are delicate questions.”

What’s this?

People’s initiative

No contradiction

But for Ulrich Schlüer, member of parliament for the rightwing Swiss People’s Party and a member of the committee which proposed the anti-minaret initiative, there is no contradiction between human rights and direct democracy. The opposite is true, he assured

“Not only human rights, but rights and democracy are twins, in my view. Rights which come out of the decision-making process in direct democracy are the most stable and most recognised law,” he said.

For him, asking courts to decide on the legitimacy of popular initiatives would be the end of direct democracy.

He accused the “establishment” of wanting to change the system because they had lost the vote. “But in a democracy, and a direct democracy, the people are allowed to decide the opposite of what the government wants.”

Bruno Kaufman, the president of the Initiative and Referendum Institute Europe, told that direct democracy had evolved. In the “pre-modern kind” the people could decide everything, he explained, but the world has changed.

The current case of the minaret ban raises the question of where exactly the limits are for direct democracy, he explained.

“A modern direct democracy has to consider the limits of its own powers, which all other institutions in a modern democracy also have to do.”

Basic principles

Auer says that the debate now sparked about the issue is in fact a reminder of fundamental principles.

“We are not pushing human rights above direct democracy,” he said. “Everyone agrees they are there. The people have never had the right to violate human rights. We just want to remind those who have provoked this decision that human rights are something we must not fail to respect.”

Despite Schlüer’s conviction that the minaret ban does not infringe the rights of Muslims, numerous legal experts expect appeals against it to be lodged with the European Court of Human Rights.

That is something that Auer hopes can be avoided in the future at least. Any amendment to the current system would have to be voted on by the people — but he hopes they would accept.

“It’s a patriotic measure to say we want to do this at home. These are our problems, it’s our direct democracy, and we should have the procedures that allow us to solve these problems before a court because there is no other solution.”

Julia Slater

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

Denmark: Foreign Languages Banished From the Playground

School enacts a Danish-only rule in an effort to prevent harassment through foreign languages

A school principal has been reported to the police for violating the constitution after banning students from speaking anything but Danish during their lunch breaks.

Carsten Høyer, the principal of Seden School in the Funen city of Odense where about 30 percent of the pupils have Danish as a second language, introduced the Danish-only rule after a number of instances of pupils yelling at and harassing other pupils and teachers in other languages.

Students aged 13-16 are affected by the rule, which takes effect until 15 January, and if they break it, the principal has warned, there will be consequences.

‘If the students speak a language other than Danish they will be reprimanded by the teacher. If it happens again the teacher will contact their parents, and as a last resort we will call the parents in for a meeting,’ Høyer said to Fyens Stiftstidende newspaper.

National student association, Danske Skoleelever, called the move childish and said that it was not the best solution to the problem.

‘I don’t understand why they can’t just do it [call the parents] if students are yelling at teachers in general than doing it for when students speak Arabic. It’s a sign of powerlessness and shows the school doesn’t have a handle on its integration policy,’ said association chairman Troels Boldt Rømer.

School board member and parent to a pupil at Seden School, Brit Bremer Christoffersen raised concerns about the move saying it was acceptable to require students to answer teachers in Danish, but the new rule was on the edge of what should be allowed.

And concerns outside the school have resulted in a police report being filed by political and social blogger, Flemming Leer Jakobsen.

According to Jakobsen, the decision by the principal violates the constitutional right to free speech, which should also apply to children.

‘It’s worrying that a principal, who’s supposed to educate students to be citizens in a democracy, would introduce measures to limit freedom of speech. That doesn’t belong in a democracy and is something typically seen a police state,’ Jakobsen said.

It was not possible to reach the school principal for comment.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Denmark: Party Wants to Ban Minarets

The Danish People’s Party wants a referendum on minarets in Denmark.

The Danish People’s Party Leader Pia Kjærsgaard has congratulated Switzerland on the result of its weekend referendum in which a majority of 57.5 percent voted to ban minarets in the country.

“Outstanding that you can have referendums in which people can say what they think. On this issue, the Danish People’s Party will table a bill in Parliament so that we can have a referendum in Denmark too,” says Pia Kjærsgaard.

The Swiss vote was forced through by the right wing Schweizerische Volkspartei (Swiss People’s Party) which collected the 100,000 signatures required by Swiss law in order to force a referendum. Switzerland currently has four minarets in the country.

Denmark has no mosques with minarets. There are, however, plans for grand mosques in Copenhagen and Roskilde.

“We oppose plans for grand mosques in Denmark and believe that a large number of voters agree with us,” says Pia Kjærsgaard.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Denmark Rife With CO2 Fraud

Authorities in several countries investigate VAT tax fraud stemming from the Danish CO2 quota register

Denmark is the centre of a comprehensive tax scam involving CO2 quotas, in which the cheats exploit a so-called ‘VAT carrousel’, reports Ekstra Bladet newspaper.

Police and authorities in several European countries are investigating scams worth billions of kroner, which all originate in the Danish quota register. The CO2 quotas are traded in other EU countries.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

First Impact of Minaret Ban Felt

Muslims in the eastern town of Wil will not apply to build a minaret for their planned Islamic centre, after Sunday’s anti-minaret vote.

Hisham Maizar, chairman of the umbrella organisation of the Muslim community of eastern Switzerland and Liechtenstein, told German-language radio on Monday that the town’s Islamic association had taken the decision of the Swiss people into account.

The association would not pursue the matter in the courts, he said.

The announcement of the project in 2006 had sparked a flurry of protest in the area.

However, the situation in Langenthal in canton Bern is less clear. Muslims had been given planning permission for a minaret, but an appeal against it by opponents is still pending.

The minaret opponents say Sunday’s vote puts an end to the proceedings, and Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf has also said that the minaret cannot now be built.

However, a lawyer for the Muslim community said they were ready to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

He said that under Bernese law, applications are to be judged according to the legislation in force when they were submitted — in this case three years ago.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

France: Iraqi Shoe-Thrower Suffers Copycat Attack as He Has One Thrown at Him During News Conference

He became a hero across the Arab world when he angrily hurled a shoe at George Bush in Baghdad.

But Muntadhar al-Zaidi obviously upset someone.

The Iraqi journalist got a taste of his own medicine yesterday as he was was nearly hit by another shoe thrower at a news conference in Paris.

Al-Zaidi was able to duck and the shoe hit the wall behind him.

The identity of the new shoe-thrower — and his motivation — were not immediately clear, but he appeared to be an Iraqi.

‘He stole my technique,’ Al-Zaidi later joked.

It was not known if the intruder was a journalist or just pretended to be one to attend the news conference at a centre for foreign reporters.

Whatever his motive, the confrontation didn’t stop there.

Al-Zaidi’s brother, Maithan, then chased the attacker in the audience and pelted him with a shoe as he left the room.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

France: Barbe’s — an Update

A few weeks ago I posted an article on the takeover of Paris streets by Muslims on Friday afternoons during prayer. The Muslims praying in the streets of the ghetto of Barbe’s were an indication of the fact that the French authorities turn a blind eye to what is clearly a violation of the rights of citizens living in the city, not to mention a violation of the 1905 law on “laïcité” that separated Church and State.

The website that provided the information and photos, Riposte Laïque, is pursuing its mission to expose this practice. It has posted a long article by Maxime Lepante, accompanied by photos and videos, on the collusion between the police and the Muslims of Barbe’s. Here is a condensation…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Germany: Jewish Leader Says Swiss Vote Shows Europe’s Growing Anti-Muslim Views

An official from the German Jewish Council warned on Wednesday that Switzerland’s vote to ban mosques with minarets was an expression of Europe’s deep-seated aversion to Islam that was aggravating the integration of Muslims.

The council’s general secretary, Stephan Kramer, said that the referendum in the Alpine country on Sunday could be “neither euphemised nor re-interpreted.”

“With relative certainty, there’s not a single country (in Europe) that doesn’t have more or less similar fears of Muslims and they would have had similar results in a referendum,” he said.

Kramer encouraged a more open discussion about how such a referendum on basic rights could even come to a popular vote. The Swiss, Germans and others were not “born to hate foreigners or fundamentally against Muslims,” he said, adding Europeans were not engendering an atmosphere of trust.

“Those who want integration instead of assimilation, and really means it, must create a climate of mutual respect, acknowledgement and trust,” he said.

Ideas such as the “integration contracts” like the one proposed by Germany’s integration commissioner last month, headscarf bans and other “legal condescension” do not achieve this purpose, he said. Instead they are “damaging populist activism.”

While Muslims are regularly accused of an unwillingness to integrate or engage in dialogue, the majority of European society does “very little” to be hospitable or respectful, he said.

“A climate of trust can only happen if Muslims are naturally entitled to the right to their own religion, culture and language, and cultural diversity is considered to be a benefit and enrichment to our country and not a threat or burden,” Kramer said.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Guantanamo: Tunisia’s Nasri at San Vittore Prison in Milan

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, DECEMBER 1 — Riadh Nasri, the suspected Tunisian Islamist terrorist, held since 2001 in Guantanamo and extradited today to Italy after a hearing before the Milan magistrate Guido Salvini was transferred to San Vittore prison in Milan. The other Tunisian prisoner who arrived from Guantanamo, Ben Mabrouk Adel, is also to be held in the same prison after a hearing to take place tomorrow before another magistrate. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Guantanamo: 2 Tunisians in Milan Investigated for Terrorism

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 1 — Two suspected terrorists have arrived in Italy, Milan, after having been held in Guantanamo. They are Adel Ben Mabrouk and Ben Mohamed Riadh Nasri, both taken into precautionary custody by Italian judicial authorities and now in prison following the agreement signed in September between the heads of justice of the two countries, Alfano and Holder, after the political commitment taken by premier Berlusconi to collaborate with Obama for the super-prison’s closure. Nasri, in particular, is accused together with another 8 people for criminal association, favouring illegal immigration and other crimes aimed at terrorism, for events that happened between 1997 and 2001. The group, according to the prosecution, supplied logistical support to a cell of a Salafite group that preached combat and recruited people destined for martyrdom in the countries where conflicts were taking place. In the order signed by Guido Salvini, in particular, Nasri — or Abou Doujana — is accused of having organised “logistics for mujaheddin coming from Italy” in Afghanistan and sending them into the field “where they were trained in weapons use and the preparation for suicide attacks”. Nasri was described as “head of Jalalabad Tunisians in Afghanistan, where he kept close and constant relations with structures in Italy and Milan”. Moreover, he reportedly organised and financed, as the order claims, “the re-entering of Mujaheddin to the West and in particular Italy and Milan”. Nasri, before reaching Afghanistan “lived in Bologna and was also sentenced in Italy for circulating counterfeit bank notes in 1997”. It was the same Bologna magistrate to issue the warrant for cautionary custody in 1998 as a part of the investigation ‘Winds of War’. Nasri, who is also accused of having promoted and gathered “funds from Italy aimed at financing” activities “for training and logistical aspects”, was captured in Afghanistan during a US military operation. Ben Mabrouk Adel, the other former Guantanamo detainee, is one of the recipients of a warrant for cautionary custody issued by a Milan magistrate on May 18 2005 as a part of the investigative tranche carried out by Carabinieri entitled ‘Bazar’. He was a barber at the mosque in Viale Jenner in Milan. Towards his cell and other components of the extremist cell based in Milan, the contested accusations are for international terrorism, falsification and receiving of documents to favour illegal immigration, drug trafficking and robbery. They were also reportedly a part of a group of Islamic extremists: the investigation permitted the discovery of terrorism projects and support activities, financing, proselytism and recruiting of fighters to send to training camps, primarily in Al Ansar and in Iraq. When the warrant was issued, Ben Mabrouk Adel was not captured because he was already a prisoner in Guantanamo. According to a investigator reconstruction, in 2001 he went to Afghanistan where he was captured by coalition forces. “The positive carrying out of the prisoner transfer, which occurred in full respect of European regulations defined last June, stated the justice minister, shows the close and positive collaboration that has developed between the United States and Italy in the process of Guantanamo’s closure provided for by Obama with a presidential decree on January 22 2009”. The agreement reached between Italy and the US provides for the arrival in Italy of 3 Guantanamo detainees, all Tunisians. In addition to Nasri, the names of Abdelkader Fezzani have been circulating, investigated with the same proceedings and for which the Milan prosecutor’s office has already requested for extradition from the United States, together with Abdul Bin Mohammed Ourgy, who is facing an arrest warrant from a Milan magistrate for connections with people who recruited volunteers for Iraq and Afghanistan.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Guantanamo Detainee Arrives in France a Free Man

An Algerian man who spent eight years in custody in the US detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was released Monday, and arrived in France Tuesday, according to the French Foreign Affairs Ministry. He was transferred out of Guantanamo in a plane with two Tunisians who were handed over to Italy for prosecution.

Saber Lahmar, 39, who was ordered to be released by a judge in November 2008 because of insufficient evidence, was one of five Algerians arrested in Bosnia in 2001.

His lawyer, Robert Kirsh, told the AFP news agency that Lahmar has looked into the kind of work he can do in France, to “rebuild his life as a free man.”

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Islam: Minarets; Maroni, People Have the Right to Decide

(ANSAmed) — VARESE, DECEMBER 1 — “Switzerland has done well in asking the people for their opinion on important issues like the minarets; sovereignty is of the people” said Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni during a conference in Varese, regarding the referendum held in Switzerland about the construction of minarets. “This is not a matter of city planning” he continued, “but a matter that regards deeper issues. Yesterday I spoke with the Swiss minister, who confirmed that this is not about religious freedom. One of Islam’s unresolved problems is the close relation between religion and politics, so that religious symbols also have a political meaning, a symbol of power and of control over an area”. Maroni added that “this is a problem that the Swiss people have understood”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: League Wants Minaret Referendum in Italy

Proposal finds little support from government allies

(ANSA) — Rome, December 1 — A proposal from the right-wing Northern League for a referendum banning Islamic minarets in Italy was rejected on Tuesday by allies in the center-right government.

Seizing on the vote in Switzerland this weekend, which came out favor of banning the construction of new Muslim spires, Simplification Minister Roberto Calderoli on Monday suggested Italy hold a referendum of its own.

But leading members of Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party (PdL) came down on the side of the Catholic Church, which condemned the referendum as an attack on the religious freedom of Muslims.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the move would represent “a step backwards in interfaith dialogue”.

“Right or wrong, the referendum in Switzerland sent a message of mistrust to Muslims around the world”.

“I say that as a Christian, who wants Christians in other countries to be able to profess their religion freely”.

Also critical of the proposal, lower house PdL whip Fabrizio Cicchitto who warned against “falling into the same trap of fundamentalism that we see in repressive Islamic states”.

But Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, another Northern League heavyweight, said he too would have voted to stop new minarets from being built.

“The Swiss people didn’t vote against religious freedom, they voted against a symbol charged with political meaning”.

Maroni claimed that politics and faith were so intertwined in Islam that minarets were not just religious symbols, but signs of “power and control”.

“That’s the problem with Islam and the Swiss people understood that,” he said.

Maroni added that he had “no objections to the idea of letting the Italian people decide on such an important issue”.

“I’m confident a similar referendum in Italy would be approved by an even wider margin than in Switzerland,” he said.

The League’s proposal sparked a chorus of outrage from the center-left opposition.

Summing up their objections, shadow immigration minister of the largest opposition group, the Democratic Party (PD) launched a counterproposal for a bill protecting religious freedom.

In an open letter on her website, Livia Turco said that “any state that values peace and prosperity must guarantee the freedom of its religious minorities to worship in accordance with their beliefs”.

Italy has around 1.2 million Muslims, making Islam the second religion after Catholicism.

According to a recent report by L’Espresso magazine, there are around 759 mosques in Italy, only four of which boast minarets.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Council Defies Court Ruling and Displays Crucifix

Catania, 1 Dec. (AKI) — The council in the Sicilian city of Catania has defied a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights and endorsed a proposal to display a Christian crucifix from Wednesday. The move is a direct response to a decision by the court which last month ruled that the symbol could not be displayed in public premises, in particular state schools.

“Before being a testimony of faith, the cross is a symbol of civilisation for Europe and the West,” said a statement approved and signed by the city’s municipal council.

The proposal was approved by the council and only one councillor opposed the move.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled on 3 November that placing the crucifix in classrooms infringed parents’ right to educate their children “in conformity with their convictions”.

“The State was to refrain from imposing beliefs in premises where individuals were dependent on it,” said the court’s verdict.

“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, and the right of children to believe or not to believe.”

The court ruling has sparked fierce debate in overwhelmingly Catholic Italy where the Vatican earlier this month strongly rejected the ruling, saying it was “wrong and myopic” to exclude a symbol of charity from education.

The case was launched by Soile Lautsi, a Finn married to an Italian who opposed the display of a Catholic crucifix at her children’s state school in Abano Terme, a small town outside the northern city of Padua.

Lautsi was also awarded 5,000 euros in damages by the court.

According to a survey released on Tuesday, 69 percent of Italians want the crucifix to remain in schools, while 29 percent are opposed it.

The survey was carried out by one of the leading business associations in Italy, Confeserscenti-Swg.

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

Italy: Mussolini ‘Sex Video Offered to Berlusconi’

Rome, 30 Nov. (AKI) — A sex video purportedly showing Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, was reportedly offered to Palazzo Chigi, the office of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. A report published in the Italian media on Monday said the video was offered for one million euros.

Alessandra Mussolini is an MP for Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party or PdL.

Palazzo Chigi, located in the centre of Rome, is where the cabinet or council of ministers, led by Berlusconi meets.

Last week, the Italian daily Il Giornale — owned by the Berlusconi family — reported that it had been offered the video of Mussolini having sex with the leader of a small extreme right-wing party, Roberto Fiore, by a security camera at the headquarters of Berlusconi’s defunct Forza Italia party in Rome.

The daily refused to buy the video, saying they weren’t even interested in seeing it.

Fiore and Mussolini used to be political allies in the former far-right group called Alternativa Sociale, or Social Alternative, through which Mussolini was elected to the European Parliament in 2004.

Mussolini, a mother of three, called the existence of the video a ‘ridiculous hoax’ spread by an ‘unreliable source’.

On Monday, Berlusconi’s PdL party leader at the Italian senate, Fabrizio Cicchitto, said he wanted an end to the media attacks against Mussolini.

“Enough with the media attack against Alessandra Mussolini. What’s happening is absolutely indecent and uncivil,” said Cicchitto.

Reports about the Mussolini video surfaced a month after the former governor of the Lazio region Piero Marrazzo resigned from his post after a video emerged that apparently showed him with a transsexual prostitute.

Later, reports surfaced about another, longer and allegedly more compromising video of Marrazzo with cocaine.

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

Italy May Accept More Gitmo Detainees

ROME — Italy is considering taking in other prisoners from Guantanamo to help President Barack Obama close down the prison, the country’s foreign minister said Tuesday, a day after Italy accepted two former detainees.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi promised Obama at a White House meeting in June that Italy would accept three people as part of the U.S. administration’s bid to close down Guantanamo.

Obama said last month that he would miss his January deadline to close the prison, partly because he cannot persuade other nations to take the detainees.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Obama’s Visit — DKK 50 Million

President Obama’s decision to come to the UN Climate Summit early will be costing at least DKK 50 million extra.

The cost of President Obama’s decision to visit Copenhagen early on in the Climate Summit, rather than with the rest of heads of state and government, will be costing the Danish taxpayer some DKK 50 million extra, according to several sources.

The extra cost is a result of police and other services having to go on maximum alert a week earlier than planned.

“We will have to start up motorcade services earlier than planned as well as putting surveillance of particular areas, bodyguards and roadblocks in place earlier,” says Copenhagen Police Ass. Comm. Mogens Lauridsen.

Apart from extra costs for police readiness, other departments are also to advance their plans. These include the defence forces as well as departments dealing with nuclear and chemical issues within the Danish Emergency Management Agency and the Board of Health.

Changing tactics

President Obama’s decision to come to Copenhagen early will in all likelihood also require the Danish government to change its negotiating tactics, which had included collecting heads of state and government on December 18 in Copenhagen in order to sign an agreement.

The likelihood of Obama returning to Copenhagen, however, is slim and the government is hoping to be able to use the speech that he is expected to hold as leverage in bringing about a political agreement.

Obama will be visiting Denmark the day before an EU summit in Brussels. The hope is that the American president will repeat his targets for reduction or even provide help in financing the agreement, allowing negotiators at the EU summit to pressure more ambitious goals out of EU leaders.

Chastising Obama

The President’s early visit to Copenhagen has already caused disarray in international circles. A day after Obama’s decision to visit the summit early, China announced it will not be sending President Hu Jintao, but Prime Minister Wen Jiabao instead.

President Sarkozy of France is also unhappy with the decision.

“The decisive moment is the 17th and 18th of December. If some come at the beginning and some at the end, will we be able to take decisions?” Sarkozy says. Archive.

“The decisive moment is the 17th and 18th of December. If some come at the beginning and some at the end, will we be able to take decisions?” Sarkozy says.

In announcing his decision to visit Copenhagen, President Obama said that the United States is prepared to reduce its CO2 emissions by four percent in 2020, something that Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Michael Somare has criticised.

“Obama’s offer is irresponsible and dashes our hopes for an agreement in Copenhagen. Deep inside, President Obama is aware of this. Why would he otherwise plan to escape from Copenhagen before any of the other world leaders arrive?” Somare tells Politiken.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Some Post-Communist Dos and Don’ts

Jobs, government, infrastructure: in the wake of 1989, the countries of the former communist block had to re-invent themselves. As Czech daily Hospodárské Noviny notes, the different strategies they chose resulted in some initiatives that were well-prepared and some that were wholly unsavoury.

In the course of the last two decades, it has been easy to identify political measures that have worked well in Western Europe. However, closer to home, in countries where governments had to contend with the aftermath of communism, it is much more difficult to tell the wood from the trees. Looking back on 20 years of post-communist rule, we can now see that they did succeed in cooking up a few successes, though other projects have remained semi-toxic failures. But before, we embark on an inventory of the more notable projects in the ex-Soviet bloc, it is worth bearing in mind that the situation in the Czech Republic remains the exception rather than the rule, and non-reformed communists no longer form a parliamentary group or even a political party in most of the post-communist countries of the European Union. In countries like Hungary, Poland and Lithuania, they have been assimilated as social-democrats. In other states, like the former Baltic Republics and Slovenia, their influence is spread across a range of political creeds on the Left and the Right, and across a range of issues from defence to national sovereignty.

Dynamic Poland

The reforms implemented by Poland in the early 1990s, amounted to a period of shock therapy, with an unemployment rate that affected up to 20% of the population. Many people became dependent on a range of State pension systems (mainly small farmers and those who benefited from early retirement). Capitalism resulted in a much greater measure of austerity in Poland than it did in the Czech Republic, which prompted Poles to make much greater efforts to find work both at home and abroad. A year ago, it was estimated that two million Poles were currently working in other countries of the EU. The Poles were also distinguished by their enthusiasm for the European Union, with a population that was united in the belief that EU membership and access to European funding represented an unprecedented and historic opportunity to build a new society. This trend was clearly confirmed by the marginalization of nationalist and populist parties in the country’s most recent general elections in 2007.

Slovakia’s non-profit sector

In Slovakia in the 1990s, Vladimír Meciar and his authoritarian regime contributed to the emergence of non-governmental or “third-sector” research institutes and foundations, whose experts later figured large in the teams appointed by the Dzurinda governments to conduct reforms in several sectors, most notably in the fields of health care and taxation. More generally, Slovak society was marked by a gradual shift towards new political perspectives and initiatives that were independent of the government in office. The work of a wide range of non-governmental organizations also played a major role in the landslide result of the May 2003 referendum on Slovakia’s accession to the European Union [a 92.46% “yes” vote], and these bodies continue to provide a ideological counterweight to the current left-wing nationalist government led by Robert Fico.

Estonia’s eGovernment

Estonia’s digital democracy or “eGovernment” is a perfect illustration of what can be achieved through government collaboration with non-governmental organizations. The country has now established a comprehensive Internet voting system, which was implemented for local elections in 2005 and general elections in 2007. When traveling abroad, Estonian ministers vaunt the merits of paperless cabinet meetings, where discussions can proceed without the piles of documents that encumber their foreign counterparts. The “eGoverment” initiative has also resulted in greater participation in a democratic process. Proposed legislation is now submitted to public debate on the Internet, and government officials are obliged to take their fellow citizens remarks into account.

Hungary’s motorways

The Czech media often complains about the extraordinary cost of new motorways in the Czech Republic, which are allegedly the most expensive roadways in the world. However, many of the citizens of Hungary-where the recent history of transport infrastructure has been marked by the construction of private motorways that remained unused by local drivers unable to pay the excessive toll charges-also lay claim to this dubious distinction. At the end of the day, the state was obliged to step in to take over the beleaguered concerns, and Hungary now has seven modern motorways that are open to the public at a reasonable price. Apparently, the price of an efficient motorway network is not confined to construction costs, but must also include kickbacks that surround calls for tender. In Hungary, the running joke among political journalists is that the system for “the sharing of funds” from these brown envelopes remains the only issue on which representatives of the Left and Right can agree. It is even said that the country’s two main political parties, the former communists and Fidesz, have appointed special secret teams for the collection of motorway funds.

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

UK: Lib Dems End EU Referendum Call

The Lib Dems have ended their campaign for an “in or out” referendum on UK membership of the European Union.

The pro-European party had argued that instead of a vote on the Lisbon Treaty a referendum was needed on Britain’s broader relationship with the EU.

But ex-leader Sir Menzies Campbell said there was no “public appetite” for a vote now that the treaty was ratified.

He said it was now time to concentrate on making Europe work better post-ratification.

He told BBC Two’s Daily Politics: “When the issue of whether or not there should be a referendum on Lisbon came up then we said it would be much more sensible to have a referendum on ‘in or out’ but the Lisbon Treaty is now history.”

Referendum campaign

He added: “The one thing about the Lisbon Treaty is that there is no appetite of any kind whatsoever, for the foreseeable future, for any other treaty change in Europe.

“Now all of the effort and energy has got to be directed towards making Lisbon work and that’s the real issue now.”

But Lord Pearson, the new leader of the UK Independence Party, which campaigns for Britain’s exit from the EU, said there “jolly well is an appetite” for a referendum among the public.

He told The Daily Politics: “We should have a referendum on in or out. I actually put an amendment down an in the Lords during the Lisbon proceedings in the hope that the Lib Dems would support it and, blow me down, they didn’t.”

On Tuesday, UKIP will launch a national campaign for a referendum on EU membership.

When he first called for an “in or out” referendum in 2007, Sir Menzies said the public deserved an “honest debate” on Europe.

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

UK: Prince Charles: Alternative Medicine Must be Saved From New EU Rules

Prince Charles is urging the Government to protect the future of alternative medicine and ensure the safety of its patients.

A long-standing enthusiast of complementary therapy, the Prince has held talks with health Secretary Andy Burnham to persuade him to introduce safeguards for practitioners and their remedies. His call comes before a crackdown by the EU that could prevent anyone who is not a registered health practitioner from selling remedies.

The Government is consulting on the Brussels plan, due to come into force in April 2011. Campaigners are calling for a licensing system to be established earlier amid fears that small practitioners could be forced to close under the EU directive. They also want “reputable” practitioners to be licensed sooner than 2011 to protect patients.

A source close to the Prince said: “This is a very pressing issue and the Prince is very worried about the health impact of inadequately regulating herbal medicine. Regulation is needed to safeguard the public health of millions. The people who regularly use these products are not going to stop using them. This is a particular issue in London.”

The Prince’s intervention puts him at odds with eminent scientists who regard Chinese herbalism as “quackery”. The Royal College of Physicians is against statutory regulation on the grounds it would make such treatments “respectable”.

Britons spend about £1.6 billion a year on alternative remedies. There is currently no official system of regulation in the UK, meaning anyone can treat, but there are codes under which practitioners use remedies manufactured to recognisable standards.

The Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health charity has submitted evidence to the Government warning that failure to regulate will put patients at risk. Dr Michael Dixon, medical director of the foundation, said Charles did not see the submission, adding: “We fear that we will see a black market in herbal products.”

The Prince’s Duchy Originals range is not affected by the new EU regulations. A Clarence House spokeswoman confirmed that Prince Charles had a “routine” meeting with Mr Burnham.

Professor David Colquhoun, an expert in pharmacology at University College London, said: “The Prince wants his own ineffective sort of regulation. Proper regulation should be on whether these products work. It seems deeply unconstitutional [for him to comment].”

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

UK: Smart Meters That Only Save Families £28 a Year — to Cost £340 Per Household

The Government is pressing ahead with plans to roll out smart meters even though the £9billion scheme will help people save just £28 a year.

Power suppliers, rather than distribution networks, will be responsible for installing the meters for gas and electricity in all homes by 2020 at a cost of about £340 per household.

But the devices will save the average household just £28 a year off a typical annual duel fuel bill, meaning it will take around 12 years just to recoup the initial installation costs.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Special Report: Face to Face With the Muslim Fanatics Who Attacked Baroness Warsi

With egg yolk dripping through her hair after being attacked by demonstrators, Britain’s most prominent Muslim woman politician took refuge in the sweetly named Memsaab Boutique in Luton. Baroness Warsi could have been forgiven for saying she would never put her well-heeled foot in the Bedfordshire town again.

Minutes earlier, as darkness fell on Monday evening, the Tory peer had been cornered by a group of finger-jabbing young Islamists who had pelted her with eggs, accusing her of causing Muslim deaths in Afghanistan.

The mob chanted: ‘Shame on you!’ and one protester yelled loudly: ‘This woman doesn’t represent us’.


Yesterday, Baroness Warsi said there were only about ‘seven, eight or maybe ten’ protesters who did not represent the true feelings of the thousands of moderate Muslims in the town.

But are they a tiny minority, or was the outbreak of violence a symptom of a wider problem: the failed integration into society of a group of Muslim extremists (many British-born)?

After all, it was in Luton in March that a similar group of young Islamic protesters shouted obscenities at members of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment taking part in an Afghan war homecoming parade.

Such is the extent of the problem that government ministers are spending large amounts of money in Luton for a project called ‘Preventing Violent Extremism’. More than £600,000 has been put into a ‘hearts and minds’ campaign to try to prevent young Muslims joining the fanatics.


To understand the roots of their movement, one must go back a decade to the time when the radical Islamic preacher Omar Bakri Mohammed was making inflammatory speeches in Britain.

The self-styled sheikh was head of an organisation called Al-Muhajiroun, which endorsed suicide bombings and was virulently anti-Semitic.

In one of his most vile statements, the London-based preacher said the West would suffer many attacks like that of 9/11 if it did not change its policies in the Middle East.

Later, in 2001, Al-Muhajiroun was outlawed on university campuses by the National Union of Students. Its activities waned and the Government banned Omar Bakri from returning to Britain after he made a trip abroad. Enlarge Egged: Yolk drips down Baroness Warsi’s coat

As a result, many believed the group had disbanded, but the truth is his extremist movement is alive and well. Islamic activists still claim membership, and splinter groups have formed. Together, they continue to glorify terrorism and suicide bombers and spread hatred against any Muslim who does not support their views.

One of the groups is Islam4UK, run by a friend of Omar Bakri called Anjem Choudary, who has vowed that the flag of Islam will fly over Downing Street in 20 years’ time.

Detectives fear that home-grown extremists leading apparently normal lives pose the greatest threat to Britain’s security. And key players behind this ‘enemy within’ are Al-Muhajiroun and its splinter groups, busily sucking in alienated young men, then brainwashing the more impressionable into becoming promoters of violent jihad.

According to a leaked intelligence report earlier this year, Luton remains a ‘magnet’ for extremists and a focus of concern for anti-terror police. Other hotspots include Beeston in Leeds and parts of Birmingham and London.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: The Best Savings Account You’ve Never Heard of

By John Fitzsimons

Everybody is searching for the best place to put their savings, but this account may just have slipped off your radar…

I’m on the hunt for a savings account at the moment. The trouble is, some cracking accounts, including the old ING Direct savings account, have been withdrawn.

So if, like me, you want a reasonable return on your money you might need to look beyond the usual suspects and check out an account that probably won’t have appeared on your radar before now.

The Islamic Bank of Britain

One of the best savings accounts around comes from the Islamic Bank of Britain. Now, don’t despair if you aren’t a Muslim — these accounts are available to everybody, but simply abide by slightly different rules. More on that later — first, let’s look at why the account is so good?

The simple reason is that with its two-year fixed term deposit account, you can expect a whopping return of 4.5%.

While there are a stack of two-year bonds paying 4.25% AER, from providers as diverse as SAGA, the Post Office and the AA, you simply will not be able to get the same rate as that on offer from the Islamic Bank of Britain.

Even better, the Bank has cut the minimum deposit size, so you can now open the account for as little as £1,000.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind

You aren’t getting interest!

While you will get a return of 4.5%, that won’t be paid as interest, as Islam prohibits the payment or receipt of interest.

Instead, to ensure the account is Sharia’a compliant, your cash will be placed into ethical trading activities (for example, the money won’t be put into gambling or tobacco companies) which the bank believes will provide the agreed profit (i.e. 4.5%) over the agreed term.

Now, when I first read that, I’ll confess alarm bells went off in my head. Handing your savings over to be gambled on investments that you have no idea about sounds suspiciously like what started the whole banking mess in the first place.

So how safe is your money?

However, there is one crucial difference with the Islamic Bank of Britain’s Fixed Term Deposit Account. The bank monitors how your funds are doing compared to the target profit rate on a daily basis to keep abreast of how likely they are to hit the required rate.

And if at any time they believe that market volatility is likely to hit your return, they will inform you immediately. You then have the choice to close the account, or accept a lower rate of profit. All of the profit achieved up to this point by your funds is protected by the bank, as is the initial sum you deposit.

In other words, you won’t lose a penny, but you might get a slightly lower return than expected. It’s also worth noting that the bank claims that, to date, it has always achieved its target profit rates, while the fact that it is a member of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme should also provide a bit more reassurance.

You also have the option of receiving your profit every three months, or retaining it in the account to be invested with your deposit. But you can’t make any withdrawals during the two-tear term.

Clearly going for a saving product like this is a little bit of a gamble, but if you are hell bent on getting a great return on your money then it’s a cracking option. Islamic finance options may be out of the mainstream, but they certainly merit serious consideration.

Fancy a Sharia’a mortgage as well?

If the Islamic way of doing things appeals, then you should also consider a Sharia’a mortgage . Again things work in a slightly different way to a mainstream mortgage. Basically, you buy the property alongside the bank (they will stump up 70%-80%). Then, over the term of your mortgage , you make monthly payments towards the bank, buying its share of the property over time.

Compare loans

And the products do look pretty attractive — for a deal of up to 80%, you will be facing an effective interest rate of 4.99%.

The lowest rate you can get elsewhere at that loan-to-value is a tracker from Royal Bank of Scotland at Bank Base Rate plus 2.39% for two years, which is obviously much more attractive, but far more of a risk should Base Rate start to move upwards. It will also set you back £1499 just to get hold of it, compared to £299 for the Sharia’a deal.

In truth, the best thing to compare the mortgage to is a long-term fixed rate . And the best five-year fixed rate at 80% loan-to-value, from Nottingham Building Society, comes at 5.59% and will cost the best part of a £1000 in mortgage fees.

           — Hat tip: El Inglés [Return to headlines]

UK: The Burglars’ Code: Criminals Chalk Messages Which Pinpoint Targets for Other Villains

Burglars are scribbling chalk marks outside homes to let fellow criminals know which properties to target.

The symbols — dubbed ‘the Da Pinchi Code’ — may indicate that a home is wealthy, has already been burgled or may have nothing worth stealing.

Police have revealed the signs are being drawn outside sprawling homes in advance of them being targeted by criminal gangs.

Detectives released information on the plot yesterday after a number of properties across the affluent Tandridge district in Surrey were targeted in recent weeks.

Residents have been warned to report any unusual markings on low-rise walls, pavements or kerbs to police.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Would-be Councillor in Queen ‘Vermin’ Slur Off List

A Labour election hopeful who called the Queen “vermin” has been removed from the party’s list of candidates.

Would-be local councillor Peter White was axed by party bosses after being forced to apologise for an online rant about the monarch’s diamond jubilee.

Mr White, who had been due to fight for a seat on Havering Borough Council next year, also described the Queen a “parasite” in a post on Facebook.

He appeared before a regional Labour Party panel earlier.

‘Totally inappropriate’

His comments were posted on the Facebook page of Tory MP Andrew Rosindell, who is campaigning for the royal milestone to be marked with a public holiday.

Mr White posted: “What is the point of celebrating the diamond jubilee of someone who is born into a position of privilege, she is a parasite and milks this country for everything she can.”

He went on: “Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with a public holiday but lets (sic) have one that means something, rather than celebrating vermin.”

In a statement issued via the party after the Facebook item appeared, Mr White said: “The way I expressed myself was totally inappropriate.

“I regret what I said and apologise unreservedly.”

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

UK: Woman Told to Repay £5 of Fraud

A woman who stole £41,000 from her 95-year-old war hero great-uncle has been ordered to pay back just £5.

Hayley Price, 42, of Blaenavon, Torfaen, cooked and cleaned for D-Day veteran Arthur Edwards, while writing herself 154 fraudulent cheques.

She was given a year’s jail, suspended for two years, at an earlier hearing at Cardiff Crown Court.

A proceeds of crime hearing was subsequently told all the money has been spent and Price had no assets.

Judge David Wynn Morgan ruled that Price must repay £5 to Mr Edwards by next week.

He had previously told her: “You did a wicked, wicked thing.”

Price’s trial heard she went shopping for her frail uncle and visited him every day for 11 years.

The court was told that during a police interview, she said: “I was greedy and had Christmas coming. I hold my hands up to it. I thought I could get away with it.”

The jury heard that all the money was spent on herself, her son and her dog.

She admitted 12 counts of forgery.

Mr Edwards, a corporal in the South Wales Borderers, won the Kings Medal for Gallantry for saving the life of a doctor during the D-Day landings in World War II.

After the proceeds of crime hearing on Wednesday, Mr Edwards’ family said it had been a “very difficult time” for the veteran soldier who now lives in a care home.

His niece Jayne Edwards said: “He will never see his money again and the fact that a member of his own family stole from him is very sad.

“I’m disappointed for my uncle that the system doesn’t allow for him to get the money back.”

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

White Power Groups on the Increase: Report

Sweden’s white power movement is in the midst of a transformation, according to a new report, which also found right-wing extremist organizations within the movement have been more active recently than in previous years.

The first annual report on the Swedish white power movement, presented on Wednesday by the Expo Foundation, found that 39 white power groups were active in Sweden in 2008, with 25 of the groups having been created in 2007 or 2008.

“This is a movement which saw an increase in activity in 2008,” Kenny Hjälte, one of the report’s authors, told the TT news agency.

The Expo Foundation, which publishes a magazine of the same name, was founded in 1995 with the express aim of mapping right-wing extremist and racist trends in Sweden.

The Expo report also found that 1,946 actions were carried out by white power groups during the year, roughly 800 more than the year before.

The most common activity was the dissemination of propaganda, followed by various types of demonstrations and lectures.

Almost all actions can be tied to one of four organizations: the National Socialist Front, which later become the People’s Front (Folkfronten); Info 14 and the associated network of Free Nationalists (Fria nationalister); the Swedish Resistance Movement (Svenska motståndsrörelsen); and the Nordic Union, with its associated Resistance (Motstånd) network.

“The biggest apparent change are the activist groups of the type created by Info 14, for example, and which are the most dynamic independent groups we see today. It’s a new form of activism,” said Hjälte.

He said that 2009 has been marked by a fracturing within the white power scene.

“Previously they’ve had large National Day events which were cancelled this year and these organizations held their own events around the country,” said Hjälte.

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


Kosovo: EU Police Investigate ‘Political Murder’ Claims

Pristina, 1 Dec. (AKI) — European Union police in Kosovo have detained an ethnic Albanian who claims to have participated in political murders ordered by prime minister Hasim Thaci’s Democratic Party of Kosovo (DPK). Kosovar media said on Tuesday, Nazim Blaca, a former member of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was arrested late Monday.

He claims to have taken part in 17 murders, attempted murders and threats to political opponents that were ordered by the DPK.

Blaca, who was a member of the KLA’s intelligence service SHIK, has given EULEX a computer disk which he claims substantiated his allegations and EULEX spokesman Christopher Lamfalussy said police and prosecutors were looking into the case.

The KLA began a campaign for independence from Serbian rule in 1988 and Kosovo eventually declared independence last year.

Blaca claimed the murders took place after Serbian forces were pushed out and Kosovo was put under United Nations control in 1999.

He said most of the victims were members of the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo (DAK) of late president Ibrahim Rugova, who spearheaded the drive for Kosovo’s independence from Serbia.

Blaca said he also took part in the bombing of Rugova’s house in Pristina in March 2004. After Rugova’s death in 2006 he was succeeded by the current president Fatmir Sejdiu, whose party is a coalition partner in Thaci’s government.

Blaca told journalists he regretted the murders, but carried out the orders because he thought it was “for the well being of the motherland, but it didn’t turn out that way”.

He said the murders were ordered by a former KLA member and Thaci’s close aide Azem Sulja, DPK member of parliament Dzavit Hailiti, and other DPK officials.

As the scandal hit the front pages of Pristina’s newspapers, Thaci held an urgent meeting with Sejdiu and EULEX chief, French general Yves de Kermabon on Monday.

Thaci later told journalists the scandal was “threatening national security” and the matter would be investigated thoroughly.

DPK spokesman, Blerand Stavileci, has refuted the accusations, saying they were just “an attempt by some parties to make political gains”.

But Blaca’s claims were also supported by Gani Gaci, a MP of the opposition Democratic Alliance of Dardanija.

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

North Africa

Egypt: Village Changes Name After Algerian Clashes

Cairo, 1 Dec. (AKI) — An Egyptian village called al-Jaza’ir, which means Algeria in Arabic, has decided to change its name after recent clashes between the two countries in an elimination match for the 2010 World Cup in November.

Egypt was eliminated from advancing to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after Algeria’s win in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

Residents of the village located in the Wadi al-Jadid district, in southwest Egypt, have asked local authorities to rename the village Mubarak al-misriyin in honour of the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. The name means ‘Mubarak for Egyptians’.

According to a report in the local newspaper, ‘al-Ahram’, the proposal was immediately endorsed by local authorities as a “nationalist gesture”.

Egypt’s national football team threatened to pull out of international competitions after complaining to football’s highest body, FIFA, over the behaviour of Algerian fans, following the team’s victory over Egypt in Sudan.

“Egyptian fans, officials and players put their lives at risk before and after the game, under threat from weapons, knives, swords and flares. We have stated most seriously in the complaint to FIFA to restore moral discipline to the world of football.”

After the match many clashes were reported in Cairo and Algiers. Hundreds of people took to the streets and headed to Cairo’s upscale neighbourhood of Zamalek where the Algerian embassy is located.

The Egyptian fans did not reach the embassy and instead damaged cars and stores in the area.

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

Egyptian University Orders Veil Ban During Exam Sessions

A leading Egyptian university has banned female students and teaching staff from wearing Islamic veils during the winter examinations session, which will start in January, Al-Ahram newspaper said on Tuesday.

“President of the [Ain Shams] university Ahmed Zaki Badr prohibited the wearing of a niqab inside the university during the [exams] session,” the university administration was quoted by the paper as saying.

According to the document, the ban “concerns not only female students of all years of studying and all departments, but also the teaching and other university staff.”

Ain Shams University has become the second Egyptian university to introduce a partial ban on wearing Islamic veils. The move is widely seen as part of the Egyptian leadership’s crackdown on resurgent ultra-conservative elements in the country.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Egypt: Weapons and Explosive Vests Found Near Rafah

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, DECEMBER 2 — Weapons and explosives including two vests for suicide attacks were found by the Egyptian police north of Sinai in the Rafah area, the town on the border with the Gaza strip. According to investigative sources, the explosives were prepared in Gaza and taken to Sinai to for attacks or to be taken to Israel. Other than the vests there were also six grenades and five explosive charges. In a separate operation police arrested six young Palestinians who entered Egypt through an underground tunnel under the border to bring good to the Gaza Strip. The men arrested are between 16 and 25 years old. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Police Shoot: New Victim at Egyptian Border

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, DECEMBER 1 — There was another victim today on the southern Sinai border of Egypt, where police killed a young African who was trying to enter Israel illegally. Of the victim it is only known that he was 22 years old and that he was hit by two bullets, in the stomach and the arm, and died on the scene. The body was taken to hospital in Rafah. Up to present there have been some 20 immigrants killed by police since last May, when surveillance measures were increased, the most recent victim was just two weeks ago. The police explain that sometimes there are traffickers that accompany them to the border (usually Eritrean, but sometimes Ethiopians and Sudanese) that shoot at police. In any case Amnesty international has recently asked Egypt to exercise more control over security forces to avoid opening fire on immigrants. Recently trafficking in illegal immigrants has increased in the area due to obstacles implemented along other routes, like that which passes through Libya.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

EU to Give East Jerusalem to Palestinians: Report

The official proposal is set to be put forward by EU foreign ministers on Dec.7 when they will call for Jerusalem to be divided to serve as capitals for both Israel and Palestine, Israel’s Haaretz reported, citing a copy of the draft document it obtained.

The document is also said to “imply” that the EU will recognize a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood, a move which the Palesitnian Authority said last month they would seek from the United Nations.

The draft seeks to offer a solution one of the core obstacles to peace and although changes favorable to Israel were made there is reportedly “no chance” of preventing the EU from proposing the division of Jerusalem.

The Europeans hope the draft will help encourage the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table amid a tense row over Israel’s continued and defiant settlement building, often seen as land grabbing, in both the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The draft calls on “all parties to refrain from provocative actions” and stating the EU Council “has never recognized the annexation of East Jerusalem. If there is to be a genuine peace, a way must be found to resolve the status of Jerusalem as capital of two states.”

The draft states a goal of establishing “an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable state of Palestine, comprising the West Bank and Gaza and with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

The document also rejects changes made by Israel to the 1967 borders and said the EU would “be able, at the appropriate time, to recognize a Palestinian state.”

The paper reported that Israel was outraged by the document and had already launched a diplomatic campaign to keep it from being endorsed but added that “diplomats close to the EU deliberations believe it is almost inevitable.”

“The process being led by Sweden [EU presidency] harms the European Union’s ability to take part as a significant mediator in the political process between Israel and the Palestinians,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry said.

Haaretz quoted senior Foreign Ministry officials as saying that Sweden is taking “an explicitly anti-Israel” line and therefore rendered Europe “irrelevant” to the peace process.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

High Court Asked to Stop Building Freeze

Jerusalem, 30 Nov. (AKI) — A conservative Israeli action group has asked the country’s High Court to end government plans to freeze construction of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the organisation which calls itself the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel lodged a formal appeal with the court after Israel’s defence minister Ehud Barak ordered his ministry to appoint 40 supervisors in the Palestinian territories to ensure no new construction takes place.

“Setting building limitations only on Jewish settlements is a form of racism reminiscent of the dark eras in Jewish history,” says The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel in a statement on its website.

“And for a country established in response to racial discrimination, it is completely unacceptable, immoral and illegal.”

Representing the organisation, lawyer Yossi Fuchs said the government and not just the cabinet should have made the decision.

“A decision likely to bring serious harm to the assets of Israeli citizens and is unrelated to security cannot be made in an underhanded, covert way, by a secret security cabinet or predetermined without any chance for ministers to appeal,” said Fuchs cited by Haaretz.

On Sunday, Barak called the cabinet’s move an “unprecedented step”.

However, hardline prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the move last week.

“This step was not carried out in the (Ehud) Olmert government or in the (Ariel) Sharon government, not in my government and not in Yitzhak Rabin’s government either,” said Barak.

“The real significance is that for the first time, we are suspending all new construction for an extended period and therefore giving peace negotiations a chance.”

However, the moratorium does not apply to areas in the West Bank that Israel annexed after the 1967 Six-Day war.

The first Jewish settlements — considered illegal under international law and a thorny issue between Israelis and Palestinians — were erected after the Six-Day war inside the so-called Green Line, demarcating a border between the West Bank and Israel.

Israeli human rights group, Peace Now, said in a report earlier this year that at least 285,000 settlers live east of the 1967 Green Line that separates Israel from the West Bank.

The figures exclude East Jerusalem settlers which number over 191,000.

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

Rabbis Slam Jewish Construction Freeze

Warn Netanyahu’s move ‘will cause bloodshed in the region’

JERUSALEM — A group of hundreds of prominent Israeli rabbis here today slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to freeze Jewish West Bank construction as an “irresponsible move that will only cause bloodshed in the region.”


The Palestinian Authority, however, immediately rejected the freeze and demanded more.

Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a top aide to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, told reporters the Palestinians “reject returning to peace talks without the complete cessation of settlement activities in the West Bank and Jerusalem.”

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat urged the U.S. to pressure Israel to freeze all construction activity completely in both Jerusalem and the West Bank.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Dubai: Debt Restructuring Underway, Jump-Starts World Markets

(ANSAmed) — ROME — The beginning of negotiations to restructure 26 billion dollars of Dubai World’s debt breathed life back into the international stock markets, but in the Gulf region declines continued today. This occurred despite reassuring announcements from several high ranking officials in the United Arab Emirates, who said that reactions were excessive and the economy in the area is still healthy. After days of high tension on the international markets, panic over Dubai’s possible default and potential consequences seems to have slowly but surely dissipated, so much so that today both on the European and Asian markets, and at opening in New York, substantial earnings were reported. Yesterday’s announcement of a restructuring plan for Dubai World subsidiaries including real estate giant, Nakheel, had little effect on the markets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which declined today by 3.6% and 5.6% respectively, also affecting the Qatar Stock Exchange, which plummeted losing 8.3%, and Kuwait (-2.7%). The markets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi will be closed again tomorrow for four days for a national holiday. Today’s stock market collapses seem to have not taken into account statements made by UAE President, Sheikh Khalifa ben Zayed al-Nahyane, who assured that the country’s economy, “is healthy” and is demonstrating signs of recovery in the fourth quarter as well as others by Dubai governor, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who is also Vice-President of the UAE and Premier and Defence Minister, who said that the global reaction demonstrated a “lack of comprehension”. “We are strong and perseverant,” he assured. Dubai World, whose total losses amount to around 60 billion dollars, announced that its debt restructuring plan will cont involve the financially stable division, which include Infinity World Holding, Istithmar World, and Ports & Free Zone World. Dubai World will evaluate alternative possibilities to cut its debt, including selling off assets. The situation of the international banks seems to be under control. Europe’s exposure to Dubai World “seems to be at a reasonable level,” said Swedish Economic Minister, Anders Borg, current Ecofin President. While Fitch announced that the four main British bank, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, Barclays, and Standard Chartered currently do not seem to run any particular risks due to their exposition to Middle Eastern markets. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Dubai and Abu Dhabi Stock Markets Down Again

Losses reach 6 per cent in early trading to rebound to — 5.6 and 3.57 respectively. Dubai World is trying to restructure part of its debt. The government of Dubai announces it will not guarantee all of Dubai World’s debts. Abu Dhabi announces it will not guarantee all of Dubai’s debts.

Abu Dhabi (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Stock markets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi tumbled for a second day in a row, down 6 per cent in early trading, after yesterday’s losses. They rebounded during the day with the Dubai Financial Market losing 5.61 per cent and Abu Dhabi’s ADX index dropping by 3.57. Banking and real estate were the worst hit. Market analysts say investors are unhappy by the Dubai government’s efforts to restructure some of its debt.

Dubai World, which is linked to the emir of Dubai, wants to restructure US$ 26 billion, including its main property firms, but leave other companies, which it described as “on a stable financial footing”, untouched.

Last week, Dubai World announced that it was asking for a six-month delay in repaying its debts (US$ 59 billion).

Yesterday, the Dubai government said that Dubai World was not part of the government and that it would not guarantee the company’s debts.

Abdulrahman Al Saleh, director general of the Emirate’s Finance Department, said that the company received financing based on the “viability of its projects, not on government guarantees.”

On Sunday, the UAE central bank said it was setting up a facility to provide extra liquidity to all UAE banks as well as foreign banks operating in the Emirates.

For its part, Abu Dhabi said that it would rescue Dubai but will “pick and choose” how to assist its neighbour, insisting that this does not mean it “will underwrite all of their debts”.

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

Fr. Samir: Islam in Paralysis and War; The West Without a Memory

The situation in the Middle East is stagnant: a crisis of Islam drags everything into a fatal paralysis. The crisis also affects the West, oblivious to its Christian roots. Yet Islam and the West need each other. A study by our expert on Islam, in preparation for the Synod of the Churches of the Middle East.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) — Benedict XVI has called a synod of the churches in the Middle East for October 2010. To prepare for it with care we must to try to understand the situation that surrounds this part of the world, and then move on to the problems that churches are suffering there.

In general, the situation in the Middle East appears stagnant and without fruit. In November last year a Catholic-Muslim symposium was held at the Vatican, that gathered dozens of highly qualified figures from the Muslim and Christian worlds. The result was a declaration containing many valid points for the defence of religious freedom, the condemnation of terrorism, the choice of coexistence. But a year on we have yet to see any results, any follow up. Last year even Saudi Arabia, had launched a number of important messages, with steps toward dialogue with other religions, but the situation inside the country with regard freedom of religion or cult has remained unchanged.

Islam in paralysis

Our whole world is waiting and the Islamic world is in a state of paralysis. This paralysis is due to division. The Islamic world is divided on the issue of Israel — Palestine. More reasonable states say that dialogue is the only way forward. On the other hand, Israel offers no possibility for dialogue, and other states — that press for a tougher policy — are also paralyzed.

The situation in Iraq has not improved. There is an ongoing struggle that often takes on the form of war between Sunnis and Shiites. On a broader level this division is reflected in the struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the nations that represent the two Islamic currents.

In recent weeks they have even exchanged threats. Iran says that the Iranians need to take advantage of the pilgrimage to Mecca to revive the jihad to liberate Palestine, the very next day Saudi Arabia said that it will not entertain any gathering or gesture that is not spiritual during the pilgrimage. It was a clear threat to Iran, though without naming it. The war on the border between Saudi Arabia and Yemen is also a war between Sunnis and Shiites. Saudi Arabia’s sentencing to death of Ali Hussein Sbat, Lebanese from al-Ain in Beqaa, on charges of witchcraft, was interpreted as Sunni revenge against Shiites.

Palestine is paralyzed by the division between Gaza and the West Bank, Lebanon for more than 4 months has been without a government — an unprecedented phenomenon. It is a general paralysis.

In this stillness, the only one to move is Israel, which continues to build new settlements in the Occupied Territories, to strike at the heart of the Palestinian problem. By the way they are conceived these Jewish settlements in the future will not allow any geographical contiguity between Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, making it difficult for a future Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital. All of this is unfolding in the silence — with some milder forms of criticism — of all Islamic and Western nations including the United States. It is the complete defeat of law.

Even the Iranian issue is very delicate. It is clear that Iran is playing cat and mouse, saying it is willing to talk and then taking steps toward nuclear power, even war.

But then, how can we condemn Iran when other states in the region (including Israel) have the atomic bomb? How can anyone accept that one forbids another to take the steps which they have already taken? The only justification that is given is: “we are good, you are evil”. But who can promise me that after you there will not be some “bad”?

All solutions seem to be stuck with no way out.

Violence is the malaise in Islam

There is also a fundamental problem: the Muslim world feels this paralysis even more severely. In newspapers and on the Internet Muslims ask: What have we produced in all these centuries? What contribution have we made to civilization? The only thing we have is something that we did not create ourselves, namely oil. For others the answer is: we have faith in God but this is a good that is difficult to estimate …

Thus a feeling of anger against themselves and against anyone is born. Looking at the Islamic world, I have the impression that the only events that make news are those of violence. It happens in the Philippines, the political struggle between the two Muslims leaders; in Iraq, where bombs are now no longer launched against the Americans, but amongst themselves, in Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, in Iran, where Iranian counters Iranian . The whole Islamic world is suffering a lack of freedom in Iran as in Tunisia.

We only need to think of the outcome of the football match between Algeria and Egypt, which also ended in violence … In the end it seems that the only thing Islam is capable of producing is killing and violence.

All of this is the result of a deep malaise of Islam in the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, etc..

Now we can no longer lay the blame for this on the colonial past. The countries of which we speak have long conquered structures that are more or less solid, more or less democratic. We can no longer hide this crisis in the cultural, social and political life of the Islamic world.

The only thing that progresses is religious radicalism, not only in devotion, but in visible forms: the veil, the beard, the obligations …. Muslims returning to Egypt after many years, say they no longer recognize their country for the rigour with which they live everyday life. It is true that mosques are fuller, also of younger age groups, but the doctrine that is offered is not intellectual or spiritual Islam. It’s more a crescendo of hatred against others, against pagans and less radical Muslims.

The crisis of the West

Faced with this crisis of Islam, does the West have a clear conscience and balanced view of its identity? It appears to me to be less and less the case. An event that points to this was the decision by the European Court of Human Rights that unanimously — something rare in these cases — condemned the display of crucifixes in Italy because it does not respect the neutrality and secularism of Europe.

Even putting religion aside, this symbol is part of Italian culture (which obviously has a religious dimension). How, therefore, can they say that the exposure of the cross violates freedom? One statistic of a few years ago said that 77% of Italians appreciate the exposure of the crucifix. Even the philosopher and politician, from Venice, Massimo Cacciari, an agnostic, spoke of the crucifix as the most important symbol that we have of a love that is gifted to save another.

The decision of the European Court, in denying the crucifix, denies itself; it is an attack against itself. If you deny the Shoah it is a historical negation, this decision is a denial of European culture. The ominous fact is that at a European level — excluding Italy — nobody reacted.

In the West there is also another approach, equal and opposite, that asserts itself by denying the identity of the other, that of neo-Nazism. These attitudes go hand in hand, one raises the other. But this is because people have less and less self-awareness.

We are therefore faced with two crises: the culture of the Islamic world and that of the Western world, both in paralysis. The only possible relationship between the two stagnant and closed structures and is one of force or exclusion.

The West tends to emerge from this immobility with the idea of tolerance and multiculturalism: my identity — it says — is all cultures. But this is a conceptual attitude: I can appreciate all the cultures only with my own culture as my foundation; if I say that “I am” all cultures, it means that I have nothing. Instead, if I know who I am, then I am peaceful, serene, proud. Only in this way can we talk. But if there is nothing, only those who shout the loudest wins or who have more material power.

Signs of hope in Islam

The only hope that I see in my middle eastern world, is the attitude of those who say “Enough!”. People do not want to be teased, used as pawns. This is evident in Iran, with the “green” demonstrations, but also in Egypt, where there is even a party that is called its “Kefâya”, i.e Enough! This party was born as a critique of the Mubarak “dynasty”, who after 28 years of reign wants to put his son Gamal in his place. The same can be said in Algeria, Senegal …

The reaction is also seen in the multiplicity of forums that appear on the Internet, or printed media. Of course, several internet sites claim some new Muslims perspectives; there are Muslims, atheists, reformers, etc. .., but no one supports them. Each of them sends a message, a cry, one, ten times, but then gets tired and falls back into silence.

A month ago in Berlin there was a conference of “progressive Muslims”, the Muslim liberals. It involved Muslim feminists, a group of exegetes of the Qur’an (including Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid), and other politicians. The conference was very clear and lively. But later, when they all returned to their homes, they did nothing because they are only a drop in the ocean. There are one billion 200 million Muslims in the world, these liberal minds who write and think, maybe count for 10 thousand, 20 thousand: less than 1 per thousand.

Imams and the fatwa

The reaction is certainly growing and one day maybe will result in an explosion, as happened in the case of the Soviet Union, but it will take a long time. The difference between Eastern Europe and us is that here there is no Berlin Wall, rather a wall of ignorance. The sad fact is that the leaders of Islam are unable to solve problems, instead they enhance them. Most of them were trained in the world’s oldest Islamic university, Al Azhar, where every year up to 150 thousand imams enrole. But in what are they formed? To repeat the old, not to deal with modernity. The only thing they propose is to return to the seventh century. By dint of repeating, they even succeed, but perhaps only 1% of them can discuss modernity with you, evaluating pros and cons, positive and negative values.

What is spreading is recourse to the fatwa, a method that allows no-one to think. If I have a problem I ask the Imam by phone, I pay 1 or 2 euro, and tomorrow I have the answer.

Imams fetter the faithful to what Islam says in the first centuries and lack the moral authority to help me to address my situation today.

A Muslim businessman living in Germany asked if he can have a business lunch with some Christian friends. The responses of his imams muftis were multiple and diverse; one told him that according to the Koran to eat with Christians is “halal”, lawful. Another — the famous Imam Yusuf Qaradawi of Qatar — has forbidden him to do so because the Germans today “are not true Christians”. The person who passed these judgments is not a person who has lived together with Westerners to understand and evaluate them: the verdict is taken from a text and enhanced by prejudice.

By itself, the fatwa is a good tool in advancing Islam and allowing for the modernisation of the religion. But it also runs two risks: first, of blocking development because it often refers back to ancient models; secondly of creating infantilism among the faithful, who do not reflect personally, but look for ready made answers from mufti.

Signs of hope in the West

In the West there are signs of hope, which are critical of inaction. There are those who fight for a more liberal ethic (which sometimes borders on permissiveness), but at all levels, there is a debate about values, on issues with different positions.

Take, for example, immigrants in Europe. Among you there are those who struggle to give them the right of residence, to vote, etc, and others who remain cautious. March 1st next in France, all immigrants go on a general strike, to show how much they weigh in the economy and demand more rights.

But in our middle eastern world, immigrants are treated like animals, without any rights and have no one to defend them. One can say every point the West discusses, it questions itself, it explores philosophical and spiritual values, in depth. Among us in the Middle East there are only a political discussion, but otherwise there is silence. Last January, during the attack against Gaza, invited to participate in a conference by a Shiite Islamist group, I mentioned the Israeli-Palestinian issue, stressing that dialogue was urgent. I was stopped and told that that theme was not to be touched.

Islam and the West need each other

Dialogue between the Islamic world and the West is almost non existent. Yet it is increasingly clear that we need the each other in cultural and economic terms.

The crisis is thus also an occasion for deeper reflection. But the condition is a clear awareness of self and the perception that whatever must be done, must be done together.

The Muslim world can not stand alone, because it risks being left behind by modernity and engulfed by violence. The West can not do it alone either, because even more educated in intellectual terms, it has no arms to work, because of the fall in population. Here emerges the image of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12: “The eye can not say I’m better than you” and what is the eye without the rest of the body?

The globalization of the world, the mortgage crisis in America, has created a worldwide tidal wave. What happens in the economy, also happens in culture, ideology, faith, we are in the same boat if the boat sinks, we all perish.

Wisdom means listening to what Muslims have to say, what their grievances are, what is good in their proposals and what is not applicable. And vice versa.

Dialogue is fundamental to the current situation in Europe, where increasingly there are Muslim communities. But it is also an opportunity for Muslims to rethink what it means to live in the West, in an environment of acceptance, but also as a minority. And in being a minority they can not behave as if they were in an Islamic nation, where they are the majority.

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

Iran Bans Make-Up for Women on TV

“Make-up by women during television programs is illegal and against Islamic sharia law … There should not be a single case of a woman wearing make-up during a program,” Ezatollah Zarghami was quoted as saying by the reformist Etemad newspaper.

Zarghami, a former member of the elite Revolutionary Guards who has been re-appointed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also ordered that women guests should “preferably” be hosted by women.

Speaking at a conference of network directors, he also called for cutting down on music during programs and urged his staff to take a cue from Western action movies, which have “excellent and calm music.”

“I do not mean that we should become like them, but we should use positive points. Therefore we (should) put on the agenda the reduction and refining of music,” he said.

“As of today, you in the production department should launch new supervisory methods … I do not want to tell you to filter, but you should be vigilant that nothing inappropriate happens,” Zarghami said.

Zarghami told directors they should also prohibit “repulsive jokes” between men and women on television or radio, Etemad and Fars news agency quoted him as saying.

When he reappointed Zarghami to a second term last month, Khamenei reportedly told him it was essential to make an “outstanding representation of morality, religion, hopefulness and awareness” in state media programs.

The Islamic republic’s state television has eight TV channels and 15 radio stations.

It has seen different periods of strict or relaxed dress and make-up codes.

Women on television do not expose their hair, but have been indulging in heavy make-up in recent years.

Television is under close scrutiny and observes strict guidelines to an extent that even some local movies have been censored before being aired.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Iran: Women Banned From Wearing Make-Up on TV

Tehran, 2 Dec. (AKI) — Iranian women should no longer be allowed to wear make-up when they appear on state television, according to a senior Iranian executive cited by the reformist Etemad newspaper. “Make-up (worn) by women during television programmes is illegal and against Islamic Sharia law … There should not be a single case,” said the head of the state broadcaster IRIB Ezatollah Zarghami, during a conference of network directors.

Zarghami, a former member of the Revolutionary Guards, has been re-appointed by the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

He also stated that female guests should appear on TV shows “preferably” hosted by women.

Zarghami said that network directors should also prohibit “repulsive jokes” between men and women on television or radio.

According to media reports, women on Iranian TV do not expose their hair and wear heavy make-up.

Iran’s state television has eight TV channels and 15 radio stations.

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

Muslims Will Empty Their Swiss Accounts: Turkish Minister

AFP — A Turkish minister said he expected Muslims to withdraw their money from Swiss banks in response to a referendum vote that banned the construction of minarets in the country, in remarks published Wednesday.

“I am certain this (the vote) will prompt our brothers from Muslim countries who keep their money and investments in Swiss banks to review their decision,” State Minister Egemen Bagis, who is also Turkey’s chief negotiator in EU accession talks, was quoted as saying in the mass-selling Hurriyet daily.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Turkey-Syria: Erdogan in Damascus to Sign 42 Agreements

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, DECEMBER 2 — Syrian ambassador to Turkey said on Wednesday that Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan would visit Syria on December 22, and the two countries would sign 42 new agreements on education, health, transportation and politics. Turkey and Syria started to implement a mutual visa exemption procedure on September 18, and now Turkish and Syrian citizens are able to travel to each other’s countries without visas. In regard to indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria, Syrian Ambassador Nidal Kabalan told Anatolia news agency that Syria would never leave alone Turkey. “Israel clearly said that it does not want Turkey as a mediator. But Syria will continue to its path with Turkey,” Kabalan said. Erdogan would visit Syria on December 22 and a meeting between prime ministers of Turkey and Syria would take place, Kabalan said. “Prime Minister Erdogan’s visit will be a turning point,” he added. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Video: Stalin Lookalike Treated ‘Like a Rock Star’

John Sweeney has travelled more than 5,000 miles through the old Soviet Union — from Joseph Stalin’s birthplace in Georgia to a former labour camp in Russia — to find out if one of the 20th Century’s most notorious mass-murderers is really being rehabilitated.

In Georgia he meets a Stalin impersonator who claims to receive a rapturous welcome wherever he goes.

This World: Stalin’s Return will be broadcast on Wednesday, 2 December, at 1900 GMT on BBC Two.

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


North Caucasus Group in Russia Train Bomb Web Claim

A North Caucasus Islamist group has claimed responsibility for a bomb that killed 26 people on a Moscow-to-St Petersburg train, a website says.

The website claim on said last Friday’s attack was carried out by the “Caucasian Mujahadeen” on the orders of its leader, Doku Umarov.

He is described as one of Russia’s most wanted rebels, but it was not possible to verify the claim’s authenticity.

Moscow had earlier described the Nevsky Express attack as an act of terrorism.

Doku Umarov, a Chechen, is considered the leader of the Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus. He says he is fighting to expel Russian forces, and to turn the region into an Islamic emirate.

Wednesday’s web statement said Friday’s attack was an “act of sabotage”, and part of a series of operations targeting strategic sites in Russia.

“Today, we carry out sabotage operations on electricity transmission lines, oil-and-gas-wires. Many of the operations are under preparation status.

“We intend to conduct such diversions in future, which are the just acts of vengeance… These diversions will continue for as long as the occupants in the Caucasus will not stop its policy of killing ordinary Muslims purely on religious grounds.” has carried statements before by North Caucasus groups claiming responsibility for attacks on Russia that have turned out to be correct.

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

South Asia

Andrew Bostom: Pointed Islamic Hypocrisy: Religious Symbols for Thee, But Not for Me?

How Christian “Symbols,” i.e., Churches, Are Treated in Muslim Pakistan

           — Hat tip: Andy Bostom [Return to headlines]

Danish Defence Chief on Foot Patrol in Helmand

Denmark’s new defence chief Knud Bartels has been on reconnaissance patrol in Helmand.

Denmark’s Defence Chief General Knud Bartels has been in Afghanistan to visit Danish troops there and as part of his visit took part in a foot patrol with scouts of the 2nd Light Reconnaissance Squadron.

Bartels’ foot patrol as part of a CIMIC patrol with the troops took place across fields and irrigation channels in the Gereshk area. CIMIC is part of the Civilian Military Cooperation which refers to the interaction between NATO-led forces and civil actors in Alliance-led operations.

“I was confirmed in my view of the high calibre of our soldiers’ training. And there’s another thing I would like to point out after having been in front with them. We must never forget the courage of soldiers in the efforts in Afghanistan,” Bartels says in a news release.

Crown Princess

Apart from their defence chief, soldiers in Afghanistan have also been visited by Crown Princess Mary, who arrived back in Denmark today after a two-day visit during which she and Defence Minister Søren Gade visited Camp Bastion and Forward Operating Bases Armadillo and Price.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Dhaka: A Jobless Catholic Widow in a Tragic Situation

Gunmen assassinated Laili Costa’s husband on14 July. Police are not pursuing the case because she cannot afford bribe money. Shortly, she will be kicked out of her home, whilst her daughters are malnourished. Now she has but one desire: “celebrate Christmas with my children.”

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — Laili Costa is homeless and out of a job. Her husband was killed under obscure circumstances and her daughters might starve to death. Ms Costa is a Catholic woman in Dhaka who only wants “to celebrate Christmas with her children.” She spoke to AsiaNews about the hardships she has experienced since her husband’s death.

“The landlord of our first house kicked us out. We found a second place but we will have to leave there soon,” she said.

Her oldest daughter “left school because I could not pay the tuition fees.” The second suffers from severe malnutrition and “could die any time.”

Her family’s troubles began after her husband Joacem Costa (pictured at their wedding) was killed. He was a small businessman but was gunned down on 14 July by a group of armed men. Joacem’s brother filed charges but now fears possible retaliation from the criminal gang.

She said she cannot pay bribe money to Mohamed Moinul Islam, the official in charge of the investigation into her husband’s murder. For this reason, she has not had any justice.

For the policeman, the case is “shrouded in mystery;” still police continues ‘to follow the matter to shed light on it.”

Human rights activities and Catholic clergymen have expressed their solidarity to Laili Costa. However, no one has yet to offer her a job or a place where she can move with her family.

“I am afraid that I will not even be able to celebrate Christmas with my daughters,” she said.

Catholics in Bangladesh are a tiny minority. Out of a population of 143 million, Muslims represent 90 per cent of the total. About 9.5 per cent are Hindu, and Christians constitute only 0.3 per cent.

In the past, members of religious minorities have often been victims of attacks, violence and persecution.

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

Diana West: How Important is Marjeh?

Prezident Obama gave his big Afghanistan speech last night, and it was, of course, a mess.

It was rhetorically deceptive — what with the 9/11 jihad further attributed to “men” from al Qaeda, a “group of extremists who have distorted and defiled Islam, one of the world’s great religions” — and it was symbolically diabolical, what with the lives of those dewy-faced cadets in the audience in the balance. The point of it all? The 44th POTUS ordered up 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan to begin bringing them all home by 2011.


More depressing still, however, was the conservative reaction, which was all about seeing its glass half full. (Make that three-quarters full.) The futility of “nation-building” anywhere in the Islamic world lost on these poor infidels, they are now saying the president’s message is correct — sending a big chunk of troops as requested by Commander On-the-ground to carry out the chimerical “counterinsurgency” — even if it was marred by an exit date.

In other words, the leftist White House and conservatives are pretty much on the same stupid page when it comes to this suicide pact to sink ourselves ever deeper into the Islamic Pit — I mean, Republic (I get them confused) — of Afghanistan.

For no achieveable thing…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]

Indonesia ‘Bans’ Film on Journalists’ Deaths in E Timor

Indonesia has banned the film Balibo, which depicts the deaths of six foreign journalists in East Timor, the head of the foreign correspondents club said.

The club cancelled a screening of the film on legal advice that they could face charges.

The journalists died as Indonesian troops invaded East Timor in 1975.

Jakarta maintains they were killed accidentally in cross-fire. But an Australian coroner found in 2007 that the journalists had been executed.

The journalists — two Australians, two Britons and a New Zealander — were killed in the border town of Balibo as Indonesian forces entered East Timor.

A sixth Australian journalist was killed in Dili shortly after when Indonesian troops entered the city.

Successive Australian governments have accepted the Indonesian stance but Australian police announced earlier this year they were opening a war crimes inquiry into the deaths.

Balibo depicts the journalists, working for Australian TV networks, being brutally murdered by Indonesian troops as they attempt to surrender.

Diplomatic fears

The head of the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club (JFCC) told an audience gathered for a private screening on Tuesday night that Indonesia’s Film Censorship Agency had banned the movie.

“I haven’t received anything official but after consulting with our legal advisers, we decided it would be too risky because, while this is a private screening, it would be in a public place thus violating the law,” said JFCC president Jason Tedjasukmana.

Organisers for the Jakarta International Film Festival (Jiffest) said they had also cancelled their planned screenings of the film.

“They told us that we cannot show the movie,” said Jiffest manager Nauval Yazid.

“The reason was not really clear. It is likely because of concerns that it will affect relations with East Timor and Australia.”

Indonesian military figures welcomed the ban.

“It will only hurt many Indonesians,” military spokesman Rear Marshal Sagom Tamboen told the Jakarta Post.

“The movie will only do irreparable damage to the ties between Indonesia, Timor Leste [East Timor] and Australia.”

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

NATO Chief: Nobody is Speaking an Exit Strategy

Fogh Rasmussen said the best way to overcome the widespread public opposition in Europe was by demonstrating progress in the war. This can be done by starting to transfer to Afghan control parts of the country where the security situation is good, he said.

He said the alliance may hand over 10 to 15 districts to the Afghan authorities next year, the first step in a wider transfer of responsibility for security to the Kabul government.

“Nobody is speaking an exit strategy, what we are talking about is a transition strategy, a transition to Afghan lead,” he said. “We will not leave Afghanistan behind, we will stay until the Afghans are able to run the country themselves.”

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Obama Should Call Spain or Italy

From Dutch: The Dutch Labor Party says that the Netherlands will not send soldiers on a new Afghan mission. MP Martijn van Dam said that it’s now the turn of others, and if Obama or other NATO members call, he’ll tell them to call Spain, Italy, France, countries which haven’t done much in Afghanistan in recent years.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Obama’s Afghan Surge is Not About Winning the War, But Managing Our Looming Failure

The decision by President Obama to dispatch a further 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan represents the biggest gamble of his presidency. Two years from now, he will be starting his campaign for re-election. This commitment makes Afghanistan ‘his’ war. If Obama has nothing to show for it by 2012, he will be in deep trouble with the American people.

Of course Britain, too, is raising its stake. There will soon be 10,500 of our soldiers in Afghanistan, including special forces — SAS and SBS.. The objective of the White House, with Gordon Brown trailing in its wake, is to accomplish an extraordinarily delicate juggling act. By sending reinforcements, the national leaders are satisfying the demands of their generals.

Obama is appeasing America’s hawks — the Republicans — and also attempting to persuade the Taliban that he means business. But the real intention of making ‘one last heave’ is to establish a framework for withdrawal. Nato forces are now planning for a six-year presence. In the immediate future, they hope the additional U.S. Marine Brigade and army units, together with British reinforcements, can provide population security in some key threatened areas, especially Kandahar province.

Thereafter, the emphasis will be on training the Afghan army and police units, while seeking progressively to cut Western troop numbers. Obama deems it essential to be seen to be bringing some of his men home by the U.S. midterm elections, less than a year from now.

Gordon Brown seems to have decided that his foremost political priority, in advance of our own general election, is to be seen to give British forces the support they need, which his government has so conspicuously failed to provide in the past. The plan is fraught with tensions, difficulties, indeed contradictions. Some military commanders see a real prospect of using the expanded troop commitment — which brings the total Nato force to 140,000 — to turn the tide against the Taliban and secure large areas of the country.

Many politicians and diplomats are much gloomier, however. One of them, explaining to me last week just how bad things have got, pointed out that the Taliban has established ‘shadow’ administrations in 33 out of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Popular hostility both to the Karzai government and to the foreign military presence is deep-rooted. Progress with training and expanding the Afghan Army is erratic, to say the least. More than a third of Afghan troops go missing as soon as their units are ordered to deploy in the serious fighting areas in the south and east of the country.


Almost no responsible person advocates simply packing up and quitting Afghanistan tomorrow. We are too deeply committed. But it seems to me that the West is in the business of managing failure, struggling to salvage something from a host of past mistakes. We should reduce our troop strength as soon as we reasonably can, while sustaining economic and diplomatic support for Pakistan and Afghanistan. Through this week’s fog of political double-speak, I believe that is President Obama’s perception and intention, too..

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Pakistan: India Not Sincere About Talks, Says Gilani

Berlin, 1 Dec. (AKI/DAWN) — Pakistan’s prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani said that India was not sincere in resuming talks with Pakistan, adding that attempts by Pakistan to normalise relations between the two nuclear powers were being stalled.

“India is stalling the dialogue process and the European Union must play its role to bring it back to the negotiating table for resolving all outstanding issues, including the core issue of Kashmir, between the two countries,” said Gillani during a meeting with German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle, on Monday after arriving for a two-day visit.

The prime minister said that improvement of ties between the two countries was crucial for stability in South Asia.

Gillani’s visit comes on the eve of the golden jubilee of economic relations between the two countries.

Pakistan and Germany are likely to sign a new bilateral investment treaty to enhance cooperation in defence, economy and education sectors.

Briefing the media after the meeting, a foreign ministry official said that Germany had agreed to provide an additional 45 million euros to Pakistan for development assistance in addition to the annual funding of 80 million euros.

He said that details were being worked out and a major chunk of the German pledge would be in grant.

According to the foreign ministry official, Gillani also called for completely lifting a ban on defence-related equipment which was partially lifted in 2004.

The German minister promised that the issue would be reviewed soon.

Westerwelle, he said, praised Pakistan’s role and sacrifices in the war against terrorism and assured that Germany would continue to support Pakistan in its fight against militants.

However, talking to reporters accompanying him on board his plane, Gillani said that the US and UK had not shared intelligence about the presence of top al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan.

He said the government had no information about the presence of al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, in Pakistan and the powers which were fighting the war on terror had not shared any intelligence in this regard.

Gillani also rejected British prime minister Gordon Brown’s statement that top al-Qaeda leaders were in Pakistan and said there was no information about them, about their presence in Pakistan or somewhere else.

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

Setting Timeline for Withdrawal in Afghanistan “Could be Fatal”, Warns Mercer

Mr Mercer warned that setting a timeline for withdrawal in Afghanistan “could be fatal”. “I think it could be fatal, I really do. The Prime Minister last week used that dangerous phrase a timeline. He added President Obama’s mistake had been “fatally mentioning a time, 2011 — it’s a maxim of warfare of any support that you achieve surprise. This is a mistake.”

He went on to say that there will be little fighting in Afghanistan whilst the snow is falling, but there was a question over who would take control in Helmand once the expected spring offensive began. “(The question is) when will command and control move from British hands onto American hands. The general military maxim is the majority shareholder takes control,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Taliban Pledge to Fight US Troop Surge in Afghanistan

The Taliban have vowed to step up their fight in Afghanistan, after pledges by the US and its allies to send large reinforcements to the country.

A Taliban spokesman said such moves would “provoke stronger resistance”.

US President Barack Obama, announcing a long-awaited strategy on Tuesday, said another 30,000 American troops would be deployed quickly in Afghanistan.

Nato’s secretary general said non-US members would contribute at least 5,000 extra troops next year.

“Obama will witness lots of coffins heading to America from Afghanistan,” Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahamdi told AFP news agency.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Three Churches Attacked in Two Days in Tamil Nadu

Church buildings belonging to the Church of South India are targeted. Christian leader says attacks are unwarranted against a minority that wants to “live in peace.” He pleads with the authorities to provide protection.

Coimbatore (AsiaNews) — A group of Hindu extremists attacked a new Christian Church, the Church of South India, in Sulur, in suburban Coimbatore, a city in the southern Indian State of Tamil Nadu. The attackers struck yesterday. After they broke the church’s windows, they threw stones inside the building. A bag containing a bottle of petrol, a diesel can and cotton waste was found after the incident. It is evidence that the attackers were planning to set fire to the place of worship.

Local Christian leaders believe that the goal was to create panic among local non-Hindus. “This attack in the wee hours of Monday is the third of its kind in two days in Tamil Nadu,” Sajan George, national president of the Global Council of Indian Christian (GCIC), told AsiaNews.

On Sunday, a bomb ripped through a wall at a CSI church at Thammathukonam. Late on the same day, “a statue of St Francis Xavier was desecrated by fundamentalists at Konamkade near Colachel, Tamil Nadu, when the local congregation was preparing an Advent procession.”

“These attacks against India’s Christian minority are a shame for the country’s secular soul,” he said. “Christians live in and want peace. These incidents should lead the authorities to take the necessary measures to guarantee the security of places of worship.” (NC)

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

UN Calls for ‘Transition Strategy’ In Afghanistan

United Nations Stressing that a transition policy is needed in Afghanistan against an exit strategy, a top UN official has asked the international community to “re-assert” a long term commitment in the war-torn country.

The strategy would involve building Afghan institutions and handing over greater responsibility to domestic authorities.

“I think we should talk about transition strategy, which is something completely different,” said Kai Eide, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Far East

Digital Tiger in Chinese

Tiger Woods and his car kerfuffle have been brought to digital life on the newscast above, from Taiwan’s Apple Action News. If you’ve ever wondered if the world cares much about Woods’ woes, take a look at the breathless computer-graphics recreation of what this newscast speculates might have happened.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Growing Debt From Unpaid Credit Cards and Chinese Banks

An increase of 126.5% in the first 9 months. The bad debt of banks in China amount to an estimated 43.2 billion euros.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The unpaid debt of credit cards in China has increased by 126.5%. According to the Central Bank of China, at the end of September, debts (with a six month delay in payments) was 7.43 billion Yuan (about 724 million Euros), warning that “bad debt should be carefully observed.” Unpaid debt represents 3.4% of all the debt created by credit cards that have been popular in China since 2000.

At the end of September, in China there were 175 million credit cards. In the first nine months expenditure using cards increased by 39.7%, reaching to 1240 billion Yuan (about 121 billion Euros).

Chinese banks have a reputation of being very exposed to bad debt. At the end of June 2009 these debts amounted to 443.6 billion Yuan (about 43.2 billion Euros), with a continuous growth of loans to the economy triggered by the aid package launched by the government.

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

North Korea to Stand Trial for Supporting Terror in Israel

( The government of North Korea, for the first time, will face charges in a United States Federal Court on Thursday for supporting terrorism against Israel. The trial will begin in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The case arose from a lawsuit brought by the families of victims of the 1972 terror attack at the Lod Airport, where 26 people were killed and 80 injured. The court complaint alleges that the government of North Korea trained and financed the terrorists who perpetrated the massacre.

Most of the victims were Catholic pilgrims from Puerto Rico who had come to visit the Holy Land for the first time. The families are represented by Shurat HaDin director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, and lawyers from New York and Puerto Rico.

In May 1972, terrorists from the Japanese Red Army (JRA), working in league with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), placed automatic weapons, ammunition and grenades in their check-in luggage on a flight from Italy to Israel.

After their bags arrived at the Israeli airport arrivals hall, they took out the weapons and opened fire in every direction, mowing down passengers, flight crew members and airport workers. They also attempted to blow up airplanes on the ground using hand grenades. Two of the three attackers were killed and a third, Kozo Okumoto, was captured, tried and sentenced to prison in Israel.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs will argue that in the months leading up to the massacre the leaders of the JRA and PFLP met with each other and with North Korean officials, who allegedly provided funding, intelligence, training and other material support for the terrorists.

The attack was part of the JRA’s declared strategy, approved by the North Korean government, of taking their anti-Western violence and plans of communist revolution to other parts of the world.

The North Korean regime has been considered responsible for helping Lebanon’s Hezbollah organization to build an enormous underground bunker system that dramatically increased the terrorist group’s fighting capacity in the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

The U.S. State Department added North Korea to its official list of states that sponsor terror in 1988, making it possible for American victims to sue the North Korean government and collect against their assets in a U.S. court. North Korea was removed from the list late last year, but the current lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Puerto Rican families before the deadline for filing lawsuits.

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

Seoul: Filipinas Forced Into Sex Trade With Foreigners and US Soldiers

Women enter the country on ‘Arts and Performance’ visas but are soon turned into waitresses who have to sell their bodies if they cannot sell between 200 and 500 drinks a month. Human rights activists want the government to intervene.

Seoul (AsiaNews) — The number of Filipinas entering South Korea on E-6 “Arts and Performance” visas who are eventually forced into prostitution is rising at an alarming rate, NGOs and activists report. For human rights groups, their fate is a “clear case of human trafficking” because the women end up offered as sex slaves to foreign businessmen and US military personnel stationed in the country.

One of the latest cases involves a 28-year-old Filipina named Lorelei (not her real name) who was trapped at “B,” a prostitution establishment for foreigners, located in the Okpo neighbourhood of Geoje City, South Gyeongsang Province.

She was freed after she was able to send SMS messages to Jenny, a friend and a former prostitute, with information about her whereabouts, which enabled police to move in.

Both women had come to South Korea 6 March on an E-6 ‘Arts and Performance’ visa. They were supposed to perform on stage but were quickly made to serve drinks to customers and then prostitute themselves.

The owners of the place set a quota of 200 to 500 drinks each woman had to sell per month; failing that, they had to pay a ‘bar fine’ in the flesh, i.e. prostitution.

Local sources told AsiaNews that US soldiers refer to Filipinas as “juicy girls” and “drinking girls.”

For the past few years, the problem has been getting worse. In 2008, more than 2,000 Filipino women immigrated to South Korea as part of this scam, ending up in the prostitution business.

Kim Hee-jin, director of Amnesty International’s South Korean section, said that the authorities must take strong countermeasures to eradicate the sex trade.

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


Australia: New Liberal Leader Tony Abbott Says He Would Have ‘Removed’ Oceanic Viking Asylum Seekers

UPDATE 12.10pm: FEDERAL Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has suggested he would have solved the stand-off aboard the Oceanic Viking by forcibly removing the asylum seekers.

The 78 Tamils disembarked in Indonesia after more than a month aboard the vessel following a deal offered by Australian authorities which guaranteed their refugee claims would be fast-tracked.

But Mr Abbott said the group should have been removed.

“If 70 people invaded the prime minister’s office it wouldn’t matter how good the cause was, they would be removed,” he told Fairfax Radio.

“Now, I think that the people who were on the Oceanic Viking should have been removed.”

Mr Abbott, in his first full day as opposition leader, made the comment while taking calls on talkback radio this morning.

And like Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said in the lead up to the 2007 election, Mr Abbott has advocated a policy of turning the asylum seeker boats back so they do not reach Australian waters.

The newly-elected opposition leader also flagged a return to temporary protection visas, a policy also supported by Malcolm Turnbull before he was dumped.

“We’ve got to above all else deny to unauthorised arrivals the great prize of permanent residency in Australia,” he said.

“And that means a new class of visas, akin to the temporary protection visas, it means offshore processing.

“It means where you can, turning boats around and it means working closely with host countries to try to ensure that we don’t get people setting off in these leaky boats.”

There have been 49 boats carrying asylum seekers intercepted in Australian waters this year.

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

Cyprus House Ratifies Agreement With Lebanon

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, NOVEMBER 30 — The Cyprus’ House of Representatives has ratified an agreement between Cyprus and Lebanon for the re-entry of persons who enter or reside illegally in the territory of any of the two countries. The House, as CNA reported, also approved a protocol for the implementation of the agreement. The agreement was signed in Nicosia on July 19, 2002 and the protocol on May 15 in 2008. The purpose of the agreement is to facilitate the re-entry of persons who enter or reside illegally in the territory of either contracting party. The protocol defines the procedures for the re-entry of these persons, the means of identifying them, the competent authorities from each country which will deal with such matters as well as the documentation relating to the agreement. The legislation on this issue aims to tackle the problem of illegal immigration by facilitating the deportation process.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

European Asylum Request Office on Malta

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 1 — Malta will host the seat of the European office charged with helping EU countries examine asylum requests from illegal immigrants who land on their coast, the interior ministers of the EU decided yesterday. The decision was announced by the French Internal Minister, Brice Hortefeux, who supported Malta’s candidacy in that it is one of the countries under the pressure of immigrant flows. More than 67,000, according to data from the EU high commission for refugees, people crossed the Mediterranean in 2008 to request asylum in Europe. More than half of them landed in Malta and Italy.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Anti-Santa Claus Group Wins Support of Thousands

Thousands of Austrians have joined an online campaign against Santa Claus.

More than 70 fan groups have been set up by anti-Santa Facebook users backing the “Pro-Christkind” initiative which wants a ban on the American figure of Santa Claus in favour of the “Christkind”.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

‘Cuz ‘Season’s Greetings’ Just Ain’t Good Enough

Customer ratings system gives shoppers voice to demand stores honor Christmas

Shoppers fed up with stores swapping “Season’s Greetings” and “Happy Holidays” for the more traditional “Merry Christmas” have a place to vent their frustrations this December and a resource for identifying those shops that still honor Jesus’ birth as the reason for the season.

The Retailer Ratings system at provides an up-to-the-second summary of how customers have rated 29 of the nation’s largest store chains — from American Eagle Outfitters to Wal-Mart — on their acknowledgment of Christmas.

“Millions upon millions in our nation deeply value the great truths of Christmas and the holiday’s inspiring place in American life and culture,” the website states. “We’re asking you to decide which retailers are ‘Christmas-friendly.’ They want your patronage and your gift-shopping dollars, but do they openly recognize Christmas?”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Bionic Hands ‘Just a Few Years Away’

Prototype for mind-controlled prosthesis unveiled in Rome

(ANSA) — Rome, December 2 — Italian scientists on Wednesday said they were two to three years from developing a lightweight bionic hand controlled by nerve impulses from the brain.

Unveiling a prototype for the new Smart Hand at a ceremony in Rome, biotechnologist Paolo Dario said it was as “light, flexible and strong” as the real thing. Dario led a team of researchers from Rome’s Biomedical University and the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa who developed the new mind-controlled prosthesis.

The five-fingered model works just like a human hand and only weighs a hundred grams more, said Dario.

A previous model developed last year weighed over two kilograms, three times as much as the average hand.

“It’s hard to make predictions, but we should be able to fit something like this onto a human arm within the next few years,” he said.

The stainless steel prosthesis looks deceptively simple, according to the biotechnologist, who has been working on the project since 1983 when the idea of grafting a robotic limb onto a human body sounded like science fiction.

He explained that the hand is one of the most delicate and complex parts of the human body and that it had been a “painstaking process” to recreate it.

“It was sort of like building a Formula One car. Every few weeks, we’d have a new part ready,” he said.

While Dario said the Smart Hand responded well to the kinds of nerve impulses which control human limbs, he admitted that “the brain-hand interface still needs a lot of work”.

The final product will eventually require a microchip implanted under the skin to act as a “translator” between robotic limb and the brain.

He also said it would take time to find suitable volunteers for laboratory trials, but that his team had already begun looking for possible candidates.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Fight U.N. Censorship in Copenhagen

It’s bad enough the United Nations is blessing the sham of man-made, catastrophic climate change in Copenhagen next week at a convention billed as a major step forward for global governance.

But now we know the U.N. will try to have its cake and eat it, too, by denying press credentials to news agencies like WND that have reported skeptically on the “global warming” charade.


It’s evident the U.N. is pulling out all the stops for a major global power grab in Copenhagen — and they don’t want any impartial witnesses around to report its shenanigans.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

The 9/11 of 1859: Is Al-Qaeda an Abolitionist Movement?

The New York Times Thinks So

by Phyllis Chesler

The daily propaganda which masquerades as news and as learned opinion has just gotten my goat.

Yesterday, the New York Times published an editorial condemning Switzerland as “intolerant” for having voted to ban minarets—minarets, not mosques.

God, I cannot recall an editorial in their pages condemning Arab and Muslim countries for not allowing any Christian churches, Jewish synagogues, or Hindu and Bahai temples to be built. Nor has the Paper of Record really focused on the real refugee story in the Middle East: that of Arab Jews who were forced to flee the Islamic world and came as refugees to Israel between 1948-1956 and constituted a “silent” exodus, one which is still ongoing. My friend Pierre Rehov directed and distributed the most haunting and powerful film with this exact title.

Further, in today’s New York Times, a typically biased piece titled “Jewish Nationalists Clash with Palestinians” also appeared. Note: The headline does not say “Israeli citizens,” nor does it describe the Palestinians as “nationalists” as well. But the main omission is this: The Times’ Isabel Kershner fails to note that the confrontation turned ugly when Americans and Europeans (Swedes) physically assaulted Jewish “nationalists” with clubs and stones. What are they doing here? Where are they when Sderot is being shelled? And, by the way, the fact that the Israeli High Court, which has rendered many pro-Palestinian decisions, ruled that these particular Palestinian nationalist settlers were there illegally is not given the proper weight in this article.

The fact that Jordan is already a “Palestinian” state never seems to register in this newspaper. True, the Jordanians did not want the mainly Palestinian terrorists and massacred and expelled them in 1970; Israel alone is expected to live with them.

But the most troubling article today is one that the distinguished Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and author, Tony Hurwitz, wrote. Horwitz compares John Brown the “abolitionist” and “terrorist” to—you guessed it—Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the 9/11 hijackers. The title of his piece is “The 9/11 of 1859.”

What are they drinking or smoking over there?…

[Return to headlines]

The Other Idol-Breaker: Owen Barfield and the Plenitude of the Word

History, for Barfield, grounded in literate expressions of human endeavor, is necessarily — the conclusion will by now be familiar — a history of consciousness, of intentions and purposes and clarity of articulation; and the historian necessarily seeks a merging of minds, that he might interpret the past for the present. Unancestral Voice contains a great deal more. I have entirely omitted to explain the provocative title and I shall only allude once — here — to the book’s recurrent motto: “Interior is Anterior.” The drift of Barfield’s thinking should be sufficiently evident by this point. He is a severe but hopeful critic of the dehumanizing trends in the modern Western civilization, which began to crystallize in the Eighteenth Century but which had taproots in the materialistic, operational attitude to life expressed cogently in Bacon’s New Atlantis, the blueprint of which Western humanity has been seeking rather successfully to realize ever since. When “Takuan Seiyo,” “Fjordman,” or any other nonconformist thinker writes about the imperiousness of super-state, multiculturalist, and collectivist politics and defends tradition, he is making an argument that at least runs in parallel with a strand in Barfield’s analysis of modernity. When “Fjordman” describes the hatred of Swedish bureaucrats for age-old Swedish tradition or for the very Swedishness of the Swedes, or when “Takuan Seiyo” writes of “Meccania” and “Pod People,” he brings into focus the nightmare of polities whose steering elites see human beings as things, or a mass of things, to be manipulated in the Baconian project. — Hence the determination of those elites to destroy tradition and individuality, the better that they might effect their dead, mechanistic designs. As Barfield writes, the vital force enters into tradition, endowing on tradition itself, through generations of experience, an organic quality, such that tampering with tradition can only damage or kill it and damage or kill those whom tradition had nourished…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]