The FBI recently produced a digitally-generated image of Osama Bin Laden that had been “aged” in an attempt to depict the terrorist mastermind as he might appear today. Unfortunately, the creator of the image borrowed the forehead and hairline from a photo of a Spanish communist politician, who was outraged when he learned about how his image had been misused. The FBI has apologized and promised not to do it again.
In other news, the much-hyped prediction by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that the Himalayan glaciers will melt completely by 2035 is now revealed to have been a complete fabrication, thus driving yet another nail into the coffin of the man-made global warming scare.
Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Henrik, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, KGS, Sean O’Brian, Steen, TB, The Frozen North, TV, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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FBI Angers Politician Whose Image Was Used to Show Older Bin Laden
Madrid, Spain (CNN) — The FBI used a photograph of a Spanish lawmaker as part of a digitally enhanced Osama bin Laden wanted poster, and the U.S. Embassy here has apologized to the angry politician, a spokesman said.
“That was not normal procedure. It was completely unintentional and the FBI is looking into it to prevent it from happening again,” U.S. Embassy spokesman Will Ostick told CNN on Saturday.
Ostick said he called the leftist politician, Gaspar Llamazares, to “express regret” on behalf of the embassy after the lawmaker’s hair and forehead wrinkles, taken from a photo, were mixed into an FBI image showing the possible appearance of Bin Laden now.
The embassy received various calls from the Spanish government earlier Saturday expressing concern about the use of Llamazares’s features in the FBI’s depiction, Ostick said.
Spain’s Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba is meeting the new American ambassador to Madrid, Alan Solomont, on Monday, the ministry announced Sunday.
The ministry did not say what they would be talking about, but the meeting appears to have been scheduled at short notice and is taking place on a U.S. federal holiday when the embassy is not expected to be open.
The digitally enhanced images of Bin Laden appeared Friday on the U.S. government’s Rewards for Justice Web site. One depicts how an aging Bin Laden might look now, wearing his usual turban.
But the other one, depicting him without the head covering, showed the hair and facial wrinkles that were taken from a photo of Llamazares. That photo is no longer on the U.S. government’s Web site.
Ostick said he told Llamazares that the error occurred when an FBI “technician who put together the digitally enhanced image found an image (of hairline and wrinkles) that suited his purposes, and used it.”
Llamazares, an elected member of Spanish parliament from the small, Communist-led United Left coalition, said he wants to know which photo of him the FBI used, and he threatened possible legal action.
Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that the Llamazares photo was from his 2004 election campaign.
Llamazares told reporters that he hoped it was just a case of the “low level and incompetence” of the FBI in the fight against Al Qaeda.
He said he would not travel to the United States, for fear of problems at the border, CNN partner station CNN+ reported.
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US Muslims: Suicide-Attacks on Civilians in Defence of Islam Are Sometimes Justified
Dalia Mogahed of Gallup’s Centre for Muslim Studies argues that because American Muslims are so well integrated, they strongly reject terrorism. This is true, but not uniformly so. Muslim Americans under 30 are twice as likely as their elders to believe that suicide-attacks on civilians in defence of Islam are sometimes justified (15% versus 6%, according to Pew). There is a marked streak of alienation among black Muslims, only 36% of whom say they have a “very unfavourable” view of al-Qaeda. Only a minority of Muslim Americans believe that Arab Muslims carried out the attacks of September 11th 2001.
|— Hat tip: Steen||[Return to headlines]|
Britain is No Place for the White, Working-Class Male
Telegraph View: Labour’s ‘core vote’ has abandoned the party — and no wonder.
John Denham is one of the more impressive members of a largely undistinguished Cabinet, and his speech yesterday on race and discrimination was characteristically thoughtful, if disingenuous. Mr Denham is the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, head of a department whose very title signifies the multiculturalist patchwork the country has become. The word “communities” is often used as a euphemistic shorthand for ethnic minorities, on whose advancement the Government has concentrated in recent years. So successfully has it done so, said Mr Denham, that “being black or Asian no longer means being automatically disadvantaged”. He effectively declared the war on racism over, and claimed it was Labour that won it.
We are not convinced that disadvantage was ever “automatic”; many people from ethnic minorities were held back not simply by discrimination, but because they were, by and large, less well-off and poorly educated. Mr Denham traces the improvements to the Race Relations Amendment Act introduced in 2000, after Sir William Macpherson’s inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. But the truth is that things have been getting better for 30 years or more, as a tolerant country has come to terms with being more racially diverse than it once was. As Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has observed: “Britain is by far the best place to live in Europe if you are not white.”
The problem is that if you are white — and working-class and male — Britain is not necessarily such a pleasant land. Whereas ethnic minorities, especially those who have arrived relatively recently, tend to have high aspirations, stable homes and make great sacrifices to ensure the best education for their children, the same culture does not pervade white working-class families. Their children, particularly the boys, have for many years been out-performed at school by virtually every other social group, and the decline in heavy industrial jobs that once offered a livelihood to young men with no qualifications has compounded their disadvantages.
It is impossible, however, not to take a cynical view of Mr Denham’s somewhat belated recognition of the parlous position of this group. These are the traditional supporters of Labour’s heartland, the “core vote” that Gordon Brown is desperate to retain, who feel badly let down by the Government and are turning to the BNP.
It will rank as one of the greatest stains on his premiership that such extremists were able to gain an electoral foothold in our country. For all Mr Denham’s self-congratulation, that is the true legacy of Labour’s years in power.
|— Hat tip: TV||[Return to headlines]|
Netherlands: Shrugging Off Spinoza
Any one who still claims that the trial against Geert Wilders MP, leader of the Party for Freedom (9 seats in Parliament and 27 in the polls), which starts on the 20th of January, is not a political process: get a grip. Accused by the Dutch ‘Openbaar Ministerie’ exactly a year ago for insulting Islam, comparing the Koran to Mein Kampf and delivering hate speeches, the coming trial against Wilders suddenly got a Kafkaesque and potentially murderous twist. Finally, seven days before his first day in Court, all fangs were out and faces off.
“It is irrelevant whether Wilder’s witnesses might prove Wilders’ observations to be correct”, the ‘Openbaar Ministerie’ stated, “what’s relevant is that his observations are illegal”. Unexpected and breaching court procedures the detailed indictment of 21 pages, which Wilders received on the 4th of December and sums up in verbatim all of his Islam and Koran critique in interviews and Fitna, was amended with new accusations of racism against muslims and Moroccans. On top of this, Paul Vellerman, the public prosecutor of the Amsterdam Court decided that the Wilders trial had to be regarded as “an ordinary trial open for public and with a normal procedure, which doesn’t deserve the Department of Justice’s highly secured bunker. His is a normal case and we’ll treat it as such”.
It’s sad to note that Mohammed Bouyeri, the murderer of Theo van Gogh, and Volkert van der Gaag, the assassin of Pim Fortuyn, were tried in this specially designed bunker, but that Wilders has to rely on his personal bodyguards and full metal jacket to ward of terrorists. No safe room for him, which recently secured Kurt Westergaard and his granddaughter, but for months on end the vulnerability of a sitting duck…
|— Hat tip: TB||[Return to headlines]|
Terrorist Network in Britain is a Security Threat
US security officials claim the level of al-Qaeda activity in the UK poses a major security threat at home and abroad.
State Department officials believe the UK is vulnerable to being used as a base for al-Qaeda terror attacks.
They claim the growing presence of the terrorist network in Britain is now a major security concern for other Western countries.
The comments come as the US investigates the failed attempt to blow up a transatlantic jet over Detroit on Christmas Day, by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian who studied at University College London.
|— Hat tip: Steen||[Return to headlines]|
UK: Anjem Choudary: I’m Smiling Because Sharia is Coming
The radical Muslim who threatened to hold a march through Wootton Bassett is ready to defy the ban on his group and says a coup could make Britain an Islamic state
Obviously I was never going to see eye to eye with the benefitchogging Muslim hate cleric Anjem Choudary, but I didn’t realise how many of his own community think he’s dreadful, too. Few of the cafes on his home turf — London’s East End — will accommodate the bearded 42-year-old firebrand and self-styled “most hated man in Britain”. Indeed, just after he flounces out of our interview in one of the few that will — a halal diner in Whitechapel — a waiter asks me: “Is that the coffin man? I can’t bear him. All he wants is fame, and the easiest way to get that is say that Christian people should be persecuted. I don’t see much difference between him and Nick Griffin.”
|— Hat tip: Steen||[Return to headlines]|
UK: Banning Veils ‘Is Not Radical’
Banning Muslim women from covering their faces is neither “radical or ridiculous”, former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage has insisted.
Euro MP Mr Farage said his party’s call to outlaw Islamic face veils was about preventing extremists from imposing their culture — including Sharia law — on Britain.
But critics hit back at the plan, with Schools Secretary Ed Balls describing it as “not British” and some questioning whether Ukip was seeking to attract support from British National Party voters.
Mr Farage told BBC1’s Politics Show that his party was seeking to ban the “covering of the face in public places and public buildings”.
“What we are saying is this is a symbol,” he said. “It is a symbol of something that is used to oppress women, it is a symbol of an increasingly divided Britain, and the real worry — and it isn’t just about what people wear — is we are heading towards a situation where many of our cities are ghettoised and there is even talk of Sharia law becoming part of British culture.”
France is seeking to push a ban into law and other countries are considering similar measures, Mr Farage said, adding: “There is nothing extreme or radical or ridiculous about this, but we can’t go on living in a divided society.”
Mr Farage, who is standing in Commons Speaker John Bercow’s Buckingham seat at the general election, made clear Ukip was not seeking to ban Muslim women from wearing loose clothing but only the face veil — often referred to as a niqab.
He claimed up to 200,000 women in Britain currently wore the veil, and that numbers were growing.
The move is being seen as an attempt to woo disaffected white working-class voters, though Mr Farage insisted it had “nothing to do with the BNP”.
“It will appeal to people who want to live in a country where there is one law and that law applies to everybody,” he said. “I would have thought that fair-minded people would say that the increasing ghettoisation of our cities is a real threat to genuine stability in this country.”
|— Hat tip: The Frozen North||[Return to headlines]|
UK: Take British Citizenship Away From Controversial Cleric
WHAT a pity we don’t have laws that can actually take British citizenship away from people.
If we had, we could take the passports off hate cleric Anjem Choudary, above, and anyone else linked to his evil band of useless layabouts from Islam4UK.
Then we wouldn’t have to fork out thousands of pounds of benefits a week, and we could put them on the first plane back to wherever has the Sharia law that they hanker after.
They may call themselves British, but they have taken our freedoms and our benefits cash and thrown them right back in our faces.
They are not part of my Britain or the Britain that the majority of peace-loving, devout Muslims are part of.
I know it’s a free country, but there has to be a way to deal with people like this, who are determined to divide us at a time when we really need to be united against the terrorist threat.
|— Hat tip: Steen||[Return to headlines]|
“Why Teheran is Out of the Question”
Giuliano Amato, Giancarlo Bosetti and Ramin Jahanbegloo, members of Resetdoc’s scientific committee, have written a letter to UNESCO’s General Director Irina Bokova to prevent the 2010 World Philosophy Day from being hosted by Iran. Doing so would make mockery of the victims of repression, in a country where one can be imprisoned or killed for expressing one’s ideas. “We are certain that we will not be alone in our concern in presenting such an urgent appeal — the authors write — and invite philosophers and intellectuals from all over the world to join us in this by sending a message of support to email@example.com.”
To the Director General of UNESCO
Her Excellency Irina Bokova
We have recently learned that Iran is the candidate country for the 2010 World Philosophy Day, usually held in the month on November. This annual event is a worthy initiative that each year allows an intense dialogue at a global level and involves philosophers and students in ways that are new to the usual academic circuits. We have experienced this on successful occasions, when our Association, Reset-Dialogues on Civilizations, has had the honour to cooperate with UNESCO’s philosophical sector, such as in Morocco in 2006 and in Turkey in 2007.
We believe that Iran’s candidature for the coming edition should not be considered as a normal rotation of location, since we are sadly aware, due to a very close experience, how one can be imprisoned and risk one’s life in Iran because of one’s ideas. The young woman who last June became a symbol of protest after the elections, Neda Agha Soltan, held degrees in theological studies and in secular philosophy. It is certain that under current conditions a World Philosophy Day could not be held in “normal” conditions in Iran and that many philosophers would not be able to attend freely.
We are aware that a final decision has not yet been taken on Teheran’s candidature by UNESCO’s main bodies and therefore we hope that a decision will make possible that this event will take place in another country. We are certain that we are not the alone in our concern in presenting such a alarmed request and invite philosophers and intellectuals from all over the world to join us in this by sending a message of support to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Giuliano Amato, president of the Scientific Committee of Reset-Dialogues
Giancarlo Bosetti, editor in chief of Reset magazine
Ramin Jahanbegloo, Iranian philosopher, author of “Reading Gandhi in Tehran”
15 Jan 2010
|— Hat tip: Insubria||[Return to headlines]|
Analysis: Saudis Seek Illusory “Third Way” In Regional Diplomacy
by Jonathan Spyer
Syrian President Bashar Assad is reportedly scheduled to visit the Saudi capital Riyadh, where he is to meet with Saudi King Abdullah. The meeting is rumored to be a prelude to a three way summit also to involve Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The current round of talks is the latest stage in Syria’s return from the cold in terms of its reintegration — on its own terms and with no concessions made — into the mainstream of Arab diplomacy. This process, in turn, is testimony to the current weakness of Saudi Arabia’s position.
The two traditional lynchpins of the modern Arab state order — Egypt and Saudi Arabia — today find themselves in an uncomfortable position. The key regional strategic process taking place is the contest between the United States, Israel and their allies on the one hand, and the Islamic Republic of Iran and its clients on the other. This clash between non-Arab-led forces has effectively broken apart the traditional patterns of Arab diplomacy, with Arab states engaged on either side. This split has been perhaps most glaringly — and for the Arabs most embarrassingly — apparent in the Arab-Israeli arena.
During Operation Cast Lead, the Arab League was unable even to assemble a quorum in order to condemn Israel’s actions. This was because the split in the Palestinian camp had in effect produced two Palestinian national movements, one aligned with the pro-Iranian regional camp (Hamas), and the other associated with the pro-Western camp. In Operation Cast Lead, Israel went to war with the pro-Iranian Palestinian element.
The Saudis are frightened of the Iranian regime. They are also deeply uncomfortable with a situation in which the great legitimating flag of Islamic and regional opposition to Israel is passing into the hands of the Iranians. They are therefore seeking to re-absorb the two Arab elements who have drawn closest to Teheran — Syria and the Palestinian Islamists — back into the fold of Arab diplomacy.
There is a fatal flaw in the Saudi design. The flaw is Riyadh’s weakness. The Saudis can only seek to tempt. They cannot insist, much less coerce. What they wish to present as rapprochement thus ends up looking more like surrender to the pro-Iranian camp.
So since October, Riyadh has been hard at work on the Syrians. The main policy result of this so far has been the foundation of a new government in Lebanon. The new government in Lebanon became possible because the clients of Saudi Arabia conceded the demands of the pro-Iranian, pro-Syrian element in their entirety, following five months of inconsequential bargaining.
The leaders of the new government have since made supplicatory trips to Damascus. They are pledged not to disturb the independent pro-Iranian military force in the country (Hizbullah.)
Riyadh now appears to be trying to perform something similar on the Palestinian track. A flurry of diplomacy is under way. Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal met with the Syrian president in Damascus. Assad on that occasion stressed to Mashaal the importance of Palestinian unity.
The Saudis are subsequently known to have encouraged Abbas to meet with Mashaal in Damascus.It is not yet clear what exactly the Saudis are driving at. But Saudi Arabia’s current actions are the latest proof that Syria’s policy of disruption works — at least against weak and irresolute enemies. While holding fast to their alliance with the Iranians, and in return for nothing, the Syrians have been invited back to the top table of Arab diplomacy. This, the Saudis hope, will allow for the noble task of trying to put Humpty together again — that is, rebuilding Arab regional diplomacy along the comforting lines of all-together-against-Israel (at least verbally).
The problem with all this is that it won’t work. If the Saudis or anyone else believe that the pro-Iranian alliance can be stopped in its tracks by handing it victory, they are sorely mistaken…
|— Hat tip: Barry Rubin||[Return to headlines]|
Iraq Sentences 11 to Death
AN IRAQI court on Thursday sentenced to death 11 men, including Al-Qaeda militants, over devastating truck bombings in Baghdad on Aug 19 that killed more than 100 people, a judicial official told AFP.
‘They are sentenced to death for the crime they planned,’ Ali Abdul Sattar, president of the criminal court, said at a hearing in the Iraqi capital.
The Aug 19 attacks outside the ministries of finance and foreign affairs caused massive destruction, killed 106 people and wounded around 600 others.
Those convicted included Salim Abed Jassim who confessed that he received funding for the attacks from Brigadier General Nabil Abdul Rahman, a senior army officer during the rule of Saddam Hussein now living in Syria. Also sentenced to death were Ishaq Mohammed Abbas, an Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader and his brother Mustapha, the court official told AFP.
Both men had once been detained but were later released from Camp Bucca, a now closed US-run prison in the southern city of Basra.
The Aug 19 truck attacks on what was dubbed ‘Black Wednesday’ marked Iraq’s worst day of violence in 18 months and prompted outrage among citizens at how the bombers had been able to commit such atrocities. The government, which blamed the attacks on Al-Qaeda and Saddam loyalists from the executed dictator’s outlawed Baath political party, admitted at the time that negligence at checkpoints allowed the attackers to penetrate the capital. — AFP
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Iraq’s ‘Chemical Ali’ Gets 4th Death Sentence
BAGHDAD (AP) — Saddam Hussein’s notorious cousin “Chemical Ali” was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging on Sunday for ordering the gassing of Kurds in 1988, killing more than 5,000 in the worst such attack ever against civilians.
It was Ali Hassan al-Majid fourth death sentence for crimes against humanity in Iraq. The previous three have not been carried out, in part because survivors of the poison gas attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja wanted to have their case against al-Majid heard.
Relatives of Halabja victims cheered in the courtroom when chief judge Aboud Mustafa handed down the guilty verdict against al-Majid, one of the chief architects of Saddam’s repression and among the last to face trial.
Nazik Tawfiq, a 45-year-old Kurdish woman who said she lost six relatives in the attack, fell to her knees to pray upon hearing the verdict.
“I am so happy today,” she said. “Now the souls of our victims will rest in peace.”
In Halabja after the verdict, residents cheered and songs played from loudspeakers at a monument commemorating victims of the attack. Some in town visited the cemetery to remember loved ones who died in the gassing. The jubilation demonstrated again the deep-rooted hatred many Iraqis feel toward the former regime.
Another senior figure in Saddam’s regime, former Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, suffered a severe stroke over the weekend and cannot speak, his son said Sunday. Aziz was the international face of Saddam’s regime for several years. He was convicted and sentenced to prison for his involvement in the forced displacement of Kurds in northern Iraq and the deaths of Baghdad merchants in the early 1990s.
Al-Majid earned his nickname because of his willingness to use poison gas against the Kurds. The 1988 killings remain a source of deep pain, particularly for Iraq’s Kurds. Many in Halabja still suffer physically from the effects of the nerve and mustard gas that were unleashed on the village at the end of the Iran-Iraq War.
Survivors feel a sense of injustice that Saddam was hanged for the killings of Shiites following a 1982 assassination attempt, but did not live to face justice for the Halabja attack.
The gassing of the town was considered the most extensive use of chemical weapons on civilians in history.
The court also convicted and sentenced other former officials to jail terms on Sunday for their roles in the Halabja attack.
Former Defense Minister Sultan Hashim al-Taie faces 15 years in prison, as does Iraq’s former director of military intelligence, Sabir Azizi al-Douri. Farhan Mutlaq al-Jubouri, a former top military intelligence official, was sentenced to 10 years.
Evidence against the defendants included eyewitness accounts, official documents and films seized after the fall of Saddam’s regime, and military correspondence among commanders.
Al-Majid faces three previous death sentences for atrocities committed during Saddam’s rule—particularly government campaigns against Shiites and Kurds in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
He was previously sentenced to hang for his role in a brutal crackdown against the Kurds in the late 1980s, known as the Anfal campaign, that killed hundreds of thousands.
The court later issued separate death sentences for his role in the 1991 suppression of a Shiite uprising and for a 1999 crackdown that sought to quell a Shiite backlash to the slaying of Grand Ayatollah Mohammed al-Sadr.
The earlier death sentences against al-Majid have not been carried out in part because of a desire by victims of the gas attacks to see him tried for one of the former regime’s most vicious attacks.
Another obstacle was a political dispute involving al-Taie, who was also sentenced to death along with Chemical Ali in the Anfal trial.
Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni, and President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, have both refused to sign the execution order against al-Taie, who signed the cease-fire with U.S.-led forces that ended the 1991 Gulf War. Al-Taie is a Sunni Arab viewed by many as a respected career soldier who was forced to follow Saddam’s orders in the purges against Kurds.
The three-member presidency council must approve all death sentences, and the failure to find agreement on al-Taie delayed the execution of al-Majid as well.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, has pushed the presidency council to approve the death sentences pending against al-Majid and al-Taie.
Al-Taie surrendered to U.S. forces in September 2003 after weeks of negotiations. His defense has claimed the Americans had promised al-Taie “protection and good treatment” before he turned himself in.
Many Sunni Arabs saw his sentence as evidence that Shiite and Kurdish officials are persecuting their once-dominant minority by using their influence over the judiciary.
Another reason for the delay is that the Kurds from Halabja have also been pushing to have their day in court with al-Majid.
Mohammed Saeed Ali, a Kurdish city official in Halabja, said al-Majid ought to be hanged in Halabja to bring closure to victims’ relatives.
“Chemical Ali massacred us and we want to see him getting what he deserves,” he said.
|— Hat tip: KGS||[Return to headlines]|
Political Turmoil Follows Barring of Hundreds From Iraq Ballot
BAGHDAD — A knot of young men stood Friday outside the Umm Al Qura Mosque, once a nest of insurgent fervor where a year of relative tranquillity has softened the jagged edges of nearby bullet holes. They were angry, frustrated and quick to punctuate their denunciations of a decision to bar scores of Sunni candidates from Iraqi elections in March with a single word: sharaiyya, Arabic for legitimacy.
“We’re not going to boycott because our candidates were disqualified,” said one of them, Suheil Najm. “We’ll boycott because the elections won’t be legitimate.”
The decision to disqualify nearly 500 candidates, many of them Sunni Muslim, plunged Iraqi politics into turmoil on Friday. Leading candidates vowed a boycott of the vote, perhaps the most important since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Protests were threatened, and anger rippled through Iraq’s Sunni communities.
But beyond the din of recriminations, the decision posed an even greater challenge to Iraq’s nascent body politic, lawmakers, officials and residents say. A hard-won legitimacy of Iraq’s political process that had finally turned elections into an arena of contest for virtually all factions here looked dangerously tattered on Friday, they said.
“The credibility of the state and the credibility of our elections is at stake,” said Mahmoud Othman, an independent Kurdish lawmaker. “Time is running out.”
The disqualifications, ratified Thursday, were the latest turn in a mercurial process that even rivals of the barred candidates acknowledge has been shrouded in secrecy and characterized by unpredictability. It took United States and United Nations officials by surprise and has left Iraqi leaders scrambling for some kind of compromise weeks before the campaign for the March 7 parliamentary elections was supposed to officially start.
Some of the most prominent Sunni politicians, fixtures for years on Iraq’s fickle political landscape, have been made targets, apparently for supporting Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. Among them were Defense Minister Abdul-Kader Jassem al-Obeidi and Saleh al-Mutlaq, the head of the National Dialogue Front, whose alliance with Ayad Allawi, a former prime minister, was expected to fare well in Sunni provinces that were underrepresented in the last election in 2005.
“This is a perversion of the political process; it is a perversion of the democratic process,” said Nada Jbouri, a Sunni lawmaker and ally of Mr. Mutlaq’s. “When you eliminate candidates, it is no longer a fair representation of the people.”
The dispute began last week when Iraq’s Accountability and Justice Commission said it would disqualify more than a dozen candidates and political parties. The eventual list sent to electoral officials had about 500 names, out of 6,500 candidates. Hundreds more will be disqualified Monday, said Falah Shanshal, a Shiite lawmaker whose committee oversees the commission’s work.
|— Hat tip: Sean O’Brian||[Return to headlines]|
Saudi Billionaire Eyes New Links With News Corp.
CAIRO — The Saudi billionaire whose investment firm is one of the biggest stakeholders in Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. said he is looking to expand his alliances with the media giant, in the latest indication that his appetite for growth remains robust even as his company retrenches.
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a nephew of the Saudi king and who was listed last year by Forbes as the world’s 22nd richest person, met with News Corp.’s chief executive Rupert Murdoch on Jan. 14 in a meeting that “touched upon future potential alliances with News Corp.,” according to a statement released by his Kingdom Holding Co. late Saturday.
Media reports have indicated that News Corp, parent to Fox News and Dow Jones & Co., among others, may be thinking of buying a stake in Alwaleed’s Rotana Media Group, which includes a number of satellite channels that air in the Middle East.
Neither company has commented publicly on the possible deal, but the talks offer an indication yet that such an agreement may yet be in the offing.
Kingdom Holding’s statement said Alwaleed is already the second largest stakeholder in News Corp., with 5.7 percent of the shares of the media company. The stake is held through Kingdom Holding, in which Alwaleed holds a 95 percent stake.
The investment company has a diverse portfolio, ranging from hotels to shares in Apple, eBay and Citigroup.
Alwaleed, and the investment firm, were hit hard by the global meltdown.
He has since focused on shoring up borrowing power, in part through a recent decision to transfer 180 million of his shares in Citigroup to Kingdom Holding. In a statement last week, he described the move — valued at about $600 million — as key to facilitating future borrowing and growth.
The Saudi royal also met last week with Citigroup’s chief executive Vikram Pandit, according to a statement by Kingdom Holding e-mailed Sunday.
Alwaleed told Pandit that the “honeymoon is now over,” a clear indication that one of the banking giant’s largest investors wants solid results this year, according to a transcript of an interview that aired Thursday on Fox Business News.
“I told him that clearly the market gave you two years leeway, but I think now it’s time to deliver,” Alwaleed said. “And 2010 is really for him is year to make it or break it, and he has to deliver. “
Alwaleed raised his stake in Citigroup to 5 percent in late 2008 from less than 4 percent in a move that came as the company was facing a possible collapse. Kingdom Holding says Alwaleed is the single largest shareholder in Citigroup.
Citigroup has repaid the money it borrowed from the U.S. government during the financial crisis, but still faces a new fee to be levied on banks by the Obama administration to recoup $120 billion in taxpayer money used to support faltering companies.
Alwaleed said he was opposed to the move, arguing that “I believe taxing the banks right now is not the right time at all.”
“It’s like you have a patient just coming out of ICU, intensive care unit, and all of sudden bang him with another tax. I think it’s too much, it’s too early for that if it’s going to have that happen,” he said, according to the transcript.
The $120 billion recovery goal is the most that administration officials expect to lose from the government’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program that bailed out banks, automakers and other financial firms.
Alwaleed’s Rotana already has an alliance with News Corp.
In 2008, the two companies teamed up to bring Fox Movies to the Arab world and then last year, Rotana and Fox International Channels signed a multi-year output deal with The Walt Disney Co. to provide a range of programing to viewers in the Middle East, according to the statement by Kingdom Holding.
Alwaleed has also been meeting with officials in Abu Dhabi, the oil-rich emirate that recently bailed out Dubai, its glitzy neighbor awash in debt.
A statement by Kingdom Holding said the Saudi royal met with senior officials in Abu Dhabi, which holds the presidency of the United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven semiautonomous city-states.
Abu Dhabi’s largest sovereign wealth fund, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, alleges “fraudulent misrepresentations” by Citigroup over the fund’s $7.5 billion investment in the banking giant. ADIA has said it is seeking compensation or an exit from the deal.
|— Hat tip: heroyalwhyness||[Return to headlines]|
Turkey: Women’s Rights Marred by Violence in the Southeast
Domestic violence is the biggest obstacle to developing women’s rights in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast. A local organization in Van became a driving-force for women to stand up for their rights
The Kurdish ethnic struggle in the Southeast has hampered efforts to diminish domestic violence and improve women’s rights, according to the head of a leading local organization.
The Kurdish ethnic struggle came before women’s struggle in the predominantly Kurdish city of Van, said Zozan Özgökçe, founder of Van Women’s Association, or VAKAD.
“When there is no conflict, women can give priority to their own life but when there is a conflict their priority is absolutely the ethnic conflict. The ethnic struggle has dominated the lives of women because their men and children have struggled against the state,” said Özgökçe. The fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, has been ongoing for nearly two decades and claimed the lives of thousands.
She said he state policy ignoring the presence of Kurds caused many difficulties for women and their right to have direct ties with the regional authority.
The feeling of mistrust in the Kurdish community has often left the victims of incest helpless because they could not seek help from state authorities, according to Özgökçe.
“It is difficult for women to issue a complaint particularly when they are subjected to sexual abuse or domestic violence. The applications of women have decreased each time the conflict in the region refueled,” she said.
The association has mainly worked to prevent domestic violence against women, said Özgökçe.
Established in 2004, the association has helped over 6,000 women so far. An information center, a family court and a shelter were established to help women who suffer from domestic violence.
That the association is a driving-force for changes that are expected to remove gender-based discrimination is something that Özgökçe strongly believes.
“Today, women and girls have more rights than they had yesterday. Something is changing in the city. State agencies are becoming increasingly involved in women’s issues,” she said.
The association is working not only in Van, but also in other nearby cities in the region, she said. “We are also working in other southeastern cities including Mus, Bitlis, Hakkari and Yüksekova. There is a human rights program once a week in these cities. Even, the health workers have benefited from this program.”
The association has set up two shelters to protect women suffering from domestic violence. But they are not enough to accommodate every victim, said Özgökçe.
“We have also provided social, medical and psychological support in our information center for women. We do not provide financing but we are helping them to find a job to work,” she said.
Another project that VAKAD undertook is a joint-project on the prevention of suicide, levels of which have increased in recent years.
“We have worked together with Heinrich Böll Stiftung and Frederic Ebert Stiftung as well as Women’s World Day of Prayer-German Committee in a campaign that aims to increase awareness among 4,000 women in Van,” she said. Referring to how the association cooperates with international non-governmental organization, particularly those based in Germany.
The association still has many things to do, said Özgökçe, referring to the many obstacles facing the women of Van.
“We are working like a missionary to help women. We are trying to empower women to take a place in every field of life.”
This, however, is not an easy endeavor. “The discrimination stemming from what social roles expect from women is too entrenched. Thus, the efforts by foundations for women are not enough to change the existing framework,” she said.
Özgökçe has been targeted with anger and hate from the local community and was subjected to death threats early in her pro-woman efforts.
“The threats were particularly coming from tribal members or the fathers and husbands of women. There have been some people who raided the association’s premises and threatened to kill me,” she said.
People have also accused her of weakening the structure and values of the traditional family.
“Many people called me wicked just because I criticized the notion of honor. Some have called me a fundamentalist feminist, while others have said I am the enemy of all men,” she said.
“Every resident of Van knows that women have been oppressed for years. Many believe that women’s rights should be improved. The same people do not want to improve rights for their wives, or daughters,” she said.
The judiciary system fails to deter honor killings because the existing law reduces the sentences of murder when it comes to domestic reasons, she said.
“The Turkish penal code has sentenced a murderer to life in prison, but the sentence was reduced if the killer uses honor to defend himself,” she said.
|— Hat tip: C. Cantoni||[Return to headlines]|
Turkish Activists Demand Barak be Tried Over Gaza
Turkish human rights activists Friday asked a prosecutor to order the arrest of Israel’s defense minister for genocide over the Gaza war when he visits this weekend, the Anatolia news agency reported.
The complaint by Mazlum-Der, an Islamist-leaning rights group, accused Ehud Barak of genocide and crimes against humanity during the Jewish state’s three-week offensive in Gaza, which was launched in December 2008.
If the prosecutor sees fit, he will launch an investigation to see whether the complaint merits charges. If not, he will dismiss Mazlum-Der’s initiative.
A similar complaint by the associations against several Israeli officials, including Barak, in February last year was thrown out by prosecutors.
The complaint comes ahead of a one-day visit by Barak to Turkey on Sunday for talks with his counterpart Vecdi Gönül and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in a bid to patch up ties poisoned over the Gaza offensive.
The Islamist-rooted government in Ankara has kept up an almost daily barrage of criticism against Israel over the humanitarian situation in Gaza, leading to a cooling of ties that flourished under a 1996 military deal.
In the latest spat between the two countries, Israel had to issue a formal apology Wednesday after Turkey threatened to withdraw its ambassador over Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon’s public dressing down of the envoy over a television series portraying Mossad agents as child snatchers.
|— Hat tip: C. Cantoni||[Return to headlines]|
Russia Military Jet Disappears
A MILITARY spokesman says that a Russian fighter jet has disappeared while on a training mission in the country’s far east.
Col. Alexei Kuznetsov says the Su-27 fighter jet has taken off from an air base near the city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur.
He said on Rossiya-24 television that the jet went off the radar screens Thursday while it was 30 kilometers (20 miles) away from the base.
Kuznetsov said rescue helicopters were searching for the plane and its pilot, but added that darkness complicated the effort. Most Russian helicopters lack equipment for flying at night. — AP
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Malaysia: Three More Words Banned
KUALA LUMPUR — ‘ALLAH’, which is Arabic for God, is not the only word prohibited for use in a non-Muslim context.
In the case of the Catholic newspaper Herald, it is barred from using three other words: Kaabah (Islam’s holiest shrine in Mecca), Solat (prayer) and Baitullah (House of God).
Father Lawrence Andrew, the weekly paper’s editor, told The Straits Times yesterday that the four words were listed in the guidelines issued to the Herald in 2007. The Cabinet decided on the prohibited words in 1986.
The Herald does not use the three latter words, but ran into problems with the Home Ministry for using ‘Allah’ to refer to the Christian God in its Malay-language publications.
Last month, the High Court set aside the government ban on the use of ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims. The court decision outraged many Muslims and was followed by a series of arson attacks on churches.
The ban is not limited to those four words. Malaysian states have enactments listing more Arabic or Malay words as exclusive to Islam.
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Philippines — Malaysia: Muslim Leaders Condemn Attacks on Christians in Malaysia
The attacks against churches are against the teachings of Islam. Also condemned by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). 8 January, 9 houses of worship targeted by Islamic fundamentalists after the decision of the High Court of Malaysia to allow Christians to use the word Allah in books and newspapers. Also yesterday the office of the Catholics lawyers attacked.
Manila (AsiaNews) — “The attacks against churches and buildings of worship of any religion are against the teachings of Islam.” Ustadhz Abdulhadi Daguit, Muslim and head of the Philippine Center for Halal Awareness (Pcha), condemns the recent attacks on Christian places of worship in Malaysia and invites Christians and Muslims to dialogue. Meanwhile, yesterday in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) unknown assailants broke into the office of the lawyers who defend the Catholics in the ongoing controversy on the use of the word Allah. According to the lawyers it is intimidation carried out by Muslims. There was nothing of value in the office.
8 January Malaysian Islamic fundamentalists stormed nine Christian buildings. The violence was provoked by the decision of the High Court on 31 December last to authorize the weekly Catholic Herald to use the word “Allah” as a reference to God in its Malay language edition.
These days in addition to Muslim Filipinos the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Council of American-Islamic Relations (Cair) have condemned the assaults. In a statement the OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu stressed the importance of peaceful coexistence between ethnic groups in Malaysia, consisting of different faiths and cultures. The head of Cair has instead called on Muslims to protect places of worship of other religions. “American Muslims — he says — are a symbol of peaceful dialogue and coexistence between different faiths. We can not remain silent before the onslaught on churches or other places of worship.” Muslims in America, Malaysia and the rest the world — he adds — must protect all places of worship, so they will show the true spirit of Islam. ““ In the Arab world — he concludes — Christians have always used the word Allah to refer to God. “
Meanwhile, the Malaysian police have arrested Mohamad Tasyrif Tajudin, a Muslim of 25 years. He declared on Facebook that he had helped to manufacture the material used for the assaults. He risks a year in prison.
|— Hat tip: C. Cantoni||[Return to headlines]|
Thai Couple Shot Dead, Burned
YALA — SUSPECTED Islamic militants shot dead a Buddhist couple and set their bodies on fire Thursday in the latest gruesome attack to hit Thailand’s troubled south, police said.
A bloody six-year separatist insurgency in the kingdom’s southernmost provinces along the Malaysian border has killed more than 4,100 people and wounded thousands more.
Police said a 51-year-old man and his wife, 42, were on a motorcycle on their way to work at a telephone company when attackers gunned them down in provincial capital of Pattani.
The militants then doused their bodies with gasoline and torched them in the middle of the road, police said.
The insurgency erupted in January 2004 but tensions had bubbled under the surface in the south since predominantly Buddhist Thailand annexed the former Malay Muslim sultanate in 1902.
The shadowy militants never publicly state their goals and use a range of methods in their attacks, ranging from bombs and shootings to burnings, beheadings and even crucifixions. — AFP
Hat tip: http://sheikyermami.com/ (Winds of Jihad)
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World Misled Over Himalayan Glacier Meltdown
A WARNING that climate change will melt most of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035 is likely to be retracted after a series of scientific blunders by the United Nations body that issued it.
Two years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a benchmark report that was claimed to incorporate the latest and most detailed research into the impact of global warming. A central claim was the world’s glaciers were melting so fast that those in the Himalayas could vanish by 2035.
In the past few days the scientists behind the warning have admitted that it was based on a news story in the New Scientist, a popular science journal, published eight years before the IPCC’s 2007 report.
It has also emerged that the New Scientist report was itself based on a short telephone interview with Syed Hasnain, a little-known Indian scientist then based at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.
Hasnain has since admitted that the claim was “speculation” and was not supported by any formal research. If confirmed it would be one of the most serious failures yet seen in climate research. The IPCC was set up precisely to ensure that world leaders had the best possible scientific advice on climate change.
Professor Murari Lal, who oversaw the chapter on glaciers in the IPCC report, said he would recommend that the claim about glaciers be dropped: “If Hasnain says officially that he never asserted this, or that it is a wrong presumption, than I will recommend that the assertion about Himalayan glaciers be removed from future IPCC assessments.”
The IPCC’s reliance on Hasnain’s 1999 interview has been highlighted by Fred Pearce, the journalist who carried out the original interview for the New Scientist. Pearce said he rang Hasnain in India in 1999 after spotting his claims in an Indian magazine. Pearce said: “Hasnain told me then that he was bringing a report containing those numbers to Britain. The report had not been peer reviewed or formally published in a scientific journal and it had no formal status so I reported his work on that basis.
“Since then I have obtained a copy and it does not say what Hasnain said. In other words it does not mention 2035 as a date by which any Himalayan glaciers will melt. However, he did make clear that his comments related only to part of the Himalayan glaciers. not the whole massif.”
The New Scientist report was apparently forgotten until 2005 when WWF cited it in a report called An Overview of Glaciers, Glacier Retreat, and Subsequent Impacts in Nepal, India and China. The report credited Hasnain’s 1999 interview with the New Scientist. But it was a campaigning report rather than an academic paper so it was not subjected to any formal scientific review. Despite this it rapidly became a key source for the IPCC when Lal and his colleagues came to write the section on the Himalayas.
When finally published, the IPCC report did give its source as the WWF study but went further, suggesting the likelihood of the glaciers melting was “very high”. The IPCC defines this as having a probability of greater than 90%…
|— Hat tip: Henrik||[Return to headlines]|
Vietnam: Crucifix Crackdown Denied
HANOI — A VIETNAMESE official has denied a Catholic priest’s assertion that parishioners were wounded when police used tear gas in a dispute over a crucifix, state media reported on Thursday.
‘Local authorities did not crack down on parishioners,’ said Nguyen Van Hau, deputy chairman of the My Duc district People’s Committee, the local government.
As quoted by the state Vietnam News, he said several extremists and parishioners ‘with poor awareness of laws’ hampered the work of officials attempting to dismantle the cross.
Unrest broke out on January 6 when parishioners tried to stop a large group of police and troops sent to dismantle the crucifix atop a mountain, according to Nguyen Van Huu, the priest of Dong Chiem parish in My Duc district. He said parishioners told him the police used electric prods, tear gas and stones against the crowd, two of whom were seriously injured and taken to Hanoi 70 kilometres (40 miles) away for treatment.
Four or five other parishioners were hurt, said the priest, who was not present at the time of the incident. As described by the priest, the clash was one of the most serious recent incidents in a long-running series of church-state land disputes.
He said local authorities argued that the cross was built without permission last year on state-managed land, but he insisted the land had been used by the Catholic Church ‘for more than 100 years’. Officials began seizing Church property, along with many other buildings and farms, more than 50 years ago when communists took power in what was then North Vietnam. — AFP
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Wealthy Migrants Pricing Locals Out of Sydney Property Market
AUSTRALIAN families are being priced out of the property market by record numbers of highly paid skilled workers arriving from overseas.
Research by The Sunday Telegraph has revealed for the first time how skilled immigrants — predominantly from Britain, India and China — are forcing house prices to some of the highest levels in the world when compared with average incomes.
Almost 115,000 permanent skilled visas were issued last year, compared with just over 40,000 in 1998-99 — an increase of 187 per cent.
During the same period, the median house price rose 168 per cent, from $156,600 to $420,600.
Although the number of migrants is relatively low compared with total property transactions, which have averaged 500,000 a year over the past 10 years, experts say property-price inflation is driven not by what the average buyer can afford to pay, but by the highest bidder.
And because skilled migrants command above-average salaries, they pay above-average prices. As a result, a relatively small number of highly paid buyers can have a disproportionate effect on house prices.
“There’s no question the number of skilled migrants is a key factor in driving up prices,” John Edwards, of property monitor Residex, said.
|— Hat tip: Sean O’Brian||[Return to headlines]|
Somalia and Yemen ‘Swapping Militants’
A radical Somali Islamist group fighting to overthrow the government in Somalia says it is exchanging fighters with rebels in Yemen.
An al-Shabab spokesman told the BBC the group was sending forces to Yemen and receiving fighters in return because of its close links with the country.
Yemen has come under scrutiny after last month’s failed US airliner attack was linked to militants in the country.
Al-Shabab controls swathes of southern and central Somalia.
Its ideology is based on a much more radical form of Islam than is traditionally practiced in Somalia, and the movement is accused of being an ally of al-Qaeda.
Al-Shabab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Raage portrayed al-Shabab as no more than the organised arm of Islamic resistance to Western oppression.
He denied formal links with groups like al-Qaeda.
“What is al-Qaeda?” the Sheikh asked. “It is Muslim people who are massacred in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and other Islamic countries like Yemen.”
A Muslim is the brother of other Muslims, he said, “so we and al-Qaeda share the Muslim faith and are fighting for freedom. That’s all we share.”
Sheikh Raage rules out talking to Somalia’s Western-backed government, saying this can only take place when African Union forces present in the country leave.
He also warned that if American troops are ever sent to Somalia they will end up dead.
“They will suffer the same fate they did in 1993, when they were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu,” he said.
Al-Shabab’s message is one of unremitting hostility to Somalia’s government and any form of Western involvement in the country.
“We are on that road, and we will be on that road for the rest of our lives,” said the sheikh.
|— Hat tip: Sean O’Brian||[Return to headlines]|
Immigrants Will Attribute to Population Explosion in the UK
There is an expected growth of 16 million from the current figure of 61 million to almost 77 million in 2060 — a rise of 25%.
This means that UK would have the largest population in the EU, ahead of the projections for France (72 million) and Germany (71 million).
The EU’s statistical office Eurostat also predicts the EU population will reach 506m in 2060, from 495m in 2008.
The report claims it is expected to peak at 521m in 2035 but then decline.
|— Hat tip: Steen||[Return to headlines]|
H1N1 is ‘Global Scam’: Expert
BRITISH media are reporting that a prominent health expert has claimed that the H1N1 flu scare was ‘faked by drug companies’.
The Daily Star newspaper reports that Wolfgang Wodarg, head of health at the Council of Europe, says the H1N1 scare was ‘one of the greatest medical scandals of the century’.
Dr Wodarg also said that drug companies convinced the World Health Organisation (WHO) to declare a pandemic in order to increase profits. The newspaper also reports that the Council of Europe will be holding an emergency debate on the issue before the end of January.
‘It’s just a normal kind of flu. It does not cause a tenth of deaths caused by the classic seasonal flu,’ Dr Wodarg told the Daily Star. ‘The campaign of panic provided a golden opportunity for representatives from labs who knew they would hit the jackpot in the case of a pandemic being declared.’
The British government, however, slammed Dr Wodarg’s comments on Thursday, saying that there were ‘no grounds whatsoever’ for his claims.
A GlaxoSmithKline spokesman from the UK said: ‘Allegations of undue influence are misguided and unfounded. The WHO declared that H1N1 swine flu met the criteria for a pandemic. As WHO have stated, legal regulations and numerous safeguards are in place to manage possible conflicts of interest.’
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James Cameron: ‘I Believe in Eco-Terrorism’
And no, that’s not taken out of context.
Entertainment Weekly asked Cameron to respond to some of the criticisms aimed at him regarding “Avatar.” Check out how he responded to this one:
EW: “‘Avatar’ is the perfect eco-terrorism recruiting tool.”
JC: “Good, good. I like that one. I consider that a positive review. I believe in eco-terrorism.”
Is he joking (there’s no — laughs — insert included in the text)?
|— Hat tip: Sean O’Brian||[Return to headlines]|
World Pirate Attacks Soar
PIRATES hijacked 49 vessels worldwide and held 1,052 crew members for ransom last year. The level of violence has increased with 120 vessels fired upon compared to 74 last year, eight crew members killed and 68 injured, the London-based bureau said.
Somali pirates were responsible for 217 of the global attacks, up nearly double from last year’s 111.
The report said Nigeria also remained dangerous, with 28 attacks. It said piracy was also on the rise in South America with 37 attacks, from 14 in 2008, with most cases occurring while vessels were berthed in port or at anchor.
Seafarers reported 17 attacks in Bangladesh and 13 in the South China Sea, the highest in five years.
There were nine attacks in the Singapore Straits, up from six in 2008. Indonesia was a bright spot with only 15 attacks, down sharply from 28 in 2008. Two attacks were reported in the Malacca Straits, the same number as in 2008. — AP.
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