Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/23/2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/23/2010The United States Geological Survey has determined that Venezuela’s Orinoco belt holds twice as much in oil reserves as Saudi Arabia, which is coinsiderably more than the Chavez regime has ever estimated. However, at least one Venezuelan oil geologist disagrees with the USGS assessment.

In other news, a man in Turkey sold his twelve-year-old daughter into marriage — twice. The first time he received four cows in return for her, but the girl’s marriage didn’t work out, and she came home. The asking price the second time was about €4,800. Police have arrested the girl’s father.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Diana West, Gaia, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JD, Sean O’Brian, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Italy: Magistrates Slam ‘Short Trial’ Move
Conservatives: Beware of McCain Regression Syndrome
Female Suicide Bombers May be Heading Here From Yemen
Former Ariz. Congressman Plans Run Against McCain
In Ohio, Obama Vows to ‘Never Stop Fighting’
NY Man Accused of Beheading Claims He Was Battered
Senator’s Call to Profile Angers ‘Muslim Mafia’
Sentence for Killing Terrorist Reduced
Suit by Alleged Informant Says FBI Endangered His Life
Europe and the EU
Diana West: Righting Wrongs
France: Burqa: Total Ban in Public Areas
Italy: Anti-Cross Judge Struck Off
Italy: Gangsters’ Photos With Football Stars
UK: Cherie Blair Spares Violent Queue Rage Thug Because He is a ‘Religious Man’
UK: Conman on the Prowl: The Porsche-Driving Fraudster Who Stole More Than £1m — But Was Freed by the French Because Their Jails Are Full Up
UK: CCTV in the Sky: Police Plan to Use Military-Style Spy Drones
UK: Military-Style Spy Planes ‘To be Used to Target Civilians in the UK’
Violent Anti-Semitism Leaves Crete Indifferent
North Africa
Egypt: Niqab: Cairo University Objects to Cancelled Ban
Egypt: Christians Massacred, Mubarak, Religion is Not Politics
Egypt: Christians Massacred; EU Parliament Appeal, Be Alert
Israel and the Palestinians
Gaza: Explosives From the Gaza Strip, Israel Responds
Pasta Produced in Bethlehem, But With an Italian Heart
Middle East
Dubai, The Fatwa Experts, Ready to Host UN Headquarters
Saudi Arabia — Philippines: Riyadh: Rape Victim Might be Lashed 100 Times
Saudi Arabia: Blast Kills 3 Terrorists
Turkey: 12-Year-Old Girl Sold by Father for 4 Cows
Turkey Police Arrest 120 Al-Qaeda Suspects
Russia: Moscow Patriarchate to Boost Mission in Siberia, Far East and Europe
South Asia
Diana West: Meanwhile, Back in Afghanistan …
Far East
Japan: New Orthodox Church Built in Nagoya
Australia — Pacific
Bikie Member Drive Alerts Police Squads
Fifth-Generation Serviceman Injured, Traumatised and Abandoned by the Military
Sub-Saharan Africa
Nigeria Religious Riot Bodies Found in Village Wells
Latin America
Venezuela Oil ‘May Double Saudi Arabia’
Voodoo Despot Who Bled Haiti Dry is Tracked Down to Paris Where He’s Plotting to Use Quake Tragedy to Return to Power
Australia: Wrong-Footed by Rapid Migration Change
Australia: Debate on Population Targets Immigrants
Claims That Half of Poles Have Returned Home From Britain ‘Not True’, Says Polish Immigration Expert
Egypt: Attack on Christians; Government Criticises EP
France Investigates Mass-Landing of Immigrants in Corsica
Kabul to Kiruna: A New Life in the Arctic Circle
Culture Wars
College Defends Prof Who Mocked Christians
Hate-Crimes Law Named No.1 Anti-Christian Act of 2009
The Enemy Within: Fox News Stirs Up Murdoch Family Ire

Financial Crisis

Italy: Magistrates Slam ‘Short Trial’ Move

‘Unparalleled’ and ‘devastating’, they claim

(see previous coverage on site). (ANSA) — Rome, January 20 — Italian magistrates slammed a trial cap bill that moved through parliament on Wednesday, saying it was unparalleled compared to other countries and would have “devastating” consequences on the justice system.

The Comitato Intermagistratura, a committee representing penal, civil, administrative, accounting and state magistrates, said the bill would wipe out “hundreds of thousands of trials with extremely high costs to society and to the state”.

Among the cases affected, it said, would be the massive 2003 Parmalat and Cirio bankruptcies and corporate raider assaults on the BNL and Antonveneto banks a few years ago in which thousands of shareholders have filed for compensation.

Also on the list of threatened trials, it said, were Europe’s first corporate murder trial for work accidents, at Turin’s ThyssenKrupp steelworks where seven workers died in a fire in 2007.

The bill, which moved from the Senate to the House Wednesday, “risks provoking devastating consequences on the entire system of Italian justice,” the committee said.

“It is a de fact amnesty on crimes committed before May 2, 2006,” the committee said, “a full-fledged whitewash would will ensure complete impunity for typical white-collar crimes and also many insidious forms of widespread crime against weak people”.

The Comitato claimed the bill “does not have an equivalent in any other European legislation at a European or international level”.

The largest opposition group, the Democratic Party (PD) weighed in against the bill again, with leader Pierluigi Bersani claiming thousands of people would be denied justice for the sake of stopping two trials against Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

“They have done the worst thing possible,” the PD leader said. “They’ve destroyed thousands of trials, leaving thousands of victims without justice in order to save one person,” Bersani claimed.

The leader of a smaller opposition party, ex-prosecutor Antonio Di Pietro, went further, saying the bill set up “a Fascist, mafia and P2 regime”.

The P2 was a subversive Masonic lodge outlawed in the 1980s.

Berlusconi was among the many prominent Italians found on its membership rolls but has always claimed he became a member “as a joke”.

Justice Minister Angelino Alfano meanwhile replied to claims that the justice system was too under-funded to accelerate trials by saying that more than 630 million euros from the sale of mafia assets would boost funding.

Alfano has repeatedly rebutted claims that the bill would have a significant impact on the justice system.

Only 1% of trials would be affected, the government says.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Conservatives: Beware of McCain Regression Syndrome

Pay attention: In the afterglow of the Massachusetts Miracle, there are flickers of peril for the right. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but like Paul Revere’s midnight message, consider this warning “a cry of defiance, and not of fear.” Conservatives have worked hard to rebuild after Big Government Republican John McCain’s defeat. But McCain isn’t going gently into that good night.

Red Flag No. 1: A reader from Arizona informed me the day after the Bay State Bombshell that he had received a robo-call from Massachusetts GOP Sen.-elect Scott Brown. “He basically wanted me to vote for John McCain in November,” the reader said in his description of the automated campaign call supporting the four-term Sen. McCain’s re-election bid. “No wonder [Brown] said he hadn’t had any sleep…He was busy recording phone messages!”

Red Flag No. 2: Also in the wake of the Massachusetts special election, the nation’s most popular conservative political figure Sarah Palin announced she would be campaigning for her former running mate in Arizona in March. Palin told Facebook followers that she’s going to “ride the tide with commonsense candidates” and help “heroes and statesmen” like McCain.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Female Suicide Bombers May be Heading Here From Yemen

American law enforcement officials have been told to be on the lookout for female suicide bombers who may attempt to enter the United States, law enforcement authorities tell ABC News.

One official said at least two of them are believed to be connected to al Qaeda in Yemen, and may have a non-Arab appearance and be traveling on Western passports.

The threat was described as “current” but not imminent, said the official.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Former Ariz. Congressman Plans Run Against McCain

Former Arizona Congressman J.D. Hayworth says he’s planning to run against John McCain for his U.S. Senate seat.

Hayworth told The Associated Press late Friday that he stepped down as host of his radio program on KFYI-AM, a conservative radio talk show in Phoenix. Legally, he wouldn’t be able to host the program and be an active candidate.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

In Ohio, Obama Vows to ‘Never Stop Fighting’

Offering his most extensive public comments about the election debacle in Massachusetts, President Obama acknowledged that he’s taking some lumps but also trying to cast himself as a populist who will “never stop fighting” to bring health care reform and jobs to communities like this hard-hit manufacturing area outside Cleveland.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

NY Man Accused of Beheading Claims He Was Battered

The founder of an Islam-oriented television station who is accused of beheading his wife was abused by her for years, according to his lawyer, who said Friday he will pursue a defense combining that justification as well as psychiatric claims.

Defense attorneys’ claims that Muzzammil Hassan was victimized by his wife drew a blunt response from District Attorney Frank Sedita after a hearing Friday.

“He chopped her head off,” Sedita said. “He chopped her head off. That’s all I have to say about Mr. Hassan’s apparent defense that he was a battered spouse.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Senator’s Call to Profile Angers ‘Muslim Mafia’

CAIR wants lawmaker to meet with Islamic leaders to explain

The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Oklahoma chapter is calling on Sen. James Inhofe, R.-Okla., to meet with Muslim leaders to discuss his statement during a congressional hearing in favor of using religion and ethnicity as factors in profiling airline passengers.


Inhofe’s spokesman has not replied to a WND request for comment. But advocates of the senator’s position argue correct profiling would not automatically regard a Muslim as a terror suspect. Rather, it would take a passenger’s religion and ethnicity into account among a variety of factors that, together, comprise a terrorist “profile.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Sentence for Killing Terrorist Reduced

Appeal still pending for soldier who fired in self-defense

The sentence for a U.S. soldier who says he killed an al-Qaida operative in self-defense has been reduced by the Army Clemency Board from 20 to 15 years, according to a statement released by supporters of 1st Lt. Michael Behenna.

The soldiers’ advocates, however, also point out his appeal is pending, and they have confidence his case ultimately will be overturned, because prosecutors withheld critical evidence during his trial.

The focal point of the arguments has been a statement by a witness for the prosecution that Behenna’s own description of shooting the al-Qaida operative in self-defense was the only explanation supported by the facts.

The issue is raising concern because of the decision by the prosecution to not only exclude the statement from the case but withhold it from the defense until after the conviction.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Suit by Alleged Informant Says FBI Endangered His Life

An Irvine man who says he worked as an undercover informant for the FBI, most notably as a Muslim convert in an anti-terrorism case, filed a lawsuit Friday accusing his law enforcement handlers of violating his civil rights and endangering his life.

Craig Monteilh, 47, says he worked as an informant for the FBI from 2004 through 2008, providing information and assistance in narcotics, bank robbery and murder for hire investigations before being asked to go undercover as part of an anti-terrorist effort in Orange County, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Monteilh alleges that the FBI essentially cut him loose after a supervisor bungled an operation that would have led to the discovery of “bomb making materials” in a Tustin mosque. Afterward, the lawsuit alleges, his FBI handlers reneged on a promise to implement an “exit strategy” that was to include back pay and severance pay and help with beginning a life with a new identity.


Monteilh says in his lawsuit that his work for the bureau at times placed his life in jeopardy. At one point after his cover was blown, he said, Muslim extremists “ordered a ‘fatwa’ “ against him and the Romania Mafia, Mexican Mafia and a white supremacist group all wanted him dead.


To support his cover, Monteilh said he learned to read, write and speak Arabic, became well versed in the pillars of the Islamic faith and began dating Muslim women.

After his successful immersion in the Muslim community, particularly at the Islamic Center of Irvine, Monteilh said he was approached by extremists who attempted to “radicalize” him. He says the information he provided led to the indictment of Ahmadullah Sais Niazi last February.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Diana West: Righting Wrongs

A slow snooze day at the New York Times, which recently featured a piece I can hardly wake myself up to mention except that it casually defames — as only the uninformed can casually defame — one of the true heroes of our times, Filip Dewinter (above) of the Vlaams Belang party in Belgium.

As many readers know, I have written extensively about Filip and his party’s courageous political battle to halt and reverse the Islamization of Belgium since I first met him almost exactly three years ago.

Did I say courageous? Here’s a look at what it takes to make the case against Islamization in Europe today.

Here is Filip Dewinter (with megaphone) in October 2008, after having been attacked as he arrived to participate in a debate at the University of Ghent. As Filip put it, “so-called anti-fascists used fascist methods to try to silence us. This cannot be allowed in a democracy.”

Here he is being arrested in 2007 by Belgian police at a political rally in Brussels to comemmorate 9/11 and protest the Islamization of Europe, a process unconscionably enabled by what you could call the “indigenous” acolytes of the one orthodoxy on earth more messianic than Islam — multiculturalism.

The Times article contemplates the endlessly thrilling (if you are the NYT) chimera of right-wing “fascism” in Europe, utterly missing the grinding Western reality of encroaching Islamic-cum-socialist totalitarianism. It drops moody shadows of “Nazism” with its anti-Semitic shadings over Vlaams Belang. You may find a lenghty queue of my writings on this subject, along with other postings on Filip Dewinter here, but for now, let me offer a quick picture(s) of where to find anti-Semitism in Belgium today, dating back to last year’s Muslim protests in Antwerp over Gaza that escalated into rioting in the Jewish district of the city.

Back to fantasy land at the New York Times, where the threat to the Western world comes not from equal parts Islamic and multicultural orthodoxies, but from Vlaams Belang…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]

France: Burqa: Total Ban in Public Areas

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JANUARY 21 — There will be a total ban on wearing the full veil in public areas, stated today André Gerin, president of the parliamentary commission which the government asked to draft a report on the use of the burqa in France. Speaking to Le Figaro, Gerin today stated that “One thing is certain, in public areas the use of the burqa will be absolutely forbidden”. The report by the commission, which opens the road to a parliamentary resolution (a non-binding text) on the issue, will be officially presented next week. Gerin, a communist MP, also stated his support for a general law against the burqa. Law which, he later specified during an interview by radio RTL, is supported by the larger part of commission members. In his opinion the burqa is nothing other than the tip of an iceberg in the black tide of radicalism”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Anti-Cross Judge Struck Off

Luigi Tosti will appeal ruling

(ANSA) — Rome, January 22 — An Italian judge who gained headlines for refusing to hear cases with crucifixes in the courtroom was struck off the judiciary roll Friday.

Luigi Tosti, 61, was removed from his job by the Italian judiciary’s self-governing body, the Supreme Council of Magistrates (CSM).

The CSM said in its ruling that Tosti, a Jew, was guilty of refusing to do his job in the Marche town of Camerino from May 2005 to January 2006.

Tosti said he would appeal the sentence to Italy’s highest court of appeal, the Cassation Court and, failing that, to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg which last year issued a landmark, but non-binding, ruling against crosses in Italian classrooms. “If the Cassation Court agrees with me the CSM’s ruling will be quashed. But I would almost be happier if the appeal were rejected and the European Court had to address my case”.

The issue was “identical”, he said, to that raised by the Finnish-born mother of two in northern Italy who secured the ruling against crosses in classrooms. “I’m curious to see what the CSM writes in its ruling,” Tosti added. Tosti, who defended himself without a lawyer at Friday’s hearing, repeated his argument that crosses should not be present in courts because of the separation of Church and State Members of the libertarian Radical Party demonstrated outside the CSM in support of Tosti.

The judge had been subjected to disciplinary measures including losing his pay in the past but continued his campaign undeterred.

Last February he got a jail conviction quashed for refusing to enter courtrooms unless crucifixes were removed.

Italy’s supreme court overturned a seven-month sentence issued in May 2007.

Judge Tosti first made headlines in April 2004 when he threatened to place symbols of his own Jewish faith, like the menorah candle-holder, in his Camerino court.

He insisted that defendants have the constitutional right to refuse to be tried under the symbol of the cross.

Tosti’s ejection from the magistrature came a day after the Italian government said an appeal was ready against the European court’s ruling against crucifixes in Italian classrooms, which sparked a storm in this heavily Catholic country.

Cabinet Secretary Gianni Letta said the appeal against the European Court of Human Right’s ruling would be supported by “an abundance of documentation and arguments”.

He said it had been “easy” to garner the support of “several other European countries” in Italy’s favour.

The European Court of Human Rights is not the European Union’s top judicial body. That is the European Court of Justice, in Luxembourg.

The head of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI), Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, hailed the government’s appeal, saying “the sentence goes against European history and religious sentiment”.

After the appeal is filed, the ruling panel of the 47-member Council of Europe, which the court represents, will have six months to decide what action the Italian government should take to avoid future suits.

The Strasbourg court ruled on November 3 on a petition filed nine years ago by Soile Lautsi, a 20-year resident of Abano Terme near Padua, who argued crosses in classrooms infringed pupils’ religious freedom. Italy’s Constitutional Court ruled in December 2004 that crosses should stay in courts and classrooms.

But the Court did not give a juridical explanation for its ruling, and many felt it had washed its hands of a political hot potato.

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

The row even prompted a reaction from Pope John Paul II, who stressed that Christmas cribs were a part of Italy’s Catholic heritage.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Gangsters’ Photos With Football Stars

Napoli players unwittingly photographed with fugitive gang bosses. Photos discovered in Camorra hide-outs

NAPLES — The photos show smiling Italian and international footballers. Big-name stars including Marek Hamsik, Roberto Carlos and Fabio Cannavaro pose with Camorra gangsters. The photos, taken in public in restaurants, were much prized by gang bosses. In fact, they always carried the photos with them, even when they were on the run and in hiding.

The footballers themselves were unwitting accomplices in a story that features in several papers today. Hamsik and Cannavaro were unaware that the Neapolitans so keen on posing with them were actually gang bosses. Now, the three photographs have been submitted as evidence in a drug trial involving traffickers from Secondigliano, the breakaway group from the Di Lauro gang known as “Secessionists”.

One of the pictures, taken at a restaurant in the province of Naples, shows Hamsik with the fugitive Domenico Pagano, who is believed to be a leading figure in the bloody drug-related feud with the Di Lauros. The other two photographs were taken in Madrid and show an as-yet unidentified Neapolitan man with Roberto Carlos and Fabio Cannavaro, both of whom were playing for Real Madrid until last season.

The photographs have been acquired as evidence in the investigation into the drug trade which led a few days ago to the arrest of Paolo Gervasio, the Camorra’s own “Pablo Escobar”. It should be pointed out that no charges have been made against the footballers. All three were completely in the dark about the criminal potential of the individuals with whom they were photographed. In this respect, it is unconvincing to associate the affair with another episode that left its mark on Naples in the 1980s when football legend Diego Armando Maradona was photographed at the home of the Giuliano gang bosses of Forcella.

English translation by Giles Watson

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UK: Cherie Blair Spares Violent Queue Rage Thug Because He is a ‘Religious Man’

Cherie Blair has kept a violent yob out of prison because he is a ‘religious man’.

The wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair took pity on the defendant while sitting as a judge at Inner London Crown Court yesterday.

Shamso Miah, 25, broke another customer’s jaw during the violent ‘queue rage’ attack after a row erupted about who was next in line.

Miah, a devout Muslim, had just left his local mosque when he became enraged and grabbed victim Mohammed Furcan before punching him, the court heard.

The thug ran outside but Mr Furcan chased after him and demanded to know why he had been struck.

Miah then punched him again, connecting with the right side of his face and causing him to collapse to the ground in East Ham.

His car number plate was reported to the police and, when arrested, he claimed he had acted in self defence in August last year.

However the court heard the bank’s CCTV footage showed he was the aggressor.

The unemployed first-time offender, from Redbridge, north-east London, pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Yet despite saying violence on our streets ‘has to be taken seriously’ Mrs Blair, a QC who professionally uses her maiden name Cherie Booth, let him walk free from court.

She told him: ‘I am going to suspend this sentence for the period of two years based on the fact you are a religious person and have not been in trouble before.

‘You caused a mild fracture to the jaw of a member of the public standing in a queue at Lloyds Bank.

‘You are a religious man and you know this is not acceptable behaviour.’

Miah was sentenced to six months in jail, suspended for two years, and was ordered to carry out 200 hours of community service.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Conman on the Prowl: The Porsche-Driving Fraudster Who Stole More Than £1m — But Was Freed by the French Because Their Jails Are Full Up

At first glance, the lives of Stephen Coleman and Graham Briggs could hardly be more different.

An expat living in France, home for 55-year-old Mr Coleman is a caravan in a field. There, he and his wife Joy scrape by on £75 a week, their money spent on heating, food and precious little else.

Back in Britain, the lifestyle enjoyed by Mr Briggs, also 55, is in stark contrast. He has been staying at a £600,000 cottage in a picturesque Kent village. On the drive is a three-year-old Land Rover Discovery and a convertible Porsche Carrera.

So what is the link? And why the differing circumstances? The answer is simple. Briggs is a serial fraudster and Mr Coleman one of his many victims.

Posing as a financial adviser, silver-tongued Briggs conned Mr Coleman out of his £450,000 life savings. Other expats suffered similarly, the final figure stolen heading towards £2 million.

Those he targeted have had their retirements ruined, their dreams of ‘la belle vie’ replaced by a daily struggle to survive.

For Briggs, there is no such hardship — despite the fact that a French court convicted him of the crime last June and sentenced him to two years in jail.

In an extraordinary twist, because the country’s prisons are so over-crowded, he was allowed to walk free — told, in effect, that when room became available he would be recalled.

That hasn’t happened yet — and those whom he conned fear it may never happen.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: CCTV in the Sky: Police Plan to Use Military-Style Spy Drones

Police in the UK are planning to use unmanned spy drones, controversially deployed in Afghanistan, for the “routine” monitoring of antisocial motorists, protesters, agricultural thieves and fly-tippers, in a significant expansion of covert state surveillance.

The arms manufacturer BAE Systems, which produces a range of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for war zones, is adapting the military-style planes for a consortium of government agencies led by Kent police.

Documents from the South Coast Partnership, a Home Office-backed project in which Kent police and others are developing a national drone plan with BAE, have been obtained by the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act.

They reveal the partnership intends to begin using the drones in time for the 2012 Olympics. They also indicate that police claims that the technology will be used for maritime surveillance fall well short of their intended use — which could span a range of police activity — and that officers have talked about selling the surveillance data to private companies. A prototype drone equipped with high-powered cameras and sensors is set to take to the skies for test flights later this year.

The Civil Aviation Authority, which regulates UK airspace, has been told by BAE and Kent police that civilian UAVs would “greatly extend” the government’s surveillance capacity and “revolutionise policing”. The CAA is currently reluctant to license UAVs in normal airspace because of the risk of collisions with other aircraft, but adequate “sense and avoid” systems for drones are only a few years away.

Five other police forces have signed up to the scheme, which is considered a pilot preceding the countrywide adoption of the technology for “surveillance, monitoring and evidence gathering”. The partnership’s stated mission is to introduce drones “into the routine work of the police, border authorities and other government agencies” across the UK.

Concerned about the slow pace of progress of licensing issues, Kent police’s assistant chief constable, Allyn Thomas, wrote to the CAA last March arguing that military drones would be useful “in the policing of major events, whether they be protests or the Olympics”. He said interest in their use in the UK had “developed after the terrorist attack in Mumbai”.

Stressing that he was not seeking to interfere with the regulatory process, Thomas pointed out that there was “rather more urgency in the work since Mumbai and we have a clear deadline of the 2012 Olympics”.

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

UK: Military-Style Spy Planes ‘To be Used to Target Civilians in the UK’

Unmanned drones similar to those used in Afghanistan are set to be used in Britain to spy on drivers, campaigners, agricultural thieves and fly-tippers, it was revealed today.

A group of government agencies led by Kent Police has commissioned arms manufacturer BAE systems to adapt military-style planes for civilian use.

The consortium aims to have the drones operating in British skies in time for the 2012 Olympics.

The revelations are likely to prompt ‘Big Brother’ accusations from civil libertarians.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Violent Anti-Semitism Leaves Crete Indifferent

The Ets Chavim synagogue, located in the old centre of the seaside town of Chania in Crete, has been set ablaze twice in 12 days. Valuable documents and books contained in its library were lost in the flames, as were computers and rare sound recordings. The synagogue, which also serves as a museum, had not received any additional protection after it was first attacked, since the government failed to recognise the threat posed. The museum has now been closed.

In the last two months, an obviously fascist-inspired militia has been at work in the town, which has long been home to many immigrants. The phenomenon drew little attention until recently, but the conservative former prime minister Konstandinos Mitsotakis (91), who hails from this electoral district, was among the first to voice concern. “Chania is placing itself apart from the rest of Greece,” he said. On Friday morning, the police arrested two Britons and a Greek in connection with the fires.

Greece apathetic to anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitism has also reared its head outside Chania. Jewish monuments, houses of prayer and graves in Jannina, Volos, Athens, Thessaloniki and Larissa (which boasts a small statue of Anne Frank) have been covered with graffiti.

The prestigious Kathimerini newspaper published three articles this week expressing concern not only over the violence itself, but also over the indifferent response to it. Not a word has been spoken about the violence on TV, and the new minister for civil protection has also remained mum. Greeks are, some say, perhaps not anti-Semitic, but they are also not anti-anti-Semitic.

Thessaloniki is proof. Here, in the first half of the last century, Sephardic Jews made up nearly half of the population. More than 48,000 were killed during the second world war, but a monument was not constructed in their memory until 1997. Today, the monument is regularly smeared with swastikas.

Home to the Jews for two millennia

For 2,400 years, Crete was home to a sizable Jewish population; this ended with the German occupation. In 1944, the last 370 Jews living in Crete had been deported on a ship carrying German soldiers as well. The vessel was sunk by the British on the Aegean Sea.

Fifteen years ago, the popular writer Manolis Rasoulis expressed his joy that the island had become devoid of Jews, which led to a rare complaint by the Central Jewish Council in Athens. The incident had a bizarre twist. Years later Rasoulis visited Israel and found Greek music was popular there. After that, he expressed opinions extremely sympathetic to Jews.

But it isn’t true that there are no Jews in Crete. Nikos Stavroukalis, the former managing director of the Jewish museum in Athens, returned to Crete to finish his life work: the restoration of the 16th century synagogue in Chania. He completed it ten years ago, after overcoming resistance from the local prefect and church authorities.

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

North Africa

Egypt: Niqab: Cairo University Objects to Cancelled Ban

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 21 — The Cairo University objected to the decision taken yesterday by the Administrative High Court to cancel the ban of the niqab in schools decided by minister of Higehr education Hani Helal. However the objection does not have the power to suspend the effects of the ruling, which gave female students the option to wear the veil which covers everything but the eyes in the whole country. The second degree administrative judges ruled against the two first degree rulings which instead supported the minister. First degree courts of other governorates instead had granted the appeal by female students against the ban, justified by security reasons and recognition of candidates under exam. According to the High Court, dressing according to one’s belief and social environment is a human and constitutional right that cannot be violated. However the judges also provided that the girls must identify themselves for security reasons.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Egypt: Christians Massacred, Mubarak, Religion is Not Politics

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO — Egypt must become a developed society, a modern State, which excludes deviant thoughts which mix religion with politics and politics with religion”. The statement was made by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak during his opening speech for Science Day. On the very day that the European Parliament expressed its concern for the recent attacks on Copt Christians in High Egypt, the president spoke again about the Nagaa Hamadi massacre to invite the Country’s people with common sense, it religious leaders and intellectuals to fight against disagreement, ignorance and fanaticism” and to deal with the deplorable confessional intentions which threaten our Country’s unity”. In a common resolution signed by all the groups of the assembly the European Parliament said it was concerned over the recent attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt, expressed its solidarity with the victims and urged the Government in Cairo to ensure the personal safety and physical integrity of the Copts and other religious minorities in the country. Members of parliament are asking the Council, the Commission and the EU high representative for Foreign Policy Catherine Ashton to pay particular attention to the situation of religious minorities, including Christian, as part of relations and cooperation between the EU and these countries. On behalf of the Commission, Neelie Kroes stated that the European Government was struck and deeply saddened by the attack on the Copts in Egypt. We strongly condemn any act caused by religion or creed. Unfortunately no country is immune, and we are launching an appeal to the public authorities to protect all religious communities, including the Christian community, from discrimination, said the EU Commissioner. In the resolution the members of parliament call on the Egyptian Government to guarantee full human rights to the Coptic community and other religious minorities, including basic rights such as choosing and changing one’s religion freely, and welcome the efforts made by the Egyptian authorities to indentify the perpetrators of the attack on January 6. The assembly also mentions Marwa al Sherbini, the woman of Egyptian origins who was killed last year while testifying at the tribunal in Dresden, Germany against a man who had insulted her because she was wearing the Islamic veil. The saga caused a row and accusations of islamophobia by Egypt against Germany. The European Parliament states the resolution, deplores violence based on religion in Europe, including the murder of Marwa al Sherbini”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Egypt: Christians Massacred; EU Parliament Appeal, Be Alert

(ANSAmed) — STRASBOURG, JANUARY 21 — The European Parliament is concerned over the recent attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt, expresses its solidarity with the victims and urges the Government in Cairo to ensure the personal safety and physical integrity of the Copts and other religious minorities in the country. So states the common resolution signed by all the groups of the Euro-parliament over the attacks on Christian communities in Egypt and Malaysia, which has just been approved by the assembly. Members of parliament, who rejected two amendments presented by the Europe for Liberty and Democracy group deploring the ruling of the court in Strasbourg over crucifixes, are asking the Council, the Commission and the EU high representative for Foreign Policy Catherine Ashton to pay particular attention to the situation of religious minorities, including Christian, as part of relations and cooperation between the EU and these countries. On behalf of the Commission, Neelie Kroes stated that the European Government was struck and deeply saddened by the attack on the Copts in Egypt. We strongly condemn any act caused by religion or creed. Unfortunately no country is immune, and we are launching an appeal to the public authorities to protect all religious communities, including the Christian community, from discrimination, said the EU Commissioner. In the resolution the members of parliament call on the Egyptian Government to guarantee full human rights to the Coptic community and other religious minorities, including basic rights such as choosing and changing one’s religion freely, and welcome the efforts made by the Egyptian authorities to indentify the perpetrators of the attack on January 6. The assembly also mentions Marwa al Sherbini, the woman of Egyptian origins who was killed last year while testifying at the tribunal in Dresden, Germany against a man who had insulted her because she was wearing the Islamic veil. The saga caused a row and accusations of islamophobia by Egypt against Germany. The European Parliament states the resolution, deplores violence based on religion in Europe, including the murder of Marwa al Sherbini”. During the debate which preceded the vote, a large number of Euro MPs, including Mario Mauro (Pdl), the first signatory of the resolution, Fiorello Provera (Lega) and Veronique De Keyser (S&d) stressed that this was not an initiative by the Parliament to stigmatise this or that country, but to call for tolerance and religious freedom and the promotion of dialogue against violence.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza: Explosives From the Gaza Strip, Israel Responds

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, JANUARY 22 — 5 explosions, probably mortar fire from the Gaza Strip towards Israel were heard this morning in the border area, followed shortly thereafter by return fire from Israeli artillery, eye-witnesses at the scene reported to ANSA. So far no victims have been reported, but the event signals the resuming of activities after some days of relative calm following the previous eruption of violence seen in the first weeks of January: at exactly one year from the end of the Cast Lead offensive launched by Israeli forces at the end of 2008 in response to rocket and mortar fire. Following recent tensions, representatives from Hamas, the radical Palestinian Islamic movement in power in the Gaza Strip, stressed their intention not to interrupt the substantial ceasefire adopted towards Israel in recent months, running parallel to the attempted negotiations for a hypothetical prisoner exchange involving Israeli soldier Ghilad Shalit (held hostage by the fundamentalist movement for over three and a half years) and some hundreds of Palestinians held in prisons by the Israeli government. It is however an intention that other factions from the endless array of Islamist groups in Gaza have dissociated themselves from. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Pasta Produced in Bethlehem, But With an Italian Heart

(ANSA) — ROME, JANUARY 22 — “The constellation of the pasta” is the rather heavyweight name that has been chosen for a new initiative, promoted by two entrepreneurs, one Italian, the other Palestinian, to set up a pasta factory in Bethlehem. The two entrepreneurs, Gian Matteo Balestrini and Sami Abu Dayyeh, have great and unconcealed ambitions, as they hope to open another factory in Jenin. The initiative will be officially presented on January 27, but it already stands out with its several features that make it truly unique. Such as this one — which is only the first of many which will see the first production unit housed in the buildings of the Catholic Patriarchate while the industrial area in Bethlehem that will eventually house the factory is being finished. Balestrini and Dayyeh have already planned how their initiative will work, starting with the hiring of 15 people in two shifts. Then, if all goes well, the workforce will be increased. “The most important resource in Palestine,” say the businessmen, “is the quality of human resources, the high level of professional training, and love for and pride in a product that is well made.” What products will carry the “The constellation of the pasta” brand? Fresh and dry pasta with fillings, made with cutting edge machines from the most advanced technology of the sector, rigorously “made in Italy”. The products will be sold on the local market, which will be not only the Palestinian market but also the Israeli one, not forgetting that “pasta”, the typical dish of the Italian tradition, is greatly welcomed by the many, many tourists that every year choose to visit Israel. Followed by restaurants, hotels, communities, shops and supermarkets. With the open ambition of looking at export to a wider regional and international market, “to make Palestine a large platform for production and distribution.” When it’s up and running regularly, the first line will produce 1,000 kg of pasta per day that will be available in 35 different forms, which could potentially be expanded in line with market demands. But Gian Matteo Balestrini and Sami Abu Dayyeh also have very clear ideas about another product to be launched on the Israeli and Palestinian market: ice cream. Initially the “Constellation” will produce 600 kg of ice cream in 8 different flavours, which will reach 200 kg produced per day when running regularly. Of course, this will all be done with Italian equipment for the all the best in the world. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Dubai, The Fatwa Experts, Ready to Host UN Headquarters

We know one post-American president who’d back this idea. Unfortunately it wouldn’t mean the U.S. were rid of the corrupt, inept, and irreparable United Nations, an inordinate percentage of which is paid for by U.S. taxpayers. via Dubai ready to host UN headquarters.

The Dubai government is prepared to host the UN headquarters on its soil. The idea was suggested by two real estate and architecture columnists of the US magazine Forbes.

“Dubai is fully prepared to host the headquarters of the United Nations if its officials decide to move from New York,” the official news agency Wam reported.

Dubai’s support for the idea, according to the statement, came as a result of the UAE’s appreciation for the UN’s role in global peace, security and development.

“Dubai welcomes dialogue with UN officials to provide them with full information on the capabilities (facilities) the emirate can provide if a final decision is taken to move outside New York,” the agency said.

“Among the (advantages) Dubai possesses are geographical location, world class infrastructure, and air, land and sea transport systems that make (it) an accessible meeting point in the middle of the world,” a source was quoted as saying.

The Forbes columnists had alluded to the possibility of using office space in Dubai resulting from the city’s rapid development in the past decade.

From the Forbes piece mentioned above:

“Moving the U.N. to Dubai would be a boon for New Yorkers who have to put up with traffic jams created by the likes of Colonel Qaddafi, scofflaws protected by diplomatic immunity and the loss of real estate revenue they would gain if the U.N. building were turned into something far more useful-condos with a view,” suggests urban historian Fred Siegel, a visiting professor at Saint Francis College in Brooklyn and a fellow at New York’s Manhattan Institute.

Liberating New York from the United Nations, in fact, would open up some of the best situated real estate in the world. A treasure trove of great apartments and offices right along the East River would suddenly become available, bringing a potential revenue windfall to New York City, which could use it. None of this would threaten the city’s-or the country’s-economic and political status. That grows out of economic and military power, which the U.N. does little or nothing to augment.

All positives aside, the U.N. being headquartered in Islamic Dubai would bring up a plethora of other issues, including sharia law. Boker Tov points out that Dubai is a veritable fatwa factory, issuing or compiling more than 45,000 fatwa’s in 2009!

DUBAI — The Department of Islamic Affairs in Dubai will soon release the 14th volume of fatwas of year 2009.

As many as 45,582 fatwas (answers based on Islamic Shariah) in Arabic are included in the new volume which will be available for free.

Director-General of the department Dr Hamad Al Shaibani said the department was known for its reliability, transparency and high scientific competence and has won people’s trust locally and around the world.

Sounds like the U.N. has found a new home!

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia — Philippines: Riyadh: Rape Victim Might be Lashed 100 Times

Woman becomes pregnant after being raped. As a result of the harsh prison conditions, she lost her child. Under Islamic law, extra-marital relations are forbidden and for the law any sexual violence involved makes no difference

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) — A woman jailed after being raped could be lashed 100 times. Camille, an invented name, is a 35- year-old immigrant from the Philippines who has been in a Saudi jail since September 2009. As a result of her rape, she became pregnant, but miscarried because of harsh prison life.

Under Saudi Arabia’s rigid application of Sharia or Islamic law, sexual relations outside of wedlock are strictly forbidden, irrespective of whether the woman is consenting or not. In fact, rape is punished in accordance with rules laid down in the Qur’an.

The woman’s mother told her story in an interview with GMANews.Tv. Last spring, Camille went to Saudi Arabia to work in a dental clinic to support her 5-, 14- and 15-year-old children. In August, a co-worker from Bangladesh raped her.

Knowing that extra-marital relations are punishable under Saudi law, she did not go to the police to file charges, and tried instead to leave the country and return to the Philippines.

During a routine medical examination that expatriates must undergo before leaving, doctors found that she was pregnant. An arrest warrant was issued against her and on 11 September 2009, she was locked up in Hafer al Baten Central Jail.

Because of the generally harsh conditions in Saudi prisons, Camille miscarried last December.

According to her mother, she is scheduled to go before the judges who could impose 100 lashes.

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

Saudi Arabia: Blast Kills 3 Terrorists

RIYADH: A former Guantanamo prisoner and two other terrorists from Saudi Arabias most-wanted list were killed in an explosion in September, Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki said Monday.

The three have been identified as former detainee Fahd Saleh Suleiman Al-Jutaily as well as Mohammed Abdul Rahman Suleiman Al-Rashed and Sultan Radi Somaileel Al-Otaibi. All three were in their late 20s.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Turkey: 12-Year-Old Girl Sold by Father for 4 Cows

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA — A 12-year-old girl from Corum, a village in central Anatolia not far from Ankara, has been sold twice by her father: the first time in exchange for four cows, and the second time for 10,000 Turkish lire (around 4,800 euros). Just yesterday the police discovered the crime and arrested the girl’s father and the second buyer, while the first is still being sought. The story was reported by daily paper Vatan, which writes that Sukru A. (this is the name of the father) sold his daughter K.A last summer when she was just 12 years old to 29-year-old bricklayer Kamber Bostan in exchange for four cows, who married the girl in a religious ceremony in front of the imam. After several months however, the girl — who became pregnant in the meantime — went back home because she didn’t get on with her husband. Last December, in her sixth month of pregnancy, she lost the child. Ten days later the father sold her again, this time to a 20-year-old unemployed man, Gokhan Turk, who paid 3,000 out of the 10,000 lire agreed upfront, and took the girl home. Yesterday, when Turk refused to pay the balance — claiming that the girl he bought was not a virgin — Sukru A. turned to the police and reported him for insolvency but without mentioning the reason. After a short investigation the truth came out and both the father and Turk were arrested, while Bostan is still being sought.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Turkey Police Arrest 120 Al-Qaeda Suspects

Turkish police have arrested 120 al-Qaeda suspects in a major nationwide anti-terror operation, reports say.

The arrests were made in co-ordinated pre-dawn raids in 16 provinces, said the state-run Anatolia news agency.

Those detained include an alleged militant recruiter who worked at a university in the eastern city of Van, Anatolia quoted police as saying.

It added the raids came after police seized documents disclosing details of extremist militant activity in Turkey.

Friday morning’s raids netted weapons, fake identity cards and camouflage clothing, unnamed police officials said.

Suspected leaders of al-Qaeda cells in Turkey — including the local group’s leader, Serdar Elbasi — were reportedly among those detained.

Afghanistan link

The raids, which took place in cities including Ankara and Istanbul, came after 33 suspected al-Qaeda members were arrested in Ankara and Adana earlier this week.

Reports suggest those detained may have been involved in plots to kill Turkish soldiers serving in Afghanistan or police in Turkey.

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


Russia: Moscow Patriarchate to Boost Mission in Siberia, Far East and Europe

Kirill reshapes Missionary Department. A new college run by theologians and missionaries is created to serve foreign missions. There are concerns about the nature of the teaching provided and possible hostility towards sects, Protestants, Catholics and other religious minorities.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — The Russian Orthodox Church plans to revive its missionary activities both inside and outside the Russian Federation. Moscow Patriarch Kirill has taken personal charge and ordered the expansion of the Missionary Department of the Central Office of the Moscow Patriarchate.

The announcement was made on the Patriarchate’s official website last Sunday. Even though there are no details about the plan, Kirill’s new policy raises challenges for Russia’s “non-traditional” religions, this according to Paul Globe, a expert on religion in the former Soviet Union.

Kirill confirmed proposals made by Archbishop Ioann of Belgorod and Starooskol, who heads the Missionary Department, to expand and reorganise it. The revamped body will now include a central administration, a missionary foundation, an “anti-sect and spiritual security” section, as well as a publication and an education division. Above all, the new department will see the establishment of a college run by theologians, missionaries and division chiefs.

As of next summer, priests will be sent to Siberia and the Far East on mission.

Discussions on a number of religion-oriented websites and blogs suggest that most priests and students at the new college come from the missionary seminary of the diocese of Belgorod, considered the most conservative in Russia, known for its great hostility towards Protestants, Catholics and other religious minorities.

According to Mikhail Zherebyatyev, an expert at the Moscow International Institute of Humanitarian and Political Research, the new structure represents the end of the system of synodal management of departments, as it existed under the late Patriarch Aleksij in favour of a more centralised one. Some suggest that the changes within the Church represent the “verticalisation of power” that former President and current Prime Minister Putin has imposed on the Russian state.

Kirill’s new emphasis on the Orthodox mission has also led to the opening of the first new Orthodox seminary outside the former Soviet Empire. The seminary, which is located at Epinay-sous-Senart (France), has taken over a former Catholic convent and now has 12 students. Its goal is to recruit seminarians not only from the nations of the former Soviet Union, but also from Western nations.

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

South Asia

Diana West: Meanwhile, Back in Afghanistan …

Take your eyes away for a few days and look what happens:

From the AP:

KABUL — NATO forces in Afghanistan are preparing to limit night raids on private homes, even if it means losing some tactical advantage, to curb rising public anger….

Nighttime raids on private homes have emerged as the Afghans’ No. 1 complaint after Gen. Stanley McChrystal limited the use of airstrikes and other weaponry last year.

What will be next?

The U.S. and allied nations have made protecting the population a priority over the use of massive firepower as they seek to undermine support for the Taliban.

Only don’t protect them at night.

“It addresses the issue that’s probably the most socially irritating thing that we do — and that is entering people’s homes at night,” Smith said Wednesday at his office in Kabul. He would not elaborate pending a formal announcement.

The U.S.-led force has become increasingly sensitive to complaints by Afghan civilians as part of a renewed effort to win support among the public and lure people away from the Taliban.

Good dhimmi.

Night operations risk offending Afghan sensitivity about men entering homes where women are sleeping.

The way this comes across implies that the Afghan concerns here are that mean old Amewwicans might disturb snooky-ookums’ dreams or something. Read former Green Beret and journalist Paul Avallone on the subject of how men treat women in Afghanistan here in his vivid essay “Flirting with Afghanistan” (essentially, women don’t exist and worse). A US nighttime raid to search for head-chopping jihadis pales next to these ladies’ daily grind.

Rafiullah Khiel, a Finance Ministry employee whose uncle was detained by NATO forces during a night raid last fall, said the distraught women and children in the compound were rounded up and locked in a watchtower for several hours while soldiers searched the dwellings. Khiel said the soldiers told the family that they had information that the uncle, a pharmacist, was treating Taliban fighters.

“This is just unacceptable to us, to our traditions,” Khiel said, holding back tears as he recounted the ordeal during an interview in a home on the outskirts of Kabul.

What, that the women and children were locked in a watchtower for several hours (?), or that Uncle treated Taliban?

“These kinds of actions, these wrong decisions, just make people turn against them.”

News flash: Five hundred thousand dozen eggs are being airlifted into Helmand Provice so the US military can walk on them…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]

Far East

Japan: New Orthodox Church Built in Nagoya

More than 300 people participate in consecration ceremony presided by the Orthodox primate of Japan. The building was erected in only six months in traditional Orthodox style. Regular services will start on 31 January.

Nagoya (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Archbishop Daniel of Tokyo, Primate of the Autonomous Orthodox Church of Japan, consecrated a new church in honour of Theophany (Epiphany) in the city of Nagoya. More 300 believers took part in the celebration. The church will open for regular services on 31 January after an all-night vigil.

“This is an important day for our Church,” the primate said during the consecration ceremony. “Thanks to the new temple, people will be able to know better about Russian Orthodoxy.”

“I am happy that it was built in Nagoya, which is the centre of this country,” he added.

The church was built in only six months in one of the city’s old neighbourhood. Made of Japanese cedar, the snow-white structure is in the typically Orthodox Suzdal style. The construction was made possible by donations from the local Orthodox community.

The presence of the Orthodox Church in Japan dates back to the middle 19th century.

It is under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate and has about 25,000 members.

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

Australia — Pacific

Bikie Member Drive Alerts Police Squads

A Hells Angels recruitment drive and leadership change have put police on the alert ahead of the first anniversary of a brawl at Sydney Airport in which a man was bashed to death.

The NSW police Gang Squad and its frontline unit, Strike Force Raptor, are understood to be keeping a careful watch on the club’s two Sydney chapters, following the recent defection to the Hells Angels of several members of another club.

With the anniversary of the March 22 airport brawl approaching, there is also talk that Derek Wainohu, the long-time president of Sydney’s original Hells Angels organisation, the Sydney chapter, has been deposed.

There are also suggestions that the Angels’ rivals, the Comanchero Motorcycle Club, has also undergone a change in its “executive branch”. Caretaker president Duax Hohepa Ngakuru is believed to have stepped down, to be replaced by a survivor of the 1984 Milperra Massacre.

The possible leadership changes come at the same time as a recruitment drive by the Angels, with the recent acquisition of five experienced members of the Nomads, including former national president Scott Orrock.

Before gaining the Nomads, the Angels also recruited former Bandidos boss Felix Jonathan Lyle.

The recruitment is not huge — the total membership has grown from 35 to about 40 members — but it has left experienced observers nervous.

When clubs recruit, it is often a sign of simmering tensions, said Australia’s leading bikie expert, Arthur Veno.

“There’s a strong correlation between recruiting drives and inter-club tensions,” Dr Veno said.

“The growth of one club can also have a flow-on effect on other clubs. A recruitment drive in one club tends to spark a recruitment drive in others in response.”

All the Angels’ recruits are experienced, tough operators.

“When the Angels recruit, the don’t get the usual gronks; they get kickboxers, muscle men, experienced hands,” a source said.

The recruitment drive hit a speed bump, however, when the Angels’ star recruit, Mr Orrock, was thrown out of the club after only two weeks following a dispute at a Christmas party at the Sydney chapter’s new clubhouse, sources say.

Police and other sources say the recruitment drive is worrying but it does not mean inevitable violence.

The United Motorcycle Council — the recently formed body of NSW outlaw clubs — is said to have played a leading role in keeping club tensions from becoming violent.

In other news, police have arrested a man they allege is associated with the Notorious street gang and charged him with drugs and firearms offences.

Salam Shamus, 29, was arrested on Friday night at a Minchinbury home. Police found a semi-automatic pistol, ammunition, batons, knuckledusters and prohibited drugs during a search of the home.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Fifth-Generation Serviceman Injured, Traumatised and Abandoned by the Military

ANDREW Bird has dealt with the victims of Taliban torture in Afghanistan, the worst of natural disasters in Pakistan, human failings in the Solomons and the constant threat of death on repeat deployments to Iraq.

Through the worst of it, this fifth-generation serviceman felt he had the Australian Defence Force behind him. Indeed, as an army media officer, he often had the best soldiers, top brass, diplomats and politicians alongside, and ordinary Australians there for the ride, too, given they would see his authorised footage and photos.

But leaving Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital two years ago, head bandaged and throbbing, Major Bird could not have felt more alone. Having sustained serious ear trauma in a helicopter depressurisation in southern Afghanistan, Major Bird had just undergone surgery that would save his balance, but not the hearing in one ear, nor prevent the ringing in the other ear.

This once proud officer found himself facing medical discharge, with the early symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and no one in the army to help him through.

“All through that, mate, army was f . . king missing in action,” Major Bird, 34, told The Weekend Australian this week.

“I came out of hospital, head in bandages, and had to get a taxi back to my apartment. The bloody taxi driver had to help me up to my apartment — it was a f . . king disgrace.”

Spending so much time overseas and being constantly on call fractured Major Bird’s personal relationships, and he found no military structure to fall back on. Unable to recover his health, or his usefulness to the army, Major Bird was eventually shunted off to the Department of Veterans Affairs to consider his care and financial needs. Six weeks ago, his promising career came to an end.

As revealed this week, a decade of conflict has seen the DVA accept liability for 9134 injuries and illnesses from 3884 personnel as a result of their time in East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Rudd government has emphasised its commitment to the continued health and wellbeing of the troops and is expected to push through improvements this year.

But for Major Bird, building a new life on the Gold Coast, change could not come soon enough. He was made to undergo repeated medical reviews — and a senior bureaucrat had him in tears when she suggested his condition wasn’t as bad as the doctors thought.

The paperwork was extensive and often indecipherable, especially for someone such as Major Bird who was on heavy painkillers, and whose PTSD affected his memory, his confidence and feelings of personal safety.

Defence is now improving its mental health programs and transition arrangements, while the DVA is working on its paperwork and reducing the number of medical reviews required.

Major Bird wants a special army cell to guide injured and ill troops through treatment and rehabilitation, their dealings with the DVA and the move back to civilian life.

“Even on my last day I didn’t get a phone call, no letter,” he said. “You would have got better support had you come back dead.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria Religious Riot Bodies Found in Village Wells

More victims of deadly religious clashes in central Nigeria have been found, with scores of bodies stuffed in wells and sewage pits.

Up to 150 bodies have been found in Kuru Karama village, 30km (18 miles) from the city of Jos, where the violence erupted last Sunday.

Correspondents say elders hid in holes for seven hours to escape the violence.

An exact death toll is not known but overall 300 or more are thought to have died in the Muslim-Christian clashes.

Muslim officials in Jos who spoke to the campaign group Human Rights Watch said 364 Muslims had been killed.

Several thousand people fled their homes.

‘Burned alive’

The BBC’s Caroline Duffield in Jos says the town and the area to the south of it are under tight military control but more details of the violence there are starting to emerge.

She says many of the bodies found in Kuru Karama had massive burns, other victims were hacked to death or shot.

She says there are still more bodies scattered in the bush beyond the village but the areas are not safe for volunteer workers to enter.

Bukuru market, a large commercial area to the south of Jos, was burned to the ground, with at least 1,000 shops and homes in the markets destroyed in the inferno, our correspondent adds.

Umar Baza, head of Kuru Karama village, told AFP news agency: “So far we have picked 150 bodies from the wells. But 60 more people are still missing.”


Jos, the capital of Plateau state, lies at the point where Nigeria’s Muslim north and predominantly Christian south meet.

But the Catholic Archbishop of Jos, Ignatius Kaigama, told the BBC that religion was not the real cause of the violence.

“It is the struggle for ethnic and political superiority in Jos,” he said. “If this issue is not resolved then we will witness a cycle of violence. There has to be some political solution.”

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

Latin America

Venezuela Oil ‘May Double Saudi Arabia’

A new US assessment of Venezuela’s oil reserves could give the country double the supplies of Saudi Arabia.

Scientists working for the US Geological Survey say Venezuela’s Orinoco belt region holds twice as much petroleum as previously thought.

The geologists estimate the area could yield more than 500bn barrels of crude oil.

This assessment is far more optimistic than even the best case scenario put forward by President Hugo Chavez.

The USGS team gave a mean estimate of 513bn barrels of “technically recoverable” oil in the Orinoco belt.

Chris Schenk of the USGS said the estimate was based on oil recovery rates of 40% to 45%.

Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), Venezuela’s state oil company, has not commented on the news.

However, Venezuelan oil geologist and former PDVSA board member Gustavo Coronel was sceptical.

“I doubt the recovery factor could go much higher than 25% and much of that oil would not be economic to produce”, he told Associated Press news agency.

Venezuela holds the largest oil reserves outside the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has proven reserves of 260bn barrels.

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

Voodoo Despot Who Bled Haiti Dry is Tracked Down to Paris Where He’s Plotting to Use Quake Tragedy to Return to Power

Once, they ruled Haiti like some feudal fiefdom, plundering millions from the state coffers to fund a lifestyle of nauseating grandeur while their downtrodden subjects begged for food.

Almost as many people are said to have been murdered during their family’s three decades in power as died in last week’s earthquake; dragged from their beds at dead of night by the sinister Tonton Macoutes, a voodoo-worshipping militia reputed to be zombies.

By February, 1986, when President Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier and his domineering wife, Michele, were finally airlifted into exile by a U.S. plane (probably saving them from being lynched) the Caribbean island was ravaged beyond repair.


‘In my view she is just as much a criminal as he is,’ says Gilles August, a renowned French business lawyer who spent years attempting to recover the millions the Duvaliers stole, on behalf of the Haitian government.

‘There is no crime in the penal code that the Duvaliers — Mr and Mrs — haven’t committed. And that includes the whole list: murder, torture, kidnap, extortion, slavery.

‘When they first came to this country, the (then) Prime Minister, Laurent Fabius, said they could stay for eight days. I am outraged that they are still here.

‘I think we should give Mr Duvalier and everything he owns — including Mrs Duvalier — back to Haitian people, and they should help by clearing the rubble.’

Strong words, but relatives of the 40,000 to 60,000 Haitians who died at the hands of Papa and Baby Doc, and millions who endured their brutal repression, will surely concur.

It began in September, 1957, when Francois Duvalier won a patently rigged election. A studious, bespectacled doctor who promised to end the repression of Haiti’s black population by the mulatto ruling classes, he seemed an unlikely tyrant.

Soon after assuming the presidency, however, his dark side emerged.

An authority on Haiti’s national religion of voodoo, he modelled himself on its most macabre deity — a spirit figure named Baron Samedi who wore dark glasses, a black tuxedo and white top-hat and spoke in a strange, nasal voice.


…it was through the dreaded Tonton Moucoutes that he took an iron grip of the country.

More powerful than the army and police, they roved the countryside plundering at will. So-called ‘state enemies’ were snatched away to be tortured in the bloody dungeons of Fort Dimanche.


Meanwhile the Duvaliers were secretly siphoning tens of millions into foreign banks. When Gilles August later followed the money trail, he discovered how this was done.

First the money was drawn from government accounts by way of specially printed cheque books in which the account holder’s name and number were left out, so that the Duvaliers could fill in the blanks.

It was then transferred via America to a bank in Canada, where it was converted into unnamed bearer bonds before being smuggled to Jersey and Luxembourg.

The scam was orchestrated by Duvalier flunkies in London and they were clearly well-informed. For later, when M. August attempted to seize these ill-gotten assets, they had invariably been moved days or hours before his team arrived.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Australia: Wrong-Footed by Rapid Migration Change

Comments 1

Talk about racism in Australia is constant. From the ending of the White Australia policy, through increased Asian immigration, to the hysteria associated with Pauline Hanson, we have continually been forced to consider our attitudes. This is happening again following attacks on Indian students.

In the aftermath of the 2005 Cronulla riots, then prime minister John Howard famously said: “I do not accept that there is underlying racism in this country. I have always taken a more optimistic view of the character of the Australian people.”

Assessment at the level of generality of “the Australian people” is largely meaningless. All populations harbour a range of personality types — from those who rejoice in cultural diversity to those who are comfortable only with what they perceive to be sameness.

The Scanlon Foundation, which supports cultural diversity, funded national surveys in 2007 and 2009 to explore social cohesion in Australia, finding that about one in 10 Australian adults are intolerant. These people feel uncomfortable in the presence of those from other cultures; they see no benefit in the immigration of minorities; they believe government policy needs to be directed towards assimilation and that those who refuse to adopt “the Australian way” should go back to where they came from; and they are hostile to funding for programs to foster understanding between cultures.

One in 10 is relatively small. In European nations, research indicates that the proportion of intolerant people ranges from a high of above 30 per cent in the east and south to a low of 5 per cent in the Scandinavian countries. Still, one in 10 of the adult population represents some 11/2 million Australians.

The 2009 Scanlon poll found that 4 per cent of respondents across Australia reported at least one incident of discrimination each month, but three times this level (12 per cent) was reported among Indian and Sri Lankans in areas with high immigrant concentrations.

Given this data, it was no surprise when Police Commissioner Simon Overland this week acknowledged that “we have known for two years” that there was a problem of criminal activity directed against Indians.

Criminal activity is, however, only in part related to intolerance and racism. It is associated with alienation, excessive alcohol consumption, violent behaviour — problems that blight the lives of all Australians, not just minority populations. Again this is much discussed — in terms of incidents and patterns of behaviour — without there being a clear understanding of the magnitude of the problem.

The Scanlon survey asked respondents how safe they felt walking alone at night. In affluent suburbs, the level of safety was 80 per cent. This reduced to an average of 60 per cent across the country, and to less than 40 per cent in some areas with large migrant populations.

It has been observed that with each new wave of immigration to Australia, there are times of trouble and then things settle down. What we need is goodwill and patience. But it may be that we are dealing with unprecedented change, that we need to find new solutions.

We are currently experiencing the largest population movement in our nation’s history: more Australians are leaving than ever before (more than 80,000 in the last financial year) and more immigrants are coming in a wider range of categories.

Since 2001, overseas students have been allowed to apply for permanent residency while in Australia, and a 2008 government survey found that more than 70 per cent of students were expecting to stay on after graduating. The link to permanent residency has been one of the drivers of our burgeoning education industry.

In June 2002, there were 150,000 overseas students in Australia. By June 2009, there were almost 400,000. The most spectacular growth has been among Indians — from 2700 to 91,400 over this period. In the past four years alone, the Indian student population increased by more than 60,000.

These students pay full fees and in effect subsidise parts of Australia’s education system. They also provide a part-time labour pool. Their presence in Australia provides scope for more effective immigration selection, as applicants have had a chance to prove themselves while in the country.

But there is abundant evidence that growth in the education provision is developing too quickly, in particular in the vocational sector, where enrolments grew by 34 per cent in the past year.

Along with concerns about personal safety, the failure to deliver quality educational outcomes and to meet student expectations has the potential to deliver great harm to what is often described as Australia’s third-largest export industry.

Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Evans said in 2008 that Australia needed a “great national debate” over immigration policy which was attuned to the realities of the 21st century. There are signs that a debate is under way. But it is important that such a debate be based on a sound understanding of what has changed — and the reasons for the changes.

Andrew Markus is a professor in the faculty of arts at Monash University. He is co-author of the recently published Australia’s Immigration Revolution.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Australia: Debate on Population Targets Immigrants

Australia should consider whether immigration can continue at existing levels as part of a comprehensive population analysis aimed at determining how many people the country can support, the Federal Opposition says.

Concerns about infrastructure, housing and environmental sustainability should be considered when setting the number of people allowed to immigrate each year, Coalition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said. “Population policy is a legitimate debate we have to have and it should be free from any suggestion that it’s related to race.”

Population policy was a void that needed to be filled, he said. “It’s getting to the point where we can’t afford not to [have one]. We can’t just keep going as is.”

Treasury modelling released last year forecast the population would increase more than half to 35 million by the middle of the century. The increase will come from migration, more women reaching child-bearing age and higher fertility rates.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd welcomed the modelling, saying he was in favour of a big Australia. But it prompted criticism from Labor backbencher Kelvin Thomson, who has questioned whether the country can support such a population.

Mr Thomson has called for dramatic cuts to immigration levels.

Mr Morrison said he did not believe Australia should “shut the door” to immigrants but “given that immigration accounts for almost 60 per cent of population growth, we can do something about it”.

He acknowledged population was a difficult issue because it often sparked debate about racism.

“I don’t want to see it frustrated by people either bringing that element to the debate or trying to stop that debate by attributing that motive to people,” Mr Morrison said.

His comments follow a speech by the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, on Friday night in which he said Australians were worried about the rise in the number of boat people, the ability of migrants to obey the law and the strain new arrivals put on resources.

Mr Morrison said state and local governments should take a greater role in planning for more people.

“The Federal Government has to take responsibility for it [immigration numbers], but state and local governments need to be more part of [that decision] because they’re the ones who have to live with it,” he said.

Concerns about roads, housing, the strain on the health system and environmental sustainability all needed to be considered as part of population policy, he said.

An annual planning day of governments should be held to discussion population, he said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Claims That Half of Poles Have Returned Home From Britain ‘Not True’, Says Polish Immigration Expert

Claims that half of Polish migrants in the UK are heading home are untrue, according to a leading expert from Poland.

A recent report claimed that around 700,000 of the estimated 1.5million eastern European migrants who have come to the UK since 2004 are still here.

And a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research in 2008 claimed that more than half of the Polish migrants who had arrived in the UK havesince returned home.

But an expert on Polish migration today claimed that there was no sign of them coming back to Poland.

Prof Krystyna Iglicka, of the Centre for International Affairs in Warsaw, told the BBC: ‘From our side this is not true. We do not see them here. We do not see them in any other different countries.”

She estimated that around a million Poles still live in the UK, including workers students and dependents.

Polish workers send around £4billion -a-year back to their families in Poland and this figure fell by around 20 per cent in 2009.

But Prof Iglicka said this sudden fall in the amount being sent back to Poland was due to the tougher economic climate rather than fewer workers in the UK.

She claimed that Polish workers are having to spend their money to survive rather than sending it back to parents and family because the recession.

The Polish Central Statistical Office produces its own estimates of Poles working abroad.

These official statistics show that the number of Poles working abroad only fell slightly in 2008, contradicting British figures.

Professor Iglicka said that only 22,000 Poles came home and registered at their local labour office in 2008.

All workers would have to do this to claim benefits in Poland or transfer benefits from abroad.

And while figures for 2009 are not yet available, Professor Iglicka said that an influx of Poles returning home would have affected the unemployment figures in Poland — which have remained stable

Dr Pawel Kaczmarczyk of the Centre for Migration at Warsaw University helped the Polish government set up a website designed to encourage Polish workers to come home.

He told the BBC that claims that half of Polish workers had already returned home were inaccurate.

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

Egypt: Attack on Christians; Government Criticises EP

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 22 — What has happened in Nagaa Hamadi concerns only Egypt, and no other countries should interfere. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said this in a statement, regarding the resolution on the attacks against Christians in Egypt and Malaysia that was passed yesterday by the European Parliament. In the statement, spread by a source in the ministry, the “passive role” allegedly played by some Christian rightwing Euro-MPs is criticised as well. Egyptian diplomacy also wonders why the European Parliament has “remained silent on the decision to forbid the construction of minarets” in Europe, referring to the recent referendum in Switzerland. Another question is, why “haven’t the MPs asked for sanctions against the EU member States that violate the rights of immigrants in their countries and behave in a racist way”. The resolution, the source adds, “will have no impact on the relation between Egypt and the EU”. Cairo denies that it is attempting to “sow discord” in its relations with its European partners. Egypt, the statement underlines, will continue to take full responsibility for its actions on bilateral and multilateral level, “to guarantee respect for the right of minority groups and immigrants in European countries, against the racist measures taken against them”. Regarding the magistracy’s choice to have the three suspects of the attack tried by the High Court of State Security, a court tied to the state of emergency, the source wonders if the Euro-MPs want those responsible for the attack to be tried immediately or if they prefer to “criticise Egypt and fish in troubled waters”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

France Investigates Mass-Landing of Immigrants in Corsica

After 124 undocumented immigrants landed on the French island of Corsica on Friday, France says it is now investigating the incident and searching for the traffickers who dropped them off.

France has launched an investigation into the arrival of 124 undocumented immigrants on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica and has called for a European summit on immigration.

Immigration Minister Eric Besson said France could not allow Corsica to become yet another point of entry for illegal immigrants into Europe.

“This event shows once again how it is of the utmost importance for the European Union to strengthen surveillance along its borders,” he said. “We cannot let the Mediterranean fall into the hands of human traffickers.”

Besson added that EU immigration ministers should hold a crisis meeting to introduce “emergency measures to strengthen controls” along the Mediterranean coast.

Fifty-seven men, 29 women — five pregnant — and 38 children were dropped off by a boat near the southern town of Bonifacio on Friday, officials said.

The boat reportedly then took off, suggesting it was driven by traffickers. French authorities say they are cooperating with Italian coastguards to locate the boat drivers.

Government response

Some of the migrants said they were Kurds from Syria while others said they were from Middle Eastern or North African countries.

Authorities originally housed the group in a nearby gymnasium, but have since begun to transfer them to detention centers in mainland France.

The Immigration Ministry said they would assess each migrant’s case individually, and that each “will get an interpreter, a medical check-up, information on aid in case of voluntary return and legal help.”

The incident was the largest known mass-landing of immigrants on Corsica. Such landings are not uncommon on Italian islands further south, but it is unusual for illegal immigrants to enter Europe through French territory.

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

Kabul to Kiruna: A New Life in the Arctic Circle

Adjusting to life in the far north of Sweden can be tough at the best of times, but coming as a refugee presents an extra set of challenges. Malin Nyberg speaks to two women who are more than happy to adapt.

When Freiweni sets off to work in the morning it’s still dark outside. The temperature shows minus fifteen Celsius. “Life in Sweden is very different to Eritrea,” the single mother of two tells The Local.

Freiweni Ghiedei Ghebregzizberher, 51, has been living in Kiruna for the past three years. Leaving her war-torn East African homeland behind, Freiweni and her children arrived in Stockholm in 2007. Soon they were transferred to the refugee facility in Kiruna, a town located some 250 km north of the Arctic Circle and famous for its ice hotel and endless summer days.

But basking beneath the midnight sun was not on the cards when Freiweni first arrived in Sweden.

“It was winter and my children complained. They would ask: ‘Mum, why did we have to come here? It’s so cold’,” Freiweni says.

She admits to feeling scared at the time. “On our way to Kiruna I had no idea where we were going, my kids were crying and it was very traumatic. It hurts to think about it.”

The family spent a year at the refugee facility, where they received, among other things, financial assistance that enabled them to buy warm clothes and shoes.

“We had not been prepared for the cold and had arrived in very thin clothes,” Freiweni remembers.

Having received a residence permit in 2008, the family moved from downtown Kiruna to Vittangi, a village of just 800 people.

“There were no apartments in the centre. I felt sad about it at first but now I think it’s the best thing that could have happened. The people in my village are so nice,” she says.

After two years of Swedish studies combined with a work placement scheme, Freiweni has now landed her first job.

“I’m so, so happy.” Her days are long and the job at the old people’s home requires some travelling. “I get up at 6 o’clock every morning, taking the bus in to Kiruna,” she says. “But I don’t mind at all, I’m just so glad to be working.”

It took Freiweni and her children about a month to get used to the cold in Kiruna and today she is grateful for ending up so far north:

“I wouldn’t like to live anywhere else. I love the little village we live in. My children don’t want to move either. It’s safe here. There were so many problems in Eritrea, with bombs falling and all. Now I have the chance to give me children a good upbringing.”

22-year old Terina Asadi, originally from Afghanistan, is another newcomer who is happy to be living in the very north of Sweden. She arrived from Turkmenistan in February last year and already speaks Swedish fluently.

“People are so nice here, and very talkative. I practise my Swedish on the bus,” she says.

Terina spends her days taking courses at the municipal adult education centre (Komvux) in order to continue the medical studies she started at a university in Turkmenistan.

“The only bad thing about Sweden is that my qualifications don’t count,” she says. “I have to start all over again.”

Terina regrets that she will have to leave the area one day: “Unfortunately I have to move from Kiruna later as there is no university here. It’s a shame because I love the snow and the summer here is even better. It never gets dark; it’s amazing.”

New figures from the Swedish Migration Board show there are currently 35,000 asylum seekers living in Sweden. Spokesman Johan Rahm says they are not expecting an increase from last year, but adds: “It is always hard to tell as you don’t know how things will develop in conflict zones around the world.”

The municipality of Kiruna currently plays host to around 500 asylum seekers, but less than ten percent are likely to stay.

“The ones who do get a residence permit are most likely to move down south,” says Maud Lantto, head of the board’s refugee reception division in Kiruna.

But she does not think the cold climate is a decisive factor:

“The people who come here seem to like Kiruna a lot, but many have friends and family in other parts of the country. Also, there is a huge lack of apartments in the town and many people don’t want to live in the small villages.”

What’s more, unemployment is on the rise in the area. “The recession has reached Kiruna,” Lantto confirms.

Kiruna first set aside temporary housing for asylum seekers in 2001 and Lantto admits some citizens were cautious at the outset. “There were a few protests about having a refugee facility in the area, but I rarely hear complaints these days.”

“In my opinion, meeting people from other countries can broaden your horizons and give you a new perspective on life. And from what I can see, it seems people are becoming more understanding about why people leave their countries in the first place.”

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

College Defends Prof Who Mocked Christians

Seeks restoration of policy under which student told ‘ask God for grade’

A California college is asking the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to restore a policy at the center of a case in which a professor berated a Christian student with the suggestion, “Ask God what your grade is.”


The precedent the college seeks has attracted the attention of other free-speech advocates, including the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, FIRE, which battles college speech restrictions nationwide.


“By continuing to defend an indefensible and unconstitutional speech code with this appeal, LACCD has proven not only that it does not care about its students’ First Amendment rights, but that it doesn’t care about wasting taxpayer dollars to argue against the Bill of Rights in court,” said Will Creeley, FIRE’s director of legal and public advocacy. “FIRE is confident that the Ninth Circuit will recognize the impermissible flaws in LACCD’s policy and reject this misguided appeal.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Hate-Crimes Law Named No.1 Anti-Christian Act of 2009

The new federal hate crimes law has all the potential to be a major attack on religious liberty and freedom of speech, according to top religious liberty attorneys. The law was chosen the number one anti-Christian act of 2009 by the Christian Anti-Defamation League.

Attorneys who defend religious rights agree: The recently enacted hate-crimes law is a threat to religious liberty.


Erik Stanley, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, which is based in Scottsdale, Ariz., said the hate-crimes law is not about punishing crimes. It’s about punishing beliefs and ideas.

It is actually a thought-crimes law,“ Stanley said. “There is no difference between, say, an assault that is already punishable, and an assault that is punishable as a hate crime, other than the belief of the perpetrator.”

Hate-crimes laws are never enacted to help prosecutors put felons away, Stanley said. They are placed on the books to “send a message.”

One of the primary motivations for hate-crimes laws is to send a societal and a governmental message of disapproval of certain beliefs that are held by people,“ Stanley told

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


The Enemy Within: Fox News Stirs Up Murdoch Family Ire

EVERYONE has a story about the in-laws.

It’s just that not everyone’s in-laws set off tales of intrigue and succession in a family-controlled global media dynasty such as Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

But there, on the front page of The New York Times, featuring prominently in a profile of Roger Ailes, the powerful head of News Corp’s top-rating Fox television network, blazed a stinging rebuke from within the Murdoch family walls.

Matthew Freud, husband of Rupert’s daughter, Elisabeth, and one of the most astute and influential public relations executives in London, revealed what members of the Murdoch family think of conservative news channel Fox News.

“I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes’ horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder and every other global media business aspires to,” Freud offloaded.

Freud knew full well the likely impact of his comments. This was no Freudian slip.

The comments sparked a fresh round of dynastic speculation. Was this a public execution of another non-Murdoch pretender to the throne? Is there fresh division over succession in the powerful media family? More pointedly, did the comments have the family’s blessing?

But it wasn’t Rupert Murdoch’s only in-law moment of late, coming just days after Alasdair MacLeod, the husband of his eldest daughter, Prudence, suddenly left Murdoch’s Australian operations, reigniting questions about son Lachlan Murdoch’s ambitions in Australia.

Blood has long been viewed as thicker than water in the Murdoch empire.

Every year, News Corp’s annual report discloses payments made to “related parties”, providing a glimpse of what Rupert’s wife, sons, daughters and in-laws earned from the family business.

And Matthew Freud’s PR firm features prominently, earning $US1.5 million over the past three years.

Michael Wolff, author of Murdoch biography The Man Who Owns the News, spent countless hours with the Murdochs conducting interviews. Freud, he says, is no troublesome in-law but a “pivotal figure in this family dynamic”.

“My view of Matthew is that it’s not a son-in-law problem — in fact, he is acting as their instrument,” Wolff says.

“Matthew is clearly doing the work of Elisabeth, his wife, and James, his brother-in-law, and I would strongly suspect he’s also in touch with Lachlan. They have acted in concert.

“I would almost guarantee that Rupert himself was aware of Matthew’s comment before it was made. It was authored by committee, so to speak.”

News Corp issued a statement saying: “Matthew Freud’s opinions are his own and in no way reflect the views of Rupert Murdoch, who is proud of Roger Ailes and Fox News.”

For his part, Ailes delighted in pointing out that Freud, the great-grandson of Sigmund Freud, himself “needs to see a psychiatrist”.

Freud’s comments ran in a story on the rise of Ailes and Fox and its influence in the News empire. They also came the same week Fox appointed failed Republican presidential candidate Sarah Palin as a political commentator.

A former media consultant to presidents Richard Nixon and George Bush snr, Ailes is credited with turning Fox into a highly opinionated, conservative and spectacularly profitable network news channel. In fact, The New York Times piece pointed out that Ailes’ “outsized success” had placed him “at the pinnacle of power in three corridors of American life: business, media and politics”.

But here’s the rub: he’s not a Murdoch.

Lachlan Murdoch quit the family empire five years ago after a run-in with Ailes when Rupert backed the Fox boss over his son. A spokesman for Lachlan Murdoch declined comment.

Those close to the News camp in Australia say there’s little doubt Freud’s view reflects that of his wife.

“I think the motive is that the family is very unhappy with Roger Ailes. I think they’re unhappy with him for many reasons,” Wolff says.

“I think they all feel [Fox News] makes them look bad. I think the children are politically at odds with Ailes. I think Rupert himself feels that Ailes is a monumental pain in the ass. He’s said as much to me. He’s unpopular among the controlling shareholders … and they slapped him down.”

Nevertheless, it’s an easy fight to pick, criticising Ailes while the family enjoys the spectacular Fox profits, estimated at $US700 million.

“It’s somewhat hypocritical, I suppose, because they still get the benefits of Roger’s success but I’m not sure how long that’s going to last,” Wolff says. “I think they want him out of there. It takes about a year to fire somebody at News Corp, so I think a year from now it’s quite likely that Roger will no longer be there.”

News Corp’s chief operating officer, Chase Carey, dismisses the idea. “News Corp is 100 per cent behind Roger Ailes,” he said, adding to the Los Angeles Times: “We hope and expect he will continue to lead Fox News well into the future.”

Alasdair MacLeod’s sudden exit from News Ltd in Australia has proven no less intriguing.

MacLeod was shuffled out of Nationwide News in a move that hived off The Australian as a separate division to be headed by experts from News’ digital operations.

The move to position The Australian as News Ltd’s dominant digital brand is the most aggressive push to date in an environment where competitors, including Fairfax Media, owner of The Age, are closely watching global trends on how to profit as readers shift from newspapers to online.

Fresh competition emerged this week to Sky News Network, which News Corp part owns, in the form of Mark Scott at the ABC, who is setting up a 24-hour ABC news channel.

In the rapid push for continued relevance, family has unusually had to make way.

MacLeod, married to Prudence, the only child from Murdoch’s first marriage to Patricia Booker, left News Ltd to pursue other opportunities, potentially still within News Corp. His departure may have longer-term relevance, particularly for Lachlan Murdoch.

When he retreated to Australia, Lachlan established a private vehicle, Illyria, that has had mixed success investing in the media. Plans for a joint venture with James Packer to buy Consolidated Media Holdings collapsed in the days before the global credit crisis. Even Rupert mused Lachlan had been “lucky”.

Kerry Stokes has since taken the box seat with a large stake at CMH. Lachlan bought a stake in regional broadcaster Prime Media.

But there’s no need to panic.

Wolff says: “There is this other problem which was openly talked about in the family when I was writing the book, which is that everyone expects Lachlan to … take over the Australian operations and ultimately buy it. And that would have been problematic for Alasdair. So I think that part of this dynamic has been what to do with Alasdair.”

But it’s not straightforward. “How it’s discussed in the family is that it probably won’t happen until Rupert departs this veil of tears,” Wolff says. “Rupert doesn’t want to sell the newspapers because he’s incapable of selling a newspaper even to his own son. And his son doesn’t want to work for him. So you know within the family the view is that Lachlan buys the Australian newspapers after Rupert dies.

“Of course Rupert may not die until Lachlan’s an old man and newspapers have ceased to exist. That could be a bit of a complication to this plan.”

IF ANYTHING, recent developments underline the ongoing complexity of the Murdoch family and the waxing and waning of influence of its disparate members.

The ever-increasing influence of News Corp in the US via Fox and The Wall Street Journal has ensured the broader American media has also become fascinated by a family that has been in the media spotlight in Australia and Britain for years.

But as in any family, bust-ups can be unpleasant. As one local News operative mused this week in the wake of the Freud comments: “Don’t you just love family companies?”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

4 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/23/2010

  1. “Dubai is fully prepared to host the headquarters of the United Nations.”

    Dubai’s economic meltdown has proved that Sharia finance is no more responsible, ethical, or sustainable than American capitalism or European socialism. In fact, Sharia finance is much worse. But…

    …on that score Dubai has a lot in common with the U.N. They’re both too big for their own britches, they are both firm believers in their own hype (in the case of the U.N. they hype is globalism), and they are both abject failures.

  2. Regarding the Australian story: “Bikie Member Drive Alerts Police Squads” – If anything this is a response to the take over at gunpoint of the Comanchero motocycle club by ruthless Lebanese muslims, most of whom have no motorcycles and are concerned only with continuing the ‘club’ as an organised crime syndicate.
    I’ve heard many Chapters of the Comancheros full of standard motorcycle riders have burned their Colours and walked away after the central headquartered new Lebanese Comancheros tried to shake them down for money, whether those chapters made money or not. So there are a lot of disgruntled bikers out there looking for protection for the Lebanese muslims.

    And as usual, any organisation that pursues a policy of hiring Lebanese muslims in Australia falls apart.

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