Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/3/2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/3/2010A Muslim chaplain — presumably chosen for the job by the Muslim Brotherhood, as most of them are — was caught smuggling box-cutters into the “Tombs”, a New York City jail. It is not known who the designated recipients were, nor for what purpose the box-cutters were intended.

In other news, nine people were arrested in Belgium on suspicion of running a people-smuggling ring that sent illegal immigrants from Belgium into Britain.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Diana West, Fjordman, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JD, Nilk, Sean O’Brian, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Italy: Refining ‘Crisis’ May Cause Plant Closures
Al Qaeda Attack on U.S. Months Away, CIA Director Tells Congress
Arkansas: Poll Spells Trouble for Sen. Lincoln
Bill Gates Scholarship Excludes People of Pallor
Book: Hate Crimes: Criminal Law & Identity Politics
Christian Father Faces Jail for Taking Daughter to Church
High Speed Rail to Nowhere
Largest-Ever Federal Payroll to Hit 2.15 Million
Muslim Chaplain ‘Smuggled’ Box Cutters Into NYC Jail
Time Magazine Pushes Draconian Internet Licensing Plan
U.S. Attorney Steps Down From O’Keefe Case
Europe and the EU
Belgium: Increase in Use of Kalashnikovs in Brussels
Belgium: Too Dangerous for Industrial Polytechnic
Herman Van Rompuy Accused of Acting Like a ‘King’
Islam Criticism: The German Feuilleton Debate
Italy: Census, 30% of Households in Difficulty
Minaret and Swastika
Mussolini iPhone Application is Withdrawn
UK: Over a Third of Voters Think Tony Blair Should Go on Trial for Iraq War
UK: Passengers Laid Bare as Full Body Scanners Are Introduced at Heathrow and Manchester Airports
Bosnia: Police Raids Target Radical Islamist Stronghold
Mediterranean Union
Transport: EU: New Road Map for Med Motorways of the Sea
North Africa
Egyptian Parliament Speaker Falsifies Facts About Christmas Eve Shootings
Energy: Tunisia Most Electrified Country in Africa
Israel and the Palestinians
Berlusconi in Jerusalem: Prominent in Israeli Press
Floating Explosives From Gaza, Searches in Israel
Iran Leader ‘Recalls Evil Men’
Palestine-Israel: In Gaza, People Favour Peace With Israel and Criticize Hamas Government
Middle East
Frattini on Trade Ties With Iran
Iraq Lifts Election Ban on Suspected Baathists
Israeli EU Membership ‘May Help Peace Efforts’
South Asia
Air Force Magazine: “Holding Fire Over Afghanistan”
Italians Slightly Wounded in Afghan Blast
Pakistan: Activists Warn, The Murder of a 12-Year-Old Christian Girl Could Go Unpunished
Australia — Pacific
South Australian Government Gags Internet Debate
Trolley Fire Attack Leaves 15 Injured
Sub-Saharan Africa
Darfur: Bashir Genocide Charges to be Reconsidered
In Kenya, Fear of Al Qaeda Ally Stokes Hatred of Somalis
UN Aiding Darfur Rebels, Says Sudan Army
Latin America
ICCAT to Cut Red Tuna Fishing by 40%, Italy Says No
Canada: Fraud Probe Centres on Palestine House
Greece Asks Turkey for Urgent Illegal Immigration Talks
Indian, Iraqi Human Smuggling Ring Busted in Belgium
Obama Adviser: Amnesty to Ensure ‘Progressive’ Rule
Ron Ippolito: The Truth About Our Immigration Problem
UK: Control Immigration! No, It’s Not That the Tories Are Saying That, It’s the Women of Middle England
Culture Wars
Vanity Fair’s “New Hollywood” Issue Completely Lacks Diversity

Financial Crisis

Italy: Refining ‘Crisis’ May Cause Plant Closures

Rome, 2 Feb.(AKI) — The fall in demand for products such as diesel and gasoline may result in the closure of about one-third of Italy’s refineries and the loss of 7,500 jobs, according to the country’s main oil industry group. “The Italian refining industry is in crisis,” the president of the association of oil refiners and distributors operating in Italy, Pasquale De Vita, said at a presentation of a report on the oil industry.

“Changes in the industrial system could result in the closing of 4 or 5 refineries out of the 16 operating in Italy,” he said.

Italians used 6.6 percent fewer oil products in 2009 during the country’s worst economic crisis since World War II. The fall in oil consumption was far steeper than the world average of 1.5 percent, according to the report.

“The national refining system was drastically impacted by the fall in consumption, feeling the effects more than other countries,” the report said.

Italian refining will be further hurt by falling exports to areas that are enlarging their own refining industries, De Vita said.

Eni, Italy’s largest oil company, is the country’s biggest refiner.

Eni is trying to sell its Livorno refinery in Tuscany and last year announced plans to cut spending on refining by 6 percent in the investment period that finishes at the end of 2011.

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


Al Qaeda Attack on U.S. Months Away, CIA Director Tells Congress

Al Qaeda can be expected to attempt an attack on the United States in the next three to six months, senior U.S. intelligence officials told Congress on Tuesday.

The terrorist organization is deploying operatives to the U.S. to carry out new attacks from inside the country, including “clean” recruits with a negligible trail of terrorist contacts, CIA Director Leon Panetta said.

Al Qaeda is also inspiring homegrown extremists to trigger violence on their own, Panetta added.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Arkansas: Poll Spells Trouble for Sen. Lincoln

If the election were held today, Sen. Blanche Lincoln would lose in a landslide, according to the latest polling from Public Policy.

The poll shows 33% of voters would pick the Arkansas Democrat, while 56% would vote for Republican Rep. John Boozman.

The 23-point edge for Boozman, who has yet to officially announce his campaign, underscores that Lincoln is one of the most vulnerable incumbents of the 2010 cycle. Among independents, Boozman fares even better, 66%-20%.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Bill Gates Scholarship Excludes People of Pallor

As discussed by Rob Sanchez at the Vdare blog, the $1 billion Gates Millennium Scholarship fund is off limits for Caucasians. In order to apply for the scholarship, a person must be a citizen or permanent legal resident of the United States, and must be “African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian and Pacific Islander American, or Hispanic American.” Off hand, does anyone know the legality of that? Are there federal laws prohibiting racial discrimination in private scholarships?

The reader who told me about the Gates story says that “white people should not use Microsoft products. MS Office can be replaced by Open Office. PCs running Windows can be replaced by machines running Unix and Mac OS X which are superior to Windows.” First of all, the Gates Foundation has nothing to do with Microsoft. Second, those other companies and operating systems are assuredly just as left wing and anti-white as Microsoft. The most popular Linux operating system at present is Ubuntu, a name that is about white-friendly as Kwanzaa. And is there any company in America more politically correct than Apple, with its ubiquitous logo a half-eaten piece of food that symbolizes man’s rebellion against God? When Eric Voegelin wrote in 1952 that gnosticism is not just a trend in our civilization, but the very nature of modernity, he knew what he was talking about.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Book: Hate Crimes: Criminal Law & Identity Politics

An excellent and fairly short book (153 pgs) on the subject of hate crimes is:

Hate Crimes: Criminal Law & Identity Politics by James B. Jacobs and Kimberly Potter.

ISBN-10: 0195140540

ISBN-13: 978-0195140545

Jacobs and Potter also argue convincingly that the development of hate-crime legislation arises from the identity politics movements which have gained strength since the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Essentially, according to their line of reasoning, claims of the existence of a hate-crime epidemic and laws punishing hate crimes serve two purposes. One, they allow minorities to express outrage at the way they are being treated by society. Two, they allow nonminorities to act as if they understand minorities’ pain and reaffirm the uncontroversial belief that prejudice and bigotry are wrong. But crime, the authors suggest, is not simply “a subcategory of the intergroup struggles between races, ethnic groups, religious groups, genders, and people of different sexual orientations.” Hate-crime laws may even, they warn, exacerbate perceived differences rather than create harmony.

Reviewer: This book methodically deconstructs the ideas behind the notion of “hate crime” and proceeds to smash them one by one.

[Return to headlines]

Christian Father Faces Jail for Taking Daughter to Church

Chicago, Ill. / Joseph Reyes knew he could be accused of defying a court order barring him from taking his daughter to church. But he did it anyway and now he is facing contempt of court charges and jail.

The 35 year old, holding his 3 year old in his arms, walked into Holy Name Cathedral on January 17. A news crew videotaped the act of defiance.

“I have been ordered by a judge not to expose my daughter to anything non-Judaism,” Reyes told a news reporter. “But I am taking her to hear the teachings of perhaps the most prominent Jewish Rabbi in the history of this great planet of ours. I can’t think of anything more Jewish than that.”

The prominent Jewish Rabbi that Reyes referenced was Jesus Christ.

Just before Christmas, a judge issued a temporary restraining order specifically barring Reyes from exposing his daughter to any religion other than Judaism after Reyes had his daughter Baptized without the knowledge of his estranged Jewish wife.

Now the lawyer representing Rebecca Reyes (formerly Rebecca Shapiro) has filed a Motion for Criminal Contempt, asking that Joseph Reyes face criminal charges for defying the judge’s order.

The hearing date is set for February 16 and Reyes has launched a new Web site to raise money for his defense.

He hopes that he will receive contributions from sympathetic fathers and other individuals who find it unconscionable that a judge would tread into the area that seems to violate the constitutional right guaranteeing Freedom of Religion.

“My daughter is half Jewish,” says Reyes. “Just because my marriage is ending should not mean that I can’t go to church to worship with my daughter.

“I’m a Christian, and I was Christian when Rebecca and I got married. No judge should have the right to force me to attend a synagogue to be able to pray with my daughter and no judge should have the right to stop me from going to church with my daughter.”

His attorney, Joel Brodsky, says they will fight.

“My client should be allowed to take his daughter to church,” says Brodsky, who happens to be Jewish. “In every way this is wrong. Freedom of religion is absolute and no judge should be able to interfere with that freedom.”

Reyes is asking for the public’s help to pay for his defense.

“I am a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and I am currently working my way through law school. I need the help in order to defend myself against my wife and her family, who want to put me in jail for taking my daughter to church.”

Adding to Reyes’ disgust at the situation, is the fact that the money being used to prosecute him for taking his daughter to church comes from his father-in-law’s work for Playboy. Howard Shapiro, is the Executive Vice President and General Counsel for the company.

“How Howard Shapiro can make his living from pornography and then object to me taking my daughter to church is beyond my understanding.”

[Return to headlines]

High Speed Rail to Nowhere

I’ve said in other high-speed rail articles that a properly built HSR system can create jobs and stimulate the economy. A Rapid Transit Rail (RTR) system will too — to a far lesser degree. There will be far fewer jobs with RTR than with HSR and they will pay less. They will also offer less long-term employment with good job benefits. The same level of builder expertise isn’t required for an Amtrak update as for HSR.


There are very apparent reasons why the announced Tampa to Orlando or Milwaukee to Chicago rail links cannot possibly be representative of a high-speed line. If it takes a HSR train 25 miles to reach full speed — and it does — and another 25 miles to slow from top speed so it can safely stop, the 85-mile stretch of Tampa-Orlando rail line proposed by Obama provides 35 miles of HSR and 50 miles of RTR. Such a short-distance “link” does not support HSR. It supports RTR.


In his highly viewed State of the Union speech last week, President Obama said his plans should make America’s transportation system more competitive with China (which is building HSR) and Japan (which has had HSR for over 50 years). If he were talking about HSR, he would be right. Implementing short-distance rail links designed to update Amtrak via a rapid transit system will not make America’s rail system more competitive with nations that have real HSR.

To make what I’m saying very clear, the Obama Administration is lying — intentionally or otherwise — to the American people. To be fair, there is another possibility. It is called being uninformed about what one does before committing huge amounts of money to a project, mistakenly telling people one thing when you mean another.

HSR is a national project from which all Americans benefit equally. An Amtrak update using RTR as proposed by President Obama is a series of local projects from which limited areas of the country benefit. The rest of us in fly-over country (where we read our Bibles and hug our guns) get to pay for it.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Largest-Ever Federal Payroll to Hit 2.15 Million

The era of big government has returned with a vengeance, in the form of the largest federal work force in modern history.

The Obama administration says the government will grow to 2.15 million employees this year, topping 2 million for the first time since President Clinton declared that “the era of big government is over” and joined forces with a Republican-led Congress in the 1990s to pare back the federal work force.

Most of the increases are on the civilian side, which will grow by 153,000 workers, to 1.43 million people, in fiscal 2010.

The expansion could provide more ammunition to those arguing that the government is trying to do too much under President Obama.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Muslim Chaplain ‘Smuggled’ Box Cutters Into NYC Jail

Wow. So about those civilian terrorist trials…in New York. As Oriana Fallaci wrote, “Behind every Islamic terrorist there is an Imam…” Damning news from Reuven Blau and Dan Mangan at the, Muslim chaplain ‘smuggled’ box cutters into jail:

A Muslim chaplain for the city Department of Correction was arrested this morning for allegedly trying to smuggle in three box-cutters to a lower Manhattan jail.

The imam, Imam Zul-Quarnain Shahid, has worked as a DOC jail chaplain for three years, according to department sources.

Several sources said Shahid was caught this morning attempting to bring three box-cutters into the jail known as the Tombs during a visit there. It was not known why he was visiting the jail.

A DOC spokesman had no immediate comment.


           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Time Magazine Pushes Draconian Internet Licensing Plan

Establishment mouthpiece calls for web ID system that would outstrip Communist Chinese style net censorship

Time Magazine has enthusiastically jumped on the bandwagon to back Microsoft executive Craig Mundie’s call for Internet licensing, as authorities push for a system even more stifling than in Communist China, where only people with government permission would be allowed to express free speech.

As we reported earlier this week, during a recent conference at the Davos Economic Forum, Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer for Microsoft, told fellow globalists at the summit that the Internet needed to be policed by means of introducing licenses similar to drivers licenses — in other words government permission to use the web.

His proposal was almost instantly advocated by Time Magazine, who published an article by Barbara Kiviat — one of Mundie’s fellow attendees at the elitist confab. It’s sadistically ironic that Kiviat’s columns run under the moniker “The Curious Capitalist,” since the ideas expressed in her piece go further than even the free-speech hating Communist Chinese have dared venture in terms of Internet censorship.

“Now, there are, of course, a number of obstacles to making such a scheme be reality,” writes Kiviat. “Even here in the mountains of Switzerland I can hear the worldwide scream go up: “But we’re entitled to anonymity on the Internet!” Really? Are you? Why do you think that?”

Kiviat ludicrously compares the necessity to show identification when entering a bank vault to the apparent need for authorities to know who you are when you set up a website to take credit card payments.

[Return to headlines]

U.S. Attorney Steps Down From O’Keefe Case

U.S. Attorney Steps Down From O’Keefe Case

James O’Keefe, accused of trying to tamper with the phones of Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, was “framed” by the media and the U.S. attorney’s office, Andrew Breitbart told Fox News.

The top federal prosecutor for New Orleans has removed himself from the case of four conservative activists arrested last week while allegedly trying to capture hidden camera footage in a senator’s office, the Department of Justice said Monday.


“James O’Keefe sat in jail for 28 hours without access to an attorney, while the U.S. attorney leaked the information about his arrest, helping the media frame it as ‘Watergate Junior,’“ Breitbart said.

O’Keefe declined to talk about Breitbart’s allegations to Fox News’ Sean Hannity Monday night, adding he was cooperating with the U.S. attorney’s office and was pleased with the way the U.S. attorney was handling the case.

He said details of his arrest may be brought up at another time, but not now because it is an ongoing investigation.

“The panty bomber on Christmas was given — you know, this guy’s from Al Qaeda, and he’s not even an American citizen, and he’s given access to an attorney right away,” Breitbart said. “I believe that this was a concerted effort, this is just my opinion, to allow for the media to frame the issue to put James O’Keefe in a very bad position.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Belgium: Increase in Use of Kalashnikovs in Brussels

According to the police trade union NSPV the number of heavy weapons has increased in Brussels in recent months. The police have especially noticed a growing number of Kalashnikovs. On Saturday, after a failed hold-up attempt on a money exchange bureau, a shootout ensued. One of the police agents involved in thwarting the attempt was shot with a Kalashnikov. The NSPV trade union says that they see more heavy machine guns and other war arms in certain neighbourhoods in Brussels than they used to. “During recent months there have been several house searches and controls in parks and of vehicles have been stepped up. Time and again we’ve found Kalishnakovs,” says Philip Van Hamme of the NSVP.. “These kinds of weapons are apparently circulating more in Anderlecht and Molenbeek (2 Brussels districts).” According to the police of Brussels these weapons can be bought for just €50 a piece. “There must absolutely be better protection for the people in the field,” says Philip Van Hamme. “A Kalashnikov can perforate our bullet-free vests.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Belgium: Too Dangerous for Industrial Polytechnic

A Francophone industrial polytechnic is moving most of its classes from the campus in Anderlecht to a campus in Brussels. Some 250 industrial engineering students attend the school. The reason for moving most classes is because the campus in Anderlecht has become too dangerous. The students of the Institute Supérieur Industriel de Bruxelles in the Grondelstraat in Anderlecht (part of Greater Brussels) have had trouble in the neighbourhood where the school is located since the beginning of December. The students are often hassled on the streets and the general crime rate in the area is increasing. According to the daily De Standaard the students have been confronted with muggings, extortion, and bullying. The problems are reportedly caused by a gang of about eight or ten16-year-olds. The adolescent thugs often threaten the students by putting a knife to their neck. In some cases the confrontation has come to blows and some students have been stabbed. The delinquents force students to hand over mobile phones, iPods, and money. The authorities are investigating the gang and the numerous recent incidents. In the meantime, the school has decided to move as many classes as possible to another campus in the centre of Brussels.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Herman Van Rompuy Accused of Acting Like a ‘King’

Herman Van Rompuy, the new president of the EU, has been accused of having ‘delusions of grandeur’ over his choice of a summit venue.

[Return to headlines]

Islam Criticism: The German Feuilleton Debate

Since the Swiss minaret ban and the attack on Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, newspaper debate on criticism of Islam (more here) has become increasingly aggressive. Over the past fortnight the feuilletons have published a mass of articles attacking outspoken critics of contemporary Islam — in particular Henryk M. Broder (here his article after the attack on Kurt Westergaard, here an excerpt of his book “Hurra, Wir Kapitulieren”), Necla Kelek (here two of her articles), Seyran Ates (articles here, here and here) here and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Under the headline “Our holy warriors”, Claudius Seidl, head of the Sunday feuilleton of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, counters Germany’s Islam critics by arguing that western secularisation also took “almost a thousand years.” “Not every argument is as easy to refute as Necla Kelek’s conjecture that jihad lasted a thousand years, and it was not until 1683, before Vienna, that it was finally stopped, when the imperial army, the Polish, the Badenese and the Bavarian troops forced back the Ottoman army. But if the imperial wars of the Ottomans were holy, when did the western jihad come to an end? With the complete extermination of the Native Americans? Or with the last throes of colonialism, which was legitimised with the aim of converting and civilising the heathens?”

In an article headed “Our hate preachers”, Thomas Steinfeld, the head of the Süddeutsche feuilleton accused Henryk M. Broder and Necla Kelec of calling the kettle black: “To wield ‘western values’ as aggressively as radical Islam does its holy script, is to stoop to the level of your chosen enemy.”

Feminism can also be racism if the aim is to liberate Muslim women, according to psychology professor Birgit Rommelspacher in the taz: “People are less likely to use arguments of ‘racial’ superiority these days, resorting instead to the civilising function of the west. One of the aims of this ‘civilising mission’ being — as in colonial times — the liberation of ‘the oppressed Muslima’, which led Leila Ahmed to coin the phrase ‘colonial feminism’. But anyone who is reluctant to connect colonial and feminist pretensions to power should remember that under the Nazis, there were women who substantiated their ‘racial’ superiority with their commitment to the equality of man and woman.”

In an indignant riposte to Rommelspacher’s article, Regina Mönch writes in the FAZ: “She has obviously neither noticed nor considered the fact that, unlike herself, a political die-hard taz writer, Kelek, Ates and Hirsi Ali are being threatened and persecuted. She has also failed to notice that they are acting in their own interests, that Rommelspacher herself is being discriminatory in denying three Muslim women — because that is what they are — all right to critical reflection.”

Also in the FAZ, Necla Kelek asks why criticism of Islam always attracts such vitriol — particularly when it comes from Muslims who “are not content only to be the conversation piece”, but who dare “to question the opinion of the top dogs in the media”: “Luther and Lessing were not the first ones to make religious criticism one of the cornerstones of civil society, and as a Muslim woman, I am not going to let anyone stop me from criticising my religion. Out of self interest, because I want Muslims to learn to cope with the challenges of modern life. I only wish that more secular and articulate Muslims would finally open their mouths and start voicing their criticism of both archaic traditions and the unreasonable demands of civil society alike.”

In Perlentaucher, Thierry Chervel is amazed that people are still calling for “freedom of opinion to be handled responsibly.” The democracies are doing it already: “Gunnar Herrmann writes approvingly in a SZ article about the current state of the caricature debate in Denmark, where so many Danes are expressing their respect for religious sentiments: ‘Behaviour like this might be described today as self-censorship but it used to be called tact.’ The refusal to print the caricatures in a book about the caricature conflict, the refusal to erect Gregor Schneider’s black cube in front of the Hamburger Bahnhof museum in Berlin: all these are examples of ‘freedom of opinion being handled responsibly.’ And our quality newspapers are often the most prominent advocates of pre-emptive religious censorship.”

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

Italy: Census, 30% of Households in Difficulty

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 4 — In Italy more than one in four households have problems making ends meet. And in order to meet daily needs they are forced to dip into what they managed to save over time, extend payments and request loans. All seem to be following the same strategy: reduce everything possible, get rid of waste and rethink consumption habits, in ever more of a race to find discounts and lower prices, in which even shopping carts and housing become “low cost”. And bad habits go out to window, cigarettes first and foremost. This is the picture drawn up by the 2009 Censis (Social Investments Studies Centre) on the social situation in the country. The survey shows that 28.5% of households find it difficult to cover their monthly expenses with their income. It is data which instead should be compared with the 71.5% who instead say their income is sufficient, 79% in the north-east and 63.5% in the south. On the basis of the report, only 2.2% of tax payers declare income of over 70,000 euros per year, while 50% claim over 15,000 and 31% claim between 15,000 and 26,000 euros. Also according to the report, in Italy there are 1,500,000 households suffering from “food poverty” (4.4%9 with an enormous difference between the north and the south of the country. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Minaret and Swastika

In the wake of the Swiss minaret ban, Gustav Seibt examines the pitfalls of western tolerance

The citizens of Switzerland who voted to outlaw the construction of minarets in a constitutional referendum, had to face outrage and ridicule. But not exclusively; they also had a few enlightened defenders, who used arguments other than xenophobic prejudice or unspecific protectiveness towards their homeland. These defenders of the west and its way of life deserve to be heard, because their thoughts touch on the basic principles of tolerance, which Europe developed so painstakingly after centuries of religious wars.

Anne Applebaum, a leading American historian whom we have to thank for a seminal book on the Soviet gulag, does not even deny, in an article for the Washington Post from December 8, that the Swiss referendum might seem “grotesquely unfair” to “hundreds of thousands of well-integrated Muslims”, but she does arrive at the following conclusion: “I have no doubt that the Swiss voted in favor primarily because they don’t have much Islamic extremism — and they don’t want any.” A peculiar figure of thought: you are actually pretty well integrated, but just in case you — or a few of you — come up with any stupid ideas, we’d better put some restrictions on your religious freedom.

This brings back unpleasant memories of sympathiser-baiting in the days of radical left-wing terrorism in Europe. In the seventies this threatened serious damage to the constitutional state which, it should be said, would have been very much in the interests of its misguided enemies.

The women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali makes a similar case, though at greater length, in the Christian Science Monitor on December 5. The minaret, the star and the crescent moon, she says, are symbols of a totalitarian political movement, like the swastika or the hammer and sickle. Islam, she says, is not restricted to beliefs about birth and death and the afterlife; it is an all-encompassing way of life that makes political demands on its followers. Islamism, in other words, jihad, honour killings, genital mutilation, and arranged marriages. It was against this, according to Hirsi Ali, that an otherwise left-leaning class of Swiss workers and ordinary people defended their free lifestyle — in contrast to the cosmopolitan, dialogue-loving diplomatic, economic and media leaders.

Henryk M. Broder used the same line of argument on November 30, in an immediate response to the Swiss vote on the website “Die Achse des Guten” (and here in Die Welt). >From now on, Broder argues, we should only do business on a tit-for-tat basis. “If Bonn can have a King Fahd Academy, which is not regulated by the schools supervisory board, it must be possible to have an Evangelical or Catholic school in Riad or Jedda, or an academy for atheist theory and praxis. If Iranian women can parade through Munich in the hijab, European women should be able to walk through Tehran or Isfahan in the clothes of their choice, without being groped by the lecherous hands of the moral police.”

If, according to this principle, hallowed western constitutional principles — stipulated, for example, in the “First Amendment of the United States Constitution”, which expressly prohibit state legislation on religious questions — are sacrificed, then we really have regressed to a pre-1648 world, when entire confessions made each other collectively liable, taking turns to persecute, hunt or murder one other. We are a lot closer to this world today than most secular citizens of the west would like to believe. Until 1870, for example, within the realm of the church state, it was forbidden to build a single Evangelical church (only non-public observance of the Evangelical faith was tolerated). Did that stop the Prussian king Frederic the Great from building his new Catholic subjects a magnificent Catholic cathedral just a stone’s throw from the Berlin Stadtschloss? Of course not.

Well 18th century Catholicism was relatively tame, but not tame enough to prevent the Catholic establishment from burning a witch every now and then. And even in Maria Theresia’s day, a Catholic power like Austria had an official ban on learning English due to the numerous Enlightenment texts that were written it. Of course Catholicism remained a faith that placed strict demands on its followers’ way of life, including basic political notions. By contrast, Bismark’s freshly united empire of 1871 felt the need to defend itself with “pulpit paragraphs” that forbade the clergy to take any form of political position and was mainly used in the empire against Polish and Rhinish clerics. In the Third Reich it was a weapon against priests who opposed the regime. It was not abandoned in the BRD until 1953.

The idea of religious tolerance, which has developed in Europe since the 17th century, did not develop under today’s more ideologically relaxed circumstances. It was a response to the competition between the various claims to the truth, with their all-encompassing (to avoid the word totalitarian) traits, which allowed them to exist side by side. The hostile feelings which Islam awakens today, even in its least extreme forms, probably also arise because we are reminded of our own past, when people in Europe had equally strong beliefs and lived by them, as many Muslims do today.

This adds an asymmetry to the balance of tolerance, which can only be overridden by a trick of the tongue that equates Islam and Islamism and pronounces Islam a third wave of totalitarianism after Communism and Nazism. European tolerance was not initially secured in the name of Enlightenment and enlightened people, but as a way to help Catholics and Protestants live together, and later, Jews. Not until a second stage did religious tolerance develop into the further-reaching freedoms of Kant’s “public use of reason”, which went on to become the foundation of the modern constitutional state. Our democratic freedoms are immediately descended from religious freedom, which is why even the slightest restrictions, as Navid Kermani so rightly said, are taboo-breaking.

Because the point about the Swiss referendum is not that not every town in the Alps should have the right to negotiate with their Islamic communities about building mosques that are compatible with history and landscape; the point is about constitutionally banning minarets in a modern, secular state. But the idea that we should attune our religious freedoms to the situation in Riad is ludicrous.

The limits of tolerance in western constitutional states were set a long time ago. They end where tolerance becomes impossible, in the face of coercion or violence of any form including, of course, politically totalitarian aspirations. But this does not mean that religious communities have to be democratic to the core (the Catholic Church is not, even today) as long as they permit the right to leave. And this must be guaranteed by the constitutional state. The same naturally goes for all imperatives that oppress and infringe upon the rights of women, against which Hirsi Ali is so rightly fighting. And of course a western state community such as the European Union is allowed to require every Islamic country that wants to join its ranks, comprehensively to implement its enlightened Euro-American constitutional norms.

But to argue like Applebaum, Broder and Hirsi Ali is to resort to the sort of fundamentalist logic which “the west” (to use an expression that is back in fashion again) left behind it after many painful experiences, in historical terms, an amazingly short time ago. That 11 September 2001, indeed Islamic terrorism in general, now threatens to trigger relapses here at home, is one of many tragic consequences. The right answer would be to take pride in a constitution that upholds two-way tolerance, instead of only in our direction. “We will break them with our tolerance,” one wise citizen said, shortly after September 11. Otherwise, they will break us with their intolerance.


Gustav Seibt, born in 1959, studied literature and history. He was editor at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, has written for Die Zeit and currently writes for the Süddeutsche Zeitung. His most recent book “Goethe und Napoleon” deals with the historical meeting of these two men in 1808. C.H.Beck Verlag (2008)

This article orginally appeared in the Süddeutsche Zeitung on 14 December, 2009

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

Mussolini iPhone Application is Withdrawn

An iPhone application that allows users to download speeches by the former Italian dictator Benito Mussolini has been withdrawn.

Its developer says he is removing it after legal threats.

But the application has also faced protests from Jewish groups and Holocaust survivors who described it as offensive.

IMussolini, as the application is known, has become the most popular iPhone download in Italy.

It has even beaten video games based on the current film sensation Avatar.

It is a 25-minute collection of video and audio clips from 100 of Mussolini’s speeches.

But now it has been withdrawn after a row with the film institute where the pictures came from.

The institute says the application is an aberration, far removed from the educational purposes for which the clips should be used.

Luigi Marino, who developed iMussolini, said he took it down after legal threats. But he says he intends to put it back on when the matter is cleared up.

A number of Jewish groups had expressed deep concern about the app.

One said it was part of the slide towards legitimising fascism and the rehabilitation of Mussolini.

Another said it was an unacceptable attempt to exalt what he called a filthy past.

Apple told us it did not want to comment on the matter.

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

UK: Over a Third of Voters Think Tony Blair Should Go on Trial for Iraq War

The former PM’s evidence to the Chilcot inquiry does not seem to have made a particularly good impression

John Rentoul’s campaign to defend Tony Blair’s reputation doesn’t seem to be going to well. According to a ComRes poll out today, 37% of voters think he should be put on trial for going to war with Iraq.

At first glance this suggests that Blair’s evidence to the Chilcot inquiry did not make a particularly good impression. ComRes conducted most of their fieldwork over the weekend, after Blair’s appearance at the inquiry. Last month, when a polling organisation last asked a question about Blair being put on trial, only 23% of respondents said that Blair should be tried as a war criminal. But the questions were framed differently and a direct comparison isn’t fair. In January YouGov offered the “war crimes” option as one of five alternative answers to a question. ComRes just asked respondents to agree or disagree with the proposition that Blair should be “put on trial for going to war with Iraq”. Some 57% disagreed, 37% agreed and 5% did not know.

As the Independent points out in its write-up of the poll today, the ComRes findings also suggest that Gordon Brown is not going to have much luck blaming it all on Blair. The poll also says that 60% of voters think Brown should share responsibility with Blair for the decision to go to war.

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

UK: Passengers Laid Bare as Full Body Scanners Are Introduced at Heathrow and Manchester Airports

The introduction of full body scanners at Heathrow and Manchester airports has today caused outrage among civil liberty campaigners who say that they are an invasion of privacy.

Campaigners claim the scanners, which act like a mini radar device ‘seeing’ beneath ordinary clothing, breach privacy rules under the Human Rights Act.

The exemption of under 18s from being scanned, which was in place during the trial of the machines in Manchester amid fears the scanners could breach child protection laws, has also been removed.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) also warned that using profiling techniques to single out Muslims, Asians and black people for scanning at airports could breach race and religious discrimination laws introduced by the government.

It was also revealed yesterday that air passengers who refuse to submit to a full body scan at Heathrow and Manchester airports will be barred from taking their flights.

The scanners have been introduced in the wake of a failed attempt by 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up a transatlantic jet on Christmas Day.

Airport bosses at Manchester and Heathrow said those selected for scanning are not being chosen on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity.

They will instead scan passengers if they raise the suspicion of security officers following a hand search or unsolved metal detection alarm.

They will also go through if explosive or vapour trace detection equipment causes an alarm to sound or if they request a private search prior to or after passing through the walk-through metal detection equipment.

The first passengers at Manchester Airport who used the scanner backed the controversial measure.

In the first hour after the machine was made compulsory around 60 people were scanned at Manchester.

Andrew Mark, 46, from Wolverhampton, was among the first to be selected.

Mr Mark said: ‘We have nothing to hide so it’s not a problem. It didn’t seem to hold us up either as it only takes a few seconds.’

‘The process is really easy and I felt comfortable going through it but I didn’t really know what they were doing. They told us we had been chosen at random but I think they should give better reasons why people are picked,’ she said.

At Heathrow, Richard and Susan Winter described the machines as an invasion of privacy but said they understood why there were being introduced.

The married couple from Folkestone in Kent were flying to Sri Lanka this evening.

Housewife Mrs Winter, 55, said: ‘I feel it is incredibly intrusive but this is the price we have to pay in the modern world.

‘For security reasons it is a good thing — it is better to do this than let someone creep on with a shoe bomb.

‘I feel it will invade my privacy but if it ends up saving lives it is important and worth doing.

‘We flew in the aftermath of 9/11 and there was a real air of suspicion between passengers. Hopefully this will eliminate that.’

Mr Winter, a 66-year-old retired chauffeur, added: ‘You have got to say yes to it because no-one wants to be blown out of a plane.

‘It’s an unfortunate necessity — it would be lovely to be in a world with no trouble but there’s no avoiding it.’

Keith and Anne Bird, a retired couple from Basingstoke, Hampshire, were waiting to board the same plane.

Mr Bird, 66, said: ‘I have no problem at all. There is so much intrusion into our lives these days I think that walking through the scanners will be like water off a duck’s back.

‘In some ways I prefer it to the amount of CCTV there is because it serves a definite purpose — to protect people.

‘You don’t see people marching in the streets about this — it really is not an issue.’

His 65-year-old wife agreed. She said: ‘I don’t see any problems with having my body scanned. Anything that makes flying safer is a good thing.’

Edward Smith, 38, was flying to Singapore this evening.

The business consultant from Blackburn in Lancashire said: ‘Measures such as these are vital because terrorists do not play by the rules.

‘We must use every piece of technology possible to disrupt them and prevent them from creating more atrocities.’

But Alex Deane, a barrister and director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said such measures meant ‘the terrorists have won’.

‘People are understandably afraid of terrorism,’ he said. ‘But we didn’t allow the IRA to impede our freedoms or change our way of life, and we shouldn’t change now either.

‘Those upset by the prospect of undergoing these scans shouldn’t be forced to choose between their dignity and their flight.

‘What kind of a free society does the Government think it is “protecting”, when it invades our privacy like this?

‘When we are forced to expose ourselves at the airport in order to go on holiday, the terrorists have won.’

Timothy Kirkhope, Conservative leader in the European Parliament, said an ‘urgent’ debate was necessary in Westminster and Brussels on the scanners and the manner in which they were being introduced at airports.

He said: ‘Body scanners are being brought in without adequate public or parliamentary consultation both in Brussels and Westminster.

‘Whilst I am not against their use and the need to give security to travellers, I have concerns about the ‘bull in a china shop’ approach currently being adopted and promoted by the UK Government.

‘Who pays for these machines? The airports and the Government have yet to agree.

‘We are also alienating more and more passengers, and drawing flak from civil liberties groups without having had the opportunity to debate the efficacy of the proposed body scanners or how they are to be used. This is unacceptable.’

As the technology was implemented at Heathrow’s Terminal 4 and Terminal 2 of Manchester Airport today, Transport Secretary Lord Adonis today sought to allay privacy fears.

The Cabinet Minister said the images from the scans are deleted ‘immediately’ and staff carrying out the procedure are fully trained and supervised.

Lord Adonis likened the scans to the current pat-down travellers are subject to at airport security gates.

‘A pat-down search is a pretty intrusive procedure but people accept that because it is important that we do detect whether there are weapons or other powerful substances that people may be carrying,’ he said.

‘A body scanner is in the same category — it is very important to stress that the images which are captured by body scanners are immediately deleted after the passenger has gone through the body scanner.

‘Staff are, of course, properly trained and supervised who manage the body scanners.’

Lord Adonis also stressed that passengers would not be selected ‘on the basis of personal characteristics’.

He said there would be a consultation on the use of scanners, but added that there was an immediate need to begin using them following the attempted Detroit bomb attack on Christmas Day.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is accused of trying to detonate a bomb on a flight as it was about to land in the U.S. city.

‘Given the current security threat level, the Government believes it essential to start introducing scanners immediately,’ he said.

‘However, I wish to consult widely on the long-term regime for their use, taking full account of the experience of the initial deployment.’

A spokesman for BAA said that all passengers on all flights may be subject to the scan and that they would be randomly selected.

Birmingham Airport will have the scanners installed later this month ahead of a national roll-out.

Heathrow Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 5 will see the scanners implemented in the next few weeks.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: ‘We understand the concerns expressed about privacy in relation to the deployment of body scanners, which is why we have drawn up a code of practice for their use.

‘This will ensure operators are separated from the passengers being screened, and these anonymous images are destroyed after scanning is complete.’

‘This code of practice also makes clear that passengers will not be selected for screening on the basis of gender, age, race or ethnic origin.’

The security director of BAA said the seven-second scans were a ‘significant’ move towards protecting airports against terrorist attacks.

Speaking at Heathrow today, Ian Hutcheson said: ‘The security and safety of our passengers and staff is BAA’s first priority.

‘The introduction of full body scanners and other technology is one significant step towards a more robust defence against the changing and unpredictable threat posed by terrorists.

‘However it is important that, as a country, we make better use of the intelligence available to industry and Government and continue to promote the close assessment of passengers’ behaviour.

‘Only by doing so will we build a robust security system that is dynamic enough to respond quickly and effectively to the emerging threat.’

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]


Bosnia: Police Raids Target Radical Islamist Stronghold

Sarajevo, 2 Feb. (AKI) — Bosnian anti-terror police on Tuesday raided the northeastern Bosnian village of Gornja Maoca, a stronghold of conservative Muslims. Women were reportedly among some ten Wahabis detained by police for questioning.

The villagers are suspected of “jeopardising Bosnia’s constitutional order and spreading national, racial and religious hatred,” the Bosnian prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

Wahabi Muslims are followers of an austere form of Sunni Islam that originated in Saudi Arabia during the sixteenth century.

The operation was carried out by 600 police officers and was the largest since the end of the country’s 1992-95 war, according to Bosnia’s state prosecutors.

Police also said they uncovered a large quantity of weapons from a number of buildings searched during the raids.

Bosnia’s largest Wahabi community lives in Gornja Maoca, near the northeastern town of Brcko. The village is reported to be run according to Sharia law and its inhabitants reported to have connections to Islamist terrorist networks.

Police searched another location, in the Gornji Rahic area, also close to Brcko, seizing computers, cell phones and other equipment from the home of a Wahabi there, Serbian media reported.

Many followers of the Wahabi movement in Bosnia are Arabs who fought on the side of local Muslims during the war.

Many have remained in the country after the war, indoctrinating local youths and even operating terrorist training camps, western intelligence sources have said.

Most Wahabi homes fly black Islamic flags, and the children do not attend public schools — a violation of the Bosnian laws. Local road signs are reported to be in Arabic.

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

Mediterranean Union

Transport: EU: New Road Map for Med Motorways of the Sea

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, DEC 8 — New road map for the Mediterranean Motorways of the Sea (Medamos) project, financed by the Eu and extended until the start of the second phase, Medamos II. The participants partner countries, Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordany, Lebanon,Morocco, Palestinian Territories, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey, will receive a draft road map before 18 december 2009, for comments and proposals. The Medamos objective — according to the Enpi site ( — will be promoting integrated, effective and efficient intermodal freight transport and maritime transport links between the Eu and the Mediterranean partner countries (and between the Med countries themselves) to enhance the overall trade between the Eu and the Med partner countries. New activities of the project are expected to start in March 2010. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptian Parliament Speaker Falsifies Facts About Christmas Eve Shootings

by Mary Abdelmassih

Cairo (AINA) — In an interview with BBC Arabic on January 31, 2010, Dr. Fathi Sourour, speaker of the People’s Assembly (parliament) said that the Nag Hammadi shooting of Christians on Christmas Eve was a single criminal act, with no sectarian dimensions, prompted by the “death” of a Muslim girl as a result of being raped by a Copt (video).

12-year-old Yusra Abdelwahab, who was allegedly raped on November 18, 2009 in Farshout, is alive and due to appear in court in Qena on February 17, as requested by her own lawyer on January 19, 2010. This fact was confirmed today by Ashraf Edward, defense attorney of Girgis Baroumi, the Christian Copt who allegedly raped Yusra (AINA 1-28-2010).

Copts were shocked and angered by this statement which they consider to be another lie propagated by the government to trigger another wave of Muslim attacks against them. Some have called on Mr. Sourour to resign, as a “lying head of parliament is a blow to Egypt’s image,” while others have called for bringing Fathi Sourour to justice for inciting to sedition.

Egyptian officials have denied from the beginning a sectarian element in the Christmas Eve attack, insisting it was purely a criminal act and have linked it to the alleged rape incident.

Mufid Shehab, minister of legal affairs and parliamentary council said, “No religious dimension should be attached to this incident, only a criminal one,” reported Almasry Alyom Newspaper, which covered the parliamentary session after the shoot-out.

Egyptian rights groups have disputed the government theory and criticized authorities for refusing to acknowledge the sectarian aspect of the killings. “What happened in Nag Hammadi was sectarian killing,” Hafez Abou Seada, Secretary General of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR).

The State-affiliated National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) has sent a fact-finding mission to Nag Hammadi. The mission included Coptic MP Georgette Kellini, who is also a member of NCHR, together with two other NCHR members.

There was a heated dispute over the use of the word “sectarian” in parliament, and when Kellini confirmed that the incident was “sectarian” she was attacked in Parliament by Fathi Sorour who accused her of wanting to be a “hero” and by AbdelRahim El Ghoul, the governing party representative of Nag Hammadi, who called her a “criminal.”

Two days after the Christmas Eve killings three Muslims, Mohamed El-Kamony, Korshy Aly and Hendawy Hassan were arrested. The police found the gun which was used; ballistics tests confirmed it was the same gun used to kill the victims.

The three arrested are registered criminals and were charged with premeditated murder, terrorism, possession of unlicensed firearms, disturbing public security, intentional destruction of property, and the intent of killing the wounded. The first charge alone warrants the death penalty. The main suspect El-Kamony had been convicted in 12 crimes in the past and had spent time in prison from 2002 till 2004. Two of his convictions were for rape. El-Kamony is known to be a hired killer and a thug used by election candidates to intimidate voters in the Nag Hammadi region.

After confessing to the killing, which he said was prompted by his anger to the rape of the Muslim girl by a Copt in Farshout, El-Kamony recanted his confession in front of prosecution, saying that his previous confessions were made under security services’ pressure by arresting their women.

Coptic international lawyer Mr. Hanna Hanna suspects a conspiracy on the part of the government and expects the criminals to get away scot-free. “El-Kamony denies the shootings, which will be supported by witnesses prepared by the security authorities. The case will end up in the judges not finding a fixed charge, so El-Kamony and his accomplices would be set free.”

Explaining why the authorities insist on the scenario of an individual criminal offense rather than a sectarian one, Hanna Hanna says that El-Kamony is a registered criminal and does not care about religion or honor. Also the theory of revenge does not hold as in Upper Egypt he had to kill family of the offender, i.e. Girgis Baroumi, but none of the Copts killed on Christmas Eve were his kinsmen. “Giving as an excuse for the shooting the alleged rape of the Muslim girl, he is only repeating the words of Fathi Sourour, and this would make the court consider the shooting a “criminal” rather than a “sectarian” offense. Since the motive was ‘Honor’ he would get a lighter sentence, and soon afterwards would be released.”

Eighty young Christian from Nag Hammadi are presently detained without charges in what is known as the security services’ “balancing act” in order to put pressure on the church to relinquish criminal charges in exchange of setting them free.

Many observers were disappointed that the prosecutor general hastily concluded that no one could be found to have incited the three accused Muslims to commit the shootings. They will be tried before the Emergency Supreme State Security Court in Qena on February 13. A team of 25 Islamist lawyers have volunteered to defend them.

[Return to headlines]

Energy: Tunisia Most Electrified Country in Africa

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 2 — Tunisia has the highest electrification rate in Africa. According to a report published by Powering Africa, Tunisia, with its rate of 99%, has surpassed Algeria and Egypt (98%), Libya (97%), the island of Mauritius (94%), Morocco (85%), and South Africa (70%). According to the report, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, and Egypt have substantial rates thanks also to their respective government policies, which have made the problem of “rural electrification a form of social development in the last 10-15 years”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Berlusconi in Jerusalem: Prominent in Israeli Press

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, FEBRUARY 2 — The Israeli press gives broad attention to the visit by Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who today will visit Premier Benyamin Netanyahu and will participate in a joint meeting of Israeli and Italian Ministers in Israel. Newspaper Haaretz headlines: “Berlusconi’s dream, Israel in the European Union”. This issue, which Israel feels strongly about, also appears in the headlines of other newspapers. The Yediot Ahronot writes in a sentimental tone that Berlusconi has come to Jerusalem “out of love”, while Maariv reports that Netanyahu has been “embraced by a friend”. The strong personal friendship between Israeli and Italian leaders is the bases of an analysis made by Dan Margalit, editor of the Israeli pro-government newspaper ha-Yom. “America” Margalit writes, “is no longer what it once was”, and the sense of isolation is growing in Israel. That explains the increased interest in European capitals that reach out to the country, like Berlin, Paris and Rome. Margalit concludes that Netanyahu should make use of the friendship between him and Berlusconi to reach three goals: getting the Italian Premier’s support in Israel’s inclusion in the European Union; asking for his assistance in restoring relations between Israel and Turkey, which are going through a deep crisis in these months; getting Italy’s support for strict sanctions against Iran, as recently discussed by Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Floating Explosives From Gaza, Searches in Israel

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, FEBRUARY 2 — A long stretch of coastline in southern Israel between Ashdod and Ashqelon, was closed to the public again today due to fears of explosive devices which arrived by sea yesterday from Gaza. In the early morning widespread searches were carried out. Yesterday, two floating explosive devices, which contained dozens of kilograms of explosives, were discovered and neutralised in Ashqelon and Ashdod. Previously on Friday night, two powerful explosions occured off the coast of the Gaza Strip and were noticed by Israeli patrol boats. Yesterday, Islamic Jihad in Gaza claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that they released a total of eight floating explosive devices into the water to sabotage strategic installations in southern Israel.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Iran Leader ‘Recalls Evil Men’

‘Duty to help Iranian resistance,’ Berlusconi tells Netanyahu

(ANSA) — Jerusalem, February 2 — Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “recalls evil figures from the past,” Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said after talks Tuesday with Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu on the Middle East peace process and Iran’s nuclear programme.

“The problem of security is fundamental for Israel. All the more so because there is a state which is preparing an atom bomb to use it against someone. It is a state which is led by someone who recalls evil figures from the past,” Berlusconi said at a press conference with Netanyahu on the second day of his visit to Israel.

After signing a range of bilateral accords bolstering political and economic cooperation, Berlusconi said he would do “everything possible to fight indifference” to the possibility of Iran becoming a nuclear power.

“It is our duty to sustain and help the opposition in Iran,” the Italian premier added.

He said Ahmadinejad did not enjoy the support he claimed after last year’s rigged elections which sparked bloody protests.

“The opposition to him is strong,” Berlusconi said.

The Italian premier voiced the hope that the international community would approve “strong sanctions” capable of dissuading the Iranian leadership from developing nuclear weapons.

“We hope dissuasion works so that an armed clash can be avoided,” he said.

There was no immediate reaction to Berlusconi’s statement from Tehran, which has in the past accused Western powers of fomenting domestic protests.

Repeating his hope that Israel might join the European Union, Berlusconi said that, as an EU member, “no one could offend Israel any longer”.

“I hope that a path which leads to Israel becoming an EU member can be found,” he said, stressing that this could “put an end to all the anxieties of the Israelis”.

“We have always been close to Israel and we will continue to be,” he said.

Berlusconi told Netanyahu that on Wednesday, when he meets Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the West Bank, “I will be a messenger of Israel’s strong desire to resume dialogue”.

The Italian premier reaffirmed his concept of a Marshall Plan for Palestine, “an extra stimulus” on the road to peace.

“There can only be peace if there is prosperity,” Berlusconi said, adding that he would “soon” ask to meet the EU’s foreign policy representative, Catherine Ashton, with the Iran nuclear question and the Middle East peace process among his priorities.

Ashton is preparing to visit the Middle East in March, her spokesman said Tuesday.

Netanyahu reaffirmed Jerusalem’s insistence that Tehran must be prevented from developing nuclear weapons, saying that Berlusconi had understood the “moral importance” of this.

Asked about the Italian premier’s statement that the continued construction of Israeli settlements were an obstacle to peace, Netanyahu replied: “the simplest way of resuming the peace process is not to set preconditions but simply start talking again”.

After his talks with Netanyahu, Berlusconi met Tony Blair, the special envoy of the Middle East Quartet (United States, Russia, United Nations and EU) for talks on the prospects of restarting the peace process, diplomatic sources said. ‘LONG ROAD’ TO EU MEMBERSHIP, SAYS FRATTINI.

Earlier, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, who is accompanying Berlusconi, said the Italian premier’s ‘dream’ of Israel becoming part of the EU would entail a “long process”.

“I, too, could have this dream. But the question is where and how to start this important but long process,” Frattini added. “Israel is a fully democratic country and the more we draw it closer to Europe, the greater role Europe can play in the Mideast peace process,” the foreign minister observed. Frattini accompanied the premier along with Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti, Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, Public Works Minister Altero Matteoli and Health Minister Ferrucio Fazio. The ministers will return to Italy Tuesday evening while Berlusconi will stay on for talks in Bethlehem on Wednesday with Abbas and a visit to the visit the Church of the Nativity.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Palestine-Israel: In Gaza, People Favour Peace With Israel and Criticize Hamas Government

The outcome of a survey. Overcome the division among Palestinians a priority, more than the rebuilding of what has been destroyed by the Israelis. “Terrible” economic situation, deteriorated under the government of the Islamic movement, whose leaders would receive few votes should they participate in presidential elections. But the ban on men and women together on a motorcycle finds consensus.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) — The majority of the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip (67%) are in favour of a peace agreement with Israel, and think (52.8%) that by the time their children are adults it will be possible (but a 36.5% rule it out in various ways). The key issue is the need to overcome the current division between the West Bank and Gaza, most (71.2%) see as negative the Hamas decision to oppose the presidential election as do most (57.7%) judge movement’s management since it took power.

This is the most significant data to emerge from the most recent survey carried out by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCPO), an independent body which since 1994 has studied the Palestinian public, run by Nabil Kukali, a Christian who is also professor at Hebron University in the West Bank.

Meanwhile, the investigation shows that for the vast majority of the population the economic situation in Gaza is “bad” (51.2%) or “poor “(34.2) — “good” for only 13.9%. 75.7% of respondents are concerned for the future of their family. People are concerned about security (38.3%), work (23%), health (16.2%) or, generally, the future (22.5%). Respondents also believe they enjoy “poor” (78.8%) respect for their human rights. If the borders were opened, 40.2% would emigrate. But who entirely support (67%) the ban imposed by Hamas men and women to use a motorcycle together.

“Reunification” is therefore quite important for the population of Gaza for the 48.2% it is the “top priority”, more than rebuilding of what was destroyed by the Israelis (21.2%) and the opening of the border (29%). Responsibility for the impasse in unification is mainly due both parties (42.6%), but more to Hamas (40.8%) than Fatah (12.5). The contrast is considered political in nature (59.1%) rather than religious (6.8%), but there is 24% who believe it is due to both factors. “Serious negotiations” are needed to bring the split to an end (48.1%, but some people think “outside pressures” should be rejected (23.6%).

The view of the population regarding Hamas is surprising. 52.1% believes the movement responsible for the deterioration of living conditions following the destruction of tunnels under the border with Egypt, of which, however, it was the biggest benefactor (49.7%), more than the “people”, (26.4%) or government (15.3%). For 70.7% of the economic situation under the government of Haniyeh has “deteriorated”, against a 8.6% who consider it “improved” and 18.6% who see it as the same. 75.3% also contest the decision against the commemoration of Arafat proposed by the National Labour Corporation

If, then, to run for president of the PNA were Abbas and Haniyeh, the former would gain 45.3% of the votes, against 17.7%. But 28.5% would not vote.

And if there were to be a vote, however, the successful candidate would be the current president Mahmoud Abbas (27%), followed by Fatah leader, Marwan Barghouti, currently imprisoned in Israel (15.3%). Hamas leaders trail at a distance, the former prime minister Ismail Haniyeh (9.8%), Khaled Mishal (2%).

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

Middle East

Frattini on Trade Ties With Iran

FM tells Israel a freeze exists on investment in energy sector

(ANSA) — Jerusalem, February 2 — Visiting Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on Tuesday sought to ease Israel’s concerns over Italy’s trade relations with Iran and recalled how a freeze existed on new investments in that country’s oil and gas sectors.

Frattini is currently accompanying Premier Silvio Berlusconi on a visit to Israel for a bilateral summit between Rome and Jerusalem.

In an interview broadcast by Italian TV, Frattini said that “we have no secrets from our Israeli friends, we will give them all the information they want on our trade relations with Iran”.

“But one thing is for sure, we have a freeze on new investments in Iran’s oil and gas sectors where Italian state insurance on foreign investment has been suspended,” he explained.

The foreign minister added that he was ready to send the head of Italy’s state energy conglomerate ENI, Paolo Scaroni, “to explain this to the Israeli government. The last time ENI invested in Iran’s energy sector was in 1993”.

Looking at trade in general, Frattini observed that “trade between Italy and Iran was halved from 2001 to 2008 and in the first six months of 2009 decreased a further 30%”.

And while the value of trade in 2008 rose to over six billion euros, “this was still is less than half of the value of Iran’s trade with Germany,” he added. In regard to possible new United Nations sanctions on Iran, over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, Frattini said that Italy was ready to do its part and abide by them even if it meant hurting Italian interests.

Last week Frattini said that Rome wanted every country in the international community to enforce possible sanctions to ensure they are “not just empty threats”.

He added that “Italy obviously has much at stake because should certain sanctions be adopted we will have to tell our business sector very clearly and firmly that there will be repercussions which will be economically unpleasant”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Iraq Lifts Election Ban on Suspected Baathists

Iraq has lifted a ban on nearly 500 candidates barred from the March election for alleged links to the late Saddam Hussein’s Baathist party.

The ban was lifted by an appeals panel on candidates listed last month by the post-Saddam Justice and Accountability Committee, election officials said.

Correspondents say the repeal of the ban has been welcomed by Sunni politicians who felt it targeted them.

Restrictions on former Baathists have been eased in recent years.

“The appeals panel decided to allow the banned candidates to participate in the next election and decided to postpone looking into the case until after the election,” said Hamdiya al-Husseini, a member of the Independent High Electoral Commission.

She said successful candidates on the list would not be able to assume office until the appeals panel had given a final ruling on their cases.

Reconciliation concerns

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani had asked for the ban to be lifted, saying the commission’s decision might not have been legal as it was not approved by parliament.

Although the list included candidates from across the sectarian divide, the decision will be seen primarily as a victory for Sunni politicians, who had felt disproportionately targeted by the ban, says the BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse in Baghdad.

Many in the once-dominant Sunni minority had regarded the barring of their candidates as a tactic to marginalise them.

A spokesman for prominent Sunni politician Saleh al-Mutlaq told the BBC he welcomed the ruling.

But there are those in Iraq who believe strongly that there is no place in public life for people with ties to the now-outlawed Baath party, through which Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq, says our correspondent.

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

Israeli EU Membership ‘May Help Peace Efforts’

Jerusalem, 2 Feb.(AKI) — Israel’s entry into the European Union would be a “long process” but one that could help bring peace to the Middle East, Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini said on Tuesday. “You have to begin what would be an important and long process,” Frattini said in Jerusalem, where he is accompanying prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and other cabinet ministers on a three-day visit.

“Israel is a democratic state and the closer we bring it to Europe the more Europe can play a major role in the Middle East peace process,” Frattini said.

Berlusconi began his official visit on Monday by calling for the Jewish state to be brought into the European Union.

“My greatest desire, as long as I am a protagonist in politics, is to bring Israel into membership of the European Union,” he said as he greeted prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel has not applied for EU membership. Turkey, which is geographically linked to Europe, has encountered obstacles to its EU membership bid partly because of concern about minority rights in the country’s predominantly Muslim culture and freedom of expression.

EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn and other leaders have urged Turkey to improve freedom of expression and rights if it wants its membership bid to progress.

Netanyahu on Monday said Israel and Italy were expected to sign a number of agreements during Berlusconi’s visit, in areas including energy, the environment and health.

Separately, Frattini used the Israeli visit to reiterate Italian support for some sanctions against Iran, Italy’s biggest European trading partner.

“We are absolutely firm in blocking new investments in Iran’s oil and gas sector,” he said Tuesday.

“It’s the right thing to do and something our Israeli friend appreciate.”

The United States and other western countries have called for sanctions against Iran for refusing uranium enrichment program.

Iran has claimed its programme is for peaceful purposes, denying western claims that the country is developing nuclear weapons.

Most of Italy’s bilateral trade with Iran is linked to investments made by the Italian oil company Eni for the exploration of oil and gas in the Middle Eastern country.

In 2008 trade between Italy and Iran totalled 6 billion euros.

During a visit to Europe in June, Netanyahu asked Italy to reduce its commercial links with Iran, a sworn enemy of Israel.

Netanyahu has said that Iran’s nuclear programme constitutes the biggest threat to Israel since the Jewish state’s founding in 1948.

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

South Asia

Air Force Magazine: “Holding Fire Over Afghanistan”

by Diana West

There is something surreal about today’s featured story, an Air Force Magazine rah-rah treatement of Gen. McChrystal’s ball-and-chain rules of engagement and the crackpot-zen vogue for what is known as “counterinsurgency” warfare. It is called “Holding Fire Over Afghanistan” — which already sounds like a spoof — and it begins with a subhead:

“Airmen adapt to the McChrystal directive.”

Now, before going any further, here is a link to the McChrystal directive, the portions of which that were released to the public. (I shudder to think what the unreleased portions say.) Every American should read it and, as blood pressure levels suggest, call his representatives in Washington and demand that the good general be recalled for questioning about the role of his ROE in the battlefield deaths, for example, at Dahaneh on August 14, 2009, at Ganjgal on September 8, 2009, and on the general state of ROE-paraylsis in Helmand Province, as demonstrated in this recent report, blogged here under the headline: “US Marine: The Rules of Engagement Are Preventing Me From Doing My Job.”

Back to Air Force Magazine…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]

Italians Slightly Wounded in Afghan Blast

Five’s armoured car hit in western Afghanistan

(ANSA) — Rome, February 3 — Five Italian soldiers were slightly wounded when their armoured vehicle was hit by a suspected roadside bomb in Afghanistan Wednesday, military sources said.

One soldier is suffering from suspected concussion and the other four have sustained bruises, the sources said.

The five were taken to a field hospital in Italy’s forward operating base in Shindand in western Afghanistan and have phoned their families to reassure them they are OK.

Military experts are assessing the exact nature of the blast, which hit the Lynx armoured car on the patrol’s return from a meeting with village elders. The last such incident was in November, when four Italian soldiers were slightly wounded.

Italy maintains a contingent of some 2,800 troops in Afghanistan, the fifth-largest in the NATO-led ISAF mission, and commands allied forces in the west.

Debate about Italy’s presence in Afghanistan heated up after six Italian soldiers were killed in an attack in Kabul in September.

But Italy backed United States President Barack Obama’s surge strategy and in December said it would be sending 1,000 additional troops, the most from any US ally.

The troops, plus some 200 Carabinieri, will start to deploy in June.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Activists Warn, The Murder of a 12-Year-Old Christian Girl Could Go Unpunished

The murder of young domestic worker, raped and murdered by her employer, is marred by delays and red tape. The murderer, a rich lawyer from Lahore, is getting a VIP treatment from police. Catholics and members of human rights groups have come out in support of the family and are suing the culprit.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — Catholic leaders and Pakistani human rights activists are alarmed that the rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl, Shazia Bashir, on 23 January might go unpunished. The main suspect is a rich and powerful Muslim lawyer from Lahore, Chaudhry Muhammad Naeem, who was employing the girl as a domestic. The city’s bar association has sided with the suspect, a former president of the association, who is being treated as a VIP whilst in custody. Prosecutors meanwhile have delayed filing charges.

Shazia’s family said they had no confidence in the committee set up by Punjab’s chief minister Shahbaz Sharif because of its delaying tactics. Some of her relatives and a number of human rights activists have staged a protest in front of the Lahore Press Club and have decided to sue.

Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Church of Pakistan, told AsiaNews that the government is ill equipped when it comes to punishing the powerful and defending the rights of the poorest sections of society.

Along with members of human rights groups, the Catholic activist wants to continue the “struggle for justice” and have Shazia’s murderer pay for his crime.

On 29 January, a judge extended Chaudhry Muhammad Naeem’s remand in custody for another six days. Police has also deployed massive security around him. His lawyers also got a court order banning media from the courtroom. Outside the courthouse (pictured), Shazia’s family and supporters shouted protest slogans.

Meanwhile, two Christian organisations, the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) and the Pakistan Masihi League (PML), have appealed to the chief justice of the Supreme Court to do something about the culprit.

PML President Salamat Akhtar said that the girl’s death certificate was tampered with. He has also accused the police of treating the suspect as a “guest of the state” with all sorts of special privileges.

He also said that, whilst Lahore Bar Association “may defend their friend in court”, they cannot make “unlawful and unethical threats against the girl’s family” without “damaging or destroying justice” itself.

In a statement jointly signed by NCJP President Mgr John Saldanha, and Peter Jacob, Shazia’s murder is described “as not an isolated incident” because domestic workers are often “the victims of violence and coercion by their employers.”

Because the federal and provincial governments are unable to “ensure justice,” the cabinet must ban child labour and “guarantee speedy trials”.

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

Australia — Pacific

South Australian Government Gags Internet Debate

SOUTH Australia has become one of the few states in the world to censor the internet.

The new law, which came into force on January 6, requires anyone making an online comment about next month’s state election to publish their real name and postcode.

The law will affect anyone posting a comment on an election story on The Advertiser’s AdelaideNow website, as well as other Australian news sites.

It could also apply to election comment made on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The law, which was pushed through last year as part of a raft of amendments to the Electoral Act and supported by the Liberal Party, also requires media organisations to keep a person’s real name and full address on file for six months, and they face fines of $5000 if they do not hand over this information to the Electoral Commissioner.

‘Still free speech’

Attorney-General Michael Atkinson denied that the new law was an attack on free speech.

“The AdelaideNow website is not just a sewer of criminal defamation, it is a sewer of identity theft and fraud,” Mr Atkinson said.

“There is no impinging on freedom of speech, people are free to say what they wish as themselves, not as somebody else.”


Opposition justice spokeswoman Vickie Chapman said yesterday while the Liberal Party had supported the amendment to the Electoral Act, she believed it would be too broad to implement if it included Facebook and Twitter.

Ms Chapman said Mr Atkinson should introduce a regulation to limit its scope.

“It is clearly not the intention of what we understood that to be,” she said.

The SA law — which could also apply to talkback radio — differs from federal legislation, which preserves the right of internet users to blog under a pseudonym.

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

Trolley Fire Attack Leaves 15 Injured

A “disgruntled claimant” was responsible for a fire attack on an insurance office in Darwin that left 15 people injured, police say.

They have described the incident as isolated and terrorism has been ruled out.

Police say a 44-year-old man wheeled a shopping trolley containing three jerry cans and fireworks through the front door of the TIO (Territory Insurance Office) premises in Cavenagh Street about 11:00am (ACST) on Wednesday.

They say he has previously made threats against the company.

“There was a rapid burning fire in the TIO building caused by a male person who entered the office,” Commander Colleen Gwynne said.

“I can confirm he was a dissatisfied claimant.

“This is not a terrorist incident.

Later, she said: “There has been some history between this person that we have in custody and TIO.

“He’s a dissatisfied claimant and there has been involvement with police just recently and TIO to try and work together to deal with some of the issues arising out of some of the threats that he’s been making.

“This particular individual has carried out threats, not only in relation to TIO, but other individuals and agencies as well.”

Fifteen injured people have been treated at the Royal Darwin Hospital. Five people are in the high dependency unit, but head of the Trauma Response Centre at the Royal Darwin Hospital, Len Notaras, says none are critical.

“All of them are awake, but by the same token they’ve been through a very traumatic experience,” he said.

The injured include a policeman who entered the smoke-filled office to rescue people.

He is suffering from smoke inhalation.

‘Acts of heroism’

“With these incidents your instinct is to save lives,” Commander Gwynne said.

“And it doesn’t get more serious than an incident such as this when you have innocent people that are taken by surprise.

“So you always get acts of heroism and that’s what we did hear.”

Police say the alleged attacker surrendered to them after the incident.

“I can tell you he is a Darwin resident,” Commander Gwynne said.

“As I said, he is dissatisfied with TIO.

“For whatever reason I don’t know.

“He seemed to respond by carrying out what seemed to be a very callous act.”

Dr Notaras said the victims suffered burns ranging from superficial to serious.

“We expect that their condition will remain stable, and they may well need to have additional oxygen to assist in their breathing,” he said.

“And in at least one, possibly two, cases they may need to go to theatre, the operating room, to have the burns of the upper limbs, the arms, cleaned.”

The TIO office is inside Darwin’s CBD Woolworths complex. The bomb squad was on the scene shortly after the incident.

The entire shopping complex was evacuated as were neighbouring properties.

‘Lit it up’

Emmanuel Gerakios, whose cousin works at TIO, said his cousin suffered smoke inhalation during the incident.

“Someone came in, they were probably distraught or displeased with what happened,” he said.

“They brought in two jerry cans in a shopping trolley and they actually poured it all over the floor and lit it up and they walked outside, they ran and everything went up in smoke.”

A witness who was in the car park said his relative saw the events take place.

“My son-in-law came out, he turned around and saw this tall skinny guy walk in with a trolley full of fuel and firecrackers and set it off.

“He said he stood there for a minute and watched it catch fire and then took off.”

Witness Charmaine Burton was in a meeting nearby when the attack happened.

She told the ABC that she heard “15 to 20 repetitive (bangs) almost like gunshots”.

She said the smoke inside the TIO office was “completely black” and there was a strong smell of diesel or kerosene.

She described how people inside the building had to follow each other’s voices to safety because they were unable to see because of the smoke, with one man calling out “if you can hear me follow my voice”.

TIO’s chief executive, Richard Harding, says details about the man’s motive are not yet known.

“Of course it’s absolutely concerning that he’s a disgruntled complainant.

“At the moment though, we need to work with the police to make sure that [they] understand fully what the background to his actions is.”

Five ambulance vehicles were on the scene and Darwin hospital’s burns trauma unit was put on standby.

Louisa Ainsworth was shopping when she heard the explosion.

“I was shopping at Woolworths and then just started hearing all this crashing and banging, sort of like a roof was collapsing and sort of like a little explosion,” she said.

“We just went outside and saw all the smoke and people screaming and running out of TIO.”

The Northern Territory Chief Minister, Paul Henderson, said he was shocked by the incident.

“Darwin remains a tight-knit community and the shock from this incident has reverberated around our city,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Darfur: Bashir Genocide Charges to be Reconsidered

The International Criminal Court will reconsider bringing genocide charges against Sudan’s president after judges upheld an appeal by prosecutors.

Last year, an ICC warrant was issued for President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes in Darfur.

The Hague court’s pre-trial chamber will now have to rule on whether to add three counts of genocide.

A top Sudanese official said the ruling was politically motivated, while rebels in Darfur welcomed it.

Prosecutors say Mr Bashir’s government sought to wipe out three ethnic groups.

They argued last year that it had intended to destroy the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa peoples.

If genocide charges are now brought, they will be the first to be issued by the ICC against a sitting head of state.

African and Arab leaders have rallied around Mr Bashir and several nations have refused to honour the existing warrant.

Mr Bashir was travelling to Qatar for a one-day visit on Wednesday for talks on peace in Darfur with the Qatari leader, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifah al-Thani, Sudanese state radio said.

The UN says 300,000 people have died in the Darfur conflict since 2003.

Error of law’

“The pre-trial chamber is directed to decide anew,” presiding judge Erkki Kourula said, upholding the appeal lodged by prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

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

In Kenya, Fear of Al Qaeda Ally Stokes Hatred of Somalis

A government crackdown in response to a violent demonstration displays Kenya’s fear of the extremist Somali jihadist group Al-Shabaab.

Mohamed Ali gesticulated wildly with his arms. “Why would we support Al-Shabaab? We have fled Somalia for Kenya on the run from these very Muslim extremists. The ongoing raid the Kenyan police are conducting against us Somalis is outrageous,” the old man said, returning to his plate of spaghetti. Ahmed Ali, a not much younger man beside him, continued. “Al-Shabaab operates here in Kenya. I expect terrorists will strike here,” he said, grabbing some camel meat.

Kenya is home to more than 1.2 million ethnic Somalis, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of refugees it harbours from the war-torn nation. The total population amounts to a little less than 40 million people, according to a recent census. Most ethnic Somalis live in the arid border region in the country’s north-east. Most refugees live in Dabaab, a refugee camp set up at the start of the Somali civil war in the early 1990s. Originally intended to offer shelter to only 90,000 Somalis, Dabaab is now home to 300,000 refugees.

Life is not bad in the Eastleigh neighbourhood of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. Tens of thousands of ethnic Somalis live here, be they Kenyan or Somali nationals. Shopping malls and pricey apartments rise above the grubby food vendors dotted alongside muddy streets. Banks, currency exchanges, classy restaurants and expensive hotels do business amid heaps of stinking trash. The Somali neighbourhood is awash with private capital, but the Kenyan government is all but absent here. Until two weeks ago that is, when police arrested 2,000 of its inhabitants suspected of being members of Al-Shabaab, a Somali jihadist group which this week admitted to having close ties with Al Qaeda.

Kenya has become the new frontline in the battle against international terrorism. This has not left Kenya’s ethnically divided population, a quarter of which follows the Muslim faith, unaffected. Muslims are feeling increasingly marginalised and Somalis say they are being discriminated against.

At a violent demonstration in Nairobi two weeks ago, in protest of the deportation of a fiery Jamaican preacher, young people flew the black Al-Shabaab flag. The government accused the Somali terorist group of orchestrating the protests and was quick and rash in its response. A police crackdown targeted Somalis primarily. The embattled ethnic group became a scapegoat in the eyes of the nation.

“Somalis are invading Kenya and taking over our country,” a woman working a market stall in the city’s centre said. “They want to destroy Kenya, like they did with their own country,” an old man bellowed. Newspapers are inundated with letters-to-the-editor full of unflattering rhetoric on Somalis. Radio stations are bombarded with text message brimming with hatred of the ethnic group.

A weak nation?

“It seems justice, freedom and human rights are merely skin-deep and may be whimsically sacrificed, not just by the government, but by all, including the media, civic activists and the public,” Billow Kerrow, a former member of Kenyan parliament, himself of Somali descent, wrote on the opinion page of Daily Nation newspaper last week. “The varied reactions and interpretations of the recent demonstration by Muslims for Human Rights Forum has revealed our weakness as a nation.”

Somalis of both Kenyan and Somali origin are quick to acknowledge that Al-Shabaab is indeed active in Kenya. “Al-Shabaab warriors come here to rest for a few days,” the Somali Abdulkarim Jimale said in Eastleigh. “Injured fighters are treated anonymously in Kenyan hospitals. Al-Shabaab recruits Somali youth in Kenya’s northeast and it tries to persuade preachers to preach their radical message.”

Mohamed Ali licked his fingers as he brought a cup of warm camel milk to his lips. “Long ago it was good to be a Somali,” he said, setting off into a long story. “You could travel anywhere in the region and respect and hospitality would befall you. Now, Somalis are at each other’s throats. We are despised in the world. Our clan elders are ignored. We tell our children not to get involved with Al-Shabaab, but we could as well be talking to a brick wall.”

Ahmed Ali crossed his legs and started munching on some spruces of mirra, a mild narcotic popular with Somalis. “Al-Shabaab hopes to radicalise Kenyan Muslims,” he said. “They have succeeded in brainwashing our children. I fear that they will soon start attacking white people and tourists.”

Ever since the civil war began in their home country, Somalis have transferred ample amounts of capital and resources to Kenya. Their own failed state has fallen prey to arms and drug dealers and human traffickers. The influx of illegal revenue has grown even further since piracy took off. Some of this money was invested in Kenya, leading to a dramatic rise of property values in Eastleigh and other parts of Nairobi, to many Kenyans discontent. “Our businesses are under threat,” Kenyan Somali Ahmed Ali lamented, “from the envy Kenyan citizens have for us, and the Kenyan government’s discrimination against all Somalis.”

Salim Lone, an active member of the ODM, a former opposition party that became part of the government after the controversial elections of 2007, thinks the hatred against Somalis has done much to divide the Muslim community. Kenyans are adopting an increasingly xenophobic attitude in their dealings with Somalis, Lone wrote in a column in the nation. “The lure of radicalism grows with each round of arrests and harassment or scapegoating in the media,” he wrote. “The only winner in this crisis were extremists on both side.”

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

UN Aiding Darfur Rebels, Says Sudan Army

The UN-African Union mission in Sudan is helping Darfur rebels by supplying them with equipment, Sudan’s army says.

The military said rebels had stolen six trucks from the peacekeepers, but the UN had failed to report the incident.

The joint UN-AU mission, Unamid, dismissed the accusation, saying the stolen trucks had been reported.

The BBC’s James Copnall says the claim highlights the frosty relations between allies of President Omar al-Bashir and the international community.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is due to rule on Wednesday whether to charge President Bashir with genocide over killings in Darfur.

The court already has a warrant for his arrest on war crimes, but it is due to rule on a prosecution appeal to have genocide charges added.

‘Totally unfounded’

The court accuses Mr Bashir’s government of backing Arab militias who killed thousands of black African Darfuris.

Mr Bashir has repeatedly said he had no control over the actions of people on the ground in Darfur at the height of the violence in 2003 and 2004.

The UN has estimated 300,000 people died in the worst years of the Darfur conflict, and says some 2.5 million are still living in temporary camps. The government disputes these figures, saying they have been exaggerated.

In a statement broadcast on TV in Sudan, the army accused Unamid of colluding with rebels from the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem) — one of the group which took up arms in 2003.

But Unamid spokesman Kemal Saiki told the BBC that he rejected the accusations and insisted that the peacekeeping mission was impartial.

He said Unamid reported the carjacking of the lorries — which belonged to a contractor — the same day it happened.

Unamid has some 20,000 personnel in Sudan.

Sudan’s government refused to let the UN run a peacekeeping mission in Darfur on its own and so it is jointly operated with the African Union.

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

Latin America

ICCAT to Cut Red Tuna Fishing by 40%, Italy Says No

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, NOVEMBER 16 — Last night in Recife (Brazil), the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) — on a proposal requested by the European delegation — agreed to cut red tuna fishing by 40% worldwide. However, the agreement is not supported by Italy, which voted against it. According to the data announced today by the EU executive in Brussels, the world quota will go from 22,000 to 13,500 tonnes in 2010, and fishing capacity will have to be cut by 50% starting in 2011. The news of the record 40% reduction on the volume of red tuna fished in 2009 hit Japanese restaurants and markets like a lightening bolt, fatherland of the well-known, ever-present sushi and sashimi made with fresh, raw tuna. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Canada: Fraud Probe Centres on Palestine House

The RCMP is investigating a potentially massive case of citizenship fraud involving 300 people who claimed to live at the same Mississauga address where Palestine House is located, according to a front page story in The Globe and Mail today.

The newspaper cites sources claiming that citizenship court judges were briefed on the case late last year and were specifically asked to be cautious of cases where multiple applicants appear to be using the same address.

Palestine House is located on Erindale Station Rd., next door to The Woodlands School in central Mississauga. It offers language and settlement services to immigrants and also lobbies the municipal, provincial and federal governments on behalf of Palestinian causes.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada gave the centre $2.4 million for English-language training in a multi-year agreement last April, an agreement that has been criticized by some Jewish groups who say Palestine House officials have sometimes publicly supported the violent actions of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

[Return to headlines]

Greece Asks Turkey for Urgent Illegal Immigration Talks

The Greek government said Monday that it has appealed for closer cooperation with old foe Turkey to tackle what it called an “explosive” illegal-immigration problem.

Greece is one of the main points of entry into the European Union for would-be migrants and asylum-seekers from war-torn countries in Africa and Central Asia, who often cross over from Turkey in small boats or inflatable dinghies.

In a letter to Turkish Interior Minister BeÅŸir Atalay, the citizen protection minister of Greece, Michalis Chryssohoidis, appealed for talks on the issue within the next month.

The problem of illegal immigration “has taken [on] explosive dimensions with geometrically increasing flows through the land and sea borders of our countries,” he said, according to a ministry statement. Greece and Turkey, the letter added, need to “strengthen and further systematize” their cooperation on the issue.

More than 10,000 illegal migrants were arrested by Greek authorities last year, while more than 500 have drowned trying to enter the EU in the past three years.

The Greek appeal comes as diplomats from the two neighboring countries are set to hold diplomatic talks in Ankara this month before staging high-level visits. After the talks, diplomatic traffic is expected to accelerate, diplomatic sources said.

Greece’s acting foreign minister, Dimitri Droutsas, will visit Ankara this month before Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan travels to Athens sometime before the summer, likely in May.

Rapid diplomatic traffic

Turkey and Greece began diplomatic talks in May 2002 to find common ground and possibly pave the way for the drafting of a final agreement on Aegean Sea disputes that have soured relations between the NATO allies for decades. The talks are held on a rotating basis between the two capitals, Ankara and Athens. The last conference took place two months ago in Athens.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou recently responded to a letter sent by Erdoðan on Oct. 30 after the Greek leader’s Socialist Party came to power. In his five-page response, part of which was posted on the Turkish Prime Ministry’s official Web site, Papandreou said he strongly agrees with Erdoðan that talks should be revived and accelerated.

Papandreou’s leadership in Greece has promised a brighter atmosphere in the relations between the two countries. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoðlu, who held a three-hour meeting last week in London with Droutsas, said the pattern in bilateral ties should take a positive direction and that high-level visits were set to increase.

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

Indian, Iraqi Human Smuggling Ring Busted in Belgium

BRUSSELS, Feb 2 (KUNA) — Nine persons were arrested for people smuggling in the Belgian town of Asse on Tuesday, Europol, the European Police Office, said here in a statement. Those arrested belong to a network of criminals, mainly from Iraq, suspected of smuggling illegal immigrants from Belgium to the United Kingdom, it noted.

It is believed that the network was responsible for the smuggling of hundreds of immigrants. The immigrants paid 1500 euro per person in order to be concealed in the back of lorries without any guarantee of a safe arrival in the UK.

The immigrants originated from countries such as Afghanistan, China, Iraq and Vietnam. They were brought by an Indian smuggling network during the night to lorry parks. The Iraqi smuggling network then took responsibility for them.

The drivers were not aware that their lorries were being used in this way.

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

Obama Adviser: Amnesty to Ensure ‘Progressive’ Rule

‘Imagine 8 million new voters who care about our issues?’

Granting citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants would expand the “progressive” electorate and help ensure a “progressive” governing coalition for the long term, declared a recent adviser to President Obama whose union group is among the most frequent visitors to the White House.

“We reform the immigration laws, it puts 12 million people on the path to citizenship and eventually voters,” stated Eliseo Medina, international executive vice-president of Service Employees International Union, or SEIU.

Medina was speaking at a June 2009 Washington conference for the liberal America’s Future Now!

Medina said that during the presidential election in November 2008, Latinos and immigrants “voted overwhelmingly for progressive candidates. Barack Obama got two out of every three voters that showed up.”

“Can you imagine if we have, even the same ratio, two out of three? Can you imagine 8 million new voters who care about our issues and will be voting? We will be creating a governing coalition for the long term, not just for an election cycle.”

[Comments from JD: Video at url link.]

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Ron Ippolito: The Truth About Our Immigration Problem

Starting in the early 1820s, Stephen Austin led a group of 300 Americans into the land we know as Texas. At the time, the land was owned by Mexico.

Mexico established three rules for Americans to enter their country legally: Convert to Catholicism, become citizens of Mexico and don’t bring in your slaves.

The original Texans slipped through with their slaves, remained Protestant and rather than going through the legal process to become Mexican citizens, they declared themselves an independent nation.

Today, we learn about those brave Texans and the courageous stand they took at the Alamo.

We celebrate these heroes, who in fact were “illegally immigrating” into our neighbor to the south far before any Mexicans started hopping fences and running through deserts to get to us.

As a nation, we need to first dismount our moral high horse on the illegal immigration discussion. We did it first.

Next, let’s look at who benefits from illegal immigration: The immigrants who make a living here and Americans who make millions from their labor.

If we really want to get serious about illegal immigration, let’s not punish the immigrants. Most come here poor, live here poor (by American standards) and eke out an existence doing jobs that most Americans don’t want.

Most come here in poverty seeking a better life, as many of our immigrant ancestors did. I don’t know of any illegal immigrants who live in luxury.

However, I do know there are Americans who live a comfortable life with the help of illegal immigrants.

Whether it’s a family enjoying the labor of an undocumented nanny, or a factory owner profiting by paying hundreds of illegal immigrants less than minimum wage, these Americans have more in their bank accounts because they choose undocumented labor over American workers.

For the record, I happen to think there are far greater ills facing our country than illegal immigration. Immigrants, whether legal or illegal, have been the target of scapegoating and discrimination going back to the earliest days of our country.

The Scots, the Irish, the Italians, the Chinese and the Japanese are just a few of the immigrant groups that have been unfairly blamed for our country’s ills. It’s always easy to blame the new guy in town.

People like Santa Clarita City Councilman Bob Kellar tap into this fear. He and his “proud racist” statements don’t represent my views, and I look forward to voting him out of office when his seat opens up.

However, for those who really believe that illegal immigration is to blame for America’s problems, then here’s the most effective way to stop it: Go to the source.

Instead of breaking up families subsisting on what little they can earn from an illegal job, incarcerate those whose cushy living gets cushier on the backs of undocumented labor.

The mom who has the leisure time to go to the gym, get a latte at Starbucks and get her French manicure done because an illegal immigrant is raising her children — throw that mom in prison.

The business owner who is able to take an extra vacation to Europe this summer because his workers make $2 an hour — lock him up.

If we actually got tough with the Americans who profit from illegal immigration, the demand for said immigration would dry up.

Do the “anti-illegal” activists have the guts to do this?

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

UK: Control Immigration! No, It’s Not That the Tories Are Saying That, It’s the Women of Middle England

Britain risks losing its national identity if immigration is not dramatically reduced, a major women’s campaigning group claims.

The Townswomen’s Guild, established when women first won the right to vote, said it had been overwhelmed by responses when it asked its members’ views on migration.

Ninety-five per cent believed current immigration levels would ‘cause us to lose our national identity to some degree’, according to a survey published in the group’s magazine.

And 28.5 per cent of respondents to the survey — which attracted five times the magazine’s usual number of poll replies — said Britain should have a ban on immigration.

Fifty per cent said there should be a ‘one in, one out’ policy.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Vanity Fair’s “New Hollywood” Issue Completely Lacks Diversity

One thing magazines love to do is call dibs on who will be the new “It” celebrities in the year to come. Sometimes they pick stars whose careers are destined to take off, occasionally they make incredible calls with near-nobodies who later become A-listers, and usually the majority of their picks fade into oblivion. While we’d like to think celeb bible Vanity Fair puts a great deal of thought and planning into its annual “New Hollywood” issue, this year the editors really limited their scope when it came to choosing the next big stars. (Or perhaps they overemphasized the “Fair”? ) Every woman on its new cover is extremely thin and very, very white. Unless Vanity Fair considers one redhead to be diversity, we feel the need to cry foul.

The cover of the March issue features Abbie Cornish, Kristen Stewart, Carey Mulligan, Amanda Seyfried, Rebecca Hall, Mia Wasikowska, Emma Stone, Evan Rachel Wood, and Anna Kendrick. Many, if not all of these women have good reason to grace the Vanity Fair cover, and to be a part of what they have dubbed “the fresh faces of 2010.” Evan Rachel Wood has garnered critical acclaim since her Golden Globe-nominated performance in 2003’s “Thirteen” as well as loads of media attention from her highly publicized romance with rocker Marilyn Manson. Kristen Stewart was catapulted to fame by the mega-successful “Twilight” franchise and will star as Joan Jett in the upcoming film, “The Runaways,” while Amanda Seyfried’s career was put in motion after her role in 2008’s “Mamma Mia!” But WAIT: Vanity Fair already had both Stewart and Seyfried on an August 2008 cover touting “Hollywood’s New Wave.” And this was also a white-girl-only cover. Were there no promising young actors of color who could have been featured in either issue?

We can think of a slew of non-white, non-rail thin actors who made a splash this year (Gabourey Sidibe from “Precious” anyone?). In the accompanying article, Vanity Fair writer Evgenia Peretz calls out the young cover stars by their best attributes: “downy-soft cheeks,” “button nose,” “patrician looks and celebrated pedigree,” “dewy, wide-eyed loveliness,” “Ivory-soap-girl features.” Roles for black, Asian, and Latin actors are scarce in Hollywood, but surely Sidibe, Zoe Saldana of “Avatar” and “Star Trek,” and Freida Pinto of “Slumdog Millionaire” are having their moment. Vanity Fair may have been looking for the most promising batch of talent for their issue, but they should have been looking for a diverse group of women as well.

We reached out to Vanity Fair for comment, but as of publishing time they did not respond.

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

3 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/3/2010

  1. It is not known who the designated recipients were

    Doesn’t the jail’s sign-in log say who you visited?

    nor for what purpose the box-cutters were intended.

    Is this a joke? There are only two purposes for box-cutters: hurt another inmate or hurt a guard.

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