Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/5/2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/5/2010In Germany two outlaw motorcycle groups, Hells Angels and the Bandidos, routinely vie for supremacy, often violently. In an unprecedented move, a number of Bandidos, including several prominent leaders, have renounced their former club and joined Hells Angels. The reported reason is that some Bandidos clubs allow immigrant members, and make tactical alliances with immigrant bikers. Hells Angels, in contrast, allow no foreign members.

The Lap Bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, has reportedly ratted out his former mentor, the American-born Yemeni Al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki. Abdulmutallab is said to be singing to the Feds, and says that Awlaki told him to bomb the airliner.

Remember: Anwar al-Awlaki was also the mentor of Major Nidal Hasan, the Killer Shrink of Fort Hood. Yet our government believes that both terrorist events were “isolated incidents”.

In other news, Danish special forces from the Absalon stormed a Somali pirate ship and freed 25 hostages.

Thanks to AA, C. Cantoni, Diana West, ESW, Gaia, Insubria, JD, JH, KGS, Lurker from Tulsa, Paul Green, Sean O’Brian, Steen, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
It is Now Mathematically Impossible to Pay Off the U.S. National Debt
Abdulmutallab: Cleric Told Me to Bomb Jet
‘Anti-Israel’ Group Praises ‘Our Rabbi Alinsky’
Christmas Bomb Suspect Says Radical Imam Told Him to Bomb Jet, Source Says
Did EPA Check Global-Warming Claims?
FBI Pushing for 2 Year Retention of Web Traffic Logs
Obama Names Oklahoma Governor to National Council Post
Obama Proposes to Cut 180 Border Patrol Agents
Police Want Backdoor to Web Users’ Private Data
Europe and the EU
Annotated Version of Hitler Polemic in the Works
Austria: Female Genital Mutilation Remains Problem, Group Warns
Belgian Activists Breach Security Around US Nukes
Bosnia and Georgia Pose Threat to EU Security, US Intelligence Chief Says
Dutch Fun: “Spoofing” Assassination
EU Blasts Sweden Over Failure to Store Data on People’s Phone Calls, Email
EU Commission Accused of ‘Hoarding’ €6bn in Fines
Germany: Mass Biker Defection Has Berlin Bracing for Violence
Germany’s Very Own Minaret Debate Turns Nasty
Guardian Slams Zaia’s McItaly Burger
Italy: Ministry Could Avoid GM Ruling
Italy: Halal Meat Counter to Open in Capital
Muslim Women ‘Radicalised’ In UK
Netherlands: Separate Plastic Collection a ‘Waste of Money’
Prosecutor: German Islamists Planned Mass Murder
Some Young Children in Britain Are Being Indoctrinated to Hate Non-Muslims and Champion a Holy War…
Spain: Roundup of Barcelona Hooligans
Spain: Govt Wants Pension Contributions to Rise to 25 Yrs
Spain: Union to Take to the Streets Against Pension Reform
UK: Shameless MPs Try to Dodge Trial Using 1689 Law Which Protects Them From Prosecution
UK: Stalker Pheasant Terrorises English Village
Defence: Serbia, France Sign Cooperation Plan for 2010
Kosovo: Serbian Community Pushes Back North Integration Plan
Kosovo: NATO Troops Reduced to 10,000
North Africa
Algeria: 90% of Marble Comes From Italy
Algeria: Death Sentence Terrorism for Killings in ‘90s
Egypt: Fatwa Forbids Muslims From Using Facebook
Media: Al-Ahram is Most Read on Web, Followed by Al Khabar
Tunisia: Wet Zones Increase
Middle East
“We Are Not Agents of the West”
Dubai: Restaurant Launches Camel Burger
Girl Buried Alive in Honor Killing
Iran Repeats Criticism of Berlusconi
Irish Suspected of Killing Hamas Leader, Woman Also
Israel-Syria: Lieberman Warns Assad, War to Lead to Power Loss
Israel Reportedly Training Kurdish Forces
Italy Emerging as Major Arms Exporter to Turkey
Russian Orthodox Church, Close to Catholics, But Far From Protestants
South Asia
India: Another Church Ransacked in Karnataka
Taliban Reject “Deal” With Afghanistan, West
Far East
Can You Trust Chinese Computer Equipment?
Sub-Saharan Africa
Danish Seals Storm Pirate Ship
Danish Forces Storm Ship Captured by Somali Pirates
Danish Troops ‘Storm Ship Captured by Somali Pirates’
NATO Troops Free Ship Off Somalia After Pirate Attack
Somalia ‘To Close Embassies in Europe’
World Cup Feared Target of Al-Qaida
Finland: Group Denounces “Statistical Trickery” In Calculating Development Funding
Italy: Maroni-Sacconi Accord for Point Based Permit
Two Africans Killed on Egypt-Israel Border
UK: Pair Jailed for Smuggling Immigrants Into Portsmouth
Culture Wars
Uganda Confronts “Loud-Mouthed Homosexual Lobby”
Cracks in the Islamist Curtain
New Mistake Found in UN Climate Report

Financial Crisis

It is Now Mathematically Impossible to Pay Off the U.S. National Debt

A lot of people are very upset about the rapidly increasing U.S. national debt these days and they are demanding a solution. What they don’t realize is that there simply is not a solution under the current U.S. financial system. It is now mathematically impossible for the U.S. government to pay off the U.S. national debt. You see, the truth is that the U.S. government now owes more dollars than actually exist. If the U.S. government went out today and took every single penny from every single American bank, business and taxpayer, they still would not be able to pay off the national debt. And if they did that, obviously American society would stop functioning because nobody would have any money to buy or sell anything.

And the U.S. government would still be massively in debt.

So why doesn’t the U.S. government just fire up the printing presses and print a bunch of money to pay off the debt?

Well, for one very simple reason.

That is not the way our system works.

You see, for more dollars to enter the system, the U.S. government has to go into more debt.

The U.S. government does not issue U.S. currency — the Federal Reserve does.

The Federal Reserve is a private bank owned and operated for profit by a very powerful group of elite international bankers.

If you will pull a dollar bill out and take a look at it, you will notice that it says “Federal Reserve Note” at the top.

It belongs to the Federal Reserve.

The U.S. government cannot simply go out and create new money whenever it wants under our current system.

Instead, it must get it from the Federal Reserve.

So, when the U.S. government needs to borrow more money (which happens a lot these days) it goes over to the Federal Reserve and asks them for some more green pieces of paper called Federal Reserve Notes.

The Federal Reserve swaps these green pieces of paper for pink pieces of paper called U.S. Treasury bonds. The Federal Reserve either sells these U.S. Treasury bonds or they keep the bonds for themselves (which happens a lot these days).

So that is how the U.S. government gets more green pieces of paper called “U.S. dollars” to put into circulation. But by doing so, they get themselves into even more debt which they will owe even more interest on.

So every time the U.S. government does this, the national debt gets even bigger and the interest on that debt gets even bigger.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Abdulmutallab: Cleric Told Me to Bomb Jet

The suspect in a failed Christmas Day airliner bombing attempt told federal investigators that radical Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki directed him to carry out the attack, CBS News has learned.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian who faces terrorism charges in the Christmas bombing, has been cooperating with the FBI for about a week, providing information about his contacts in Yemen and the al Qaeda affiliate that operates there.

Abdulmutallab has turned against the cleric who claims to be his teacher, al-Awlaki, and has helped the U.S. hunt for him in Yemen, a law enforcement official said Thursday.

Abdulmutallab’s cooperation in discussing al-Awlaki is significant because it could provide fresh clues for authorities trying to capture or kill him in the remote mountains of Yemen. Al-Awlaki has emerged has a prominent al Qaeda recruiter and has been tied to the 9/11 hijackers, Abdulmutallab and the suspect in November’s deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood.

Al-Awalki appears to be in a leadership role when it comes to directing terrorist operations and selecting targets for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a law enforcement source told CBS News investigative producer Pat Milton. He had previously been viewed as a behind-the-scenes supporter, providing religious guidance and justification for attacks. He is now said to be an active operations player picking targets and suggesting schemes.

CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan reports that al-Awlaki’s U.S. citizenship — he was born in New Mexico — will have little bearing on American military and intelligence efforts to locate and kill him.

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

‘Anti-Israel’ Group Praises ‘Our Rabbi Alinsky’

Philadelphia meeting ‘confers ordination’ on radical 1960s theorist

PHILADELPHIA — Paying tribute to “our rabbi” — the radical 1960s theorist Saul Alinsky — leaders of the left-wing Jewish lobby J Street launched what they hope will be a national mobilization, before an audience of about 175 people at the University of Pennsylvania Hillel center last night.

After he “conferred” rabbinical ordination on Alinsky, Temple University professor Elliot A. Ratzman used rhetoric from the late father of community organizing about “organizing people and mobilizing resources” to inspire conference attendees, which included many veteran activists of the Jewish left.


J Street’s founder and president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, has acknowledged receiving seed money from left-wing billionaire activist George Soros. J Street has also come under fire for accepting funds from numerous Arab sources as well as pro-Arab organizations.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Christmas Bomb Suspect Says Radical Imam Told Him to Bomb Jet, Source Says

The suspect in the failed Christmas Day airliner attack told federal investigators that the radical U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki directed him to carry out his attempt at mass murder, according to reports published Friday.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has been helping in the hunt for al-Awlaki, an extremist cleric who has emerged as a prominent Al Qaeda recruiter since hiding in Yemen. Abdulmutallab has been cooperating with the FBI for about a week, providing information about the Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen and al-Awlaki’s contacts there, CBS News reported.

The 23-year-old Nigerian’s turn against al-Awlaki could provide fresh clues for authorities trying to capture or kill him. Al-Awlaki has been linked to the 9/11 hijackers, the Fort Hood shootings and the botched Christmas Day bombing attempt.

Yemeni officials say they believe al-Awlaki, believed to be in the Gulf nation’s remote mountain region, met with Abdulmutallab, but al-Awlaki reportedly denied ordering the attack in an interview that appeared on Al-Jazeera’s Web site.

It was not clear when the interview took place or whether it took place in person. The journalist, one of the few said to have direct contacts with al-Awlaki, previously interviewed the cleric after the Fort Hood shooting.

“Brother mujahed Umar Farouk — may God relieve him — is one of my students, yes,” al-Awlaki said in the interview which appeared online Tuesday. “We had kept in contact, but I didn’t issue a fatwa to Umar Farouk for this operation,” al-Awlaki was quoted as saying.

Al-Awlaki said he supported the Christmas attack, but it would have been better if the target was a U.S. military target or plane.

“I support what Umar Farouk did after seeing my brothers in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan being killed,” he was quoted as saying. “If it was a military plane or a U.S. military target it would have been better…(but) the American people have participated in all the crimes of their government.”

“Some 300 Americans are nothing compared to thousands Muslims they have killed,” he said.

Al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico to Yemeni parents and who once preached in mosques in California and northern Virginia, moved to his ancestral hometown in Yemen in 2004. He has become popular among Islamic militant sympathizers for his English-language Internet sermons, in which he explains to young Muslims the philosophy of violent jihad and martyrdom against the West and its allied Muslim and Arab governments.

Al-Awlaki exchanged up to 20 e-mails with the alleged shooter in the Fort Hood attack, U.S. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan months before it. Hasan initiated the contacts, seeking religious advice.

Yemeni officials have said they believe al-Awlaki met with Abdulmuttalab when the Nigerian was in Yemen late last year allegedly to study Arabic.

Yemeni security officials suspect he is involved in recruiting new members for Al Qaeda’s offshoot in Yemen and in dealings between Al Qaeda fighters and Yemeni tribes.

Yemen has attracted renewed and concerted international efforts to fight Al Qaeda. Members of the group have increasingly found refuge in the many mountain ranges of Yemen, where the central government has little control and tribal loyalty is key.

U.S. and Yemen are increasingly cooperating to fight the terror network, with the U.S providing nearly $70 million in military aid, as well as intelligence support, this year.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Did EPA Check Global-Warming Claims?

Congressmen challenge warning over greenhouse gases

Two members of Congress have written to the Environmental Protection Agency demanding answers about scientific documentation that was used to support the agency’s determination that “greenhouse gases threaten the public health and welfare of the American people.”

The letter is from U.S. Reps. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and Greg Walden, R-Ore., and follows by just a day a recommendation from officials at Penn State University that the work of one of their own — Michael Mann — regarding climate change documentation be investigated further.


The members of Congress then raised a long list of questions for the EPA, including what it did to evaluate the validity of the information and how it considered “full information and all scientific viewpoints relating to climate change.”

[Comments from JD: The EPA is trying to implement the “cap and tax” agenda thus bypassing congressional approval for such a radical scheme.]

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

FBI Pushing for 2 Year Retention of Web Traffic Logs

If logs of Web sites visited began to be kept, they would be available only to local, state, and federal police with legal authorization such as a subpoena or search warrant. What remains unclear are the details of what the FBI is proposing. The possibilities include requiring an Internet provider to log the Internet protocol (IP) address of a Web site visited, or the domain name such as, a host name such as, or the actual URL such as While the first three categories could be logged without doing deep packet inspection, the fourth category would require it. That could run up against opposition in Congress, which lambasted the concept in a series of hearings in 2008, causing the demise of a company, NebuAd, which pioneered it inside the United States.

[Return to headlines]

Obama Names Oklahoma Governor to National Council Post

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry has been appointed by President Obama to serve on a newly created Council of Governors.

Obama on Thursday named Henry and nine other governors to serve on the panel created last month by executive order. The governors will work with national defense and security advisers on matters pertaining to the National Guard, homeland defense and integrating state and federal military activities.

Obama said in a statement that the goal is to ensure cooperation between federal and state officials on national preparedness and homeland defense.

Henry praised the opportunity for states to have direct input on such matters.

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

Obama Proposes to Cut 180 Border Patrol Agents

Pres. Barack Obama’s newly proposed 2011 budget would reduce the number of Border Patrol agents along the Southwest border by 180 and cut the funding for the “virtual fence.” Homeland Security said it plans to cut the jobs through attrition, and it would result in increased pay for the remaining agents.

White House senior officials say the move will not compromise the effectiveness of the border patrol. But House Judiciary Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) says otherwise.

[Return to headlines]

Police Want Backdoor to Web Users’ Private Data

Anyone with an e-mail account likely knows that police can peek inside it if they have a paper search warrant.

But cybercrime investigators are frustrated by the speed of traditional methods of faxing, mailing, or e-mailing companies these documents. They’re pushing for the creation of a national Web interface linking police computers with those of Internet and e-mail providers so requests can be sent and received electronically.

CNET has reviewed a survey scheduled to be released at a federal task force meeting on Thursday, which says that law enforcement agencies are virtually unanimous in calling for such an interface to be created. Eighty-nine percent of police surveyed, it says, want to be able to “exchange legal process requests and responses to legal process” through an encrypted, police-only “nationwide computer network.” (See one excerpt and another.)

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Annotated Version of Hitler Polemic in the Works

The copyright on Adolf Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf” won’t expire until 2015, but historians in Munich have already starting working on an annotated edition. They’re hoping that the copyright holder, the state of Bavaria, will allow the new edition to go into print before it expires.

There have long been periodic calls from historians for “Mein Kampf,” Adolf Hitler’s seminal work of hate and prejudice, to be republished in German. If an annotated, academic version of the polemic comes out, so goes the argument, it could take the wind out of neo-Nazi sails once the book is no longer protected by copyright.

Now, a new version is in the works. According to a Wednesday report on German radio, the Munich Institute of Contemporary History is working on an annotated edition complete with notes on where the ideas Hitler expounds on in his book originated.

But the state of Bavaria, which holds the “Mein Kampf” (“My Struggle”) copyright, says that it doesn’t plan on allowing the new version to hit the shelves before the book enters the public domain.

“The state government is not planning on changing course,” the Bavarian government said in a statement to the Bayerischer Rundfunk public radio station. “No permission has been granted to the Institute of Contemporary History.”

70 Years after Hitler’s Death

Nevertheless, institute head Horst Möller says that work on the new edition, undertaken by historians Edith Raim and Othmar Plöckinger, will go ahead. “If we complete the text prior to the end of the copyright, we can approach the authorities once again,” he told Bayerischer Rundfunk.

The “Mein Kampf” copyright expires in 2015, 70 years after the death of the author Adolf Hitler, as mandated by law. The copyright fell into the hands of the Bavarian state in 1945, when Bavaria took over the rights of the main Nazi party publishing house Eher-Verlag as part of the Allies’ de-Nazification program. Out of fears that the book could promote neo-Nazis, Bavaria has not allowed “Mein Kampf” to be published in Germany since then.

Several foreign language editions have appeared in the meantime. Indeed, Bavaria has even initiated legal proceedings against some of those editions in the past. The book is not banned in Germany, but can only be sold for “research purposes.”

‘Off the Rails’

Möller is concerned that, once the copyright expires in 2015, neo-Nazis will immediately begin disseminating the work. He says that an academic edition could help counter the sensationalism that he fears will accompany the book’s republishing.

Other academics aren’t so sure. “I think the idea is absurd,” Wolfgang Benz, head of the Center for Anti-Semitism Research (ZfA) in Berlin, told SPIEGEL ONLINE in 2007. “How can you annotate an 800-page monologue exposing Hitler’s insane worldview? After every single line you would have to write, ‘Hitler is wrong here,’ and then ‘Hitler is completely off the rails here,’ and so on.”

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Austria: Female Genital Mutilation Remains Problem, Group Warns

Between 6,000 and 8,000 women in Austria have been forced to undergo genital mutilation, according to Social Democratic MP Petra Bayr.

Bayr, a member of the Austrian Platform against Female Genital Mutilation, said today: “Many parents believe they are doing their daughters a favour by forcing them to undergo it.”

She said the only way to change such thinking was to engage in awareness-raising and make it clear to parents that genital mutilation was neither called for by religion nor a pre-condition for finding a husband.

Rather, she added, genital mutilation was a violation of human rights that left its victims mentally and physically damaged for the rest of their lives.

Bayr added that her group was working with health personnel, migrant organisations and religious leaders to try to change the situation.

Such work, she claimed, had been bearing fruit. “The situation is better than before,” and there was more counselling available, she said.

Bayr said the Platform wanted 6 February — proclaimed “International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation” at the Inter African Committee conference seven years ago — to become a UN commemorative day to increase public awareness of the problem.

The Platform will also begin a Europe-wide campaign against genital mutilation with an event on 17 February at Palais Epstein in Vienna.

Greens’ women’s spokeswoman Judith Schwentner called for asylum for all prospective victims of genital mutilation, “a serious assault on the physical and sexual integrity of women and a serious violation of human rights.”

The Platform claims 155 million women around the world have been subject to genital mutilation, and Amnesty International says three million women a year, or 8,000 a day, are forced to undergo it.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said the practice is most common in northern and western areas of Africa and is not restricted to Muslims.

           — Hat tip: ESW [Return to headlines]

Belgian Activists Breach Security Around US Nukes

[see link for video]

AOL News (Feb. 4) — A group of peace activists calling themselves “The Bombspotters” spent an unauthorized hour Sunday at a Belgian military base within yards of U.S. nuclear weapons, raising questions about the security of American bombs stored at foreign air bases across Europe.

Six members of the organization Peace Action climbed a perimeter fence at the Kleine Brogel Air Base, then walked unchallenged through an open gate to a cluster of hardened bunkers that house F-16 fighters and vaults containing nuclear weapons. They plastered banners with the Flemish word “Bomspotters” at the site and have posted a videotape of their visit on YouTube…

           — Hat tip: JH [Return to headlines]

Bosnia and Georgia Pose Threat to EU Security, US Intelligence Chief Says

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Potential instability in Bosnia and violence in South Caucasus will pose the main threats to EU security in 2010, the US’ intelligence chief has said, while depicting the EU’s largest neighbour, Russia, as stuck in a Cold War-era mentality.

The US’ Director of National Intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, put forward his assessment in a testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in Washington on Tuesday (2 February.)

“Events in the Balkans will again pose the principal challenges to stability in Europe in 2010,” he said, singling out separatist tendencies in ethnic Serb enclaves in Bosnia and Kosovo as the key problem.

“I remain concerned about Bosnia’s future stability. While neither widespread violence nor a formal break-up of the state appears imminent, ethnic agendas still dominate the political process.”

The frozen conflict between Russia and Georgia over control of the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions and between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh could more easily lead to bloodshed, he warned:

“The unresolved conflicts of the Caucasus provide the most likely flashpoints in the Eurasia region. Moscow’s expanded military presence in and political-economic ties to Georgia’s separatist regions of South Ossetia and sporadic low-level violence increase the risk of miscalculation or overreaction leading to renewed fighting.”


The intelligence assessment, an annual exercise, also warned about Islamist terrorist activity in Europe.

“Al-Qaida is still plotting attacks against European targets and it has encouraged its affiliates to target European citizens in countries in which the affiliates operate,” Mr Daniel explained.

“Networks of Islamic extremists in Europe represent a continued threat because of their access to fighters and operatives with training in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia.”

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

Dutch Fun: “Spoofing” Assassination

by Diana West

Behold the smug mug of Willem Stegeman, who has made a Dutch state-subsidized film “spoofing” an assassination attempt on Geert Wilders.


Of course, the grotesquerie of Stegeman and his “spoof” are not the main story in a backward — no, twisted — report from Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW) that leads with the response (“furious”) of Party for Freedom (PVV) members over “Radio FunX’s” assassination-attempt entertainment. Almost as breath-taking is the nasty photo of Wilders with which RNW, supposedly a news organization, illustrates the story.

Currently embroiled in open-ended Kafka-esque legal jeopardy, Wilders has lived under permanent threat of death since that November day in 2004 when Theo van Gogh was assassinated in broad daylight on an Amsterdam street, his head nearly cut off and an Islamic manifesto pinned with a knife into his chest threatening Wilders and Ayaan Hirsi Ali with a similar fate.

What better subject for state-subsidized parody?

From the story, which includes a trailer of the stomach-turning video:

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]

EU Blasts Sweden Over Failure to Store Data on People’s Phone Calls, Email

The European Union directive, known as the Data Retention Directive, was approved by Brussels in March 2006, but Sweden has yet to implement the measure more than three years after its passage.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

EU Commission Accused of ‘Hoarding’ €6bn in Fines

The commission has been accused of “hoarding” €6bn raised from fines on companies that have engaged in anti-competitive practices, such as Intel and Microsoft.

UK Conservative MEP Ashley Fox said that member states should be given back “its share” of the cash, instead of the money being held by the commission as a surplus.

Fox, a member of parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee, recently questioned JoaquinAlmunia, the commissioner-designate for competition, about the issue.

According to Fox, the Spanish official said that the fines would be held by the commission and used as part of the EU budget and that he had no plans to reform the practice.

Citing the UK as an example, Fox says that if Britain was to receive a share of around 10 per cent of the commission surplus, this would amount to about €572m, which he said would provide “a much needed boost to the United Kingdom’s coffers”.

Fox said, “Monies raised from anti-competition fines should ideally be returned to those consumers who have paid over the odds for products and services.

“However, as this would be virtually impossible to implement the best alternative is to return the money to the member states.

“Given the current financial predicament that Britain is facing, the government should demand that its share of the money is returned to the taxpayer as soon as possible.

“My fear is that the commission will use this money either to cover overspending in other areas or to fund new projects.

“At this time of restraint at home we should seek the return of our money immediately.”

He added, “Money raised from fines should be returned to the member states directly and not treated as a surplus in the EU budget”.

No-one from the commission was immediately available for comment.

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

Germany: Mass Biker Defection Has Berlin Bracing for Violence

A number of Bandidos in Berlin have turned their back on their club and defected to the local Hell’s Angels chapter. Police are worried about a fresh outbreak of violence.

There has never been a shortage of brutality between the biker gangs Bandidos and Hell’s Angels. But after 70 members of a Berlin club defected to their erstwhile rivals, police in the German capital are bracing for violence.

It’s only been a few months since a group of Bandidos allegedly ambushed and assaulted a group of Hell’s Angels, their arch-enemies in the biker gang world, in Finowfurt, a small town northeast of Berlin. Investigators and prosecutors say that at least half a dozen Berlin-based Banditos chased down a group of Hell’s Angels from the city, resulting in a savage fight.

When all was said and done, a gravely wounded Hell’s Angels hanger-on named Enrico K. was lying on the street — with an axe in his leg. When the police questioned him about what had happened, he attributed his gruesome wound to “a traffic accident.”

In the biker system of values, there have always been two constants. One is the sacred “code of silence.” The other is the hatred for enemy biker clubs. As such, a recent development in the Berlin biker scene — first reported by SPIEGEL TV and SPIEGEL ONLINE on Wednesday — is as unprecedented as it is explosive.

A total of 76 members and supporters of “Centro,” as the Berlin chapter of the Bandidos is known, are reportedly trying to defect to the Hell’s Angels camp. Investigators say the would-be defectors have already appeared in public wearing brand-new red-and-white Hell’s Angels garb, and that they have seen André S., the head of the local Hell’s Angels club, speaking with members of the rival club. The 45-year-old S. was recently stabbed — likely by Bandidos.

Biker Defection

Officials believe that Frank H., the head of the Hell’s Angels club in Hanover, hammered out the details of the defection last week with “Centro” leader Kadir P. Likewise, Peter M., one of the highest-ranking Bandidos in Europe, confirmed to SPIEGEL ONLINE that the crossover took place on Tuesday evening. However, when questioned about the matter, Hell’s Angels member Rudolf “Django” T. declined to confirm that the defectors had been accepted into his organization yet, saying only: “We’ll let you know in the next few days.”

While the defecting members of “Centro” — both notorious and feared in the biker scene for their violence — have cut ties with their old group, it appears that their membership in Hell’s Angels has not yet been finalized. But the bikers have stripped their club house in Berlin’s northern Reinickendorf district of all Bandido insignia.

Brutal Confrontations

Recent months have seen an uptick in violence between the rival motorcycle gangs — particularly in Berlin, the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein and eastern Germany. And the attacks have been escalating, from knife assaults to shootings to explosives. The reason: the Bandidos have managed to recruit hundreds of young men, many of them from immigrant families in Germany’s east, and put the Hell’s Angels on the defensive.

Kadir P’s “Centro” chapter has proven particularly brutal in this ongoing feud, and difficult to control. Its members have repeatedly made savage attacks on rivals in the Hell’s Angels camp, which has close ties to the far-right fan club of a local football club. Indeed, one newspaper article recently reported that the Hell’s Angels in Berlin refuse to allow foreigners into their ranks.

Now, however, the brutality would appear to have been forgiven and forgotten — the avowed enemies may soon become brothers in arms.

In the meantime, police units have taken up positions in front of the Bandidos’ clubhouse in Berlin. Investigators also say that biker-related properties have been kept under observations in Berlin and the surrounding state of Brandenburg since Tuesday evening. “We want to see whether a war breaks out,” one investigator told SPIEGEL TV.

Nobody knows, after all, how the Bandidos will react to this mass defection. Revenge and retaliation? Do the “traitors” now have to fear for their lives? In short, what does the defection mean?

“That they’re gone,” says Peter M., the number-two man in Europe’s Bandidos organization, before hanging up the phone.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Germany’s Very Own Minaret Debate Turns Nasty

A small Muslim community in a western German town would like to build a minaret on its mosque. But the plan has triggered passionate opposition from locals, many of whom rely on rhetoric from the extreme right in railing against the “symbol of Islam’s quest for power.”

“Willkommen,” reads the stencilled print on the wall along the riverside boardwalk in the small town of Völklingen. Not content to just welcome its German guests, however, the message is translated into a number of languages. “Bienvenue … bienvenidos … velkommen,” it reads. And “hosgeldiniz,” a nod to the city’s substantial Turkish population.

Elsewhere in the city — particularly in the quarter known as Wehrden — Muslim immigrants may not feel quite as welcome. A small mosque on the banks of the Saar River there has applied for a permit to build a small minaret on its roof — triggering a wave of at-times vehement protest reminiscent of the fuss surrounding the November 2009 referendum in Switzerland to ban minarets in the country.

“I am against the Islamification of our fatherland!” reads a message, posted by “Tommy” on the Web site of the local paper Saarbrücker Zeitung. “Islam is the greatest threat facing humanity,” he adds.

In a town meeting held on the subject in late January, a number of locals came out against the minaret plan. According to Berlin daily Die Tageszeitung, several expressed fears that Germany was being “infiltrated” by “the Turks.”

The plan foresees a minaret stretching a mere eight meters (26 feet) above the roof. The head of the Turkish-Muslim community planning the minaret, Adnan Atakli, has assured locals that there are no plans to broadcast calls to prayer from the minaret and that he merely sees it as an “ornament.”

Doesn’t Shy Away from Far-Right Rhetoric

And not everyone has come out against the plans. Many have pointed out that such an adornment would only improve the not-terribly-attractive quarter where the mosque is located. Furthermore, almost 10 percent of the Völklingen population is made up of immigrants, many of them Muslims. Some say it only makes sense that they be allowed to build a small minaret.

Still, politesse has hardly characterized the debate in Völklingen. Indeed, the back and forth is reminiscent of the campaign in Cologne in 2008 to block the construction of a mosque there. The campaign was led by a group called Pro-Cologne, a group that doesn’t shy away from far-right rhetoric. Similar debates have taken place in numerous European countries as the right wing seeks to tap into widespread skepticism toward Islam.

The Swiss referendum, which saw 57.5 percent of voters come out against the minaret ban, clearly showed just how anchored anti-Muslim sentiment may be in Europe. Indeed, a group called Pro-NRW (short for the German state North Rhine-Westphalia) now plans to cooperate with right-wing political parties in numerous European countries to organize a European Union-wide minaret referendum.

Islam’s ‘Quest for Power’

The debate in Völklingen is once again showing how quickly right-wing rhetoric can cross over into the mainstream when it comes to debates on Islam in Europe. Local right-wing extremists — two of whom are in the Völklingen city council — have argued that minarets are “symbols of Turkish dominance.” They point to a speech given by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in February 2008 in Cologne. In it, he said that “mosques are our barracks, minarets our bayonets, the domes our helmets and the believers are our soldiers.”

The Völklingen mosque belongs to the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), which has close ties to Turkey. “We are being quietly infiltrated by the Turks!” said one participant at the late January town meeting, according to Die Tageszeitung.

The local news paper, however, has used the exact same rhetoric on its editorial pages. “This minaret should not be built,” the Saarbrücker Zeitung wrote in late January. “It symbolizes Islam’s quest for power and is nothing less than a provocation. In the course of the Muslim conquests, minarets were first used as watch towers and only subsequently as religious symbols. Following the violent seizure of new territories, minarets were built as manifestations of Muslim rule.”

Minaret opponents are now looking into the possibility of holding a referendum on the issue in Völklingen. Yet another one.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Guardian Slams Zaia’s McItaly Burger

Food critic Matthew Fort says: “It’s a national betrayal”. Minister’s reply: “Stalin is dead”

MILAN — If anyone had said a few years ago that a leading Italian politician, and Northern League member since the early days, would put pen to paper in defence of a McDonald’s product, you probably wouldn’t have believed it. But that is precisely what has happened in the past few days. The Guardian’s food critic and lover of Italian cooking Matthew Fort, who in 2009 won the “Sicilia Madre Mediterranea” award for his book “Sweet Honey — Bitter Lemons”, wrote a passionate article, posted on the British newspaper’s website, in which he attacked Italy’s agriculture minister Luca Zaia for praising and promoting McItaly, the fast food chain’s new all-Italian burger.

TRADING PUNCHES — Mr Fort called the new McDonald’s burger “a devilish concoction of artichoke spread, Asiago cheese and lettuce”, maintaining that Mr Zaia’s decision to promote the product was “a monstrous act of national betrayal”. The minster’s reply was quick in coming. In a letter to the Guardian’s editor, Mr Zaia, who is also the Northern League and People of Freedom’s (PDL) candidate for the presidency of the Veneto regional authority, said he was unsurprised by the article but had been struck by Mr Fort’s offensive tone. The minister’s counter-attack followed: “The left and its loud hailers continue to bay at the moon, as increasingly they lose touch with real problems and shut themselves up in a sterile mental orthodoxy that damages all development and obstructs a clear vision of reality. Regretfully, we have some bad news for these leftwingers: Stalin is dead. We are confident that he never sat down in a McDonald’s, something that thousands of young people in Europe do every day.” The minister then lists the difficulties currently facing European agriculture, claiming that “the McDonald’s operation will put 3,488,000 euros of new income into the pockets of Italy’s farmers every month”. Mr Zaia goes on: “This will enable McDonald’s customers to eat a healthy burger made from only Italian ingredients”. The minister hopes that the McItaly operation will “convince people to give up junk food for a healthier diet”. And there is one final thrust at the critics: “We are confident we can bring them round. We will turn into latter-day Jesuits and strive to convert the pagans of the left who have never soiled their hands by working on the land”.

FAILURE — After reading Mr Zaia’s highly critical letter, Mr Fort said he stood by his attack on the the minister, claiming that the exchange had had international repercussions: “I think Zaia rather misses the point and that his attack on pinkoes, fellow travellers and old Stalinists is a distraction from the main issue: the failure of the government to look after Italy’s unique legacy of artisanal produce”. The Guardian food critic concludes: “It’s a depressing reflection of the gap that exists between Italian political life and the lives of Italian citizens”.

Francesco Tortora

03 febbraio 2010

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Italy: Ministry Could Avoid GM Ruling

Anti-biotech expert suggests decree to prevent GM crops

(ANSA) — Rome, February 2 — Swift action from the agriculture ministry could prevent the government being forced to comply with a court ruling paving the way for genetically modified (GM) crops, a leading expert said on Tuesday. Mario Capanna, an anti-biotech campaigner and director of an independent research council on GM products, published an open letter to Agriculture Minister Luca Zaia urging him to respond to the Friday ruling. “Please forgive our insistence in monitoring your response in order to ensure it does not miss the deadline,” said Capanna, who heads the Genetic Rights Foundation. “We just want to guarantee that the Italian agriculture system, the jewel in Italy’s exports crown, does not fall prey to anarchy”. Italy’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, on Friday gave the agriculture ministry 90 days in which to publish the procedures that farmers must follow in order to apply for permission to grow GM crops.

A 2006 agriculture ministry circular halted the drafting of authorization procedures until regional authorities finalized local measures aimed at preventing cross-contamination between GM and traditional crops.

However, regional governments have still not agreed on definitive coexistence measures and farmers have been unable to apply to grow GM crops during this period.

In his letter, Capanna suggested Zaia could avoid the consequences of the Council of State ruling by “reissuing” the circular in the form of an emergency decree. The government has the power to create immediately effective emergency decrees in Italy but these must be approved by parliament within three months if they are to take permanent effect. Provided Zaia issued such a decree within the 90-day deadline set by the court, said Capanna, regional governments would have several more months in which to finalize measures to protect traditional crops from GM contamination. “Allowing transgenic maize to be planted in the Italian countryside would have serious repercussions, as evidenced by extensive scientific literature,” he said. The Council of State made its ruling in response to a challenge brought by a pro-biotech farming association, Futuragra. “Granting [farmers] permission to cultivate certain crops cannot be subject to prior agreement on regional coexistence plans,” the court held.

The ruling was a strictly administrative one on whether the ministry had overstepped its powers in using a circular to delay publishing the authorization procedures.

It did not consider the legality or otherwise of GM crop cultivation or the detail of any coexistence proposals.

Minister Zaia, a long-time opponent of GM crops, reacted angrily to the decision, saying that in his opinion “it fails to take into account the will of the Italian public and most Europeans, who want quality, traceability and transparency”. The minister called for urgent reflection on how to implement “the public’s desire, which will undoubtedly clash with the interests of multinationals and a handful of national producers”.

But Futuragra welcomed the ruling, which it said recognized “the rights of farmers” and cleared the way for farmers to start planting GM crops by April.

Speaking to ANSA on Saturday, Futuragra Vice-President Silvano Dalla Libera said the Council of State decision was “not just for me but for all Italian farmers because it finally recognizes the right farmers have to freedom of choice”.

The response of Italy’s leading farming organizations has been mixed. The industrial farming organization Confagricultura reacted positively to the decision, which it said had “ended an impasse”.

“The paradox in Italy is that while we import and use large quantities of transgenic and soy derivative, Italian farmers have for years been prevented from accessing such innovations,” said organization chief Federico Vecchioni.

But Italy’s two other main farming unions spoke out against the ruling. The Italian Farming Confederation (CIA) described it as “questionable” and called for a “large-scale popular consultation” on the issue. Coldiretti suggested the ruling ignored the views of the Italian public, “72% of whom believe GM products are less healthy than traditional ones”.

It called for legal measures to protect Italian agriculture until a final decision could be made, stressing that its opposition to GM crops stemmed from economic rather than ideological considerations. It has often argued that widespread public hostility to GM crops would inevitably damage the domestic market for farm produce and would also result in a 60% drop in exports. The issue of GM crops is particularly explosive in Italy.

As the second-largest producer of organic crops in Europe and the fourth largest in the world, there is widespread fear of the potential damage resulting from accidental GM contamination.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Halal Meat Counter to Open in Capital

Rome, 4 Feb. (AKI) — The Italian capital, Rome will open its first supermarket halal meat counter on Saturday, where Muslims will be able to buy meat slaughtered according to Islamic principles as well as other halal products.

Imams from mosques in Rome, Florence and Ravenna will attend the inauguration at the Ipercoop supermarket in the southern Casilina area of Rome, where traditional Arab dishes will also be served.

Muslim immigrants and converts can buy meat at halal butchers, but haven’t been able to find it in supermarkets, and halal meat counters could help integrate Muslims in Italy, according to some.

“This is a chance to understand each other better and find new opportunities for dialogue, mutual understanding and coexistence — even inside a supermarket,” the organisers of Saturday’s event said in a statement posted to the Italian interfaith website

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

Muslim Women ‘Radicalised’ In UK

On Monday a female suicide bomber killed 54 people in north-east Baghdad.

The attack may have happened on another continent, but there are increasing concerns that violent extremism among women may now also be increasing in the UK.

It is believed that the process of radicalisation often takes place at universities.

One Islamist group linked with this practice is Hizb ut-Tahrir.

While not itself connected to any terrorist acts, Hizb ut-Tahrir has courted controversy and politicians have seized on some of its more inflammatory views.

The Conservative Party has said it would ban the organisation altogether.

Nazreen Nawaz is a spokeswoman for the group. She became a member while studying medicine at King’s College London.

Today, sitting at her dining table in south London, she teaches her four-year-old daughter how to spell and explains her decision to join.

“The philosophy of Hizb ut-Tahrir offered me a view of Islam that could solve many of the problems in the Muslim world,” Dr Nawaz says.

“We don’t advocate that British Muslims go over and fight in Palestine and occupied countries.

“What we say is that people in lands such as Afghanistan, Iraq and occupied countries have the right to defend themselves.”


There are concerns that hundreds of British Muslim women have been radicalised, many while being students.

Recent intelligence reports about terror plots involving women, and the growing trend of al-Qaeda’s use of female suicide bombers, have ignited concerns that some may turn to violent extremism in Britain.

“I think it would be naive to think that Britain could not see its first female suicide bomber,” says Sabira Lakha, an adviser to the Muslim Women’s Advisory Group.

The group was set up in 2008 by Hazel Blears, the then communities and local government minister, partly to tackle extremism.

Her view is shared by the Centre for Social Cohesion, an independent think tank.

“You do see women being radicalised in the UK,” says researcher Houriya Ahmed.

“You also have terrorist organisations like al-Qaeda which state that it is an obligation for women to take part in jihad.

“For example, the wife of al-Qaeda’s second-in-command issued a letter to Muslim women worldwide.

“You have also seen suicide bomb attacks by women in Iraq supported by the al-Qaeda narrative, so there is a strong possibility that this could occur in Britain and this needs to be taken seriously.”

In 2009, a British Muslim woman — 28-year-old Shella Roma from Oldham — became the first person in the country to be convicted of distributing a terrorist publication.

Study circles

At the east London-based Minhaj-ul-Quran, a broad-based organisation with Sufi traditions, extremism is something that they are working to eradicate.

To do this, they target universities with large British Asian intakes.

At a mosque in a converted cinema in Forest Gate, east London, they hold regular Sunday female-only study circles.

This week, about a dozen teenage girls kneel on the floor in a draughty room in front of wooden benches on which rest their copies of the Koran.

The teacher addresses the class on the subject of peace and equality in Islam, answering questions from her students about forced marriages.

Tayba is a student who regularly attends these Islamic classes for girls aged 11 and over.

Their philosophy is simple — educate a woman and educate an entire generation.

“I think extremism you get in every kind of society, every kind of culture, every kind of religion,” Tayba says.

“I think it’s those people who turn away from the true belief.”

“To be honest I think it’s a lack of education,” says Tanzila, who studies at Queen Mary college in east London.

“Some organisations do not portray Islam as it truly is.

“Thank God I come to an organisation where it is portrayed correctly.”

Nasra Raza, a teaching co-ordinator at Minhaj-ul-Quran, says she struggles to believe that women are becoming suicide bombers.

“There’s a saying in Islam that paradise lies at the feet of the mother,” she adds.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Separate Plastic Collection a ‘Waste of Money’

Asking citizens to separate their plastic waste from the rest of their rubbish is more expensive and less efficient than separating the waste after it has been collected, trials in Limburg province show, reports the Telegraaf on Thursday.

Separating out waste plastic after collection by using special machinery saved almost €6m across 16 local authority areas, local council official Jan Bormans told the paper.

The late separation method also delivers more recyclable plastic than if households do it themselves, the trials show. Households collected an average 6.3 kg of plastic waste per person, but using the other system generated between 19 kg and 21 kg per resident.

Local councils have been required to collect separate plastic waste since January 10 and were given the choice what method to adopt.

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

Prosecutor: German Islamists Planned Mass Murder

Dusseldorf — The chief prosecutor in the German trial of four alleged Islamists said on Wednesday that they had planned ‘mass murder’ on a scale unknown in Germany.

State prosecutor Volker Brinkmann said the members of the so- called Sauerland Group were driven by an overwhelming hatred of US soldiers and by a desire to carry out mass murder, and would not have shied away from killing innocent women and children.

The group, consisting of Daniel Schneider, Fritz Gelowicz, Adem Yilmaz and Attila Selek, is accused of planning attacks on US military bases in 2007.

The chief prosecutor emphatically warned against the ‘cancer of Islamist terrorism,’ as he set out his case to the Dusseldorf court. He argued that this ‘cancer’ would stop at nothing and chose its victims at random. Brinkmann said the four defendants had shown no real remorse during the nine-month trial, and said they did not confess out of regret.

‘The accused wanted to buy themselves a reduced sentence by pleading to the charges. Even the most convinced holy warrior does not want to sit in prison and watch the jihad (holy war) pass by,’ the prosecutor said.

Brinkmann said the four men, who confessed their allegiance to the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), were blinded by religious fervour and wanted to build explosives of unimaginable strength, many times more powerful than the bombs used in the 2005 Islamist attacks on London.

‘The accused have damaged Islam. They have given new nourishment to the reservations held against the world’s second largest religion,’ the prosecutor continued, adding that few people shared their fundamentalist Wahabi views.

Brinkmann said the trial was unusual in many ways, not least the sheer volume of evidence contained in 530 folders and 2,600 court exhibits. If the 3.6 terabytes of material were printed out, they would dwarf the courthouse.

Public prosecutor Cornelia Zacharias said the IJU had sent the defendants to Germany, because there they could ‘use less effort to inflict greater damage’ on the Americans than in the Afghan-Pakistani combat zone.

Three members of the group were apprehended in 2007 by German special forces after long surveillance, as they were preparing some 730 litres of hydrogen peroxide liquid explosives. The fourth member was later arrested in Turkey.

The prosecution is to argue its case for a second day, when they are to announce their plea for sentencing. A verdict is expected on March 4.

           — Hat tip: AA [Return to headlines]

Some Young Children in Britain Are Being Indoctrinated to Hate Non-Muslims and Champion a Holy War…

… according to a new documentary

“No child is ever too young to be started off on Jihad training,” states one document recovered by police from the North West’s Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) during raids.

CTU officers, interviewed by the BBC’s Inside Out team for a special programme, show the document and a film they recovered of two children aged about three and six playing with a pistol and Kalashnikov rifle.

The officers say the discoveries are evidence of attempts to radicalise youngsters. The footage, which police believe was filmed in Pakistan, was uncovered on the hard drive of a suspect’s computer — though investigators have not revealed when the material was seized.

The video shows a girl and young boy playing with guns, which police believe are real. “What do you do with the weapon?” asks a man’s voice. He answers his own question: “I want to kill the infidels.”

A senior CTU officer, who cannot be identified for security reasons, tells the programme makers: “We believe this was filmed abroad. We have no idea who the children are. We were shocked to find it at the house. We have no reason to believe this is faked. The guns are real.”

The officer said of another raid: “We found a series of flash cards and documents on how to raise Mujahid children. The cards were written in English — and instead of having M for Muhammad they had M for Mujahideen. They have the potential to indoctrinate. It just shows the mindset of some people and what we are up against.”

Police also found documents downloaded from an extremist website instructing parents to raise Mujahid children. The documents say: “The key is to start instilling these values in them while they are babies. Don’t wait until they are seven. No child is ever too young to be started off on Jihad training.”

David Thompson, Assistant Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, said the majority of the Muslim population supported the police’s counterterror operations in the region.

He told the BBC: “My view is that the majority of the community across the board see the threat that we’re dealing with and are hugely supportive.”

MP Kim Howells, chairman of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, said: “It’s a dreadful thing to see and I hope I never have to see it again actually. That’s as serious a piece of evidence of the kind of thing we are up against as I have ever set eyes on.”

Anjum Anwar MBE, who works for the church as a community dialogue development officer, said the film must not be used to implicate the rest of the Muslim world.

           — Hat tip: AA [Return to headlines]

Spain: Roundup of Barcelona Hooligans

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 3 — A massive operation has been underway since the early hours of the morning in Catalonia against the “casuals”, the most radical group of hooligans of the “Boixos Nois”, the FC Barcelona fans. The news was reported by the sources at the Mossos d’Esquadra, the regional Catalan police. The group of “casuals”, who follow the skinhead ideology, is famous f or being responsible in the past for episodes of violence. The Mossos d’Esquadra operation is focused on several members, who are also accused of crimes linked to drug trafficking. Amongst other things, death threats received in the past by the president of FC Barcelona, Joan Laporta, have been attributed to the group of hooligans. Last April, a group of “casuals” attacked and brutally beat an employee of the Barcelona football club during an away match in Munich. On the occasion, in statements to the media, Laporta, urged measures be taken against “this group of criminals”, to stop them from attending away matches. Searches are underway in numerous parts of the province of Barcelona, including Esparraguera, Castelldefels, L’Hospitalet de Llobregat and Sant Feliu de Llobregat. It is not yet known how many people have been arrested and the definitive result of the operation. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: Govt Wants Pension Contributions to Rise to 25 Yrs

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 3 — The reform in the pension system currently being studied by Spain’s Socialist government calls for an increase — from the current 15 years to 25 — of the period of paying pension contributions in order to be eligible to receive a pension. The measure, in addition to the raising of retirement age from 65 to 67, is contained in the implementation of the stability plan which the government under José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has sent to Brussels, and advance news of which was reported in today’s El Pais. With the increase in the required years of paying in contributions, the country’s social security aims to save almost 4 GDP points allocated to pension spending, equal to about 40 billion euros, beginning in 2030. The impact of these measures on the outlook for social spending, associated with aging, could be noteworthy, stressed the document sent to Brussels. According to the Economy Ministry, it would lead to a substantial improvement in the sustainability indicator elaborated by the European Commission. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: Union to Take to the Streets Against Pension Reform

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 4 — Spanish unions are on the warpath against the reform of the pension system currently being studied by the government. Demonstrations in all the chief towns of the provinces against the raising of the current pensionable age of 65 to 67 were announced for the end of the month by the secretary general of one of the principal trade unions, Comisiones Obreras (CCOO), Ignacio Fernandez Toxo. In statements to Telemadrid, Toxo today denounced the climate of uncertainty and social alarm created by the government, which, in his opinion, is acting like a group of beginners. Meanwhile Toxo has excluded for now the calling of a general strike against the governments proposal with regard to the pension system, which he described as absolutely not necessary. According to Toxo, the Unione General de Trabajadores (Ugt) union also agrees with the protest. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UK: Shameless MPs Try to Dodge Trial Using 1689 Law Which Protects Them From Prosecution

Three MPs charged with expenses fraud were last night hoping to use arcane laws from the 17th century to prevent their trials going ahead.

The Labour trio — along with a Tory peer — were charged under the Theft Act over allegations that they dishonestly pocketed thousands of pounds in second homes expenses. If convicted they face up to seven years in jail.

But, in an extraordinary twist, it emerged that the three MPs hope to use the 1689 Bill of Rights to wriggle out of prosecution. Legal experts have advised them that, under the ancient law, the Commons rulebook on expenses is covered by Parliamentary privilege.

This, they argue, means the book cannot be subject to scrutiny by the courts and should protect them from prosecution. They say that they can be judged only by a committee of MPs.

The four politicians were told early yesterday that they are to be prosecuted for theft by false accounting. The police probe alone has already cost taxpayers £486,000 and has involved up to 13 Scotland Yard detectives.

Last night, in a speech to the Oxford Union, Commons Speaker John Bercow acknowledged that the expenses scandal had done huge damage to Parliament and made it look as if MPs ‘inhabited a parallel universe’. But Mr Bercow, who had to repay £978 in expenses, warned against imposing too severe a crackdown on MPs’ expenses, saying it could put people off standing for Parliament.

The shamed trio — Elliot Morley of S

horpe, David Chaytor of Bury North and Livingston’s Jim Devine — all denied the fraud accusations, as did Tory peer Lord Hanningfield, who faces six charges relating to his claims for House of Lords allowances.

But even before the charges were announced live on TV by Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer, QC, battle lines had been drawn by their lawyers who believe the 321-year-old Bill of Rights could help get the MPs off the hook.

In the run-up to yesterday’s decision, the MPs’ lawyers sent submissions to prosecutors outlining their possible defence strategy.

Mr Starmer said: ‘Lawyers representing those who have been charged have raised with us the question of Parliamentary privilege. We have concluded that the applicability and extent of any Parliamentary privilege claimed should be tested in court.’

LibDem Parliamentary spokesman David Heath said: ‘We do not have immunity from prosecution for parliamentarians in this country. Parliamentary privilege exists purely to ensure we can do our job properly, not to protect us from the law.’

Yesterday’s charges followed Thursday’s verdict on MPs’ expenses by Sir Thomas Legg, who conducted an audit of all claims made in recent years and condemned the system as ‘deeply flawed’. Hundreds of MPs were ordered to repay a total of £1.12million.

The decision to press charges against three MPs ensures that the expenses scandal will run right through the General Election campaign.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Stalker Pheasant Terrorises English Village

A WILD pheasant is wreaking havoc in a peaceful town forcing residents to take cover indoors, it was reported today.

Local paper The Northern Echo said the aggressive male bird has a long list of victims in North Yorkshire, England.

He has reportedly attacked men, women, children, baby-strollers, bikes, dogs and even cars in Newsham, North Yorkshire.

The ferocious bird is known to hide silently in bushes, waiting for innocent passersby, before leaping out for an attack.

The pheasant has been rumoured to wait for the area school bus, chasing screaming children into the safety of their home.

Sonia Hall, 65, who was attacked by the pheasant while out for a walk with her two-year-old grandson, Jacob, told the Northern Echo, “When we came out of the post office and set off back to the house, the pheasant darted across the road towards us. It started flying low towards my legs and pecking at me.”

Hall now leaves the house ready and armed to fight the pesky bird.

“Another day it came at me and I whacked it with my handbag. I carry an umbrella around with me now for protection,” she added.

Lindsay Waddell, chairman of the National Gamekeepers Organisation, told the UK’s Daily Mail that the bird was just protecting what it considered to be its home territory.

Waddell said the best way to deal with the bird would be to humanely capture it and relocate it away from the village.

           — Hat tip: Paul Green [Return to headlines]


Defence: Serbia, France Sign Cooperation Plan for 2010

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, FEBRUARY 4 — Representatives of the Serbian Defense Ministry and the French armed forces signed in Belgrade a bilateral military cooperation plan for 2010, which includes economic cooperation as one of its priorities, reports Tanjug news agency. Cooperation in military education and the project of establishing a simulation center at the Military Academy in Belgrade will be among the priorities in the coming period, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. The plan was signed by Head of the International Military Cooperation Department Milorad Peric and Brigadier General Antoine Creux, Head of the European Union/NATO/United Nations Division at the French Military Headquarters. Both sides concluded that the military cooperation between Serbia and France is very good and is constantly on the rise, it was published on the Serbian Defense Ministry website. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Kosovo: Serbian Community Pushes Back North Integration Plan

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, FEBRUARY 4 — The Serbian community in Kosovo clearly pushed back the plan for the integration of the northern part of the country in to the rest of Kosovo’s institutional structure, put forward by the international representative Pieter Feith together with the government in Pristina. In an assembly which took place in Kosovska Mitrovica, reported by the media in Belgrade, Kosovo’s Serbian population approved a document that expressed the hope for Belgrade to defend the national interests of the Serbs and strengthen the Serbian institutions in Kosovo. The participants asked parliament in Belgrade to approve an official resolution to stress that Kosovo is an integral part of Serbia. Belgrade refused to recognise the independence of Kosovo, claimed in Pristina on February 17 2008 (65 countries have done so until now) and continues to consider Kosovo its southern province. The plan for northern Kosovo, where there is a denser Serbian population, provides for the integration of parallel structures (schools, hospitals) created by the Serbians with political and financial support from Belgrade into the rest of the country. Some Serbian media spoke of a form of blackmailing Belgrade, which should accept the plan and renounce its structures in northern Kosovo, if it wishes to continue down the path to integration into the EU without any problems. “The Serbian institutions in the north are not ‘parallel’ structures, but ‘real’ and ‘native’, highlighted the participants in today’s assembly in Kosovska Mitrovica, the city in northern Kosovo that is divided in two by the Ibar River, the Serbian part to the north and the Albanian part to the south. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Kosovo: NATO Troops Reduced to 10,000

Pristina, 1 Feb. (AKI) — NATO has reduced the number of troops stationed in Kosovo to 10,000 soldiers, the military alliance said in a statement on Monday. The cut reflects the improved general security situation in Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia two years ago, NATO’s KFOR force said.

“With the new, significantly more efficient and flexible structures, 10,000 soldiers from 32 nations will provide security and stability for the citizens of Kosovo,” KFOR said.

The reduced “multinational fighting group” was a powerful force that would be deployed if the security of people anywhere in Kosovo was threatened, KFOR said.

Over 50,000 international troops known as KFOR were originally deployed in Kosovo in June 1999, following NATO’s airstrikes and the withdrawal of Serbian army and police.

But the number was gradually reduced to 15,000 last year, and cut by another 5,000 in January.

Apart from the soldiers stationed in Kosovo, countries contributing troops to the mission will provide a reserve force.

KFOR said it had has also armed and trained a 2,500-strong Kosovo security force (KSF).

Serbia, which opposes Kosovo’s independence, has warned that the KSF is an embryonic future army which could destabilise the entire Balkan region.

Over 60 countries, including major Western powers, have recognised the independence of Kosovo, declared by its ethnic Albanian majority in February, 2008.

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

North Africa

Algeria: 90% of Marble Comes From Italy

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 4 — Some 90% of marble used by Algeria comes from Italy, with Algeria importing 21 million dollars worth in 2008. The data was presented during the meeting, organised in Algiers, by the Institute for Foreign Trade, and dedicated to the promotion of the Carrara Marmotec trade fair, which will take place in Carrara from May 19-22. As well as being the main supplier to the Maghreb country, Italy is also the primary importer of Algerian marble, which is famous for several specific qualities, such as the Krystel of Oran. Two Algerian companies, Rocal, a branch of the national body for granites, and NMC (New Marbre Continental) of Blida, will take part in the Carrara fair, where the main operators of the sector from all around the world meet every two years. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Algeria: Death Sentence Terrorism for Killings in ‘90s

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 3 — The Court of Algiers has sentenced Mohamed Benziane to death for “crimes committed in several regions, membership of an armed terrorist group and possession of weapons of war”. The accused was arrested in 2004. Sources in the justice system, quoted by APS, say that Benziane has admitted that in 1998 he entered the armed Islamic group led by Abou Yacine that is active in the Chlef region, 250km west of Algiers. Benziane has also admitted to participating in many terrorist operations, including the killings at Tadjena in 1999, in which 50 civilians were killed and 9 women kidnapped, raped and killed. The accused has withdrawn these concessions in court, saying that he lived in Libya from 1998 to 2004. The man was already sentenced to death two times by the court of Chlef for participation in the killing of civilians in the region during the black decade of terrorism. The death penalty is still in force in Algeria, though the last time someone was executed was in 1993, when the culprits of the attack on the airport of Algiers were shot. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Egypt: Fatwa Forbids Muslims From Using Facebook

Cairo, 4 Feb. (AKI) — A top Egyptian cleric has issued a fatwa forbidding use of the popular social networking site Facebook. Muslims using such sites must be considered “sinners” said the religious edict’s author, sheikh Abdel Hamid al-Atras. Statistics show divorce rates have rise since the advent of Facebook and it has sharply increased marital infidelity, he claimed.

“It’s an instrument that destroys the family because it encourages spouses to have relations with other people which break Islamic sharia law, said al-Atrash, quoted by pan-Arab daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat.

He is the former head of the fatwa commission at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, one of the highest authorities in Sunni Islam.

“While one or other of the spouses is at work, the other is chatting online with someone else, wasting their time and flouting the Sharia.

“This endangers the Muslim family,” said al-Atrash.

The fatwa followed the publication earlier this week of a study claiming one out of five of divorces in Egypt had been caused by liaisons begun on Facebook or other social networking sites.

Like satellite TV, social networking sites are a “double-edged sword”, al-Atrash said.

“While they permit the spread of Islam, they allow people forbidden love and relations.

“That is why whoever uses such websites must be considered a sinner,” he concluded.

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

Media: Al-Ahram is Most Read on Web, Followed by Al Khabar

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 4 — Six Algerian newspapers feature in the African Top 50 table of the most read dailies online. Immediately after Egyptian Al-Ahram, which holds the top spot of the table drawn up by 4IMN (4 International Media and Newspapers), is the Arab-language paper, El Khabar. The first French-language paper is Algerias El Watan in fifth place, followed by Liberté in seventh place and Le Soir d’Algerie in tenth. The table is based on fair and independent parameters that do not take into consideration the quality of the newspapers, but rather their popularity based on the number of online readers, explain the heads of 4IMN. The data was collected through three search engines: Google Page Rank, Yahoo Inbound Links e Alexa Traffic Rank”. Other Algerian papers in the rank are La Tribune (16th), Echourouk (33rd) and Le Quotidien d’Oran (46th). The Tunisian daily paper gaining the highest place for the country is La Presse (15th), while for Morocco the highest is L’Economiste in 17th place. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Wet Zones Increase

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 4 — To the current 237 wet zones in Tunisia will be added another 21 in the month of March as part of the Ramsar Convention, the international treaty for their conservation and long-term use. The announcement was made during the day dedicated to information on the subject “Taking Care of Wet Zones in Tunisia: A Response to Climate Change” held in Korba (Nabeul governorate). Wet zones in Tunisia are home to about 260 land-based plant species and 50 aquatic ones, as well as 140 types of birds (for the most part migratory ones). They are also important from the water resources and socio-economic point of view, as well as biodiversity conservation. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

“We Are Not Agents of the West”

Ghassan Makarem replies to Joseph Massad

The real problem with Massad’s interview is the lies, fabrications, and insinuations of being agents of the West against the people in Helem. This is an opinion we have heard many times from Salafists and chauvinists. The contention that homosexuals are agents of the West, that they are “imposing Western values”, and that they belong to the upper classes was also used by Khomeini before rounding up homosexuals and executing them. It is the same justification given to call for the arrest of HIV positive persons in Egypt and elsewhere and to pass a viciously homophobic law in Uganda.

Dear Reset Doc,

on December 1, 2009, you published an interview with Joseph Massad entitled “The West and the Orientalism of Sexuality” where he made slanderous and distorted allegations about Helem, an LGBTQ rights organization in Lebanon. In 5 sentences, Massad managed to squeeze in a number of lies and distortions that he has been spreading for the past several years. They warrant a detailed and point-by-point reply.

There is much to be said about Massad’s argument about the invention of homosexuality and its imposition by the West on the East, especially his claim that homosexuality in the West “is an identity that seeks social community and political rights, while the other [in the East] is one of many forms of sexual intimacy that seeks corporeal pleasure.” It is odd that Massad, a Palestinian in the Diaspora, refuses to recognize the agency of persons with non-conforming sexual orientations in “the East” and their “right” to seek social community and choose identities. A serious class analysis of these persons would also refute his argument as to the makeup of the activist community in the region, but then Massad’s misinformed preconceptions are perhaps as much a result of his own milieu and interests.

This does not mean that the categories implied in “LGBTQ”, for example, are not problematic for the non-western movement. This is a major point of contention and discussion. A prevalent critique of the movement in the west is a result of its shift to the right and toward institutional politics. As activists working on the ground in the Middle East, we ask the question: What if LGBTQ organizations and the movements in the West adopted views supportive of our struggle for liberation from oppression? Wouldn’t Massad be demanding that we let them teach us, as he himself insists on doing? We have the privilege of learning from the history of the movement, but we are quite capable of doing so ourselves.

Massad ignores the fact that the last couple of decades saw the rapid urbanization of the Middle East. Slums, residential fortresses, and pockets of extreme luxury amid deprivation grew exponentially across the region. Two decades ago, only 30 percent of the population lived in cities. By 2020 an estimated 70 percent of the region’s population will be urban, along with “more waged labor by women, higher wages, commodification of everyday life, assumption of some traditional family functions by the state, and the spread of modern medicine with its penchant for classification.” (Peter Drucker 2008). This factor, couples with a multiplicity others, creates conditions for the emergence of new politicized identities. To reduce this complex process of subject formation to the imperial desires of the Gay International and its colonization of indigenous ways of being is reductionist and, it must be said, essentialist.

For Massad, the “true” Arab (and here Massad repeats the mistakes of his discipline by equating Arab desire and sexuality with Arab male desire and sexuality) expression of sexuality is one based on mere acts of “corporeal pleasure”, not identification with, or through these acts. Like Massad, when Ahmadinajad told the audience at Columbia University that Iran had no homosexuals, he was speaking about such identities. This denial attempts to negate the fact that their formation is also a product of the highly urbanized capitalist mode of production that Iran is chasing after, and of which Massad is also — ironically — a prototypical product (in the category of exiled intellectuals).

This can help us understand emerging identities and the nature of oppression, whether by supposedly secular states like Turkey or Egypt, religious states like Iran or Saudi Arabia, apartheid and segregated states like Israel and Lebanon, or by large political currents whether under the guise of nationalism or Islam. The few gay and lesbian organizations that emerged in the last few years in Lebanon and in the Palestinian community in Israel are aware of this also. They are, unfortunately for Massad, the product of their own conditions, and not a throwback to the imagined peasant community that people from the Arab East seem to cling to in the Diaspora.

The real problem with Massad’s interview is the lies, fabrications, and insinuations of being agents of the West against the people in Helem. This is an opinion we have heard many times from Salafists and chauvinists. It was one of the main arguments used in a campaign waged against Helem in 2005 by a member of the Municipality of Beirut supported by Dar Al Fatwa and Saudi media. While Massad tries to hide behind a mask of scholarship and self-proclaimed progressiveness, he manages to voice an opinion that reflects the most bigoted religious currents in the region. The contention that homosexuals are agents of the West, that they are “imposing Western values”, and that they belong to the upper classes was also used by Khomeini before rounding up homosexuals and executing them. It is the same justification given to call for the arrest of HIV positive persons in Egypt and elsewhere and to pass a viciously homophobic law in Uganda. If this seems an exaggeration of Massad’s opinion, then how do we explain his mocking of the victims of torture during the Queen Boat case in Egypt a few years ago, thereby tacitly extending support to one of the worst violators of human rights in the region, because the victims happened to adopt an identity that Massad does not deem “authentic”?

Massad does not provide any evidence about his statement that “non-Lebanese” actively participated in founding Helem, but I will.

Since its inception, Helem was open to all individuals who live in Lebanon. During the period of the “Cedar Revolution”, when “non-Lebanese” workers were being attacked in the streets, Helem insisted on its openness to Palestinian refugees and was attacked by some elements from the right for welcoming their membership in the organization. Helem is also an initiating and active member in campaigning for the rights of “non-Lebanese” domestic workers and for providing “non-Lebanese” Palestinian refugees with their civil, political, social, cultural, and economic rights in Lebanon. In the past year, Helem has provided support for Iraqi and non-Iraqi refugees fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation. Why does this seem problematic to Massad? Or does he — for example — espouse the position of fellow chauvinists that Palestinians should be locked up in concentration camps to keep them longing for their right of return?

To refute his argument further, the founding members of the organization who presented the notification of association to the government were all Lebanese, as stipulated by the law, even though we support the right of non-nationality holders to create and work in associations…

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

Dubai: Restaurant Launches Camel Burger

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, FEBRUARY 4 — Camel burgers served in a kamir bun, a tribute to the fusion between Bedouin traditions and globalisation, have been launched by a restaurant chain in Dubai. The Local House chain owns a bar in Bastakya, in the heart of the old city, another in The Walk, the sparkling seafront in the shadow of the ultra-modern steel and glass skyscrapers, and a third is being planned at the foot of Burj Khalifa. The company confirms that the new dish is already a success among fussy Emiratis and curious tourists. The burger, 120 grams of meat with no fat and no cholesterol, is served with salad or fries and costs 20 dirham (about 5 euros), slightly more expensive than the classic American hamburger, which has seen sales fall by around two-thirds in the last year. The meat of the desert quadruped, expensive and delicious, is usually only served on important occasions, such as wedding banquets. Camel milk however, is widely used: from beauty treatments, popular among the women of the region, to camels milk chocolate, on sale since 2008. Another popular item at the Local House is camels milkshake. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Girl Buried Alive in Honor Killing

A 16-year-old girl was buried alive by relatives in southeastern Turkey in a gruesome honor killing carried out because she reportedly befriended boys, the Anatolia news agency reported Thursday.

Acting on a tip, police discovered the body of the girl, identified only as M.M., in a sitting position with her hands tied, in a 2-meter-deep hole dug under a chicken pen outside her house in Kahta, a town in the southeastern province of Adiyaman, the news agency reported.

The body was found in December, around 40 days after M.M. went missing. She is being identified by her initials because she was under the age of 18. Her father and grandfather are suspected in the murder.

A subsequent postmortem examination revealed that M.M. had a significant amount of soil in her lungs and stomach, indicating that she was buried alive and conscious, forensic experts told the news agency. “The autopsy result is blood-curdling. According to our findings, the girl — who had no bruises on her body and no sign of narcotics or poison in her blood — was alive and fully conscious when she was buried,” one anonymous expert said.

The girl’s father and grandfather have been formally arrested and jailed pending trial over her killing, according to the agency. The father is reported to have said in his testimony that the family was unhappy that M.M. had male friends.

The girl was reported as missing and no clues about her disappearance were found for 40 days. Her mother was arrested along with the father, Ayhan, and grandfather, Memi, but later released. The two men were sent to prison by a local court and did not speak in the court.

Police had found the body of the girl using an anonymous tip saying that M.M. had been killed based on a decision by a family council and buried under the chicken pen, daily Milliyet reported. The family has nine children, including the girl, and was reported to have told neighbors that she was missing. The girl had made a complaint to police about her grandfather two months before she went missing, saying that he beat her because she talked to boys.

Family councils consist of family elders; honor killings are usually decided by such groups.

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

Iran Repeats Criticism of Berlusconi

‘Services to Israeli masters,’ says state TV

(ANSA) — Tehran, February 4 — Iran on Thursday repeated its criticism of Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi for calling for tougher sanctions to try to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions on his state visit to Israel this week.

“Berlusconi rendered a string of services to the Israeli masters,” said the Italian-language site of Iranian state TV.

“Before and during his visit to Israel he levelled all manner of accusations against Iran including that it wants to develop nuclear weapons,” it said.

After these “decidedly debatable declarations against Iran,” it said “the Italian premier even went so far as to say (Israel’s) war on Gaza was right, trampling on the bodies of the 1,400 civilians killed by Israel during three weeks of insane bombing last year”.

The international community is mulling fresh sanctions against Iran despite an apparent overture from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to have some of the country’s uranium enriched abroad.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Irish Suspected of Killing Hamas Leader, Woman Also

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, FEBRUARY 4 — Of the seven possible assassins of the Hamas member killed in Dubai, the four identified so far- including a woman — have Irish passports, reports Khaleej Times. Dubai police and Interpol are already coordinating efforts to extradite the suspects from Ireland, noted an unspecified police source to the daily. Previously, Dubai police sources had said that the four had entered the United Arab Emirates with East European passports. Mahmud Al Mabhuh, founder of the Ezzedin al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Movement for Palestinian Resistance, was killed on January 20 in a Dubai hotel room. Hamas has explicitly accused Mossad, which has instead denied any involvement. Police chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim was quoted by Gulf News as saying that Hamas delegations would not be allowed to enter the country. “Our references are the official representatives of the country, and therefore the Palestinian embassy and consulate, since there is only one Palestine — not two,” he added. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel-Syria: Lieberman Warns Assad, War to Lead to Power Loss

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, FEBRUARY 4 — Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has today warned Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad that were Syria to go to war with Israel, the regime in Damascus would not only lose the war but also power in the country. Speaking at a conference at Tel Aviv’s Bar Ilan University, Lieberman accused the Syrian Foreign Minister of having “coarsely threatened Israel yesterday”, and said that “our message is that if war were actually to be declared, not only would they lose but Assad’s regime would fall from power”. Lieberman then suggested that Damascus should not cherish any vain hopes concerning a restitution of the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967. The polemical tone is following statements made yesterday by the head of Syrian diplomacy, who — on the sidelines of a meeting with Spain’s Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos — accused Israel of stirring up conflict in the region. His words were in turn a reply to a recent speech by Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, who had effectively brought up the risk of conflict with Damascus, but in order to make a call for the relaunch of negotiations in the attempt to ward off the risk. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel Reportedly Training Kurdish Forces

( According to recent media reports, Israeli military and intelligence agents are currently operating in Iraqi Kurdistan. Their primary role, according to reports, is to train elite Kurdish commandos in guerrilla warfare and anti-terror tactics. The Kurds — whose country is currently occupied by Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria — are reportedly again, after many years, accepting Israeli assistance in their struggle for independence.

Fearing an al-Qaeda backlash, Kurdish leaders have denied cooperating with the Jewish state and have refused to even issue comments on the matter.

When the New Yorker asked Mark Regev, then spokesman for Israel’s Embassy in Washington, to comment on allegations of Israeli-Kurdish cooperation in 2004, Regev denied the claims, telling the magazine that “the story is simply untrue and the relevant governments know it’s untrue.”

But American intelligence officials at the time sought to expose Israel’s assistance to the Kurds. “They [the Israelis] think they have to be there,” a senior CIA official told the New Yorker, adding that Israel’s presence in northern Iraq is widely acknowledged in the United States intelligence community.

Apart from rumors of Israel training Kurdish commandos, Israeli-Kurdish relations have expanded considerably in recent years. In July 2003 the Israeli government reversed its embargo on Iraq, allowing trade between the two peoples including the export of Israeli military products to the Kurds.

Kurdish commandos have also reportedly accompanied Israeli operatives across the Iraq-Iran border in recent years to install sensory devices meant to monitor suspected Iranian nuclear facilities.

Like Jews, Kurds are a non-Arab indigenous Middle Eastern people seeking independence in their ancestral homeland. Active Israeli support towards a free Kurdistan is seen as a natural and pragmatic policy by many in the region. “By aligning with the Kurds, Israel gains eyes and ears in Iran, Iraq and Syria,” a former Israeli intelligence officer told the New Yorker.

Hamas leaders are reportedly concerned by reports of Israel operating in Iraqi Kurdistan and have begun investigating the possibility of Israeli infiltration into their own ranks. According to the terror group, the recent assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai could have been planned and executed by Israeli agents operating beyond the Jewish state’s borders.

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

Italy Emerging as Major Arms Exporter to Turkey

Italian arms manufacturers are gaining ground in the rankings as a source of defense systems for Turkey, mainly through helicopters and satellites. The US still holds the top spot but companies are encountering difficulties in winning Turkish contracts because of problematic US regulations

The United States remains Turkey’s largest provider of arms, mostly through sales to the Air Force, but Italy is becoming a rising recipient of Ankara’s commercial defense bids. Italian companies have scored two major contracts in recent years and are now vying for a third.

Observers and officials cite complicated and strict U.S. regulations as the main reasons for the difficulty U.S. arms companies have in securing international commercial arms deals. Specifically stringent export laws and technology transfer issues hinder Turkey’s ability to do business with the U.S. companies.

The Italian-dominated AgustaWestland consortium, a joint venture between Italy’s Agusta and Britain’s Westland, signed a multibillion-dollar deal with Turkey last year for the joint production of at least 50 attack helicopters.

AgustaWestland is also competing with U.S.-based Sikorsky Aircraft for the joint production of more than 100 military and civilian helicopters worth more than $1 billion for Turkey, and most analysts suggest that the Italian-led group has a fairly good chance to secure the contract.

Italy and Britain have close political relations with Turkey and support Turkey’s eventual membership in the European Union.

In another example, Italy’s Telespazio, partners with France’s Aerospatiale, won a $200 million contract this year to build Turkey’s first military satellite. The company is also eyeing future Turkish programs for new military and civilian satellites.

US facing difficulties

The United States still continues to be Turkey’s largest defense supplier, but this is mostly due to ongoing large-scale and mostly Air Force-related single source contracts with the Pentagon. Otherwise, U.S. companies have failed to win any large Turkish commercial contracts in recent years involving bids from multiple countries.

Commercial sales are deals in which firms compete directly against each other.

In Turkey’s ongoing effort to buy missile-defense systems worth more than $1 billion, the U.S.-based Lockheed Martin and Raytheon corporations have a good chance to win over Russian and Chinese rivals, but this is not a commercial sale. Instead, Turkey is holding simultaneous government-to-government talks with the three countries.

Turkey’s Air Force fighters are almost exclusively sourced from the United States. Turkey will buy 30 additional F-16 fighters from Lockheed Martin soon and plans to purchase 100 F-35 Lightning jets, worth some $11 billion, from an international group led by Lockheed Martin in the next decade. All of these Air Force deals exist under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales scheme.

The last time U.S. companies won a large-scale, multiple-source Turkish contract was in 2002 when Boeing signed a $1.6 billion agreement for four airborne early warning and control aircraft. This program is now behind schedule by more than two years.

The U.S. Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. won a multibillion-dollar Turkish competition for attack helicopters in 2000, offering its AH-1Z model. But because of constant disputes over costs and technology transfers, a final contract could never be signed, and the Turkish procurement office canceled that program in 2005. In new bidding, the contract eventually went to AgustaWestland, which offered its Turkish version of the A129.

Bell Helicopter and Boeing boycotted this latest gunship contest, complaining that the Turkish request for technical specifications was in conflict with U.S. export laws and regulations. Turkish procurement officials, for their part, said that U.S. companies, unlike their European rivals, were inflexible in negotiations.

The big picture suggests that although the United States continues to net large Air Force deals with Turkey, U.S. companies cannot win individual Turkish competitions involving multiple bidders.

Analysts say that in commercial deals, U.S. companies are bound by U.S. export laws and regulations on issues such as technology transfer and the right to third-country sales. Italian manufacturers offer significantly more attractive terms on these points.

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


Russian Orthodox Church, Close to Catholics, But Far From Protestants

The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill notes closeness between Rome and Moscow on the major challenges of modernity, globalization, secularization, erosion of traditional moral principles. Instead distances increase with Protestants accused of betraying the Christian heritage to the standards of the world.

Moscow (AsiaNews / Agencies) — As it finds itself drawing increasingly closer to the Catholic Church at least on the major challenges of the contemporary world, the Moscow Patriarchate can not say the same of the Protestants. So says the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill, speaking at the meeting of bishops that took place in the capital on 2 February. “With the Church of Rome — he said — we have similar positions on many issues facing Christians in the modern world. Such as secularization, globalization and the erosion of traditional moral principles. It should be noted that in many matters, Benedict XVI has taken positions which are close to Orthodox ones”.

However, its distance from the various Protestant denominations seem to be increasing. In recent years, “there has been a decrease in the collaboration of Protestant communities in an effort to preserve the Christian heritage” and that, says Kirill, is because of “constant liberalization” of their world. “Not only — adds the Patriarch —have they failed to propagate Christian values in secular society in a practical manner, rather many Protestant communities have preferred to adapt to those standards.” The reference appears to be to the recent election of a woman bishop, Margot Kassmann, as head of the Evangelical Church in Germany.

Kirill says clearly that in dialogue with Protestants, the Orthodox Church must seek ways to overcome the fundamental differences and if this is not possible, “ many other important issues will remain, not directly related to the achievement of unity in faith and ecumenical structure, but important in terms of cooperation for the sake of peace, justice, of creation and to resolve other important problems that require a joint effort by those who believe in the Trinity. “

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

South Asia

India: Another Church Ransacked in Karnataka

At two o’clock this morning a group of vandals ransacked the church of St. Matthias Malavalli in the district of Mandya. Since the beginning of this is the sixth attack in the state of Karnataka. Attackers desecrated a crucifix, the statues destroyed and stole the hosts in the tabernacle. Once again it is feared the hand of Hindu extremists. The parish priest of the Church invites the faithful to forgive the vandals.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — Attacks against Christians continue in the state of Karnataka. Last night at about two in the morning a group of unidentified people broke into the church of St. Matthias in Malavalli (Mandya district). According to local sources, the vandals desecrated a crucifix, destroyed the statues in the nave, broke windows and stole valuables. Not even the musical instruments were spared.

“The vandals entered in the middle of the night breaking in the door to the presbytery — said Fr M Anthappa parish priest of the church of S. Matthias — They ransacked the church, stealing the chalice and monstrance. “The vandals — he adds — also emptied the tabernacle stealing the pyx and consecrated hosts. And this is what has offended our religious sentiments most. Even the crown of the statue of St. Matthias was stolen”. Fr. Anthappa however has urged the faithful to forgive those who have carried out this act and says that he will pray to God for their salvation and conversion.

Since the beginning of the year this is the 6th attack on a house of worship in Karnataka. On January 25 two churches were attacked in the diocese of Karwar and Inkal. While the identity of the vandals is still not known, the main suspect in the attacks are extremists Hindus of the Sri Rama Sene, a far-right nationalist party and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which rules the state government of Karnataka.

On 1 February the Board of Inquiry (Justice BK Somashekara Inquiry commission) to guide investigations of attacks against Christians presented a report which accused the district police and administration of covering for the perpetrators of the attacks. The document is in fact critical of the local government ruled by the Hindu nationalist BJP, the party already accused of massacres against Christians in the state of Orissa in 2008.

“These kinds of attacks are not just attacks on minorities — says Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of India — but affect the secular fabric of our society, human rights, the inalienable right to religious freedom, a right which is guaranteed by the Indian constitution”. According to Sajan George religious extremism has “shredded” the constitution, rendering Karnataka a state that protects criminals. “The Republic of India — he continues — risks self-destruction because of this bigotry in our society, which has taken office in Karnataka and does nothing but destroy the sacred values of democracy.”

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

Taliban Reject “Deal” With Afghanistan, West

KABUL, Feb 5 (Reuters) — The Taliban have said they will not enter into any “deal” with the Afghan government or the West to bring peace to Afghanistan, and their fighters will continue to die to achieve a victory they say is around the corner.

At a conference in London last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai invited the Taliban to a peace council and set out plans to lure fighters down from the hills in return for cash and jobs.

But in a statement posted on the Islamists’ website ( on Thursday, the Taliban vowed to “collude” with no one.

The statement made no specific reference to Karzai’s proposed talks. The Taliban had initially told Reuters they would decide “soon” on whether to take part in talks.

The Islamists have repeatedly rejected previous offers of talks before all foreign troops are withdrawn.

“During the past eight years, the Islamic Emirate has not shown any willingness to reach collusion with any party as regards the Jihad, the country and the people, national and Islamic interest,” the Taliban said.

“Now, it is not ready to have any illegitimate, valueless deal about the victory, which is near at hand.”

The statement was entitled “The impracticable decision of the London conference” and addressed to the meeting’s “conveners and donors”.


The luring away of militant foot-soldiers is referred to by the West as reintegration while efforts to make peace with Taliban leaders is being called reconciliation.

Afghanistan’s allies are backing the efforts to start talks with the Taliban and donors have promised hundreds of millions of dollars for a fund to pay fighters to come in from the cold.

Western countries, eyeing an exit from an eight-year-old war they no longer believe has a purely military solution, are more amenable than ever to a role for rehabilitated Taliban.

On Wednesday, British armed forces minister Bill Rammell said about 20 percent of the Taliban were “hardcore, ideological jihadists”, while 80 percent had joined largely to make a living, suggesting these fighters could be won over.

But at a time when fighters are tightening their hold over much of the country and inflicting record losses on foreign troops, analysts doubt guerrillas would agree to lay down their arms. Similar past programmes have lured away only a trickle of fighters.

The Taliban, meanwhile, vowed to continue their fight.

“The invading Americans and all their invading allies should understand the objective of the mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate is more lofty and exalted than that the rulers of the White House could imagine,” the statement said.

“These sacrificing mujahideen believe that the obtainment of this lofty goal is only possible through laying down their lives.”

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Far East

Can You Trust Chinese Computer Equipment?

Suspicions about China slipping eavesdropping technology into computer exports have been around for years. But the recent spying attacks, attributed to China, on Google and other Internet companies have revived the hardware spying concerns. An IT World blogger suggests the gear can’t be trusted, noting that it wouldn’t be hard to add security holes to the firmware of Chinese-made USB memory sticks, computers, hard drives, and cameras. He also implies that running automatic checks for data of interest in the compromised gear would not be difficult.

[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Danish Seals Storm Pirate Ship

Danish special forces have freed 25 hostages from a hijacked vessel off Somalia.

Danish special forces from the Absalon command and support vessel have freed 25 people from a vessel hijacked by pirates off the Somali coast.

The Antigua and Barbuda-flagged Ariella was under attack from pirates and sent out an SOS earlier today. Danish special forces from the Absalon answered the call and freed 25 crew members who had locked themselves into a store-room according to a spokesman for the EU naval force in area.

“The Danish forces did a great job,” John Harbour tells Politiken.

The current situation on the vessel remains unclear, whether the operation has ended or whether pirates have been detained.

Latest reports say the vessel is being searched for pirates.

The Admiral Danish Fleet Command Centre has confirmed that an operation is under way in the Gulf of Aden.

“It is ongoing as we speak and we are trying to get an indication of exactly what is happening. The only thing we know right now is that the Absalon is involved,” says Admiral Dansh Fleet Command Centre Spokeswoman Pernille Kroer.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Danish Forces Storm Ship Captured by Somali Pirates

NAIROBI, Kenya — Danish special forces stormed a ship captured by armed Somali pirates Friday and freed the 25 crew on board, an EU naval spokesman said, marking the first time a warship has intervened during a hijacking.

After the vessel Ariella sent out a distress signal early Friday, the Danish warship Absalon sent a helicopter to confirm the presence of pirates, and communicated with the crew to ensure they were in a safe location, said Cmdr. John Harbour, spokesman for the European Union Naval Force.

Then Danish special forces aboard the Absalon approached the Ariella in inflatable dinghies. The forces scaled the side of the ship and freed the 25 crew, who had locked themselves in a secure room, Harbour said. The forces continued to search the vessel for the pirates.

Harbour praised the NATO forces for their fast reaction and co-ordination with other forces in the area.

“There’s been many instances where there’s been excellent co-operation and three, four or even five nations have helped deter a pirate attack,” he said. But, he added: “This is the first where a warship has been able to send forces to stop a hijacking while it was in progress.”

Warships typically do not intervene in hijackings because of the danger that crews may be hit by crossfire. Forces were able to intervene in this case because the ship had registered with naval authorities, was travelling along a recommended transit corridor and was part of a group transit, ensuring the ships had a helicopter within 30 minutes’ reaction time, Harbour said.

Denmark rarely releases information on operations carried out by its elite forces, but the storming of the ship may have been carried out by the country’s elite Frogman Corps, which were part of a NATO deployment.

“There is an operation going on down there and we’re involved. It is still going on right now,” Pernielle Kroer, spokeswoman for the Danish Navy told The Associated Press.

The Antigua and Barbuda-flagged Ariella sent out a distress signal early Friday that was picked up by the Indian warship Tbar in the Gulf of Aden. The Indians relayed the signal to a French plane overhead, which spotted a group of armed pirates on the deck. Then the Danish troops were notified.

Other EU and American forces have intervened in pirate hostage situations, but not during the hijacking itself.

French commandos stormed a yacht last April with five hostages on board but one, skipper Florent Lemacon, was killed during the operation. American snipers also shot dead three pirates in April 2009 holding an American captain hostage on board a lifeboat after the crew of the Maersk Alabama had persuaded the pirates to leave the main ship.

Details on the nationalities of the crew on board the Arielle and its cargo were not immediately released.

Somali pirates have seized three ships this year and hold a total of nine vessels and more than 180 crew.

Piracy is one of the few ways to make money in Somalia, an arid, impoverished land torn apart by civil war. The government does not hold its own capital and can’t send forces to counter the flourishing pirate bases that dot its 3,100-kilometre-long coastline.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Danish Troops ‘Storm Ship Captured by Somali Pirates’

Danish special forces have stormed a ship captured by Somali pirates and freed 25 crew members, an EU naval spokesman said in Nairobi.

Cdr John Harbour told the Associated Press news agency it was the first time a warship had intervened after pirates boarded a vessel.

Troops in inflatable dinghies moved in after a distress signal from the Antigua and Barbuda-flagged Ariella.

It is not clear if the pirates left the ship before the troops arrived.

The special forces, who set out from a Danish warship in the area, scaled the side of the ship and freed the 25 crew members, who had locked themselves in a secure room, Cdr Harbour said.

Troops were continuing to search the vessel for the pirates, he added.

Perilous seas

When the distress signal was received, the Danish warship Absalon sent a helicopter to confirm the presence of pirates, and communicated with the crew to ensure they were in a safe location, the spokesman said.

Cdr Harbour praised Nato forces for their fast reaction and coordination with other forces in the area.

There had, he said, “been many instances where there’s been excellent cooperation and three, four or even five nations have helped deter a pirate attack”.

But, he added, “this is the first where a warship has been able to send forces to stop a hijacking while it was in progress”.

Warships typically do not intervene in hijackings because of the danger that crews may be hit by crossfire, the spokesman pointed out.

But forces were able to intervene in this case because the ship had registered with naval authorities, was travelling along a recommended transit corridor and was part of a group transit, ensuring the ships had a helicopter within 30 minutes’ reaction time.

The location of the incident on Friday morning was not being reported immediately.

The waters around Somalia are among the most dangerous in the world, despite patrols from EU and other foreign naval forces.

Somalia, riven by war, has had no functioning government since 1991, allowing pirates to operate along the lawless coast, almost with impunity.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

NATO Troops Free Ship Off Somalia After Pirate Attack

Danish special forces serving as part of Nato’s counter-piracy operation have freed the crew of a cargo ship boarded by pirates off Somalia.

They moved in after being assured by the captain that the crew had locked themselves in a safe room, a Nato spokeswoman told the BBC.

It seems the pirates escaped to their boat before the troops arrived but the 180m (590ft) vessel was being searched.

A second pirate boat in the area was seized by a Russian warship, Nato says.

Admiral Sir Trevor Soar, commander of the Nato Maritime HQ in London, commended the actions of the Danish warship Absalon, which carried out the rescue.

“Absalon’s action today demonstrates Nato’s resolve to deter and disrupt piracy off the Horn of Africa,” he said in a statement.

He also thanked the Russian and Indian navies for assisting in the operation.

Distress signal

A distress signal was received from the master of the Antigua and Barbuda-flagged Ariella on Friday morning, reporting that six heavily armed pirates had boarded the ship, Nato spokeswoman Lt Cdr Jacqui Sherriff told the BBC.

The attackers’ skiff and a second boat were seen in the area of the attack about 160km (100m) off the Somalia coast.

Informed that the crew had managed to lock themselves away, the Absalon first sent out a helicopter to investigate, then a team of specially trained forces in inflatable dinghies to board the ship and regain control.

The crew, said to be 25 strong, were released safely.

Cmdr Dan B Termansen, commander of the Absalon, said that the crew had reported seeing a pirate firing an automatic weapon aboard their ship.

“I don’t know if he jumped overboard when he saw the helicopter or later when he saw the special forces,” he added.

“We searched the ship for hours and didn’t find anybody.”

However, Cmdr Mikael Bill, head of the Danish Admiralty in western Denmark, said he did not believe there had been any pirates aboard the ship when the special forces arrived.

“It is our clear understanding that there were no hijackers on board but our helicopter had deterred an action,” he said.

A Russian warship, the Neustrashimy, successfully boarded and detained the pirates in the second skiff.

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

Somalia ‘To Close Embassies in Europe’

Somalia’s hard-pressed government will close three of its five embassies in Europe because of a funding crisis, the foreign minister has told the BBC.

Ali Ahmed Jama Jengeli said cabinet discussions on the issue were ongoing but an announcement would be made soon.

The cash-strapped interim government was seeing if “friendly nations” could help finance some of them, he said.

The UN-backed coalition government formed a year ago only controls a few parts of the country — in the capital.

Somalia has been wracked by civil war since 1991 and has has had no working central government since then.

Government forces are under daily attack from hardline Islamist insurgents, some of whom have links to al-Qaeda and who hold sway over much of southern and central Somalia.

Sources have told the BBC the embassies most likely to be closed are the ones in Paris, Berlin and Somalia’s mission to the UN in Geneva.

Correspondents say the closures may further isolate the government, which is reliant on the international community for its survival.

Many of Somalia’s embassies in the West closed years ago, including those in Washington and London.

“For the embassy in London we were paying £11,000 a month for the rent alone,” said Mr Jengeli, whose father was Somali ambassador to London in the 1960s.

“Therefore it’s inconceivable to have these embassies open if you don’t have adequate funding.”

The foreign minister told the BBC Somali service that only essential staff would be retained in the embassies that were to remain open — thought to be those in Rome and Brussels.

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

World Cup Feared Target of Al-Qaida

Intelligence: Al-Shabaab branch ‘credible threat’ to fans

Intelligence reports are revealing that scores of al-Qaida-linked terrorists have been tracked from Somalia down through Africa into Zimbabwe, where its ostracized President Robert Mugabe reportedly has allowed them to hide while they prepare to launch attacks on international fans who will be attending the most prestigious soccer tournament — the FIFA World Cup, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Finland: Group Denounces “Statistical Trickery” In Calculating Development Funding

The Service Centre for Development Cooperation (KEPA) has criticised Finland for spending development aid on refugees living in Finland. According to KEPA, funding should increasingly go to poor countries; expenses incurred from receiving refugees should not be included in development funding.

According to KEPA, Finland is becoming the biggest receiving country of its own development aid.

The group says that Finland is even planning to write off costs incurred from expelling rejected asylum seekers as spending on development assistance.

Finland has estimated that the costs of receiving refugees constitute a record 39 million euros of its development cooperation funding. The sum is boosted by the inclusion of the costs of turning away rejected asylum seekers.

“Receiving refugees is an important obligation pertaining to Finland, but it does not reduce poverty in developing countries. Aid assets should at least leave Finland so that they could be used to improve living conditions in poor countries,” says KEPA’s development policy secretary Niina Pitkänen.

In 2008 Tanzania was the largest recipient of Finnish aid, getting 27 million euros. Mozambique and Vietnam got 26 million and 19 million euros respectively.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Italy: Maroni-Sacconi Accord for Point Based Permit

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 4 — The go-ahead has been given to the point based stay permit. A decree will soon go to the Council of Ministers on the basis of which new requests for stay permits will have to come with the signing of an agreement to integrate through a series of duties that must be fulfilled, including knowledge of the Italian language, enrolment in the national health system and knowledge of the constitution. This is what has been provided for in an agreement reached today between the Minister of the Interior and that of Welfare, respectively Roberto Maroni and Maurizio Sacconi. The two ministers spoke of the integration accord during the presentation of a new magazine from the Interior Ministry ‘Civil Liberties’. “Today”, Maroni explained, “we discussed the measures which provide for the stipulation of the integration agreement at the time of the emission of the stay permit. It is the law on security”, he reminded, “that speaks of specific objectives to reach (like the knowledge of the Italian language) over the course of two years with an evaluation on the part of the immigration windows. If the objectives are reached, then the stay permit will be handed over, otherwise the applicant will be expelled”. It is a system, the minister added, “to guarantee integration: I will suggest to you the things to do to integrate into the community. If you do them, I will give you the stay permit, if not that means that you do not want to integrate. We will apply them only to new stay permits”. For potential language courses among other things, Maroni assured, “we will not ask the immigrants for money, we will take care of everything, also to guarantee that the standards are uniform in all of the provinces and that everything is under control”. The agreement between the two ministries, he concluded, “will soon be transformed into a decree”. Sacconi, for his part, stated that the agreement “stresses the rights and the duties of the immigrant: in addition to the knowledge of the language, there will be enrolment in the national health service, 12 years of education and transparency in housing contracts”. In 2 years, according to the agreement reached, the immigrant must reach 30 points which will be assigned through “exams” in language, civic development, etc. If you commit crimes, points are taken away. If after 2 years the immigrant does not reach the 30 points, they will have another year to arrive at the required amount; after, if they are still under 30, they will be expelled. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Two Africans Killed on Egypt-Israel Border

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 4 — Two Africans were killed and another two injured by gunfire from Egyptian security services, while they were attempting to enter Israel from Egypt. So said some sources to the border authorities. One of the two men killed was a 21-year-old Eritrean. The agents also arrested five other Africans (from Ethiopia and Eritrea), who were about to cross the border. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UK: Pair Jailed for Smuggling Immigrants Into Portsmouth

A French local councillor and her son have been jailed for helping to smuggle 16 Vietnamese immigrants into the UK.

Christiane Chocat, 51, of Lumigny-Nesles-Ormeaux, France, admitted hiding the group in a vehicle which arrived at Portsmouth on a ferry in October 2009.

Her son Benjamin, 20, of Choisy-Le-Roi, France, pleaded guilty to the same offence last month.

They were sentenced at Portsmouth Crown Court to three years and five years respectively.

Shrimp noodles

Ms Chocat is a local authority councillor in her home town.

The prosecution claimed the Vietnamese immigrants were brought into the UK in a hired van on the Normandy Express ferry from Cherbourg.

The 13 men and three women were found hidden behind boxes of shrimp noodles.

The conditions inside the van were described as “horrendous” by the UK Border Agency.

They found three holes drilled in the side of the van for the group to breathe while they had only been left sugar for them to eat.

All were detained by Hampshire Constabulary and the UK Border Agency and returned to France the same evening.

Tony Smith, from the UK Border Agency, welcomed the sentences.

He added: “UK Border Agency officers and police have worked hard to secure convictions against the pair who had no regard for British immigration laws or those they attempted to smuggle”.

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

Culture Wars

Uganda Confronts “Loud-Mouthed Homosexual Lobby”

A leading pro-family activist in Uganda says that Christians in that East African country need help resisting the schemes of the international homosexual lobby. Charles Tuhaise tells AIM that he is also disturbed by the general silence of conservatives in the U.S. to stand up for Uganda and its emerging Christian culture.

The issue is consideration of a piece of legislation to discourage homosexual practices in Uganda.

“Many Ugandans are shocked at the reaction to this bill and the extent to which homosexual activists can intimidate everyone to silence,” Tuhaise said. “This is a bill written to control a problem that has largely gotten out of hand in western society and is now spreading tentacles worldwide. Perhaps Uganda has helped to highlight the danger that the homosexual movement poses to the world.”

Tuhaise is chairman of the board of Agape Community Transformation (ACT), a Christian organization dedicated to improving the spiritual, physical, economic and societal conditions of their communities. He is familiar with the bill because he works at the Parliamentary Research Service at the Parliament of Uganda, where the bill is being considered for passage. It was introduced by legislator David Bahati.

“I am a Ugandan and I’m writing to thank you for your bravery,” Tuhaise said in his message to AIM. “The articles you’ve written in support of the right of Ugandans to exercise self-determination on the issue of homosexuality have thrown fresh light on the American scene [and show] that not every American is scared of the loud-mouthed homosexual lobby.”

He added, “Please continue to help Uganda by educating Americans about the bill and countering the lies. The American people should wake up and reclaim America from a dangerous subculture that is destroying their children and youth under the guise of liberty and human rights.”

AIM received his message at about the same time that Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were announcing their support for putting active and open homosexuals into the Armed Forces of the United States.

The AIM Report, Homosexual Media Target Christians, is our latest article in a series that examines how homosexual activists in the U.S. media such as Rachel Maddow of MSNBC and Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post have given impetus to what has now become a global campaign to isolate Uganda and even cut off aid to the poor country because of its stand against homosexuality.

Uganda not only suffered under the murderous dictator Idi Amin, but revolted against a homosexual pedophile King Mwanga in the 1800s, a period in the country’s history that is not well-known. The result was the establishment of National Martyr’s Day on June 3 in honor of the Christians tortured and killed by Mwanga.

Showing disdain for Uganda’s sovereign right to chart its own course in domestic and foreign affairs, the “gay rights” lobby has mounted an aggressive strategy to undermine the government of Uganda and threaten the cut-off of foreign aid if the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda is passed. All of this may have something to do with the fact, as AIM has disclosed, that billionaire George Soros, a major financial backer of the Democratic Party and the “gay rights” movement, has been funding efforts to promote homosexuality and legalized prostitution in Uganda and throughout Africa. The Open Society Institute of Soros calls these activities “the rights of sexual minorities” and “sex work.”

The current focus of “progressives,” led in the Congress by Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, is to force the Obama Administration to do more to stop passage of the legislation. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already been enlisted to make a telephone call to Uganda President Yoweri Museveni about the legislation. But he said that he told her that it was a response to the reported activities of foreign homosexuals targeting children in Uganda. Officially, the U.S. Government is supposed to oppose human trafficking for purposes of child abuse and sexual exploitation.

The latest phase of this campaign is an effort by the homosexual lobby to have President Obama openly denounce the bill at the February 5 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.

[Return to headlines]


Cracks in the Islamist Curtain

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Nonie Darwish, the co-founder of and the author of Cruel and Usual Punishment.

FP: Nonie Darwish, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

I would like to talk to you today a bit about the Muslim voices for change that are increasing through the Islamic world. There is an unprecedented defiance taking place behind the Islamic Curtain.

Can you tell us what is transpiring?

Darwish: As you know, Jamie, I lived for 30 years in the cocoon of the Muslim world and I can see a huge change going on inside the Muslim world. More and more people are challenging the status quo.

After 9/11 and with constant recurring explosive Islamic terrorism, it has become harder for the Muslim establishment to keep the lid on Muslims questioning their system, religion and holy wars. Criticism of Islam is coming at them from every direction, putting Muslim clerics in a quagmire unable to honestly answer questions. Muslim scholars were never trained to answer questions critical of Islam or engage in hostile debate. But now, suddenly, they are challenged to the core like never before, not by Western critics, but by brave hosts of Arabic language shows from unidentified locations in the West and hosted by former Muslims and/or Egyptian Christian Copts.

Father Zakareya Botros rocks the Arab world with his show “Howard Al Hak” or “Honest Debate” when callers from various parts of the Muslim world call in renouncing Islam. Former Muslim turned Christian, Rachid Hmami, originally from Morocco, has a popular show “Fil Samim”, or “from the core”. Hmami, who is the son of a Muslim cleric, is eloquent, respectful with a calm and peaceful demeanor — a characteristic in sharp contrast to the angry loud and cursing image of many Muslim clerics.

The Muslim leadership is suddenly under a lot of pressure to answer taboo questions rarely ever asked before; taboo topics such as questioning the validity of the Qur’an, the life and marriage of Mohammad, his violent wars and assassinations, the fact that there is no minimum age for marriage of women in Islam and about ridiculous Fatwas regarding breast feeding of adult males by Muslim women and Muhammad’s urine as a cure. Muslim callers to these Arabic shows have proved beyond doubt how many Muslims have no clue as to what is written in their scriptures and religious laws.

Many Muslims are demanding answers from their religious leaders and for them to vigorously defend such criticism of Islam. However, not one Muslim cleric has answered the questions on people’s minds. Their response is more yelling, threatening, hate speech, paranoid accusations and propaganda of misinformation. This led Hmami and Father Zakaria, for instance, to personally challenge Muslim leaders to a debate. A well-known Muslim cleric was exposed to have lied when he accepted the challenge to debate on TV, but privately, on recorded phone call with Hmami, the Muslim cleric was evasive, lied and declined the invitation to the debate, giving ridiculous excuses.

FP: Where do we stand with the apostate issue?…

           — Hat tip: AA [Return to headlines]

New Mistake Found in UN Climate Report

The Dutch environment minister, Jaqueline Cramer, on Wednesday demanded a thorough investigation into the 2007 report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change after a Dutch magazine uncovered it incorrectly states 55 percent of the country lies below sea level. The the Dutch national bureau for environmental analysis has taken responsibility for the incorrect figure cited by the IPCC. Only 26 percent of the Netherlands is really below sea level.

The error surfaced at a time when the IPCC is already under fire for another false claim that revealed earlier this week. The 2007 report states glaciers in the Himalayas will disappear by 2035, while the underlying research claims the mountain ice would last until 2350, British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph discovered.

When Cramer heard of that blunder she wrote a letter to the IPCC, saying she was “not amused” there were mistakes in the scientific report she bases the Dutch environmental policies on. Now she is confronted with errors in the data about her own country. “This can’t happen again,” the minister told reporters in The Hague on Wednesday. “The public trust in science and politics has been badly damaged.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

9 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/5/2010

  1. Abdulmutallab is said to be singing to the Feds, and says that Awlaki told him to bomb the airliner.

    We can only hope that he of the burning boxers is singing in soprano about now.

    Remember: Anwar al-Awlaki was also the mentor of Major Nidal Hasan, the Killer Shrink of Fort Hood. Yet our government believes that both terrorist events were “isolated incidents”.

    All the more reason to make sure that this ship of fools … er, current administration is an “isolated incident”.

  2. Baron, he’s not the Lap Bomber––he’s the Panty Bomber 🙂

    (I didn’t make that up myself––it’s courtesy of the always amusing Mark Steyn.)

  3. “Of the seven possible assassins of the Hamas member killed in Dubai, the four identified so far- including a woman — have Irish passports, reports Khaleej Times.

    Dubai police and Interpol are already coordinating efforts to extradite the suspects from Ireland, noted an unspecified police source to the daily.”

    It (extradition from Ireland) will NEVER happen.

    1) The Irish Love the Palestinians, Hamas and Hezbollah.

    2) The Irish loath Israel

    The Irish authorities have a dire record of cooperating with foreign extradition orders. Just ask the American counciliate in Dublin.

  4. bogsidebunny,

    What you’re saying doesn’t make any sense. Because the Irish authorities supposedly love Hamas, they won’t be willing to extradite four Irish citizens accused of assassinating a member of Hamas. Your logic does not follow our Earth logic.

  5. Regarding the Bikers in Berlin, remember that it was the nearby Danish Hells Angels that published The Jackal Manifesto, as they watch Danish cities become islamified and decay more year on year, and begin to be predated upon by muslims.

    The Bandidos in far away Australia have apparently undergone a recent change: recruitment of Lebanese muslims has resulted in those Lebanese take over the central Chapter at gunpoint. Chapters of genuinely Australian members far and wide have reportedly burnt their club colours, voted to close their Chapter and just walked away from the club. The new culturally enriching Bandidos members showed their lack of scruples by recently bashing a rival to death with a bollard in an international airport, of all places.

    The change has taken that one club from being a social group of bikers. Some or even many of whom make money by making drugs or running prostitution rings, but all bound together in motorcycle culture. The Bandidos now, apparently, are a purely criminal enterprise. They have no biker culture beyond the bikes stolen at gunpoint from the previous generation.

    And the media reports in Oz that the other clubs are recruiting. Surprise, surprise. There are a lot of disgruntled harley riders out there.

    All similar groups, when they start to recruit muslims, they fall apart. A disturbing but fitting analogy of today’s multi-cult society that the global left has foisted on us, isn’t it.

  6. Siegetower: The new culturally enriching Bandidos members showed their lack of scruples by recently bashing a rival to death with a bollard in an international airport, of all places.

    This is perfectly in keeping with the usual Master Race™ attitude. The presumption of immunity from local justice is a hallmark of Muslim behavior. Couple this with a complete disregard for all but the laws of Allah and you get something that goes well beyond your typical gang mentality.

    Any notion of keeping a low profile is basically wasted upon your typical Muslim thugs as they are consummate attention whores who thrive upon the media publicity that is so cravenly lavished upon them.

    The Bandidos now, apparently, are a purely criminal enterprise. They have no biker culture beyond the bikes stolen at gunpoint from the previous generation.

    No surprise there either. Mohammad and his original mob were a bunch of violent marauders and whatever is good enough for uswa hasana, al-Insān al-Kāmil (The Perfect Man™), will just have to do for his latter day groupies.

    However, if these newly minted Bandidos have indeed stolen their rides from previous club members, it might behoove the local constabulary to make a regular habit of inspecting their registration paperwork. Or would that be [gasp!] the much dreaded act of profiling?

    All similar groups, when they start to recruit muslims, they fall apart. A disturbing but fitting analogy of today’s multi-cult society that the global left has foisted on us, isn’t it.

    When this jihad rubbish finally is nothing more than a bad memory, Muslims and the Left’s adoration of all things Islamic will end up being regarded as the closest thing to modern day Devil worshippers that anyone has ever seen. As the Baron is so fond of noting about Islam:

    If it is not evil, then the word “evil” has no meaning.

    I could not agree more.

  7. Zenster: “it might behoove the local constabulary to make a regular habit of inspecting their registration paperwork. Or would that be (gasp!) the much dreaded act of profiling?”

    Local police police take vs bikers can go unnoticed so profiling can happen if it needs to. Since the new Bandidos have no biker culture, they don’t really ride their bikes. They probably don’t know what to do with them besides try to look tough.

    Importantly, without the biker culture they also don’t often wear club colours, so the police have a harder time spotting them in traffic.

    And the other clubs are, according to people I’ve spoken to, wearing their own colours less and less due to concerns about unprovoked attacks from the Lebs. So the job of policing the range of bikers, apart from the geriatric and stoner biker clubs, is a lot harder overall.

    And yes Zenster, sometimes the Lebs do have immunity here. All too often.

Comments are closed.