The big story of the day comes from Canada. It concerns a prominent Muslim named Khaled Mouammar, the president of the Canadian Arab Federation, who supports Hamas and Hezbollah and believes they should be removed from the list of terrorist organizations.
It turns out that Mr. Mouammar also sat for years on the Immigration and Refugee Board, and was responsible for clearing Muslim refugee-claimants for admittance into the country.
So tell me, Canadians: how secure do you feel now?
Thanks to Aeneas, C. Cantoni, CBN, Fjordman, Gaia, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, Islam in Action, JD, MZ, PKM, REP, Steen, Tuan Jim, TV, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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||Congressman: Audit the Fed’s Books
||Ex-Leaders of Countrywide Profit From Bad Loans
||It’s the Europhiles Versus Reality, and Reality is Going to Win
||MI5 Alert on Bank Riots
||Playing Ball With Government
||Russian Scholar Says US Will Collapse — Next Year
||Senator to Bernanke: Who Got the 2.2 Trillion?
||Spain: Crisis Hits Bullfights, Fiestas at Risk
||The Impact of the Global Crisis on Gulf Countries
||Barack Obama: Speaking Softly, But Without the Big Stick
||Campaign Aide Tapped to Head FCC
||Justice for Victims of the Weather Underground
||Newsweek: Radical Islam is a Fact of Life — We Must Live With it
||Obama’s Swift Change on Security, Israel
||Obama Welcomes His Militant Muslim Brother Abongo to White House
||Radio Talk Host Scinto Says Station Fired Him
||Stupid is as Stupid Does
||The Supreme Court’s 1-2 Punch
||U.S. Soldier Gagged on Prez’s Eligibility
||US State Senator Becomes the Chairman of CAIR
||Whites Told to Go Home
||You and I Can’t Buy the Guns Mexican Cartels Own
||Canada: Beheader ‘Decent, ‘ His Doctor Testifies
||Canada: Jonathan Kay on the Lesson From Israel Apartheid Week: Anti-Semitism is Now a Creature of the Left
||Canada: the CAF Has a Friend in the Liberal Party
||Canada: Teaching Hate at Toronto’s Alternative School Puppy Mill
||Sympathizer of Terror Groups Was Immigration Board Member
Europe and the EU
||Belgium: Dewinter, ‘Islam is a Predator’
||Berlin: Concern About Increase in Anti-Police Violence
||Czech Rep: Czech President Meets Meps From Eurosceptical Group
||Denmark: ‘Jewel’ Author to Debate Freedom of Speech
||Europeans Criticize Racism Conference, But No Word Yet on Attendance
||Gibraltar: Princess Anne Visit, Spanish Gov Protests
||Italy and France in Nuclear Deal
||Italy: Anti-Stress Fencing Classes Slammed
||Mediterranean Games: Committee, Israel Excluded 4 Years Ago
||Netherlands: Dutch Unemployed Told to Find a Job — Any Job
||Netherlands: MP Rita Verdonk Accused of Embezzlement
||Nuclear: Press, Enel to Take 12.5% Share in Second French Epr
||Stakelbeck Sits Down With Geert Wilders
||Sweden’s Government Health Care
||Sweden: School Violence Sends Teacher to Hospital
||UK: Abuse of Science
||UK: MPs’ Fury as U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy Gets Honorary Knighthood for Northern Ireland Role
||UK: Protests at Israeli Science Event
||Serbia: Police Issue Arrest Warrants for 19 Bosnian War Crimes Suspects
||Italy-Tunisia: Forum on Free Trade and Barriers
||Libya: Gheddafi Plan in Congress, Rome Accord to be Ratified
||Morocco: New Cities, First Arrivals to Tamesna in March
||Western Sahara: 1st Visit From New UN Emissary
Israel and the Palestinians
||Amnesty Accuses Israel and Hamas of “War Crimes”
||Boycotting Israel Won’t Solve Crisis
||Gaza: Hamas Criticises Donor’s Conference
||Gaza: Press, Letter From Shalit, Family Unaware
||Gaza; Another Border Incident; Schools Closed in Ashqelon
||Hamas and Fatah Release Prisoners, Hope to Rebuild Gaza
||Israel: $10 Mln Donation to Catholic Schools for Pope Visit
||Israel: Palestinians Pay Off Terrorists After Summit Donations Bonanza
||Defence: Turkey-Israel Joint Projects Well Armored
||Education: Syria, Sunday Sees EU Orientation Day on Tempus
||Finmeccanica: UAE Orders 48 Aermacchi Trainer Planes
||Israeli Army Chief Apologizes to Turkish Counterpart
||Israel: Press, Yes to Limited USA-Iran Dialogue
||Kuwait: Security Stepped Up at Saudi Embassy Amid Attack Fears
||Lingerie as a Weapon in the Fight for Saudi Reforms
||Middle East: Syria’s Clenched Fist
||Rains Falls on Drought-Stricken Syria
||Saudi Arabia: Differences With Syria Matter of Past, Minister
||Suleiman Says Syrian-Saudi Relations Good Sign
||Syria-USA: Assad, Send Ambassador Soon
||USA-Syria: Press, Feltman and Shapiro to be Envoys
||Yemen: New Terror Camps as a City Falls to Jihadists
||Barack Obama Offers to Scrap US Missile Defence System in Secret Letter to Russia
||Bangladesh: Sewing School Provides Tribal Families With Livelihood
||Bangladeshi Army Pursuing Fugitive Paramilitaries
||Orissa: Christian Beaten and Abducted by Hindu Extremists, But is a Wanted Man for Police
||Questions Norwegian Operations in Afghanistan
||Anyone Protesting Against China in Kathmandu to be Arrested
||S. Korea: Two Examples of Labor Peace
||Sudan: Bashir Will ‘Not Cooperate’ With Court, Says Diplomat
||Guatemalan Inmates Tear Prison Teacher’s Heart Out
||Italy: 171 Illegal Immigrants Land on Lampedusa
||King Critical of Spending for “Pro-Amnesty Organization”
||UK: Immigration Minister Attacks Statistics Chiefs for Publishing ‘Sinister’ Race Numbers
||Bible Club Bullied for Faith Statement
||Elementary Blots Out ‘in God We Trust’
||Obama Wanted ‘Diversity of Voices’
||Book Review: United in Hate: the Left’s Romance With Tyranny and Terror
||Israel-Vatican: ‘Progress’ on Church Property
||Leftist Jews Who Worship at Altar of Anti-Semitism
Congressman: Audit the Fed’s Books
Plan calls for complete review of private money policy bosses
U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, who is seeking to abolish the Federal Reserve, has stepped up his attack, introducing an interim plan that would require the private agency to open all of its books for examination.
Paul has pursued his plan to eliminate the Fed for years, arguing Congress should “reassert its constitutional authority over monetary policy.”
The Constitution, he said, gives Congress, not the private Federal Reserve, “the authority to coin money and regulate the value of the currency.”
Now he’s introduced another new plan, to “reform the manner in which the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System is audited by the Comptroller General of the United States and the manner in which such audits are reported.”
Ex-Leaders of Countrywide Profit From Bad Loans
By Eric Lipton
…Countrywide Financial and its top executives…made risky loans to tens of thousands of Americans, helping set off a chain of events that has the economy staggering.
So it may come as a surprise that a dozen former top Countrywide executives now stand to make millions from the home mortgage mess.
Stanford L. Kurland, Countrywide’s former president, and his team have been buying up delinquent home mortgages that the government took over from other failed banks, sometimes for pennies on the dollar. They get a piece of what they can collect.
As hundreds of billions of dollars flow from Washington to jump-start the nation’s staggering banks, automakers and other industries, a new economy is emerging of businesses that hope to make money from the various government programs that make up the largest economic rescue in history.
They include big investors who are buying up failed banks taken over by the federal government and lobbyists. And there is PennyMac, led by Mr. Kurland, 56, once the soft-spoken No. 2 to Angelo R. Mozilo, the perpetually tanned former chief executive of Countrywide and its public face.
Mr. Kurland has raised hundreds of millions of dollars from big players like BlackRock, the investment manager, to finance his start-up. Having sold off close to $200 million in stock before leaving Countrywide, he has also put up some of his own cash.
While some critics are distressed that Mr. Kurland and his team are back in business, the executives say that PennyMac’s operations serve as a model for how the government, working with banks, can help stabilize the housing market and lead the nation out of the recession.
It is quite evident that their efforts are, in fact, helping many distressed homeowners.
“Literally, their assistance saved my family’s home,” said Robert Robinson, of Felton, Pa., whose interest rate was cut by more than half, making his mortgage affordable again.
But to some, it is disturbing to see former Countrywide executives in the industry again. “It is sort of like the arsonist who sets fire to the house and then buys up the charred remains and resells it,” said Margot Saunders, a lawyer with the National Consumer Law Center, which for years has sought to place limits on what it calls abusive lending practices by Countrywide and other companies.
“Kurland is seeking to capitalize on a situation that was a product of his own creation,” said Blair A. Nicholas, a lawyer representing retired Arkansas teachers who are also suing Mr. Kurland and other former Countrywide executives. “It is tragic and ironic. But then again, greed is a growth industry.”
PennyMac, whose full legal name is the Private National Mortgage Acceptance Company,…makes its money by buying loans from struggling or failed financial institutions at such a huge discount that it stands to profit enormously even if it offers to slash interest rates or make other loan modifications to entice borrowers into resuming payments.
Its biggest deal has been with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which it paid $43.2 million for $560 million worth of mostly delinquent residential loans left over after the failure last year of the First National Bank of Nevada. Many of these loans resemble the kind that Countrywide once offered, with interest rates that can suddenly balloon. PennyMac’s payment was the equivalent of 38 cents on the dollar, according to the full terms of the agreement.
Under the initial terms of the F.D.I.C. deal, PennyMac is entitled to keep 20 cents on every dollar it can collect, with the government receiving the rest. Eventually that will rise to 40 cents…
[click the URL to see the rest of this chicanery]
It’s the Europhiles Versus Reality, and Reality is Going to Win
During the current crisis we have several times heard invoked the wisdom of Milton Friedman about the unfeasibility of the euro as a currency surviving a recession. In an interview not long before his death three years ago, Friedman said: “The euro is going to be a big source of problems, not a source of help. The euro has no precedent. To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a monetary union, putting out a fiat currency, composed of independent states. There have been unions based on gold or silver, but not on fiat money — money tempted to inflate — put out by politically independent entities.”
It is what lies below the surface of this observation that is putting not just the euro, but the entire confection of the European Union, under such intense pressure. Any recession would bring into play tensions between idealism and nationalism: the desire by those who pilot the European project to maintain the confection for as long as possible and as intact as possible, that it might come out on the other side of this economic horror bloodied but unbowed; and the inevitable identification of hundreds of millions who stand outside the fantasy world of the political class with their own nation state, their own nationals and their own national interest. Without a degree of coercion beyond what even this undemocratic, Sovietised swindle has attempted in the recent past, the national interest will in the end prevail.
There have been auguries of this for some months, while we have waited for the breakdown of the condition of denial in which Europe’s political class finds itself. We recall last September’s banking summit, at which the Germans decided to go freelance to shore up their own banking system, not least because it appeared that theirs was in far better shape than that of almost any other European country. Then about a month ago one of the most pro-European newspapers in the EU, Le Figaro, carried an article by one of its economics experts that for the first time took the paper’s readership into its confidence about the gravity of the situation: it admitted that a country could drop out of the euro.
Last week Jean-Claude Trichet, head of the European Central Bank (ECB), said much the same; and Joschka Fischer, the former German foreign minister, followed that with a hint of Germany’s unwillingness to continue to bankroll the more economically delinquent nations of the 27 and implying, for good measure, that Franco-German relations had probably not been so bad as this since Monty and Eisenhower chased the Wehrmacht over the Rhine in 1944.
The truth is that Europe has never had so dire a crisis since the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957. Sauve qui peut is the watchword. President Sarkozy has entered a familiarly Gaullist phase, ignoring EU competition policy and pushing through a €6 billion support for the French car industry; other manufacturers, notably in eastern Europe, have protested to no avail.
Mr Sarkozy’s assertion that he is not a protectionist is purely rhetorical. When a German minister says that “now is not the time” to let workers from the EU’s former eastern bloc countries have full immigration rights in Germany, he is saying the same thing. Gordon Brown may not be able to ensure British jobs for British workers, but the Germans are determined to keep their jobs for German ones.
This bending of the rules — or rather this wholesale disregard of them — is the surest sign of a currency, and quite possibly an empire, in terminal decline. Mr Trichet went to Dublin last Friday to try to calm the Irish, whose own crisis brought 100,000 protesters on to the city’s streets 10 days ago. He said the usual stuff about Ireland’s being able to come out “well placed” to take economic opportunities after the slump. He was less able to square the political point about how Brian Cowen, the Irish prime minister, will win an election if he swallows the medicine the ECB is forcing down his throat: spending cuts, public sector wage cuts and eye-watering tax rises to bring Ireland’s deficit down to the levels demanded of a member of the eurozone.
But the dishonesty with which all this is being addressed is breathtaking. Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s economy commissioner, has initiated “disciplinary action” against France, Spain, Malta, Greece, Latvia and Ireland for breaking the fiscal rules by running excessive deficits. The offenders could be fined. It would be pointless. Both Greece and Portugal have been fined in recent years and have never paid a penny.
There have already been riots in Greece. The government in Latvia has been thrown out, and the Latvian people are now aware that whatever replaces it will have no scope to pursue anything other than an even more unpleasant economic policy. The danger of civil disorder is already spooking Mr Sarkozy, whose intelligence services have told him that it is not just the banlieues that are at risk of going up in smoke. Imposition of the strict rules on these six countries could lead to revolutions in some of them, Ireland not excluded. How would any fines be paid? With a loan from the Germans? Forget it.
Tomorrow the ECB is meeting to discuss the interest rate, and it is predicted that it will be cut from two to 1.5 per cent. That would make little odds in countries that, like Latvia, have literally run out of money. The IMF is trying to build up a special new fund to bail out countries in distress. It may soon become apparent that this attempt at a currency for disparate nations is about to disappear under the weight of reality — nationalist reality — and the big boys are going to have to come in and sort some nations out. For some countries there will be only three means of staying in the euro. One is to impose the discipline, and risk rioting and the fall of governments. The second is to persuade the ECB to bend the rules to such an extent that the illusion of the euro’s strength (it is still, as I write, at an incomprehensible 90p against sterling) is forcibly broken and the speculators have their own field day with it, at last. The third is to get the lender of last resort — the Germans — to bail out countries in trouble.
The Germans have, quite commendably, refused already to do that. When Ferenc Gyurcsany, the Hungarian prime minister, asked them for a €190 billion handout last weekend to prevent a new economic Iron Curtain from going up across the continent, Angela Merkel told him to get lost. She has the German people and, more to the point, German business behind her: why should they pay for the unregenerate behaviour of others? Why should they worry about the collapse of the zloty and the forint? Why should it bother them that Latvia’s debt now has junk rating, or that the Irish are almost broke? If Mrs Merkel wants to stay in power, and German workers wish to keep the fruits of their own labours, they must harden their hearts.
As for the rest of Europe, it must choose either to devalue and end the pretence of economic strength, or persist and risk the breakdown of individual governments. Either way, it is never glad confident morning again for the EU and its bastard currency. Milton was right.
MI5 Alert on Bank Riots
TOP secret contingency plans have been drawn up to counter the threat posed by a “summer of discontent” in Britain. The “double-whammy” of the worst economic crisis in living memory and a motley crew of political extremists determined to stir up civil disorder has led to the extraordinary step of the Army being put on standby.
Playing Ball With Government
This is the story of a bank. It wasn’t one of those irresponsible banks that rode the subprime boom until the bottom fell out. It was a bank that hedged its risks, a bank that made sure its balance sheets added up.
That bank was called Bank of America. And certain government officials are now talking about nationalizing it.
What happened? Bank of America got in bed with the government.
Russian Scholar Says US Will Collapse — Next Year
MOSCOW (AP) — If you’re inclined to believe Igor Panarin, and the Kremlin wouldn’t mind if you did, then President Barack Obama will order martial law this year, the U.S. will split into six rump-states before 2011, and Russia and China will become the backbones of a new world order.
Panarin might be easy to ignore but for the fact that he is a dean at the Foreign Ministry’s school for future diplomats and a regular on Russia’s state-guided TV channels. And his predictions fit into the anti-American story line of the Kremlin leadership.
“There is a high probability that the collapse of the United States will occur by 2010,” Panarin told dozens of students, professors and diplomats Tuesday at the Diplomatic Academy — a lecture the ministry pointedly invited The Associated Press and other foreign media to attend.
The prediction from Panarin, a former spokesman for Russia’s Federal Space Agency and reportedly an ex-KGB analyst, meshes with the negative view of the U.S. that has been flowing from the Kremlin in recent years, in particular from Vladimir Putin.
Putin, the former president who is now prime minister, has likened the United States to Nazi Germany’s Third Reich and blames Washington for the global financial crisis that has pounded the Russian economy.
Panarin didn’t give many specifics on what underlies his analysis, mostly citing newspapers, magazines and other open sources.
He also noted he had been predicting the demise of the world’s wealthiest country for more than a decade now.
But he said the recent economic turmoil in the U.S. and other “social and cultural phenomena” led him to nail down a specific timeframe for “The End” — when the United States will break up into six autonomous regions and Alaska will revert to Russian control.
Panarin argued that Americans are in moral decline, saying their great psychological stress is evident from school shootings, the size of the prison population and the number of gay men.
Turning to economic woes, he cited the slide in major stock indexes, the decline in U.S. gross domestic product and Washington’s bailout of banking giant Citigroup as evidence that American dominance of global markets has collapsed.
“I was there recently and things are far from good,” he said. “What’s happened is the collapse of the American dream.”
Panarin insisted he didn’t wish for a U.S. collapse, but he predicted Russia and China would emerge from the economic turmoil stronger and said the two nations should work together, even to create a new currency to replace the U.S. dollar.
Asked for comment on how the Foreign Ministry views Panarin’s theories, a spokesman said all questions had to be submitted in writing and no answers were likely before Wednesday.
It wasn’t clear how persuasive the 20-minute lecture was. One instructor asked Panarin whether his predictions more accurately describe Russia, which is undergoing its worst economic crisis in a decade as well as a demographic collapse that has led some scholars to predict the country’s demise.
Panarin dismissed that idea: “The collapse of Russia will not occur.”
But Alexei Malashenko, a scholar-in-residence at the Carnegie Moscow Center who did not attend the lecture, sided with the skeptical instructor, saying Russia is the country that is on the verge of disintegration.
“I can’t imagine at all how the United States could ever fall apart,” Malashenko told the AP.
Senator to Bernanke: Who Got the 2.2 Trillion?
‘They took the money but they don’t want to be public … that they received it’
A U.S. senator berated Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Tuesday for refusing to name banks that borrow from the central bank and introduced legislation that would require public disclosure.
In a testy exchange at a hearing before the Senate Budget Committee, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who usually votes with the Democrats, said he found it “unacceptable” that the central bank risked taxpayer money without detailing where the funds went.
“My question to you is, will you tell the American people to whom you lent $2.2 trillion of their dollars?” Sanders asked, referring to the size of the Fed’s balance sheet.
Bernanke responded that the Fed explains the various lending programs on its website, and details the terms and collateral requirements.
When Sanders pressed on whether Bernanke would name the firms that borrowed from the Fed, the central bank chairman replied, “No,” and started to say that doing so risked stigmatizing banks and discouraging them from borrowing from the central bank.
Spain: Crisis Hits Bullfights, Fiestas at Risk
(by Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 2 — The economic crisis has not spared bullfights, which risk being heavily reduced and cancelled in some places over mass defection by audiences, on the eve of the Spanish bullfighting season. Organisers and bullfighters’ representatives are trying to take measures by reducing the number of fights and concentrating on top-quality programmes. But it seems highly unlikely that they will be able to cushion the effects of the recession and close the season with a positive balance-sheet. Where the anti-bullfighting protests couldn’t manage it, the current lean times succeeded in reducing the number of fights by almost 300 in 2008, according to sources in the industry. It could be even worse in 2009. Top quality matadors like Morante, El Cid and Miguel Angel Perera are missing from the billboards at the Valencia ‘festas’’; the historic square in Seville will not host the legendary José Tomas, Cayetano or Perera; and El Juli, Ponce and Castella will be missing from the plaza de La Magdalena in Castellon. All this because the organisers can no longer guarantee the fees demanded. The withdrawal of the sponsors is a crucial element of the problem, say experts, as well as financial supprt by local administrations. The 200 bullfighters in Spain were ‘absorbed’’ into around 1,000 organised fights until a year ago. This year however a large slice will be left out. The hardest hit are the ‘novilleros’’, aspirinig matadors who must face at least 25 young bulls or calves to become bullfighters. Pablo Chopera, member of the National association of Bullfight Organisers is not hiding his concerns: ‘at this time of recession people are extremely worried about the economy, and shows such as bullfights, which are expensive, will definitely be very hard hit’’. Chopera believes that the crisis will not only hit the second category arenas, but also the historic arenas. ‘In recent economically calm periods even the top category arenas inflated their offers to satisfy the public’s demand and now they are going to have to reduce them”. Only the traditional shows, which have kept up the number of shows, will suffer less from the effects of the recession. The entrepreneur notes that from 500 shows in 1985 the number rose to around 1,000 two years ago. Associations in the industry are asking for a reduction in VAT (at 16-17%) to cover the risks of uncertainty, or support such as what is provided to cinemas, theatre and sport. The hope is that they will gain sponsorship from the Culture Ministry, which seems most unlikely given that bullfighting is so controversial, and often results in a refusal by anti-bullfighting groups and young people. Who consider it a barbaric hangover from the past. Without a rescue plan, the current trend is also set to hit the bullfighting greats, who according to experts in the sector, will earn ‘according to the audiences they attract’’. But entrepreneurs such as Roberto Dominguez, who represents such masters in bullfighting as Julian Lopez, alias El Juli, do not think like this: ‘some entrepreneurs are used to organising two or three big names in their shows and then fill them up with a series of mediocre, low cost displays. In my opinion we need to offer fewer shows and focus on quality. You only have to think about the last Champions League match between Madrid and Liverpool at Bernabeu, where there seemed to be no sign of the crisis in the air’’. (ANSAmed).
The Impact of the Global Crisis on Gulf Countries
Ibrahim Oweiss (Georgetown University) interviewed by Celeste Lo Turco
“One of the evident relapses of the crisis on the G.C.C Countries ( Gulf Cooperation Council ), namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, is that the price of oil will constantly drop as the demand decreases with the slowing down of the ‘industrial wheel’. Furthermore, the coming depression and its impending harsh times will definitely cause a rise in unemployment.” Prof. Ibrahim Oweiss is an Egyptian-born American economist and international economic advisor; he teaches as Associate Emeritus Professor of Economics at Georgetown University and lives between Washington DC and Doha, Qatar. Leading expert in G.C.C economies, he coined the definition of “petrodollar” in 1973, in order to describe the US dollar-denominated incomes of many oil-rich countries, particularly the Opec States of the Persian Gulf region.
Prof. Oweiss, which considerations can be done in regard the current economic crisis?
The present situation is the result of various different crises, not just a single one. The current crisis has global ramifications since local economies are interlinked in the globalization context. In order to have a more comprehensive point of view, we should start from the United States case to move farther into a wider global scenario.
Where should we identify the causes of this situation?
I believe that the main cause lies in the U.S. fiscal and monetary policy…
Barack Obama: Speaking Softly, But Without the Big Stick
So much attention has been paid to Barack Obama’s stimulus package and to his borrow-and-spend budget, that his emerging foreign policy has been largely ignored. Not a good thing: the recession will end, and America will survive. But a foreign policy error can be fatal.
The most noticeable feature, at least according to the President’s critics, is his failure to respond to provocation — to the testing that now-Vice-President Joe Biden correctly predicted would come early in the Obama reign. Iran put a satellite in orbit and developed enough uranium to fuel a nuclear bomb. Russia threatened to deploy weapons against the nations it formerly enslaved, and cut natural gas supplies to Europe.
Obama responded by offering to stop plans to deploy anti-missile systems in the Czech Republic and Poland in return for a bit of Russian help with Iran, and by having his vice-president tell the Munich Security Conference that “it is time to press the reset button” and end “the dangerous drift in relations between Russia” and Nato countries. Hardly robust responses to provocations.
But perhaps designed to show our allies that a kinder, softer America is in their future if they do more to share the burden of re-establishing a workable world order. Obama has specialised in studied ambiguity, to use a kind word, or in saying one thing and doing another, to use his critics’ preferred formulation.
What Biden called “the new tone” of American policy includes a refusal to torture (but see footnote for authorised exceptions to deviate from Geneva Convention rules), a promise to close Guantánamo Bay (when homes can be found for detainees), and a commitment to draw down our forces in Iraq (but not right away, and leaving 50,000 troops there, to the consternation of Obama’s Left).
In short, it is no easy task to predict which way the President will move as the world’s problems beat their way to the White House door, as Gordon Brown will no doubt find in Washington this week. But some things are clear.
One is the extraordinarily important role Obama ascribes to Asia. He has assigned Richard Holbrooke to be special envoy to the region’s trouble spots in Pakistan and Afghanistan, presumably reporting to secretary of state Hillary Clinton — “presumably”, because Holbrooke, a former ambassador to the UN, is known to lust after Clinton’s job and is the sort who will not hesitate to go over her head to the President when he deems it necessary.
Then there are Japan and India, nations that George W. Bush successfully wooed and who now stand as stalwart counterforces to an expansionist-minded China. Their continued goodwill is high on the Obama list of priorities.
Even more important is China. The President knows that the US Treasury will be selling increasing amounts of notes and bonds to fund deficits that will be in the trillions for the next few years, and then into the mere hundreds of billions for as far ahead as the eye can see.
So far, China has decided it must buy these IOUs, lest the value of those it already holds declines, and lest the dollar weakens to a point where Chinese goods are so expensive in America that imports from China decline even more sharply. In return, Clinton declined to make much of an issue of the Chinese regime’s human rights violations when she visited that country, and Pentagon officials reacted with enthusiasm to China’s decision to reopen high-level meetings on military issues.
Of necessity, Obama will have to respond to international pressure on him to defuse the Arab-Israeli dispute. There is still talk of a two-state solution, but no one in the administration really believes that that can be achieved, so long as the Palestinians remain divided between the Hamas and Fatah factions. Here, American and European views are certain to conflict, as the Europeans require ever more concessions from Israel in an effort to cater to the demands of their increasing Muslim populations, and special envoy George Mitchell, reunited with Tony Blair in a new peace-finding mission, seeks a more balanced solution.
This attention to Asian affairs does not necessarily mean that Britain and Europe will be ignored. Co-operation on global warming is likely, although the failure of Germany, Spain, Italy, Denmark and other countries to meet their Kyoto targets — not to mention Japan — suggests that some scaling down of ambitions is called for.
The litmus test so far as Obama is concerned is Afghanistan. Europeans who always disliked George Bush’s “you are either with us or against us” attitude might just find that when it comes to Afghanistan that is exactly what Obama thinks.
The underlying reality of all of this can be read in the numbers cascading across the pages of Obama’s budget. Soft power is cheap, hard power is expensive. The President is proposing not only to turn down his security advisers’ request that he replace the presidential helicopter fleet with craft less vulnerable to missile attacks, at a cost of $11 billion, but to cut out expensive weapons systems.
His budget reduces military spending to three per cent of GDP, the level it was at the time of the September 11 attacks, before we became aware of the threat posed by radical Islamists. The Taliban, North Koreans, Iranians, Russians and assorted bad guys must find it comforting that Obama plans to speak softly, but do without Teddy Roosevelt’s big stick.
Campaign Aide Tapped to Head FCC
President Obama said yesterday that he will nominate Julius Genachowski, a technology adviser during the presidential campaign and law school friend, to head the Federal Communications Commission.
The announcement came after months of speculation that Genachowski would be tapped for the job and an inadvertent confirmation of his nomination several weeks ago by an administration official during a Sunday morning talk show.
If confirmed, Genachowski will take over a higher-profile FCC charged with devising a strategy to bring new high-speed Internet networks into every home in the nation. But he also will inherit several challenges.
Justice for Victims of the Weather Underground
A live version of “Forensic Files” hits Washington, D.C. on March 12, as pressure mounts for an expanded probe of Bill Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, and their alleged roles in the 1970 bombing murder of a San Francisco policeman. Ayers and Dohrn, now university professors, were members of a communist terrorist gang called the Weather Underground during the 1960s and 1970s whose aim was to support communist regimes and anti-American movements around the world and destroy the United States. The group received terrorist training in Communist Cuba and was advised by Soviet and Cuban intelligence agents.
Newsweek: Radical Islam is a Fact of Life — We Must Live With it
Barack Obama’s favorite foreign policy author Fareed Zakaria says its time we lived with radical Islam…
“Radical Islam is A Fact of Life. How To Live With it” Fareed Zakaria makes the controversial case for why the West needs to adopt a more “sophisticated strategy” toward Radical Islam.
This is the same guy who Obama looks to for guidance.
Obama’s Shady Numbers
I was not fooled for one moment when President Obama announced that his agenda will save or create 2 and 1/2 million jobs. I know how to quantify the creation of jobs, but how can anyone possibly document the number of jobs saved? News flash — they can’t. Statements like these guarantee his success. If Obama’s spending programs create jobs, he can claim success. If his programs fail to create a single job, he can claim success; and if there is an overall job reduction, he can still claim success. Even if 1 million jobs are lost, he can claim 2 and 1/2 million jobs were saved.
Obama’s Swift Change on Security, Israel
Prior to the November 2008 presidential elections, there were specific concerns expressed about Barack Obama in pro-Israel circles, and in Jewish vote debates and by U.S. national security advocates, more generally.
Obama was suspect based on his long-time pastor’s hostility to Israel, his political and military affairs advisers views and comments about the Jewish state and its supporters, and his own executive inexperience and far-left foreign policy ideology.
Well, the early evidence is in: President Obama’s concerned pro-Israel critics were right, and his defenders, who denied all the warnings and Jackson’s promise, were wrong.
Obama Welcomes His Militant Muslim Brother Abongo to White House
Barak Obama’s older brother Abongo “Roy” Obama is a Luo activist and a militant Muslim who argues that the black man must “liberate himself from the poisoning influences of European culture.”
Recently, Barack Obama welcomed his militant Muslim brother Roy Obama to the White House.
Probe Urged Over Chas Freeman, Obama’s Anti-Israel Intel Pick
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
(IsraelNN.com) The two leading Republican Congressmen, backed by at least one Democrat, have demanded an investigation into United States President Barack Obama’s choice of Saudi Arabia-linked and longtime anti-Israeli Charles “Chas” Freeman as Obama’s top intelligence official.
Minority Leader John Boehner and party whip Eric Cantor, six other Republicans and one Democrat, Congresswomen Shelley Berkley, wrote a letter questioning Freeman’s financial ties. President Obama has named him as the chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC).
Freeman is a former American ambassador to Saudi Arabia and past president of the Middle East Policy Council, and Arab lobby formerly known as the American-Arab Affairs Council. Two years ago, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah donated $1 million to the Council, whose quarterly Middle East Policy journal routinely includes anti-Israel messages.
“Given his close ties to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we request a comprehensive review of Amb. Freeman’s past and current commercial, financial and contractual ties to the Kingdom to ensure no conflict of interest exists in his new position,” the Congressmen wrote in a letter to the inspector general for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence…
Radio Talk Host Scinto Says Station Fired Him
Mike Scinto, a local conservative talk radio host who has spent the past 10 years of his longtime radio career at WDAO-AM (1210), said he was terminated Monday, March 2.
Scinto, in an interview by phone Monday night, said station President and General Manager Jim Johnson called him Monday morning to say advertisers were not supporting his show, “Expressions II,” which aired noon to 2 p.m.
Scinto, 56, thinks his criticism of President Barack Obama and the recently signed $787 billion economic stimulus package also played a role.
Stupid is as Stupid Does
Jefferson quoted Cesare Beccaria’s 1767 words, “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms. . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”
However, once again, an elitist band of sycophant liberals seems intent on compelling you to accept the gospel according to them. Notwithstanding the huge statistical data of empirical evidence offered (see Dr. John Lott’s blogspot) to refute their quest they seek to return to the well.
Only a myopic fool incapable of learning form past scars would presume to package something as insidious as H.R. 45, Blair Holt’s Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009. Sponsored by Illinois Democrat Rep. Bobby Rush this omnibus gun grab seeks to “bring gun ownership in America to an end.”
The Supreme Court’s 1-2 Punch
Last week, the one-two punch of Roberts and Alito scored points, and two more big cases loom on the horizon. By the end of June, Roberts and Alito could deliver knockout punches to liberal foolishness on key issues ranging from affirmative action to non-English education.
In the first of these cases last week, the Supreme Court reviewed a Ninth Circuit decision that had ruled in favor of “checkoffs” for public employees to contribute to political activities. Idaho law prohibited government employers such as cities and school districts from facilitating political contributions through employee “checkoffs,” which automatically funnel a portion of taxpayer-funded salaries to leftist causes.
U.S. Soldier Gagged on Prez’s Eligibility
Military member seeking documentation silenced
A member of the U.S. military whose suspicions about Barack Obama’s eligibility to be president prompted him to sign onto a legal demand being sent to Attorney General Eric Holder has now been silenced.
Attorney Orly Taitz, the California activist who through her DefendOurFreedoms.us foundation is assembling the case, told WND today she’s been informed one of the members of the military has been ordered by commanding officers not to speak with media.
US State Senator Becomes the Chairman of CAIR
Approximately one month ago the FBI had sent out a memo stated that they had cut off all ties with the terrorist supporting Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). Apparently none of that matters to North Carolina Muslim Senator Larry Shaw…
Whites Told to Go Home
Nowhere is Michigan’s brain drain on greater display than in the Detroit City Council chambers.
My hopes for Detroit’s future faded as I watched the tape of last Tuesday’s council meeting, the one that considered the Cobo Center expansion deal.
It was a tragic circus, a festival of ignorance that confirmed the No. 1 obstacle to Detroit’s progress is the bargain basement leaders that city voters elect. The black nationalism that is now the dominant ideology of the council was on proud display, both at the table and in the audience.
You and I Can’t Buy the Guns Mexican Cartels Own
The Administration is Not Dealing Straight With Us on Mexico’s Gun Problem
Now, I know you want to know and are dying to ask; Did I see any U.S. military-issue weapons stolen from the U.S. military? Not a single one was marked with U.S. military markings. Everything was marked with additional foreign markings on the receiver, including M16 rifles, or they had nothing at all. I saw firearms manufactured in Europe, China, Russia and South America along with U.S. manufactured weapons. I saw rifles that looked familiar with no place of manufacture, no serial number or manufacturer’s logo. The information was not removed, it was never there to begin with. I can only assume they came from illegal arms manufacturers in India or Pakistan that produce copies of weapons. It was obvious that none of these firearms came from a U.S. gun shop in Tucson or San Diego. You couldn’t buy them from a gun shop in the states if you tried.
Canada: Beheader ‘Decent, ‘ His Doctor Testifies
Vincent Li could be rehabilitated one day, he says
He claims voices in his head from God caused him to single out a perfect stranger, stab him multiple times and then decapitate, defile and cannibalize the body in front of dozens of horrified witnesses.
But despite committing one of the most gruesome crimes in Canadian history, Vincent Li could be rehabilitated enough to return to the streets one day, according to his doctor.
It’s an assessment that’s frustrating members of Tim McLean’s family, who were in court Tuesday to see the man accused of brutally killing their 22-year-old son.
Psychiatrist Stanley Yaren told Li’s second-degree murder trial the admitted killer has a very strong chance to recover from the major mental illness and extreme psychosis that triggered last summer’s slaying of McLean on board a Greyhound bus.
He said he could make a significant recovery in the next few years under rigorous treatment and medication.
The brutal incident took place on a bus travelling near Portage la Prairie, Man., about 80 kilometres west of Winnipeg, on July 30, 2008.
Li boarded the Greyhound in Edmonton, with a ticket that would take him to Thunder Bay, Ont. But his trip ended two days later when he attacked McLean.
RCMP arrived on scene and watched from outside the bus, alongside dozens of passengers, for several hours as Li continued to stab and defile McLean’s body.
Yaren said Tuesday that Li is slowly beginning to realize what he’s done but still doesn’t accept the fact he consumed some of McLean’s body parts.
“It may be he’s blocked it from his consciousness . . . that it’s just too awful for him to contemplate,” he said.
Li admits he killed McLean but began his case Tuesday by pleading not guilty by reason of a mental disorder.
Yaren, a witness on behalf of the Crown who is the director of forensic psychiatry for both Manitoba and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, has concluded Li should be found not criminally responsible for his actions based on his mental state at the time.
Such a ruling would send him to a hospital, instead of a prison, for an indefinite period.
Yaren described Li as an otherwise “decent person” who was suffering from untreated schizophrenia and clearly out of his mind when he believed he was acting on God’s commands to eliminate “the force of evil” by attacking the sleeping McLean.
“He was being tormented by auditory hallucinations,” said Yaren, who has worked closely with Li at the Health Sciences Centre psychiatric ward in Winnipeg since he arrived last August.
Canada: Jonathan Kay on the Lesson From Israel Apartheid Week: Anti-Semitism is Now a Creature of the Left
People speak of anti-Semitism as if it were a monolithic evil. But it’s not. There are two distinct strains of Jew hatred. Unfortunately, our society is still fixated on fighting the one that went out of style four decades ago.
The difference between the two begins with the way Jews are depicted. Look at the images on this page. The one on the left, a poster published in German-occupied Poland in 1941, exemplifies the Jew-hatred spouted by the Nazis. (The caption reads: “Jews and Lice: They cause typhus.”) The image on the right, a poster circulated on Canadian campuses this week to mark “Israel Apartheid Week,” typifies the more recent variant.
Aside from the obvious — the language and style of illustration — what crucial difference do you notice?
In the Nazi poster, the Jew is a piece of filth — a rogue pathogen within gentile society. The image perfectly captures Hitler’s view of Jews as a “bacillus infecting the life of peoples.”
Now look at the image on the right. Aside from retaining the general sense that the Jew (or, to give the fig leaf its due, “the Jewish state”) is a scourge upon the world, everything has changed. The Jew is no longer diseased and wretched. Just the opposite: He is an omnipotent, teched up superman, murdering a defenseless Palestinian child from above.
In this latter detail — the use of a child victim to communicate the extent of the Jew’s evil — the anti-Israeli propaganda of today is similar to the posters and textbooks of the Nazi era, which often showed shadowy Hebrews menacing German children. But the Nazis usually took care to personalize the Jew as a craggy, hook-nosed ghoul — an image meant to further the idea that Jews were so genetically inferior as to be literally inhuman. Aside from editorial cartoonists in the Arab world (many of whom faithfully copy Nazi-era stereotypes to this day), anti-Semitic propagandists of our own age typically omit the Jew’s features altogether in favour of a faceless, Star-of-Zion-emblazoned tank or helicopter. As in the Nazi era, the Jew isn’t fully human — but now he’s an all-powerful Nazgûl instead of a pitiful Gollum.
What explains this radical transition in the presentation of anti-Semitic propaganda? Three factors.
The first is ideology: When the Nazis went down to defeat, they took with them the intellectual basis of “germ-theory” anti-Semitism — the toxic notion that certain races or groups are genetically inferior or parasitical. In our era, to compare Jews to leeches is to announce oneself as a bigoted creature from society’s discredited fringe.
The second reason is tied up with the history of Israel itself: After the Jews established their own state in 1948, it became impossible to typecast them as mere parasites contaminating foreign hosts. This was especially true after the Six-Day War of 1967, in which Israel scored a crushing military victory against Egypt, Jordan and Syria — not the sort of maneuver you’d expect from typhus-stricken old men.
The third reason is political: The leaders who find anti-Semitism useful today aren’t extreme nationalists such as Hitler, Stalin or Mussolini (though Hugo Chavez admittedly has been wandering into that territory). Instead, they are radical Muslims — and their allies in Western activist groups, who speak the tropes of anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, anti-Americanism, anti-racism and all the other fashionable antis. In this left-wing intellectual climate, disparaging any race or religion per se is off limits. The preferred tactic is to disparage the allegedly colonial, imperialist, racist etc. nature of their actions.
In keeping with our society’s obsession with victimhood, the propaganda strategy against Israel now is entirely passive aggressive. While the Nazis loved to dwell on the virility and superhuman indomitability of Aryans, the Jews’ enemies now are represented in propaganda by 5-year-olds carrying teddy bears. (For more in this vein, watch the 60-second promotional movie on the Israel Apartheid Week web site, in which you will see a cartoon mock-up of Gaza’s population that contains no men of military age — just a bunch of sorrowful kids, mommies and granddads.) The moral dimension of the conflict — terrorism versus counter-terrorism, a society seeking peace versus one that seems addicted to war — has been replaced by a sentimental Marxist-inspired tale of the virtuous oppressed rising up against an evil oppressor.
Broadly speaking, in other words, the locus of anti-Semitism has moved from the right side of the political spectrum to the left. Here in Canada, you still do see a few isolated anti-Semites of the Nazi persuasion here and there — David Ahenakew is one rare example. But for the most part, the neo-Nazi movement is confined to a few self-parodic Internet chat rooms (many of whose members, we’ve learned in recent years, are actually bored human-rights bureaucrats looking to stir up hate-speech charges). These days, the hatemongers targeting Jews’ right to live peacefully spout the mantras of “social justice” and “peace studies,” not racial purity. Their movement is dominated by the sort of leftists and minority activists whom the Nazis (neo or otherwise) would have up against the wall in a heartbeat if they had the chance. (Running down through the published list of 11 speakers at the University of Toronto’s Israel Apartheid Week, for instance, you will find no fewer than three Canadian aboriginal activists. Who knew these people were such experts on the Middle East?)
It also must be admitted that the anti-Semitism of today is a lot more subtle than the old-fashioned variety: Except in clear cases of blood libel such as the IAH poster, it’s often hard to tell where legitimate criticism of Israel ends and Jew-hatred begins. As a result, Jews themselves — middle-aged university professors and career feminists, most typically — are often drawn into radicalized campaigns against Israel, and sometimes even can be seen marching gullibly arm-in-arm with Kafiyeh-clad protestors chanting for Jewish blood in Arabic.
It’s a disgusting spectacle, especially when you hear their maudlin rhetoric — “massacre,” “crime against humanity,” “genocide,” “holocaust,” etc. If these words may be applied to the unintentional killing of several hundred Gazans during a counterterrorist operation, how does one describe the wholesale slaughter of tens or hundreds of thousands in places such as Chechnya and Darfur? (“Mega-massacre”? “Giga-genocide”?)
You don’t have to be anti-Semitic to pervert language or logic in this way, but it certainly helps. And I can see why many of my correspondents want universities to ban Israel Apartheid Week, or at least the most vicious IAW propaganda.
Though I personally don’t care much for censorship, one might even think that this is the sort of issue in which our country’s human rights commissions (last seen defending a Muslim woman’s right to appear masked in court) might take an interest. But you’d be wrong.
Our entire human-rights establishment was built in the 1960s and 1970s on the assumption that anti-Semitism would always be a creature of the extreme right. And to this day, the dinosaurs who run the nation’s HRCs — along with their allies in the identity-politics industry — persist in the ridiculous notion that the main threat to Jews emanates from drunken old fossils like Ahenakew, or the eight unemployed hamburger-flippers who get together in Calgary every year to exchange badly rehearsed Hitler salutes.
They treasure this conceit for an obvious self-serving reason: Vilifying Nazis is easy. Taking on politically correct Muslims and campus lefties on parade is hard. Anti-Semitism thrives when lazy people look the other way. That much, at least, hasn’t changed.
Canada: the CAF Has a Friend in the Liberal Party
Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis is standing up for the Canadian Arab Federation’s right to call the Immigration Minister a “professional whore” and to denounce organizations that support Israel or are just friendly towards Jews. Here’s an item reported by Canwest News:
Ottawa: Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is facing a possible investigation by Parliament’s ethics commissioner in the wake of his threat to axe funding to a group whose president called him a “professional whore.”
Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis has filed a complaint against Kenney with Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson, saying he believes the minister violated the parliamentary ethics code.
“I believe for the Minister to use his position and exert undue influence and or in this case instruct his officials to hold funding from such an NGO; this sets a bad precedent which clearly should not be allowed to stand,” says a copy of the complaint obtained by Sun Media.
“With this move the Minister sends out a signal to community-based NGOs to toe the line or risk losing their funding.”
Karygiannis, whose Toronto riding is served by the federation’s settlement program, said funding for groups should be decided by civil servants based on the group’s performance — not on the basis of partisan politics.
Alykhan Velshi, spokesman for Kenney, described the complaint as “ridiculous” and said it was “disturbing” to see a Liberal MP standing up for a group that has made anti-semitic comments.
The controversy centres on a dispute between Kenney and the Canadian Arab Federation. Earlier this year, federation president Khaled Mouammar called Kenney a “professional whore” for supporting Israel.
Kenney shot back, saying groups whose leaders say intolerant or hateful things shouldn’t get taxpayer money. Kenney said he has asked his department to weigh public comments made by groups when assessing their funding applications.
The Canadian Arab Federation has received $447,297 over two years to operate a settlement program in Toronto, teaching new immigrants language and job searching skills. Yesterday, department officials told MPs the group’s grant is up for renewal and is being evaluated.
Catherine MacQuarrie, assistant ethics commissioner, said the ethics office will assess Karygiannis’ complaint.
Canada: Teaching Hate at Toronto’s Alternative School Puppy Mill
In George Orwell’s dystopian allegory, Animal Farm, the pigs assume governance of a farm the animals have seized from their oppressive human owner. Not content with contingent power, the pigs appropriate the farm dogs’ newborn puppies. Trained in secret, knowing no other way of life, the puppies grow up to be fearsome, loyal guard dogs. From then on, the pigs’ power to dictate “politically correct” thinking amongst the animals is absolute.
Last year, a February session of Israel Apartheid Week at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) campus of the University of Ontario featured the founding conference of High Schools Against Israeli Apartheid (HAIA), sponsored by the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA). Appended to advertisements for the event were the words: “Note: this conference is for high school students only.” The organizers — not themselves high school students, but the “pigs” in this neo-Orwellian story — only allowed “puppies” — high school students with identifying student cards — to attend a five-hour session of anti-Israel propaganda. No teachers, parents or media were permitted to attend, so we really have no idea of what went down there. The Student School (TSS) is an alternative high school in downtown Toronto with a specialty in “social issues.” Its 185 students and eight staff are a tight-knit group. Decisions about which issues will be promoted are taken in weekly council meetings, where students and faculty are equally represented.
TTS welcomed CAIA recruiters to its classrooms two years ago. Under its aegis, HAIA took official form in 2008 and the school, guided by university activists, became a hotbed of political agitation. Last year, a newly arrived Israeli student at TTS felt too frightened by the hostile atmospherics to remain at the school.
Thankfully, an investigation by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is underway. According to Trustee James Pasternak, “Spreading this insidious anti-Israel ideology by recruiting teenagers in public schools is repugnant. We will use every legal means possible to stop intolerance in public schools.”
The TDSB might begin by explaining the role of an educational institution to TTS administrator John Morton, who is fiercely proud of his school’s partisan involvement with HAIA. Morton recently defended the school’s promotion of anti-Israel propaganda and affirmed his determination to flout any attempts to curtail their activism: “We’re holding our own, and have relayed to the board (through the principal) that we will continue our social justice activities on this and other issues.” I left three messages for John Morton at TSS, but received no response. If he had granted me an interview, I would have asked him if — since his students have watched the incendiary film, Occupation 101, standard Palestinian-friendly fare — he would be willing to have his students watch law professor and pro-Israel polemicist Alan Dershowitz’s excellent new film, The Case for Israel, which will have its official Canadian premiere in Ottawa on April 13.
I would have suggested that his students might benefit from the mind-expanding exercise of seeing — here’s an apparently radical concept — both sides of the story, and then engaging in debate. I would have warned him that Dershowitz persuades according to classically liberal precepts of argumentation — using reason, not emotion; history, not sentimental “narratives;” civility, not aggression; to argue Israel’s case. I fear that my suggestion would have fallen on deaf ears.
TTS is committing an intellectual crime against its students. As Stefan Braun, civil liberties lawyer and hate/censorship expert put it in an interview: “We’re dealing with a captive audience of impressionable school children. Those pushing HAIA are not interested in promoting critical independent thinking but in shutting it down. Preaching is not teaching. No one has the right to turn our schools into safe havens for indoctrination … To speak out against HAIA is not censorship. It is to uphold freedom of speech against those who would smother it in its infancy.”
Just so. George Orwell said it with puppies and pigs, but the message was the same: HAIA, whose reach is extending into other high schools as I write, is dangerous to democracy and must be stopped.
Sympathizer of Terror Groups Was Immigration Board Member
It’s well known that Khaled Mouammar wants Ottawa to remove Hamas and Hezbollah from a list of banned organizations and replace them with the Israel Defence Forces.
It’s well known that the president of the Canadian Arab Federation recently called Jason Kenney, the Minister of Immigration, a “professional whore” for supporting Israel and criticizing the presence of Hamas and Hezbollah flags at a recent protest, prompting Mr. Kenney to say he would review the CAF’s federal funding.
But it is less well known that Mr. Mouammar spent the 11 years prior to February, 2005, sitting as a member of the Immigration and Refugee Board, deciding whether refugee claimants from such North African countries as Morocco, Egypt, Algeria and Somalia should be allowed to stay in Canada.
No details are available on how many refugees Mr. Mouammar waved through the Canadian system, although one immigration lawyer who remembers him from his IRB days says he was known to have a “very high” acceptance rate. Board members typically have sole discretion over whether to admit a refugee claimant.
But his public advocacy of terror groups should raise questions about how a known partisan could possibly pass the IRB’s screening process. How did someone who has long been sympathetic to terror groups come to hold a crucial position in the body designed to protect Canadians from terrorists? Phrases about foxes and chicken coops spring to mind.
The IRB has a code of conduct that requires members to conserve and enhance the organization’s “integrity, objectivity and impartiality.” Mr. Mouammar did not return calls seeking comment but readers can make up their own mind about his impartiality.
Since becoming president, the CAF head has shown a Robert Mugabe-like paranoia for blaming others, while ignoring the shortcomings of the side he supports.
Hamas and Hezbollah are “legitimate political parties”; Israel is a genocidal regime, guilty of “war crimes.” “One day the nightmare brought about by Zionism and colonialism will come to an end,” he wrote in a piece entitled Impressions of Palestine: 1948 and Today — a clear rejection of a two-state solution in the Middle East.
Mr. Mouammar, a 68-year-old orthodox Christian who was born in Palestine and emigrated to Canada in 1965, has become a magnet for controversy.
In 2006, he was accused of circulating a flyer at the Liberal leadership convention denouncing candidate Bob Rae because his wife was vice-president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, “a lobby group which supports Israeli apartheid.”
Last year, the CAF sponsored an essay-writing contest that encouraged Canadian high school students to consider “the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.”
An organization that used to work on behalf of all Arabs in Canada, promoting civil liberties and human rights, while combating racism and hate, has been transformed into a single-issue distiller of venom.
In the past, the CAF has documented anti-Arab incidents during the Gulf War; debated the pros and cons of the Oslo Peace Accord; and argued at the Arar commission that there is no contradiction between security and “the fundamental values we share as Canadians.” Now, it has been radicalized by its president and others…
Belgium: Dewinter, ‘Islam is a Predator’
Dewinter’s TV interview is available online (in Dutch)
“Islamophobia is an obligation,” says Filip Dewinter in his book “Insha’Allah? The Islamization of Europe” which will be out Monday. The Antwerp head of Vlaams Belang thinks Islam is a predator which is attacking weak Europe. He asks for cutting back on the structures of Islam which are forming in Flanders, stopping Islamization and stopping immigration from Muslim countries.
Is his book Filip Dewinter aims not at Muslims, but at Islam as an ideology. “The moderate Muslims are many but they are not relevant. The radical Muslims who have the mosques in their power are,” he said tonight on Terzake (Canvas). He also spoke on Nieuws of VTM.
Dewinter wants to cut off the Muslims by pursing a strict police concerning antenna dishes, internet and other digital communications. The Flemish and local governments should conduct a stricter study of mosques for recognition and subsidies. They must be subjected to permanent security supervision. The structures that Islam is expanding in Flanders and Europe should be cut back.
Filip Dewinter wrote his book under his own name, but had his party administration read it. It seems that the points of view correspond to a large degree with those of Vlaams Belang. Dewinter thinks that the debate about Islam should be conducted during the upcoming elections campaign.
Source: HLN (Dutch)
Berlin: Concern About Increase in Anti-Police Violence
Last year the number of cases where policemen were resisted increased by three percent to 3,371 cases. The number of injured police officer went up by almost seven percent to 924, said police chief Dieter Glietsch yesterday. Glietsch told a parliamentary committee that this year Berlin sadly got to first place.
Comparing to a decade ago, though, Berlin has seen a significant improvement. There were improvements in both statistics: 4112 cases of ‘resisting the authorities’ were registered in 1999. The number of injured police agents in 1999 was 1787. Through the years there has been a continuous decline and this year was the first time it went up.
The police is concerned about ‘spontaneous solidarity’ at emergencies. In the last three years there were ten cases a year of sudden group violence against police agents.
Glietsch said yesterday these were mostly youth and young men of immigration background. In these cases there was a ‘fundamental repudiation of state power and our values’.. Since 2006, the police has been recording these riotous gatherings in its own statistics.
The incidents were only in Wedding, Neukölln and Kreuzberg. In Schillerpark 15 members of an Arab family attacked several policemen who requested they extinguish the grill. On the Badstraße, 70 people obstructed the police who wanted to protect a deranged young man from further self-harm. According to Glietsch, the police has a unit of 60 people which can be quickly called in for such riots and this has repeatedly proven itself.
Firefighters on duty were also attacked, mostly by drunks. In 2008 there were 17 attacks. By the firefighters there’s a high number of estimated unreported cases, as many officers waived reporting it.
Many firefighters feel that subjectively, the attacks increased. A few weeks ago a Chilean family attacked paramedics who wanted to bring a wounded young man to the hospital. Eberhard Schönberg of the police union GdP says that the attacks are becoming more brutal. He says that anybody wearing a uniform attracts hatred.
Czech Rep: Czech President Meets Meps From Eurosceptical Group
Prague — Czech President Vaclav Klaus today discussed European integration and the Lisbon treaty with representatives of the Independence/Democracy EP group whose members are called Eurosceptics, Czech MEP Vladimir Zelezny, member of this EP group, has said.
He, however, calls the group members “Eurorealists.” Klaus also calls his stance “Eurorealistic.”
One of the main topics discussed at today’s meeting with Klaus was his speech in the EP on February 19, Zelezny said.
The Independence/Democracy group comprises 22 MEPs out of the total of 785 MEPs.
Two weeks ago, the group members applauded Klaus’s controversial speech in the EP in which he criticised not only the Lisbon treaty to reform the EU institutions, but also the current course of the European economy and the alleged alienation of the EU politicians from ordinary citizens.
Some MEPs were leaving the session hall during the speech, while others were booing to express disagreement.
“This was for the first time that a call for open thinking was pronounced on the EP soil,” Zelezny said.
“We consider it (Klaus’s speech) the most qualified and the most fundamental contribution to the criticism of the development in the EU in the past few years,” Zelezny told CTK.
Klaus and the MEPs from the Independence/Democracy group agreed that possible scenarios of a different development of European integration must not be blocked beforehand, Zelezny said.
Today’s visit of some MEPs to Prague Castle, the Czech presidential seat, took place in a completely different atmosphere than a meeting of Klaus with EP President Hans-Gert Poettering and his colleagues last December. It was accompanied by sharp verbal clashes between Klaus and European Greens EP group head Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Irish MEP Brian Crowley who challenged Klaus’s critical views of the EU and the Lisbon treaty.
The Czech Republic has been the last EU member state to take position on the Lisbon treaty. The Chamber of Deputies passed the treaty in February and the Senate might vote on it in May.
Twenty-five other EU countries have ratified the treaty in parliament. Ireland rejected it in a referendum last June. However, the Irish referendum is to be repeated this year.
Denmark: ‘Jewel’ Author to Debate Freedom of Speech
‘Jewel of Medina’ author Sherry Jones will join a debate with Danish imam Abdul Wahid Petersen in Århus next week
The author of the controversial ‘Jewel of Medina’ novel will be visiting Denmark from 11 to 15 March, when she will take part in a debate with well-known Danish imam Abdul Wahid Petersen.
Bjarke Larsen from the Pressto publishing company, which released the book in Denmark, said there was likely to be a lot of interest in the author, Sherry Jones.
‘Considering how much debate there has been about the freedom of speech, religious fundamentalism and the relationship between religion and politics here in Denmark, I think there will be great interest in her visit,’ said Larsen. ‘Jewel of Medina’ charts the life of the prophet Mohammed’s first wife Aisha, whom he married when she was nine year’s old. The book raised concerns that the Islamic world would be offended by its publication, prompting the original publishing company, Random House, to drop the planned publication deal. A UK publisher who announced his intention to publish it late last year had his house firebombed.
The book was first published in Serbia and later other European countries, including Germany and Denmark.
Jones will appear at the Ridehuset cultural centre in Århus on 15 March as part of the city’s literary festival.
Europeans Criticize Racism Conference, But No Word Yet on Attendance
European governments are using the current session of the U.N. Human Rights Council to voice concern about next month’s international racism conference, although none has announced plans to join Israel, Canada and possibly the United States in boycotting the event.
Western democracies in general appear to be biding their time, in the hope it may yet be possible to change the direction of the Durban Review Conference (“Durban II”) in the coming weeks. The foreign ministries of Australia and New Zealand both said this week no decision had been made.
Although the conference is still seven weeks away, there are currently only two scheduled planning meetings between now and the day it opens in Geneva — an intergovernmental working group session from April 6-10 and the final session of a preparatory committee from April 15-17.
The State Department announced last Friday that the U.S. would not take part in further preparations or attend the conference unless the draft outcome document was radically amended. It cited references to Israel, religious “defamation” and reparations for slavery. Although it called the text “unsalvageable,” it did leave the door ajar for re-engaging in the event organizers come up with an acceptable document.
Preparations for Durban II are being supervised by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council. On Monday, the 47-member body kicked off a month-long session with a three-day “high-level segment,” in which government ministers make statements before the council gets down to agenda business.
A number of E.U. member states’ representatives used the opportunity to raise concerns about Durban II, with the most forceful statement coming Tuesday from Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen, who said he was “deeply disturbed by the turn this event is taking.”
The draft document was being “used by some to try to force their concept of defamation of religion and their focus on one regional conflict on all of us.”
Verhagen said he fully understood why some countries had decided to withdraw. The Netherlands wanted to work to achieve a useful outcome, “but not at any price.” It would not accept a text that singled out Israel, placed religion above individuals, or did not condemn discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Free speech advocacy groups say the religious defamation drive, led by Islamic states, aims to shield Islam and practices associated with it from criticism or close examination.
Earlier, Verhagen spokesman Bart Rijs said in response to queries that the Netherlands “will withdraw if the draft resolution does not change in the shortest possible term.”
In his speech in Geneva, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, speaking on behalf of the E.U., said the 27-member bloc was “committed” to the conference but could not subscribe to an outcome that “would limit or undermine human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
The Czech Republic holds the rotating presidency of the E.U. until June. Spokeswoman Emma Smetanova said from Prague that the Czech E.U. presidency “so far does not plan to attend the conference.”
Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller said in Geneva the Durban II preparations “give rise to serious concerns” and it seemed unlikely that there could be consensus based on the draft document.
“We cannot accept that the conference is being diverted from combating racism and racial discrimination to restricting freedom of expression or any other human right or fundamental freedom.”
“We cannot allow ourselves to let this opportunity fall prey to other political or ideological agendas,” said his Italian counterpart, Vincenzo Scotti.
Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht took issue with the question of “religious defamation,” saying it was undermining the international system for protecting human rights.
“Human rights must protect individuals and freedoms of individuals, and not religions as such,” he told the gathering.
Portuguese and Slovakian delegates both appealed to all countries to adopt a “constructive approach” in the weeks ahead, while the Cypriot representative said his country strongly believed that all countries should remain engaged, even if it was by being constructively critical.
Representatives of the countries which Durban II critics blame for the controversies — Islamic states and their allies in the developing world — in general had little to say about the conference in their speeches on Monday and Tuesday.
An exception was Egyptian Legal Minister Mufid Shehab, who said Durban II would act as a test to determine whether or not the international community wished to counter religious discrimination. Opinions could not be expressed freely if doing so affected the religious freedoms of others, he argued.
Bahraini Foreign Minister Nezar Sadeq Al Baharna made a passing reference to Durban II, encouraging the international community to participate in the conference.
Shehab, Al Baharna and delegates from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen and Indonesia used their speeches to attack Israel.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki described the recent military operation in Gaza as “the latest round of … habitual brutalities” by “the illegitimate Zionist regime,” and called for Israeli leaders to be indicted for crimes against humanity.
Gibraltar: Princess Anne Visit, Spanish Gov Protests
(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 3 — Princess Anne’s three-day visit to Gibraltar, due to start tomorrow, has aroused a formal protest from Madrid, which accused the British government of organising an “untimely” visit, which would be “hurtful to Spanish feelings.” According to diplomatic sources as quoted by the Europa Press agency, the reasons behind the Spanish government’s expressed discontent, is that the Princess is due to open a military clinic which bears her name, the ‘Princess Royal Medical Centre’, on the strait which unites the Rock with the Iberian peninsula, a territory which Spain did not cede to the British Crown in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. Gibraltar thus returns to its familiar position as a point of diplomatic tension between Madrid and London. On January 16, on the same day in which the official visit of Queen Elizabeth’s daughter to Gibraltar was announced, the Spanish secretary for Foreign Affairs, Angel Lossada, phoned the British ambassador to Spain, Denise Holt, to express the “unease” that the government felt towards the initiative, which was described as “untimely”, since it “could hurt the feelings of the Spanish population” which lives in Gibraltar. And sources are not ruling out further reactions from the Spanish government to coincide with the Princesses’ visit. Princess Anne will arrive at Gibraltar airport tomorrow afternoon, where she will be met by the British Governer of the Rock. On Thursday she is to open the military clinic and in the afternoon will visit the Free Time Centre in Bastion de Reyes. The visit is to end on Friday, with a visit to the Special School in Saint Martin. The last time Princess Anne visited the Rock was in June 2004, when she took part in celebrations for the third centenary of British presence in Gibraltar, as a guest of the authorities of the Rock. At the time, the Spanish foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratimos, said that her visit was not good news, since it could not help to ease Spanish-British dialogue over the situation in Gibraltar. Months later both governments came together to create a tri-lateral forum for talks which included the authorities in Gibraltar. Spain lays claims to the sovereignity of the territory which defers to the United Kingdom, and has a specific status in the EU, since in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 the British crown was granted the city, the castle and the port in Gibraltar, but not the strait, nor the territorial waters or the air space. (ANSAmed).
Italy and France in Nuclear Deal
Cooperation accord follows ENEL’s expansion Spain’s Endesa
(ANSA) — Rome, February 23 — Italy and France will sign an important accord on Tuesday for cooperation in the production of nuclear energy, Italian Industry Minister Claudio Scajola said on Monday.
The agreement will be signed during a meeting in the Italian capital between Premier Silvio Berlusconi and visiting French President Nicholas Sarkozy.
The accord, Scajola explained, ‘‘will regard all aspects of nuclear energy, from collaboration on a European level to questions of security, from technical cooperation to the training of experts, from dismantling old plants to industrial collaboration in third countries’’.
The industry minister added that with this accord, together with measures set to be approved by parliament in March, ‘‘Italy has taken a major step forward towards a new energy strategy for the country’’.
‘‘This involves greater security in regard to obtaining supply, through the diversification of sources and their geographic location, and greater environmental protection,’’ he added.
‘‘Our national energy policy will get a further boost through (power utility) ENEL’s international expansion, which already includes active collaboration with (French power giant) EdF. Together with the acquisition of 25% of Spain’s Endesa. ENEL has become the second European electricity group,’’ Scajola said.
ENEL at the weekend agreed to buy the 25% stake Spanish builder Acciona held in Endesa, Spain’s largest hydropower generator and the number one electricity utility in Latin American.
The Italian utility acquired two thirds of Endesa in October 2007, when Acciona bought its 25% stake with an option to sell it ENEL by 2010. According to the French press, the accord between Rome and Paris will include ENEL acquiring a 12.5% share in France’s second European Pressurized Reactor (EPR), in addition to the 12.5% quota it already has in the country’s first modern EPR nuclear reactor.
The British daily The Times reported earlier this month that EdF, which is 85% owned by the French state, would sell some of its production capacity to fund its acquisition of Britain’s nuclear industry.
EdF is the world’s biggest operator of nuclear power plants.
Italy: Anti-Stress Fencing Classes Slammed
Manager courses a ‘slap in the face’ for crisis- hit workers
(ANSA) — Naples, March 4 — A plan to use fencing lessons to ease stress among Naples public administrators came under fire Wednesday.
The lessons are part of a 40,000-euro scheme approved by Naples’ provincial government to ease stress levels with ‘bonding’ courses and psychological training.
The provincial councillor for human resources, Giuseppe Capasso, said he was ‘‘amazed’’ such a ‘‘comical’’ initiative had been greenlit, apparently behind his back.
‘‘I’d like to pass it off as a joke but in fact it’s a slap in the face of every provincial worker at a time when we’re struggling with pay and job cuts,’’ Capasso said.
Another civil service councillor, Francesco Emilio Borrelli, urged the unidentified official who approved the courses to ‘‘withdraw this disgraceful initiative’’.
‘‘In a period of financial crisis, one simply cannot fathom how such a decision could have been taken’’. The fencing flap is not the first time Naples administrators have been accused of wasting public money on frivolous initiatives.
In another case, a firm in a rundown area outside near Naples used taxpayers’ money to swell the ranks of the sexy but semi-mute girls, so-called ‘veline’, on Italian TV.
Mediterranean Games: Committee, Israel Excluded 4 Years Ago
(ANSAmed) — PESCARA, 3 MARCH — Israel’s exclusion from the upcoming Mediterranean Games (which is currently the object of parliamentary initiatives in Italy) is “news that is 4 years old, because in 2005 the vote decided that Israeli athletes would not be admitted”, just like Palestinian athletes. Sources within the organising committee told ANSA that “obviously the current organisation of Pescara 2009 is in no way responsible for this”. In any event the matter will be dealt with during next Thursday’s press conference by Amar Addadi, the president of Cijm, the international committee for the Mediterranean Games. It has been explained that on such occasions the “problem” of Israel will be debated along with the official position adopted by the Pescara 2009 Committee. Yesterday various political and cultural exponents expressed their position in favour of bringing back Israel (something that is impossible with only 3 months to go before the Games begin). The issue was raised, amongst others, by Pdl deputy Fiamma Nirenstein who submitted an urgent question for the admission of Israel to Pescara 2009. Today Pri secretary Francesco Nucara returned to the matter by suggesting a possible connection to the friendship treaty between Italy and Libya. He asked whether “by chance, does the Libya treaty signed by Berlusconi and Gaddafi include the exclusion of Israel from the Mediterranean Games?” Because “if that is not the case, we have to ask, once again, for the government to act immediately to make up for a situation that is embarrassing Italy’s international politics”. (ANSAmed).
Netherlands: Dutch Unemployed Told to Find a Job — Any Job
Under the new rules, anyone who has been on unemployment benefits for more than a year will have to take any job he or she is offered, even if they are overqualified for the job or if the job pays less than the unemployment benefits.
Dutch unemployment benefits entitle people to 70 percent of their last salary. Provided they have worked for at least four out of the past five years, job seekers are entitled to one month of benefits for every year they have worked, up to a maximum of 38 months.
But the system has come under increasing pressure because of budget concerns. Next year, the Dutch government is expected to spend an additional three billion euros on unemployment benefits.
The two largest parties in the ruling coalition, the Christian Democrats and the Labour Party, along with the right-wing opposition Party for Freedom, backed social affairs minister Piet Hein Donner’s plan on Tuesday.
However, the junior partner in the coalition, the Christian Union, was critical. Christian Union member of parliament Cynthia Ortega proposed that claimants should be offered a choice of at least three jobs before they lose their benefits.
College graduates to pick tomatoes?
Meanwhile, the largest party in the coalition, the Christian Democrats, would actually like to see the regulations tightened even further, with claimants losing their benefits after six months if they refuse a job offer.
Social affairs minister Donner rejected the proposal by the Christian Democrats. But he also shot down Ortega’s alternative. In the light of the economic crisis, he said, it is already hard enough for the benefits agency to find even one job offer.
Opposition Socialist Party member of parliament Paul Ulenbelt accused Donner of throwing knowledge down the drain by “forcing college graduates to pick tomatoes in greenhouses”. Donner replied that the Socialist Party seemed to have “a certain disdain for work in greenhouses”. He added that it could be “very good for reflection at a certain point for a college graduate to work in a greenhouse”.
Other opposition parties, the right-wing liberal VVD and the left-wing liberal D66, expressed concern that the plan will actually cost more than it saves. They pointed fear it will lead to extra spending on wage cost subsidies for employers, and because people who earn less than their unemployment benefits can ask the government to make up the difference.
In reality, some of the changes in Donner’s plan are less dramatic than they appear. College graduates already have to accept any type of job after eighteen months; this grace period is now reduced to twelve months. Less-educated job seekers are already under the obligation to accept any job after six months.
The government’s economic policy bureau CPB forecasts that the unemployment rate will rise to 5.5 percent in 2009 and 8.75 percent in 2010. In absolute numbers, that means 425,000 Dutch people will be out of work this year and 675,000 next year.
Netherlands: MP Rita Verdonk Accused of Embezzlement
Ed Sinke, a former advisor of MP Rita Verdonk, has filed a report with the police in which he accuses Ms Verdonk of embezzling money from a foundation he administers for her party Proud of the Netherlands.
From 2003 until 2007, Rita Verdonk served as integration minister in two successive cabinets led by Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. She was highly controversial because of her strict interpretation of immigration laws.
Ms Verdonk was a member of the conservative VVD until 2007, when she lost a power struggle for the leadership and decided to form her own party. Mr Sinke says about 4,000 euros were taken from the account of the Vote Rita Verdonk foundation, which was created in 2006 ahead of the VVD party leadership elections.
Ms Verdonk allegedly changed the foundation’s address and registered the account in her own name, even though she was not a member of the executive committee. Mr Sinke says his report has nothing to do with a long-lasting dispute between him and Ms Verdonk.
Nuclear: Press, Enel to Take 12.5% Share in Second French Epr
(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 23 — Enel will take a 12.5% share in the second largest EPR (European Pressurized Reactor) third generation nuclear reactor, which will be built in Penly, France, according to ‘La Tribune’, which wrote that an agreement will be signed tomorrow for the Italian-French summit in Rome. Enel already has a 12.5% share in the EPR that EDF is building in Flamanville, in Normandy. The agreement to be signed tomorrow also includes a strategic agreement of collaboration in civilian nuclear power sector, which will open up the Italian market to French businesses (EDF, Areva, GDF Suez) in the nuclear power sector. The Italian market, wrote ‘Le Tribune’ is valued by French businesses at 40 billion euros. EDF and ENEL signed a partnership agreement in 2007. In particular, the agreement includes participation in the Flamanville project as well as five other EDF projects that are underway. The partnership also includes an Italian-French cooperation to export nuclear technology to non-EU countries. (ANSAmed).
Stakelbeck Sits Down With Geert Wilders
He’s been banned from Britain and is facing trial in his own country. But Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders received a warm reception here in America last week.
I sat down with Wilders in Washington, D.C., where we discussed a variety of issues, including his legal battles in the Netherlands and his push for an International First Amendment that would repeal all hate speech laws.
We also spoke in detail about Wilders’ dual mission: sounding the alarm about the Islamic threat to Europe and preserving the continent’s Western values and heritage.
You can watch my story for CBN News featuring Wilders’ appearance at the National Press Club and clips from our interview at the link above:
Sweden’s Government Health Care
Government health care advocates used to sing the praises of Britain’s National Health Service, or NHS. That’s until its poor delivery of health care services became known. A recent study by David Green and Laura Casper, “Delay, Denial and Dilution,” written for the London-based Institute of Economic Affairs, concludes that the NHS health care services are just about the worst in the developed world. The head of the World Health Organization calculated that Britain has as many as 25,000 unnecessary cancer deaths a year because of under-provision of care. Twelve percent of specialists surveyed admitted refusing kidney dialysis to patients suffering from kidney failure because of limits on cash. Waiting lists for medical treatment have become so long that there are now “waiting lists” for the waiting list.
Sweden: School Violence Sends Teacher to Hospital
[Comment from Tuan Jim: Another troubled neighborhood?]
A female teacher has been taken to hospital after a vicious fight broke out between rival factions at a high school (gymnasium) in Vimmerby in southern Sweden on Wednesday afternoon.
Six police units were sent to the school’s ancillary premises on Kungsgatan in central Vimmerby and all pupils involved in the fighting were ordered to remain in their classrooms until police arrived.
One female teacher has been taken to hospital in Västervik to be treated for facial injuries, Sveriges Radio reports.
“There was a fight between some students, in connection with which a chair was thrown that hit the teacher,” police officer Göran Wester told Sveriges Radio.
School principal Agneta Kling said the violence was the culmination of a lengthy feud between rival groups from the school’s remedial classes. She described the mood in the school’s Kungsgatan premises as “scary and hateful”.
“There was a lot of bloodshed up there,” she told Sveriges Radio.
UK: Abuse of Science
Protests against Israeli universities are the voice of anti-intellectualism
The Science Museum in London is holding workshops this week that will expound scientific achievements to schoolchildren. More than 400 academics and a Nobel laureate are protesting and organising pickets.
It will appear extraordinary that the educational efforts of a great public institution should provoke anger among those who nominally uphold intellectual inquiry. But the scientists and universities whose work is being introduced are Israeli, and the event is billed as an Israeli Day of Science. All will now fall into place. Israel, its independence and its security policies in the West Bank and Gaza stir passions among the politically committed. In a reversal of the normal pattern of prejudice, anti-Israeli sentiment finds traction among the highly educated. Yet in its animus and malignancy, this protest is a model of anti-intellectualism.
The late Conor Cruise O’Brien, Irish statesman and polymath, once aptly denounced a boycott of academics of a particular nationality as “an intellectually disreputable attempt to isolate what I know to be an honest, open and creative intellectual community”. The scholars’ offence was that they were from South African universities during the apartheid era. Apartheid was an evil system against which it was right to impose economic and diplomatic sanctions. But scholarship is independent of politics; the academics were private citizens who neither served the regime nor had the capacity to change its policies.
Retribution against the life of the mind in order to make a political point is the approach of movements for whom inquiry is a frivolity rather than a way of life. That is why academic boycotts are iniquitous even when the cause is right. Yet the protest outside the Science Museum is not even in an obvious moral cause. It is hysterical and, in its analysis, plainly unscientific.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict comprises competing and equally legitimate national claims, both of which must be accommodated in an eventual territorial compromise. The notion that this will be advanced by sanctions against Israeli institutes of learning, whose scholars have no political role and may have no sympathy with their Government’s policies, is risible.
The protesters are not an identifiable scholarly current, but a group of political activists who happen to work in the academy. Many were associated in an earlier campaign to persuade the Association of University Teachers to boycott Israeli universities. The expansiveness of their campaign betrayed its motivation. It was not a disinterested desire for the rectification of historic injustices against the Palestinian people, but an insistence that Israel was illegitimate by virtue of being a Jewish state.
It is ironic that the academics are joined in an inflammatory cause by a Nobel peace laureate, Mairead Maguire, of the Irish Peace People. It stands higher still on the scale of intellectual disrepute that the boycott is supported by Ian Gibson, a former chairman of the Commons Science Select Committee. Dr Gibson declares: “Science is not neutral. It is part of the political process.” It is a fantastic non sequitur to confuse science’s institutional setting with its intellectual content, but it might be taken as symbolic of the protests. This is an arbitrary and vindictive campaign, but above all it is a stupid one.
UK: MPs’ Fury as U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy Gets Honorary Knighthood for Northern Ireland Role
Veteran U.S. senator Edward Kennedy is to be awarded an honorary knighthood in a move which drew immediate condemnation from Conservative MPs. The Queen has agreed to the honour for the 77-year-old Democrat — brother of assassinated U.S. president John F Kennedy — for services to the British-American relationship and to Northern Ireland, Downing Street said. Gordon Brown will announce the award formally during his address to both houses of Congress today. But the decision to honour a man closely linked to the Irish Republican movement astonished Tory MPs. One frontbencher said: ‘I don’t think it’s appropriate. He hardly had the British interests at heart.’ Former Home Office Minister Ann Widdecombe said: ‘It seems to me a bit of an odd choice, but diplomacy has no bounds.’ The senator was an influential figure in the Northern Ireland peace process, capable of swinging Irish-American opinion as head of the Kennedy family — descended from an emigré from County Wexford. Ted Kennedy was pilloried by Loyalists after he compared the British presence in Ulster to America’s involvement in Vietnam in 1971. That year he called for Britain’s immediate withdrawal from Ireland, declaring that Protestants who could not accept a united Ireland ‘should be given a decent opportunity to go back to Britain’. [related] Two years later he continued to insist that the unification of Ireland under Dublin’s jurisdiction was the only sensible option — though he was by then affirming that Catholics and Protestants must have equal roles.
Ten years later Mr Kennedy established the Congressional Friends of Ireland, dedicated to pursuing peace. In the late 1990s he met not only with Tony Blair, his Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam and his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern, but also with Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams.
In 2005, he snubbed Adams when he visited Washington, over the IRA murder of Catholic Robert McCartney in a Belfast pub. In 2007 the Senator was at Stormont when sworn enemies Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness took their oaths of office as power-sharing was restored….
UK: Protests at Israeli Science Event
Israeli Day of Science events taking place at museums in London and Manchester have been hit by protests.
More than 400 people have signed a British Committee for the Universities of Palestine letter attacking the Zionist Federation event.
Universities whose academics are attending were “complicit” in the policies and weaponry used during the Gaza offensive, the letter claimed.
Organisers insist the events, aimed at secondary schools, are non-political.
They say the events are aimed at igniting young people’s interest in science. Senior Israeli academics are lecturing on topics from medical research to energy and water technologies.
However, the letter’s author, Professor Jonathan Rosenhead, said: “This is a dubious venture at the best of times but at this particular moment, after the offensive in Gaza, it’s particularly insensitive.”
It is estimated that 1,300 people were killed, including more than 400 children, during an Israeli offensive in December and January.
Critics accused Israel of being disproportionate in its response to militant rocket attacks launched from within Gaza.
Supporters of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (Bricup) letter protested against the day of science outside Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry on Tuesday.
A similar protest is planned to coincide with Thursday’s event at the Science Museum in London.
Prof Rosenhead, from the London School of Economics, said around 150 academics had signed the letter, which had been backed by people from all walks of life.
He said the seven institutions involved were “up to their necks” in Israel’s actions in Gaza, citing Tel Aviv University as an example.
Its annual review stated that Israel’s defence ministry was funding 55 of its projects and that it was helping to enhance the country’s “military edge”, the professor claimed.
“But they aren’t putting up people who design policies for the government and saying look how good we are at killing people,” he added.
Zionist Federation vice-chairman Jonathan Hoffman accused Bricup of trying to “prevent schoolchildren from being inspired by scientific discovery and innovation”.
He said he was “saddened” the protesters wished “not only to prevent the provision of scientific lectures to sixth formers but also to urge the Science Museum to discriminate against Israeli academics”.
“Science transcends borders,” he added, referring to a collaboration between Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian researchers to eradicate the Mediterranean fruit fly.
Bricup has also hit out at the venues for agreeing to host the events, which focus on subjects such as stem cell, cancer and brain research, nanotechnology and solar energy.
The Science Museum insisted in a statement that it was an “apolitical organisation” and was not co-hosting or sponsoring the event, which had been booked for almost a year.
“The event has no political theme. Not to proceed with the event would mean taking a political stand, which would be wholly inappropriate,” it said.
“Scientists speaking at the event include a marine biologist, a physicist who works on experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at Cern, a nanotechnology expert, a water scientist and a geneticist.”
Nobody at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester was available for comment.
Serbia: Police Issue Arrest Warrants for 19 Bosnian War Crimes Suspects
Belgrade, 26 Feb. (AKI) — Serbian police have issued a warrant for the arrest of 19 Bosnian officials, including two members of the wartime state presidency, over crimes allegedly committed in May 1992, Belgrade newspapers reported on Thursday.
Charges will be pressed against wartime members of the Bosnian state presidency Ejup Ganic and Stjepan Kljujic and 17 others, a Serbian court spokeswoman, Ivana Ramic, told national news agency Tanjug.
The suspects allegedly ordered an attack on the former Yugoslav Army column withdrawing from Sarajevo on 3 May 1992 at the beginning of Bosnian war that followed the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.
Ramic said that Ganic and Kljujic were believed to have issued orders for the attack in which “banned means of fighting” were used. No one has so far been prosecuted over the massacre on Sarajevo’s central Dobrovoljacka street.
The Yugoslav Army had negotiated with Bosnian officials a peaceful withdrawal from Sarajevo. But the withdrawing army column was ambushed by Bosnian forces in the city centre. Forty-two soldiers were killed, 73 wounded and 215 taken prisoners in the attack.
Speaking from Sarajevo, Ganic said that the charges were “silly” and had targeted those “who defended Bosnia.”
“Serbian politicians have tried to engage the Hague tribunal in this case, but all accusations against me were rejected,” he said
Apart from issuing an international warrant, Serbia practically has no means of apprehending the individuals charged. But the move is certain to further strain the relations between the two neighbouring countries which have remained tense even 13 years after the war.
The United Nations’ Hague-based war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is planning to end its work next year, and has been turning over the remaining cases to local courts in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia.
But Bosnian Serbs, the second biggest ethnic group in Bosnia after majority Muslims, have complained that Bosnian courts are concentrating on prosecuting Serbs, while sparing Muslims accused of war crimes.
Italy-Tunisia: Forum on Free Trade and Barriers
(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 20 — Tunisia is the first country on the southern shores of the Mediterranean to introduce a free trade zone with European as concerns industrial products, which allows it to enjoy a somewhat privileged position. This innovation in the relationship with other potential markets for expansion of its products has clearly spurred Tunisian companies to gear up for its new competition, in part thanks to a transitory system which over the years has allowed them to approach the entering into force of the free trade zone in the best of all possible conditions. Tunisia is also trying to speed up its economic growth by way of bilateral free trade agreements (Morocco, Jordan, Turkey), at the regional and multilateral level (the larger Arab free trade zone), and with those in the Agadir Agreement (Morocco, Egypt, Jordan). However, the picture is not entirely rose-coloured for imports to Tunisia, since there are still many non-tariff-related barriers, such as the difficulty in getting hold of import licenses (Tunisian authorities can refuse to grant them without any justification, and sometimes the Tunisian importer must make do with quotas), benchmark prices (which Tunisian authorities use to set taxes and duties and which often are not in reference to international prices), technical checks (the list of products which must be submitted has recently been increased fourfold, with authorisation only be granting four months later at times), the quality of agro-food products (certification required by Tunisian authorities is often more complex than that of EU countries), and customs procedures (often very long due to the various steps involved, such as those for security reasons). (ANSAmed).
Libya: Gheddafi Plan in Congress, Rome Accord to be Ratified
(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI — Libya’s General People’s Congress is in session in Sirte, with around 800 people taking part including all government ministers and all heads of Libya’s regional governments, the Shabiyats. The General People’s Congress functions as a parliament in Libya and has the power to declare war, ratify treaties with other countries and decide on political schemes and their implementation, but ‘‘does not debate, it chooses solutions already chosen by the people under the leader’s guidance’’, says the Head Office for the Foreign Press. During its meeting over the next two days, the Congress will acknowledge the opinions expressed by the peoples’ committees which met on February 22. The committees talked over Muammar Gheddafi’s reform plans which concentrate on two central themes: the direct redistribution of oil proceeds (the country’s main source of income) to the people, and the progressive dismantling of bureaucratic apparatus, as a means to combating corruption. Tomorrow, the Congress will also acknowledge the definitive ratification of the ‘Treaty of Friendship, Partnership and Cooperation’ with Italy, which was signed on August 30 2008 by Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi and Colonel Gheddafi and has already been ratified by the peoples’ committees. Mr Berlusconi is expected to stop by this afternoon from Sharm el-Sheik for the occasion, in order to meet leaders and exchange ratifications. There has been no indication, however, that a draft constitution for the country will be presented to the Libyan |parliament’ this session. The rumoured constitution would be the first since the advent of Gheddafi’s rule, and the signing of the Green Book, which summarises his thought and Third Way to assure the people of real popular government. Before today a further series of ordinary meetings were called by the General-Secretariat of the General People’s Congress to dissect ‘‘guidelines’’ issued in recent months by Gheddafi and find a way to implement them. In the most recent meeting, preparations were decided for the festivities to celebrate the 32nd anniversary of the declaration of popular power and the proclamation of the Great Jamahiriya. The Libyan regime was born as far back as March 2 1977, when Gheddafi the ‘Jamahiriya’ (‘the government of the masses’, as opposed to ‘Jumhuriya’ which means ‘Republic’). With this word, which was coined by Colonel Gheddafi for the occasion, the system of central government was abolished, the population was grouped into base Popular Congresses and Gheddafi became ‘‘Guide of the Revolution’’ — who does not govern, but leads by making recommendations. The Libyan ‘Parliament’ will therefore do nothing else but approve the decisions taken by the 468 base committees, the true voice of the people. Afterwards, they will have to look at ways to apply such decisions and it is on this aspect that Libyans will focus their attention. How, for example, do you go about dividing up amongst the population the 20 billion dollars generated by Libyan oil and gas? And how do you begin dismantling bureaucratic apparatus without risking removing the minimum national health assistance necessary to the people?.(ANSAmed).
Morocco: New Cities, First Arrivals to Tamesna in March
(ANSAmed) — TUNIS — In March there will be the first arrivals to Tamesna, the new city under construction in the Rabat region, which aims to alleviate the demographic pressure experienced in the capital. Tamesna is to be the home town of 250,000, and already has its main infrastructure connected with Rabat, a little over 20 kilometres away. The city, which was originally to have been called Nour Zaer, now has streets and a railway, and is connected to the country’s power grid, water mains and telephone line relay stations. ‘‘We are expecting the first inhabitants in the next few weeks,’’ said Mohamed Najib Benyahya, general director of the construction firm Al Omrane Tamesna. ‘‘The city is already a reality, with many areas ready to be lived in and numerous complexes in an advanced state, as well as 16,000 apartments which have already found a buyer.’’ In Tamesna there will be two industrial zones, a university, nine secondary schools , two sports centres and three mosques. ‘‘At the current rate,’’ added Benyahya, ‘‘we expect to have the completed city up and running in 2012.’’ The creation of new cities is one of the large-scale projects set in motion in 2005 by the Moroccan government to foster balanced development in the country and eliminate the shantytowns which have sprung up over the last few years around large cities, with an urban population going from 3 million in 1960 to a current 18 million. According to experts at the Housing Ministry, large centres such as Casablanca, Rabat, Tangiers and Marrakech are experiencing excessive demographic pressure with the resultant logistical and social consequences. In the first few days of January King Mohammed VI set in motion works for the construction of the city of Ch’Rafate (which means ‘Beauty’), to rise in the Tangiers hinterland, as part of an attempt to contain the seaside urbanisation. Ch’Rafate will also be a sort of residential centre for offshore industrial zones and the Med port in Tangiers, destined to become the largest of its kind in the Mediterranean. On completion — scheduled for 2020 — the project will provide housing for 150,000 people on a 13-square-mile surface area. Another city soon to be completed is Tamansourt, near Marrakech. The first apartments were already assigned in March 2007 and thousands, especially young couples, have moved into their new homes. When the project is completed the city will see a potential 300,000 inhabitants.(ANSAmed).
Western Sahara: UN Envoy Gives Hope to Saharawi
(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS — After the storm unleashed by his predecessor Peter van Walsum, accused of one-sidedness, the new UN envoy for the Western Sahara Christopher Ross seems to have given new hope to the Saharawi people and to Algeria, ever on the side of the Polisario Front. The Algerian press today focuses on Ross’s first visit to Algiers, after visiting Rabat and Saharawi refugee camps in southern Algeria. ‘‘Christopher Ross’s optimism’’ runs the headline of El Watan, which underlines the importance of the mission ‘‘to re-launch negotiations between the Polisario Front and Morocco on a solution that guarantees the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination’’. ‘‘Ross concludes a promising mission to the Maghreb’’, writes Liberte’ on its front page, and ‘‘backs the referendum on self-determination of the Western Sahara’’. ‘‘During my stay’’, said Ross after his visit to the Algerian capital, ‘‘I found people to be sincere, respectful, mature and optimistic.’’ ‘‘It is with these basic elements of diplomacy that I leave Algeria,’’ he added, announcing ‘‘a visit to Mauritania as well, as soon as possible’’. Today Ross will be in Madrid, to then go on to Paris. The last direct negotiations, which started in 2007 in Manhasset (near New York) under UN protection, came to a standstill in March 2008. The two parties are unable to come to an agreement and the issue of the former Spanish colony occupied by Morocco in 1975 has continued to divide the Maghreb for more than 30 years. Rabat proposes wide-ranging autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty, while the Polisario Front wants a referendum on self-determination.(ANSAmed).
Western Sahara: Guarantee Auto-Determination, UN Envoy Says
(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 23 — The new UN emissary for the western Sahara, Christopher Ross, expected today in Algiers after his visit to the Saharawi refugee camps in Tindouf (in southern Algeria), expressed the desire to “continue with negotiations” and reach a solution that is “mutually acceptable” which “addresses the right of auto-determination to the Saharawi people”. “I am in Tindouf to familiarise myself with the Polisario Front”, Ross said after a meeting with the president of RASD (the auto-proclaimed Saharaoui Arab Democratic Republic), Mohamed Abdelaziz, “and to continue with the negotiations requested by the Security Council, in a series of decisions, for a mutually acceptable solution”. “A solution”, he added, according to what APS reported, ‘that addresses Saharaoui people’s right to auto-determination”. “The mission that was given to me is very important for the future of North Africa”, added the new UN emissary, who replaced Holland’s Peter Van Walsum, accused of partiality by the Saharawi. After arriving on Saturday in the camps of the Algerian Sahara and a first stop in Rabat, where he met with King Mohamed VI, Ross will go on to Madrid and Paris in the coming days. The last direct negotiations which began in 2007 in Manhasset, near New York, under the UN aegis, have been blocked since March 2008. The positions held by the two parts involved remain irreconcilable and for the last 30 years the issue of the ex-Spanish colony which has been occupied by Morocco since 1975 continues to divide the Maghreb. Rabat proposes extended autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty, while Polisario is asking the organisation for a referendum for auto-determination. Algeria, still scared from the long and painful battle for independence from French colonialism, supports the right for the Saharawi people to choose their destiny as a part of their anti-colonial spirit but, according to some observers, for economic reasons as well. The western Sahara, in addition to being in a geographic position able to provide Algeria with an Atlantic port, is also a region rich in phosphates and, according to some speculation, could also be hiding oil fields. (ANSAmed).
Western Sahara: 1st Visit From New UN Emissary
(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 18 — The new United Nations Emissary to the Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, visited the region today to relaunch dialogue between the Moroccan government and independence supporters of the Polisario Front, which have stalled on the same issue for years. Rabat refuses to grant independence to the ancient Spanish colony, rich in phosphates, which was annexed in 1975 and has proposed a statute of autonomy under Moroccan rule. In the meantime, the Polisario Front has continued to demand a referendum. Ross, who was Ambassador to Algeria, a country that supports the Polisario Front, was nominated in January to replace Holland’s Peter van Walsum, whose mandate was not renewed at the end of August due to accusations that he favoured Morocco after saying that independence in Western Sahara “is unrealistic”. In this first visit, Ross will try to evaluate the possibility of resuming the negotiation process that started in Manhasset, near New York, in June of 2007 under the guidance of the UN. Four rounds of negotiations have not yielded any results. Polisario Front representative to the United Nations, Ahmed Boukhari, said that he insisted upon the self-determination issue with Ross “because it is up to the people of the western Sahara to choose their own destiny”. Rabat will be Ross’ first stop followed by a trip to Tindouf, in southeastern Algeria, where for over 30 years the Saharawi people have been living in refugee camps. He will be received by Polisario Front secretary general Mohamed Abdelaziz and will visit the camps. On February 25, after stopping in Algiers, he will depart for Madrid and Paris, the capitals of the two countries of the Friends of the Sahara group including Russia, Great Britain, and the United States. For France, which favours the Moroccan position, the U.N Emissary’s visit to Paris is very important, according to the French Ambassador to the United Nations: “Morocco’s proposals are interesting, and we have asked to two sides to take part in a dialogue”, he said. (ANSAmed).
Amnesty Accuses Israel and Hamas of “War Crimes”
London, 23 Feb. (AKI) — Rights group Amnesty International has called for the United Nations to impose a global freeze on arms sales to Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas movement, claiming that both sides used foreign-made weapons to attack civilians. In a report released on Monday, Amnesty also claimed that the Jewish state and Hamas had both committed “war crimes”.
“We urge the UN Security Council to impose an immediate and comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups until effective mechanisms are found to ensure that munitions and other military equipment are not used to commit serious violations of international law,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty’s Middle East director in a statement published on Monday.
Amnesty research claimed that Israel committed war crimes by using white phosphorous munitions, which killed hundreds of children.
“Israeli forces used white phosphorus and other weapons supplied by the USA to carry out serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes. Their attacks resulted in the death of hundreds of children and other civilians and massive destruction of homes and infrastructure,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty researcher on Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
Smart called for the US administration led by president Barack Obama to suspend weapons supplies to Israel.
“As the major supplier of weapons to Israel, the USA has a particular obligation to stop any supply that contributes to gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights. The Obama administration should immediately suspend US military aid to Israel,” Smart said.
He added that American taxpayers were funding Israel’s munitions, some of which have been used to commit alleged war crimes.
“To a large extent, Israel’s military offensive in Gaza was carried out with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the USA and paid for with US taxpayers’ money,” said Smart.
According to Amnesty the United States is the major supplier of conventional arms to Israel and under a 10-year agreement, the US is expected to provide 30 billion dollars in military aid to Israel to the year 2017.
However, the report attacked the Islamist Hamas movement, saying its rocket attacks also constituted a war crime.
“At the same time, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups fired hundreds of rockets that had been smuggled in or made of components from abroad at civilian areas in Israel. Though far less lethal than the weaponry used by Israel, such rocket firing also constitutes a war crime and caused several civilian deaths,” said Rovera.
Amnesty said that “unsophisticated” rockets are smuggled into Gaza clandestinely or built in Gaza from components secretly brought in from abroad, but did not name the countries.
From November 2001 until June 2008, Qassam rockets have killed 23 Israelis and wounded hundreds, according to The Israel Project, a non-government, non-profit organisation
Israel’s foreign ministry immediately attacked the Amnesty report as “biased and unprofessional”.
“Initial study of the report indicates that it presents a biased version of the events, and does not adhere to professional criteria and objectivity. A detailed response will be given at a later stage,” said a statement in Israel’s foreign ministry website posted on Monday.
The foreign ministry instead accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields, failing to recognise the existence of Israel and said that it was merely protecting its citizens against terror.
Israel began its military operation in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on 27 December. More than 1,330 Palestinians were killed and another 5,400 were injured in the three week-offensive that ended when Israel and Hamas unilaterally declared ceasefires on 18 January.
Boycotting Israel Won’t Solve Crisis
Letters to the Editor, Irish Independent — 3 March 09
Sir — We, members of the American Trade Union movement, have heard and read with disappointment and sadness that some of our Irish colleagues continue to lead a campaign in Ireland for a boycott of Israeli goods and services. It would seem that the appeal we made to them, during our visit to Ireland last November, to reconsider their boycott call has fallen on deaf ears.
We believe that such a campaign amounts to a form of prejudice and discrimination. In unfairly singling out one party to the conflict, it aims to punish and delegitimise Israel while ignoring the decades-long attacks against it by Palestinian terrorist organisations. Such a campaign can only serve to embolden these extreme elements and disempower moderates.
We believe that the boycott campaign is misguided and runs counter to efforts to promote dialogue and understanding. It contradicts the insistence, based on the experience of the Irish peace process, on the value of dialogue as a means of solving conflict.
We suggest that, rather than embracing the politics of rejectionism, trade unionists and other non-governmental organisations seeking a just and fair resolution should help to bridge the gaps between the two sides. In particular, the encouragement of trade and academic links has the potential to bring employment and prosperity, significant factors in the achievement of peace.
Jack Ahern, President,
New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO,
Atty Mike Carroll,
Robert Haynes, President, Massachusetts AFL-CIO,
Atty Cody McCone,
Atty Brian O’Dwyer,
Tom Wilkinson, President,
Fairfield County Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Gaza: Hamas Criticises Donor’s Conference
(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, MARCH 3 — The Islamic movement in power in the Gaza Strip, Hamas, criticised today the Donor’s Conference for the reconstruction of Gaza which took place yesterday in Sharm El-Sheikh by accusing it of having exploited Gaza’s enormous need for aid for political reasons in order to strengthen Mahmud Abbas’s (Abu Mazen) Palestinian Authority. In a statement released in Gaza, Hamas affirms that ‘the participants in the Sharm El-Sheikh conference, led by the American administration, used the enormous need for reconstruction in Gaza to the political end of putting pressure on and black-mailing Hamas’’. According to Hamas, in trying to strengthen Abu Mazen, the conference ‘interfered in Palestinian internal affairs by imposing deplorable conditions for reconciliatory dialogue in Gaza’’ between the Islamic movement and Al-Fatah, the Palestinian organisation led by Abu Mazen. Hamas wants the approximately 4.5 billion dollars promised by the donors to be channelled through its institutions, and not through the Palestinian National Authority’s, forcedly removed from power in Gaza by the Islamic group in June 2007, or through a Palestinian National Unity government or a high committee with representatives from all Palestinian movements. Most of the international community recognises the Palestinian National Authority and not Hamas, at least not until this movement recognises Israel and renounces violence. (ANSAmed).
Gaza: Press, Letter From Shalit, Family Unaware
(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, MARCH 3 — The news published today in the Arab daily, Al-Jarida (Kuwait), according to which Hamas reportedly has sent in recent days a letter written by Gilad Shalit, the Israeli corporal held hostage in Gaza since 2006, has not yet been confirmed by Israel. According to al-Jarida, the letter was delivered in person by Hamas military leader Ahmed Jaabri, to the political leader of the organisation, Mussa Abu Marzuk, during a brief visit to Rafah (Gaza) in recent days. Abu Marzuk resides in Damascus and his entrance into Rafah — although not confirmed officially — has raised attention about the means of communication. According to al-Jarida, Abu Marzuk will deliver the letter to the Syrian Foreign Minister. Shalit’s family has said that for the moment they are completely unaware of the matter. “We are still verifying the issue” said Hezi Meshita, a spokesperson for the family. In the past, the Shalit family has already received a letter and an audio tape from the prisoner. (ANSAmed).
Gaza; Another Border Incident; Schools Closed in Ashqelon
(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, MARCH 3 — Tensions remain high on the borders of the Gaza Strip where another incident was reported today. According to Israeli military sources, a patrol spotted Palestinian militiamen near the border fence, apparently planning to plant a bomb. The troops used light arms to move them away, as well as some mortar salvos. There are no reports of casualties. Yesterday a rocket was launched from Gaza on the Israeli city of Ashqelon. Today, for the second day in succession, schools in the city remained closed since the students’ parents claim that the necessary protection from the rockets launched in the past weeks by Hamas cannot be guaranteed. Despite these tensions the transit of humanitarian aid through the border crossings to Gaza continues. Israeli military sources point out that today 200 lorries will pass, carrying aid to the Palestinian population. A supply of diesel oil will be brought in to Gaza through another border crossing. (ANSAmed).
Hamas and Fatah Release Prisoners, Hope to Rebuild Gaza
A national dialogue should lead to a caretaker government able to gain international recognition and 3 billion dollars in aid for Gaza. The population remains by and large cautious since both groups have been plagued by corruption.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) — The two main Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, have agreed on a release of prisoners, a few days before a meeting in Egypt that should lead to more aid for Gaza. Hamas has lifted house arrest on some Fatah members in the Gaza Strip whilst Fatah has released about 80—out of a total 380 held—Hamas members.
The two sides also promised to stop media attacks against each other.
The reconciliatory gestures come a few days before an international donor’s conference is set to open in Egypt next Monday.
The Palestinians hope to raise almost US$ 3 billion to rebuild Gaza after last month’s Israeli offensive. But determining how to send aid to Gaza’s people is tricky because much of the international community shuns Hamas, which is viewed as a terrorist organisation.
Fatah is led by Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen), who is also head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the only internationally recognised Palestinian body.
The two groups approach Israel differently. Hamas wants to destroy Israel, by means that include suicide bombers; Fatah is seeking a “two states” solution for the two peoples.
The gap between Hamas and Fatah has widened in the last three years. In 2007 the militant Islamist group took over Gaza, leaving the West Bank in the hands of Fatah.
Hamas has even accused its rival of running a Gaza spy ring for Israel during the last offensive. Fatah has charged Hamas of persecuting Fatah activists in Gaza.
Hamas-Fatah talks are also urgent because presidential elections are looming.
A caretaker national unity government is likely to be on the table in Cairo. It would run things until presidential and parliamentary elections are held in the two Palestinian territories. In the meantime, international aid could pour in to rebuild Gaza.
Most Palestinians remain cautious, not fully trusting either side.
In the past both Hamas and Fatah have been involved in corruption.
Israel: $10 Mln Donation to Catholic Schools for Pope Visit
(ANSAmed) -VATICAN CITY, MARCH 3 — The Israeli government has set aside 10 million dollars for Catholic schools in the Holy land to prepare students (Christians and Muslims) for Pope Benedict XVI’s visit in May. The parish priest of Jerusalem Father Ibrahim Faltas made the announcement to SIR, the religious information service promoted by the CEI. The news was also confirmed by Father Elias Daw, President of the appeal court of the Greek Catholic Church, Melkita, the largest in Israel, with 60,000 members: “this initiative shows the expectation in Israel over the papal visit. It comes at a very delicate time, following the tragedy in Gaza, recent insults to the symbols of our faith on Israeli television, denial declarations by bishop Williamson. Never have the Christians in the Holy Land needed the Pope’s visit and his voice of truth and justice more.” There are 44 Catholic schools in Israel, with 24,000 Muslim and Catholic students. (ANSAmed).
Israel: Palestinians Pay Off Terrorists After Summit Donations Bonanza
Of course. The Egyptian Summit yesterday raised $5.2 billion dollars for the Palestinians to rebuild Gaza. In the first press release following the summit the Palestinian news service announced that the terrorists and their families would get a bonus.
Defence: Turkey-Israel Joint Projects Well Armored
(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 24 — There are no problems in Turkish and Israeli relations or ongoing joint defense projects, according to the Turkish Undersecretary for Defense Industry, Murad Bayar. Recent reports in the media suggested some military projects between Turkey and Israel could be canceled after tension escalated between the two countries over the latest Gaza operation and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s outburst in Davos and subsequent departure. “It is not the right approach to expect problems. These are long-term projects and no last-minute changes can be made for any of them. It takes time. Besides, Turkey and Israel mutually benefit from these projects,” Bayar said, responding to the questions from journalists yesterday at the International Defense Exhibition and Conference, or IDEX-2009, in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The projects were carried out in line with the government’s policies. Turkey and Israel are conducting joint military exercises and have a strong partnership in terms of military equipment and arms. Trade volume between Turkey and Israel was $2.6 billion in 2007 and some suggest at least $1.8 billion of this can be attributed to military equipment trade, according to daily Hürriyet’s website. (ANSAmed).
Education: Syria, Sunday Sees EU Orientation Day on Tempus
(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 27 — The delegation from the EU Commission currently in Syria has organised a day of orientation on the Tempus programme, the EU-funded project to support and modernise higher education in the country, to take place on March 1. The project has been organised together with Syria’s Education ministry, with the objective of presenting how the European programme is to function with the illustration of several examples ranging from shared projects on teaching methods and the modernisation of higher education institutions to measures aimed at contributing to the development and reform of the systems and bodies affected. Tempus has a budget of around 51 million euro, with the possibility for individual projects to receive funding of between 0.5 and 1.5 million euro. (ANSAmed).
Finmeccanica: UAE Orders 48 Aermacchi Trainer Planes
(ANSAmed) — ROME — The United Arab Emirates have ordered 48 advanced training planes from Italian company Alenia Aermacchi (a subsidiary of Finmeccanica). This is the first ever order for the M-346 Master trainer plane. The announcement was made by the United Arab Emirates government during the Idex 2009 Fair (International Defence Exhibition and Conference) which is under way in Abu Dhabi, and was confirmed by the Finmeccanica group. The agreement, which also includes the setting up of a joint-venture in the UAE between Alenia Aermacchi and Mubadala Development Company (Mubadala) to develop a final assembly-line for the M-346, is the result of close collaboration between the Italian government and the defence industry, which worked together to promote Italian excellence in the high-technology aeronautics industry. Italy also plans to buy 15 M-346 jets for its air-force using funds from the Ministry for Economic Development. ‘‘The choice of the M-346 by the United Arab Emirates government represents an enormously valuable success for the Italian high-tech industry’’, said President and managing director of Finmeccanica Pier Francesco Guarguaglini. It is an affirmation of notable strategic value for Finmeccanica, because it confirms the superiority of this new generation advanced training aircraft at an international level and opens the way to further successes in other markets worldwide, where other major campaigns are already under way. The preference given to the M-346 by the United Arab Emirates government is part of a wider industrial cooperation agreement recently signed by Finmeccanica and Mubadala which includes the manufacture of aircraft in composite materials for the civil aviation industry in Abu Dhabi’’. The M-346 Master is the only new generation advanced training aircraft currently in production in Europe. The twin-engine M346 is capable of training pilots to fly fighter planes such as the Eurofighter, the Rafale, the F-16 and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; in fact it will be used in all stages of advanced and pre-operational training, thus reducing flight hours in more expensive aircraft.(ANSAmed).
Israeli Army Chief Apologizes to Turkish Counterpart
(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 20 — Israeli army chief phoned his Turkish counterpart to apologize for harsh remarks made last week by his country’s Ground Forces Commander, Avi Mizrahi, Hurriyet Daily reported today, quoting The Jerusalem Post. Israel’s Chief of General Staff, Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, spoke with Turkish military chief, Gen. Ilker Basbug, in an effort to prevent a deterioration in military relations with Turkey, the newspaper said. Mizrahi said last week Erdogan, who severely criticized Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, “should first look in the mirror”, and accused Turkey of “committing a massacre of Armenians, as well as suppression of the Kurds”. After Mizrahi’s remarks, Turkey called the Israeli ambassador to the Foreign Ministry and handed a note of protest demanding clarification, while the military denounced them as “excessive, unfortunate and unacceptable”. “Israel’s army Chief of General Staff, Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, spoke with his Turkish counterpart this week and said that the remarks attributed to Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi were not the official IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) position and that IDF generals and commanders were permitted to only express opinions on military and security issues”, the Israeli paper quoted a statement released by the IDF Spokesman’s Office. (ANSAmed).
Israel: Press, Yes to Limited USA-Iran Dialogue
(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, MARCH 3 — Israel has decided to adopt a favourable line to the opening of talks between the United States and Iran but stresses the risks involved. According to Israel these talks must be limited in time and must be preceded by severe international sanctions against Iran. Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reports that a document on this issue has been prepared by Israel’s ministries of foreign affairs and defence. The document will be presented to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who today will be in Jerusalem for intense political talks with Israeli leaders. According to the daily, Israel wants to stress the importance of imposing time limits to the dialogue with Iran. The talks are aimed at inducing Iran to give up on its nuclear programme which is suspected to have military purposes, to prevent Iran from prolonging the length of talks, with the sole objective of gaining time. The newspaper writes that premier-designate Benyamin Netanyahu has been informed about the document’s content and that he reportedly made no objections to its content. Netanyahu will have a meeting with Clinton today. (ANSAmed).
Kuwait: Security Stepped Up at Saudi Embassy Amid Attack Fears
Kuwait City, 3 March (AKI) — Kuwait’s interior ministry has urged its security forces to remain on high alert and increase protection for the Saudi Arabian embassy and the country’s ambassador amid fears of terror attacks. According to the Kuwaiti daily, al-Rai, authorities received a tip-off about threats to Saudi interests in the country and security forces were reportedly on a heightened state of alert.
Police have strengthened checkpoints and the number of security officials around the Saudi embassy and in front of the Saudi Arabian Airlines’ head office as well the airport.
It is not clear which militant group or individuals may have made the threats and there are few details about them, but Kuwaiti authorities have been fighting Al-Qaeda cells in the country for some time.
The security concerns follow an attack in the Iranian capital Tehran in December last year in which a militant group called Brothers of Heaven attacked the office of the Saudi state-owned airline, reportedly over a Saudi-backed peace initiative with Israel.
There are fears that elements close to the terrorist network may have decided to take revenge against Riyadh.
The Saudi authorities compiled a list of 85 individuals believed to be Al-Qaeda inspired militants, many of whom have joined new jihadist cells on the border with Yemen.
A former detainee in the US military prison camp in Guantanamo who became an Al-Qaeda commander recently surrendered to Saudi authorities.
Mohammed al-Awfi was on the wanted list of 85 Al-Qaeda-inspired Islamist militants issued by Saudi Arabia in February.
Lingerie as a Weapon in the Fight for Saudi Reforms
A campaign underway to lift ban on women working in lingerie stores puts the spotlight on reforms in the kingdom. In February Saudi king made major changes to powerful institutions, replacing ultra-conservative figures. Some people dubbed the changes as a “bold reform”; others see them instead as a way to reassert the central role of the state. Ultraconservatives are mobilising against TV stations owned by members of the ruling family.
Beirut (AsiaNews) — Lingerie is becoming a reason for talking about reforms in Saudi Arabia. In fact covered from head to toes, unable to drive a car or going out without a male “guardian” (father, husband, brother, etc.), Saudi women even have to rely on men to buy their underwear because under Saudi law they cannot work in stores that sell lingerie. The situation is such that Saudi academic Reem As’ad is leading a Facebook campaign to boycott lingerie shops that employ men.
In today’s edition Arab News also highlighted the absurdity of the situation in which typically female apparel like lingerie can only be sold by men. The problem is that such stores are the only places where that happens because men and women can buy any other item in any other store and be served by male or female employees.
“As’ad’s campaign might end without a result,” said the paper, “as she is not fighting a concrete law or body. She and her supporters are up against a way of thinking that insists that women stay at home. But that way of thinking is being challenged every day, and the appointment of a woman as a deputy minister a few days ago gives us hope that change is on its way.”
The paper, which is closely aligned with Saudi King Abdullah, also focused on the king’s Valentine’s Day reform, dubbed the Saudi Spring in the West, which includes a shake-up of the kingdom’s cabinet and key religious institutions with the replacement of ultraconservative figures with more open-minded members.
Similarly, the appointment of education expert Noura al-Fayez as deputy minister of girls’ education is significant step in the same direction. She now holds the highest post ever occupied by a woman in Saudi Arabia.
Abdullah’s changes are profound: four new ministers, new top judiciary chiefs and new members of the Ulema Council, as well as a new chief of the religious police (the feared and infamous Muttawa). Gone is Supreme Judicial Council head Sheikh Saleh al-Luhaidan who blocked reforms for years.
And for the first time ever the Ulema Council will include representatives of all four Sunni schools of religious law. Previously only the ultra-conservative Hanbali School was represented on the council.
‘Bold reform,’ Al-Hayat newspaper said in its headline, while the Saudi Gazette heralded the shake-up as a ‘boost for reform.’
“It is a clear sign of a major transformation in the kingdom,” wrote Arab News in an editorial article.
“Everything is fantastic,” said Ibrahim Mugaiteeb, head of Human Rights First Society.
But not everyone agrees.
For Toby Jones, assistant professor of history at Rutgers University and a Persian Gulf analyst, King Abdullah’s “reforms” are not designed to modernise the kingdom but rather to build up the power of the state at the expense of religious leaders who had acquired substantial autonomy over the years.
Even on women’s rights things have not really changed, considering that 2009 was supposed to be the year when Saudi women received the right to vote in the next round of elections for the country’s municipal councils. Instead, the kingdom has apparently scrapped the elections altogether.
Whatever the case may be, religious traditionalists are not giving up easily.
Just yesterday a Saudi religious scholar accused a royal tycoon and another Saudi businessman of being “as dangerous as drug dealers” because the TV channels they own broadcast movies.
Youssef al-Ahmed, a professor in the Islamic law department at the ultraconservative al-Imam University, issued an edict in Saturday chastising Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, nephew of King Abdullah, and Waleed al-Ibrahim, a brother-in-law of the late King Fahd.
The edict comes about six months after the former head of the kingdom’s highest tribunal said it was permissible to kill the owners of satellite TV stations that show content deemed “immoral.”
Reform, it would seem, has still a long way to go. (PD)
Middle East: Syria’s Clenched Fist
Syria is building a new chemical weapons factory next to a long-range missile base, hiding evidence of its mushrooming nuclear weapons program and radically increasing military spending on conventional systems. These activities which are primarily funded by Iran suggest Damascus is preparing for war and not — in President Obama’s unhappy terminology — unclenching its fist.
President Obama promised “If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us.” Why then has the president “extended” his hand when Damascus is obviously on the war path?
Rains Falls on Drought-Stricken Syria
(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, FEBRUARY 11 — Less than 24 hours after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s had called for a “prayer to ask for rain” to be said on Saturday, “abundant rain has fallen across most of Syria”, bringing at least momentary respite from the country’s dry spell, as reported by the Syrian official press agency Sana. “Following a long period of drought, it has rained abundantly and for many hours on Damascus and the surrounding areas, instilling hope in citizens that the dry spell has come to an end,” wrote Sana. Over the night it rained “heavily” even in other parts of the country. Yesterday, Assad had asked the Ministry for Religious Affairs to make a call for a prayer to be said on Saturday to ask God for rain in all the country’s mosques. For the occasion, the ministry had also recommended that the faithful fast for three days beginning tomorrow. According to UN sources, this year Syria has suffered its worst drought in the past 40 years. Last year the Syrian Agriculture Ministry and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) signed a document to send urgent aid to the country to help farmers suffering greatly from the phenomenon. Due to the lack of rain, last year wheat yields in Syria totaled less than two million tonnes, three million less than 2007. (ANSAmed).
Saudi Arabia: Differences With Syria Matter of Past, Minister
(ANSAmed) — ROMA, 27 FEB — Differences with Syria are a matter of the past, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal said as reported by Arab News. Quoting Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah’s statement, Saud said yesterday in Paris, “We have dug a deep pit and buried our differences and will not return to past disputes but will look forward for future.” Saud also affirmed that any Israeli government should, if it seeks peace, to interact with Palestinians as human beings, and not as a people to be humiliated and killed. “If Israel wants real peace, it should coexist with Palestinians in peace. Or else, things would just worsen for all,” he said. On Afghanistan, Saud said, “What Afghanistan requires is peace, development, stability and not military action.” (ANSAmed).
Suleiman Says Syrian-Saudi Relations Good Sign
(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, FEBRUARY — Lebanese president Michel Suleiman, as quoted in the newspaper Beirut as-Safir this morning, has said that the potential normalization of relations between Syria and Saudia Arabia resulting from a meeting in Damascus between Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and the head of the Saudi secret services “is a sign of stability for the whole region”. “It is obvious that positive efforts are being made in the region to ensure stability,” Suleiman said, adding that for Lebanon, “there is no stability without normal relations with Syria.” Since 2005, relations between Damascus and Riyadh have been marked by high tension, as reflected in the fierce political outbursts taking place in Lebanon in the past four years between western sympathisers, as supported by Saudi Arabia, and Iranian sympathisers, supported by Syria. In a clear sign that tensions had diminished, last Sunday in Damascus the Saudi prince Muqrin bin Abd al-Aziz sent a message to Assad from King Abdallah in which he talked of ‘bilateral relations’’, and underlined the ‘importance for consultation and coordination between the two sides’’. Suleiman stated that the re-kindling of relations between Damascus and Riyadh had been made possible ‘thanks to diplomatic efforts’’ made by Qatar and Kuwait. In the broader context of Arab nations, reconciliation has yet to be made between Syria and Egypt. (ANSAmed).
Syria-USA: Assad, Send Ambassador Soon
(ANSAmed) — LONDON, FEBRUARY 18 — Syrian president Hafez el Assad has said that the USA should send an ambassador to Syria as soon as possible to follow up the ‘positive’’ start made by President Barack Obama, who plans to have talks with countries which the previous Bush administration considered to be sworn enemies. Mr el Assad was speaking in an exclusive interview The Guardian. In a rare interview the Syrian leader explained: ‘We have the impression that this administration will be different, and we have seen positive signs from Obama, Clinton and others, but we are still in the period of gestures and signals, there is nothing real yet the visit by a high-level delegation from Congress is important and is a step in the right direction. An ambassador would be important’’. The USA has been represented by a chargé d’affaires in Damascus since February 2005, when the Washington ambassador was recalled following the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, for which Syria was blamed — although they have always denied it. Referring to Obama’s offer to speak with anyone who decides to ‘unclench their fist’’, the Syrian President said: ‘We have never clenched our fist. We talked about peace even during the Israeli aggression in Gaza’’. Assad believes that the USA should become ‘chief arbiter in the Middle East peace process — a process which is he is pessimistic about given that the new Israeli government will be made up of a centre-right coalition. He explained to the USA that ‘Syria is a player in the region, if you want to talk about peace, you cannot advance without Syria. To count on the next Israeli government is a waste of time” said the Syrian leader, who believes that the war in Gaza has complicated prospects for peace negotiations with Syria too: ‘It will make it harder, but in the end we will return to talks’’. (ANSAmed).
USA-Syria: Press, Feltman and Shapiro to be Envoys
(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT — Jeffrey Feltman (in the photo) and Daniel Shapiro, respectively President Barack Obama’s Vice-Secretary of State for the Middle East and his Political Advisor for the Middle East, will be the two U.S. representatives on their way to Damascus to set in motion dialogue with Syrian authorities, as reported the press in Beirut today in reference to statements made yesterday in Jerusalem by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Citing official American sources, Lebanese daily An-Nahar said that the date for Shapiro’s and Feltman’s mission to the Middle East had not yet been set. Feltman is the former US Ambassador to Lebanon. The daily continued by saying that they would both make a visit to Beirut to meet with Lebanese government officials before going to Damascus. ‘‘We will send a State Department and a White House representative to examine bilateral issues with Syria,’’ Clinton had announced yesterday during her official visit to Israel. After about 6 years of high-level tension, relations between Damascus and Washington in recent weeks have gradually thawed, coinciding with the Barack Obama’s entrance into the White House.(ANSAmed).
Yemen: New Terror Camps as a City Falls to Jihadists
In January, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh asked his network of loyalist jihadists to prepare for offensive operations against domestic “enemies of the state.” In return, Saleh has ceded authority to fundamentalist fanatics who seek to impose a neo-Salafi theocracy in the religiously pluralistic country. It is unclear if this is the full extent of the quid pro quo.
For nearly a decade, Yemen’s counter terror strategy has hinged on deal-making with Yemen’s jihadists. Counter terror operations are sporadic and often driven by US or Saudi intelligence. President Saleh has negotiated agreements whereby hundreds of militants’ jail terms were suspended in exchange for a loyalty pledge. Convicted and suspected al Qaeda operatives were given state jobs, cash payments, cars, and land.
High-profile terrorists have repeatedly broken out of jail and then were pardoned for their original crime as well as the escape. This is Yemen’s terrorist rehabilitation program, and these appeasements are staunchly defended by Yemeni officials as necessary to gain intelligence and ensure security. Recently, however, Saleh began to activate this army of militants to target his political foes.
Saleh faces crises on two fronts. A southern populist uprising in the six governorates of the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen has taken on separatist overtones. At the same time, the northern Saada war with Zaidi Shiite rebels may erupt for the sixth time since 2004. Saleh has deployed jihadists as a paramilitary against the northern rebels since 2005.
Facing threats in the north and south, and an increasingly poverty stricken and desperate nation, Saleh has embarked on a strategy of empowering Islamic militants who, in exchange, have been given a free hand over some local populations…
Barack Obama Offers to Scrap US Missile Defence System in Secret Letter to Russia
President Barack Obama has written a secret letter to his Russian counterpart suggesting that he would scrap the proposed US missile defence system in eastern Europe in exchange for Russia’s assistance in pressuring Iran to stop building a nuclear weapon, according to reports.
Bangladesh: Sewing School Provides Tribal Families With Livelihood
The center was created in the 1980’s. The idea came from a missionary of French origin, who during the 1960’s began to create employment opportunities for women of the Garo tribe. Today, more than 100 families are able to support themselves thanks to income obtained through work at the center.
Mymensingh (AsiaNews/UCAN) — Thanks to the work of the Salesian sisters, the women of the Garo tribe are learning an occupation, and their families are even able to build homes. Northeast of Dhaka, in the parish of Bhalukapara, the Salesian Sisters of Mary Immaculate opened a center in 1986 to teach the women to sew.
Over more than 20 years of activity, the center, adjacent to the parish, has helped young women and mothers to learn an occupation, and participate in a little joint venture thanks to which 100 families are today able to support themselves independently.
Sr. Mary Rani Rozario, the director of the center, explains that the idea of a place to teach women an occupation came about in 1967. Sr. Genevi, a French missionary who at the time was the mother superior of the convent of St. Joseph in Bhalukapara, thought it was indispensable to create employment opportunities for the Garo women. In the matriarchal society of the tribals, the development of nuclear families and their ability to support themselves is based precisely on the initiative of women.
In Bangladesh, one of the Asian countries with the lowest level of human development, the subsistence economy is a reality of life for many families. More than 45% of the population, about 65 million people out of a total of 150 million, suffer from hunger. And it is mainly tribal minorities who are affected by this situation.
Twenty years ago, Sujata Chicham didn’t have any land where she could build a house for her family. Thanks to the work she learned in the courses she took at the center of the Salesian sisters, today she has a house and three hectares of land to cultivate. The same thing happened for Uzzala Rema, a 50-year-old mother of a family. Fifteen years ago, she was unable to support her five children, but today she says that thanks to her income from sewing she is able to support her family without problems.
The women at the center in Bhalukapara earn between 1,000 and 2,000 taka (12-24 euros) per month, on the basis of the orders received by the center, and this allows individual families a dignified standard of living, and permits them to send their children to school and to professional and occupational courses.
The presence of the Salesian sisters in the area of the parish and their efforts on behalf of the women have also led to the emergence of vocations among various young people, the children of the women who work at the center in Bhalukapara, who over the years have become priests, sisters, or catechists.
There are about 9,000 Catholics in the parish of St. Joseph, part of a community with just over 400,000 faithful in the entire country, a small minority immersed in a population that is 90% Muslim.
Bangladeshi Army Pursuing Fugitive Paramilitaries
The mutiny by the Bangladesh Rifle troops caused 160 deaths, 140 army officers and 20 civilians. The government has asked Scotland Yard and the FBI for help finding the fugitives. Tens of thousands of people attended the state funeral for some of the victims.
Dhaka (AsiaNews/Agencies) — The army of Bangladesh has begun a manhunt to flush out 1,000 rebels belonging to the Bangladesh Rifle, the border guards who carried out a mutiny that caused more than 160 deaths in the country. Today in Dhaka, a funeral was held for some of the victims, attended by tens of thousands of people.
The government of prime minister Sheikh Hasina has issued arrest warrants for “1,000 guardsmen and accomplices.” In order to flush out and punish those responsible for the violence, the prime minister has asked for the help of Scotland Yard and the FBI. The accusations against the rebel paramilitaries include “conspiracy to kill officers and civilians, using weapons and explosives, creating panic, looting and trying to hide bodies.”
Last February 25, the Bangladesh Rifle unleashed a revolt over the failure to settle back pay. At first, the government had promised general amnesty for those who surrendered. The discovery of mass graves inside the general headquarters of the border guards and the murder of dozens of army officers convinced the government of Prime Minister Harina to take a hard line against the rebels. Initial reports say that 160 have been killed, 140 army officers and 20 civilians. The military has stressed that those responsible for murder “will be executed.”
This morning in Dhaka, tens of thousands of people attended the state funeral for a first group of officers assassinated by the rebels during the mutiny. The coffins, covered with the flag of Bangladesh, were taken to the military stadium in the capital and placed on a red carpet; army officers and soldiers recited prayers for their slain comrades.
Orissa: Christian Beaten and Abducted by Hindu Extremists, But is a Wanted Man for Police
Golyat Pradhan, 22, was abducted on 11 February and has not been heard ever since. His mother filed a statement of disappearance, but for police he is wanted man after fundamentalists accused him of being a “Maoist” and a rapist. Meanwhile anti-Christian violence continues.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) — A young man has been abducted and tortured by Hindu fundamentalists without police lifting a finger. If anything when his mother tried to file a complain about his disappearance, police issued him a summons to come to the police station, this according to Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), an NGO that monitors the ill-treatment of Christians in the Indian State of Orissa.
The activist confirmed that the “situation is still bad” for Christians, and that extremists are “freely roaming villages”, involved in criminal acts and attacking people without much as hiccup from police.
In Daringabadi, a village in Kandhamal district (Orissa) police refused to register the statement of disappearance involving the young man; instead, it issued a summons for the abducted Christian to come to the police station.
“At 4 pm on 11 February a Hindu mob surrounded Golyat Pradhan’s house, demanding that the 22-year-old and his widowed mother Pusra convert to Hinduism,” said Sajan K. George.
“When the two Christians soundly refused, the mob became enraged. Hindu fanatics then “dragged the man out of the house” and “began beating him mercilessly. Helpless the mother watched, pleading with her son’s assailants to have mercy on him.” Instead, “her cries spurred the fanatics who then shoved her inside the house, bolting the door.”
The Hindu extremists took Golyat to the neighbouring village of Galabadi, dragging and beating him mercilessly. Armed with sticks they tied him to a post, standing guard near the entrance to the village, to prevent any attempt to rescue him.
The mob beat the young man till he lost consciousness. Two fires were lit near the post where he was tied. The torture continued until 10 pm when the extremists called Daringabadi police, informing them that they had arrested a “Maoist” who had come into the village to rape.
“Police arrived in the morning around 10 am,” said Sajan K. George, “and freed the young man’s mother, who took the agents to where her son had been taken. But there was no trace of him. He has not been heard ever since.”
The activist said that instead of starting an investigation into the young man’s disappearance the police issued a summons for him to appear before police to answer charges filed against him.
Since August of last year, when anti-Christian violence broke out in Orissa, the Pradhan family has been the victim of threats by Hindu fundamentalists.
Local sources told AsiaNews that this was due to the fact that “they are close friends of a Catholic priest, a situation that has made them a prime target for fundamentalists who want to reconvert them to Hinduism.”
Questions Norwegian Operations in Afghanistan
NRK reports that Norwegian troops have on several occassions participated in operations in Afghanistan together with Afghan troops and with soldiers from Operation Enduring Freedom, officially not supported by Norway.
The present Norwegian red-green coalition government decided in 2005 to participate only in ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), a force which is backed by the UN with the aim to strengthen the Afghan government and the reconstruction of the country.
The aim of the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom is to destroy Al Qaida and Taliban, an operation supported by Norway until 2005, when the Norwegian government withdrew the Norwegian troops, in line with its declared policy.
Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) has been criticised for operations which has resulted in major civilian losses.
However, despite the withdrawal from OEF, Norwegian troops have on several occassions supported their units when they have asked for assistance. This is confirmed by Defence Chief Sverre Diesen to NRK. He says he sees no problems with this: The OEF units were involved in operatons which they could not handle and asked for Norwegian support, which thy got.
Senior researcher at the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO), Kristian Berg Harpviken, on the other hand, finds it unfortunate that Norway participates in operations we officially have distanced us from.
This makes Norwegian policy appear inconsistent, Harpviken says, fearing that if the present trend continues, it will end up that there will be even closer cooperation between Norwegian military unts and the US-led OEF.
Anyone Protesting Against China in Kathmandu to be Arrested
Protests in front Chinese diplomatic offices are banned for an indefinite period to prevent tens of thousands of Tibetan refugees from marking the March 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.
Kathmandu (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Nepal has banned for an indefinite period all protests around the Chinese Embassy and Visa Office in Kathmandu because of the “sensitivity of the situation.”
According to Navin Ghimire, spokesman for Nepal’s Home Affairs Ministry, anyone found protesting near the two sites will be arrested as a precaution against rallies meant to mark the 50th anniversary of Tibet’s uprising against Chinese rule. The revolt broke out on 10 March 1959 and was crushed in blood.
More than 20,000 Tibetans live in Nepal. Last year Kathmandu saw almost daily protests, including by monks and nuns, against China’s crackdown of protests in March.
Police cracked down violently arresting protesters (pictured), eliciting a strong protest by United Nations officials operating in the capital. The government imposed a similar ban at that time as well.
Recently Nepal’s Maoist-led government has sought closer ties to China than to its other big neighbour, India.
S. Korea: Two Examples of Labor Peace
The union leader of the leading Korean textile company Kolon visited a Japanese corporate customer Monday and delivered a letter guaranteeing the quality of Kolon-made products. He had earlier sent letters to some 130 clients with the union’s pledge to meet product delivery dates. Last year, Kolon saw sales revenue grow 30 percent and operating profit rise 43 percent year-on-year. The company attributes the good performance to its business restructuring based on labor peace, though a stronger U.S. dollar has padded revenues through foreign exchange gains. Hyundai Heavy Industries signed an agreement with its union Monday on guaranteeing job security over the next three years. The measure was the Hyundai president’s response to the union’s decision to leave this year’s wage adjustment to management.
The Kolon and Hyundai unions were once very militant when under the Korea Confederation of Labor Unions, one of Korea’s two largest umbrella unions. In 2006, 95 percent of Kolon union members voted to secede from the confederation after two years of strikes. The Hyundai union, also known for its extreme militancy before, was forced out of the umbrella union in 2004 after opposing the confederation’s “political struggle.” Free from the confederation’s militant guidelines, the two unions achieved labor peace to secure more profits or jobs.
Even at a time of economic depression and a shrinking job market, the confederation is blocking efforts to protect job security through labor peace. Unlike the less militant Federation of Korean Trade Unions, the confederation did not join a compromise made by labor, management and the government. When the union of Yungjin Pharmaceutical decided last month to freeze wages and postpone collective bargaining until the company returns to financial stability, the confederation meddled by threatening to take disciplinary action against the Yungjin union.
The Korean Metal Workers Union under the confederation distributed to unions under it posters blasting the Hyundai union as a conveyer of management’s demands to its members. The confederation had the metal workers union do this to prevent the atmosphere of labor peace from spreading to other workplaces. Wage cuts aimed at creating more jobs are spreading nationwide, but the confederation wants wage hikes of 5.9 percent for regular workers and 20.8 percent for non-regular workers, while banning all layoffs. This demand is so anachronistic. The labor peace achieved by the Kolon and Hyundai unions needs to serve as a lesson for the confederation.
Sudan: Bashir Will ‘Not Cooperate’ With Court, Says Diplomat
Rome, 4 March (AKI) — Sudan’s ambassador to Italy, Alier Deng Ruai Deng, said his country would not cooperate with the International Criminal Court after it issued an arrest warrant for president Omar al-Bashir for alleged war crimes in Darfur on Wednesday. Al-Bashir, the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the court, faces five counts of crimes against humanity, including responsibility for murder, rape and torture, and two counts of war crimes.
“The view of Sudan is very clear. We will not accept such a decision from the ICC. We think it is a politically based decision, not based on legality,” said Deng in an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI).
Deng said Sudan rejected the ICC’s decision based on legal terms, as his country is not a party to the ICC’s founding Rome statute. It is the first time that the court has issued an arrest order against a sitting head of state since it began work in 2002.
The court in The Hague fell short of accusing al-Bashir (photo) of genocide, but the president immediately rejected the charges against him and dismissed any ICC ruling as worthless.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, after the warrant was announced and there were fears of widespread unrest.
“We will absolutely not cooperate with the ICC, nor will we accept their decision. First of all because we are not party to the ICC and thus it has no jurisdiction over Sudan. This is the main and legal point of view and the main reason why we do not cooperate with them,” said Deng.
However, the ambassador stressed that Sudan’s rejection of the court’s jurisdiction did not mean it condoned the atrocities committed in Darfur and told AKI that the 65 year-old al-Bashir was the victim of political persecution.
“(We will not cooperate) Not because we want to condone the atrocities that have taken place in Darfur. It is a principle position that we are not a member, we are not a party. Maybe the ICC has been influenced by certain circuits.”
Deng also claimed that evidence provided to the court was not reliable.
“We see no strong evidence from the witness. Sources used were not reliable, and we have a problem in that sense. How do we know if this evidence is reliable?”
However, Deng told AKI that he did not expect any negative repercussions in the short term with western countries.
“Up to now, we do not think there are going to be any immediate repercussions after the decision. It could happen later, but up to now we don’t think there will be any.”
Deng said Sudan ruled out the possibility of handing over al-Bashir to any tribunal, because he was still president and had immunity under international law.
“He is enjoying his immunity as president of Sudan,” concluded Deng.
Al-Bashir will face five counts of crimes against humanity and two of war crimes, however, he will not face charges of genocide. The charges, which carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, were announced at a media conference in The Hague by court spokeswoman Laurence Blairon.
Blairon said Bashir was suspected of being criminally responsible for “intentionally directing attacks against an important part of the civilian population of Darfur, Sudan, murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians and pillaging their property”
Sudan’s ruling party the National Congress, announced plans for a march in the capital Khartoum on Thursday to protest against the decision.
The United Nations estimates at least 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million others displaced from their homes in fighting across Darfur over the past six years between rebels, government forces and allied militiamen known as the Janjaweed.
The militiamen are accused of widespread human rights abuses in their attacks against civilians.
Guatemalan Inmates Tear Prison Teacher’s Heart Out
[Comment from Tuan Jim: Old habits die hard — note that this is a *juvenile* prison.]
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Police say inmates at a Guatemalan juvenile prison killed one of their teachers during a riot and ripped his heart out.
Police spokesman Donald Gonzalez says the prisoners took three of their teachers hostage to protest the transfer of several of their fellow inmates to another detention center.
He says they killed one of the teachers, Winter Vidaurre, and tore out his heart before police regained control of the prison using tear gas.
The violence erupted Tuesday at the Stage 2 detention center. It was unclear how old the rioters were. Of the 62 prisoners, 32 reached adulthood while incarcerated.
Italy: 171 Illegal Immigrants Land on Lampedusa
Lampedusa, 4 March (AKI) — A people smuggling boat carrying 171 illegal immigrants evaded the Italian coastguard and arrived on the southernmost island of Lampedusa early on Wednesday. Among those on board was a newborn baby and 26 women.
Another boat with 34 other illegal immigrants, including two pregnant women, were reportedly heading for Porto Empedocle on the southern Sicilian coast.
A further 84 illegal migrants reached Lampedusa overnight and were transferred to the island’s overcrowded expulsion centre which is designed to hold a maximum 800 people.
The centre is currently under severe strain due to the conservative government’s hardline policy of deporting illegal immigrants directly from Lampedusa instead of transferring them to other centres elsewhere in Italy.
Some illegal immigrants have been detained for over two months on Lampedusa and immigrants in February rioted at the centre and burned down several buildings that included dormitories.
Italian opposition politicians, the United Nations and rights groups have deplored the severe overcrowding at the centre where as many as 1,800 people have been held in recent months.
The government’s mass expulsions of illegal immigrants from Lampedusa has also been criticised by rights groups who fear some immigrants could face persecution in their countries of origin.
A growing number of illegal immigrants to Italy are claiming and obtaining refugee status — 31,097 people in 2008 compared with 14,053 in 2007. Over 9,000 others obtained protection.
Lampedusa, which lies around 113 kilometres from Tunisia and 205 kilometres south of Sicily, has become the main landing point for rapidly growing numbers of illegal immigrants arriving in Italy by sea from North Africa.
A total of 31,000 arrived on Lampedusa last year, out of 36,900 who reached Italy by boat. Locals claimed the island was being turned into a Mediterranean ‘Alcatraz’.
Despite calls for the Lampedusa expulsion centre to be closed down, Italy’s interior ministry said on Tuesday it planned to keep the centre open and to rebuild the sections destroyed in last month’s fire.
The government is also seeking repatriation agreements with various African countries from which most of the illegal migrants come. It claims these accords will in future stem the tide of illegal immigrants arriving in Italy from Africa as it did with Albania during the 1990s.
King Critical of Spending for “Pro-Amnesty Organization”
A $950,000 earmark for a Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the omnibus spending bill that passed the U.S. House Wednesday has drawn the ire of U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron. The Iowa Republican called the National Council of La Raza a “pro-amnesty organization” and said “the last thing Congress should be doing is handing out cash to apologists for immigration law breakers.”
UK: Immigration Minister Attacks Statistics Chiefs for Publishing ‘Sinister’ Race Numbers
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was today urged to sack a minister who accused Britain’s statistics body of ‘sinister’ motives over immigration.
Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, claimed that the independent Office for National Statistics had been ‘playing politics’ by releasing figures showing that one in nine UK residents was born overseas during a dispute over the use of foreign workers.
The immigration minister revealed that he had tried to prevent the organisation publishing the data and accused it of ‘playing politics’. Ministers appear to be going on the offensive against the ONS and its chief statistician, Karen Dunnell, after a series of rows over official data.
But Mr Woolas’s broadside triggered backlash from MPs, who say the body must be able to collect information and provide impartial analysis free from Government interference.
Senior Tory Michael Fallon, a former chairman of the Commons statistics panel, said: ‘It’s disgraceful, undermining the ONS. You can’t have ministers attacking its independence. He should withdraw the comments or be sacked.’
Ministers were said to be ‘fizzing’ with anger last month after the ONS published figures showing the growing numbers of immigrants getting jobs while the British workforce declines. It revealed that the number of foreign workers increased by 175,000 to 2.4million last year while the number of British fell by 234,000 to 27million. Labour sources suggested the timing of the release was a political act designed to embarrass Gordon Brown over his controversial ‘British jobs for British workers’ slogan. It came as construction workers took part in wildcat strikes in Lincolnshire and Kent, angry about jobs going to foreigners. Then last week, the ONS published statistics showing foreign-born people make up one in nine of the population of the UK.
In a letter to Sunder Katwala, head of the Left-wing Fabian Society, Mr Woolas said most people believed it was the Government that had released the data. ‘In fact, it was the ONS with no ministerial involvement and indeed despite my objections,’ he added. ‘What’s worse is that the press release highlighted the one in nine figure as the main finding. ‘So, Government gets the blame by some for whipping up anti-foreign sentiment when it is the independent ONS who are playing politics. ‘The justification from the ONS who had, out of schedule, highlighted the figure two weeks earlier because it was “topical” is, at best, naive or, at worst, sinister.’
Mr Woolas insisted the fact that one in nine people who are in Britain were born overseas was ‘neither new nor informative’. Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘The way ministers are behaving over crime and immigration figures is little short of a disgrace. ‘When they can, they manipulate the figures for their own political purposes and when they can’t they launch hysterical rants at the independent statistics office.’ Sir Andrew Green, head of the MigrationWatch think tank, said: ‘It’s extremely unfortunate if a minister gives an impression of bullying the official statisticians for doing no more than setting out the facts, however inconvenient they may be for the Government of the day. ‘To imply that there is some sinister motive in simply telling the truth is astonishing.’ Last night, Mr Woolas was unrepentant saying: ‘The ONS need to be aware that they are entering shark-infested waters. It’s not the role of the ONS to dictate the debate.’ A spokesman for the ONS said: ‘We will not be responding to this letter.’
UK: Immigration Minister Urged to Withdraw ‘Smear’ Against Statistics Chief or Resign
Experts from Britain’s statistics watchdog hit back at immigration minister Phil Woolas yesterday as controversy mounted over his attack on the ‘sinister’ release of population figures.
Sir Michael Scholar warned they were being ‘pilloried’ for publishing objective information and insisted immigration statistics had been released as they were clearly ‘in the public interest’.
Mr Woolas was embroiled in a row with official statisticians after questioning their motives in publishing figures showing one in nine UK residents was born overseas.
He was last night urged to withdraw his ‘smear’ against the independent statistics body or resign.
Jacqui Smith has been urged to sack Phil Woolas for his attack on the ONS
And as critics said the minister had effectively accused the Office of National Statistics of racism, Downing Street gave him only lukewarm support.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman was forced to insist that the Government believed in the independence of the body, which collects and publishes impartial data.
The Daily Mail revealed yesterday that the minister had tried to prevent the organisation publishing the immigration data and accused it of ‘playing politics’.
Sir Michael, head of the UK Statistics Authority, made public a letter rejecting Mr Woolas’s claim that the release of immigration statistics has been ‘naive and politically motivated’.
‘Whether you call it naivety or openness, statisticians must be encouraged to publish independent and objective statistics, not pilloried for doing so,’ he said.
Sir Michael said data on trends in the country of birth and nationality of workers in the UK had been released because the ONS had ‘judged that it was in the public interest to publish neutral and objective statistics on this subject as soon as possible’.
Senior Tory MP Michael Fallon, a former chairman of the Commons statistics panel, said Home Secretary Jacqui Smith should fire Mr Woolas if he would not withdraw his attack. ‘It’s disgraceful, undermining the ONS. You can’t have ministers attacking its independence,’ he said.
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: ‘Ministers cannot lay into independent statisticians simply because they do not like the figures they produce or dislike the timing of when they are ready.’
Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘This whole row is becoming extremely unedifying.
‘When ministers appear more concerned about making sure the figures tell a good story than actually tackling the problems in our immigration system, this is a clear sign of a Government that is out of touch.’
But Mr Woolas said he was right to be concerned that in publishing the figures outside its normal release schedule, the ONS had been seeking to influence the political debate.
He said he was ‘appalled’ at the way the body had highlighted figures showing one in nine British residents was born abroad.
He accused the ONS of trying to ‘grab headlines’ in order to show it was a ‘newly liberated and independent body’.
‘The ONS said they released the figures because they were topical,’ the minister said. ‘They have got to be very careful, in my view, that they don’t enter what is the most inflamed debate in British politics.’
Asked whether the Prime Minister endorsed Mr Woolas’s views, Mr Brown’s spokesman replied: ‘Phil Woolas chooses his own words and it is right that he does so.’
Bible Club Bullied for Faith Statement
University threatens group for requiring leaders be Christian
A university in Ohio has threatened the future of a campus Bible organization for requiring voting members and office holders be Christian.
According to Campus Bible Fellowship representative Gary Holtz, his group had been a registered student organization at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, for more than 30 years. Upon seeking re-registration for 2009, however, the university denied the Bible group’s access to facilities, student club fairs, advertising venues and recruiting opportunities — essentially blacklisting the club — because of CBF’s requirement that voting members adhere to a doctrinal statement and “accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior.”
Elementary Blots Out ‘in God We Trust’
Student-made posters censored for using words of faith
An elementary school in Tennessee, after successfully rebuffing an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit over religious expression on campus, has nonetheless ordered the words “God Bless the USA” and “In God We Trust” covered up on student-made posters in the hallway.
Administrators at Lakeview Elementary School in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., told parents that the posters, promoting the See You at the Pole student prayer event, mentioned “God” and are therefore precluded by school board policy and prohibited in the hallways as inappropriate.
Obama Wanted ‘Diversity of Voices’
‘I’m committed to having the FCC review what our current policies are’
Multiple members of Congress have said they think the so-called Fairness Doctrine, a long-abandoned Federal Communications Commission policy that regulated speech on radio, should be returned to the U.S., and now a statement by President Obama has been revealed that could give them hope.
The video posted on YouTube and embedded here, shows Obama set a goal for “diversification” long before he became president.
Book Review: United in Hate: the Left’s Romance With Tyranny and Terror
Glazov discusses both the philosophical underpinnings of the leftist world-view and the current form it’s taking in the U.S. Starting from the premise that existing reality in democratic America has to be destroyed and that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” large segments of the left today seek to forge an alliance with America’s enemies, once the Communist world, now the forces of radical Islam. Glazov traces and seeks to analyze the causes of this movement from the left’s support of “the red flag of proletarian revolution” to that of the “black flag of Islamic jihad.”
In many cases, Glazov shows how the same people who once sang the praises of Stalin as an anti-fascist leader now praise Islamic terrorists who seek to attack the West. While many learned from 9/11 that the West had real and very dangerous enemies, major figures of the once pro-Soviet Left apparently felt rejuvenated, viewing the attack on the twin towers as the revenge of the masses for American oppression of the Third World. For these people, Glazov writes, 9/11 was a “personal vindication,” since they saw “only poetic justice in American commercial airplanes plunging into American buildings packed with people.”
Israel-Vatican: ‘Progress’ on Church Property
(ANSAmed) — VATICAN CITY, FEBRUARY 19 — Israel and the Holy See are making “important progress” in negotiations aimed at establishing rules on Catholic Church property in Israel, according to a joint statement issued Thursday. The bilateral works commission met in Jerusalem Wednesday to discuss the long-standing question of taxation for Church property, for which the Holy See wants an exemption. “Important progress was made and the delegations have renewed their commitment to reaching an accord as soon as possible,” the statement said. The two sides have been conducting negotiations on Church property in Israel since Israel and the Holy See established relations in 1993 But until now the talks have stuttered and negotiators have reported little progress on any of the key questions. In addition to the tax exemption, another issue is how to deal with cases of Catholic properties which have ended up in Israeli hands and which the Vatican wants dealt with in local courts. Under Israeli law such issues must be resolved on a political level. The Vatican is also asking that custody of certain symbolic cites in Israel — such as the room of the Last Supper and an ancient church in Caesaria connected to St Peter — be returned to the Catholic Church. The commission is due to meet again on April 7. Observers say the commission is keen to reach solid ground in the negotiations before Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the Holy Land, which unofficial Vatican sources say will take place May 8-15. (ANSAmed).
Leftist Jews Who Worship at Altar of Anti-Semitism
A particularly interesting and telling debate has broken out over New York Times columnist Roger Cohen’s recent opinion piece about how well (allegedly) Iran’s Jew-hating regime treats its remaining Jews.
Cohen trying to explain the humanity showed to Jews by a regime bent on another Jewish Holocaust is yet another disturbing reminder of the liberal-Left’s traditional romance with tyranny and terror. It is a subject tackled by my new book, “United in Hate,” which gives a historical background to, and analysis of, the Left’s dalliance with the greatest monsters of our time.
The controversy sparked by Cohen’s column provides a fitting occasion to highlight a continuing and most-troubling phenomenon: Why so many left-leaning Jews in the West make excuses for — and even support — regimes and ideologies that seek to annihilate Jews.