Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20101130

Financial Crisis
»Contagion Strikes Italy as Ireland Bail-Out Fails to Calm Markets
»The End of Easy Green Money
»Common Sense Platform Interview With Beverly Eakman
»Is Wikileaks a Dick Cheney Front?
»Private Spaceship Could Start Carrying Tourists Within a Year
»Rising GOP Star to Speak at Heritage
»Senate Passes New Food Police Bill: Roll Call Vote 73-25; Senator Bennet: “It’s All Rigged”
»Shocker! TSA’s Nude Scans Would Miss Taped-on Bombs
»Virgin Galactic Keeps Mum on Orbital Spaceflight Ambitions
»Wikileaks Plans to Release a U.S. Bank’s Documents
»Won’t You Please Hug a Terrorist?
Europe and the EU
»European Commission to Probe Google Search
»Fears of Euro Crisis Contagion
»Germany: Munich Abuse Case
»Guantanamo Inmates Traded for Money and Obama Handshakes
»Italy: Law Prompts Italian ‘Fertility Tourists’ To Seek Out Foreign Eggs and Sperm
»Italy: Showgirl Waxes Sympathetic for Berlusconi in Poem
»Italy: Junior Minister to Attend Conference on the Burqa
»Italy: Wikileaks Reveals Berlusconi as “Feckless”, “Ineffective” And “Mouthpiece of Putin”
»Italy: Fresh Collapse at Pompeii
»‘Kauft Nicht Bei Juden’ Will Worsen the Conflict
»Leading Rabbi Says Europe Risks Being ‘Overrun’ By Islam
»Ségolene Royal Stuns Party With Plan to Run for President of France in 2012
»Sweden: Remains From 1600s Ship Found Near Stockholm Hotel
»Switzerland: A Year After Swiss Voters Approved a Ban on the Building of Minarets, Both Pro and Contra Groups Are Launching New Campaigns to Put the Issue Back on the Political Agenda.
»UK: Shamed Police Chief Ali Dizaei ‘Could be Freed Tomorrow’ After Sensational Claim Witness Used False Name in Court
»UK: the False Consciousness of Western Civilisation
»UK: Video: Vogelenzangs Turn Hotel Loss Into Blessing for Community
North Africa
»Algeria: 35 People Arrested for Witchcraft
»Egyptian Security Used Live Ammunition on Christian Coptic Protesters, 4 Killed
»Egypt’s Rulers Tighten Grip Amid Claims of Election Fraud and Intimidation
Israel and the Palestinians
»Italians Aim to Deliver Humanitarian Goods to Gaza Strip
»New Mossad Chief Appointed
Middle East
»America’s Dark View of Turkish Premier Erdogan
»Deadly Fictions
»Iran Set to Execute Woman Accused of Murdering Lover’s Wife
»Iraq: Politician Asks for Christian Region in the North
»Iraq: Christians Face Escalating Violence
»Islamist Turkey vs. Secular Iran?
»Notes for Today: The Big Story Being Missed & Trying to Ignore Wikileaks
»Pipes: Islamist Turkey vs. Secular Iran
»Soccer: Yemenis Working in Saudi Strike After Team Loses
»Syria: Fears for Impact Web News Law
»The Lunatic Who Thinks He’s Barack Obama
»Wikileaks: Turkey Denies Report on Iran Arms Sale
»Wikileaks: US Ambassador Connects EU Membership With Facing Past, Mocks Historiography in Turkey
South Asia
»Diana West: Afghan “Policeman” Kills Six US Troops
»From Pakistan, Diplomats Wrote About a Vexing Ally
»Pakistan: Drone Victim Sues CIA for $500 Million ‘For Killing Family’
»The Brink of War
»Wikileaks Cables Expose Pakistan Nuclear Fears
Far East
»Blame Appeasement for North Korea’s Antics
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Ethiopia Imprisons Christian Accused of Defacing Quran
Latin America
»Ecuador Offers Wikileak’s Founder Assange Residency, No Questions Asked
»Gaddafi to EU: 5 Bln to Stop Illegals
»Gaddafi Demands £4 Billion From EU or Europe Will Turn ‘Black’
»Italy: Moroccan Terrorist Expelled After Early Release From Prison
»Netherlands: Crime Puts Pressure on Integration
»Religious ‘Bullying’ Among Christmas Island Detainees
»UK: Eight in Ten Want Tighter Controls on Immigration … Even Lib Dem Voters Want Cap
Culture Wars
»Smithsonian Christmas-Season Exhibit Features Ant-Covered Jesus, Naked Brothers Kissing, Genitalia, And Ellen Degeneres Grabbing Her Breasts
»Sweden: Teaching Boost Urged for Multicultural Kids
»UK: Hate Crime Figures Published for the First Time
»Hunters May Have Delivered Fatal Blow to Mammoths
»Is Wi-Fi Frying Our Brains? Fears That Cloud of ‘Electrosmog’ Could be Harming Humans
»Islamists Know a Western Civilization Secret: ‘Progress’ Makes Religion Decline
»The Primitive Social Network: Bullying Required

Financial Crisis

Contagion Strikes Italy as Ireland Bail-Out Fails to Calm Markets

The EU-IMF rescue for Ireland has failed to restore to confidence in the eurozone debt markets, leading instead to a dramatic surge in bond yields across half the currency bloc.

Spreads on Italian and Belgian bonds jumped to a post-EMU high as the sell-off moved beyond the battered trio of Ireland, Portugal, and Spain, raising concerns that the crisis could start to turn systemic. It was the worst single day in Mediterranean markets since the launch of monetary union.

The euro fell sharply to a two-month low of €1.3064 against the dollar, while bourses slid across the world. The FTSE 100 fell almost 118 points to 5,550, while the Dow was off 120 points in early trading.

“The crisis is intensifying and worsening,” said Nick Matthews, a credit expert at RBS. “Bond purchases by the European Central Bank are the only anti-contagion weapon left. It needs to act much more aggressively.”

Investor reaction comes as a bitter blow to eurozone leaders, who expected the €85bn (£72bn) package for Ireland agreed over the weekend to calm “irrational markets”.

While the Irish rescue removed the immediate threat of “haircuts” for senior bondholders of Irish banks, it leaves open the risk of burden-sharing from 2013 on all EMU sovereign bonds and bank debt on a “case-by-case” basis. Traders said bond funds have been dumping Club Med bonds frantically to comply with their “value-at-risk” models before closing books for the year.

Yields on 10-year Italian bonds jumped 21 points to 4.61pc, threatening to shift the crisis to a new level. Italy’s public debt is over €2 trillion, the world’s third-largest after the US and Japan.

“The EU rescue fund cannot handle Spain, let alone Italy,” said Charles Dumas, from Lombard Street Research. “We we may be nearing the point where Germany has to decide whether it is willing take on a burden six times the size of East Germany, or let some countries go.”

Italy distanced itself from trouble in the rest of southern Europe early in the financial crisis, benefiting from rock-solid banks, low private debt, and the iron fist of finance minister Giulio Tremonti. But the crisis of competitiveness never went away, and the country has faced a political turmoil for weeks.

If Portugal and Spain have to follow Ireland in tapping the EU’s €440bn bail-out fund — as widely feared after Spanish yields touched 5.4pc — this will put extra strains on Italy as one of a reduced core of creditor states. The rescue mechanism has had the unintended effect of spreading contagion to Italy, and perhaps beyond. French lenders have $476bn of exposure to Italian debt, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

In Dublin, Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Fein have all vowed to vote against the austerity budget in early December, raising doubts over whether the government can deliver on its promises to the EU.

Echoing the national mood, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said it was “disgraceful” that the Irish people should be reduced to debt servitude to foreign creditors of reckless banks. “The costs of this deal to ordinary people will result in hugely damaging cuts,” he said.

One poll suggested a majority of Irish voters favour default on Ireland’s bank debt. Popular fury raises the “political risk” that a new government elected next year will turn its back on the deal.

Premier Brian Cowen said there was no other option. “We are not an irresponsible country, “ he said, adding that Brussels had squashed any idea of haircuts on senior debt. Irish ministers say privately that Ireland is being forced to hold the line to prevent a pan-European bank run.

There is bitterness over the EU-IMF loan rate of 5.8pc, which may be too high to allow Ireland to claw its way out of a debt trap. Interest payments will reach a quarter of total revenues by 2014. Moody’s says the average trigger for default in recent history worldwide has been 22pc. “The interest bill is enormous. The whole process lacks feasibility,” said Stephen Lewis, from Monument Securities.

Olli Rehn, the European economics commissioner, said Ireland is in better shape than it looks, recording the EU’s strongest growth in industrial output in September as the IT and drug industries boost exports.

“Ireland’s real economy has not gone away. It is flexible, open, has strong fundamentals, and has the capacity to rebound relatively rapidly. The Irish are smart, resilient, stubborn people, and they will overcome this challenge,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

The End of Easy Green Money

They’re cutting back subsidies on this. At the French National Institute of Solar Energy.

The crisis has put a dent in carbon emissions — and in the foundations of Europe’s planned green economy. By calling subsidies for inefficient technologies into question, that blow might yet be a boon for the renewable energy sector.

Carlo Stagnaro

On 12 October 2010 the European Environment Agency announced: “ A new report by the European Environment Agency (EEA) shows that a large drop in emissions seen in 2008 and 2009 gives EU15 a head start to reach and even overachieve its 8% reduction target under the Kyoto Protocol.[…] The EEA report also shows that EU27 is well on track towards achieving its 20% reduction target by 2020.” The study indicates that CO2 production last year was down 6.9% from 2008, the steepest decline ever observed since emissions monitoring began.

There’s no denying that the main reason for the decline was the recession. What is surprising is the satisfied tone also found in the European Commission communication of 26 May 2010: “The fact that 20 per cent is now closer than expected in 2008 is clearly a driver for the challenge of reaching the 30% target.”

France and Germany, distancing themselves from Commission

But these cautious words mask a rigorous rationale. The first drafts actually enthused about the impact of the crisis on carbon emissions, which sparked plenty of resistance, even in circles traditionally sympathetic to European-style environmental dirigisme.

An internal document from the BDA (Confederation of German Employers’ Associations), for example, says: “Slower growth shouldn’t be glorified into a climate protection tool.” Industrial organisations in other countries took a similar and even more caustic stance.

The final draft of the communication was received with catcalls from the peanut gallery, including the likes of Business Europe (confederation of European industrialists) and Eurelectric (energy industry association). For the first time ever, two majority shareholders in the European Commission, France and Germany, distanced themselves from the Commission’s policy paper in a joint statement by their industry ministers. It appears that the most active opponent was the EU industry commissioner himself, the German Gunther Oettinger.

Credit crunch makes it harder to raise capital

The handling of the climate issue has been entrusted to the Danish Connie Hedegaard, who heads the Directorate-General for Climate Action (DG CLIMA) created specially for her when the new Commission was put together in 2009. Hedegaard is deemed an “extremist”: many remember her as the “Godmother” of the Copenhagen Summit [COP15], an event that was initially conceived as the moment of Barack Obama’s ecological beatification but turned into a huge fiasco when the pivotal players — the US, China and India — proved unwilling to accept binding post-Kyoto targets.

The recession cut the branch that Europe’s green industry was perched on. But above all, demand plummeted, bringing down with it the need for new productive capacity. Primary energy demand in the EU declined 3.4% from 2005 to 2010 — and won’t be returning to pre-crisis levels any time before 2020. According to the European Commission, the increase in total consumption from 2005 to 2030 will hardly come to 4%, a full 16% less than forecast in 2007.

Furthermore, it has grown harder for everyone to borrow — a phenomenon particularly detrimental to capital-intensive industries with high fixed and low variable costs, which is the case with new renewable energy sources. The credit crunch makes it harder to raise capital to build facilities, let alone do research and development.

China’s aggressive market policy.

Almost every European country has recently cut back on subsidies. In Italy, the government cut spending on the photovoltaic sector by an average 20%. In Spain, people are now talking openly about a “solar bubble”, now that subsidy cuts come to as much as 45% in some cases and several major solar panel factories have had to close up shop. Even Germany has gradually scaled down funding: first by 3%, then this January by 13%, and by 21% from 2012. Britain has announced a 10% trim from 2013.

Behind this change of course, however, lie deeper matters that have less to do with the state of the economy. It shouldn’t mystify anyone that various countries — particularly Germany, Spain and Denmark — view environmental policy through the prism of industrial policy: green, that’s great, but better yet green and rich. That experiment, however, now seems to have flopped. The evidence shows that, even in the best-case scenarios, wealth was transferred, not created, and that transfer probably ended up destroying it.

Though Europe initially led the green technology sector, its ascendancy is on the wane. Chinese manufacturers have come out with an aggressive market policy to slash production costs while boosting margins out of all proportion, which has moved green investment outside the confines of Europe. Even as plants are closing down in Europe, panel production in China — fuelled chiefly by our subsidies — will have jumped 50% in 2010…

Translated from the Italian by Eric Rosencrantz

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


Common Sense Platform Interview With Beverly Eakman

1) Beverly, your recently released book, A Common Sense Platform for the 21st Century, is flying off the shelves in bookstores and is being consumed by the American public. Let’s start at the beginning: Why did you write this book at this particular time in history?

Actually, I was commissioned to write it by a solid conservative and Tea Party activist in Arizona. I was very reluctant to take the project, especially given the infighting and turf battles among various factions within both the Tea Party and conservative movement. Then, more out of curiosity than anything else, I looked up various Party Platforms. I started with the Republican, then Democratic, the Libertarian, Independence Party, the Independent Party (a.k.a. America’s Independent Party), the Constitution Party, the Natural Law Party, the Green Party and finally the Socialist Party and even the Communist Party USA.

To my shock, none of them would pass any sort of legal or constitutional muster; most didn’t have significant “meat,” and were poorly thought-out. I mean, even the outright treasonous ones failed to lay out a rationale within the context of the country’s legal structure and history, which they were aiming to change. That started me going back to the old Whig Party and other older documents, which were certainly better written and didn’t sound like a grip-in taken from recent headlines.

I read over Thomas Jefferson’s list of Abuses and Usurpations, which he directed toward King George in the Declaration of Independence. Well, there was nothing like that in any recent Platform that I could find. Then I read over the Tea Party Platform, which was closer, in that it was built around three essential principles, but I decided a fourth principle was in order, given the recent scandals by elected officials and the over-reaches by government.

So, what basically happened is that I found myself “hooked” on the idea. The biggest impetus, though, was the realization that Election 2012 is probably going to be the last chance American patriots will have to reclaim their rightful prerogatives. So, I started writing, eventually called for critiques from 25 people I respected in their fields of expertise, incorporated those suggestions I felt were missing in my advance copy, and the rest is history.

2) Let’s have YOUR present “State of the Union,” if you will, in five sentences or less.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Is Wikileaks a Dick Cheney Front?

“Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has positioned himself as a left-wing whistleblower whose life mission is to call the United States to task for the evil it has wreaked throughout the world. But after poring through the diplomatic cables revealed via the site yesterday, one might easily wonder if Assange isn’t instead a clandestine agent of Dick Cheney and Bibi Netanyahu…


[Return to headlines]

Private Spaceship Could Start Carrying Tourists Within a Year

NEW YORK — Virgin Galactic’s new commercial spaceship could be flying its first passengers — company founder Sir Richard Branson and his family — in about a year, Branson said today (Nov. 30) on NBC’s “Today” show.

“We’re about 12 months away,” Branson said. The craft, called SpaceShipTwo, will provide tourists with a brief taste of weightlessness and a window on the globe of the Earth from the blackness of space, without making a full orbit around the planet. The ship flies six passengers and two pilots.

“It’s really exciting,” he said. “The spaceship is now finished, the mothership is finished, the spaceport in New Mexico is very nearly finished.” [Gallery: First Solo Flight of SpaceShipTwo]

SpaceShipTwo will be lofted to midair by a carrier mothership called WhiteKnightTwo, then will rocket itself up to space. The initial launches will fly out of Spaceport America, near Truth or Consequences, N.M.

Branson, a British billionaire, was here in New York City to promote a separate venture, the launch of an iPad lifestyle magazine called Project, also under the banner of Branson’s Virgin Group. The publication will be a combination print magazine and website, featuring constantly updated content and sold via the Apple app store for $2.99 a month.

Flights on SpaceShipTwo won’t be nearly as affordable. Branson said 500 passengers are already signed up, at $200,000 a ride.

“Over the years, as more and more people go, I think we’ll start bringing the price of it down,” Branson said.

Apparently not content to stick to suborbital trips, Branson has hinted that Virgin Galactic might soon begin to pursue orbital space travel. The company would join several other firms vying to produce the first commercial spacecraft capable of carrying people to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station.

That market has become even more enticing in the wake of President Obama’s decision to steer NASA toward using private spaceships for this purpose once they become available.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Rising GOP Star to Speak at Heritage

Rep. Nunes to present blueprint for ‘Restoring the Republic’

WASHINGTON — Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., a rising young star in Congress and author of “Restoring the Republic,” will address the Heritage Foundation Tuesday, Dec. 7, at 10:30 am on the subject of bringing the federal government under control.

In the book, Nunes presents an agenda for solving the menacing problems that threaten our nation’s future. Born and raised in the breadbasket of California, the 36-year-old Nunes has seen firsthand how the convergence of big government, big business, and the radical Left has wreaked havoc on entire communities, turning the once-thriving farmland of the San Joaquin Valley into a blighted desert reminiscent of the Dust Bowl. He argues that the same forces are doing their damage on a national level, threatening America’s very foundation…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Senate Passes New Food Police Bill: Roll Call Vote 73-25; Senator Bennet: “It’s All Rigged”

I mentioned last week that a new Big Foodie bill opposed by a diverse coalition of limited government activists, small family farmers, and left-leaning “locovores” was coming down the pike.

Today, I’m disappointed to tell you, the regulatory expansion bill masquerading as a “safety” measure passed by a large margin — with stomach-turning Republican support.

[See URL for list of Republican offenders]


From:The Daily Caller:

A hot mic left on during a Senate vote Tuesday morning on the Food Safety Act caught a senator complaining that process of setting the agenda during the lame-duck session is “rigged.”

“It’s all rigged. The whole conversation is rigged,” a currently unknown member on the Senate floor said. “The fact that we don’t get to a discussion before the break about what we’re going to do in the lame duck . It’s just rigged. “

The remark was picked up live on C-SPAN 2, although microphones are usually turned down during voting times. An aide quickly realized the mistake, jumped up and had the sound cut off.


[Return to headlines]

Shocker! TSA’s Nude Scans Would Miss Taped-on Bombs

Peer-reviewed paper says terrorists could fool clothes-penetrating tools

A new peer-reviewed scientific study says the backscatter full-body imaging X-ray machines being used by the federal Transportation Security Administration could be fooled by terrorists who simply would mold explosives to conform to their bodies.

WND obtained an advance copy of the report, titled “An evaluation of airport X-ray backscatter units based on image characteristics,” in which University of California scientists Leon Kaufman and Joseph Carlson demonstrated that packages of explosives contoured to the body or worn along the sides likely would not be detected by TSA X-ray units built to “see” hard edges and anatomical features, and used primarily to image the front and back of the body.

The article comes from Dr. David Brenner of Columbia’s Center for Radiological Research, whose research includes estimating the risks of low dose X-ray exposures.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Virgin Galactic Keeps Mum on Orbital Spaceflight Ambitions

While Virgin Galactic’s public sights are set on offering suborbital space tourist treks on its SpaceShipTwo passenger ships, the company is already quietly eyeing the next step: orbital space travel.

Virgin Galactic founder and president Sir Richard Branson publicly admitted the company’s orbital aims last month at the dedication of the Spaceport America facility under construction in New Mexico. But he and other Virgin execs are keeping mum on the details.

“Obviously, we want to move on to orbital after we’ve got suborbital under our belts, and maybe even before that,” Branson said.

Ads by GoogleThe 9mm is No DefenseDiscover What Self Defense Masters & The Army Don’t Want You To Know www.CloseCombatTraining.comNasa Satellite ImageGet Satellite Maps, Aerial Photos & More With The Free Maps Toolbar Maps.alot.comFord Transit ConnectThe Right-Sized, Business Vehicle. Learn More at Official Ford Site. the last few weeks, Virgin Galactic and the Mojave, Calif.-based aerospace company Scaled Composites have flown several solo glide tests of SpaceShipTwo, most recently on Nov. 17, setting the stage for the first rocket-powered launch trials to follow. Scaled Composites built the first SpaceShipTwo for Virgin Galactic, as well as the spaceliner’s prize-winning predecessor SpaceShipOne.

But how Virgin Galactic plans to take the major step of reaching orbit — and when it plans to do so — remain to be seen.

Suborbital vs. Orbital

SpaceShipTwo is a reusable space plane built to be will be carried skyward by a larger mothership jet, called WhiteKnightTwo. The smaller plane would then be dropped in midair and fire its rocket engines to push up to space. [Gallery: First Solo Flight of SpaceShipTwo]

Since it stops short of making a full orbit around Earth, SpaceShipTwo is known as a suborbital vehicle. The spacecraft will offer passengers a few minutes of weightlessness and a view of Earth from above before gliding back down to the ground.

While such a feat is no cakewalk, achieving orbital space travel is much more difficult.

Staying in space for a full orbit requires a significant velocity boost above that required for suborbital trips. Such an increase in speed, of course, requires a corresponding increase in energy, which means the craft will have to carry a lot more fuel. This extra fuel would push the spacecraft’s weight up significantly, thus requiring even greater thrust to get off the ground.

Furthermore, the return trip presents a challenge.

The higher up a craft starts its descent from, the more it will accelerate as it travels back to Earth. And when a fast-moving spaceship plunges through our planet’s atmosphere, it creates incredible friction and heat.

Orbital spacecraft require stronger heat shields to withstand this blast than the comparatively slow-moving suborbital craft. (The failure of the heat shield is what doomed the space shuttle Columbia during its return trip in 2003).

Competing for a contract

Yet there is great opportunity in orbital space travel.

Branson said Virgin Galactic will aim to win a NASA contract to carry astronauts to the International Space Station, under the new space agency plan to use commercial spaceships for low-Earth orbit transportation after the space shuttles retire next year.

“Virgin Galactic is going to put forward proposals, and we plan to start work on an orbital program quite quickly,” Branson said during the Oct. 22 spaceport dedication.

They’ll face steep competition: No fewer than four companies, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, SpaceX and the Sierra Nevada Corporation, have made their orbital spaceship aims public. Each has said they plan to compete for a NASA contract, as well as pursue space tourism. [Top 10 Private Spaceships]

While most are gumdrop-shaped capsule designs similar to the Apollo and Soyuz capsules, Sierra Nevada’s entry is a space plane. All of these would ride atop separate rockets to orbit.

Virgin Galactic has not yet shared any hints about its orbital spacecraft design, though more information will be revealed in the coming months, Branson said.

So far, besides NASA, the only other major customer for such orbital flights would be Bigelow Aerospace, a Las Vegas-based company that is constructing modules to build a commercial space station. The Bigelow space station could serve as a space hotel, or be rented out to other countries who would like develop their space programs, or to private research firms.

All such uses would require an orbital vehicle to assemble the station, and to transport visitors to and from it.

The sky’s not the limit

Even if Virgin Galactic manages to achieve orbital space travel, the company doesn’t plan to stop there.

“We’ll start with suborbital flights into space, we’re then dreaming about trying to move on to orbital, and dreaming about, you know, looking at maybe having hotels in space one day, dreaming about maybe having intercontinental flights,” Branson said in a recent Virgin Galactic video. “And if you don’t dream you don’t achieve anything. We try to inspire our engineers and technicians to make dreams become realities.”

Intercontinental flights, or so-called point-to-point travel, is a goal that Virgin could achieve with SpaceShipTwo and similar vehicles.

The idea is to launch from a spaceport in, say, New Mexico, but instead of landing where you started, land halfway around the world, in Sweden or Japan, for example.

“We’d love to make it a possibility,” Branson said, saying such trips would travel at many times the speed of the Concord, the supersonic plane that was able to cross from New York to Paris in about 3 1/2 hours (commercial jets take around 8 hours).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks Plans to Release a U.S. Bank’s Documents

The founder of whistle-blower website WikiLeaks plans to release tens of thousands of internal documents from a major U.S. bank early next year, Forbes Magazine reported on Monday.

Julian Assange declined in an interview with Forbes to identify the bank, but he said that he expected that the disclosures, which follow his group’s release of U.S. military and diplomatic documents, would lead to investigations.

“We have one related to a bank coming up, that’s a megaleak. It’s not as big a scale as the Iraq material, but it’s either tens or hundreds of thousands of documents depending on how you define it,” Assange said in the interview posted on the Forbes website.

He declined to identify the bank, describing it only as a major U.S. bank that is still in existence.

Asked what he wanted to be the result of the disclosure, he replied: “I’m not sure. It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Won’t You Please Hug a Terrorist?

The working theory among the think-tanks, academic campuses, newsrooms and diplomatic offices is that terrorists are just like us. Except depressed and insecure about it. Filled with self-loathing and in desperate need of anger management classes. If only some kind soul could plop them down on an analyst’s couch and stuff them chock full of Prozac or Paxil, hug them without letting go, while reading passages from Jonathan Livingston Seagull — then they’d be just as right as rain. And twice as wet.

The news media has already activated its brilliant powers of long distance psychoanalysis on the Oregon Christmas Tree Bomber, and diagnosed him as suffering from his parent’s divorce and vicious Oregonian college bullies. Sure Mohamed O. Mohamud might say he’s a Muslim terrorist who wants to kill Americans — but the good people at NBC know better. He’s not a terrorist. He’s just misunderstood. Deep down inside him, there’s gushing oil wells of untapped good.

Mohamed O. Mohamud joins Fort Hood terrorist Major Nidal Hassan (who came down not with Muslim Murder Madness, but a virulent airborne form of PTSD) and Times Square bomber Faisal Shazad (suffering from uncontrollable Foreclosure Fever) on the analyst’s couch. Another misunderstood victim of poorly articulated rage that led him to snap and try to kill a whole bunch of people, who coincidentally happened not to be Muslim.

For a depressing stretch of the 20th century, sociologists insisted there was no such thing as a criminal, only a set of responses to social inequities. Robbers, rapists and murderers were just lashing out because of social discrimination in an unfair class system. They weren’t depraved, they were deprived. The solution was not to put a beat cop on every street. What was the use. You couldn’t fight ‘crime’ anyway. No more than you can fight ‘terrorism’. All you could do was expand welfare programs, pour money into the inner cities and turn a blind eye to crime. Then the improvements in social conditions would end crime naturally.

At some point after the millionth mugging victim and Dukakis getting taken down by Willie Horton, the Democratic party finally realized that no amount of Donahue and Oprah was going to counter the popular demand to get tough on crime. But what didn’t work for crime, is now being put to work for terrorism.

Terrorists are never terrorists. And never Muslim. Even when they’re both. They might dress up like Osama bin Laden, quote from the Koran and curse the Great Satan — but the blowdried anchors in their dollhouse news sets will still blame the whole thing on teenage bullying or PTSD in the water. And who are you really going to believe, the terrorists who happily explain their motives, or a newscaster with two advanced degrees in reading things off a teleprompter?

And so it turns out that the terrorists are human beings just like us who never got enough love. Who are too insecure not to be terrorists. Our job is to make them feel more comfortable and give them a confidence boost. Pat them on the back and tell them how wonderful Islam is and how superior Muslim culture is to our rotten degraded lifestyle. “No need to feel bad, Ahmed. I only wish I could murder my own sister every time I catch her talking to a man.” “Leila, I would give up my career and the freedom to travel without a male guardian’s permission in a split second just to be able to wear a bag on my head all day.”

Because what terrorists need most is appeasement. Appeasement is apparently Muslim Prozac. Give them enough of it, and they’ll no longer want to behead us or blow us up. Or so the politically correct theory goes. And there you have our international affairs in a nutshell.

This February, Senator John Kerry met with the Emir of Qatar, whose family is intimately tied up with Al Qaeda. And whose government is directing millions of dollars a year to Al Qaeda. Naturally the Senator from Massachusetts didn’t waste his host’s time on anything as picayune as a request to please stop funding the terrorists who are murdering Americans. We are talking about the nation’s premier windsurfing cheese-eating boarding-school attending diplomatic Frankensenator here after all. Instead he wanted the good Emir’s help on resolving that whole Middle East peace thing between Israel and the Muslim terrorists.

And the Emir, in between mailing off the latest check to “Sheikh Usama, Forbidden Cave of Mystery, Afghanistan, 90210”, was more than happy to oblige.

Painstakingly the Emir explained that Hamas was actually ready to make peace with Israel. But it couldn’t come out and say so. Then it would lose popular support and be overthrown. Israel would just have to go ahead and appease Hamas anyway — and Hamas would pretend not to notice, but really it would notice, and stop the violence. The Emir of Qatar was actually saying that Hamas is more moderate than the average Palestinian Arab Muslim — a scary, but not particularly surprising revelation.

If Senator Kerry had managed to hang on to more than one single unbotoxed brain cell in that frightening skull of his, he might have asked what the point of a secret peace agreement is — when the people on whose behalf you’re signing it, can’t be told about it. But as a good democrat, he was probably already on the same page as a petty tyrant like the Emir in believing that the ignorant rabble have no business knowing what their enlightened leaders are up to anyway.

Pushing his luck further, Senator Kerry asked the Emir what could be done about the extremists. The Emir told him that if Israel gives the strategic high ground of the Golan Heights to Syria, then Syria will help Hamas leaders “make tough choices”. Trying to control the hysterical laughter bubbling up in his throat, the Emir told Kerry that, the “return of the Golan is important not just to Syria but also to Hizballah and Iran”. Which it of course is. Not because any of them give a damn about the skiing possibilities of the Golan, but because it’s a fantastic position for bombing Israel.

Yet Kerry swallowed all of this. Probably nodded knowingly. Didn’t blink when the Emir suggested that Ahmadinejad would suddenly change his tune on Israel if only Syria got the Golan Heights. And went off back to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he chairs with his information safely tucked away in the recesses of his equine cranium.

The depressing pattern in all this lunacy is that we’ve decided that the only way to deal with terrorists is to give them things. Give them some land and money, and they’ll be your pet terrorists. Then you can take them out for walks, and hug them and kiss them, and give them long baths. But not only do the terrorists need material things, they also need constant reassurance. You can’t just negotiate with the terrorists. You’ve also got to negotiate with the enablers. And the enablers need land and money too. If you want to talk to Hamas, you’ve got to give Syria the Golan Heights. And then Hezbollah and Iran will want things too.

Negotiating with terrorists is now like signing a crazy reclusive artist to a record label. You have to woo his handlers and stroke his ego. Reassure him that everyone likes him. And that he won’t have to “sell out” by promising not to kill people anymore. All he’ll have to do is wink and nod, and that’ll be as good as a signature.

We’ve gone beyond appeasement and into pure toadying. Because the poor terrorists with their bruised egos have been hurt too many times. They don’t show up at negotiations anymore. You have to pamper them first to even get them to show up. Abbas needs a Settlement Freeze forever, or he won’t even deign to arrive and accept the next batch of Israeli concessions. Hamas can’t even show up to negotiate, but if Israel throws its most vital high ground to its buddy, the genocidal optometrist in Syria, then maybe Hamas will put a halt to the violence. For a week or two.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

European Commission to Probe Google Search

The European Commission is to investigate whether Google has abused its “dominant position in online search”. It will look into whether advertisers and Google’s own services receive preferential treatment in search rankings.

The Commission said “This initiation of proceedings does not imply that the Commission has proof of any infringements. It only signifies that the Commission will conduct an in-depth investigation of the case as a matter of priority.” A detailed timetable has not yet been laid out.


Google has responded by striking a conciliatory note, saying “Since we started Google we have worked hard to do the right thing by our users and our industry — ensuring that ads are always clearly marked, making it easy for users to take their data with them when they switch services and investing heavily in open source projects. But there’s always going to be room for improvement, and so we’ll be working with the Commission to address any concerns.”


[Return to headlines]

Fears of Euro Crisis Contagion

Portuguese Central Bank Warns of Risks to Banking Sector

Portugal’s central bank fanned concerns about the country’s financial stability on Tuesday by warning that austerity measures put in place were likely to hit banks’ bottom lines. The institution also believes that bank borrowing from the European Central Bank is unsustainable.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Munich Abuse Case

Archbishop Ratzinger Failed to Deal with Suspected Pedophile Priest

By Conny Neumann and Peter Wensierski

Pope Benedict XVI promoted Reinhard Marx of Germany (right) to cardinal earlier in November. Marx has promised to “clear up” an abuse case in his archdiocese.

New documents show how the former Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — and his successor Reinhard Marx failed to properly deal with a suspected pedophile. Despite massive allegations of abuse, the archdiocese allowed the priest to continue working with children.

The priest H. had put a great deal of effort into his letter of application. On a summer afternoon in 1980, he copied photos and articles from local newspapers and church newsletters and provided a comprehensive description of his dedicated work with the young people of Munich’s parish of St. Johannes Evangelist, as a way of recommending himself for higher office.

He submitted his request directly to the head of the archdiocese at the time. He wrote “For the personal attention of His Eminence Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger” on the envelope and delivered the letter directly to the addressee on the morning of July 31, 1980, as members of the Catholic parish recall today. H. told colleagues in the rectory that, at the age of 32, he felt that he was getting a bit old to be an assistant priest; he now wanted to have his own parish.

It appears that “His Eminence” dealt with the letter. At any rate, the disappointed priest later told members of his parish that Cardinal Ratzinger felt that H. should remain in his position at St. Johannes Evangelist for the time being, since the old priest was often ill and he was so popular among the young people in the neighborhood.

Shedding Light on Abuse Case

All of this occurred 30 years ago. Today, previously unknown documents, as well as witnesses who confirm the delivery of the letter, are shedding new light on the case of the abusive cleric H., which first became public last March — and also on the role of the current pope.

According to the allegations, during his tenure in Munich, Ratzinger did not give sufficient attention to the type of duties that were assigned to the alleged pedophile H. Despite massive allegations of abuse levied against the priest, the archdiocese led by Ratzinger allowed H. to continue to be involved in church work with children and young people.

For months now, very little progress has been made in clearing up this case. This is partly because the current archbishop of Munich, Reinhard Marx, who the pope recently promoted to cardinal, swiftly decided that the matter was settled.

H. was transferred to Munich in January 1980 after he had apparently sexually abused a number of boys in his home diocese of Essen. Under Ratzinger’s leadership, the Munich archdiocese expressly approved H.’s transfer on January 15, 1980. It was decided that the cleric was to undergo therapy.

No Doubt

Recently discovered documents now show that there could have been no doubt in Munich about the priest’s previous history. The head of personnel in Essen had informed Ratzinger’s head of personnel by phone and in writing that, in regard to H., “there is a risk which has prompted us to immediately remove him from the parish.” Furthermore, he said that “an official complaint has been lodged by members of the parish.”

But his victims are still waiting in vain for a genuine clarification of the matter. Wilfried Fesselmann, for instance, who says that he was abused by H. in 1979, wrote to Pope Benedict XVI last May. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith replied: “Your request is being processed.” Since then, he has heard nothing from them. The archdiocese of Munich is also reticent to comment on the case, despite the fact that Marx has pledged: “We want to do everything to clear this up — we will not look away, play it down or point the finger at others.”

“The fact that Archbishop Marx has now been made a cardinal,” says Fesselmann, “seems like a reward for having helped the pope.” Indeed, Marx, 57, is currently the youngest cardinal in Germany.

In spring 2010, the Munich affair caused an enormous stir. It initially looked as if the abuse scandal would engulf Ratzinger personally. After all, the pedophile who was accepted by him into the archdiocese in Munich was able to continue working there as a pastor for three decades and find new victims — despite the fact that he was charged a fine and given a suspended sentence in 1986 for abusing schoolchildren.

Damage-Control Mode

Marx and his press office immediately went into damage-control mode: They said that Cardinal Ratzinger had merely taken part in the decision to accept H. in Munich for the purpose of therapy, and otherwise had no further knowledge of his subsequent work. According to the archdiocese, the former Munich Vicar-General Gerhard Gruber acted alone and solely assumes full responsibility.

But how likely is it that Ratzinger would have been left in the dark about H.’s case by his closest associates — the vicar-general and the head of personnel?

Only two weeks after Ratzinger approved H.’s acceptance for therapy in Munich, the priest was again assigned to pastoral duties. H. wrote in a résumé, which is currently in the archdiocese’s files, that he had already been called upon to “help with pastoral care on Feb. 1, 1980” in the parish of St. Johannes Evangelist.

In order to convince Ratzinger that he should be given his own parish, the priest attached to his application a copy of a church newsletter from his current parish. This included an article in which he proudly describes his accomplishments working with children and young people. For instance, on April 4, 1980 — in other words, less than three months after his transfer for disciplinary reasons — he wrote about a pilgrimage that he had organized with “20 to 25 girls and boys.”…

Translated from the German by Paul Cohen

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

Guantanamo Inmates Traded for Money and Obama Handshakes

European governments negotiating with the US on the resettlement of Guantanamo Bay inmates asked for money and meetings with Barack Obama, while others refused to accept Chinese Uighurs for fear of upsetting Beijing, diplomatic cables disclosed by WikiLeaks show. Following Barack Obama’s pledge to close the ‘terror camp’ at Guantanamo Bay by January 2010, America’s diplomats engaged in frantic efforts to convince EU governments to take in some of the 60 former terrorism suspects who were free to go, but who could or did not want to return to their home countries.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Law Prompts Italian ‘Fertility Tourists’ To Seek Out Foreign Eggs and Sperm

Rome, 25 Nov. (AKI) — Of the 4,000 Italians who travel abroad every year for fertility treatment, Italy’s stringent rules on assisted reproduction prompts 2,700 to seek out foreign fertility clinics where they aim to get pregnant with donor eggs and sperm, according to a new study.

A 2004 Italian law put a stop to sperm and egg donation and bans screening embryos for disease making it one of Europe’s most restrictive assisted fertility rules. A referendum the following year failed to get enough voters to turn up at polling stations to reach the required 50 percent turnout for the result to be valid.

The law, strongly supported by the Vatican, also caps the number of embryos created for each treatment at three, all of which have to be implanted in the women’s womb at the same time.

“People will continue to be forced to turn to travel abroad until Italy doesn’t recognise their right” to use donated and purchased eggs and sperm,” said Andrea Borini, president of the Assisted Fertility Observer.

Assisted Fertility Observer is an assisted fertility advocacy group that wrote the report and presented it on Thursday in Bologna, in northern Italy.

Critics of of the law, known as ‘Law 40’ say it violates the rights of couples who desire to have children. Supporters of the legislation claim it prevents a of human egg ‘supermarket’ in Italy.

Spain and Switzerland are Italian’s most popular country’s for sperm and egg implantation. On the so-called fertility-tourist destination list are also Austria, Belgium, Great Britain, the Czech Republic, the US, Sweden and Switzerland, according to the report.

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

Italy: Showgirl Waxes Sympathetic for Berlusconi in Poem

Rome 26 Nov. (AKI) — Lory Del Santo, an ex-Italian showgirl and former wife of rock guitarist Eric Clapton, has dedicated a poem to prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, expressing adulation for the embattled media tycoon and politician as his political allies and electorate turn against him.

Del Santo, 52, who has worked on shows aired by Berlusconi’s Mediaset broadcasting company, read the verse, entitled “You” as a contrast to the sex scandals which have tarnished Berlusconi’s image and compromised his office.

“You who think, who imagine, you, who can transform dreams into reality, expressing the wish to be, to resist. You who have the desire to give, see progress in a world of confines. You, who love, you, who simply exists,” Del Santo read on a live Rai 2 radio programme Thursday night.

The empathetic words come as Berlusconi’s government risks collapse following of a break with his former ally Gianfranco Fini whose newly established political party, the Future and Liberty Party now denies Berlusconi of a safe majority in both houses of parliament.

The 74-year-old politician doesn’t hide his admiration for beautiful women in politics. Equal opportunity minister Maria Carfagna — a former topless model and showgirl for Berlusconi-owned channel — was recruited into politics by the prime minister. He once bragged that right-wing female politicians are better looking then those on the left.

Berlusconi faces a 14 December confidence vote in both houses of Parliament amid harsh criticism over the nation’s ailing economy, a growing rubbish crisis in Naples and controversial legislation critics say is aimed at saving him from prosecution for corruption and tax fraud in addition to a sex scandal involving a prostitute and a teenage nightclub dancer.

But Berlusconi has survived numerous government and personal crisis in his long career, which includes three stints as prime minister.

In its monthly survey released on 17 November, the IPR Marketing group found that Berlusconi’s approval rating sank from 37 percent to 35 percent, an all-time low. The survey found that his disapproval rating rose a percentage point to a new record high of 58 percent.

This week he claimed support from 54.6 percent of voters, saying his government would easily survive the vote.

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

Italy: Junior Minister to Attend Conference on the Burqa

Rome, 26 Nov. (AKI) — Italian interior ministry under-secretary Alfredo Mantovano was on Monday due to attend a conference in the northern city of Milan on the Muslim burqa and freedom of religion in Italy. The conference is being organised by a deputy from the centrist Catholic UDC opposition party, Pierluigi Mantini.

A member of the European Parliament from Italy’s ruling Conservative People of Freedom party, Gabriele Albertini, and a senator from Italy’s centre-right Future and Freedom party, Giuseppe Valditara, will speak at the conference.

In September this year, two separate bills were presented in the upper and lower houses of the Italian parliament which aim to end the wearing of face-covering burqas in Italy on security grounds. The move is opposed by most Muslim immigrants on the grounds that it would curb their religious freedom.

If the bill becomes law, Italy will be the second European country to ban the burqa. France’s parliament in September outlawed the burqa and veils which cover the face. Women there can be fined or jailed for wearing such garments.

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

Italy: Wikileaks Reveals Berlusconi as “Feckless”, “Ineffective” And “Mouthpiece of Putin”

Prime minister laughs off allegations. Documents mention “lavish gifts” and lucrative energy contracts

MILAN — That friendship with Putin, too many parties and general ineffectiveness sum up the views of US diplomacy on the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, according to documents released by Wikileaks. How did the PM react? He laughed it off. Reliable sources report that the prime minister had a good chuckle when he was informed about the revelations regarding Italy published by Julian Assange’s website.

PUTIN — The relationship between Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi, which includes “lavish gifts” and lucrative energy contracts, is so astonishingly close that Berlusconi “appears increasingly to be the mouthpiece of Putin” in Europe. These are the first revelations from US diplomatic documents obtained by Wikileaks. The New York Times writes that American diplomats in Rome in 2009 described the relationship between Silvio Berlusconi and Vladimir Putin as “extraordinarily close”. According to the papers, the relationship included “lavish gifts”, lucrative energy contracts and a “shadowy Russian-speaking Italian go-between”. The UK’s Sunday Telegraph explains that the United States was concerned about the agreement between ENI and Gazprom over South Stream, the gigantic pipeline to link Russia and the EU.

“VAIN” — The UK’s Guardian reports a document sent to Washington by the US chargé d’affaires in Rome Elizabeth Dibble states that Silvio Berlusconi is considered “feckless, vain and ineffective as a leader”. In another report from Rome, the prime minister is described as “physically and politically weak”. His “frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard mean he does not get sufficient rest”.

CLINTON’S DOUBTS — In a confidential document released by Wikileaks and published by the German weekly Der Spiegel, the American secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, asked early this year for information from the American embassies in Rome and Moscow on any personal investments held by Silvio Berlusconi or Vladimir Putin that might have a bearing on their countries’ foreign or economic policies.

“WILD PARTIES” — There are further revelations in the online edition of El Pais, which opens its coverage with photographs of seven world leaders, one of whom is Silvio Berlusconi, with a quote from an American source, regarding “Berlusconi’s wild parties” and stressing “the deep distrust aroused in Washington”. The Madrid-based paper says with regard to Vladimir Putin that the documents “highlight American suspicions that Russian policy is controlled by Vladimir Putin, an authoritarian politician whose macho style enables him to bond with Silvio Berlusconi”.

FRATTINI — One of the documents published by Wikileaks is a telegram, classified as secret, sent to Washington from the US embassy in Rome on 8 February after a meeting of the Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini and the American secretary of defense Robert Gates, during which Mr Frattini expressed “particular frustration with Ankara’s ‘double game’ of outreach to both Europe and Iran”. According to Mr Frattini, “the challenge is to bring China on board” on the Iran issue. He went on to say that China and India “were critical to the adoption of measures that would affect the government without hurting Iranian civil society”. The Italian foreign minister also “proposed including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Brazil, Venezuela and Egypt in the conversation” and suggested “an informal meeting of Middle East countries, who were keen to be consulted on Iran”, noting that “Secretary Clinton was in agreement”.

MORE THAN THREE THOUSAND FILES SENT FROM ITALY — El Pais reports that 3,012 files sent by American diplomatic sources were picked up by Wikileaks, including them in a map with the title “Document Exchange and the World’s Hot Spots”. The map reveals that US diplomatic facilities in Italy are not among those which sent most documents published by Wikileaks. In first place is the US embassy in Ankara, with 7,918 communications, and second comes the Baghdad embassy, with 6,677 documents. Tokyo is third with 5,697. El Pais puts Italy in 16th place in this singular league table.

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Italy: Fresh Collapse at Pompeii

Wall in House of the Moralist’s garden falls down

(ANSA) — Naples, November 30 — A dry stone wall in the garden of one of Pompeii’s best-known houses collapsed on Tuesday, raising fresh concerns about the state of the world heritage site after the cave-in of its Gladiators’ School earlier this month. Heritage and art experts were assessing the damage to an external wall of the House of the Moralist to see whether any of the famous rules of etiquette from which the building gets its name had been damaged.

The Domus is not far from the Gladiators’ School whose collapse on November 6 stirred a wave of international concern and led to a no-confidence vote, set for next month, in Culture Minister Sandro Bondi.

On December 10, in a parliamentary debate on the incident, Bondi said the government would set up a new foundation for the ancient Roman city to prevent recurrences of the school’s collapse.

Rejecting calls that he should resign, the minister claimed he had done a “good job” on Pompeii in appointing special officials for its upkeep.

“The collapse of one building can’t wipe out the work we have done over the past two years,” he said.

But he acknowledged more needed to be done and announced the foundation where the culture ministry would work with experts to better use the money that comes from millions of visitors.

“The problem is in the management, not in resources,” he told parliament, saying the ancient site brought an average of more than 50 million euros ($70 million) a year.

“We need management that uses the resources better”.

“Therefore, the ministry is drafting guidelines for a Pompeii Foundation; the superintendents and culture ministry managers must work together”.

The new body, Bondi said, would “assess the state of decay” all over the ancient city and decide what action to take.

Work would resume on five Pompeii houses including the famous Villa of the Mysteries, he said.

The centre-left opposition was not impressed by the minister’s report and the two main groups, the Democratic Party and Italy of Values (IdV), announced their no-confidence motion aimed at bringing him down.

“Bondi has done more damage than Vesuvius,” the IdV claimed.


The collapse of the school earned headlines worldwide and rekindled claims the 2,000-year-old site is not being properly protected.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano called the incident a “disgrace” for Italy.

Institutions and art experts worldwide said the conservation of the UNESCO World Heritage site was not being adequately funded.

British author Robert Harris, author of the 2003 global bestseller ‘Pompeii’, published a plea in Rome daily La Repubblica asking for more to be done.

Harris said he was “not surprised” at the collapse and argued that the right of visitors to see the site’s wonders should be balanced with conservation needs.

“We are faced with a paradox: the more people visit Pompeii, the more Pompeii is destroyed”.

In his report, Bondi said that water infiltration from heavy rains dealt a killer blow to the school, which was precarious because a 1950 restoration “wrongly” put reinforced concrete on the roof, making it “inevitable” that it would buckle under the weight.

The minister reaffirmed his confidence that famous frescoes giving insights into gladiators’ lives may have survived the crash.

Polemics about looting, stray dogs and structural decay have dogged Pompeii in recent years and the government appointed a special commissioner who has been credited with solving some of these problems since 2008.

Every year over two million people visit Pompeii, which was smothered in lava and ash by the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

‘Kauft Nicht Bei Juden’ Will Worsen the Conflict

The call to boycott Jewish commerce is Europe’s oldest political appeal.

Kauft nicht bei Juden — “Don’t buy from Jews” — is back. The call to boycott Jewish commerce is Europe’s oldest political appeal. Once again, as the tsunami of hate against Israel rolls out from the Right and the Left, from Islamist ideologues to Europe’s cultural elites, the demand is to punish the Jews. That the actions of the Israeli government are open to criticism is a fact. But what are the real arguments?

Firstly, that Israel is wrong to defy international law as an occupying force on the West Bank. But what about Turkey? It has 35,000 soldiers occupying the territory of a sovereign republic — Cyprus. Ankara has sent hundreds of thousands of settlers to colonize the ancient Greekowned lands of northern Cyprus. Turkey has been told again and again by the UN to withdraw its troops. Instead, it now also stands accused of destroying the ancient Christian churches of northern Cyprus.

Does anyone call for a boycott of Turkey, or urge companies to divest from it? No. Only the Jews are targeted.

Or take India; 500,000 Indian soldiers occupy Kashmir. According to Amnesty International, 70,000 Muslims have been killed over the past 20 years by these soldiers and security forces — a number that far exceeds the Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the same period. But the Islamic ideologues focus on Jews, not Indians.

May we talk of the western Sahara and Morocco, or Algeria’s closure of the border there, making life far worse than that of Palestinians in Ramallah or Hebron? No, better not.

Voltaire — anti-Semite that he was — should be alive today to mock the hypocrisy of the new high priests calling anathema on the heads of Jews in Israel.

Second, the desire for peace in the M riority. But peace requires recognition of the Jewish state of Israel. There are 40 member states of the UN which have the words “Muslim” or “Islamic” intheir names. No one challenges their right to exist or defend themselves.

Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. Its reward was to have the territory turned into a new launch pad for rockets intended to kill Jews.

More rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza than V1 or V2 rockets at London in 1944. No one blamed Winston Churchill for responding with all the force he could, as cities like Hamburg or Dresden faced the wrath of the RAF. But if Israel takes the slightest action against the Jew-killers of Hamas, all the hate of the world falls on its head.

Third, it is hard to see how peace can be made with an Israel that so many seek to brand an “apartheid state.”

I worked in the 1980s with the black trade union movement inside South Africa. We lay in ditches as the apartheid police patrolled townships hunting for political activists. I could not swim at the same beach as my wife, a French-Vietnamese, because of the racist laws. Muslims and Jews swim off the same Tel Aviv beaches. They can stay in the same hotels, be elected to the same parliament, and appeal to an independent judiciary for justice.

BY DEFINITION, an apartheid state has no right to exist. It cannot be a member of the UN. The campaign to call Israel an apartheid state is a campaign to make it a non-state. How can peace be made with a state whose opponents say should not exist?

In Britain, there are calls by journalists and professors to boycott the Israeli media or universities. But Israeli writers, journalists and professors are the main opponents of the counterproductive policies of their government. To boycott them is to hand even more power to the haredi and Russian nationalists who now control Right-wing politics in Israel.

By any standard, the attacks on media freedom, on women, on gays or on lawyers is 1,000 times wor Saudi Arabia. There is no democracy in Syria or Libya, limited democracy in Jordan, and open anti-Semitism displayed by the Muslim Brotherhood movements in the Arab world. Is there any call to boycott these states, their journalists or professors? No. The call — rightly — is for engagement, contacts, debate and discussion. Many even argue for talks with Hamas, although its charter, with its strident anti- Semitic language, could have been written by a Nazi.

But talks with Jewish politicians, lawyers or intellectuals must be boycotted. This policy of making the Jewish citizens of Israel into objects of global hatred will only make the Middle East crisis worse. If it was directed evenly at all states which occupy and oppress territories, it might have some basis in morality. If the boycott, disinvestment and sanctions movement also called for sanctions against the new anti-Semitism of the extreme Right in Europe, it might make sense. The openly anti- Semitic Jobbik Party in Hungary parades in its fascist uniforms. Anti-Semitic politicians are elected to the European Parliament. The German politician Thilo Sarrazin can describe Jews as having “different genes” from other people. And now Europeans, of all people, once again cry Kauft nicht bei Juden.

Those who dislike Israeli rightwing policies must find other language than that of classical anti- Semitism. I am not Jewish. As a British MP, I work with thousands of Muslims in my constituency. I am more often in mosques than in churches. I am proud of my Muslim friends who are MPs, peers, municipal councillors or prominent as journaIists, lawyers, doctors and intellectuals. The 20 million European Muslims face new hates which must be combated. But there is no profit for them in joining the hate campaigns against Jews in Israel.

As Europeans we must reject the old language of boycott and economic campaigns against Jews. Israel, Palestine and Europe must all have a 21st century future, and not return to iter, a former British Labor MP, also served as minister of state for Europe. He is the author of Globalizing Hatred: The New Anti-Semitism! (Weidenfeld and Nicolson).

           — Hat tip: DonVito[Return to headlines]

Leading Rabbi Says Europe Risks Being ‘Overrun’ By Islam

One of the luminaries of the international Jewish community, Rabbi David Rosen, has warned that Europe risks being “overrun” by Islam unless it rediscovers its Christian roots.

Speaking to journalists at a meeting in Jerusalem on Friday (26 November), Rabbi Rosen, the director of inter-religious affairs at the Washington-based American Jewish Congress, said that a predominantly secular and liberal Western European society is under threat by the rapid growth of Islamic communities that do not want to integrate with their neighbours.

“I am against building walls. My humanity is my most important component. But Western society very clearly doesn’t have a strong identity. I would like Christians in Europe to become more Christian … those who do not have a strong identity are easily overrun by those who do,” the rabbi warned.

“I think there is a pretty good chance that your grandchildren, if they are not Muslim, then they will be very strong Roman Catholics,” he told one Italian reporter. “I don’t think a tepid identity can stand up to the challenge.”

Rabbi Rosen’s views are shared by a number of Jewish commentators, who look at the demographic growth of Muslims in Europe with the same trepidation as the demographic growth of Arabs in Israel.

“You have a problem that you don’t see: You are in love with the idea of multi-culti, but you don’t speak Arabic. In an era of liberalism, how do you protect your way of being? What is the contract [with Islam]?” Moti Cristal, a professional Israeli negotiator in the private-sector conflict resolution firm Nest Consulting, said.

Nachman Shai, a member of parliament for the centrist Kadima party in Israel, noted that the alleged soft threat to Western European identity is matched by the hard security threat of radical Islamist groups.

“If you follow the current streams in the Arab world, and you all have Muslim communities in your own countries now and you read about these developments, and you can see them there too, then you see that the Muslims are moving to the extreme, not to the centre, not toward compromise. They keep their own traditions. They keep their own way of life and they are becoming more and more religious and more and more radical,” he said.

The politician explained that Israel is surrounded by an arc of militant Islam stretching from Iran, through Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

Israel believes that EU neighbour and enlargement candidate Turkey is also moving further to the right in a deep strategic shift that goes beyond its disappointment with the slow pace of the accession process and may be based on Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan’s ambition to become the new leader of the Muslim world.

“Syria is another link in the axis of evil, our axis of evil, which starts in Iran, goes through Lebanon and then unfortunately, one day, Turkey too,” Mr Shai added.

The Israeli point of view is likely to resonate in some parts of Europe, which has seen an upsurge in anti-Islamic far-right parties in the past two years of economic crisis. It also dovetails with the recent upswing in Islamist terror plots in EU states such as Belgium and Germany.

But the point of view is also rooted in the Jewish struggle to create a safe homeland for the Jewish people in a territory that sees competing claims from the native Arab population.

Mohammad Darawshe, the co-executive director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, a New-York-based NGO working to promote co-existence between Israel’s Jewish and Arabic citizens, noted in a potential lesson for Europe that Israeli authorities’ unwillingness to share wealth and power with the 1.4 million Arabs who make up a fifth of the population is in itself a cause of tension.

“I live in a country where I am reminded every day that I do not belong … We are seen as an extension of the Palestinian Arab enemy, a sort of fifth column in the state,” he said.

Referring to growth in “racism” in the Jewish Israeli establishment, Mr Darawshe cited a recent survey by Tel Aviv university which showed that 65 percent of Jewish high school children do not like the sound of Arabic music, do not want to live next to Arabs and do not have any objections to the state imposing further limitations on Arab Israeli rights.

“They’re not stupid kids and they’re not racist kids. But they are hearing these things from someone older then them,” he said.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Ségolene Royal Stuns Party With Plan to Run for President of France in 2012

Ségolene Royal, who lost to Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007, has announced she will run again for president of France — throwing the left into disarray and locking her party into another battle of egos.

Royal, who once likened herself to Joan of Arc, surprised the Socialist party hierarchy by announcing today in two local papers that she would rise from the ashes and wanted to run for the Elysée in 18 months’ time. She promised to be the candidate of the people and attacked her party for dithering over who would stand against Sarkozy.

The announcement by Royal, 57, who heads the Poitou-Charentes region in western France, exposed the long-running saga of the backstabbing, bickering and rivalries that has undermined the French left and exposed its lack of policies.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Remains From 1600s Ship Found Near Stockholm Hotel

Remains of a ship likely from the 1600s were discovered as workers renovated a hotel in central Stockholm, the Maritime Museum said.

“The discovery of the wreck is extremely interesting given the place where it was made,” Maritime Museum Director Hans-Lennarth Ohlsson said in a statement from the Stockholm museum’s website. “There was a naval shipyard on this spot until the start of the 17th century.”

As workers were renovating part of Stockholm’s Grand Hotel, not far from the royal palace, a worker found something interesting — the discovery turned out to be excavated parts of a ship.

So archaeologists from the Maritime Museum came in to check things out — and it turns out they had quite an interesting find.

According to Sweden’s The Local, the planks found outside the hotel were not held together in the traditional way — being nailed down — but instead were sewn together with ropes.

That technique, according to The Local, was not the norm, which has made the discovery even more fascinating.

“We really know nothing about this technique other than that it was used in the east,” Marine archaeologist Jim Hansson, who was called to the site, told The Local.

Hansson speculated the ship originated from east of the Baltics or Russia, according to The Local.

“We were super-excited,” he told The Local of the discovery. “It may sound a little strange when one finds little excavated pieces of parts of a ship, but I have never seen anything like it.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: A Year After Swiss Voters Approved a Ban on the Building of Minarets, Both Pro and Contra Groups Are Launching New Campaigns to Put the Issue Back on the Political Agenda.

An anti-minaret movement led by Ulrich Schlüer of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party presented a manifesto on Monday against the Islamisation of Switzerland.

The document underlines Switzerland’s Christian foundations and aims to prevent the creation of a parallel society inspired by Islamic sharia law.

Schlüer said the group had waited a year in vain for the government to implement the minaret ban. A sign of the lack of progress was the green light canton Bern gave in September to the building of a minaret in the town of Langenthal, the politician said.

The Bern authorities argued at the time that planning permission was originally granted months before the controversial vote.

Also on Monday, an Islamic group based in Bern said it was launching an initiative to lift the minaret ban.

The Islamic Central Council — which represents 13 Islamic organisations with 1,700 members — said the aim of the initiative was to restore “the constitutional right of equality of all citizens regardless of their religious faith”.

The council said it would submit a text to the federal chancellery in January for initial examination. If the group decides to go ahead, it will have to collect 100,000 signatures within 18 months in order to force a nationwide vote.

More than 300,000 Muslims reside in Switzerland. When it is completed, the Langenthal minaret will be the fifth in the country.

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

UK: Shamed Police Chief Ali Dizaei ‘Could be Freed Tomorrow’ After Sensational Claim Witness Used False Name in Court

Shamed Scotland Yard commander Ali Dizaei could be freed from prison tomorrow amid allegations a key prosecution witness at his trial used a false name, his family has claimed.

Dizaei, 48, was sentenced to four years in February for misconduct and perverting the course of justice after being found guilty of assaulting and falsely arresting Iraqi-born businessman Waad al-Baghdadi, 24, in a restaurant after a row over a debt.

But his conviction — which ended a 24-year police career dogged by controversy — has been thrown into doubt after a BBC report alleged that al-Baghdadi is actually Vaed Maleki, and that he was born in Iran in 1983.

Evidence of the new claims will form part of an appeal by Dizaei, due to be heard tomorrow, in which he will argue against his conviction and sentence.

The information is said to have been confirmed by an Iranian relative who has signed a statement saying that a photograph of Mr al-Baghdadi was that of Vaed Maleki.

The relative told the BBC: ‘He worked for himself for a while and ultimately in 2002, he left Iran and migrated to England.’

Dizaei’s legal team have also obtained a statement from a photography shop owner in Tehran, Iran’s capital city. The shop owner apparently claims Mr Maleki had his picture taken at his store in April 2001 and the photograph is said to look exactly like Waad al-Baghdadi.

If true, the information contradicts the details Mr al-Baghdadi gave to the police and the Independent Police Complaints Commission and evidence he gave under oath that he was born in Iraq in 1985.

Kourosh Dizaei, the youngest of Dizaei’s three sons, said the ‘injustice’ will be exposed tomorrow.

Writing on his website, he added: ‘On December 1, justice will finally prevail and Ali Dizaei will walk among us with his deservedly untarnished name.’

Earlier this year a judge sitting alone rejected Dizaei’s application for permission to appeal.

But the former commander instructed solicitors and two QCs — Michael Mansfield and Matthew Ryder — to make a final plea to a panel of judges to overturn his conviction.

If successful, and the evidence of the prosecution witness is discredited, a judge could order a re-trial and Dizaei would be freed on bail.

The details of the new allegations are understood to have only emerged in the past few weeks and were not part of the first appeal bid.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission, which investigated the Dizaei case, told the Evening Standard Mr al-Baghdadi had produced ‘a variety of official documentation’ to prove his identity when he was first arrested. These are understood to have included a driving licence and bank records.

A spokesman said: ‘The Met established that Mr al-Baghdadi had been granted the right of residence in this country. He also had a variety of official documentation in this name.

‘In this case a jury listened to all the evidence, much of which was independent from both parties, and included CCTV, that corroborated Mr Al-Baghdadi’s, and found Ali Dizaei guilty.’

Dizaei’s solicitor was not available for comment.

Efforts by the Standard to trace Mr al-Baghdadi today proved fruitless.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: the False Consciousness of Western Civilisation

Over at Lapidomedia, Jenny Taylor muses upon the following vignette:

Peter Oborne the Sherborne educated Telegraph columnist confided to a roomful of academics and Muslim radicals at the East London Mosque today that he’d been beaten 7-5 by his mate the Mayor of London. During the course of which trouncing, on a freezing Highbury tennis court, they’d discussed the launch later in the day of the Exeter University report Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate Crime: UK Case Studies 2010 whose forerunner, the London Case Study, Oborne had gallantly endorsed.

Oborne shared with us his conversation with the Mayor: glossing the famed US academic John Esposito’s sentiment, in the introduction to the report, that ‘the exclusive Judaeo-Christian tradition of the West was an unhelpful and false doctrine’ (I quote) and should be jettisoned. Boris, sensing how convenient that would be as a way of avoiding some deeply tricky questions on his watch, evidently agreed.

‘East London mosque is splendid’, Oborne reported Boris as saying. ‘It does an enormous amount to help increase understanding between Islam and the rest of society. He was entirely positive about it — which I took as an implicit rebuke to Andrew Gilligan.’

Poor old Gilligan. Demon de jour. We may not denounce Islamists — cuddly newcomers to the political landscape… Muslim bullying is making cowards of our elites, whose only response to what’s happening is to deny that it matters. Am I mistaken, or was it Muslims who bombed the Underground system? Or is it a crime to mention that now?

Thirty years of policies that ignored religion and denied reality on the the UK’s streets; policies that allowed Muslims to remain in isolation and then pandered to every demand for separate development, ignoring the bitterness of the ‘poor whites’ and even poorer blacks already settled here, have created the tinder box that this remarkable and overdue report documents.

It is a frightening testimony to years of failure; the backlash is upon us. The violence is not simply, as John Esposito in his introduction assumes, perpetrated by ‘a few extremists’ but as often as not black on Muslim and Eastern European on Muslim — and it’s clothing that people seem to hate and that signals who is what.

Some of the ‘fear’ of Islam in Britain must be attributed to persecution in the home countries: the UK is after all home to many seeking asylum from Muslim countries who have experienced torture, peremptory divorce and ostracism for not producing sons, the prospect of honour killing, and persecution for apostasy. The ignorance about this of even thoughtful men like Oborne and Johnson, is truly staggering. Yes, we must not lump all Muslims together. God forbid. But by what mental sleight of hand can we dissociate altogether the violent ones from the texts and teachings that comprise the religion itself, and that keep so many in thrall to obscurantism and fear?

It was Oborne who reported in an Unreported World documentary that Northern Nigeria’s Christians (the shattered minority) were the cause of the carnage up there. The enslavement of Christian children as debt reparation; the marriage of minors, the beheading of ‘kafirs’, the land-grabbing and killing that have gone on for years and years clearly don’t count as provocation — or as Islam.

Is it Islamophobic to point this out? A phobia is a sick fancy. Something ugly arising out of one’s unconscious. If our ‘Judaeo-Christian’ culture is a false doctrine, can we simply jettison it to be ‘cured’?

We are, we are.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Video: Vogelenzangs Turn Hotel Loss Into Blessing for Community

The finances of Bounty House hotel were left in ruins after Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang were arrested last year because a Muslim woman complained that she was offended by comments made about Islam.

The couple’s legal defence was funded by The Christian Institute.

After a criminal trial lasting two days, the case against the Vogelenzangs was dismissed. But despite being declared innocent the hotel lost 80 per cent of its bookings.


“Our business was destroyed”, Sharon told American news channel CBN.

“We tried to keep it going, but in September this year we knew we had to call it a day and stop building up more and more debt”.

She added: “We’ve lost 10 years of livelihood and possibly 10 years of our future. We would’ve been happy to carry on providing the service for another 10 years. So it has been really devastating”.


But the couple told CBN of how they bounced back from their loss to start a new non-profit making business designed to provide a host of valuable services to their local community.

The Bounty House TLC Centre now provides a range of services including rehabilitation for former soldiers, arts and crafts lessons for the elderly, help and advice for families, and life skills courses.

“We really believe that we’re going to be able to benefit the community and create jobs for people in lots of different areas,” Sharon said.


“And now we’re starting with what we’ve got, what we can do by faith. We haven’t got any funding at all. We’re walking on water and the Lord is keeping us going week by week,” she continued.

Visitors to the centre say they are inspired by the Vogelenzangs turning around their personal challenges into something positive.

One visitor said: “It just shows you what kind of people they are to want to help the community”.


Another added: “I think it’s a fantastic opportunity they’re providing for people. As far as I know, there isn’t anything like this available in the area.”

The Vogelenzangs are also grateful for the opportunity to serve their community.

“We kept confessing last year that something good was going to come out of all of this and we didn’t realise how good it would be,” Sharon said.

She added: “When this whole thing takes off, it’s going to be tremendous. So many people are going to be blessed by it and so many needs are going to be met now.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: 35 People Arrested for Witchcraft

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, NOVEMBER 30 — 35 people accused of witchcraft have been arrested in Algeria, in a village south of Bordj Bouarreridj, 200 km east of Algiers. According to reports by daily paper Ennahar, the group — which also includes an 83-year-old woman — was practicing group rituals promising “to heal and exorcise illnesses.” In the house used for the magical practices, several products used for rituals and healing potions were seized. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egyptian Security Used Live Ammunition on Christian Coptic Protesters, 4 Killed

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — Christian Copts worldwide were shocked and enraged at the use of live ammunition by Egyptian state security forces against unarmed Coptic protesters, causing the death of three Coptic young men. A four-year old child suffocated from tear gas thrown inside the chapel. Rights groups inside and outside of Egybpt have condemned the use of excessive violence by security forces and the use of live ammunition against Coptic demonstrators.

Efforts by State Security to hide the use of firearms on unarmed protesters were in vain, as the rising death toll, hospital reports on those admitted, and video footage and eyewitness testimony have revealed the details of the incident. Coptic activists Sherif Ramzy and Ramy Kamel have conducted interviews with witnesses.

CSW Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston blamed the violence on “excessive” police tactics and expressed his sadness at the “unnecessary” loss of life and injuries.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) said that the events are a serious escalation in the State’s treatment of its Christian citizens. “We’re not talking about social violence occasioned by the construction of a church, but rather security forces opening fire on protesters demanding their constitutional right to worship without arbitrary interference or discrimination,” said Hossam Bahgat, EIPR’s Executive Director. “Even assuming Copts in the area wanted to convert a services building into a church for worship, that does not justify this degree of police violence. Demonstrators should not be shot at for violating building codes”. EIPR called on the Public Prosecutor to prosecute the security personnel responsible for the deaths and injury of Christians.

Hany el Gezeyri, head of Copts for Egypt, denounced the use of live ammunition, adding that he is concerned “whether the discrimination of the state against the Copts became an official persecution or is this a way to terrorize Copts so that they keep silent?”

Attorney Maged Hanna said that apart from the Copts, he is not aware of any incident in Egypt where live ammunition was fired against unarmed protesters, adding “this is a State terrorizing its citizens.”

The official figures of the incident were 2 death, 67 wounded and 170 Copts arrested. However, the Coptic Youth Front said in a statement that more than 300 people were wounded and over 1000 detained, including women. Accoring to the statement, many wounded refrained from going to hospital for treatment for fear of being arrested.

International Coptic lawyer Dr. Awad Chafik said that the number of detainees is enormous, but because Coptic families are hiding for fear of further arrests, it is difficult to get the correct numbers.

Wagih Yacoub, a human rights activists, complained about the treatment of the wounded. “They were shackled to their hospital beds and then sent to detention camps.”

The same view is held by activist Magdy Khalil, who believes that the State dealings with the Egyptian Copts has evolved from discrimination to persecution to participation (directly or indirectly) in most of the crimes against them, to the stage of practicing ‘State Terrorism’ against a peaceful minority seeking to exercise their natural rights in prayer and worship.”

Clashes broke out on November 24 between Christian protesters and Egyptian security forces over the new construction of the St. Mary and St. Michael churches, in the poor neighborhood of Talbiya, in Omraniya, Giza (AINA 11-27-2010).

“Bricks hurling were exchange between them, then security forces used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition” according to the statement released by the Coptic Church’s Giza diocese on November 26 (video of security forces attack on Church).

“The Governor of Giza, gave instructions to modify the building services permit, issued in 2009 into a church building. But a conflicting decision was issued by the Chief of the District to halt construction and remove the irregularities.”

The statement added that the decision of the Chief of the District angered the people who gathered next to the building, fearing that the district might do harm to the construction, triggering the ensuing clashes.

Witnesses describe how enraged the Copts became upon seeing Security forces bulldozing their equipment and wetting their cement sacks. “State security stole the church pews and the donation boxes,” Father Mina Zarif told Hope-Sat TV Channel, who also confirmed the use of live ammunition on protesters.

For more than ten years the Copts tried to obtain a license to build the Talbiya church. Unlike Muslim citizens, who only need a municipal license to build mosques, the Copts require a presidential decree for a church, based on the 1856 Ottoman Hamayoni Decree, in addition to ten humiliating conditions laid down by the Ezaby Pasha Decree of 1934.

Because obtaining a license to build a church in the light of all these obstacles is almost impossible, the Governor of Giza suggested to the Copts to build a center for community services and then after completion to use it as a church to pray. Copts began construction in the past four months and only the roof was left to complete, without any objection from any one.

But the situation changed completely when the Copts started to put a “dome” over the building, believing that this was compatible with the essence of the agreement with the governor.

Anba Theodosius, Bishop of Giza said that just three hours before finishing the dome “someone” gave orders to security forces to attack the people at the church construction site. “No one knows until now who gave this order,” he added.

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Egypt’s Rulers Tighten Grip Amid Claims of Election Fraud and Intimidation

Egypt’s repressive regime sent a dramatic message to the international community over its determination to face down any challenge to its authority, after stage-managing parliamentary elections that virtually wiped out the formal opposition.

During the day, election-related violence claimed at least eight lives. Early results from the poll — described by domestic and international observers as “breathtaking” in its levels of fraud — suggest that the ruling National Democratic party (NDP) has captured 96% of the seats, while the 88 opposition members from the Muslim Brotherhood, could be erased to zero.

Such clear evidence of rigging is likely to cause consternation in western capitals, from where there is strong pressure on President Hosni Mubarak to embrace some democratisation.

It will be viewed as a particular slap in the face for the Obama administration, which only last week had publicly pressed the Egyptian government to ensure these elections were credible.

“We are dismayed by reports of election-day interference and intimidation by security forces,” said the state department, which provides more aid to Egypt than to any other country bar Israel. The Foreign Office also said it was “deeply concerned” by reports of state-sponsored disruption to the electoral process.

“We knew it was going to be bad, but I don’t think anyone realised it was going to be this bad,” said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Institution thinktank and an analyst of Egyptian politics.

“Egypt has joined the ranks of the world’s most autocratic countries. Now we’re talking full-blown, unabashed dictatorship.”

The parliamentary ballot was widely seen as a dry run for next year’s presidential elections, when the 82-year-old Mubarak may be forced to step down.

Mubarak, who is believed to be seriously ill, has ruled the Arab world’s most populous nation for almost three decades and has remained a close ally of the west, despite reports of systematic human rights abuses at the hands of his extensive security apparatus, and slow progress on political reform.

But with no designated successor, there is intense nervousness among Egypt’s political elite about transferring power while public anger is growing over declining living standards amid the pervasive state oppression.

“These election results indicate that the regime is frightened about the impending transition, and they’re not in the mood to take any chances over their own survival as we enter what will be one of the most challenging periods in Egypt’s modern history,” said Hamid.

“Previously, Egypt’s level of political repression was never at the level of Syria, Tunisia or Iraq; it was always careful to retain some superficial democratic trappings. But now the government is sending a strong message that opposition will not be tolerated.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Italians Aim to Deliver Humanitarian Goods to Gaza Strip

Rome 29 Nov. (AKI) — Forty Italians are due to participate in a new humanitarian mission by sea that aims to reach the embargoed Gaza Strip with essential supplies one year after Israeli commandos killed nine people engaged in a similar mission.

Last 31 May, Israeli forces attacked an aid flotilla bringing supplies to the region. Subsequent boats were turned back and unable to access the area.

The Group will sail in the Italian vessel named ‘Stefano Chiarini’ that will be part of an international flotilla coined ‘Freedom Flotilla 2’ and which will carry journalists, politicans, doctors and intellectuals, Adnkronos International learned Monday.

The boat’s port of departure is yet to be announced. Groups to take part in the flotilla include European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, and Free Gaza Movement.

The flotilla plans to launch in spring 2011.

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

New Mossad Chief Appointed

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, NOVEMBER 29 — Israeli Premier Benyamin Netanyahu today announced the appointment of Tamir Fredo as the new Mossad chief, replacing Meir Dagan, who concludes eight years as head of the Israeli intelligence service. Fredo has been in the Mossad for a long time, climbing the ladder up to his current position of vice chief.

The Premier said in a statement that “Fredo has dozens of years of experience in the Mossa and I am certain that he is the right person to rejuvenate the service in the coming years in the light of the difficult challenges Israel is facing”.

Netanyahu also expressed his appreciation for the contribution made by Dagan to the Mossad’s successes under his management. Fredo will reportedly take office next month, after the clearance of a commission of Ministers which has to verify if people who are assigned to important State offices are qualified. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

America’s Dark View of Turkish Premier Erdogan

The US is concerned about its NATO ally Turkey. Embassy dispatches portray Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a power-hungry Islamist surrounded by corrupt and incompetent ministers. Washington no longer believes that the country will ever join the European Union.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Deadly Fictions

The classified diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks are the Pentagon Papers of the pro-Israel right

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has positioned himself as a left-wing whistleblower whose life mission is to call the United States to task for the evil it has wreaked throughout the world. But after poring through the diplomatic cables revealed via the site yesterday, one might easily wonder if Assange isn’t instead a clandestine agent of Dick Cheney and Bibi Netanyahu; whether his muckraking website isn’t part of a Likudnik plot to provoke an attack on Iran; and if PFC Bradley Manning, who allegedly uploaded 250,000 classified documents to Wikileaks, is actually a Lee Harvey Oswald-like neocon patsy.

With all due apologies to Oliver Stone (and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey), what the Wikileaks documents reveal is not a conspiracy of any kind but a scary and growing gap between the private assessments of American diplomats and allies in the Middle East and public statements made by U.S. government officials. The publication of these leaked cables is eerily reminiscent of the Pentagon Papers, which exposed a decade-long attempt by U.S. officials to distort and conceal unpalatable truths about the Vietnam War, and manipulate public opinion. The difference is that while the Pentagon Papers substantially vindicated the American left, the Wikileaks cable dump vindicates the right.

Here are eight of the most obvious examples from the initial trove of documents that has appeared online:…

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Iran Set to Execute Woman Accused of Murdering Lover’s Wife

is set tomorrow to execute a football player’s mistress accused of murdering his wife, a lawyer for the woman has told the Guardian.

Shahla Jahed, whose case has become a cause celebre in the Islamic republic, was found guilty of the 2002 murder of Laleh Saharkhizan, the wife of Naser Mohammadkhani, a football legend who rose to fame in the mid-1980s and coached Tehran’s Persepolis club.

Jahed, who has been held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for nine years, was sentenced to death on the basis of her confession, which she later repeatedly retracted at her public trial.

Earlier this year Tehran caused an international outcry after Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old woman, was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.

Iran initially postponed Jahed’s execution as a result of the outcry over Ashtiani’s case. But speaking on the phone from Tehran, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, Jahed’s lawyer, said: “I’ve been informed by the Iranian judiciary that she will be executed in Tehran’s Evin prison at 5am on Wednesday.”

Following the murder, Jahed was arrested as the prime suspect, but she refused to talk for nearly a year. Mohammadkhani was also imprisoned for several months on charges of complicity but was finally released after the authorities said Jahed had confessed to committing the crime alone.

Jahed told the judge at her public trial: “If you want to kill me, go ahead … if you send me back there [where her confessions were taken], I’ll confess again and not only will I confess to killing her but I’d also confess that I killed those who have been killed by others,” she continued. She then repeatedly reiterated that she was innocent and that she had not committed any crime.

Activists in Iran widely suspect that Jahed was forced to confess to the stabbing. The news of Jahed’s pending execution outraged human rights activists, who have campaigned for several years to stop Iran from killing her.

Karim Lahidji, the president of the Iranian League for Human Rights, said: “Shahla Jahed has never had a fair trial in Iran and has always insisted that she is innocent. Unfortunately, she’s a victim of a misogynous society. Although Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s case is about adultery, her case is similar to that of Shahla Jahed because both are victims of the flaws of the Iranian judicial system.”

He added: “We are approaching the Human Rights Day on 10 December and once again Iran is planning to execute another woman. That’s a clear signal that Iran wants to challenge the world on human rights issues.”

Mohammadkhani was in Germany when the killing happened, but it emerged later that he was “temporarily married” to Jahed, a practice allowed under Shia Islam. Temporary marriage or “sigheh”, as it is known in Iran, allows men to take on wives for as little as a few hours to years on the condition that any offspring are legally and financially provided for. Critics of the tradition see it as legalised prostitution.

Shahla Jahed’s case drew huge attention when Iran took the unprecedented decision of holding her trial in public.

In 2005 a documentary about her case and her affairs with the footballer showed footage from her public trial. The documentary, Red Card, was subsequently banned by Iran.

Amnesty International has been campaigning for Jahed’s sentence to be overturned since 2005 and has urged Iran to stop her execution.

Its UK director, Kate Allen, said: “We are opposed to the death penalty in all cases as the ultimate cruel and inhuman punishment. But on top of that, Shahla may not have received a fair trial. She retracted her confession, made after months in solitary confinement, leading to fears that it was coerced. This is sadly far from unusual in Iran, in our experience. Her claim was never properly investigated. This execution could — and should — be stopped on humanitarian or judicial grounds.”

According to Iranian law, Shahla Jahed’s life could still be spared if the family of the murdered wife pardons her before 5am.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Iraq: Politician Asks for Christian Region in the North

Iraq 29 Nov. (AKI) — A Christian member of parliament in Iraq has has called for a Christian region in the north of the country after a series of violent attacks, including one in which 58 Christians were killed while worshipping in a Baghdad church in late October, and other subsequent attacks, continue to threaten their lives.

The appeal, aimed at Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, was made by a Christian deputy, Yunadim Kana, and outlined in an interview with the Arab language daily al-Hayat.

Kana’s idea comes after Iraq’s president Jalal Talabani’s appeal to Christians earlier this month that they move to Iraq’s autonomous northern Kurdistan region as a means to escape extremist attacks against them, until the government can assure their security.

In the interview, Kana indicated the already largely Christian area of Sahl Ninve, east of the city of Mosul, which that spans dozens of kilometres and where the villages are already almost totally occupied by Christians.

Earlier this month, a Dutch member of parliament Joel Voordewind, called for an autonomous region to be created for Christians in northern Iraq, around the Nineveh Plain, where around 100,000 Chistians have taken refuge since 2003. The region shoudl be governed and secured by its police and militia, he said.

Many of Iraq’s approximately 500,000 remaining Christians are living in fear of their lives after the continuing attacks and death threats unless they leave the country.

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

Iraq: Christians Face Escalating Violence

Iraq (MNN) — Iraqi Christians have faced rising violence over the past several years, but the attacks have escalated significantly over the last several weeks. Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs says the terrorists aim to clear the country of Christians.

“It seems very clear that radical Islamic elements — whether they’re tied to al-Qaeda or whether they’re tied to some other radical Islamic group — are trying to send a very clear message to Christians in Iraq,” Nettleton says. The terrorists are sending the following message: “You are not safe. You should either become Muslim, or you should leave the country.”

Iraqi politicians are taking the situation more seriously and beginning to discuss the need to keep Christians safe. One lawmaker has accused countries offering asylum for Christians of meddling in Iraqi affairs and playing into the hands of terrorists.

Nettleton says it’s only natural and logical for families to seek safety elsewhere when threatened by extensive violence, and for other countries to offer that to them. “I don’t necessarily think that another country that opens its arms to Christians who are at risk for their lives is meddling in Iraqi affairs. I think that’s a vast overstatement by this official,” he explained.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Islamist Turkey vs. Secular Iran?

Early in the sixteenth century, as the Ottoman and Safavid empires fought for control of the Middle East, Selim the Grim ruling from Istanbul indulged his artistic side by composing distinguished poetry in Persian, then the Middle East’s

language of high culture. Simultaneously, Ismail I ruling from Isfahan wrote poetry in Turkish, his ancestral language.

This juxtaposition comes to mind as the populations of Turkey and Iran now engage in another exchange. As the secular Turkey founded by Atatürk threatens to disappear under a wave of Islamism, the Islamist Iranian state founded by Khomeini apparently teeters, on the brink of secularism. Turks wish to live like Iranians, ironically, and Iranians like Turks.

Turkey and Iran are large, influential, and relatively advanced Muslim-majority countries, historically central, strategically placed, and widely watched; as they cross paths, I predicted back in 1994, racing in opposite directions, their destinies will affect not just the future of the Middle East but potentially the entire Muslim world.

That is now happening. Let’s review each country’s evolution:…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Notes for Today: The Big Story Being Missed & Trying to Ignore Wikileaks

By Barry Rubin

I cannot urge you strongly enough to view this short cartoon video about U.S. Middle East policy, building on the Wikileaks. While it isn’t completely fair—not mentioning U.S. efforts against Iran in terms of sanctions, military help to Gulf Arabs, etc—it is also absolutely brilliant at getting across the main theme.

Watch it!

And at the end, check out the expression on the face of the character on the right (who represents Arab leaders).

In all the excitement over the Wikileaks story, I want to remind people that there’s another big story being ignored. You will be reading about it in the mass media in two or three months.

The Obama Administration has messed up its attempts to get Israel-Palestinian negotiations going. The whole misplaced emphasis on a freeze of construction on settlements—something this government initiated—continues to put a freeze on talks. The presentation of the proposed three-month-long freeze to Israel was done so badly that nobody is quite sure what’s in it.

U.S. policy on the issue has lost its way. Looking back over what is now almost the first two years of the Obama Administration, one finds an unbroken record of bungling here. I wouldn’t say that irreparable harm has been done to the region or to U.S.-Israel relations, precisely because there was no chance of great progress on the peace process any way and nothing much has actually happened despite all the rhetoric. But a huge amount of U.S. prestige, time, and resources have been squandered.

Here’s a quiz for you: What is the one factor regarding the Israel-Palestinian conflict that the Obama Administration has changed and which is disastrous? [See end of article for the answer.]

If you haven’t read it yet, you might want to look at my analysis of this issue HERE.

Speaking about the Wikileaks story, it is amusing to see how the champions of the 1980s’ conventional wisdom—that everything in the Middle East is about the Arab-Israel conflict and not about Islamism versus nationalism, and Iran-Syria versus the Arab states—are telling people to ignore that man behind the curtain.

One such person remarked that the Arab rulers didn’t say nice things about Israel in the many meetings described in the leaks. That’s true. But the point is that they didn’t say nasty things about Israel either and, generally, spoke of it as a normal regional power.

Others have pointed out one or two instances where Arab leaders, in passing, gave lip service to the notion that the best way to fight Iran and Islamism was to have an Israel-Palestinian peace. That’s true. But the point is that hardly anyone said that and when they did they passed over it briefly.

Here’s the best one-sentence summary I’ve seen, from Lee Smith, author of The Strong Horse:

“What comes through most strongly from the Wikileaks documents, however, is that U.S. Middle East policy is premised on a web of self-justifying fictions that are flatly contradicted by the assessments of American diplomats and allies in the region.”…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Pipes: Islamist Turkey vs. Secular Iran

Early in the 16th century, as the Ottoman and Safavid empires fought for control of the Middle East, Selim the Grim, ruling from Istanbul, indulged his artistic side by composing distinguished poetry in Persian, then the Middle East’s language of high culture. Simultaneously, Ismail I, ruling from Esfahan, wrote poetry in Turkish, his ancestral language.

Selim the Grim wrote poetry (1512-20) under the name Mahlas Selimi; his archrival Ismail I wrote poetry (1501-24) as Khata’i.

This juxtaposition comes to mind as the populations of Turkey and Iran engage in another exchange. As the secular Turkey founded by Ataturk threatens to disappear under a wave of Islamism, the Islamist Iranian state founded by Ruhollah Khomeini apparently teeters on the brink of secularism. Ironically,Turks wish to live like Iranians and Iranians like Turks.

Turkey and Iran are large, influential and relatively advanced Muslim-majority countries, historically central, strategically placed and widely watched. As they cross paths while racing in opposite directions, which I predicted back in 1994, their destinies will affect not just the future of the Middle East but potentially the entire Muslim world.

That is happening. Let’s review each country’s evolution:

Turkey: Ataturk nearly removed Islam from public life in the period 1923-38. Over the decades, however, Islamists fought back, and by the 1970s, they formed part of a ruling coalition. In 1996-97, they even headed a government. Islamists took power following the strange elections of 2002, when winning a third of the vote secured them two-thirds of the parliamentary seats. Ruling with caution and competence, they got nearly half the vote in 2007, at which point, their gloves came off and the bullying began, from a wildly excessive fine levied against a media critic to harebrained conspiracy theories against the armed forces. Islamists won 58 percent of the vote in a September referendum and appear set to win the next parliamentary election, due by June 2011.

Ataturk excluded Islam from Turkey’s public life, and Khomeini made it central in Iran’s.

Should Islamists win the next election, that likely will establish the premise for them to remain enduringly in power, during which they will bend the country to fit their will, instituting Islamic law (Shariah) and building an Islamic order resembling Khomeini’s idealized polity.

Iran: Khomeini did the opposite of Ataturk, making Islam politically dominant during his reign of 1979-89, but it soon thereafter began to falter, with discordant factions emerging, the economy failing and the populace distancing itself from the regime’s extremist rule. By the 1990s, foreign observers expected the regime to fail soon. Despite their populace’s growing disillusionment, the increased sway of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and the coming to power of hardened veterans of the Iran-Iraq war, as symbolized by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, imbued it with a second wind.

This reassertion of Islamist goals also increased the people’s alienation from the regime, including a turn away from Islamic practices and toward secularism. The country’s growing pathologies, including rampant drug use, pornography and prostitution, point to the depths of its problems. Alienation sparked anti-regime demonstrations in the aftermath of fraudulent elections in June 2009. The repression that followed spurred yet more anger at the authorities.

A race is under way — except it is not an even competition, given that Islamists rule in both capitals, Ankara and Tehran. Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are in sync at last.

Looking ahead, Iran represents the Middle East’s greatest danger and its greatest hope. Its nuclear buildup, terrorism, ideological aggression and formation of a “resistance bloc” present a truly global threat, ranging from a jump in the price of oil and gas to an electromagnetic pulse attack on the United States. But if these dangers can be navigated, controlled and subdued, Iran has a unique potential to lead Muslims out of the dark night of Islamism toward a more modern, moderate and good-neighborly form of Islam. As in 1979, that achievement likely will affect Muslims far and wide.

Contrarily, while the Turkish government presents few immediate dangers, its more subtle application of Islamism’s hideous principles makes it loom large as a future threat. Long after Khomeini and Osama bin Laden are forgotten, I venture, Mr. Erdogan and his colleagues will be remembered as the inventors of a more lasting and insidious form of Islamism.

Thus may today’s most urgent Middle Eastern problem country become tomorrow’s leader of sanity and creativity while the West’s most stalwart Muslim ally over five decades turns into the greatest source of hostility and reaction. Extrapolation is a mug’s game; the wheel turns, and history springs surprises.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Soccer: Yemenis Working in Saudi Strike After Team Loses

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 29 — While, back home in Yemen, their countrymen and women were raging over the (what they would judge unjustifiably) early dismissal of their national side from the Gulf 20 Championship, which is being staged in the country’s capital city, Sanaa, Yemenis living and working in Saudi Arabia chose an odder form of protest: a 24-hour strike, says satellite TV channel Al Arabiyya.

The Yemen national side, the “reds” as their supporters refer to them, bowed out of the tournament after losing 0-4 to Saudi Arabia and 1-2 to Qatar.

“From the point of view of the hospitality laid on and of the organisation of the event, Yemen comes out a winner, but,” comments Saleh Mohammed , a Yemeni mechanic working in the Saudi city of Damman and one of those on strike today — “it has not gained anything from it in footballing terms”.

According to the site, many Yemen supporters have called for the dismissal of the Minister of Sport and for re-building the country’s football federation from scratch.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Fears for Impact Web News Law

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 29 — Website owners in Syria are waiting in fear for the possible effects of the draft law on media, which regards politically aligned electronic information.

Some website researchers and experts believe, according to the site of satellite network Al Jazeera, that internet needs rules to protect everyone’s rights, particularly copyright. The Syrian government recently passed a law on “on-line communication with the public”, with the goal to regulate the websites in an operation of balancing rights and duties and the identification of sites and their centre of activities. The publisher of the on-line daily “the Press”, Firas Adra, said that he fears many items in the new law. The most dangerous one, in his opinion, is the regulation that gives the authorities the right to search the seats of these websites, and to confiscate computers if the law is broken. Other elements in the new law mention the possibility of taking legal steps against journalists, which could be convicted by a penal court to prison sentences.

The web cannot be regulated by a law, Adra underlines: all countries in the world have laws on electronic crimes, like laws on human trafficking. Many others believe that it is better to wait for the approval of the new law by the authorities before criticising it. The current situation of the digital media in Syria is, according to on-line information expert Mahmud Anbar, very confused and particularly regarding copyrights. There are laws, Anbar continued, they are very clear and punish whoever breaks copyrights, but most websites ignore these laws and broadcast news produced by other newspapers. The development of digital media, Anbar adds, needs rules on advertising and taxes and a wider margin of freedom than those conceded by law. The law includes fines of 50 thousand to 500 thousand Syrian lira (1,000 to 10,000 USD) for not keeping copies of website content. Websites can be taken offline by the Information Ministry and by a final verdict of a tribunal. Human rights activist Abdul Karim Rihawi underlines that the number of websites that is taken offline is growing, but adds that the law should be discussed after its approval. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Lunatic Who Thinks He’s Barack Obama

By Spengler

Napoleon was a lunatic who thought he was Napoleon, and the joke applies to the 44th United States president with a vengeance. What doesn’t the president know, and when didn’t he know it? American foreign policy turned delusional when Barack Obama took office, and the latest batch of leaks suggest that the main source of the delusion is sitting in the Oval Office.

From the first batch of headlines there is little in WikiLeaks’ 250,000 classified diplomatic cables that a curious surfer would not have known from the Internet. We are shocked — shocked — to discover that the Arab Gulf states favor an invasion of Iran; that members of the Saudi royal family fund terrorism; that Pakistan might sell nuclear material to malefactors; that Saudi Arabia will try to acquire nuclear weapons if Iran does; that Israel has been itching for an air strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities; that the Russian government makes use of the Russian mob; that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan tilts towards radical Islam; or that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi mixes politics and business.

American career diplomats have been telling their masters in the Obama administration that every theater of American policy is in full-blown rout, forwarding to Washington the growing alarm of foreign leaders. In April 2008, for example, Saudi Arabia’s envoy to the US Adel al-Jubeir told General David Petraeus that King Abdullah wanted the US “to cut off the head of the [Iranian] snake” and “recalled the king’s frequent exhortations to the US to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear weapons program”.

Afghani President Hamid Karzai warned the US that Pakistan was forcing Taliban militants to keep fighting rather than accept his peace offers. Pakistani government officials, other cables warn, might sell nuclear material to terrorists.

The initial reports suggest that the US State Department has massive evidence that Obama’s approach — “engaging” Iran and coddling Pakistan — has failed catastrophically. The crisis in diplomatic relations heralded by the press headlines is not so much a diplomatic problem — America’s friends and allies in Western and Central Asia have been shouting themselves hoarse for two years — but a crisis of American credibility.

Not one Muslim government official so much as mentioned the issues that have occupied the bulk of Washington’s attention during the past year, for example, Israeli settlements. The Saudis, to be sure, would prefer the elimination of all Israeli settlements; for that matter, they would prefer the eventual elimination of the state of Israel. In one conversation with a senior White House official, Saudi King Abdullah stated categorically that Iran, not Palestine, was his main concern; while a solution to the Arab/Israeli conflict would be a great achievement, Iran would find other ways to cause trouble.

“Iran’s goal is to cause problems,” Abdullah added. “There is no doubt something unstable about them.” There never has been a shred of evidence that an Israeli-Palestinian agreement would help America contain Iran’s nuclear threat. The deafening silence over this issue in the diplomatic cables is the strongest refutation of this premise to date.

How do we explain the gaping chasm between Obama’s public stance and the facts reported by the diplomatic corps? The cables do not betray American secrets so much as American obliviousness. The simplest and most probable explanation is that the president is a man obsessed by his own vision of a multipolar world, in which America will shrink its standing to that of one power among many, and thus remove the provocation on which Obama blames the misbehavior of the Iranians, Pakistanis, the pro-terrorist wing of the Saudi royal family, and other enemies of the United States.

Never underestimate the power of nostalgia. With a Muslim father and stepfather, and an anthropologist mother whose life’s work defended Muslim traditional society against globalization, Obama harbors an overpowering sympathy for the Muslim world. He is not a Muslim, although as a young child he was educated as a Muslim in Indonesian schools. His vision of outreach to the Muslim world, the most visible and impassioned feature of his foreign policy, draws on deep wells of emotion. I first made this argument in this space on February 26, 2008 (Obama’s women reveal his secret, Asia Times Online), seven months before he was elected president.

Think of Obama as the anti-Truman. As David Brog recounts in his 2006 book Standing with Israel (which I reviewed on this site on June 20, 2006 (You don’t need to be apocalyptic, but it helps ), president Harry S Truman overruled the unanimous opposition of his cabinet and made America the first country to recognize the new state of Israel in 1948.

His secretary of state, war-time chief of staff George Marshall, had threatened in vain to resign and campaign against Truman in the next presidential election over the issue. Personal religious motivations, not strategy, guided Truman’s decision. He was a Bible-reading Christian Zionist who supported Israel as a matter of principle. Obama has the same sort of loyalty to the Muslim world that Truman had toward the Jewish people. He cannot bring himself to be the American president who ruins a Muslim land.

It is wishful thinking that the Iranian problem can be managed without bringing ruin to the Persian pocket empire. In many respects, Iran resembles the Soviet Union just before the collapse of communism. It turned out that there were no communists in Russia outside the upper echelons of the party. There are very few Muslims in Iran outside of the predatory mullahcracy. According to Zohreh Soleimani of the BBC, Iran has the lowest mosque attendance of any Muslim country; only 2% of adults attend Friday services, a gauge of disaffection comparable to church attendance in Western Europe. Iran’s fertility rate of about 1.6 children per women, coincidentally, is about the same as Western Europe’s. Iran has a huge contingent of young people, but they have ceased to have children. They have faith neither in the national religion nor in the future of their nation.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, meanwhile, reports that fully 5% of Iran’s adult non-elderly population of 35 million is addicted to opium. Alcoholism also is epidemic, despite the Islamic prohibition on alcoholic beverage, which must be smuggled into the country.

The US won the Cold War by ruining Russia. Russia may never recover. In 1992, three years after the Berlin Wall came down, thousands of pensioners gathered daily near Red Square in the winter cold to barter old clothing or trinkets for food, and the tourist hotels swarmed with prostitutes. The collapse of communism did not usher in a golden age of Russian democracy, and the new government into the most rapacious plague of locusts ever to descend upon a vulnerable economy.

Break the Iranian mullahcracy, and Iran most likely will fall into demoralization and ruin. Punish Pakistan for its machinations with the Taliban, and the country likely will descend into civil war. Iran’s nuclear ambitions and Pakistan’s dalliance with terrorism both stem from the sad fact that they are failed states to begin with. Push them into a corner, and the failure will become manifest.

In fairness to Obama, he simply carried forward the George W Bush administration’s benign neglect of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Bush confirms in his just-published memoirs what was evident at the time: he followed the advice Defense Secretary Robert Gates and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to avoid open conflict with Iran. If provoked, Iran was capable of producing a large number of American casualties in Iraq in the advent of the 2008 elections.

The difference between early 2008 and early 2010, to be sure, is that Iran has had two years to enrich uranium, consolidate its grip on Syria, insert itself into Afghanistan, stockpile missiles with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and build up its terror capabilities around the world. The window is closing in which Iran may be contained. Covert operations and cyber-sabotage might have bought some time, but benign neglect of Iran has reach its best-used-by-date.

The cables, in sum, reveal an American administration that refuses to look at the facts on the ground, even when friendly governments rub the noses of American diplomats into them. Obama is beyond reality; he has become the lunatic who thinks that he is Barack Obama.

Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman senior editor at First Things (

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

Wikileaks: Turkey Denies Report on Iran Arms Sale

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, NOVEMBER 30 — Turkish National Defense Ministry stated that Mechanical & Chemical Industry Corp. (MKEK) did not sell any of the weapons, ammunitions and other equipments it produced to Iran. The ministry, as Anatolia news agency reports, commented today on the news Wikileaks web-site published claiming that MKEK sold weapons to Iran, and stated that MKEK had to receive a written permit from National Defense Ministry before it made an export to foreign countries. “If MKEK does not receive this permit, products cannot cross the customs gate,” stated the ministry. MKEK did not sell any of the weapons, ammunitions and other equipments it produced to Iran, thus, “the news Wikileaks published were groundless,” stated the ministry. International non-profit media organization, Wikileaks has recently leaked out classified U.S.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks: US Ambassador Connects EU Membership With Facing Past, Mocks Historiography in Turkey

In a report about Erdogan and the AK Party after two years in power, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman notes that the study of history in the country is subject to “to rigid taboos, denial, fears, and mandatory gross distortions,” noting that without facing its past, Turkey cannot take on the challenge of becoming an EU member. “Until Turkey can reconcile itself to its past, including the troubling aspects of its Ottoman past, in free and open debate, how will Turkey reconcile itself to the concept and practice of reconciliation in the EU?” asks Edelman.

Edelman notes that “the study of history and practice of historiography in the Republic of Turkey remind one of an old Soviet academic joke: the faculty party chief assembles his party cadres and, warning against various ideological threats, proclaims, ‘The future is certain. It’s only that damned past that keeps changing.’“

The most significant of Turkey’s denials and “mandatory gross distortions,” of course, pertains to the Armenian genocide. Official Ankara continues to vehemently deny that there was any genocidal intent towards the Armenians in the last years of the Ottoman Empire and it spends millions of dollars in its denial campaign, in which it lobbies politicians, entices support from journalists, funds academic denial efforts, suppresses education efforts on the Armenian Genocide, and presents denial assertions to the general public in North and South America, Europe, and the Middle East. At home, Turkish scholars and journalists who write about the importance of recognizing the Armenian genocide risk harassment and prosecution.

Mentioning AK party’s “tentative,” meager efforts in dealing with history straightforwardly, Edelman notes that “the road ahead will require a massive overhaul of education, the introduction and acceptance of rule of law, and a fundamental redefinition of the relation between citizen and state.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Diana West: Afghan “Policeman” Kills Six US Troops

I wish Julian Assange would Wikileak this story so maybe, just maybe American would finally pay attention to a real scandal.

From the AP:

KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan border policeman killed six American servicemen during a training mission Monday, underscoring one of the risks in a U.S.-led program to educate enough recruits to turn over the lead for security to Afghan forces by 2014….

Is this what jihadist, Muslim-on-infidel murder by our Afghan “allies” is now — “one of the risks”? This is not a risk worth taking for the servicemen’s interest, the military’s interest, or the country’s interest. This effort, this theory, this utopian drive to remake Afghanistan in something akin to our own image is not workable, nor is it acceptable as the blood-and-treasure-draining policy of this nation.

Nor is this:…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

From Pakistan, Diplomats Wrote About a Vexing Ally

Confidential cables to Washington from the American embassy in Islamabad, obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to a number of news organizations, illustrate deep clashes over strategic goals on issues like Pakistan’s support for the Afghan Taliban and tolerance of Al Qaeda, and Washington’s warmer relations with India, Pakistan’s archenemy.

One cable, sent less than a month after President Obama assured reporters that Pakistan’s nuclear materials “will remain out of militant hands,” expressed concern that a stockpile of highly enriched uranium, stored for years near an aging research reactor in Pakistan , could be used by militants to build several “dirty bombs” or perhaps an actual nuclear bomb.

That cable is among the most unnerving evidence of the complex relationship — sometimes cooperative, often confrontational, always wary — between America and Pakistan nearly 10 years into the American-led war in Afghanistan.

[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Drone Victim Sues CIA for $500 Million ‘For Killing Family’

Islamabad 29 Nov. (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — A Pakistani man who says his home was hit by a US missile drone attack which killed his family members is seeking 500 million dollars in compensation from the Central Intelligence Agency.

The victim, Karim Khan, says that his 18 year old son Zain Uddin and 32 year old brother Asif Iqbal were killed by the CIA when drones targeted his house 31 December 2009 in Pakistan’s North Waziristan which borders Afghanistan.

“This is a clear case of brutal human rights violations as my house was targeted on a false tip-off by unknown intelligence and caused immense damage to life and property of my family,” Karim said at a press conference in Islamabad on Monday.

Shahzad Akber, a lawyer for Karim, said the case aimed to take up the issue of human rights violations and requested all the other drone attack victims to join their legal movement.

The case is likely to bring attention to the issue of civilian casualties in drone strikes close to the Afghan border especially as the attacks are not abating. There have been more than 100 such attacks this year, more than twice the amount last year.

“Starting from 2004, hundreds of drones killed thousands of innocent civilians and this brutal killing is continued without any justice… that should not be allowed in the modern world,” Akbar said.

Khan categorically denied he or his family members belong to any militant organization such as Al-Qaeda or the Taliban, but said that Americans are killing innocent civilians without justification.

Khan and his lawyer appealed to the supreme court of Pakistan’s chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhary to take notice of the on-going problem of innocent civilians dying in drone attacks.

Washington does not publicly admit firing the missiles. US officials privately say little beyond that the attacks are killing Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants

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

The Brink of War

Instable Pakistan Has US on Edge

US ally Pakistan is much more volatile than previously assumed. American Embassy dispatches show that the military and the Pakistani secret service are heavily involved in the atomic power’s politics — and often work against US interests.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks Cables Expose Pakistan Nuclear Fears

American and British diplomats fear Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme could lead to fissile material falling into the hands of terrorists or a devastating nuclear exchange with India.

The latest cache of US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks contains warnings that Pakistan is rapidly building its nuclear stockpile despite the country’s growing instability and “pending economic catastrophe”.

Mariot Leslie, a senior British Foreign Office official, told US diplomats in September 2009: “The UK has deep concerns about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons,” according to one cable classified “secret/noforn [no foreign nationals]”.

Seven months earlier, the US ambassador to Islamabad, Anne Patterson, cabled to Washington: “Our major concern is not having an Islamic militant steal an entire weapon but rather the chance someone working in government of Pakistan facilities could gradually smuggle enough material out to eventually make a weapon”.

The leak of classified US diplomatic correspondence exposes in detail the deep tensions between Washington and Islamabad over a broad range of issues, including counter-terrorism, Afghanistan and finance, as well as the nuclear question. The cables also revealed that:

  • Small teams of US special forces have been operating secretly inside Pakistan’s tribal areas, with the approval of the Pakistani government, while senior ministers have privately supported American drone attacks.
  • The ambassador starkly informed Washington that “no amount of money” from the US would stop the Pakistani army backing Islamist militants and the Afghan Taliban insurgency.
  • The US concluded that Pakistani troops were responsible for a spate of extrajudicial killings in the Swat Valley and tribal belt but decided not to comment publicly to allow the army to take action on its own.
  • Diplomats in Islamabad were asked by the Pentagon to survey refugee camps on the Afghan border, possibly for air strike targeting information.
  • The president, Asif Ali Zardari — whose wife, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated — has made extensive preparations in case he too is killed, and once told the US vice-president, Joe Biden, that he feared the military “might take me out”.

Pakistan’s rulers are so sensitive about their much-prized nuclear weapons that in July 2009 they stalled on a previously agreed plan for the US to recover and dispose of highly enriched uranium spent fuel from a nuclear research reactor, in the interests of preventing proliferation and theft. They told the US embassy: “If the local media got word of the fuel removal, “they certainly would portray it as the US taking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons”.

US concern over Pakistan’s bomb programme was spelled out in an intelligence briefing in 2008. “Despite pending economic catastrophe, Pakistan is producing nuclear weapons at a faster rate than any other country in the world,” the secret cable said.

Leslie, director general of defence and intelligence at the Foreign Office, made clear the UK shared these anxieties when she spoke to US diplomats at a London arms control meeting in September 2009. The Pakistanis were worried the US “will drop in and take their nukes”, she said, according to a US cable to Washington. Pakistan was now prepared to accept “nuclear safety help” from British technicians, but only under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The cable said Leslie thought nuclear proliferation was the greater danger to the world, but it “ranks lower than terrorism on the public’s list of perceived threats”.

Another senior British official at the meeting, Jon Day, the Ministry of Defence’s director general for security policy, said recent intelligence indicated Pakistan was “not going in a good direction”.

The Russians shared concerns that Pakistan was “highly unstable”. Yuri Korolev, from the Russian foreign ministry, told US officials: “Islamists are not only seeking power in Pakistan but are also trying to get their hands on nuclear materials.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Far East

Blame Appeasement for North Korea’s Antics

The recent attack by North Korea on South Korea killed numerous civilians. It created panic and outrage in South Korea. It roiled the South Korean government, leading to the resignation of their defense minister and unprecedented language from their leaders vowing “a thousand fold” revenge on the North. This attack is the worst violence on the Korean Peninsula since the end of the war in 1953. It has struck fear into the entire Asian region.

However, the untold story of this attack is that it could have been prevented. You even could say that the North Koreans have a point when they claim that the United States “orchestrated” the circumstances that led to this attack.

The appeasement policy of the Obama administration, including his endless apologies for America and his coddling of dictators such as Hugo Chavez and Ahmedinejad are the diplomatic equivalent of throwing red meat in front of North Korea’s wild, carnivorous beast of a regime and daring them to eat it.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Ethiopia Imprisons Christian Accused of Defacing Quran

Islamic principles govern Somali region in southern part of country.

By Simba Tian

NAIROBI, Kenya — A Christian in Ethiopia’s southern town of Moyale who languished in jail for more than three months after he was accused of desecrating the Quran has been sentenced to three years of prison, church leaders said.

Tamirat Woldegorgis, a member of the Full Gospel Church in his early 30s, was arrested in early August after a Muslim co-worker in the clothes-making business the two operated out of a rented home discovered Woldegorgis had inscribed “Jesus is Lord” on some cloth, area Christians said. His business partner later accused him of writing “Jesus is Lord” in a copy of the Quran, although no evidence of that ever surfaced.

Woldegorgis was sentenced on Nov. 18 for allegedly defacing the Quran and was subsequently transferred to Jijiga prison, a source said. Jijiga is the capital of Ethiopia’s Somali Region Zone Five, which is governed by Islamic principles, and his transfer there — after a period in which his whereabouts were unknown — puts his life in greater danger, a church leader said.

In Ethiopia’s federal state system, each state is autonomous in its administration, and most of those holding government positions in Somali Region Zone Five are Muslims.

“Three years in a harsh jail in Jijiga for an innocent man is quite costly,” said the church leader, who requested anonymity for security reasons.

The church is concerned about the condition of the father of two from Hagarmariam village.

Additionally, two of Woldegorgis’ friends were fined 5,000 Kenyan shillings (US$60) each for supporting him by either taking food to him or visiting him while in prison. The two were said to be condemned for supporting a criminal who allegedly desecrated the Quran and allegedly defamed Islam, church leaders said.

Woldegorgis’ Muslim associate, whose name has not been established, had gone to a mosque with the accusation that Woldegorgis had written “Jesus is Lord” in the Quran itself, sources said. Angry sheikhs at the mosque subsequently had Woldegorgis arrested for desecrating the book sacred to Islam, they said. Other sources said, however, that Muslims accused Woldegorgis of writing “Jesus is Lord” on a piece of wood, on a minibus and then on the wall of a house.

Sources previously told Compass that authorities had offered to release Woldegorgis if he would convert to Islam.

Hostility toward those spreading faiths different from Islam is a common occurrence in predominantly Muslim areas of Ethiopia and neighboring countries, they said. Christians are often subject to harassment and intimidation.

Ethiopia’s constitution, laws and policies generally respect freedom of religion, but occasionally some local authorities infringe on this right, according to the U.S. Department of State’s 2010 International Religious Freedom Report.

According to the 2007 census, 44 percent of Ethiopia’s population affiliate with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, 19 percent are evangelical and Pentecostal and 34 percent are Sunni Muslim.

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

Latin America

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Ecuador Offers Wikileak’s Founder Assange Residency, No Questions Asked

QUITO — Ecuador on Monday offered Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who has enraged Washington by releasing masses of classified U.S. documents, residency with no questions asked.

“We are ready to give him residence in Ecuador, with no problems and no conditions,” Deputy Foreign Minister Kintto Lucas told the Internet site Ecuadorinmediato.

“We are going to invite him to come to Ecuador so he can freely present the information he possesses and all the documentation, not just over the Internet but in a variety of public forums,” he said.

An international arrest warrant was issued in mid-November against Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, on suspicion of rape and sexual molestation of two women in Sweden.

The United States, for its part, has a criminal investigation under way into the release of some 250,000 diplomatic cables, the most recent of three huge document dumps by the self-styled whistle-blower website.

The White House branded those who released the documents “criminals, first and foremost,” but so far U.S. authorities have publicly filed no charges against Assange.

The documents, obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to news organizations in the United States, Britain, France and Germany, have shone a bright light on the behind-the-scenes conduct U.S. diplomacy.

Ecuador’s leftist government is one of several in the region that have often been at odds with Washington.

Lucas said even though Ecuador’s policy was not to meddle in the internal affairs of other countries, it was “concerned” by the information in the cables because it involved other countries “in particular Latin America.”

           — Hat tip: LN[Return to headlines]


Gaddafi to EU: 5 Bln to Stop Illegals

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, NOVEMBER 29 — The European Union should give 5 billion euros to Libya to “stop” illegal immigrants, otherwise “an entire continent will pour into Europe”. This is according to the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, who has again made demands from Europe during the EU-Africa summit.

“In order to stop illegal immigration, something significant must be done, otherwise an entire continent will pour into Europe. If Europe gives us 5 billion euros, Libya will be able to stem the flow,” said the Libyan leader, repeating a request made in Rome in August.

“The only country that collaborates with us is Italy,” said Gaddafi with regards to tackling illegal immigration, adding that “Italy is a civilised country that has made up for its past” as a colonising country.

During his speech at the opening of the summit, Gaddafi said that “Libya is the filter of immigration” coming from all over Africa.

“Africa and Europe are the spine of the world and must cooperate,” Gaddafi said. On immigration, he reasserted that “the only country that collaborates with us is Italy. Thanks to our cooperation with them, we have been able to exert control over immigration”.

Regarding the request for 5 billion euros per year from Europe, the Libyan leader said: “We do not need to beg for help, but we want investments”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gaddafi Demands £4 Billion From EU or Europe Will Turn ‘Black’

Muammar Gaddafi has demanded that the European Union give him more than £4 billion to fight illegal immigration or else Europe will turn “black” and be swamped by Muslims.

During an EU-Africa summit, that ended on Tuesday in Tripoli, the Libyan leader described European’s economic relationship with the African continent as a “failure”.

Unless “Christian, white” countries gave him extra funding, Colonel Gaddafi predicted that Europe would be flooded with illegal immigrants leaving impoverished Africa.

“We should stop this illegal immigration. If we don’t, Europe will become black, it will be overcome by people with different religions, it will change,” he said.

Col Gaddafi has so far received only £42 million in EU funding to improve treatment of refugees heading for Europe amid human rights fears and a recent refusal by Sweden to sell Libya surveillance planes.

The Libyan leader is critical of the EU for linking trade and aid to free markets and progress on human rights. He told EU officials at the summit that African leaders say they are ready to abandon ten years of trade talks because of European demands.

“Africa has other choices,” he said “Let every country and every group govern itself. Every country is free to serve its own interests. Africa can look to any other international bloc such as Latin America, China, India or Russia.”

A leaked US diplomatic cable giving an assessment of Kenya as a “swamp” of corruption prompted calls for an apology from Nairobi. “It is totally malicious and a total misrepresentation of our country and our leaders. We are surprised and shocked,” said a Kenyan government spokesman.

But Col Gaddafi did not make any reference to the Wikileaks publication of a confidential American communication detailing his need to always travel with his “with his senior Ukrainian nurse” and his love of “flamenco dancing.”

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Italy: Moroccan Terrorist Expelled After Early Release From Prison

Rome, 26 Nov. (AKI) — Italy has expelled a 45-year-old man considered to be a member of an extremist Islamic militant cell, sending him to his native Morocco three years after he was convicted for having terrorist ties, the Italian Interior Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

Khalid Khamlich was released from prison on 18 Nov. and flown from Rome to Casablanca early Friday. The ministry cited unspecified “reasons of public order and state security” for his early release.

Khamlich was found guilty of taking part in a group that planned terrorist attacks on the Milan subway and the cathedral of in the northern city of Cremona.

A court in Brescia in June 2007 sentenced Khamlich to 5 years and six months of reclusion for “association with the aim of international terrorism,” the Italian Interior Ministry said.

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

Netherlands: Crime Puts Pressure on Integration

THE HAGUE, 01/12/10 — The high crime figures remain by some way the most striking problem regarding the integration of second-generation immigrants. Where they do better than their parents in most areas, on this point they show a substantial deterioration, according to the “Integration Annual Report 2010” presented by the Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS).

Second-generation Turks and Moroccans are not only more frequently suspected of a crime than the white Dutch, but also more frequently suspects than the first generation Turks and Moroccans have ever been. On this point, a clear deterioration is evident. “More than half the Moroccan boys have run up against the police in their youth as a crime suspect,” the CBS reports.

Antillean and Moroccan men are five times more frequently crime suspects than white Dutch men. “The crime figures are really very high,” says CBS demographer Jan Latten. According to Latten, policy must be developed in relation to the crime problem. “This will really not go away on its own.”

It is notable that a relatively large number of immigrant suspects live in the Rotterdam suburb of Schiedam. This municipality is in the top five both for the number of Turkish and of Moroccan, Surinamese and Antillean suspects, the CBS report shows.

Apart from the area of crime, the report gives largely positive figures. The second generation of non-Western immigrants in general do better in Dutch society than their parents.

Currently, around 43 percent of non-Western immigrants are second generation. The fact that more and more of them are moving to higher education is considered by Latten the most striking development in a positive sense. “They will be the managers of tomorrow.”

At the beginning of 2010, there were 1.9 million non-Western immigrants living in the Netherlands. This is about 11 percent of the total population. Moroccans and Turks form the largest groups among them.

Immigrants with one or both parents born outside the Netherlands are defined as second-generation. Only when both parents are born in the Netherlands are they considered third-generation.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Religious ‘Bullying’ Among Christmas Island Detainees

An Iraqi asylum seeker being detained on Christmas Island says he is living in fear that he will be targeted by other detainees because of his religious beliefs.

In Iraq, life is getting harder for believers in faiths other than Islam.

At the end of last month, an attack on Iraq’s dwindling Christian community left 58 people dead and Al Qaeda has warned that more killings would follow.

Another victimised minority are the Sabian Mandaean, whose followers revere John the Baptist.

Some have fled to Australia and now a Mandaean detainee on Christmas Island fears that the persecution has followed him here.

Salah Azuhari, 45, fled from his village in southern Iraq because of religious persecution.

Speaking through ABC local radio’s Hana Vieva, Mr Azuhari said that other Iraqi detainees have bullied him.

“They told him he had no right to sit with them, eat with them, be in their presence. And they said that because of his religious belief he has no right to live in Iraq or anywhere else,” Ms Vieva said.

“He’s been on the run since Iraq and Jordan and he feels like he’s still on the run even though he’s in Australia.”

Mr Azuhari has been in detention on Christmas Island for one month.

He says his family in Iraq were tortured by the Mehdi army and the Badr forces, a political party.

“He and his family were tortured, his family was bombed. His uncle received a nail to his head. So they basically bashed a nail through his brain. He was subsequently kidnapped, tortured and put around dead bodies, other dead bodies,” the interpreter said.

“They’re basically seen as sinners. They’re looked upon as Christians and Jews by the fundamental Muslims. So they’re tortured because they’re sinners.”

The Mandaeans are pacifists and their religion prevents them from taking part in protests.

Mr Azuhari says that is why he refused to go on a hunger strike to protest against the death of an Iraqi detainee in Villawood.

“He is a law-abiding citizen who follows the rules. He’s doing that in the detention centre,” Ms Vieva said.

“He’s isolated and he’s isolated himself because he fears. He has been threatened to be killed while he sleeps.

“He feels that the situation in the detention centre is like, exactly the situation in Iraq.”

Immigration Department spokeswoman Sandi Logan says the Department is not aware of any complaints being made but if there were serious concerns to a client’s ongoing welfare the Department would consider moving them.

“It’s also an opportunity for people who do believe they have a strong claim to remain in Australia to begin to live with Australian values and to live under Australian norms,” she said.

“This means that where there is inter-faith conflict that it is resolved in a peaceful and amicable way.

“That is certainly the training that our staff have but, as I say, these are quite rare. They are not common in immigration detention.”

But former Human Rights commissioner Sev Ozdowski says this is not the first incident of religious bullying.

In 2003 Amnesty International made a complaint to the Human Rights Commission on behalf of a female Mandaean who says she was sexually harassed while in detention.

Mr Ozdowski says Mandaeans often suffer “double punishment”.

“They were quite often regarded as unclean, as unable to meet with other Muslims. They were ostracised. There were cases of harassment. There was a case of alleged rape. They didn’t have the standing in the community in detention,” he said.

He says Mandaeans should be kept in separate detention from other asylum seekers and their claims processed immediately.

Meanwhile Salah Azuhari wants his processing sped up so that he can be reunited with his six children who are still in Jordan.

Hana Vieva says Mr Azuhari already has relatives living in Australia.

“He has three siblings who came here as refugees and now have refugee status. They live in Sydney. They have had the opportunity to express their religion, believe in what they want to believe and he feels that he can do that outside the detention centre,” she said.

After threatening to run away, Salah Azuhari has been moved to be closer to the four other Mandaeans on Christmas Island.

He says he feels much safer but that if the other Mandaeans leave he will be completely alone.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Eight in Ten Want Tighter Controls on Immigration … Even Lib Dem Voters Want Cap

The public, including a sizeable majority of Lib Dem supporters, want far stricter controls on immigration to the UK, according to a poll released last night.

The YouGov survey found 81 per cent support for the government’s cap on economic migration — which will slash the number of non-EU workers given visas by a fifth.

It is part of a policy to cut net migration — the number of people arriving in Britain, versus those leaving — from 215,000 to the ‘tens of thousands’.

However, the public, including a large chunk of Lib Dem supporters, is calling on the Coalition to go much further.

Some 70 per cent of the public thought that net immigration of 50,000 or less would be ‘best for Britain’.

This was the view of 61 per cent of Lib Dems. The figure will surprise party managers, who had widely assumed their supporters wanted relaxed immigration controls.

During the consultation over the government’s cap on economic migrants, Business Secretary Vince Cable repeatedly complained the Home Office was intending to be too tough.

The party is also known to be unhappy with David Cameron’s ‘tens of thousands’ pledge, which did not appear in the Coalition agreement.

But the survey, carried out for Migrationwatch, found 16 per cent of Lib Dems want net migration of 50,000-a-year, and a further 36 per cent want no net immigration — which means the same number of people arriving each years as leaving.

A further nine per cent said there should be more emigrants than immigrants. Overall, this is the view of 19 per cent of the population.

In terms of the cap policy, there was 79 per cent approval by the Lib Dems, compared to 95 per cent of Conservatives and 69 per cent of Labour voters.

The figures will be useful in continuing negotations between the Tories and Lib Dems over cracking down on other routes into the UK, such as marriage and student visas.

Separately, the YouGov survey found public concern about a report, published by an Oxford University academic, warning that white Britons will be a minority by 2066 if immigration continues at the current rate.

Prof David Coleman said that, If immigration stays at its long-term rate of around 180,000 a year, the white British-born population would decline from 80 per cent of the total now to 59 per cent in 2051.

By then white immigrants would have more than doubled from 4 to 10 per cent of the total, while the ethnic minority population would have risen from 16 to 31 per cent.

If the trend continued, the white British population, defined as English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish-born citizens, would become the minority after about 2066, Prof Coleman said.

The poll found that 73 per cent of the public would feel ‘unhappy’ if this scenario proved accurate.

Some 85 per cent of Tory voters held this view, compared to 67 per cent of Labour supporters and 55 per cent of Lib Dems.

A fifth of the public said they would be neither happy nor unhappy.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: ‘These results are a strong vote of confidence in the government’s recent measures to control economic migration.

‘But they are also warning that the public, who would like to see even lower levels of immigration, are very unhappy about the long-term consequences of immigration for the make-up of our society. ‘

Last week, Home Office ministers announced a 21,700 cap on visas for workers from outside Europe — a reduction of 20 per cent.

They also promised sharp reduction in the number of student visas being handed out — with most applicants for non-degree courses being rejected.

Figures released by the Office for national Statistics, two days after the announcement, showed the scale of the task facing the government.

In the year to March 2010, net migration was 215,000.

Some 580,000 people moved to Britain, including a record 211,000 students. In the same period 364,000 left the country — the lowest level in a decade.

The net migration totals for 2008 and 2009 were 163,000 and 198,000 respectively.

The Office for National Statistics has said that the population will hit 70million by 2029 if net migration runs at 180,000 a year.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Smithsonian Christmas-Season Exhibit Features Ant-Covered Jesus, Naked Brothers Kissing, Genitalia, And Ellen Degeneres Grabbing Her Breasts

WARNING: This story contains graphic photographs of items on display in an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery.

The federally funded National Portrait Gallery, one of the museums of the Smithsonian Institution, is currently showing an exhibition that features images of an ant-covered Jesus, male genitals, naked brothers kissing, men in chains, Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts, and a painting the Smithsonian itself describes in the show’s catalog as “homoerotic.”

The exhibit, “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture,” opened on Oct. 30 and will run throughout the Christmas Season, closing on Feb. 13.

“This is an exhibition that displays masterpieces of American portraiture and we wanted to illustrate how questions of biography and identity went into the making of images that are canonical,” David C. Ward, a National Portrait Gallery (NGP) historian who is also co-curator of the exhibit, told

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Teaching Boost Urged for Multicultural Kids

Multilingual students at Sweden’s preschools and schools are falling behind due to an inability of teachers to address their needs, the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) announced on Tuesday.

The Inspectorate is looking at ways to improve and enhance the educational experiences of its students who come from multilingual backgrounds, which according to the sample of primary and secondary schools in the study totals one in five students.

“All children in Sweden have an unconditional right to education, regardless of whether their mother tongue is Swedish or not. We see that preschools and schools have a general interest in the multilingual children’s different experiences and backgrounds,” Agneta Ericsson, project leader at the Inspectorate wrote in a statement.

“However, we often forget these experiences when planning operations. The result is that the children’s language and knowledge development slows and it becomes needlessly difficult for them to achieve the goals of the school,” she added.

Separately, Sveriges Radio’s Ekot news bulletin reported on Tuesday morning that one in four students with a foreign background left school without the qualifications for college (gymnasium) compared with one in 10 pupils with a Swedish background.

The agency examined how preschools and schools work with language and knowledge development to help multilingual children and students meet national objectives.

The agency undertook a study at 21 preschools and 21 schools in 12 municipalities at. The agency’s findings do not necessarily apply to all preschools and schools in the country.

Instead, it offers examples of both the problems and solutions of what can be done to improve the language and knowledge development in multilingual children, the government agency stated.

The agency found that there are weak multilingual and intercultural perspectives within schools, saying it was rare for preschools and schools to connect activities to concepts that a multilingual child could recognise and create context and understanding.

In addition, staff appeared to know little more about the children beyond the languages that they speak. Activities and teaching rarely made use of the children’s different experiences and cultural backgrounds.

It also considered the development of mother tongue abilities as “someone else’s responsibility,” either through mother tongue teachers or parents.

The agency pointed out that schools seldom followed up on the students’ reception of the material and on their individual development. Separately, the role of Swedish as a second language remained unclear.

The agency emphasised that multilingual children are individuals with different experiences, needs, interests and linguistic and competence levels.

As such, it urged schools to address their deficiencies in improving the education experiences of these children by learning more about them, accommodating their curriculum to reference their backgrounds and challenging them in their teaching.

It also highlighted ensuring that preschools help children develop their mother tongue skills and setting high standards for them to achieve objectives, as well as working with other teachers and language teachers.

If necessary, it also suggested offering tutoring in the student’s native language and further developing the teaching of Swedish as a second language.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Hate Crime Figures Published for the First Time

Hate crime figures for England, Wales and Northern Ireland have been published for the first time.

In 2009 a total of 52,028 crimes were recorded in which the offence was motivated by prejudice.

Victims were targeted because of race, religious belief, sexual orientation, disability or transgender issues.

Chief Constable Stephen Otter of police chiefs’ body Acpo said: “By publishing this data… we hope to encourage victims and witnesses to come forward.”

The vast majority were targeted because of their race — 43,426 (up from 39,300), and the others were classified as sexual orientation — 4,805; religion/faith — 2,083; disability — 1,402 and transgender — 312.

An Acpo spokesman said 703 crimes were anti-Semitic.

Mr Otter, Acpo’s lead for equality, diversity and human rights, said: “Hate crimes cause a great deal of harm among victims and communities.

“Publication of the data underlines the commitment of the police service to tackle hate crime, build confidence and encourage victims to come forward so that under-reporting is reduced.”

Although data was not collated nationally before 2009, Acpo says it believes there has been a rise in all five types of hate crime.

‘Much work to do’

Professor John Grieve CBE, independent chair of the government’s Hate Crime Advisory Group, welcomed the data and said: “It represents a significant step forward in our understanding of the nature and extent of hate crime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

Prof Grieve, a former deputy assistant commissioner with the Metropolitan Police who set up a racial and violent crime task force at Scotland Yard, said: “The UK is amongst world leaders in the way that it responds to hate crime, but there is still much work to do.

“One of the greatest challenges is to reduce the under-reporting of hate crime. We welcome the government’s commitment to increase reporting and we will be examining this data in the forthcoming months and years to better understand the extent of crime and to challenge where performance does not meet the high standards that the public rightly demands of the criminal justice agencies.”

           — Hat tip: 4symbols[Return to headlines]


Hunters May Have Delivered Fatal Blow to Mammoths

CHERSKY, Russia — During the last Ice Age, shaggy mammoths, woolly rhinos and bison lumbered across northern Siberia. Then, about 10,000 years ago — in the span of a geological heartbeat, or a few hundred years — the last of them disappeared.

Many scientists believe a dramatic shift in climate drove these giant grazers to extinction.

But two scientists who live year-round in the frigid Siberian plains say that man _either for food, fuel or fun — hunted the animals to extinction.

Paleontologists have been squabbling for decades over how these animals met their sudden demise. The most persuasive theories say it was humanity and nature: Dramatically warming temperatures caused a changing habitat and brought a migration of men armed with deep-piercing spears.

No one knows for sure what set off global warming back then — perhaps solar activity or a slight shift in the Earth’s orbit. But, in an echo of the global warming debate today, Sergey Zimov, director of the internationally funded Northeast Science Station, and his son Nikita say man was the real agent of change.

For the Siberian grasses to provide nutrition in winter, they needed to be grazed in summer to produce fresh shoots in autumn. The hooves of millions of reindeer, elk and moose as well as the larger beasts also trampled choking moss, while their waste promoted the blossoming of summer meadows.

As the ice retreated at the end of the Pleistocene era — the final millennia of a 1.8 million yearlong epoch — it cleared the way for man’s expansion into previously inaccessible lands, like this area bordering the East Siberia Sea.

Northeastern Siberia, today one of the coldest and most formidable spots on the globe, was dry and free of glaciers. The ground grew thick with fine layers of dust and decaying plant life, generating rich pastures during the brief summers.

When humans arrived they hunted not only for food, but for the fat that kept the northern animals insulated against the subzero cold, which the hunters burned for fuel, say the scientists. They may also have killed for prestige or for sport, in the same way buffalo were heedlessly felled in the American Old West, sometimes from the window of passing trains.

The wholesale slaughter allowed the summer fodder to dry up and destroy the winter supply, they say.

“We don’t look at animals just as animals. We look at them as a system, with vegetation and the whole ecosystem,” said the younger Zimov. “You don’t need to kill all the animals to kill an ecosystem.”

During the transition from the ice age to the modern climate, global temperatures rose 5 degrees Celsius, or 9 Fahrenheit. But in Siberia’s northeast the temperature soared 7 degrees, or nearly 13F, in just three years, the elder Zimov said.

The theory of human overkill is much disputed. Advocates of climate theory say the warm wet weather that accompanied the rapid melting of glaciers spawned birch forests that overwhelmed the habitats of the bulky grass eaters.

Adrian Lister, of the paleontology department of London’s Natural History Museum, said humans may have delivered the final blow, but rapid global warming was primarily responsible for the mammoth’s extinction. It brought an abrupt change in vegetation that squeezed a dwindling number of mammoths into isolated pockets, where hunters could pick off the last herds, he said.

People “couldn’t have done the whole job,” he told AP Television News.

Mammoths once ranged from Russia and northern China to Europe and most of North America, but their numbers began to shrink about 30,000 years ago. By the time the Pleistocene era ended they remained only in northern Siberia, Lister said.

As in millennia past, Sergey Zimov believes hunting is a problem today.

“I believe it’s possible to increase the density of herbivores in our territory 100 times,” says Zimov, who keeps a 6-foot-long yellow-brown tusk of an 18-year-old female in a corner of his living room. “I say let’s stop the poaching. Let’s give freedom for animals.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Is Wi-Fi Frying Our Brains? Fears That Cloud of ‘Electrosmog’ Could be Harming Humans

As winter arrives with a vengeance, the last of this year’s glorious autumn leaves are falling in our parks and woodlands.

But this week came worrying evidence that Mother Nature is not the only force denuding our trees of their foliage.

Research in the Netherlands suggested that outbreaks of bleeding bark and dying leaves which have blighted the country’s urban trees may be caused by radiation from the Wi-Fi networks now so integral to life in offices, schools and homes.

As a qualified electronics engineer, I am not surprised by such findings. I have long been concerned about the harmful effects of the electro-magnetic radiation emitted not only by Wi-Fi devices but many other common modern gadgets, including mobile and cordless phones, wireless games consoles and microwave ovens.

Much though I love trees, and worrying though I find this research, what really unnerves me is the effect these electro-magnetic fields (or EMFs) are having on humans, surrounding us as they do with a constant cloud of ‘electrosmog’.

I am no Luddite. When I started work in the 1960s, I was involved in building walkie-talkies. I thought they were just brilliant and that electronic technology would save the world. But over the decades since, my scientific background has made it impossible for me to ignore the overwhelming evidence about the damage wreaked by this electrosmog.

It is not the existence of these radio waves that is the problem so much as the use we make of them. Rather than being emitted at a constant rate, technology demands they are ‘pulsed’ in short and frequent bursts which appear to be far more biologically harmful.

Not the least is their impact on our ability to reproduce. It is well documented that average male sperm counts are falling by two per cent a year. Many causes have been suggested, from stressful lifestyles to poor diet and hormones in our water supplies. But studies in infertility clinics show problems with sperm dying off or not moving properly are most common in men who use mobiles extensively. This has also been demonstrated in the laboratory.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Islamists Know a Western Civilization Secret: ‘Progress’ Makes Religion Decline

The motive to reform Islam from within is weaker than the motive of those like Martin Luther, as Islamists can point to the decline of Christian belief and assume the same would happen to Islam.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Primitive Social Network: Bullying Required

Someone gets bullied in every society. It’s bad luck on the victims, but in primitive social groups they might do best to put up with it. If the advantages of group living outweigh the costs of being bullied, evolution might leave some animals resigned to their victim status, thus stabilising the group.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]