Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20101229

Financial Crisis
»Australia Leads the World in House Price Rises
»G20 and EU ‘Posturing’ Could Exacerbate Future Banking Crises
»Homeowners Cut Mortgage Debt by the Most in Over a Year
»Italy’s Debt Costs Approach Red Zone
»ADL Slams Conspiracy Theories Linking Israel to Wikileak
»America’s ‘Islamophobia Machine’ Doing Great Damage
»Joshua Muravchik: Is Obama’s Muslim Outreach Working?
Europe and the EU
»Breaking: Five Arrested in Denmark/Sweden, Planned to Attack Mohammed Cartoons Newspaper in the Next Few Days
»Denmark: 5 Arrested in Plot to Attack Prophet Cartoon Paper
»Denmark: Newspaper Massacre Terror Plot is Foiled
»Five Arrested for Terror Plot in Denmark
»Five Arrested in Danish Terror Plot
»Germany: Have Berlin Mosques Become a Target?
»Germany: Ramsauer Mans Ramparts Against English
»Greece: Anarchists Call for ‘Global Uprising’
»Ireland: More Than 16,000 Motorists on Sixth Provisional Licence
»Italy: Champagne Imports Slide in 10 Yrs, -20%
»‘Kill as Many as Possible’: Five Arrested for Planning Attack on Danish Newspaper Which Published ‘Prophet’ Cartoons
»Swedes Arrested Over ‘Muhammad Cartoon Plot’
»The English Defense League
»UK: Police to Review Security of Boris Johnson and Other Figures After Alleged Al-Qaeda Assassination Plot
»UK: Police Demand New Powers to Stop and Search Terror Suspects
»UK: Peddler of Race Hate is Accused of Swindling Benefits
»UK: Tussles at the Tills During Tesco Boycott
»WikiLeaks: US Embassy Pressured Danish Paper Not to Reprint Mohammed Cartoons
»Bosnia: Only 10% of Defence Industry’s Capacity Used
North Africa
»Egypt Following Up Israel-Cyprus Sea Border Demarcation Deal
»Italy: Railways: Italferr to Study Transport in 21 Arab States
Israel and the Palestinians
»Detained Journalist Questions Right to Freedom of Speech for Palestinians
»West Bank: OK to 13 Thousand Houses in Settlements
Middle East
»America and the Middle East: Great Sacrifices, Small Rewards
»Religion in Turkey: Diyanet Effect
»The United States, Israel and the Arabs: Please, Not Again
South Asia
»Trouble in Kashmir: India’s Intifada
»US Admit No Way to Stop Taliban Terrorists Through Pakistan-Afghanistan Border
Far East
»China Preparing for Armed Conflict ‘In Every Direction’
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Al-Qaeda Cockney Calls for Holy War in Somalia
Latin America
»Brazilian President to Make Battisti Decision This Week
»American Thinker: How’s That Religion of Peace Doing These Days?
»New Holiday, December 25: Christmahannukwanzadan

Financial Crisis

Australia Leads the World in House Price Rises


A survey by Canada’s Scotiabank on price movements in a dozen advanced countries ranked Australia as the “clear front-runner” for house price increases, with a gain of 9.4 per cent year-on-year for the September quarter on an inflation adjusted basis.

That put Australia ahead of France (6.8 per cent gain), Sweden (5.6 per cent), Switzerland (4.7 per cent) and Britain (4.4 per cent). Losers in the period included the US (0.4 per cent down), Spain (5.2 per cent), Japan (2.8 per cent) and Canada (1.5 per cent).

But the 9.4 per cent increase in Australian prices did represent a slowdown from the 15.9 per cent year-on-year rise posted in the first quarter of 2010, with successive rate rises and the expiry of the enhanced First Home Owners Grant in January starting to bite…


[Return to headlines]

G20 and EU ‘Posturing’ Could Exacerbate Future Banking Crises

The TaxPayers’ Alliance has published a paper accusing politicians and regulators of basing their response to the financial crisis on a “mistaken view of its causes” and “political considerations”. The paper, which was co-written with the Lagatum Institute, an academic group that focuses on wealth, attacks the key aim of politicians including Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne for internationally co-ordinated regulation. It warns that “global regulation causes global crises”.

The authors, Dalibor Rohac of the Legatum Institute and Matthew Sinclair of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said in the report: “Common capital adequacy rules, while increasing transparency, also encourage homogeneity in investment strategy and undertaking of risk, leading to a high concentration of risk. That means that global regulations can be dangerous because they increase the amplitude of global credit cycles.” The paper adds: “The Basel regulations may still be procyclical, imposing more onerous requirements on institutions at times when the system is in trouble.”

The authors claim the new regulations, including the G20-sponsored Basel rules and the Capital Requirements Directive of the EU, have been based on too narrow a view that “greed and insufficient regulation” were the causes. They argue that “regulations and poor policy choices” were also to blame — and that the authorities are in danger of making similarly dangerous mistakes.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Homeowners Cut Mortgage Debt by the Most in Over a Year

The figure was the biggest net injection of equity people have made into their homes since the first quarter of 2009.

The £6.1bn figure compares with an injection of around £5.8bn in the second quarter — revised down from £6.2bn — and £5.3bn in the first, according to the Bank of England, and is the equivalent of 2.4pc of homeowners’ post-tax income.

A total of £49.7bn has been paid down on home loans since the second quarter of 2008.

Earlier in the decade many people extended their mortgages to finance other spending, such on cars, holidays and extensions. This trend that came to an abrupt end in 2007 as the global economy was gripped by the worst recession since the Depression era.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Italy’s Debt Costs Approach Red Zone

Yields on 10-year bonds rose 10 basis points to 4.86pc after a poor auction of short-term debt in Rome. The Italian treasury had to pay 1.7pc to sell €8.5bn (£7.2bn) of six-month bills in a thin post-Christmas market, up from 1.48pc a month ago. The spike in rates came as money supply data released by the European Central Bank showed that real M1 deposits have collapsed at a rate of 2.8pc over the last six months in the EMU bloc of Italy, Spain, Greece, Ireland and Portugal, even though they are rising in northern Europe. “This is comparable with the decline in early 2008 just ahead of the plunge into recession,” said Simon Ward from Henderson Global Investors. “The eurozone periphery is locked into a ‘double dip’ that will undermine fiscal consolidation.”

Italy’s M1 contraction began later than elsewhere in southern Europe but is now accelerating. M1 typically gives advance warning of economic shifts by six to nine months.

Mr Ward said signs of recovery in the ECB’s broader M3 money data is less reassuring than it looks since the gauge was temporarily boosted by flight to liquid assets on EMU debt worries.

The poor auction in Rome may be a warning sign that EU leaders offered too little to restore confidence at their Brussels summit two weeks ago. German Chancellor Angela Merkel vetoed the creation of eurobonds or any serious move towards fiscal union, and shot down calls for an increase in the eurozone’s €440bn emergency loan fund. The ECB has so far refused to step in to the breach with overwhelming action. Willem Buiter, Citigroup’s chief economist, said the response had been “woefully inadequate”, raising the risk of fresh bank failures and a wave of sovereign defaults next year. He said the EU authorities may need a mix of measures worth up to €2 trillion to stop the rot.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


ADL Slams Conspiracy Theories Linking Israel to Wikileak

The the release of classified US diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks is “being exploited to spread false and malicious conspiracy theories against Israel,” the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said in a statement released Wednesday.

The ADL said claims that the Israel and the “Israel lobby” in the US played a secret role in the release of the cables was “part of a disinformation campaign that has as gained traction with those catering to the far right and the left, some Arab and Islamic Web sites and others dedicated to spreading ‘anti-Zionist’ messages like Islam Times and Hezbollah’s Al Manar.

“Once again, as we saw with the 9/11 attacks and the financial meltdown, we are seeing yet another manifestation of the Big Lie against Jews and Israel,” Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, said in the statement. “The WikiLeaks affair has given new life to the old conspiracy theories of underhanded Jewish and Israeli involvement in an event with significant repercussions for the U.S. and many nations around the world.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

America’s ‘Islamophobia Machine’ Doing Great Damage

WASHINGTON: A prominent Washington-based Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization is urging the Department of Homeland Security and the Defense Department not to use anti-Muslim extremists to train counterterrorism officials.

That request by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, CAIR, comes following a Washington Post investigative report on post-9/11 government surveillance, which stated: “Seeking to learn more about Islam and terrorism, some law enforcement agencies have hired as trainers self-described experts whose extremist views on Islam and terrorism are considered inaccurate and counterproductive by the FBI and US intelligence agencies.”

The Post released the report on the extensive security measures entitled “Top Secret America.”

The investigation was first released in July of 2010, and is a series that is being updated, with its latest installment “Monitoring America” released on Dec. 20.

As a result, Ibrahim Hooper, the Communications Director for the Council for CAIR spoke out on Iranian TV against what he called the rising Islamophobia in the US.

The investigation goes into what the Washington Post calls the “fourth branch” of government, private intelligence communities that have the goal of defeating “violent extremists” according to the report.

The organizations, 263 of which have been created or reorganized in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, receive billions of dollars from the government, and do not adhere to the usual standards of personal privacy, the report said.

Critics of the security measures find flaws, not only in the billions used to fund the operation, but the possibility of profiling innocent individuals.

“The FBI is building a database with the names and certain personal information, such as employment history, of thousands of US citizens and residents whom a local police officer or a fellow citizen believed to be acting suspiciously,” the latest report said.

This database is updated by “experts” who receive their expert status from themselves, not previous studies in institutions. They train FBI members in the understanding Islam, Muslims, and American Muslims, said the report.

“These organizations often use self-described specialists to provide training for FBI and analysts who are supposedly specialists on Islam. People who have no PhD , and who have animosity towards Islam,” said Sally Howell, PhD, a professor of history and Arab American Studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn told reporters. “It’s distressing to see these people are empowered in America.”

Muslim activists say the problem is that when suspicious activity is reported, often by neighbors or co-workers for reasons that are not always clear, the accused individual is not informed, and the file remains open for five years. This could lead to profiling and abuse.

CAIR’s Hooper said that as a result of the rising Islamophobia in the US, Muslims and Islamic organizations are worried that US citizens are supporting and buying propaganda of the media, internet hate sites, politicians and organizations that all Muslims are dangerous.

“We are obviously concerned when law enforcement authorities around the country are being trained almost on a daily basis by people who have a hate filled anti-Muslim agenda. That’s been proven time and time again. You have a guy named Robert Spencer, the head of one of the most vicious anti-Muslim hate groups in the country, and a co-head of this group called Stop the Islamization of America, training FBI agents in Virginia. It’s absolutely unbelievable. You have people like Walid Shoebat, a born-again Christian who was a former Muslim, who said Islam is of the devil and he’s training these people. We are seeing this more and more. So it’s inevitable that the law enforcement, policies and practices will eventually reflect this anti-Muslim hatred,” said Hooper.

He continued saying that there is a very vocal anti-Muslim minority promoting the hatred of Islam and marginalization of American Muslims.

“They have an agenda, they are well coordinated, they are well financed, and they are relentless in their promotion of hate filled views. You’ve seen the group Stop the Islamization of America, you’ve got ACT for America, you’ve got any number of other local groups and activists who are mutually supportive and promoting this hate filled agenda.”

CAIR’s Hooper continued saying that there is an ‘Islamophobia machine’ of Islamophobes who are a “mutually supportive growing group of commentators, organizations, media outlets, Internet hate sites that all actively promote the false notion that American Muslims somehow want to overthrow the constitution and take over the country.

“It would be laughable in other circumstances that you would say a tiny little minority in a nation of 300 and some million is somehow going to overthrow the country, but it’s a symptom of the times we live in that people are actually entertaining this bizarre notion. So they are promoting this relentlessly.”

He insisted that these groups do not represent the majority of Americans. “The majority of Americans don’t hate Islam and Muslims. But you have a sizeable minority, and a very vocal minority pushing these kinds of bigoted views,” said CAIR’s Hooper.

           — Hat tip: Freyja’s Cats[Return to headlines]

Joshua Muravchik: Is Obama’s Muslim Outreach Working?

For two years, President Obama has labored to improve America’s standing in the eyes of the Muslim world. He hasn’t gotten anywhere with the governments of Iran, Syria, the Palestinian Authority or perhaps any other Muslim country. But with their publics, Mr. Obama is much better liked than his predecessor, which has yielded more favorable ratings for the U.S. in general.

This is worth noting — even though the people choose their government in very few Muslim-majority states — because America’s popularity affects public approval of terrorism. Even where people cannot vote, the amount of terrorism will be influenced by whether terrorists are seen as heroes or villains.

A poll out this month from the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project sheds interesting light on attitudes toward terrorism in several Muslim countries. The results are mildly encouraging for America — but not necessarily for Mr. Obama and his outreach efforts.

The survey gauges attitudes toward three crucial terrorism-related subjects: al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and suicide bombings. The good news is that the proportion of pro-terror opinion continues to decline. The bad news is that the minority holding such views remains considerable.


A ground-breaking Gallup poll conducted in 2001 and 2002 revealed that hostility toward the U.S. was rife in the Muslim world even before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. This, I believe, reflected U.S. support for Israel and for unpopular Muslim rulers, as well as resentment that America had eclipsed the Islamic world in power and achievement, contradicting the Quran’s promise that Muslims will be supreme.

Perhaps for a brief moment after 9/11, many Muslims hoped that bin Laden had found the way to fight back against the infidels. In that case, Mr. Bush’s fierce response may have quashed such hope and restored some realism.

Of course it may be that the critical factor in changing attitudes has not been U.S. policies but the actions of the terrorists themselves — who regularly turn their bombs against Muslims in Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan and elsewhere.

The data are too slender to sustain the claim that Mr. Bush’s policies succeeded in turning much of the Muslim world against terrorism. But they are substantial enough to inform our understanding that Mr. Obama’s approach has achieved little in this regard.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Breaking: Five Arrested in Denmark/Sweden, Planned to Attack Mohammed Cartoons Newspaper in the Next Few Days

Five people were arrested on suspicion of planning a terror attack in Copenhagen: Four in Denmark and one in Sweden.

According to a press release by the Dansh security service PET, the suspects had been watched for a long time, and the investigation involved close cooperation with the Swedish security police. Some of the suspects were arrested in the Copenhagen suburbs of Herlev and Greve.

Three of the men reside in Sweden and came to Denmark tonight. The fourth lives in Denmark. They are a Tunisian citizen (44), a Lebanese born Swedish citizen (29), a Swedish citizen of unknown origin (30) and an Iraqi asylum seeker (26).

Swedish authorities meanwhile arrested a 37 year old Swedish citizen of Tunisian origin in Stockholm…

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Denmark: 5 Arrested in Plot to Attack Prophet Cartoon Paper

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Police in Denmark and Sweden halted an imminent terrorist attack Wednesday by arresting five men who planned to shoot as many people as possible in a building housing the newsroom of a paper that published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, officials said.

Denmark’s intelligence service said that after months of surveillance it arrested four men in two raids in suburbs of the capital, Copenhagen, and seized a submachine gun, a silencer and ammunition. Swedish police said they arrested a 37-year-old Swedish citizen of Tunisian origin living in Stockholm.

“An imminent terror attack has been foiled,” said Jakob Scharf, head of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service, or PET. He described some the suspects as “militant Islamists with relations to international terror networks” and said that more arrests were possible.

PET said it seized a 44-year-old Tunisian, a 29-year-old Lebanese-born man and a 30-year-old who were living in Sweden and had entered Denmark late Tuesday or early Wednesday. The fourth person detained was a 26-year-old Iraqi asylum-seeker living in Copenhagen.

The Danish intelligence service said the group had been planning to enter the building where the Jyllands-Posten daily has its Copenhagen newsdesk and “to kill as many of the people present as possible.” The four men face preliminary charges of attempting to carry out an act of terrorism. They will face a custody hearing Thursday.

“I am shocked that a group of people have concrete plans to commit a serious terrorist attack in this country,” Danish Prime Minister Loekke Rasmussen told reporters. “I want to stress that regardless of today’s event it remains my conviction that terrorism must not lead us to change our open society and our values, especially democracy and free speech.”

Danish and Swedish police, who appeared at a joint new conference with Loekke Rasmussen in Copenhagen, said they had been tailing the suspects for several months.

Anders Danielsson, the head of Sweden’s security police, said they had followed a car rented by the suspects from Stockholm to the Danish border.

“We knew that there were weapons in the car,” he said.

Zubair Butt Hussain, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Denmark, called the plan “extremely worrying.”

The organization “absolutely condemns any act of terrorism regardless of the motives and motivations that may lie behind,” Hussain said.

There have been at least four plots to attack Jyllands-Posten or Kurt Westergaard, the artist who drew the most contentious of 12 cartoons, which were published by the daily in 2005 as a challenge to perceived self-censorship.

“The foiled plot is a direct attack on democracy and freedom of press,” Westergaard told the German tabloid Bild. “We may not and won’t let anyone forbid us to criticize radical Islamism. We may not be intimidated when it comes to our values.”

In January, a Somali man broke into Westergaard’s home wielding an ax and a knife but the artist escaped unharmed by locking himself in a safe-room in the house. In 2008, two Tunisians with Danish residence permits were arrested for plotting to kill him.

In September, a man was wounded when a letter bomb he was preparing exploded in a Copenhagen hotel. Police said it was intended for the daily, which also has been targeted in a number of thwarted terror plots in Norway and the United States.

U.S. citizen Tahawwur Rana faces trial in Chicago in February in connection with the 2008 terrorist attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai and a planned attack on the Jyllands-Posten.

The cartoons also provoked massive and violent protests in 2006 in Muslim countries where demonstrators considered the drawings as having profoundly insulted Islam. Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet, even favorable, for fear it could lead to idolatry.

In 2008, the Danish Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, was targeted by a car bomb that killed six people outside the mission.

The attacks and threats have caused concern and unprecedented security measures in Denmark, a country that prides itself on personal freedom and openness.

The JPPOL media group building, which includes Jyllands-Posten, is protected by metal fences and guards at all entrances. Mail is scanned and newspaper staff need identity cards to enter the buildings and the various floors.

Lars Munch, JPPOL chief executive, said his workers were worried.

“It is appalling for our group, for our employees and their families to see their workplace threatened,” Munch said.

Scharf said “there was no need to raise the terror threat alert level” in Denmark, although Danish Justice Minister Lars Barfoed described the plot as “terrifying.”

“The group’s plan to kill as many as possible is very frightening and is probably the most serious terror attempt in Denmark,” Barfoed said.

The head of Sweden’s security police, Anders Danielsson, said that “it has been possible to avert a serious terror crime in Denmark through efficient and close cooperation between PET and the (Swedish) security police.”

Danielsson said the suspects who are residents in Sweden also are being investigated for suspected terror crimes in that country.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Newspaper Massacre Terror Plot is Foiled

Five Islamic extremists have been caught as they planned to massacre staff at the Danish newspaper that printed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Denmark’s intelligence service held four men in two raids in suburbs of the capital and seized an automatic weapon, a silencer and ammunition.

Swedish police said they arrested a 37-year-old Swede of Tunisian origin living in Stockholm.

“An imminent terror attack has been foiled,” said Jakob Scharf, head of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service, known as PET. He described some the suspects as “militant Islamists with relations to international terror networks” and said that more arrests were possible.

PET said it seized a 44-year-old Tunisian, a 29-year-old Lebanese-born man and a 30-year-old who were living in Sweden and had entered Denmark late Tuesday or early Wednesday. The fourth person detained was a 26-year-old Iraqi asylum-seeker living in Copenhagen.

The Danish intelligence service said the group had been planning to enter the newspaper office “to kill as many of the people present as possible.”

The four men face preliminary charges of attempting to carry out an act of terrorism. They will face a custody hearing tomorrow.

Zubair Butt Hussain, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Denmark, called the plan “extremely worrying.”

The organisation “absolutely condemns any act of terrorism regardless of the motives and motivations that may lie behind,” he said.

There have been at least four plots to attack against Jyllands-Posten or Kurt Westergaard, the artist who drew the most contentious of 12 cartoons, which were published by the daily in 2005 as a challenge to perceived self-censorship.

“The foiled plot is a direct attack on democracy and freedom of press,” Mr Westergaard said. “We may not and won’t let anyone forbid us to criticise radical Islamism. We may not be intimidated when it comes to our values.”

The men, arrested in a security service operation, intended to shoot as many people as possible at the Jyllands-Posten daily in Copenhagen .


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Five Arrested for Terror Plot in Denmark

Five people have been arrested in Denmark and Sweden on suspicion of preparing an “imminent” terror attack on the Copenhagen offices of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

The Danish security service, PET, said four men were arrested in Denmark, while the fifth was arrested by authorities in Stockholm, Sweden.

“These arrests made it possible to prevent an imminent terror attack, in which several of the suspects can be labeled militant Islamists with links to international terror networks,” Jakob Scharf, General Director of PET, said in a statement.

According to PET’s information, the suspects were “planning to try to force their way into Jyllands-Posten/Politikens building in Copenhagen and kill as many as possible of the people present there,” he said. The security service said a machine gun with live ammunition was seized in connection with the arrests, in addition to plastic strips that can be used as handcuffs.

The publication by Jyllands-Posten in September 2005 of cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad sparked protests by Muslim communities around the world, with demonstrators setting fire to Scandinavian embassies abroad. Under Islamic tradition, images of the Prophet are banned.

Magnus Ranstorp, research director at the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defence College, said although this was the fourth attempt against targets related to Jyllands-Posten in one year, this was “without question the most serious.”

Ranstorp said in an interview with Dow Jones Newswires that the Jyllands-Posten office in Copenhagen, which it shares with the Politiken newspaper, is the easiest target for potential terrorists.

“They will never be able to penetrate the main Jyllands-Posten office in Viby, but the Copenhagen office only has one security guard. If you can break down two glass doors, you’re inside,” Ranstorp said.

Jyllands-Posten Chief Executive Lars Munch told the newspaper’s website he was shocked at the news of the foiled attempt.

“It is shocking for our employees and their families to once again see their place of work threatened,” Jyllandsposten Chief Executive Lars Munch told the paper’s website.

“We already have an elevated level of security and we are in contact with the PET,” he said, adding that the newspaper has provided psychological assistance for employees who may need it.

PET said the arrests were preceded by an extensive investigation conducted in close cooperation with the Swedish Security Service, Sapo.

Three of the four men arrested in Denmark were residents of Sweden, two of whom are Swedish nationals and one a citizen of Tunisia. They came to Denmark on the night between Dec. 28 and 29, according to PET. The man living in Denmark is a 26-year old Iraqi asylum applicant, while the man arrested in Stockholm is a 37-year old Swedish national of Tunisian origin.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Five Arrested in Danish Terror Plot

The suspects had planned to enter a Copenhagen office block housing several newspapers including offices of the daily Jyllands-Posten to “kill as many as possible of those around”, police said. A machine gun with a silencer, ammunition and plastic strips that could be used as handcuffs were seized.

“The detainees were preparing a terror attack against a newspaper, which according to the PET’s information was Jyllands-Posten,” Denmark’s PET security police said in a statement. “The attack was due to be carried out in the coming days.”

Jyllands-Posten was the newspaper that first published the cartoons, provoking protests against Danish and European interests in the Middle East, Africa and Asia in which at least 50 people died. Danish Justice Minister Lars Barfoed said those detained had a “militant Islamic background” and called the plan the most serious such attempt in Denmark so far.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Germany: Have Berlin Mosques Become a Target?

Several Muslim centers in Berlin have been the target of arson attacks in recent months. Police have made little progress in their investigation, but many suspect that the series of incidents has its roots in the raw rhetoric surrounding Germany’s integration debate.

The list isn’t long. In early December, a petrol bomb exploded with a loud bang against the façade of the Iranian cultural center in the Berlin district of Tempelhof, sending flames licking up the front of the building. Before that it was the Al-Nur Mosque in the Neukölln neighborhood, where the majority of Berlin’s Muslim population lives. Berlin’s Sehitlik Mosque, also in Neukölln, has been attacked four times since late summer.

Yet even if there have been no injuries in the attacks to date, city officials are concerned. Berlin’s State Criminal Police Office has established a special task force to look into a perplexing series of petrol bomb attacks that has targeted Muslim facilities in the German capital for months.. Results, however, have so far been scant. Berlin police spokesman Klaus Schubert declined to comment on the specifics of the investigation, but told SPIEGEL ONLINE “there are no indications that the attacks were intended to cause actual harm to people.”

Others, however, aren’t as sanguine. The year 2010 in Germany was one which saw an intense debate about the difficulties of integrating the country’s Muslim minority — a discourse which many observers thought crossed the line into racial and religious profiling.

Indeed, the interior minister of the city-state of Berlin, Ehrhart Körting, said recently that there may in fact be a connection between the attacks and the immigration debate. The discussion, he told the German news agency DAPD, may have established a climate “which could have encouraged right-wing extremists or Islamophobes to perpetrate such crimes.” That, he continued, “should be clear to all those responsible for creating this climate.”

The Hallmarks of a ‘Hate Crime’

Indeed, following the most recent attack on the Sehitlik Mosque on November 19, police said it bore the hallmarks of a “hate crime.”

Berlin’s Muslim population has sought to maintain its composure. A spokesman for the Iranian cultural center told SPIEGEL ONLINE that they had not increased security and that the attack “has not made a difference to those visiting the center. They do not feel nervous or unsafe.”

This upbeat attitude was reiterated by Yavuz Selim Akgül, chairman of the Sehitlik mosque. “Considering one mosque after another is being set alight,” he told SPIEGEL ONLINE, “one could imagine the general atmosphere here would be less than positive. But that’s not the case: calm prevails and attendance has not decreased.”

Security, though, is tight. Akgül’s mosque is under 24-hour guard and additional surveillance cameras are being installed. While police have removed the police guard placed in front of the mosque in the wake of the attack, a spokesman said they are closely monitoring the situation.

And it is a situation that may have to be monitored for some time. In addition to the rancorous immigration debate, Berlin has been on a high terror alert since mid-November, when German Interior Minister, Thomas de Maizière, said that the German government had “concrete indications” that Islamists were planning an attack and Germany could be a target. Heavily armed police have been patrolling Berlin streets ever since.

‘Erosion of Solidarity’

Some have criticized the terror warnings for being detrimental to the welfare of the German capital’s Muslim population. In late November, Aiman Mazyek, chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, told the German press agency DPA that “not a week goes by without an attack on a mosque or a Muslim citizen. This terror hysteria exacerbates the situation and leads to an erosion of solidarity with Muslims.”

Indeed, Ehrhart Körting himself has been blasted for using the kind of rhetoric he recently condemned. In the wake of late November’s terror warnings, he told Berliners in a radio interview: “ If you suddenly see three somewhat strange-looking men who are new to your neighborhood, who hide their faces and who only speak Arabic, you should report them to the authorities.”

But it is Germany’s ongoing integration debate which has particularly inflamed tempers on both sides. It is a discussion which the country has been wrestling with for years, but a book released in August by former Berlin politician Thilo Sarrazin poured fuel on the fire.

Sarrazin, who was fired from his position on the board of the German Central Bank as a result of the book, claimed that Muslim immigrants would soon outnumber the country’s ethnic German population because of their higher birth rates. He also suggested that because immigrant children are less successful in school, immigration is making the country less intelligent. His theories found tacit agreement from many in Germany, but also ignited widespread disgust…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Germany: Ramsauer Mans Ramparts Against English

Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer is declaring war on English words creeping into everyday German usage and urging fellow politicians to follow his lead.

Ramsauer told daily Tagesspiegel on Wednesday that the growing number of Anglicisms in daily use in Germany had the effect of excluding a large chunk of the population.

The minister, who belongs to the Christian Social Union — the Bavarian sister party to Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats — described his year-long efforts to rid the German language of Anglicisms as a “success.”

Under Ramsauer’s direction, terms such as “ticket,” “laptop,” and “flipchart” have been phased out of use in the Transport Ministry and replaced with Fahrscheinen, Klapprechnern, and Tafelschreibblock.

He is now calling on cabinet colleagues to follow his example. His campaign so far had generated “thousands of letters and phone calls” offering “100 percent support.”

That had made him realise that more needed to be done.

“Listen to what people are saying. And now I know what their needs, worries and problems are. What I’ve done, really, is to address them.”

Ramsauer said he had also been persuaded by the moves by rail operator Deutsche Bahn to remove English terms from usage. Deutsche Bahn boss Rüdiger Grube was a “pragmatic and reliable man who in each respect has straightened things out in his company — including in this one.”

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

Greece: Anarchists Call for ‘Global Uprising’

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 27 — The “large flames of social uprising” fanned by the rage of workers and students in Greece, France and Italy is a foretaste of “the next large-scale global uprising” against a “new form of fascism” of the powers-that-be. These were the words of the imprisoned leaders of the main Greek anarchist-insurrectionary group, Revolutionary Struggle (EA), saying that in this climate of conflict it is necessary to choose “bankruptcy” over the “austerity” imposed by the EU and the IMF as a tool for national exploitation and liquidation of the latest social victories. This analysis of events by the EA is contained in a letter from jail by Maziotis, Pola Roupa and Costas Gournas, self-declared leaders of the armed group responsible for numerous attacks including the launch of a missile against the US embassy in 2007. In the letter the leaders of the EA — which is believed to have links with the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire, which in November claimed responsibility for letter bombs targeting embassies and international leaders — say that after the US crisis “in one European city after another millions of people went into the streets to oppose the harsh neo-liberal offensive”. To move forward the fight against pension and education reform, write the three, demonstrations have been organised everywhere, and “in Greece, Italy, Spain and Ireland there turned into uprisings”, each of which “ feeding the revolt of the other while awaiting a large-scale European-wide social fire”. It is a ‘fire’ which, under the slogan “us or them”, meaning us or “the fascists who govern and control the wealth of society”, write the EA leaders, will lead — beginning from Greece — to the “next worldwide large-scale uprising”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Ireland: More Than 16,000 Motorists on Sixth Provisional Licence

A RECORD 16,200 learner drivers have renewed their provisional licence at least six times after failing or refusing to sit their driving test.

The shocking figures obtained by the Irish Independent newspaper show that attempts by Transport Minister Noel Dempsey to clamp down on long-term provisional licence holders have failed, as they continue to flout the law and drive without a qualified driver.

The figures reveal a 184-fold increase since 2003 in the number of learner drivers renewing their provisional licence six or more times.

In 2003, just 79 drivers nationwide renewed their licence six times and nine were on their seventh licence.

But despite tens of millions being spent on major road reforms and education programmes, there are now 16,197 learner drivers who are on their sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth or even 10th provisional licence.

The figures show:

  • In 2003, just 88 drivers were on their sixth or seventh licence. None had renewed it eight times or more.
  • In 2006, 12,053 were on their sixth licence, and six drivers were on their ninth.
  • Today, 1,840 are on their ninth licence.
  • Almost 1,000 drivers today have renewed their licence 10 or more times.

New figures also show that the number passing their test has fallen, with a pass rate of less than 50pc. More than half of all drivers who sat their driving test last year failed. While 60,726 passed, a further 65,090 failed, significantly down from the peak of 95,569 passing in 2001.


This gave a national pass rate of 48.3pc, a drop of more than 5pc on the 2006 rate of 53.6pc.

The figures also show that the pass rate in each centre continues to vary wildly, with those sitting the test in Sligo twice as likely to pass as those in Rathgar, Dublin. A total of 67pc passed their test last year in Sligo compared to 30pc in Rathgar.

Opposition TDs and traffic experts last night warned that provisional licence holders — who are currently under no obligation to go for even a single driving lesson — are putting the lives of others at risk.

They also warned that road safety policy is “showing regression rather than progress”.

Although the overall number on a provisional licence has fallen by almost 100,000 in the past seven years, the figures highlight a disturbing trend of drivers who are either refusing to sit their test — or are repeatedly failing it.

The problem has also been exacerbated by a loophole which has been in our system for decades. It means those with a provisional driving licence only need apply to do their test in order to renew their licence — but they do not need to sit it.


“The great bulk of drivers are doing the things they should do, like sitting their test shortly after getting their first licence,” said Conor Faughnan, public affairs manager with AA Roadwatch.

“But there’s obviously a cohort out there who are going without any lessons or tests. And it’s a growing number.”

A provisional licence must be renewed every two years. If the applicant can only show evidence of having applied for the test, they are given a one-year licence. If they show they sat the test — and failed — they get a two-year licence.

This means some people on the road have been driving for more than 20 years without passing their test.

Last year just 945 fines were issued for driving unaccompanied or without L-plates. Only 11 drivers were disqualified, while a handful of others were given a probation order or ordered to contribute to the poor box.

Labour transport spokesman Joe Costello said enforcement is the only solution to drivers repeatedly renewing their licence.

“Without legislation followed by enforcement it’s just not going to be effective,” he said.

“Gardai don’t seem to be taking it seriously.

A new measure introduced on December 6 requires all first-time applicants for a motorbike licence to undergo 16 hours of lessons. Twelve hours of mandatory lessons will apply to all new car licence applicants from April 4, 2011.

However the compulsory lessons will only apply to those applying for a licence for the first time and not those who have renewed multiple times.

Sources said compulsory lessons for would “cause a stampede”.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Italy: Champagne Imports Slide in 10 Yrs, -20%

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 20 — “Since the year 2000 French champagne imports to Italy have dropped by 20% and have been replaced by Italian sparking wine, which is used for 98% of toasting at parties,” according to a Coldiretti (national farmers association) analysis for Christmas 2010 on foreign trade in the first nine months of the year.

“The success of Italian sparkling wine over French champagne has increased at the national as well as at the international one, with Italy the top producer of sparkling wine in 2010 with a total of 380 bottles, compared with the 370 from France.” “The recovery in demand for Italian sparkling wine abroad is a good sign for new and significant growth opportunities overall for Italian wine which,” estimated Coldiretti, “could even reach 3.5 billion euros in turnover on foreign markets, where it is the top agro-food export, in 2010.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

‘Kill as Many as Possible’: Five Arrested for Planning Attack on Danish Newspaper Which Published ‘Prophet’ Cartoons

Five people suspected of planning an attack on the Danish newspaper that outraged Muslims around the world with cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad have been arrested.

Denmark’s PET security police said the suspects had planned to enter a Copenhagen office block housing several newspapers including offices of the daily Jyllands-Posten to ‘kill as many as possible of those around’.

‘On the basis of the investigation, it is the PET’s assessment that the detainees were preparing a terror attack against a newspaper, which according to the PET’s information was Jyllands-Posten,’ it said.

‘It is likewise the PET’s view that the attack was due to be carried out in the coming days.’

Jyllands-Posten was the newspaper that first published the cartoons in 2005, provoking protests against Danish and European interests in the Middle East, Africa and Asia in which at least 50 people died.

The Danish justice minister said those detained had a ‘militant Islamic background’ and called the plan the most serious such attempt in Denmark so far.

Three of the detainees were Swedish citizens, the Swedish security police force SAPO said in a statement. Four were arrested in Denmark and one in Sweden.

Police uncovered a plot last year to attack Jyllands-Posten, and in January the creator of the most controversial cartoon escaped an axe attack by a man with al Qaeda links.

Last September, a man who was later found to have a map with the address of Jyllands-Posten’s headquarters in the city of Aarhus set off a small explosion in a Copenhagen hotel.

SAPO said the suspects were not linked to an attempted suicide bombing in Stockholm two weeks ago, when a man blew himself up he was preparing to set off bombs, possibly at a train station or a department store, according to police.

In that case an email — thought to have come from the bomber — was sent just before the attack, protesting against a Swedish artist who also had drawn cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, as well as Sweden’s military presence in Afghanistan.

SAPO said police were investigating whether any of the latest suspects was preparing attacks in Sweden.

Kurt Westergaard, the cartoonist responsible for the caricatures, was attacked in his home by an axe-wielding intruder.

Police said the 28-year-old man, who allegedly has links to Al Qaeda, was shot after he broke in.

Mr Westergaard, 74, whose five-year-old granddaughter was in the house at the time, locked himself in a specially designed safe room and used an emergency alarm.

He is now living under constant police protection.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Swedes Arrested Over ‘Muhammad Cartoon Plot’

Scandinavian intelligence chiefs said they had foiled a plot Wednesday to massacre staff at a Danish newspaper which published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad and had arrested five suspects.

The head of Denmark’s PET intelligence service said that his officers had detained four men while a spokeswoman for Swedish intelligence agency Säpo said a fifth man had been arrested in Stockholm in connection with the same plot against the Copenhagen-based Jyllands-Posten daily.

Several of the suspects could be described “as militant Islamists with connections to international terror networks,” PET supremo Jakob Scharf said in a statement.

“These arrests have successfully stopped an imminent terror attack, where several of the suspects … were going to force their way into the (building which houses the Jyllands-Posten) in Copenhagen and kill as many people as possible,” he said.

PET said the four men arrested in Denmark were a 44-year-old Tunisian, a 29-year-old Swede born in Lebanon, a 30-year-old Swede and a 26-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker. The suspect arrested in Stockholm was a 37-year-old Swede of Tunisian background, PET added.

The first three men all lived in Sweden and travelled to Denmark overnight to Wednesday.

According to Jyllands-Posten’s online edition, the group had travelled to Denmark in a car rented in the Stockholm suburb of Kista.

“The arrests underscore the serious terror threat against Denmark and especially against institutions and people connected to the cartoon case,” Scharf added.

Jyllands-Posten published a dozen cartoons in 2005 of the Prophet Muhammad that triggered violent and sometimes deadly protests around the world.

In January, a Somali man broke into the home of one of the cartoonists and allegedly threatened to kill him with an axe and a knife.

In September, a suspect detained in Norway confessed that he was planning an attack against Jyllands-Posten. In another case the same month, a Chechnya-born man was arrested in Copenhagen for preparing to send a letter bomb to the paper.

An Islamist militant who blew himself up in downtown Stockholm on December 11th sent an email ahead of his suicide mission saying he was avenging Swedes for their “support of the pig Lars Vilks,” referring to a Swedish cartoonist who drew an image of the Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog.

Säpo spokeswoman Katarina Sevcik said that the group arrested on Wednesday “have up to now no known connection to the events of December 11th”, and had not given Sweden cause to amend the level of terror threat.

The PET said last month that had “renewed indications that terrorist groups abroad are looking to send terrorists to Denmark to commit terrorist attacks.”

“Denmark and Danish interests are a priority terrorist targets,” the agency said at the time.

The agency had left the level of terror threat unchanged, but stressed “there is still a serious terror threat against Denmark.”

           — Hat tip: Freedom Fighter[Return to headlines]

The English Defense League

by Brian of London

The EDL has attracted attention in Israel and the UK. We leave the reader to judge for himself.

The English Defence League (EDL) has attracted some attention in Israel because of the incongruity of non-Jews waving Israeli flags at demonstrations dubbed “far right” by the press and the Israeli Embassy in London’s virtually unprecedented step of condemning a pro-Israel local group in another country. The irony is compounded by the fact that this happened immediately after the EDL held a large pro-Israel rally outside the embassy.

This distancing was presumably motivated by the attacks on the EDL in much of the British media and fear that failure to denounce the group will increase anti-Israel feelings in the United Kingdom, already at an all-time high. In fact, however, the people attacking the EDL are already Israel’s enemies while this group is one of its few friends nowadays. Moreover, the accusations of the EDL being a racist or fascist group are simply not true.

Indeed, the slander against the EDL is another example of how special treatment for Islam and radical Islamists compared to the repression of forces criticizing them so often prevails in Britain today. Here’s a little case study of how things work.

On December 11 the EDL held a demonstration in Peterborough. The EDL proclaims itself as “dedicated to peacefully protesting against radical Islam” and on that December day they largely fulfilled this role. Around 2,000 people marched through the town and listened to speeches. A handful of counter-demonstrators claiming the EDL are “fascists and racists” were kept at bay by the police. The day passed with fewer arrests than a typical Saturday night in any English town.

But not according to the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. Ten days later, an EDL leader was arrested and charged under Section 4b of the Public Order Act with “Racial Aggravation” in relation to a speech he gave in Peterborough…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

UK: Police to Review Security of Boris Johnson and Other Figures After Alleged Al-Qaeda Assassination Plot

POLICE are to review security around prominent figures amid fears al-Qaeda is plotting a wave of assassinations.

Counter-terrorism detectives have spoken to London mayor Boris Johnson and a string of religious leaders — including the Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral — whose names were found on an alleged hitlist.

The details, which included addresses and postcodes, were found during raids which led to nine Muslim men being charged with plotting to bomb the London Eye, the Stock Exchange and Big Ben. Senior officers are alarmed that this represents a major shift in tactics by al-Qaeda, which had previously focused on “mass casualty” attacks.

The men arrested in Stoke, Cardiff and London are the first group since the IRA to be accused of targeting particular individuals and religious buildings.

Home Office officials are now preparing a major risk assessment on dozens of public figures who have previously been considered relatively safe. One counter-terrorism source said: “Every terrorism campaign in history has changed over time as those involved try to find new holes in the dam.

“We’re constantly trying to push back the water but it can spring out from unexpected directions. One of the problems with al-Qaeda is there is no rulebook.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Demand New Powers to Stop and Search Terror Suspects

Police have asked the government for a new counter-terrorism power to stop and search people without having to suspect them of involvement in crime, the Guardian has learned.

Senior officers have told the government the new law is needed to better protect the public against attempted attacks on large numbers of people, and are hopeful they can win ministers’ backing.

A previous law allowing counter-terrorism stops without suspicion, section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, was scrapped this year by the home secretary, Theresa May, after European judges struck it down for breaching human rights.

But police, including the Metropolitan force, which leads the UK fight against terrorism, say they need a boost to their counter-terrorism powers, which they worry are now too weak.

They have asked for a law which would be much more limited than section 44. It would be restricted to a specific period of time and to a limited geographic area or a specific place or event.

The new stop and search power would need primary legislation to become law and it is believed it could be introduced within months. Police believe it will be needed to protect events such as the 2012 Olympics in London, state occasions such as trooping the colour, and major summits such as the G20 when they are held in the UK.

Stop and search powers are controversial because ethnic minority people have been targeted more than white people, triggering claims that some officers are using them in a discriminatory way.

A source with knowledge of the discussions told the Guardian: “The key thing is to get this power without its use being random. You can’t have a random power because of the judgment, but some new power is needed. The power would need to be signed off by a senior officer, maybe even a chief constable, and the home secretary. It could cover an event of high importance such as the Olympics. It would be for a limited time and in a limited geographical place, and at a time when the threat level is severe.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Peddler of Race Hate is Accused of Swindling Benefits

A notorious Muslim fanatic has been accused of fiddling the benefits system by working while claiming jobseekers’ allowance.

Abdul Rehman Saleem, known as Abu Yahya, is working on a market stall at the same time as collecting the £60 a week benefit, a friend of his estranged wife claimed.

The 35-year-old was freed from prison last year after being convicted of inciting racial hatred during protests in London against cartoon depictions of the prophet Mohammed.

Yahya is thought to have been claiming benefits while working on clothing stalls in both Stratford, East London, and another outlet at London’s New Covent Garden Market in Vauxhall.

At the same he time, he has failed to provide any maintenance for his five children with his former wife Kay.

She is the younger sister of actress Laila Rouass who has starred in Footballers’ Wives, Spooks and last year’s series of Strictly Come Dancing.

When the Daily Mail approached Kay, she refused to discuss her ex-husband or the provision he makes for their children.

But a family friend said: ‘He works illegally, claims benefits and sees virtually nothing of his children.

‘He likes to say “Allah provides” — but in reality it is the state he seems to despise so much that makes the provisions for him. The Child Support Agency claim there is nothing they can do to make him pay for his children because he is in receipt of jobseekers’ allowance.’

Yahya first came to public prominence in February 2006 when he and other thugs hijacked afternoon prayers at the Regent’s Park Mosque in north London.

They chanted ‘UK you will pay — Bin Laden is on his way’ and ‘UK, USA, 7/7 on its way’.

After burning the Union Flag, a group of 300 protesters then joined a march on the Danish Embassy in London to campaign against cartoons which had satirised the prophet Mohammed.

Yahya was one of four men who appeared in court a year later and was convicted of inciting racial hatred.

He was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment, but served little more than two years and was released in August 2009.

He also made headlines earlier this year when he carried out a poisonous rant both inside and outside the Old Bailey. Joined by Mohammed Shamsuddin, he protested at the court as 21-year-old radicalised King’s College London student Roshonara Choudhry was sentenced to life for trying to kill MP Stephen Timms in a knife attack.

Wearing Islamic robes and with their faces twisted in hate, they hurled abuse at a terrified female juror in the case who was wearing a Muslim headscarf as they shouted: ‘Shame on you, sister’.

Outside the court the pair waved banners, saying: ‘Islam will dominate the world’ and ‘British soldiers must die!’

Yahya, who is still intent on Muslims fighting a holy war, splits his time between a council-maintained flat in Bow and his mother’s home in Ilford, both in East London.

Asked last night by the Daily Mail what benefits he currently receives, Yahya would only say: ‘My circumstances have recently changed and I now do not currently receive full jobseekers’ allowance at the moment. But I am not prepared to tell you what assistance I receive from the state in regards of my housing or living costs.

‘That is something I will just not talk about — or my position with the Child Support Agency regarding making any provision for my five children.’

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

UK: Tussles at the Tills During Tesco Boycott

Shoppers scuffled at a supermarket checkout after anti-Israel protesters loaded a trolley full of products and refused to pay for them. Young demonstrators, including children, from the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC), filmed themselves choosing Israeli products at Tescos in Barkingside, Essex.

They are seen filling the trolley with dozens of packets of chicken soup powder, melons, pickled cucumbers and herbs. One girl complains that a packet of Israeli Medjool dates are “kosher” and complains there is no alternative.

A graphic states: “Every penny spent towards these products will eventually fund these”, before cutting to an image of a line of tanks. When they reach the checkout the products are scanned in and the group puts them in bags.

But when the checkout assistant asks them to pay, they say: “We do not buy products from Israel. Every time you do, a Palestinian suffers.” The assistant replies: “It’s nothing to do with me.” When the store manager arrives to deal with the problem, the protesters lecture her about “moral duty”.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

WikiLeaks: US Embassy Pressured Danish Paper Not to Reprint Mohammed Cartoons

Norwegian paper Aftenposten recently started going through the entire Wikileaks archive. Its recent finding (EN): the US Embassy in Copenhagen was very concerned when it heard Jyllands-Posten intended to reprint the cartoons a year after it’s first publishing:

Post´s public affairs counselor learned from a “Jyllands-Posten” journalist (strictly protect) last week that the paper was considering several options to commemorate the cartoons´ first anniversary September 30, including re-publishing the original cartoons or running new ones on the subject.

The American ambassador, James P. Cain, turned to the Danish government, who refused to interfere. So he called Jyllands-Posten directly:

With that, the Ambassador telephoned “Jyllands-Posten” editor-in-chief Carsten Juste, and asked straight out about his paper´s intentions for commemorating the anniversary. Juste told the Ambassador that he and his team had been considering re-publication, but concluded that such a move would be unwise, especially so soon after the controversy caused by the Pope´s Regensburg remarks. The Ambassador welcomed this news, noting that none of us wanted a repeat of the crisis earlier this year.

The Ambassador’s conclusion: The Danes give their newspapers too much freedom…

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Bosnia: Only 10% of Defence Industry’s Capacity Used

(ANSAmed) — SARAJEVO, DECEMBER 15 — The export of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s (BH) defence industry reached around BAM30 million (around 15 million euros) in the first ten months of 2010, and it was five times bigger than import, but another fact is that only 10% of its capacity is being used, a secretary for the defence industry group with the Chamber of Foreign Trade of BH said, reports Nezavisne Novine.

Emin Bajramovic further concerted at a roundtable discussion about the state and development directions of BH’s defence industry that doing business in this industry is complex because orders have been scarce, while working capital has been insufficient to put the entire capacity to adequate use. He believes the use of this industry’s capacity would increase with improvements in its organization. Until then, a majority of companies manufacturing weaponry will have outstanding debts and frozen bank accounts.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt Following Up Israel-Cyprus Sea Border Demarcation Deal

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, DECEMBER 24 — Egypt is closely following up a maritime border demarcation agreement signed between Israel and Cyprus last week, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

Contacts are underway between Egypt and Cyprus on the matter, considering that Egypt and Cyprus had signed a maritime border demarcation deal, Hossam Zaki said.

The foreign ministry is also conducting technical and legal research to make sure that the Cypriot-Israeli deal does not affect Egypt”s economic zone in the Mediterranean Sea, he added.

On December 17, Israel and Cyprus signed an agreement that will allow them to press ahead in their search for energy sources in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.(

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Railways: Italferr to Study Transport in 21 Arab States

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Italy’s Italferr (part of Ferrovie dello Stato), has been awarded the Arab Network Railway Study in a temporary association with Dar Al Omran, a Jordanian engineering consultancy firm. The deal comes at the conclusion of an international tender launched by the Arab Fund. Tenders had come from ten of the world’s largest engineering companies (including Systra, Louis Berger, Hill International and Movares), a memo from Ferrovie dello Stato says.

Financed by the Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development, the Arab world’s leading investment fund, the Arab Network Railway Study focuses on the transportation systems of the area taken in by the twenty-one countries of the Arab League: spanning from North Africa and the countries of the Middle East to the Arab peninsular and the Gulf states. The project’s scope is to analyse and plan national and international construction, infrastructure and technology enhancement to produce a rail network capable of integrating the whole of the Arab world.

The project is due to commence in January 2011 and should run for twelve months. The team of specialists, consisting of experts from Italferr and Dar Al Omran, will engage in a dialogue with the main transport and planning associations of 21 countries of the Arab League, in order to draft an analysis. This discussion will allow investment programmes and studies, trans-national agreements, and current or planned technical and procedural standards to be gathered and classified. After carrying out transport, engineering, environmental and economic assessments, the team (with the support of the Arab Fund and the countries involved) will draft an analysis including an economic feasibility study and an assessment for the realisation of infrastructural and technological projects correlated among them, planning the operative phases based on the strategic importance of the works.

The project, which is politically and economically important for the entire area, requires the intermediate and final results to be shared with the main stakeholders involved. In particular, dedicated seminars and events in Tunisia, Egypt, the UAE and Kuwait will be planned. The project was presented today at a press conference in Cairo at Arab League headquarters.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Detained Journalist Questions Right to Freedom of Speech for Palestinians

An independent West Bank journalist detained for five days by Palestinian security forces after broadcasting a news item relating to frictions within the ruling Fatah party has questioned the extent to which freedom of speech is permitted by the Palestinian Authority.

George Canawati of Radio Bethlehem was held in an office at the city’s general intelligence service headquarters over the Muslim holiday of Eid last month, according to an account he has given to the Guardian. He was provided with a mattress to sleep on, and food, but was given no explanation for his continued detention beyond an initial three-hour interrogation.

Asked if he believed the detention was intended to intimidate him, Canawati responded by twisting his ear between thumb and forefinger. “I didn’t make a mistake [in my report],” he said. “I was professional to the true sense of the word. I will never take their pinch of ear into consideration.”

Despite requests by both phone and email for confirmation and comment from the Palestinian Authority (PA), there has been no response. This report is based on Canawati’s account alone.

On 15 November at around 2pm, Radio Bethlehem broadcast a short item saying that Mohamed Dahlan, a senior Fatah figure, had played a recording made on a mobile phone of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to some members of Fatah’s central committee. According to Canawati’s report, the recording was of Abbas saying he wanted a Palestinian state regardless of whether it was inside or outside the wall — meaning the separation barrier Israel has constructed, much of it on Palestinian land.

Canawati — who has not heard the recording himself — based his report on a source within Fatah’s central committee. “I confirmed the news from a credible person and that is enough for me to publish a report,” Canawati said. The source was “someone I trust”, he added.

Tensions between Abbas and Dahlan have been widely reported over recent weeks, with Dahlan giving a series of interviews to the Arab and Palestinian media in which he criticised the Palestinian president. Abbas’s aides have accused Dahlan of trying to mount a coup. A private TV station connected to Dahlan was closed on the orders of the interior ministry.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

West Bank: OK to 13 Thousand Houses in Settlements

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, DECEMBER 23 — Israel has resumed the construction of Jewish settlements in the West bank at an unprecedented speed since the end of the 10-month moratorium, which ended in September of this year. The country has approved projects for 13 thousand new houses, according to the Israeli pacifist movement Peace Now.

The organisation claims that the construction of 1712 new houses was already started in the past three months and that intense construction activities can be seen in at least 60 of the 130 existing settlements. The figures released by Peace Now are considered to be credible by some of the around 300 thousand settlers in the West Bank (to which around 200 thousand will be added in East Jerusalem), like David Haivri of the Regional Council (of settlements) in Samaria (in the northern part of the West Bank).

“The figures of Peace Now”, he said, “are credible and the calculation seems logic. The difference is that we see this as a positive thing while they give them a negative judgement”.

The Israeli NGO points out that the building activities do not only regard settlements near Israel, in areas that could become part of the Jewish State in the case of a now hypothetical peace agreement with the Palestinians but also in settlements that are located deep inside the West Bank.

Mark Reghev, spokesman of Premier Benyamin Netanyahu, has said that this development “will have no impact on the (future) peace borders”, which have to be agreed with the Palestinians. According to the newspaper Yedioth Aharonoth, the Palestinians have prepared a draft resolution to condemn the Israeli construction activities in the West Bank, which they want to present to the UN Security Council in February after the end of the US presidency of this council. Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said that he hopes “the resolution will be approved by the Security Council because we are not asking to condemn Israel but its settlement building activities”.

The international community considers the Jewish settlement in occupied territories to be illegal, or at least an obstacle for the efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

America and the Middle East: Great Sacrifices, Small Rewards

THE Middle East holds a giant chunk of the world’s energy reserves, and also generates its biggest political headaches. Small wonder that the United States has long had an outsize interest in the place. Since September 11th 2001, and the rise of radical Islam as the sole violent challenge to an American-shaped international order, America’s focus on the region between the Nile and the Indus rivers has been obsessive. Yet all the attention would seem to have been in vain. America’s influence has dwindled everywhere with the financial crisis and the rise of emerging powers. But it seems to be withering faster in the Middle East than anywhere else.

Two decades ago, when America marshalled a daunting force to toss Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, it stood unchallenged in the region. Kings and presidents-for-life vied for American favour. Countries such as Iran that would not, or Somalia that could not, were ignored. When America summoned leaders to Madrid in 1991 to sort out the most intractable Middle Eastern mess, the Arab-Israeli struggle, some grumbled, but all fell into line.

Most of them still come when America beckons, but ten years ago things began to slip. Despite the commitment of successive American presidents, and despite near-consensus worldwide on the outlines of an agreement, Arab-Israeli peace has kept receding out of reach. The invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 vastly expanded America’s bootprint in the region. But the smoke of those Pyrrhic triumphs cleared to reveal America in trouble. The global “war on terror” declared by George Bush displaced al-Qaeda and prevented several serious attacks. But those successes drained America’s treasury, alienated its friends and emboldened its enemies. Recalcitrant, revolutionary Iran found itself magically enhanced.

America’s Middle East policy now looks thwarted at every turn. Its closest ally, Israel, which has received more than $27 billion in American military aid over the past decade, has rebuffed pleas, backed by offers of yet more aid and diplomatic support, to pause in its building of illegal Jewish settlements in occupied territory. Another Middle Eastern friend and aid recipient, Egypt, has cocked a snook at American requests to set an example of democratic reform. It rejected a call by Barack Obama to let international observers monitor a recent, garishly fraudulent election. Iraq, where America has expended so much blood and treasure, took nine months to form a shaky government that looks more to Iran’s liking than America’s. And Iran seems undiminished in its determination to pursue its nuclear ambitions, no matter how much America and its allies rattle sabres and pile on sanctions.

Even the popularity of Mr Obama, which surged among Arabs and Muslims after his inauguration, has fallen back. Shibley Telhami, of the University of Maryland who has long experience in polling regional opinion, notes two trends. Arabs used to distinguish between a dislike for American policies and a liking for Americans as people; now they tend to dismiss both. And when asked which leaders they admire, Arabs continue to cheer those who stand up to America and to its ally Israel. This year Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan tops the list, followed by Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s yanqui-baiter-in-chief.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Religion in Turkey: Diyanet Effect

WAS it the result of an Islamist inquisition? For many the sacking last week of Ayse Sucu (pictured), the head of the women’s centre of Turkey’s state-run religious-affairs directorate (Diyanet), amounted to nothing less. With her loosely worn headscarf and progressive views, Mrs Sucu had become an emblem for Diyanet as it launched a series of initiatives to advance women’s rights in Turkey. Her dismissal prompted the resignation of all 28 women working in her centre.

Pro-secular newspapers have cast the affair as a further twist in the battle between western-minded Turks and the mildly Islamist ruling Justice and Development (AK) party. Some blame Diyanet’s new boss, Mehmet Gormez. Unlike his predecessor, Mr Gormez is said to espouse rigid views on the headscarf. And in a homily penned during the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, he derided activists campaigning against the ritual slaughter of millions of sheep. All of this has sharpened fears that, with AK’s blessing, Mr Gormez will steer Diyanet, which is responsible for managing Turkey’s preachers and mosques, in a conservative direction.

As ever in Turkey’s mix of official secularism and popular piety, the truth is more complex. For one, Mr Gormez is the brains behind an ambitious project to reinterpret the Hadith, the most sacred text in Islam after the Koran. A collection of thousands of utterances said to have been pronounced by the Prophet Muhammad, the Hadith is the main guide for Muslims in interpreting the Koran. Mr Gormez’s goal is to weed out those unsavoury texts (on restricting women’s freedoms, for instance) that, in Mr Gormez’s words, obscure the original values of Islam. Outraged purists have accused him of “degenerating” Islam and fought to block his promotion. Sources close to Mr Gormez say that the row shows the idea that he engineered Mrs Sucu’s removal because of her views is ridiculous. He has even, they add, been known to prepare his wife’s breakfast.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

The United States, Israel and the Arabs: Please, Not Again

NO WAR, no peace, is the usual state of affairs between Israel and its neighbours in the Middle East. But every time an attempt at Arab-Israeli peacemaking fails, as Barack Obama’s did shortly before Christmas, the peace becomes a little more fragile and the danger of war increases. Sadly, there is reason to believe that unless remedial action is taken, 2011 might see the most destructive such war for many years.

One much-discussed way in which war might arise stems from the apparent desire of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons at any cost, and Israel’s apparent desire to stop Iran at any cost. But fear of Iran’s nuclear programme is only one of the fuses that could detonate an explosion at any moment. Another is the frantic arms race that has been under way since the inconclusive war in 2006 between Israel and Hizbullah, Iran’s ally in Lebanon. Both sides have been intensively preparing for what each says will be a “decisive” second round.

Such a war would bear little resemblance to the previous clashes between Israel and its neighbours. For all their many horrors, the Lebanon war of 2006 and the Gaza war of 2009 were limited affairs. On the Israeli side, in particular, civilian casualties were light. Since 2006, however, Iran and Syria have provided Hizbullah with an arsenal of perhaps 50,000 missiles and rockets, many with ranges and payloads well beyond what Hizbullah had last time. This marks an extraordinary change in the balance of power. For the first time a radical non-state actor has the power to kill thousands of civilians in Israel’s cities more or less at the press of a button.

In that event, says Israel, it will strike back with double force. A war of this sort could easily draw in Syria, and perhaps Iran. For the moment, deterrence keeps the peace. But a peace maintained by deterrence alone is a frail thing. The shipment to Hizbullah of a balance-tipping new weapon, a skirmish on the Lebanese or increasingly volatile Gaza border — any number of miscalculations could ignite a conflagration.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Trouble in Kashmir: India’s Intifada

Faced with new violence from increasingly militant youths in Kashmir, can India calm tensions before it gets any worse?

[DF — Audio clip]

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

US Admit No Way to Stop Taliban Terrorists Through Pakistan-Afghanistan Border

The porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan that Taliban fighters slip across to attack British troops is impossible to seal, a top military commander has admitted.

The 1,600-mile rugged frontier, dotted with mountain passes and treacherous routes, would take ‘an inordinate amount of resources’ to secure, said the U.S. colonel.

Instead, it is more useful for coalition soldiers to protect Afghan towns and villages that are vulnerable to insurgent raids.

Military chiefs have been concerned about the steady flow of terrorists and arms — including components for deadly roadside bombs — across the lawless border, especially into Helmand and Kandahar provinces in southern Afghanistan where nearly 10,000 UK troops are based.

The Taliban often pass along little-known routes and back over the border into Pakistan to take injured fighters to hospitals.

Colonel Viet Luong, of the U.S. Army, said Western diplomats should also try to foster greater cooperation from the tribes inside Pakistan who often provide Islamist fighters safe passage across the frontier.

His remarks came as the Ministry of Defence announced that another UK soldier had been killed in the war — the 103rd this year.

The bomb disposal expert, who served with 23 Pioneer Regiment, The Royal Logistic Corps, was clearing a road with the Counter-Improvised Explosive Device Task Force in Lashkar Gah district when he was caught in a blast on Tuesday.

He was the 348th British serviceman or woman to die in the conflict since it begun in 2001.

Col Luong, who oversees troops in a part of eastern Afghanistan that includes the volatile Khost province, said: ‘It’s naive to say that we can stop enemy forces coming through the border.’


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Far East

China Preparing for Armed Conflict ‘In Every Direction’

“In the coming five years, our military will push forward preparations for military conflict in every strategic direction,” said Liang Guanglie in an interview published by several state-backed newspapers in China. “We may be living in peaceful times, but we can never forget war, never send the horses south or put the bayonets and guns away,” Mr Liang added.

China repeatedly says it is planning a “peaceful rise” but the recent pace and scale of its military modernisation has alarmed many of its neighbours in the Asia-Pacific, including Japan which described China’s military build-up as a “global concern” this month. Mr Liang’s remarks come at a time of increasingly difficult relations between the Chinese and US armed forces which a three-day visit by his counterpart Robert Gates is intended to address. A year ago China froze substantive military relations in protest at US arms sales to Taiwan and relations deteriorated further this summer when China objected to US plans to deploy one of its nuclear supercarriers, the USS George Washington, into the Yellow Sea off the Korean peninsula. China also announced this month that it was preparing to launch its own aircraft carrier next year in a signal that China is determined to punch its weight as a rising superpower. The news came a year earlier than many US defence analysts had predicted.

China is also working on a “carrier-killing” ballistic missile that could sink US carriers from afar, fundamentally reordering the balance of power in a region that has been dominated by the US since the end of the Second World War.

A US Navy commander, Admiral Robert Willard, told Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper this week that he believes the Chinese anti-ship missile, the Dong Feng 21, has already achieved “initial operational capability”, although it would require years of testing.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Al-Qaeda Cockney Calls for Holy War in Somalia

A BRIT has appeared in a video for an extreme Islamic group calling for holy war in Somalia.

The masked man speaks with a London accent in the publicity stunt for al-Shabab, an ally of Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda.

Experts say it is the first clear evidence UK citizens are joining the terror group.

And the video will stoke fears of a UK terror plot emerging from Somalia. Clutching an AK-47, the Brit, named as Abu Dujana, calls on Muslims worldwide to join their fight to turn the African country into a hardline Muslim state.

He says: “For us to fight for our beliefs is the best thing that can happen to us. The fact we may be killed in this path is nothing but a glad tiding.”

Dujana said he left the UK as it ignores what “Allah obliges and forbids”. In September, MI5 said it believed several British Muslims had travelled to fight with al-Shabab. The terrorists killed 74 people in bomb blasts in Uganda in July. It controls large parts of Somalia where it imposes harsh Sharia law. A girl of 13 who had been raped was stoned to death.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Brazilian President to Make Battisti Decision This Week

Extradition of ex-terrorist a ‘juridical’ question, Lula says

(ANSA) — Brasilia, December 27 — Outgoing Brazilian President Inacio Lula da Silva told ANSA on Monday that he will decide this week on Italy’s request to extradite former Italian terrorist Cesare Battisti.

Speaking to the press at the end of his second and last term, Lula said he wanted to resolve the matter before his successor Dilma Rousseff takes office on January 1, 2011.

According to the popular Brazilian leader, “this is not a problem regarding sovereignty, it is a juridical question. When the attorney general gives his opinion, then I will make my decision”.

“I have never said what my opinion is. Once (Attorney General) Luis Inacio (Lucena Adams) expresses his view I will act accordingly”.

In November 2009 Brazil’s supreme court turned down Battisti’s request for asylum and ordered him sent back to Italy where he has been convicted in absentia for complicity in four murders committed by a leftist militant group in the 1970s.

The Brazilian president, who has in the past indicated he might view Battisti’s case favourably, told Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi in Washington last April that he would review the high court decision.

But there was no word on which way Lula might be leaning.

The supreme court judges said his decision should square with bilateral agreements between Italy and Brazil, but added that the Brazilian constitution gives the president personal powers to deny the extradition if he chooses to.

If Lula stops Battisti’s return in a case the Berlusconi government has fought hard for, experts say the diplomatic repercussions could be considerable.

The 56-year-old Battisti was arrested in Brazil in April 2007, some five years after he had fled to that country to avoid extradition to Italy from France, where he had lived for 15 years and become a successful writer of crime novels.

In January 2009 the Brazilian justice ministry granted Battisti political asylum on the grounds that he would face “political persecution” in Italy.

The ruling outraged the Italian government who demanded that it be appealed to the Brazilian supreme court.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


American Thinker: How’s That Religion of Peace Doing These Days?

Only a few days remain until 2011, and still there is no end to Islamic hatred in the world.

Christmas was celebrated in an unusual way in Indonesia this year. Since sharia forbids the construction of any new churches, hundreds of members of Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church in Parung, West Java, Indonesia decided to celebrate Mass “in a tent set up in the parking lot of the Marsudirini Elementary School.” Although on paper, Indonesia’s constitution states that “no one has the right to prohibit any religious community from practicing its faith” the rising influence of Islamic radicals is obliterating all this.

In Pakistan in July of 2010, “a dozen masked men shot five Christians to death as they came out of their church.” In May, “church leaders had received a threatening letter from the Islamic extremist group Sip-e-Sahaba warning the Christians to leave the area as ‘they [were] polluting [the] land.’“

In the Washington Times, Jeffrey Kuhner writes about ongoing anti-Christian pogroms in the Middle East. A word usually ascribed to the mass destruction of Jews, it is now being applied here, as “Christians have endured bombings, murders, assassinations, torture, imprisonment and expulsions. These anti-Christian pogroms culminated recently with the brutal attack on Our Lady of Salvation, an Assyrian Catholic church in Baghdad. Al Qaeda gunmen stormed the church during Mass, slaughtering 51 worshippers and two priests. Father Wassim Sabih begged the jihadists to spare the lives of his parishioners. They executed him and then launched their campaign of mass murder.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

New Holiday, December 25: Christmahannukwanzadan

A combination of the main holiday terms; Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza, and Ramadan. To be used in this age of correctness where people may be offended by wishing one person a seasonal greeting but leaving another person out, thereby offending their race or creed. “ Happy Christmahannukwanzadan everybody…and I think that covers everybody “

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]