Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110117

Financial Crisis
»£1trillion: Our National Debt Pushes Through Barrier to Reach £40,000 Per Household
»Bad Real Estate News Ignored to Spin Bright Future
»Fed Borrowing 40% of Every Dollar it Spends
»German Coalition Split on Increasing EU’s Bail-Out Fund
»Portugal Fights Desperately to Regain Trust
»Governor Christie’s Dirty Islamist Ties
»SIOA: Hamas-Linked Islamic Supremacist Hate Group CAIR Attempts to Impede U.S. Military…
»Steven P. Jobs Taking New Medical Leave From Apple Duties
»Kanwar: Yes, Islam Condones Wife Beatings, Misogyny
»Montreal Jews Shaken After 5 Synagogues, School Vandalized
Europe and the EU
»Baltic States: Where Minorites Must Hold Their Tongue
»Contextualising Islam in Britain
»Diminishing Returns in Turkey’s EU Bid
»EU Brainwashing Denies the Roots of Our Civilisation
»Ferocious Attack Raises Fears of the Wolf’s Return to Germany
»Fiat Industrial Interested in Buying Truck Stakes From Volkswagen
»Fundamentalist IFE Banned by Labour Council
»Germany: Aquarium to Honour Octopus Oracle Paul With Memorial
»Germany Bans 934 More Farms in Dioxin Scare
»Italy: Former Local Councillors Targeted in Southern Graft Probe
»Italy: Universities Lagging Behind on Foreign Student Numbers
»Italy: Berlusconi Denies Escort Allegations and Says He Has a Girlfriend
»Jews Must Flee Holland in 2011
»Revealed: How Even German Civilians Took Part in Killing Concentration Camp Survivors
»Romanian Witches to Cast Anti-Government Spell
»Spain: Bullet Train, White Elephant
»Sweden: Wolf Hunt Set to Proceed Despite EU Complaints
»Sweden: Masked Men Smash Slot Machines at Food Kiosks
»UK: 28 Events on 2nd Palestine Memorial Week
»UK: Al-Qaeda Magazine Lauds London Student Who Attempted to Murder MP
»UK: Children as Young as Ten Are ‘Being Used, Abused and Thrown Away by British Sex Gangs’
»UK: Children as Young as 10 ‘Groomed for Sex by Gangs’ [Video]
»UK: Court Due to Hear Evidence From Second Boy in Rape Trial
»UK: Genocide Memorial Day 2011
»UK: Hotel Killers: Three Female Convicted Murderers Given Jobs at Same Travelodge
»UK: London to Edinburgh by Electric Car: It Was Quicker by Stagecoach
»UK: Lord Taylor’s Expenses Trial Judge Admits ‘We Used to Work Together’
»UK: Lord Taylor’s Expenses Claims Were ‘False, Deceptive and Misleading’
»UK: Race-Split Fears Over Plan for Flagship Free School in Bradford
»UK: Subsidised Training Opportunities [For the Black and Minority Ethnic Youth and Community Sector]
»UK: Secret Girlfriend of the 7/7 Bomber: Shehzad Tanweer Met Woman Weeks Before Attack
»UK: Schizophrenic Stabbed Brother, Nine, To Death Hours After Health Workers Said He Was No Threat
»UK: Sadistic Thugs Stamped on Stomach of Heavily Pregnant Teenager as They Stole Her Phone
»UK: Teenager ‘Killed OAP Couple in Flat Fire and Then Showed Mobile Phone Pictures of Blaze to Friends’
»UK: Tony Blair ‘Misled’ Commons Over Legal Advice on War in Iraq
»UK: Terrorist Bomb Threat Isa Ibrahim Police Film Jailed
»UK’s Hindu and Sikh Organizations Also Accused Muslim Groups of Sexually Targeting Their Communities
»Van Rompuy: Europe is ‘Fatherland of Peace’
North Africa
»‘Arab Autocrats Have Been Warned’ By Tunisia
»Following Tunisian Riots, Mideast Asks: Where Next?
»Is Tunisia the First Domino to Fall?
»Popular Rage That Could Light Fires Across a Whole Region
»Swedish Boar Hunters Safe After Tunisia Attack
»The Domino Effect — Will Unrest Infect the Arab World?
»The Roots of Egypt’s Muslim-Christian Tensions
»Tunisia: Reports of Presidential Guard Arrested En Masse
»Tunisia: Presidential Guard Barracks Attacked by Army
»Tunisia: Ben Ali Flees With 1.5 Tonnes of Gold, Le Monde
»Tunisia Needs Khilafah System, Not Just a Change of Ruler
»Tunisian President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali and His Family’s ‘Mafia Rule’
»Wife of Tunisian President Fled Riot-Torn Country With 1.5 Tonnes of Gold
Israel and the Palestinians
»Mossad Zeros in on Tehran’s Nuclear Program
Middle East
»Al-Qaeda Magazine — Inspire Issue 4: An Open Front Jihad
»Helping Israel Stop Islamic Dominance in the Middle East
»Hezbollah Backs Karami for Premier as Lebanon Political Deadlock Deepens
»Iraq: Christian Doctor Assaulted in Mosul
»Stakelbeck: Fmr. Senior Mossad Official on Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qaeda
»Syria: Muslim Brotherhood Says Political Return Possible
»Turkey: Taste of France Takes Hold in Ankara
»Turkey Deplores Europe’s ‘Lack of Vision’
»Vladimir Putin ‘To be Targeted by EU Sanctions’
South Asia
»Indonesian Christians Against Yudhoyono for Failure to Protect Religious Freedom
»Killings of Newborn Babies on the Rise in Pakistan
»Pakistan: Christian Women Attacked, Publicly Humiliated in Lahore Based on False Blasphemy Accusations
»Pakistan: Blasphemy Laws Must Not be Scrapped, Says Musharraf
»Pakistan Bus Bombing Kills 18 People in Northwest City
»Pakistan: Islamists Torch Pope in Effigy. Again.
Far East
»Frank Gaffney: Hu’s Becoming First?
Australia — Pacific
»Darwin’s ‘Dirty Secret’ Washed From Streets
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Uganda: Several Christians Hastily Convert to Islam for Clothes
»Greeks Back Gov’t Plan to Fence Out Migrants
»UK: ‘Psychotic’ Afghan Asylum Seeker Had to be Forcibly Removed From Foster Family After Lying About Being a Child
»UK: Immigration is the Issue That Just Won’t Go
Culture Wars
»30,000 Pupils Branded ‘Racist, Homophobic Bigots by Teachers, Even at Nursery
»The Worrying Decline of Free Speech in Great Britain

Financial Crisis

£1trillion: Our National Debt Pushes Through Barrier to Reach £40,000 Per Household

Britain’s government debt smashed through £1 trillion for the first time yesterday — a staggering £40,000 per household.

Campaigners branded the milestone ‘terrifying’ and warned that taxpayers will have to foot the bill for decades to come.

Debts of £1 trillion — an almost unimaginable figure with 12 zeros equivalent to one million million pounds — mean Britain will pay interest of £43 billion this year alone.

That is nearly £120 million a day and more than the government spends on defence.

It comes after unprecedented levels of borrowing by Labour to pay for lavish state spending and the bailout of the banking system.

The national debt stood at just over £300 billion a decade ago and was less than £500 billion five years ago.

But it exploded while Gordon Brown was in power and boom turned to bust.

Treasury sources said it underlined how important it was to press ahead with the Chancellor’s austerity measures.

George Osborne plans to slash annual borrowing of £156 billion under Labour to £35 billion by 2014-15 through £81 billion of spending cuts and £30 billion of tax rises.

The £1 trillion debt figure was recorded at 5.15pm on the UK National Debt Clock, an online British version of the billboard-sized running total of US debt in New York.

But it does not include items such as the cost of public sector pensions and private finance initiatives — or people’s own mortgages, credit cards, overdrafts and personal loans.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance said the real national debt was close to £8 trillion — or more than £300,000 per household.

Emma Boon, campaign director at the Alliance, said: ‘This is a terrifying new landmark in the nightmare of our national debt and it is ordinary taxpayers that will be footing the bill…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Bad Real Estate News Ignored to Spin Bright Future

I was shocked to see this headline from an Associated Press story yesterday, “Economists project home sales, construction to rise sharply in 2011 from extreme lows of 2010.” I was dumbfounded by the title of the article and even more taken back when I read the story which said, “The forecast delivered at the International Builders’ Show in Orlando sees U.S. economic growth sharply lifting home sales and residential construction over the next two years, but from near-historic lows posted last year.” The chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders, David Crowe, said, “Single-family home construction, a bellwether for the housing market and the economy, will rise 21 percent to 575,000 this year and climb to 860,000 in 2012.” (Click here to read the full AP story.)

That is still about 75% less new construction from the peak of the housing boom a few years ago. This forecast was made just prior to yesterday’s release of the “Year-End 2010 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report” from Its headline read “Record 2.9 Million U.S. Properties Receive Foreclosure Filings in 2010 Despite 30-Month Low in December.” The report went on to say, “Total properties receiving foreclosure filings would have easily exceeded 3 million in 2010 had it not been for the fourth quarter drop in foreclosure activity — triggered primarily by the continuing controversy surrounding foreclosure documentation and procedures that prompted many major lenders to temporarily halt some foreclosure proceedings,” said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. “Even so, 2010 foreclosure activity still hit a record high for our report, and many of the foreclosure proceedings that were stopped in late 2010 — which we estimate may be as high as a quarter million — will likely be re-started and add to the numbers in early 2011.” (Click here to read the entire RealtyTrac report.)

So, a back log of foreclosures will increase by about 20% in 2011, which RealtyTrac is predicting to be another record year. There have been 3 million repossessed homes since 2006, and RealtyTrac says there could be “3 million” more by 2013. 2010 was also a record year for repossessions with well over one million homes taken back by the banks. Meanwhile, the National Association of Home Builders is expecting a 21% increase in new homes?

So, with all these foreclosures in the pipeline, there is only one way prices can go and that is down — right? Not according to Crowe who is “forecasting prices for new and previously occupied homes to be flat this year and inch up 1.4 percent next year.” That is in stark contrast to people such as Yale economics professor Robert Shiller whose Case-Shiller index reported a rapid drop in home prices at the end of 2010.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Fed Borrowing 40% of Every Dollar it Spends

I have warned of the potential risk in these funds and municipal bonds as an asset class before.

The fact that no realistic action has been taken to address these issues, and that they may rotate into United States credit — that is, Treasuries, forcing big reductions in spending, is a serious problem.

Folks, the States are absolute pikers when it comes to this — The Federal Government is literally borrowing 40% of every dollar it’s spending at the present time. This cannot continue indefinitely, and yet if it is pulled back GDP is going to instantaneous collapse by a double-digit percentage and the stock market will implode as profits go down the toilet immediately.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

German Coalition Split on Increasing EU’s Bail-Out Fund

Guido Westerwelle, the vice-Chancellor and head of the FDP Free Democrats, said there was no justification for last week’s call by Brussels for an urgent boost in the size and powers of the €440bn (£371bn) fund.

“Only a small part of the fund has been used, so there is no need to talk about increasing it,” he said, adding that any further aid must come on stringent terms.

The FDP’s finance spokesman, Otto Solms, said the party’s parliamentary group would oppose an expansion of the fund, and warned that it must not become a “bad bank” by purchasing EMU bonds pre-emptively. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso is worried the fund will run dry if Portugal needs a rescue, leaving too little to defend Spain. A leaked Commission document said a fresh pulse of the crisis was “unavoidable” in early 2011.

Brussels aims to get ahead of the crisis by securing the firefighting machinery it needs in advance, hoping for the go-ahead from EU leaders on February 4. As in past episodes, however, a number of EU voices proclaimed a deal before Germany has agreed.

Chancellor Merkel said the daily rush of proposals had become tiresome and that any “further package of measures” would be conditional on EU oversight of national budgets, a demand that may rankle. Finance minister Wolfgang Schauble said Germany might accept a formula that boosts the fund to its headline figure of €440bn, or €750bn including IMF money.

Under rules needed to anchor the fund’s AAA rating, it cannot lend much above €250bn. “We have to think about making sure that the €750bn is in fact available. That’s not an expansion of the rescue fund,” he said…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Portugal Fights Desperately to Regain Trust

Portugal succeeded in raising more than a billion euros in a Wednesday bond issue. The country’s leaders are praising the success, but investors remain skeptical. Despite lower-than-feared interest rates on Portuguese debts, the country will likely have to request an EU bailout soon.

Seven percent. That’s the crucial figure — at least if you believe Fernando Teixeria dos Santos, Portugal’s finance minister. If interest rates for long-term government bonds climb above 7 percent, the country will need international aid, the minister believes.

In recent months, interest rates on Portuguese debt have climbed steadily, and observers held their breath as the country issued its first long-term bonds of the year on Wednesday. It was meant to be the first test of whether Portugal can continue to refinance itself. The answer, it would seem — at least for smaller sums of debt — is yes. On Wednesday, around €1.25 billion flowed into the state coffers with an interest rate of around 6.8 percent on 10 year bonds. Given the news in recent days, things could have gone a whole lot worse.

The auction went “relatively well,” said Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva. But the bond issue was only the beginning. Silva said the government still had a “lot of work.” Portugal will have to raise as much as €20 billion this year in order to finance old and new debt.

But what does the first debt test in Portugal really mean? Is trust building in the markets as a result of Portugal’s austerity efforts? Or will the country be left with no choice but to take advantage of the fund established last year to help crisis-ridden members of the euro zone? And what do the developments in Portugal mean for the future of the common currency?…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Governor Christie’s Dirty Islamist Ties

New Jersey, the Garden State, has just taken its first step toward becoming the Sharia State, with Governor Christie’s nomination of Sohail Mohammed, an attorney to detained terrorist suspects, to a Superior Court judgeship in Passaic County. The Sohail nomination continues Christie’s unfortunate pandering to the American Muslim Union and the Islamic Center of Passaic County.

Passaic County has the second largest Muslim population in the country. And the Islamic Center of Passaic County is the state’s largest mosque, and it’s the only one run by an an Imam who was a member of the Hamas terrorist organization. But when the United States government attempted to deport Mohammed Qatanani, New Jersey’s pols and wannabe pols like Christie, quickly came to his aid. Despite the fact that Mohammed Qatanani was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, the organization that is behind both Al Qaeda and Hamas, despite his own guilty plea to being a member of Hamas, and despite the fact that even in the United States, he had defended a charity that provided funds to children of suicide bombers (this is done as an incentive to reassure terrorists that if they die their families will be taken care of), Qatanani was not deported.

This is less a sign of his innocence, then of the power and influence wielded by Qatanani and the American Muslim Union. There was hardly a top New Jersey public official who did not come out for Qatanani. And that included both of the major candidates in the governor’s race, Governor Jon Corzine and Chris Christie. Christie called Qatanani, “a man of great goodwill” and “a constructive force” and allowed Charles McKenna, one of his associate attorneys to testify on behalf of Qatanani. Afterward Christie tapped McKenna to head New Jersey’s Department of Homeland Security. McKenna had spent a good deal of time on Muslim “outreach” and made numerous statements echoing their talking points.

The pioneering terrorism researcher, Steve Emerson called it, “a disgrace and an act of pure political corruption”. He stated, “I know for certain that Christie and the FBI SAC had access to information about Qatanani’s background, involvement with and support of Hamas.” Defending Qatanani required Christie to pit himself against the Department of Homeland Security, which wanted him deported. But the Department of Homeland Security wasn’t running for office in New Jersey. Christie was.

The first Imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County, Mohammad El-Mezain, was convicted of funneling money to Hamas. El-Mezain had actually boasted of raising almost 2 million dollars for Hamas. And his replacement, Qatanani, actually was a member of Hamas. An ordinary politician might have been forgiven for not knowing this, but Christie was the US Attorney for New Jersey. It’s absolutely impossible that he would not have known the background of the Islamic Center of Passaic County. Yet Christie attended a Ramadan dinner, in the same place where terrorists had fundraised, and kissed Qatanani on the cheek.

Now Christie has nominated Sohail Mohammed, Qatanan’s former lawyer, to a Superior Court judgeship. Sohail Mohammed is a board member of the American Muslim Union, an organization that has interlocking leadership with groups that have fundraised for Hamas and hosted a Hamas speaker. The American Muslim Union is closely interlinked with Qatanani’s Islamic Center of Passaic County.

When five Muslims were convicted of plotting to murder US soldiers at New Jersey’s Fort Dix, American Muslim Union president, Mohamad Younes, came out in their defense. When El-Mezain, the original Imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County, was convicted, Younes claimed that he had only been convicted because he was a Muslim. The ICPC and the AMU shared five members in their leadership, which essentially makes them one and the same. Nominating an AMU board member is an indirect payoff to the Islamic Center of Passaic County’s own leadership… and to Mohammed Qatanani…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

SIOA: Hamas-Linked Islamic Supremacist Hate Group CAIR Attempts to Impede U.S. Military…

A prominent national human rights and advocacy organization is again asking the Defense Department to resist efforts by the Hamas-linked Islamic supremacist hate group the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to dictate the nature and content of anti-terror training for military personnel.

That renewed request by Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) comes after Hamas-linked CAIR, one of the nation’s most notorious Islamic supremacist hate groups, demanded that the Defense Department not invite the noted Islam scholar Robert Spencer to offer training to military intelligence personnel. SIOA respectfully requests that the Defense Department repudiate this attempt by Hamas-linked CAIR to hinder national security by interfering with and impeding counterterrorism training.

SIOA Executive Director Pamela Geller declared: “It’s outrageous that a subversive group linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose stated goal, according to a captured internal document, is ‘eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within,’ would presume to dictate to the military who they can and cannot have as a speaker. Their agenda is obvious and should be repudiated by the military and all Americans. Lives are at stake and the future of Western civilization hangs in the balance.”

The Associate Director of SIOA, Robert Spencer is a highly sought-after expert on Islam and Sharia, the director of Jihad Watch, a program of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and the author of ten books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Truth About Muhammad and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) (both Regnery). He is also the author of Islam Unveiled (Encounter); The Myth of Islamic Tolerance (Prometheus); Onward Muslim Soldiers; Religion of Peace?; Stealth Jihad; and The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran (all Regnery).

Spencer is a weekly columnist for Human Events and FrontPage Magazine, and has led seminars on Islam and jihad for the United States Central Command, United States Army Command and General Staff College, the U.S. Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group, the U.S. intelligence community, and the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force on previous occasions. Spencer is the coauthor of Pamela Geller’s acclaimed The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War On America (Simon & Schuster).

Bat Ye’or, the pioneering historian of dhimmitude, the institutionalized mistreatment of non-Muslims in Islamic societies, said: “Robert Spencer incarnates intellectual courage when, all over the world, governments, intellectuals, churches, universities and media crawl under a hegemonic Universal Caliphate’s New Order. His achievement in the battle for the survival of free speech and dignity of man will remain as a fundamental monument to the love of, and the self-sacrifice for, liberty.” Former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy, a Senior Fellow at National Review Institute, called Spencer “America’s most informed, fearless, and compelling voice on modern jihadism.” The New York Times noted that Spencer’s work is “widely read in conservative foreign policy circles.”

CAIR, by contrast, is an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas terror funding case — so named by the Justice Department during the trial of the Islamic charity known as the Holy Land Foundation. CAIR has previously attempted to intimidate numerous government agencies and citizens’ groups into dropping events featuring foes of international jihad activity, including SIOA’s Executive Director Pamela Geller, ACT for America’s Brigitte Gabriel, and others. In the summer of 2010 it has embarked upon a concerted campaign of intimidation and defamation to silence public figures who speak out against jihad and Islamic terrorism, including Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), the Rev. Franklin Graham, Florida Congressional candidate Dan Fanelli, and Connecticut Congressional candidate Rick Torres…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Steven P. Jobs Taking New Medical Leave From Apple Duties

Steven P. Jobs, the co-founder and chief executive of Apple Inc., told his staff on Monday that he was taking a medical leave of absence, a year and a half after his return from a liver transplant.

“At my request, the board of directors has granted me a medical leave of absence so I can focus on my health,” he said in a statement to the Apple staff released by the company. “I will continue as C.E.O. and be involved in major strategic decisions for the company.”

[Return to headlines]


Kanwar: Yes, Islam Condones Wife Beatings, Misogyny

Recently, Marvin Levant (Dec. 28), Steve Harris (Dec. 30), Syed Soharwardy (Jan. 2), and Riazuddin Ahmed (Jan. 5) debated Islam through the forum of the Herald’s letters to the editor.

The issue of wife beating and gender inequality in Islam has become convoluted and highly controversial as many Muslims try to sugar-coat the ugly truths and others try to shed some light on it.

Soharwardy’s statement that “beating one’s wife is not only wrong, it is criminal and completely un-Islamic” is incorrect.

The Qur’an says that “men are in charge of women because Allah has made one of them (men) to excel the other (women), thus man’s superiority over women . . . good women are the obedient ones . . . admonish the rebellious women and banish them, and scourge them (whip them severely to inflict pain) (4:34) . . . smote them (hit or strike with the hand or with a weapon causing pain, beat them) (4:62)”.

Islam does not recognize gender equality. For example, polygamy is accepted in Islam, but polyandry is not. A woman’s testimony is considered half as worthy as a man’s in court; a son inherits twice as much as a daughter does.

Muslim men may marry Muslim, Jewish or Christian women, but Muslim women can marry only Muslim men.

In short, sharia law leads to the inhuman treatment of Muslim women by their husbands and others, especially in South Asia and the Middle East.

Higher education is emphasized more for sons than for daughters; in cultural honour killings, almost always women are the target for murder.

Under sharia, divorced Muslim women get custody of their sons under eight years of age and daughters until puberty, and then the fathers take the children away.

Sharia enabled one of the worst fundamentalists, the vile and ruthless military dictator, Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, to put more than 15,000 rape victims in jail because they could not comply with the absurd Islamic condition requiring them to have numerous male witnesses of their victimization. They were charged with fornication and their rapists were let go free.

At birth, all infants are equal, but Islam makes then unequal; sharia is incompatible with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Soharwardy knows all of this to be true. It is in his Qur’an and other Islamic texts. I have no desire to hear useless excuses from mullahs for all these gender inequalities in Islam…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Montreal Jews Shaken After 5 Synagogues, School Vandalized

Attacks ‘increasing in intensity and frequency,’ rabbi says

Montreal’s Jewish community was reeling Sunday after four synagogues and a Jewish school were targeted by vandals in the early hours of the morning.

And on Monday. Montreal police said a fifth synagogue has been vandalized, although a spokesperson could not say which one as of early Monday afternoon.

Beth Rambam, Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem and Beth Zion synagogues in Côte St. Luc and Dorshei Emet synagogue in Hampstead were all targeted by vandals who threw rocks at the windows of the buildings, smashing several and causing thousands of dollars in damages, said Rabbi Reuben Poupko. The Yavné Academy in Côte St. Luc was also hit.

Poupko, who serves as chairman of the Jewish Community Security Co-ordinating Committee, called the crimes “an organized and systematic attack on Jewish institutional life” and promised that the people who use the buildings on a regular basis would not be intimidated by the vandals.

“The reason it’s so troubling is that was not an isolated affair,” he said.

“There have been similar incidents over the past few months that haven’t garnered any attention. It’s increasing in intensity and frequency.”

So far, Poupko said, the vandalism has largely been limited to broken windows, but in one incident last March, the Ahavath Israel synagogue in Outremont was defaced with swastikas.

Montreal police have visited all five locations targeted early Sunday morning, and will be reviewing security tapes provided by the synagogues starting Monday, Poupko said. The cameras were installed over the last few years in response to attacks against Jewish buildings in Montreal and other cities, he explained.

“We felt this was a necessary investment,” he said. “These are not just crimes against a buildings. They’re crimes against a community.”

Montreal police constable Simon Delorme said Monday police believe the incidents may be linked, or that the same suspect or suspects may be involved, because the incidents took place around the same time and with similar results.

Politicians have joined a growing chorus in condemnation of the attacks.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney called the attacks “disturbing” and told radio station CJAD Monday that they are linked to what he called a “new anti-Semitism,” often tied to extremist politics emanating from the Middle East.

He said the wave of hatred often inspires the naive or vulnerable to adopt the same anti-Semitic ideology.

“We don’t know the reason behind this particular wave of vandalism but we do know that all Canadians must join together in combating all forms of hatred and prejudice particularly the pernicious and durable form of hatred which is anti-Semitism,” Kenney said.

Also on Monday, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff put out a statement calling the attacks “hateful and systematic acts” that “represent an attack on an entire religious community.”

He said the federal government must do more “to provide adequate safety and security provisions for religious communities, and it must work closely with the RCMP and CSIS so hate crimes in Canada can be eradicated once and for all.”

Liberal human rights critic Irwin Cotler noted the timing of the attack Monday, which coincided with Raoul Wallenberg Day in Canada — a day to remember the Swedish diplomat who rescued more than 100,000 Jews during the Holocaust.

On “a day set aside to reflect and act upon the heroism of Canada’s first honorary citizen, a man who stood up, confronted and combated the worst of hatred and prevailed — these attacks should act as a call to mobilize against the forces of hatred and anti-Semitism,” Cotler said in a statement.

The attacks drew statements of condemnation from the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies in Toronto and B’nai Brith Canada.

The Wiesenthal Center called upon Montreal and Quebec leaders to rally behind the Jewish community.

“The hatred displayed by these actions can be countered by a strong show of support and a determination to prevent the seeds of anti-Semitism from taking root in Quebec,” said Avi Benlolo, a prominent Canadian human rights activist and president and CEO of the Wiesenthal Center.

B’nai Brith called for a strong response from police to what it said were not isolated examples of vandalism, urging an investigation into what it said were hate-motivated crimes.

“Following what appears to be an orchestrated campaign of anti-Semitic attacks, there is particular concern about the targeting of a school and daycare,” the organization said.

           — Hat tip: SF[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Baltic States: Where Minorites Must Hold Their Tongue

06 January 2011 De Volkskrant Amsterdam

The linguistic rights of the sizeable Russian and Polish minorities in the three former Soviet republics, which joined the EU in 2004, are hardly recognised. A Dutch journalist deplores governmental intransigence on the issue of languages.

Last month, I had a odd experience when I ate at the restaurant in the cultural centre in Šalcininkai, a town on the southern border of Lithuania.

Three-quarters of the population in the area is Polish speaking, so I naturally expected that the waiting staff would speak to me in Polish, but I was in for a surprise. The menus on the tables were all in Lithuanian, a language which is only understood by Lithuanians. The waitress only went to fetch me a Polish menu from behind the counter when she heard me speaking in that language.

Russian ethnic minority considered a kind of fifth column

I thought at first that it was a coincidence. But a week later, in Latvia, I spoke to a member of the local Russian minority, who told me that the at the mayor’s office in Riga, information is presented in the main languages of the EU, but not in Russian, which is spoken by half of the city’s inhabitants. Russian speakers have to ask for assistance, before they are provided with one of a special stack of brochures that are kept behind the counter.

When you ask why this is the case, people will tell you that Russian is not an officially recognised language in Latvia, or indeed in the EU. However, that is not to say that we should blame Brussels for the deplorable treatment of ethnic minorities in the Baltic States, who are worst off in Latvia and Estonia. Only people who successfully pass a language examination are recognised as citizens of these countries. As a result, almost two decades after the dismantling of the Soviet Union, approximately half of the country’s Russian minority are effectively stateless.

At the most recent municipal elections in Riga, expatriates from all over the European Union benefited from a right to vote which is not extended to many Russians who were born and brought up in the country. This type of situation was to some extent understandable a few years ago, especially in Latvia, where the Russian ethnic minority, which represents one quarter of the population, is still considered to be a kind of fifth column. But seven years after Latvia’s entry into the EU and its inclusion in NATO, the time has come for the law to change…

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

Contextualising Islam in Britain

The views of leading UK Muslims on some of the most contentious issues affecting Muslims in Britain are to be compiled and published online in the second phase of a groundbreaking project. The initiative, called “Contextualising Islam in Britain”, first ran in 2009 and will bring together about 30 Muslim scholars, academics and activists to address a range of topics.

These include, among others, Islamic faith schools, Islam and gender equality, the relationship between the individual and the community, and political participation.

It will be hosted by the University of Cambridge, working in association with the Universities of Westminster and Exeter. The group’s findings will be released to the public in a full report which it is expected will be published online and made available for free download in June.

A series of roadshows, led by project members in their own communities around Britain and aimed at Muslims and non-Muslims alike, is also being planned.

The project is the second phase of an initiative originally conceived and funded by the last Government as part of the “Prevent” strategy, which is currently under review, to combat extremism. It will, however, be fully independent of both the Government and of the Universities involved.

As with the previous phase, the project’s organisers hope to produce a set of critical perspectives on what it means to be a Muslim living in Britain today. In particular, it will aim to offer ideas and conclusions about aspects of British citizenship that do not appear, at least at first, to be in harmony with the teachings of their faith.

The final report will aim to highlight the shared values that bind different communities together, both as British citizens and as citizens of the world.

Project Leader Professor Yasir Suleiman, Director of the Centre of Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge, said: “The original project in 2009 was a great success, particularly in bringing together Muslims from a wide range of backgrounds who were able, in spite of their differences, to work together and offer real insight into important questions.”

“Once the report is finished, we will try to take the findings across the country as widely as we can. My hope is that each member of the project will feel empowered to speak on its behalf in presentations across the country that will be aimed at non-Muslims as well as members of the local Muslim community.”

The first-phase report was praised last year by the House of Commons Department for Communities and Local Government Select Committee as “a model for the way forward” for policy-makers working in similar fields.

Although it set out to offer “exploratory perspectives” rather than a set of hard and fast guidelines, the document did reach a number of important conclusions. One passage stressed, for example, Islam’s explicit opposition to all forms of terrorism. Another highlighted the real meaning of Shari’ah as a term for an ethical code based on principles of justice for all, as opposed to the popular, “skewed understanding… which conjures up images of floggings and beheadings.”

“Like any research project the first round of symposia threw up a lot of new questions and a lot of suggestions about things we had overlooked and areas that need further discussion,” Professor Suleiman added. “We hope to cover some of those in the second phase.”

The format of the 2011 project is similar to last time. The University of Cambridge will host four symposia, to which a steering committee of academics and Muslim activists will invite representatives from as wide a range of Islamic communities around the UK as possible…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Diminishing Returns in Turkey’s EU Bid

An Arab journalist friend asked recently why Turks appeared so keen on EU membership when it is clear that there will always be some country or group in Europe that will throw nails in Ankara’s path because it is a predominantly Muslim country.

This friend said that when looked at from the Middle East, Turkey appears to be managing well enough on its own without EU membership, with fairly good prospects for the future despite the countless political problems that it is grappling with at home.

It was clear from his remarks that the EU for him is some kind of an “exclusive club” that Turks want to join for the sake of international prestige but are constantly suffering the indignity of being turned back because they are Muslims.

In fact the EU perspective has helped Turkey’s modernization process at critical moments in time. The constitutional changes and legislative reform, such as the abolition of capital punishment, which began under the Ecevit government, could not have been achieved so easily without this perspective.

As we told our Arab journalist friend, the overall question here is not a cultural and/or religious one, as many in Europe, Turkey and the Middle East appear to think. EU membership for Turkey does not mean that Turks will change their religion or culture and become like Germans or the French, something they clearly have no need for.

What the EU represents for Turkey is a set of culturally and religiously neutral social, economic and political standards that are incorporated in the “acquis communautaire,” the body of law that comprises EU legislation. This “acquis” lays the groundwork for administering modern societies in terms of their contemporary social, political and economic needs.

Put another way, the “EU acquis” is there to serve the welfare of the citizen, not to turn him or her into something other than what he or she already is culturally or religiously. Despite this elemental fact, however, for many in Europe Turkey’s EU membership has become a cultural and religious topic today.

In the meantime it is undeniable that as far as the real and practical advantages of its EU perspective are concerned, Turkey is increasingly coming under the influence of “the principle of diminishing returns.” In other words, extra energy put into its membership bid is not necessarily going to change the current morass in Turkish-EU ties.

In practical terms there are only three chapters left in the membership talks today that can be opened for negotiation, and when that is done the “negotiation game” will come to an abrupt stop. It is clear at this stage that no Turkish government can concede anything on Cyprus for the sake of unblocking the eight chapters that cannot be negotiated because of this problem.

Any concessions, especially after the Annan Plan process, would be politically costly and possibly even suicidal for any government, a risk hardly worth taking given the mood in Europe concerning Ankara’s membership bid.

Turks are aware that even if the Cyprus obstacle were to be overcome somehow by unilateral concessions, Turkey would still be faced with its “French problem.” France has vetoed negotiations on five critical chapters, arguing that these concern full membership issues and therefore go beyond the “privileged partnership” that it — along with Germany — is calling on for Turkey.

These facts on their own are enough to turn Turks away from Europe, and it is clear that faith in the EU is at an all time low among them. In addition to these facts, there are also developments in Europe that make the prospect of EU membership less attractive for Turks.

The EU today looks more like it is in a state of “disunion” rather than being in a process of enhancing and deepening its “unity.” Commentary in the European press about the state of affairs in the EU, on the other hand, hardly provides for much encouragement.

It seems from today’s vantage point that clearing the economic mess the EU is in will take years, given the arduous mental, political and infrastructure reform that some member states will have to undergo for this to happen, while facing the domestic resistance that will inevitably come as a result of this.

The economic crisis will also increase social animosities within Europe, not just towards Muslims. Accusing Poles, Latvians or Lithuanians, etc., of taking jobs away from citizens is already something that is happening in certain EU countries.

In addition to this, the EU looks more like “a union of unequals” with every passing day, with some members actively discriminating against others. This is seen in the treatment being meted out to Romania and Bulgaria, two members that are currently being treated like the black sheep of the family.

Then there is the question of standards, which also appear to be falling by the wayside. Put aside the human rights problems relating to Muslims living in Europe; Hungary — a fully-fledged EU member — is introducing authoritarian legislation against the press and disregarding warnings from other EU countries. In the meantime members such as France and Italy are engaged in the mass expulsion of “undesirable elements” from other parts of the EU, in manners reminiscent of an uglier time in European history.

As for the Muslims in Europe, their lives are already becoming unpleasant as the ultra right and not so ultra, but nevertheless equally atavistic, right fan the flames of Islamophobia and ethnic hatreds based on considerations of race, culture and religion.

Given this overall situation it is wrong to assume, as our Arab journalist friend did, that Turks are as keen on EU membership as some appear to think. Turkey will have general elections in six months’ time and it is a foregone conclusion that none of the politicians will run on a ticket that actively promotes the EU perspective.

Most Turkish politicians are aware that it is best to keep silent on this topic since appearing excessively keen on this membership, while disregarding the obstacles strewn on Turkey’s path, is clearly a vote loser.

In the meantime Turkey’s modernization needs are not going to disappear because of resistance in Europe to its EU membership, or because the prospects for membership look so bleak. Turkey has reaped advantages from its EU perspective to date and no doubt will continue to do so, albeit under the law of diminishing returns.

But if the EU perspective were to disappear altogether Turkey would still face the need for social, economic and political reforms given the pressures coming from society. But it will have to do so without the EU. Developments in Turkey over the past few years in particular show that this is not as impossible a prospect as some may think.

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

EU Brainwashing Denies the Roots of Our Civilisation

FILLED with barbaric hatred and envy, Islamic extremists constantly plot the downfall of our civilisation. Tragically for us they have an ally in their lethal cause: the elite of the European Union. Just like Muslim zealots, the ideological fanatics of Brussels have nothing but contempt for our Christian culture and our national identities. They aim to obliterate our past, our traditions and our patriotism so there will be little resistance to their imposition of a political entity called the United States of Europe.

Mrs Thatcher once described Arthur Scargill, president of the miners’ union, as “the enemy within” because of his eagerness to use mass industrial unrest as a tool against her government. In its epic treachery, its loathing for nationhood and its disdain for democracy, the EU bureaucracy goes one further and is certainly the enemy within Europe.

But the EU, unlike Scargill, is far more than just a threat. Its destructive power is a terrifying reality. The sovereignty of once independent countries is being crushed by the remorseless drive towards integration. Commissars of Brussels are so bigoted in their determination to build a federal superstate without borders, accountability or Christianity that they engage in a brainwashing exercise to erase our heritage from the public consciousness.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Ferocious Attack Raises Fears of the Wolf’s Return to Germany

A German village is in mourning after a wolf broke into an enclosure and slaughtered 13 much-loved pet deer. Experts are urging farmers to protect their livestock better because the wolf population is set to keep increasing, putting the nation’s uneasy, mythical relationship with the beast under strain.

The wolf came in the dead of night, burrowed under the fence of the enclosure and wiped out a herd of fallow deer in a bloodbath that left 13 does dead. Bruno, a buck, was the only survivor, maybe because he was able to defend himself with his antlers, and he has been galloping around in a state of shock ever since.

Owner Wolfgang Schulz, 72, discovered the grisly scene on Sunday and said he and his fellow villagers were deeply saddened by the loss, one of the worst by wolves on livestock since the predators returned to Germany 10 years ago.

“You could see the wolf’s paw prints in the snow, he was on his own,” Schulz, who lives in Gadow, 50 miles north of Berlin in the eastern state of Brandenburg, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “Everyone in the village liked my deer. People would bring buckets of apples to feed them. Children, pensioners, cyclists would come to admire them.”

Now their bloody cadavers lie piled up under a tarpaulin on the one-hectare forest site, waiting to be taken away and incinerated.

Inevitably, fresh questions are being asked about the wisdom of letting wolves roam the countryside. The attack is a reminder of Germany’s complex relationship with a beast it had hunted to extinction a century ago, but which retains a mythical aura in this wooded land of nature-lovers because it has featured so prominently in national folklore.

€50,000 Fine for Killing Wolf

Schulz suspects that the same wolf has been trying to get at livestock in a 19-kilometer (12-mile) radius in recent months. He has been told that the state of Brandenburg will compensate him for his loss. That is cold comfort because the money won’t bring back his deer. But he won’t try to take revenge.

“I’m skeptical about wolves,” he said. “In the old days people didn’t kill them out of malice, it was because of all the damage they did. It wouldn’t be a problem to lie in wait and shoot him dead, but I couldn’t afford it. It could cost me a €50,000 ($65,000) fine or five years in jail.”

Wolves are protected under strict international conservation laws. There are an estimated 50 to 60 of them in Germany, mainly in the Lausitz region bordering Poland and in Brandenburg, the state surrounding Berlin, and their numbers are expected to increase.

They had been extinct in Germany for a century. In communist times, some would occasionally venture into East Germany from Poland, but they were all shot.

German Unification Attracted Wolves

Now they are enjoying almost ideal living conditions in the wilds of eastern Germany, where the human population has decreased by some 10 percent in the economic upheaval that followed unification in 1990. Some wolves have settled on large military exercise sites, oblivious to the gunfire.

Livestock owners regularly complain that rules protecting wolves should be relaxed. But wolf experts insist that if herds are properly shielded with fences, the predators won’t pose any problems.

“When things like this happen there’s an uproar, but one has to ascertain whether the owners made mistakes,” Katharina Weinberg, head of the wolf protection department at the nature conservation group NABU, told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

“I hope public acceptance of wolves won’t take a hit. There are clear guidelines on putting up suitable fences and installing protection against digging under them. The wolf will kill livestock if he has the opportunity to, and one must take measures to stop him.”

‘No Bloodlust’

The high body count in Gadow wasn’t the result of murderous frenzy, said Weinberg. “Wolves don’t get bloodlust. This won’t have been a crazed or malicious attack. They hunt and kill whatever moves, and they know they have succeeded when their prey stops moving. The problem was that the prey couldn’t escape and kept on moving.”

Weinberg said a 2007 study showed that public acceptance of wolves was good in general in Germany. It will need to be, because the wolf population is expected to expand. Wolf cubs leave the pack after one or two years to seek their own territories and will thrive in areas where they can find enough wildlife to eat and keep at a distance to humans.

“Germany must learn to live with the wolf,” said Weinberg. “It will be an uneasy peace because he’s a major predator, and I can understand why livestock owners, especially the smaller ones, aren’t fans.”

‘Stay Calm if You See One’

Experts say wolves don’t pose a threat to humans, and they don’t expect the animals to follow the trend of wild boar and foxes that are increasingly venturing into towns and cities in search of food. Wolves are conditioned to regard humans as a threat, and to steer clear of them. That doesn’t rule out that they might roam through village streets at night, however.

“If one sees a wolf, one shouldn’t approach it and one should stay calm. The wolf will turn away and run off,” Vanessa Ludwig, a member of the Wolfsregion Lausitz office, an authority that monitors wolves in the eastern state of Saxony. The population has grown steadily since 2000, when a wolf pair that had wandered in from Poland gave birth to first cubs born on German soil in 150 years.

Ludwig said the incidence of wolf attacks on livestock in Saxony had declined because farmers were protecting their animals better.

As Schulz mourns is deers, he is determined to keep poor Bruno alive and has moved him into a new enclosure. “Everyone is saying the wolf will return because he knows he didn’t finish the job.”

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

Fiat Industrial Interested in Buying Truck Stakes From Volkswagen

Detroit, 11 Jan. (AKI/Bloomberg) — Fiat Industrial is interested in acquiring Volkswagen’s stakes in commercial truck companies MAN and Scania should the German auto giant put the holdings up for sale, top executives from Fiat’s car business said.

“We’re not a seller of assets but at Fiat we are potentially acquirers, if Volkswagen wants to divest its truck assets,” Fiat chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne (photo) said at the Detroit auto show on Monday. Spokesmen for VW, MAN and Scania all declined to comment.

VW, Europe’s largest carmaker, has repeatedly expressed interest in buying Turin, Italy-based Fiat’s Romeo brand. VW chairman Ferdinand Piech said in September his company was “monitoring” Fiat’s plans for Alfa Romeo. VW CEO Martin Winterkorn told reporters at the Detroit auto show Alfa Romeo is a “nice and interesting” company.

“They’ve been clear about their ambition in the car industry,” Fiat chairman John Elkann said. “If they want to concentrate, focusing on that, then we’re interested in helping them” by buying MAN and Scania, Elkann said.

Fiat Industrial — which includes commercial truck brand Iveco and farm equipment — was separated off from the carmaking operation with shares sold on the Milan stock market earlier this month.

Alfa Romeo Sale?

Alfa Romeo is not for sale, Marchionne said yesterday, reiterating earlier statements.

Volkswagen, which owns 29.9 percent of MAN and 70.9 percent of Scania’s voting rights, is seeking to combine the truckmakers to cut costs. MAN and Scania have been exploring ways to cooperate and possibly merge with a goal of cutting development and purchasing costs.

“It would be a remarkable move for Fiat Industrial,” said Edoardo Liuni, an analyst at in Rome. “Fiat Industrial won’t have difficulties in finding the funding necessary for a possible acquisition as Marchionne has created such a good reputation for Fiat that bankers are confident in lending to the Italian company.”

Marchionne said he hasn’t talked with VW about Fiat’s interest in MAN and Scania.

“We do talk to them from time-to-time,” he said. “I’m sure it will come over a coffee at some point in time in the next 12 months.”

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

Fundamentalist IFE Banned by Labour Council

The Labour-controlled London borough of Newham has made the important and valuable decision to deny the use of its facilities to the fundamentalist, Muslim supremacist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe. The IFE — which controls the hardline East London Mosque, host of many terrorist sympathisers and hate preachers — openly advocates Sharia law in Europe and the destruction of democracy. Last year, one London Labour MP, Jim Fitzpatrick, accused it of infiltrating and “corrupting” his party in the same way as Militant in the 1980s. Fitzpatrick’s brave decision to speak out started the process of Labour cleansing itself of the snake. First, the party sacked its leader in Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, as a mayoral candidate, expelled him from the party, and voted to boycott his administration when he was elected as an independent. Lutfur, as even one of his senior campaign coordinators has now said, is deeply in bed with the IFE. Now Newham, as the Harry’s Place blog reports, has reaffirmed its decision to bar the IFE. They originally tried to book the council’s Old Stratford Town Hall for a meeting in September, but were refused because of “activity and statements that had been made by individuals who were associated with the organisation or previous events it had organised” which might conflict with the council’s “duty to promote equality and maintain community cohesion.” The IFE appealed against the decision; the decision has been upheld.

Sir Robin Wales, the directly-elected mayor of Newham, has a good record against extremism. He and his Labour counterpart in Hackney, Jules Pipe, have refused to work with Lutfur. The IFE has made little secret of the fact that after Tower Hamlets, its next target is the heavily-Muslim borough of Newham. The council clearly doesn’t want to let that happen. One disturbing feature of this story, however, is that the IFE did not book the Town Hall under its own name, but in the name of a body called TELCO, the East London chapter of the community organising group London Citizens (though the IFE didn’t use TELCO’s address, which is what triggered the council’s suspicions in the first place.) London Citizens are good people, regularly praised by mainstream politicians. But they have the significant problem that the IFE and East London Mosque are deeply embedded within TELCO. London Citizens’ lead organiser, Neil Jameson, has become the principal non-Muslim whom the IFE and mosque wheel out in their defence (indeed, virtually the only one remaining, outside the ranks of the far left and a single, eccentric Tory member of the London Assembly.) Their membership appears directly contrary to TELCO’s declared aims of democratic decisionmaking and of promoting equal respect and dignity for all, regardless of faith — things the IFE definitely doesn’t believe in…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Germany: Aquarium to Honour Octopus Oracle Paul With Memorial

Paul, a ‘psychic’ octopus who shot to fame last year for his ability to predict World Cup matches, will get a shrine three months after his untimely demise, his German aquarium said Monday.

The tentacled tipster will on Thursday be honoured with a “Paul Corner” at his former home, containing his ashes and a “huge memorial,” the Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen announced.

“There will be a statue around 1.80 metres high (six feet) of Paul, on top of a football, in the middle of which will be a see-through window with the golden urn containing Paul’s ashes,” spokeswoman Tanja Munzig told news agency AFP.

Paul thrilled punters and cost bookmakers a small fortune during the World Cup in South Africa in June and July by defying the odds to tip correctly seven German matches and Spain’s 1-0 triumph against the Netherlands in the final.

For the prediction, two boxes were lowered into the salty soothsayer’s tank, each containing a mussel and the flag of the two opposing teams.

Watched by a myriad of reporters, Paul would head to one box, open the lid and gobble the tasty morsel, with the box he plumped for being deemed the likely winner.

His astonishing ability made him a global media phenomenon. His later predictions were carried live on rolling news channels in Germany.

He died peacefully in his sleep aged nearly three in October, sparking hundreds of messages of condolence from his Facebook fan club, whose ranks have more than tripled since his death to 200,000.

The aquarium unveiled a replacement, French octopus named Paul II, on November 3.

The new cephalopod has not yet been tested on the field of play although speculation is rife that he could be wheeled out for the next European championship, in Ukraine and Poland in 2012.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany Bans 934 More Farms in Dioxin Scare

BERLIN — Germany’s dioxin-tainted food scandal widened Saturday, as authorities banned another 934 farms from selling eggs, poultry and pork after finding out that one company had hidden its deliveries of contaminated livestock feed.

Prosecutors in Lower Saxony state have opened an investigation after finding out about the tainted feed deliveries to those farms, Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner said.

“This is a scandal within the scandal,” she said.

Lower Saxony’s agriculture ministry said products from those farms have likely been sold over the past ten days, “mostly eggs.” But it reiterated its assessment that “consumption of these goods does not pose a health risk” given the low contamination level.

The scandal broke last week when investigators found excessive levels of dioxin in eggs and chickens, leading authorities to slaughter hundreds of animals and freeze sales from more than 5,000 farms. Excessive dioxin levels were also found in some pork.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy: Former Local Councillors Targeted in Southern Graft Probe

Acri, 10 Jan. (AKI) — Prosecutors in the southern Italian city of Cosenza have opened a judicial probe of five former members of the local council in the nearby town of Acri over a planned shopping centre.

The former Acri councillors and five other suspects are being probed for failing to obtain the necessary planning permission for the shopping centre and over murky deals involving the buying and selling of land, according to investigators.

Italian tax police began an investigation in 2008, after two local businessman reported the alleged irregularities.

The Italian mafia is known to invest in shopping centres and to have links with some local politicians.

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

Italy: Universities Lagging Behind on Foreign Student Numbers

Rome, 11 Jan. (AKI) — Foreigners made up just 3.1 percent of students enrolled at Italian universities between 2008 and 2009, the lowest proportion of any advanced industrial country, according to Catholic immigrant charity Migrantes.

A total of 54.507 foreigners out of a total 1,759,039 students were enrolled on Italian university courses from 2008-2009, according to Migrantes, just 3.1 percent compared with a European average of 10 percent.

“Italy has a low quantity of student accommodation; there are few scholarships and few language courses available,” Migrantes director general Giancarlo Perego told journalists.

Inadequate funding for Italian higher education and for permanent university teaching posts was also a problem, said Bruno Schettino, president of the Italian Conference of Bishops’ migration committee.

“The suffering we Italians endure has obvious repercussions on foreigners, he said.

Perego and Schettino were presenting the 97th World Migration Day, which will be marked in the northern Italian city of Genoa on Sunday and will be attended by the president of the Italian Conference of Bishops, Angelo Bagnasco.

Just two Italian universities are listed in the top 200 by the latest QS World University Rankings (2010). These are the University of Bologna ranked 176th and the University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’ ranked 196th.

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

Italy: Berlusconi Denies Escort Allegations and Says He Has a Girlfriend

Milan, 17 Jan. (AKI) — Italy’s sex-scandal mired prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has denied he had sex with an under-age Moroccan nightclub dancer and claims he has had a steady girlfriend since he split with his second wife in May, 2009.

In a video message to his supporters aired by one of his TV channels on Sunday, Berlusconi said: “It’s absurd to even think that I would pay to have sex with a woman.

“It’s something that has never happened even once in my life. I would consider it degrading.”

The message came after prosecutors in the northern city of Milan announced they were summoning Berlusconi to answer allegations that he abetted prostitution by paying then-17-year-old Moroccan bellydancer and runaway Karima El Mahroug for sex several times in 2010.

The teen and other young women allegedly attended soirees at Berlusconi’s villa near Milan where erotic sex games including the infamous ‘bunga bunga’ were played, claims which were strenuously denied by the premer in his video message.

“Since I separated — though I’d never wanted to say it to avoid exposing her to the media — I have had a stable relationship of affection with a person, who was obviously often with me at those evenings and would certainly never have allowed, at or after dinner, those absurd things some newspapers have conjured up.”

Berlusconi attacked magistrates as having acted “illegally” and “unacceptably”.

He could also face charges of abuse of office by ordering police to release El Mahroug, also known by her stage name Ruby, from custody over a theft complaint in May 2010.

He denies the allegations as “mudslinging”. He won’t agree to attend the hearing, and is mounting a legal challenge to the Milan court, Corriere della Sera newspaper said on Monday, without stating where it got the information.

In an interview with Italy’s Sky TG24 on Saturday, El Mahroug, who has now turned 18, repeated earlier her earlier denials that he had sexual relations with Berlusconi, but acknowledged she had been been a guest at his villa near Milan.

She earlier told prosecutors ‘bunga bunga’ was played at the villa and admits being given 7,000 euros, jewellery, an Audi car and other gifts by Berlusconi, but claims these were kind-hearted gestures aimed solely at helping her.

Paying for sex with a prostitute under the age of 18 is an offence in Italy, punishable with a prison sentence.

The Milan court made the probe against Berlusconi was made public on 14 January, the day after the country’s Constitutional Court overruled parts of a law granting Berlusconi virtual immunity from prosecution.

Berlusconi, who has survived a series of sex scandals and two recent parliamentary confidence votes, currently faces three trials in Milan for bribery, corruption, tax fraud and embezzlement, which are likely to re-start.

The 74-year-old media mogul had previously given no hint of any steady relationship since separating from Veronica Lario, mother of three of his children. She filed for divorce after Berlusconi attended the birthday party of an 18-year-old Neapolitan underwear model, whom he gave a 6,000 gold and pearl pendant. Lario said she could not stay married to man who “frequents minors.”

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

Jews Must Flee Holland in 2011

Jews will flee the multicultural Netherlands before it is too late, says Meotti. As author Manfred Gerstenfeld, said: “Antisemitism is a perfect prism to understand the failure of Dutch multiculturalism”.

During last summer, a monumental tree trunk collapsed in Amsterdam. It was the old tree seen by Anne Frank, one of the most renowned Jewish victims of the Holocaust, from her hiding place.

The liberal media around the world were focused on this tree to highlight the complaint of a Dutch journalist, Paul Andersson Toussaint: “Antisemitism in Holland is again salonfähig”. This word means socially acceptable.

Sixty percent of Dutch Jews are ready to pack up and leave the country. The cause is a boom of Islamic antisemitism in the famous multicultural Netherlands.

The list of Dutch victims is dramatic: from the killing of the anti-Islamist political leader Pim Fortuyn to the persecution of the Somali dissident Ayaan Hirsi Ali to the murder of the director Theo Van Gogh, condemned to death for his film “Submission,” a denunciation of the crimes of Muslim theocracy. Fortuyn’s successor, Geert Wilders, has lived under 24-hour police protection for many years. Now the Dutch Jews are ready to flee Holland.

While Anne’s tree came down, a Jewish girl of the same age as the author of the famous “Diary” revealed to the newspaper Het Parool that she would not leave her house with a Star of David pendant around her neck. The fear is now dominating the Dutch streets. Prominent Dutch politician Frits Bolkestein just sparked an uproar in the Netherlands by saying that practicing Jews have “no future here and should emigrate to the US or Israel”.

Twenty years ago, Bolkestein wrote an opinion for the newspaper Volkskrant about the problems of Islamic immigration in the Dutch democracy. The left labelled him a “merchant of fear”. At that time there was no talk of Islam, the Soviet Union was collapsing, the Dutch economy was flourishing with multinationals and the second generation of Muslims from Morocco, Turkey and Indonesia was making strides towards integration. The new prophecy of Bolkestein is contained in a new explosive book, “Het Herval,” whose author, Manfred Gerstenfeld, says: “Antisemitism is a perfect prism to understand the failure of Dutch multiculturalism”.

For the first time we are talking about the end of the Jewish presence in the Netherlands. Bolkestein’s remarks echo those of Benjamin Jacobs, the country’s chief rabbi, who said in 2010 ( click to see INN interview with him, ed.) that “the future for Dutch Holland’s largest daily, De Telegraf, published an interview with Désirée Röver, 61, who proposed the bird flu pandemic was part of an international “Jewish conspiracy”. Jewry is moving to Israel”.

The Ministry of Justice in The Hague has resorted to desperate methods to fight antisemitism. Cops dressed in traditional Orthodox Jewish clothing are walking in the streets. But the escape suggestion was endorsed also by an eminent representative of the Jewish community of Amsterdam, Evers-Bloeme Emdem. An Auschwitz survivor and honorary professor at the local University, Emdem claims to have told her children and grandchildren to leave the country and that only one direction is offered to them: Israel. “The problems will not touch me as long as I live, but I strongly suggest to my children to leave Holland”.

The attacks on the street, the appalling security around Jewish institutions, the attempted burning of synagogues in the south of Amsterdam and Arnhem, the anti-Israeli demonstrations have impressed a country weakened by constant debates on immigration and on which weighs the burden of War World II.

There is much recent hate speech at the highest political levels. Some examples: The former president of the Dutch Parliament, the Socialist Jan Marijnissen, has compared terrorism against Israel to the resistance against the Nazis. Gretta Duisenberg, the widow of former President of the European Central Bank and grand dame of the liberal Dutch, speaks about “our intifada” and openly criticized “the rich American Jewish lobby.” During a radio interview, when asked how many signatures she hoped to collect for its campaign against Israel, she replied, laughing, “six million”. “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas chambers!” was one of the slogans chanted during demonstrations against Israel’s Cast Lead Operation. Among the protesters, a year ago, there were also members of the Parliament, including the Socialist MK Harry van Bommel. Holland’s largest daily, De Telegraf, published an interview with Désirée Röver, 61, who proposed the bird flu pandemic was part of an international “Jewish conspiracy”.

From the data of the last report of the Dutch police, the number of anti-Semitic acts in the country has increased by 48 percent this year. In an open letter to the newspaper NRC Handelsblad, the twenty-five Lester M. Wolff van Ravenswade described the difficulties faced by Jews living in Amsterdam.” “I cannot go to public events dressed as a Jew, let alone go out on Saturday night. Which party do I have to vote for in order to live safely with the kippah on my head? “.

Twenty percent of history teachers stopped giving lessons on the Holocaust because of the growing presence of Muslim pupils in public schools. If this were not enough, the major Islamic organizations officers, as the Dutch Moroccan Council of Mosques, the Islamic Foundation of the Netherlands and the Turkish Milli Görüs, have promoted a boycott of Israeli goods.

Speaking to the daily Het Parool, a leading member of the Jewish community of Amsterdam has announced his intention to leave the country with his pregnant wife for “security reasons”. This is Benzion Evers, the son of the Rabbi of Amsterdam. “Emigration is a solution for us. And will be done by sixty percent of the community. My father will follow me”.

The Jewish TV channel, Joods Omroep, sent three cameramen dressed as Orthodox Jews in the streets of Amsterdam. The film, of which a fragment is also available on Youtube, shows young Muslims cheering Hitler. The newspaper NRC Handelsblad writes that “anti-Semitism in Amsterdam has become the norm rather than the exception.” The last memorial commemmorating the deportation of Jewish children during the war was also violently interrupted by chants praising Hitler. This autumn the ancient synagogue of Weesp became the first synagogue in Europe since the Second World War to cancel Shabbat services due to the threats to the safety of the faithful.

Leon de Winter is one of the most successful Dutch writers, author of best-selling novels. On a visit to Westerbork — the transit camp from which Jews were leaving for the Netherlands to concentration camps in Germany or Poland — the author observed that “those who speak today of the Dutch Jews have to have a sense of irony. How many Jews in Amsterdam are still ‘recognized’ as Jews? A few hundred? The Jews that I know are not flashy, but disciplined. Most Dutch Jews held for years a secret, packed suitcase.”

After the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh at the hands of an Islamist, Rob Oudkerk, leader of the Social Amsterdam, used the euphemism by which Dutch-Jewish philosopher Spinoza called the city, instead saying: “This Mokum [place, ed] is not anymore my Mokum”.

The remnant of European Jewry is going to flee once again. And as opposed to World War II, when no one would accept them, Israel is able to be the shelter for the Jews.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Revealed: How Even German Civilians Took Part in Killing Concentration Camp Survivors

A new book about the closing days of WW2 chronicles how German civilians murdered many concentration camp survivors as they moved through their towns and villages on infamous ‘death marches’ back into the shrinking Reich.

The violence shows how even with their nation in ruins, the Allies advancing on all fronts and the war hopeless, ordinary people were so indoctrinated with Nazi hate they were prepared to kill defenceless people in cold blood.

‘The Death Marches: The Final Phase of Nazi Genocide,’ by Daniel Blatman, is the first book to research what drove these civilians to acts of savage murder.

Some 500,000 prisoners from the concentration camp gulag both within and without Germany were on the move in the first months of 1945.

As the Allies advanced, the shocking fate of approximately half of them became all too apparent.

‘As was the case in Gardelegen, a town in east-central Germany, where US soldiers found hundreds of charred and mangled bodies in a barn in mid-April 1945.

They were the bodies of prisoners from various camps who had been forced inside’ writes Blatman, an Israeli, whose book is published this week and goes on sale in Germany.

‘It was later discovered that people had volunteered to guard the prisoners, including ordinary civilians, some of them armed with hunting rifles, who mutated into prison guards of their own volition.

‘We’re going hunting, to shoot down the zebras!” cries youths, in reference to the striped uniforms of the inmates.

‘Men from the Volkssturm militia, police officers, soldiers from a paratrooper division barracked nearby, guards and civilians helped drive the doomed prisoners into the barn.

‘Then they locked the doors, lit gasoline-soaked straw on the ground and tossed hand grenades into the building. Anyone who attempted to escape the inferno ran into a hail of bullets.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Romanian Witches to Cast Anti-Government Spell

Protests over plan to tax witches as part of drive to collect more revenue and crack down on tax evasion

Double, double toil and trouble: witches in Romania are planning to cast a spell on the country’s rulers because of laws that will force them to pay tax for the first time.

Cat excrement and dead dogs, rather than eye of newt and toe of frog, will go into their cauldron — but they are hoping to put a Macbeth-style hex on the country’s president, Traian Basescu, and his government after the imposition of a tax regime aimed at tackling the recession.

Witches will gather on Romania’s southern plains and the banks of the Danube to protest against the laws and cast spells on the politicians who implemented them.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Spain: Bullet Train, White Elephant

Spain now boasts the biggest high-speed rail network in Europe. But does it make ecological or, more to the point in these times of crisis, economic sense?

Cristina Vázquez

Over the past few years, Spain has spent unprecedented sums on new infrastructures. The results are plain to see: we now lead Europe in miles of motorway and have just overtaken France as Europe’s number-one country in high-speed trains since the Madrid-Valencia line got started. We now have 2,665 km of railway tracks in service, so Spain’s network is second only to China.

This raises two questions. First of all, can Spain afford this mark of distinction in these times of crisis? Secondly, does the layout of the grid accord with sound regional planning? Doesn’t a decidedly radial system with its epicentre in Madrid need peripheral lines to round it out, like the much-clamoured-for Mediterranean [Barcelona-Valencia] corridor?

Taking lorries off the roads and planes out of the air

Valencia, the last big city to get an AVE [Spanish high-speed train], has exuberantly applauded the new infrastructure. But ecologists, trade unions and sustainable development advocates see the whole high-speed scheme as a bona fide policy error typical of a nouveau riche nation. “The big difference between Spain and other European countries is that they plan services there, whereas here in Spain we only plan infrastructure,” laments Pau Noy, a member of the Foundation for Sustainable and Safe Mobility. “The main thing here is to get the AVE, regardless of whether we need it, how much it costs or how many passengers it’ll carry.”

Why waste a fortune — €6 billion — on AVE, which, according to official forecasts, will only carry 3.5 million passengers its first year in operation? That figure pales next to the 400 million trips made on RENFE commuter rail in 2009.

The crisis has brought the age of munificence and big investment to an end, and critics of this AVE-for-everyone policy are calling on the government to come up with a more rational approach. “This is a segregationist model that forces young people onto the bus and the highway, because high speed is expensive,” deplores Noy…

Translated from the Spanish by Eric Rosencrantz

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

Sweden: Wolf Hunt Set to Proceed Despite EU Complaints

Despite looming legal action from the European Commission and complaints about the size of the quota, 6,500 Swedish hunters are set to go after 20 wolves in Sweden’s second annual wolf hunt.

“We think that reproduction has been higher than expected and if we aren’t allowed to shoot more wolves, the pack is going to end up being too large,” Tomas Andersson, chair of the Swedish Hunters Association (Jägareförbundet) chapter in Örebro County in central Sweden, told The Local on Thursday.

Sweden’s second annual wolf hunt is set to start on Saturday and before the hunt is over, Sweden may find itself the subject of a European Commission effort to put a stop to the hunt.

“We’re probably going to have few other alternatives than to launch a formal process against Sweden and that can happen as early as the end of January,” Joseph Hennon, spokesperson for EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik, told the TT news agency.

In December, Potocnik wrote a letter to Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren, saying, “Several aspects of the Swedish wolf policy raise serious questions.”

Both the licensed hunting of wolves and the set limit of the number of wolves in the country, as well as plans for the transfer of wolves from other countries, include elements that seem incompatible with EU rules for the conservation of predatory animals, Potocnik stressed.

Last year, the Swedish parliament decided last year to limit the wolf population to 210 animals spread out in 20 packs with 20 new pups per year for a period of five years by issuing hunting permits in regions where wolves have recently reproduced.

During this year’s hunt, which runs from January 15th to February 15th, licensed hunters will be permitted to shoot 20 wolves, down from the quota of 27 animals this year.

However, hunters in Örebro county in central Sweden claim that they ought to be able to shoot more than county’s current quota of just two wolves.

Andersson explained that new information indicates that a record number of wolf pups, 25 to 27, were born in the county in the past year.

His organisation has launched an appeal with Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket) to increase the county’s wolf hunt quota from two to four animals.

“Like everyone else, we’re trying to reach the goal set by the Riksdag,” Andersson said.

He admitted, however, that his organisation supports a lower quota of 150 wolves in Sweden and around 200 for the whole of Scandinavia.

“We want to limit the damages caused by wolves by reducing the pack’s density,” he said.

According to Andersson, attacks on hunting dogs are one of the biggest threats posed by wolves to Sweden’s hunters.

“It’s like playing Russian roulette. The more wolves there are, the greater risk there is that our hunting dogs will be killed,” he said.

Andersson estimated that 300 to 350 hunters were registered to scour Örebro’s 8,519 square kilometres in search of two wolves to kill.

While he doubts that the association’s appeal to Swedish environmental authorities will be reviewed before the start of the hunt on Saturday, he is hopeful that authorities will allow for an increased quota before the hunt ends in February.

Sweden’s Green Party is also critical of the hunt, accusing the government of making a “grave mistake” in allowing the hunt to continue this year.

“Despite criticism from the European Commission and other quarters, the government has decided to follow through with a policy means confirming the wolf is fair game rather than working to increase acceptance,” said Green Party MP Tina Ehn in a statement.

Speaking with the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper, Environmental Commissioner spokesperson Hennon explained that the wolf is protected and killing protected species is prohibited.

He also questioned the rationale given by Sweden that the wolves are being shot in order to remove individuals with bad genes from the population.

“Are wolves being shot because they have genes or because they are the first ones you happen to see? It’s not especially scientific,” he said.

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

Sweden: Masked Men Smash Slot Machines at Food Kiosks

A pair of masked men smashed the video lottery terminals (VLT) and furnishings at three fast food kiosks in Gothenburg on Sunday with clubs and hammers.

“We have no information that any of the street food stands were threatened in advance. However, it is a lucrative market and they want to have a cut of it,” Håkan Jansson, internal officer in command of the city police in Gothenburg, said on Sunday.

With a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon, the masked men destroyed a number of VLTs at several food stands in Gothenburg. Police received reports from three different fast food outlets that had their equipment destroyed.

Shortly before 4pm, police received a dispatch from a food stall at Odinsplatsen in central Gothenburg after an employee pushed the attack alarm.

Less than an hour later, another alarm came from a grill in Tynnered in western Gothenburg, followed by another report from a street food stand in Örgryte about damages.

In each of the incidents, the two masked men entered the premises. With hammers and clubs, they shattered gaming devices and furniture to pieces.

Police see a connection between Sunday’s events.

“It does not sound like a coincidence that someone goes in with hammers and smashes a food stand to pieces,” police spokesman Stefan Gustafsson told the Göteborgs-Posten (GP) newspaper on Sunday.

An employee at one food stand recounted to GP that the men said that it was a warning.

No one was hurt and as of Sunday evening, no arrests had been made for the vandalisms.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: 28 Events on 2nd Palestine Memorial Week

Palestinian Return Centre (PRC), with support from many organizations, is making good progress with events during the memorial week. The annual event, organized in UK and across Europe will be held from the 15th to the 22nd January 2011. The event commemorates the memory of Palestinian victims of the Nakba since 1948.

The memorial week will commence with an international conference, “The Ongoing Nakba” which will focus on continued expulsion and dispossession of the Palestinians.

Within the 7-day Memorial Week, PRC and its partners will hold series of events that will include, showing documentary films, public events, discussions, photo Galleries on Gaza, Apartheid Wall and Nakba. Thousands of leaflets and CDs will be distributed in the participating cities.

Organizers in 11 cities in Ireland and Scotland will participate in the event. Conferences, workshops and Exhibition will take place. All activities aim at showing the ongoing Palestinian suffering for the past 62 years.

A film screening will take place at participating cities titled “Al Nakba” directed and prepared by Rawan al Damin, produced by Al jazeera Satellite TV. A key event will take place at Hyde Park Speaker Corner on Sunday 16th of January.

Brighton City will carry out activities for the entire week where cultural activities about heritages of Palestine will be open to view.

Events will take place in the following cities:

Brighton City, Bristol, Limerick City-Ireland, Cork City-Ireland, Hyde Park Speaker Corner, Galway City-Ireland, Dublin City-Ireland, Edinburgh, Manchester City , Dunde, Queens Marry University , Aberdeen City , Reading City, Sant Andros City , Glasgow City, London and Goldsmith University, Exeter University and Sterling University.

Additionally PRC endorsed a key event organized by Palestine Solidarity Campaign and other organizers. The event “Remembering Israel’s war on Gaza” will be held Tuesday 18 January, 7pm Conway Hall, Holborn, London.

More details:

More information visit PRC website:

Palestinian Return Centre

100H Crown House, North Circular Road

London NW10 7PN

Tel: +44 20 84530919

Fax: +44 20 84530994



           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Al-Qaeda Magazine Lauds London Student Who Attempted to Murder MP

“A woman has shown to the ummah’s [Muslim nation’s] men the path of jihad,” the magazine says. “A woman, my brothers! Shame on all the men for sitting on their hands while one of our women has taken up the individual jihad!”

Choudhry attacked Stephen Timms at his constituency surgery in East Ham, in May, 2010, in an act she said was driven by his support of the Iraq war. Witnesses said that Choudhry had smiled and pretended she was going to shake hands with the Labour MP before plunging the knife twice into his stomach.

“Take the example of this woman and you will find success in the afterlife,” ‘Inspire’ promises.

Below the article, an illustration promises those who follow in Miss Choudhry’s footsteps “paradise”, “palaces”, “joy”, and “hoor,” or heavenly maidens. Those helping the kuffar, or unbelievers, are however threatened with “fire”, “torment” and “punishment in hell.” Police said that Choudhry, who dropped out of King’s College London months before attacking Mr Timms, was inspired by the Yemen-based al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki.

Inspire is believed to be co-produced by al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, a US citizen from North Charlotte who is now believed to be working for al-Qaeda in Yemen…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Children as Young as Ten Are ‘Being Used, Abused and Thrown Away by British Sex Gangs’

Sexually exploited children as young as 10 are being used bought, abused and thrown away by sex gangs in Britain a leading children’s charity said today.

Barnardo’s has called on the government to appoint a minister with specific responsibility for the escalating issue of organised on-street grooming gangs.

But child trafficking goes beyond sexual abuse, according to a second report out today, with European children being sold into UK criminal gangs for an average price of £16,000, and being forced to steal.

The call for a minister with direct responsibility comes as the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) revealed the extent of the crime, with 21 of its 22 of its teams across the country having uncovered evidence of organised grooming and trafficking.

Earlier this month Abid Mohammed Saddique and Mohammed Liaqat were jailed for their part in organising a Derby-based gang thought to be the biggest sex-abuse ring ever discovered in Britain, involving up to 100 young girls — mostly aged between 12 and 18 — for sex.

Barnardo’s says it is currently working with more than 1,000 children who have been groomed, abused and trafficked for money, but that the number represents only ‘the tip of the iceberg’.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Children as Young as 10 ‘Groomed for Sex by Gangs’ [Video]

Children as young as 10 are being sexually exploited by organised gangs of men in cities across the UK, a leading charity says.

Barnardo’s says it is working with more than 1,000 children who have been groomed, abused and trafficked for money, and the problem is growing.

It says a specific minister must be given formal responsibility for tackling the issue.

The organisation’s new chief executive, Anne Marie Carrie, says the average age of victims has fallen from 15 to 13…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Court Due to Hear Evidence From Second Boy in Rape Trial

THE trial of an Imam accused of raping a boy at his mosque was set to resume today.

Muslim leader Mohammed Hanif Khan is accused of raping the boy, aged under 18, at the mosque in Capper Street, Tunstall, in 2009.

It is alleged the boy was raped in different parts of the mosque five or six times once formal prayers had finished in the main prayer hall.

The trial, which started at Nottingham Crown Court last Wednesday, has already heard evidence from the boy himself and the boy’s father.

It is further alleged that 41-year-old Khan, who now lives in Owler Lane, Sheffield, tried to rape a second teenage boy after he stayed over at the defendant’s then Meir home.

Khan, who worked under the name Sheik Mohammed Hanif Haqqani Kareemi, denies three counts of rape, four attempted rapes and one count of sexual activity with a child…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Genocide Memorial Day 2011

The Islamic Human Rights Commission, IHRC, is proud to present its annual event entitled ‘Genocide Memorial Day’ in remembrance of all man’s inhumanity to man in the perpetration of genocides and genocidal acts.

Two years on from the genocidal acts in Gaza, this event combines the past with the present so that this day is a call not just to commemorate the past but also the present genocidal tendencies together with building a resolve to stop genocides from ever happening again.

This event consists of a variety of short presentations on the world’s many victims. This year we will be covering a number of atrocities including the heart rending plight of the peoples of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the suffering of the genocide in Cambodia and accounts from the victims of the Jewish Holocaust.

Please come to support and remember the innocent victims of all genocide and genocidal acts. Let us emphasise never again is all inclusive.

Date: Sunday, 16 January 2011

Time: 4pm — 8pm

Place: Abrar House, 45 Crawford Place, London W1H 4LP

Nearest Tube Stations: Edgware Road (Bakerloo Line) and Marble Arch (Central Line)

Guest Speakers include:

Gregory Stanton (Genocide Watch — USA)

Bruce Kent (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament)

Ahron Cohen (With messages from Holocaust Survivors)

Lauren Booth (Human Rights Activist and Journalist)

Refreshments will also be served.

Entrance is free.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Hotel Killers: Three Female Convicted Murderers Given Jobs at Same Travelodge

Three women convicted for murder have been employed at the same branch of a popular hotel chain.

The killers currently work at a Travelodge in York, serving customers who are oblivious to their evil crimes.

Linda White, 55, a guest-room cleaner, stabbed her ex-partner John Sandilands to death after a row.

Pat Bulmer, 48, who works as a receptionist, lured her husband Robert to be knifed to death by her lover so she could claim over £30,000 from his life insurance policy.

Julie Richardson, 42, also a cleaner at the hotel, scalded her own father with a red-hot iron before battering him to death with two accomplices.

The news that these dangerous criminals, all jailed for life, have been quietly integrated back into society has shocked and angered relatives of the murder victims.

Robert Bulmer’s sister Hepsy told The Sun: ‘It’s disgusting. What are the authorities thinking of?

‘I don’t suppose the customers know a thing. If you’re staying at a hotel you don’t expect to find three killers working there.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: London to Edinburgh by Electric Car: It Was Quicker by Stagecoach

The BBC’s stunt of taking an electric Mini to Edinburgh reveals just how impractical rechargeable cars are, writes Christopher Booker

In its obsessive desire to promote the virtues of electric cars, the BBC proudly showed us last week how its reporter Brian Milligan was able to drive an electric Mini from London to Edinburgh in a mere four days — with nine stops of up to 10 hours to recharge the batteries (with electricity from fossil fuels).

What the BBC omitted to tell us was that in the 1830s, a stagecoach was able to make the same journey in half the time, with two days and nights of continuous driving. This did require 50 stops to change horses, but each of these took only two minutes, giving a total stopping time of just over an hour and a half.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Lord Taylor’s Expenses Trial Judge Admits ‘We Used to Work Together’

The judge presiding over the trial of a peer accused of dishonestly claiming expenses used to cover the same court as him as a lawyer.

Mr Justice Saunders and Lord Taylor had worked as barristers in Birmingham at the same time and may have attended some of the same ‘social occasions’.

He said he had raised the issue as soon as he learned he was trying the case, but insisted there was no reason he should not sit in judgement.

Neither prosecution or defence lawyers have objected to him taking the trial at Southwark crown court.

Mr Justice Saunders said: ‘For a while we both practised as barristers in Birmingham. We were in different chambers but from time to time we would see each other in crown court, although we both practised in different areas of the circuit.

‘Lord Taylor ceased to practise some years before I became the Recorder of Birmingham seven years ago. We could have attended the same social occasions organised by the circuit but not many. ‘To my knowledge I have never attended a private social occasion at which he has been present. I have not seen him since he ceased to practise as a barrister in Birmingham.’

The judge was speaking before the jury was sworn in on the first day of the trial of the former Tory, who has pleaded not guilty to six counts of false accounting. He is alleged to have dishonestly claimed £11,277 between 2006 and 2007.

The peer is accused of making false expenses claims for overnight allowances and mileage to and from a second home when he lived in London.

Lord Taylor, 58, who resigned from the Tory party when the allegations first came to light, became a peer in 1996. He was the first black Conservative member of the Lords, four years after losing the safe seat of Cheltenham…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Lord Taylor’s Expenses Claims Were ‘False, Deceptive and Misleading’

Lord Taylor submitted forms saying his main residence was in Oxford when he was actually living in London, prosecutor Helen Law told Southwark Crown Court.

He claimed for travelling expenses between the two cities and for night subsistence to cover being in London, she said. The place in Oxford was where his half nephew lived and Lord Taylor has agreed that he never stayed at the address and had no legal or financial interest in it, Ms Law added.

Ms Law said Lord Taylor faced six allegations of false accounting. “These concern claims he made as a member of the House of Lords under the members’ reimbursement allowance scheme, under which members claim expenses incurred in their parliamentary duties.” The counts relate to claims made on various dates between March 2006 and October 2007.

He sent the claims to the members’ expenses section, part of the House of Lords finance department, a part of the House of Lords that processes claims for expenses, and the money was paid.

“It is the prosecution’s case that these claim forms contained claims for some expenses that Lord Taylor was not entitled to, and that he knew that when he submitted them,” Ms Law said.

Ms Law said it was the prosecution’s case that Lord Taylor lied on the forms to get the expenses, that he was being dishonest when he submitted them.

It was not suggested that all the claims were dishonest, she added. The case concerned claims for night subsistence and travelling expenses — Ms Law told the jury to ignore claims that had been made for day subsistence and office costs.

She said Lord Taylor, 58, of Lynwood Road, Ealing, west London, claimed for travelling expenses between Oxford and London, which he said was 59 miles, and night subsistence to pay for his upkeep in London. The Oxford address was not his address — the only address Lord Taylor lived at during that period was in Ealing, she said…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Race-Split Fears Over Plan for Flagship Free School in Bradford

PLANS to open one of the first of the Government’s flagship free schools in the region could add to racial and religious segregation in a Yorkshire city, education bosses have warned. Politicians in Bradford are to raise concerns with the Department for Education over the proposed Rainbow Free School after it emerged that one of the people involved in the project has previously called for Muslim pupils to be educated in faith schools because the current system is marginalising them.

The Yorkshire Post can reveal that Ayub Ismail, who is involved in the plan for the Rainbow Free School primary in the city, submitted a document to Bradford Council more than a year ago in which he argued that teaching Muslim children in a faith school would remove the “problem of them being exposed” to values that conflict with their religion.

The report has been described as “segregationist” by Bradford Council’s executive member for education, Ralph Berry, and has led to fears that the proposed free school will only attract pupils of Muslim faith — undermining efforts to develop community cohesion among young people. However, the Rainbow proposal is not for a faith-based school.

The plan, being led by ATL — formerly known as Asian Trade Link — a Bradford based not-for-profit business and enterprise organisation, is for a primary school open to all pupils “regardless of ethnicity, social background or faith”.

Mr Ismail’s report, which predates and is not connected to the Rainbow School plan, claimed that Muslim pupils are disadvantaged and marginalised in the city’s state schools because the cultural heritage of the curriculum is “European and Christian”.

The report, which has been obtained by the Yorkshire Post, goes on to argue in favour of Muslim faith schools. It says: “Muslim schools provide an education in accordance with the Muslim beliefs and values, such as providing single-sex schooling after puberty. They are thus a response to the danger of absorption into the dominant culture.” The report is said to have been produced on behalf of Bradford Council for Mosques as part of a consultation exercise into the future of state education in the city.

Coun Berry said: “There are concerns that one of the proponents of the Rainbow School has previously argued for a segregated education system based on faith.

“There are, of course, good schools from faith backgrounds but segregating children on the grounds of religion does not offer any educational basis for improvement.”

David Ward, Bradford East’s Lib Dem MP, who rebelled against the coalition in the vote on free schools last year, said: “We already have a divided education system in Bradford because of the demographics of the population. Why would we want something which is going to make the situation worse?”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Subsidised Training Opportunities [For the Black and Minority Ethnic Youth and Community Sector]

Subsidised training opportunities for the BME [Black and Minority Ethnic] youth and community sector — available until March 2011 only

Muslim Youth Skills is one of five National Delivery Partners currently working on a project named Progress. The overall purpose of Progress is to give opportunities to build the capacity of the voluntary and community sector (VCS) by offering 25,000 accredited training opportunities for volunteers and paid staff locally, regionally and nationally.

The Progress project provides subsidies to voluntary and community sector training providers. Each unit attracts a subsidy of £100 and learners can access more than one unit. Training units are available in areas such as:

Youth Work

Supporting young people who are NEET

Community Leadership

Diversity & Faith


Health & Safety

Child Protection


First Aid

Drugs Awareness

If you would like to access training available and want to know more, please contact:

Muslim Youth Skills | The Grid | Park Lane Centre | Park Lane | Bradford | BD5 0LN

T: 0845 6520751 | Fax: 01274 728772 | M: 07861 698132 |

“Through its website, newsletter and growing network, Muslim Youth Skills has become a clearinghouse of good practice for those wishing to work with the next generation” Muslim News Awards for Excellence

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Secret Girlfriend of the 7/7 Bomber: Shehzad Tanweer Met Woman Weeks Before Attack

July 7 terrorist Shehzad Tanweer had a secret girlfriend as he prepared to wage holy war, it emerged yesterday.

He met a woman in the weeks leading up to the suicide attack, in which the 22-year-old blew himself up on a London Tube train, killing seven passengers.

But he kept the relationship quiet — and the woman insists she had no idea what he was planning.

She has now told police about her conversations and meetings with Tanweer in the days before his attack on a Circle Line train near Aldgate station.

She says even her own family do not know she had a relationship with Tanweer, and the authorities have granted her anonymity amid fears of reprisals from relatives or extremists if she is unmasked.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Schizophrenic Stabbed Brother, Nine, To Death Hours After Health Workers Said He Was No Threat

[WARNING: Graphic content.]

A paranoid schizophrenic stabbed his young brother to death just hours after community mental health workers left his house saying there was no immediate problem, a court has heard.

Daniel Taylor, 21, attacked nine-year-old Jack at their sister’s house in Bradford, West Yorkshire, in February last year, leaving him with horrific injuries.

Today, a judge ordered Taylor to be detained indefinitely at the top-security Rampton Special Hospital in Nottinghamshire.

Taylor admitted manslaughter due to diminished responsibility at an earlier hearing.

He sat in the dock today surrounded by guards and carers and showed no emotion as the court was told about the attack on his brother and his history of mental health problems.

The court was told he had doted on Jack when he was born, they were close and he loved him very much.

But Simon Bourne-Arton QC, prosecuting, said Taylor had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia a number of years earlier and also had problems with cannabis use and alcohol.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Sadistic Thugs Stamped on Stomach of Heavily Pregnant Teenager as They Stole Her Phone

A heavily pregnant teenager today told of her terrifying ordeal at the hands of two thugs — one of whom repeatedly stamped on her stomach.

Sophie, who is 33-weeks pregnant, said she feared for the life of her unborn daughter as she begged the men to leave her alone after she was assaulted in Liverpool.

The 18-year-old was with her former boyfriend, who is the father of her child, when they were attacked in an alleyway close to Switch Island retail park.

She started having contractions after the attack at 9.30pm on January 11 and was taken to hospital where both she and the baby were checked by doctors.

‘I was petrified that the baby wasn’t going to make it,’ she said. ‘The baby’s heart rate kept dipping and I was on the heart monitor for hours.’

After an anxious wait she was finally given the all clear and told her baby was safe.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Teenager ‘Killed OAP Couple in Flat Fire and Then Showed Mobile Phone Pictures of Blaze to Friends’

An elderly couple died in a fire at their sheltered accommodation started by a teenager who then showed pictures of the arson attack to friends, a jury heard today.

The 16-year-old set fire to Kath and Albert Adams’ mobility scooters ‘just for a bit of fun’ capturing images of the blaze on his mobile phone, jurors were told.

The pensioners, both aged 77, died in the aftermath of the fire at their ground floor maisonette in Rugby, Warwickshire, having both suffered from smoke inhalation.

Aged just 15 at the time of the incident, the defendant, , who who cannot be named for legal reasons, is also accused of started another fire at the complex 48-hours later, but no-one was hurt.


The defendant sat at the back of the court dressed in a suit with an intermediary and social worker either side of him.

The jury was told he suffers from learning difficulties and would require regular breaks during the proceedings.

He denies two counts of manslaughter and two counts of arson.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Tony Blair ‘Misled’ Commons Over Legal Advice on War in Iraq

In evidence to the Iraq inquiry, Lord Goldsmith, who at the time was the government’s top legal adviser, disclosed that he was “uncomfortable” about statements made by the then-prime minister in the run up to the 2003 invasion.

Two months before the war began, in a meeting at No 10, the former attorney general told Mr Blair that war would not be legal without a fresh mandate from the UN.

In a statement to MPs the following day, however, the Labour prime minister said that there were “circumstances” in which an attack could be valid.

The following month, he gave an interview in which he suggested that war would be legal if another nation had made an “unreasonable” veto at the UN on military action.

A witness statement to the Chilcot Inquiry into the war, published today, makes clear that Lord Goldsmith considered that this did not accord with the advice he had given Mr Blair.

Asked whether Mr Blair’s words were compatible with the advice he received, the former attorney general wrote simply: “No.” He added: “I was uncomfortable about them (the prime minister’s comments) …

“My concern was that we should not box ourselves in by the public statements that were made, and create a situation which might then have to be unravelled.”

Lord Goldsmith evidence to the inquiry has come under scrutiny after he admitted changing his mind about the legality of military action on the eve of the war.

His views were swayed during meetings he was encouraged to have with American government lawyers and Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain’s ambassador to the UN.

Giving evidence to the inquiry last year, he denied that he was “leant on” by No 10 to change his legal opinion.

Until two weeks before the invasion, in March 2003, Lord Goldsmith had been of the view that UN resolution 1441, which was passed in November 2002 and declared Iraq in “material breach” of its obligations to disarm, was not sufficient to sanction war by the UK and United States. In the new evidence to the inquiry, Lord Goldsmith said in his statement that the phrasing of resolution 1441 was “problematic”. He was not actively consulted on the final drafting of the resolution after telling Mr Blair in October that the text as it stood did not authorise the use of force.

The former attorney general said: “I was not being sufficiently involved in the meetings and discussions about the resolution and the policy behind it that were taking place at ministerial level. “Much of the later difficulties could have been avoided if my view had been sought on the drafts that were developed during the later stages of the negotiations, particularly bearing in mind the fact that I had not been persuaded that the early drafts achieved our objectives.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Terrorist Bomb Threat Isa Ibrahim Police Film Jailed

His chilling bomb plot shook Bristol to its core. The aftershocks were felt in every city across the UK.

Isa Ibrahim had every opportunity in life — a loving, wealthy family, a private education and a future full of potential.

Yet he succumbed to what he now describes as an “ideology of hate”. He was sucked into a world of extremism and reached the point where his hatred for the western world turned deadly.

As the would-be suicide bomber from Westbury-on-Trym continues to serve his prison sentence for terror offences, Avon and Somerset police have produced a 20-minute film called Conviction based on the 21-year-old’s life, plot and arrest.

After being road-tested on hundreds of people of all ages, races and religions, the film is being shown to community groups, educational establishments and other forums across the country warning that anyone could be susceptible to extremism.

Detective Chief Inspector Martyn Triggol, who led the project, said: “The case of Isa Ibrahim was extremely significant for Bristol, as well as the region as a whole.

“We recognised that the case could provide a valuable opportunity to explore some of the issues relating to preventing violent extremism and explore how police, partners and communities can work together to challenge it.

“The Conviction project aims to highlight the issue of vulnerability, the crucial nature of early intervention work, and illustrate how quickly a vulnerable person can be adversely influenced by extremist rhetoric.

“The case of Isa Ibrahim is particularly relevant because it is a key example of the fact that we all have roles to play in recognising and supporting individuals who are vulnerable to being radicalised.

“The aim of this film is to raise awareness of any opportunities there might be to identify someone like Isa at an earlier stage. In this way the police and other agencies can provide support and guidance to help prevent them going down a criminal path in the first place.”

The opening scene is chilling. It is the footage made by Ibrahim himself when he was experimenting with explosives at his Comb Paddock flat, complete with his original voiceover.

The last time this mobile phone video was made public it was being used as evidence against him during his trial at Winchester Crown Court in 2009. Now, it provides a sobering smack of reality to the dramatisation of his story.

When Ibrahim was shown the film in prison, he recognised its realism and gave it his approval. His mum Victoria has also pledged her support.

“I would like to offer my support to the police for the work they are doing to prevent young men making the same mistakes I made,” he said. “I urge Muslims to talk to local Imams and scholars about religious matters and not rely on the internet and those who seek to draw people into their ideology of hate; something I unfortunately was taken in by.”

Using the majority of a £50,000 grant from the Home Office’s counter-terrorism strategy, the police commissioned film-makers Omni to produce the film, a clip of which is available to view at…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK’s Hindu and Sikh Organizations Also Accused Muslim Groups of Sexually Targeting Their Communities

AMRITSAR — A day after UKs’ former home secretary Jack Straw blamed some Pakistani Muslim men for targeting “vulnerable” White girls sexually, UK’s Hindu and Sikh organizations also publicly accused Muslim groups of the same offence.

Straw, in an interview to the BBC recently, had said, “…there is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men…who target vulnerable young white girls…they see these young women, white girls who are vulnerable, some of them in care … who they think are easy meat.”

Feeling emboldened by Straw’s statement, UK’s Hindu and Sikh organizations have also come in open and accused some Pakistani men of specifically targeting Hindu and Sikh girls. “This has been a serious concern for the last decade,” said Hardeep Singh of Network of Sikh Organizations (NSO) while talking to TOI on Monday.

Sikhs and Hindus are annoyed that Straw had shown concern for White girls and not the Hindu and the Sikh teenage girls who have been coaxed by some Pakistani men for sex and religious conversion.

“Straw does other communities a disservice by suggesting that only white girls were targets of this predatory behaviour. We raised the issue of our girls with the previous government and the police on several occasions over the last decade. This phenomenon has been there because a minority of Islamic extremists view all ‘non believers’ as legitimate targets,” said director NSO Inderjit Singh.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Van Rompuy: Europe is ‘Fatherland of Peace’

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy has issued a robust defence of the European Union in the face of growing “suspicion and fear”, arguing that the bloc must not be seen as a new “Moscow”, but instead, the “Fatherland of peace.”

“Sometimes, in the heat of the debate, the image of ‘Brussels’ is linked to the role of ‘Moscow’ in the Cold War. One should not accept this comparison,” he declared in a speech to students at the University of Warsaw.

The president, in the Polish capital for a meeting with Prime Minister Donald Tusk ahead of the country taking over the reins of the six-month rotating EU presidency, said that the EU was responsible for hastening the demise of the Soviet Union and that its enduring purpose is to be a bringer of peace.

“The union’s force of attraction accelerated the collapse of Communism and the end of the Cold War. That is a victory,” he continued. “Europe is the best guarantee for peace. It was and is a work of peace. That’s why I am so strongly in favour of a European perspective for the western Balkans, the last remnant of the Cold War and the last place where a war was waged.”

“Europe has to be the fatherland of peace. We owe this to our history … The bloody battlefields from our history have been replaced by Brussels negotiating rooms,” he added.

The president has in recent months made a series of public speeches strongly defending the idea of the European project against all critics, whether markets or sceptical citizens…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

‘Arab Autocrats Have Been Warned’ By Tunisia

The fall of Tunisian President Ben Ali could have reverberations across a region dominated by autocratic regimes. The German press on Monday takes a look at the implications of the events in Tunisia and assess the West’s failures to deal with despotism in the Arab world.

What began as the desperate act of one frustrated man back in mid December has had huge repercussions and caused shock waves across the Arab world.

The Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was forced to flee the country last Friday in the light of a popular revolt against his regime. The hurried departure of the man who had ruled the North African country for 23 years followed weeks of protests across the country, sparked by the suicide of Mohamed Bouazizi in the city of Sidi Bouzid. The 26-year-old graduate who ran a fruit and vegetable stall set himself on fire on Dec. 17 after police confiscated his cart. He eventually died on Jan. 4 and became a martyr, emblematic of Tunisian youths’ frustrations with unemployment and a repressive state.

Once the protests reached the capital, the president seemed to waiver and offered to step down after elections in 2014. That was not enough for the demonstrators and by Friday, Ben Ali, knowing the game was up, fled the country with his wife.

While the Tunisians rejoiced on Friday that the unpopular president was gone, the future is far from certain. The weekend saw looting and clashes between Tunisian special forces and the exiled president’s security guards. While things remain relatively calm on Monday, it is uncertain if the interim government, populated by members of the deeply unpopular regime, will be tolerated.


Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi is expected to announce a new national unity government on Monday that will include some opposition figures. On Monday morning, however, around 1,000 people gathered in the capital Tunis to demand that the ruling RCD party relinquish power completely, shouting slogans like “Out with the RCD!” and “Out with the party of dictatorship!”

Meanwhile there are reports that Ben Ali and his wife Leila, who are now in Saudi Arabia, took a certain amount of booty with them when they left Tunisia on Friday. French daily Le Monde reports that, according to French intelligence, the president’s wife withdrew 1.5 tons of gold, worth some €45 million, from the country’s central bank before they fled the country.

Observers are waiting to see if the events in Tunisia could lead to further popular revolts in the region. At least four Algerians have set themselves on fire over the past five days and on Monday an Egyptian man also set himself alight outside the parliament building in Cairo. Opposition and independent media in Egypt are already drawing parallels between President Hosnai Mubarak, who has ruled the country for nearly 30 years, and Ben Ali.

The German press on Monday take a look at the events in Tunisia, and the implications for the region, while many editorials also assess the West’s failures in dealing with despotism in the Arab world…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Following Tunisian Riots, Mideast Asks: Where Next?

As protesters in Cairo mock the Egyptian president, trade-union activists in Jordan chant ‘Tunisia is teaching us a lesson’ and Yemeni students march to urge Arabs to rise up against their leaders, the Arab world wonders if Tunisia’s people-power uprising will embolden similar calls. Could other iron-fist regimes in the region be the next to fall?

The stunning overthrow of Tunisia’s long-ruling president brought cheers from the streets and a flood of online messages Saturday with one overriding question: Could it happen next in Egypt or other iron-fist Middle Eastern regimes?

There’s little doubt that Tunisia’s people-power uprising — a potent mix of economic gripes and demands for political freedoms — will embolden similar calls in a region dominated by authoritarian leaders and ruling monarchs. Protesters in Cairo mocked Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and trade-union activists in Jordan chanted: “Tunisia is teaching us a lesson.”

In Yemen, about 1,000 students marched through the streets of Sanaa on Sunday, urging Arabs to rise up against their leaders in the wake of Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s ouster.

The students headed from Sanaa University’s campus to the Tunisian embassy flanked by human-rights activists. They called for Arab peoples to wage a “revolution against their scared and deceitful leaders” and chanted: “Liberty’s Tunisia, Yemen salutes you a thousand times.”

“Leave before you are toppled,” read one banner, without naming Yemen’s own President Ali Abdullah Saleh. “Peaceful and democratic change is our aim in building a new Yemen.” In power for the past 32 years, Saleh was reelected in September 2006 to a seven-year term.

But chances appear far less likely of a rapid, domino-style political housecleaning such as what occurred in Eastern Europe after the Cold War, experts say. Many states with deep political rifts, such as Egypt and Iran, maintain vast security forces heavily vested in the status quo and have shown no signs of breaking ranks to join protesters. Other hard-line regimes such as Syria come down harshly and swiftly against dissent.

And smaller states with well-organized political opposition, including Kuwait and Bahrain, provide their native citizens with wide-ranging social benefits that few would dare put at risk with a full-scale mutiny.

“We only have to look at Iran to see the challenges for anyone thinking they can bring change just by going to the streets,” said Sami Alfaraj, director of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies, referring to the massive protests that were eventually crushed after the disputed reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009.

Still, he said it’s a mistake to underestimate the power of the upheaval in Tunisia. “This gets planted in minds that it is possible. They believe it can happen in their country,” Alfaraj said. “Leaders cannot just dismiss that.”

Friday’s ouster of President Ben Ali followed the country’s largest protests in generations and weeks of escalating unrest among young people and others who have seen relatively little benefit from Tunisia’s recent economic growth. Those issues have echoed across the region as many other regimes face similar complaints.

In Jordan, more than 5,000 people joined rallies Friday to protest rising prices and demand the removal of the prime minister. King Abdullah II last week ordered reductions in prices and taxes on some foods and fuels to help ease the burden on the poor.

Messages congratulating the Tunisian people also flooded the Internet on Twitter, Facebook and blogs in the latest example of the web’s powerful role in galvanizing and organizing political movements. Many people replaced their profile pictures with red Tunisian flags.

Saudi King Abdullah’s palace said the ousted president and his family were welcomed in the kingdom with a wish for “peace and security to return to the people of Tunisia.” Other Arab leaders issued few official statements in a possible sign of the tense political climate. The Arab League urged calm, saying it was “the beginning of one era and the end of another.”

“Now the bell is ringing and it should be a reminder to other leaders that people are fed up. They need political freedoms and serious economic reforms, there must be an end to corruption and nepotism,” Jordanian political analyst Labib Kamhawi said.

In Cairo, a small group of activists gathered outside the Tunisian Embassy for a second day and drew comparisons between the North African countries: claims of chronic corruption and poverty, a heavy-handed security force and limits on the press and Internet.

The protesters, outnumbered 5-to-1 by riot police, chanted “soon we will follow Tunis” and other slogans against the government of Mubarak, who has ruled for three decades. “What happened in Tunis gave hope to all of us that fear can be broken and that dictatorships can be defeated,” said activist Mohammed Adel.

Another demonstrator, Ashraf Balba, said the time for change will come. “The spark will come at a time God will decide, and at that time the world will be surprised with the events in Egypt,” he said. “We are more than ready.”

It is this street-born nature of Tunisia’s revolt that also has captivated the region, where the standard script of opposition has been Islamic-inspired movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or Lebanon’s Hezbollah challenging Western-backed governments.

Jordan-based analyst Mouin Rabbani, who closely follows Palestinian affairs, noted the popular uprising in Tunisia differed because it was not led by a political movement. “The factors that led to the beginning of the process in Tunisia exist through the region. But there are specific factors, like the extraordinary stupidity and arrogance with which Ben Ali responded to the protests,” Rabbani said. “I don’t think because Ben Ali fell, others are next.”

Iran’s state-run media gave matter-of-fact coverage to the Tunisian rebellion and left out any analysis or commentary. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast, however, urged Tunisian authorities to heed the “demand of the Tunisian people.”

Iranian authorities, meanwhile, have waged an all-out battle on political opposition since the protests and clashes after Ahmadinejad’s reelection. It was the country’s worst internal unrest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution — perhaps the closest modern parallel to the events in Tunisia.

Mohsen Sazegara, a U.S.-based leader of the Iranian opposition, dedicated 15 minutes of his daily webcast to comparing Tunisia to Iran’s “Green Movement.” He concluded that the Tunisians succeeded because many members of the army and police refused to battle protesters.

The events in Tunisia, however, found an unreceptive audience in Moammar Gadhafi, who has ruled neighboring Libya for more than 40 years. In a speech on national television, the Libyan leader criticized the loss of life and questioned the wisdom of ousting one president to replace him with another. He also said the Tunisians were making a mistake by causing chaos in their country.

“What reason is there to fight?” asked Gadhafi, dressed in an uncharacteristically subdued black suit. “Tunisia’s situation has never really been so bad that it deserved such a reaction from the people.”

The uprising in Tunis also had ripples in Sudan, where voters in the south were marking the of a weeklong independence referendum that is widely expected to lead to the creation of the world’s newest country.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted on an international indictment for war crimes in the western region of Darfur, also faces a rebellion in the west and east, as well as internal opposition.

A recent hike in prices of oil and basic commodities had caused protests at Sudanese universities and calls for the resignation of local officials. The economic crunch is expected to increase with the likely southern separation.

Activists in the tiny Gulf nation of Bahrain — where majority Shiites have challenged Sunni rulers for greater rights — were denied a license to hold a rally and gathered instead at the Tunisian Embassy to silently place flowers in solidarity with the rioters.

* Compiled from Associated Press and Agence France-Presse reports by the Daily News staff.

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

Is Tunisia the First Domino to Fall?

If it were only Tunisia, the outside world might be excused for being slow to wake up to the potential consequences of the protests that led to last Friday’s sudden ousting of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali from the presidency. The convulsion is now being described in terms of a “scenario” to be avoided elsewhere in the Arab world, with commentators looking around the region, notably to Tunisia’s neighbour Algeria, where riots over food prices have only just subsided, and towards Egypt, where recent attacks on the Christian Copts raised the spectre of deepening sectarian violence.

What is afoot in North Africa, and will it really infect the internal dynamics of other Arab states? On the face of it, the main spark for the Tunisian unrest was high unemployment, particularly among graduates, whereas in Algeria, it was the spike in the prices of cooking oil and sugar. Having reduced the taxes on both, the Algerian government has defused the tension for now, without addressing the underlying pressures of youth unemployment, underinvestment in poorer regions, and its own unaccountability to its citizens.

All these issues have their parallels in Tunisia, along with strains on living standards affecting the whole region. In 2008, a sudden, 30 per cent rise in the price of imported wheat provoked widespread bread riots in Egypt, and Jordan has recently seen protests over living costs too. The combination of circumstances that triggered events in Tunisia has, nevertheless, been unique. Tunisian society may be in large part Arab, but it is also embedded in the Mediterranean, with a long Roman and Phoenician history. Just like their historical cousins in Lebanon, Malta and Italy, this had made Tunisians a nation of traders, open to business with the outside world.

More recently, the Tunisian economy has combined trade liberalisation and greater openness to the outside world out of necessity. Unlike its nearest neighbours, Tunisia cannot rely on oil and gas exports for 97 per cent of its foreign earnings, as do Libya and Algeria. The Tunisian state has had to import energy and attract foreign investment for its textile industry, offshore car-assembly plants and tourist developments…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Popular Rage That Could Light Fires Across a Whole Region

It must be some cause for relief that the revolution — and make no mistake, it was a revolution — that has taken place in Tunisia was not more protracted than it was, nor more costly in civilian lives. To be sure, the confrontations were violent while they lasted, with the authorities, initially, giving no quarter.

There was extensive trashing and looting by demonstrators. But the decision of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee the country had the effect, at least temporarily, of defusing the protests, while promises of an interim national unity government and early elections hold out the chance of a breathing space in which a more durable calm could be restored and plans laid for reform.

If this is how the situation actually develops, then Tunisians will be able to congratulate themselves on an — almost — bloodless revolution and in pioneering long-overdue democratic change in North Africa. Unfortunately, there is little certainty that this is what will happen. President Ben Ali’s long and increasingly corrupt rule built up frustrations that may well take more than his eviction and election promises given by temporary successors to dispel. Confusion reigned late yesterday, with speculation, finally confirmed, about the arrest of the deposed president’s head of security and reports of gun-battles near the headquarters of the ruling party. For all the initial rejoicing, this is a conflict that would seem not to be over yet.

Even if it is, there is little clarity about the intentions of those who now appear to be in charge. Is the promise of elections real, or a ruse that will simply presage a new crackdown, as new leaders try to consolidate their power? If elections take place, will they be worthy of the name — and will the patience of Tunisia’s opposition hold out that long? What role is the army playing?

Tunisia has long been a volatile mix. Worsening corruption, increasing unemployment and escalating food prices all contributed sparks to the conflagration that flared up last week. There are also the accumulated effects of deregulation — of which Tunisia had been regarded as a model in the region — sharp disparities between rich and poor, and the liabilities of a disproportionately youthful population. More than half of all Tunisians are under 25.

While highly symbolic, the departure of President Ben Ali alone will be nothing like enough to assuage popular discontent. If the interim authorities can keep order, while moving fast to honour the promises they have made, and if they are serious about democracy and social reform, Tunisia could emerge a better country. But these are a lot of ifs…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Swedish Boar Hunters Safe After Tunisia Attack

Sweden’s foreign ministry announced that 12 Swedish boar hunters in Tunisia who were attacked are all accounted for, safely back at their hotel, and preparing to leave the country.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Camilla Åkesson Lindblom told AFP that the 12, who earlier said they had been beaten on suspicion of being “foreign terrorists”, were all accounted for after the incident on Sunday.

“We have had contact with all of them, and the three who we hadn’t heard from yesterday are also now at their hotel,” she said.

The Swedes were not being held against their will, she emphasised, pointing out that “they are simply waiting at the hotel until they are able to go home.”

The Swedes, who had arrived in Tunisia nearly two weeks ago to hunt wild boar, had been in three separate taxis traveling to the airport Sunday when they were stopped at a checkpoint, dragged out of the vehicles and beaten, one of them said.

“They searched the vehicles. They found our rifles and everything degenerated. They dragged us out of the cars, treated us like foreign terrorists. We were kicked and beaten,” Ove Öberg told reporters at the Africa Hotel after the ordeal on Sunday.

The incident took place near the headquarters of the main opposition party, the PDP, where a gunfight broke out around the time of the arrests.

“We arrived about 10 days ago in Tunisia to hunt boars. We boarded three taxis today to go to the airport and while we were on our way we were stopped at a checkpoint,” Öberg told reporters in a hotel in central Tunis on Sunday.

According to Öberg, police arrested a group of nine Swedish boar hunters travelling in taxis toward a nearby hotel after their flight home was cancelled amid gun battles in the city. Öberg and the five others had a bloodied face and bruises.

“The police arrived. We showed our permits and we could explain to them. The police helped us get out of the situation. The only thing we want now is to go home,” said the man, who was visibly still in shock.

A senior police officer said on state television earlier that several people, including four German nationals, had been arrested after being found carrying weapons inside three taxis in the capital.

“We arrested four German nationals and others of different nationalities. I don’t know the number or the nationalities of the other foreigners,” the officer said, without giving further details.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Domino Effect — Will Unrest Infect the Arab World?

Leaders across the Arab world are living in fear that the unrest that triggered the collapse of the Tunisian government could head their way, writes Felicity Spector.

Food riots in Algeria and protests over economic hardship in Jordan — where the the Muslim Brotherhood warned that price rises could lead to an “unprecedented explosion”, along the North African model. Protestors setting themselves on fire in Algeria — apparently in despair over their bleak economic future — four men dying in the last week alone. And in Egypt today, another man set himself ablaze over poor living standards.

It all seems like a grim echo of events in Tunisia, where 26-year-old jobless graduate Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself last month, after he was prevented from selling vegetables to make a living. When he died from his injuries, it triggered mass protests over youth unemployment, soaring prices and poverty — and a political leadership that ignored their concerns.

Mass protests became a mass revolt — and Tunisia’s authoritarian leader fled into exile, his government collapsing around him.

It’s got leaders across the Arab world expressing alarm — and calling for calm. In Iran, the foreign ministry said it was ‘worried’ about the Tunisian events — while the parliament speaker Ali Larijani warned that “the behaviour of America and some western countries is ridiculous…They are the root cause of dictatorship and pressure in Tunisia and now they pretend to sympathise with the Tunisian nation”.

While the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was more alarmist. “Tunisia now lives in fear”, he said. “Families could be raided and slaughtered in their bedrooms and the citizens in the street killed as if it was the Bolshevik or the American revolution.”

Even for the most repressive regimes, it’s been hard to stop the images of Tunisia’s uprising from being broadcast across the world, not just on cable television, but amplified by the internet, especially social networking sites. Tunisia’s educated middle class is highly adept at using sites like Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about protests and rally others to their cause.

But the influence of the net goes further, despite official attempts to contain it. Several Facebook pages in Egypt have called for mass street protests later this month, calling it a “Day of Revolution against torture, poverty, corruption and unemployment”. Others have simply demanded that President Hosni Mubarak start packing his bags, while on Twitter, a contributor claims: “All countries in the Arab World (are) sitting on a volcano that might erupt anytime!”

There are similar calls in the United Arab Emirates, where one online forum claims: “Tyrants don’t last forever… This is a clear message to every dictatorial regime that rules by iron and fire”.

Eager to avoid the fate of Tunisia’s exiled president Ben Ali, officials in neighbouring countries have already begun taking action — Jordan and Libya have started reducing some food prices, while the head of the Algerian president’s party, Abdelaziz Belkhadem, told a newspaper: “A wise man must take what happened in Tunisia as a lesson. The best protection and the best legitimacy are always the ones provided by the people.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

The Roots of Egypt’s Muslim-Christian Tensions

The bombing of the Church of the Two Saints in Alexandria following a New Year’s Eve liturgy was widely, and rightly, interpreted as a dangerous escalation of the ongoing tensions in Egypt between the country’s majority Muslim population and its Coptic minority, the largest such population in the Arab world. The bombing was followed by a cruder attack by an off-duty policeman on a group of Copts on board a train in Upper Egypt. While alarming, such events were not novel. They were preceded last year by an attack on Coptic Orthodox Christmas Eve against a church in the Upper Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi that resulted in the deaths of six parishioners and a Muslim security guard. Approaching the recent attack as a sui generis occurrence, as the Mubarak regime would prefer, reflects Egypt’s convenient historical amnesia about violence and institutionalized discrimination against Copts. In fact, the roots of the current crisis in Egypt are much deeper and can be traced back through Egypt’s 20th Century history, the end result of which is a state of affairs where Copts do not enjoy equal rights as Egyptian citizens.

The immediate response by Egyptians offers another way of thinking about the historical legacies. In response to the attack, the symbol of an overlaid crescent and cross proliferated across various social networking sites, evoking an earlier era of inter-sectarian cooperation and accord. This iconic symbol was a hallmark of the Wafd party and the struggle against British colonialism that culminated in the 1919 revolution led by Sa’ad Zaghloul. Although reflections on the inter-war period often take on an enhanced aura of nostalgia, ignoring the debilitating lack of power of the parliament with respect to King Farouk and the British, the fact remains that it was a high point in Coptic political participation and Muslim-Christian unity.

The Wafd laid claim to notions of national unity based on secular governance, enshrined in its motto “Religion for God and the homeland for all.” The party represented a uniquely Egyptian nationalism, and its leadership was filled with high-ranking Copts who played prominent public roles. However, Egypt’s national identity would be contested for years to come as it evolved from one that was tightly focused on Egypt toward a broader sense of Arab nationalism. Throughout the Arab world, many of the initial champions of Arabism were Christians. In Egypt, some prominent Copts, such as the Wafdist leader Makram ‘Ebeid, were early supporters of the notion, fueled by the increasingly contentious question of Palestine. But the process by which Arab nationalism manifested itself in Egypt laid the groundwork for subsequent Coptic alienation, as Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasser’s military regime excluded Copts, and as Arab nationalism came to emphasize Islamic identity.

Arab nationalism in Egypt reached its peak under the rule of Nasser, who came to power in 1952 at the head of the Free Officers’ Movement. While he was hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood and ostensibly a secularist, Nasser’s military regime was a setback for the Copts. His regime was marked by tokenism in cabinet appointments and markedly reduced levels of political participation. Nasser’s exclusionary regime eventually led to the first wave of increased Coptic emigration to the West.

These trends accelerated under Nasser’s successor, Anwar al-Sadat, who cultivated Egypt’s growing Islamist ranks as a counterweight to the Nasserists on the left. Sadat presented himself as al-Ra’is al-Mo’min (the believing president) and used Islam to further consolidate his power. In line with this approach, in May 1980, Sadat orchestrated an amendment to the constitution that enshrined shari’a as the principal source of legislation. These shifts were preceded by the crushing defeat in the June 1967 war with Israel, a time that saw the rise of Islamism throughout Arab society and in Egypt in particular, most notably with the establishment of al-Gama’at al-Islamiyya. Labor migration trends, with large numbers of Egyptians seeking employment in Saudi Arabia and the oil-rich Gulf, also furthered the spread of rigid Salafi-influenced thinking…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Reports of Presidential Guard Arrested En Masse

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 17 — According to speculation in local press circles in Tunis, the army has already arrested 1,700 members of the much-loathed former Presidential Guard.

Though reports have not yet been confirmed, the Guard reportedly includes 7,000 highly-remunerated men employed directly by the President of the Republic.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Presidential Guard Barracks Attacked by Army

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 17 — Over the night Army units attacked Presidential Guard barracks in Gammarth, in the northern outskirts of Tunis. ANSA has been told by inhabitants of the area that after a substantial exchange of fire the soldiers withdrew.

Also in Tunis, in the Manouba area, a foodstuffs factory holding grain deposits was set on fire late yesterday evening, according to local sources.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Ben Ali Flees With 1.5 Tonnes of Gold, Le Monde

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 17 — Tunisian president Ben Ali and his wife reportedly left a Tunisia in revolt with a tonne and a half of gold. This was reported in today’s French daily Le Monde, which added that according to French secret services, Ben Ali was taken out of power directly by the Tunisian army and that he had not been expecting such a brutal fall from power.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia Needs Khilafah System, Not Just a Change of Ruler

Hizb ut-Tahrir, Tunisia, News Release

O you who believe! Obey Allah and the Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life

THE spark of the crisis was triggered on 17.12.2010 in the town of Sidi Bouzid, one of the forgotten provinces at the center of the country, where its flames spread to cover the remaining cities of the province, and then the outcries of protest reverberated from the most important cities in Tunisia, besides the events of Al-awdh Al-manjami in 2008 and the events of Bin Firdan in 2010. All of these reveal the negligence of the regime in looking after the people’s affairs in the way Islam requires, namely with justice and perfection.

We have and still witness the injustice of the regime imposed upon the people’s necks with repression, oppression and false promises. After twelve days the regime popped up its head reminding the people of its gratitude to them in serving some of their needs, adding nothing more than promises of decent life and wishes of prosperity that it claims will come — but will not come — through measures it applied throughout twenty three years, but they produced nothing good.

Then it threatened anybody who is tempted to protest or account it. It had before launched its media trumpets to praise its “good achievements,” and curse whoever objected or accounted the “the patron of graces.”

This regime has placed Islam behind its back and threw itself into the arms of the West, the colonialist unbeliever, accepted its dictates, and adopted its recipes as an approach which it did not deviate from it, claiming these are its own ideal choices that will take us to the ranks of the advanced nations, boasting that Tunis has been praised by the international organizations and European countries. He forgot to remember that those organizations and countries only praised their own system and what they transcribed to our country for serving the interests of their companies, which they only came to our country and other Muslim countries to take advantage of our wealth and sap the energies of our sons whom this criminal regime prepared by a corrupt and failing educational system stipulated by the International Monetary Fund through a loan that burdened our shoulders…

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

Tunisian President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali and His Family’s ‘Mafia Rule’

As Tunisia’s President Ben Ali is granted leave to remain in Saudi Arabia, the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by the president and his family is coming into the spotlight.

Their preferred title was “Tunisia’s First Family”. To the people they ruled over, though, president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and his clan were known as “The Mafia” — a ruling clique whose greed and nepotism ultimately caused their downfall.

Following in the footsteps of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and numerous other deposed dictators, Mr Ben Ali was granted refuge in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, starting what will likely be a comfortable, if less than dignified, political retirement.

But as millions of Tunisians celebrated the end of his 23-year-long authoritarian rule, it was not just the 74-year-old president they were glad to see the back of.

Far more reviled, it seems, was his second wife Laila, a feisty brunette more than 20 years his junior, who was dubbed “The Regent of Carthage” for her power behind the throne.

A former hairdresser from a humble background, she stands accused of using her marriage to Mr Ben Ali to turn her family, the Trabelsis, into the desert nation’s most powerful business clique.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Wife of Tunisian President Fled Riot-Torn Country With 1.5 Tonnes of Gold

The wife of Tunisia’s ousted ruler has fled the country with 1.5 tonnes of gold worth more than £35m, it was revealed today.

President Zine El Abidin Ben Ali’s wife Leila Trabelsi — dubbed the Imelda Marcos of the Arab world — is said to have ordered the Tunisian central bank chief to hand over the gold bars last week.

When the bank boss initially refused, she begged her husband to authorise the release of the bullion, and he gave in to her demands, French daily Le Monde reports.

After taking possession of the gold, Trabelsi, 53, flew first to Dubai then on to the Saudi capital Jeddah to join her husband, who had escaped there on Friday.

A senior French intelligence source told Le Monde: ‘It seems that the wife of Ben Ali is the person who left with 1.5 tonnes of gold worth 45 million euros.’

The amount equates to an estimated quarter of Tunisia’s gold reserves — and would take up roughly 2.6 cubic feet in gold bars.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Mossad Zeros in on Tehran’s Nuclear Program

An unexplained fire, disappearing scientists and attacks on prominent Iranian nuclear experts: The Israeli secret service Mossad seems to be waging a shadowy war on Tehran’s nuclear program. Will it be enough to stop Iran’s alleged drive to develop atomic weapons?

The young man in the spotlight appeared earnest and friendly, wearing a blue sweater and a freshly ironed shirt, his hair carefully combed. He seemed to want to project an air of credibility.

He sat in a brown leather swivel chair and steepled his fingertips in a manner often favored by politicians, before starting to speak. “My name is Majid Jamali Fash,” he introduced himself to viewers of Iran’s state-run television last Monday. “My first contact with the Israeli intelligence agency was in Istanbul three years ago. A man named Radfur approached me and suggested I visit the Israeli consulate.”

These words opened the most spectacular confession ever shown on Iranian TV. Such self-incriminations, whether uttered by arrested members of the opposition or by foreign journalists, are far from a rare occurrence here. But Jamali’s statements are unique in that this is the first time an Iranian has publically admitted to committing murder in the country’s capital on orders from Iran’s archenemy, Israel.

Jamali says he killed nuclear physicist Massoud Ali Mohammadi using a remote-controlled bomb on Jan. 12 last year, following precise planning and intensive training by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad.

Some aspects of this confession may be mere propaganda. But in nonetheless indicates that those who may have blackmailed or fabricated Jamali’s statements felt compelled to admit that Iran’s enemies have the capability of setting off bombs right in the heart of the country. The alleged perpetrator’s dubious confession is simultaneously an admission on the part of the regime that a shadowy war over its nuclear program has begun.

Existential Significance

Strategists at international security policy think tanks are debating with increasing intensity when the time might come that Israel, with or without American help, will launch a military strike against Iran’s suspected nuclear weapon production facilities. But the real question is now a different one: Has political pressure from the international community combined with clandestine activities on the part of Israel and the US managed to delay such a strike? Have Mossad’s attacks damaged to the theocracy’s nuclear program to such a degree that it would now be impossible for Iran to build a nuclear bomb earlier than 2015?

For Israel, the question of whether Iran possesses nuclear weapons is a matter of existential significance. Such a bomb would constitute a threat to the Jewish state — as well as to Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. One wonders if Israel’s shadow war should be celebrated for reducing the chances of such an Armageddon.

Israel certainly has extensive experience in the world of covert war. Mossad, the country’s foreign intelligence agency, abides by a line from the Talmud: “If a man comes to kill you, rise early and kill him first.”

Meir Dagan, the much-honored former head of Mossad, retired late last year after eight years in office. Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon named Dagan Israel’s highest commander in the covert war against Iran’s nuclear ambitions and Dagan concentrated his attentions on precisely this mission.

The effectiveness of his covert operations can be seen in the accidents and setbacks that have repeatedly stalled Iran’s nuclear program since then. Important scientists have disappeared without a trace, an unexplained fire broke out in a laboratory and an airplane belonging to the nuclear program crashed. In recent months, a computer worm called Stuxnet wreaked havoc on central control systems for the centrifuges at Iran’s uranium enrichment facility in Natanz. The full scope of the damage from the worm is not yet known…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Al-Qaeda Magazine — Inspire Issue 4: An Open Front Jihad

Two westerners who gave up seemingly comfortable lives to wage terrorist attacks are singled out for praise in the latest issue of Inspire, al-Qaida’s English-language magazine.

Though he killed only himself, Taimour Abdulwahhab al-Abdaly, responsible for the first suicide bombing in Sweden, is hailed as a hero. “Living a comfortable life, and married with children, didn’t stop Taimour Abdulwahhab al-Abdaly from responding to the call of Jihad,” an item in the magazine’s “News Flash” section says. “The iron fist of jihad is more apparent than ever in the midst of the disbelievers [kuffar].”

Similarly, Roshanara Chaudhry is hailed for her stabbing attack on a British MP last year because he supported the Iraq war. She was sentenced to life in prison in November, but “did not throw away her life for nothing as the enemies of Allah have suggested,” another article says. “A woman has shown to the ummah’s men the path of jihad! A woman my brothers! Shame on all the men for sitting on their hands while one of our women has taken up the individual jihad! She felt the need to do it simply because our men gave all too many excuses to refrain from it.”

Inspire’s fourth issue contains new strategies for attacks, including ways to blow up buildings and participate in al-Qaida’s media war on the West. Pursuing jihad is the way to heaven, it says, urging Muslims to make a choice between heaven, sacrifice, and jihad on one hand, and hellfire, punishment, and helping disbelievers on the other.

As with previous issues, al-Qaida’s American spokesmen are prominently featured. An expanded section on “Open-Source Jihad” is coupled with calls by American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who had disappeared from the media for months, to steal Western money to finance al-Qaida abroad.

The section featured new strategies to bomb Western buildings with chemical and mechanical explosives, as well as a picture of a lit Christmas tree in front of the U.S. Capitol, an apparent allusion to November’s attempted bombing of an Oregon lighting ceremony. “This idea could be implemented in different areas such as cars, trains, malls, factories, and various buildings,” the article “Destroying Buildings” says.

It also advocates renting an apartment on the lower floors of buildings and striking strategic pillars of the structure. “The focus should be on the bottom of the building to take advantage of the weight of the building on top of it.”

Other parts of “Open Source Jihad” detail the parts of an AK-47 and advocate additional participation of jihadis in al-Qaida’s media campaign. In particular, the magazine notes that is searching for sections from foreign media about al-Qaida operations, as well as articles and graphics to enhance the look and feel of the publication.

Military strategy is on the table, in what may be an older article by Abu Mus’ab Al-Suri. Reportedly captured by Pakistani officials in 2006, Al-Suri was considered a key al-Qaida strategist.

While searching for the right balance of open terrain, inaccessibility and a population willing to support jihad, Al-Suri urges Western jihadists to focus targets in their own countries. “In most Arab and Islamic countries, with their current political divisions and entities, the preconditions for Open Fronts are not present. In most cases, they are arenas suitable for Individual Terrorism Jihad, small units, and secret guerilla warfare,” Al-Suri writes. Attacks here are the “result of the dense presence of different American and allied interests, and of Western and Zionist hegemonic projects.”

Samir Khan, an expatriate American whose involvement with al-Qaida was confirmed in the second issue of the magazine, contributes an article on simultaneous jihad against the West and the ‘apostate regimes’ of Muslim world. The jihad against the Soviets, in the eyes of the Saudis, was a jihad for the sake of Allah. The jihad against the Americans, in the eyes of the Saudis, is a jihad that is ‘corrupt,” Khan writes in “The Central Issue,” an article that explained the progression of jihad from defensive to offensive. “We disbelieve in those who believe in jihad for the sake of America.”

Anwar al-Awlaki, who was largely silent since his November call for unlimited warfare on American “devils”, wrote the cover story, “The Ruling on Dispossessing the Disbelievers’ Wealth in Dar al-Harb.” Today jihad is more clandestine and is performed by underground networks. The question that arises is: Can these networks of mujahidin use clandestine methods to appropriate wealth from the disbelievers in non-Muslim lands [Dar al-Harb]?” Awlaki rhetorically asks. “We as Muslims should seek the wealth of the disbelievers as a form of jihad in the path of Allah. That would necessitate that we spend the money on the cause of jihad and not on ourselves.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Helping Israel Stop Islamic Dominance in the Middle East

Israel’s foreign policy now is focused primarily on the growing threat of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, with the need to convince Western powers that a military option must be in place in case diplomacy fails. Israel’s desire for a viable peace partner, and its hope that direct talks will start again with the Palestinians, is the second-most important focus of its foreign policy.

At his recent annual Jerusalem press conference, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with those two themes heavily on his mind. As he discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, his determination to reach a peace accord was emphasized in almost every sentence. He said, “I’ve made it clear and I’ll make it clear again today that no coalition considerations will prevent me from pursuing a peace that I believe in.”

The current stalemate could cause a shake-up of Netanyahu’s current coalition; for his political survival, he may bring the center-left Kadima party into his government at the expense of his right-wing, more conservative partners.

While defending his desire for direct talks in the face of Palestinian obstinacy, what was pitifully clear was that the process of peace has taken hostage to the diplomatic process not only the Western community, but Israel as well. The only other issue that continues to be in the forefront of public statements is the need to deal with Iran’s nuclear threat.

Netanyahu should be looking at several foreign policy options which would put Israel in a stronger position diplomatically within the international community. Israel could be a light to Western nations in providing strategic diplomatic and military solutions to counteract radical Islamic influence and aggression in the region.


It’s not only Iran’s nuclear ambitions that are affecting the Middle East, and the global community, but also Iran’s goal of achieving regional hegemony. Iran’s objectives in 2011 are clear: to distract the West by engaging in futile diplomatic talks to stave off more U.N. sanctions, to continue causing instability in the countries Iran wants to dominate (for example, Iraq and Lebanon), and to pour more financial aid and weapons into areas where it wants to increase its influence (such as Gaza). Iran’s tentacles reach into Afghanistan, Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain, the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, and Africa.

Al-Qaeda’s Influence

There’s change occurring among Sunni-Arab states. Militant Salafi Islamists led by al-Qaeda are attempting to create havoc in Saudi Arabia. Al-Qaeda operatives are reportedly gaining influence in Gaza. Al-Qaeda is to blame for over one hundred terror plots against Jordanians during the past decade. Along with the Taliban, al-Qaeda wants to topple the Pakistani government, and if al-Qaeda is able to access Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, the group could become a substantial threat to global security.

There has been little Western response to these changes, which, if left unattended by Western leaders, could result in a tip in the balance of regional power toward radical Islam. This would result in the West having much less sway in the region in regard to its primary diplomatic, military, and financial interests. This would also decrease America’s ability to help its only democratic ally in the Middle East…Israel…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Hezbollah Backs Karami for Premier as Lebanon Political Deadlock Deepens

The Shiite Muslim Hezbollah movement and its allies may nominate Omar Karami to head Lebanon’s next government, after they toppled the coalition led by Saad Hariri last week.

Hezbollah spokesman Ibrahim el-Moussawi said by text message today that Karami’s nomination was “likely.” Ali Hamdan, an adviser to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, confirmed that Karami is the probable candidate in a phone interview. President Michel Suleiman will begin talks with lawmakers on Jan. 24 to designate a new prime minister, after today announcing a one-week delay.

Suleiman said he postponed the consultation “after assessing the position of the various Lebanese parties, and in order to secure the national interest,” according to a statement from the presidential palace. The leaders of Syria, Turkey and Qatar are meeting in Damascus today seeking a solution to the crisis.

Hezbollah and its allies brought down Hariri’s government on Jan. 12 when they withdrew from his national unity coalition over a United Nations inquiry into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, Saad Hariri’s father. The Shiite group has demanded that the probe be canceled, saying it is biased and instigated by the U.S. to target Hezbollah.

Unanimous Decision

The Shiite movement’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said in a televised speech yesterday that his group and its allies “unanimously” decided not to support Saad Hariri to stay on as prime minister. Hariri has backed the UN effort to identify his father’s killers, and his Future movement said it will re- nominate him for the premiership.

Lebanon’s BLOM Stock Index fell 0.4 percent, led by property developer Solidere SAL, the largest publicly traded company in Lebanon, which declined 1 percent.

Karami, 76, is a pro-Syrian politician from the northern city of Tripoli and has served as premier several times. Karami, a lawyer by profession, is the brother of Rashid Karami, a former premier who was killed in 1987 when a bomb blew up his helicopter, and the son of Abdul Hamid Karami, who was prime minister in 1945.

Omar Karami resigned in 2005 as prime minister amid an international outcry over the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, which many Lebanese blamed on Syria. Hariri and 22 others were killed by a roadside bomb in Beirut in February 2005, sparking protests by millions of Lebanese that led to the ouster of Syrian troops from the country after 29 years.

Shiite-Sunni Polarization

“The Lebanese have never been in such a situation before, what’s happening now is unprecedented,” Hamdan said…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Iraq: Christian Doctor Assaulted in Mosul

The victim is one of the most famous cardiologists in the region. An armed group shot him at point-blank range, the man is seriously injured. West accused: you can not do anything for Christians because you no longer have Christian roots and are indifferent to religion.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) — Another targeted attack against Christians in Iraq. On the afternoon of 15 January a group of unidentified criminals entered the Rabi’a hospital, a private clinic in the Sukar district in Mosul and shot a Christian doctor who worked there at point blank rabge. The gun had a silencer, and the doctor was fortunately only seriously wounded.

Nuyia Youssif Nuyia is a specialist cardiologist, very well known in the region. He was the private physician of the late Msgr. Faraj Rahho and many priests and religious. Formerly a military doctor and professor at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Mosul, Nuyia is married with four children. Those who know him said that Nyuia is a Chaldean Catholic, very attached to his faith and his Church.

Those responsible for the incident remain unknown for now. Meanwhile, the Christian community in Iraq has again denounced Western indifference to their plight, despite the Dec. 31 massacre of Copts in Alexandria and the cathedral in Baghdad: “The West can not do anything for Christian, because the West denies its Christian roots and is indifferent to all religions. And another thing that the West does not understand is that in these Muslim countries ‘democracy’ means ‘chaos’. “

Meanwhile, this weekend in Copenhagen, Denmark Iraq’s Christian and Muslim religious leaders met in closed session, in complete secrecy security reasons, in an attempt to try to counter the sectarian violence that has rocked the Christian community . But there’s even greater anticipation for the announcement of a similar meeting in Najaf in southern Iraq.

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

Stakelbeck: Fmr. Senior Mossad Official on Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qaeda

I recently sat down with Ilan Mizrahi, former Deputy Director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service, to discuss the threats gathering against Israel..

In Part 2 today, Mizrahi, who was also head of Israel’s National Security Council from 2006-2008, describes Hezbollah’s presence in the Shia villages of southern Lebanon, as well as the activties of Al Qaeda-linked Salafi groups in southern Lebanon and Gaza.

In Part 1, we discussed Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ grip on that country, as well as the Iran/Russia relationship.

Part 3 of our interview, which addresses Turkey’s turn towards Islamism, will be publsihed tomorrow.

Hope you can check it out.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck[Return to headlines]

Syria: Muslim Brotherhood Says Political Return Possible

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 17 — The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (which suspended its activity two years ago) has not ruled out the possibility of returning to active political life as the opposition party if the regime continues to ignore its requests, said the new head of the group, Mohammed Asshaqfa, cited by Al Quds Al Arabi. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood had decided to suspend its activity as a sign of appreciation for the role of the government played during the Israeli offensive in Gaza. We have not threatened to resume opposition activity, but, commented Asshaqfa, we must always look at our position and assure that it coincides with the changes and the realities of the country. After two years of suspending our activity, the regime, underlined Asshaqfa, continues to oppress our supporters, opposing all religious elements in Syrian society.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Taste of France Takes Hold in Ankara

Le Cafe de l’Etoile, downstairs from the French Culture Center in Ankara, is an example of the dream of the European Union realized. It is a Turkish cafe connected to a French culture center on a street named after a pioneer of European unification, German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, featuring an English man specializing in French cuisine running the place with a Turkish partner.

Here you can find baklava and profiterol, crepes and böreks together in harmony.

The recently opened cafe often surprises many people with its multi-functional, multicultural services for a wide range of customers.

As part of the FCC, it mainly serves as a school canteen for dozens of students of language courses and other activities, with a rather unusually chic setting, atmosphere, presentation and tastes.

At lunchtime, it serves as the cafeteria for FCC staff or students and as a restaurant for customers. With its daily set menus of dishes from French and Turkish cuisines, and beverages including a variety of local and imported wines, offers new tastes and familiar ones.

At nights, except Sundays, it is a proper French bistro and brasserie with daily menus and a la carte foods and drinks welcoming diners.

Cafe Etoile, as it is known by many customers, is also rapidly progressing toward becoming a clubhouse for Francophones, Francophiles, people from French schools, foreign embassies and expats, as its early Christmas dinner held mid-December attracted many people.

“This year we preferred to stay here for Christmas. Therefore, I am very glad that my two children could enjoy the special atmosphere for the occasion by receiving presents from Mother Christmas upstairs and having a French dinner with friends and families like us,” said Magali Jourdan, director of the Charles de Gaulle Primary School, on that special night.

French tastes from a chef born in England

“This is a French place and we should offer some French tastes here,” said Greg Blood from Bournemount, England, the chef and manager of Cafe Etoile with his business partner, Perihan Seyfi, who is responsible for the Turkish menu items.

Blood sounded very assertive about his cooking while telling his story of studying and training to be a chef in France from the age of 16 and progressing his career in two-star Michelin restaurants and later in the Savoy Hotel in London.

He said he had also cooked for quite a few famous people including the queen, late Diana, princess of Wales, four prime ministers and many other celebrities like Charles Bronson, Duran Duran and so on.

But, for his coffees, he was positively sure they are unrivalled. “This is our motto: We make the best coffee in Ankara. If you are not satisfied, you can get your money back,” he said.

The delightful flavors of the coffee and the pastries attract many people. The cafe is often crowded with students during their breaks between language classes. Many of them try to order their coffees in French. Berrin Özbilen said she appreciates having a French cafe downstairs that reminds her of those in France where she had lived for some time.

“As soon as I enter, the ravishing smell of the coffee takes me to the bar and there, when I see the freshly cooked croissants, nobody can stop me then,” she said, with a big smile on her face. “Also, Greg is so cheerful like those in France and his mood affects the atmosphere well.”

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

Turkey Deplores Europe’s ‘Lack of Vision’

Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday (13 January) deplored EU leaders’ “lack of vision” for blocking Ankara’s EU accession talks and described EU visa-free deals for Western Balkan countries as “unacceptable discrimination.”

“We expect more determination from the EU. We expect that Europe keeps its promises regarding a full membership of Turkey,” Mr Davutoglu said during a joint press conference in Ankara with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, as quoted by AFP.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Vladimir Putin ‘To be Targeted by EU Sanctions’

The sanctions, which are being considered by the European Parliament, would ban officials involved with the case from entering the EU and freeze any bank accounts they have inside the 27-nation bloc. At the end of last year, Mr Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, was sentenced to a further six years in jail on top of an existing eight-year prison term that he has been serving out since 2003 on fraud charges many in the West believe are politically-motivated. Russian magazine The New Times reported on Monday that the list of officials being drawn up by the European Parliament in retaliation was likely to include Mr Putin, Igor Sechin, a deputy prime minister, as well as state investigators, prosecutors and judges. The sanctions are being pushed by Kristiina Ojuland, an Estonian MEP. “Europe will stop at nothing for human rights to be observed in Russia,” she told the magazine.

The European Parliament cannot introduce the sanctions on its own but has the power to vote through a detailed resolution recommending that member states implement the sanctions…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesian Christians Against Yudhoyono for Failure to Protect Religious Freedom

The president and the executive forget the fundamental values of the individual to satisfy “political games” and retain power. Christians demand freedom to practice their faith and build churches. In 2010 an exponential growth of violence and attacks against the faithful.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia and the entire ruling class are in the middle of a crisis of “conscience,” paying attention “to political games” and forgetting “the fundamental values of the individual”, including “religious freedom”, Theophilus Bela, president of Jakarta Christian Communication Forum and Secretary General of Indonesian Committee on Religion and Peace tells AsiaNews. The alarm raised by the Christian leader is confirmed by the cases of sectarian violence: “In 2009 — he said — there were a dozen cases of attacks on places of worship or faithful, but by 2010 the number has jumped to 45 episodes” .

President Yudhoyono has urged a closed-door meeting with religious leaders to defuse the controversy around his work and that of the entire executive branch. Last week, nine leaders of the interfaith movement pointed the finger at the authorities, accusing him of failing to keep many promises, including a full implementation of the “freedom of religion.”

In particular, in 2010 there was an exponential growth in cases of attacks against Christians, the violence has involved churches, hospitals and Catholic buildings in West Java, Jakarta, Central Java and Solo, added to dozens of incidents of assaults and devastation wrought by Islamic fundamentalists against Protestant churches, in the complete indifference of the Government of Indonesia.

Interviewed by AsiaNews, Theophilus Bela claims the right to evangelize and freedom of thought for all Indonesians, including Christians. He adds that religious leaders “can not remain silent” if they see something wrong in society. Authorities, he denounces, are also slow to curb cases of violence by Islamic extremist groups. And for Christians, he concludes, there are two crucial points to be resolved: the freedom to practice their faith according to traditional rites and the ability to build churches.

Among the violations of religious freedom, the leader of the Indonesian Committee on Religion and Peace remembers what happened during the recent Christmas festivities in the parish of St. John the Baptist in Parung, Bogor district: local extremists have prevented 3 thousand Catholics from celebrating Mass in a church, confining them to a public car park.

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

Killings of Newborn Babies on the Rise in Pakistan

The lifeless bodies of two tiny babies are being given their final bath before burial in Karachi, after they were left to die in the southern Pakistani city’s garbage dumps.

“They can only have been one or two days old,” says volunteer worker Mohammad Saleem, pointing at the two small corpses being gently washed by his colleagues at a charity’s morgue.

In the conservative Muslim nation, where the birth of children outside of marriage is condemned and adultery is a crime punishable by death under strict interpretations of Islamic law, infanticide is a crime on the rise.

More than 1,000 infants — most of them girls — were killed or abandoned to die in Pakistan last year according to conservative estimates by the Edhi Foundation, a charity working to reverse the grim trend.

The infanticide figures are collected only from Pakistan’s main cities, leaving out huge swathes of the largely rural nation, and the charity says that in December alone it found 40 dead babies left in garbage dumps and sewers.

The number of dead infants found last year — 1,210 — was up from 890 in 2008 and 999 in 2009, says the Edhi Foundation manager in Karachi, Anwar Kazmi.

Tragic tales abound.

Kazmi recounts the discovery of the burnt body of a six-day-old infant who had been strangled. Another child was found on the steps of a mosque having been stoned to death on the orders of an extremist imam who has since disappeared, he says.

“Do not murder, lay them here,” reads a sign hanging outside the charity’s Karachi base where it has left cradles in the hope that parents will abandon their unwanted children there, instead of leaving them to die.

“People leave these children mostly because they think they are illegitimate, but they are as innocent and loveable as all human beings,” says the charity’s founder, well-known humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Christian Women Attacked, Publicly Humiliated in Lahore Based on False Blasphemy Accusations

Victims are now in a safe place because of the danger of more violence. A mob of angry Muslims beat and humiliated the two women, who are mother and daughter. The incident was triggered by a domestic dispute between them and the Muslim wife of their son and brother. A Pakistani priest says that unless there is separation between state and religion, Pakistan will slide into civil war.

Lahore (AsiaNews) — Two Christian women, mother and daughter, who recently suffered violence and humiliation, are now in a safe place. An angry mob turned against them in Lahore, beating them, after they were accused of blasphemy. The incident began with a dispute between the two and a Muslim woman, who is married to their son and brother, over the religious education of the mixed couple’s daughter. Mgr Rufin Anthony reacted to the fact, slamming Pakistani society’s increasing intolerance, a sociological problem it must deal with the utmost urgency.

Speaking from their hideout, John Chand, son and brother of the victims, told AsiaNews that the two women “are afraid of being attacked by extremists” and are hiding to avoid being killed.

The mob beat Saira Chand and her mother so badly that both lost consciousness. At some point during the attack, some of the abusers put necklaces made of old shoes around their necks, smeared their faces and put them on the back of donkeys to parade around their east Lahore neighbourhood. After regaining consciousness, the two women vehemently rejected the accusations of blasphemy, touching their feet repeatedly, to demand pity from their tormentors.

A local Muslim leader, Mian Muhammad Sameer, said he did everything to get the two women to “confess” their crime of blasphemy.

A member of Sameer, the same organisation to which Malik Mumtaz Qadri, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer’s murderer, belonged, he said he was proud of his wife, who “beat Saira more than anyone else.”

“Her hand is so swollen she hasn’t been able to cook since the day of the incident. I’ve been getting my meals from a restaurant,” he added.

According to John Chand, the violence was sparked by a dispute between his wife Amina Zaheer, who is Muslim, and his sister Saira, who is Christian, which got worse after the mixed couple had a baby girl.

Matters were already difficult from even before. Amina’s father Zaheer Malik had already objected to her marriage unless John converted to Islam. However, the two got married in court and each kept their religion.

The issue became more complicated when their daughter was born. John wanted to name her Sonia and raise her in the Christian faith. His wife and father-in-law wanted her to grow up a Muslim.

The blasphemy charge was levelled when Saira and Amina had a row that involved Saira’s mother.

When Amina left her mother-in-law’s home, she began accusing the two Christian women of insulting the Prophet Muhammad, and this sparked action by local Muslim extremists.

Eventually, the two women escaped to safe place thanks to the help of Zameer Khan, an NGO worker, who saved their life.

For him, the issue had nothing to do with blasphemy but was just a dispute between two women. Senior Superintendent of Police Zulfiqar Hameed agrees. According to the police officer, it is “a domestic issue” in which Saira was unfairly accused.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Mgr Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, said, “Our society is becoming more and more violent, intolerant and wild.”

The problem is not religious or ethnic but “sociological”, one “that needs to be addressed quickly”.

“Events have come to this stage in the country’s history where religion is being abused to settle personal scores,” said Fr Xavier Joseph.

“State and religion must be separate,” he added; otherwise, “there will be a civil war and that will be the end of the Pakistan as we know it”.

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

Pakistan: Blasphemy Laws Must Not be Scrapped, Says Musharraf

Mr Musharraf said rather than amend the legislation punishing those convicted of insulting Islam, Pakistan needed to ensure the laws were not abused.

The laws have come under scrutiny after a Christian mother-of-five, Asia Bibi, was sentenced to death for defaming the Prophet Mohammed in her Punjab village.

Salman Taseer, governor of the state, was then killed by one of his own bodyguards for backing reform of the law, in an assassination exposing deep division between liberal and conservative Pakistan. Mr Musharraf said blasphemy was deeply sensitive in the country and doing away with it was not possible. He did say however that Mumtaz Qadri, the bodyguard, must face trial.

“The killer of the governor, he is a culprit, he is a criminal, he must be tried and he must be punished,” he said during an interview in London.

While no one has ever been executed under the blasphemy laws and most are freed on appeal, as many as 10 accused are thought to have been murdered while on trial…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Pakistan Bus Bombing Kills 18 People in Northwest City

At least 18 people were killed and nine were injured when a bomb exploded on a passenger bus in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Kohat.

The bus was travelling from the town of Hangu, Islam Uddin, a local police official who’s responsible for the area, said by phone. “We heard the blast as soon as the bus crossed a police checkpoint,” he said from Kohat. An explosion on Dec. 8 also killed 18 people in Kohat.

Pakistan’s government blames Taliban militants based in the country’s tribal regions for terrorist violence. Hundreds of civilians and security officials have died in retaliatory bomb and gunfire attacks since Pakistan’s army in October 2009 began an offensive against Taliban guerrillas in the tribal region of South Waziristan, near the border with Afghanistan. The U.S. last year also increased drone missile strikes that target the militants…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Islamists Torch Pope in Effigy. Again.

The Islamists yesterday were so upset that Pope Benedict XVI had the gall to criticize them for killing Christians that they burned the Pope in effigy, according to Weasel Zippers. At least we think it was the Pope. That’s what they’re saying but looking at some recent pics of some good ol’ fashioned effigy burning and you’ll see it’s difficult to tell.

OK. This has got to stop. Somebody in the Muslim world needs to step up and procure some skillz at effigy making.

And now that Bush is gone let’s face it, they only have one guy to burn in effigy and that’s Pope Benedict. So why can’t they make a flammable likeness of Pope Benedict? I mean, is it that hard? Do they not have paper mache in the third world?

The Middle East sends their young over to America to go to school to learn how to build bombs, why can’t they send one stinkin’ guy to take some art classes and learn how to build a model Pope? It shouldn’t be that hard.

Something tells me that if they don’t improve in their effigy making it won’t be for lack of burning the Pope’s likeness. Because sometimes it seems that he’s the only one willing to speak the truth and they know it…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Far East

Frank Gaffney: Hu’s Becoming First?

In one of the great comedic routines of all time, Abbott and Costello went round and round about a baseball player by the name of Who and which base he was on. As Chinese President Hu Jintao shows up to be feted in Washington this week, the question is not whether Who’s on first, but whether Hu’s becoming first — the leader of a nation on a trajectory not merely to rival the United States as a “peer competitor,” but to supplant it as the world’s only superpower? Unfortunately, the answer may be no laughing matter.

It is well known that China has long been striving to emerge as a preeminent economic power. Using a model that is more fascist than communist, Beijing has enjoyed extraordinary success in the past three decades in: attracting foreign investment and technology; harnessing such assets, in combination with an immense and easily exploited workforce, to transform the PRC’s productive capacity; and exporting the resulting abundance of increasingly high quality goods to markets around the world. This dynamic combination of factors has garnered Beijing, among other things, vast hard currency reserves.

These reserves have been used to acquire huge, and politically useful, positions in the U.S. and other foreign debt markets. And of late, Communist China has been applying them to buy up not only valuable — and often undervalued — corporations in the West. Beijing is also obtaining colonial-style control of energy and other natural resources (including, notably some 98% of the world’s exports of rare earth minerals that are indispensable for state-of-the-art manufacturing for a host of commercial and military purposes). And the PRC is aggressively taking over a growing number of what amount to strategic facilities and forward operating bases around the world, from Cuba and the Panama Canal to Myanmar and Africa…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Darwin’s ‘Dirty Secret’ Washed From Streets

A SHOPPING centre manager has lifted the lid on “Darwin’s dirty secret,” saying a large amount of human faeces is washed on to the city streets every day.

The manager of Fannie Bay shops, who asked not to be named, said he was using a fire hose up to three times a day to wash the poo from concrete footpaths.

“We just push it on to the street and the public walks in it every day. It is a dirty secret in Darwin,” he told the Northern Territory News.

He said it was not just Fannie Bay that had the problem, but also Parap, Stuart Park and in the “nooks and crannies,” at all shops around Darwin.

Lisa Johnston, who works at Fannie Bay cafe the Cool Spot, said she smelled it every time she got to work at 6 o’clock in the morning, “just after they have finished hosing it down”.

“It is pretty rank in the morning,” she said.

Port Darwin MLA John Elferink has also noticed the proliferation of poo around Parap. On Saturday morning he found it outside his office.

“I found four little deposits along the back — it is just gross,” he said.

He also found excrement in Parap car park.

Mr Elferink said he had complaints from real estate agents and local residents in the past week.

Itinerants were being blamed for the extra excrement this wet season. Many had moved their camps under the cover of shops to escape the rain.

At Fannie Bay shops about 20 people have moved in to Keith Lane, complete with mattresses, pillows and sheets, over the past couple of weeks.

Mr Elferink said Darwin City Council should re-examine its policy of closing public toilets at night.

But the Fannie Bay shops manager said the real issue was that the council was not enforcing its by-laws by cracking down on illegal campers and fining them.

Darwin City Council chief executive Brendan Dowd said council officers did not fine indigenous homeless people.

“Their financial circumstances mean they have little capacity to pay a fine,” Mr Dowd said.

Instead the council was working with police to increase patrols in the area.

Poo is not a new problem for Darwin. In July the NT News reported council rangers were cleaning up human faeces from parks several times a day.

Mr Dowd said the council was reviewing its policy on closing public toilets at night.

The NT Government was also in the process of seeking further funding for the “Return to Country” program to help people presently stranded in Darwin return to their communities.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Uganda: Several Christians Hastily Convert to Islam for Clothes

A group of Christians has suddenly converted to Islam in order to receive free items donated by a Dubai-based company and the United Arab Emirates Red Crescent.

This comes after Muslim landslide victims from Mount Elgon in eastern Uganda (locally called Baduda) who were relocated by the government to the western Ugandan district of Kiryandongo received items donated by a Dubai-based company called Al Crownfolest and the Red Crescent society of United Arab Emirates.

The donated items, worth over $500,000, and solicited by a Ugandan-based local NGO called Iganga Islamic Development Association were distributed last Thursday. Among the items donated were over 3,000 new pairs of trousers, 1,000 copies of the Islamic holy Koran, 500 T-shirts, 2,000 belts and thousands of skirts. The items included no Bibles.

Hasty Conversions

On seeing the Muslims clad in new clothes, and knowing that more clothes were to be distributed soon, over 20 Christians from the resettlement village and neighboring villages converted to Islam in order to get their share of the items.

All items were handed to the Muslim Baduda by the Director of Iganga Islamic Development Association, Abdul Majid Nkolawano. Some were kept in the local resettlement store for future distribution to Muslims by the resettlement village officials.

A neighboring village chief, George Nangwali, said, “Some Christians decided to convert to Islam after establishing that more donations were to be distributed soon. I have learned of three young men who have got circumcised in the last three days so that they become Muslims and qualify to get donated items. Most of the converts are women.”

After Nangwali confirmed that over 20 people had crossed from Christianity to Islam, one of the leaders of the resettled community, Justus Wambede, suggested that poverty and lack of resources could be responsible for the conversions.

Basic Requirements

“People are suffering from poverty. The government gives us some food but it is not enough. We do not have cooking oil and paraffin to light our lanterns. Some people want to get the items so that they sell and get to buy basic requirements” Wambede said…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Greeks Back Gov’t Plan to Fence Out Migrants

Most Greeks agree with a government plan to build a fence along the land border with Turkey to keep illegal immigrants out of the country, a poll showed on Sunday.

Eight of every 10 Greeks support the proposal to erect a 12.5-kilometer barricade, and almost nine in 10 said immigrants who don’t qualify for asylum should be expelled from the country, according to the Marc SA poll of 1,014 Greeks published in Ethnos newspaper.

Illegal immigration has swelled in recent years as people fleeing countries like Iraq and Afghanistan seek entry to the European Union through Greece’s borders. Citizen Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis, who appealed for assistance from the EU last year to stem the wave, said last month one option was to build a fence along the Turkish border.

The influx has coincided with Greece’s economic decline, which led to the country securing a 110 billion-euro ($147 billion) bailout from the EU and the International Monetary Fund last year to stave off default in return for wage and pension cuts and tax increases.

The Marc poll, conducted Jan. 11 to Jan. 13, showed 40 percent don’t believe Greece can avoid bankruptcy, compared with 56 percent who said it could. Changes to labor rules and closed professions were deemed necessary by 65 percent of those polled.

Prime Minister George Papandreou and his socialist PASOK government won 28 percent of voter support compared with 21 percent for the opposition New Democracy party in the survey. More than 81 percent said they didn’t want early elections. The margin of error was 2.5 percentage points to 2.8 percentage points.

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

UK: ‘Psychotic’ Afghan Asylum Seeker Had to be Forcibly Removed From Foster Family After Lying About Being a Child

A psychotic asylum seeker was placed in a foster family with young children — even though he was not even a child, London’s High Court heard.

When the Afghan refugee — referred to only as CJ — arrived at the Port of Dover hanging from the bottom of a lorry in 2008, he told officials he was aged just 15.

Cardiff County Council became responsible for him after he was ‘dispersed’ to the Welsh capital.

The council expressed doubts about his true age — assessing him as being five years older than he claimed — but, after seeing documents which seemed to tally with his claim to be a child, he was placed with a foster family in August 2009.

Despite social workers reservations, he was sent to live with a family which included young children.

After just one day in their care he threatened to take the young daughter of the family to Iran, said judge, Mr Justice Ouseley.

His behaviour was so disturbed that he had to be forcibly removed from the home by three police officers — one of whom he assaulted — and brought under control using leg restraints and handcuffs.

He was swiftly admitted to the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit at Whitchurch Hospital where he was diagnosed as ‘floridly psychotic’, expressing beliefs that he was God.

The foster family and medics who saw CJ were all convinced he was ‘much older than 15’ and ‘at least in his early 20s.’

But Cardiff Council had to spend thousands of pounds gathering expert evidence to prove he was an adult.

The question of whether he was a child or an adult was of crucial importance to whether the council owed a duty to look after him as a child in need and the dispute ended up the subject of a hugely expensive, three-day High Court hearing.

CJ told the judge that it had taken up to eight months for him to travel to the UK.

He claimed he had travelled from Calais concealed under a lorry before a kindly stranger gave him a train ticket to London.

The legally aided asylum seeker insisted his date of birth was September 20 1993, making him 15 when he arrived, but the council was equally adamant he was five years older.

However, after council lawyers presented a raft of expert and other evidence, Mr Justice Ouseley refused to believe his claim that, even now, he is just 17 and still a child.

‘He could be between 18 and 22, but I found just 17 impossible to accept and untruthfully alleged’, said the judge.

He added that he had ‘real doubts’ about CJ’s credibility and was ‘not satisfied’ that documents said to support his claim were authentic.

The judge concluded: ‘I am not persuaded that CJ was under 18 when he arrived in the UK. He is now over 20.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Immigration is the Issue That Just Won’t Go

It’s a harsh word, isn’t it? So harsh it cost Gordon Brown the general election. When he used it, referring to Gillian Duffy’s perfectly reasonable concerns about the impact immigration is having on local services, he was roundly condemned. It probably cost him the general election.

Which is why, as I wandered out of a pub in the Oldham East and Saddleworth constituency earlier this week, I found myself thinking twice. Should I use it to describe the group of men I had just been talking to? In the end I did, as you can read here. I had tottered in seeking a toilet, if I’m honest, but the sudden silence which greeted me made me stop in my track. It was broken only by a growling northern voice observing that “he’s wearing a suit”. I quickly ordered a pint. Half an hour later, as I tweeted, I was “feeling pretty hollow inside”.

I had raised the Oldham race riots, which occurred ten years ago this year, as a conversation starter. It’s got much worse since then, they explained. Those “smelly” Muslims had been taking people’s jobs, sponging off the benefits system and clustering together, squeezing white people out of communities. It was appalling stuff. Had I stumbled into a BNP meeting?

Disgraced Labour MP Phil Woolas lost his court case, and paid the price with his career, after he attempted to “make the white folk angry”. He needn’t have bothered with this bunch. They were already fuming. So was I when one of them suggested that the only real “solution” to the “problem” was to “kill all Muslims”. I’m not sure anything has ever shocked me more. But then something did: all those present were nodding their heads, muttering in agreement, forthright and confident they had come up with the answer. They were advocating genocide. I left shortly afterwards.

Immigration wasn’t really a big issue in the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election. People were worried about jobs, and the VAT rise, and fears of falling police numbers. But the politicians didn’t worry much about community relations in Oldham, which contains some of the most deprived areas in the country. It was the same during last year’s general election — until Brown’s ‘bigotgate’ gaffe highlighted the biggest single concern on the doorsteps. The politicians don’t want to talk about it.

I don’t blame them for it. All mainstream parties have reasonably similar views on immigration, believe it or not. They believe the system needs to be managed carefully. But they also acknowledge that immigration brings great value to the British economy and realise they couldn’t possibly get by without it. Yes, the Conservative approach panders more to the widespread concerns of many. But they’re not advocating that we should “kill all Muslims”, are they? No, the politicians hope to keep the headache under wraps as much as they possibly can. It doesn’t always work. Every so often an issue comes along which makes sparks fly.

It happened last weekend when former home secretary Jack Straw raised concerns that the Pakistani community wasn’t doing enough to stop its young men “preying” on white girls. This is a problem, according to Straw’s judgement, which is so big it simply has to be brought out into the open. He may as well not have bothered, if the reactions of the Muslim community in Oldham were anything to go by. At a hustings event in the constituency ahead of this week’s by-election, hastily organised by the Muslim community, the view was a simple refusal to recognise the problem. “When a Muslim does something it automatically becomes a reflection on the community,” one person said. “As a member of the Pakistani community, I’m certainly not responsible.”

The automatic reflex of the Muslim community, then, is a reflex towards victimisation. They’re being singled out, they feel, and can’t see the link between an individual’s actions and the pressures brought to bear on them by a community. Yet according to voters in the more liberal, affluent Saddleworth part of the constituency, the problem has been around for years — even decades. Straw, a politician who’s been around the block a few times, has been backed up. The problem is simple: the Asian community feels too stigmatised to respond…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

30,000 Pupils Branded ‘Racist, Homophobic Bigots by Teachers, Even at Nursery

More than 10,000 primary school pupils in a single year have been labelled racist or homophobic over minor squabbles.

Even toddlers in nursery classes are being penalised for so-called hate crimes such as using the words ‘white trash’ or ‘gaylord’.

Schools are forced to report their language to education authorities, which keep a register of incidents.

This leads to at least 30,000 primary and secondary pupils per year being effectively classed as bigots because of anti-bullying rules.

The school can also keep the pupil’s name and ‘offence’ on file. The record can be passed from primaries to secondaries or when a pupil moves between schools at the request of the new head.

And if schools are asked for a pupil reference by a future employer or a university, the record could be used as the basis for it, meaning the pettiest of incidents has the potential to blight a child for life.

Figures for the year 2008-9 were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the civil liberties group, the Manifesto Club.

They show 29,659 racist incidents reported by schools to local education authorities in England and Wales. Of these, 10,436 were at primary schools and 41 at nursery schools…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

The Worrying Decline of Free Speech in Great Britain

disturbing new trend is slowly arising in Great Britain which if unchecked could spell the end of the relatively free society we live in and risks taking us back to a less tolerant age.

Today it emerged that an artist in Folkestone, Kent, had a visit from the police after complaints that one of his works, displayed in the front window of his gallery, was offensive.

The work in question certainly appears to be aimed at provoking if not offending its viewers. It shows David Beckham being crucified in place of Jesus, while wearing an England shirt, a crown of thorns and a loincloth. The Holy Grail also makes an appearance in the form of the Jules Rimet cup.

The artist, Johnny Cotter, claims that the work is not anti-Christian, but is meant to ask what people in the 21st century worship. This did not stop a group of Christians staging a minor protest outside his gallery, nor did it stop an unknown person or persons complaining to the police.

The police duly paid Mr Cotter, telling him the work had generated complaints that it caused “offence”. In the end however the police took no action after it became clear that the work would be taken off display by the end of this week.

The incident adds to a growing body of evidence that freedom of speech, long cherished by many, is slowly being undermined so as to avoid the heinous crime of “causing offence”. Mr Cotter has subsequently, and rightly, contacted the police to find out what law they were acting under when they visited him.

In 2009 a similar incident occurred when a pair of Christian hoteliers were taken to court for allegedly telling a Muslim guest that they considered Mohammad to be a “warlord” during a discussion on their respective faiths.

The hoteliers, Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang, were both cleared of any wrongdoing, although their business reportedly suffered significantly as a result of the negative publicity surrounding their hotel.

While both Mr Cotter and the Vogelenzangs may not have had any legal punishments imposed upon them, the very fact that such incidents became news is a worrying sign.

Personally I’m not sure which is worse, that there are people who think the police should arrest people who disagree with or offend them, or that the police, when receiving such requests, take them seriously enough to investigate and even bring the “offenders” to court, as happened to the Vogelenzangs.

Already the idea that minor personal disagreements should be the stuff of lawsuits and tribunals has gained acceptance in some official circles. Last year Kent Council was forced to pay thousands of pounds of taxpayers money in legal and compensation costs to a trade unionist who took offence at a “racist” Irish joke told by a Conservative councillor…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


pacificwaters said...

Thye just had to pay a fine of £1800 to both of the complainants.