Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110129

Financial Crisis
»Merkel Says Debt Biggest Danger to Europe
»Spain: Faine: CaixaBank Created With International Calling
»Spain: ‘Historic Pact’ Signed on Pension Reform
»UK: Three Million Drivers Who Use Their Car for Work Hit by £2,000-a-Year Bill
»VAT: From Italy to Greece, 8 States Sued Over Travel Agencies
»Al-Qaeda to American Muslims: Kill the Infidel, Make a Living!
»Bill Aimed at Protecting S.C. From Foreign Law Introduced in Legislature
»Congressional Review Sought of ‘Forced Unionization’
»Editorial: No Safety in Shariah
»Rep. Moran: GOP Won Midterms Due to Racism
»U.S. Woman Due to Change Plea in Terrorism Case
»Was Shah’s Son ‘Murdered’ By Regime on U.S. Soil?
»White Nationalists’ Conference Stymied
»Woman Who Spied on Joe the Plumber Gets Six Figure County Job
Europe and the EU
»French Increasingly Anxious About Muslims
»Germany Celebrates Automobile’s 125th Anniversary
»Greece: Brussels: Unfair School Bus Service Tender
»Italy: Union Stages One-Day National Strike Against Fiat
»Italy: Prosecutors Poised to Make Berlusconi-Ruby Trial Request
»Italy: Rome Reopens House of Vestal Virgins
»Italy: Culture Minister Survives Confidence Vote Over Pompeii Collapses
»Italy: Officials Arrested Over Naples Trash Crisis
»Most Popular Swedish Baby Names Unveiled
»Netherlands: Amsterdam Police Win Gay Rights Award
»Paris Fires Ambassador After Gaffe on Ben Ali
»Polish Church Observes ‘Islam Day’
»Sweden: Bildt: North Africa Faces ‘Demographic Tsunami’
»UK: Bolton Machete Gang Kidnap Takeaway Delivery Man
»UK: Judge Slams ‘Soft’ Sentencing Options That Prevented Him Jailing Burglar
»UK: Left-Wing Protesters in Vile Racist Attack on Student Union Leader
»UK: Leicester Mercury, Mailbox, Letters, This is Leicestershire
»UK: Muslim Wives in Nottingham Have Been Warned That Their Marriages Might Not be Legally Binding if They Had a Traditional Islamic Ceremony.
»UK: We Reveal the £140,000 Cost of Those Big Fat Gypsy Weddings (Just Don’t Ask Where the Cash Comes From)
»Serbia: US Donates USD365,000 to Kraljevo
Mediterranean Union
»UFM: France Urges New Impetus for Mediterranean Union
North Africa
»An Interview on the Egyptian Revolt: I’m Worried That Others Aren’t Worried
»Did Muslim Brotherhood Learn ‘Day of Rage’ Egypt Protest Tactics From Obama Allies Bill Ayers and Code Pink?
»Egypt: 100 People Killed in Protests, Gov’t Resigns
»Egypt: Intifada Until Regime Steps Down, El Baradei Says
»Egypt: Cairo: Anti-Mubarak Protests Continue, At Least 50 Dead From Clashes
»Egyptian President Sacks His Entire Cabinet
»Mark Mardell’s America: Obama’s Caution on Egypt is Winning No Friends
»Most US Aid to Egypt Goes to Military
»Obama: Egypt Protests Are Opportunity for Reforms
»Special Report: The Revolt in Egypt and U.S. Policy
»Tunisia: CGTT Union Asks to be Legalised
»Tunisia: Protracted Protests Worry Tourism Operators
»Tunisia: Tourism, Thomas Cook’s Return Once Again Postponed
»Tunisia: Monastir Airport, Import-Export Resumes
»Will Barack Obama Have a Jimmy Carter Moment?
Middle East
»Cost-Benefit Analysis of Turkey’s Foreign Policy
»Iran Hangs Dutch Iranian Woman on Drugs Charges
»Iran Hangs Iranian-Dutch Woman Sahra Bahrami
»Iran: Online Islamic Law Encylopedia ‘Wiqifiqh’ Launched
»Iranian Opposition Leader Hails Egypt Protests
»Saudi Shares Tumble on Egypt Protests
»The Birth of Hizballahstan
»U.S. Policy Shaken by Middle East Uprisings
»Moscow Airport Attack: Suicide Bomber Confirmed From North Caucasus
»Moscow Airport Bombing: Why a Terrorist Mastermind is Sending Chills Down Spines
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Kandahar Deputy Governor Killed by Suicide Bomber
»India: Christian Leaders Denounce Dangerous Supreme Court Comments on the Murder of Graham Staines
»Pakistan: Karachi: Women on Streets in Support of the Blasphemy Law
Far East
»In Japan, Kiko’s Way Doesn’t Fly
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Chandlers’ Teenage Kidnap Suspect Held in Kenya as Police Reveal Five Somali Pirates Have Links to Asylum-Claim Families in Britain
»Six Killed in Nigerian Political Massacre
»Sudan Facebook Group Calls for Protests
»Two Sailors From Hijacked German Ship Found in Lifeboat
»40:000 Illegal Workers in North Cyprus
Culture Wars
»Canada: Court Hearing Has Highlighted Dark Consequences of Polygamy
»Video: Dr. Srdja Trifkovic: Is PCism Worse Than Communism?

Financial Crisis

Merkel Says Debt Biggest Danger to Europe

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday called on fellow European countries to slash their deficits, warning that debt is the main threat to the economies of the crisis-hit eurozone.

“Indebtedness is the biggest danger for prosperity on this continent. This is why we have to resolutely work against it,” Merkel told business leaders gathered at the Davos meeting of the World Economic Forum.

The leader of Europe’s biggest economy also renewed her pledge to defend the bloc’s single currency, adding that “there is no doubt about this and we need to pursue a policy of euro stability.”

Germany has been pushing for reforms in the eurozone, calling for indebted countries such as Greece and Ireland to reduce their borrowing and Merkel pointed to her own country as an example.

“Budget consolidation remains of prime importance to us and has not caused us any problems, quite the opposite,” said Merkel.

The German economy has rebounded strongly from a deep recession to register record output last year and Merkel noted that her country, the world’s second-biggest exporter after China, had also reduced its reliance on exports.

“Consumer confidence has returned to Germany and we have a strong boost to

domestic consumption,” she said.

“That to me shows that sound fiscal policy and growth do not need to be a contradiction in terms,” she argued.

Merkel echoed earlier comments at Davos from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who pledged that Paris and Berlin would “never abandon the euro.”

“There is no crisis of the euro as such. This is essentially a debt crisis … we now have to overcome it,” she told the assembled delegates.

“If the euro fails, then Europe fails,” she reiterated.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: Faine: CaixaBank Created With International Calling

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 28 — CaixaBank, the bank into which the Catalan savings bank La Caixa has been converted, is born with “international calling”. This claim was made today in Barcelona during the presentation of the 2010 results of the financial institute by its chairman Isidre Fainé. “The board of directors decided yesterday to create a bank”, said Fainé, quoted by Europa Press.

La Caixa closed the year 2010 with a result of 1.3 billion euros, 13.4% less than in the previous financial year. The savings bank booked 2.651 billion in commissions to deal with insolvencies and recorded a default rate of 3.71%.

Its core capital by the end of 2010 reached 8.6%, with a Tier-1 of 9.9%, “much higher than the level that is required by the government” of savings banks for their recapitalisation.

The coverage rate was raised to 70%, and the liquidity level by the end of 2010 was 19.638 billion euros.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: ‘Historic Pact’ Signed on Pension Reform

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 28 — Today the Spanish press welcomed the agreement that was closed by the government, the unions and the confederation of industry on the pension reform, calling it a “historic pact”. El Pais also describes the deal as a prelude “to the broad social pact” on economic reforms launched by the government to contain the public deficit.

The agreement with the associations of industrialists and small enterprises, Ceoe and Cepyme, and with the trade unions CcOo and Ugt, closed today at the break of day, regards “the content of the pension reform, certain political commitments and the basic criteria for the revision of the collective bargaining”, the Labour Ministry writes in a statement. The pension reform bill, which raises the retirement age from 65 to 67 and allows workers who have accumulated 38.5 years of contributions to retire at the age of 65, should be approved by the directions of the unions and entrepreneurs. It is expected to be approved today in cabinet. The same Ministry adds that negotiations on policies regarding work, industry, energy, science and innovation will continue in the coming days. The People’s Party (PP), in opposition, has made contradicting statements. PP vice secretary-general of regional and local policies Javier Arenas today spoke of a “favourable attitude” to the framework agreement, adding that the party has to “assess it from A to Z” before making a final judgement. The PP’s coordinator of the economic area, Cristibal Montoro, said on the other hand that he does not agree with the fact that “the main opposition party has not been involved in the negotiations on such an important question”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Three Million Drivers Who Use Their Car for Work Hit by £2,000-a-Year Bill

Motorists who use their own cars for work are being penalised by up to £2,000 a year because the Treasury has failed to recognise the rise in the price of petrol.

Drivers who use their own cars to get to work are entitled to claim fuel as a tax-free expense.

But as reported in today’s Telegraph, more than three million people are to be hit with extra costs because the government will not update the tax-free limit from 40p a mile.

Yesterday diesel rose to a record 133.2p a litre while average petrol prices were 128.6p a litre.

According to the AA the running cost for a small car is 42.96p a mile, whereas for a saloon it is 53.25p.

For a family-sized car the amount comes to 62.88p.

Those who use their own car for work drive an average distance of 8,670 miles a year, say the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association.

As a result the driver of a family car has to fork out £1,907 a year because of the Treasury’s failure to keep track of rising fuel costs.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

VAT: From Italy to Greece, 8 States Sued Over Travel Agencies

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JANUARY 28 — The European Commission has decided to defer eight member States to the EU Court of Justice: France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Poland, the Czech Republic and Finland, for failing to implement EU regulations on VAT regarding travel agencies correctly. The decision regards some particular dispositions for travel agencies that sell package deals, the so-called “special VAT margin regime”. These regulations simplify the application of VAT when the elements of these package deals are located in several different countries with different VAT regulations. The regime is not applied to travel agencies when they sell package vacations to other companies, particularly to other travel agencies for resale.

The eight summonsed members States have not applied the special regime correctly, allowing it to be applied on sales between travel agencies as well. This situation leads to unfair competition between the various travel agencies, in which some agencies pay more tax than others.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Al-Qaeda to American Muslims: Kill the Infidel, Make a Living!

Al-Qaeda is undertaking a new strategy: encouraging American Muslims to become a self-sustaining arm of the international jihad.

In the latest issue of Inspire magazine, published by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, American al-Qaeda commander Anwar al-Awlaki declares that Sharia law requires American Muslims to commit robbery, embezzlement, and theft, for the purpose of funding jihad attacks, financially supporting groups committed to Salafi-jihadi causes, and covering their living expenses.

Al-Awlaki admits that Islamic law allows legitimate Muslim rulers to enter into binding treaties and covenants with non-Muslim nations, but he quickly dismisses this possibility by stating that there are no legitimate Muslim rulers in the world today because they are all apostates. He adds that — even if there were legitimate Muslim rulers — treaties and covenants could not be made with the U.S. because it is at war with Islam.

After a lengthy analysis of how the four schools of Sunni Islam view this topic, he concludes that:

In the case of the United States, both the government and private citizens should be targeted. America and Americans are the Imams of kufr in this day and age. The American people who vote for war mongering governments are intent on no good. Anyone who inflicts harm on them in any form is doing a favor to the ummah. … Since jihad around the world is in dire need of financial support, we urge our brothers in the West to take it upon themselves to give this issue a priority in their plans. Rather than the Muslims financing their jihad from their own pockets, they should finance it from the pockets of their enemies.

Many commentators have mistakenly focused on this new statement as a sign of al-Qaeda’s financial weakness, but they widely miss the point.

Al-Qaeda has never hidden the fact that it needs money. For years, Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and other al-Qaeda leaders have repeatedly cajoled and pleaded for more money from the faithful.

The actual point is that — as of about a year ago — al-Qaeda launched a dynamic new strategic campaign designed to turn American Muslims against their government and transform them into an active and self-sustaining arm of the global jihad. Al-Awlaki’s new declaration simply tells them how they can finance their attacks and make a living at the same time…

           — Hat tip: Swenglish Rantings[Return to headlines]

Bill Aimed at Protecting S.C. From Foreign Law Introduced in Legislature

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A legislative initiative aimed at preventing “a court or other enforcement authority” from enforcing foreign law in the Palmetto State was introduced today in both the S.C. House and Senate by Rep. Wendy Nanney (who drafted the bill) and Sen. Mike Fair respectively, who say the bill will preempt violations of a person’s constitutional rights resulting from the application of foreign law. Legislators and other proponents of the bill say America has unique values of liberty which do not exist in foreign legal systems. Yet foreign laws are increasingly finding their way into U.S. court cases, particularly in the area of family law, involving divorce and child custody where, for instance, Islamic Shariah Law has been invoked in several U.S. states.

According to Christopher Holton with the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Security Policy (CSP), “There are numerous examples in dozens of states in which parties to such a dispute attempted to invoke Shariah.”

David Yersushalmi, general counsel to the CSP, argues it’s not just “patently bad foreign laws [creeping into our court systems],” it’s that once in the system, the state’s police power would be used to “enforce laws that could never pass federal or state constitutional muster.”

Fair agrees, which is why he introduced the bill in the Senate.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Congressional Review Sought of ‘Forced Unionization’

Obama-run board set to overturn vote will of workers, again

A report to be published next month by the Capital Research Center in Washington will call on Congress to investigate what it describes as the “forced unionization” of workers in the United States, and how “Big Brother” government is playing a role.

The report was assembled by Barbara Comstock, a former counsel for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and founder of Comstock Strategies, which deals with labor union issues.


It was referring to the National Mediation Board, which can wield a sledgehammer in such situations.

“Last fall, the [board] issued a rule change on how union elections are held for airlines and railroads, which it clearly hoped would tilt the elections in favor of the union. The rule change was directly requested by the AFL-CIO in a private letter to the board,” the report explained.

What the government change means is that a majority of those who vote in a union election can make a determination — not a majority of those in the union. For example, in a workforce of 20,000, 2,501 votes would make the determination if there were 5,000 votes cast.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Editorial: No Safety in Shariah

The barbaric Middle Eastern practice of honor killing has made an appearance on our shores. It happens when men murder members of their own family to avenge purported slights against Islam. For instance, Pakistan-born Muzzammil Hassan allegedly beat and then beheaded his wife Aasiya in Buffalo, N.Y. on Feb. 12, 2009. Six days earlier, Aasiya announced her intention to file for divorce and obtained a restraining order.

In another example, Iraq-born Faleh-Hassan Almaleki allegedly ran down his 20-year-old daughter Noor with his Jeep Cherokee near their Phoenix home on Oct. 20, 2009. Noor was killed and the mother of her boyfriend was injured. Prosecutors say Almaleki was angry at his daughter for refusing an arranged marriage.

These cases bear the signs of honor killings and the men, both Muslims, are currently on trial for murder. If the crimes had been committed in their home countries — where Shariah law forms the foundation for judicial proceedings — the defendants frequently escape serious punishment because witnesses often refuse to testify out of fear.

Texas and Wyoming want to make sure legal concepts based on the Koran don’t gain a foothold in America. Proposed state constitutional amendments would ban the use of Shariah and other forms of international law from the courtroom. On Election Day in November, Oklahomans gave an overwhelming 70 percent approval to a similar amendment to the Sooner State constitution.

While a Shariah ban ought to be a no-brainer, it has generated significant controversy. In November, a federal magistrate sided with the Council of American-Islamic Relations and ordered an injunction that blocked certification of Oklahoma’s amendment. Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange wrote that a Muslim activist would suffer “a stigma attaching to his person, relegating him to an ineffectual position within the political community, and causing him injury” had the amendment been allowed to take effect. In other words, it might hurt someone’s feelings.

It also would have stopped a development taking hold in some European nations where two parallel legal systems have emerged. In the United Kingdom, for example, there are 85 Shariah courts employing imams to adjudicate civil and familial matters. These operate independently of the crown. A 2010 report by One Law for All Campaign titled “Shariah Law in Britain: A Threat to One Law for All and Equal Rights,” says women have the most to lose from the influx of Islamic law. This code lends a woman’s testimony half the weight of a man’s and grants a husband’s petition for divorce more readily than a wife’s. The supposed women’s rights groups are strangely silent when the issue involves the crescent…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Rep. Moran: GOP Won Midterms Due to Racism

Rep. James Moran, D-Va., told an Arab-language television network that Republicans swept to victory in the 2010 midterm elections because many Americans don’t want to be ruled by a black man. A spokeswoman for the congressman defended the remarks saying it is no secret that our country “continues to struggle with racial equality,” the Washington Post reports.

In an interview with the U.S.-funded Alhurra network, which is Arabic for “the free one,” Moran asserted that the Democratic losses in the midterm elections “happened because of the same reason the Civil War happened in the United States. The Civil War happened because the Southern states, particularly the slave-holding states, didn’t want to see a president who was opposed to slavery.

“In this case a lot of people in this country, I believe, don’t want to be governed by an African-American, particularly one who is inclusive, who is liberal, who wants to spend money on everyone and who wants to reach out to include everyone in our society. That’s a basic philosophical clash,” the Post reported Moran as saying.

Moran spokeswoman Anne Hughes said in a statement that there are nearly “1,000 identified hate groups in the U.S., and recent studies showing a majority of Americans believe racism is still widespread against African-Americans. It is no secret that our country has and continues to struggle with racial equality. The Congressman was expressing his frustration with this problem and the role it played in the last election,” the Post said.

Moran is no stranger to controversy. In 2003 he asserted the United States went to war in Iraq because of “the strong support of the Jewish community” and in 2007 he said the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has pushed the war and did not “represent the mainstream of American Jewish thinking,” the Post said.

The Alhurra network is a U.S. taxpayer-funded arm of Middle East Broadcasting Networks Inc., which, according to its website, is financed by the “U.S. Government through a grant from the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent federal agency.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

U.S. Woman Due to Change Plea in Terrorism Case

A Pennsylvania woman charged with providing material support to terrorists and conspiring to kill in a foreign nation is due to change her not guilty plea in the case, according to a court document released on Friday.

A change-of-plea hearing has been scheduled for Colleen LaRose, known as “Jihad Jane,” on Feb. 1 in federal court in Philadelphia, the one-page notice said. Such notices typically occur when a defendant decides to change a plea from not guilty to guilty.

LaRose is accused of plotting with others over the Internet to kill a Swedish cartoonist who depicted the Prophet Mohammed in a way that was offensive to Muslims, and of wanting to become a martyr to Islam.

LaRose, from Pennsburg, Pennsylvania, has been in custody for more than a year. She used online pseudonyms such as “Jihad Jane” and “Fatima LaRose.”

She pleaded not guilty in March after an unsealed federal grand jury indictment alleged that she recruited men online to wage “violent jihad” or holy war, in South Asia and Europe…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Was Shah’s Son ‘Murdered’ By Regime on U.S. Soil?

On Jan. 4, just after the New Year, the youngest son of the late shah of Iran, Alireza Pahlavi, was found dead in his Boston apartment, at the age of 44 his head blown off by a double-barrel shotgun — both chambers of which had discharged. Educated in Ivy League universities, and an artistic sort, Prince Alireza was a dashing heir to the Iranian monarchy after his elder brother, Reza Pahlavi, who lives in the Washington, D.C., area with his mother, Empress Farah, and his children.


Following news of Alireza’s death, with lightening speed the Suffolk County district attorney quickly declared it a suicide, claiming that the prince was “depressed.” But at the moving and beautiful memorial funeral for Alireza, which I attended with my “adopted” Persian family held in the Washington, D.C., area Sunday, Empress Farah, eloquently and lovingly, giving “her” eulogy for her fallen son, made it known that he was not depressed and indeed had every reason to live.


Although the autopsy report is apparently being kept under wraps by the district attorney, I have learned that both barrels of the double-barrel shotgun used to kill Alireza were found discharged. Firearms experts will tell you that it is extremely difficult if not nearly impossible for a person training a shotgun on himself to pull both triggers at the same time, and that usually the first discharge will incapacitate the suicidal person.


So here is the question: Has President Obama and his government minions also covered up a plausible act of terrorism by Iran on American soil, so as to make it easier for him to continue his failed policy of appeasement toward the regime? I hope that my Persian friends, who so love the shah and his family, and all Americans, will join with me in trying to uncover the “truth,” since more than just the death of Alireza is at issue; but what we have together sadly learned over the years is the politicized lack of integrity of the establishment.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

White Nationalists’ Conference Stymied

Host hotel cancels group’s reservation as Charlotte City Council member Patrick Cannon works behind scenes.

When a white nationalist magazine announced a conference in Charlotte, anarchists and other groups vowed to protest or disrupt the gathering.

But behind the scenes the conference apparently met an unexpected obstacle: Charlotte City Council member Patrick Cannon.

On Wednesday, American Renaissance magazine said plans for its annual conference are now in limbo because the hotel where it was scheduled to take place canceled the reservation.

An e-mail Cannon sent to a constituent early this week suggested he was lobbying local hotels to refuse to book American Renaissance.

Cannon wrote that he had contacted hotels and that “they seem to be cooperating.”

“An attempt was made for accommodations at another hotel but based on what I ask to take place they were denied again,” the e-mail said.

Jared Taylor, American Renaissance editor, said Cannon’s e-mail violated the First Amendment.

“It’s unconscionable (that) public officials would try to interfere in private contractual affairs,” Taylor said. “We have never run into this before.”

In a brief interview Wednesday, Cannon said he sent the e-mail to “update a constituent on where things stood.”

“By no means would I be in the business of trying to violate someone’s rights,” Cannon said.

The news came on the same day that the Jewish Defense Organization posted a statement on its website, saying City Council member Warren Turner sent an e-mail to Charlotte hotels about the conference.

Turner denied contacting hotels to stop the conference.

American Renaissance is published by the nonprofit New Century Foundation. The group advocates what it calls “race realism.” The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks such organizations, says Klansmen, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists gather at Renaissance conferences.

Organizers scheduled a conference Feb. 4-6 at the Sheraton Charlotte Airport Hotel near Charlotte/Douglas International Airport. The group booked 100 rooms at the eight-story hotel, where rooms cost as much as $225 a night.

But the hotel released a statement Wednesday saying officials canceled the reservation for the safety of guests. Organizers did not reveal the nature of the conference when they booked the hotel, the statement said.

Taylor, the magazine editor, disputed the hotel’s account. “We leveled completely with the hotel,” he said. “They said they understood.”

American Renaissance has tried to reserve rooms at other hotels but has been rebuffed, Taylor said.

Taylor said Cannon’s e-mail reflected intolerance and was “profoundly hypocritical.”

Richard Toenjes, associate director of UNC Charlotte’s Center for Professional and Applied Ethics, said Cannon’s e-mail could be construed as a violation of free speech.

“If the person used his or her name which would be recognized as the name of a council member, I’d say the member was functioning as a public official and hence out of line interfering with protected free speech,” Toenjes said.

But Scott Huffmon, a professor of political science at Winthrop University, said merely warning hotels about the upcoming conference is within the rights of elected officials.

“Alerting the hotels and saying this isn’t good for our image is using the bully pulpit, but not necessarily unethical,” Huffmon said. “If he tried to use the position to cajole, coerce or bully that would be different.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Woman Who Spied on Joe the Plumber Gets Six Figure County Job

It was back in December 2008 when Helen Jones-Kelley resigned her post at State Social Services Director over using state computers to check the records of Samuel Wurzelbacher of Toledo, better known as ‘Joe the Plumber.’ An investigation revealed the activity, which says she improperly obtained personal information on Wurzelbacher.

‘Joe the Plumber’, you’ll recall, became famous across the country after questioning President Obama during his campaign for office.

Jones-Kelley was named Montgomery County’s new head of the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board.

This will not be the first time Jones-Kelley has worked for the county. Starting in the mid-90s, she served as director of Job and Family Services. Before that, she was executive director of Montgomery County Childrens’ services.

Her hiring is not coming without questions. Her salary, reported to be $145,000, has left some unhappy that that much money is being spent on someone after such an investigation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

French Increasingly Anxious About Muslims

A call to prayer goes up from a loudspeaker perched on the hood of a car, and all at once hundreds of Muslim worshippers touch their foreheads to the ground, forming a sea of backs down the road.

The scene is taking place not in downtown Cairo, but on a busy market street in northern Paris, a short walk from the Sacre Coeur basilica. To locals, it’s old news: some have been praying on the street, rain or shine, for decades.

But for Marine Le Pen — taking over from her father as leader of the far-right National Front party — it is proof that Muslims are taking over France and becoming an occupying force, according to remarks she made last month.

Her comments caused a furore as she seized on the street prayers to drive home the idea that Islam is threatening the values of a secular country where anxiety over the role of Muslims in society has deepened in the past few years.

More than two-thirds of French and German people now consider the integration of Muslims into their societies a failure, pollster IFOP said in a survey published on Jan. 5. In France, where Islam is the second-largest religion after Catholicism, 42% saw it as a threat to national identity.

“This has become a key political issue,” said Frederic Dabi, IFOP’s head of research. “Street prayers and the perceived growing influence of Islam are seen as impinging on French values of secularism, communal living.”

Controversy over the street prayers has translated into growing confidence within the National Front, some 15 months before a presidential election likely to see a battle for votes between the far right and Sarkozy’s centre-right UMP party.

National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen has said he expects the party to outdo its electoral performance in 2002, when it knocked out the mainstream Socialist candidate in the first round of voting, but then lost to Jacques Chirac.

“These fears hang mostly on symbols: minarets in Switzerland, the niqab (full-face veil) in France, even the halal Quick menu,” Dabi said, referring to a fast-food chain that recently opened a range of halal-only restaurants in France and Belgium. “The far right is playing on these fears.”

Le Pen’s comments seem to be taking hold. A poll published by TNS Sofres showed that support for National Front ideas has grown by 12 percentage points over the past year.

Back on the market road, Friday prayers come to an end as quickly as they begin, with hundreds of worshippers packing up their mats and heading back to work.

Many told Reuters that given the choice, they would avoid the cold and rain and pray indoors. The problem is that their warehouse-turned-prayer site, an unofficial mosque called al Fath, is too small to accommodate them all.

“It’s cold and filthy. Do you think we would be out here praying if we had the choice? The whole neighbourhood comes and prays in the street because there is not enough room inside, that’s all,” said Mohammed Delmi, 62.

Such scenes are replicated at a dozen sites across France where worshippers kneel outside because prayer rooms are too full, according to a report by the centre-left daily Liberation.

The problem has grown along with the country’s Muslim population, which the French Council of Islamic Faith estimates at between 5-7 million, or 8% of the population — a larger community than in any other European nation.

Campaigners in favour of building new mosques said they faced two major difficulties, starting with financing: mosques in France must be funded privately due to restrictions against using public money for religious purposes.

The second, pricklier issue is the public, which has grown increasingly intolerant of Islamic symbols. Research by pollster IFOP shows that support for building mosques fell to 20% in 2009 from 31% in 2000…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Germany Celebrates Automobile’s 125th Anniversary

On the eve of the 125th anniversary of the automobile’s invention in Germany, one woman’s journey is being remembered as the seminal road trip.

Perhaps no invention has changed daily life as much as the automobile. It has transformed modern society and has become an integral part of Germany’s industrial prowess.

But in the beginning, it was not just another joyride.

People scoffed at the first modern car, a three-wheeled contraption with a stinking, noisy single-cylinder engine. When Carl Benz established a patent for his vehicle on January 29, 1886, it was unclear what the device’s primary purpose would be. Benz languished as his vehicle stood idle in a garage, seemingly without use.

Benz remarked later on the combination of wonder and derision with which his invention was met.

“The astonishment and admiration easily reverted to pity, mockery and scorn,” he said. “Why would one get into a dingy, unreliable and noisy box of a machine when there are perfectly good horses all over the world?”

Amid the scepticism, it took an extraordinary event to unlock the automobile’s true potential.

In August 1888, Benz’s wife Bertha snatched up the couple’s two teenage boys in the calm of morning, slipped into the car and drove from Mannheim to her mother’s home in Pforzheim, 100 kilometres away. It was the first motorised long-distance journey in history, a seminal road trip, and an adventure that changed the very idea of personal transportation.

But Mrs. Benz required every bit of her husband’s pioneering spirit to complete the arduous journey.

After 45 kilometres, the machine ran out of fuel. In the 1880s engines ran on ligroin, a substance commonly used as cleaning fluid. When Benz found a pharmacy in the town of Wiesloch, she bought two litres, far more than necessary for its ordinary function, leaving clerk Willi Ockel flabbergasted and unaware that his shop would be remembered as the world’s first gas station.

The travellers also had issues with the cooling of the motor. They refilled the cooling tank at every opportunity — at roadside inns, fountains, and drainage ditches. When there was a slope to climb, Bertha and her sons got out and pushed the car. Moving downhill was no less adventurous, as the brakes lagged and wore down quickly.

But Lenz, a pragmatist to rival her husband, found solutions to many of the automobile’s glitches.

On the drive back to Mannheim she had leather fixed to the brakes to prevent wear. She unclogged the fuel duct with a pin from her hat, and fixed the fraying ignition cable using a piece of her garter.

When Bertha later returned successfully to Mannheim, the future of the automobile looked considerably brighter. It finally had some relevance to people’s daily lives.

The first Benz automobiles have little in common with today’s vehicles, says auto expert Willi Diez.

“But the journey of Bertha Benz was the initial spark that set in motion the idea of daily motorised mobility,” he said. “She gave wings to the fantasies of the early inventors and countless others.”

Without the journey taken by Bertha Benz and her sons, our world might look very different indeed.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Brussels: Unfair School Bus Service Tender

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JANUARY 28 — The European Commission has asked Greece to guarantee even access to public contracts for the supply of school bus services and for laying power cables.

Regarding school bus services, EU regulations have been violated when several contracts were awarded through a negotiated procedure in the districts of Drama, Pella, Thessaloniki and Argolide, without the preliminary presentation of a call for tenders. This procedure is only allowed under exceptional circumstances and in this case no justification was found. The value of the contracts varies from two to five million euros. The second case regards underground power cables. The public power company has awarded a contract to lay these cables to a company while violating the regulations on open procedures. The company has in fact unilaterally modified its initial bid after all others had presented their offers, that way winning the contract of 37 million 400 thousand euros. This is not allowed under EU regulations. European rules in fact are meant to guarantee fair and transparent competition in European public tenders. If these rules are broken an open market can no longer be guaranteed and public money could be wasted. The Commission’s requests to Greece have been made in the form of motivated opinions. If Athens will not come with a satisfactory response within two months, the European Commission can defer the two cases to the European Court of Justice.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Union Stages One-Day National Strike Against Fiat

FIOM threatens widespread labour-industry clashes

(ANSA) — Rome, January 28 — The automotive workers’ union FIOM staged a nation-wide, eight-hour strike against the automaker Fiat. Striking workers and sympathizers staged protests in cities across Italy, while FIOM workers suspended work at five car plants, including the historic Mirafiori plant near Fiat headquarters in Turin.

FIOM, the engineering workers’ arm of the left-wing union CGIL, is protesting having been shut out of recent negotiations with Fiat. The automaker brokered a deal with moderate unions aimed at boosting productivity at the Mirafiori plant.

The hotly contested agreement was made outside Italy’s long- established system of nationally negotiated contracts, and features reductions in break times, increases in shifts, measures to cut absenteeism, and limits on the ability to strike. Mirafiori autoworkers approved the deal by a slim margin.

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne says factory-specific deals like it and a previous one for the Pomigliano d’Arco plant, near Naples, are needed to boost productivity at Italian plants in order to press ahead with plans to invest some 20 billion euros in Italy over the next five years. He has promised to raise the salaries of Italian workers to German levels and share profits if they help reduce production costs.

However, CGIL and its FIOM branch see the recent plant-specific deals as an attack on labor rights. In addition to staging the one-day strike, CGIL chief Susanna Camusso has said the union is considering taking Fiat to court to have agreements nullified.

FIOM Secretary-General Maurizio Landini headed a procession in Milan Friday, in which marchers carried a banner measuring 12 by six meters with the text of the first page of a national work contract signed in 2008 by unions and major industry groups. The engineering industry association Federmeccanica announced it would renege on the national contract in September, after FIOM threatened court action to enforce it.

“Federmeccanica and Confindustria must know that if they do what Fiat does, there will be an unprecedented conflict in this country,” said Landini, referring to Italy’s largest industry groups. “We want to make agreements, we want companies to function and for rights to be extended.” Demonstration organizers said 90 tour buses had pulled in from all over Lombardy to Milan for the protest. Workers from La Scala opera house joined the procession with a banner that read “La Scala si inFiomma” a play on words that resembles “La Scala sets itself on fire.” Thousands of workers took part in the FIOM demonstration in Turin, and were joined by other leftwing organizations and students. A banner read “Mirafiori, agreement of shame,” while a foam prop had the words, “Sergio the shark”, a reference to the Fiat CEO.

Demonstrations were also organized in front of Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s villa outside Milan as well as in Brescia, Naples, Florence, Sicily and Ancona.

Fiat said 25% of its workers adhered to FIOM’s general strike. FIOM’s autoworkers representative Giorgio Airaudo reported 80% participation in the strike at the Mirafiori Powertrain, the only part of the plant currently operative, as the rest of it has been temporarily shut to reduce production, and its workers placed on state-supported temporary unemployment.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Prosecutors Poised to Make Berlusconi-Ruby Trial Request

Premier denies using underage prostitute

(ANSA) — Milan, January 28 — Prosecutors investigating allegations Premier Silvio Berlusconi used an underage prostitute are set make a request in the next few days for the case to be sent to trial, judicial sources said Friday.

Berlusconi denies paying to have sex with several young women, including a Moroccan belly dancer who goes by the name of Ruby and was 17 at the time of her alleged relations with the premier.

Paying for sex is not a criminal offence in Italy, but using a prostitute under 18 is and it carries a jail term of up to three years.

The 74-year-old premier has alleged the Ruby probe is the latest in a series of attempts by biased leftist magistrates to oust him from the helm of government. He has also defied a summons to meet prosecutors for questioning, arguing that the case should have been transferred to a special tribunal for ministers at the initial stages of the probe. His People of Freedom (PdL) party is planning to stage a demonstration in Milan on February 13 in defence of the head of government, who will reportedly take part.

Magistrates union ANM denied the premier’s charges that the Milan prosecutors have political motives Friday. “This is no clash between institutions. What there is, is an attack on the judiciary by those who do not accept the principle that everyone is equal before the law,” said ANM Secretary Giuseppe Cascini.

“We are not at war with anyone, but we apply the law and those who do not want this principle to apply to everyone attack us”. Italy has been in a state of shock for two weeks with embarrassing wiretaps giving details of alleged sex parties at Berlusconi’s homes being leaked to the media, despite no formal charges having been presented yet.

Ruby, who is now 18 and whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, had said the premier “never laid a finger” on her.

She also denied asking him for five million euros to keep the alleged relations secret, after being quoted as saying she had requested the money in the transcript of a wiretapped call leaked to the media. The Catholic Church and Italy’s business leaders have expressed concern about the scandal, which has also led opposition parties to call for the premier to resign.

Berlusconi has rejected the calls and said his government will weather the storm, despite only having a wafer-thin majority in the Lower House.

He secured an important victory on Thursday when a House panel voted to send back to Milan prosecutors two huge dossiers of evidence to support a request to search the offices of his accountant.

“I am relaxed and you should not let yourselves get demoralized,” Berlusconi told ministers at a cabinet meeting on Friday, according to sources at the meeting.

“We have to keep going, focusing on concrete things, on Italians’ daily problems.

“We are in a democracy, not a police state. We should not get overwrought”.

Berlusconi is also under investigation for alleged abuse of power for allegedly pressuring police to get Ruby out of custody when she was detained on an unrelated theft charge, telling them she was the granddaughter of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Ruby has said she had previously told the premier she was Mubarak’s granddaughter.

Abuse of power carries a maximum jail term of 12 years. The scandal has also led to some television fireworks.

On Monday Berlusconi called a political chat show on the small La7 network and unleashed a barrage of insults against the presenter for his handling of a debate on the case.

On Friday Industry Minister Paolo Romani sent a complaint to Italy’s communications authority about a show on Thursday on state broadcaster RAI.

At the start of the show RAI Director General Mauro Masi called in and had a live row after complaining its firebrand presenter, Michele Santoro, was conducting a media trial. Santoro is an old foe of Berlusconi’s and spent a long spell off the screen allegedly because the premier did not want him on the state broadcaster during his 2001-2006 government. In a separate case, Milan magistrates on Friday set February 28 as the next date for a trial of Berlusconi and 11 others for alleged tax fraud on film rights traded by the premier’s Mediaset media empire.

The trial, which was suspended in April, was reactivated when the Constitutional Court last month partly struck down a judicial shield protecting Berlusconi.

The premier is involved in two other trials in Milan, one for allegedly bribing British tax lawyer David Mills for favourable testimony and one for other alleged irregularities committed by a Mediaset unit.

After the Constitutional Court ruling, judges can decide on a case-by-case basis when the premier has a legitimate impediment allowing him to ignore hearings.

Before the ruling the impediment law blocked all three trials.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Rome Reopens House of Vestal Virgins

Site in Roman forum took 20 years to restore

(ANSA) — Rome, January 27 — After twenty years, Rome has reopened the House of the Vestal Virgins, remains of an ancient Roman palace flanking ruins of the imperial seat of government in the Roman Forum. Major renovations to the structure were inaugurated Thursday with the opening of a new visitors’ route through the ruins called Via Nova, which traverses the northwest slope of the Palatine Hill overlooking the Forum and ends at the Atrium Vestae, or ancient palace.

The configuration of Via Nova is believed to date back to urban planning made in the wake of a blaze that razed much of Rome in 64 AD, but may be older. More than 4,000 meters were refurbished along the route, of which the Atrium Vestae occupies 1,568 square meters. Work focused on restoring the structural stability and integrity of the ruins.

The Atrium Vestae was once a 50-room palace built around an elegant, rectangular garden, decorated with statues and two pools. It housed the priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the hearth, who were entrusted with keeping a flame eternally lit in the Temple of Vesta, located next door.

The high priestess selected six initiates between the ages of six and 10 from Roman patrician families. Physical perfection was an important criteria. The girls took vows of chastity and served the Cult of Vesta for 30 years.

Vestal priestesses were revered, lived in luxury and relative independence, and were free from obligations to marry and rear children. At the end of their 30-year service they could choose whether to marry or remain with the cult.

The renovation and reopening of the House of the Vestal Virgins was conducted as part of a larger program for the rehabilitation of the Roman Forum, funded with 19 million euros from private and public funds, according to Rome councillor Dino Gasperini.

Gasperini called the opening of Via Nova and the House of the Vestal Virgins “a goal that waited too many years.” “It is another place that has been returned to the city and to tourists who come to Rome to admire the archeology,” said Culture Undersecretary Francesco Giro.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Culture Minister Survives Confidence Vote Over Pompeii Collapses

Rome, 27 Jan. (AKI) — Italy’s culture minister Sandro Bondi survived a parliamentary no-confidence vote late on Wednesday aimed removing him from office over the recent collapses at the 2,000-year-old ancient Roman city of Pompeii.

After a four-hour debate in the parliament, 292 deputies , mainly from the opposition and centrist parties, voted against Bondi, while 314 voted in favour and two abstained.

The survival of Bondi, a long-term Berlusconi loyalist, underlined the difficulty Italy’s divided opposition has had in mustering the numbers to defeat the conservative coalition. The government has narrowly survived two confidence votes in the past four months and is struggling to deal with a prostitution scandal that has engulfed the 74-year-old premier.

The opposition Democratic Party presented the motion against Bondi, who they blame for the run-down state of Pompeii, a UNESCO heritage site and one of the world’s most famous historical sites.

Following heavy rains, Pompeii was hit by three cave-ins in less than a month. The collapse in November of part of its frescoed House of the Gladiator and a wall at the site of the House of the Moralist shocked the world.

The collapses were followed by another cave-in at an ancient house in Pompeii in early December. The opposition blamed Bondi and said neglect and a cut in funding for the fragile archaeological site had caused the tragedy

The minister denied the accusations, saying his government had done its best to preserve and restore Italy’s artistic heritage, and rejected calls for his resignation.

Following the Pompeii collapses, Bondi launched a special foundation to preserve the site.

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

Italy: Officials Arrested Over Naples Trash Crisis

Rome, 28 Jan. (AKI) — Fourteen high level Neapolitan officials were arrested early Friday as part of an on-going probe into the surrounding southern Campania region’s chronic trash crisis.

Marta Di Gennaro, who had worked under Italy’s high-profile former Civil Protection Agency chief, Guido Bertolaso, is among six being placed under house arrest. Eight are being held in prison.

Gianfranco Mascazzini, a former director of the environment ministry, and Naples prefect Corrado Catenacci, are other high-profile individuals to be given house arrest. Prefects are the government’s top representatives in Italian cities.

Those arrested are accused of criminal association, organised illegal waste trafficking, illegal disposal and unauthorised dumping of waste, damage to the environment as and misinforming the public.

A further 38 are being probed over allegations that prosecutors claim involve public officials allegedly taking bribes from waste management facilities. The most recent allegations cite sewage plants, which prosecutors say were dumping untreated waste into the sea.

Among those under investigation is Antonio Bassolino, a centre-left politician who served as Campania’s governor from 2000-2010 and was earlier twice elected mayor of Naples.

Two other politicians who served under Bassolino are also being probed, the former head of his secretariat Gianfranco Nappi, and former regional councillor Luigi Nocera.

“There is no political will to solve Campania’s trash emergency,” Naples prosecutor Giandomenico Lepore told journalists on Friday.

Prosecutors are also due to probe allegations that liquids were treated with a faulty purification system, and dumped directly into the sea.

Public prosecutors claim the plants were “absolutely sub-standard” and moreover allege they were operated with the complicity of private and public actors”

Italy’s refuse crisis, which most notably hit the Campania region saw city streets inundated with thousands of tonnes of uncollected trash in 2008 and again in 2010. A similar crisis spread to the Sicilian capital, Palermo last year.

Corruption, mismanagement, mafia infiltration of the waste disposal sector and delays in building much-needed incinerators underlie the emergency.

The refuse situation has become so acute in Italy, with dumps overflowing, that some observers believe it could soon spread to Rome, the nation’s capital.

Italy will be asked to pay fines likely to run into millions of euros if the EU Commission rules the Campania regional government is not doing enough to implement effective waste disposal measures, as the European Court of Justice ordered in March 2008.

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

Most Popular Swedish Baby Names Unveiled

Move over, Alice and Lucas. Maja and Oscar have taken over as the most popular names for children born in Sweden, new statistics show.

Altogether, 895 girls born in Sweden in 2010 were named Maja, or 1.6 percent of the total girls born, according to figures from Statistics Sweden (SCB).

It was the third time in the last five years that Maja topped the agency’s list of popular girl names.

Among boys born in Sweden last year, Oscar was the most popular name, moving up from the number three spot in 2009.

The name has been among the 10 most popular names given to boys born in Sweden since the year 2000.

A total of 1,108 boys were named Oscar last year, or 1.9 percent of all boys born in the country.

Three new names also made their way into the top-ten list of popular boy names: Theo, Liam, and Leo. Dropping out of the top-ten were Erik, Victor, and Axel.

Among girl names, Alice, Emma and Ella all dropped in popularity, but remained in the top 10, while Julia climbed from seventh to third place.

One new name also appeared on the list of the 10 most popular girl names: Olivia.

Tove, Minna and Novalie were the three girl names which displayed the biggest jump in popularity between 2009 and 2010, although none managed to crack the top 10. Kajsa, Emelie and Cornelia, on the other hand, had the biggest decrease.

Among boy names, Frank, Elvin and Milo climbed the most in popularity, while Carl, Marcus and Jonathan had the greatest drop.

SCB also noted that many parents chose to exercise a bit of creativity in naming their children, with 4,092 girls and 3,775 boys receiving names with spellings that gave each of them a one-of-a-kind name in Sweden.

Popular Boy Names 2010 (2009)

1. Oscar (3)

2. William (3)

3. Lucas (3)

4. Elias (2)

5. Alexander (6)

6. Hugo (5)

7. Oliver (7)

8. Theo (16)

9. Liam (15)

10. Leo (14)

Popular Girl Names 2010 (2009)

1. Maja (2)

2. Alice (1)

3. Julia (7)

4. Linnéa (8)

5. Wilma (9)

6. Ella (3)

7. Elsa (3)

8. Emma (4)

9. Alva (6)

10. Olivia (17)

Source: Statistics Sweden

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Amsterdam Police Win Gay Rights Award

This year’s Bob Angelo award for people who campaign for gay, bi-sexual and transsexual rights has been given to photographer Erwin Olaf and the Amsterdam police force.

Gay rights lobby group COC recognised Olaf for his campaign against anti-gay violence and the police organisation Roze in Blauw (pink in blue) for making it easier for people to report gay-bashing incidents.

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

Paris Fires Ambassador After Gaffe on Ben Ali

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JANUARY 26 — France has decided to dismiss its ambassador to Tunisia, Pierre Menat, after his clamorous gaffe. The diplomat in fact sent a telegram to the Elysée and the French Foreign Minister a few hours before Ben Ali’s flight from Tunisia on January 14, saying that the former Tunisian President “has resumed control of the situation”.

Menat, 60 years old, will be succeeded by Boris Boillon, a 41-year-old diplomat, ambassador to Baghdad since 2009 and former advisor of President Nicolas Sarkozy. Menat’s blunder was revealed last week by the weekly Le Canard Enchaine’. The French government is continuously criticised these days for treating the regime of Ben Ali too softly and for underestimating the protest.

“I have learned more about the crisis in Tunis from the new wife of Minister Eric Besson (the young Tunisian student Yasmine Tordjman, 24 years old) and from Besson himself than from our ambassador in Tunis”, Sarkozy protested in the past days, irritated by the fact that Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie left for the weekend in his constituency while the crisis was raging in Tunisia. The French President tried to end the row during a press conference on Monday, recognising that France has been unable to “grasp the importance” of the Tunisian crisis.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Polish Church Observes ‘Islam Day’

Poland’s Roman Catholic Church is observing Islam Day, which closes the week of ‘Prayer for Christian Unity’.

The main ceremonies are being held in St. Florian’s church in Warsaw and will gather Catholics and Muslims today at a meeting devoted to ways of overcoming violence between various religious denominations.

Among the participants are the head of the Polish Episcopate’s Interreligious Council, members of the Joint Catholics and Muslims Council as well as spiritual leaders of the Muslim community in Poland.

The Islam Day is celebrated in Poland for the 11th time. Polish Moslems include descendants of the Tartars, who have lived here for 600 years, as well as more recent arrivals — Turks, Arabs and Bosnians.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Bildt: North Africa Faces ‘Demographic Tsunami’

Sweden’s foreign minister Carl Bildt has described the challenge facing the countries of North Africa as a “demographic tsunami”.

Amid ongoing popular revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, Bildt said all the countries in the region would have to find ways to satisfy the demands of growing and increasingly frustrated young populations.

“There’s a demographic tsunami to the south of the Mediterranean that can over time only be met by sustained democratic and economic reforms,” the veteran diplomat told reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“32 percent of the population of Egypt is under 15 years of age. The median age is 23 years. If you compare it with Tunisia the corresponding figures are 23 percent and 29 years there,” he explained.

“These are extremely young societies, demanding concerning the future, and their demands for jobs, for prospects for the future cannot be met by systems that are seen as closed, be that in economic or be that in political terms.

“This is process that lies ahead of all of the countries in the region, one way or another. They’re very different but the demographic tsunami is something that is common to all of them,” he warned.

As Bildt and fellow members of the world political and business elite met in this Swiss ski resort, thousands of demonstrators were pouring onto the streets of Cairo to demand President Hosni Mubarak stand down.

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

UK: Bolton Machete Gang Kidnap Takeaway Delivery Man

A takeaway delivery driver was attacked with a machete and kidnapped by a gang of men in Bolton.

The 51-year-old was reaching into the boot of his car on Gower Street when he was hit over the head by a masked man.

The attacker then pulled out a machete and a struggle ensured, with the victim suffering cuts to his hand.

Police said the man was bundled into his car by two others and driven off, before eventually being released when it became clear he had no cash.

The three men set the car alight after letting the man out on a dirt track near to Cross Guns Pub on Blackburn Road.

Greater Manchester Police described the attack as “planned and calculated” and appealed for information.

Gang violence

Det Insp Stuart Wilkinson said: “We are investigating why this man was targeted and at this stage it would not be appropriate to speculate about motive.

“We do not know why this driver was singled out, but clearly it was a planned and calculated attack.

“The level of violence this gang used means this man is both extremely shaken up and may need surgical treatment to his hands.

“It is obviously a very distressing incident and we are doing everything we can to get to the bottom of it.”

The main offender was described as Asian, about 6ft (1.8m) tall and wearing a black balaclava. He spoke with a Pakistani accent. The other two men were also thought to be Asian.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Judge Slams ‘Soft’ Sentencing Options That Prevented Him Jailing Burglar

A judge has hit out after sentencing guidelines prevented him from sending a burglar to prison.

Julian Lambert lambasted the justice system as ‘soft’ after he was forced to hand burglar Daniel Rogers, 25, a community sentence.

He said: ‘I’ve never seen anything so wet in all my life — 80 hours’ community work for burgling someone’s house.

‘I very much regret sentencing guidelines which say I should not send you straight to prison.

‘We live in soft times.’

His comments highlight the frustration felt by many judges over restrictions placed on their powers.

The Guideline Judgments Case Compendium sets out clear sentencing guidelines for judges and magistrates.

It states that cases of burglary with minimal loss and damage and a low impact on the victim should be dealt with by a community sentence.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Left-Wing Protesters in Vile Racist Attack on Student Union Leader

The national president of the NUS has to be escorted to safety by police this morning after he was surrounded by protesters calling for his resignation and shouting anti-Semitic insults at him.

Aaron Porter was given a police escort as he made his way to his offices in Manchester today.

Protesters shouted ‘Students, workers, hear our shout! We want Aaron Porter out!’ and ‘Aaron Porter we know you, you’re a f******* Tory too!’

NUS president Aaron Porter (wearing a blue scarf) was targeted by student protesters calling for his resignation and shouting anti-Semitic insults as he made his way to his Manchester office this morning

One photographer reported chants of ‘Tory Jew scum’ directed at Mr Porter, who is facing calls to step down as NUS president by members of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, who claim he has ‘lost the confidence of the movement’.

Today’s demonstrations were organised to highlight the effects of public spending cuts on young people.


Employment Minister Chris Grayling said yesterday the youth unemployment challenge was due to the failings of the previous Labour government.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Leicester Mercury, Mailbox, Letters, This is Leicestershire

Here is a secular view of what Tory peer Baroness Warsi said on your front page (Leicester, January 21).

It was simply a demand that Islam is above criticism. She claims “prejudice against Muslims in Britain is at an all time high”, but offered no evidence to support this claim, unless you count the e-mail she received as an example of prejudice against Muslims.

But the e-mail was nothing more than a concise sentence typical of hard political debate, that used a play on halal, which is indeed a Muslim custom/superstition hated by many, especially animal rights folk, that seemed a fair way to have a dig at her to me.

This is the e-mail: “Instead of bleating like some halal lamb being led to the slaughter, how about ending the knee bending to Islam at every opportunity.”

This is mild indeed compared to the messages sent from Islamists to their critics.

She goes on to confuse race with religion. She tries to draw a similarity between racism to the Jews and criticism of Islam, but she is wrong; criticism of Islam is equal to criticism of Zionism — criticism of an ideology. Does Warsi think Zionism above criticism?

Opposition to Islamic aims, as to how we should all lead our lives are not racist, but ideological, as they are with any political creed we may oppose.

When asked whether she still faces regular discrimination, she said: “On the basis of my race? Less so. On the basis of my religion? More so”. So Baroness don’t be a Muslim, give it up! It’s not compulsory. Here in Leicester it’s a free choice, unlike being Jewish or Asian. If Warsi is attacked for being Asian, that is racist and she must be defended from that, but when she is criticized for freely following a lifestyle ideology many of us disagree with, she must expect hard arguments against that choice.

Especially as someone who has excepted an unelected, privileged, and well paid role in the Government on the Tory side!

She states that anti-Islamic sentiment is bigotry, so she can call those of us who are critical of Islam bigots, but we must, in her words, “be urged to be more careful about what they say about religion”.

Why? She must extend the same freedom of speech to those of us who disagree with her, as she received on the front page of the Mercury…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslim Wives in Nottingham Have Been Warned That Their Marriages Might Not be Legally Binding if They Had a Traditional Islamic Ceremony.

MUSLIM wives in Nottingham have been warned that their marriages might not be legally binding if they had a traditional Islamic ceremony.

A traditional nikah marriage is only recognised under UK law if it takes place in a Muslim country.

Even if the ceremony took place in the UK, it is not legal unless there was also a civil ceremony.

Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of Britain’s Muslim Parliament, said the issue was becoming “very common”.

One woman from the Forest Fields area, who does not want to be named, is currently pursuing legal action to find out what, if any, rights she has as a result of her marriage.

She said: “I was shocked to learn that the marriage wasn’t recognised and in the eyes of the law I had no legal rights as a wife.”

The unnamed woman, who spoke to the Post and has a child, wants a divorce from her partner, but has come across several pitfalls.

“It’s been very hard. I approached the mosque but they seemed to have no record of the marriage at all,” she said.

Dr Siddiqui, speaking exclusively to the Post, said: “This is an issue which is becoming very common. Nikah weddings are not recognised in the UK unless conducted in a Muslim country.”

He said some women could be exploited by their partners who promise an official civil ceremony after the nikah marriage, but then never follow it through.

“This can allow men to control the woman’s destinies and also give them the freedom of having a second wife,” he said…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: We Reveal the £140,000 Cost of Those Big Fat Gypsy Weddings (Just Don’t Ask Where the Cash Comes From)

A Royal wedding may only be three months away, but it’s another type that has the nation gripped — the big fat gypsy variety. Channel 4 has the Irish travelling community to thank for their highest viewing figures in three years. Every Tuesday night seven million people are tuning in to gawp in disbelief as travellers are shown celebrating their marriages in their own unique and colourful way on Big Fat Gypsy Weddings.

As the programme shows, the gypsy wedding is a world where subtlety is banned and big and bling is always better.

Such over-the-top extravagance doesn’t come cheap but the first rule of gypsy weddings is that nobody talks about money. Internet forums are awash with people puzzling over how fathers of the bride, who pick up the wedding tab, can afford the six-figure price tags when they mostly work as manual labourers.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Serbia: US Donates USD365,000 to Kraljevo

(ANSAmed) — BELGRAADE, JANUARY 28 — The US Ambassador in Belgrade Mary Warlick, yesterday, presented the Serbian Red Cross with a donation in the value of USD365,000, intended towards repairing damages from the earthquake in Kraljevo and floods in western Serbia, agencies reported.

Warlick said that the US’s goal was to help the reparation of houses damaged in the earthquake in Kraljevo, initiated by the Serbian government.

The Red Cross received 20 tons of jackets, blouses, sleeping bags, camp beds, caps and heaters.

This is the second donation of the US Embassy to Kraljevo.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

UFM: France Urges New Impetus for Mediterranean Union

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JANUARY 27 — France has today launched an urgent appeal to “all of the governments and peoples of Europe and of the Mediterranean to give fresh impetus the Union for the Mediterranean,” following the resignation of UfM Secretary General, Jordan’s Ahmad Jalaf Masadeh, which has come just one year after his appointment and leaving with an appeal for “a clearer orientation”. Speaking in Paris, the Spokesperson for France’s Foreign Minister, Bernard Valero, stated, “Today more than ever, France is convinced that the political will has to be found to overcome differences with the objective of building a common home across the two shores of the Mediterranean”. “The Mediterranean,” he continued, “has to stop being a site of conflict, violence and tragedy so that it can become a place of sharing and cooperation, a great space for development, creation, culture and peace”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

An Interview on the Egyptian Revolt: I’m Worried That Others Aren’t Worried

By Barry Rubin

1) How do you judge the Egyptian protests?

It is tempting to see this as a revolution that will bring down the regime. But Egypt is not Tunisia. And while the demonstrations are passionate it is not clear that the numbers of participants are huge. If the elite and the army hold together they could well prevail, perhaps by removing Mubarak to save the regime. We should be cautious in drawing conclusions.

2) Do you see the threat of an Islamist takeover by the Ikhwan?

So far the uprising has not been led by the Muslim Brotherhood. But it is the only large organized opposition group. It is hard to see how it would not be the leading force after a while. The leadership would have to decide that it is facing a revolutionary situation and that this is the moment for an all-out effort. But if it does so and fails there will be a terrible repression and the group will be crushed. It appears that the Brotherhood is joining the protests but has not made its basic decision yet. In the longer term if the regime is completely overthrown I do believe the Brotherhood will emerge as the leader and perhaps the ruler of the country.

3) Do you see any chances that Egypt will witness the same model of Iran of 1979, the democratic protests followed by an Islamist rule?…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Did Muslim Brotherhood Learn ‘Day of Rage’ Egypt Protest Tactics From Obama Allies Bill Ayers and Code Pink?

One year ago, Big Government reported the anti-American global left, led by Code Pink, traveled to Egypt to undermine the blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.

President Barack Obama funder and Code Pink co-founder Jodie Evans, accompanied by Obama’s Hyde Park friends and neighbors — the former Weather Underground terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn — organized an inside-outside game of political theater to bring pressure on the Mubarak regime to allow the aid for Hamas to be delivered though Egyptian checkpoints.

On one hand, Evans and Code Pink lobbied Mubarak’s wife for assistance, as well as the U.S. embassy in Cairo. On the other hand, the group led hundreds of Western leftists in challenging the Egyptian government with boisterous street protests.

Code Pink was not shy about its support for Hamas. The group bragged that Hamas terrorists guaranteed their safety in Gaza. At the same time, Code Pink had also allied itself with the Muslim Brotherhood. Code Pink took out banner ads on the Muslim Brotherhood’s official English language Web site asking jihadis to “join us in cleansing our country” of so-called war criminals which included former President George W. Bush and wife Laura.

The Muslim Brotherhood is banned in Egypt and is widely considered to be the father of the modern Islamic terrorist movement. It is telling that the protests Friday in Egypt were dubbed by the Muslim Brotherhood, a “day of rage.”

The Brotherhood said its members will demonstrate “with all the national Egyptian forces, the Egyptian people, so that this coming Friday [today] will be the general day of rage for the Egyptian nation.” “Days of Rage” is what the Weathermen called their violent, riotous protests in Chicago in 1969.

The question is begged: What have Obama’s allies Ayers, Dohrn and Code Pink taught the Muslim Brotherhood and other anti-Mubarak organizations in Egypt about using protests, riots and the modern social media to coordinate their actions to undermine the Mubarak regime? Being that they have common enemies—the United States, Israel, and governements allied with them—it is understandable that they would be allies. It must give them encouragement that President Obama has yet to disavow Jodie Evans and Code Pink, but instead continues to do business with them as Evans and Code Pink act as conduits between terrorists and Obama…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Egypt: 100 People Killed in Protests, Gov’t Resigns

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 29 — Protesters return to the streets today in Cairo after the end of the night curfew following massive demonstrations and clashes with security forces on Friday. Several clashes were reported in the main Egyptian cities such as Ismaila, Alexandria and Rafah, (along the Israeli border).

The outgoing cabinet met today to formally submit its resignation, after President Hosni Mubarak told the government to quit in the wake of countrywide protests. In an interview with France 24 television, the former head of the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), El Baradei, who returned to Egypt two days ago, said Mubarak should step down and begin a transition of power.

In the meantime, the morgues are full of bodies: Al Jazeera said that 95 people were killed during yesterday’s clashes whereas hospital sources say there were 74.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Intifada Until Regime Steps Down, El Baradei Says

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 29 — “If the regime does not step down, the people’s Intifada will continue”. So said leading Egyptian activist Mohamed El Baradei in an interview to Al Jazeera. “A new Constitution is needed”, added the former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), stressing that “the people has the right to ask for change in a peaceful way”. A “change”, said the Nobel peace laureate — “comes from the inside and not the outside”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Cairo: Anti-Mubarak Protests Continue, At Least 50 Dead From Clashes

Thousands of demonstrators occupy the streets of major cities. The government has announced its resignation, but people want the “fall of the regime”. Mobile phone lines partly restored, internet still down. Obama calls for non-violent response of the Egyptian government, China censors the word “Egypt” on the web.

Cairo (AsiaNews / Agencies)-Thousands of protesters continue to occupy the streets of major cities in Egypt, calling for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. The toll from the protests — that erupted yesterday after Friday prayers — has reached 50 dead, a thousand injured, hundreds of arrests. Overnight people have defied the curfew imposed by the authorities, while the Head of State announced a change of government, but excluded his resignation. Meanwhile, China has censored the word “Egypt” from websites and the governments of Japan and the Philippines have invited nationals not to travel in the country.

Yesterday evening Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak spoke to the nation in an attempt to avert the worst social and political crisis since coming to power 30 years ago. He announced the resignation of the government and the birth of a new formation, accepting the “legitimate” demands of the demonstrators, but at the same time accusing them of “fostering” violence to “destabilize” the country. In the morning, the government announced its resignation.

Police are guarding the corridors of power and TV headquarters, but seem unwilling to attack the demonstrators. Al Jazeera sources in Suez report that the military wants to avoid an open confrontation with protesters. A military official confirmed that troops “will not shoot a single bullet against Egyptians.”

The protests erupted yesterday after the Friday prayers with thousands of people flooding the main streets of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez. The protesters defied the curfew, with demonstrations continuing even during the night. This morning in the capital, several groups of people gathered in Tahrir Square, chanting songs and slogans, including “[Mubarak] Go away! Go away. “

The toll from the violence has risen to 50 dead and a thousand injured. In Alexandria 23 people died, 15 are confirmed dead in Suez and another 15 in Cairo. Popular discontent shows no sign of diminishing despite the news of the resignation of the government, the goal of the social unrest — which unites Christians and Muslims — is “the fall of the regime, not the change of the executive.”

Yesterday the police detained Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the UN’s nuclear body and Egyptian opposition leader for a few hours. He was arrested after prayers at a mosque in the Giza area, then was released so as to join the protesters who marched through the streets of the capital.

Meanwhile, local sources confirm that phone lines are operational — at least in part — after the crackdown imposed yesterday by authorities involving the web, cell phones and text messages. In contrast, internet is still down throughout the country today.

The United States and world governments are closely following the riots that have erupted in north Africa and the Middle East, stemming from the ouster two weeks ago of Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali after a popular revolt. Discontent is also evident in Jordan, where King Abdullah II has announced reforms, and in Yemen. The U.S. president Barack Obama has called on Egypt’s Mubarak to meet the demands of democracy and economic freedoms demanded by the population. Obama also added that a violent response will not help resolve the situation and alleviate the suffering of the people. Previously, the White House spokesman Robert Gibbs asserted that the U.S. would have “revised” its aid program in the coming days.

The governments of Japan and the Philippines have invited their fellow citizens not to travel to Egypt. To those who are already in the country, are being advised not to leave their homes and embark on the first available flight. Finally, the Chinese government has censored the word “Egypt” on the web, with a terse statement that appears on the search engine: “According to the laws in force the results of your search can not be communicated”. The censorship also involves the major social networks. Instead the mainstream media — news agency and television — have reported on the riots and protests against President Mubarak.

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

Egyptian President Sacks His Entire Cabinet

The U.S. government has been supporting leading figures behind the violent protests in Egypt in a bid to promote regime change, it has been revealed.

A 2008 diplomatic cable leaked by the WikiLeaks site outlines how the U.S. State Department supported a pro-democracy activist and lobbied for the release of dissidents from custody.

The unnamed activist presented an ‘unwritten plan for democratic transition in 2011’ at a summit in New York and met with U.S. members of congress.

One aspect of the plan was for ‘a transition to a parliamentary democracy before the scheduled 2011 presidential elections’, the Jerusalem Post reported.

It comes after the death toll in the violent clashes between anti-government protesters and police hit 48.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak earlier sacked his entire Cabinet after violent protests saw at least 35 people killed and more than a thousand injured.

Protesters ignored an internet blackout and disruption of mobile phone services to stage mass demonstrations in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria.

Running battles were still taking place this morning despite a curfew and extra security forces and army personnel have been deployed to prevent looting.

In a televised address, President Mubarak made vague promises of social reform but did not offer to step down himself.

He also defended his security forces — further enraging protesters already angry over a spate of fatal shootings by the police.

He said: ‘It is not by setting fire and by attacking private and public property that we achieve the aspirations of Egypt and its sons, but they will be achieved through dialogue, awareness and effort.’

Calling the anti-government protests ‘part of a bigger plot to shake the stability and destroy the legitimacy of Egypt’s political system’, he added: ‘We aspire for more democracy, more effort to combat unemployment and poverty and combat corruption.’

His words are likely to be seen as an attempt to cling to power, rather than a pledge to tackle Egypt’s problems — including poverty, unemployment and rising food prices.

Mr Mubarak also named a vice president today for the first time since coming to power nearly 30 years ago.

Intelligence chief and close confidant Omar Suleiman has been given the role, according to state television.

Mr Suleiman has been in charge of some of Egypt’s most sensitive foreign policy issues, including the Palestinian-Israeli peace process and inter-Palestinian divisions.

His appointment would appear to shed doubt on the belief that Mr Mubarak’s son Gamal would succeed him.

Furious crowds torched the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party and threw rocks and petrol bombs at police.

More than half of the dead were reported in Suez, where the clashes have been most violent over the last four days…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Mark Mardell’s America: Obama’s Caution on Egypt is Winning No Friends

President Barack Obama’s administration is putting pressure on the Egyptian government to change. But it is not backing a change of government. It is a critical difference.

The president’s spokesman, Robert Gibbs, has said that the administration is reviewing the money it gives to Egypt. The country gets around $1.3bn (£800m) a year in military aid alone. Mere millions go to supporting democratic movements and other civilian aid.

But in a performance that did not suggest the administration had yet alighted upon a firm policy, beyond denouncing violence, the word Mr Gibbs used repeatedly was “monitoring”. He suggested that if the images we are all watching continued, aid might be reduced or halted. But it scarcely felt like a strong threat. The president has not spoken to President Hosni Mubarak. The White House is watching, and waiting. The coin is still spinning, and the administration is not eager to make a wager based on how it will fall.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also been speaking. Her first comments were about the demonstrations themselves. She has said that she was “deeply concerned” by the police violence and urged the government (in other words, President Mubarak) to restrain them. She said the steps taken against social media should be reversed.

Then she went on to draw lessons. There were “deep grievances” and reform was “critical” and “imperative”, she said. The Egyptian government should see its people as partners, not as a threat. This is a change of tone, not so much from the past day or two, but from what went before.

There is plenty of evidence for the prosecution. I have just watched an Egyptian journalist on BBC World television say that the tear gas canisters fired by police were made in the US. Over dramatic pictures of billowing smoke, he says America likes strong men without democratic backing, because “it is easy to pick up the phone and tell the leader what is expected from them”.

In the Washington Post, Jackson Diehl argues that while President George W Bush pushed for democratic reform, Barack Obama, believing he was being more pragmatic, embraced Mr Mubarak. Mr Diehl says it may be remembered as “one of the most short-sighted and wrongheaded policies the United States has ever pursued in the Middle East”.

So some see Mrs Clinton’s statement today and Mr Obama’s yesterday as furiously back-pedalling away from a policy doomed to failure.

Yasser M El-Shimy is an expert on US policy in the Middle East, who lived in Egypt for 25 years but is now in the process of becoming an American citizen. He tells me that the Obama approach is the wrong side of a thin line.

If there is a democratic revolution, US-Egyptian relationships are in for a world of trouble. They think they can walk a fine line but the Egyptian public is listening to what they have been saying about the government being stable. There will be some anti-US sentiment among the protesters because they believe the US has been trying to prop up the regime until the last moment.

Some are openly arguing the opposite point of view, that democracy would “open up the flood gates” to Islamic revolution.

But one British think tank, Quilliam argues fear of the banned Muslim Brotherhood is over-played, not least by the organisation itself.

Brotherhood claims to be the “only real opposition” to dictatorial regimes in the Middle East should be viewed with a considerable amount of scepticism in future. Given the opportunity, many people in the Arab countries clearly prefer civil, non-sectarian parties over Islamists. Mr El-Shimy agrees, telling me the idea of the Muslim Brotherhood lurking in the shadows waiting to take over is false. He argues that it is Mr Mubarak’s policy of regression that has allowed it to flourish, and that in a real democracy it would be a power in the land, but not the dominant one…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Most US Aid to Egypt Goes to Military

Some quick facts about Egypt, the second largest recipient of US aid after Israel, and how it spends the $2bn it receives annually.

The US has given Egypt an average of $2bn annually since 1979, much of it in military aid, according to the Congressional Research Service. The combined total makes Egypt the second largest recipient of US aid after Israel.

The White House said on Friday it would review US aid to Egypt based on events in the coming days amid mass protests aimed at ending President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

Here are some facts about the aid:

  • In 2010, $1.3bn went to strengthen Egyptian forces versus $250m in economic aid. Another $1.9m went for training meant to bolster long-term US-Egyptian military cooperation. Egypt also receives hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of excess military hardware annually from the Pentagon.
  • The Obama administration has asked Congress to approve similar sums for the 2011 fiscal year.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama: Egypt Protests Are Opportunity for Reforms

President Barack Obama called Egypt an ally Thursday and said President Hosni Mubarak has been helpful on a range of issues, but said he has told Mubarak it is critical to enact reforms.

Obama said anti-government protests filling the streets show the frustrations of the populace. “It is very important that people have mechanisms in order to express legitimate grievances,” Obama said in an interview being broadcast live on YouTube, after being shown video of the protests and getting a question about repression of expression in the country.

“Egypt’s been an ally of ours on a lot of critical issues,” Obama said. “President Mubarak has been very helpful on a range of tough issues in the Middle East. But I’ve always said to him that making sure that they’re moving forward on reform, political reform and economic reform, is absolutely critical to the long-term well-being of Egypt. And you can see these pent-up frustrations that are being displayed on the streets.”

“Egypt’s been an ally of ours on a lot of critical issues,” Obama said. “President Mubarak has been very helpful on a range of tough issues in the Middle East. But I’ve always said to him that making sure that they’re moving forward on reform, political reform and economic reform, is absolutely critical to the long-term well-being of Egypt. And you can see these pent-up frustrations that are being displayed on the streets.”

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked repeatedly during his briefing earlier Thursday to address a perception that the White House was siding with the protesters and not Mubarak as the crisis rages. “This is not about taking sides,” Gibbs said repeatedly.

Gibbs said he believes Egypt’s government is stable but that the protests give Mubarak and his government an opportunity “to demonstrate its willingness to listen to its own people and devise a way to broaden the discussion and take some necessary actions on political reform.”

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

Special Report: The Revolt in Egypt and U.S. Policy

By Barry Rubin

There is no good policy for the United States regarding the uprising in Egypt but the Obama Administration may be adopting something close to the worst option. This is its first real international crisis. And it seems to be adopting a policy that, while somewhat balanced, is pushing the Egyptian regime out of power. The situation could not be more dangerous and might be the biggest disaster for the region and Western interests since the Iranian revolution three decades ago.

Experts and news media seem to be overwhelmingly optimistic, just as they generally were in Iran’s case. Wishful thinking is to some extent replacing serious analysis. Indeed, the alternative outcome is barely presented: This could lead to an Islamist Egypt, if not now in several years.

What’s puzzling here is that a lot of the enthusiasm is based on points like saying that the demonstrators are leaderless and spontaneous. But that’s precisely the situation where someone who does have leaders, is well organized, and knows precisely what they want takes over.

Look at Tunisia. The elite stepped in with the support of the army and put in a coalition of leadership, including both old elements and oppositionists. We don’t know what will happen but there is a reasonable hope of stability and democracy. This is not the situation in Egypt where the elite seems to have lost confidence and the army seems passive.

Can Omar Suleiman, long-time head of intelligence, as vice-president and former Air Force chief (the job Mubarak himself used to have) Ahmed Shafiq as prime minister stabilize the situation? Perhaps. He is an able man. But to have the man who has organized repression running the country is not exactly a step toward libertarian democracy.

There are two basic possibilities: the regime will stabilize (with or without Mubarak) or power will be up for grabs. Now, here are the precedents for the latter situation:…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: CGTT Union Asks to be Legalised

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 26 — Confédération Générale Tunisienne du Travail (CGTT), a trade union not recognised by the Ben Ali regime, has asked to be legalised and, in announcing “the complete support of the provisional executive office of the Confederation for the glorious revolution of the Tunisian people that brought the fallen President Ben Ali to his knees in January 14 2011”, has called for the day to be made a national holiday.

The CGTT statement contains a stinging attack on the “current secretary general of the UGTT [Abdessalem Jrad] and his clan”, accusing them of being “accomplices of the old regime for 23 years”, which they defended “over land, at sea and in the air”. The union says that the moment has come “to break with the model and the culture of the ‘single party’, which corresponds in a parallel way to the model and culture of the ‘single union’“ represented by the UGTT.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Protracted Protests Worry Tourism Operators

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 26 — It is not the people’s uprising that brought about the fall of Ben Ali’s regime, but rather the images and news that the street demonstrations which are continuing to receive wide coverage on overseas media: this is what is worrying operators in the tourism industry — due to their potential repercussions on the tourism market — having last year already recorded negative data for the country due to the global financial crisis. Tourism is one of the key sectors in the Tunisian economy: it supplies 400,000 jobs (direct and indirect), it contributes 5.5% of GDP, it generates some 19% of income in foreign currency and it contributes 50% to the coverage of the country’s balance of trade deficit. To these figures we must add those that regard craft production, 95% of which is purchased by tourist and owed to the work of some 265,000 people, equal to 11% of the Tunisian population. And agriculture, if only to quote another sector, with its production linked to the presence of tourists over the year valued at 6%. Overall, considering the other activities connected to the sector, it is calculated that tourism is a source of work for some 2 million Tunisians, i.e. 1/5 of the population. But to date, unfortunately the data relating to presences and above all to bookings are not encouraging. A survey carried out by Tourmag at some 330 French travel agents, reveals that “bookings for Tunisia, the primary French tourist destination, have dropped dramatically.” The Federation of Tunisian hoteliers is well aware of the problem and, according to several statements, the recovery operation is about to be started. Much, however, still depends on what’s happening in the streets.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Tourism, Thomas Cook’s Return Once Again Postponed

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 28 — Thomas Cook, one of the largest tour operators in the world, has once again postponed its return to the Tunisian market. Originally the company had planned to return on January 15, which was later moved to January 31. Now the date has been moved back once again, to February 15.

Most foreign tourists that were present in Tunisia have fled the country due to the chaos that broke out after the fall of the Ben Ali regime.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Monastir Airport, Import-Export Resumes

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 27 — Between January 17 and 25, the Monastir airport located on Tunisia’s central coast guaranteed the export of fifteen product loads and the import of eleven coming from Austria. The statement was made by the regional director of the Tunisair airline which, according to its central director, Habib Ben Slama, announced that is was capable of meeting any exporter demand, from all over the Country.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Will Barack Obama Have a Jimmy Carter Moment?

Events are moving quickly in the middle east and it should be apparent to everyone that it is time for strong leadership from the President of the United States. This could mean showing outward and material support for the present government, at least until there can be a peaceful transfer of power to another democratic form of government. But to do nothing would be a mistake.

It has been reported that the Muslim Brotherhood is behind the rioting in the streets of Egypt, their aim is to topple the Egyptian government and replace it with an Islamic form of government. Already Tunisia has toppled, Yemen is teetering and Jordan is getting restive. The Mideast is a powder keg ready to explode.

The comparison is similar to events back in 1979, when inaction by Jimmy Carter opened the door for Ayatollah Khomeini to come into Iran and turn it into an Islamic terrorist state. Iran has been spreading mischief and mayhem throughout the world and is on the precipice of getting nuclear weapons. We are still paying for Carters foreign policy weakness in the face of earthshaking events.

They say a smart man learns from his mistakes, but a brilliant man learns from other peoples mistakes. Obama has the opportunity to be a smart man as well as a brilliant man and salvage this situation. Help the Egyptian people to help themselves. Don’t let this anarchy create another fundamentalist oppressive state.

The real way to defuse the potency of the middle east is to stop being addicted to their oil. Mr. Obama, take the chains off of our energy industry and let us become independent by using our own energy resources. We have enough coal, oil, natural gas & hydroelectric for all of our energy needs far into the future, our technology will make them clean. Enough with the windmills, they will never generate enough power to help us. Remember this truth: You can make windmills with steel but you can’t make steel with windmills. PS. How deep is that global warming out there in the east?…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Turkey’s Foreign Policy

I wrote yesterday that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu keeps saying the government is following a “zero problems with neighbors” foreign policy. And I insist on making concrete, realistic cost-benefit analyses, what I call the “result-oriented foreign policy” concept.

What they have in their heart is a wish to create a commonwealth led by Turkey in the Middle East, the Balkans and Central Asia, similar to what Britain had with its former colonies. The neo Ottoman!

The benefit (+) part of the cost-benefit analysis:

1) Visa liberation with some regional countries. Lifting visa barriers will of course contribute to trade relations with neighboring countries.

2) Moves made outside the Middle East and in Africa would also contribute to our economy in the future.

If we look at the cost (-) part of the analysis, we see:

1) Turkey signed two protocols with Armenia in 2009 in order to prevent United States President Barack Obama from uttering the word “genocide.” Azerbaijan was offended along the way. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rushed to the Azerbaijani capital of Baku and tried to please the Azerbaijanis. When he realized that opposition inside also reacted fiercely to the protocols they were swept under the rug.

2) Turkey prepared for a brokerage between Syria and Israel. Turkish-Israeli relations have deteriorated so seriously that our name is not even uttered in any real mediation attempts between Syria and Israel. Egypt is now taking the lead.

3) Turkey embarked upon mediation between the United States, or the West, and Iran. As the United Nations Security Council was preparing to apply sanctions against Iran, Turkey signed the Tehran Declaration with Brazil in the way Iran desired. The West has not approached the declaration positively. After that, Turkey has become a country whose alliance has been questioned in the U.S. Congress as it voted against the sanctions in the U.N. Security Council. Brazil made a u-turn but Turkey provided a case in the West that the political axis of the country is changing, in favor of an idealist foreign policy. Since then, we have had sour relations with the U.S.

4) With the uprising in Lebanon, Turkey adopted a very active attitude. Davutoglu met with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in a secret place. As Hezbollah published the photos of the meeting to the world, it gained legitimacy in the world yet Davutoglu’s position was seriously questioned. Hezbollah acted freely.

I have given just a few examples above. Here is the conclusion:

1) The result of government initiatives in the region to create a commonwealth of nations is zero.

2) Moreover, the fame and name Turkey gains in the Arab streets as it challenges Israel disturb Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

3) Sunni countries are awfully anxious about the momentum Shiite Iran has reached with Turkey’s assistance. These countries see even Israel as an ally against Iran.

4) The Syrian government openly questioned Turkey’s “neo-Ottoman” aspiration.

All right, but are there any beneficiaries of such initiatives? Of course there are!

1) The West and the U.S. maintain contact with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas via Turkey because they do not want to have direct relations with them.

2) Hezbollah and Hamas act freely and gain legitimacy in the West with Turkey’s aid.

3) Iran is buying time to produce nuclear weapons, keeping the West busy with the aid of Turkey.

4) Syria, stuck between Iran and the U.S., acts more comfortably.

I think this is a roughly accurate cost-benefit analysis of current Turkish foreign policy.

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

Iran Hangs Dutch Iranian Woman on Drugs Charges

An Iranian-Dutch woman arrested in Iran in 2009 has been hanged, according to news agency reports.

State television said Zahram Bahrami had been executed for possessing and selling drugs. She was arrested after taking part in an anti-government demonstration. According to news agency AP, the report said that initially she was arrested for committing ‘security crimes’, but it did not say what became of that case.

Iran refused to recognise Bahrami’s dual nationality. A spokesman for foreign minister Uri Rosenthal said the minister would summon the Iranian ambassador for an explanation.

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

Iran Hangs Iranian-Dutch Woman Sahra Bahrami

A Dutch-Iranian woman, arrested after taking part in anti-government protests in Iran, has been hanged for drug smuggling, Iranian officials have said.

Sahra Bahrami, 46, was jailed for a year after being arrested after joining a protest in 2009, while visiting relatives.

Dutch officials had said they were extremely concerned about her case.

Her execution brings the total number hanged in the country so far this year to 66, according to media reports.

During a search of her house, authorities found 450g of cocaine and 420g of opium, the Tehran prosecutor’s office said.

“A drug trafficker named Sahra Bahrami, daughter of Ali, was hanged early on Saturday morning after she was convicted of selling and possessing drugs,” the office said, according to AFP.


It added that Ms Bahrami was a member of an international drug gang who smuggled cocaine into the country using her Dutch connections.

But Ms Bahrami’s daughter has been quoted as telling the New York-based rights group International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the drug charges were fabricated.

“She doesn’t even smoke cigarettes, let alone possessing drugs. How could someone who participates in [post-]election gatherings and endangers her life, engage in such actions against her country?” she is quoted as saying.

Ms Bahrami’s lawyer has expressed shock at the news…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Iran: Online Islamic Law Encylopedia ‘Wiqifiqh’ Launched

Teheran, 27 Jan. (AKI) — The Islamic Information and Documentation Centre in the Iranian capital, Tehran, has launched the free online Islamic law encyclopaedia, ‘Wikifiqh’ in farsi. English and Arabic versions are also planned.

The encylopedia contains entries on millions of concepts in Islamic law (‘fiqh’ in Arabic) and the Muslim faith.

Part of the ‘Wikifiqh’ website is for intellectuals and philosophers, who can register to take part in debates on various topics in Islam.

The encyclopaedia ( also contains extensive information on Islamic jurisprudence.

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

Iranian Opposition Leader Hails Egypt Protests

Iran’s opposition leader expressed hope Saturday that protests engulfing Egypt can bring the kind of change that has so far evaded his own country.

Mir Hossein Mousavi compared the uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen with the protest movement that followed the 2009 disputed presidential election in Iran.

Mousavi, who claims to have been the real victor in the vote, said Iran’s protest movement was the starting point but all aimed at ending the “oppression of the rulers.”

The wave of protests that erupted after the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the biggest challenge faced by Iran’s clerical leadership since it came to power in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets in support of Mousavi, and some powerful clerics sided with the opposition. But a heavy military crackdown suppressed the protests, and many in the opposition — from midlevel political figures to street activists, journalists and human rights workers — were arrested. The opposition has not been able to hold a major protest since December 2009. Mousavi said he hoped protesters in Egypt and Yemen would succeed in bringing change to their country amid a wave of Arab unrest that was unleashed when Tunisians succeeded in driving their authoritarian president from the country earlier this month. “Our nation respects and salutes the huge revolution by the brave Tunisian people and the rightful uprising of the Egyptian and Yemeni people,” Mousavi said in a comment posted Saturday on his website “We demand that God bestow on them victory in their truthful struggle.”

Mousavi said Iranians peacefully took to the streets to demand “where is my vote?” and now Egyptians chant “the nation wants the ouster of the regime.”

In a twist, Iran’s hard-line rulers also have tried to take credit for the uprisings, calling them a replay of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the pro-U.S. shah and brought hardline clerics to power. “An Islamic Middle East is taking shape,” Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said in his Friday prayer sermon. “A new Middle East is emerging based on Islam … based on religious democracy.”

He said chants of “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is Great,” from protesters signal a new Middle East based on Islamic values, not U.S. goals, is emerging…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Saudi Shares Tumble on Egypt Protests

Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange retreated the most since May, as concerns about violent protests in Egypt continued to present the most serious challenge to President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

The Saudi Tadawul All Share Index was down 4.1pc to 6,419.89 by Saudi lunchtime.

The market in Saudi Arabia, where the start of the work week is Saturday, was the first to react to the violence in Egypt and the drop in the TASI offered a window into the potential battering that could emerge when other regional markets reopen on Sunday.

“The fall is due to sentiment about what’s happening in Egypt, and also in the US because the Dow went down” on Friday, said John Sfakianakis, chief economist at the Riyadh-based Banque Saudi Fransi-Credit Agricole Group.

“You have some collateral damage which is related to investors …who have exposure in Egypt, and are trying to hedge that exposure by selling down their positions in Saudi Arabia,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Birth of Hizballahstan

By Jonathan Spyer

Events have moved fast in Lebanon. The country now faces the prospect of a government controlled by Hizbullah and consisting solely of the movement and its allies.

Parts of Lebanon looked in danger of slipping into chaos on Tuesday, as angry Sunnis took to the streets for a “Day of Rage” in protest of what they called Hizbullah’s “coup.”

They were responding to the securing of a parliamentary majority for Hizbullah’s preferred prime ministerial candidate, Najib Mikati. Mikati received the backing of 65 members of the 128-member parliament earlier this week, clearing the way for his appointment as prime minister.

But the protesters’ rage was insufficient to prevent Mikati’s accession. He received the official presidential decree confirming his appointment on Tuesday, even as protesters blocked the Beirut-Saida road and shots were fired in the Sunni stronghold of Tripoli.

This is because the real, currently silent capacity for violence in Lebanon is on Mikati’s side, not that of the demonstrators.

Mikati, 55, a billionaire telecommunications tycoon, tried to present himself as a compromise Sunni candidate (Lebanon’s constitution requires that the prime minister hail from the Sunni sect). The candidacy of a previous pro- Hizbullah Sunni, Omar Karami, had been withdrawn because of his too-obvious ties to Syria.

The new prime minister-designate even called on supporters of the March 14 alliance and its leader, incumbent Prime Minister Saad Hariri, to remember his uneventful record as prime minister for a short period following theassassination of Rafik Hariri in 2005.

March 14 wasn’t buying. It pointed to Mikati’s close links with Damascus. More importantly, it is clear to all sides that Mikati would never have been put forward by Hizbullah and its allies as a candidate for the premiership were he not fully in line with the movement’s plan to neuter or dismantle the UN tribunal investigating Rafik Hariri’s murder.

Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah also tried to sound conciliatory this week. He said the new prime minister would form a new unity government in which “everyone participates.”

Nasrallah’s and Mikati’s words were rendered particularly hollow by the means that engineered the parliamentary majority securing Mikati’s nomination.

March 14’s parliamentary majority was removed following the defection of Druse leader Walid Jumblatt’s 11-man faction. This defection, according to Lebanese sources, was obtained by crude and extremely credible threats of violence against Jumblatt personally and against his family and community.

Saad Hariri, meanwhile, has made clear that Mikati is the candidate of the Hizbullah-led camp, while he remains the candidate of March 14. As such, his movement is refusing to join a government led by Mikati. This has led to the very real possibility that a government will be formed under direct Hizbullah domination.

The response of March 14 supporters has been, for the first time in half a decade, to take to the streets.

The demonstrators seen in recent days are not the wellbehaved, idealistic protesters of the period following Hariri’s assassination. This crowd has the unmistakable whiff of sectarian rage about it.

Angry Sunnis in their northern heartland of Tripoli smashed reporters’ cameras. In Tripoli’s Nour Square, the offices of Muhammad Safadi, the MP who proposed Mikati’s candidacy, were burned. Protesters also targeted a transmission van belonging to Al-Jazeera, which they associated with Qatar and support for Hizbullah. The frightened journalists had to be rescued by members of the Lebanese Armed Forces.

The protests look set to continue…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

U.S. Policy Shaken by Middle East Uprisings

Muslim Brotherhood orders followers into streets of major cities

The massive uprisings in such countries as Egypt, Yemen and Tunisia are causing alarm among analysts who fear they will shake the foundations of the United States Middle East policy, and also spread to other Middle East countries, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Already the government in Tunisia has been overthrown and there are fears the same may happen in Egypt, which has been a foundation along with Israel of the United States’ programs and efforts throughout the region for decades.


A takeover of the Egyptian government by Islamists would have a major strategic impact for the U.S., considering Egypt controls access to the vital Suez Canal waterway and is closely allied with other autocratic friends in the region such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Moscow Airport Attack: Suicide Bomber Confirmed From North Caucasus

Federal investigators also said foreigners were deliberately targeted, marking an ominous new tactic in Russia’s losing battle with extremism. Islamist rebels from the Caucasus, a group of mountainous Russian provinces that are plagued by a separatist insurgency, had been widely suspected in the attack at Domodedovo Airport. Saturday’s statement from federal investigators confirmed a suicide blast involving a bomb containing shrapnel.

While authorities say they know the identity of the perpetrator, they suggested they still don’t know who masterminded the attacks. “Despite the fact that we know the name of the terrorist, we won’t name him today … since investigative searches are ongoing to identify and detain the organisers and accomplices of the terrorist act,” the statement said.

Investigators also confirmed fears that foreigners in Russia had for the first time entered the terrorists’ crosshairs; the victims included one person each from Britain, Germany, Austria, Ukraine, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. There were at least 16 Russians among the dead.

“It was no accident that the terrorist act was carried out in the international arrivals hall. According to the investigation, the terrorist act was aim first and foremost at foreign citizens,” the statement said.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the blast — the latest in a surge of attacks that the Kremlin appears helpless to stop. Critics say attacks have risen sixfold since Vladimir Putin became president — on a ticket to fight the scourge of terrorism — in 2000. The Interfax news agency on Friday said that surveillance video showed an unaccompanied male suspected suicide bomber, clad in a black jacket and baseball cap, standing in the area for about 15 minutes before the blast.

Some media have shown photos of a severed head believed to be that of the bomber and say the head has been sent to a forensic laboratory for DNA analysis.

After the Domodedovo blast, suspicion initially fell on Chechen insurgents. However, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said preliminary evidence showed no connection with Chechnya…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Moscow Airport Bombing: Why a Terrorist Mastermind is Sending Chills Down Spines

The evidence suggests they were right — but a photograph of the man suspected of masterminding the deadliest attack on an airport anywhere in the world has nonetheless shocked the nation. Staring out from the front pages of their newspapers this weekend is not the usual dark-skinned, heavily-bearded Islamist terrorist they have come to expect and fear but an ethnic Russian who looks like millions of Russians’ brothers, sons or husbands.

The suspect, 32-year-old Vitaly Razdobudko, is one of the growing number of Russians who have embraced radical Islam, creating a security nightmare for Russia’s anti-terrorism squads. Inured to more than a decade of terrorist attacks on their trains, planes, schools, hospitals and theatres, ordinary Russians are facing up to an uncomfortable truth: the terrorists are now drawn from their own ranks, rather than exclusively from the impoverished Muslim population of the country’s North Caucasus region.

“The appearance of Slav Muslims in the terrorists’ ranks is threatening to become a tendency,” said Andrei Kuznetsov, a commentator on the lenta.runews portal.

“He (Razdobudko) is not the first Slav-Islamist terrorist. These are people who converted to Islam in the chaotic 1990s when it became clear to people living far from the capital that the future was not bright. They preferred to embrace radical Islam rather than rot in an alcoholic delirium or a heroin-induced stupour.”

Vitaly Razdobudko appears to have become disenchanted at a young age. A native of the pretty southern spa town of Pyatigorsk 800 miles south of Moscow, he studied at a local technical university and then went on to try his hand at a number of businesses including tourism. At some point, he fell under the influence of a local imam who had connections to Islamist terror groups. The imam was himself an ethnic Russian and a Muslim convert. He had been accused of kidnap and police had found extremist literature in his flat including bomb-making manuals.

Under his influence, Razdobudko embraced radical Islam. He first came to the attention of police last summer when a powerful car bomb ripped through Pyatigorsk, close to his home, injuring thirty people. Razdobudko was brought in for questioning but released for lack of evidence.

He and his wife shared a flat with a couple who shared his Wahhabi ideology. The couple is now languishing in a Moscow jail, the man for being part of an Islamist terror group and the woman for being part of a failed suicide attack on Moscow on New Year’s Eve. Mr Kuznetsov and other commentators said the ethnic Russian converts often became more fanatical than terrorists who were born Muslims. “They make the most hardened revolutionaries and terrorists,” he said. “And it means that the job of the law enforcement organs is even harder because they cannot use the shape of someone’s nose or the colour of their eyes to help them spot their adversary but have to use completely different criteria.”

The identity of the actual bomber, the man who blew himself up in the international arrivals area of Moscow’s Domodedovo airport on Monday killing 35 people including one Briton, remains a mystery. Investigators said on Saturday that he was a 20-year-old man from Russia’s North Caucasus region. Razbudko remained a suspect in the failed attack on New Year’s Eve, they added, but the airport bombing may have been carried out by a different Islamist group. CCTV footage suggests the bomber, clad in black, drove to the airport, parked, and then found himself a spot among the crowd of people meeting passengers off planes. Investigators said this showed his intent to kill as many foreigners as possible.

“It was no accident that the terrorist act was carried out in the international arrivals hall. According to the investigation, the terrorist act was aim first and foremost at foreign citizens,” the authorities said.

He kept his left hand in his pocket all the time and loitered in the crowd for fifteen minutes before blowing himself up. Eyewitnesses said he shouted his name, age and birthplace and screamed: “I will kill you all” before turning himself into “mincemeat” as one witness put it. Security sources believe an accomplice watching his movements may have detonated the bomb using a mobile phone to make sure he didn’t lose his nerve…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Kandahar Deputy Governor Killed by Suicide Bomber

Abdul Latif Ashna had just left his home and was on his way to his office when a suicide bomber on a motorcycle blew himself up near his vehicle.

One of his bodyguards and his driver were wounded, as were two passers-by in the Afghan town.

Mr Ashna, a trained engineer, had been deputy governor since April 2010.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

India: Christian Leaders Denounce Dangerous Supreme Court Comments on the Murder of Graham Staines

While confirming the life sentence for the main culprit of the heinous crime, the court added a few remarks on non-existent forced conversions that seem to justify sectarian and anti-Christian violence. Cardinal Gracias, “I’m worried about the interpretations that may be given to this view, and especially for the implications that this ruling could have in the future.”

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — The Supreme Court upheld a life sentence for Dara Singh (pictured), responsible for the murder of Pastor Graham Staines and his two children in 1999. (01/21/2011 Life in prison for Dara Singh, assassin of Pastor Graham Staines). But some side comments on the judgment appear ambiguous and dangerous because they seem to justify inter-religious and anti-Christian violence. Cardinal Oswald Gracias, President of the Bishops’ Conference of India, has expressed deep concern at the Supreme Court comments for the murder of Graham Staines and his two children, stating that “the intention was to give a Graham Staines a lesson for his religious activities, especially converting the poor tribals to Christianity. “

Speaking to AsiaNews, the cardinal states: “ While I am happy with the decision of the Judges not to give the death penalty, because I am against a death sentence, I am worried about the implications and interpretations of the remarks. From a legal point of view, the word “intent” is worrisome and could be dangerous. I am concerned about f the interpretations that could be given to this judgments and importantly the implications that this judgments could have in the future. There is a possibility that could be interpreted as something that gives license to others and the other possible interpretations is one s does not respect the constitutional guarantees and freedoms given to each and every citizen of our country including our Dalit and Tribal brothers and sisters”.

The President of the Indian Bishops’ Conference continues:: “The fact is the Commission found that there was no significant increase in the number of Christians and importantly Graham Staines was doing a service for the Leprosy patients and there is absolutely no evidence of any ‘forced’ conversions- and the Church is completely against forced conversion.- so I am deeply concerned about the implications of this judgments. From the point of view of Freedom of Faith- everyone is free ‘Constitutionally” to practice preach and propagate his own beliefs and faith. Religious Freedom is Human Right, and importantly it is a Human Right for a person to present his own beliefs to the others and it is importantly a Human Right for every human person to freely accept a religious practice and beliefs”.

Even Christian groups for human rights — - All India Christian Council, the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) and Civil Society — are concerned about the judges’ comments on cases of inter-religious violence linked to conversion. Civil Society in particular, criticises this observation of the Supreme Court: “ It is undisputed — it states — that there is no justification for interfering in someone’s belief by way of ‘use of force’, provocation, conversion, incitement or upon a flawed premise that one religion is better than the other. It strikes at the very root of the orderly society, which the founding fathers of our Constitution dreamt of”. Thus, the court raises the ghostly spectre of supposedly forced conversions.

According to Civil Society, “The Supreme Court ruling may in fact send the wrong signals to courts trying cases of religious violence in Kandhamal, for instance, and in other places. It also tends to preempt possible challenges to the black laws enacted by many states in the guise of Freedom of Religion Bills. The secular India looks at Supreme Court and other judicial forums as its last hope to preserve constitutional gurantees given to religious minorities and other marginalized groups. The state can not abrogate its responsibilities to ensure the secular fabric of the country. We expect the government to ask the Supreme Court to expunge the unnecessary, uncalled for and unconstitutional remarks”.

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

Pakistan: Karachi: Women on Streets in Support of the Blasphemy Law

The women’s wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) marched through the streets, shouting slogans against those who want to change the “black law”. The fundamentalist leaders call for the expulsion of Vatican representatives for “meddling” of Benedict XVI. On January 30, Christians pray for in Asia Bibi and peace in the country.

Karachi (AsiaNews) — The women’s wing of the Islamic movement Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) has demonstrated on the streets of Karachi against possible amendments to the blasphemy law. The protest took place yesterday after Friday prayers: the crowd gathered in Mazar-e-Quaid — the National Mausoleum, better known as the tomb that houses the remains of the founder Ali Jinnah — and marched to the area of Numaish Chowrangi. The young women students — from different schools and institutions of the city — shouted slogans and brandished placards against those who want to change the “black law”.

Addressing the crowd, Ghafoor Ahmed — a member of JI — confirmed that “no attempt to touch the law will be allowed”, the spirit of the Pakistani students, he added, shows that the country “will soon become a true Islamic nation.” The vice-president Ashraf Jalali, who led the protest, made it clear that any condemnation of Mumtaz Qadri — the murderess of the Punjab Governor Salman Taseer — will lead to further demonstrations and protests, because he is “a hero of the Muslim ummah”.

Members of the fundamentalist movement also demanded the expulsion of all Vatican officials in Pakistan, for what they call “interference” in internal affairs by Benedict XVI. On 10 January, the Pope, during his meeting with the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, had claimed the right to religious freedom and called for the repeal of the blasphemy law.

On January 30, Islamic fundamentalists have launched a national demonstration in support of the “black law” and promised a “long march” to Islamabad if Asia Bibi, the 45 year old Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy and pending appeal, is not executed. Also on January 30, however, the bishop of Islamabad / Rawalpini, Mgr. Anthony Rufin, proclaimed a day of fasting and prayer for Asia and for peace and harmony all over Pakistan.

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

Far East

In Japan, Kiko’s Way Doesn’t Fly

The Bishops of the Land of the Rising Sun don’t want “division and chaos.” The Vatican is trying to mediate and correct and approve the Neocatechumenal catechisms. Which, however, remain secret. And the Masses also continue to be celebrated separately, and with unusual methods

ROME, January 19, 2011 — In the speech addressed two days ago to thousands of enthusiastic members of the Neocatechumenal Way gathered in the audience hall, Benedict XVI played three times, in just twenty lines, on the key of the obedience due to the bishops.

In effect, the relationship with the bishops is a sore spot for the Way, founded and directed for more than forty years by Spanish laypersons Francisco José Gómez Argüello, called Kiko, and Carmen Hernández, together with Italian priest Mario Pezzi.

Among the bishops, the Way numbers many supporters all over the world. Next January 26, 250 of them, including 70 from the United States, will be in Israel, at the Domus Galilaeae, the residence designed and built by Kiko on the slopes of Mount of Beatitudes, with a magnificent view of the lake, for a seminar at which Kiko himself will be the star performer.

But there are also many bishops who have been annoyed by the Way, after seeing it at work in their territory. For example, the bishops of Japan.

On December 15, 2007, on the “ad limina” visit to the pope, their president at the time, Tokyo archbishop Peter Takeo Okada, told Benedict XVI that “the powerful sect-like activity of Way members is divisive and confrontational. It has caused sharp, painful division and strife within the Church.”

The Japanese bishops were demanding the closure of the seminary that the Way had opened in 1990 in the diocese of Takamatsu. The Way put up resistance. In 2008, the bishops had to go to Rome twice to plead their case. Vatican secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone studied the question, and agreed with the bishops. Within the year, the seminarians and their rector would have to move to Rome.

But the members of the Way present in Japan did not accept the matter peacefully. The bishop of Takamatsu, Francis Osamu Mizobe, wrote them a letter complaining that they celebrated separate liturgies, and asking them to obey the dioceses instead of their leaders.

From Rome, the congregation for the evangelization of peoples sent to Japan an inspector favorable toward the Way, Javier Sotil Vaios Espiriceta. The inspection took place between March 20 and 25, 2009. But nothing came of it.

So much so that in 2010, the Japanese bishops came to a unanimous decision to end it. At the beginning of Advent, they made public their decision to suspend the presence of the Way in the whole country for five years.

The Way appealed to Rome, to the highest authorities of the Church. And in effect, last December 13 an unusual meeting took place at the Vatican.

On one side of the table were five Japanese bishops: the bishop of Osaka and president of the episcopal conference, Leo Jun Ikenaga, a Jesuit (in the photo); the bishop of Takamatsu, Mizobe; the bishop of Fukuoka, Dominic Ryoji Miyahara; the bishop of Niigata, Tarcisius Isao Kikuchi; and the bishop emeritus of Oita, Peter Takaaki Hirayama.

On the other side of the table were the pope in person, Cardinal Bertone, five other cardinals, and an archbishop. In the curia, the main protector of the Neocatechumenals is the substitute secretary of state, Fernando Filoni.

The Vatican authorities ordered the bishops to resume dialogue with the Way, with the help of a delegate sent from Rome and in accordance with the instructions of the secretariat of state and the congregation for the evangelization of peoples.

The leaders of the Way greeted the Vatican decision as a victory for them. But the Japanese bishops are having a hard time remaining patient. On January 12, their president, Archbishop Ikenaga, wrote in the Japanese Catholic weekly “Katorikku Shimbun” that “we bishops, in light of our apostolic pastoral responsibility, could not ignore the damage produced by the Neocatechumenals.”

And he continued: “In those places touched by the Neocatechumenal Way, there has been rampant confusion, conflict, division, and chaos. We hope that they will take a hard look at why things haven’t worked out here so far and, for the first time, help us root out the cause of the problems, so that we can find the path to a solution.”

The Vatican delegate has not been designated yet. When he comes, Archbishop Ikenaga has asked Japanese Catholics who have entered into contact with the Way to meet with him and to tell all without reservations, because “the fact is, it’s very difficult for the real state of affairs to be conveyed to a place as far away as Rome.”

At the press conference held in Rome on January 17 immediately after the audience with the pope, Kiko Argüello said that the Way always acts in obedience to the bishops, and therefore does not operate in dioceses in which the bishop does not permit it.

But the case of Japan is proof that things do not happen in such a linear manner. Wherever the Way has set foot, it is hard for it to retreat, no matter what the bishop thinks.


At the same audience on January 17, Benedict XVI touched on another sore spot for the Way, that of its catechism texts.

These texts — thirteen volumes transcribed from the oral teaching of Kiko and Carmen, today summarized under the title of “Catechetical Directory of the Neocatechumenal Way” — have always been secret. In 1997, then cardinal Joseph Ratzinger ordered that they be handed over to the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, to be submitted to an examination of their doctrinal content.

The examination lasted until 2003. The congregation, which at the time had Bertone as its secretary, made corrections and introduced about 2,000 references to parallel passages in the official catechism of the Catholic Church.

And yet it was only at the end of 2010 that the thirteen volumes of the work received official approval, communicated by Benedict XVI at the audience two days ago.

Why this long purgatory? According to what Kiko said at the press conference on January 17, the reason was that in the meantime there were two other questions to be resolved: the definitive approval of the statutes of the Way, and the approval of the manner in which the Mass and other sacraments are celebrated in the Neocatechumenal communities.

The statutes were approved on May 11, 2008 — one year after the previous provisional statutes had expired — and they also established the liturgical rules to which the Way must adhere.

Both of these goals were reached with great effort and following serious disagreements, especially in the liturgical camp, as www.chiesa documented at the time.

And even now the actual behaviors of the Neocatechumenal communities do not follow the norms always and in everything. Most of the Masses continue to be celebrated separately, group by group, somewhat behind closed doors, with great leeway for creativity, meaning the ritual and verbal conventions deemed useful for the purposes of the initiation process of each group.

For the catechisms, the criterion seems to be the same. “Even now that they have been approved” — Kiko said at the press conference on January 17 — “there is a process of initiation that must be respected. It is not good that one should be able to see the whole course before even beginning it. If the Church ordered us to do so, we would put them up for sale. But we would prefer not.”…

English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Chandlers’ Teenage Kidnap Suspect Held in Kenya as Police Reveal Five Somali Pirates Have Links to Asylum-Claim Families in Britain

The Daily Mail can reveal the Somali was picked up in the Indian Ocean along with five other suspected pirates.

It is the first arrest in the case and two Scotland Yard anti-terror officers have flown to Nairobi to liaise with authorities there.

The suspect, who is believed to be in his teens, is thought to have guarded the Chandlers during their year’s captivity.

The couple from Tunbridge Wells in Kent spoke graphically about their ordeal in a series of Daily Mail interviews, revealing they were threatened by a young member of the pirate gang.

They were freed in November following the payment of £450,000 and supplied descriptions and names of their captors.

It is likely that a photograph of the man detained by the Kenyans will be shown to the Chandlers for identification.

It is not known which navy intercepted the boat he was in.

Last night security sources insisted the two UK officers did not interview any suspects during their visit to Kenya last week.

Scotland Yard released a brief statement saying: ‘We can confirm that Metropolitan Police officers travelled to Kenya where they met officials and held discussions.’

A key figure in the investigation is likely to be Dahir Abdullahi Kadiye, a 56-year-old former minicab driver from East London who helped secure the couple’s release.

Mr Kadiye, a father of two, who arrived from Somalia in 1997 as a refugee and now has UK citizenship, met with the pirates and their representatives during six months trying to broker a deal to free the Chandlers.

If the suspect being held in Kenya is charged it is not clear where he would be put on trial.

Unlike some European countries, Britain has not staged any trials of alleged Somali pirates and an agreement between Kenya and the EU to try suspects expired at the end of last month.

The suspected pirate would be able to seek asylum in Britain only if he stood trial in the UK.

If he was convicted by a British court, lawyers could argue at the end of sentence that the man would face persecution in his homeland of Somalia — because of the fact he had been imprisoned in the UK.

The government does not deport to war-torn Somalia, which has an appalling human rights record.

It is possible, but investigators believe unlikely, that the pirate could seek asylum in Kenya, Somalia’s neighbour.

Kenya has jailed 26 suspects captured at sea off Somalia and 84 are awaiting trial.

Meanwhile international investigators have uncovered evidence of the European connections of the Somali pirate clans and at least five have family living in the UK.

One 32-year-old member of the gang that held the Chandlers, who were seized at gunpoint as they sailed their yacht near the Seychelles in October 2008, has boasted of planning to join his wife and two children in London. He said his family had claimed political asylum in UK and investigators believe at least two more pirate families plan to do the same.

A member of a gang responsible for seizing two tankers last year is said to have a wife, children and sister in the UK. Investigators have been studying hundreds of satellite and mobile telephone calls made between Somalia and the UK and believe ransom money is being sent to contacts in the UK and Europe.

Somali piracy has become big business with more than £60million in ransoms paid last year and the average payment rising from £100,000 in 2005 to £3.3million last year.

In the first three weeks of this year 25 ships have been attacked and five captured with an estimated 700 crew.

Twenty-eight vessels are being held in the coastal pirate towns of Haradheere and Hobyo.

It is estimated that the annual cost of piracy to the world economy is in excess of £5billion in additional insurance, security, naval escort vessels and ships having to take longer routes.

Home Secretary Theresa May has highlighted the links between British extremists and Somalia saying some UK citizens travel there to train alongside groups that are linked to Al Qaeda. Anti-terrorist investigators believe some have returned to Britain and they have been specifically investigating associations between the UK and the ever increasing number of pirate gangs.

Giving a stark warning about the terror threat from the Horn of Africa during a speech in November, Mrs May said: ‘We know that people from this country have already gone to Somalia to fight.

‘It seems highly likely, given experience elsewhere, that if left to their own devices we would eventually see British extremists, trained and hardened on the streets of Mogadishu, returning to the UK and seeking to commit mass murder on the streets of London.’

Terrorists originally from the region have already tried to strike in Britain forming part of the failed July 21 bomb cell that tried to carry out attacks on London’s transport system in 2005.

The Chandlers declined to comment on the arrest when contacted last night.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Six Killed in Nigerian Political Massacre

Motorcycle-riding gunmen shot and killed the dominant governorship candidate in a northeast Nigeria state and six others on Friday, throwing a region already under attack by a radical Muslim sect into a panic.

Meanwhile, authorities say as many as 13 people died in renewed violence between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria’s restive central belt. The violence comes ahead of April elections that many worry could ignite simmering ethnic and religious tensions in a country that became a democracy only a decade ago.

Families in the northern city of Maiduguri hid inside their homes and shops shut their doors as police cordoned off large neighbourhoods searching for the killers of Modu Fannami Gubio.

He was the Borno state candidate of the All Nigeria People’s Party, a conservative party dominant in Nigeria’s Muslim north, for the forthcoming April elections. The party already controls politics in Borno state.

Gubio had left Friday prayers in Maiduguri and was walking to his father’s home when the gunmen attacked, said Borno state police commissioner Ibrahim Abubakar. Gubio tried to run for a sport utility vehicle parked nearby, but was cut down before he reached the cover, the police commissioner said.

Two plainclothes police officers and four others — including a 12-year-old boy — also died in the attack, Mr Abubakar said. Five others were wounded. No arrests had been made on Friday afternoon, though paramilitary police patrolled the streets and shut down traffic.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sudan Facebook Group Calls for Protests

Thousands of people have joined a Facebook group calling for anti-government protests across Sudan on Sunday, the day preliminary results are due out on the vote on southern independence. Entitled “January 30, a word to the Sudanese youth,” the Facebook site shows an angry protestor holding an Arabic placard that reads: “A better Sudan.”

The call comes after Egypt’s April 6 Facebook group set up by young Egyptian activists three years ago helped bring tens of thousands onto the streets this week for anti-regime rallies that have rocked the country.

With more than 10,000 followers so far, the Sudanese site calls for peaceful demonstrations in Khartoum and other Sudanese cities at 11:00 am (0800 GMT) to demand an end to “injustice and humiliation.” “We will come out to protest the high cost of living, corruption, nepotism, unemployment and all the practices of the regime, including striking women… that are contrary to the most basic laws of Islam and humanity, and violate the rights of minorities,” the Facebook site says. “We will go out to prove to the whole world that the people… will not remain silent in the face of persistent injustice and humiliation,” it adds.

A source at the Popular Congress Party of Islamist opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi refused to comment on the planned protest. Other opposition parties could not be reached to say whether they would participate.

Just last week, Turabi was arrested shortly after saying that a Tunisia-style revolt, which ousted veteran strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali earlier this month, was likely in north Sudan. Nationwide protests in neighbouring Egypt forced embattled President Hosni Mubarak to announce in a televised address to the nation early on Saturday that he had sacked the government and would pursue economic and political reforms.

Widespread economic and political discontent has provoked street protests in north Sudan in recent weeks, although they have been sporadic, with the army keeping tight control in the capital…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Two Sailors From Hijacked German Ship Found in Lifeboat

Two sailors on a German ship have been found in a lifeboat after pirates took control of their vessel last weekend in the Indian Ocean.

The pirates attacked the Bremen-based Beluga Nomination around 800 sea miles north of the Seychelles, prompting reaction from a Seychelles patrol boat and a Danish warship in the area.

The Seychelles patrol boat fired on the ship killing two pirates and two crew members, reported Der Spiegel on Saturday. Yet it was unable to gain control of the Beluga Nomination, and most of the surviving crew locked themselves into a safe room.

At least two others jumped into the free-fall life boat and activated it, plunging into the sea.

The day afterwards the Beluga Nomination stopped as the daily fuel ration was seemingly exhausted. A few hours later another captured ship, the York gas ship arrived, and the two ships were last seen heading towards Somalia.

The two men in the life boat were picked up by the Danish frigate and are said to be in as good a condition as could be expected under the circumstances. A Beluga shipping company spokeswoman confirmed that the fate of the rest of the crew remained unknown.

On Friday Somali pirates attacked another German ship, the New York Star tanker which belongs to the Hamburg firm Chemikalien Seetransport.

It was attacked by pirates in a speedboat, a firm spokesman said on Saturday. The captain tried avoidance manoeuvres while the crew locked themselves in a safe room. The Dutch frigate De Ruyter came to its aid and soldiers boarded to check for pirates before giving the all-clear.

New York Star will continue its journey from Saudi Arabia to Singapore with its load of naphtha.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


40:000 Illegal Workers in North Cyprus

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, JANUARY 25 — Illegal workers in the occupied areas of Cyprus (the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus or TRNC), who work in the construction and entertainment sectors, are estimated to be over 40,000, as daily Famagusta Gazette reports.

According to media reports the illegal workers do not come only from Turkey, but also from Turkmenistan and the Philippines. Yusuf Onderol, director of the labour department of TRNC, said that the “registered workers” in the occupied areas are 40,898. However, he avoided giving figures of illegal workers.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Canada: Court Hearing Has Highlighted Dark Consequences of Polygamy

VANCOUVER — Happy polygamists were strangely absent through eight weeks of court hearings aimed at determining whether Canada’s law forbidding the practice is constitutional.

Perhaps it’s because not one male polygamist testified before Chief Justice Robert Bauman in B.C. Supreme Court. It’s odd when you think about it, because worldwide and throughout history, polygamy is almost invariably about men having multiple wives.

The bishop of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, James Oler, filed an affidavit describing how polygamy was an essential part of his faith. But that was pulled when it became apparent that lawyers for the governments of Canada and British Columbia were eager to have a chance to question him.

The same happened with FLDS school principal Merrill Palmer.

Neither the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association nor the court-appointed amicus curiae, George Macintosh, called any secular polygamists even though several men and women filed affidavits.

Also absent were Muslims — even though Islam is one of only two religions that sanctions the practice and Islam’s followers number 940,000 in Canada and 1.6 billion worldwide.

Even though the judge allowed the FLDS to testify anonymously to avoid future prosecution, it was left to fundamentalist Mormon women — the sister-wives — to defend the practice.

That’s ironic, since everyone testified that it’s the men who head their communities, their homes and ensure the women’s ascension into heaven. Every one of the women described polygamy as challenging, even though all insisted that the rewards on Earth and in the afterlife are worth it.

And far from establishing that polygamy is not inherently harmful, many of the pro-polygamy witnesses reinforced and highlighted some of its most reprehensible consequences.

Those consequences — laid out in the hearing’s early days by an economist, an ethnographer and a legal and religious scholar who studies marriage — include early sexualization of girls, downward pressure on the marriage age of girls, poverty and low educational attainment for both girls and boys.

Under cross-examination, a 24-year-old said it was God’s will that her 15-year-old sister-wife married a pillar of the Bountiful community more than twice her age.

A mother of nine testified to her cruel choice: Allow her 15-year-old to have a monogamous marriage to a 19-year-old man or face the prospect that her daughter would become a plural wife to a much older man. The mother also talked about her own awful choice at 17: Marry or never go to college.

A 22-year-old insisted women can refuse the prophet’s choice of husband, but she admitted that what the choice really comes down to is: Obey God or disobey the Lord.

The prophet she referred to is Warren Jeffs, who is in a Texas jail awaiting trial on two counts of child sexual abuse and bigamy.

The 22-year-old testified that she’d never been taught sex education in school. She said she also learned in court that her high-school diploma from the government-funded Bountiful elementary-secondary school, where she is a teacher, isn’t accepted at B.C. universities because the school isn’t accredited for Grades 11 and 12.

To find any polygamous men and merry polygamous wives, the judge will have to read the affidavits.

And if anyone had any thoughts that by decriminalizing polygamy, the insular, isolated fundamentalist Mormon communities might move closer to the mainstream, the witnesses denied it. They made it clear that they want the economic benefits of Canadian society, but they’re not prepared to take on all the rights and responsibilities of full citizenship.

The only male witness who lived in a polygamous community was 29-year-old Truman Oler. He grew up in a Bountiful family of six mothers and 47 children. As he attested, polygamy is perilous for young men.

The exponential result of even the simple arithmetic is shocking, as Prof. Joseph Henrich of the University of British Columbia laid out in his affidavit. If there are 20 men and 20 women and five men take a second wife, two take a third and one takes a fourth, it means that 40 per cent of the men will have no chance at marriage.

At best, young men are vulnerable to exploitation as labourers as they try to curry favour with church authorities. Even then, they must be willing to take whichever bride is offered or risk excommunication.

Truman Oler wanted none of it even though the outside world terrified him and his Grade 9 education gave him few job opportunities. He is one of close to 20 young men from Bountiful — population 1,000 — who have left within the past decade.

After he left, far from being proud of her son for finishing high school and getting his heavy-duty mechanic’s certification, his mother, a teacher at Bountiful elementary-secondary school, told him that she wished he were dead…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Video: Dr. Srdja Trifkovic: Is PCism Worse Than Communism?

In some ways yes.

PCism is now wreaking havoc in what’s left of Eastern Europe and George Soros is helping.

Dr. Srdja Trifkovic is a pleasure to listen to.

Must view.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Westward Ho said...

Does anyone else wonder if the Islamic rage in Egypt etc will spread to Europe in next week or so? I hope the leaders there are completely prepared (physically and mentally) to stop it.