Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110225

Financial Crisis
»Algeria: Bouteflika: Determined Against Youth Unemployment
»Bankster Economist Heralds Third World Hellholes
»Economic Downturn at End of 2010 Was Biggest Drop in GDP in 2 Years
»It’s Rigged
»Oil’s ‘Inflexion Point’ And Wahabi Central Banks
»American Bar Association Executive Council Vows to Fight Anti-Sharia Law Measures
»Effort to Amend Constitution Draws Conservative Opponents
»Let’s Talk Caliphate
»Nation of Islam Convention to Include Talk of UFOs
»Roadblock on Domestic Oil Production Even More Costly Now
»The Episcopal Church Wages Jihad Against Eight Virginia Churches
»UFT Spends Millions on Dinners, Parties, Parking, Coffee as Thousands of Teachers Face Layoffs
»What Soft Socialism Has Wrought
»Why Wisconsin? Warning: History
»Wisconsin Unions vs. Governor Walker: A Battle for the Soul of America
Europe and the EU
»British Forces Would Struggle to Mount Small Military Intervention, Claim Officers
»France: Anti-Semitic Insults, Arrested Designer Galliano
»France Creates Virtual Copy of Threatened Caves
»Germany: Controversial Court Ruling: Muslim Shelf Stockers Can Refuse to Handle Alcohol
»Italy: Controversy as Eco Attacks Berlusconi at Jerusalem Book Fair
»Italy: Special ‘Gucci’ Fiat 500 Unveiled at Milan’s Fashion Week
»Journalist in France Convicted for Anti-Muslim Hate Speech
»Libyan Revolt Supporters Take Paris Embassy
»Part of Kaddafi Empire Based in the Netherlands
»Six Islamists Held in Pope Probe
»Swedes Find Right-Wingers More ‘Attractive’
»UK: Turon Ali Who Groomed Girl, 14, Escapes Prison: Judge Says He’s ‘Not a Real Paedophile’
»UK: Terrorist Loses Appeal Against Conviction Despite Claim He Had Been Tortured Into Confessing
»Vatican Electromagnetic Pollution Charges Statute-Barred
»Croatia-EU: Josipovic, Country Still Hostage to Past Errors
»Croatia: Zagreb is Not Hiding War Diaries Wanted by UN Tribunal, President Says
North Africa
»Algeria: Bouteflika: Focus on Fight Against Corruption
»Gaddafi in Green Square, Hell for Those Who Don’t Love Me
»Libya: EU: Support Military Vessels Needed to for Repatriation
»Libya: Pro-Gaddafi Demonstrations in Tripoli Today
»Libya: Spain: Weapons Exports Have Risen Since 2008
»Libya: Crimes Against Humanity by Gaddafi, Hague Judge
»Libya: EU Announces Measures, Asset Freeze and Arms Embargo
»Libya: No Support to Gaddafi After Horrible Acts, Italian FM
»Libya: Mercenary Nightmare, Also Serbs and Italians Hired
»Libya: Malta Sources: Aisha Gaddafi on Rejected Aircraft
»Libya: Rebels Move in on Tripoli, Today Emergency NATO Meeting
»Libya: Eastern Oil Fields in Rebel Hands, 75% Closed
»Libya: Speech Greeted by Cries of ‘God and Muammar Alone’
»Libya: What Happens After We Stop Watching These Revolutions Against Col Gaddafi?
»Libya: NBC’s Mitchell Regurgitates Gaddafi Lies
»Manhandled by Militias — Rage and Green Flags in Fear-Ridden Capital
»More Than 1,000 Italians Back From Libya
»Muammar Gaddafi’s ‘Cultural’ Tours to Libya for Italian Models Revealed in Diary
»Qaddafi Son Says Family Controls Most of Libya, Al Jazeera Spreading Lies
»Sex, Brothels and the Real Tyranny Threatening the Arab World
»Social Networks Source of Uprisings in Arab Countries
»Tunisia: Two French Ministers in Tunis After Controversy
»What Seif Gaddafi Taught Me About Realpolitik
Israel and the Palestinians
»Caroline Glick: Playing Israel’s Good Hand
»Look Who Else is Reawakening Terrorist Wing
Middle East
»A Mass Expression of Outrage Against Injustice
»Bahrain: No Saudis in Protest Crackdown, Authorities
»Defence Spending by Arab Countries on the Rise
»Gem of Christian History at Risk in Turkey
»Jordan: Thousands Protest in Amman
»Mock Crucifixion in Turkey Called ‘Poisonous’ By Critics
»Turkey-Libya Ties a Unique History of Complexity, Intrigue
South Asia
»Afghan Officials Say Jailed Christian Convert is Free
»Raymond Davis: Pakistan Defies US and Puts Spy Charged With Killing 2 Men on Trial
»Austria: Immigrants Face Obstacle Course
»‘Catastrophic’ Migrant Wave Possible From Libya
»Debating Integration: Competing Views on Germany’s Immigrants
»EU: Executive ‘Allocates €25mln to Tackle Migrant Emergency’
»Illegal Immigrants Tried to Smuggle Themselves Into UK in Rolls Royce Body Shells
»Italy Warns of a New Wave of Immigrants to Europe
»Lampedusa: An Outpost in the Storm
»Maroni: Libyan Control on Illegal Immigrants Has Vanished
Culture Wars
»The Christian Divorce Rate Myth (What You’ve Heard is Wrong)
»UK: Gay Journalist Johann Hari Calls for Open Debate on ‘Muslim Homophobia’
»Terror: Al-Qaeda’s Message ‘Can Unleash Low Tech Attacks by Loners’

Financial Crisis

Algeria: Bouteflika: Determined Against Youth Unemployment

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 24- “The fight against unemployment and especially against youth unemployment will be brought forward with determination”. The statement was made by president Abdelaziz Bouteflika during his speech in occasion of the double anniversary of the general union of workers (UGTA) and of the nationalisation of oil.

He added that “For the next five year period I have set as an objective the creation of three million jobs”. According to Bouteflika, half will be generated by the economic growth driven “by the substantial investments scheduled for this period” and the other half by “public devices for the promotion of labour”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Bankster Economist Heralds Third World Hellholes

The banksters are making it known. You’re going to be a pauper. The mega-bank Citigroup has trotted out its prime economist to send the message.

“China should overtake the US to become the largest economy in the world by 2020, then be overtaken by India by 2050,” said Willem Buiter, chief economist. He also sat on the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee.

In order to accomplish this, the banksters will whipsaw the global economy. “Expect booms and busts. Occasionally, there will be growth disasters, driven by poor policy, conflicts, or natural disasters,” warned the economist.

It has little to do with the weather. Central banksters create monetary inflation and credit expansion and thus engineer artificial booms and inevitably busts that work like a sledgehammer on humanity.

“Just as the boom builds outward from banks to the rest of the economy, with banks benefitting the most, the bust collapses inward to banks from the rest of the economy, with banks suffering the most,” writes Jeffrey M. Herbener. “Now the balance sheets of fractional-reserve banks, swollen with loans and checkable deposits during the boom, suddenly collapse. Or rather, the value of their loans collapses initially, as the projects they lent to turn out to be unprofitable, leaving them with negative net worth…. The monetary inflation and credit expansion of the boom are now reversed in the bust.”

Buiter and Citigroup have created a neat little index to explain all of this. It’s called the “3G index” to measure economic progress — or progress as gauged by banksters. “Using that index the nations to watch over the coming years are Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Mongolia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam,” reports CNBC.

“They are our 3G countries,” Buiter boasted.

It is no mistake they are third world hellholes ruled by authoritarian dictatorships.

Banks and transnational corporations love place like Vietnam where slave laborers work seven days a week for six cents an hour. In Bangladesh, factory workers earn about $38 US per month. Indonesia factory workers make about $2 per day. In the Philippines, sweatshop workers earn less than half of the cost of living. In China’s electronics factories, run like military dictatorships, the suicide rate among workers is staggering. Drones work 15-hour days for $50 per month.

[Return to headlines]

Economic Downturn at End of 2010 Was Biggest Drop in GDP in 2 Years

The economic downturn at the end of last year was the largest GDP fall in two years, revised figures revealed today.

Questions remain about the strength of the economic recovery with news that GDP shrank by 0.6% in the final three months of 2010 — down from an original estimate of a 0.5% decline.

The downturn — the biggest GDP fall since the second quarter in 2009 — was a surprise to economists who had expected the original estimates to be revised upwards.

Despite the ‘disappointing’ figures, which ended 12 months of economic growth, the Treasury remains defiant.

A spokesman for the department insisted: ‘The Chancellor said that the fourth quarter growth figures were disappointing and today’s revision doesn’t change that fact.

‘It also doesn’t change the need to deal with the nation’s credit card — the country is borrowing more this year than is spent on the entire NHS.’

The severe weather in December was largely to blame for the plunge in the fourth quarter, the Office of National Statistics said.

A spokesman for the ONS said without the weather, the revised GDP output in the fourth quarter was still likely to have shown a decline of 0.1%.

But it remains to be seen how the worse-than-feared contraction will influence Chancellor George Osborne’s £81 billion package of spending cuts — which include hundreds of thousands of public sector job losses.

The struggles of the private sector will do little to assuage fears that the cuts could lead to a double-dip recession.

A significant drop in business investment, which was down 2.5% to £29.6 billion in the fourth quarter, hurt the expenditure figures, the ONS said.

But the key services sector — which makes up more than 75% of the total economy — declined by 0.6% in the fourth quarter, compared to an original estimate of a decline of 0.5%.

The manufacturing sector did not fare as well as originally thought either, as output increased by 1.1%, revised down from growth of 1.4%.

The construction blip, which boosted growth in the second and third quarter of 2010, ended in the fourth quarter — with construction output dropping 2.5%. However, this was revised up from an original estimate of a decline of 3.3%.

Household spending also declined by 0.1%.

Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said the fall in household spending was another headache for the Treasury.

He said: ‘This is a hugely disappointing set of data — both in the fact that GDP contracted more than first reported in the fourth quarter of 2010 and in the breakdown of the components on the expenditure side.’…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

It’s Rigged

Most now know that the Federal Reserve Bank (Fed), is a private central bank owned by International Bankers. Although the Fed masquerades as a Government institution it is no more a Government institution than Federal Express. Even though the Fed performs all the functions of a Central Bank, its name misleads the public into believing that it operates on their behalf.

The U.S. Constitution clearly states in Article 1 Section 8 that: “The Congress shall have Power To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures,” under the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 the private bankers can now create money, actually credit, and loan it to the U.S. with interest.

With every U.S. dollar borrowed from the Fed, a credit is recorded on the Fed’s behalf and a debit, including interest, is posted on behalf of the American public. The actual U.S. national debt owed to the International Bankers who make up the Federal Reserve Board, including the IOUs in the Social Security Fund, the IOUs in the Medicare Fund and all the rest of the debts normally uncounted in government statistics is approximately $62 Trillion.

On March 18, 1988, Ronald Reagan implemented Executive Order 12631, called The Working Group of Financial Markets; informally known as the Plunge Protection Team. Former Federal Reserve Board member Robert Heller explains E.O. 12631 in a Wall Street Journal article: “The Fed could support the stock market directly by buying market averages in the futures market in order to stabilize the market as a whole.”

To simplify Mr. Heller’s definition, E.O. 12631 enables the Fed, via the working group, to manipulate U.S. stock markets through the use of government (taxpayer) funds. The Fed can also use taxpayer money to buy stocks and other investments such as stock index futures, even though the law strictly forbids these manipulative and market-controlling acts.


This means, the Fed, a private central bank owned and controlled by private businessmen, can at-will use taxpayer dollars to manipulate the stock market to enrich themselves.


On May 13, Jonathan Weil for Bloomberg wrote: “Rigged-Market Theory Scores a Perfect Quarter. He goes on to explain, “In a feat that would seem to defy all odds, Goldman [Sachs] said its daily net trading revenue topped $100 million 35 times last quarter out of 63 trading days.

A May 13, 2010 Bloomberg article states, “The odds that you’d post a daily net gain 63 times in a row, would be about one in 5.7 billion. Even if you had a 95 percent likelihood of a winning day, you would have only a 3.9 percent chance of doing it 63 trading sessions in a row.

Considering Goldman Sachs’ million dollars an hour winning streak for 63 days straight (it was not just Goldman, it was also JPMorgan, Citigroup and Bank of America that disclosed similar eye-popping stats) we can better understand how they pulled off this thievery. And whose name do we discover as a major shareholder in all these conglomerates? None other than the notorious trillionaire David Rockefeller.

Weil continues, “If a too-big-to-fail bank’s traders were able to make money every day of a quarter, were they really trading in any normal sense of the word? Or would vacuuming be a more accurate term?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Oil’s ‘Inflexion Point’ And Wahabi Central Banks

The greatest threat to the global economy is not the oil shock itself but the risk that central banks will commit a blunder, compounding the damage by tightening monetary policy at exactly the wrong moment. For the European Central Bank and the Bank of England this would mean raising rates into the teeth of the storm, as the ECB did with predictably disastrous consequences in July 2008. For the Fed this would mean talking up the prospect of rate rises sooner than expected, as the Fed did with equally disastrous consequences over the months of May, June, July of 2008. By then M3 money growth was already dropping like a rock.

Ben Bernanke’s behaviour was odd given that he wrote an academic paper in 1997 (Systematic Monetary Policy and the Effects of oil Price Shocks) arguing that “the majority of the impact of an oil price shock on the real economy is attributable to the central bank’s response to the inflationary pressures engendered by the shock”. Perhaps the screaming hooligans in the press and the Fed’s regional banks got under his skin. But then it is also clear that Bernanke had no idea was about to hit him between the eyes in 2008, though some monetarists and “Austrian” economists most certainly did. It was this hawkishness after the economy had already tipped over that led directly to the Lehman, AIG, Fannie/Freddie blow-up in September of that year. The roots of the crisis were of course much deeper, stemming from East-West imbalances and the chronic use of debt leverage in the West (Greenspanism). But the way the central banks reinforced the denouement led to a cataclysm.

So take those itchy fingers off the trigger, look through the price spike, watch core inflation (not headline), and keep your eyes on the broad money supply.

Conjuring ghosts of the 1970s is a certain formula for error. In that era M3 money was exploding. A wage spiral was well under way. There is no such pressure now (except, arguably, in Germany). After a spurt last year, M3 is contracting again in Euroland and the US on a month-to-month basis.

China, India, and parts of the emerging world may well be in a 1970s bind, but 60pc of the global economy is not.

Opinions vary on the exact “inflexion point” where oil prices set off a global-macro headache.

The classic theory by Rotemberg and Woodford (1996) is that a 1pc rise in crude prices cuts 0.25pc off US output over six quarters or so. If they are anywhere near correct — and the “energy intensity” of the US economy has diminished over time — the sort of 40pc rise since last summer rise will indeed have a severe effect. Subsequent scholarship suggests this is too extreme, unless central banks behave like idiots. Deutsche Bank says US crude at $120 a barrel would push oil costs to 5.5pc of global GDP, the trigger level that has historically caused upsets.

Brent has flirted with $120 this week before slipping back, but US crude reached only $102. We are not there yet.

Eduardo Lopez, a veteran oil watcher at the International Energy Agency, said the world was already “approaching dangerous waters” before North Africa blew up. He places the inflexion point at around $90 for US crude.

While reserve stocks are OK in the OECD countries at 57.5 days cover, though “not plentiful”, the snag is that China and the other emerging powers driving the growth of oil demand do not reveal their data. Stocks are kept secret. “We don’t know what’s happening in half the world.” “If (Brent) prices stay at $120 for the rest of the year, there will be serious consequences for the world economy,” he said. One reason oil shocks cause global damage is that consuming nations tighten their belts, while OPEC exporters, Norway, etc, do not immediately recyle the windfall gains. They save part of the money. The net effect is to drain global demand. In that sense, a sudden oil supply shock can be deflationary.

Barclays Capital said we are lucky that this Mid-East crisis has happened now and not in 2008, when global spare capacity was wafer-thin. Today we have cover of 4.5m b/d (their lowish estimate). This is adequate, but not comfortable.

However, the bank said there had been a “monumental change” over recent years in the linkage between oil prices and the global economy. The idea that rising oil prices cause “exogenous shocks” to the world economy is a “fallacy”.

“Oil’s role seems more iconic than real, and, in our view the impact is being overstated.”

I don’t really agree. This analysis overlooks the “policy risk” of a botched response.

My own view is that global recovery is more fragile than it looks. The West is still on government life-support, and the great debt unwind purge has not yet run its course. It faces a globalized “Japan syndrome”, with deflationary pungi pits waiting to catch us. In that context, an oil spike takes on added potency. If policy-makers blow this one, we are cooked…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


American Bar Association Executive Council Vows to Fight Anti-Sharia Law Measures

The executive council of the American Bar Association (ABA) is organizing an effort to actively oppose states that ban Sharia law.

Included in the text of the ABA’s “International Policies 2010” is a section which organizes a “task force” to review anti-Sharia legislation that has been introduced in 14 states — Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

The report reads:

“The goal of the task force is to have a Report and Recommendation against such legislation as well as an informal set of “talking points” that local opponents of these initiatives could use to make their case in each of these states.”

However, in a statement released on Wednesday, the ABA attempted to distance itself from the executive council’s statement.


In an interview with, blogger and anti-Sharia activist Pamela Geller who broke this story on her blog “Atlas Shrugs,” believes that the statement from the ABA fails to address the executive board’s actions.

“That’s obfuscation, said Gellar. “If it was just a couple of lawyers that were doing this they wouldn’t be under the umbrella of any of these task forces, these groups under the auspices of the ABA. It’s not just a couple of lawyers. There are groups of lawyers fighting it.”

Gellar also sees a double standard within the ABA when it comes to this matter.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Effort to Amend Constitution Draws Conservative Opponents

In the latest round of Texas vs. Washington, D.C., some Republican lawmakers in Austin want to rein in the federal government by amending the U.S. Constitution.

The measures are drawing opposition from Democrats who see the proposals as misguided and from an unexpected constituency: conservatives who fear that the efforts will mean open season on their most treasured political document.

“It’s a terrible idea,” Texas Eagle Forum President Pat Carlson said. “It opens the door for radicals to move in and completely rewrite the Constitution.”


The Constitution provides little guidance on how a convention would be set up, prompting fears of a free-for-all.

“The plural word ‘amendments’ in Article V leaves the door open for any one to offer up any number of amendments during such a convention based on their own ideology and interests, which could ultimately radically change our Constitution,” Konni Burton of the NE Tarrant Tea Party wrote in an e-mail. The group wants members to urge lawmakers to oppose the proposals.

Moran said her organization is encouraging state lawmakers to craft resolutions specifying that a convention be “exclusively” about a single issue. Most of the ones filed in Texas include this wording, but Sanford Levinson, a constitutional law expert at the University of Texas at Austin, is skeptical that the move would keep a convention from veering off course.

“The honest thing to say is it’s all a guessing game,” Levinson said. “Anyone who says, ‘This is the way it would work. Trust me,’ is lying, because nobody knows how it would work.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Let’s Talk Caliphate

I almost forgot how the pundit right smacked down Glenn Beck over his wholly rational concern that out of Tahrir Square a new caliphate might arise in the Islamic world until I read William Kristol’s op-ed this week.

Earlier this month, Weekly Standard editor and Fox analyst Kristol had led off the anti-Beck attack with a heated column accusing Beck of “hysteria” for his “rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East” and Islamic connections to the American left. Kristol was seconded by National Review editor Rich Lowry. The New York Times’ David Brooks entered the debate lambasting Beck for his “delusional ravings about the caliphate coming back” while “the conservative establishment” saw Mubarak’s fall as “a fulfillment of Ronald Reagan’s democracy dream.” (Count me out.)

For the next week or so, taunting “delusional” Beck became a regular feature on cable TV. The pundit left congratulated the responsible right for “addressing” the Beck “problem.” And maybe a solution was near. “I’ve heard, from more than a couple of conservative sources, that prominent Republicans have approached Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes about the potential embarrassment that the paranoid-messianic rodeo clown may bring upon their brand,” Time’s Joe Klein blogged. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a mirror-Olbermann situation soon.”

Somehow it all slipped my mind.

And then I read Kristol’s Wednesday lament in the Washington Post over what he sees as President Obama’s dithering over what he also sees as “Arab spring.” This is a jarringly dainty euphemism for a blur of regional events that now includes: the triumphal return to Egypt of the poisonous Yusef al Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s favorite cleric who just drew 2 million Egyptians back to Tahrir Square where he prayed for the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem; panicky EU promises of billions of dollars in aid (protection money?) to its “southern neighborhood”; emergency preparations for as many as 300,000 Islamic “migrants” washing up on just Italy’s shores any day. By the way, one disastrous effect of mass Islamic immigration (hijra) to Europe to date may be gleaned from the current political climate in which a new edition of Jean Raspail’s 1973 novel “Camp of the Saints,” the prophetic account of France’s inability to survive massive Third World immigration, is expected to land the 85-year-old author and his publisher in French court on “hate speech” charges.

But I digress, sort of. What is noteworthy about the beef against Beck is the rock-hard certitude with which his critics, right and left, dismiss the caliphate concept as though it were a mythological beast, not a historical system of Islamic governance still revered and yearned for by most Muslims. Speaking of Tahrir Square, a 2007 University of Maryland/WorldOpinon poll indicated that 74 percent of Egyptians favor “strict Shariah,” while 67 percent favor a “caliphate” uniting all of Islam.

But woe to anyone who takes notice. Harvard historian Niall Ferguson, for example, was recently accused on a noted blog of “(slinging) caliphate tripe” when Ferguson pointed out that the Muslim Brotherhood “remains by far the best-organized opposition force in the country, and wholly committed to the restoration of the caliphate and the strict application of Shariah.” “Hilariously stupid” was the not-so-hilariously stupid comment…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Nation of Islam Convention to Include Talk of UFOs

CHICAGO — The Nation of Islam, long known for its promotion of black nationalism and self-reliance, now is calling attention to another core belief that perhaps isn’t so well-known: the existence of UFOs.

When thousands of followers gather in suburban Chicago this weekend for the group’s annual Saviours’ Day convention, one of the main events will include a panel of scientists discussing worldwide UFO sightings, which they claim are on the rise.

The idea of seeking the divine in the skies is deeply rooted in the Chicago-based Nation of Islam, whose late leader Elijah Muhammad detailed in speeches and writings a massive hovering object loaded with weapons he called “The Mother Plane” — although religion experts, Nation of Islam leaders and believers offer very different interpretations of what exactly happens aboard the plane, its role or how it fits into religious teachings.

It’s one of the group’s more misunderstood — and ridiculed — beliefs, something organizers took into account when planning the convention, which starts Friday and ends Sunday with Minister Louis Farrakhan’s keynote address.

“There’s enough evidence that has been put before the world and public,” Ishmael Muhammad, the religion’s national assistant minister, told The Associated Press. “There have been enough accounts and sightings and enough movies (documentaries) made, I don’t think you would find too many people that would call it crazy.”

During last year’s Saviours’ Day speech, Farrakhan for the first time in years discussed in detail a vision he had in Mexico in 1985 involving an object he calls “the wheel.” Using charts, photos and drawings, he spent almost four hours describing how he was invited aboard and heard Elijah Muhammad speak to him. Farrakhan says that experience led him to inklings about future events.

Farrakhan, 77, has said the wheel, with its great capacity for destruction, contains the “wisdom to purify the planet,” but has harmed no one so far. He also claimed there have been governmental attempts to cover-up proof of the wheel, which he says many call UFOs.

Nation of Islam leaders often quote Biblical references to the prophet Ezekiel — along with Elijah Muhammad’s teachings — when it comes to the wheel. In his book of articles on the subject, Muhammad described a planet-sized manmade vessel that orbits earth and is purported to be loaded with 1,500 planes or wheels, words that have since been used interchangeably. Their purpose is unclear…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Roadblock on Domestic Oil Production Even More Costly Now

NCPA Expert: Mideast Unrest Is Not the Only Cause of High Oil, Gas Prices

The ongoing turmoil throughout the Middle East highlights the continuing and pervasive vulnerability of the U.S. economy to oil price instability, yet the Obama administration continues to thwart any efforts to increase domestic oil production, according to National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) Senior Fellow H. Sterling Burnett.

“We have billions of barrels of oil just waiting to be accessed, yet the Obama administration has thrown one roadblock after another to prevent new domestic production,” Dr. Burnett said. “These actions have made it nearly impossible to tap new domestic reserves.”

Overdependence on supplies of oil from what are now increasingly unstable regions of the world throw into stark relief the need to develop our own domestic reserves of oil, Burnett explained.

“Even after the Horizon oil blowout, offshore oil production is safer for the environment, and better for domestic job creation and energy security than increased imports,” Burnett continued. “While it’s true that full access to the U.S.’s existing reserves will not make us energy independent, it will make us less dependent and less vulnerable to foreign supply disruptions.”

An additional 1 million to 2 million barrels a day in increased U.S. oil production would have an inordinate impact on oil prices beyond that expected from the additional amount of oil, because oil prices are driven, in part, by fear of uncertainty of future supply. Burnett points out:

•This risk premium would be reduced if the U.S. brought more oil to the market; since oil traders could count on the oil being delivered, they would not fear supply disruption from political turmoil or conflict.

•Since the oil production would be developed privately for profit, the U.S. oil would not be used as a political tool and profits would be reinvested in improved technology and new supply development rather than to pay off political constituencies while the capital equipment and production declines (as occurs in Venezuela and Mexico, for example).

The need to remove unwarranted roadblocks to increased domestic production would also improve the continuing recession and overall malaise in the U.S. economy, Burnett pointed out.

[Return to headlines]

The Episcopal Church Wages Jihad Against Eight Virginia Churches

by Bryan Preston


The town of Falls Church, VA, gets its name from the beautiful historic church at its heart. The Falls Church was built in the time of George Washington, who was himself a vestryman at the church, and the original chapel still stands amid a far larger and more modern campus, and today boasts about 2,500 members. According to a historical marker nearby, the Falls Church was a recruiting station for the fledgling army that Washington led. But today the Falls Church is the target of a scorched earth campaign that the Episcopal Church USA, now called The Episcopal Church (TEC) is waging against several of its own congregations.

The Falls Church’s differences with TEC began over doctrinal issues in the 1970s, but came to a head in 2003 with the Episcopal Church’s ordination of the first non-celibate gay bishop. Many Episcopal churches, including the Falls Church and seven others in northern Virginia, elected to separate from TEC and created a parallel church network aligned with the Anglican Communion. But TEC claimed ownership of the Falls Church’s sprawling campus, and a lawsuit soon followed to wrest the property away from the congregation. Claiming alienation of property, the Episcopal Church went to courtroom war against its breakaway flocks.

The TEC’s lawsuit against the eight churches hinges on property ownership: Who owns the buildings and lands where the congregations meet? What would seem to be a straightforward issue, isn’t, thanks in part to how Episcopal churches are governed. Episcopal churches exist somewhere between Catholic parishes, the properties of which rest solely in the hands of bishops, and most Protestant churches, which own their own properties independent of their denomination or larger structural organization. Unlike Catholic churches, Episcopal churches exercise some independence from the larger church and have the power to vote on whether to sever ties with TEC. These churches did just that. But unlike other Protestant churches, Episcopal churches exercise somewhat less independence from their larger church. But the deeds to the properties in question are in the names of the local trustees, not the TEC itself.

These churches also predate the founding of the Episcopal diocese in Virginia itself. In fact, they are among its founding churches. Falls Church itself dates back to 1734. The diocese that is suing it is three decades its junior.


Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is on record saying she would sooner see fleeing parishes sold for saloons than see them affiliate with African and Southern Cone dioceses that uphold “the faith once delivered for all to the saints.”


[Return to headlines]

UFT Spends Millions on Dinners, Parties, Parking, Coffee as Thousands of Teachers Face Layoffs

As nearly 5,000 city teachers face the ax, their union shells out millions of dollars on feasting, boozing and partying, the Daily News has learned.

Free-spending United Federation of Teachers brass last year spent nearly $1.4 million for the UFT’s 50th anniversary gala at the Hilton — complete with a movie, a book and a paperweight.

Records show they:

  • Ponied up $514,000 to 16 separate caterers.
  • Dropped $278,417 on the annual Teachers Union Day ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria.
  • Bought $6,100 in gift baskets from a lower East Side candy store — and plowed $179,000 into training retreats at a Connecticut resort boasting golf, scuba diving and aqua aerobics.

In one amazing feat of spending, they shelled out $114,870 for annual “coffee supplies” at their five offices across the city — paying the Coffee Distributing Corp. on Long Island $324,000 over three years, records show.

And while most New Yorkers spend hours trying to find a parking space, the UFT rents 25 slots in Brooklyn’s Renaissance Plaza Garage for members at an average annual cost of $75,000 over three years.

“I’m not going to apologize for spending money to service our members,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

What Soft Socialism Has Wrought

With the angry uprising of pampered teachers in Wisconsin, the long-awaited Marxist revolution in the U.S. may finally be under way. It’s been clear for decades that a forced ending to America’s experiment with soft socialism would almost certainly trigger such a revolution.

Soft socialism was destined to fail from the outset, because it is the nature of life that a little bit of something bad tends to expand into a lot of something bad. That reality, however, has for decades been masked by the progressive’s best friend — gradualism.

The average American had no idea that he was slowly being boiled alive, because soft socialism made it possible for him to buy a house he couldn’t afford, go on vacations he couldn’t afford and fill his life with high-tech toys he couldn’t afford. This comfy lifestyle made him oblivious to the realities of life.

While there was no official beginning to the era of soft socialism in the U.S., there’s no question that FDR’s ascent to the presidency and the implementation of his New Deal was a major step in that direction. The centerpiece of FDR’s New Deal was the 1935 Social Security Act, which defied the Constitution by implying it was the government’s duty to fulfill the needs and desires of individual citizens.


Long term, however, soft socialism doesn’t work. That’s because socialism, as both Marx and Lenin made clear, is merely a transitional stage on the way to communism. A little bit of socialism, because it appeals to the avaricious instincts in people, only whets their appetites for more. It is the nature of wealth redistribution to slowly bring down capitalism, which is why soft socialism eventually evolves into hard socialism — and, from there, communism.

Socialism destroys capital resources. And when the money runs out, a nation ends up with angry, spoiled adults — such as those protesting in Wisconsin — who have been happy recipients of years of artificial prosperity. Panicked and enraged, they boldly demand that their neighbors continue to support them in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. They have no interest whatsoever in hearing about economic reality.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Why Wisconsin? Warning: History

Progressivism, but also unvarnished Marxism made inroads very early here in Wisconsin, including within the state and region’s labor movement. In 1904, the University of Wisconsin became the home of John R. Commons, one of the first progressive incrementalists, a label which tends to cover radical interests of unknown lengths. He was called the spiritual father of Social Security and he specialized in union studies. He was also one of America’s progressive eugenicists.

Barry Obama’s hero, Harold Washington was not America’s fist socialist, big city mayor. That distinction goes to Emil Seidel, elected as Milwaukee’s Marxist boss in 1910, the same year that Victor Luitpold Berger was elected America’s first socialist representative in Congress.

It was Berger that gave union leader Eugene Debs a copy of Das Kapital and won him over to Marxism. Debs became the Socalist Party’s candidate for president in 1912, with Mayor Seidel his VP candidate. However, their Socialist Party of America chose not to run their own candidate for president in 1924, eagerly backing La Follette, instead, much as confessed socialists backed Obama, in 2008.

The Department of Justice was on to Berger and he was tried and in 1919, convicted of rather tenuous charges under the Espionage Act of that time. Four others were also convicted for their own doings. Yet, Berger continued to be a political celebrity in Wisconsin.

Those names are just the tip of the top of the iceberg. Extensive information on the Wisconsin front on the Marxist war against American freedoms is available in numerous books and at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison, where they have a curious pride in their collection. Compiled, it is enough to satisfy the appetite of one much more skeptical than our state’s own Sen. Joe McCarthy.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Wisconsin Unions vs. Governor Walker: A Battle for the Soul of America

It is hard to overstate what is at stake in the dramatic showdown between Wisconsin’s teachers and their Republican governor and legislature. The political and economic course of our country hinges on how the issue of public-sector unions is resolved, in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

For the sake of our country’s political and economic future, Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican colleagues need to prevail in the current contest with the Wisconsin teachers’ union and their allies.

That isn’t easy for me to say. As an educator, I have great respect for all those (and they are many) in my chosen profession who capably and even brilliantly serve our nation’s youth. The fact is, though, that the status quo is untenable.

The budget crunch isn’t merely a projected crisis some 30 years in the future. Right now, several state and local governments are careening toward fiscal disaster. There are many factors, of course, but a major one is that retirement plans for public-sector workers are spectacularly underfunded, perhaps by as much as $3 trillion nationwide.

Governor Walker is being cast as the ogre for proposing to avert the onrushing flood of red ink, but the blame properly belongs to his predecessors who made unaffordable and unkeepable promises. All but the most zealous ideologues will admit that you can’t spend what you don’t have, and even some Wisconsin teachers are now indicating a willingness to help balance the state’s budget by contributing more to their pension and health benefits.

Politically, this battle is the ultimate partisan clash. Unions and the Democratic Party are joined at the hip. Unions collect mandatory dues from their members, then contribute massive financial and human support to the electoral campaigns of their political allies (overwhelmingly Democrats). Democrat office-holders repay these favors by granting unions generous legislated benefits, both monetary and in the form of rules that strengthen the political power of union officials. Wisconsin’s Democratic senators took the extraordinary step of fleeing the state in what appears to be a desperate ploy to preserve the flood of union money coming to them, while Republicans seem every bit as hopeful of reducing the flow of tax dollars to their political opponents.

Indeed, it is the use of tax dollars to lobby for more government spending, and thus for more taxes, that is the crux of the problem. Public-sector unionism is the ultimate conflict of interest, because the necessary objective of these unions is to capture control of the very legislatures that vote on their compensation packages.

Even the strongly pro-union Franklin Roosevelt believed that key tactics employed by private-sector unions were inappropriate for workers on the public payroll. In his words, “The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service” due to “distinct and insurmountable limitations.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

British Forces Would Struggle to Mount Small Military Intervention, Claim Officers

They have also warned that the chances of an operation to rescue civilians from a conflict like Libya would become remote in the coming months as more and more equipment is pushed out of service under defence cuts.

Their comments come after Forces chiefs warned the Prime Minister that cuts to Harrier jets and aircraft carrier Ark Royal would put personnel at “considerable risk”, in a letter passed to The Daily Telegraph. The Army has only one battalion on standby for emergency operations called the Spearhead Lead Element and this is said to be struggling to get the correct equipment for training.

With most of 3 Commando Brigade deploying to Helmand in the coming weeks the only amphibious unit left behind is 40 Commando which is still recovering from an extremely tough tour of Sangin in Helmand last summer.

The enduring operation in Afghanistan, with 10,000 troops committed, also means that the Forces have very few “enablers” who help with logistics and other key areas.

Serving Navy officers believe that the Libyan emergency highlights how depleted the Forces will become after the cuts have taken hold. This year the fleet will lose four Type 22 frigates including Cumberland that helped evacuate some British citizens. But in addition to the loss of its flagship Ark Royal and the Harriers the Navy’s amphibious force will be cut in half by the mothballing of the landing ship Bulwark and other craft.

“We have cut our cloth very small and if we bit off more than we could chew we would be in trouble,” said one officer. “We certainly could not do an operation like Sierra Leone again because we have no fast jets. Even to achieve and sustain a foothold ashore would be difficult.”

Another senior Navy officer said an operation could be “sustained for a few days only”.

“We just don’t have anymore any protection against the unexpected which is always bound to happen.”

“The locker is not just empty it’s completely threadbare.” Britain would also face a much better equipped military than the Taliban as Libya has Mirage fast jets, fast missile boats, warships, advanced surface to air missiles and tanks…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

France: Anti-Semitic Insults, Arrested Designer Galliano

(AGI) Parisi — Fashion designer John Galliano was arrested by the Police yesterday in Paris, news of which was given by France Info. According to the radio network, which did not provide further details, the fashion designer allegedly uttered anti-Semitic insults and engaged in violent behavior.

Considered to be the ‘enfant prodige’ of the French Haute Couture, John Galliano is currently the creative director of the Maison Christian Dior.

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

France Creates Virtual Copy of Threatened Caves

Expert divers have teamed up with top scientists to chart the Cosquier caves, a complex of huge caverns housing almost 200 stunning prehistoric paintings that can only be reached by diving deep into the Mediterranean off the coast of Marseilles.

The caves, were discovered by Henri Cosquier, a local diver in 1985. To reach them he had to swim 37m down to the undersea cave entrance off the calanques outside Marseilles, then along a 175m tunnel, which eventually rose above sea level.

To his amazement, once in the open air he found dozens of pristine paintings between 18,000 to 27,000 years old. These included land-dwelling animals such as wild horses, ibex and bison, but also sea animals such as seal, giant penguins and what appear to be auks and jellyfish. There were also 55 ancient handprints, many with fingers mysteriously missing. At the time, hunters could enter the caves on foot, but melting glaciers subsequently flooded the entrance with water. Mr Cosquer only made his discovery public after three divers perished in the tunnel to the caves in 1991, when authorities welded an iron door into concrete slabs to block the cave mouth.

With new scientific research suggesting that the Mediterranean is rising, the unique site is under threat of being completely submerged. Already, four fifths of the Paleolithic caves are now underwater. Luc Vannel, one of the scientists leading the mission said: “The cave is in danger of one day being squashed as flat as a pancake. Already the water is washing the colours away.” So this month, the culture minister announced it had begun mapping the caves using the same ultra-precise laser 3D imaging techniques used to chart the walls of Lascaux in the Dordogne — the world’s best-preserved cave painting site. The original Lascaux caves, banned to the public since 1963, have been threatened in recent years by a series of mysterious fungal invasions. In 1983, a complete life-size facsimile of the caves and paintings — Lascaux Two — was opened nearby for visitors. Cosquer Two, a life-size copy of the original, will be housed in galleries beneath Marseilles’ old port dug by the German army in the Second World War…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Germany: Controversial Court Ruling: Muslim Shelf Stockers Can Refuse to Handle Alcohol

A Muslim supermarket employee in Germany was sacked when he refused on religious grounds to stock shelves with bottles of alcohol. Now the country’s highest labor court has ruled that the man’s objection was justified.

It’s not the first time a Muslim worker in Germany has gone to court over the right to practice his or her religion in the workplace. A number of high-profile cases in recent years have involved Muslim women who wanted the right to wear a headscarf while doing their jobs.

But the particulars of this case are unusual — and controversial: Germany’s highest labor court has ruled that a Muslim supermarket employee can refuse to handle alcohol on religious grounds.

The case in question involved a Muslim man who was employed in a supermarket in the northern German city of Kiel. He refused to stock shelves with alcoholic drinks, saying that his religion forbade him from any contact with alcohol, and was dismissed as a result in March 2008.

In a ruling Thursday, Germany’s Federal Labor Court confirmed that employees may refuse to perform a specific task on religious grounds. If there is an alternative task they can do which is acceptable to their religion and practical for the company, then the employer is obliged to let them do it. The firm can only dismiss the worker if there is no realistic alternative.

The man’s case is now being sent back to a lower court, which will decide if the supermarket could have given the man an alternative task to do. If so, the man’s dismissal will be declared invalid.

The case has already raised eyebrows in Germany. Media commentators have pointed out that the Koran only forbids drinking alcohol, not touching bottles. A front-page editorial in the Friday edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany’s leading conservative newspaper, criticized the fact that the man had apparently only discovered his religious leanings in 2008; he had previously worked in the supermarket’s alcoholic drinks section without complaint.

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

Italy: Controversy as Eco Attacks Berlusconi at Jerusalem Book Fair

“He won the election. There’s an electorate that supports him. It’s sad but that’s the way it is”

JERUSALEM — Professor, what do you think about Ian McEwan not boycotting this edition of the Jerusalem Book Fair? “He did the right thing”. But although he came, it didn’t stop him criticising Israel’s policies. Are you equally critical? “Look, I’ve got so much to say against the Italian government that I haven’t got time to talk about the Israeli government”. All right then. Since we’re in the Middle East, and you took part in the anti-Berlusconi demonstration in Milan, what do you think about those who compare Berlusconi to Mubarak, Ben Ali, Gheddafi and similar gentlement? “Intellectually speaking, a comparison could be made with Hitler, who also rose to power with free elections. But Berlusconi is not a dictator like Mubarak or Gheddafi. He won the election with the support of a large majority of Italians. Italy hasn’t got the same regime as countries in North Africa, nor should we forget that there is an electorate ready to support Berlusconi. It’s rather sad but that’s the way it is”.

Eco’s words echoed in a room a couple of kilometres from Yad Vashem, where he had come to present his “Cimitero di Praga” [Cemetery of Prague], as he buried the Berlusconi experience. Intellectually speaking. Committal was by rhetorical hyperbole at a midday media conference, with a dozen or so journalists in attendance, and it sparked off a blazing row that Eco had some difficulty in dousing. At 8.30 pm, he offered clarification as he headed for a literary café with Abraham B. Yehoshua: “I wouldn’t be silly enough to make a comparison like that in a country that knows the difference. For an hour and a half today, talk focused on boycotts and anti-Semitism. That was just an excursus in a broader discussion”…

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Italy: Special ‘Gucci’ Fiat 500 Unveiled at Milan’s Fashion Week

Milan, 24 Feb. (AKI) — Italian car giant Fiat and top fashion house Gucci have rolled out the ‘500 by Gucci’ at Milan’s Fashion Week. The special edition of Fiat’s iconic 500 car marks Gucci’s 90th anniversary and the 150th anniversary of a unified Italian peninsula.

The ‘500 by Gucci’, a citycar whose pricetag starts at around 17,000 euros, was custom designed by Frida Giannini, Gucci’s creative director.

The car is distinguished from the regular Fiat 500 by a green-red-green stripe common to many of Florence-based Gucci’s luxury fashion items.

The 500 by Gucci will be displayed in Geneva for 10 days starting on 3 March 3 being showcased in London, Paris, Tokyo and other cities.

The car will be sold online from 1 April to 30 June.

The Italian government has declared 17 March a national to mark unified Italy’s 150th anniversary.

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

Journalist in France Convicted for Anti-Muslim Hate Speech

We’ve heard a lot about Geert Wilders, the Dutch parliamentarian whose warnings about Muslim influence in his nation placed him in the crosshairs of the powers-that-be. But while the tow-headed modern-day Templar has thus far dodged the hangman on Truth-speech charges, another intrepid defender of Western civilization has not been so lucky. And we haven’t heard much about him.

He is French journalist Eric Zemmour, and he was just convicted this week of “inciting racism.” Writes The New American’s R. Cort Kirkwood:

Zemmour’s “controversial” remarks included his observation that most drug dealers in France were black or Arab, and that employers “have the right” to deny employment to those two groups of people.

Zemmour’s criminal speech occurred on a popular talk show during a discussion of why French police seem to stop minorities more than whites. Said Zemmour: “But why are they stopped 17 times? Why? Because most dealers are blacks and Arabs. That’s a fact.”

So Zemmour wound up in the French dock, and must now pay $14,000 to five groups that sued him for racism.

According to the New York Times, the French court said Zemmour had “gone beyond the permitted bounds of the right to freedom of speech,” and that “. . . Zemmour had a particular responsibility to respect those limits as a ‘professional of the media and of expression.’“

If Zemmour doesn’t behave like a “professional of the media,” it is only insofar as he is a patriot and French traditionalist. While he is the son of Jewish Berbers who immigrated to France from Algeria in the 1950s, he states unabashedly that he believes “France is civilization with a capital ‘C.’“ Moreover, he not only supports the prohibition against wearing the full Islamic facial veil in public, he “advocates a return to authorizing only Christian first names for children born in France, a restriction lifted in 1993,” reports The New York Times. He also states that late French President Charles de Gaulle was correct when he said that mixing Muslims and Christians is like “blending oil and vinegar.”

Unfortunately, what also blends no better than oil and vinegar are secular Western governments and reality. After all, as the book How to Win Friends and Influence People may tell us, you may incite others any time you render opinion. As for the opinion known as commentary, it is mostly and necessarily social criticism, and all criticism could conceivably inspire someone to dislike, demean or even commit violence against its target. But do we say that Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and their millions of “anti-theist” acolytes should be punished for criticizing Christianity? And with all the violence of the 2010 campaign cycle, should we prohibit criticism of Republicans, Democrats and the Tea Party? I mean, we can go way beyond McCain-Feingold and just ban campaign commercials altogether; after all, if they don’t incite people, I don’t know what does. And would we have had the fire-bombing of fur stores, the torching of SUVs and the actions of the Unabomber had we not been accosted by environmentalist and animal-rights propaganda?

The truth is that all criticism evokes harsh feelings in some, yet no one advocates banning all criticism. Instead, governments may use “offensiveness” as a guide. This is completely subjective, however, as most everything offends someone and most everyone is offended by something. But we can’t ban everything, so the thought police use their own particular emotion-derived values set as a guide. It’s called political correctness, which is the suppression of Truth for the purposes of advancing lies. This is why I label so-called hate-speech legislation “Truth-speech laws.”

This brings us to the main point. Liberal icon Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “You’re entitled to your own opinions, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.” But today’s liberals have turned this on its head. Under their regime, we are entitled to neither our own opinions nor any facts.

That is, if they’re politically incorrect.

This is why thought police in places such as Canada have said that the Truth is no defense against “hate speech” charges. Imagine that . . . the Truth will set you free . . . but not from the clutches of the Sultans of Sensitivity.

But the worst kind of insensitivity is numbness to Truth. The Truth is always a defense, as it originates with a source that transcends courts and human-rights tribunals. And this should make a person wonder, if an entity suppresses it, whose bidding is it really doing?

Ah, the irony. A government suppresses Truth on behalf of a group that sometimes may call that government satanic. Well, I suppose everyone is right about something…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Libyan Revolt Supporters Take Paris Embassy

(AGI) Paris — The Libyan Embassy in Paris has been mobbed and completely taken over by a group of supporters of the revolution.

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

Part of Kaddafi Empire Based in the Netherlands

AMSTERDAM, 24/02/11 — Libyan leader Muammar Kaddafi has stashed a portion of his empire of billions in the Netherlands. Libyan state oil company Tamoil, which oprates some 160 petron stations, is based in Ridderkerk, De Volkskrant newspaper reported yesterday.

Tamoil comes under Oilinvest, headquartered in Monaco. Tamoil generated 2009 net profit of 26 million euros on sales of 7.7 billion. Kaddafi’s total financial interests are estimated by the newspaper at 60 billion euros.

As well as Tamoil, Verenex Energy is based in Ridderkerk. This company specialises on behalf of Kaddafi in oil and gas extraction in Libya, France and Canada. Kaddafi bought this company in 2009 for 300 million euros.

All interests ultimately come under the umbrella investment company Great Socialist Peoples Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, headed by the Libyan dictator since 1969.

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

Six Islamists Held in Pope Probe

Moroccans ‘wanted to punish Benedict over Muslim convert’

(ANSA) — Brescia, February 24 — Six Islamic fundamentalists were detained Friday in a probe into anti-Christian incitement including an alleged threat to “punish” Pope Benedict XVI for baptising a noted Egyptian-Italian journalist and member of the European Parliament who converted from Islam to Catholicism.

The six Moroccans, members of the Adl Wal Ihsane (Justice and Charity) fundamentalist movement, are accused of setting up a group “which had among its aims incitement to discrimination, racial and religious hatred, violence and jihad against Christians and Jews,” judicial sources said. Five were placed under house arrest and the sixth detained in prison.

Investigators said they had seized documents in which the six argued against integration and speculated about “punishing the pope” for allegedly encouraging the conversion of Magdi Allam, a Corriere della Sera journalist and centrist Catholic EMP who was baptised at an Easter service in 2008 led by Benedict, taking the middle name of Cristiano (Christian).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Swedes Find Right-Wingers More ‘Attractive’

A study conducted by Swedish and Finnish economists has shown that Swedes find politicians on the right of the political scale to be better looking than their left wing counterparts and reward them for it at the ballot box.

The increasing prominence of open list electoral systems in Sweden and other countries, has lead to an increasing importance placed on personal qualities, the researchers argued.

“One possible explanation is that people who are seen or consider themselves beautiful tend to be more anti-egalitarian and right wing,” Niclas Berggren, a researcher at independent research institute Ratio in Stockholm and one of the three co-authors of the study, told The Local.

The study compared election results from parliamentary and municipal elections held in Finland in 2003 and 2004 respectively with an online poll of Swedes, Americans and other non-Finns to determine how the 1,357 participating Finnish candidates ranked in terms of beauty.

More than 2,500 non-Finns were shown photographs of each candidate, with no indication of which side of the political spectrum they stood on, and were

asked to rank them on a scale from one (very ugly) to five (very beautiful).

“We have found that candidates on the right are considered to look better than those on the left. We have also found that they benefit from this in elections — you could say that there is a form of beauty premium,” Bergren said.

Bergren told The Local that there are several studies identifying this phenomenon within the business world, with good looking people earning an average 15 percent more, and the researchers wanted to study if there is an equivalent within the political sphere.

In a 2006 paper entitled “The Looks of a Winner: Beauty, Gender and Electoral Success,” Bergren, together with Henrik Jordahl at the Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Stockholm and Panu Poutvaara at the University of Helsinki and IZA Bonn, concluded that good looks are a key part of political success.

The trio’s new preliminary study entitled, “The Right Look: Conservative Politicians Look Better and Their Voters Reward It” is argued to confirm that not only do looks matter, but they matter more for the right.

“I think the right has been more conscious of looks,” he said, citing the examples of Ronald Reagan and Sarah Palin in the US.

Bergren argued that this development raises questions over the increasing importance of open lists in Swedish elections, arguing that it is fair to presume that Swedish politicians also benefit from their appearance.

“The effects of beauty in western culture are universal. A stronger role for open list voting will mean an increase in the importance of beauty and the focus on personalities in politics.”

“It is more Reinfeldt against Sahlin, than the issues,” he argued.

The preliminary study, which was published by the German Institute for the

Study of Labour (IZA), has yet to appear in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

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

UK: Turon Ali Who Groomed Girl, 14, Escapes Prison: Judge Says He’s ‘Not a Real Paedophile’

A judge has been criticised for failing to jail a pervert who groomed a 14-year-old girl for sex after ruling he was being ‘simply a young man’.

Turon Ali, 26, groomed the schoolgirl by sending her explicit text messages and then arranged a secret meeting where he planned to abuse her.

He was only prevented from sexually assaulting the girl when her older brother found one of the texts and alerted police.

But Ali avoided jail at Cambridge Crown Court with a 12-month suspended sentence after a top judge ruled he was ‘not a paedophile as such’.

Judge Gareth Hawkesworth said: ‘You thought she was “easy’ meat”. You were thrust into a moral vacuum without a single care of what you might be doing.

‘You are not a paedophile as such. You are simply a young man who was unable to control his sexual urges.’

Children’s charity campaigners yesterday slammed the lenient sentence and Claude Knights, director of Kidscape, described Ali’s crime as ‘very serious’.

She said: ‘We have to ask what is meant by the phrase, ‘not a paedophile as such’. Sexual offenders do not adhere to a stereotype.

‘We know that they come from all classes, professions, racial and religious backgrounds.

‘Grooming a minor with the clear intention of engaging in sexual activity with her is a very serious crime, and needs to be recognised as such.

‘This young girl’s brother saved her from a terrible experience, and he should be commended for his actions.

‘Society needs to be protected from adults who target vulnerable children, and the sentencing of predators needs to reflect the severity of their crime.

‘I’m not sure the sentence is enough and if he had been jailed then the message would have been stronger.’

‘Ali groomed the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, with sick texts and hatched a plan to meet her at the historic Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire.

But her brother intervened and called police when he discovered the texts and Ali was sentenced for arranging or facilitating the commission of a child sex offence at Cambridge Crown Court on February 18.

Ali was made subject of a sexual prevention order banning him from unsupervised contact with under-16s for a period of five years and ordered to pay £500 costs.

Judge Hawkesworth ruled: ‘If you could you were going to meet her and if you could you would have engaged in some kind of sexual activity with her.

‘It then became clear that she was sexually compliant and when you became aware of this lust took over.

‘You approached her on the basis that she was a member of the opposite sex and you would have your way with her if you could.’

Ali was also ordered to sign the Sex Offender’s Register…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Terrorist Loses Appeal Against Conviction Despite Claim He Had Been Tortured Into Confessing

Judges today rejected an appeal by the man who became the first person to be convicted in the UK of directing terrorism.

Rangzieb Ahmed, 34, from Manchester, alleged that the UK was complicit in his torture in Pakistan.

His conviction was declared safe by Lord Justice Hughes, Mr Justice Owen and Mrs Justice Thirlwall at the Court of Appeal in London.

During a hearing last year, his QC told the judges that he was unlawfully detained while in Pakistan, beaten and had fingernails removed with pliers during torture sessions.

Ahmed was jailed for life with a minimum term of 10 years in December 2008.

Manchester Crown Court heard during his trial that he headed a three-man al Qaeda service cell which was preparing to commit mass murder.

The Rochdale-born Muslim was also found guilty of al Qaeda membership, along with his associate, Manchester taxi driver Habib Ahmed.

Lancashire-born Habib Ahmed, who was sentenced to a total of 10 years in prison — nine for being a member of the terror group and an additional one year for possessing a document for terror-related purposes — also had his conviction appeal dismissed.

During the appeal hearing last year Rangzieb Ahmed’s QC, Joel Bennathan, claimed that the UK was ‘complicit’ in acts of torture.

He argued that the trial judge should have halted the proceedings against him as an abuse of process.

Rejecting Rangzieb Ahmed’s appeal today, Lord Justice Hughes said the result of a pre-trial inquiry by the trial judge ‘was that torture had not been demonstrated to have occurred, and had been demonstrated not to have occurred before the sole occasion when Rangzieb said he had been seen by British officers’.

He found that even if it had occurred later, it had no direct or indirect impact on the trial.

Lord Justice Hughes said the trial judge had ‘expressly rejected the suggestion of outsourcing torture by British authorities’.

The trial judge had found ‘simply no evidence that they had assisted or encouraged the Pakistani detainers to detain him unlawfully or to ill-treat him in any way, whether amounting to torture or not’.

The appeal judges ruled that the trial judge ‘was right to refuse to stay the prosecution against Rangzieb’…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Vatican Electromagnetic Pollution Charges Statute-Barred

(AGI) Rome — The charges against the Vatican Radio have been barred by statute of limitations. Citizens had sued the Vatican radio station at Santa Maria di Galeria and will, however, be compensated for damages. The fourth penal section of the Court of Cassation confirmed the ruling of Rome’s Court of Appeals of 14 October 2009, which declared statute-barred the charge of “emission of hazardous material” against Cardinal Roberto Tucci and former Radio director, Pasquale Borromeo, who passed away in July 2009.

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


Croatia-EU: Josipovic, Country Still Hostage to Past Errors

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, FEBRUARY 24 — “To put it one way,” Croatia “is being held hostage by the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague because of the mistaken policies conducted by Zagreb in the past,” which continue to weigh on Croatia’s reputation as a trustworthy nation. This claim has come today from the President of Croatia, Ivo Josipovic, who went on to point out that “it would be unfair to slow down the country’s path towards the EU because of past errors which are now beyond being corrected”.

In the past, when Croatia used to either refuse to collaborate or drag its feet when collaborating with the ICC, “the impression was created that Zagreb had something to hide,” Josipovic said, with a specific reference to a series of wartime logbooks kept by the country’s artillery regiments about bombing activities conducted against Knin, a Serb secessionist stronghold, in 1995. The documents were repeatedly requested by ICC prosecutors as proof of war crimes against Croatian generals being tried at the Hague, and they were eventually handed over after a great deal of pressure, a fact which contributed to slowing down the accession negotiations with the EU. According to Zagreb, the remainder of the material is no longer available because it has either been destroyed, is in total disarray or was never actually written. “Nobody in Croatia today still wants to hide these documents; some mistakes were made many years ago, but the country has been kept hostage of this past policy towards the ICC,” Josipovic stated, claiming that the Court’s mistrust of Zagreb is not due to judicial reasons but mainly political ones. “It is unfair,” he added, “to slow down the country’s progress towards the EU because of errors committed in the past which are now beyond being corrected”.

Josipovic’s judgment of the overall conduct of the ICC is a positive one, although he criticises the judges’ aims at establishing the “historical truth about the wars in Yugoslavia, which is not the remit of a court, but of historians, and this contributed to politicising its image”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Croatia: Zagreb is Not Hiding War Diaries Wanted by UN Tribunal, President Says

Zagreb, 24 Feb. (AKI) — Croatia is not hiding war artillery diaries, wanted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and is being punished unjustly, president Ivo Josipovic said on Thursday.

“No one in Croatia is hiding any artillery diaries, or any documents,” Josipovic said. “I’m deeply convinced of that and it would have happened deeply behind the scenes for me not to know it,” he added.

The Hague-based tribunal is demanding that Zagreb submits artillery diaries from the military operation “Storm” in August 1995, claiming that Croatian forces indiscriminately shelled Serb civilians.

Hundreds of civilians were killed in the operation that quelled the Serb rebellion in Croatia and some 200,000 fled to Serbia.

The diaries are seen as key evidence in the trial against three Croatian generals who have been indicted by the tribunal for war crimes. But Croatian authorities claim the documents have disappeared and there was no trace of them.

Josipovic conceded that a “mistake” may have been made ten years ago when “access to documents was allowed to some people who obviously abused it”.

Croatia is in the final phase of talks to become a member of the European Union next year, but the Hague prosecutors insist Zagreb should first submit artillery diaries.

Josipovic said Croatia was a hostage to the Hague prosecutors’ belief that Zagreb was hiding the documents. “There is no reason to hide it, but today most probably we can’t correct it,” he said.

It is “unjust to block Croatia’s European integration because of something that can’t be changed”, Josipovic concluded.

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

North Africa

Algeria: Bouteflika: Focus on Fight Against Corruption

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 24 — The battle against corruption and fraud is “at the heart action” in Algeria, said President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in a speech read on his behalf by one of his advisors. The speech was read on the occasion of the anniversary of the creation of the General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA), Algeria’s main union, and the nationalization of hydrocarbons. The State, Bouteflika’s message continued, “is determined to protect the national economy. The State has centred its actions around the fight against corruption, parasitic practices and fraud”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gaddafi in Green Square, Hell for Those Who Don’t Love Me

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 25 — “Those who don’t love me do not deserve to live, it will be hell for them”. This is the message from Muammar Gaddfi, who has made a speech to crowds in Tripoli that was broadcast live on television.

The colonel appeared before supporters of his regime in Green Square, propped up against the wall of a government building. “Prepare to defend Libya,” Gaddafi cried, his fist raised. “Arms deposits are open to arm the people and together we will fight, defeat and kill those who are protesting”.

“Look Europe. Look America, this is the Libyan people, this is the result of the revolution. The revolution has revived Omar Al Mukhtar, we will fight for the land of Libya,” Gaddafi continued. “We defeated Italian invaders and in the same way we will defeat any foreign attempt against us. We will fight, we will fight to regain every piece of Libyan land. We will defeat them as we defeated Italian colonialism”. “Look, I am among you: dance, sing and be happy,” Gaddafi ended, greeting the crowd and leaving the square.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: EU: Support Military Vessels Needed to for Repatriation

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 24 — The EU is looking for the support of military vessels to repatriate the thousands of European citizens who are still in Libya, a European Commission spokesman said. The military support will help evacuate around 5 to 6 thousand EU citizens who are still in Libya, spokesman Raphal Brigandi specified on behalf of EU commissioner for humanitarian aid, Kristalina Georgieva.

“We are trying to get to get the support of vessels, including military vessels that are in the area”, the spokesman specified. The European Union’s has been coordinating the evacuation between member States for several days now. Around 10,000 European citizens are being evacuated from Libya, mostly over sea. Roughly half of these have already returned to their countries of origin.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Pro-Gaddafi Demonstrations in Tripoli Today

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, FEBRUARY 25 — A large pro-Gaddafi demonstration is scheduled for today after the Friday prayer, confirmed an information ministry source in Tripoli to ANSA. According to the source there is a major risk of incidents and provocations, after yesterday when militants reported having stopped cars carrying Tunisians and Egyptians who were transporting weapons and explosives. Confirmation of the demonstration has also arrived from Huda Fandi, a representative of the (pro-Gaddafi) youth organisation.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Spain: Weapons Exports Have Risen Since 2008

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 25 — In 2008 the Spanish government provided weapons and defence material to Gaddafi’s Libya worth 1.5 billion euros, according to a diplomatic telegram released by Wikileaks and cited by the online daily 20minutos. The military supplies came after the Libyan leader’s visit to Spain in 2007. The US ambassador at that time, Eduardo Aguirre, reported in a dispatch to Washington that the Spanish government estimated trade supplies to Libya could reach as high as 12.3 billion euros, and noted that 12% of Spanish exports were for defence and aeronautics material, of which 7.3 billion for infrastructure, 3.5 billion for the energy sector and 1.5 billion for defence. The Defence Ministry’s web page for that period shows that Spain unblocked weapons sales to Libya, which until then had been subject to an embargo due to Libya’s refusal to hand over those behind the Lockerbie attack , in which 270 people died. Following Gaddafi’s visit, defence material exports to Libya increased by 7,700 % in 2008. Trade deals worth 3.8 billion euros were for Category 4 material, which includes bullets, bombs, torpedoes, missiles, grenades and mines. In 2009 Libya was also the second top destination for double-use material, meaning civil technology able to be used for military ends, worth 12.7 billion euros. The latest data published by the Industry Ministry, concerning the first six months of 2010, show 7 million euros in defence material sold to Libya.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Crimes Against Humanity by Gaddafi, Hague Judge

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 25 — “The most likely crime that Gaddafi could be charged with is crimes against humanity, on the basis of what one can read,” underscored Cuno Tarfusser, judge at the International Criminal Court at the Hague, who spoke on Radio 24 on the possibility of bringing charges against Gaddafi at the Court. “The court bases its jurisdiction — and therefore its powers to rule on those accused of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide — on a ‘contract’ between States, the Rome Statute. Only citizens of the States which have signed this contract can be prosecuted. So far 114 States out of 192 have signed it and Libya is not among the latter. Therefore, we can do nothing of our own initiative. However, there are two paths to enable us to take action: the first is that Libya itself agree to the jurisdiction, and this might happen only in the case of a new government. The second would be a decision by the UN Security Council, a resolution that would invest us with authority, as occurred in the case of Sudan.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: EU Announces Measures, Asset Freeze and Arms Embargo

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 25 — The European Union has stated that it will take “measures” to stop the violence in Libya as soon as possible. The EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has said that the EU is determined to rapidly use more pressure against the brutal violence in Libya through a set of sanctions. Ashton made her statement from Budapest, the location of an informal meeting of EU Defence Ministers. “It is time to take what we call ‘restrictive measures’ to do all within our power to put as much pressure as possible to try and stop the violence in Libya and allow the country to move forward.”, Ashton said. The package of sanctions will be discussed “as soon as possible”, the foreign policy chief added. “So for nobody has talked of military action” against Libya. The EU will withdraw the visas to all EU countries of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and will freeze his assets held in Europe. The two measures are part of a package of sanctions on which the representatives of the 27 EU countries have already agreed. Diplomatic sources report that the sanctions will be ready “very soon, early next week”. The sanctions will be extended to other members of the Gaddafi family and his regime. The sources explain that “the rule is, that who has been responsible for violence and repression must be punished”. The set of measures also regards an arms embargo and a ban on selling equipment that can be used by the security forces to repressing the protesters. A total ban on selling weapons is already part of an existing European code of conduct that comes automatically into effect, and forbids all member States to sell arms in situations like the one in Libya. There are also discussions in progress on European level about the possibility of a no-fly zone over Libya, proposed by France and the UK in particular. But this measure is being handled with care, because there are still several thousands of European citizens in Libya who must be evacuated.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: No Support to Gaddafi After Horrible Acts, Italian FM

(ANSAmed) — BERLIN, FEBRUARY 25 — “We cannot know what will happen, but it is clear that those who have committed such horrible acts cannot in any way be supported by the international community and therefore not even by Italy, obviously,” said Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini to those asking him whether Italy was willing to support a possible Libyan government led by Colonel Gaddafi or by his supporters. “It is very important that those who are the organisers and promoters of the rebellion against the (Libyan) regime forcefully reject solidarity with Al Qaeda, meaning that they reject all offers of sympathy and nearness that have been formulated by the terrorist organisation,” added Frattini after a meeting with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. Frattini also called the Libyan situation “dramatic due to the loss of human lives and the unprecedented violence,” and underscored that this “clearly concerns the entire Mediterranean basin”. “Germany has understood well, despite the fact that it is not a Mediterranean country, that the Mediterranean is the border of Europe that we must work more strongly on in the near future.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Mercenary Nightmare, Also Serbs and Italians Hired

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 25 — They are responsible for the most terrible atrocities, rapes, mutilations, violence against injured people and prisoners: mercenaries hired by staggering regimes have been seen in former Yugoslavia, in Darfur, in Iraq.

And now they are also in Libya, enlisted by Muammar Gaddafi to stop the advance of the uprising. Most of them are Africans but some are from Europe. And there are also Italian mercenaries. “At least four or five Italians are active in Libya as mercenaries in the ranks of Gaddafi’s militias”, an anonymous former serviceman told ANSA. The source has been working as “private security agent” for years in several crisis areas. “I personally know these people and I know that they left in the past days”, he continued, without saying whether they have left individually or if they are ‘under contract’ with some organisation: “I won’t say anything else”, he added, “these things should not be made public”. The Libyan opposition website Al Manara, based abroad, also states that there are Italians among the pro-Gaddafi mercenaries. The ones who were captured yesterday by the rebels after attacking the city of Zawia, on the coast west of Tripoli where violent clashes were staged yesterday, “there are Libyans but also other Arab and European nationalities, including Italians and people from Eastern Europe”, Al Manara’s Facebook page reads. The news of the presence of mercenaries in Libya, including Italians, “worries” the Vice President of the Italian Senate Emma Bonino. She sent links to some YouTube videos to her colleagues in Senate. These videos reportedly show “the presence of many mercenaries hired by the regime”. In one of these videos, made by Al Jazeera, there is talk of airplanes full of militias flown in from the southern part of the continent. “More airplanes are arriving from Chad and Sudan, headed for Fezzan”, the Libyan reporter Farid Adly said. Yesterday Adly participated in a protest in Rome against the Libyan regime.

Mohammed Abuelgasin, a refugee from Darfur and representative in Italy of the Sudan Liberation Movement, explained in Senate that the mercenaries hired by Gaddafi “are the same people who have bombed our villages and killed our families in Darfur. Now they are doing the same things in Libya, helping Gaddafi with his massacres”.

To confirm the fact that the “war dogs” — as the Serbian tabloid Alo called them — move anywhere they are needed to spread terror and shed blood, the first to arrive in Libya for tens of thousands of dollars were — according to the tabloid — Serbian mercenaries who were working in African countries to train local armed forces or bodyguards of dictators-presidents, like Mobutu in Zaire. They are former troops, former policemen, former members of the ‘Red Berets’, the special unit created by Slobodan Milosevic.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Malta Sources: Aisha Gaddafi on Rejected Aircraft

(ANSAmed) — VALLETTA, FEBRUARY 23 — Aisha Gaddafi, the daughter of the Libyan leader, was one of the 14 passengers on board a Libyan aircraft that was not allowed to land in Malta earlier today. This is according to sources close to the Maltese government.

A Libyan Airlines ATR 42 aircraft appeared unexpectedly on radars in Valletta this afternoon, with the pilot contacting the control tower to ask for permission to land, saying that he was carrying 14 passengers, sources on the ground report.

The control tower immediately turned down the request and contacted authorities and the government, as well as the Libyan ambassador in Malta, who personally travelled to the scene, where he was told by the pilot that one of the passengers was Aisha Gaddafi. The pilot also said that the plane was lacking fuel.

The Maltese authorities decided not to allow permission to land, “so as not to create a precedent”, say sources close to the government. At the end of the negotiations, the pilot decided to change route and head back to Tripoli.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Rebels Move in on Tripoli, Today Emergency NATO Meeting

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 25 — On the 11th day of the uprising in Libya it is uncertain how many victims have fallen in the country. Estimates range from the official number of 300 to 1,000 or 2,000 denounced by humanitarian organisations and more than 10,000 stated by other sources. Besieged in Tripoli, probably in an underground bunker, Gaddafi yesterday bellowed in a television-broadcast telephone call against al-Qaeda: Bin Laden is behind this chaos. Meanwhile demonstrators against the regime are consolidating their positions and are closing in on Tripoli, where a group of Italian reporters was pulled over at a checkpoint manned by government troops, who beat one of the journalists. The journalists were later released. In Cyrenaica, in the east, the opposition claims that the main oil terminals, Ras Lanuf and Marsa El Brega, have fallen into their hands, despite the fact that yesterday Gaddafi threatened the West to block them.

Today a large demonstration has been scheduled in Tripoli.

The protesters want to “free” Tripoli and the situation risks to get out of hand. The U.S. announced its intentions to “act rapidly” and, according to Le Monde, an American military intervention cannot be ruled out.

France and the UK have proposed a draft resolution on Libya to the UN Security Council. This resolution includes “a total embargo on weapons”, “sanctions”, and an inquiry into crimes against humanity by the international criminal court, French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said.

Meanwhile NATO secretary-general Rassmussen has called an emergency meeting this afternoon to discuss the situation in Libya. “It is too early to get into details”, he said, “but the NATO has the means which can be used in situations like this and the Atlantic Alliance can act as co-ordinator if and when an individual member State wants to act”.

The Libyan government has raised wages and food subsidies and has ordered special allowances for all families. State television announced that each household will receive 500 Libyan dinars (290 euros) to cover for rising food prices, and that wages of several categories of civil servants will be raised by 150%.

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and U.S. President Barack Obama agree: a coordinated multilateral response is needed in Libya to guarantee adequate “humanitarian assistance” on one side, and “basic human rights” on the other , because “the people of Libya have a right to determine their own destiny”. Obama also spoke with French President Nicholas Sarkozy, and U.K. Premier David Cameron yesterday. The White House has announced that the U.S., France, the U.K. and Italy are determined to keep in close contact regarding the situation in Libya, in order to coordinate the intervention both for humanitarian aid and for “the right of the Libyan people to determine their own destiny”. In separate talks, Obama, Berlusconi, Sarkozy and Cameron have confirmed their strong support to the universal rights of the Libyan people, including their right to freedom of assembly and expression, a White House statement reads. “The leaders have also discussed a series of options which both the United States and the European countries are developing to hold the Libyan government accountable for its actions”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Eastern Oil Fields in Rebel Hands, 75% Closed

(AGI) Benghazi — An oil engineer reported that nearly all oil fields east of Ras Lanuf are in rebel hands and are 75% closed.

The engineer, Abdessalam Najib, works for Libyan oil company Agico and is a member of the interim coalition government in Benghazi, the country’s second city. The oil fields and terminals are working, but only at 25% capacity.

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

Libya: Speech Greeted by Cries of ‘God and Muammar Alone’

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, FEBRUARY 25 — At the end of the speech delivered by the Libyan leader, the crowd gathered in Green Square chanted the chorus: “God, Muammar and Libya alone!”.

The crowd, which includes women and children, are still in the Square: holding up pictures of Gaddafi and waving green flags.

On Tripoli’s sea front, a few hundred metres from the Square, road blocks are manned by police, troops and armed militia wearing a green sash on their arms.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: What Happens After We Stop Watching These Revolutions Against Col Gaddafi?

In Israel this week, I flew to the northern border with Lebanon. From a military outpost, I looked over the barbed wire which separates the two countries, and surveyed the attractive, rocky country beyond. In the far distance, Mount Hermon rose, snow-capped and remote. A thin, shy, clever officer from Israeli military intelligence explained to us what we could see. There, in the middle of a village, was a large white house. It is a home for the physically handicapped, but inside is concealed a Hizbollah observation post, which cannot be attacked without injuring the innocent inmates. To the right were several Christian villages, and a Sunni one, but most of these are now dominated by the Shia, from whom Hizbollah is drawn. A Lebanese army border post was visible to the far right, but neither its soldiers, nor those of the UN force, Unifil, have any serious power.

Further off, straight ahead of us, was the town where the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, popped up last October, using a stadium rally to denounce Israel and display Iranian strength. Since then, that strength has grown. Hizbollah, which depends on Iran for its money and training, and on Syria for refuge and political support, has taken effective control of the government of Lebanon. Within one sweep of the eye, then, we could see the difference between hope and reality. In 2005, Lebanon experienced its “Cedar Revolution”. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets, protesting against the Syrian/Hizbollah-backed assassination of their prime minister, Rafik Hariri. Just as they are doing this month all over the Middle East, Western television reports celebrated the event. The democratic will prevailed. Syrian troops withdrew from Lebanon. Yet today, six years on, Lebanon has never been a less politically plural place. The Christians believe that they are all but finished; the Sunni minority are embattled; the Shia extremists are back, and in charge. This example is worth bearing in mind as the West tries to read the current rush of events in the Muslim world. A few days in Israel at this juncture is a good antidote to the sheer gloopiness of our own television reporting.

It is right that the Western media should reflect some of the natural delight most people feel when the powerless come together and protest against their corrupt rulers. We are all touched to see these human yearnings for greater justice.

But as our famous reporters move on to new scenes of action, other players in the drama, to whom we pay scant attention, move in. As they left Tunisia for Egypt, in from London (incredible how often it is our own dear capital which supplies these characters) came Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of the Tunisian version of the Muslim Brotherhood. Since then, Islamist mobs have attacked prostitutes in Tunis, and a Polish Catholic priest has been murdered. No sooner had the John Simpsons and George Alagiahs left the excited nights in Tahrir Square in Cairo, than a vast crowd, almost unreported in the West, turned out there to hear Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, who had just flown in from Qatar after years of exile. Qaradawi, an old friend of this column, is sometimes touted as a moderate, and he himself likes the word. He publicly advocates what he calls “the most moderate opinion” that all Muslim women should be subjected to female circumcision without cutting off absolutely everything, as if there is a sort of Blairite “Third Way” for genital mutilation. Qaradawi is the spiritual inspiration for the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. His presence in Egypt, of course, is timed to get it into power. Next stop for our cameras was Bahrain, and now to Libya — or rather, to the Libyan border — with reporters screwing up their eyes against the desert sun, and telling us very little that we cannot glean from films shot on mobile phones by protesters. They will stay there as long as there is bloodshed and/or the fall of the dictator, and then slip away without bothering about what happens after.

Our political leaders are similarly scraping the surface. President Obama’s policy seems to track the television images precisely, falling in behind whoever may be the hero of the evening news bulletins and then moving smartly on. Far be it from me to suggest that he should have allowed his foreign policy to die in the ditch for President Mubarak, but the example of how America treats its old friends sharply reduces the incentive to become a new one.

The history of the Cedar Revolution shows a similar pattern. The West was all over Lebanon for a bit, full of helpful plans for monitoring and peacekeeping. But all Hizbollah had to do was to wait, with the patience of the fanatic, until the West got bored — and move in. In Israel, the attitude is different. Ordinary human reactions are quite similar to our own. Israelis live in a democracy and they believe in it with a passion which, when one looks at the endless disputes generated by their minutely accurate system of proportional representation, can seem too much of a good thing. They recognise, in these stirrings in the Middle East, symptoms of the political modernity that they themselves possess.

Where they are profoundly unlike us, though, is that their attention to the subject is perpetual, because their lives literally depend on it. They don’t just have fun at the party: they are there for the morning after the night before. To change the metaphor, we in the West are like tourists in Middle East politics: we see something interesting, focus with our zoom lens, frame a pretty picture, and depart. The Israelis, by contrast, watch with 24-hour CCTV.

They are therefore much more alert than we are to threat. In my interview with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, which appears on page 12, he speaks at length about Iran. It is the greatest danger to world peace, he says, especially if it gets the Bomb, and it is “seeking to exploit” the current turmoil. Iran’s proxies and even (see above) its president reach his country’s borders. Its missiles and its proxy operatives can now hit Western Europe. It has put naval vessels through the Suez Canal for the first time since 1979. It is governed by an extreme Islamist ideology. Yet the television cameras which camped in Tahrir Square mostly ignore similar large anti-regime protests in Tehran, and the Western powers do almost nothing to encourage the demonstrators and dissidents there. It is often said that anti-Israeli feeling is growing in the West because Israel does not, despite its claims, live by Western values. I sometimes wonder if the opposite is the case: Israel, because of the constant threat to its existence, reminds us of the high cost of defending our freedoms. And that, to Western wishful thinkers, is intensely irritating.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Libya: NBC’s Mitchell Regurgitates Gaddafi Lies

The old lie about Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s daughter supposedly being killed in a 1986 raid ordered by then-President Reagan is back. Several stories in U.S. and foreign media about the turmoil in Libya have discussed Gaddafi’s rule in Libya, involvement in terrorism, and the time when we had a President, Ronald Reagan, who ordered military retaliation against pro-terrorist dictators.

On Monday’s NBC Nightly News, reporter Andrea Mitchell said Libya was “accused of bombing a Berlin nightclub frequented by U.S. soldiers” and that “Ronald Reagan retaliated, ordering an air strike against Gaddafi’s tent, accidentally killing his young daughter. Gaddafi escaped unharmed.”

Mitchell showed Gaddafi visiting someone in a hospital.

Mitchell had also flashed a photo of Gaddafi standing next to a girl—the “daughter”—who looked about six or seven years old.

In fact, he had no daughter. It appears that Gaddafi “adopted” the girl after the strike in order to generate sympathy for himself after the raid. The phrase, “adopted daughter,” is the usual formulation that we found in reports about the raid. Mitchell omitted the “adopted” part.


But many in the media want to forget the Clinton Administration role in [the al-Megrahi] fiasco.

Libya had surrendered al-Megrahi over for trial after lengthy negotiations with Annan and the Clinton Administration. The deal included an agreement, which was kept secret for over a year, in which Gaddafi was promised that the trial would not “undermine” his regime. This was seen as a guarantee not to charge Gaddafi or his top aides. In effect, Gaddafi was given immunity from prosecution.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Manhandled by Militias — Rage and Green Flags in Fear-Ridden Capital

Tension and check points near Gheddafi’s bunker

TRIPOLI — The cars with green flags poking out of the windows that speed along the motorway, horns a-honking, let you know that Tripoli is still the leader’s city, standing loyally by Muammar Gheddafi, despite everything. At last, Tripoli. But the reek of scores being settled taints the air.

The city is divided, gripped by two contrasting fevers: the mad rush to get away at the airport and the frenzy of those who have stayed behind. Lurking in the eyes of everyone, without distinction, is the ferocity of the last few days. Then the traffic slows to a halt. A lorry has stopped, although there are no traffic lights, and the cars brake in unison. Young-looking, machine pistol-toting government militiamen appear in the middle of the road. They are Gheddafi loyalists, furious at his opponents and ready to die for their leader. Among them are some police officers, who let the government troops get on with it, cowed by their brash confidence. The militiamen head straight for us, seven Italian reporters squeezed into two cars hired at the airport with great difficulty and driven by drivers who have no intention of avoiding the inspection. It’s a check point. You have to stop. The six or seven plain-clothes militiamen must have noticed our faces. New faces. The faces of westerners who have just arrived instead of getting out as quickly as possible. Faces they haven’t seen around. Faces that, in a war bristling with spies and propaganda, arouse suspicion and generate tension…

English translation by Giles Watson

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

More Than 1,000 Italians Back From Libya

Obama, Berlusconi agree on coordinated response

(ANSA) — Berlin, February 25 — More than 1,000 Italians have been airlifted and shipped back from Libya over the last two days and Italy hopes to bring back a further 200 Friday, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said after talks with German counterpart Guido Westerwelle here.

“According to reports, 1,100 Italians have come back” of the some 6,000 present in the North African country when an uprising against the rule of Muammar Gaddafi broke out last week, Frattini said.

“Today there is another group of about 200 Italians we hope can return by the end of the day,” he said, noting that two C-130 transport flights arrived Thursday and there were Italian ships in one of the free Libyan ports, Misurata.

Italy and Germany agreed on the need to protect all European Union citizens in Libya, the foreign minister said.

Berlin also “fully understands, while not being a Mediterranean country, that the Mediterranean is Europe’s frontier, on which we will have to do the most work in the near future,” he said after Italy and other Mediterranean nations’ pleas for more solidarity from the rest of the EU were met with reservations from many northern EU members Thursday.

So far Italy has received 6,300 North African migrants, all but 100 of them Tunisians, but there are Italian fears that the Libyan conflict may unleash a “Biblical” exodus.


United States President Barack Obama phoned Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi as well as Britain’s David Cameron and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy Thursday night to agree a joint response to the Libyan crisis.

Obama and Berlusconi agreed on the need for a coordinated multilateral response to ensure adequate humanitarian assistance and basic human rights, the White House said. Frattini said Friday Italy agreed on a proposal for “targeted sanctions” to deter Gaddafi from shedding more blood.

He also said he would ask the United Nations in Geneva to set up an independent international inspection mission under UN auspices to monitor the situation on the ground in Libya. It has been hard to determine the scale of the bloodshed after Gaddafi’s crackdown on rebels but some sources have gone as high as 10,000 killed.

Frattini said: “The Libyan situation is dramatic, both because of the loss of human lives and the unprecedented violence”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Muammar Gaddafi’s ‘Cultural’ Tours to Libya for Italian Models Revealed in Diary

Young Italian women were paid €3,000 to go on tours of Libya that culminated in visits to Gaddafi’s tented compound in the desert.

The travel diary of a Roman model has provided a compelling insight into bizarre “cultural visits” arranged by the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, for scores of attractive young women from Italy.

Maria M, aged 28, declined to give her full name, but allowed the Observer to examine her account of a lavish trip to the Libyan desert in October after she was recruited by the Rome-based agency Hostessweb. In her diary Maria tells of an eccentric week-long tour for which she and 19 other young women were reportedly each paid €3,000.

Six such “cultural” visits to Libya by agency recruits have been organised since Gaddafi visited Rome in 2009. The next is scheduled for next month. On one visit Gaddafi tried to marry off one of his guests to his nephew.

But there also appears to have been a religious motive. “He asked if any of us were interested in converting [to Islam]. We all looked at each other and then, incredibly, two girls rose up, something I never thought they would do,” wrote Maria, adding that she believed bonuses had been offered to the “converts”.

Gaddafi developed a taste for preaching to Italian women during his 2009 visits, and again in August this year, when Hostessweb, which recruits models and hostesses, laid on busloads of women to hear him talk about Islamic culture and faith. “This is all about social and cultural integration,” said Alessandro Londero, one of the organisers of the trips. “Here in Rome we have sent dozens of girls to attend Arabic courses at the Libyan cultural institute.”

On Maria’s arrival in Tripoli in October, the 20 hostesses were given their €3,000 and then taken on a week-long tour by Gaddafi aides of Libya’s Roman ruins and its modern hospitals, souks and the women’s police academy. The tour then moved to the leader’s tent in the desert.

“They put us in government cars headed for Gaddafi’s tent,” wrote Maria. “About 30km from Sirte there is movement and lights in the middle of nowhere and we are stopped by men armed to the teeth at three successive checkpoints before we see two enormous tents, a couple of camper vans serving as toilets, a massive and noisy generator and hundreds of camels.”

After they had waited for hours, Gaddafi appeared, “straight from hunting, dressed extremely casually in a wrinkled shell suit and old trainers with messed-up hair. He gives us a huge smile, we clap and he swaps the ‘papal’ throne laid on for him for a plastic chair.”

After looking at photos of their trip, Gaddafi turns to proselytism. “He tells us most of Europe will turn Muslim thanks to the entry of Turkey into the EU… that we must embrace Muhammad’s faith because Christ predicted that a prophet would come after him to take his place.”

Then, with Libyan TV filming, Gaddafi converted the two girls who stepped forward. “That brings the converts to seven or eight,” said Londero. “Sometimes they kneel before him while it is broadcast on TV.”

Maria said some girls were not convinced by their colleagues’ religious zeal. “There was talk of cash prizes, jobs, houses,” she wrote. One woman who converted on a trip in March confirmed she had been rewarded. “It is a present for those who choose Islam, a form of help, although Gaddafi’s willingness to guide us is the biggest present,” said Rea Beko, 27, an Albanian from an Orthodox Christian family who lives in Rome.

Londero said the list to sign up to meet Gaddafi “now seems to be longer than the waiting list to visit the pope,” but warned he would be screening out Israelis, anyone who says they want to convert, or appears interested only in a large cheque. Future trips, he said, could involve women from other countries. “I would not rule out an event in the UK like those Gaddafi has held in Rome.”

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

Qaddafi Son Says Family Controls Most of Libya, Al Jazeera Spreading Lies

Muammar Qaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam Qaddafi denied that his family was losing control of vast swathes of Libya, blaming Al Jazeera television for spreading “lies” that make the rebellion look larger than it is.

Most of the country is calm and under the regime’s control, with the exception of the cities of Misrata and al-Zawiyaa in the west and Beyda and Derna near Benghazi in the east, Saif al- Islam said in an interview taped early today in Tripoli with CNN-Turk television.

Armed groups of “terrorists” in those cities have stolen tanks from the army, declared their independence, set up “Mickey Mouse governments” and are broadcasting false news from radio stations there, he said.

Muammar Qaddafi has bolstered defenses in the capital, Tripoli, and launched counter-strikes against opponents who have seized much of the rest of the country. France and the U.K. will submit a proposal to the United Nations Security Council today for an arms embargo and other measures against Libya.

A group of 100 rebels was fighting a population of 550,000 people in Misrata, Qaddafi’s son said, while “at most” 200 to 300 “terrorists” were controlling a region with more than 2 million people in Libya. He said the population can’t defend itself because the average citizen doesn’t have a gun.

Tripoli, where half of Libya’s population lives, is under control and is completely “normal,” the younger Qaddafi said. Benghazi, the second-largest city, where many of the demonstrations have centered, is “total chaos,” lawless and uncontrolled, he said. Beyda and Derna have declared independent “emirates” led by Islamic terrorists, he said.

Young People

The army and air force have attacked ammunition dumps to prevent them from falling into the hands of the opposition, and have not attacked civilians, Qaddafi’s son said. He said 242 people have died so far in the unrest, most of them young people provoked to attack an army barracks in Benghazi.

Libyans have been pleading with the regime to help them get rid of those behind the revolt, he said. He said the Qaddafis would never leave Libya…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Sex, Brothels and the Real Tyranny Threatening the Arab World

Sex, brothels and the REAL tyranny threatening the Arab world: Islamic fundamentalists are already imposing their own brutal puritanism

A few hundred metres from the main mosque in the heart of Tunis’s old quarter lies Abdallah Guech Street, a red-light district which has thrived since the 19th century. Here, the Ottomans legalised and regulated prostitution — as they had in much of the rest of the Muslim world.

Uniquely, though, in the Arab world, the tradition in Tunisia endured. Every one of the country’s historic quarters boasts bordellos; even, most remarkably, Kairouan, Islam’s fourth holiest city after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem.

In keeping with Tunisia’s deep-rooted secularism and unprecedented championing of Muslim women’s rights, the prostitutes carry cards issued by the Interior Ministry, pay taxes like everyone else and enjoy (along with their clients) the full protection of the law.

Or at least they did until last month’s Jasmine Revolution. But last week, faster than you could scream ‘Allahu Akbar’, hundreds of Islamists raided Abdallah Guech Street armed with Molotov cocktails and knives, torching the brothels, yelling insults at the prostitutes and declaring that Tunisia was now an Islamist state.

As soldiers fired into the air to disperse them, the Islamists won a promise from the interim government that the brothels would be permanently closed.

In other cities, brothels were targeted, too; and there have been demonstrations throughout the country — whose economy is heavily dependent on the vibrant tourism industry — against the sale of alcohol.

Suspected Islamists otherwise preoccupied themselves with slitting the throat of a Polish Catholic priest, which, if confirmed, would be the first such sectarian murder in modern Tunisian history. And anti-Semitic slogans could be heard outside Tunisia’s main synagogue: this in a country with no history of persecution of its Jewish minority.

When the Tunisian revolution started last month, it was hailed as a template for the rest of the Arab world. But if revolutions are judged by their outcomes rather than their intentions, then the story of post-revolution Tunisia is equally instructive.

The world’s attention has quickly moved on — to Egypt, Bahrain, Libya or the next theatre of this extraordinary, fast-moving drama.

The phrase ‘Arab Spring’ is being touted as if we were witnessing an unambiguous leap forward for ordinary Arabs: history marching towards democracy and pluralism.

No one wishes to contemplate, let alone prepare for, the alternative — that this might end in the restoration of authoritarian rule or, worse, the triumph of a radical Islam.

When David Cameron visited Egypt this week, there were too few signs of the budding liberal democracy which he and other Western leaders had envisioned. He could hardly congratulate his host, a former Air Force commander, for what was, in effect, another military coup. There was no Lech Walesa figure for him to meet, no secular democratic champion of the new Egypt.

The Muslim Brotherhood remains the only political group of any note. The key to being optimistic about Egypt’s future — and the Arab world more generally — is not to look too closely at what is happening on the ground. And to pay as little attention as possible to the events in Tunisia.

For all its restrictions on direct political participation, for decades, Tunisia was the most secular and progressive country the Islamic world has ever known. The regime was the least brutal in the region, its people the wealthiest and best educated.

The poverty level was just 4 per cent when the revolution broke out, which is among the lowest in the world.

Eighty per cent of the population belonged to the middle class. And the education system — allocated more funding than the army — ranked 17th globally in terms of quality. The veil was banned in public institutions, polygamy was outlawed, mosques were shuttered outside prayer times, and men needed permission from the local police to grow a beard.

It was the only Muslim country where abortion was legal, where frank sex education was compulsory in schools, and where children had it drummed into their heads that religion and politics were distinct and separate.

Radical Islamists opposed to this strict secular order were either exiled or imprisoned. Now, however, with the collapse of the old order, the Islamists are starting to come back — with a vengeance.

At least one group saw the warning signs. A few weeks before the Islamist-led violence, a small and peaceful protest was held by secular women against any move towards a more Islamist way of life.

They gathered when news broke of the imminent return from exile in London of 69-year-old Rachid Ghannouchi, the ‘moderate’ leader of Tunisia’s (previously banned) Ennahdha Islamist movement.

Ghannouchi has been careful to distance himself from the subsequent violence. But in retrospect, the women clearly had genuine cause for concern, both at his return and the simultaneous mass release of Islamists from Tunisia’s prisons — and all in the name of the country’s new pluralism.

The West, it seems to me, should be equally troubled. If these notoriously ‘moderate’ Islamists, while still a minority and in the infancy of their campaign, can hijack such a modern, sophisticated and secular Arab country in a matter of days, what could await the wider region, where secularism is already anathema and Wahhabi-inspired Islam has, in many instances, a firm foothold?

The Islamists have, through hate campaigns, set the social agenda in Tunisia even before elections have been proposed. Without a similarly assertive counterpart, there is every chance they will also fill the power vacuum being created from Cairo to Tripoli.

Egypt is the Arab world’s most populous nation, with a long tradition, like Tunisia, of tolerant and liberal Islam. The slogans on placards gave the West plenty of cause for hope, as did the westernised Egyptians who tweeted their commentary in English.

But placards are a poor proxy for the vox populi. In fact, the social decay during Hosni Mubarak’s three decades in power strongly increased the Islamists’ appeal — which Mubarak, in turn, exaggerated to keep Washington’s calls for reform at a whisper.

One month before Mubarak’s downfall, a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that a majority of Egyptians support stoning as a punishment for adultery, hand amputation for theft, and death for those who convert from Islam to another religion.

Sensing their moment may be nigh, the Muslim Brotherhood — harbouring a long-cherished goal of establishing an Islamist state in Egypt — is already increasing its sway in the post-revolutionary land of the Pharaohs.

Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the fundamentalist group’s spiritual guide made famous by his weekly television show on Al Jazeera, visited Cairo recently to deliver a political sermon to a five million-strong crowd of the Egyptian faithful in Tahrir Square.

If, as seems inevitable, the Brotherhood gains sway over the government by joining in a coalition when parliamentary elections are held, it will find itself in a position to put the institutional heft of the Egyptian state behind its puritanical agenda.

This would dismay most Egyptians who, while vaguely sympathetic to the Brotherhood’s goals, for the most part have no longing to live in an Iranian-style theocracy. But neither did the Iranians before the ayatollahs took power.

As a hint of what might be in store for Egypt, consider the city of Alexandria.

Once it was a cosmopolitan summer resort famous for its secular, carefree atmosphere. Now it is about the least fun place to live in North Africa.

All Muslim women in the city are veiled — among the young, often for fear of otherwise being labelled a whore.

Violence between local Christians and Muslims is commonplace (23 Christians were killed by a bomb planted in a Coptic Orthodox church on New Year’s Day). Most bars have stopped serving alcohol, and the only women to be found on the beaches, even in the height of summer, are those taking care of their children — and they are invariably covered from head to toe in black.

It is a great mistake to assume democracy is an enemy of Islamism. When the gift of democracy is unwrapped in the Arab world, Islamists frequently spring out of the box.

The jihadis may be despised by most Muslims, but often in Arab countries, only about 20 to 40 per cent of the population vote. It is by no means impossible for the Islamists to secure a majority from the minority because their supporters are the most fanatical.

Whatever the theory of democratisation in the Arab world, the history is clear: where democracy, however tentatively, has already been introduced, it is the Islamists who have come to power.

Democracy came to Morocco, and now the fundamentalist Party for Justice and Development (PJD) increases its number of seats at each election: it is only a matter of time before the party forms a majority in parliament.

Democracy came to Gaza, and the Islamist group Hamas took power. In Bahrain, following democratic reforms a decade ago, there is now a fundamentalist Sunni block dominating the elected chamber — despite the fact that the country’s population is 70 per cent Shia.

Ditto Yemen. Even in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood was officially outlawed, the group won a quarter of the parliamentary seats up for grabs six years ago.

But the Islamists seldom want to take control of the government machine; they have little interest in setting tax or energy policy. The influence they seek is cultural totalitarianism…


The foolish cuts that leave us defenceless

Nothing I have written lately attracted a greater postbag than an article reflecting that Britain had chosen to cease to be a serious country, choosing to put welfare and a bloated public sector above engagement in the world and the willingness to defend ourselves properly. Most of you agreed; and perhaps the few who didn’t will reconsider your views after the farce of the Libyan evacuation this week. Full credit to the Prime Minister for admitting the shambles he made of this: but what did he expect? Governing, for the inexperienced and callow people who now run our country, is about having power. They seem not just to be unsure of what to do with that power, but of what power actually requires them to do. It requires, not least, to have them protect British subjects going about their legal business in the world. Dave, though, was too busy on a photo-opportunity in Cairo, and his preposterous deputy thought his main responsibility lay in having a skiing holiday. He forgot he was in charge: if only the rest of us could. Mr Hague, the Foreign Secretary, has seemed disengaged from reality since problems with his private life a few months ago. But he only had to try to whistle up charter flights to get our people out of Libya because the RAF is depleted and our Mediterranean fleet hardly exists. We have been reminded that we need reach in the world, because our people are very much out in it. An inability to protect them means we are not a serious country, and one that invites the contempt of its now immensely vulnerable citizens. The senior officers who wrote to this newspaper yesterday about the idiotic nature of our defence cuts reinforced this point, unwittingly. Not only can we not protect ourselves against those who threaten our interests: we no longer have the forces to mount a simple rescue operation. I was told at the time that Mr Hague was urging support for the hard Treasury line against the Ministry of Defence when the cuts were discussed last year. If so, he is well and truly hoist with his own petard. The defence review must be reopened. It has been established that money was wasted on procurement in the MoD; and the civil service establishment there was, and is, too large. But that is no reason to decommission Ark Royal, or our Harrier capability. The world is an exceptionally dangerous place, much more so than these foolish cuts admitted. For us to remain secure and to be able to protect our people we need more ships, more planes and more men and women under arms. The cuts always looked idiotic, and some of us said so at the time. They seem lethal now. History tells us that the unexpected always happens: ask the ghosts of Baldwin and Chamberlain, who refused to expect the Second World War. Ministers will say that no one could have predicted this wave of instability in the Middle East and North Africa even last autumn, when the cuts were announced. That is true. But what any sensible politician could, and should, have planned for is that, one day, the unexpected would happen. That day has come quickly. The ludicrous, hasty and ill-informed decision to cut defence so severely is one for which Dave and his Chancellor must take full responsibility. They chose to increase the overseas aid budget, which should have been abolished. They chose to ring-fence the NHS budget, which is full of waste. We await mass sackings of unproductive people in local government. All this would pay for our better defence, and save Dave from further humiliating apologies. He had better listen, for the world situation has every chance of getting much, much worse.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Social Networks Source of Uprisings in Arab Countries

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 24- The Wikileaks secret reports did not promote change but awareness, while social networks were the source of uprisings in the Arab Countries. The first claim belongs to Bill Keller, director of the New York Times since 2003 and Pulizer prize winner while envoy in Moscow; the second belongs to the director of El Pais, Javier Moreno.

Together with the directors of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, Le Monde, Sylvie Kauffmann, and Del Spiegel, Georg Mascolo, lAuditorium of Madrid’s Reina Sofia museum that captivated the attention of hundreds of young people. The five directors of the coalition set up to publish the secret papers of the US Department of State released by Wikileaks debated the essential role played out by the internet in relation to the Arab uprisings. Even though, as emphasised by Moreno, “revolutions are not simply achieved through twitter and facebook”, because, as stated by Kauffmann, “revolutionary action is not the means” and “the global repercussion achieved on the network is a major effect, but it is not everything”. The front line still belongs to “the people who stake their lives on the streets, who fight and are ready to die for freedom”, according to Bill Kller, who emphasised the usefulness of networks as “a tool for the swift mobilisation of people”. But also as “an effective means of control in the hands of governments”, as revealed by Georg Mascolo, who wondered who will end up winning the fight. Alain Rusbridger had no doubts, stating that “The power of a repressive State is enormous”, and pointing out that last month “the Guardian’s special envoy was expelled from Russia, where many journalists have been assassinated”. But so is the power of information, when open and without barriers between citizen reporters and professional reporters, and when freely available online. The Guardian, which set up pages in Arab, “started to become part of the training tools of public opinion in the Arab language”. Rusbridger believes that in “a media with barriers the Wikileaks reports would have been invisible”. Keller is not as confident about the impact of the Wikileaks reports on the wave of change that is sweeping the Arab world. According to the director of the New York Times, “we are responsible for lighting the fire in Tunis, where the Wikileaks reports on the private lives of many leaders resonated greatly and enraged the people.

Egypt experienced a similar effect, while in Libya “there are a few cables about Gaddafi which, despite the tight leash on the media, we know have been circulated”. Keller believes that credit should go not to Wikileaks, but to the “people who gained the information that fostered change”, while the channel that was opened up by Assange simply “promoted knowledge”. The information campaign “did not change journalism, but contributed to our efforts to gain greater transparency”, as noted by Javier Moreno. Even when, with reference to the five major newspapers, it came to asserting their independence compared to the reasons of State invoked by the US administration to prevent the publishing of reports concerning Yemen and a crisis with an ally in the war against terrorism.

Rusbridger stated that “We took their reasons into consideration, but then chose to publish them. And I think that time has shown that it was the right decision”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Two French Ministers in Tunis After Controversy

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 22 — France’s Economy Minister Christine Lagarde and European Affairs Minister Laurent Wauquiez arrived today in Tunis, for an official visit aimed to strengthen the ties between the two countries after the recent controversies. “Relations between France and Tunisia have been very sunny for centuries, with some shadows at times”, said Lagarde.

Lagarde is the first representative of the French government to visit the North African country after the fall of the Ben Ali regime. Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie is not one of the visiting French officials. She became the focal point of a serious controversy in the past weeks due to her ties with a businessman who has links to the former Tunisian President. The official reason for her absence is a contemporary official visit to Brazil, but some people have suggested that this is only a ploy to avoid further tensions. According to the official programme, the two French Ministers will have a meeting in Cartage Palace, near Tunis, with the new Tunisian Premier Mohammed Ghannouci and Minister for Economic and Social Reforms Elyes Jouini. The two will later attend a series of work meetings with members of the new Tunisia government, and they will visit a pharmaceutical plant. Tensions between Paris and Tunis started to rise again after the misunderstandings during the days of the uprising against Ben Ali, since the live television debate between the new ambassador Boris Boillon and several local journalists.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

What Seif Gaddafi Taught Me About Realpolitik

When I met Seif al-Islam Gaddafi a couple of years ago, I formed a number of impressions. First, he was pretty able. Second, he was a complicated character. Although he took himself seriously and obviously intended to be the next ruler of Libya, he was not happy in his own skin. This was hardly surprising. An upbringing at the hands of his fruitcake of a father is not likely to ease anyone into a comfortable sense of self.

At ease or not, this seemed an interesting fellow, a long way from the bizarre ranter of the recent broadcast. A few weeks ago in Davos, the world’s influential were keen to have lunch with him. On the basis of my meeting, I could understand why. Moreover, he made it clear that he was in favour of fundamental change in Libya. Nor was he so absurd as to claim that the Libyans already enjoyed democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

There was talk of my interviewing him. In discussions with his advisers, I emphasised I would have to press him on awkward questions, including his father’s longevity in office. I also decided that if it did happen, the interview should take place in London rather than Tripoli. As I expected, his people said they would get back to me and then went quiet.

Others may now be wishing that their interviews had never happened. But I see no reason for Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson and others to reproach themselves. There were always doubts about Seif’s durability. He did not seem to be a big enough personality to replace his father. A wise diplomat friend of mine said that if Seif did take over, he should ensure he was never more than 40 minutes away from a fast, fully-fuelled aeroplane with a soundly bribed crew. It would not be long before he was fleeing for his life.

Even so, until a month ago it seemed that the old man was secure in the saddle and that the younger one might have an important role in due course. No one was predicting the Gaddafi regime would suddenly disintegrate into violence and lunacy.

So it made sense to talk to the Gaddafis. Some commentators are carrying on as if western pragmatism and realpolitik were responsible for keeping Muammer Gaddafi in power. That is nonsense. Foreign policy has to deal with the world as it is, not as we would wish it to be: with a world in which the best brief summary of the human condition is still “original sin”.

In the 1980s, Britain and America gave a lot of thought to methods of overthrowing Colonel Gaddafi. But there did not appear to be any. “Square or squash” was one of Churchill’s wise maxims. As we could not squash, we were right to make do with squaring — and this brought benefits.

In the 1980s, Col Gaddafi was funding the IRA in particular, terrorism in general and mayhem wherever he could find it. We were virtually in a state of undeclared war with Libya, culminating in Lockerbie. During the 1990s, tensions gradually abated. There was no more support for terrorism. Instead, there was the possibility of economic links…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Caroline Glick: Playing Israel’s Good Hand

On Wednesday night, Israelis received our first taste of the new Middle East with the missile strikes on Beersheba. Iran’s Palestinian proxy, the local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood known as Hamas, carried out its latest war crime right after Iran’s battleships entered Syria’s Latakia port.

Their voyage through the Suez Canal to Syria was an unadulterated triumph for the mullahs.

For the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran’s warships sailed across the canal without even being inspected by the Egyptian, US or Israeli navies.

On the diplomatic front, the Iranian-dominated new Middle East has had a pronounced impact on the Western-backed Fatah-led Palestinian Authority’s political posture towards the US. The PA picked a fight with America just after the Obama administration forced Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to surrender power. Mubarak’s departure was a strategic victory for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and for its sister branch Hamas in Gaza…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Look Who Else is Reawakening Terrorist Wing

Latest Mideast group to take militant stance following Obama’s support for Egypt

Members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ militia, classified by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization, have been brandishing weapons publicly in recent days despite a disarmament agreement with Israel, WND has learned.

Dozens of members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the declared military wing of Abbas’ Fatah party, have been seen wielding weapons in the region of Nablus, or biblical Shechem, in the northern West Bank. The city serves as the main Brigades stronghold.

The Brigades are responsible for scores of suicide bombings and deadly shootings targeting Israeli civilians. The group took credit, many times jointly with the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad organization, for nearly every suicide bombing in Israel in 2005, 2006 and 2007.


The U.S. provides arms, training and financial aid to the PA’s various militias. Many members of official PA security forces double as Brigades terrorists.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

A Mass Expression of Outrage Against Injustice

Bernard Lewis, the renowned Islamic scholar, believes that at the root of the protests sweeping across our region is the Arab peoples’ widespread sense of injustice. “The sort of authoritarian, even dictatorial regimes, that rule most of the countries in the modern Islamic Middle East, are a modern creation,” he notes. “The pre-modern regimes were much more open, much more tolerant.”

But Lewis regards a dash toward Western-style elections, far from representing a solution to the region’s difficulties, as constituting “a dangerous aggravation” of the problem, and fears that radical Islamic movements would be best placed to exploit so misguided a move. A much better course, he says, would be to encourage the gradual development of local, self-governing institutions, in accordance with the Islamic tradition of “consultation.”

Lewis also believes that it was no coincidence that the current unrest erupted first in Tunisia, the one Arab country, he notes, where women play a significant part in public life. The role of women in determining the future of the Arab world, he says, will be crucial.

Once described as the most influential post-war historian of Islam and the Middle East, Lewis, 94, set out his thinking on the current Middle East ferment in a conversation with me before an invited audience at the home of the US Ambassador to Israel, James Cunningham, a few days ago. Excerpts:

Does the current wave of protest in the region indicate that, in fact, the Arab masses do want democracy? And is that what we’re going to see unfolding now?

The Arab masses certainly want change. And they want improvement. But when you say do they want democracy, that’s a more difficult question to answer. What does “democracy” mean? It’s a word that’s used with very different meanings, even in different parts of the Western world. And it’s a political concept that has no history, no record whatever in the Arab, Islamic world.

In the West, we tend to get excessively concerned with elections, regarding the holding of elections as the purest expression of democracy, as the climax of the process of democratization. Well, the second may be true — the climax of the process. But the process can be a long and difficult one. Consider, for example, that democracy was fairly new in Germany in the inter-war period and Hitler came to power in a free and fair election.

We, in the Western world particularly, tend to think of democracy in our own terms — that’s natural and normal — to mean periodic elections in our style. But I think it’s a great mistake to try and think of the Middle East in those terms and that can only lead to disastrous results, as you’ve already seen in various places. They are simply not ready for free and fair elections.

One of the most moving experiences of my life was in the year 1950, most of which I spent in Turkey. That was the time when the Turkish government held a free and genuinely fair election — the election of 1950 — in which that government was defeated, and even more remarkably the government then quietly and decently withdrew from power and handed over power to the victorious opposition.

What followed I can only describe as catastrophic. Adnan Menderes, the leader of the party which won the election, which came to power by their success in the election, soon made it perfectly clear that he had no intention whatever of leaving by the same route by which he had come, that he regarded this as a change of regime, and that he had no respect at all for the electoral process.

And people in Turkey began to realize this. I remember vividly sitting one day in the faculty lounge at the school of political sciences in Ankara. This would have been after several years of the Menderes regime. We were sitting in the faculty lounge with some of the professors discussing the history of different political institutions and forms. And one of them suddenly said, to everyone’s astonishment, “Well, the father of democracy in Turkey is Adnan Menderes.”

The others looked around in bewilderment. They said, “Adnan Menderes, the father of Turkish democracy? What do you mean?” Well, said this professor, “he raped the mother of democracy.” It sounds much better in Turkish…

This happened again and again and again. You win an election because an election is forced on the country. But it is seen as a one-way street. Most of the countries in the region are not yet ready for elections.

Yet in Egypt now, for example, the assumption is that we’re proceeding toward elections in September and that seems to be what the West is inclined to encourage.

I would view that with mistrust and apprehension. If there’s a genuinely free election — assuming that such a thing could happen — the religious parties have an immediate advantage. First, they have a network of communication through the preacher and the mosque which no other political tendency can hope to equal. Second, they use familiar language. The language of Western democracy is for the most part newly translated and not intelligible to the great masses…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Bahrain: No Saudis in Protest Crackdown, Authorities

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 25 — Bahrain authorities have denied speculation on the presence of Saudi armoured vehicles and military divisions taking part in the putting down of protests last week, noting that the rumours were entirely baseless. Manama authorities have been quoted by Asharq Al-Awsat as saying that the rumours had originated on Syrian television. Bahrain’s denial has come after news broadcast by Iranian satellite television stations which were picked up by many near the Bahrain opposition. Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry has released — on the orders of King Hamad Ban Isa — 308 prisoners, some of whom claimed to have been subjected to mistreatment during their time in detention.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Defence Spending by Arab Countries on the Rise

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 24 — The countries of the Gulf Region will spend over 100 billion dollars on weapons by 2020, according to estimates from experts in the defence industry. This figure came out before the uprisings in the Arab countries of North Africa that began in December, which also affected the countries in the Middle East and rippled to the Arabian peninsula to the rich but occasionally unstable emirate of Bahrain, due to sectarian Sunni-Shiite tensions. A figure that could easily increase and which has attracted even greater attention to the 10th International Defence Exhibition (IDEX), the most important showcase in the defence and security field in the Middle East, which is currently taking place in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, with over 200 companies from the Arab world in attendance. A presence that is equivalent to 10% of the total number of exhibiting firms from 53 countries, which reveals not only an interest in strengthening their defence sectors, but also a desire to build a gradual national and regional military independence from the large international producers. “We are witnessing a growing role of the Arab countries in the defence sector,” commented the director of IDEX, Mohammad al Mashgouni, who underlined that “the region has begun to transition from being an importer and buyer of technology to a significant investor into manufacturing capabilities”. Baynunah, the first ship to be entirely built in the Gulf Region, produced by Abu Dhabi Ship Building, and The Tiger, the first four or six wheeled vehicle in armoured and non-armoured versions, manufactured by Nimir Auto company, both made their debut at the exhibition. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Libya, Lebanon, Kuwait, Bahrain and Jordan are also present with 13 companies, presenting of a range of light transport and combat vehicles. The weapons and ammunition sector, however, is still completely absent in the region, and while spending in the Middle East accounts for 3% of spending globally, Saudi Arabia, with 41.2 billion dollars, was one of the top ten countries in 2009 for its investments into the security sector. Saudi Arabia’s defence spending amounts to 60% of the overall spending of the countries in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has contracts worth 60 billion dollars in the finalisation phase that would allow them to buy 84 F-15 fighter-planes, equip 70 F-15s and 150 Apache and Black Hawk helicopters. Overall, the six oil-rich monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE and Oman — will spend at least 68 billion dollars on weapons in 2011, according to estimates. This figure will increase to 80 billion in 2015. A budget that is still the result of the sum of the spending of the individual countries. Despite proposals and attempts to establish a common defensive force and strategy among the countries of the GCC first in 1986, and then in 2000, and again in 2009, the different governments have continued to strengthen their own defence sector on an individual basis.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gem of Christian History at Risk in Turkey

Expropriation of Monastery Land Seen as Effort to Squash Syriacs

By Paul de Maeyer ROME, FEB. 18, 2011 ( Not even the Mongols of the 14th century, when they killed 40 monks and some 400 faithful, succeeded in making one of the most ancient Christian convents in the world disappear, but perhaps Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, can.

This appears to be the case of the Syro-Orthodox monastery of Mor Gabriel or “Dayro d-Mor Gabriel,” called “Deyrulumur” in Turkish. It is located in the region of Turabdin in the southeast of Anatolia. The convent bears the name of Mor Gabriel (634-668), bishop of Turabdin, known for his witness of holiness and miracles.

The foundation of the monastery, which is situated southeast of the city of Midyat, in the province of Mardin, near the border with Syria, dates back to the year 397 A.D. and was the initiative of two monks, Mor Samuel and Mor Simon, who died in 409 and 433, respectively. The complex, which boasts elements built with the help of Byzantine emperors such as Arcadius (395-408) and Theodosius II (408-450), today houses a small community of three monks and 14 sisters.

Mor Gabriel, known also as the “second Jerusalem,” is not only a monastery. Mor Gabriel is in fact the See of the Metropolitan Mor Timotheus Samuel Aktas and the cultural and spiritual center of the dwindling Syro-Orthodox community of Turkey and of numerous Syriacs who’ve emigrated to the West. Just 50 years ago, some 130,000 Syriacs lived in the region of Turabdin — the name means “mountain of the servants of God” — but today their number has decreased to just a few thousand.

The monastery is at the center of a harsh battle initiated in 2008 by the leaders of three Kurdish villages dominated by a tribe supported in Parliament by one of their leaders, Suleyman Celebi, who is a Parliamentarian with the pro-Islamic ruling party of Erdogan (the AKP or Party of Justice and Development).

Several accusations have been leveled against the monastic community, including proselytism, which is based on the fact that young men study Eastern or Syrian Aramaic at the monastery. There are also claims that the monastery was built on a place where a mosque once stood — an unfounded and even absurd accusation, given that Mor Gabriel well precedes the birth of Islam. The accusation that sticks — at least in the eyes of Turkish officials — is the one upheld by the Treasury Ministry: undue appropriation of land. Even this accusation is not very comprehensible, given that the community of Mor Gabriel regularly pays the taxes on the land in question.

The affair has recently met with, perhaps, its definitive conclusion. With a decision made public on Jan. 27 (but that actually dates to Dec. 7), the “Yargitay” or Ankara Court of Appeals — Turkey’s highest appeals court — overturned a verdict issued on June 24, 2009, by the court of Midyat. According to the Yargitay decision reported by Forum 18 News Agency, 12 plots of monastery land with a total area of 99 hectares (244 acres) are to be considered “forests” and hence belong “ipso facto” to the Turkish state.

A farce

For Mor Gabriel, the decision is a hard blow. To lose the lands means to lose the means of sustenance necessary for survival. While sources close to the Forum 18 agency described the decision as “highly political and ideological,” the whole affair was described from the beginning as “a spectacle trial” or “farce.”

“The purpose of the threats and the lawsuit seems to be to repress this minority and expel it from Turkey, as if it were a foreign object,” the head of the Aramaic Federation, David Gelen, told AsiaNews back in 2009. “Turkey must decide whether it wants to preserve a 1,600-year-old culture, or annihilate the last remains of a non-Muslim tradition. What is at stake is the multiculturalism that has always characterized this nation, since the time of the Ottoman Empire.”

The decision caused little upheaval in European environments, with the exception of Germany, where several parties, including the Social Democratic fraction in the Bundestag (Lower Chamber) and even Die Linke (the Left), denounced it.

“The fraction of the SPD expressly condemns the expropriation because the surrounding land is fundamental for the life of the monastery. The Mor Gabriel monastery deserves our protection,” stated a Feb. 1 communiqué signed by Christoph Strasser and Angelika Graf. Strong words were also used by Erika Steinbach, spokeswoman of the German parliamentary group for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid, who called it a decision that symbolizes “the repression of Christianity in Turkey.”

“The negative trend in religious freedom in Turkey is incompatible with human rights,” said Steinbach, according to the Assyrian International News Agency.

In an article published Feb. 7 by the Norwegian Forum 18 agency, Otmar Oehring, director of the Human Rights Office of the German Catholic organization Missio, analyzed the situation of various religious communities in Turkey, including the Mor Gabriel affair. According to Oehring, the basic problem is simple: no religious community exists or has ever existed for Turkish law.

“They don’t have a legal personality, but they exist,” admitted Turkish Vice Premier Bulent Arinc on Jan. 17, commenting on a legal battle over the Buyukada orphanage. (In 2008 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkey had to return to the ecumenical patriarchate the Buyukada orphanage it had confiscated.)

Speaking up

For now, representatives of many religions prefer to stay silent. They fear — as the case of Mor Gabriel demonstrates — attracting the hostility of the authorities and having to face long and above all costly legal battles, only to lose their “de facto” liberty, Oehring surmised. For the author, the only solution to undo this knot that is “completely incompatible” with the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, is a change in the Constitution and criminal code of Turkey.

This was also admitted last October by the then head of the “Diyanet” (Directorate for Religious Affairs), professor Ali Bardakoglu. “The solution is to allow a religious institution to be autonomous. Turkey is ready for this,” he said, according to the daily Radikal. The following month, Bardakoglu lost his post.

For the monks of Mor Gabriel, the only way not to lose their land is, therefore, to follow the example of the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople and turn to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Metropolitan Samuel Aktas told the Economist that is just what he’s going to do: “I have remained silent in the face of these injustices; but no longer so.”

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

Jordan: Thousands Protest in Amman

(ANSAmed)- AMMAN, FEBRUARY 25 — In what has been dubbed as day of anger, around 5000 protesters demanding political and economic reform marched in the Jordanian capital Amman.

Holding green and red flags that represent the Islamist and leftist movment, protesters chanted anti-government slogans and called for the king to dissolve the parliament.

Around 2000 police force members were present to prevent clashes with pro-regime loyalists, who last week clashed with protesters, injuring at least 7.

The government was accused of sponsoring a group of thugs to quell protesters.

Over all leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hammam Saaid said the rally was a message to the government and all sides that supported the thugs.

“We will not be intemediated by a group of criminals attacking activists. We have a message to deliver. Change must come and fast,” Saaid told ANSA during the protest.

The government recently approved a 225 million US dollar package to keep commodity price pressure in check and cut some fuel prices to mitigate the impact of high food prices on the country’s poor.

The measures include a 6 per cent drop in price of kerosene, widely used for domestic heating and a 5 percent drop in the price of gasoline.

The opposition vowed to maintain its pressure on authorities calling for political and economic reform.

King Abdullah of Jordan recently dismissed the government and appointed a new prime minister to lead a reform drive aimed at absorbing discontent within the opposition and conservative Jordanian tribes.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mock Crucifixion in Turkey Called ‘Poisonous’ By Critics

A reenactment of an eastern Black Sea town’s rescue from foreign occupiers almost a century ago, complete with gun-wielding children and mock-crucifixions of Turks by Armenians, has drawn criticism from Armenian figures and opposition parties.

The town of Bayburt was occupied by Russians, allegedly working together with Armenians, during World War I. The town celebrated the 93rd anniversary of its “rescue day from the enemy occupation” with a vivid reenactment of the historical events.

“Turkey says it wants peace and dialogue with its neighbors. Is this the way to build up dialogue, by poisoning the young generations?” Armenian academic Haygazun Alvrstyan, a professor at the Center for Armenian Studies at Yerevan State University, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Tuesday.

“When I saw the story [about the reenactment], I said one word to myself: ‘pity.’ That is all,” said journalist Etyen Mahçupyan, a Turkish citizen of Armenian origin.

Sezgin Tanrikulu, the deputy leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, responsible for human-rights issues, also criticized the events in Bayburt. “It is shameful for Turkey that hate speech is practiced on children in such a way,” he told the Daily News on Tuesday.

The anniversary ceremony was held on Bayburt’s Cumhuriyet Street and was attended by Bayburt Gov. Kerem Al; Mayor Haci Ali Polat; parliamentarians from the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP; and Col. Faruk Kayadelen, commander of the military post in Bayburt. During the ceremony, local people, including children, acted out the invasion of the town by their enemies.

Polat said the reenactment was done in order to record history and not forget the past.

“Our national memory should not be lost and the misfortunes lived in these lands 93 years ago should not ever be forgotten by the new generations,” the mayor said. “We should have big ideals, just as the [other] states raised their generations with the idea of having a big Armenia, with oriental dreams and with the dream of spreading into the warm seas. We must not forget what we went through in our history.”

Last year’s “rescue day” performance saw real animal blood used on the faces of the local people playing the Armenians in order to show their cruelty.

‘Have your funeral in Bayburt’

“We have to develop Bayburt and bring it to a good condition,” Mayor Polat said. “We keep saying both inside and outside, ‘Invest in this town.’ Get a house in Bayburt for vacation, for instance. If there is nothing else you can do in order to invest [here], at least have your funerals in Bayburt so that you can have a connection with this town.”

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

Turkey-Libya Ties a Unique History of Complexity, Intrigue

The long, if sometimes troubled, history of relations between Turkey and Libya has led Ankara to take a cautious stance toward the North African country, using careful language to address the recent violence there.

Officials in Turkey have stressed the county’s deeply rooted historical ties with Libya, which are based on common history, social and cultural affinities, and expressed hopes that relationship would be preserved in the future.

Before the outbreak of protests and violence in Libya, the two countries had recently enhanced economic ties, in which Libyan officials opened the door to give the “lion’s share” of the infrastructure business to Turkish companies.

The area that is now Libya was under Ottoman rule from 1551 until the Ottoman Empire lost the province of Trablusgarp (modern-day Libya) to Italy in the war of 1911-1912. A long period of indifference followed that was broken only when Prime Minister Turgut Özal visited Libya twice in the 1980s to develop ties.

Former Prime Ministers Tansu Çiller and Necmettin Erbakan and current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have all paid visits to Tripoli, but Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who took power in 1969, has never responded to Turkey’s invitations for a reciprocal visit.

When Turkey was hit with Western sanctions and the temporary suspension of U.S. aid following its 1974 intervention in Cyprus, Libya supported Turkey with spare parts and jet fuel for military planes. Bilateral ties failed to make many gains in that period, however, and relations suffered over Libya’s failure to pay millions of dollars in arrears to Turkish contractors that undertook construction projects there in the 1980s.

Prime Minister Erbakan’s emphasis on building relations with Islamic states led to an African tour that included a visit to Libya. But the already controversial trip turned into a political nightmare for the Islamist leader after Gadhafi touched a raw nerve by advocating the creation of a Kurdish homeland at a joint news conference.

Newspapers ran pictures of Erbakan looking flustered and then-State Minister Abdullah Gül, the current president, with his head in his hands after the news conference. The Foreign Ministry subsequently recalled the Turkish ambassador from Libya.

Attempts were made in 2000 to mend the rift caused by the Libyan leader’s vocal criticism of Turkey, with Foreign Ministry officials holding talks in Tripoli to develop relations. Turkish and Libyan foreign ministers later met in Istanbul in 2004 on the sidelines of the Organization of Islamic Conference.

Once Libya began to normalize relations with the West, Western businesses sought Libyan oil- and gas-drilling rights and competed for contracts on projects to rebuild the country’s aging infrastructure. Amid this flowering of international goodwill, Libya chose Turkey as a partner for its African initiative in 2006.

Bilateral relations improved to a new level after Erdogan’s trip to Libya in November 2009. Turkey and Libya mutually lifted visa requirements during the prime minister’s visit to Tripoli, which also saw the signing of eight agreements in different fields, including investment, agriculture and transportation.

During the same visit, Erdogan was given the Moammar Gadhafi Prize for Human Rights.

In 2009, foreign trade between Turkey and Libya reached $2.2 billion. Most of the Turkish nationals working in Libya are in the construction field, employed by about 200 Turkish construction firms operating in the country.

Libya would give the “lion’s share” of projects in the coming years to Turkish companies, Turkish State Minister Zafer Caglayan said following his visit to Libya in January. “This country has decided to give $15 billion in projects to Turkish companies in the construction sector,” Caglayan said.

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

South Asia

Afghan Officials Say Jailed Christian Convert is Free

Under international pressure, government officials in Kabul, Afghanistan, say they have freed an Afghan man who had been jailed since May and faced the prospect of the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity.

The release of the man, Sayed Mussa, 46, follows months of quiet diplomacy between the Afghan government and United States Embassy officials in Kabul, who along with members of Congress and other foreign embassies had sought the former aid worker’s release.

Mr. Mussa, a married father of six who worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross before his arrest, was released Monday from Kabul Detention Center after prosecutors determined there was insufficient evidence to go forward with the case, said Gen. Qayoum Khan, the detention center director. But there were conflicting accounts about the terms of his release. A senior prosecutor involved in the case, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he was released only after agreeing to return to Islam.

It was also not immediately clear where he was taken or if he even remains in the country. Some of his relatives, including his wife, said they had not heard from him.

An embassy spokeswoman would not confirm his release and declined to talk about the case, saying only that the embassy continued to monitor Mr. Mussa’s case and others like it.

General Khan said Mr. Mussa was released Monday and turned over to the attorney general’s office.

“We got a letter from the attorney general’s office which said we do not have any proof against this man and his detention needs to be removed,” General Khan said. The attorney general’s office did not return phone calls Thursday.

Mr. Mussa was arrested last May after a television station in Kabul broadcast images that it claimed showed Westerners baptizing Afghans and other Afghans praying at private Christian meetings. The broadcast stoked fears of proselytizing brought on by the influx of foreigners since the American-led invasion in 2001. Some lawmakers have publicly declared that converts should die.

A senior prosecutor closely involved with the case, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, said last month that the government was under heavy international pressure to release Mr. Mussa. But how to release him without upsetting hard-line conservatives in the government and among the public was presenting a challenge, the prosecutor said.

On Thursday, however, the same prosecutor said Mr. Mussa was released only after finally agreeing to return to Islam.

“Mr. Mussa said in front of everyone in high court that ‘I made a mistake converting to Christianity and I want to return back to Islam,’ “ he said, adding that “we worked with Mr. Mussa for a long time to convince him to return back to Islam.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Raymond Davis: Pakistan Defies US and Puts Spy Charged With Killing 2 Men on Trial

Pakistan today defied intense American pressure by putting on trial a CIA agent accused of killing two men in Lahore.

Raymond Davis, a former special forces officer, was due to appear in court in Lahore as thousands of Islamists turned out chanting slogans calling for him to receive the death penalty.

Davis, who says he acted in self-defence when he shot the men on a busy street last month, has been charged with double murder and faces possible execution.

The case has triggered a major diplomatic row between America and Pakistan after Washington insisted he had diplomatic immunity and must be repatriated.

Raymond Davis, pictured being led to court in handcuffs last month, is claiming diplomatic immunity — but U.S. lobbying has fallen off deaf ears

The killings, and Davis’s recently revealed CIA links, have inflamed anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan, where Washington’s already-uneasy alliance with the government is seen as hegemony by many ordinary Pakistanis.

Conflicting accounts about the identity of the victims — Davis and a police report indicate they were armed robbers; Pakistani media and some officials portray them as innocent — have also given President Ali Asif Zardari’s unpopular government little choice but to go through the courts.

‘He should be treated the same way he treated Pakistanis,’ said Muzammil Mukhtar, a labourer in a factory near the jail.

‘We should not care about our relations with America. These have never been good.’

Davis’s trial was held inside Kot Lakhpat jail, where he has been detained since February 11 amid extremely tight security.

Protesters have burned effigies of Davis and U.S. flags since details of the killings became public, sparking concerns about his safety.

U.S. Consul General General Carmela A. Conroy attended the trial, but reporters and families of other prisoners were not allowed inside.

The murder trial is the first of two legal cases involving Davis.

On March 14, a Lahore court will decide whether he enjoys diplomatic immunity, another contentious issue that Pakistan’s government has said must be decided legally, at the risk of possibly losing out on up to $3 billion a year in military and civilian U.S. aid.

‘Davis case is not so simple as it is sometimes portrayed by some. It is a complex case involving issues in national and international law as well as grave sensitivities that cannot be wished away,’ presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.

‘The court has not only taken cognisance of it but also declared that it will decide on the immunity issue. We respect the court and will wait for its verdict,’ he added.

‘Davis deserves no pardon … We knew from day one that he was working for the CIA and Blackwater,’ said Mohammad Waseem, brother of Mohammad Faheem, one of the men allegedly killed by Davis.

Earlier this month, Faheem’s widow Shumaila committed suicide by eating rat poison.

In addition to igniting a diplomatic standoff, Davis’ case has strained, but not broken, relations between the CIA and Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which did not know of Davis’ presence in the country.

CIA-ISI ties are essential to battling Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan, where U.S. and other foreign forces are fighting an almost-decade-old war which has become increasingly bloodier over the past few months…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Austria: Immigrants Face Obstacle Course

Der Standard, 23 February 2011

They must master German before arriving in the country, spend a week in a reception centre and already possess one of the new red-white-red work visas: these are the three key points of the new law on immigration adopted by the Austrian government on 22 February, shortly to be debated in parliament. Der Standard reports on outspoken criticism from both the opposition and NGOs, which attack the government for introducing a measure that amounts to a “declaration that immigration policy is bankrupt” and brings “shame on Austria.” How for example can the right to family reuinification be sustained if all the members of a family have to speak German? How can exceptional treatment for the relatives of the highly qualified be justified? How can rights be contingent on a level of education that corresponds with graduation from Austrian secondary school? For Der Standard, “integration” of the kind proposed by Interior Minister Maria Fekter amounts to an authorisation to “pursue, harrass and demoralise.”

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

‘Catastrophic’ Migrant Wave Possible From Libya

‘Italy can cope, but not for long,’ says interior minister

(ANSA) — Brussels, February 24 — The turmoil in Libya could unleash a “catastrophic” wave of migrants, forcing the European Union to help Italy, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said ahead of a meeting of EU ministers here Thursday.

Europe, he said “cannot leave Italy on its own” to handle a possible exodus that some have estimated at up to 1.5 million.

“Italy can cope, but not for long,” the minister said ahead of the meeting, where interior ministers from Italy, France, Spain, Malta and Cyprus will ask for a special solidarity fund for the countries that will bear the brunt of the wave, as well as a common EU asylum system.

Maroni said he was also “worried” about Al Qaeda statements of support for Libyan rebels.

Earlier, Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa said “we must prepare for biblical migrations”.

He said the defence ministry had already allocated several military sites as possible extra holding centres. Meanwhile the Libyan crisis continued to hit oil prices with Brent going through the $110 barrier.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Debating Integration: Competing Views on Germany’s Immigrants

Immigration is a heated topic in Germany. SPIEGEL recently sat down with two experts — a Turkish-born sociologist and a German-born journalist — to explore the issue. And found that a reasoned debate is difficult to come by.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Kelek, are you a scaremonger in the debate over the role of Islam in Germany, as Mr. Bahners claims in his book?

Necla Kelek: I just write down what I see, I participate in this absolutely necessary debate, and I have assumed an aggressive stance. But I’m not at all engaging in scaremongering. Patrick Bahners: In this country, there is a degree of panic as well as a widespread — and solidly justified — fear of terrorist attacks. But there is also a fear that every Muslim who lives according to the Koran is a potential terrorist. Authors and journalists feed this unease and you, Ms. Kelek, are the most effective one and have acquired the most authority.

Kelek: I speak and write about Islam as a political system, one in which people live and one that is supported and controlled by people. But you, Mr. Bahners, always only focus on individual Muslims and defend their right to live a religious life. I have no problem with people being entitled to practice their own faith.

Bahners: The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (or BfV, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency) and a vigilant public are concerned about political Islam, which aims to do away with Germany’s constitution. But, in your criticism, you take things a bit further. You don’t like the idea that (political Islam) puts God’s law above all secular agreements. But even the Bible states that man must obey God more than other people, and there are Christians who still view this statement as valid.

Kelek: Not all religions are the same. There are religions that have modernized and found a place for themselves in the secular world. They adjust themselves to work for people who can calibrate their faith according to their own needs. Their societal framework also allows them to do this. Islamic countries don’t give people this right; they have no religious freedom. Even the question of whether or not someone is a Muslim is a political question that can bear consequences. One cannot join or abandon this religion.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Kelek, how would Islam have to change to be more acceptable to you?

Kelek: I live Islam in the way that I think religion should be lived. After all, I’m a religious person.

SPIEGEL: What does religion mean to you in your day-to-day existence?

Kelek: When I find myself in situations without solutions from this world, I pray. When my mother died a few months ago, we gave her a religious burial. In that situation, my faith was very important to me. That’s when I’m grateful that I can pray and that my faith can support me in a crisis. I can say that I sent my mother to Allah, and that He will take good care of her. But then I return to my life as a critically thinking person and re-assume my prerogative to think rationally about the Islamic system.

SPIEGEL: In that respect, Mr. Bahners and Ms. Kelek, your positions aren’t really that far apart.

Bahners: We wouldn’t be that far apart, Ms. Kelek, if your political criticisms were only directed toward the pathological forms of the Islamic system that have developed in some Islamic countries and have been imported to Germany by immigrants. But your books have a rousing and disturbing effect on Germany’s non-Muslim public, and they have an influence on how it construes this Islamic system — as something that was poorly designed from the start because the Koran is viewed as the true word of God and Muhammad as His prophet. In your view, everything else follows from this interpretation, including the complete subjugation to paternal authority. For this reason, reforming Islam would mean throwing everything overboard. If Christians were asked to accept something similar, most would say no.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Kelek, the Arab world has been in turmoil since the revolution started in Tunisia. Could Islam be reformed by something like the new constitution in Egypt, which is supposedly being worked on right now?

Kelek: I’m obviously happy these people are no longer willing to accept oppression and are trying to get rid of the dictatorship. But I’m not so sure that Egyptians also want to liberate themselves from Shariah Islam, that they want religious freedom, and that real equality between men and women is on the agenda. In Egypt, they’re saying that democracy is the will of the majority. But, as far as I’m considered, that is not the only thing democracy is about; it also includes having a constitutional state.

Bahners: I find that interesting. The world is thrilled about the events in Egypt and sharing in the Egyptians’ excitement. But here you in Germany are telling the Egyptians: “You aren’t democrats yet. You’ve only arrived at the point of view of (Austro-British philosopher) Karl Popper, and I cannot accept you as democrats.”

Kelek: I didn’t say that. But what sort of a country would it be if the Muslim Brotherhood won a majority and introduced Shariah — the Islamic legal system that is already one of the foundations of Egypt’s current legal system — complete with its draconian penalties and misogyny? If that happened, women in Egypt would be required to wear headscarves. In places where Islamists are strong, women also have to wear veils. Shariah means living in accordance with God’s laws. If things keep going in this direction, I wouldn’t consider it a democracy…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

EU: Executive ‘Allocates €25mln to Tackle Migrant Emergency’

Brussels, 24 Feb. (AKI) — The European Union has promised 25 million euros “immediately” to help tackle the influx of migrants to southern Europe who are fleeing unrest in North Africa, Italy’s interior minister Roberto Maroni said on Thursday.

“The EU’s internal affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem has promised 25 million euros immediately to manage the immigrant emergency,” Maroni said in Brussels.

Before entering a meeting between EU interior minister in Brussels, Maroni warned that Italy was facing a potential “invasion of 1.5 million people” that would bring the country “to its knees”

The uprising that has rocked Libya in the past week and unrest elsewhere in North Africa is stoking a “catastrophic humanitarian crisis”, Maroni said.

He urged other EU partners to help his country tackle the growing wave of migrants heading for Italy. A total of 6,300 migrants — almost all Tunisians — have reached southern Italy from North Africa in recent weeks, according to Maroni.

This number could surge if Libya’s embattled leader Muammer Gaddafi reneges on a pact with Italy under which many thousands of migrants have been turned back aboard boats in the Mediterranean the past two years.

Rome on Wednesday warned of an exodus “of biblical proportions” if Gaddafi falls, saying up to 350,000 migrants could head for Europe’s shores — ten times the number of Albanians who reached Italy in the 1990s.

Maroni earlier this month asked the EU for 100 million euros to help handle the exodus of migrants from North Africa. He has also warned that Al-Qaeda and other terror groups could infiltrate the migrant hoardes reaching Europe.

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

Illegal Immigrants Tried to Smuggle Themselves Into UK in Rolls Royce Body Shells

Illegal immigrants tried to smuggle themselves into the country by hiding in the body shells of £275,000 Rolls Royces, it was revealed today.

The nine men were discovered by a sniffer dog at Calais Port, France, in a German lorry heading for the luxury car maker in Goodwood, West Sussex.

The stowaways, from the African country of Eritrea, were handed to the French border police and the lorry was allowed to continue on its way.

Caught: Two illegal immigrants cover their faces after being caught trying to smuggle themselves into the country in the shells of luxury Rolls Royce cars

Rolls Royce Motor Cars today confirmed the lorries usually carry four car body shells and they would have been for either their Rolls Royce Ghost or Phantom.

The Ghost costs around £200,000 and the Phantom £275,000. Stephen Fabman-Beker, from the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Club, said: ‘The immigrants have certainly got good taste. It does make you wonder how they got in.

‘The only thing the Germans make is the shell, the skeleton. There’s no interior or panels. I very much hope they haven’t been messing about and damaged anything.’

The aluminium shells are supplied to Rolls Royce technicians from German BMW factories because the car giant owns the famous British brand.

Andrew Ball, from Rolls Royce, said: ‘A group of people were found in a truck from one of our suppliers and it was heading for our Goodwood factory.

‘They were not complete vehicles but body shells for either our Phantom or Ghost models. The French authorities dealt with the matter and I do not believe there was any damage.’

The German driver and haulage company each face a potential fine of up to £2,000 per stowaway if they are unable to prove they took steps to secure the vehicle properly.

The immigrants were found at 7.20am on February 15, but the details have only just been released. The sniffer dog was a four-year-old Labrador cross collie called Jake.

Mandy Jones, UK Border Agency deputy director for south and Europe, said: ‘This incident shows why we base UK Border Agency staff in France — to stop would-be illegal immigrants before they can reach the UK.

‘Our strong presence in French ports like Calais helps protect the whole of the UK from people attempting to enter the country illegally.

‘As well as using sniffer dogs, officers also use heartbeat detectors and carbon dioxide probes and physical searches to find people hiding in vehicles.’

The UK Border Agency said they had no details of the ages of the men because it was the responsibility of the French authorities to record such information.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Italy Warns of a New Wave of Immigrants to Europe

Moammar Gadhafi, in recent years, has enjoyed a cynical role as Europe’s border guard against African immigrants. Italian ministers now warn that if his Libyan government collapses, people will flow across the Mediterranean.

Chaos in Libya has led to immediate concern that hundreds of thousands of immigrants could head for Europe. Italy’s interior minister, ahead of an EU summit in Brussels, called on Thursday for European help in dealing with a looming “catastrophic humanitarian emergency.”

Other Italian officials warned earlier this week of a wave of refugees fleeing violence that Moammar Gadhafi’s regime has reportedly visited on its own people. But if Libya collapses into anarchy, some observers have said, it could become an immigration route for far more people from sub-Saharan Africa…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Lampedusa: An Outpost in the Storm

La Stampa Turin

Since the middle of February, the Italian island of Lampedusa has welcomed several thousand migrants who have made the crossing from Tunisia. Battling with bad weather and without political support, local people have made the best of limited resources in their attempt to deal with the situation. La Stampa reports from an island on a war footing

Federico Geremicca

It sounds over the top to say so, but in almost every detail, it is as though we were preparing for war. For Italy — which has already waged one — it is a sort of second Libyan war. Cocking a snook at history, the C-130s are plying two evacuation routes: one to take the Tunisians from Lampedusa, and the other to repatriate the Italians from Tripoli.

It seems that this small corner of the Mediterranean has become a transport hub for everyone embarked on a fateful journey with no prospect of return. Warships are chugging towards the Strait of Sicily to join the small fleet that has already gathered there. And all the airbases are on high alert. Preparations are underway.

If the sea calms down and Gaddafi throws in the towel…

In the meantime, we are scanning the horizon, waiting for the enemy. But the enemy could hardly be this armada of old tubs loaded with illegal aliens: there is something strange about this war. On the night of 22 February, 250 more refugees emerged from a sea tossed by a force five wind to land on Lampedusa: setting out from the Tunisian town of Sfax, they had covered 60 nautical miles, about half the distance between their point of departure and the Sicilian coast.

The night before, in spite of the storm and the fleet on red alert, several boat people succeeded in landing: they dried their clothes, put back on their shoes and headed to the nearest bar to get something hot to eat. The reception centre for illegals — which has only just been emptied — has once again exceeded its quota of 1,000 residents, although numbers have yet to reach last week’s level of 2,500.

The illegals come and go en masse, and it is clear that the situation is not sustainable. “Especially if the sea calms down,” mutters centre director Cono Callipò, “because if the sea calms down and Gaddafi throws in the towel, what we are seeing right now will be nothing compared to what is going to happen.”

Locals scan the horizon hoping for bad weather

That said, a lot has already happened on Lampedusa. The bars, supermarkets in the central area around main street are thronged with Tunisians, as are the call shops where they charge their mobile phones. The policy of not locking up the migrants, which has been successfully applied over the last seven days, is beginning to exasperate the islanders. In many bars, coffee is now being served in cardboard cups “because,” as we were told in the Friendship Bar run by old Don Pino, “customers from here are refusing to drink from cups that they have used.”

Children hardly come out to play anymore: all the island’s doors are double locked, and little girls are systematically escorted by an adult, even if they are only walking 100 yards up the street. Residents’ patience has reached an all-time low, and news of more frightening figures keeps coming in from Rome and from Brussels. Tens of thousands, 100,000 or maybe 300,000: the numbers vary but even the most optimistic predictions still amount to a disaster scenario. Dino De Rubeis, Lampedusa’s enormous mayor remarks: “Now you see the situation we are in, and we are not demonstrating. We have been putting them up wherever we can, we have spend entire nights on the pier, we have given them cigarettes… But Lampedusa cannot manage alone, we need help.”

Dino De Rubeis scowls at agency reports full of good news he does not want to hear: the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has requested that “migrants should not be prevented from landing,” the EU has asked Italy to drop the idea of dispatching the North Africans to sites dispersed around the continent, the Italian government, which does not know where it stands, is planning to set up enormous tent villages in Sicily. In the meantime, locals scan the horizon hoping for bad weather.

Fantastic stories and anecdotes are being told

Yesterday, their prayers for rough seas and winds gusting at 40 knots were answered. The D-Day atmosphere was heightened by weather conditions more typical of the Normandy coast than Lampedusa, with a gusting north-easterly, icy rain and bonenumbing chill in the air. Good news for the war, but a torment for the island: for the last two days the supply boat which has been unable to put to sea has remained stuck in Porto Empedocle.

Air transport has also been disrupted: yesterday, the bad weather resulted in the cancellation of two flights provided to transfer a group of migrants. This is how things stand at Italy’s and Europe’s outpost in the run-up to the imminent North African invasion. Fantastic stories and anecdotes are being told in the bars and cheap restaurants where the people have taken shelter from the wind and rain.

Many of them are inspired by what happened in the 1980s, when Gaddafi fired two Scud missiles at the LORAN [Long Range Navigation System] transmission station on Lampedusa, which missed their target by several kilometres. And the bizarre incidents of the current war have been included in the narrative of a more enduring conflict between the fishermen of Mazara del Vallo and the Tunisian and Libyan coastguard. Only a year ago, the Moonlight, a trawler which rescued 40 North Africans on the night of 22 February was boarded and taken captive by Gaddafi’s torpedo boats… In short, there is nothing new about this war.

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

Maroni: Libyan Control on Illegal Immigrants Has Vanished

(AGI) Brussels — Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told a press conference that “controls on migrants departing Libya for southern Europe have vanished.” Maroni is in the Belgian capital for a meeting of the European Council of Internal Affairs to discuss the immigrant emergency.

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

Culture Wars

The Christian Divorce Rate Myth (What You’ve Heard is Wrong)

“Christians divorce at roughly the same rate as the world!” It’s one of the most quoted stats by Christian leaders today. And it’s perhaps one of the most inaccurate.

Based on the best data available, the divorce rate among Christians is significantly lower than the general population.

Here’s the truth…

Many people who seriously practice a traditional religious faith — be it Christian or other — have a divorce rate markedly lower than the general population.

The factor making the most difference is religious commitment and practice. Couples who regularly practice any combination of serious religious behaviors and attitudes — attend church nearly every week, read their Bibles and spiritual materials regularly; pray privately and together; generally take their faith seriously, living not as perfect disciples, but serious disciples — enjoy significantly lower divorce rates than mere church members, the general public and unbelievers.

Professor Bradley Wright, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut, explains from his analysis of people who identify as Christians but rarely attend church, that 60 percent of these have been divorced. Of those who attend church regularly, 38 percent have been divorced [1].

Other data from additional sociologists of family and religion suggest a significant marital stability divide between those who take their faith seriously and those who do not.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Gay Journalist Johann Hari Calls for Open Debate on ‘Muslim Homophobia’

There should be an open discussion on homophobia amongst Muslims, gay journalist Johann Hari says.

The Independent columnist lives in east London, close to where anti-gay stickers were plastered around streets earlier this month.

In this month’s Attitude magazine, he wrote: “East London has seen the highest increase in homophobic attacks anywhere in Britain. Everybody knows why, and nobody wants to say it.

“It is because East London has the highest Muslim population in Britain, and we have allowed a fanatically intolerant attitude towards gay people to incubate there, in the name of ‘tolerance’.”

Referring to a recent Gallup poll, he wrote: “No, Muslims are not the only homophobes among us. But the gap between them and the rest is startling. It’s zero per cent of British Muslims vs 58 per cent of other Brits who say we are ‘acceptable’.”

Mr Hari suggested that “solidarity” and sympathy among LGBT people for another minority group had led to “silence” on the issue.

He wrote: “It is true that British Muslims are themselves frequently the victims of bigotry. They are often harassed by the police, denied jobs, and abused in the street, and they are forced to watch as our government senselessly incinerates many Muslims abroad. (I have written many articles detailing and deploring these ugly facts.)

“So gay people are naturally reluctant to pile in onto minority who are being oppressed. We are rightly sympathetic. We know what it is like to be treated like this. We instinctively respond with solidarity, not suspicion.”

He urged for the support and funding of Muslim groups which do advocate LGBT equality, such as Imaan and British Muslims for Secular Democracy

Schools in Muslim areas should also be forced to teach that homosexuality is natural and harmless, he wrote.

“They know that many parents will go crazy,” he wrote. “Tough. It should be a legal requirement, tightly policed by Ofsted, and any school that refuses should be shut down.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Terror: Al-Qaeda’s Message ‘Can Unleash Low Tech Attacks by Loners’

London, 25 Feb. (AKI) — A fresh appeal by Al-Qaeda for Islamic terrorists to find new ways to confront the West could inspire ‘low-tech’ spur-of-the-moment attacks carried out my a single individual with little planning, according to a security expert.

Terrorist attacks have been stopped in their planning stage so Al-Qaeda may be telling militants to do “whatever they can get away with,” said Bob Ayers, a London based security expert who worked as an intelligence agent for the United States government for almost 40 years.

“Like throwing a Molotov cocktail. It’s virtually impossible to stop someone from inflicting an attack when they are working alone in a low-level and disorganised way,” he told Adnkronos International (AKI) on Friday during a telephone interview.

In a 35-minute message released Thursday, Al-Qaeda’s number two Ayman al-Zawahiri instructed militants to come up with up new ways to attack the West, as they did on 11 September 2001.

“If we are not able to produce weapons equal to the weapons of the Crusader West, we can sabotage their complex economic and industrial systems and drain their powers, which fight without a cause, until they run away fleeing,” Zawahiri said in the audio message, according to the US-based terror tracking Website SITE.

“Large organised and orchestrated attacks are being interdicted in the planning stage so they are encouraging people to carry out low-level attacks,” he said.

“You can’t engage a guy if he wakes up in the morning and decides ‘I’m going to throw a Molotov cocktail. The best way to intercept is in the planning stage,” Ayers concluded.

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