Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/17/2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/17/2008Notice the article about “white flight” from the UK. Persons of British background are leaving Britain, mainly for Australia, in unprecedented numbers.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Fjordman, Insubria, Islam in Action, JD, Steen, Tuan Jim, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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USA
Economic Crisis Stalls NAFTA Superhighway
Fraudulent “Credit Crisis” Paves Way for Economic Disaster
Muslim Woman Arrested in US Courtroom
Obama Citizenship Issue Has Merit, AOL Poll Says
SEC Official Married Into Madoff Family
Supreme Court Revives Suit by Former Gitmo Prisoners
Uncle Shariah
Wyoming Lawmakers Oppose Constitutional Convention
 
Europe and the EU
AEL [Arab-European League] Triumphant, Floor Leaders Angry
EU Parliament President Condemned Over Czech Meeting
Euro MPs Scrap Britain’s Opt-Out of the 48-Hour Work Week in Move That Could Cost UK Up to £66billion
Exhibition: Israeli Art at Vittoriano With Over 50 Works
Italy: Shia Muslims to Mark Day of Mourning in Rome
Nicolas Sarkozy Attacks Czech Refusal to Fly EU Flag
Swedes: Hard Workers or Hardly Working?
Sweden — a New Melting Pot?
UK: Government Launches Consultation on Islamic Finance
UK: NHS Doctor Cleared of Bomb Plots Accuses Government of ‘Sour Grapes’ for Trying to Kick Him Out of Britain
UK: White-Flight Exodus to Oz
 
Balkans
Ex-Kosovo Minister Guilty of Witness Intimidation
Montenegro & the EU Membership Application: Interview
 
Mediterranean Union
Immigration: Genital Mutilation, Reconstructions in Paris
Med Countries Urge Greater Support on Immigration Issues
 
North Africa
Egypt: 97% of Married Women Undergo Genital Mutilation
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Christmas: Bethlehem, ‘No Room at the Inn’ at Christmas
Middle East: Crowd in Gaza to Mark 21st Year of Hamas
Not the Center of the World
U.S. Millions Incite Tomorrow’s Suicide Bombers
 
Middle East
Iraq Official: U.S. Troops Might be Needed for Decade
Iraq: Islamists Drive Christians Out of Nineveh
Israel: We Will Never Recognise it, Ahmadinejad Says
Italian Killed in Turkey: Third Hearing in Trial Today
Spendthrift Leadership Leaves Iran Vulnerable to Oil Price Plunges
 
Russia
Russian Warships Causing No Ripples in Pentagon
Russian Treason Bill Could Hit Kremlin Critics
 
Far East
China Hands Death Penalty to 2 ‘Bent on Jihad’
Marijuana “Epidemic” Shows Japan’s Drug Allergy
 
Immigration
Immigration:EU Problem; Everybody Should Pay Costs, Frattini
Immigration Pumps Up Cyprus Population Growth
Immigration: Frattini, Now Need EU-Libya Agreement
USA: Settlement Opens Amnesty for Thousands of Illegals
 
Culture Wars
Atheist: U.S. Troops ‘Evangelizing’ in Combat
Holiday Cheer Comes With a Price in One North Naples Neighborhood
Obama Invites ‘Gay’ Band for Inauguration Parade
 
General
2008: Coolest Year of This Century
A Gentler Hegemony
Scientists Debunk Global Warming

USA

Economic Crisis Stalls NAFTA Superhighway

Amid an economic storm, there is good news for opponents of North American integration under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, or SPP, Jerome Corsi’s Red Alert reports.

As the U.S. and global economy slows, the volume of freight being moved internationally over “intermodal” ship-train-truck connections is also slowing. This is reducing the immediate pressure to reconfigure the U.S. transportations system into a global network for moving containers.

“Still, the pressure to reconfigure the U.S. into NAFTA Superhighway container-moving structures should be expected to resume, perhaps even as a stimulus to jump start now lagging global ‘free trade,’“ Corsi writes.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Fraudulent “Credit Crisis” Paves Way for Economic Disaster

The analysis, Flawed Assumptions about the Credit Crisis: A Critical Examination of US Policymakers, concludes that the result of the unjustified massive federal intervention in the economy could be similar to the economic crisis in the Weimar Republic of 1922, where disastrous hyperinflation made the currency worthless and threatened the nation’s political system and stability.

The analysis was released by Celent, a Boston-based firm that provides independent information and advice to financial services companies. The 30-page report, made available to Accuracy in Media, does not accuse Paulson and Bernanke of lying about the “credit crisis.” But it does say that “It is startling that many of Chairman Bernanke’s and Secretary Paulson’s remarks are not supported or are flatly contradicted by the data provided by the very organizations they lead.”

Using charts and graphs of data from the Federal Reserve and other agencies, the Celent study says that statements from Paulson and Bernanke about a “credit crisis” affecting businesses, real estate, banks, and state and local governments were just not true.

The report says there is “a contradiction” between what Paulson and Bernanke have said and the reality of the situation, as demonstrated in the official data. It calls these “discrepancies” and says that some of their remarks are “puzzling.”

Asked for comment on why he was able to uncover this information while the major media have not, Octavio Marenzi, founder and CEO of Celent, told AIM, “What we need from the media is more skepticism and more engagement. Too frequently statements are taken at face value. Also, most journalists are under such tight time pressure that they do not have the time to reflect and to dig deeper. They are on a conveyor belt and just trying to keep up with the required level of output.”

Paulson had claimed that, by mid-September, when he persuaded President Bush to go public with demands for Congress to approve a $700-billion bailout plan, the financial system had “seized up,” credit markets had “froze,” and interbank lending had been “substantially reduced.”

But none of this was true. “The freezing of the credit markets that Secretary Paulson cites is not visible” in the data, the Celent report shows.

Paulson also made the claim that blue chip industrial companies could not issue longer-term commercial paper. But this claim “finds no support” in the data, the report says.

Bernanke had claimed that businesses were “confronting diminished access to credit” when in fact “the opposite” was true, the study demonstrates.

The suggestion is made that Bernanke and Paulson were acting on behalf of “a particular set of businesses and financial institutions” and exaggerated the problem in order to justify “unprecedented levels of government intervention in the markets.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Muslim Woman Arrested in US Courtroom

As a Muslim woman from Georgia tried to enter a courtroom, a bailiff told her that she would have to remove her hijab if she wanted to come in. Instead of complying she cursed the bailiff. As a result she was sentenced to 10 days in jail for contempt of court. Apparently it is OK when they tell us how to live, but no one can ask anything of them.

           — Hat tip: Islam in Action[Return to headlines]


Obama Citizenship Issue Has Merit, AOL Poll Says

America Online is conducting a new poll asking readers whether they believe there is any merit to the controversy surrounding Barack Obama’s citizenship — and most respondents say “yes.”

With nearly 77,000 national votes in the unscientific survery, some might say the poll chart looks somewhat similar to this year’s electoral map, except in orange and yellow.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


SEC Official Married Into Madoff Family

A top Securities and Exchange Commission compliance official who worked for the SEC when it found no problems at Bernard Madoff’s firm in 2005, later began to date and married Madoff’s niece, who was a compliance lawyer for the company.

A spokesman for Eric Swanson, who has since left the SEC, said Swanson “did not participate in any inquiry of Bernard Madoff Securities or its affiliates while involved in a relationship” with Shana Madoff.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Supreme Court Revives Suit by Former Gitmo Prisoners

Reporting from Washington — The Supreme Court revived a lawsuit Monday by four British Muslims who said they were tortured and abused at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and harassed and humiliated during daily prayers.

The former prisoners are attempting to hold top Pentagon officials responsible for the abuse, including former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

The lawsuit was thrown out last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, which concluded that the Guantanamo prisoners had no rights under the Constitution because they were foreigners held by the military.

In a one-line order Monday, the justices set aside the appeals court’s decision and ordered the judges to take a new look at the case.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Uncle Shariah

The insurance giant AIG has lately become the poster child for corporate risk-taking, mismanagement and greed. Its unimaginably large losses, rooted in insurance it extended to financial companies engaged in subprime mortgage-backed transactions, have destroyed both AIG’s corporate reputation and balance sheet.

Indeed, but for the fact that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson — who during his days running Goldman Sachs had extensive ties to AIG — deemed the insurance firm “too large to fail,” the company would surely have gone under by now. Instead, Mr. Paulson gave AIG well over $40 billion of the slush-fund Congress intended to bailout the financial sector (part of a total $150 billion the U.S. has sunk in AIG to date). As a result, you and I and our fellow taxpayers have been saddled with ownership of nearly 80 percent of this once high-flying and now-floundering global insurance enterprise.

Another result of AIG’s nationalization is, if anything, even more worrisome.”

It turns out that AIG has a subsidiary specializing in “takaful” — insurance products that are purportedly “Shariah-compliant.” I say purportedly because — while they have been cynically deemed “pure” (halal) by Shariah advisers that AIG employed for the purpose of making such certifications — the Islamic code expressly prohibits business transactions that involve risk. Consequently, insurance products designed to hedge against risk are inherently “impure” or haram.

Whatever the status of AIG’s “takaful” products under Islamic law, the U.S. government now has a vested interest in their financial success. Uncle Sam has become Uncle Shariah.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Wyoming Lawmakers Oppose Constitutional Convention

A team of lawmakers in Wyoming, alarmed by WND reports that the U.S. is only two state votes away from having a new Constitutional Convention, has begun work to make certain that if a convention is held, it would have to convene in the face of their opposition.

Wyoming previously called for a Constitutional Convention but rescinded the votes in 1999.

It is unclear whether even a formal vote to withdraw a request for a convention would have an impact or whether any limits could be imposed, according to constitutional expert John Eidsmoe, author of the book, “Christianity & the Constitution. But he encouraged such rescission votes, saying if nothing more, it certainly would dampen the enthusiasm for a convention.

Last week, a public policy organization issued an urgent alert that affirmative votes are needed from only two more states before a Constitutional Convention could be assembled in which “today’s corrupt politicians and judges” could formally change the U.S. Constitution’s “‘problematic’ provisions to reflect the philosophical and social mores of our contemporary society.”

“Don’t for one second doubt that delegates to a Con Con wouldn’t revise the First Amendment into a government-controlled privilege, replace the 2nd Amendment with a ‘collective’ right to self-defense, and abolish the 4th, 5th, and 10th Amendments, and the rest of the Bill of Rights,” said the warning from the American Policy Institute.

Changes also could include the incorporation of “rights” to abortion and euthanasia, as well as the “separation” of church and state, the group said..

[…]

Chuck Baldwin, presidential candidate for the Constitution Party this year, said the delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention were “freedom-loving patriots who had just fought a bloody war for independence and were in no mind to re-enact tyranny upon the land they had just fought to liberate.”

“However, can one imagine what would happen if the current bunch of politically correct leftists in Washington, D.C., were to be granted the power to rewrite our Constitution?” Baldwin continued. “It would be the end of the United States of America, and that is no hyperbole.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

AEL [Arab-European League] Triumphant, Floor Leaders Angry

[From Tuan Jim: one your Dutch readers might be able to translate. An interesting article about Belgian parliamentary lawmakers angry over Hizballah in the parliament (although apparently not the official parliament building itself but one connected to it).]

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


EU Parliament President Condemned Over Czech Meeting

Parliament’s president Hans-Gert Pöttering has come under fire for refusing to condemn a war of words between two senior MEPs and Czech president Václav Klaus.

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), branded Pöttering’s failure to censor Greens co-leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit and UEN leader Brian Crowley as “undemocratic”.

Farage’s comments, which came during a parliamentary debate on Tuesday on the French EU presidency, follow a meeting on 5 December between parliament’s political group leaders and Klaus during a visit to Prague Castle.

In the meeting, Cohn-Bendit and Crowley both reportedly verbally attacked Klaus, with Crowley accusing the Czech president of being deliberately provocative by attending a recent dinner hosted by Libertas chief Declan Ganley, a key no campaigner in the June Lisbon referendum in Ireland.

The controversial Klaus has been an outspoken critic of the treaty.

Pöttering also took part in the visit, which came ahead of the start of the Czech presidency of the EU on 1 January.

Details of the meeting were later published by Klaus’s office, with the Czech president denouncing the attack on him as “unprecedented”.

Speaking in Strasbourg on Tuesday, Farage, who is also co-leader of the Independence/Democracy group, agreed, saying, “Not only were his [Pöttering’s] actions anti-democratic, but he is incapable of even-handed behaviour.”

Farage accused Pöttering of “failing to discipline” Cohn-Bendit and Crowley after they had “insulted” Klaus.

The British MEP described the actions of Cohn-Bendit, who apparently wanted an EU flag he had taken to the meeting to be flown over Prague Castle, as the sort of actions “that could easily have been done by a German official of 70 years ago or a Soviet official of 20 years ago”.

Farage said that PES leader Martin Schulz, also at the meeting, had suggested that opposing the Lisbon treaty would lead to fascism and that Cohn-Bendit had accused opponents of the treaty as “mentally ill”.

“This is a sham democrat in a sham parliament,” Farage said of Pöttering. “Voices who support the project are encouraged whatever the veracity, while dissident voices are silenced. I suppose it was ever thus.”

According to press reports, Czech MEP Jan Zahradil, who did not attend the meeting, agreed that Pöttering had failed in his role.

During Tuesday’s debate, French president Nicolas Sarkozy called it an “outrage” and a “wound” that Klaus did not want EU flags flying from public buildings.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Euro MPs Scrap Britain’s Opt-Out of the 48-Hour Work Week in Move That Could Cost UK Up to £66billion

The European Parliament today voted to scrap Britain’s opt-out from the maximum 48-hour working week in a move that is estimated to cost the UK economy up to £66.45billion.

The vote was a blow to Gordon Brown, who had wanted the opt-out kept, especially during the current economic downturn.

Last night campaigners argued for the right of British families to work longer hours to see themselves through the recession.

The vote at 421 to 273 means the decision is now subject of a ‘conciliation’ between the European Commission, EU government ministers, and MEPs.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Exhibition: Israeli Art at Vittoriano With Over 50 Works

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 15 — Paintings, sculpture, photography, video, and performanceS: Israeli art arrives at the Vittoriano (National Monument in Rome) for an exhibit which starting tomorrow will present 57 works of art, realised by about 20 artists, among the most significant examples of the modern era. Promoted by the Israel60 Cultural Organisation, the exhibition ‘As Is: Contemporary Israeli Art’ is supervised by Ruth Cats and tells the story of both daily life and cultural complexities and peculiarities that highlight the fundamental dialogue between art and various topics, among which is the Jewish rebirth after the Holocaust, religious and secular aspects of life, war, terrorism, traditions, and patriotic sentiment. >From the second Intifada to the withdrawal from Lebanon, and from withdrawal from Gaza to the war in Lebanon, in the past 10 years, Israel has gone through dramatic periods in its history, and continues to deal with kamikaze attacks in the heart of its cities, meaning that social topics intersect with daily life with an uncommon urgency. Therefore, while some artists concentrate on global interests, at times to avoid local problems, many others respond directly to these events expressing fear, anxiety, political appeals, desires, and aspirations. The exhibition at the Vittoriano aims at showing those creative forces that not only flower in, but also accompany people, during the difficult living conditions in Israel while exuding an optimistic and ironic nature. A joy of life which becomes evident in the works of many contemporary artists who with their art shed light on the uniqueness of Israeli life. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Shia Muslims to Mark Day of Mourning in Rome

Rome, 16 Dec. This year the event is being organised by the Islamic Association Iman Mahdi whose headquarters is located in the Italian capital.

A religious authority who bears the title ‘Hojjatul Islam’ will come from abroad, perhaps from Iran, to attend the festival.

“The drama and the significance of this event have not only put the Shia Community at the forefront, but the Islamic community as a whole, for their love of the family of the prophet Mohammad ,” says a letter sent to the Shia faithful.

“We have always remembered the first ten days of Muharram (or the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar) and the tenth in particular, with gatherings and demonstrations of sorrow that have contributed to centuries of sadness for this event and handing down the enlightened teachings.”

The Ashura marks the 10th day of Muharram and the climax of the ‘Remembrance of Muharram’, an important period of mourning for Shia Muslims.

It is commemorated by the Shia faithful as a day of mourning for the martyrdom of Hussain, grandson of the Islamic prophet Mohammed at the Battle of Karbala, and the event often provokes conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims. as the killing of Hussain is one of the events that led to the split in Islam into the Sunni and Shia sects.

Sometimes, men follow a ritual of self-flagellation during Ashura, using chains or knives, in order to emulate the suffering of Hussain.

The Islamic Association Imam Mahdi was established in 2004 by Muslims living in Italy to reinforce its identity and to promote and the unity of all Muslims without distinction of language, nationality or race.

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


Nicolas Sarkozy Attacks Czech Refusal to Fly EU Flag

Nicolas Sarkozy has sparked a diplomatic row by attacking the ‘wounding and outrageous’ refusal of the Czech president to fly a European Union flag from Prague Castle.

The French president sided with federalist Euro-MPs who are engaged in a bitter feud with Vaclav Klaus, the Czech president and a Eurosceptic.

Senior MEPs, including the president of the European Parliament, Hans Gert Poettering, caused a diplomatic incident ten days ago after demanding that Mr Klaus hoist the European flag over his residence during bad tempered talks in Prague.

“It was a wound, it was an outrage to see that flags had been taken down from public buildings,” said President Sarkozy, the current holder of the EU’s six-month rotating presidency which he hands over to the Czech Republic in January.

“Mr Poettering can count on the full support of the French president.”

Karel Schwarzenberg, the Czech foreign minister, hit back as the diplomatic war of words between Paris and Prague threatened to overshadow the smooth transfer of the EU presidency.

“There is no law binding the Czech Republic to hang the EU flag over Prague Castle. Prague Castle is a symbol of the Czech state and not the EU,” he said.

“It is not up to the head of another state to criticise the Czech president over flags.”

A statement from the office of Mr Klaus said: “The Castle is a symbol of Czech statehood. There is no reason to change this historic tradition.”

The row exploded when a delegation of Euro-MPs sarcastically presented Mr Klaus with the 12-starred flag, during a visit on Dec 5, knowing that he had ruled out flying the flag over Prague Castle.

He was especially angered when Dany Cohn-Bendit, a former 1968 student radical and the Franco-German leader of Green Euro-MPs, told him: “I don’t care about your opinions”.

Mr Klaus replied: “This is incredible. I have never experienced anything like this before.”

Nigel Farage, the leader of UK Independence Party, compared the EU flag demand to the behaviour of Nazi or Soviet officials, both dictatorships that had occupied Prague and its Castle in the past.

“The manner in which Cohn-Bendit demanded that President Klaus fly the EU flag over his castle could easily have been done by a German official of over 70 years ago or a Soviet official of 20 years ago,” he said.

“No doubt they think that Buckingham Palace should fly the EU flag to show its [sic] dominium.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Sweden: Melting Pot or Crackpot?

National Swedish newspaper DN reports that rock throwing against buses has increased with more than 66% from 2007 to 2008. Amazingly, this means that rock throwing is now increasing at an even faster rate than gang rapes of native girls. Curiously, the Wikipedia entry on Fjordman currently states that my previous essays about the Swedish rape epidemic are false because the massive increase in rapes was caused by “a widening of the legal definition of rape.” I bet it was. And the 66% increase in stone throwing in the space of a single year was caused by a widening of the legal definition of stones, right?

Actually, the wave of rapes and violent crime targeting whites in particular is fast spreading to much of the Western world, not just Sweden. I suggest that the people at Wikipedia update their entries for both “Fjordman” and “Eurabia” and make room for my latest book Defeating Eurabia. This nasty piece of right-wing, pro-Western and anti-Multicultural writings can be found online, including a special chapter about Sweden. If somebody from for instance the political party the Sweden Democrats wants to download Defeating Eurabia, translate it to other languages and distribute it they have my blessing to do so.

Meanwhile, Olle Wästberg, director-general of the Swedish Institute, is enthusiastic about his new “Multicultural” country.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Swedes: Hard Workers or Hardly Working?

One hundred and thirty days. That’s how much time each year many Swedish white-collar workers aren’t working at the office according to a new calculation made by The Local and confirmed by Swedish academics. Sound like a lot? “It might even be some kind of world record,” speculated Frederik Erixon, Swedish economist and Director of the European Centre of International Political Economy, a free-market think tank based in Brussels.

The Dublin-based Eurofound (European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working, a statistics and advising organization established by the EU) already ranks Sweden’s 44 days of public holidays combined with paid leave as the highest in Europe (the EU average is 34.4 days).

Sweden is second to last (just ahead of only France) in amount of working hours per year, but that doesn’t include sick days, where Sweden leads France by 10 days in a 2005 study. Add those days to the mix, and Sweden becomes the new statistical leader for least hours worked per year……

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Sweden: Tension Following Removal of Malmö Mosque Activists

Tempers flared in Malmö on Monday morning as riot police used dogs to clear three protesters out of a basement office which has served as a mosque for more than a 15 years, but had been ordered closed back on November 24th.

“The removal took place calmly. There were three people, ages sixteen to eighteen, when we came and all three have been taken in for questioning,” said Skåne police spokesperson Mikael Persson to the TT news agency.

But outside the building, a crowd had gathered to voice their frustration over the closing and the police decision to forcefully remove the protesters.

Basem Mahmoud, a spokesperson for the svensk-jordanska vänskapsföreningen (‘Swedish-Jordanian Friendship Association), felt that the police had broken an agreement and shown a lack of respect for the mosque by entering the premises wearing shoes and with dogs in tow.

“I fear that this may lead to unrest,” he told TT.

The three young people were taken by police on suspicions of trespassing.

The space had been used by the Islamiska kulturföreningen (‘Islamic Cultural Association’) and other organizations for the past 15 years, until the group was informed last summer that its lease would not be renewed.

Representatives from the group felt the move was discriminatory, while city officials and representatives from the building management company, Contentus, claimed the decision was part of an effort to transform a nearby park and the adjoining office space for new uses.

“Why do they have to take our space?” Mahmoud asked the Sydsvenskan newspaper back in August when plans were announced.

“The city and Contentus can easily find another locations, they have the whole of Malmö to choose from.”

The space is scheduled to house classes organized jointly by city housing officials, police, and housing companies to instruct newly arrived immigrants about their rights and responsibilities as tenants in Swedish rental apartments.

“The classes will benefit the entire area, not only members of the cultural association,” local council member Ilmar Reepalu told Sydsvenskan at the time.

After being emptied on November 24th, the space was immediately occupied by a group of young people who vowed to guard the location around the clock until a better solution could be found.

However, the leadership of the Islamic Cultural Association made it clear at the time they did not want the group to be associated with the protesters.

The matter was reported last week to police, setting the stage for Monday’s police action.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Sweden — a New Melting Pot?

As Sweden opens its borders to a new wave of labour migration, the country is becoming more diverse than ever before, writes Olle Wästberg, director-general of the Swedish Institute.

Saffron and dates have long been part of the Swedish Christmas food tradition. But nowadays many families in Sweden can be found mixing their dates and saffron with meze and bulgur, rather than the usual lutefisk, herring and ham.

In December, Sweden’s major supermarkets and food stores stock plenty of Christmas alternatives for people rooted in food traditions other than the typically Swedish. This mirrors a new Sweden.

Formally, the Evangelical Lutheran Swedish Church is the biggest religion in Sweden, even though most of its members are religiously indifferent. This is probably not the case with most of the 250,000 Muslims or the 35,000 Syrian Orthodox.

The different religions sometimes meet and create new Christmas traditions. In the Stockholm suburb of Fisksätra, Lutherans and Muslims — who last year held joint ceremonies — now have a crib together.

To many Swedes, Christmas is more of a food and family gathering than a religious holiday. But Swedes really have different backgrounds. Every third newborn Swede has at least one parent or grandparent born in another country.

From the close of the Second World War to the end of the sixties, Sweden was open for labour immigration. The large Swedish industrial companies like Asea, Alfa Laval and Atlas Copco had recruitment offices in Italy and Yugoslavia. But in 1968, Sweden closed the borders for workers. Since then, the overwhelming majority of immigrants have been refugees.

Statistics show that the three dominant countries of origin for immigrants now living in Sweden are Finland (181,000), the former Yugoslavia (146,000), and Iraq (83,000). But there are also 37,000 immigrants from Turkey, 23,000 from Lebanon and 18,000 from Somalia. And the stream of refugees from Iraq is remarkable. Sweden has admitted more refugees from Iraq than either the US or Great Britain.

December 15th, 2008 marked the starting point of a new era in Swedish immigration policy. As of Monday, Sweden is once again open for labour migration from countries outside the European Union. Foreign students who study at Swedish universities may stay on and work after their exams. Foreigners may come to Sweden and — for a limited period — try to find a job on the Swedish labour market.

Right now, unemployment rates are rising, but in the long run the ‘old world’ is living up to its name. In forty years’ time, the average age in Sweden will be twenty years higher than that of the populations in Canada and the US. That’s why Sweden will need more engineers, more doctors, and more people in the care sector in general. And that’s why the Swedish parliament made a nearly unanimous decision to embrace the new principle of labour immigration.

Sweden is changing. If I look back at previous generations on my father’s side, I find two names reappearing in every generation since the seventeenth century: Olof Persson and Per Olsson. This is the case for many Swedes. But the proportion of Perssons, Olssons, Larssons, Erikssons, Mattssons and Anderssons will be much smaller in the future.

A new country has emerged that fits the description: “Sweden — the melting

pot.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


UK: Government Launches Consultation on Islamic Finance

The Government has launched a consultation on the legal implications of regulating Islamic finance in the UK.

The joint Treasury — Financial Services Authority (FAS) consultation will set out the proposed legislative framework for regulation of an alternative financial instrument commonly known as an Islamic bond, or sukuk, which is interest-free and asset-backed.

Ian Pearson MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, launched the consultation as part of the government’s work to support the growth of Islamic finance in the UK.

“We value the contribution Islamic finance makes to London’s position as an international financial centre and we want to see this sector continue to grow and prosper in this country,” he added.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Illegal Immigrant Tries to Flee Britain Six Times…

… and Costs Taxpayers £250,000 to Keep Him Here

Like thousands of others arriving on these shores, he dreamt Britain would be a land of opportunity.

But when Rashid Ali, 30, failed to gain asylum here, he just wanted to go home to Morocco.

With no money, job or passport, the illegal immigrant resolved to flee Britain by stowing away on cargo ships — only to find his escape bids thwarted each time by UK authorities who keep forcing him to stay.

He was supposed to be deported in 2005 when he was caught trying to leave Britain for the fifth time.

But instead Ali has been held in a detention centre for last three years at a cost to the taxpayer of £250,000.

Now he could be jailed again next month after being caught hiding on another boat just two days after being released.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: NHS Doctor Cleared of Bomb Plots Accuses Government of ‘Sour Grapes’ for Trying to Kick Him Out of Britain

A doctor cleared of links to the London Glasgow terror plot accused the Government of “sour grapes” today after he was not released from prison.

Jordanian Dr Mohammed Asha, 28, was acquitted by a jury of any involvement in the terrorist conspiracy yesterday.

But he has not been released from custody and faces deportation after being told his presence “is not conducive to the public good”.

In a statement read by his solicitor Tayab Ali, Dr Asha said his arrest and subsequent trial “obliterated” his life.

His legal team said he intends to apply for bail and fight deportation as he wants to continue his medical career in Britain.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: White-Flight Exodus to Oz

The number of white middle-class Brits leaving the UK has leapt to 70,000 per year — and most of them are heading to Australia and New Zealand

Thousands of Britons are leaving our shores every year for a new life abroad, official figures have shown.

But although 75,000 ‘white British’ men and women are moving away, the population is still rising because of an influx of ethnic minority groups.

According to Government estimates, the established white population of England dropped by nearly 250,000 between 2002 and 2006.

Official figures have previously indicated that about 50,000 Britons head for Australia each year and about 30,000 for New Zealand. Last year, a record 400,000 left the country to live abroad for at least 12 months.

Yesterday’s estimates, which show how each ethnic group grew or diminished between 2005 and 2006, provide further evidence of so-called white flight’.

[…]

SOURCE: www.dailymail.co.uk

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Ex-Kosovo Minister Guilty of Witness Intimidation

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal sentenced a former Kosovo minister to five months in prison Wednesday for intimidating a witness in the case against his country’s former prime minister.

Former Culture Minister Astrit Haraqija and his aide, Bajrush Morina, were convicted of contempt of court for threatening a man identified only as Witness Two. Morina was sentenced to three months in prison.

Kosovo’s former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj was acquitted in April of murder, rape and torture during Kosovo’s 1999 battle for independence from Serbia. Prosecutors have appealed, arguing their case was derailed by widespread witness intimidation.

The five-month sentence given Haraqija was the harshest ever handed down by the U.N. tribunal for a contempt of court conviction. Haraqija’s attorney Karim Khan called it “draconian” and indicated he would appeal.

The maximum sentence for contempt is seven years and a euro100,000 ($140,000) fine.

Presiding judge Alfons Orie said that Haraqija sent Morina to threaten the witness in September 2007 in an unsuccessful effort to stop him from testifying against the prime minister.

Morina told the witness that others who had testified against Haraqija were later killed, Orie said, adding that Haraqija had abused his government position to pressure his deputy into an illegal act.

Prosecutors called 81 witnesses during Haradinaj’s trial, but other witnesses refused to appear, and two have been indicted for contempt of court. The court guaranteed anonymity to 34 witnesses, but still had to subpoena 18 of them.

As they acquitted Haradinaj, trial judges wrote they believed “the trial was being held in an atmosphere where witnesses felt unsafe.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Montenegro & the EU Membership Application: Interview

The state of Montenegro filed an application to join the EU, on Monday the 15th of December, a process that will inevitably be associated with issues concerning security in the state and organized crime, as it has been pointed out numerously by the international authorities and press.

The following text derives from an interview to the Daily Montenegrin newspaper “DAN”, in Podgoritsa and the Editor Marko Vesovic (Published 16/12/2008).

1. What is you information on the link between money laundering and serious forms of organized crime in Montenegro?

ANSWER First of all we have reports made by international organizations, such as the annual EUROPOL report or the regional reports by the UN office in Vienna and the State Department’s reports that verify on the existence of money laundering operations and organized crime presence. Moreover newspaper articles from reliable editions, such as the Italian La Stampa, or the Der Spiegel in Germany, plus countless of other information coming from the Balkan media and unofficial talks in conferences and international meetings.

In general there is a unanimous assessment that Montenegro is being used as a base for money laundering. Also it is an issue that is being currently researched in universities and think-tanks across the planet.

2. Do you have any knowledge on the work of extremist Islamic groups on the North of Montenegro and are they linked with the Al-Qaeda network?

ANSWER On December 2007 local reports mentioned around the existence of some 100 extremists residing mostly in the North-Eastern parts of the country that were connected with the various Wahhabi cells habituating in the Balkans.

More specifically the official of the national security service, Mr. Dusko Markovic stated to local media that Wahhabis Islamic radicals are to be found near the borders with Bosnia in a remote area after the authorities found some evidence including audiovisual material.

Moreover, the existence of strong networks in Bosnia, Kosovo but also in Sanjak increases the risk for Montenegro as well. The extremists are always seeking for weapons and places where they can launder their capital. Therefore the risk remains for Montenegro mainly because its neighbors have such a security problem.

Lastly I have to say that American agencies are always suspicious of an existence of Al Qaeda in Montenegro, but they haven’t officially announced anything yet. ……

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Immigration: Genital Mutilation, Reconstructions in Paris

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, DECEMBER 15 — In recent years around 2,800 women who immigrated to France from Africa or second generation immigrants, of the age group between 18 and 50, have turned to hospitals and centres in Paris and Nantes funded by national welfare to have their genitals reconstructed, devastated by the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). Strangely, immigrant families often resort to inflicting this perverse on their own daughters in order to deal with difficult living conditions in a foreign country, This news is circulating in the luxury hotel in Cairo where Egypt’s first lady, Suzanne Mubarak, the first lady of Burkina Faso, Chantal Compaore, the deputy speaker of the Senate, Emma Bonino, and secretary-general of the Egyptian National Council for Maternity and Childhood have just finished sharing, in their opening speeches for the “Cairo Declaration on Fgm+Five”, the most recent progress that has been made on both legislative and social levels. The meeting was organised with funds of Italian Development Cooperation, UN agencies and the European Union, as well as private sponsors like Suez Cement, five years after the first conference on the issue. “Women come from various countries — including African ones — to have this reconstruction. And certainly not in search for the sexual drive they have lost (it takes two to three years for those parts to regain sensitivity) but for psychological reasons. They tell me that they ‘finally feel whole’ and ‘much better’ after the operation”, said Kady Khoita, a 50-year-old woman from Senegal, known for her anti-FGM action. Khoita is also an author and president of “EURONET FGM”, a network of 35 solidarity associations in Europe for immigrant women and children, with operates with limited funds (400,000 euros, 80% of which comes from the European Union). The initiative was organised by the National Academy of French Medicine, in collaboration with ‘Gynecologie sans Frontieres’, and the very active commitment of urologist Pierre Foldes. “The Koran and other teachings of the prophet say that Islam is not in favour of these practices” said sheikh Mohamed Hussein, of the ‘House of the Fatwa’ Dar el Iftaah, the most important Sunni organisation appointed to determine what is ‘haram’ — prohibited by God’s law — and what is allowed, “they preach the integrity of the human body, to which no harm must be done. There may be some less civilised religious figures who can sell this practice off as religious principle or postpone medical examination, but the recognition that these are practices that damage the bodies of young girls is an insurmountable limit”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Med Countries Urge Greater Support on Immigration Issues

(by Fabrizio Finzi) (ANSAmed) — TAORMINA, DECEMBER 16 — A revision of the European Pact on Immigration based on criteria of greater solidarity among the 27 countries of the European Union to reach a more equitable solution for the bearing of the sufferings and the costs of migratory flows. This is the strong call that the ten Mediterranean countries of the European Union (the ‘Olive Group’) has launched at the more northerly members of the EU, and to the forthcoming Czech presidency of the Union, which begins on January 1 2009. In Taormina for a two-day meeting, free from the constraints of any particular agenda, the foreign ministers of Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, Greece, Slovenia, Malta, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria concentrated most of their energies on the most difficult topic: how to stop the continuous flow of illegal immigrants which come knocking at the door of the southern European countries, without any continuous solution in sight. And, above all, how to call for greater community solidarity with the northern European nations who only experience the phenomenon in a very minor way. The sixth meeting of the ‘Olive Group’, which will be next repeated in 2009 in Portugal, has served to bring the ten Mediterranean countries closer together, bringing out a clear necessity to quickly recalibrate the attention of Brussels more towards the problems of the Mediterranean, after the fall of the Berlin Wall forced the EU to concentrate almost exclusively on its eastern borders. ‘‘In terms of immigration, we need to reach a way to redistribute the burdens in a European context, also in terms of people’’ and ‘‘there ought to be an effective sharing out of the weight of responsibility which migratory flows to Europe imply’’, explained the Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, at the end of the event. The final document of the meeting, which expresses these views, will be presented to the Czech presidency of the EU, despite the relative informality of the conference: ‘‘the Mediterranean represents a fundamental test of the will and the capacity of the European Union to develop a truly shared policy to deal with illegal immigration and it is absolutely necessary to obtain concrete results through a mechanism of sharing the burdens and responsibilities’’ of this phenomenon, between the north and the south of Europe, reads the document. There was also great attention on the part of the Mediterranean countries on the European integration of the western Balkans which is to be encouraged and helped along. More specifically, Frattini said that he hopes Croatia ‘‘quickly’’ concludes its integration negotiations, preferably within 2010. Whilst for Serbia to ‘‘get ever closer to Europe’’, Frattini said that it is, ‘‘politically essential to send a strong and positive signal to Belgrade’’. Finally, energy security was the last big topic of the Taormina meetings. The ten countries confirmed the necessity to diversify sources of provisions and will ask for ‘‘more European financing’’ for the creation of new energy infrastructures for the Mediterranean. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: 97% of Married Women Undergo Genital Mutilation

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JUNE 27 — A total 97% of the married Egyptian women has suffered genital mutilation, and the area where this practice is most frequent (99%) is in the governorship of Qena, in the south of the country. In Matrouh, on the Mediterranean coast towards Libya, the lowest percentage (25%) is registered. According to the study ‘National Project Against Female Circumcision’, held by the Minister of Health in cooperation with the United Nations DAG Programme, the percentage is lower in the urban centres (94.6%), higher in the country (98.8%), while in the Sinai it decreases to 37%, Egyptian independent daily ‘Al Masri el Yom’ reports. Among uneducated women, 99.1% have suffered the circumcision; among educated women (secondary school or university), the percentage gets down to 94%. The percentage of women in favour of the circumcision is 85% in Upper Egypt compared to 50% in the North; 50% of the educated women and 87.5% of the uneducated women are also in favour. Two days ago the Chief Mufti of Egypt said that the “harmful tradition of the female circumcision is prohibited by Islam”, after the death of an 11-year old girl following an excessive dose of anesthetic given during the operation. The wife of the Egiptian president, Suzanne Mubarak, who is in charge of the government’s consulting commission for Maternity and Childhood, launched today a “national campaign against female circumcision”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Christmas: Bethlehem, ‘No Room at the Inn’ at Christmas

(ANSAmed) — BETHLEHEM (WEST BANK), DECEMBER 16 — Bethlehem is full for Christmas: in a change from years past, Manger Square will be full of people. “Between 30 and 40 thousand people, made up of pilgrims and tourists, are expected in Bethlehem”, predicted the city’s mayor, Victor Batarseh. “There is ‘no room at the inn’ at the city’s hotels”. Bethlehem is getting ready to celebrate with renewed optimism. The year 2000 began in excellent fashion with the visit of Pope John Paul II to the Holy Land, who was followed by crowds of pilgrims. But in September of that year, the explosion of the ‘intifada’ (the Palestinian revolt) and the Israeli military reaction caused a dramatic turnaround. Since then, Bethlehem has been in a phase of deep crisis. Now, the general feeling is that the worst is over. Palestinian functionaries say that 1.3 million tourists have visited the West Bank this year, double last year’s figure. By the end of 2008, the record figure of 1.6 million visitors could be reached. The 20 hotels in Bethlehem are all fully booked. Riad Malki, the information minister, estimates that the tourism boom in the West Bank has already created 12 thousand new jobs. In Bethlehem, Batarseh told the local press, unemployment had reached 50 per cent and the tendency towards immigration was increasing. But now the future seems a little brighter. The percentage of unemployment is now at around 30 percent and the city (which has 32,000 inhabitants) is crowded with tourists. City Hall, added the mayor, is in debt but is still trying to contribute to the celebrations: it has already put tens of thousands of dollars aside for Christmas decorations and for maintenance works on the main streets. A Palestinian telephone company has also played its part to make sure that this year’s celebrations are complete. Next week, Bethlehem will host a three-day Christmas Conference, with the participation of delegations from various Mediterranean countries (including Italy), the West Bank and from Nazareth (Israel). The theme of the meeting, according to Maan, a Palestinian news agency, will be “Bethlehem as a centre of peace, according to the message of Jesus”. In order to guarantee that all goes ahead in a well-ordered manner, the Palestinian National Authority has announced that 1,500 well-trained security agents will be stationed in Bethlehem for Christmas. Bethlehem wishes to show itself off as a shining example of the new climate of stability which the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is trying to create in the West Bank. The Israelis have assured that transport between Jerusalem and Bethlehem will be fluent and efficient, despite the security barrier at the entrance to the city in the West Bank. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Middle East: Crowd in Gaza to Mark 21st Year of Hamas

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 15 — Hamas turned 21 and Gaza turned green, the colour of Islam. A huge crowd gathered in Gaza City on Sunday and 200,000 people stood in front of a huge picture of the founder of Hamas, sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Men and women, strictly kept apart ones from the others, listened to a speech by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. About the truce regarding Gaza — which, according to Hamas, expires December 19 — the judgement was negative, said Haniyeh, who claimed Israel killed 20 Palestinians in the past month. Yet — in contrast with what Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has said — Haniyeh did not clearly shut the door to Israel, which through government sources responded: we are ready for any development. Haniyeh appeared rigid toward Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), claiming that on the base of PNA’s Fundamental Law his presidential term expires on January 9. Yet, he said, Hamas remained in favour of national dialogue. For the immediate future, Haniyeh promised, Hamas will try to break out of isolation also by means of the ship intifada: humanitarian assistance by sea from Arab Countries to Gaza to bypass the closure of land border points by Israel. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Mideast: Hamas ‘Theatre’ on Shalit, Indignation in Israel

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, DECEMBER 15 — A Hamas initiative to mock the kidnapping of Ghilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who has been held prisoner in Gaza for over two years, created a reaction of indignation in Israel. Yesterday, in an on-stage skit in a square in Gaza during the mass demonstration organised for the 21st anniversary of the founding of Hamas, a young man in an Israeli uniform was shown pleading for help from his parents and Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert. The crowd, according to reports, reacted with applause and laughter. Images of the theatrical piece made the front pages of newspapers. “Theatre of Horrors”, was the title of Yediot Ahronot and Israel ha-Yom (free newspaper) which added in a comment: “Cruelty has no limits”. In the press, others debated if it were better to ignore what was described as “psychological warfare” by Hamas on Israeli public opinion. For this reason, at least one TV station refused to show the images from Gaza yesterday. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Not the Center of the World

by Barry Rubin

Israel isn’t going to be the center of the world for the Obama administration and that’s a good, if ego-disappointing, thing. Both the pro-Israeli right’s paranoia and the wishful thinking of the anti-Israeli left in the United States (and, in the latter category, Europe plus the Middle East as well), are operating out of expectations rather than the actual situation.

What can be safely assumed is something along the following lines…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]


U.S. Millions Incite Tomorrow’s Suicide Bombers

Disturbing new videos show that Fatah, the Palestinian Authority, supposedly committed to peace, uses aid from the U.S. and Europe to teach children that Israel is irredeemably evil and terrorism is heroic.

Incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faces an alarming threat to any hope of a brokered Middle East peace. Some of the $40 million already committed to “moderate” Fatah president, Mahmoud Abbas, is feeding children a steady drumbeat of indoctrination to kill Israelis, with idealized images of virgins who await suicide bombers. Whistleblower has secured advanced copies of inflammatory videos collected from the West Bank by the private organization Palestinian Media Watch. They show what children in the schools are currently being taught in lessons and through T.V. shows. This brainwashing from “moderate” Fatah is little different from the propaganda put out by Hamas, which was condemned as a terrorist organization by the United States in 1995 and by the European Union in 2003.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iraq Official: U.S. Troops Might be Needed for Decade

BAGHDAD — Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki last month sold the Iraqi people on a security pact with the U.S. that he called a “withdrawal agreement” to end the presence of American forces in his country by the beginning of 2012.

His top government spokesman, Ali al Dabbagh, undercut that claim this week, however, when he said in Washington that the U.S. might be needed in Iraq for another 10 years, a statement that reverberated with political leaders in Baghdad, renewing criticism of the deal.

[…]

“We do understand that the Iraqi military is not going to get built out in the three years. We do need many more years. It might be 10 years,” he said.

That assertion makes sense to many Iraqi leaders, though they rarely say it in public. Iraq doesn’t have a navy or an air force to protect itself. Many view it as America’s obligation to improve the country’s defense.

“It is the responsibility of the United States that we should not be left to be attacked,” Maki said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Iraq: Islamists Drive Christians Out of Nineveh

Hundreds of thousands of Assyrian Christians, a minority people who live principally in northern Iraq, have fled the country under murderous threats from Islamic militants that have grown so bad, a U.S. government entity has now labeled Iraq “among the most dangerous places on earth.”

In a report released today, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federally-funded advisory team created and appointed by Congress, recommends that Iraq be designated a “country of particular concern” in light of ongoing, severe abuses against the country’s religious minorities — stating that the situation is “particularly dire” for ChaldoAssyrian Christians.

“The lack of effective government action to protect these communities from abuses has established Iraq among the most dangerous places on earth for religious minorities,” said USCIRF’s chairperson, Felice D. Gaer.

In the first century, Assyrians were among the first Gentiles to follow Christ, and to this day many Assyrian Christians still speak Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus. They are also the people of ancient Nineveh, the city that was visited by the biblical prophet Jonah and that lies today near the modern city of Mosul, Iraq.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Israel: We Will Never Recognise it, Ahmadinejad Says

(ANSAmed) — TEHRAN, DECEMBER 16 — Iran “will never recognise” the state of Israel, and whoever wishes to have relations with Tehran will have to bear this in mind, said the country’s President, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, today. Ahmadinejad, who was addressing a rally in Ahwaz in the south-west of the country, returned to the issue after Francés President had said he would refuse to shake his hand following his remarks about the need to erase Israel from the map of the world. But the words by Ahmadinejad also have the ring of a warning in the direction of any policy initiative US President-elect, Barack Obama, might be planning. “Whoever wants dialogue with the state of Iran — stated the President of the Islamic Republic — must know that it will never recognise the Zionist regime and that they will have to hold their dialogue with those wishing for the elimination from this world of crimes, aggressions, occupations, the basis of Zionist thought”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italian Killed in Turkey: Third Hearing in Trial Today

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, DECEMBER 16 — This morning sees the opening of the third hearing in the trial of 38-year-old Turk Murat Karatash, the confessed murderer of Giuseppina Pasqualino di Marineo, also known by her performing name of Pippa Bacca. The 33-year-old Italian from Milan was raped and killed in Turkey at the beginning of April. The confirmation comes to ANSA from lawyer Mehmet Eke, who is representing the family of the dead woman. In the course of the last hearing, which took place on November 4, the accused confirmed to the court statements he had made to police soon after being arrested. And, in partial defence of his actions he stated that on the day of the murder “I had been drinking and I had taken drugs, which is why I can’t remember anything about what happened”. Giuseppina Pasqualino had hitch-hiked from Milan on March 8 together with a friend — both of them dressed as brides — as part of an artistic performance which should have taken her to Israel through the Balkans and the Middle East. On March 31, after separating from her travel companion, Giuseppina disappeared after accepting a lift from a man who later confessed having raped and strangled her. The body of the young woman from Milan was found on April 11, unclothed and hastily hidden under a thin layer of soil and twigs in an uninhabited area bordering the Istanbul-Ankara motorway. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Spendthrift Leadership Leaves Iran Vulnerable to Oil Price Plunges

Toronto Globe and Mail

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must have missed the lesson of Joseph in Egypt, as set down in the Koran. The story of the young man who interprets the pharaoh’s dreams and advises him to store grain during the years of plenty appears to be lost on Ahmadinejad. During the recent years of plenty in oil prices, his Iranian administration certainly didn’t put away much of the revenue it received.

Numbers from the International Monetary Fund show that Ahmadinejad has presided over a spendthrift regime, where increased expenditures have outpaced increases in revenue. The President has dipped repeatedly into the country’s rainy-day oil stabilization fund in order to subsidize life for many of his poor constituents, rather than save it for the lean years.

Now Iran is paying the price. Of the Middle East’s oil producers, Iran, OPEC’s second-largest producer, is the hardest hit of all. With daily production of about 2.5 million barrels, Iran loses about $1-billion a year for every dollar drop in the price of oil.

As oil goes, so go Ahmadinejad’s political fortunes. And while his vaunted nuclear program is not immediately threatened, those in the West who seek to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons should gain considerable economic leverage as a result of the financial crisis.

As recently as last month, Ahmadinejad put on a brave face, boasting that Iran was capable of enduring oil prices as low as $5 a barrel. But last week the Iranian president was forced to admit his government will have to come up with a new budget, based on more realistic price estimates.

With inflation at about 30 per cent and unemployment at 10 per cent, Ahmadinejad has run out of political options, says David Menashri, chair of modern Iranian studies at Tel Aviv University. “Thirty-per-cent inflation is a terrible hardship for someone on a fixed income,” he said, noting that “800,000 people are added to Iran’s work force every year; the government can find jobs for only about half of them.”

Even before the current economic crisis and the collapse in the price of oil, Ahmadinejad’s economic management had come under sharp criticism. His attempt to introduce a modest value-added tax failed when shops in the country’s bazaars went on strike. And flooding the economy with cash through subsidies led to the current inflation.

A freeze on the price of petroleum meant that no one wanted to invest in building refineries in the country, so Iran has continued to import much of its gasoline. It also meant that Iran lost money every time someone filled up with gas, a situation that forced the president to take the highly unpopular step of rationing gas consumption.

Ahmadinejad must have gambled that the people unhappiest with the rationing — the affluent — weren’t likely to vote for him anyway, said Roger Stern, a policy analyst with Princeton University’s oil, energy and the Middle East program.

Despite his growing number of critics, Ahmadinejad could still survive and win next June’s presidential election. If the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries dramatically cuts production — as it is expected to agree to do Wednesday — any resulting uptick in oil prices would also strengthen his hand.

“It’s all up to Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei),” Stern said. “If the Supreme Leader wants him to stay, he’ll stay.”

There’s reason to believe, however, that the Supreme Leader may be ready to cut his losses.

As Iranian writer Amir Taheri has pointed out, there are two schools of thought in Iran’s revolutionary movement.

One school, called “constructionist,” follows the model of Communist China. Constructionists believe Iran, like China, cannot prosper in an atmosphere of tension with the outside world. Rather, the country “must find a place in global trade, thus giving the major powers a stake” in Iran’s survival.

The second school, Taheri writes, follows a model more like North Korea. These people believe genuine Iranian society cannot exist if it is exposed to global commerce dominated by “infidels.” This school argues for Iranian self-sufficiency and personal modesty. Ahmadinejad, who lives in a modest three-bedroom house in a poor section of Tehran, is of this school.

Until recently, both schools of thought were applied in various ways in the country. Today, they are at odds. The country’s establishment, led by former president Hashemi Rafsanjani (reportedly the richest man in Iran), favors the constructionist approach, and recent comments by Ayatollah Khamenei suggest he does, too.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Russia

Russian Warships Causing No Ripples in Pentagon

[Tuan Jim comments: As I commented on yesterday’s news feed — this is a great accomplishment for the Russian military — but that’s not saying much. I love Putin’s response to Rice though ;p]

WASHINGTON (AP) — Russian warships have been plying the waters off Venezuela and Panama in recent weeks and are now heading for Cuba, but U.S. officials are not so much wringing their hands as yawning.

Asked about a Russian warship transiting the Panama Canal earlier this month, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — who saw the ship while crossing the canal last week — told The Associated Press: “I guess they’re on R&R. It’s fine.”

The Pentagon, while puzzled by the Russians’ actions, also is taking a ho-hum attitude. The U.S. military commander for the region, Adm. James Stavridis, head of the U.S. Southern Command, said that from his vantage point, there is no reason to be concerned about the Russian naval activity.

“They pose no military threat to the U.S.,” Stavridis said in an e-mail to the AP on Tuesday.

It was the first such passage by a Russian or Soviet warship since World War II.

There is no suggestion of a military confrontation, but the Russian moves are notable in part because they appear to reflect an effort by Moscow to flex some muscle in America’s backyard in response to Washington’s support for the former Soviet republic of Georgia and elsewhere on the Russian periphery. That includes U.S. missile defense bases to be erected in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The Russians were unhappy with a U.S. decision to send a state-of-the-art warship into the Black Sea as part of an American humanitarian aid mission for Georgia in the aftermath of last August’s war with Russia. The Russians also are angry about the Bush administration’s push to add Georgia and the former Soviet republic of Ukraine as members of the NATO military alliance.

Under the gaze of the U.S. Southern Command, Russian ships this fall held joint exercises with the navy of Venezuela, whose president, Hugo Chavez, is a fierce U.S. critic.

Navy Rear Adm. Tom Meek, the deputy director for security and intelligence at Southern Command, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that he sees little chance of Russia teaming up with Venezuela in a militarily meaningful way.

“I don’t think that Russia and Venezuela are really serious about putting together a military coalition that would give them any kind of aggregate military capability to oppose anybody,” Meek said. “Frankly, the maneuvers they conducted down here were so basic and rudimentary that they did not amount to anything, in my opinion.”

And it’s not just the Russian navy that is showing up in the West.

In September, two Tu-160 long-range bombers, known in the West as Blackjacks, landed in Venezuela — the first landing in the Western Hemisphere by Russian military aircraft since the Cold War ended.

Rice shrugs it off.

“A few aging Blackjacks flying unarmed along the coast of Venezuela is — I don’t know why one would do it, but I’m not particularly going to lose sleep over that,” she said in the AP interview Monday.

She said Russia is welcome to have relations with countries in the West.

“I don’t think anybody’s confused about the preponderance of power in the Western Hemisphere,” Rice said.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has made no effort to hide his irritation at what he considers American arrogance.

“God forbid from engaging in any kind of controversy in the American continent,” he said, referring to his Blackjack bombers flying to Venezuela for a training exercise. “This is considered the ‘holiest of the holy,’“ he said during a meeting with Western political scholars at his Black Sea residence in Sochi. “And they drive ships with weapons to a place just 10 kilometers from where we’re at? Is this normal? Is this an equitable move?”

On Monday, the Russian navy announced that a destroyer and two support vessels will visit Cuba for the first time since the Soviet era. The ships are from a squadron that has been on a lengthy visit to Latin America; they are scheduled to put in at Havana on Friday for a five-day stay, navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo said.

Moscow’s support for Cuba fell sharply after the 1991 Soviet collapse, but the Russians have bolstered ties recently.

The joint naval exercises with Venezuela were Russia’s way of “demonstrating to the U.S. that it has a foothold in a region traditionally dominated by the U.S.,” said analyst Anna Gilmour at Jane’s Intelligence Review.

Still, she and many Russian analysts say Moscow’s deployments of warships are largely for show.

Russia’s navy is a shadow of its Soviet-era force, having suffered from a serious lack of investment since the 1991 Soviet collapse. Many ships and submarines have rusted away at their berths, and deadly accidents occur regularly.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Russian Treason Bill Could Hit Kremlin Critics

[Tuan Jim comments: We’ve talked about this before — but there’s a distinct difference IMO between acting in the national interest and overt authoritarianism with a blantant disregard for the democratic process. Between broadening the definition of treason, cracking down on any sort of peaceful protest against the government and abolishing trial by jury because you think that juries are being too lenient…..it doesn’t look good. And that’s still ignoring the criminally weak punishments handed out to those multiple murderers last week or the continued violence against journalists — such as the guy still in a coma or the ongoing Politskovaya (sp?) case.]

MOSCOW (AP) — A new law drafted by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s Cabinet would allow authorities to label any government critic a traitor — a move that leading rights activists condemned Wednesday as a chilling reminder of the times under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

The draft extends the definition of treason from breaching Russia’s external security to damaging the nation’s constitutional order, sovereignty or territorial integrity. That would essentially let authorities interpret any act against the interests of the state as treason — a crime prosecutable by up to 20 years in prison.

Prominent rights activists said passage of the bill would catapult Russia’s justice system back to the times of Stalin’s purges.

“It returns the Russian justice to the times of 1920-1950s,” the activists said in a statement, urging lawmakers to oppose what they described as the “legislation in the spirit of Stalin and Hitler.”

The activists included the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, and the head of Civic Assistance, Svetlana Gannushkina.

Despite the criticism, the draft is likely to receive a quick approval by parliament, which is dominated by Kremlin loyalists.

The government systematically rolled back Russia’s post-Soviet political freedoms during Putin’s eight-year presidential tenure — and shows no signs of stopping.

The current law defines state treason as actions harming external security by passing information to foreign parties.

But Putin’s proposed bill broadens the term “treason” to include inaction as well as action, includes a breach to internal security and adds international organizations to foreign ones as those forbidden to receive state secrets.

Critics also warned the loose wording will give authorities ample leeway to prosecute those who cooperate with international rights groups.

Some Russian commentators said the government wants the new law in place quickly to curb possible protests resulting from the global financial crisis.

In a related move, the upper house of Russia’s parliament passed a bill Wednesday that would end jury trials for those facing charges of terrorism and treason.

The Kremlin-controlled Federation Council approved the bill 147-0 with two abstentions. It must be signed by President Dmitry Medvedev to take effect.

The bill strips defendants charged with some crimes — involvement in illegal armed units, violent seizures of power, armed rebellion and mass riots — of the right to jury trials. Instead they would face judges.

The bill’s authors say the change was necessary because they claim juries have acquitted many suspects despite strong incriminating evidence. Critics denounced the bill as another blow to democratic principles.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Far East

China Hands Death Penalty to 2 ‘Bent on Jihad’

[Tuan Jim comments: Quite frankly, this is one Chinese death penalty I’m not losing sleep over.]

Court: Muslim militants killed 17 police in attempt to sabotage Olympics

BEIJING — A Chinese court sentenced two people to death Wednesday for what it said was attempt to sabotage the Beijing Olympics with an attack in the far-west region of Xinjiang that killed 17 police days before the games.

The Xinhua News Agency said the sentences were handed down by the Kashgar Intermediate People’s Court. It did not give any other details. Calls to the court rang unanswered Wednesday.

The Aug. 4 attack, four days before the start of the Olympics, took place in the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar near the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. Two men stole a truck and rammed it into a group of police on their morning jog. The men continued attacking with homemade bombs and knives, killing the officers and wounding 15 others.

“The Kashgar court said the two conducted the terrorist attack to sabotage the Beijing Olympic Games that began Aug. 8,” Xinhua reported. It identified the two as Kashgar natives, Abdurahman Azat, 33, and Kurbanjan Hemit, 28.

The two are a taxi driver and vegetable seller who were “bent on jihad”, the city’s Communist Party secretary said in August. One of the men lost his arm when he set off an explosive device during the attack.

Chinese authorities say militants among the Uighurs — Turkic-speaking Muslims — are leading a violent Islamic separatist movement in Xinjiang and are seeking to set up an independent state in the Central Asia border province.

Critics accuse Beijing of using claims of terrorism as an excuse to crack down on peaceful pro-independence sentiment and expressions of Uighur identity.

About 1.5 percent of China’s 1.3 billion people are Muslim, according to the U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report. But not all of them are Uighurs or live in Xinjiang.

Wave of violence The Aug. 4 attack was the start of a wave of violence in Xinjiang. Six days later, bombers struck in the west-central Xinjiang county of Kuqa, targeting a police station, government building, bank and shops owned by Chinese. Police said they killed 10 attackers — including one woman — while a security guard and a bystander died in the violence. State media said another attacker, a 15-year-old girl, was injured.

On Aug. 12, attackers jumped from a vehicle and stabbed civilian guards, killing three of them at a roadside checkpoint in Yamanya town, near Kashgar. The assailants escaped.

No one has claimed responsibility for any of the incidents, though government officials have suggested terrorism is behind the violence.

In November, the same Kashgar court sentenced to death five ethnic Muslims who were accused of separatist activities.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Marijuana “Epidemic” Shows Japan’s Drug Allergy

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) — First a sumo wrestler, then an actor, now students at elite universities and a tennis player — the list of people caught using marijuana has sparked fears of reefer madness in Japan.

More than 2,000 people were arrested on dope charges between January and October this year, a 19 percent increase on the same period last year, according to the National Police Agency.

“(The) increase in marijuana abusers, as well as tightening regulations, are both factors that pushed up the number of arrests,” Shingo Katsuno, vice president and an expert on Japan’s drug issues at Hyogo University of Teacher Education, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“Japan is now highly interested in the issue because it is spreading in places like colleges, where it hardly existed before,” he added.

Television stations and newspapers have been running almost daily stories on high profile busts, drug dealers and ordinary people whose lives have allegedly been ruined by pot.

But experts point out that surveys suggest reality is a lot different — just one percent of 18-year olds in Japan have ever used marijuana according to a nationwide poll of about 40,000 students in 2006.

In fact, the “epidemic” scare stories are more indicative of how much Japan continues to resist the drug, Katsuno said.

“No other country is making such a big fuss with some 1 percent. This shows the strict awareness Japanese society has against drugs,” he said…..

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Immigration:EU Problem; Everybody Should Pay Costs, Frattini

(by Fabrizio Finzi) (ANSAmed) — TAORMINA, DECEMBER 16 — A revision of the European Pact on Immigration based on criteria of greater solidarity among the 27 countries of the European Union to reach a more equitable solution for the bearing of the sufferings and the costs of migratory flows. This is the strong call that the ten Mediterranean countries of the European Union (the ‘Olive Group’) has launched at the more northerly members of the EU, and to the forthcoming Czech presidency of the Union, which begins on January 1 2009. In Taormina for a two-day meeting, free from the constraints of any particular agenda, the foreign ministers of Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, Greece, Slovenia, Malta, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria concentrated most of their energies on the most difficult topic: how to stop the continuous flow of illegal immigrants which come knocking at the door of the southern European countries, without any continuous solution in sight. And, above all, how to call for greater community solidarity with the northern European nations who only experience the phenomenon in a very minor way. The sixth meeting of the ‘Olive Group’, which will be next repeated in 2009 in Portugal, has served to bring the ten Mediterranean countries closer together, bringing out a clear necessity to quickly recalibrate the attention of Brussels more towards the problems of the Mediterranean, after the fall of the Berlin Wall forced the EU to concentrate almost exclusively on its eastern borders. “In terms of immigration, we need to reach a way to redistribute the burdens in a European context, also in terms of people” and “there ought to be an effective sharing out of the weight of responsibility which migratory flows to Europe imply”, explained the Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, at the end of the event. The final document of the meeting, which expresses these views, will be presented to the Czech presidency of the EU, despite the relative informality of the conference: “the Mediterranean represents a fundamental test of the will and the capacity of the European Union to develop a truly shared policy to deal with illegal immigration and it is absolutely necessary to obtain concrete results through a mechanism of sharing the burdens and responsibilities” of this phenomenon, between the north and the south of Europe, reads the document. There was also great attention on the part of the Mediterranean countries on the European integration of the western Balkans which is to be encouraged and helped along. More specifically, Frattini said that he hopes Croatia “quickly” concludes its integration negotiations, preferably within 2010. Whilst for Serbia to “get ever closer to Europe”, Frattini said that it is, “politically essential to send a strong and positive signal to Belgrade”. Finally, energy security was the last big topic of the Taormina meetings. The ten countries confirmed the necessity to diversify sources of provisions and will ask for “more European financing” for the creation of new energy infrastructures for the Mediterranean. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Immigration Pumps Up Cyprus Population Growth

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, DECEMBER 16 — By the end of this year, the population of Cyprus is expected to be close to 802,000, following a 15% increase in 2008, nearly 12% of which was due to migration, and only 3.8% to natural cycles. Cyprus had a crude birth rate of 10.4% in 2008 and a death rate of 6.6%, which means the population grew 3.8%. Migration, at 11.7%, was the fourth highest in the EU after Luxembourg with 11.9%, Slovenia 12.6% and Ireland 14.1%. Net migration in the EU on average was 3.3%, while a number of member states recorded negative migration trends. These included Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. Most of the other member states had migration levels of less than five per cent. Cyprus’ birth rate hovered around the EU average of 10.8, but the island’s death rate at 6.6% was the second lowest in the bloc after Ireland’s 6.1%. The EU’s average death rate was 9.7%. Countries with a higher death rate than the average included Denmark, Germany, Italy, Sweden and several of the new member states. By January 1, 2009, the EU will have a population of 499.7 million, and the population of the euro zone area will be 328.6 million. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Immigration: Frattini, Now Need EU-Libya Agreement

(ANSAmed) — TAORMINA, DECEMBER 15 — The agreement signed by just Rome and Tripoli at the end of August to fight illegal immigration is not enough; a more general agreement is needed between the EU and Libya. Foreign Minister Franco Frattini is convinced of this, and said as much whilst speaking with journalists on his arrival in Taormina for the opening of an informal ministerial meeting of the EU Mediterranean countries. “We now need to negotiate a European agreement with Libya, because an agreement with Italy is no longer enough” he explained. “Today and tomorrow we will talk about how to impose a future EU-Libya agreement, which will of course include the theme of immigration”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


USA: Settlement Opens Amnesty for Thousands of Illegals

Thanks to a recent legal settlement, the chance to apply for amnesty is finally open to Aydin and tens of thousands of others who entered the country on a valid visa but fell out of legal status between 1982 and 1988. The settlement, approved this fall by a U.S. district court in Washington state, stems from a class-action lawsuit filed by attorney Peter Schey originally on behalf of an immigrant assistance program of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Atheist: U.S. Troops ‘Evangelizing’ in Combat

An atheist soldier who is suing Secretary Robert Gates for purportedly violating his religious rights is amending his lawsuit to include allegations of evangelizing in combat.

U.S. Army Spc. Dustin Chalker, a combat medic, claims videos discovered by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation reveal soldiers and Christian missionaries declaring their faith and saying they would like to spread Christianity to Muslims, the Associated Press reports. The recording allegedly shows embedded missionaries distributing Bibles.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Holiday Cheer Comes With a Price in One North Naples Neighborhood

NAPLES — A North Naples man and his family are trying to spread a little holiday cheer around their neighborhood this year with a yard full of Christmas decorations.

Instead, they say they’re getting a whole lot of “bah, humbug!” from their homeowners association, which is fining them each day the decorations stay up.

In early December Tom Hayes, 52, a retired New York police officer, put up about a dozen Christmas decorations in the front yard of his Ibis Cove home, 8700 Ibis Cove Circle, including an inflatable snowman, a Santa Claus who waves at passers-by, a Santa Claus on a see-saw, light-up presents and a Christmas countdown clock. Days later, Hayes said he received a letter from his property manager, Thomas J. Murphy, threatening a $100 per-day fine, up to $1,000, for each day the decorations are in place.

[…]

But Hayes said he doesn’t believe he is violating the rules, pointing out another community regulation that states “Christmas, Easter or any other holiday decoration cannot be displayed more than 30 days before said holiday and must be removed no longer than 14 days after said holiday.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Obama Invites ‘Gay’ Band for Inauguration Parade

The Ohio State University Marching Band and the Cleveland Firefighters Memorial Pipes and Drums have gotten more attention, but five members from another band with Northeast Ohio roots will play in President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration parade, too.

They’re from the Blazing River Freedom Band, part of the larger Lesbian and Gay Band Association. The Lesbian and Gay Band Association is made up of concert and marching bands from cities across the country.

This will be the first inaugural parade with an openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group. The Lesbian and Gay Band Association played for President Clinton’s two inaugurations, but only as sideline, pre-parade entertainment.

Inaugural committee spokeswoman Chris Mather said this year’s committee, which screened 1,382 groups, picked bands and events to reflect “our common values” and the history of the country.

“I am honored to invite these talented groups and individuals to participate in the Inaugural Parade,” Obama said in a statement earlier this month. “These organizations embody the best of our nation’s history, diversity and commitment to service.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

General

2008: Coolest Year of This Century

The year 2008 is officially the coolest year of this century — but U.N. climate change alarmists are sticking by their arguments for global warming.

World temperatures have dropped to levels not seen since 2000, the World Meteorological Organization, or WMO, reports.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


A Gentler Hegemony

[Tuan Jim comments: More common sense from Robert Kaplan]

Declinism is in the air. The latest conventional wisdom is that the combination of the disastrous Iraq war, the military and economic rise of Asia, and the steep recession in the West has chastened America, ending its period of dominance in world affairs. It is time for us to be humble.

There is a lot of truth to this, but it goes too far. For decline itself — as a concept — is overrated. Britain’s Royal Navy went into relative decline beginning in the 1890s, even as Great Britain remained powerful enough to help save the West in two world wars over the next half-century.

The proper analogy may be the Indian Mutiny in 1857 and 1858, after the orientalists and other pragmatists in the British power structure, who wanted to leave traditional India as it was, lost sway to Evangelical and Utilitarian reformers who wanted to more forcefully Christianize India — to make it in a values sense more like England. The reformers were good people: They helped abolish the slave trade and tried to do the same with the hideous practice of widow-burning. But their attempts to bring the fruits of Western civilization, virtuous as they were, to a far-off corner of the world played a role in a violent revolt against imperial authority.

Yet the debacle did not signal the end of the British Empire, which expanded for nearly another century. Rather, it signaled a transition away from an ad hoc imperium fired occasionally by an ill-disciplined lust to impose its values abroad — and to a calmer, more pragmatic and soldiering empire built on trade, education and technology.

That is akin to where we are now, post-Iraq: calmer, more pragmatic and with a military — especially a Navy — that, while in relative decline, is still far superior to any other on Earth. Near the end of the Cold War, the U.S. Navy had almost 600 ships; it is down to 280. But in aggregate tonnage that is still more than the next 17 navies combined. Our military secures the global commons to the benefit of all nations. Without the U.S. Navy, the seas would be unsafe for merchant shipping, which, in an era of globalization, accounts for 90 percent of world trade. We may not be able to control events on land in the Middle East, but our Navy and Air Force control all entry and exit points to the region. The multinational anti-piracy patrols that have taken shape in the Strait of Malacca and the Gulf of Aden have done so under the aegis of the U.S. Navy. Sure the economic crisis will affect shipbuilding, meaning the decline in the number of our ships will continue, and there will come a point where quantity affects quality. But this will be an exceedingly gradual transition, which we will assuage by leveraging naval allies such as India and Japan.

Then there are the dozens of training deployments around the world that the U.S. military, particularly Army Special Forces, conducts in any given week. We are all over Africa, Asia and Latin America with these small missions that increase America’s diplomatic throw-weight without running the risk of getting us bogged down. Aside from Iraq and Afghanistan, our military posture around the world is generally light, lethal and highly mobile. We have been quietly reducing land forces in South Korea while compensating with a more effective air and naval presence. In Colombia, platoon-size numbers of Green Berets have been instrumental in fighting narco-terrorists; in Algeria, such training teams have helped improve our relationship with that formerly radical Arab country. Such stripped-down American military deployments garner no headlines, but they are a formula that works.

The Marines, after becoming virtually desert forces since 2001, will return to their expeditionary roots aboard amphibious ships in the Greater Indian Ocean and Western Pacific. American military power is not going away. But instead of being in-your-face, it will lurk just over the horizon. And that will make all the difference.

In sum, we may no longer be at Charles Krauthammer’s “Unipolar Moment,” but neither have we become Sweden. Declinism of the sort being preached will go immediately out of fashion at the world’s next humanitarian catastrophe, when the very people enraged at the U.S. military because of Iraq will demand that it lead a coalition to save lives. We might have intervened in Darfur had we not been bogged down in Iraq; after Cyclone Nargis, our ships would have provided large-scale relief, had Burma’s military government allowed them to proceed. As world population rises, and with vast urban areas with tottering infrastructures in the most environmentally and seismically fragile zones, the opportunities for U.S. military-led disaster relief will be legion. The American military remains a force for good, a fact that will become self-evident in the crises to come.

Of course we are entering a more multipolar world. The only economic growth over the next year or two will come from developing nations, notably India and China. But there are other realities, too. We should not underestimate the diplomatic and moral leverage created by the combination of the world’s most expeditionary military and a new president who will boast high approval ratings at home and around the world. No power but the United States has the wherewithal to orchestrate an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, and our intervention in Iraq has not changed that fact. Everyone hates the word, but the United States is still a hegemon of sorts, able to pivotally influence the world from a position of moral strength.

Yet American hegemony post-Iraq will be as changed as Britain’s was after the Indian Mutiny. It will be a more benign and temperate version of what transpired in recent years. Henceforth, we will shape coalitions rather than act on our own. For that, after all, is the essence of a long and elegant decline: to pass responsibility on to like-minded others as their own capacities rise.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Scientists Debunk Global Warming

Over 650 international scientists are out of the closet and articulating their dissent over the folly of man-made global warming bull excrement.

[…]

The list is long and growing.

What remains amazing is that smart people (who ought to know better) continue to enable a scientifically discredited, overwhelmingly expensive, junk science boondoggle.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger remains captive of liberal lieutenants to feed the Hollywood myopics fueling the gospel according to Al Gore. President-elect Barack Obama seems intent on placating his disgruntled liberal base with the way expensive bone of global warming fanaticism.

Meanwhile, “real” threats from Iran, North Korea, Russia, China and wildcard terrorists are only exacerbated by the begrudging acknowledgement that terrorists have a major “Jones” to deploy biological weapons of mass destruction. States, national and global economies are lower than whale poop and bailout mania inevitably will spark big-time inflation.

Why do the nattering nabobs continue to feed the fictional global warming beast?

According to Dr. Arun D. Ahluwalia at Punjab University and a board member of the UN-supported International Year of the Planet, “The IPCC has actually become a closed circuit; it doesn’t listen to others. It doesn’t have open minds… I am really amazed that the Nobel Peace Prize has been given on scientifically incorrect conclusions by people who are not geologists.”

Frankly, the problem (which most pols are scared spitless to admit is a problem) is the same challenge scientists now face. Atmospheric physicists James A. Peden, formerly of the Space Research and Coordination Center in Pittsburgh, noted, “Many [scientists] are now searching for a way to back out quietly (from promoting warming fears), without having their professional careers ruined.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


U.N.: Oblivious to Science

“Yes, we can!” former Vice President Al Gore bellowed as the crowd went wild during his closing day speech at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Poznan, Poland, Friday. But it was not Barack Obama’s meaningless campaign motto they were excited about; instead, it was the prospect of using the U.N.’s global warming propaganda to spread American wealth.

In reality, the hit on the U.S. economy by the U.N.’s legally binding 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the planned 2009 Copenhagen treaty would drastically reduce America’s ability to make wealth, much less to increase its foreign aid and technology transfers, the essence of both treaties.

Most astonishing is that the global warming treaty is not based on sound science. The U.N. created its own political entity, the International Panel on Climate Change, to produce its own global warming conclusions. The U.N.’s IPCC conveniently ignores data and has made significant alterations to scientific documents after scientists approved them in order to convey human influence on climate.

It was because of politics, not science, that the IPCC and Gore were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Indian geologist Dr. Arun D. Ahluwalia at Punjab University and a board member of the U.N.-supported International Year of the Planet puts it this way: “The IPCC has actually become a closed circuit; it doesn’t listen to others. It doesn’t have open minds. I am really amazed that the Nobel Peace Prize has been given on scientifically incorrect conclusions by people who are not geologists.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

4 comments:

Joanne said...

“The lack of effective government action to protect these communities from abuses has established Iraq among the most dangerous places on earth for religious minorities,” said USCIRF’s chairperson, Felice D. Gaer.

Reading this kind of news really makes me wonder how appreciative Iraqis are of their Christian liberators. You would think the Iraqi government would be protecting these Iraqi Christians at least as a gesture of support for their Christian liberators, but no, they do nothing. I don't like it, and it casts a doubt over the whole Iraq liberation.

Joanne said...

Unfortunately, with all the white British jumping ship, they are leaving their own country behind and basically handing it over to their soon-to-be Muslim overlords instead of fighting for it. Well, Britain wouldn't have gotten itself into such a mess if it wasn't for the spinless in the first place, so it is easier to see how on earth it could have happened to a once proud and proper people.

The Poster Formerly Known as Gordon said...

Baron, I'm surprised that Michael Totten is still on your blogroll after this report: http://www.city-journal.org/2008/18_4_kosovo_muslims.html .

I'm sure you can find some way to discredit his report and whitewash its findings - so inconvenient to those who love the darling Serb Christians like Slobodan and Arkan.

rumcrook said...

in the last 8 years ive run into at least a dozen brit expats living here in the us, just average people trying for a better life.


I cant fault them. when your only one person and your up against a system that has decided to stack the deck against you making any changes for the better or preserving your culture and history. or stopping the tide of maliciousness,... sometimes you have to save yourself. a fools arrend and a wasted life tilting windmills? or a new life in a former colony with a chance at a bright future

Im not gonna judge any brits who throw in the towel and leave britain.