Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/23/2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/23/2008There are interesting stories tonight about a conflict over a mosque in Bulgaria.

Also, according to Stratfor, Ruthenia has declared independence from Ukraine and asks Moscow for support. It’s the Kosovo Effect, once again. A lasting legacy of the Bush administration.

Thanks to ACT for America, Diana West, DK, Insubria, JD, Tuan Jim, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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USA
50% Chance of Depression in US
ACORN, Soros Linked to Al Franken Vote Grab
California Scheming: What One-Party Rule is Doing to Once-Golden State
Eschewing Free Speech
Hillary Clinton Plans a More Powerful State Dept: NY Times
How to Win Islam Over
N.Y. Times Blames Bush for Mortgage Bonfire
NOAA’s Ark
On the Death of Deep Throat
Prominent Scientist Fired by Gore Says Warming Alarm “Mistaken”
Ramos-Compean Treatment Has Border Agents Quivering
Revision Run Amok
The Dhimmi USPO
US Commercial Property Industry Seeks Bailout Aid
Young Muslims Build a Subculture on an Underground Book
 
Canada
Canada: Please, Stack the Senate
 
Europe and the EU
Bulgaria Needs Time to Defeat Corruption, Says Sergei Stanishev
Bulgaria: Burgas Municipal Council’s Chairperson Resigns
Denmark: Bishop Offers Christmas Cheer to Mosque
European Court Nixes Eluana Appeal
Europe’s Choice for Christmas: Pink Trees or None at All
Finland: Court Moves to Deport Two Somalis
France: Muslims Protest Against Mosque Fire in Lyon
Polls: Extreme Right Pass Liberals; Hungarians Feeling the Pinch
Raunchy Swedish Bible Falls Foul of US Sensitivities
UK: Airport Strip-Searches Clown Over Terror Fears
UK: Britain Detains Several PKK Terrorists in London- Turkish Agency
 
Balkans
EU-Croatia: Brussels ‘Sorry’ for Slovenia Veto Adhesion
 
Mediterranean Union
Gulf: Poettering, GCC to Have Observers’ Role in Med Union
 
North Africa
Egypt: Children Starved to Coerce Mom to Renounce Christ
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Demonstration in Bethlehem in Support of Iraqi Shoe Thrower
Jimmy Carter: Terrorists Lack ‘Defense’ Against Israel
PNA: EU Social Allowances to Face Delays for Israel Stopping
Rocket Fire Ends Temporary Truce in Gaza
 
Middle East
“Hardly Comfortable for U.S. on Iraq’s Sofa”
Syria Demands Entire Golan Heights to Start Talks
Yes, the Shoe is Mightier Than the Grenade
 
Russia
Putin Hails End of ‘Cheap Gas’ Era
Russia Orders 70 Strategic Nuclear Missiles by 2011: Report
Ukraine, US Discuss Opening US Diplomatic Mission in Crimea
Ukraine: the Ruthenians and the Russian Resurgence
US Diplomat in Moscow to Discuss Latin America
 
Caucasus
Info on Czech Mercenaries in Georgia Russian Propaganda-NGO Head
 
South Asia
Death Penalty for Bangladesh Militants Who Attacked British Envoy With Grenade
Fini Visits Afghanistan
India Hardens Tone; Pakistan Calls Up Jets
Indonesia: HTI Rallies for ‘Khilafah’ [Caliphate]
 
Far East
China: From Guerilla Army to Modern Colossus
Japan: Sato Asked U.s. to Nuke China in War
Philippines: Pre-Christmas ‘Asg’ Grenade Attack Wounds 17 in Basilan
 
Australia — Pacific
Australia: Fatal Flaws in Website Censorship Plan, Says Report
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Zimbabwean Police Charge 4 Farmers for Defying Eviction Orders
 
Latin America
Hugo Chavez’s Red Terror on Hold
Obama Faces Swift Challenge From Latin America Leftists
 
Culture Wars
California AG Attacks Own Constitution
Pope Benedict Criticizes Homosexual Behavior
Pope Revealed to be Catholic, Shock Horror
Time Magazine: Obama is a ‘Bigot’
 
General
Completely Inadequate IPCC Models Produce the Ultimate Deception About Man Made Global Warming
Pope Tells Muslims That Conversions Deserve Respect
Protectionist Dominoes Are Beginning to Tumble Across the World

USA

50% Chance of Depression in US

San Francisco: The US economy has a 50 per cent chance of falling into a depression during the next three years, said Roger Farmer, a member of the National Bureau of Economic Research’s economic fluctuations and growth programme.

“There’s a significant probability things will get worse,” Farmer, 53, said during a phone interview Friday. “We’re certainly not at the end of the recession and things are getting worse.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


ACORN, Soros Linked to Al Franken Vote Grab

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, who orchestrated the recount that gave Democratic challenger Al Franken a lead some six weeks after incumbent GOP Sen. Norm Coleman appeared to win by 725 votes on Election Day, has extensive ties to both the ACORN organization now under federal investigation for vote fraud, and to MoveOn.org ultra-liberal kingmaker George Soros.

In 2006, ACORN endorsed Ritchie in his bid to become secretary of state, and Ritchie also received a campaign contribution that year from Soros.

Indeed, Ritchie has credited his own political career in large part to an obscure, Soros-funded group called the Secretary of State Project (SoS), whose express purpose is to seed state election bureaucracies nationwide with partisan activists — Ritchie among them — who are strategically positioned to influence the outcome of close recounts like the one now underway in Minnesota.

The SoS Web site lauds Ritchie as “arguably the most progressive secretary of state in America,” and states: “Thanks to SoS Project donors, Minnesota’s Mark Ritchie” a true champion for Democracy “was able to defeat a two-term incumbent Republican by less than 5 points. We helped close the gap and make the difference with cable television ads targeting women and seniors.”

Nor does Ritchie downplay the role of the Soros-funded nonprofit in his own election win.

[Return to headlines]


California Scheming: What One-Party Rule is Doing to Once-Golden State

[Comments from JD: Project this state government nationally and you get a glimpse of what’s in store for the entire USA.]

State Government: As the financial crisis in California gets worse, it’s pretty clear the real problem isn’t the budget at all, but a political system that has resulted in a dysfunctional one-party state.

California’s $41.8 billion budget deficit expected over the next two years is a record. No other state even comes close. But despite what the state’s politicians say, it’s not because of the recent economic downturn. It’s because of them.

The state has a budget crisis for the second time in a decade largely because the Democratic-held legislature has spent money wildly and without any real purpose.

A reasonable response from a mature group of individuals might be to cut spending — especially since polls show that most Californians don’t believe their taxes should be raised. Instead, they’ve chosen to thumb their noses at the people’s will. It shows the danger of what is in effect California’s one-party rule.

(…)

But spending has actually grown faster under Schwarzenegger. Since 2003, total spending is up $41 billion, or 40%, to $144.8 billion. The governator’s compromise plan to eliminate the massive deficit is only marginally better than the Democrats’ — he would cut the deficit through a 50-50 combo of tax hikes and spending cuts.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Eschewing Free Speech

Well, it’s official.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., will be promoting new “Fairness Doctrine” legislation in the next Congress.

Just so you understand, this will be a first for the United States of America, the birthplace of freedom of speech and freedom of the press, in many ways.

The old misnamed “Fairness Doctrine” was a regulation of the Federal Communications Commission and was scrapped in 1987. Congress considered legislating it back in for a couple years afterward. But the explosion of the multitude of voices that ensued as a result of the demise of the official government censorship was enough to allow cooler heads to prevail.

For instance, there were a total of 75 talk radio shows on the air in 1987. Today there are more than 3,000. Most people would acknowledge that is a healthy development for a free republic — but not Eshoo and many of her Democratic Party colleagues who will not be satisfied until government controls 100 percent of what you are permitted to read, hear and see in the media.

[…]

Then the Anna Eshoos of the world will set their targets on other outlets of free expression. How long do you think it will take for them to realize the Internet is the last bastion of dissenting voices?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Hillary Clinton Plans a More Powerful State Dept: NY Times

Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to build a more muscular US State Department, with a bigger budget, high-profile special envoys dispatched to trouble spots and an expanded role in dealing with the global economic crisis, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

The Times cited an unnamed Hillary Clinton adviser as saying her push for a more vigorous economic team stems from her belief that the State Department needs to play a part in the recovery from the global financial crisis, while economic issues also are at the heart of key diplomatic relationships, notably with China.

The former first lady also is reportedly likely to name several high-powered envoys to world hotspots.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


How to Win Islam Over

Recently aides have said [Barack Obama] may give a speech from a Muslim capital in his first 100 days. His hope, he has said, is to “make clear that we are not at war with Islam,” to describe to Muslims “what our values and our interests are” and to “insist that they need to help us to defeat the terrorist threats that are there.” This idea of trying to reconcile Islam and the West is well-intentioned, of course. But the premise is wrong.

Such an initiative would reinforce the all-too-accepted but false notion that “Islam” and “the West” are distinct entities with utterly different values. Those who want to promote dialogue and peace between “civilizations” or “cultures” concede at least one crucial point to those who, like Osama bin Laden, promote a clash of civilizations: that separate civilizations do exist. They seek to reverse the polarity, replacing hostility with sympathy, but they are still following Osama bin Laden’s narrative.

Instead, Obama, the first “post-racial” president, can do better. He can use his power to transform perceptions to the long-term advantage of the U.S. The page he should try to turn is not that of a supposed war between America and Islam, but the misconception of a monolithic Islam being the source of the main problems on the planet: terrorism, wars, nuclear proliferation, insurgencies and the like.

This will be an uphill battle, since this view of a monolithic, dangerous Islam has gained wide acceptance. Whether we’re talking about civil war in Iraq, insurgency in Afghanistan, unrest in Kashmir, conflict in Israel-Palestine, nuclear ambitions in Iran, rebellion in the Philippines or urban violence in France, people routinely — but wrongly — single out Islam as the explanation, rather than nationalism or separatism, political ambitions or social ills. This in turn reinforces the idea of a global struggle.

[…]

If the idea of a Muslim summit meeting should be dropped, then what should Obama do?

No more — but also no less — than carrying out the ambitious program he put forward during the campaign: closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, withdrawing from Iraq, banning torture, pushing for peace in the Middle East and so forth.

These are not in any sense concessions to “Islam,” but on the contrary a reassertion that American values are universal and do not suffer any kind of double standard, and that they could be shared by atheists, Christians, Muslims and others.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


N.Y. Times Blames Bush for Mortgage Bonfire

‘He pushed hard to expand homeownership, especially among minorities’

[Comments from JD: New York Times rewriting history. No wonder the paper is tanking.]

The global financial system was teetering on the edge of collapse when President George W. Bush and his economics team huddled in the Roosevelt Room of the White House for a briefing that, in the words of one participant, “scared the hell out of everybody.”

It was Sept. 18. Lehman Brothers had just gone belly-up, overwhelmed by toxic mortgages. Bank of America had swallowed Merrill Lynch in a hastily arranged sale. Two days earlier, Bush had agreed to pump $85 billion into the failing insurance giant American International Group.

The president listened as Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, laid out the latest terrifying news: The credit markets, gripped by panic, had frozen overnight, and banks were refusing to lend money.

Then his Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson Jr., told him that to stave off disaster, he would have to sign off on the biggest government bailout in history.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


NOAA’s Ark

Transition: President-elect Obama chooses as his science adviser and head of our weather research agency two global warming activists who believe your SUV is driving us over a climate cliff.

Personnel is policy, the political cliche goes, and on Saturday the Obama administration’s policy on global warming became clear.

He nominated Harvard physicist John Holden to be his science adviser as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology, and marine biologist Jane Lubchenco to head to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Both are global warming true believers. “Global warming is a misnomer,” Holden said a year ago in a speech at Harvard. “It implies something gradual, something uniform, something quite possibly benign, and what we’re experiencing is none of those. There is already widespread harm . . . occurring from climate change. This is not just a problem for our children and grandchildren.”

(…)

As for Lubchenco, she has warned that even if the world abruptly shifts away from fossil fuels, the oceans will continue to soak up carbon dioxide and become more acidic. She recommends protecting marine life by reducing overfishing, cutting back on nutrient runoff and creating marine reserves to protect marine ecosystems.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


On the Death of Deep Throat

“De mortuis nil nisi bonum.”

Of the dead, nothing but good.

So said Dean Acheson of Sen. Joe McCarthy on his death in 1957. “Tailgunner Joe” had bedeviled the secretary of state for his lassitude toward communist penetration of State in President Truman’s time.

But the passing of Mark Felt, associate director of the FBI in the later Nixon years, lately exposed as “Deep Throat,” the source for the Woodward-Bernstein stories, calls forth some rebuttal to the tributes lavished upon Felt as the honest lawman who saved our republic.

When the Watergate break-in was traced to the Committee to Reelect the President, Felt was put in charge of the FBI investigation. Almost immediately, he began to leak to Woodward.

Felt, it is said, was justified, as the White House was interfering with his investigation. False.

This is a moral cloak belatedly cast over more base motives.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Prominent Scientist Fired by Gore Says Warming Alarm “Mistaken”

Monday, Dec 23, 2008WASHINGTON, DC ; Award winning Princeton University Physicist Dr. Will Happer, who was reportedly fired by former Vice President Al Gore in 1993 for failing to adhere to Gore’s scientific views, has now declared man-made global warming fears “mistaken.”

“I am convinced that the current alarm over carbon dioxide is mistaken,” Happer, who has published over 200 scientific papers, told EPW on December 22, 2008. Happer made his remarks while requesting to join the 2008 U.S. Senate Minority Report from Environment and Public Works Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) of over 650 (and growing) dissenting international scientists disputing anthropogenic climate fears. [Note: Joining Happer as new additions to the Senate report, are at least 10 more scientists, including meteorologists from Germany, Netherlands and CNN, as well as a professors from MIT and University of Arizona. See below for full quotes and bios of the new skeptical scientists added to the groundbreaking report, which includes many current and former UN IPCC scientists.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Ramos-Compean Treatment Has Border Agents Quivering

A team of Mexican drug smugglers unloaded $1 million worth of drugs across the U.S. border, spraying bullets at U.S. Border Patrol agents with automatic weapons, but the agents dared not return fire — as one official said they fear losing their jobs or ending up behind bars like agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Revision Run Amok

[Comments from JD: IBD clearly sees the revisionism at work in trying to pin the entire blame for the economic meltdown on Bush.]

Media Bias: The paper of record blames the “mortgage bonfire” on President Bush and his “laissez-faire” housing policies. But to get there, the Times completely ignored history prior to 2002.

That’s when Bush gave a speech in Atlanta and announced a goal to increase minority homeowners by 5.5 million. According to the Times, this was the event that started the mortgage meltdown.

“He pushed hard to expand homeownership, especially among minorities,” its lengthy front-page piece asserts. “But his housing policies encouraged lax lending standards.”

If the Times had said the same thing about Bush’s predecessor, its story might have a kernel of truth to it.

Seeking to lock in minority voters for Democrats, Bill Clinton in 1993 set a national homeownership goal of 55% for blacks, a major increase from existing levels.

To achieve it, he tasked his regulators to lead an anti-redlining crusade against the banking industry that included revising Community Reinvestment Act regulations to pressure banks to adopt “flexible” lending standards for low-income borrowers.

Clinton also pressured Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy not just subprime loans, but also subprime securities, to meet “affirmative action” lending quotas.

These actions — which were far more concrete than anything Bush did to encourage minority homeownership — were never cited in the Times’ nearly 5,000-word piece.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


The Dhimmi USPO

Want to send your brother-in-law in Iraq a Bible? An ikon? A kippah? Some joss sticks? Forget it. All that is “contrary to Islamic faith.” Qur’ans and other Islamic articles only, please.

Sharia Alert from…the United States Postal Service: “Overseas Military Mail,” from the U.S. Postal Service:

Mail addressed to military post offices overseas is subject to certain conditions or restrictions of mailing regarding content, preparation, and handling. The APO/FPO table below outlines these conditions by APO/FPO ZIP Codes through the use of footnoted mailing restrictions codes…

           — Hat tip: ACT for America[Return to headlines]


US Commercial Property Industry Seeks Bailout Aid

NEW YORK, Dec 22 (Reuters) — A group of trade associations representing the U.S. commercial real estate industry is lobbying to be included in the U.S. Federal Reserve’s $200 billion asset-backed bailout plan in order to head off a wave of foreclosures over the next few years.

In a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, industry organizations have asked that the $200 billion Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF) provide guarantees or financing, or purchase highly rated asset-backed securities collateralized by new or recently originated mortgages.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


World’s Biggest Ponzi Scheme

The fiat currency house of cards is tumbling down because the international bankers just exhaled a puff of the expensive smoke from their Cuban Cohiba Behike cigar and blew on it. In other words, it was planned. It is time now for the next phase of their plan. It’s high time someone put it all together, without focusing on individual trees. There is a reason that the system was set up this way; there is a reason why home loans were offered to folks who couldn’t possibly pay them back and there is a reason why this all happening.

Put succinctly, this is all part of the Agenda 21 plan. Look closely at the map and notice just how much land area are “little or no human activity” zones. Notice how the small towns have disappeared and there are only major cities with specific travel corridors between them. That’s right, losing your job, your house, your land is part of their plan. NAFTA, CAFTA and GATT were part of this plan were enacted to get rid of the American manufacturing base and all the associated jobs. Without a home (or any viable housing options), a job and food, you have no other choice but to go where those necessities are located: the city.

[Return to headlines]


Young Muslims Build a Subculture on an Underground Book

CLEVELAND: Five years ago, young Muslims across the United States began reading and passing along a blurry, photocopied novel called “The Taqwacores,” about imaginary punk rock Muslims in Buffalo.

[…]

The novel is “The Catcher in the Rye” for young Muslims, said Carl Ernst, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Springing from the imagination of Michael Muhammad Knight, it inspired disaffected young Muslims in the United States to form real Muslim punk bands and build their own subculture.

[…]

He said he wrote “The Taqwacores” to mend the rift between his being an observant Muslim and an angry American youth. He found validation in the life of Muhammad, who instructed people to ignore their leaders, destroy their petty deities and follow only Allah.

After reading the novel, many Muslims e-mailed Muhammad Knight, asking for directions to the next Muslim punk show. Told that no such bands existed, some of them created their own, with names like Vote Hezbollah and Secret Trial Five.

One band, the Kominas, wrote a song called “Suicide Bomb the Gap,” which became Muslim punk rock’s first anthem.

“As Muslims, we’re not being honest if we criticize the United States without first criticizing ourselves,” said Kamel, 23, who grew up in a Syrian family in Chicago. He is lead singer of the band al-Thawra, “the Revolution” in Arabic.

For many young American Muslims, the merger of Islam and rebellion resonated.

Hanan Arzay, 15, is a daughter of Muslim immigrants from Morocco who lives in East Islip, New York. In the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, pedestrians threw eggs and coffee cups at the van that transported her to a Muslim school, she said, and one person threw a wine bottle, shattering the van’s window.

At school, her Koran teacher threw chalk at her for requesting literal translations of the holy book, Arzay said. After she was expelled from two Muslim schools, her uncle gave her “The Taqwacores.”

“This book is my lifeline,” Arzay said. “It saved my faith.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Canada

Canada: Please, Stack the Senate

On Dec. 1, when Canadians were just learning of the coalition the federal Liberals and NDP made with the separatist Bloc Québécois to bring down the Conservative minority government, one of the first things that popped into my mind was: the prime minister should stack the Senate.

I came to that immediate conclusion while reading the document An Accord on a Co-operative Government to Address the Present Economic Crisis, signed by now ousted Liberal leader Stéphane Dion and NDP leader Jack Layton. That short document with the long name covers just 21/4 pages and succinctly outlines how the parties would work together.

On Page 2, under the subtitle “appointments,” the coalition document reads: “Both parties are committed to restoring the integrity, transparency and efficiency of the appointments process in the Public Service and in federal bodies like the Supreme Court, the Senate and commissions like the CRTC.”

There is Orwellian doublespeak in that sentence. After all, how do you restore integrity with an illegitimate government propped up by people whose main aim is to destroy the country? The document continues: “The prime minister” — meaning Dion — “will consult the leader of the NDP as appropriate on appointments.”

Think about that. Dion, in his unsanctioned, separatist-supported coalition with the socialists, was prepared to appoint Liberal, NDP and possibly Bloc senators and Supreme Court judges!…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Bulgaria Needs Time to Defeat Corruption, Says Sergei Stanishev

The leader of Europe’s most corrupt country has pleaded for it not to be judged by the same high standards as established EU states, after being told to speed up reforms or lose funding.

Sergei Stanishev, the Bulgarian Prime Minister, told The Times that it was unfair to expect his country to have reached the same levels as Sweden after only two years as a member of the European Union.

With critics suggesting that Bulgaria was allowed to join the EU too hastily to avoid its turning back towards Russia, José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission President, said that he would not tolerate any second-class states. He called for evidence in the next few months that reforms to the judicial and police systems in Sofia were delivering results.

Mr Stanishev has struggled to persuade Brussels to release more than €500 million (£470 million) of aid that has been frozen because it might be at risk from corruption. In Bulgaria there is a growing chorus, including in Mr Stanishev’s party, to look more for financial support from Russia, which is offering lucrative energy deals through Gazprom……

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Bulgaria: Mosque Causes Quarrel Between Municipal Councillors in Burgas

Burgas. The municipal councilors in the Bulgarian seaside city of Burgas held a session on Saturday, as they did not manage to discuss all topics on their Friday agenda, Focus News Agency’s correspondent in the city reported. The councilors adopted more than twenty points from the agenda. However, the calm atmosphere in the hall was disrupted when the MPs were to vote on a report that amends the current city plan and drafts a project to build a council estate, children’s playground and mosque. The issue triggered the discontent of the Attack party councilors. For more than an hour the councilors were arguing whether an area to construct a mosque should be granted or not. Deputy mayor in charge of construction Kostadin Markov said Saturday’s decision had nothing to do with the right to build and that this issue would be considered at another session. Despite the exchange of harsh words and insults, the councilors adopted the report, granting a terrain for the construction of a mosque. 30 councilors voted in favor, 13 against and one abstained.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Bulgaria: Municipality in Burgas Gives Green Light for Mosque Construction

The City Council in Burgas decided to give away 700 square meters of land property to the Muslim community in the seaside city for the construction of a new temple, Saturday.

The decision met the furious resistance of right-wing nationalists in the Municipal Parliament. Members of the ATAKA group argued that the city had already given away another property for the construction of a temple.

This however is only a decision to give away land. If the construction of a temple should be allowed is yet to be decided on the City Council’s next session, to be held after the Christmas vacation.

The need for a new Muslim temple in the city of Burgas arose after an illegal building that local Muslims used for prayer was demolished last week.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Bulgaria: Burgas Municipal Council’s Chairperson Resigns

Burgas. Valeri Simeonov, chairperson of the Municipal Council of the coastal town of Burgas, filed his resignation, FOCUS News Agency reporter informs. “My decision to resign as chairperson of the Municipal Council of Burgas is due to the decision to build a mosque in the Meden Rudnik residential district in Burgas. I can no longer be a chairperson of a municipal council, which allows for a Muslim temple to be constructed on municipal terrains”, Simeonov said at a press conference. Simeonov explained that the third point stated in his election campaign was to close down the mosque, which operated in Meden Rudnik in a building represented as a pasty shop. “The terrain in question is perfect for construction of children’s playground. After all the procedures required, the building was destroyed about ten days ago”, Simeonov added.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Some other articles have pointed out that there are supposedly only 2000 muslims in all of Bulgaria (not sure about accuracy) and the discrepancy in some of these public measures for such a small group.]

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Denmark: Bishop Offers Christmas Cheer to Mosque

The Bishop of Copenhagen, Erik Norman Svendsen, will take part in an event at the Nusrat Djahan mosque tomorrow to pass the Christmas message along to worshippers. Kristeligt Dagblad newspaper reports that the Hvidovre mosque’s event will also include prayers…

Kristeligt Dagblad newspaper reports that the Hvidovre mosque’s event will also include prayers and recitations from the Koran.

‘It is in harmony with my Christian faith to agree to tell them what a Christian Christmas is about and what it means for me,’ the bishop said, adding that he didn’t see the visit as an attempt to missionise.

‘The visit is more friendly and informative’.

           — Hat tip: DK[Return to headlines]


European Court Nixes Eluana Appeal

Plea against Italian right- to- die ruling ‘inadmissable’

(ANSA) — Strasbourg, December 22 — The European Court of Human Rights on Monday turned down an appeal against a landmark ruling by Italy’s supreme court which would allow doctors to end the life of a woman who has been in an irreversible coma for almost 17 years.

The Strasbourg court said the appeal in the Eluana Englaro case lodged by pro-life Italian organisations was inadmissable because they had no direct legal link with the woman.

The decision by Milan’s appeal court, confirmed by the supreme court in November, regards ‘‘only the people directly involved,’’ it added.

The latest ruling was the last legal recourse for pro-life campaigners, who have pitted themselves against Eluana’s father, Beppino Englaro, in his decade-long fight to earn the right for a dignified end to his daughter’s life.

The right-to-die ruling from the Cassation Court split Italy in November, with Catholic politicians and the Vatican claiming it authorises euthanasia and libertarians hailing it as a victory for individual liberty.

As a result, Beppino Englaro has yet to find a clinic willing to remove his daughter’s feeding tube and allow her to die.

The Lombardy region, where 38-year-old Eluana is cared for by nuns at Lecco’s Beato Luigi Talamoni clinic, has always refused to offer clinics or health workers to help her end her life.

Last week a public-assisted clinic in Udine in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region offered its services, but a last-minute guideline issued by Health Minister Maurizio Sacconi stating that the removal of feeding tubes from patients in a vegetative state was ‘‘illegal’’ halted her transfer from Lecco.

Sacconi also suggested that there could be ‘‘administrative consequences’’ if the clinic did not follow the guideline, which some observers claimed was a veiled threat to strip it of its funding and certification.

The Milan Appeals Court and the Constitutional Court have since said that Sacconi’s guideline is not relevant to Eluana’s case because of the definitive ruling in the courts.

But a stalemate remains in place after the Udine clinic asked regional authorities to back its decision following Sacconi’s comments.

Friuli-Venezia Giulia’s centre-right governor Renzo Tondo, who has expressed sympathy with Beppino Englaro, has nevertheless insisted that the case is a private issue between the Englaro family and the clinic. On Monday the president of the regional council, the centre-right Northern League’s Edouard Ballaman, echoed Tondo’s stance that the case was ‘‘a private matter’’.

‘‘Personally I hope that the woman continues to live, but I can’t interfere with the decisions of her father,’’ he said.

Other local politicians from the Northern League and the Catholic UDC meanwhile threatened a ‘‘political crisis’’ if the region did not explicitly rule out the possibility of Eluana dying in Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

Tondo called for reflection on Monday, hinting that significant developments in the case are unlikely over the Christmas period..

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Europe’s Choice for Christmas: Pink Trees or None at All

Be prepared for a homosexual parody of Christmas when you take a stroll through Amsterdam these days. The Dutch city, the self-declared “gay capital of the world,” is holding its first “Pink Christmas Festival.”

>From 18 until 28 December there is a ten-day “Christmas Festival” for homosexuals, including a “gay X-mas open-air market”, gay nativity scenes — featuring Baby Jesus with either two Josephs or two Marys “ several gay gatherings, a “pink ice skating rink” (for travestites), and streets lined with pink Christmas trees.

The organizers, who also organize the Amsterdam Gay Pride Parade each August, say they want to “increase the range of options for homosexual men and women during Christmas week when there is not much to do.” They intend to turn the event into an annual Pink Christmas Festival and expect that in the long run Pink Christmas will become even more popular than the August Gay Pride Parade, a floating Parade on barges and boats through the famous Amsterdam canals.

The Dutch Calvinist merchants, who built the canals in the 17th century to provide easy access to their warehouses, could never have imagined that their spoilt, affluent offspring would turn the city, which they made into the commercial hub and the capitalist center of the world, into the world’s showpiece of depravity. Today’s Amsterdammers hold nothing sacred of what their ancestors cared for, except money.

Pink Christmas, the organizers say, is also an attempt to “reclaim Amsterdam for gays” and to counter the rising intolerance in the city. Over the past years, assaults on homosexuals have occurred with increasing frequency. Though the parades, parties and festivals continue, homosexual couples who venture into the streets risk being beaten up or thrown into one of the canals.

While the homosexuals make a parody of Christmas, mocking the Christians with an open show of blasphemy during the holy season, it is not the Christians whom the homosexuals fear. Those who pretend that “religious people” are intolerant will find few examples among the remaining followers of Christ in Holland. The attacks on homosexuals are perpetrated by Muslim youths. The growing presence of Islam in the Dutch capital, which is already almost 20 per cent Muslim, has made life in the city less gay than it used to be.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Finland: Growing Number of Asylum-Seekers Increases Interpreter Need

Today interpreting services are needed for some 80 different languages in Finland. The demand for interpreting services is growing with the influx of asylum-seekers.

Finnish hospitals and social service units particularly lack access to interpreters. Interpreters often need to be knowledgeable of medical terminology, and this requirement tends to minimise the pool of available interpreters.

While English and French can often be relied upon for communicating most things, there is little room for misunderstanding when it comes to crucial issues.

“It’s never recommended to use children as interpreters. Children should not be forced to deal with adult matters,” says Tatjana Andrejev of the Helsinki City’s Interpretation Services Unit.

Schools, associations as well as the national population register have been canvassed for possible new recruits.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Finland: Court Moves to Deport Two Somalis

The Supreme Administrative Court has upheld a decision to deport Somali youths who were earlier found guilty of committing a series of crimes in Finland.

The court also considered deporting a third Somali youth for similar offences. However, the court found his deportation would be inappropriate as he came to Finland at the age of ten and has lived here for sixteen years.

All of the men had been found guilty of a series of crimes as and had received terms of imprisonment or fines. They had appealed a decision first made in 2005 for their expulsion.

In the autumn of 2007, another court ruled that the three could be deported to northern Somali, as it was judged to be peaceful and stable enough that they could resume their lives there. The three then appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court that announced its decision on Monday.

Said Karshe Aden, Chairman of the Finnish Somali League, says that while the youngsters’ crimes are deplorable, he doesn’t think the deportation order makes any sense.

“Societal problems are not solved by deporting one or two people that have come here as children. The roots of the problem lie elsewhere. These people should instead be rehabilitated and helped,” says Aden.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


France: Muslims Protest Against Mosque Fire in Lyon

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, DECEMBER 22 — A surge of emotion and protests has been seen in France after the case of arson in the Saint-Priest mosque in the Lyon suburbs. Several thousand people demonstrated yesterday in front of the Muslim place of prayer to denounce growing discrimination and fear of the Islamic faith in the country, and to request more concrete action by the state. President Nicolas Sarkozy has said that he “firmly” condemns this “shameful, racist act”. Political figures and associations have also spoken out, such as the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism, in support of the Muslim Community. Meanwhile, the Regional Council for the Muslim Faith, in denouncing about ten anti-Islamic acts taking place this year only in Lyons, asked for “recognition of these Islamophobic acts”, and a day for national mobilization against every form of racism. Muslim Collective of France went even farther and asked for “a law against Islamophobia”, in the line of those against Anti-Semitism and Homophobia. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Polls: Extreme Right Pass Liberals; Hungarians Feeling the Pinch

Budapest- More Hungarians would vote for an extreme right party than for a liberal party that was part of the governing coalition until April this year, according an opinion poll published in the left-wing Nepszabadsag daily on Monday. If a general election were to be held immediately, two per cent of Hungarians polled in mid-December said they would vote for the extreme nationalist Jobbik Movement for a Better Hungary, the poll found.

That places Jobbik one percentage point ahead of the liberal Alliance of Free Democrats, which quit government in April in frustration over the Hungarian Socialist Party’s refusal to implement drastic cuts to social spending.

Neither party would make it into parliament, however, as the Hungarian proportional representation system requires parties to pass a threshold of five per cent of votes cast.

The survey found that 42 per cent of Hungarians were undecided or did not intend to vote.

The socialists, led by Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany and governing alone without an outright majority, would get the votes of 19 per cent of Hungarians. Their arch rival Fidesz, a centre-right opposition party, would form the new government with the backing of 31 percent of the electorate.

The Socialist party, which rose from the ashes of the communist Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party after the change of system almost two decades ago, draws its support from the over-50s and urban Hungarians. Supporters of the centre-right Fidesz party tend to be under 50 and from smaller towns and villages,

The survey was conducted by pollster Szonda-Ipsos for the left- wing daily, and used a representative sample of 1,500 Hungarians of voting age.

Hungary’s next general election is scheduled for April 2010.

Another survey published on Monday, in the right-wing daily Magyar Nemzet, shows that Hungarians are growing increasingly gloomy about the effects of the global financial crisis.

Pollster Forsense found that 68 per cent of Hungarians are feeling the effects of the crisis, up from 61 per cent in November and 44 per cent in October.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Raunchy Swedish Bible Falls Foul of US Sensitivities

A Swedish modern version of the bible has caused a storm after its launch in the United States. Sexy pictures and men kissing were not deemed suitable material for the US market and have been removed.

The release of “The Book” has caused a storm of protests from religious groups and it’s creator, Dag Söderberg, has been subjected to hate mail and threats on community website YouTube, according to the Swedish newspaper Metro.

The original Swedish version of “The Book” was launched in the spring of 2007 and was considered to contain images too sensitive for the more religious US market and has been duly purged of its more sexual content. “It is because of cultural differences. Sex is very sensitive in the USA,” said Dag Söderberg to Metro.

Among the pictures that have been removed include a revealing busty pic of Swedish model Victoria Silverstedt and a graphic photograph of two men engaged in a passionate tongue-entwined embrace.

The book, a 286-page glossy high-end magazine, is marketed in the USA under the name Bible Illuminated: The Book. The New Testament edition has been recently released with the Old Testament scheduled for publication in the spring of 2009.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


UK: Airport Strip-Searches Clown Over Terror Fears

[Comments from JD: The only clowns to worry about are the politicians.]

Birmingham Airport security chiefs strip-searched a clown on his way onto a plane — because they thought he could’ve been a terrorist.

Kids entertainer Dave Vaughan — aka PC Konk the clown — was frisked by security guards at Birmingham International Airport after setting off a security alarm, and was ordered by cops to strip down from his clown costume to shorts and tee-shirt.

Stunned PC Konk — who was wearing bright blue clown trousers, massive shoes and a flashing police helmet — was trying to board a flight for disadvantaged kids.

He had been booked by Variety Club Midlands to perform for kids on the Search for Santa trip, which involves a one-hour round flight.

PC Konk was even made to hand over his plastic handcuffs, as they were deemed a “risk”.

Dave, 60, from Shard End, Birmingham, who has been a kids entertainer for 25 years, said: “I just couldn’t believe it when they told me to get undressed so they could search me and my belongings.

“I showed them my policeclown identity card, which had my picture next to the my credentials as a member of the Criminal Insane Department, but I don’t think that really helped!”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Britain Detains Several PKK Terrorists in London- Turkish Agency

[Commentary from Tuan Jim: haven’t seen confirmation of this in any British media yet.]

Several PKK members were detained in London during raids carried out by British security forces on the terror organization’s offices, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported on Tuesday.

Britain, which implements a ban on the PKK terror organization and its members, launched an operation Monday night into clubs providing financial support and man power to the PKK, Anatolian Agency reported.

British police detained several club members, including the head of the club, and seized many documents regarding the terror organization, the agency said.

Police also searched cars and homes of club members, it added.

In February, Selman Bozkur, a leading PKK terrorist who had reportedly entered the United Kingdom in January, was detained and deported. Despite such encouraging actions, however, British authorities have not been willing to extradite suspects such as Bozkur directly into Turkish custody.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, including the EU and the United States.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


UK: Teachers Need Power to Deal With Indiscipline in Schools

Boys (and, increasingly in recent years, girls) have always fought in the school playground. The hormones and tensions that abound during adolescence make clashes inevitable. Occasionally, they develop into more serious disturbances.

In the past, these would be broken up by teachers and dealt with by the headmaster. Nowadays, the police are more likely to be called.

If there is serious violence or a weapon is used, then the involvement of the police is to be expected; but, on the face of it, figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act appear to show a shocking state of affairs. Officers are attending 40 incidents a day in England and Wales, suggesting that schools are far more violent places than they once were — except that a large proportion of these incidents will have been old-fashioned playground fights.

Police complain that they are being called out to incidents that should be resolved by the school itself, because teachers cannot properly impose the necessary discipline. They cannot intervene because to do so risks an accusation of assault from the child and, depressingly, a visit from a parent — not to apologise, but to exact retribution on the teacher. Heads are no longer able to mete out the punishment that would have nipped trouble in the bud 40 years ago and are forced to resort to excluding pupils who might otherwise have an unblemished record. Even detention is considered to be a breach of a pupil’s “rights” and schools have to give 24 hours’ notice before making a child stay behind.

Until powers are restored to teachers to intervene in playground fights, use reasonable force to defend themselves or other pupils and punish transgressors properly, order in schools will continue to deteriorate, to the detriment of the vast majority of pupils who want to study.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Balkans

EU-Croatia: Brussels ‘Sorry’ for Slovenia Veto Adhesion

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 18 — The European Union will only take small step forward in negotiations for Croatia’s adhesion to the European Union, due to Slovenia’s veto connected to the border dispute between the two Balkan nations. “The French Presidency of the EU has exerted substantial efforts in order to propose a solution that would allow for getting past the Slovenian veto and to continue with the negotiations”, said the spokesman for the European Commissioner for Enlargement, Olli Rehn. Slovenia is worried that the possible adhesion of Croatia to the EU could compromise a solution to the border dispute that began in 1991, when the two countries obtained independence. To get past the worries expressed by Ljubljana, and to open tomorrow ten of the 35 chapters the adhesion treaty is based on, the French Presidency of the EU has proposed the writing of a letter to Zagreb explaining that progress in negotiations will not involve a solution to the border dispute, and asking for the letter to be countersigned. But Slovenia hasn’t accepted the French initiative (“The commission is sorry that Slovenia has not accepted the solution proposed by the French Presidency”, said a spokesperson for the EU executive branch) and has maintained its veto, for which, tomorrow only one new chapter will be opened accompanied by the closure of two. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


EU-Croatia: Rehn, Conflict Slovenia Not to Delay Accession

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 19 — “The conflict border between Croatia and Slovenia is a bilateral issue which shouldn’t have an impact on the accession process of Zagreb”, said EU Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn today after the EU-Croatia conference. Instead of the ten chapters the French presidency proposed to open, due to Slovenia’s veto only one was opened and two were provisionally closed. “The presidency has made a great effort to mediate and we’re sorry that no solution has been found” added Rehn, who invited Croatia to “go ahead anyway with the reforms that will allow at least technical progress”. Slovenia is concerned that an eventual accession of Croatia in the EU could jeopardise the solution of the border conflict which was never resolved since 1991, since the two countries became independent. “We have guaranteed that the accession of Croatia to the EU will not keep us from reaching an agreement with our Slovenian neighbours, but that’s not enough for them” said Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Jandrokovic. Both the minister and Commissioner Rehn assured that “the agenda of negotiations remains unchanged” which leaves the possibility of closing the technical negotiations in 2009. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Gulf: Poettering, GCC to Have Observers’ Role in Med Union

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 22 — The GCC should be given a stake in a new Union of Mediterranean and European countries because of the growing economic and political influence of its members, the president of the European Parliament Hans-Gert Pottering said yesterday as reportet by The National website. Hans-Gert Poettering, who was in the UAE for an official visit during a tour in some Gulf countries, said the nations should be granted non-voting memberships. “I would regard it as useful to have observers in the parliament representing the GCC,” said Mr Poettering, who is the president of both the European Parliament and the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly (EMPA), the legislative body of the planned Union for the Mediterranean. Speaking as EMPA president, he said: “They could make a contribution to the development of the Mediterranean politically and economically. They should know what’s going on in our assembly so it would be beneficial to both.” Mr PÃÂttering said he proposed GCC observer status to the president of Oman’s Shura Council and to the Speaker of the UAE’s Federal National Council, Abdul Aziz al Ghurair. The idea was “well-received”, he said, adding that he hoped the GCC would approve the idea at its meeting in Muscat on Dec 29 and 30. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Children Starved to Coerce Mom to Renounce Christ

Authorities in Egypt are starving children ages 2 and 4 to try to force their mother to abandon Christianity and return to Islam, according to reports from several ministry organizations.

The Egypt for Christ Ministry is reporting the woman, who converted to Christianity about five years ago and was arrested as she tried to leave her home country just days ago, also has been sexually assaulted by police officers.

The woman, identified by the ministry as Martha Samuel, also has been beaten and tortured in effort to force her to return to Islam, with police promises for her release if she accepts, reports are confirming.

The Assyrian International News Agency said Samuel was arrested last week as she, her husband and two sons were trying to leave Cairo for Russia, after her name was placed on a listed of people who are barred from leaving Egypt.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Demonstration in Bethlehem in Support of Iraqi Shoe Thrower

(ANSAmed) — BETHLEHEM, DECEMBER 18 — An unusual show of solidarity with Montazer al-Zaidi — the Iraqi journalist who has become a worldwide celebrity after throwing his shoes at the USA President, George W. Bush — took place today in front of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (the West Bank) as tens of journalists gathered to show their support. Local sources report that the journalists — who were among hundreds of Christian pilgrims in Bethlehem for Christmas — took off their shoes and chanted slogans against the United States and in support of the liberation of al-Zaidi. In the last few days a similar demonstration was also organised by a group of Palestinian journalists in Gaza. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Jimmy Carter: Terrorists Lack ‘Defense’ Against Israel

TEL AVIV — The Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist organization lacks missiles to “defend” itself from Israeli aircraft, former President Jimmy Carter claimed upon returning from a trip last week to Lebanon.

“The general showed us a graph of the many flights of Israeli planes over all parts of Lebanon, averaging about a dozen each day. Neither Hezbollah nor the Lebanese Armed Forces have any anti-aircraft weapons for defense,” wrote Carter in a first-person report posted on his Carter Center website.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


PNA: EU Social Allowances to Face Delays for Israel Stopping

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 22 — The 24,000 vulnerable families in Gaza who should have been able to start collecting their social allowance payments next week will face delays due to Israel’s continued restrictions on the shipment of cash by the Palestinian Authority into Gaza. As stated in an EU press release, the Palestinian Ministry of Social Affairs, in cooperation with the European Union and using funds provided by the Government of Italy, was due to pay on Monday, December 22, social allowances to over 47,000 vulnerable Palestinian families across the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). The assistance takes the form of an allowance of NIS 1,000 (around 200 euro). Payments to families in the West Bank will be able to take place as planned. The Government of Italy has made available, through the European Union’s PEGASE mechanism, 9.36 million euro to the Palestinian Authority for this payment of social allowances. The funds are part of a recent contribution of 20 million euro by the Government of Italy to help the PA to meet its recurrent expenditures. These payments were due to begin today, across the whole territory, benefitting over 47,000 vulnerable families. In Gaza, to date, the Israeli authorities are stopping the Palestinian Authority from making normal, regular shipments of cash from Ramallah to Gaza. As a result, there is currently no cash available in Gaza for this payment. The 23,964 vulnerable families living there who are eligible for this payment will not be able to collect their allowance until the situation is resolved. The European Union has made, and continues to make strenuous efforts to convince the Israeli authorities to allow regular cash shipments to Gaza, so that banks can operate as normal and so that the Palestinian Authority can fulfil its obligations towards the people of Gaza. The European Union supports all the efforts of the international community to persuade Israel to cooperate on resolving this problem. The European Union will continue with these efforts until a solution is found.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Rocket Fire Ends Temporary Truce in Gaza

Militants fired Qassam rockets from Gaza into the Negev desert in Israel Tuesday, the first attacks after an informal cease-fire, officials said. No injuries or property damage was reported from the three firings, The Jerusalem Post reported.

On Monday, two Hamas officials said the militant group agreed to a 24-hour cease-fire after being warned by Egypt that Israel would begin killing Hamas leaders if the rocket assault continued, the Post said. The daylong cease-fire also was tied to a transfer of aid from Egypt and scheduled to arrive in Gaza Tuesday. A Hamas spokesman said rocket fire would resume once the aid arrived, the Israeli newspaper said.

Egypt initially denied reports it asked Hamas to suspend its fire as a condition for transferring the aid. Islamic Jihad also denied that a 24-hour truce was in place.

Earlier Tuesday, however, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar was quoted in an Egyptian newspaper as saying the terrorist group would consider extending the cease-fire if Israel would abide by terms reached in June for a six-month truce that ended Friday.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Middle East

“Hardly Comfortable for U.S. on Iraq’s Sofa”

[Diana West delineates the particulars to be found in The Status of Forces Agreement signed by the US and Iraq, and due to go into effect on 1 January 2009:]

[…]

Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry — but since you’re still hanging around, why don’t you knot your shoelaces together and soak your head?

That’s the unsubtle Iraqi subtext to the agreement the United States recently and triumphantly inked with Iraq widely known as the Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA.

Officially, the pact is titled “Agreement between the United States and the Republic of Iraq on the Withdrawal of United States Forces from Iraq and the Organization of Their Activities During Their Temporary Presence in Iraq,” but I guess AUSRIWUSFIOTATTPI is a hard sell.

Actually, the whole thing is a hard sell, or surely would be if Americans really knew that in the interest of a treaty, the Bush administration has gone so far as to trade away, among other things, some of our troops’ constitutional rights.

Media focus has narrowed mainly on a few points, including: Article 24, Paragraph 1, which stipulates a withdrawal date for all U.S. forces from Iraq of no later than Dec. 31, 2011; and Article 12, Paragraph 2, which states that “Iraq shall have the primary right to exercise jurisdiction over United States contractors and United States contractor employees.” This means, of course, that as of Jan. 1, 2009, when the agreement goes into effect, all U.S. contractors will be under Iraqi law 24/7, just as though they were tourists vacationing in a foreign country rather than employees of the U.S. government working in a war zone.

***

This isn’t just grotesque, it poses a colossal moral and strategic problem if and when Iraqis deem American actions in Iraq to clash with the strictures of Iraqi law. Combined with the huge concessions our government has made regarding legal jurisdiction over Americans in Iraq, this new American “duty” to Iraq is at least humiliating if not also potentially disastrous.

The jurisdiction article (Article 12) opens by repeating this same troubling stipulation: namely, that it is “the duty of the members of the United States Forces and the civilian component to respect Iraqi laws, customs, traditions and conventions,” which, of course, include Sharia. It goes on to place U.S. contractors and their employees wholly under Iraqi legal jurisdiction, and to place “United States Forces” and “the civilian component” under Iraqi legal jurisdiction should they commit “grave premeditated felonies” off base and off duty.

The predicament of U.S. contractors aside, it appears that the U.S. government has surrendered key constitutional rights of our fighting men and women. Now, it’s bad enough to read, for example, in Article 5 (“Property Ownership”) that the Bush administration has agreed to transfer to the Iraqi government everything “connected to the soil” that the United States has built — bases, buildings, facilities of all sorts — for free. Or, even more significantly, in Article 27, Paragraph 3, that “Iraqi land, sea and air shall not be used as a launching or transit point for attacks against other countries.” After all, U.S. bases in Iraq for just such potential actions against Iran or Syria were once ballyhooed as a strategic rationale for our prolonged presence in Iraq. But what about this new “duty” of American troops to “respect” the laws of Iraq, and even, in some circumstances, to be subject to them?…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]


Syria Demands Entire Golan Heights to Start Talks

TEL AVIV, Israel — Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s attempts to negotiate with Syria collapsed today when Israel received a private message from Damascus that the Jewish state must first agree to relinquish the entire strategic Golan Heights as a starting point to commence talks, according to informed diplomatic sources speaking to WND.

Olmert is in Turkey today for a meeting with the country’s prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan, to discuss Israel’s indirect negotiations with Syria aimed at an Israeli retreat from part or most of the Golan. The mountainous territory looking down on Israeli population centers twice was used by Damascus to mount ground invasions into the Jewish state.

Olmert said last week it’s possible to negotiate a peace treaty between Israel and Syria, adding that such talks would require “tough sacrifices” — alluding to some sort of Israeli retreat from the Golan.

According to the informed diplomatic sources speaking to WND, Turkey passed a Syrian message to Olmert today requiring Israel to first pledge a complete retreat from the Golan Heights as a starting point for Israel-Syrian talks. Olmert refused to do so, the sources said.

“This round of talks failed,” said one informed diplomatic source. “Olmert had serious intentions to reach something with the Syrians. He was rebuffed.”

The diplomatic sources said the European Union and France pledged to continue to push for direct Israeli-Syrian talks, with France offering to attempt to broker a meeting between Olmert and Assad. But the sources said the European efforts were not expected to yield substantial results.

[…]

News media accounts routinely billed the Golan as “undisputed Syrian territory” until Israel “captured the region” in 1967. In actuality, the Golan has been out of Damascus’ control for far longer than the 19 years it was within its rule, from 1948 to 1967. Even when Syria shortly held the Golan, some of it was stolen from Jews. Tens of thousands of acres of farmland on the Golan were purchased by Jews as far back as the late 19th century. The Turks of the Ottoman Empire kicked out some Jews around the turn of the century.

But some of the Golan was still farmed by Jews until 1947 when Syria first became an independent state. Just before that, the territory was transferred back and forth between France, Great Britain and even Turkey, before it became a part of the French Mandate of Syria.

When the French Mandate ended in 1944, the Golan Heights became part of the newly independent state of Syria, which quickly seized land that was being worked by the Palestine Colonization Association and the Jewish Colonization Association. A year later, in 1948, Syria, along with other Arab countries, used the Golan to attack Israel in a war to destroy the newly formed Jewish state.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Yes, the Shoe is Mightier Than the Grenade

When Muntazar al-Zaidi’s first shoe arced through the Baghdad press conference, and as George W. Bush — rather nimbly for a man in late middle age — commenced his duck, there began the creation of a metaphor for where we have all got to in the great Iraqi debate. “I am in love with al-Zaidi,” wrote a British comedian, who was disappointed that the shoes missed the hated President. The fact that this was a gesture of contempt among Arabs (as the BBC’s Caroline Wyatt told viewers twice in one report) was taken and immediately projected on the entire Arab world by Western commentators. There was no imaginable Arab who could feel anything other than as al-Zaidi felt; it was axiomatic. In Sadr City, smiling mullahs and others of the Moqtada movement held a smiling demonstration. No one was killed…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Russia

Putin Hails End of ‘Cheap Gas’ Era

If Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has his way, your Gazprom bill will soon be going up. Despite fast-falling oil prices, he claims Europe will soon be hit with the bill for “sharply” rising gas field development costs.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says European consumers will have to get used to surging natural gas prices. “The expenses necessary for developing fields are rising sharply,” the Russian government head told attendees at a meeting of gas-exporting nations in Moscow on Tuesday…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Russia Orders 70 Strategic Nuclear Missiles by 2011: Report

The Russian military will commission more than 70 strategic nuclear missiles in the next three years, Interfax news agency quoted the deputy head of the military-industrial committee as saying Monday.

“More than 70 strategic missiles will be bought and delivered to troops in the next three years, more than 30 short-range Iskander missiles and a large number of booster rockets and aircraft,” said Vladislav Putilin, whose department is in charge of weapons industries.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Ukraine, US Discuss Opening US Diplomatic Mission in Crimea

[Commentary from Tuan Jim: As was brought up during the Georgian/Russian conflict this past Aug, the Ukraine is definitely the next country to watch…there should be a few more articles on these stories developing in the next few weeks.]

KIEV, December 23 (Itar-Tass) — The United States plans to open its diplomatic mission in the Crimea in the future. As a source in Kiev’s diplomatic circles told ITAR-TASS on Tuesday, “consultations on this issue began after the signing of a Ukrainian-US charter on strategic partnership in Washington on December 19.

The point considered is the opening of a US consulate general. The source doesn’t rule out that a number of West-European countries will also “expand their presence in Ukraine” opening diplomatic missions in the Crimea. This issue is expected to be discussed at a meeting of President Viktor Yushchenko with ambassadors of seven leading countries and a representative of the European Commission. The topic of the meeting — - “Urgent issues of international life and world security problems.”

At present, the consulate general of the Russian Federation, as well as consulates of honour of Armenia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Turkey and Estonia are working in Simferopol in the Crimea. Poland plans to open 3 new consulates — - in Simpheropol, Ivano-Frankovsk and Vinnitsa in the near future. Until recently, the consulate of honour of Georgia was operating in Simferopol, but now it was excluded from the list of foreign diplomatic missions accredited at the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Ukraine: the Ruthenians and the Russian Resurgence

Summary

Stratfor sources in Moscow have reported of plans by the Ruthenians, an ethnic group located primarily in western Ukraine, to declare independence from Ukraine. The reports maintain that the Ruthenians are not acting alone, but have been receiving organizational backing and financial support from Russia. It is no secret that Russia has been working to increase and consolidate its influence in Ukraine. The Ruthenians occupy such a strategic location that their secession could effectively scuttle any chance for an already-fractured Ukraine to maintain political unity — letting the country slide further into the Kremlin’s grip.

The Russian Resurgence

For two months now the Ruthenians, an obscure Central European ethnic group, have been considering calling for independence. Stratfor has now learned the driving force behind the possible secessionist movement: the Kremlin…..

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Ukraine: the Ruthenians Declare Independence

The Ruthenians, a small ethnic group living in the Carpathian Mountains, asked Russia on Dec. 23 to recognize their independence from Ukraine. Stratfor has been hearing rumblings in Ukraine and Russia that the group would act some time before the end of the year.

The Ruthenians are an eastern Slavic group more than a million strong; they live mostly in Ukraine but also bleed over into Romania and Slovakia. They enjoy a degree of autonomy within Ukraine, but have annually petitioned Kiev for greater and better-defined autonomy. Now, the Ruthenians have simply skipped the petition and turned to Ukraine’s large neighbor, Russia, to recognize their independence — as Russia did for the Georgian secessionist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

It is not a random choice, nor a particularly surprising one. In fact, Moscow has been funding secessionist stirrings in the region ever since February, when the West recognized Kosovo’s independence from Serbia against Russian wishes. Russia also has pushed the Ruthenians to act in an attempt to destabilize the Ukrainian government. In addition, the Ruthenians spread across a highly strategic swath of land in the Carpathian Mountains, which Russia considers its natural border with the West. This is also territory through which the main trunk lines transporting Russian natural gas pass on their way to Europe.

For its part, Kiev is not simply ignoring the Ruthenian — or Russian — moves in its western province. Sources have told Stratfor that Ukraine’s intelligence services are planning a major operation to round up the ringleaders of the Ruthenian separatists in an attempt to squash their drive for independence.

The small Slavic group has made its first real move, and now it is up to Russia to respond. Russia has the choice of recognizing the group (and thereby drastically escalating tensions with Kiev) or cutting a deal with the Ukrainians to keep the country from splitting apart — perhaps at the expense of returning Ukraine to the Russian fold…..

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


US Diplomat in Moscow to Discuss Latin America

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s efforts to extend its influence into the United States’ backyard brought the State Department’s point man for Latin America to Moscow on Monday for talks on how the two former Cold War rivals can cooperate in the region.

“The two countries are too important not to be talking to each other and not to be finding ways to work together on important issues in the region,” said Assistant Secretary Thomas Shannon in an interview.

Russia’s naval ships have been sailing through the Caribbean in recent weeks and President Dmitry Medvedev has recently visited several countries in the region, including Brazil, Cuba, Peru and Venezuela.

But while Russia has been aggressively expanding its political and military presence in the region, Shannon said Moscow’s main interests in Latin America appear to be commercial.

“What’s interesting for us about how Russia is engaging in the region is that this is not the Soviet Union,” he said. “They do not bring an ideological purpose to their engagement. This is really an engagement based on interests and a big part of those interests are commercial.”

Russia has been seeking a range of commercial deals in the region, but its closest trade ties are with Venezuela, which has bought more than $4 billion worth of arms, including 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles, and helicopters and Sukhoi fighter jets.

Although Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is eager to oppose U.S. domination in the region, Shannon said Washington was concerned not so much with the new weapons Russia was supplying, but with the weapons being decommissioned as Venezuela modernizes its military.

“In other words, are they being destroyed or are they being pushed into the black market where they will be sold to traffickers and cartels?” the U.S. diplomat said.

Shannon said Russia and the U.S. should be able to work together in the region in fighting organized crime and drug trafficking. Both countries, he said, share concerns about an increased flow of cocaine from South America to Europe.

He said the Russian warships in the Caribbean were not a threat to the U.S., which has a preponderance of military power in the region.

The U.S. Navy and other naval forces are busy interdicting drug trafficking, keeping shipping lanes open and protecting fisheries in the Caribbean, and if the Russians continue to send their ships to the region they should join these efforts, Shannon said.

“If they’re going to be in the area they might as well do something useful,” he said.


Russia’s warships conducted joint exercises with Venezuela early this month and then visited Panama, Nicaragua and Cuba. Their presence off U.S. shores was seen as a show of Kremlin anger over the U.S. decision to send its warships into the Black Sea to deliver aid to Georgia, following that country’s war with Russia in August.

Shannon said Russia’s intentions in the Caribbean would become clearer with time.

“If the purpose of this ship visit was just to make a point about Russia’s periphery, if its purpose was just to make a point about Georgia, then we probably won’t see them again,” he said. “But if the Russians really are attempting to build a more long-standing relationship in the region, then they will look for ways to maintain some presence.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry released only a brief statement on Shannon’s meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, saying Russia reaffirmed its interest in expanding relations and bolstering trade in Latin America.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Caucasus

Info on Czech Mercenaries in Georgia Russian Propaganda-NGO Head

Prague/Moscow — The Russian information that mercenaries from other countries, including the Czech Republic, were fighting on the side of Georgia in the August war in South Ossetia “is part of a typical Russian propaganda,” Czech humanitarian organisation head Simon Panek said.

Russian agencies reported today about foreign mercenaries, for instance from the United States, the Czech Republic, Turkey and Ukraine, in the war in Georgia, referring to information from Aleksander Bastrykin, chief of the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office Investigation Committee.

Panek, head of the Czech humanitarian organisation People in Need, said “lie has almost become part of Russian foreign policy” and that “it is for them almost a normal strategic way how to gain dominance.”

“We do not have such information yet,” an unnamed representative of the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office said in reaction to a CTK question whether Moscow will ask the Czech authorities for the investigation into the alleged participation of Czech citizens in the Caucasus conflict.

The agency said it would answer further questions after receiving them in writing.

Under an amendment to the military law in effect since early 2005, Czech citizens do not face prison for serving in the military of another NATO member state.

Previously, the Czech president had to permit such a service and without his consent it was qualified as a crime for which the soldier faced up to eight years in prison.

The president’s consent is still required for a Czech citizen’s service in the military of a country that is not in NATO.

The Georgian military used force in early August in an attempt to terminate the protracted conflict with the South Ossetia separatist region that lived under the protection of Russian peacekeeping units from the latest war.

The Russian military occupied South Ossetia and other parts of Georgia in reaction to Georgia’s action.

Apart from South Ossetia, Abkhazia, another Georgia’s separatist region, sought independence from Georgia.

The West condemned Moscow’s invasion in Georgia. The Czech government also expressed disagreement with it.

Russia recognised independence of both regions after the August conflict.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Death Penalty for Bangladesh Militants Who Attacked British Envoy With Grenade

Three Islamic militants have been sentenced to death in Bangladesh for a grenade attack on Britain’s high commissioner.

A court ruled that the three men will be hanged for the attack, which killed three people and wounded the former British High Commissioner Anwar Choudhury four years ago.

The three men were convicted in a fast-track court in the northeastern city of Sylhet. They are members of Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami (Huji), an Islamist group based in Bangladesh, and include the group’s leader Mufti Abdul Hannan.

Two other men were sentenced to life imprisonment for their involvement.

At the time of the attack police said that it was designed “to avenge the deaths of Muslims in Iraq and across the world by America and Britain”.

The three men were convicted of murder, the use of explosives and masterminding the attack on Mr Choudhury, then the British envoy in Dhaka.

Mr Choudhury, who is now in Britain, was only slightly injured.

A British High Commission spokesman said it welcomed a resolution to the case. “For all the victims of the heinous attack of 2004 and for their families, we are pleased that a verdict has finally been reached,” he said.

But he added that Britain opposed the use of the death penalty “in all of its forms”.

Mufti Hannan said: “Justice has not been delivered and we will appeal these verdicts to a higher court.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Fini Visits Afghanistan

Italy ‘will meet commitments, ‘ Chamber speaker says

(ANSA) — Herat, December 22 — There is much to be done in Afghanistan and Italy will help achieve it, Chamber of Deputies Speaker Gianfranco Fini said on a Christmas visit to the Italian contingent on Monday.

Fini told the troops: ‘‘We know there is still a lot to do in Afghanistan but you should know that all the Italian people appreciates what you are doing’’.

He stressed that rebuilding Afghanistan was ‘‘essential for combatting international terrorism’’. He said the Italian contingent had distinguished itself by its ability to ‘‘combine great professionalism with respect for the local people’’.

Fini said the aim was ‘‘to give a people which has been brought to a tribal and medieval level the possibility of attaining a better future’’.

‘‘I believe Afghanistan wants to emerge from the darkness of the middle ages and we know that, in order to do so, more time and men will be needed. But we also know that this objective can be achieved’’.

Wishing the troops Happy Christmas, he said: ‘‘peace is achieved not only when war ends but also when social harmony is reached’’.

The troops were also addressed, on a video link from Rome, by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.

Afghanistan is becoming ‘‘ever more, the most demanding theatre for the international community,’’ the president noted.

Noting that the United States is planning to double its troop numbers in the mission to beat back a growing Taliban threat, Napolitano said ‘‘the cause of peace and development is at stake, the honour of the country is at stake, and we are honoured to take part’’.

Fini, the Chamber speaker, stressed that Italy would meet its commitments in Afghanistan.

Asked about calls from the United States and NATO to increase Italy’s troop numbers, Fini said: ‘‘These are decisions that the government takes with NATO. I think it is a commitment strongly requested by those who are working in Afghanistan to rebuild democracy and I don’t think Italy can fail to meet the commitments it has made’’.

Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa recently said he had promised US Defence Secretary Robert Gates that Italy would boost its contingent from 2,350 to 2,800 but Premier Silvio Berlusconi said numbers would remain unchanged.

La Russa then clarified that parliament had approved an ‘‘average annual’’ number of 2,600.

Berlusconi said changes in deployment would enable Italian troops to ‘‘do more’’.

Fini was greeted Monday by the Italian commander in Afghanistan, General Paolo Serra, and by Italy’s recently appointed ambassador, Claudio Gaentzer.

Gaentzer said last week Italy’s role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan would continue to focus on training police and military forces there.

US Central Command chief General David Petraeus, on a recent visit to Rome, praised Italy’s policing in Iraq and said similar methods were needed in Afghanistan.

He said Italy’s Carabinieri were ‘‘on a different level’’ from other police forces.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


India Hardens Tone; Pakistan Calls Up Jets

Pakistan scrambled fighter jets over its larger cities as Indian officials said all options were available in the capture of terrorists who attacked Mumbai.

Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee told Indian diplomats in New Delhi Monday the country has acted “with utmost restraint” so far but would “take all measures necessary as we deem fit” to capture suspects in the coordinated attacks on Mumbai, The Washington Post reported Tuesday […]

A senior government official told The Post that Mukherjee’s comments were an “an expression of political will that India will not take this lying down.” The source also said the option of “precision airstrikes” on terrorist training camps in Pakistan would remain an option if Pakistani officials did not take effective action against the groups.

Pakistan put its air force on high alert, with several fighter jets flying over the capital, Islamabad, as well as Rawalpindi, Lahore and Kashmir. The action coincided with a visit by U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen to meet with Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani.

A Pakistani official told the Post Kiyani told Mullen that Pakistan was working to ease tensions with India. “We want peace with India, but any aggression will be matched by a befitting response,” the source quoted Kiyani as saying.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Indonesia: HTI Rallies for ‘Khilafah’ [Caliphate]

Thousands of Muslim women from the hardline Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) organization staged a rally Sunday calling for the country to enforce sharia law and establish an Islamic state led by a caliphate.

They marched through downtown Jakarta from outside the U.S. Embassy to the nearby State Palace, with some carrying their children.

The protesters reject the current system of democracy because it is a Western product and said it failed to bring prosperity to this predominantly Muslim nation. The rally was peaceful amid tight security.

Protest leader Febrianti Abassuni said the women’s wing of HTI would intensify its campaign for an Islamic state this month to coincide with the commemorations of Mother’s Day on Dec. 22, the Islamic New Year on Dec. 29, and in the lead up to the 2009 elections.

“This movement offers guidance for the people to contribute to the country’s transformation in the upcoming elections,” she added.

The protesters claimed khilafah, an administrative system based on Islamic ideology and led by caliphate, would be best for Indonesia and should replace Pancasila as the national ideology.

Democracy has led Indonesia to capitalism and allows it to be used as a “cash cow by advanced states”, leaving its citizens in poverty, they added.

“Democracy and capitalism have proven ineffective in bringing about prosperity. Therefore, we are calling on this nation to apply khilafah,” Febrianti said.

“Islamic sharia is the right way toward an advanced and strong nation.”

Under the khilafah system, she claimed, citizens would have stricter control over the government to ensure their welfare be a top priority.

“In accordance with Islamic values, the society would be sinful if it let the government abuse power; they should even be willing to die for it because it is considered as mati syahid (martyrdom).”

She claimed the group’s mission of establishing khilafah would be accomplished, saying they had gradually received more support, including from scholars.

“It is just a matter of time. The society needs enlightenment to get out of the current political system.”

Commenting on the rally, constitutional law professor Jimly Asshiddiqie dismissed such a campaign.

“There is no need to be concerned about such a movement because it will always exist but will never be accepted by mainstream Islam.”

“What we should do is nurture the principles of Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution because Indonesia is a constitutional country,” he said.

He said movements have survived for many years and continue to spring up during recent years because of the domination of the West over the oppressed Muslim society.

He criticized the HTI of misinterpreting the concept of khilafah, which actually meant a governance system applied by caliphate emerging after the Prophet Muhammad.

Saldi Isra, also a constitutional law expert, shared the view, saying it would be impossible for the country to shift into khilafah, given the fact that the principles of the Constitution are well established.

“The idea (of establishing khilafah) is merely a discourse. There has never been further discussions on this issue because we have committed to enforcing the Constitution,” he said.


           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Far East

China: From Guerilla Army to Modern Colossus

Some sceptics question Beijing’s claims that the PLA’s transformation is peaceful

Three decades ago, it was billed as an oversized guerilla army with the world’s largest military museum for obsolete weapons. But China’s military has since become a modern army, transforming itself from a land-based, primitive force to a smaller, mobile, technologically more advanced power capable of projecting its influence beyond its borders. …

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Japan: Sato Asked U.s. to Nuke China in War

[Commentary from Tuan Jim: Honestly, Japanese politicians are incredibly good at the whole pragmatism/realism thing (or at least the LDP has been) — regardless of how many polls you see about folks wanting to kick out the Marines or get rid of one airbase or another, and however much the gov’t like to make hay with ugly Americans — the gov’t will never let it happen before it’s ready. — and quite frankly — as I’ve said before — I’ve got no issues with it in Korea or Japan.]

Former Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, who won the 1974 Nobel Peace Prize for his non-nuclear principles, sought a U.S. nuclear strike against China in 1965 if war broke out with Japan, declassified documents showed.

Sato made the request with then U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara during a visit to Washington in January 1965, according to the diplomatic documents made public by the Foreign Ministry on Monday.

The meeting was held against the backdrop of China’s successful nuclear test in October the previous year and amid fears of further nuclear proliferation.

During the meeting, McNamara said events over the following two to three years would be important, and asked Sato if Tokyo was considering developing a nuclear arsenal itself.

Sato replied that Japan was consistently opposed to the possession and use of nuclear weapons, and reiterated Tokyo’s stance that Japan should be protected under the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

The prime minister warned McNamara to exert caution in talking about bringing nuclear weapons onto Japanese soil, citing stipulations connected with the Japan-U.S. mutual security agreement.

However, Sato made an exception of a possible war between Japan and China. He expressed his expectations that the United States would deploy nuclear weapons for a retaliatory attack against China in such a situation.

Sato also said it would be difficult to create necessary facilities on land for such an attack, but he believed a sea-borne operation could be launched immediately.

McNamara told Sato there would be no technical difficulties in carrying out such an operation, according to the documents.

The newly released documents further chip away Sato’s image as a pacifist, anti-nuclear leader. He was lauded internationally for unfurling the nation’s three non-nuclear principles of neither possessing nor producing nuclear weapons, and not letting them into Japan.

“If Sato’s request for nuclear retaliation had been revealed to the Japanese public at the time, he would have faced the risk of losing his office,” said Hideki Kan, a professor specializing in Japan-U.S. diplomatic history at Seinan Jo Gakuin University in Kita-Kyushu.

The conversation between Sato and McNamara is believed to have been based on a 1960 secret agreement between Tokyo and Washington to allow U.S. warships and aircraft armed with nuclear warheads to call at Japanese ports or pass through Japanese airspace without prior consultation.

The secret agreement, which Tokyo denies was ever made but which was revealed through U.S. documents declassified in 2000, was reached during talks on revising the bilateral security treaty.

A day before his meeting with McNamara, Sato told then U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson that Japan would not arm itself with nuclear weapons, despite China’s successful test. The prime minister said Japan would depend solely on U.S. protection under the bilateral security pact.

Johnson assured Sato that the United States would protect Japan.

According to separate U.S. documents declassified in 1998, Sato told Johnson during the same meeting that the Japanese government believed it was necessary for Tokyo to possess nuclear arms now that China owned such weapons.

In a telephone interview with The Asahi Shimbun, McNamara, 92, said Washington at that time was concerned about Tokyo’s reaction to Beijing’s nuclear test. He said he believed that if Japan were to be caught up in the nuclear arms race, it could fuel proliferation in the region.

While saying that he could not confirm whether Sato had actually sought a nuclear retaliation against China from the United States, McNamara suggested that Tokyo may have been trying to remind Beijing of the U.S. nuclear deterrent capability.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Philippines: Pre-Christmas ‘Asg’ Grenade Attack Wounds 17 in Basilan

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — At least 17 people were injured in an Abu Sayyaf grenade attack late Tuesday outside a popular fast food restaurant in southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said one of two men riding tandem on a motorcycle tossed the fragmentation grenade outside the store of the Jollibee in Isabela City on Basilan Island, south of Zamboanga City, where a late night concert was taking place.

“Two unidentified person on a motorcycle threw a fragmentation grenade in front of the Isabela Jollibee fast food,” said Lt. Steffani Cacho, a military spokeswoman.

Brig. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, commander of the Marine forces on the island, said the attack occurred at around 9 p.m. “We suspect the Abu Sayyaf was behind the attack that injured at least 17 people,” he said.

A report from the Associated Press however put the number of casualties at 16.

Guerrero said the attack was probably in retaliation to continued operation against the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan. “There is an ongoing operation against the terrorists and this attack could be diversionary,” he said.

Guerrero said most of those injured in the explosion were civilians relaxing at the plaza in front of the store owned by Jollibee Foods, a leading operator of quick-service restaurants in the Philippines with more than 1,500 outlets in the county….

….The Abu Sayyaf group has been linked to the spate of kidnappings and bomb attacks in the Philippines and is labeled a terrorist organization by both Manila and Washington. It is believed by the US to have links with the al-Qaeda terror network and Jemaah Islamiya.

The Philippine government, aided by the US military, has deployed thousands of troops in the south, including in Basilan island, to eradicate the Abu Sayyaf.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australia: Fatal Flaws in Website Censorship Plan, Says Report

TRIALS of mandatory internet censorship will begin within days despite a secret high-level report to the Rudd Government that found the technology simply does not work, will significantly slow internet speeds and will block access to legitimate websites.

The report, commissioned by the Howard government and prepared by the Internet Industry Association, concluded that schemes to block inappropriate content such as child pornography are fundamentally flawed.

If the trials are deemed a success, the Government has earmarked $44 million to impose a compulsory “clean feed” on all internet subscribers in Australia as soon as late next year.

But the report says the filters would slow the internet — as much as 87 per cent by some measures — be easily bypassed and would not come close to capturing all of the nasty content available online. They would also struggle to distinguish between wanted and unwanted content, leading to legitimate sites being blocked. Entire user-generated content sites, such as YouTube and Wikipedia, could be censored over a single suspect posting.

This raises serious freedom of speech questions, such as who will be held accountable for blocked sites and whether the Government will be pressured to expand the blacklist to cover lawful content including pornography, gambling sites and euthanasia material.

The report, based on comprehensive interviews with many parties with a stake in the internet, was written by several independent technical experts including a University of Sydney associate professor, Bjorn Landfeldt. It was handed to the Government in February but has been kept secret.

[…]

This would block all “illegal” and “inappropriate” material, as determined in part by a secret blacklist administered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Zimbabwean Police Charge 4 Farmers for Defying Eviction Orders

Dec. 22 (Bloomberg) — Four Zimbabwean farmers have been charged by police for defying orders to vacate their farms, lobby group Justice for Agriculture said.

The four are among a group of 78 white farmers who challenged their evictions in a Namibian-based Southern African Development Community Tribunal. The tribunal ruled that the evictions were motivated by discrimination and said farmers should return or remain on their land.

If convicted, the farmers may face up to two years in jail. They are due to appear in court Jan. 5, JAG said today…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Hugo Chavez’s Red Terror on Hold

Hugo Chavez took his aping of Castro’s regime to a frightening new level by decreeing the National Intelligence and Counter-intelligence Law. Venezuela’s two traditional intelligence services were to be abolished and replaced by one “General Intelligence Office” staffed strictly with Chavez henchmen. More ominously, this “law” essentially abolished the government’s separation of powers. Judges and prosecutors were to be required to co-operate with the newly-decreed secret police. Along with all Venezuelan judges and prosecutors who would have been forced into collusion with the Chavez regime, all Venezuelan citizens would have been equally “empowered.” Proposed” Community Councils, “that seemed to mimic Cuba’s neighborhood snitch groups known as Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs), would provide the framework for this “co-operation.”

According to the new decree, any Venezuelan found to be reneging on his or her “co-operation” could land in jail for six years. Venezuelans immediately recognized the implications. Human Rights Watch official, Jose Miguel Vivanco, cut to the heart of the issue: “Here you have the president legislating by decree that the country’s judges must serve as spies for the government. This is a government that simply doesn’t believe “in the separation of powers.”

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Obama Faces Swift Challenge From Latin America Leftists

Latin America: Barack Obama hasn’t even assumed the presidency, but already he’s getting his marching orders from a slew of hostile leftist regimes to our south. This is a sign of trouble. In principle, a consortium of 32 Latin American and Caribbean countries trying to solve the region’s problems without the U.S. is a fine idea. But at a new summit in Brazil, participants couldn’t get the U.S. off their minds.

The financial crisis, the falling price of oil and the pickle in which the worst-managed economies in the region now find themselves blurred distinctions between democratic and authoritarian regimes, all in a bacchanalia of America-bashing. The group set the tone by admitting Cuban dictator Raul Castro on his first trip abroad as their new member. Instead of treating Raul as a pariah, he was welcomed with hugs. Worse still, the group adopted elements of Cuba’s agenda as central to their own.

First demand: A resolution calling for the U.S. to drop its trade embargo against Cuba, a goal that Obama has already said he would work toward. But that wasn’t enough. “We should give the new government of the United States a deadline in order to end the embargo,” said Bolivia’s President Evo Morales. If the embargo isn’t lifted, Morales said all U.S. envoys ought to be expelled from the region. (Morales, of course, has already shot his own bolt, expelling the U.S. ambassador to Bolivia this year.)

[…]

To be fair, there’s a lot of irresponsible posturing in Latin America when it comes to summits. But the new America-bashing comes as nations such as Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia are no longer cooperating with the U.S. in the war on drugs, thereby making the war Colombia and Mexico must fight much harder. There’s also a disturbing arms buildup throughout the region. The posturing is coming not just because Obama hasn’t signaled much interest in the region, but also because he hasn’t showed much commitment to allies like Colombia, a target of Castro’s ambitions since the Cuban revolution.

Enemies like Cuba are reading the president-elect’s ambivalence as weakness. They say that if Obama wants to be part of their mainstream, he’ll do as they say. We doubt Obama will stand for this, but the sooner he makes that clear, the sooner the testing will end.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

California AG Attacks Own Constitution

California Attorney General Jerry Brown, who is responsibile for defending the state’s laws and constitution from challenges, is urging the state Supreme Court to toss a voter-approved definition of marriage that now is part of the state constitution.

In a new statement on the dispute over Proposition 8, through which voters in November approved limiting marriage to one man and one woman, Brown said the vote must be “invalidated.”

The statement drew a stunned reaction from Brad Dacus, whose Pacific Justice Institute is working on friend-of-the-court briefs in the case.

Dacus said Brown originally pledged to defend Proposition 8 “in accordance with his constitutional duty.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Pope Benedict Criticizes Homosexual Behavior

VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict said Monday that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.

The Church “should also protect man from the destruction of himself. A sort of ecology of man is needed,” the pontiff said in a holiday address to the Curia, the Vatican’s central administration.

“The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Pope Revealed to be Catholic, Shock Horror

He’s done it again. The Pope has reiterated unfashionable Catholic teaching on sexuality. And at Christmas! What poor taste. Moreover, he has dared to do so in the context of a discussion of (pause to genuflect) the environment. Is nothing sacred?

Benedict XVI stands accused today of ecclesiastical gay-bashing. When I was woken up very early this morning by a radio station looking for a quote, I was given the impression that he’d given a speech saying homosexuals were as big a threat to the planet as climate change.

That would have been an own goal, I admit. But look at the text of the Pope’s speech to the Curia and he doesn’t even come close to saying that. The point Benedict is making is that God’s plan for creation encompasses both stewardship of the planet and the expression of human sexual relations within (and only within) marriage.

Nowhere in his speech does he say that “homosexuaity” is a sin, because that’s not Catholic teaching. On the other hand, and there’s no getting round this, all homosexual genital activity is condemned. But that teaching is implicit in the Pope’s speech, not explicit.

Read this report of the speech by John Allen, the American doyen of Vatican analysts. Here’s his intro:

It’s Vatican tradition for the pope to deliver a sort of “Year in Review” address to his staff in the Roman Curia each December, and over time these speeches have come to play two roles — one overt, the other implicit. The first is to give the pope a chance to frame how he’d like the year to be remembered; the second is to subtly defend aspects of his activity or teaching over the last 12 months which may have raised eyebrows, or set tongues wagging, in his own house.

This year, Benedict XVI used his annual address to the Curia, delivered the morning of Dec. 22, to highlight two such elements of his track record in ‘08: World Youth Day, and his growing emphasis on environmentalism. He suggested that both pivot on a core Christian doctrine: the role of the Holy Spirit.

In a vintage twist, this consummate cultural-critic-cum-pope even enlisted Friedrich Nietzsche in his defense.

Also in connection with the Holy Spirit, Benedict touched briefly on the intrinsic bonds linking Christ, the Spirit, and the church — a point with important, though in this case unstated, implications for Catholic theology.

Any mention of homosexuality in Allen’s report? Nope. Perhaps that was because Benedict himself didn’t refer to it. On the other hand, he does say that humanity needs saving from “outmoded metaphysics” that blur the distinction between men and women. The destruction of traditional heterosexual relations is part of the wider destruction of God’s creation.

The liberals will hate that juxtaposition. In the view of the secular world, and more than a few Tabletistas, “saving the planet” has become an alternative or successor project to the defence of the family. Pope Benedict has had the nerve to argue, in effect, that marriage is yet another aspect of the planet that needs saving.

So it boils down to this, really. Pope Catholic, shock horror. Admittedly, the shock and the horror are real. But that’s Catholicism for you: a sign of contradiction.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Time Magazine: Obama is a ‘Bigot’

An openly homosexual Time magazine reporter calls Barack Obama a “bigot” and a “problem for gays” following the president-elect’s invitation to Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his upcoming inauguration ceremony.

John Cloud has written a variety of articles for Time, with topics ranging from his 11-page article about Ann Coulter to Eliot Spitzer, health and science subjects, elections, private versus public schools and even an article that even suggests parents drink with their kids to solve the nation’s obsession with binge drinking.

But Cloud is best known for his plethora of homosexual-themed pieces, including: “Outing Dumbledore,” “Are Gay Relationships Different?,” “The Gay Mafia That’s Redefining Liberal Politics,” “Revisiting ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’“ and “Not Separate, Just Equal.”

Now Cloud has set his sights on Obama.

[…]

“Having picked Warren to pray at the Inauguration and Republican Robert Gates to stay on at the Department of Defense,” he wrote, “Obama will now have to do something nice for the gays.”

He then made a suggestion for Obama by citing a Washington Times report indicating that retired military leaders are backing William White, an openly homosexual man, for secretary of the Navy.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

General

Completely Inadequate IPCC Models Produce the Ultimate Deception About Man Made Global Warming

E. R. Beadle said, “Half the work done in the world is to make things appear what they are not.” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) does this with purpose and great effect. They built the difference between appearance and reality into their process. Unlike procedure used elsewhere, they produce and release a summary report independently and before the actual technical report is completed. This way the summary gets maximum media attention and becomes the public understanding of what the scientists said. Climate science is made to appear what it is not. Indeed, it is not even what is in their Scientific Report.

The pattern of falsifying appearances began early. Although he works at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Stephen Schneider was heavily employed in the work of the IPCC as this biography notes.

[…]

Schneider, among others, created the appearance that the Summary was representative of the Science Report. However, he provides an early insight into the thinking when speaking about global warming to Discovery magazine (October 1989) he said scientists need, “to get some broader based support, to capture the public’s imagination…that, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and make little mention of any doubts we may have…each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective, and being honest.” The last sentence is deeply disturbing—there is no decision required.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Pope Tells Muslims That Conversions Deserve Respect

(ANSAmed) — VATICAN CITY, DECEMBER 18 — Religious freedom also demands the opportunity to be converted. So stressed Pope Benedict XVI today, receiving for the first time an Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain, never before accredited by the Holy See. In praising the attitude of respect for other religions adopted by the tiny Arab Moslem Gulf kingdom, the Pope stressed that the right to religious freedom also touches on “the most profound and sacred that there is in humankind: it relation with God”. “Religious freedom, which allows everyone to live by their creed alone or with others, in private or in public, also demands the opportunity of a person to change religion, should their conscience so demand”, the Pope said. In several Moslem countries, such as Saudi Arabia, it is still forbidden for Christians to pray in public or to show their faith, and conversion is considered apostasy, a ‘crime’ sometimes, as in Afghanistan, punishable with death. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Protectionist Dominoes Are Beginning to Tumble Across the World

The riots have begun. Civil protest is breaking out in cities across Russia, China, and beyond.

Greece has been in turmoil for 11 days. The mood seems to have turned “pre-insurrectionary” in parts of Athens — to borrow from the Marxist handbook.

This is a foretaste of what the world may face as the “crisis of capitalism” — another Marxist phase making a comeback — starts to turn two hundred million lives upside down.

We are advancing to the political stage of this global train wreck. Regimes are being tested. Those relying on perma-boom to mask a lack of democratic or ancestral legitimacy may try to gain time by the usual methods: trade barriers, sabre-rattling, and barbed wire.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, is worried enough to ditch a half-century of IMF orthodoxy, calling for a fiscal boost worth 2pc of world GDP to “prevent global depression”.

“If we are not able to do that, then social unrest may happen in many countries, including advanced economies. We are facing an unprecedented decline in output. All around the planet, the people have reacted with feelings going from surprise to anger, and from anger to fear,” he said.

[…]

The last great era of globalisation peaked just before 1914. You know the rest of the story.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

5 comments:

Tuan Jim said...

To be honest, we talked about that mail thing at jihadwatch a few days ago. Most of those regs are for bulk mailing and a lot of the other ones - ie. religious materials, coffee, medicines, are country-specific.

People have been blowing some things out of proportion lately.

Also - just say "book" on the customs form. Granted in Indonesia if it was over a certain $ value you had to open it in front of customs to verify contents - if it's not over a certain value - no big deal.

Janez said...

Perhaps some clarification about the Slovenia - Croatia border dispute. The fact is that Croatia has included some maps into its documentation that shows the borders between the two countries where they are not. So Slovenia demanded that the maps be taken out or that a guarantee be given that a) those maps in no way have any value in border negotiations, and b), that they not be used in border negotiations at all. For Slovenia that is the only acceptable option while for the Croats, of course, it is unacceptable. So it will delay their EU negotiations a bit. But I hope a solution will be found soon because such a dispute brings no one any good, especially in light of the economic meltdown. However, the whole thing has another perspective, namely Ireland's. I read here yesterday that the EU was trying to make Ireland repeat its referendum on the EU constitution and were including some sweeteners for them which would be passed together with Croatia's entry into the EU. Is that the reason why the EU is so interested in speeding things up for Croatia?

Terry Morris said...

Merry Christmas, y'all. Nice work this year.

Fellow Peacekeeper said...

Re Ruthenia:

"Unrest" in Ukraine, coincidentally on the gas pipeline, about two weeks before Gazprom begins the yearly midwinter (timing and season entirely coincidental) gas bill blackmail. Cui bono? Three guesses ... Merry Christmas from Putinstan.

A stratfor scoop? Or has stratfor has started taking the Russian foreign ministry subsidiary Russia Today at face value? Compare.

Czechmade said...

Why should be Ruthenia sort of obscure? It just depends on your level of education. Many famous people in the West came from this mountainous region: USA, Canada, GB. They just changed their names ... USSR incorporated them in Ukraine after 1945. The capital Uzhgorod was cut away by a new border, the West of the country is still in Slovakia.