Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/31/2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/31/2008The Arab League is pressing for the UN to adopt a “legally binding and enforceable” resolution requiring a ceasefire in Gaza. Since the UN can’t enforce anything on Israel, one must assume that the Arabs are seeking a resolution backed by American arm-twisting.

We shall see.

Thanks to Abu Elvis, Barry Rubin, blogagog, Insubria, JD, RRW, Srdja Trifkovic, Steen, Tuan Jim, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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USA
Berg Files New Challenge to Eligibility
Exclusive: RNC Draft Rips Bush’s Bailouts
Molotov Cocktail Thrown at Chicago Synagogue
US Gives 85 Million Dollars to Palestinian Refugees
 
Europe and the EU
Antwerp: Arab Riots, Jewish Neighborhood Sealed
Black Ravens Warn Against EU Treaty
Czech Communists’ New Spokesman Had Anti-Semitic Views — Press
Europe: Czech Minister Defends Israeli Strikes
Greece: Two Rifles Used to Shoot at Police Bus
Meet the New EU President: He’s Not Keen on the Euro or the Lisbon Treaty and Compares Europe to Soviet Union
One in Five Czechs Could Back Libertas in EP Elections
Spain: Car Bomb Explodes at TV Station
Sweden: Police Hire Protection in Malmö Suburb
Sweden: Man Dies in Stockholm Shooting
UK: Ambulancemen Arrested for ‘Ignoring a Dying Disabled Man Because He Wasn’t Worth Saving’
UK: Now Children Taught How to Blow Noses
UK: Outrage as Treasury Chief is Knighted — in the Middle of Britain’s Worst Economic Crisis for Decades
 
Balkans
Kosovo: in the Shadow of Mother Theresa
Kosovo: All Quiet in KM After Thursday Violence
Slovenia: Referendum on Mosque Temporarily Averted
 
Mediterranean Union
Italy-Libya: Frattini, We Will Resolve Compensation Issue
 
North Africa
Egypt, 40 Members Muslim Brotherhood Arrested
Tourism: Cairo by Night, More Like NY Than Arab Capital
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Egypt Supports Hamas
‘Gaza Children Will Collect Parts of Your Bodies and Your Tanks From the Streets’
Hamas Explains Use of Civilians as Human Shields
Israel Rejects Truce Calls, Targets Gaza Tunnels
Jerusalem-Area Arabs Step Up Riots, Protests
Let’s Talk About Justice
Middle East: Happiest Israelis Are Settlers
Shin Bet Head: Hamas Dealt Serious Blow; Operatives Hiding-Out in Hospitals
The Canary in the Mine
What Victimology Does Not Account for
 
Middle East
“Oil-Rich Arabs Have More in Their Pockets Than in Their Brains”, Say Expatriates
7,000 Students Register in Iran’s Isfahan to Fight Israel
Arab Oral Culture and Lack of Knowledge
Arabs Want UN Resolution Ensuring Gaza Cease-Fire
Iran: Italian Fashion Store Attacked by Protesters
Lebanon: Emigrant Remittances of 6 Billion in 2008
Syria: Damascus, 500 Mln Dollars to Revamp Qassioun Area
 
Russia
Spain Extradites to Russia Suspected Attacker on Ingush Interior
 
South Asia
Pakistan Attempts to Flush Out Taliban From Khyber Pass
 
Far East
China Reiterates No Room for Taiwan Sovereignty
Philippine Blasts Kill 1, Hurt 4
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
45 Churchgoers Mutilated in Congo
London Life for Mugabe Regime Crony
 
Immigration
Italy Not Re-Inventing the Wheel — Foreign Affairs Ministry
Long Awaited Joint Patrols Off Libyan Coast to Begin in January — Maroni
Malta: Where Hysteria is No Answer to the Plight of Refugees
Reportage Libya: Inside the Immigrants Detention Centre of Misratah
 
Culture Wars
Le Dernier Mot: Washingtonian Madness
Vatican Protests as Abortion Pill Looms

USA

Berg Files New Challenge to Eligibility

‘There is nothing more important than our U.S. Constitution’

A lawyer who already has two conferences pending before the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue of Barack Obama’s eligibility to be president has filed a new lawsuit, this one on behalf of a retired military colonel who would need to know whether to follow any orders issued by Obama as commander-in-chief.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Eligibility Case Finds ‘Standing’?

New suit claims unique state law enables citizens to demand proof

In the case brought by Pennsylvania Democrat Philip Berg, for example, a federal judge ruled against the lawsuit in deciding Berg lacked the “standing” to sue, arguing that the election of Obama wouldn’t cause the plaintiff specific, personal injury.

In Washington state’s Broe v. Reed case, however, plaintiff’s attorney Stephen Pidgeon says a unique state statute grants everyday citizens the required standing.

“These lawsuits have pointed their fingers at the various secretaries of state and said, ‘You handle the elections, it’s your job [to verify Obama’s eligibility],’“ Stephen Pidgeon told WND, “and the secretaries of state have said, ‘No, it’s not our job. You the voter have to prove he was ineligible.’ But when the voters try to do it, the courts tell them they have no standing. So it presents a catch-22.

“Here, we have standing by means of statute,” Pidgeon continued. “This particular statute provides for any registered voter to challenge the election of a candidate if the candidate at the time of the election was ineligible to hold office.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Exclusive: RNC Draft Rips Bush’s Bailouts

Republican Party officials say they will try next month to pass a resolution accusing President Bush and congressional Republican leaders of embracing “socialism,” underscoring deep dissension within the party at the end of Mr. Bush’s administration.

Those pushing the resolution, which will come before the Republican National Committee at its January meeting, say elected leaders need to be reminded of core principles. They said the RNC must take the dramatic step of wading into policy debates, which traditionally have been left to lawmakers.

“We can’t be a party of small government, free markets and low taxes while supporting bailouts and nationalizing industries, which lead to big government, socialism and high taxes at the expense of individual liberty and freedoms,” said Solomon Yue, an Oregon member and co-sponsor of a resolution that criticizes the U.S. government bailouts of the financial and auto industries. Republican National Committee Vice Chairman James Bopp Jr. wrote the resolution and asked the rest of the 168 voting members to sign it.

“The resolution also opposes President-elect Obama’s proposed public works program and supports conservative alternatives,” while encouraging the RNC “to engage in vigorous public policy debates consistent with our party platform,” said Mr. Bopp, a leading attorney for pro-life groups who has also challenged the campaign finance legislation that Mr. Bush signed.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Molotov Cocktail Thrown at Chicago Synagogue

Bottle of flammable liquid hurled at one of Chicago’s oldest synagogues; no major damaged caused. Arson investigated as hate crime, with possible connection to Operation Cast Lead in Gaza

A bottle of flammable liquid was hurled at one of Chicago’s oldest synagogues, catching fire but not causing major damage. No one was injured in the incident early Monday at Temple Sholom of Chicago. Chicago police and the Chicago fire department are investigating the arson as a hate crime. No one was in custody Monday.

Police officer Daniel O’Brien says the fire burned itself out and never ignited the North Side building. He says investigators are working to get surveillance equipment from the area.

Roger Rudich, president of the temple, says the arson was unsettling but not damaging. Officials say they don’t know if there’s a link between the incident and increased violence in the Middle East.

Tens of thousands of people throughout the Arab world and Europe protested on Monday against the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. In the Greek capital, Athens, 3,000 Greeks and Arabs protested outside the Israeli embassy. Police were forced to use teargas and shock grenades to control the demonstrators, some of which were throwing stones at the building..

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


US Gives 85 Million Dollars to Palestinian Refugees

The United States announced Tuesday it is providing Palestinian refugees with 85 million dollars, including a portion to help ease the plight of Palestinians under siege in the Gaza Strip.

The State Department said the funds would be channelled through the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) whose role it commended in “meeting the emergency needs of civilians in Gaza at this very difficult time.”

The US government is contributing 85 million dollars to meet UNWRA’s appeals for 2009, with 60 million dollars going to its general fund and 25 million dollars to its emergency fund, according to a statement.

It said 25 million dollars of the total will be used to help Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank “receive urgently needed food, medicines, and other critical humanitarian assistance.”

Refugees account for 70 percent of Gaza’s population; and 30 percent of the West Bank’s, it said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Antwerp: Arab Riots, Jewish Neighborhood Sealed

How do you protest violence against a civilian population? Attack a civilian population, of course. These riots were expected, given the massive incitement that accompanied the organization of the demonstrations.

——

The demonstration that the Arab European League (AEL) in Borgerhout (Antwerp) organized against the bombardments of the Gaza Strip, has gotten completely out of hand. After the protest disbanded the demonstrators marched towards the Jewish neighborhood in Antwerp, clashing with the police. In particular car windows suffered, but also trams and buses were attacked.

The AEL held a protest action in the Kerkstraat in Borgerhout from 2pm. The protesters demanded the immediate suspension of the bombardments of the Gaza Strip and of the violence against the civilian population. Already during the demonstration in Borgerhout there were heated moments here and there.

The situation truly got out of hand when the demonstration disbanded at about 3:15pm. A group of protesters then marched towards the Jewish neighborhood in Antwerp. The police had completely closed off the neighborhood upon which started a cat-and-mouse game. The situation threatened to get out of hand and at about 3:25pm the police arrived with more manpower in order to drive out the protesters. At about 4pm the riots moved again to Borgerhout, in the area of the Turnhoutsebaan.

The protesters caused much damage, in particular to car windows but also trams and basses were attacked. The De Lijn bus company is diverting all buses and trums on the Turnhoutsebaan-Carnotstraat-Rooseveltplaats route.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


Black Ravens Warn Against EU Treaty

People’s Party reverses stand on labour treaty

The rightwing Swiss People’s Party says the labour treaty with the European Union will undermine the country’s independence and lead to more unemployment.

In February voters will have the final say on a parliamentary decision to prolong an accord aimed at easing access to the labour market and extend it to Romania and Bulgaria.

The government, business community, trade unions and most political parties argue the labour accord — also known as the free movement of people agreement — is crucial for the economy and relations between Switzerland and its most important trading partner.

However, People’s Party President Toni Brunner warned of dire consequences if the labour treaty were to win a majority at the ballot box on February 8.

“Salaries will drop, joblessness will increase, more people will take advantage of and plunder our welfare system and the level of protection against foreign criminals will be dangerously reduced,” he said on Tuesday.

Brunner lambasted parliament for lumping together two issues in one vote: the continuation of the labour deal with 25 EU member states, gradually introduced since 2002, and the extension to newest members Bulgaria and Romania…

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Czech Communists’ New Spokesman Had Anti-Semitic Views — Press

[Comment from Tuan Jim: This guy was apparently an ultra-right winger who ended up in the Communist party — funny how that works.]

The KSCM leadership has known about Tomas’s controversial past, the papers say.

Tomas, 45, issued and headed the ultra-right anti-Semitic weekly Tydenik Politika (Weekly Politics) in the early 1990s in which he published a number of anti-Semitic articles, for instance, about the alleged “Jewish conspiracy.”

Over the articles, he was given a seven-month suspended sentence with a two-year probation by the Prague City Court in November 1994. In addition, he was banned from publishing for two years.

“No articles that would nod to racial discrimination of the Jewish nation, which I, too, condemn, ever appeared in Tydenik Politika weekly,” Tomas writes in his statement sent to the dailies, defending his views.

The KSCM leadership does not consider Tomas’s past a problem, LN writes.

“As far as I know he was put on probation during which he proved himself, so he must be regarded as never convicted,” KSCM chairman Vojtech Filip told LN.

KSCM deputy head Jiri Dolejs said he had rather discussed Tomas’s former critical opinions about the KSCM with him.

However, KSCM deputy group head Pavel Kovacik told Pravo that he had no idea about Tomas’s past and that the party leadership would deal with the case.

Tomas did not complete the studies of journalism at university. In the 1980s, he worked for radio and in a district paper. He became a candidate for the membership in the then Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSC) and later he actively worked in the People’s Party (LS).

In the 1990s Tomas published Tydenik Politika which was probably the largest wholesale Czech extremist magazine at the end of 1992. Later Tomas shortly cooperated with the public Czech Television (CT) desk in Brno.

From 2002 Tomas has been involved in the KSCM campaigns. He became the party’s spokesman in December, LN writes.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Europe: Czech Minister Defends Israeli Strikes

Prague, 30 Dec. (AKI) — The Czech Republic, which assumes the European Union’s presidency this week, on Tuesday defended Israel’s military strikes against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

As the European Union called for a ceasefire to end the violence that has killed more than 350 people and injured 1400 others, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said Israel had the right to defend itself.

“Let us realise one thing: Hamas increased steeply the number of rockets fired at Israel since the cease-fire ended. That is not acceptable any more,” Schwarzenberg told the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes.

France, which will hand over the EU’s rotating presidency to Prague this week, has criticised Israel’s strikes. President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned what he called “the irresponsible provocations” and the “disproportionate use of force”.

The European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, called for an immediate end to military action that it said had a heavy impact on the civilian population in Gaza. It also called for a halt to the rocket attacks targeting Israeli civilians.

The EC is providing urgent medical support in Gaza in addition to ongoing support.

The Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) is currently providing more than 73 million euros in humanitarian assistance to the West Bank and Gaza and half that amount is allocated to Gaza.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Greece: Two Rifles Used to Shoot at Police Bus

Athens.- The shots fired at a bus carrying policemen earlier this week came from two rifles, tests have revealed, prompting authorities to consider the possibility that an existing or new domestic terrorist organization was behind the attack rather than an extreme anti-establishment group.

Ballistic tests on the seven cartridge cases found by members of the anti-terrorist squad revealed on Thursday that the bullets, two of which hit the bus, had been fired from two different rifles, most likely Kalashnikovs. The shots were fired from a building on an abandoned firing range where the University of Athens’ residence halls, known as Panepistimioupolis, are located. One bullet blew out two tires on the bus while another struck the engine. No police officers were injured.

Authorities now believe that at least two people were involved in the attack and that a third person was probably acting as a lookout for the gunmen. A source who wished to remain anonymous told Kathimerini that the incident is unlikely to have been the work of extreme anarchists or anti-establishment figures.

Anti-terrorist officers are disregarding a claim of responsibility by a group calling itself Popular Action and are instead expecting those behind the shooting to issue a proclamation.

Police are now focusing on the theory that the shots were fired by members of an existing terror group, such as Revolutionary Struggle, which fired a grenade at the US Embassy last year, or experienced urban guerrillas that have formed a new organization.

Officers were presented with another unusual shooting to investigate, after a Proastiakos suburban railway train carrying passengers through the southern suburb of Tavros was fired upon late on Thursday.

One bullet smashed through a window but no passengers were hurt. It was not clear if a second shot had been fired at the train, which was traveling from Athens to Kiato, west of the capital. Police had not made any statements by yesterday night linking the shooting with Tuesday’s attack on the police bus or any other incidents since the death of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos on December 6.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Meet the New EU President: He’s Not Keen on the Euro or the Lisbon Treaty and Compares Europe to Soviet Union

He is against the Lisbon Treaty, not keen on the Euro, and has compared the European Union unfavourably with the former Soviet Union. So there should be interesting times ahead from New Year’s day when Czech leader Vaclav Klaus takes over the rotating presidency of the EU.

Klaus, 67, looks certain to use his tenure as an opportunity to publicise views which will cause fury among other EU leaders.

Klaus, a bespectacled economist who came to prominence after the Czechoslovak revolution against communism a generation ago , is a confirmed Eurosceptic. He believes the modern EU is reminiscent of the former Soviet bloc under which he lived.

The Czech president is an enthusiastic challenger of European and international policy on everything from climate change to relations with Russia. Klaus has likened bank bailouts to ‘old socialism’ slammed the Lisbon Treaty as ‘contradicting Czech sovereignty’ and called environmental issues a ‘luxury’.

He has had numerous clashes with his pro-EU Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, and the next six months are unlikely to match the pro-EU rhetoric of the current occupant to the top EU post, French President Nicolas Sarkozy. ‘It’s pretty uncomfortable to hold the EU presidency when you’ve got a euro-sceptic leader,’ a spokesman for European Policy Centre in Brussels said.

Klaus, whose Czech office is largely ceremonial, even refuses to fly the EU flag at his Prague Castle office, something which Sarkozy described earlier this month as ‘hurtful’ to EU colleagues.

The combative Klaus quickly countered, saying that Sarkozy’s leadership — and what he called a refusal to heed criticism — ‘certainly hurts the European Union and hurts Europe’. […]

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


One in Five Czechs Could Back Libertas in EP Elections

Petr Mach, executive director of the Czech Centre for Economics and Politics, and a close aide of President Vaclav Klaus, is planning to establish a party that would cooperate with Libertas.

STEM has found out that a Czech branch of Libertas, if established, could be supported by 22 percent of voters.

STEM director Jan Hartl, however, said the figure is only fictitious, while the real situation will depend on how comprehensible the party will be to voters.

“The [poll] data present it [Libertas] as a generally acceptable entity, with supporters across all social groups. However, in fact [the support for] it will be a conglomerate of antagonist and even contradicting motivations,” Hartl said on CT.

According to the poll, potential voters of a Czech branch of Libertas exist in all groups of the population, regardless of age and education. Most of its supporters are among the people who say that Prague’s failure to ratify the Lisbon treaty so far is an advantage ahead of the upcoming Czech EU presidency.

CT said the preparations of the new party are finishing. Mach is to announce the composition of its preparatory committee, its name and basic programme points on January 12.

“If agreement with Mr Ganley is reached, we will be part of the Libertas movement in the EP elections. Nevertheless, our primary goal are the elections to the Czech parliament,” Mach told CT.

A Czech turnout would be 57 percent if EP elections were held now, the STEM poll showed.

Libertas wants to run in the EP elections in as many EU states as possible.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus repeatedly supported Ganley in the past. Ganley says the elections will be a referendum on the EU’s further shape. Ganley and Klaus say they mind what they call a deficit of democracy in the EU, allegedly reflected by the Lisbon treaty. They also criticise the fact that EU inhabitants, except for the Irish, have not been enabled to decide on the Lisbon treaty adoption.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Spain: Car Bomb Explodes at TV Station

The blast happened outside regional television station EiTB, which had been evacuated after a warning call to police from the armed separatist group Eta.

The blast caused significant damage and one person suffered an ear injury.

The TV channel managed to stay on air despite the explosion at its headquarters.

“They have tried to silence one of this country’s media outlets,” EITB director Bingen Zupiria told reporters outside the building later…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Sweden: Police Hire Protection in Malmö Suburb

[Comment from Tuan Jim: I’m sure this is a good sign. :rolleyes:]

The police have contracted a security firm to help with the surveillance and protection of the police station in the Malmö suburb of Rosengård.

In connection with unrest in Rosengård the station has on repeated occasions been the target of fireworks, vandalism and stone-throwing youths.

The security firm will be deployed to help to ensure that the vandalism is not repeated, according to a report by local TV4 news program.

Michael Storm at Malmö police pointed out to TV4 that the move in no way meant that the police were unable to look after themselves.

The security firm will instead render it unnecessary for police officers to keep watch outside their own police station and free up resources for other duties. The firm will help the police to monitor those moving in and around the area.

“We of course think that this is an insecure situation, but now it has happened and we are working on normalizing the situation,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Sweden: Man Dies in Stockholm Shooting

[Comment from Tuan Jim: I didn’t include this article before, but after reading the article at jihad watch about the mall shooting in Denmark targeting the Israeli kids, I gotta wonder if this is a similar type of incident — a Lithuanian being targeted in Sweden??? A Lithuanian Jew maybe? I don’t know. If CS or someone else has more news access maybe he can give us a note.]

One man died and another was seriously injured in a shooting in central Stockholm on Wednesday morning.

Police have taken two men in for questioning. Police underlined however that the perpetrators remain at large.

“We consider that these people can give us valuable information. But they have neither been arrested nor are they suspected of any offence,” Kjell Lindgren at Stockholm police told news agency TT.

The deceased man is a 27-year-old Lithuanian citizen. The injured man’s identity and nationality have not yet been confirmed. According to the press office at Karolinska hospital the man’s condition is described as serious but stable.

The shooting took place on Swedenborgsgatan on Sodermalm in central Stockholm shortly after 7am on Wednesday.

“I was awoken at 7.15am by two shots and then a man screamed. I went out on to my balcony, looked out and saw a man lying on the ground and a number of witnesses milling around. Then the ambulance arrived and number of police,” a witness told TT.

“At first I thought that it was New Year’s Eve. But there is quite an intense feeling to this area so I wasn’t that surprised really. But all the same it feels awful.”

According to Kjell Lindgren a large number of police are working on the case.

A TT news reporter at the scene this morning looked on when a group of police officers stormed an apartment near the crime scene on the tree-lined residential street.

“We have entered an apartment that we consider to be interesting,” police confirmed.

The police cordoned off parts of Sodermalm and suspended transport services on Wednesday morning but by 8am trains were running as normal. The area in the vicinity of the shooting has been sealed off and a police forensics team is examining the scene.

A moped is reported to have been found burning near Arstaberg train station a couple of kilometres from the murder scene soon after the shooting.

“We are taking a broad approach to the investigation at the moment and can not rule out that there may be a connection,” said Kjell Lindgren.

Police report that they are looking for two men in connection with the shooting.

Five or six police broke into the apartment on Swedenborgsgatan on Sodermalm in central Stockholm at around 9.20pm, according to news agency TT.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


UK: ‘Pay Rise’ for Thousands of Poor Pensioners in Care Homes Leaves Them Worse Off Than Convicts

Tens of thousands of elderly people in care homes are to be given a spending money increase of just 75p a week.

They will have no more than £21.90 a week to pay for everything from clothes to toothpaste, books and phone calls.

The below-inflation rise was condemned as ‘Scrooge-worthy’ and ‘an insult’. It means vulnerable elderly people will have less spending money than prisoners in jail. The spending limit applies to all care home residents whose bills are being paid by the state.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Ambulancemen Arrested for ‘Ignoring a Dying Disabled Man Because He Wasn’t Worth Saving’

Two ambulancemen have been arrested for allegedly ignoring a dying man. They were detained after police were given a tape recording of them in the patient’s house in which they were said to have discussed not bothering to try to revive him. The ambulance crew had been sent to Barry Baker’s home after he dialled 999 saying he thought he was having a heart attack.

Ambulance controllers kept Mr Baker talking on the phone as they ordered the paramedic and ambulance technician to use their blue lights to get to him as quickly as possible. But 59-year-old Mr Baker, who was disabled and lived alone, collapsed unconscious while talking on the phone, leaving the line open to the control centre as he lay on the floor. Minutes later astonished dispatch centre staff heard their crew enter the house, apparently making disparaging comments about the state of the home. A police source, who asked not to be named, said the ambulancemen were then heard over the phone discussing Mr Baker and allegedly saying ‘words to the effect that he was not worth saving’. A police spokesman confirmed the arrests and added: ‘The men, aged 35 and 44 and from the Brighton area, have been arrested and questioned following the death of a man in Brighton. They were detained on suspicion of wilfully neglecting to perform a duty in public office, contrary to Common Law. They have been released on police bail pending further inquiries.’

Mr Baker, who used sticks to walk after having hip replacement operations, made a 999 call in the early hours of November 29. He told the controller he had severe chest pains and the ambulance crew from Brighton was immediately sent to his home. The police source said that despite Mr Baker collapsing, the controller was able to hear everything because the phone line remained open. ‘What they heard after their ambulance crew arrived frankly astonished them,’ said the source. ‘They are apparently heard to comment on seeing Mr Baker and saying-that it was not worth bothering to try to carry out resuscitation to try to save him. ‘They then are heard discussing what to tell ambulance control and allegedly decide to say that he was already dead when they arrived. ‘The controllers were so shocked by what seemed to be their colleagues’ lack of care for their patient that they immediately contacted senior managers and the police were called in.’ Police were called to Mr Baker’s home and made arrangements for his body to be removed. South East Coast Ambulance NHS Trust said both men had been suspended from duty. A spokesman said: ‘We are giving the police our full co- operation and are not in a position to comment further.’

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


UK: Hospital Sends War Hero, 101, Home to Die Wearing a Nappy and Clutching a Bag of Soiled Clothes

A dying 101-year-old war hero was sent home from hospital by taxi wearing only a nappy and a set of ill-fitting pyjamas.

Brigadier John Platt, who won the Distinguished Service Order for his bravery in battle, was left “degraded and humiliated” by his treatment by Salisbury District Hospital, his family say.

Brig Platt had spend five days on a mixed-sex ward during which his hearing aid was stepped on and crushed, his false teeth went missing and his soiled pyjamas were piled up in a locker by his bed for the duration.

He was unable to feed himself and was discharged in an incontinent and confused state, clutching a bag of his dirty clothes.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Now Children Taught How to Blow Noses

Parent thrashes curriculum as ‘complete waste of time’

The five- to 11-year-old children at Broad Oak Primary School in Manchester have been shown a DVD telling them the right and wrong ways to act when they have a cold.

But one parent condemned the exercise as “a complete waste of time”.

The parent added: “I send my kids to school to learn, not for someone to show them how to blow their nose.

“My lad said ‘Everyone knows how to blow their nose, we know to use a hanky not our sleeve’.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Outrage as Treasury Chief is Knighted — in the Middle of Britain’s Worst Economic Crisis for Decades

A top treasury official has received a knighthood sparking outrage that the honour was granted as Britain’s financial crisis continues to deepen.

Nick Macpherson, who is the Permanent Secretary of the Treasury, received the gong for his role in helping steer Britain through the current financial crisis.

But the move to knight Sir Nick, who receives an annual income of E196,000, was met with criticsm as the pound hit its lowest level of E1.0199.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Police Force Slammed for Spending £10,000 on ‘Hippie Nonsense’ Head Massages for Stressed Call Centre Workers

The decision by police to spend £10,000 on office massages for ‘stressed out’ workers at emergency call centres in Sussex has been fiercely criticised.

Top brass took the decision to put a £10,000 tender out for bids on Monday after workers complained of ‘feeling stressed out’ at emergency call centres in Lewes, Brighton and Haywards Heath.

But with 250 officers short, the decision has been blasted by serving bobbies. Brian Stockham, the chairman of the Sussex Police Federation, said it was ‘‘outrageous’’.

He said: ‘To spend £10,000 of public money on something like this seems outrageous when there are so many more important things to apply money to in Sussex Police’s budget. ‘The force is really poor in helping people with mental issues and this is the main cause of long-term sickness, so if we have £10,000 to spend then this is where it should go — especially when Sussex Police us currently 250 officers short.’

Nick Herbert, the Tory MP for Arundel and the South Downs, said: ‘This beggars belief. ‘I cannot believe that public money is being spent on offering Indian head massages to police or police staff.

‘At a time when the authority is telling us how strapped for cash they are, you have to question whether this is a responsible use of public money.’ One local PC, who did not want to be named, said he was disgusting with the plan. He said: “It’s all very well that call centre staff get stressed out, but how do they think we feel when we are faced with the blood and guts we face every day. ‘If anyone should be getting head massages it should be the bobby on the beat, not the people sitting in warm offices with cups of tea and biscuits.’ He added: ‘The £10,000 could be put to some good use rather than being spent on some hippie nonsense about getting your head rubbed.’

Chief Constable Martin Richards defended the plan, saying: ‘This is nothing new in organisations where staff are employed in call handling work. ‘We recognise that out hard-working staff can be sitting in set positions at their desks for long periods taking calls and dealing with a variety of challenging issues. ‘This service (Indian head massage) is a way of relieving pressure.’

Companies specialising in head massages have until January 9 to bid for the deal.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Kosovo: in the Shadow of Mother Theresa

December 31, 2008: Over the last few days, there has been unrest in northern Kosovo, after a Serb teenager was knifed by two Albanian kids. The rioters burned down several Albanian shops before NATO peacekeepers were able to restore order.

Meanwhile, one positive sign is the growing trend of Albanians in Kosovo turning away from Islamic radicalism by converting to Roman Catholicism. While 65 percent of Albanians (in Albania and Kosovo) are nominally Moslems, many are only superficially so. In fact, there is a long tradition of practicing Christianity at home, in secret. Forced conversions often have this effect. The return to Christianity, via Roman Catholicism, is also a slap at the Serbs, who practice Orthodox Christianity, and are often violently at odds with local Roman Catholics (like the Croats). The Albanians also take pride in Mother Theresa, an Albanian Catholic who became a nun, served for decades in India, and was recently declared a saint by the Papacy. Farther back, there are Roman Catholic folk heroes who resisted the advance of the Turks, and defended Albanian culture. These conversions encounter no government hostility, as they often do in Moslem majority countries, and represent a growing trend worldwide.

           — Hat tip: blogagog[Return to headlines]


Kosovo: All Quiet in KM After Thursday Violence

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, BELGRADE — Peace has been restored to Kosovska Mitrovica following yesterday evening’s incidents. None of those injured in yesterday’s incidents are in a life-threatening condition. Northern Kosovska Mitrovica is quiet after yesterday’s violence that flared after a Serb schoolboy was stabbed.

Two Kosovo Albanians arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of stabbing Nikola Bozovic (16) in Kosovska Mitrovica have been released pending trial, Kosovo Police Service (KPS) regional spokesman Besim Hoti told Tanjug.

Hoti pointed out that both suspects, students from Dakovica aged 21 and 22, would be released on bail.

“The police have done their part of the job, they’ve taken statements and material proof, as well as a knife from one of them,” said Hoti, adding that the suspects claimed that they had stabbed Božovic in self-defense, which, the spokesman said, was irrelevant.

He said that they would be charged with causing actual bodily harm, that the motives for the attack were still unclear and that this would be the hardest thing to prove.

The stabbed sixteen-year-old boy is in stable condition and his life is not endangered, state broadcaster RTS reports, while the Albanians injured in the incident in Kosovska Mitrovica are stable and their condition is not life-threatening.

According to Hoti, the Albanian wounded in last night’s shooting has undergone surgery and is now in hospital in Pristina.

Kosovo Ministry State Secretary Oliver Ivanovic said that he expected the situation in the town to calm, but called for caution, especially from the international forces in the province.

He warned that the Serbs should “certainly be wary in future as it’s realistic to expect that once EULEX begins addressing ethnically motivated crimes since 1999 in earnest, problems could arise. That’s when everyone responsible for security in Kosovo will have to pay special attention to Serb areas as they could become a target.”

To recap, two other Albanians were also injured in the shooting that came in response to Bozovic’s stabbing.

In the north of the town, Serbs set fire to a number of Albanian shops and vandalized several cars with Kosovo number plates.

After the situation was brought under control, a group of international troops and EULEX police officers remained on the bridge over the Ibar.

Southern Mitrovica Mayor Bajram Rexhepi called on “everyone to show restraint to diffuse the tension,” adding that he hoped that KFOR, EULEX and the Kosovo Police Service would maintain law and order.

Meanwhile, Kosovo Ministar Goran Bogdanovic has called on EU and UN representatives to invest further efforts to protect the Serb population in Kosovo.

Following the violence last night, he called on the Serbs in the city not to give in to provocation and endeavor to keep the peace.

“It’s clear that it suits someone to cause chaos in Kosovska Mitrovica, I’m afraid that such actions are aimed at destabilizing the Serb community in Kosovo, which we must not allow,” said Bogdanovic.

He said that members of the international community in Kosovo had to invest added efforts to prevent these incidents from escalating into violence that could bring unpredictable repercussions for the Serbs in Kosovo.

Serbs in the north of the town primarily object to the reaction of international police forces, which, according to them, have “failed the test” on this occasion.

Chairman of the Serb National Council in Kosovska Mitrovica Nebojsa Jovic told B92 that protest were planned as a result.

“If you ask me, EULEX has flunked the test. I don’t know if they’ve formed those security units of theirs, but if they want to offer guarantees to the at-risk Serb population, how are they to protect them from this murder attempt or how are they to protect them from the next attack if they intervene like they did yesterday,” said Jovic.

“The question is whether we can trust them and it raises the question of cooperation with them,” said Jovic.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Slovenia: Referendum on Mosque Temporarily Averted

Ljubljana, 30 December (STA) — The construction of the first mosque in Slovenia, in Ljubljana, will not be subject to a local referendum yet as Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Jankovic said Tuesday he had rejected a petition that would allow the proponents to start collecting the 11,000 signatures necessary to call a referendum.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Italy-Libya: Frattini, We Will Resolve Compensation Issue

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 30 — The Foreign Affairs minister, Franco Frattini, has asserted that Italy and Libya are in negotiations to resolve the issues of loans claimed by Italian businesses and the compensation of Italian citizens who were expelled from Libya in 1970. Frattini promised that both parties “want to find a solution, and to find it in a spirit of friendship”. Speaking to journalists just outside a convention at the Foreign Ministry on the Italo-Libyan Treaty of Friendship, Frattini said that the issue is being dealt with “gradually”. The minister continued to explain that “there has been an initial meeting at Palazzo Chigi with the representatives of the association of Italians repatriated from Libya at which some moderate and acceptable requests were put forward that we now need to think about”. Whilst the question of the loans claimed by Italian businesses can only be settled by an agreement between Rome and Tripoli, the repatriated Italian citizens are asking that the Italian government set aside the necessary funds for their compensation in the current budget. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt, 40 Members Muslim Brotherhood Arrested

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, DECEMBER 31 — Forty members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been arrested in Egypt for participation in protests against Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip. According to sources in security services, 25 activists were arrested last night in Cairo while preparing to participate in a rally on the situation in Gaza. The other 15 are all students, also members of the Brotherhood, detained for planning to participate in anti-Israel demonstrations. The Muslim Brotherhood is Egypt’s main opposition group. Founded in 1928, the movement has strong historic and ideological links with Hamas. Though officially banned in 1954, the group is tolerated by the authorities and members of the Brotherhood, running as independent candidates in the elections, hold one fifth of Parliament seats. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Tourism: Cairo by Night, More Like NY Than Arab Capital

(by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JULY 2 — Eat sushi, taste Thai, Indian, Greek, Italian, Lebanese and French dishes, have an aperitif at sunset, seating on the bank of the Nile, nibbling the typical appetizers of babaghanouch and tahini, or dance into the night, these are only several of the numerous possibilities which the most fashionable places in Cairo — just like the ones in western cities — offer to their customers. At Sequoia, white sofas covered with colourful cushions, soft curtains instead of a ceiling and hundreds of candles, guarantee rarefied and sophisticated atmosphere. Outside, luxury cars and security guards indicate that only the “right” people are allowed in the place. Situated on the island of Gezira, in the chic quarter of Zamalek, this lounge bar allows its visitors to sit literally “in the middle of the Nile”. There are few but unquestionable conditions to gain access: obligatory reservation and no veil. “This is probably the only place in the country to have banned its visitors from wearing a hijab, despite the fact that the owner is an Egyptian,” said Christine, a young customer. The menu is international: Japanese cuisine, along with Italian specialities and local dishes. Those who are not hungry can always sip a cup of mint tea and smoke a shisha — the typical water pipe — always kept lighted by diligent waiters dressed in white. The list of drinks is complete like in any western bar. On the other side of the river, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Giza, is situated “Club 35”, a bar frequented by the Egyptian jet set. Again near the pyramids stands “Andrea”, famous for its roast chicken. It is difficult to find but, according to its guests, it is a true jewel where one can have an open-air snack during daytime. In the evening, however, from November to March, the internal halls decorated in Byzantine style are turned into a night club. To those who love varied dishes, “Sangria” — downtown Cairo and offering a breathtaking view to the Nile — gives the opportunity to dine inside or out on the balcony and to choose between Mediterranean specialities, Japanese cuisine or opt for the more classical hamburgers. Once one has had a bite, they can always order a narghile or go downstairs to “Absolute”. Here, young Egyptians and foreigners of all ages dance to Middle East pop music and western hits. Finally, among the numerous boats moored along the Nile, two enjoy the most exclusive clientele. The “Blue Nile”, preferred during the summer for its deck with live music, and “Pacha 1901”, with its ten restaurants which offer meals from all corners of the world, among them “Tarbouche-Akl Zaman” where typical Egyptian food is served, “L’Asiatique”, which offers Chinese, Thai and Japanese cuisine and the obligatory Italian territory, “Piccolo Mondo”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Egypt Supports Hamas

by Federica Zoja

In Egypt, public opinion anxiously follows the situation in Gaza, and shows its solidarity towards Hamas. According to the average Egyptian, Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) is nothing but a puppet president, and nothing has changed since 1981 when President Anwar Al Sadat was assassinated following his receptiveness towards Israel and the peace treaty of 1979. Many young Egyptians see protesting against Israel, the United States or Murabek as the same thing…

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


‘Gaza Children Will Collect Parts of Your Bodies and Your Tanks From the Streets’

Hamas warning as Israel rejects ceasefire

Hamas has issued a dire warning to Israel that it will inflict untold harm unless it refuses to end its onslaught on the Gaza Strip.

The group’s armed wing, the Izz al-Din al Qassam Brigades, spoke for the first time since fighting broke out as Israeli leaders rejected plans for a 48-hour truce.

A masked spokesman, appearing on television, said ominously: ‘If you think that Hamas and al-Qassam will be crushed, we will rise up from the rubble.

‘If you decide to enter the Gaza Strip, the land in Gaza will burn under your feet and it will explode under your soldiers and Gaza children will collect parts of your bodies and your tanks from the streets.’

[…]

Arab countries are also concerned about the silence of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama.

Hilal Khashan, a professor of political science at the American University of Beirut, said: ‘Obama’s position is very precarious. The Jewish lobby warned against his election, so he has chosen to remain silent.

‘If Obama continues to remain silent… his silence will be seen as providing an endorsement for Israel’s war on Gaza.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Hamas Explains Use of Civilians as Human Shields

“We desire death as you desire life.”

[Video at link]

The UN announcement that 51 civilians have died in the conflict in Gaza must be understood in the context of Hamas’s declared ideology to use civilians as human shields for Hamas fighters. Indeed, Hamas continues to emphasize and promote the religious ideology that death for Allah is an ideal to be actively pursued.

The goal is to convince Palestinians, including women and children, not to fear death but even to face it at the front to protect Hamas fighters. Hamas’s placement of its military installations and fighters among civilians reflects this ideology, and has led to these 51 deaths.

A Hamas representative in the PA legislative council this year expressed pride in the fact that women and children are used as human shields in fighting Israel. He described it as part of a “death industry” at which Palestinians excel, and explained that the Palestinians “desire death” with the same intensity that Israelis “desire life.”

The following is the full text of the comments by Hamas representative Fathi Hamad: “For the Palestinian people death became an industry, at which women excel and so do all people on this land: the elderly excel, the Jihad fighters excel, and the children excel. Accordingly [Palestinians] created a human shield of women, children, the elderly and the Jihad fighters against the Zionist bombing machine, as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: We desire death as you desire life.”

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis[Return to headlines]


Hamas is the Obstacle to Middle East Peace

In August 2005, Israel left Gaza. Every soldier was withdrawn. Every Jewish settlement was evacuated, in a process requiring 45,000 police and costing $2.5 billion. Politicians staked their reputations on a courageous step towards peace. They hoped Gaza could provide a blueprint of Palestinian autonomy, a precursor to a Palestinian state.

Tragically, Hamas chose violence, rejecting the chance to develop Gazan society and opting instead to attack ours. Missiles from Gaza have blighted the lives of Israeli civilians since 2001. The withdrawal should have brought calm, but 5,000 missiles and mortars have since rained down on Israel.

As I write, Hizbollah flags flutter in the Kensington streets outside my Embassy. Agitators hail the Hamas leadership that created the crisis. In Gaza, protestors dissenting against Hamas face the death sentence. With the blessing of Iran and Hizbollah, Hamas has turned Gaza into a theocratic nightmare.

Al-Hayat last Wednesday reported Hamas’s new laws enforcing punishments of whipping for drinking, dismembering for theft, and executions for a host of ambiguous crimes. “Games of chance” are also to be punished with the whip. Ironically, Hamas continues to gamble with Palestinian lives.

Hamas is committed to Islamism at its bloodiest, and Israel is not its only target. In June 2007 Hamas turned its weapons on its brethren, chasing the Palestinian Authority from Gaza. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, 161 people died during the bloody coup, including 41 civilians. Brutality has characterised Hamas’s rule. In November 2007, seven demonstrators were killed, as Hamas police fired into an unarmed Fatah rally commemorating the death of Yasser Arafat. Last summer, Hamas killed 11 Fatah members as 200 more fled to Israel for safety. Yet while Hamas kills Palestinians, the megaphones remain mute.

Hamas has betrayed the Palestinian cause. The Palestinian national movement, previously based on secular, nationalist aspirations has been hijacked by religiously inspired lunacy. Every missile fired at Israel, every Fatah rival shot dead, has steered the Palestinians further from statehood, and closer to brutal theocracy and interminable conflict.

The megaphones crow selective demands to end the violence but Israel has been demanding calm for years. Our concerns have been treated with complacency. The realities faced by Israel’s southern citizens have been downplayed. Their life under missile fire relegated to small-print, a footnote in the reams of condemnation of Israel’s search for solutions to the Hamas menace.

500,000 Israelis live within range of Hamas’s missiles. The piercing warning siren dominates the daily routine in towns like Sderot, Ashkelon and Ashdod. Anywhere within 40km of Gaza, communities raise their children in bomb shelters. Israel cannot sit back while Hamas improves the size and range of its arsenal.

No democratic government in the world would tolerate this. No population would permit it. No army would allow an implacable foe to launch missiles at its citizens and improve its capabilities.

As the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has pointed out, the loss of life in Gaza was “avoidable”. Without the destructive actions of Hamas there would have been no reaction from Israel.

As Israel targets Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure, we continue to supply Gaza with electricity and aid. Thousands of tonnes of food and medical supplies have passed through the border in recent days. The provision of electricity, aid and support to the civilians of an enemy territory, during a time of war, is a unique phenomenon. Our fight is not with the people of Gaza, but with the terrorist body holding them hostage.

Cries of “disproportionate” fill the airwaves, based largely on the difference in death tolls. Yet Hamas’s disregard for the lives of civilians is the key to the difference. Israel provides shelters underneath its communities to protect its citizens. Hamas places missiles in shelters underneath civilians.

Hamas fires missiles with the express intent of murdering civilians. Israeli intent is directed solely at Hamas combatants.

The challenge of Hamas reflects the wider struggle between moderates and extremists that defines the dynamics of our region. Extremist cheerleaders parrot their usual rhetoric. Hamas’s political leader Khaled Meshal preaches martyrdom from his throne in Damascus. Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah bellows “resistance”, while imposing ideological tyranny on Lebanon.

Meanwhile, in Tehran, the operational head-quarters of Middle Eastern terror, President Ahmadinejad writes new verses of pseudo-religious justification for the murder of Jews. Shamefully, Channel 4 executives made him their Christmas guest of honour, insulting the intelligence and integrity of the British viewer. Their alternative Christmas message will go down in history as a disgrace to British broadcasting.

It is time to recognise that the tactics and ideology of Hamas and its backers are the foremost obstacle to Middle East peace. The moderates in the Arab world understand this better than some European observers.

For too long, Hamas has held progress to ransom, choosing war over peace, destruction over development. Israel’s objective is to take the initiative away from Hamas. The pragmatic moderates of all sides need a new reality from which to find a diplomatic solution. Unless we weaken Hamas, the moderates cannot succeed. The international community, Israel and the pragmatic leadership of the Arab world must stand up to the extremism that threatens us all. We must start the New Year in the spirit of Churchill. If we are divided, we all stand to lose; “If we are together nothing is impossible.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Israel Rejects Truce Calls, Targets Gaza Tunnels

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israel rejected international pressure to suspend its air offensive against Palestinian militants whose rocket barrages are striking close to the Israeli heartland, sending warplanes Wednesday to demolish smuggling tunnels that are the lifeline of Gaza’s Islamic Hamas rulers.

The diplomatic action was set in motion by the scale of destruction in Gaza since Israel unleashed its campaign Saturday, and a casualty toll that Gaza officials now put at 390 dead and some 1,600 wounded. Hamas says some 200 uniformed members of Hamas security forces have been killed, and the U.N. says at least 60 Palestinian civilians have died. Four Israelis have been killed by militant rocket fire, including three civilians.

[…]

Underlying the Israeli decision to keep fighting are the mightier weapons that Hamas has smuggled into Gaza through underground tunnels along the border with Egypt. Previously, militants had relied on crude homemade rockets that could fly just 12 miles to terrorize Israeli border communities. Now, they are firing industrial-grade weapons that have dramatically expanded their range and put more than one-tenth of Israel’s population in their sights.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Israel Residents Struggle With Rocket Casualties While Cheering Military Assault on Gaza

SDEROT, Israel (AP) — This working-class border town has been pounded with several thousand missiles fired out of Gaza since 2001. Now anxiety is mixed with satisfaction that Israel’s military is finally getting even with its tormentors.

“It’s about time,” said Victor Turjeman, a 33-year-old electrician. “We’ve been waiting for this for eight years.”

In that time, rockets have killed eight people here, injured hundreds more and made daily life unbearable.

Turjeman said his four children have been traumatized by the near daily attacks, his home has been damaged and his brother had a heart attack after a rocket exploded nearby. He fears escalation, but said he was pleased that the militant group Hamas was finally being punished.

“We should keep pounding them until they beg for mercy,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, all of Gaza can be erased.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Jerusalem-Area Arabs Step Up Riots, Protests

Parts of Jerusalem were tense Monday as Arab riots and protests against the ongoing IDF operation in Gaza erupted at various locations in and around the capital.

For the second day in a row, dozens of youths rioted near the entrance to the Shuafat refugee camp in east Jerusalem, burning tires and throwing rocks at the border policemen and IDF soldiers stationed at the checkpoint that leads in and out of the area. By nightfall, the rioters had been dispersed, but the marks of two days of violence were visible from the camps’ entrance.

Large rocks, pieces of glass and other debris were scattered across the road, and a boosted Border Police presence — including Arabic-speaking officers wearing black face masks — were congregated in larger numbers than usual. “They were throwing rocks and burning tires, you know, the usual stuff,” said one border policeman, who declined to give his name. “They did it yesterday and they’ll probably do it again tomorrow, but that’s what we’re here for.”

Shuafat residents’ reactions to the riots ranged from complacency to talk of starting a third intifada. In a nearby auto garage, mechanics were transfixed by their television set, as it broadcast Al-Jazeera’s seemingly nonstop coverage of Operation Cast Lead. “Is that Rafah or Gaza City?” one of them asked the other, pointing at the images of black smoke rising above the dense urban sprawl. “Rafah,” another of the mechanics answered. “It’s the border with Egypt.”

But when it came to speaking with the press, the mechanics seemed less interested. “It’s angering,” one of them said. “It makes us all angry, but we don’t pay any attention to the kids who come out here and cause trouble. We have work to do.”

Others were more forthcoming.

“There is talk of starting the intifada again,” said Marwan, a young man returning home from work. “And it’s not just here in Shuafat, nor is it just in east Jerusalem. It’s in Ramallah, it’s in Nablus, it’s in Jenin. People are very upset about what’s going on, and I think that right now, the Palestinians feel very unified — no more Fatah and Hamas, it’s Palestinian blood that’s being spilled.” […]

A fire in a Jerusalem area forest caught the attention of border policemen on patrol. The officers began searching the area on suspicion that the fire had been deliberately set. “The officers apprehended two Arab suspects near the forest, who admitted to setting the fire in connection with the ongoing events in Gaza, and the protests in and around Jerusalem,” a police spokesman told the Post.

A loud but mostly peaceful protest was held at the Old City’s Nablus Gate in the afternoon, as dozens of east Jerusalemites carried signs and shouted slogans decrying the Gaza operation.

That protest was dispersed by police after one of the protesters tried to incite the crowd to riot, but another protest was held in the same spot later in evening, which was attended by even more Arab residents.

Other disturbances occurred in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods of Isawiya and Silwan on Monday, police said, but all of the demonstrations were dispersed by police and Border Police units, with minimal use of force.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Let’s Talk About Justice

David Moria, whose son was killed by terrorists, has no sympathy for Gazans who celebrated in streets

About 10 months ago, after our 16-year-old son was murdered in a terror attack along with seven of his friends, TV screens worldwide showed festive images from Gaza that included dances, the handing out of sweets, and gleeful shots fired in the air — alongside the terrible images of the blood-soaked library at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem.

I won’t deny the fact that the current images from Gaza elegantly circumvent my humanistic instinct and make their way to a satisfying sense of the most primitive desire for revenge. Yet my sense of justice has also been satisfied. Moreover, anyone living in this country knows that soon we shall again see the images of the blood of innocent Jews, and again Gaza residents will be celebrating it.

All of us know that in this country we have a large sector, including quite a few Knesset members, which despite the occasional condemnation of murderous terror directed at citizens secretly hopes for a multi-casualty terror attack — so it proves there is no way to defeat Hamas, and we must therefore capitulate to its demands and negotiate with it.

Commentators explain to us why being strong also means being weak, and why being weak also means being strong, and say that many casualties Advertisement

on our side will force us to talk to Hamas. Meanwhile, many governments worldwide provide us with words of advice and preach morals to us in the aim of renewing the lull and the talks. Yet everyone knows that every single one of these countries, had it faced our situation, would have embarked on a belligerent, destructive move a long time ago, without showing any compassion to women or children.

Yet everybody is talking about peace and nobody is talking about justice. The time has come to stop talking peace and to start talking about justice. I once knew a grandmother with common sense who used to say: What’s bad is bad, and what’s good is good…

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis[Return to headlines]


Middle East: Happiest Israelis Are Settlers

(by Aldo Baquis) (ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, DECEMBER 15 — It is now incontrovertible: these day you need to go to the Jewish settlements in the West Bank to find happy Israelis. More than ninety out of a hundred people said they were “very satisfied with life” and said they were in “excellent health”. Hostility from the Palestinian population and the risk of attacks on the roads do not worry the settlers, whose number continues to grow rapidly. There are almost 300,000 in the West Bank: half a million, if you add the Israeli inhabitants of Jerusalem to this. A critical mass which — at least this is their feeling — should make up an insurance policy against possible clear-out projects by a future Israeli Government. The updated figures on life in the West Bank are the result of research by Professor Dan Soen and Doctor Vered Neeman-Haviv of the Academic Centre of Judea-Samaria, Ariel (West Bank). It emerges from the study that the Jewish population in the West Bank has doubled in twelve years, between 1995 (130,000) and 2007 (270,000). In the same period the total Israeli population grew by 29%, or by a third, compared to the settlers, which “are in a higher gear”. The population — say the researchers — is young and dynamic. The elderly Jewish population (over 65) in the West Bank is just 2.9%, while the Israeli national average is 10%. The demographic of these settlers has also changed, with a large increase in the ultra-orthodox population, whose families are famously large. In the West Bank the ultra-orthodox population is 30.7%, the national average in Israel being 7.5%. The quality of life in West Bank settlements is very high: researchers found that unemployment is relatively low, that average family incomes are 10% higher than the national average, that social inequality is lower and that young people do better in final exams that in the rest of Israel. There is only one ‘blot’ on this idyllic landscape: a relatively high level of petty crime. The research balances out the mainly negative image of the settlements which was created in the Israeli and international media following the violence carried out by hundreds of ultras last week against the Palestinian population of Hebron, in the West Bank. Premier Ehud Olmert then described their behaviour as “a true pogrom”. Soen and Neeman-Haviv’s research reveals that the West Bank settlements represent a social strata characterised by many positive elements. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


News Media Falsely Portraying Gaza Attack

Claiming Israeli strike on weapons lab targeted ‘woman’s wing’

JERUSALEM — The U.S. and international news media are falsely portraying an Israeli air strike against a Hamas-run university in the Gaza Strip, claiming a “woman’s wing” was targeted, when, according to the Israeli military, the target was a weapons lab at the school’s chemistry department.

Known senior Palestinian terrorists in Gaza, speaking on the record, previously explained to WND how the Islamic University’s chemistry department was used to manufacture explosives for use against Israel.

Palestinian raids of the targeted building previously yielded illicit Hamas rockets.

In a series of air Israeli raids yesterday, one precision strike hit a building of Gaza’s Islamic University.

[…]

Avital Lebovich, a spokeswoman for the Israel Defense Forces, told WND Israel only targeted one chemical laboratory at Islamic University, which she said was used for the manufacture of Hamas explosives.

“This is the first university in world that gives out bachelor’s degrees in rocket manufacture,” she said.

Lebovich affirmed the targeted building did not house any women’s wing.

[…]

In a 2007 interview, Muhammad Abel-Al, a leader and spokesman of the Popular Resistance Committees, a Hamas-affilated terror group, told WND Islamic University is “extremely important” for recruitment of militants.

Abdel-Al, who also goes by the name Abu Abir, said several members of his group study chemistry at the university to aid in the manufacture of explosives and suicide belts. The Committees is responsible for hundreds of rocket attacks from Gaza aimed at nearby Jewish cities.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Return of the Bad Old Middle East

The Arab-Israeli conflict is not about Israel refusing to share land and resources with Palestinians but about the absolute refusal of the Arab world to acquiesce in the existence of any Jewish-majority political entity within any set of borders in the Middle East. […]

Terrorism escalated with each concession by Israel, especially after it agreed to allow Palestinians political autonomy and then statehood. It escalated after Israel removed its administrative control of the Arab population in most of the “Palestinian territories.” […]

Arab terrorism and military aggression are not caused by Israeli occupation but rather by the removal of Israeli occupation. […]

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Shin Bet Head: Hamas Dealt Serious Blow; Operatives Hiding-Out in Hospitals

Hamas has been dealt a serious blow by the repeated IAF strikes in the Gaza Strip since Saturday, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin said on Wednesday.

“Hamas has been attacked as it has never been attacked before; it has suffered serious damage and its governability in Gaza has been severely impaired,” Diskin told ministers at a cabinet meeting.

The Shin Bet head added that many of Hamas’s senior activists were hiding out in mosques and hospitals in Gaza, some of them in the guise of doctors and male nurses.

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis[Return to headlines]


Terrorists Promise ‘Surprises’ for Israel

Gaza rockets may be capable of striking Tel Aviv

TEL AVIV — Speaking during exclusive WND interviews today, leaders of Hamas and an allied terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip claimed they have “surprises” in store for Israel as the Jewish state continues its aerial bombardment of Hamas targets in Gaza.

The threats come as information from Israeli defense officials indicates Gaza-based terrorists have long-range rockets capable of reaching just outside Tel Aviv if launched from the northern Gaza Strip.

“This war is a war for elections and therefore we promise to send them (Israelis) surprises,” stated Abu Abdullah, considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas’ so-called military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades.

Abu Abdullah claimed to WND that if Israeli ground troops entered Gaza, his terror group is ready to engage.

“This will be the day of al-Hasher — the day where believers and nonbelievers will be fighting face to face, and we will get rid of them and Allah will win for the Muslims and the believers,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


The Canary in the Mine

In the old days, I am told, coal miners would lower a cage with a tiny canary into a mine to determine if the levels of methane, carbon dioxide or other noxious gases were present. The logic was as long as that canary kept on singing in the mine, the miners knew that their air supply was safe; however, when the singing stopped, it was time to leave that site immediately, for death would quickly follow.

That simple deductive reasoning lasted scores of years and saved many lives, yet in our modern technological age, the nations of the world seem oblivious to the one country that metaphorically speaking is the little canary who daily sings its sobering aria to this perverted, psychopathic world — that canary in the mine are the Jewish people and the nation of Israel.

On New Year’s Eve, the day before 2009, as Israel, three years since giving the Palestinians Gaza, has been repaid with thousands of unprovoked rocket attacks, the canary in the mine is gagging from Muslim hatred, world apathy and U.N. anti-Semitism that surrounds the Jewish state, and after years of forbearance is finally fighting gallantly for her survival.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


The Gaza War: is it All So Hard to Understand?*

by Barry Rubin

But why, more than one reporter from highly reputable publications has asked me, is Israel attacking Gaza now? At first, I was astonished: because Hamas cancelled the ceasefire and started massive rocket firings at Israel.

No, they responded, as if I had said something rude. Isn’t it the election, or an attempt to stop the tunnels, or this or that reason?

Absolutely not, I say, it’s like Pearl Harbor, or September 11. If someone announces they are going to go to war with you and then does it, you retaliate and fight.

At that point, the reporters seem to lose interest and bring the interview to an end, as if clearly a person who can say such things is not going to provide any rational analysis. Yet if one cannot even understand this most basic fact, what comprehension can there be of this issue or, indeed, of Middle East politics in general.

There are reasons, however, for this response. Large elements in the West find it very hard to “get,” that is to understand, Hamas or the Palestinians in general—or, for that matter,? Islamists in general, or Arabs in general, or Muslims in general—albeit with all the many variations and exceptions.

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]


What Victimology Does Not Account for

I have been a very outspoken critic of Israeli policies for many years. Nevertheless, those who, like Nir Rosen here, go into endless diatribes to ascribe sole responsibility to Israel for the current situation are hypocritical at worst and ignorant at best. In this age of political correctness it is always sexy to support the underdog. But political correctness does not always yield wise political judgment.

Abba Eban, Israel’s dovish foreign minister for many years, coined the immortal saying “The Palestinians never miss a chance to miss a chance.” Even though lives are lost almost every hour now, I ask the reader to bear with me for a brief excursion through history.

Eban was right: Palestinians never miss a chance to miss a chance. They make every conceivable wrong decision. This does not constitute an excuse for Israel’s policies, but it makes it impossible for Israeli governments to take risks for peace. Every government is primarily responsible for its citizens’ security, and Israel is no exception. So far, Palestinians have forced Israeli governments into hardline positions by their policies…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Middle East

“Oil-Rich Arabs Have More in Their Pockets Than in Their Brains”, Say Expatriates

by Sami Alrabaa

Sociologists and politicians claim that underdevelopment and less poverty can be overcome by money. This is not true, at least in the Arab countries at the Persian Gulf. The Arab oil rich countries; Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, are a case in point. For more than half a century now these countries have been awash in petrodollars. Yet they are still underdeveloped, in particular their human resources…

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


7,000 Students Register in Iran’s Isfahan to Fight Israel

[Comments from JD: Keep in mind news source is Chinese State run media, so numbers may not be accurate.]

TEHRAN, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) — Seven thousand university students from Iran’s central city of Isfahan registered on Monday to fight Israel, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

“On the first day of registration to fight Zionist regime and to help Palestinians, 7,000 students from the universities of Isfahan have claimed readiness,” Mohammad Zarifi, member of Iran’s Students Islamic Association, was quoted as saying by Fars.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Arab Oral Culture and Lack of Knowledge

by Sami Alrabaa

We Arabs, the majority of us, at least, rarely read. Hassan, a Syrian graduate, said, “What do you want me to read? State-controlled newspapers? Cooking books? Horoscope and dream interpreting books? That is all you can get in almost all Arab countries in terms of books.”

Most Arabs watch TV or listen to the radio. What do they watch and listen to? They listen to music and watch movies and soap opera serials. Politically-interested Arabs watch Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya for news and political discussions. Most Arabs distrust news on state-controlled radios and TVs. Viewers of Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, the majority of whom are anti-Western and anti-American, enjoy the black and white picture depicted by these channels.

Very few political Muslims, the so-called Islamists, have read the Koran and Hadeeth. The majority have not, but dream of paradise on earth ruled by Al Shari’a.

Arab leaders and their affiliates do not read either…

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Arabs Want UN Resolution Ensuring Gaza Cease-Fire

UNITED NATIONS: The Security Council held an emergency meeting Wednesday night on an Arab request for a legally binding and enforceable U.N. resolution that would ensure an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

The council issued a press statement early Sunday — about 15 hours after Israeli warplanes started raining bombs on Hamas security sites — expressing serious concern at the escalating situation in Gaza and calling on Israel and the Palestinians to immediately halt all violence.

But unlike Security Council resolutions, council press statements are not legally binding, and the Israeli bombing has continued, along with Hamas rocket and mortar attacks into southern Israel.

Egypt’s U.N. Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz, on behalf of Arab Group of nations at the U.N., asked for an emergency session on “the continued Israeli military aggression,” on instructions from Arab League foreign ministers who met in Cairo earlier Wednesday.

He said in a letter that the Arabs want the council “to adopt an enforceable and binding resolution that would ensure immediate cease-fire, cessation of the Israeli military aggression, lifting of the blockade, opening of border crossing points, end of the Israeli policy of collective punishment, providing international protection to the Palestinian people and ensuring calm.”

With up to 390 dead in Gaza, and just four killed in Israel, the Israeli government has come under strong criticism from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and many in the Arab world for the excessive use of force. Israel said the bombardment — one of the Mideast’s bloodiest assaults in decades — was aimed at stopping rocket attacks from Gaza that have traumatized southern Israel.

At the start of Wednesday night’s council meeting, Ban again condemned “the indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas militants and the disproportionality of the continuing Israeli military operation.”

He said he was “profoundly troubled” that the council’s call for an end to the violence had gone unheeded and demanded that the parties “step back from the brink” and observe an immediate cease-fire.

While welcoming efforts to end the conflict, including by Arab and European leaders, Ban reiterated that “not enough has been done and more is urgently required.” He called on all members of the international community, especially those in the region, “to exert what influence they have on the parties to end this violence now.”

At Wednesday’s meeting in Cairo, Arab League foreign ministers instructed Arab ambassadors at the U.N. to draft and start the process of winning approval for a Security Council resolution “putting a halt on this aggression,” Sudan’s U.N. Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamed said.

Mohamed, who attended the Arab Group meeting just before the council met, said he did not foresee adoption of a resolution before Monday because a delegation of Arab foreign ministers is flying to New York “to give a boost to the diplomatic activity here.”

He said the ministers — from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Qatar, Lebanon, Libya, Egypt and Morocco — would arrive Sunday or Monday. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa has also asked Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “to lead the diplomatic campaign in New York,” he said.

“Time is of the essence … because Israel is interested in time so that they can crush Hamas,” Mohamed said. “So time is good for Israel, but for us is very bad. This is why we want, as quickly as possible, adoption of a resolution.”…

[Return to headlines]


Iran: Italian Fashion Store Attacked by Protesters

Tehran, 31 Dec. (AKI) — A branch of the Italian clothing retailer Benetton was set on fire in Iran amid angry protests against the Israeli raids in the Gaza Strip, media reports said on Wednesday.

According to the conservative Iranian daily, Jomhuri Eslami, the shop in Dowlat Street, in the north of the capital Tehran, had been attacked by protesters on Tuesday.

Benetton is said to be “linked with the Zionist network,” a government newspaper said.

Several Benetton stores have opened in the past two years in Iran, where global brands have largely been absent since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Last year a group of prominent MPs protested against Benetton’s presence in Iran, alleging that it was owned by a “Zionist millionaire” and that its fashions were a bad influence on female consumers.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Lebanon: Emigrant Remittances of 6 Billion in 2008

(ANSAMED) — BEIRUT, DECEMBER 16 — Lebanon will have received around 6 billion dollars in transfers sent by emigrants living overseas by the end of 2008, an increase of around 4 percent on the 5.77 billion sent in 2007 (2006 saw remittances of 5.2 billion and in 2005 the total was of 4.9 billion). The analysis comes from the World Bank, as cited by the Italian Trade Commission in Beirut. Lebanese remittances equalled 24.4% of the country’s GDP in 2007, the World Bank estimates. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Syria: Damascus, 500 Mln Dollars to Revamp Qassioun Area

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, DECEMBER 16 — The project to renovate the Qassioun Hill area, the hill overlooking Damascus, which typifies its urban neglect and lack of infrastructure, is to cost 500 million dollars. The estimate, reads a memo issued by Italy’s trade mission to Damascus, is that given by the Municipal Administration Modernization Programme (MAM), a project funded by the European Union. Qassioun Hill is a desert hill which has been left undeveloped for centuries and which has as a result gradually been settled over past decades by emigrants from Syriàs rural areas, who have thrown up thousands of shanty-style houses. A feasibility study carried out by MAM for the renovation and development of the hill plans infrastructure work, the temporary removal of resident families (numbers are put at around 5,000 family groups), urban re-planning of the entire area and property development and tourist projects on the upper part of the hill, which is presently unsettled. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Russia

Spain Sends ‘Militant’ to Russia

Spain has extradited to Russia a Chechen terror suspect accused of attacking interior ministry offices in the North Caucasus in June 2004.

The Russian chief prosecutor’s office said Murat Gasayev was handed over to Russia on Wednesday.

It is the first such extradition from a European country, according to Vadim Yalovitsky, deputy head of the office’s extradition department.

Mr Gasayev was arrested in the Spanish city of Valencia in December 2006.

Spain’s El Pais news website reports that Mr Gasayev’s extradition took place without any anti-torture guarantees.

Russian prosecutors say the police investigation established that in June 2004 Mr Gasayev took part in an attack on the interior ministry building in Nazran, in the Russian republic of Ingushetia.

A police officer died in the attack and seven were wounded, the Itar-Tass news agency reports.

Mr Gasayev stands accused of banditry, murder and illegal possession of arms. He could face life imprisonment.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Spain Extradites to Russia Suspected Attacker on Ingush Interior

[Note the difference in headline between this article and the next one]

MOSCOW, December 31 (Itar-Tass) — Gunman accused of the participation in an attack on the Ingushetia Interior Ministry in 2004 was extradited from Spain to Russia on Wednesday, spokeswoman for the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office Marina Gridneva told Itar-Tass.

“The investigation has established that the suspect, Murat Gasayev, joined a militant gang headed by Kirimov in 2003 when he was in the forest camp ‘Khilifat.’ In the gang Gasayev got the call sign ‘Abdul-Malik.’ Being an active member of the gang Gasayev repeatedly participated in terror acts and in attacks on representatives of the state power bodies, officers of law enforcement agencies and military servicemen in the territory of the North Caucasian Region of the Russian Federation,” according to the spokeswoman.

On the night from June 21 to June 22, 2004, Gasayev with the gang took part in an attack on the building of the Interior Ministry of Ingushetia in Nazran. One police officer died in this attack and seven were wounded. “In December 2006, Gasayev was put on the international wanted list and four days later he was arrested in the territory of Spain,” Gridneva noted.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Pakistan Attempts to Flush Out Taliban From Khyber Pass

Pakistan closed the main supply route for Nato forces in Afghanistan yesterday as it launched an offensive backed by tanks and helicopter gunships against Taliban forces in the strategic Khyber Pass. Troops pounded suspected militant hideouts with heavy artillery, killing several insurgents who had frequently ambushed the convoys, interrupting military supplies in recent weeks.

Security officials imposed a curfew, warned tribesmen against sheltering Islamic militants and said the highway linking Peshawar to the border town of Torkham would remain closed until the operation was completed.

Tariq Hayat Khan, the governor of the Khyber tribal agency, said: “We want to get rid of them and we mean business this time. Supplies to Nato forces will remain suspended until we clear the area of militants and outlaws who have gone out of control.” […]

About 75 per cent of the supplies and equipment used by Nato and US-led forces fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan is shipped to the Pakistani port of Karachi, where it begins a treacherous 1,200-mile land journey to Kabul via the Khyber pass.

There is a second route from Karachi through the town of Chaman to the southwest, leading to the Afghan city of Kandahar but that has also come under attack recently.

The ambushes in the Khyber have forced Nato to look for alternatives, including through Central Asia into northern Afghanistan. The supply route is likely to be even more important as the United States increases its troops in Afghanistan, perhaps doubling the number to about 60,000 next year. […]

William Wood, the US Ambassador in Kabul, insisted: “We do not intend to provide weapons to anyone in this programme. This is not a recreation of tribal militias.”

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Far East

China Reiterates No Room for Taiwan Sovereignty

BEIJING (Reuters) — Chinese President Hu Jintao said on Wednesday he understood Taiwan’s desire to take part in “international activities” but stressed he would not tolerate any move that suggested sovereign independence from the mainland.

In a policy speech, Hu called for a pragmatic approach to the political relationship to ease concerns over military tension across the strait.

“As long as the ‘one China’ principle is recognised by both sides… we can discuss anything,” Hu said.

If Taiwan’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party gives up “splittist activities” and “changes its attitude,” it would elicit a “positive response,” he said.

China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and has vowed to bring the island under mainland rule, by force if necessary.

Just this week, Taiwan said it would increase foreign aid next year, competing with China on largesse as the global economic crisis leave impoverished allies more desperate for help.

With about 170 diplomatic allies to Taiwan’s 23, China has continually blocked the island’s bid to join the United Nations or affiliated organisations.

But relations across the Taiwan Strait, in recent years one of the hottest flashpoints in Asia, have improved since China-friendly Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May, prompting a goodwill gift to the island of two giant pandas just last week.

“We understand the Taiwan people’s feelings on participating in international activities, and we attach great importance to related issues on this,” Hu told a gathering of the Communist Party elite at the Great Hall of the People.

“…We can have realistic negotiations to reach a reasonable approach for the issue of Taiwan participating in the activities of international organisations on the premise of not causing one China, one Taiwan.”

Thursday marks the 30th anniversary of a major announcement by China that it would stop shelling the Taiwan-held island of Kinmen, or Quemoy, and that its policy towards Taiwan would shift from “liberation” through military invasion to “peaceful reunification.”

It is also the 30th anniversary of the United States switching diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China, recognising “one China,” though it remains Taiwan’s biggest ally and arms supplier.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Philippine Blasts Kill 1, Hurt 4

(Philippines) — A SUSPECTED bomber was killed and four other people, including two policemen, were wounded in two explosions in the southern Philippines, the military said on Wednesday.

A man transporting an improvised explosive device was killed when it went off at a police checkpoint near the town of Esperanza on Mindanao island late on Tuesday, said regional military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Julieto Ando.

One police officer was wounded when the device made out of a mortar shell and hidden in a sack of charcoal detonated, Col Ando told reporters.

‘The bomb was in transit and probably exploded due to faulty assembly,’ he added.

Meanwhile, a policeman and two other people were wounded late on Tuesday when unidentified men tossed a bomb at a police outpost on the outskirts of General Santos city, the spokesman said.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front separatist rebels operating in the region denied any involvement in the Esperanza bombing.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

45 Churchgoers Mutilated in Congo

The Ugandan army has accused Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels of hacking to death 45 people in a church in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

An aid official confirmed Friday’s massacre, saying the killings took place in a Catholic church in the Doruma area, around 40km from the Sudanese border.

“We got information the rebels cut 45 people into pieces,’’ army spokesman Captain Chris Magezi said.

“They were cut with pangas (machetes) and hit with clubs but some luckily managed to escape. Our forces came to know about the killings while pursuing the LRA yesterday and the pursuit is on for the killers,’’ he said.

Mr Magezi said the victims, mostly women, children and the elderly, were mutilated in the style used by Hutu extremists in the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

Forces from Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and south Sudan launched a joint operation against the Ugandan LRA rebels in northeastern DR Congo earlier this month.

The aid official, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said there were scenes of carnage in and around the church where the killings took place.

“There are body parts everywhere. Inside the church, the entrance and in the church compound,’’ said the official.

The vice-governor of Orientale province, Joseph Bangakya Angaze, said that “fighting has broken out around Doruma since Friday, between elements of the LRA and local groups’’ set up to defend their communities.

Mr Magezi had also accused the rebels of killing 35 civilians in attacks on Wednesday and Thursday in areas in south Sudan and northeastern DR Congo.

But LRA spokesman David Nyekorach Matsanga denied the rebels were behind the killings.

“Reports about the LRA killing innocent civilians is another propaganda campaign by the Uganda army,’’ Mr Matsanga said.

“I am not a military spokesman for the LRA but I have it on good authority from the field commanders that the LRA is not in those areas where the killings are reported to have taken place.

“We need an independent verification to know who is responsible for these killings in Doruma because LRA has stated before we want peace not war because fighting won’t help,’’ he said.

The two sides have been engaged in peace talks led by the government of South Sudan for more than two years.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


London Life for Mugabe Regime Crony

A woman who spent years berating the Australian Government for its criticism of the Zimbabwean Government has apparently decided she no longer wants to put up with life under President Robert Mugabe.

Florence Chitauro is believed to still be a staunch defender of Mugabe, but with cholera, AIDS and famine sweeping the country she has quietly opted to live in the more comfortable surrounds of London.

Ms Chitauro, Mugabe’s former ambassador to Australia, was photographed by The Australian returning from a shopping trip to her townhouse 150m from Hyde Park in expensive inner London.

Britain has pledged to ban travel and investments by Mugabe’s cronies, but Ms Chitauro’s first-floor apartment in Lancaster Gate, an area favoured by diplomats, is a pleasant walk through Hyde Park and St James Park to the Foreign Office and 10 Downing Street.

During her stint in Canberra five years ago, Ms Chitauro derided John Howard as an interfering dictator after the then prime minister called for democratic reforms in Zimbabwe.

Australian diplomats rebuked her, and foreign minister Alexander Downer described her “gratuitous personal insults” as “completely inappropriate” and “utterly out of order”.

As Mugabe’s minister for labour, public service and social welfare in the 1990s, Ms Chitauro cracked down on unions, ordering the arrest of striking workers and a corruption investigation to discredit opposition and union leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

A senior official in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change told The Australian he was disappointed that despite the European Union promise to ban members of Mugabe’s regime. Ms Chitauro lived “in comfort in London while our people back home are dying because of the policies she helped to impose”. […]

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Italy Not Re-Inventing the Wheel — Foreign Affairs Ministry

Italy was not re-inventing the wheel when it decided to deport all immigrants reaching its shores as from next week, a spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Minister in Malta said.

As a spell of good weather led to over 2,000 immigrants landing in the Italian island of Lampedusa over the past few days, the Italian government announced yesterday that, come Tuesday, it will send back illegal immigrants who arrive on its shores.

Reuters reported that 38 Egyptians will be the first group to be flown to Cairo under the new plan announced by Italy’s right-wing government, which, since coming to power in May, has made the fight against illegal immigration a top priority…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Long Awaited Joint Patrols Off Libyan Coast to Begin in January — Maroni

In what could be the best news for Malta in years as it grapples with the irregular migration phenomenon, long-awaited patrols off the Libyan coast are expected to begin next month.

Joint Italian-Libyan patrols along the Libyan coastline are to begin in January with the aim of stemming the ever-rising tide of African migrants setting off from Libyan shores toward Italy and Malta, Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said on Monday.

Speaking in a radio interview, Dr Maroni commented, “I am optimistic. If, as the Libyans are assuring, (patrols) begin in January, we will be able to say once and for all addio to the landings in Lampedusa,” Italian state news agency ANSA reported yesterday.

The vast majority of migrants landing in Malta and Lampedusa depart for Europe from Libyan shores…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Malta: Where Hysteria is No Answer to the Plight of Refugees

On the second day of the crossing from Libya to Europe, Richard Josiah was asked to throw the bodies of two emaciated Somali women into the sea. The wintry waters of the Mediterranean were unforgiving, but the order was clear. “You cannot have dead bodies rotting next to you,” says the 30-year-old, who was recently released from 18 months in a detention centre in Malta. “They were weak and ill when they got on the boat. I still remember their faces.”

Josiah was among 55 migrants who paid Libyan people smugglers between $1,000 and $1,200 to make the crossing on two 10-metre skiffs, in the hope of reaching Italy. Instead, after three days adrift, the boats were intercepted by a European Union patrol and the passengers taken to the Mediterranean island that along with Lampedusa finds itself on the frontline of the EU’s battle to stem illegal immigration.

Since 2002 the Maltese government has processed 11,500 refugees and economic migrants, a figure, it says, equating to about 1.7 million arriving in France, Italy or the UK. The tensions are palpable. Anti-immigrant daubings have sprung up amid the sandstone walls of Valletta, Malta’s fortified 16th century capital; Africans say they frequently suffer racism, and a prominent Jesuit charity has been the victim of arson attacks for its outspoken support of migrants.

“There’s an ugly xenophobia developing here and I think the government carries some responsibility for that,” says Dr Neil Falzon, the local representative of the United Nations high commissioner for refugees. “It is selling the idea that Malta can’t cope. The truth is it has to. There’s already a settled African population on this island, they just live in a different reality to the rest of Maltese society. The government should be leading the process of integrating them with jobs, education and homes instead of taking part in this kind of national hysteria.”

Criticism of Malta’s detention policy is mounting. The island is the only EU nation to automatically detain all illegal migrants for a legal maximum of 18 months: there are currently 2,000 in ramshackle camps. The UNHCR has voiced concerns over whether the policy could violate the Geneva Convention, while other NGOs are urging Malta’s government to soften its attitude to migrants.

The Jesuit Refugee Service — which carries out advocacy work on behalf of migrants — estimates 98% of young migrants do not receive formal education.

About half of the 4,000 migrants who have been released from detention live in two cramped, unsanitary open centres which are effectively African ghettos. They take the low-paid jobs shunned by an increasingly well-educated Maltese population: portering in hotels, working in factories, as refuse collectors or builders. After eight years of migratory flow to Malta, there few signs of social mobility for Africans.

“The result will be a social catastrophe,” says Father Joseph Cassar, of the Jesuit Refugee Service. “In five years I fear we’ll see ghettos, social unrest and a rise of far-right politics.

“What is being forgotten here is that these people come from terrible places and are running from the extremes of human behaviour — torture, rape and violence — and deep poverty. It cannot be right to treat them with contempt, detain or house them in horrible conditions, in Europe.”

Railing rust bleeds down the once whitewashed walls of Marsa, a dilapidated former school converted into an open centre, which is now home to more than 1,200 migrants. They take turns to sleep in bunks and share putrid lavatories and showers.

The building is divided into ethnic blocks run by Somalis, Sudanese or West Africans. For the fortunate few it is a stopping point before they find a regular salary to rent more salubrious accommodation. For others, Marsa is a symbol of their frustrated hopes: free but cut off from life in mainland Europe. According to the staff, at least one migrant attempts suicide each month.

           — Hat tip: RRW[Return to headlines]


Reportage Libya: Inside the Immigrants Detention Centre of Misratah

MISRATAH — At night, from the courtyard of the prison, you can hear the sound of the sea. They are the waves of the Mediterranean, a hundred meters from the fence of the detention centre. We are in Misratah, 210 km east of Tripoli, in Libya. And the prisoners they are all Eritrean asylum seekers arrested off Lampedusa or in the suburbs of Tripoli. Victims of the collateral effects of the Italo-Libyan agreement against immigration. They are more than 600 people, from 20 to 30 years old, including 58 women and several children and babies. The majority was arrested two years ago, but none of them has been tried by a court. They sleep in rooms with no windows, 4 meters per 5, up to 20 people in each one, on the ground. At least they are allowed to stay in the courtyard, under the watchful eyes of police. Their fault? Having tried to reach Europe in order to look for asylum…

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Le Dernier Mot: Washingtonian Madness

by Srdja Trifkovic

My farewell column has a melancholy air not only because all partings are inherently sad, but because the times are genuinely grim. The world is changing… not for the better, and America is making a disproportionate contribution to the process. There is a malaise at the very core of this country’s foreign-policymaking, on both sides of the dominant duopoly in Washington. At its poles there may be differences over tactics and means, but the alleged necessity of America’s continued, open-ended “engagement” in faraway lands is never questioned — and it will not be questioned under the new regime.

The madness is an amorphous beast, and it is still remarkably unaffected by the awful financial and economic reality. It has many names—multiculturalism, one-worldism, tolerantism, inclusivism, antidiscriminationism—that demand engagement abroad and wide-open doors at home. Both abroad and at home, the impulse is neurotic; its justification, gnostic. It reflects the collective loss of nerve, faith, and identity of a diseased society, producing a self-destructive malaise that is literally unprecedented in history…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]


Vatican Protests as Abortion Pill Looms

Medicines agency’s imminent approval of RU486 sparks controversy. “Kills innocents”.

ROME — The Vatican has issued yet another condemnation of the abortion pill, which will soon be available to Italian hospitals. The spokesman this time was Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, the Holy See’s health minister: “The Catholic Church understands the personal drama of a young woman who is pregnant against her will, but condemns abortion, in whatever form it is practised, because an innocent being is killed. An embryo is a human being, with all the rights of a human being”. For the cardinal, “RU is one of those medicines that are not so innocent”. Those who hoped to block RU486 have had to admit defeat. The pill, approved by the Centre-left government last February, will soon be available in Italy, probably at the beginning of next year, and the current executive is powerless to intervene. The procedure is automatic.

After the Corriere carried the news, Guido Rasi, head of the Italian medicines agency AIFA, confirmed that the technical committee will meet tomorrow. Thursday’s board meeting will consider the matter and the drug may receive final approval. RU486 will be subject to the same regulations as law 194 on abortion, which means it cannot be sold outside hospitals. Day surgery treatment is mandatory. Needless to say, doctors have the option of conscientious objection. “Our position has not changed”, said Pietro Saccucci, a gynaecologist and conscientious objector at Rome’s San Camillo-Forlanini hospital. “Objection to abortion does not depend on the means by which abortion is procured”.

The pill’s manufacturers, the French-based Exelgyn company, is ready: “We’ve already translated the leaflet and packaging into Italian”, says Exelgyn’s CEO Alexandre Lumbroso. “We’ve heard from the ministry that registration will take place before the end of the year”. The fact that nothing can be done to block the mifepristone-based drug has not disheartened objectors. Rightwing women in government have closed ranks with junior minister Eugenia Roccella, the first to raise the issue of safety. “Experience abroad has shown there are wide margins of risks, ineffectiveness and complications related to chemical abortion attempts”, claimed the junior welfare minister, Francesca Martini. “We are concerned about the way in which it is administered, which must comply with law 194. Information is needed. This is not a sweet to eat at home. It provokes the detachment of the embryo from the uterus”.

The minister for youth, Giorgia Meloni, warns young women: “This is not a contraceptive. This is something else. It’s a drug with serious risks that interrupts a pregnancy already under way. Every new tool to stop life is not a victory for someone. To the contrary, it’s a defeat for society”. According to Ms Roccella, RU486-induced abortion “is hard to square with law 194. It’s going back to a sort of legal back-door abortion. Women will take it at home, without medical supervision”.

Silvio Viale, the gynaecologist at Turin’s Sant’Anna hospital who was the first to trial the method in Italy, objects to what he calls a “terrorist” perspective: “Hospitals are not prisons. We can’t keep patients in if they don’t want to stay. Worries about the dangers are baseless: studies have proved it’s safe. Patients have to return to the clinic two days after taking the first pill for a second one based on prostaglandin, which aids expulsion of the foetus”. According to Dr Viale, there have been 4,000 chemical abortions since 2006. In 2008, chemical abortions were carried out at 28 centres in Italy under a nominal importation scheme. In practice, the drug is ordered from the manufacturer on a case-by-case basis. Italy of Values (IDV) parliamentarian Silvana Mura also talks about psychological terrorism: “The arguments are unfounded. The Prodi government was working in women’s interests. Now they’ll have an alternative to surgery”. Christian Democrat (UDC) Luca Volonté expressed “profound disappointment at the inexplicable inertia of the present government. It’s a sad episode, like the lack of any initiatives regarding the law on assisted procreation. Consistency demands that the minister Maurizio Sacconi should be attacked the same way Livia Turco was”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

6 comments:

Zenster said...

Hamas Explains Use of Civilians as Human Shields

Notice how there is no highlighting by the media of the way that this well-advertised position bears direct responsibility for a majority of civilian deaths in Israel's latest retaliation? Instead we are treated to the usual perpetual pissing and moaning about needless Palestinian deaths.

The Palestinians routinely attack and kill innocent Jews claiming that Israel's policy of mandatory conscription makes all citizens complicit. How is it then that the Palestinians, a majority of which willingly elected a known terrorist government, should not share a degree of physical responsibility for Israeli reprisals against Hamas?

The use of human shields is one of the pivotal differences between Islamic and Western military doctrine. Islam's deafening silence over this issue damns all Muslims for their tacit approval regarding such supreme cowardice.

Zenster said...

Arabs Want UN Resolution Ensuring Gaza Cease-Fire

... the Arabs want the council “to adopt an enforceable and binding resolution that would ensure immediate cease-fire, cessation of the Israeli military aggression, lifting of the blockade, opening of border crossing points, end of the Israeli policy of collective punishment, providing international protection to the Palestinian people and ensuring calm.”

IN EXCHANGE FOR WHAT?

Please notice how all the concessions being demanded are solely from Israel and that absolutely no commitments are required of Hamas.

Arab Muslims need to STFU with these outrageous demands for unilateral disengagement by Israel. Muslims need to ridiculed for such chicanery and laughed out of the court of world opinion.

With up to 390 dead in Gaza, and just four killed in Israel

A death toll ratio of nearly 100:1. Why is it that the Palestinians refuse to understand how Islam is throwing them under the wheels of anti-Semitic genocide solely because they are stupid enough to permit themselves to be used like so much cannon fodder?

At the start of Wednesday night’s council meeting, Ban again condemned “the indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas militants and the disproportionality of the continuing Israeli military operation.”

One is almost led to believe that Ban Ki-moon might be more disposed to this situation if there wasn't such a disproportionate death toll. Personally, I suspect that he would be more comfortable if a greater number of Jews were being killed. It appears as if it is only the lack of Israeli deaths which so many seem to find disturbing.

[Per Sudan’s U.N. Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamed] “Time is of the essence … because Israel is interested in time so that they can crush Hamas,” Mohamed said. “So time is good for Israel, but for us is very bad. This is why we want, as quickly as possible, adoption of a resolution.” [emphasis added]

In other words, the possibility of Israel permanently crushing the Hamas terrorists is an undesirable outcome and bad for Muslims in general. How revealing to see overall Muslim goals and those of the Hamas terrorists brought into such close alignment.

NJArtist said...

This is off topic.
Seeing those Muslim bastards demonstrating in Ft. Lauderdale has given me an idea: someone needs to create an answer to that a**wipe head rag to wear at counter-demonstrations: perhaps a field of stitched stars as is in the American flag with a red border; in opposite corners have a menorah and a cross respectively; the cloth itself should be white.

This could even be used as a fundraiser! Just remember to give credit -- keep the money.

Natalie said...

Hi Zenster.

anon said...

NJArtist,

Just wrap a kefiyeh around each of your shoes when you go protesting.

Kefiyeh = Pseudostine
Shoe = Arab humiliation
Shoe stepping on kefiyeh = humiliation of Pseudostine.

Use their own propaganda tool and psychology against them. Get it?

Hell, if you want to get even more creative, you can:
1. wear the kefiyeh as a loincloth
2. tie the kefiyeh to a string and drag it around on the ground

Zenster said...

Back at 'cha, Natalie! I also really like the way you think, NJArtist. Islam needs to be insulted on such a frequent basis that the bursting of Muslim blood vessels sounds like so many strings of firecrackers.