Saturday, February 21, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/21/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/21/2009The news feed keeps getting skinnier and skinnier.

We still don’t have any email, so most tips aren’t getting through. I’m kind of enjoying the hiatus, but I know what I’ll be facing when it’s over. It’s like going on vacation, only without the suntan to show for it…

By the way, don’t miss the nude Brazilian samba dancer with the picture of Barack Obama painted on her thigh.

Thanks to Fausta, Fjordman, KGS, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
- - - - - - - - -
Financial Crisis
White House Rejects Rumours of Bank Nationalisation
 
USA
Arrest Close in Chandra Levy Death
Drought May Cut Off Federal Water to Calif. Farms
NAACP Calls for Firings Over Post’s Chimp Cartoon
Pa. Boy, 11, Charged With Killing Pregnant Woman
Satanist Inmate Sues County
Source: Feds Interviewed Burris About Blagojevich
 
Canada
‘Where Do You Draw the Line’
 
Europe and the EU
English Church Bells Chime as One
Italy: Anti-Mafia Police Target Sicilian Windfarm Scam
Italy: Muslim Leader Visits Former Nazi Camp
Pope Benedict XVI to Canonise 10 New Saints
 
Middle East
Hamas: Some Prisoners Freed for Shalit May be Settled in Syria
Lebanese Rocket Fire Raises Tension on Israeli Border
Saudi Arabia: First Female-Run Alcohol Factory Uncovered Say Religious Police
 
South Asia
Arrests in India After Hepatitis B Kills 32
Taliban Agrees ‘Permanent Ceasefire’ in War-Torn Valley
 
Far East
ADB to Loan China $400 Million to Rebuild After Earthquake
 
Australia — Pacific
Australia: Pietersen Dubs Stanford a ‘Sleazebag’
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Cholera Outbreak in Zimbabwe at Risk of Spinning Out of Control
 
Latin America
Carnival Queen Sambas With Obama’s Face on Thigh
 
Immigration
Sweden’s Annual Immigrant Tally Hit Six Figures in 2008
 
General
Atlantis Found on Google Earth, Official Explanation is Dubious
Atoall.Com Makes English Knowledge Irrelevant for Net Surfers

Financial Crisis

White House Rejects Rumours of Bank Nationalisation

The Obama administration said Friday it was not trying to take over Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp., the two ailing financial institutions.

‘This administration continues to strongly believe that a privately held banking system is the correct way to go, ensuring that they are regulated sufficiently by this government,’ said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

‘That’s been our belief for quite some time, and we continue to have that,’ he said, rejecting rumours of impending nationalisation of troubled banks.

On Wall Street, Citigroup plunged 20 percent while Bank of America dropped 12 percent in afternoon trading as rumours of nationalisation prompted investors to sell.

A Treasury Department spokesman also rejected the fears and said: ‘There are a lot of rumors in the market, as always, but you should not regard these as any indication of the policy of this administration.’

As Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said, ‘we will preserve a financial system that is owned and managed by the private sector’, he said.

The US government has already provided significant aid to Citigroup and Bank of America in its efforts to save the nation’s financial sector, which has been choked by bad assets.

[Return to headlines]

USA

Arrest Close in Chandra Levy Death

An arrest may be near in the nearly decade-old slaying of federal intern Chandra Levy, whose disappearance in 2001 ended California congressman Gary Condit’s career, several television stations reported.

The California Democrat was romantically linked to Levy, but was not considered a suspect in her death or disappearance. Television stations, KFSN and KCRA in California and WRC in Washington, D.C., reported that police were seeking an arrest warrant.

Levy’s parents said Friday outside their Modesto, California, home that police called them and told them an arrest was near.

“Your child is dead and gone and it’s painful, but we’re glad that the police and people are doing something, and investigating, and making a difference so somebody’s not on the street to do it again,” Chandra’s mother, Susan Levy, told KGO-TV in San Francisco.

The parents did not say when an arrest warrant might be issued.

The 24-year-old Levy disappeared in May 2001 and at the time, she was wearing jogging clothes when she left her apartment. Her remains were found in Rock Creek Park in Washington about a year later.

Authorities questioned the married Condit in her disappearance. He reportedly told police that he and Levy were having an affair, and while he was not considered a suspect, the negative publicity was cited as the main cause of the Condit’s re-election defeat in 2002.

Investigators also interviewed Ingmar Guandique, 27, a Salvadoran immigrant who has denied any involvement in Levy’s disappearance and killing.

Guandique was convicted of attacking two women in Rock Creek Park shortly after Levy disappeared and is serving 10 years at a federal prison in California.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier would not comment Saturday on the imminent arrest reports…

[Return to headlines]


Drought May Cut Off Federal Water to Calif. Farms

Federal water managers said Friday they plan to cut off water, at least temporarily, to thousands of California farms as a result of the deepening drought gripping the state.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials said parched reservoirs and patchy rainfall this year were forcing forcing them to completely stop surface water deliveries for at least a two-week period beginning on March 1. Authorities said they haven’t had to take such a drastic move for more than 15 years.

Note: California Drought Map

www.drought.unl.edu/dm/DM_state.htm?CA,W

The situation could improve slightly if more rain falls over the next few weeks, and officials will know by mid-March if they can update their projections to release more irrigation supplies to growers from behind the mountain dams where water is stored.

Farmers in the nation’s No. 1 agriculture state said the shortages would wreak havoc on the rural economy, and predicted they would cause consumers to pay more for their fruits and vegetables, since they will have to be grown using expensive well water.

The drought will cause an estimated $1.15 billion dollar loss in agriculture-related wages and eliminate as many as 40,000 jobs in farm-related industries in the valley alone, where most of the nation’s produce and nut crops are grown, said Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow.

California’s agricultural industry typically receives 80% of all the water supplies managed by the federal government — everything from far-off mountain streams to suburban reservoirs. The state, in turn, supplies drinking water to 23 million Californians and 755,000 acres of irrigated farmland.

[Return to headlines]


NAACP Calls for Firings Over Post’s Chimp Cartoon

(NECN/WABC: New York, New York) — In Harlem, some news stands were not selling the New York Post on Saturday, but others were, and clearly customers were still deciding whether or not to make the purchase.

It comes after several days of protest over a political cartoon in the Post, depicting a chimpanzee shot by white police officers with the words “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.” President Barack Obama pushed the nation’s most recent stimulus package.

Now, the NAACP has joined the growing number of groups asking New Yorkers to stop buying the paper. On Friday, it was the Reverend Al Sharpton and on Saturday it was movie director Spike Lee making the call to boycott the paper.

“It seemed to me, an invitation to assassination of the President of the United States, told in the crudest, most ugly way,” NCAAP chairman Julian Bond said.

The Post, has already issued an apology and this statement which says “Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon, even as the opportunists seek to make it something else.”

There are those who disagree, demanding that the Post fire it’s Editor-In-Chief and the cartoonist, or else they plan to demonstrate at some of Rupert Murdoch’s other news businesses around the country.

“This is not a one day stand; this is not a publicity stunt; this is for real,” Hazel Dukes of the NAACP said.

[Return to headlines]


Pa. Boy, 11, Charged With Killing Pregnant Woman

by RAMIT PLUSHNICK-MASTI [Associated Press]

WAMPUM, Pa. — An 11-year-old boy has been charged in the death of a pregnant woman who was found shot in a bedroom of her western Pennsylvania farmhouse, police said Saturday.

A statement from state police said the boy was charged with criminal homicide and criminal homicide of an unborn child in the killing of 26-year-old Kenzie Marie Houk. The victim was 8 months pregnant…

[read rest of story at URL…very little information]

[Return to headlines]


Satanist Inmate Sues County

A Billings man in prison for drug possession has filed a $10 million federal lawsuit against Yellowstone County for alleged civil-rights violations, including interference with his satanic religious practices.

Jason Paul Indreland claims in the U.S. District Court lawsuit that county jail staff took from him a religious medallion, denied him access to religious material and ridiculed and punished him for his religious beliefs.

The lawsuit also alleges that Indreland was denied medical care for his drug addiction, that he was placed in situations where violence was expected and that he suffered harassment and retaliation while incarcerated.

Indreland said he has been a practicing Satanist for the past decade and the confiscated medallion was a “protective symbol” in his religion. The lawsuit claims jail staff refused to return the medallion or allow Indreland access to a “Satanic Bible or Book of Satanic Rituals.” Indreland, 35, is incarcerated at Montana State Prison for a term of five years, with two years suspended, for felony drug possession. Indreland was convicted of the crime after Billings police found him with 15 grams of methamphetamine in March 2007.

Indreland has previous felony convictions in Yellowstone and Stillwater counties for bad checks and theft…

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


Source: Feds Interviewed Burris About Blagojevich

CHICAGO (AP) — Federal authorities interviewed U.S. Sen. Roland Burris on Saturday as they continued their corruption investigation of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Burris, who left his home for several hours Saturday, declined to talk to reporters standing outside. Earlier in the week, he said federal investigators wanted to talk to him about their probe into Blagojevich. Burris said his attorneys had been trying to set up a meeting with investigators for some time.

A person familiar with the matter confirmed Saturday’s meeting to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the matter was confidential.

Burris spokesman Jim O’Connor declined comment, as did U.S. attorney’s office spokesman Randall Samborn.

[Return to headlines]

Canada

‘Where Do You Draw the Line’

Quebec man accused of terror activities was expressing religious freedom: defence

MONTREAL — The videos found on Said Namouh’s computer when police raided his Quebec apartment in 2007 are brutal: point-blank executions of Westerners, suicide bombings, a charred soldier’s body dragged through the street in celebration. Others offered tips on bomb-making or threatened Western governments over the presence of troops in Afghanistan.

Over the past three weeks, a Quebec court has heard that Mr. Namouh worked tirelessly to ensure these images were widely available on the Internet to the global jihadi community, in some cases doing the editing and adding subtitles himself. Mr. Namouh’s work showed that he had “devoted his life to spreading the ideology of al-Qaeda and encouraging others to join the jihadist movement,” said Rita Katz, a Crown expert at the terrorism trial. What Quebec Court Judge Claude Leblond will have to establish is whether those actions contravened Canada’s Criminal Code.

His defence lawyer, René Duval, is not contesting that Mr. Namouh was the user named Ashraf, who was so active on online jihadi forums that he earned praise for his “good work in the service of the [Global Islamic Media] Front, jihad and the mujahedeen.” But Mr. Duval argues that what his client did, while perhaps repugnant to some, was simply an exercise of his freedoms of expression and religion. “Where do you draw the line?” he asked outside the court.

Evidence before the court shows that Mr. Namouh was driven by a fervent faith, one that saw as enemies Christians, Jews and even Muslims who did not share a desire for the creation of pan-Islamic rule.

“I write to you my loved ones with tears falling from the intensity of my love to our mujahedeen protectors, and in hatred of the Crusaders and Shi’a and apostates,” Mr. Namouh wrote in 2006 on a password-protected, invitation-only online message board known as Khidemat.

From the time Mr. Namouh joined the Khidemat forum in November, 2006, to his arrest in September, 2007, he had become the second-most active participant, Ms. Katz, head of the SITE Intelligence group, a U.S. company that monitors online terrorist activity, testified. The forum appears to have been used exclusively by members of the Global Islamic Media Front, a jihadist propaganda wing. Ms. Katz, appearing as an expert witness for the Crown, testified that Mr. Namouh was part of the front’s “uploading and downloading brigade,” establishing Internet links so that people around the world could watch propaganda videos on their computers or cellphones.

She said evidence recovered from his computer hard drive showed that he was responsible for creating links to publicize a March, 2007, video warning the governments of Germany and Austria that they would suffer terrorist attacks if their troops were not withdrawn from Afghanistan. He provided art for a May, 2007, communiqué by the Army of Islam, claiming responsibility for the kidnapping in Gaza of BBC reporter Alan Johnston and demanding the release of prisoners, Ms. Katz said. He also made available propaganda videos with such titles as Jihad Academy and Top Ten, glorifying insurgent attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. In May, 2007, he announced on the forum that he had created his own compilation video of attacks in Iraq, a 50-minute film known as Final 1000.

“I worked for more than 50 hours in creating the publication, in which I slept only 5 hours,” he wrote on Khidemat. He apologized for the quality of the production, saying he lacked experience in editing and was limited because his computer was not very powerful.

The court has also heard that in August, 2007, Mr. Namouh’s Internet chats were intercepted, revealing what police believe were plans to explode a truck bomb at an undisclosed location outside Canada.

“I have the information and experience for acquisition of explosives in a country and the way to have them easily,” he said on Aug. 8. Later he was overheard discussing plans to travel to North Africa and saying, “Terrorism is in our blood, and with it we will drown the unjust.”

Mr. Namouh faces charges of conspiracy, participating in the activities of a terrorist group, facilitating terrorist activity and extortion.

Mr. Duval said the trial is a crucial test of Canadian anti-terrorism law. “I question whether the fact of providing [Internet] links, especially when one is motivated by religious belief, is a violation of the Criminal Code,” he said in an interview. He said that even though the beliefs of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden are “repugnant to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, still, are they not religious beliefs? A lot turns on that.”

Ms. Katz maintains that Internet jihadi propaganda is not just a matter of expressing one’s beliefs but an active effort to “indoctrinate, recruit and train followers.” In a report submitted to the court, another Crown expert, Reuven Paz, stated that the Global Islamic Media Front is at the forefront of these activities.

Its “independent media efforts amplify the extent and effect of terrorist propaganda by repackaging it into more sophisticated productions and disseminating them to the spectrum of jihadi forums,” he wrote.

The trial continues next week.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

English Church Bells Chime as One

Sixty-six churches across England have rung their bells in unison to mark the 40th anniversary of the Churches Conservation Trust.

Many bells were chiming for the first time in decades at 1400 GMT, following fundraising from volunteers — it costs around £7,000 to repair each bell.

It is easy for churches to fall into disrepair, something the Churches Conservation Trust works to prevent.

[…]

Rebecca Rees, who works for the Trust, said: “Around the country we have a variety of innovative uses we use these ancient spaces for. In Bristol we have a circus school company which uses a church, in Sheffield a rock group uses a church for its concerts.

“Friends and volunteers from all over the country use churches for art exhibitions and plays.”

North Yorkshire was due to have eight churches participating in the event, while seven were taking part in Somerset, and four in both Suffolk and Shropshire.

The Trust’s website says most church towers in England have six or eight bells, “traditionally rung for services, weddings, other special occasions, and for ringers’ practice and pleasure”.

[ed. note: the churches are dead, but the bells live on]

[Return to headlines]


Italy: Anti-Mafia Police Target Sicilian Windfarm Scam

Police on Tuesday arrested eight people, mainly local businessmen including a local politician who are suspected of involvement in mafia infiltration of windfarms in western Sicily. Ruling conservative Italian People of Freedom party politician Vito Martino was among those detained.

The suspects are accused of helping the local mafia family of Mazara del Vallo in the area around the western port of Trapani to gain control of the windfarm business.

The Mazara del Vallo controlled revenues, permits, contracts and distribution of electricity from the windfarms, by buying votes for politicians linked to the mafia, investigators allege.

The clan was also planning to build a new windfarm using a Genoa-based company called Enerpro. The scam also involved politicians, officials and businessmen from Sicily and other Italian regions including the southern Campania and the northern Trentino region.

Tuesday’s anti-mafia sting was carried out by over 100 policemen in areas around Trapani and the city of Salerno, south of Naples, as well as in Trento.

‘‘It’s clear that urgent legislation is needed to regulate tenders at all stages of the construction of windfarms — not only to close off this new avenue of mafia business,” said Italian environmental lobby group Legambiente’s president, Vittorio Cogliati Dezza.

“It will also ensure the healthy development of renewable energy that will offer employment and a future to a region (Sicily) already devastated by criminality and cronyism,” he added

[Return to headlines]


Italy: Muslim Leader Visits Former Nazi Camp

A leader of Italy’s largest Muslim organisation, the Union of Islamic Communities of Italy, the UCOII, has visited the former Polish concentration camp in Auschwitz for the first time.

“During these times, prejudice among Muslims denying the Holocaust is widespread. In this context, as a Muslim and a leader of the Muslim community, I went to Auschwitz to show that we, Muslims do not deny the Holocaust and we are not anti-Semites, even if we criticise Israel’s policies,” said Indian-born Zahoor Ahmad Zargar in an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI).

Zargar said his trip, which concluded on Sunday, was also a way of paying tribute to all the victims of the Holocaust.

“I went with my wife and daughter Zarina on the pilgrimage to Auschwitz-Birkenau, organised by the National Association of Former Deportees of Savona. I decided to go to Auschwitz to pay tribute to all people, Jewish and non-Jewish, innocent and peaceful people, that were subjected to the most horrible torture and died because of a project of extermination,” he said.

Zargar also said it was wrong to generalise about Muslims and their view of the Holocaust. He drew a parallel with Christians, saying that both communities are composed many different people, from different cultures.

He also told AKI that when he studied in India, there was very little information about the Holocaust.

“When I was still in my country I managed to read something about it (the Holocaust). But only when I arrived in Italy, did I realise the horrible tragedy suffered by Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, deportees and political prisoners, whose tragedy is discussed often here,” said Zargar.

In January, the imam from the southern city of Naples, Yasin Gentile, visited Auschwitz for the first time and vowed to pray for the victims. The trip was sponsored by the province of Naples to coincide with International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27 January.

Auschwitz was the largest and most notorious Nazi concentration camp. An estimated 1.5 million people, most of them Jews, were transported there from across Europe and died in the camp’s gas chambers or of disease, starvation, and abuse.

More than six million Jews and some two million Roma gypsies as well as unknown numbers of homosexuals, intellectually disabled and political opponents were murdered in Nazi extermination camps in Europe during World War II.

Zargar, born in the Indian city of Srinagar in Kashmir, has been living in Italy for more than 20 years and is also the president of the Muslim community in the northwestern region of Liguria.

[Return to headlines]


Pope Benedict XVI to Canonise 10 New Saints

[from AFP]

…Four Italian and one Portuguese — will be canonised, or established as saints, on April 26, with another five to follow on October 11.

Among the first group are Father Arcangelo Tadini (1846-1912), Sister Caterina Volpicelli (1839-1894), theologian Bernardo Tolomei (1272-1348) and Gertrude Caterina Comensoli, (1847-1903), all Italian.

The fifth is Carmelite monk Nuno de Santa Maria Alvares Pereira (1360-1431) of Portugal.

In the second group is Jeanne Jugan (1792-1879) of France who founded the order of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Alongside her will be Polish archbishop Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski (1822-1895), two Spanish monks — a Dominican, Francisco Coll y Guitart (1812-1875) and a Trappist, Rafael Arnaiz Baron (1911-1938) — and Jozef Damian de Veuster (1840-1889) of Belgium.

[ed. note: Jozef Damian de Veuster was known as “Father Damien,Priest to the lepers:

http://tinyurl.com/annd9e

Born Joseph de Veuster in 1840, he took the name Damien and went to Hawaii in 1864 to join other missionaries of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Nine years later he began ministering to leprosy patients on the remote Kalaupapa peninsula of Molokai island, where some 8,000 people had been banished amid an epidemic in Hawaii in the 1850s.

[He] eventually contracted [leprosy], also known as Hansen’s disease, and died in 1889 at age 49.

[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Hamas: Some Prisoners Freed for Shalit May be Settled in Syria

Some Palestinian prisoners freed in a deal for abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit may be settled in Syria, Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar was quoted by pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat as saying Saturday.

Zahar’s statement could be interpreted as addressing Israel’s fears that prematurely released convicted terrorists might take up arms once they return to the Hamas-ruled territory.

A Popular Resistance Committee commander, meanwhile, was quoted by Al Hayat as saying that Shalit had been injured during the Israel Defense Forces assault against Hamas in Gaza last month, but refused to disclose his condition.

“Every piece of information about Shalit has a price tag on it,” Abu Abir was quoted as saying.

Jerusalem sources have said that Israel has prepared a new list of Palestinian prisoners it is willing to release and is ready to relay it to Hamas as quickly as possible. This is in order to advance a possible swap arrangement, after the cabinet decided Wednesday to make Shalit’s release a precondition to any cease-fire agreement in the Gaza Strip.

Zahar told Al Hayat that Hamas has yet to receive the new list.

[Return to headlines]


Lebanese Rocket Fire Raises Tension on Israeli Border

Lebanese security sources say Israel has fired artillery shells into southern Lebanon, after three rockets were fired toward Israel from Lebanon. Israeli sources say one of those rockets landed in northern Israel and wounded three people. Lebanese rocket fire is raising tension on the border with Israel.

Rockets were fired at Israel from Lebanon, including one that slammed into an Israeli Arab village in Galilee.

“We heard a loud boom,” a resident of the village told Israel’s Army Radio. It was raining, and he said that at first people thought it was thunder. He said there was a lot of broken glass and damage in several houses.

Israeli artillery returned fire. There was no claim of responsibility but Israeli officials said such attacks could not take place without the knowledge of the Islamic guerrilla group Hezbollah which controls South Lebanon. Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and Syria, said it was not involved.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora issued a statement condemning the rocket attack, saying it “threatened security and stability.”

Rocket fire has been rare since the Lebanon War in 2006, when Israel launched a 34-day assault on Hezbollah. Lebanon is still recovering and the western-backed Lebanese government does not want another war.

But the Israeli army says Hezbollah has rearmed with 40,000 rockets since the war, and military intelligence has warned that another conflict with Hezbollah appears inevitable.

[Return to headlines]


Saudi Arabia: First Female-Run Alcohol Factory Uncovered Say Religious Police

Saudi religious police say they have uncovered the country’s first female-run alcohol factory, in the eastern city of Dammam. Alcohol production and consumption is strictly forbidden in Saudi Arabia, which adheres to the fundamentalist Wahabi interpretation of Islam.

The alleged illegal alcohol factory was located inside an empty house, where religious police said they had in recent weeks noted a number of foreign women carrying containers into and from the house.

During a raid on the building on Thursday, police arrested a group of African women they allege were running the factory. All the women are aged between 35 and 45 years of age. Police did not state their nationalities.

Religious police said they seized over 600 bottles of alcohol in the raid — including wine — which were ready for sale.

The police said they also arrested a southeast Asian taxi driver who allegedly was one of the factory’s regular customers and who helped the women transport the alcohol.

[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Arrests in India After Hepatitis B Kills 32

By Harmeet Shah Singh

CNN

Authorities were carrying out raids at medical stores in India’s western Gujarat state for bogus drugs and recycled syringes after a hepatitis B outbreak left 32 people dead, officials said Saturday.

Five medical practitioners were also arrested for violations, said Malayappan Thennarasan, the top administrator of the state’s Sabarkantha district.

One of those arrested is being held for allegedly reusing injection syringes, Thennarasan said.

Health authorities have recorded 111 cases of hepatitis B infection in the district over the past two weeks, he added.

“Of them, 32 have died,” he said.

Health officials have launched an awareness campaign in the district, Thennarasan said this week.

Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease resulting from infection with the hepatitis B virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It usually spreads through blood, semen, or other bodily fluids, often through sexual contact or sharing needles or syringes with an infected person, the CDC says.

The disease can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, chronic illness resulting in long-term health problems or death, according to the CDC.

[Return to headlines]


Taliban Agrees ‘Permanent Ceasefire’ in War-Torn Valley

As Barack Obama launches new Afghan policy, America and Britain fear deal with Pakistan will provide a terrorist haven

Taliban fighters and Pakistani government officials have agreed a controversial deal which will lead to a “permanent ceasefire” in the troubled northwestern Swat valley, threatening to create an outpost of militant rule and a terrorist haven only 100 miles from the capital, Islamabad.

The agreement, between the militant commander Maulana Fazlullah and local administrators, was announced late yesterday and builds on a previous temporary deal.

“They have made a commitment that they will observe a permanent ceasefire and we’ll do the same,” Syed Mohammad Javed, commissioner of Malakand and local representative of the Pakistani government, told reporters late yesterday afternoon.

Around 1,200 people have been killed and between 250,000 and 500,000 have fled Swat in 18 months of fierce fighting over the beautiful valley that was once a centre of tourism. Three thousand militants have been battling up to 12,000 troops.

Western governments and many Pakistanis have been alarmed by the provincial government’s offer to reinstate sharia law in Malakand if the Taliban agreed to peace. Last week Richard Holbrooke, Barack Obama’s special envoy to the region, contacted Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari, who has yet to ratify the deal, to express American concern. The US and Britain fear that a ceasefire could result in another sanctuary in Pakistan where al-Qaida and Taliban militants can move freely, and that Taliban fighters elsewhere in the region will be encouraged by the move.

The new US administration has launched a review of its policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan and British officials are hoping the World Bank will set up a development fund to channel aid money to the violent border regions of Pakistan where Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding. The fund would receive hundreds of millions of pounds which the government hopes will be pledged this year to fund roads, clinics and schools.

The plan, which officials stress would have to be initiated by the Pakistani government, is part of a wide-ranging strategy aimed at boosting development in the tribal areas to fight Islamic militancy and counteract the effects of missiles fired by unarmed drones operated by the CIA. The attacks have eliminated a number of high-ranking targets but have enraged local people and are deeply unpopular throughout Pakistan.

Last week, however, the US signalled that such strikes would be broadened in scope. Two attacks in the past 10 days have killed dozens and targeted the network of Pakistani militant leader Baitullah Mahsud, suspected of organising the killing of Benazir Bhutto in 2007. It is the first time the drones, recently revealed to be based in Pakistan, have hit militant groups whose focus is not Nato troops or their allies in Afghanistan but Pakistan.

A list of 20 individuals was drawn up by the CIA and cleared with the Pakistani government in consultations last summer, despite public denials by Islamabad. Intensive strikes over recent months have pleased global intelligence services because they put al-Qaida “on the back foot”, provoking damaging internal witch-hunts and forcing senior leaders to take time-consuming and demoralising security precautions.

Of the massive American aid to Pakistan since 2001, little has been used for development. In recent months, the country has been forced to ask for emergency funding from the International Monetary Fund to avoid a default. The US Congress is considering a $1.6bn development aid request from the Obama adminstration. Officials at the World Bank said they had yet to hear of the plan for a fund.

One Whitehall source said the idea was to stop development money for the tribal regions arriving “in penny packets” and to make sure it reached its target.

[Return to headlines]

Far East

ADB to Loan China $400 Million to Rebuild After Earthquake

The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Board of Directors has approved a US$400 million emergency assistance loan to rebuild roads and schools that were demolished or badly damaged in last year’s devastating earthquake in China.

It is the first loan to China under ADB’s disaster and emergency assistance policy, and is designed to ensure that authorities on the ground can move swiftly with rebuilding work.

The loan will be used to rehabilitate and reconstruct over 350 roads and bridges, along with twelve schools, in the worst hit counties of Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces. The project will benefit about 5.6 million people, including many poor rural dwellers that were left homeless, isolated and without livelihoods after the magnitude 8.0 earthquake struck last May.

The huge scale of the tragedy, which killed over 69,000 people and forced the evacuations of around 1.5 million others, prompted the PRC government to call for support from the international community for the first time. Direct losses from the disaster are estimated at CNY852.31 billion ($124.68 billion), or around 3.3% of the country’s gross domestic product in 2007.

“The project will help to revive economic activity in the affected provinces, enabling people to resume and improve their livelihoods and return to normal life,” says Manmohan Parkash, Project Team Leader and Principal Transport Specialist with ADB’s East Asia Department.

A key element of the reconstruction work is that it will incorporate earthquake-resistant designs, with roads and schools to be rebuilt to a higher standard than the original structures. Both Sichuan and Shaanxi are prone to natural disasters and public concerns were voiced about the quality of some buildings, including schools, after last year’s tragedy.

“The primary lesson (from the earthquake) is that new buildings, including schools, need to be designed to withstand seismic shocks and be built to a higher quality,” Mr. Parkash said.

The rebuilding of schools to include new facilities, such as dormitories, is expected to boost student enrolment numbers, particularly for girls, while the restoration of roads will help boost off-farm employment opportunities for people in remote areas.

[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australia: Pietersen Dubs Stanford a ‘Sleazebag’

Former England cricket captain Kevin Pietersen has lashed alleged fraudster Allen Stanford as a “sleazebag” and revealed that he has lost money in torn up contracts.

Pietersen, who did not specify the value of the contracts he had signed with Stanford to be a cricket ambassador, described the Texas financier as a “sleazebag” and said his sponsorship of a tournament involving England made it seem as though “the England team had been sold”.

His comments to the News of the World weekly newspaper came after authorities seized the Bank of Antigua, one of Stanford’s assets, while Peru, Panama, Ecuador, Venezuela and Colombia have also taken action against his banks.

“I was an ambassador for Stanford — a player face — but that contract has gone,” he told the paper.

The News of the World reported that Pietersen had signed a two-year deal with Stanford, with an option to promote Stanford’s winner-takes-all Twenty20 clash for a further three years.

“Stanford was a sleazebag,” Pietersen said. “I was very uncomfortable with the whole Stanford thing.”

“It was not that I was captain at the time, it was the uncomfortable situation of everybody thinking the England team had been sold. With the financial state of the world, people were talking about money instead of cricket.

“Those kinds of things just didn’t seem right to me, so it’s not a bad thing we are not going to have that tournament any more.”

The England and Wales Cricket Board terminated all contracts with Stanford on Friday, and will not be taking part in any further Stanford Twenty20 matches in Antigua or his proposed international quadrangular Twenty20 events in England, the first of which was due to be played at Lord’s in May.

Negotiations between the ECB and Stanford were suspended on Tuesday when it was revealed that the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had charged the Texan tycoon with an alleged $US9 billion ($A13.99 billion) fraud.

[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Cholera Outbreak in Zimbabwe at Risk of Spinning Out of Control

The mounting death toll from Zimbabwe’s devastating cholera epidemic has reached almost 3,800, with more than 80,000 people infected, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported Friday.

Some 3,759 people have now died from cholera since the outbreak first hit the besieged southern African country in August last year, with all 10 of Zimbabwe’s provinces having been affected by the water-borne disease, which has spilled over to neighbouring countries.

WHO noted that South Africa, which has a relatively strong health care system, has been able to limit the number of fatalities to below one per cent of people infected by the deadly disease, compared to four per cent in Zimbabwe last December and between one and two per cent in recent weeks.

A high number of cholera cases have also been reported in Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia, all countries where the disease is endemic.

There are 365 cholera treatment centres operating in Zimbabwe and WHO has set up a Cholera Command and Control Centre in the capital, Harare, with its partner agencies to provide technical support in the areas of epidemiological and laboratory surveillance, case management, social mobilization, logistics, and infection control and water sanitation in treatment centres.

WHO warned that containing the rate of infection remains a significant challenge given the country’s dilapidated water and sanitation infrastructure and a weak health system.

[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Carnival Queen Sambas With Obama’s Face on Thigh

SAO PAULO — A Brazilian carnival queen famous for her skimpy attire is grabbing headlines again for painting President Barack Obama’s face on her body.

Viviane Castro paraded nearly nude early Saturday with the U.S. leader’s visage on her right thigh. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s face was on her left thigh.

Castro’s stomach read “for sale” — a message she said represented the sale of Brazil’s Amazon to the U.S. Many here fear the U.S. wants to control the resource-rich region.

Castro appeared in last year’s Rio Carnival parade wearing nothing but a strategically placed piece of tape 1 1/2-inches (4-centimeters) long , violating a little-enforced nudity rule and drawing a penalty for her samba group.

She wore the same patch this year.

           — Hat tip: Fausta[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Sweden’s Annual Immigrant Tally Hit Six Figures in 2008

More than 100,000 people emigrated to Sweden in 2008, marking the first time the country’s annual immigrant count hit six figures, according to new statistics.

Figures released by Statistics Sweden (SCB) on Tuesday put Sweden’s population at 9.25 million.

The number of immigrants was up by 1.7 percent from the previous year, SCB said, as Sweden’s overall population rose by 0.8 percent, or 73,420 people, to 9,256,347.

There were 55,877 more people who emigrated to Sweden than who left the country.

The number of births meanwhile rose by 1.8 percent to 109,301 from 107,421 in 2007.

Excluding Swedish citizens who returned home, the number of immigrants totalled 83,318 people. The overall number was 101,171 immigrants, compared to 99,485 in 2007.

Iraqis, who have in recent years become Sweden’s second largest community of foreigners behind Finns, account for the biggest rise, with 12,103 new arrivals.

That number is however down by 20 percent from 2007 after Sweden adopted stricter asylum criteria for Iraqis.

In 2008, the number of people born in Iraq and living in Sweden also passed the 100,000 mark, to 109,446 people, up from 97,513 in 2007 and some 49,000 in 2000.

In 2007, 58.7 percent of Iraqis in Sweden held Swedish nationality.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

General

Atlantis Found on Google Earth, Official Explanation is Dubious

By Dan Nosowitz

The image you see above is purportedly traces of the ruins of the Lost City of Atlantis, found on Google Earth. Let’s weigh the evidence for and against, and see what we can conclude.

Conclusion 1: This Is Atlantis, Dammit!

The enigmatic lines were found under the sea off the north-western coast of Africa. This location is awfully close to one of the spots Plato, Legendary Smart Dude, had pinpointed as a possible resting place of Atlantis. In addition, the site is about the same size as Plato described. And if we accept Google’s explanation, why is this the first such grid we’ve seen, in this very suspicious location?

Conclusion 2: It’s Not Atlantis, Dammit!

Google claims that the lines are remnants of the sonar traces left by boats as they surveyed the area. Plus, Plato described Atlantis as being designed as a series of concentric circles, not a grid. Sub-argument: Plato’s description of Atlantis was fictional, and the entire internet is really bored.

I think the arguments speak for themselves. ATLANTIS IS OBVIOUSLY REAL!

[see article for image]

[Return to headlines]


Atoall.Com Makes English Knowledge Irrelevant for Net Surfers

[This] new Internet technology search engine invention will allow users to access all most popular websites by the use of simple shortcuts. For example, if a user wants to visit Google, he will have to type the following three consecutive letters in the keyboard, “gghhjj.com”. To visit Orkut, they will have to just type, ookkmm.com.

…The intention of this invention is to make the Internet and websites on the web accessible to all including the illiterates.

..This new internet technology search engine invention will make online surfing experience easy for English speaking users, non-English speaking users too can now access web pages without any difficulty, and it is possible for illiterate people to access websites of their interest.

[…]

While explaining this new technology, Sanjeev Singla the Managing Director of Atoall.com said that, “One has to type three letters twice on the computer keyboard which are in a straight line, ‘C’ or inverted ‘C’, ‘V’ or inverted ‘V’ twice followed by dot (.) com or ctrl+enter (its for www. .com). Shortcut keys are together on the keyboard e.g. rrddcc.com, ccddrr.com, mmjjnn.com, nnjjmm.com etc. We can earn 36 billions dollars annually from this invention because illiterate can also use the Internet by Atoall.com’s Angle Theory. So, non English persons can get benefits of internet technology.”

This new technology search engine invention does not only have keyboard shortcuts to Google, Orkut, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc., users will also be able to access their favorite games sites, access videos, etc. Language will no more be a barrier. People from all language backgrounds can use this new technology.

In their new invention, according to Rinkle Sharma, they did not violate any rules and regulations of the Internet. Everything is absolutely legal. Moreover, this new concept of interacting with the web does not require users to install any new software product.

This company is managed by a team of eight young Internet savvy Indians who have come up with a highly innovative technology that removes the language barriers on the World Wide Web. Their new system is capable of increasing the over all percentage of Internet users by another thirty percent.

[Return to headlines]

4 comments:

T said...

Baron
Could you contact me from a temporary e-mail account or something?

T said...

Baron
Could you contact me from a temporary e-mail account or something?
TB

Graham Dawson (Archonix) said...

Times like this I like to listen to a little inspirational music. something like this always makes me feel better. The last track in particular is very beautiful.

Graham Dawson (Archonix) said...

Speech is being squashed quite handilly by our government all the time. They start with the edge cases, with the "extreme porn" bill that made its way through parliament the other year and which ended up criminalising pretty much any photograph that could be construed as "extreme" and "pornographic". So, for instance, you can now potentially be prosecuted for be photographed in a field full of cows with a while, if someone believes you're being pornographic about it. Things that a married couple might do with a pair of furry handcuffs are fine, but if they take a photograph of the handcuffs they're criminals.

Now there are a few "loopholes" being closed. The Register has more. See also this article.

The "loophole" they're closing in the first link is that of non-possession. Under the bill now being discussed, simply looking at something makes you a criminal.
The second link deals with making cartoons illegal. Now... it's something of a tricky subject but the wording of the bill is so broad that a stick figure could be interpreted as a criminal act. The motoons would all be illegal under this law, and pretty much everything that nekschot drew would land him in jail.

People won't protest this because it's spun as "for the children". Any opposition is already classed as support for paedophilia, just like opposition to immigration is condemned as racism. They're pushing all of this through while the sting of these accusations still has its effect.