Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/25/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/25/2009Lord Ahmed has been convicted of dangerous driving for his part in a fatal accident which occurred after he was texting while driving. He’s been sentenced to twelve weeks in chokey, but the Brits tell me he will likely serve only six.

I hope his toilet faces Mecca.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Gaia, Insubria, JD, Nilk, Steen, TB, The Frozen North, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
- - - - - - - - -
Financial Crisis
China: “Hostile Forces” Stirring Up Workers and the Jobless
LBJ’s Great Society on Steroids
Nearly 4,000 L.A. Inmates May be Freed
Senator Echoes Tea Party Rally Cry
Spending Bill Stuffed With Earmarks
UK: the People Say They’ll Keep Calm and Carry on. . . But for How Long?
White Backs Off ‘Credit Enhancement’ With Tax Dollars
 
USA
2nd U.S. Soldier in Iraq Challenges Eligibility
Democrats Introduce Public National Service Bills
Domestic Terrorists in Our Midst
Home Mortgage Relief for Millions of Illegals
House Democrats Propose $410b Spending Bill
IRS Hounds Evangelist for Political Comments
Oklahoma House Passes Sovereignty Bill
Peak Oil Lie — US Has Utterly Giant Oil Reserves
The Deceits of Bridges TV
 
Canada
Canada Churches Open Arms to Gitmo Detainees
 
Europe and the EU
Italy: Security: Patrols May be Paid by Private Sector
Italy-France: Berlusconi-Sarkozy, Nuclear Energy Axis
Netherlands Nine Dead But Over 100 Alive After Plane Crashes and Breaks Into Three Pieces
Obama Copter ‘May be Frozen’
Polygamy UK: This Special Mail Investigation Reveals How Thousands of Men Are Milking the Benefits System to Support Several Wives
UK: Diversity Officers Are Fanning Racism and Acting as Recruiting Sergeants for the BNP
UK: Lord Ahmed Jailed for Dangerous Driving
UK: Will Labour Allow This Muslim Hardliner With Links to Hezbollah Into Britain?
Wilders a Prominent Guest in United States
 
Mediterranean Union
Italy-Tunisia: Guerrini Hails Old and Strong Relationship
 
North Africa
Algeria: for Gaza Aid Moroccan Borders to Open
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Hamas ‘Happy’ With Obama’s $900 Million Pledge
UN Agencies Give Millions of Dollars to Rebuild Gaza
 
Middle East
Auction: Pearl Carpet and Precious Items From Mohammed’s Tomb
Bahrain — Iran: Manama Suspends Negotiations With Tehran, Winning Arab Solidarity
Iran: First Russian-Built Nuclear Plant Complete
Italy Working for Iran at G8 Meet
Saudi Lingerie Trade in a Twist
 
South Asia
Exclusive: Army is Fighting British Jihadists in Afghanistan
India: for Muslim Clerics Conversion to Islam to Remarry is Unacceptable
No Place for Religious Freedom in the Maldives’ New Democratic Dispensation
Pakistan: Militants Receive Compensation for Peace Deal
Pakistan: Taliban Wants Amnesty for Militants in Exchange for Peace
Thailand: Soldiers Killed and Beheaded in Troubled South
 
Far East
Asia: the Late, Great State of Taiwan
Violent Crackdown by Chinese Authorities on Dissent Now a Daily Occurrence
 
Immigration
European Council Appeals Over Lampedusa
Lampedusa Revolt Makes Tunisian Headlines
Malta: 230 Immigrants Arrive on Fishing Boat
Maltese Parliament to Discuss Emergency
 
General
Al Gore Yanks Slide of Disaster Trends
UN: FAII, Anti-Israeli Tones From Geneva Conference

Financial Crisis

China: “Hostile Forces” Stirring Up Workers and the Jobless

The deputy chairman of China’s main state-backed union federation calls for vigilance. The loss of 20 million jobs and the lack of justice for workers are however the real problems. Without independent trade unions there is a great danger that exasperated people might turn to violence.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Greater police control of unemployed workers and action against agitators are what is needed, this according to Sun Chunlan, deputy chairman of the state-backed All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU).

The authorities must guard against “hostile forces within and outside China using the difficulties of some enterprises to infiltrate and bring trouble to rural migrant workers,” Sun said during a teleconference with officials.

Some 87,000 incidents of mass protest or labour unrest were recorded last year, largely as a result of the economic crisis, often triggered by plant closures and unpaid wages.

The global economic crisis has cut deeply into China’s exports to the United States and Europe. As a result 20 million jobs have been officially lost just in Guangdong province, where one third of China’s total exports are manufactured.

It is also not uncommon for closing plants to default on the final wages and severance pay they owe their laid off workers.

The difficult situation is such that the authorities have delayed the implementation of a new law protecting labour rights that was supposed to come into effect on 1 January. Instead many workers have had to accept wages below the minimum wage just to keep their job.

Rising unemployment and growing social unrest are giving the government the jitters.

Deputy Chairman Sun said that the official trade unions will extend aid to more than 10 million migrant workers in the form of job training or “living assistance”.

Then again, the country has about 130 million migrant workers, and over the past few months, many of them have clashed with police because of companies going out of business failing to pay them their last wages.

Independent trade unions might mediate between workers and the authorities, moderate grievances and stave off protests which might otherwise turn violent if left unchecked, but not for someone like ACFTU Deputy Chairman Sun, whose silence on the matter says a lot about official attitudes.

By contrast, many experts are very concerned about the lack of such institutional channels to address social problems, a vacuum that leaves much of China at the mercy of those in power.

Case in point: dozens of shop tenants and workers protested outside a market in Beijing’s Russian district on Wednesday, as part of a dispute over rent with the building’s landlord, whose reaction to the protest was to simply shut down the shop owned by the group’s spokesman and throw all of his stock away.

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


LBJ’s Great Society on Steroids

Under the subterfuge of helping the economy, Barack Obama’s stimulus plan legislates vast new spending programs to finance liberal policy goals that are unnecessary and undesirable. The flow of taxpayers’ money will be so gargantuan as to make Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society expansion of the welfare state look puny.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Nearly 4,000 L.A. Inmates May be Freed

Nearly 4,000 jail inmates would be released early and about 600 deputy and professional positions would be eliminated to meet budget cuts, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said Monday.

Owing to the current economic crisis, the Sheriff’s Department faces a $71 million cut to its $2.5 billion budget in the coming fiscal year.

Baca told The Associated Press it looks as if he’ll have to close two jails and eliminate the positions of the staff at those facilities.

“There’s no way around me cutting $71 million out of the budget that won’t affect having to close a jail or two,” Baca said. “To turn this battleship … I have to start cutting.”

[…]

A likely consequence would be an increase in crime, especially property crimes.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Senator Echoes Tea Party Rally Cry

‘People have to show that they’re not going to take it anymore’

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., a staunch opponent of the federal government’s increase in size and spending legislated by President Obama’s stimulus package, has issued a call for Americans to stand up — literally — and take back their freedom.

“I would think it’s time to start thinking about peaceful demonstrations,” DeMint said in an interview with Georgia’s Augusta Chronicle. “The power of the people is there. Freedom is in the people’s hands right now, and it’s about to slip through.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Spending Bill Stuffed With Earmarks

[Comment from JD: Obama will cut defense spending drastically — another one of Communism’s goals — unilateral diarmament of US.]

President Obama on Monday vowed to reel in wasteful Washington spending and blasted deceptive “accounting tricks” used by the Bush administration to fund the Iraq war even as House Democrats released a $410 billion stopgap spending bill studded with thousands of pork-barrel projects.

Speaking at a summit called to review the nation’s teetering fiscal situation, Mr. Obama offered a stern warning to budgeting of the past and pledged to reinstate pay-as-you-go rules to cut the $1.3 trillion federal deficit in half by the end of his first term.

“The pay-go approach is based on a very simple concept. You don’t spend what you don’t have. So if we want to spend, we’ll need to find somewhere else to cut,” Mr. Obama told economists, union leaders, policy wonks and lawmakers from both parties.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: the People Say They’ll Keep Calm and Carry on. . . But for How Long?

Labour has failed us — and if the Tories can’t find a solution to our problems, the public mood could turn ugly, warns Simon Heffer.

[…]

The mood appears to be this. The Government, despite Mr Brown’s protestations, has already been found guilty in the court of public opinion of gross dereliction in the management of our economy. The public are not stupid. They know that Mr Brown, as chancellor, took the decisions to pump excess money into the economy during the boom years. They know he squandered money in the good times on his client state. They know there has been waste and profligacy on an almost criminal scale. They know he altered the regulation of financial services to the point where allowing bankers near this incontinent stream of money was like giving a child of five a hand grenade. They know that every initiative he has produced since the debacle became apparent last autumn has been pointless, wasteful and designed to avoid the real issue: excessive spending and excessive borrowing to fund it. And they know, above all, that they and their children are about to be beggared to pay for this serial insanity.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


White Backs Off ‘Credit Enhancement’ With Tax Dollars

Houston plan ‘hit a nerve across this country,’ councilwoman says

Mayor Bill White yanked a controversial plan Tuesday that called for the city to use taxpayer funds to pay off some personal debts for first-time homebuyers, following a flood of outrage and criticism from across the city and beyond.

“I don’t think we ought to be in the business of paying off someone’s debt so they can buy a house,” White conceded during an impassioned City Council meeting. “Paying off people’s credit cards is ridiculous.”

Many council members expressed “embarrassment” over the idea, which received national media attention after the Chronicle wrote about it in Tuesday’s editions. The story appeared to strike a nerve among taxpayers already angry over the recession, the housing meltdown, and federal bailouts of banks and automobile companies.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

USA

2nd U.S. Soldier in Iraq Challenges Eligibility

Says issue could decide if ‘we are a Constitutional Republic’

Another U.S. soldier on active duty in Iraq is joining a challenge to President Obama’s eligibility to be commander-in-chief, citing WND’s report on 1st Lt. Scott Easterling, who has agreed to be a plaintiff in a lawsuit over the issue, as his inspiration.

“I was inspired by 1LT Easterling’s story and am writing you to inform you that I would like to be added as a plaintiff against Obama as well if you feel it would help your case,” the soldier, identified for this report only as a reservist now on active duty in Iraq.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Democrats Introduce Public National Service Bills

Comprehensive national service plan detailed; Corporation for National Service would be granted Cabinet-level status

A Democratic Senator from Connecticut has introduced four bills aimed at establishing a groundwork for a system of comprehensive national service.

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., says that the legislation will “create the architecture and the structure that will serve as the invitation for everyone to serve.”

The Senate bills, co-sponsored by Thad Cochran, R-Miss., are companion legislation to bills Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, introduced Tuesday in the House, calling for increases in federal spending for public service programs.

The legislation would target everyone from schoolchildren to the elderly and aim to create new bases of volunteers beyond the usual young-adult pool of service-program participants, reports The Day.

Two of the bills, named the Summer of Service Act and the Semester of Service Act, are particularly aimed at middle school and high school students and will offer “credits” in return for participation in community-service programs.

Some residents and education experts are concerned that such public service programs may become part of student graduation requirements.

A third bill, named The Encore Service Act, offers cash awards to people aged 55 and over who complete 250 or 500 hours of public service. In return for their service, participants would also receive an education award which could be transferred to their children or grandchildren.

A fourth bill, The ACTION Act, is aimed at increasing awards for AmeriCorps volunteers and reestablishing the Corporation’s connection with federal agencies. The bill would also grant the Corporation for National Service Cabinet-level status under the Obama administration.

Sen. Dodd is reintroducing the bills which he previously failed to bring to a vote.

Dodd told the media that the legislation is a response to President Obama’s call in his inaugural address for national service.

“People ask me why I joined — I joined because the president asked,” Dodd said. “We’ve got a president who’s asking.”

[Return to headlines]


Domestic Terrorists in Our Midst

The 2006 Justice Department document that exposes 35 terrorist training compounds in the U.S. was marked “Dissemination Restricted to Law Enforcement.” All the copies of Sheik Muburak Gilani’s terrorist training video, “Soldiers of Allah,” had been confiscated and sealed—all of them, except one…That one errant surviving copy landed with the Christian Action Network and became the foundation for the compelling documentary Homegrown Jihad: The Terrorist Camps Around the U.S

I too often say, it is not a question of WHO is right or wrong but WHAT is right or wrong that counts. The “Soldiers of Allah”/ Jamaat ul-Fuqra is flat out WRONG on multiple levels.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Home Mortgage Relief for Millions of Illegals

Obama’s program provides $275 billion to assist homeowners facing foreclosure

Illegal aliens can apply for mortgage relief under the Obama administration’s $275 billion plan, according to immigration experts and a group the government will use to help homeowners modify loans.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


House Democrats Propose $410b Spending Bill

House bill to keep govt. running totals $410 billion, features thousands of pet projects

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats unveiled a $410 billion spending bill on Monday to keep the government running through the end of the fiscal year, setting up the second political struggle over federal funds in less than a month with Republicans.

The measure includes thousands of earmarks, the pet projects favored by lawmakers but often criticized by the public in opinion polls. There was no official total of the bill’s earmarks, which accounted for at least $3.8 billion.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


IRS Hounds Evangelist for Political Comments

Year-long investigation demands thousands of pages of paperwork

A Florida-based evangelist says the Internal Revenue Service is burying him in endless, pointless paperwork to intimidate him into being silent on political issues.

Bill Keller, host of the Live Prayer TV program and LivePrayer.com, told WND the IRS began investigating him more than a year ago to determine if comments he made about political figures during the presidential primary season violated the terms of his ministry’s tax-exempt status.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Oklahoma House Passes Sovereignty Bill

Path set for other states seeking to reassert constitutional rights

Oklahoma’s House of Representatives is the first legislative body to pass a state sovereignty resolution this year under the terms of the Tenth Amendment. The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed House Joint Resolution 1003 Feb. 18 by a wide margin, 83 to 13, resolving, “That the State of Oklahoma hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Peak Oil Lie — US Has Utterly Giant Oil Reserves

Various Sources 2-25-9

The U.S. Geological Service issued a report in April (‘08) that only scientists and oil men knew was coming, but man was it big. It was a revised report (hadn’t been updated since ‘95) on how much oil was in this area of the western 2/3 of North Dakota, western South Dakota, and extreme eastern Montana…

The Bakken is the largest domestic oil discovery since Alaska ‘s Prudhoe Bay, and has the potential to eliminate all American dependence on foreign oil. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates it at 503 billion barrels. Even if just 10% of the oil is recoverable…at $107 a barrel, we’re looking at a resource base worth more than $5.3 trillion.

“When I first briefed legislators on this, you could practically see their jaws hit the floor. They had no idea.” says Terry Johnson, the Montana Legislature’s financial analyst.

“This sizable find is now the highest-producing onshore oil field found in the past 56 years.” reports, The Pittsburgh Post Gazette. It’s a formation known as the Williston Basin, but is more commonly referred to as the ‘Bakken.’ And it stretches from Northern Montana, through North Dakota and into Canada. For years, U. S. oil exploration has been considered a dead end. Even the ‘Big Oil’ companies gave up searching for major oil wells decades ago. However, a recent technological breakthrough has opened up the Bakken’s massive reserves…. and we now have access of up to 500 billion barrels. And because this is light, sweet oil, those billions of barrels will cost Americans just $16 PER BARREL!

That’s enough crude to fully fuel the American economy for 41 years straight.

2. And if THAT didn’t throw you on the floor, then this next one should — because it’s from two YEARS ago!

U. S. Oil Discovery — Largest Reserve In The World!

Stansberry Report Online — 4-20-6

Hidden 1,000 feet beneath the surface of the Rocky Mountains lies the largest untapped oil reserve in the world. It is more than 2 TRILLION barrels. On August 8, 2005 President Bush mandated its extraction. In three and a half years of high oil prices none has been extracted. With this motherload of oil why are we still fighting over off-shore drilling?

They reported this stunning news: We have more oil inside our borders, than all the other proven reserves on earth. Here are the official estimates:

[Return to headlines]


The Deceits of Bridges TV

On the ideological level, Bridges TV was a fraud, pretending to be moderate when it was just another member of the “Wahhabi lobby.” Endorsed by some of the worst Islamist functionaries in the country (Nihad Awad, Ibrahim Hooper, Iqbal Yunus, Louay Safi), it was an extremist wolf disguised in moderate sheep’s clothing.

On the financial level, Bridges TV marketed itself to investors on the basis of an imaginary population of 7 million-7.4 million U.S. Muslims, or 2-3 times the actual total, making the station commercially unviable from day one.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Canada

Canada Churches Open Arms to Gitmo Detainees

‘There have been hostile comments and hate mail’

With President Obama deciding to close Guantánamo within a year, Canadian churches are joining a growing international campaign to resolve the cases of 60 men — of a total 240 at the prison — who cannot be returned to their homelands safely.

As members of the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR), various Christian denominations have taken up five cases, including those of three Uighurs, an Algerian, and a Kurd from Syria. The Catholic Diocese of Montreal is sponsoring two of the Uighurs, who remain nameless for fear of repercussions against their families in China.

Several Toronto congregations of the United Church of Canada, a Protestant denomination, hope to help Hassan build a new life. “Our commitment is to support him practically and financially for at least a year,” says Moira Mancer, a member of the churches’ refugee committee.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Italy: Security: Patrols May be Paid by Private Sector

(AGI) — Rome, 24 Feb — ‘Volunteers for security’ could receive money from the private sector. The bill on patrols, which will be in force from tomorrow and which was published today in the Official Gazette, says that mayors may use ‘‘the collaboration of associations for unarmed citizens’’ to ‘‘mark’’ events which could be damaging to security. The associations must be subscribed to a special list held by the Prefect. The mayor must use associations composed of personnel from the law enforcement authorities who are on leave as a priority.

Associations different from those made up of personnel from the law enforcement authorities ‘‘are only included on the list if they are not in receipt of economic resources from the Public finance’’. The bill does not forbid ‘‘volunteers for security’’ from being paid by private associations, individuals or companies.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy-France: Berlusconi-Sarkozy, Nuclear Energy Axis

(ANSAmed) — ROME — The Italian government will speed up its nuclear Energy programme and will make a pact with France for Italy over nuclear energy. Silvio Berlusconi met French President Nicolas Sarkozy and signed a major protocol at the end of the meeting which includes opening the way to French technology in the four reactors which Italy will use to return to using nuclear power after 21 years, since the 1987 referendum, as laid out in the Berlusconi government’s programme. The cooperation will mean that Enel will reinforce its relationship with Edf, its namesake in France, through a joint-venture in Italy and participation in a second new generation EPR reactor (European Pressurised Reactor) in Penly in Normandy. But the summit, which included bilateral meetings between many ministers from the two governments and between delegations from industry, is also the chance to deal with a whole set of other matters of international interest. Starting with the financial crisis: two days after the G4 summit in Berlin, and ahead of the G20 in London and the next G8 at La Maddalena under the Italian presidency, Berlusconi and Sarkozy could exchange a few ideas on the situation with the banks, in the light of the expected position of the EU which, rumour has it, will open the way to suggestions of nationalisation of credit institutions to relieve them of toxic assets. Also on the agenda are the matter of cooperation in Defence and the transport dossier with the High speed (TAV) Turin-Lyon train route which ‘‘will be done’’ according to Berlusconi. Also down for discussion are the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the stabilisation of Afghanistan and Lebanon, Iran, dialogue between Europe and the Russian Federation and the NATO summit at the beginning of April with the new American presidency, especially in the light of France’s declared intention of a full return to the military structures. Italy welcomed the proposal by Sarkozy to create joint Italian-French troops to work in the international mission in Lebanon. With France ‘‘we are together in Lebanon, our soldiers are working side by side’’ said Berlusconi. On the theme of international relations, the French President described the decision of the G8 led by Italy to invite Egypt to the July summit as ‘‘historical’’. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Netherlands Nine Dead But Over 100 Alive After Plane Crashes and Breaks Into Three Pieces

Nine people died when a plane carrying 135 passengers crashed as it attempted to land at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport this morning.

The Turkish Airlines 737 broke into three pieces as it hit the ground near the runway, narrowly missing a main road and some houses.

Officials from the airline as well as Turkish government ministers had initially claimed that no one had been killed.

But at a press conference this afternoon, it was confirmed that nine were dead while another 50 were injured, 25 seriously.

It is believed that the number of fatalities could rise.

‘At this moment there are nine victims to mourn and more than 50 injured,’ Michel Bezuijen, acting mayor of Haarlemmermeer, said.

He said there was no immediate word on the cause of the crash.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Obama Copter ‘May be Frozen’

Procurement ‘gone amok, ‘ US president says

(ANSA) — London, February 17 — United States President Barack Obama may freeze a contract to buy presidential helicopters from a US-British-Italian consortium, White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.

Quizzed by CNN on whether Obama might suspend the new ‘Marine One’ because of cost overruns, Gibbs said: ‘‘That’s exactly the issue (Obama) addressed with the (Defense) Secretary (Robert M. Gates)’’.

In a meeting with Congressional representatives Monday, Obama called the Lockheed Martin-AgustaWestland project an example of military procurement ‘‘gone amok’’ and said he had spoken to Gates about it.

He said he had asked the defense secretary to conduct a ‘‘thorough review of the helicopter situation’’.

‘‘The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequate to me,’’ Obama said at a White House summit on fiscal responsibility, adding in jest, ‘‘obviously I did not have a helicopter before’’.

The estimated price of the helicopter program has almost doubled over the last three years, from $6.1 billion to $11.2 billion.

Obama was responding to a call from his former presidential rival Senator John McCain, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services panel, to stem cost overruns in many military programs. ‘‘Your helicopter is going to cost as much as Air Force One,’’ McCain told the president.

The VH-71 is supposed to be developed in two phases. Five helicopters in the first phase are scheduled for delivery by September 2010. The second phase of the program would deliver 23 more high-tech helicopters, but that stage is likely to be overhauled due to the cost increase, according to Congressional newspaper The Hill.

The newspaper quoted a Lockheed Martin spokesman as saying: ‘‘We have made significant progress on the program’s first phase, delivering seven aircraft and completing other key milestones designed to give the president significantly better command, control and communication capabilities than exist today’’.

‘‘We are committed to the program’s success and are confident we can deliver the required number of helicopters compliant with the specifications that emerge from the ongoing review’’.

Lockheed Martin and AgustaWestland have already said the contract has been placed ‘‘under review,’’ stressing that it was a ‘‘normal procedure’’ when costs rise by more than 25%.

The amenities on the new choppers would be closer to Air Force One than the 30-year-old helicopters they would replace. It would be equipped with a protected communications suite and advanced navigation systems, as well as a kitchen and a bathroom. Last week Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Italy would push to have the US government fulfill the contract.

‘‘The contract has already been finalised. Now it’s a question of fulfilling it and we’re working to have it implemented,’’ Frattini said.

‘‘Delaying it is possible but I don’t think we can give it up,’’ Frattini said.

The 2005 decision by the Pentagon, which is responsible for transporting the president, came at the end of an intense lobbying battle between the two groups.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi went to bat for the American-European consortium, in meetings with US President George Bush.

The new copter is a modified version of a helicopter already in use by the British Royal Navy and other European armed forces.

AugustaWestland, based in Italy and Britain, is a division of the Italian corporation Finmeccanica.

Other partners in the American-European consortium include Bell Helicopter and Northrop Grumman Corp.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Polygamy UK: This Special Mail Investigation Reveals How Thousands of Men Are Milking the Benefits System to Support Several Wives

[…]

A recent review by four Government departments — the Treasury, the Work and Pensions Department, the Inland Revenue and the Home Office — has concluded that 1,000 men in the United Kingdom are now polygamists, although some say the figure is higher.

What is more, the review found, a Muslim man can claim state support of more than £10,000 a year to keep his wives, if the wedding took place in one of those countries where polygamy is commonplace, such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia and across huge tracts of Africa.

For example, a man can receive &£92.80 a week in income support for wife number one, and a further £33.65p for each of his subsequent spouses.

Therefore, if he has four wives — the maximum permitted under Islamic teachings — he can claim nearly £800 a month from the British taxpayer.

Controversially, a polygamist is also entitled to more generous housing benefits and bigger council houses to reflect the large size of his family. He is also able to claim £1,000 a year in child benefit for each of his growing brood.

The Government insists that polygamy has declined in Britain since the 1988 Immigration Act, which made it harder for men to bring second, third or fourth wives to the UK.

However, it’s little wonder that critics claim our generosity simply encourages more Muslim men to keep several spouses. Supporters of polygamy claim the Koran states unequivocally that a Muslim man can marry up to four women so long as he treats them equally.

But the Taxpayers’ Alliance, a lobby group, has complained: ‘Polygamy is not officially condoned here, so why should British taxpayers have to pay for extra benefits for men to have two, three or four wives?’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


UK: Diversity Officers Are Fanning Racism and Acting as Recruiting Sergeants for the BNP

A useful piece of ammunition in the resistance struggle against Political Correctness emerges today. It comes from, of all places, the BBC.

They have commissioned an opinion poll from researchers ComRes on the role of religion in public life and the results are pretty emphatic.

62 per cent of those questioned want religion and the values derived from it to play an important role in British public life. Furthermore 63 per cent of those questioned agreed that laws should respect and be influenced by the UK’s traditional religious values…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


UK: Lord Ahmed Jailed for Dangerous Driving

Labour peer admitting texting while driving on motorway just before being involved in a fatal crash

The Labour peer Lord Ahmed was today jailed for 12 weeks for dangerous driving after admitting he was texting while driving on a motorway just before being involved in a fatal crash.

The Labour life peer Lord Ahmed. Photograph: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Sheffield crown court had previously heard how Ahmed sent and received five text messages while driving in the dark at speeds of 60mph and higher along a 17-mile stretch of the M1 on Christmas Day 2007.

Martyn Gombar, 28, a Slovakian man living in Leigh, Lancashire, died when the peer’s Jaguar hit an Audi car that had crashed into the central reservation and was stationary in the fast lane of the motorway near Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

Ahmed, 51, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving when he appeared at Sheffield magistrates court last year.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


UK: Will Labour Allow This Muslim Hardliner With Links to Hezbollah Into Britain?

Jacqui Smith was tonight warned against exercising ‘double standards’ as an Islamic extremist prepared to travel to the UK.

Ibrahim Moussawi, a known hardliner with links to Hezbollah, has been invited to speak at a London university.

But the Home Secretary is under pressure to refuse an entry visa to Moussawi, who has allegedly described Jews as ‘a lesion on the forehead of history’.

Earlier this month, she banned the far-Right Dutch MP Geert Wilders from coming to Britain to show his film about Islam as it would threaten ‘community harmony’.

But the Conservatives warned that to ban those who threaten community harmony, while letting in those who glorify terrorism or are part of terrorist groups, would send out the ‘wrong message’.

There must be ‘no double standards on extremists’, warned Tory security spokesman Baroness Neville-Jones.

Moussawi, who has already made at least two trips to the UK, has been invited to speak on political Islam at the School of Oriental and African Studies next month.

Editor for the newspaper of Lebanon-based terrorist organisation Hezbollah, he is a former political editor of the Iranian-backed group’s TV station, which is banned in many countries including France, Spain and the U.S, as its output is seen as anti-Semitic.

Despite his background he has twice been allowed to speak publicly in Britain by the Home Office, once in December 2007 and again in February 2008.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Wilders a Prominent Guest in United States

THE HAGUE, 25/02/09 — MP Geert Wilders expects to show his anti-Islam film Fitna in the Senate of the United States on Thursday. In the runup to this event, he has given interviews to well-known TV programmes in recent days.

Wilders was interviewed twice by the conservative Fox News on Monday during his visit to the US. The Party for Freedom (PVV) leader was a guest on The O’Reilly Factor show of Bill O’Reilly and on the Glenn Beck show of the eponymous presenter.

In the interview with Beck, Wilders proposed the introduction of a ‘First Amendment’ in Europe. This part of the US Bill of Rights guarantees free speech. “I am here in America to learn from the freedom of speech that you have here,” said Wilders. All European laws against incitement to hatred should be abolished, he added, “because they are only being used against us.”

The United Kingdom refused to admit the MP to the country last week, thereby giving a boost to his popularity in the Netherlands and fame in the world. Italy subsequently allowed him in normally, and now also the US. Earlier, Wilders had already showed Fitna in Israel.

Wilders says he will be a guest of the Senate in Washington on Thursday for showing Fitna. The PVV leader was invited by the Republican Senator from Arizona, Jon Kyl.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Italy-Tunisia: Guerrini Hails Old and Strong Relationship

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 20 — At the forum in Tunis to relaunch the Euromediterranean relations, Natalino Guerrini — the national president of Confartigianato (General Italian Confederation of Artisans) — said that relations between Italy and Tunisia have been strong for many years thanks to the Tunisian government, which “encourages trade policies”. Guerrini spoke about the prospects a free trade zone that, starting in 2010, will create an enormous market of 37 countries and 700 million consumers. In his speech, Guerrini commented on the Barcelona Process of 1995 and admitted the difficulties regarding starting and definitively establishing economic cooperation.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: for Gaza Aid Moroccan Borders to Open

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 17 — Algerian authorities are thought to have authorised the exceptional opening of the border with Morocco, closed since 1994, so as to allow a British aid convoy to travel into Gaza. The news was reported today in Algerian press quoting sources in London, even though no official confirmation has yet been received from Algiers. The convoy which left Great Britain on February 14 is currently in Spain, and after passing through Morocco should cross into Algerian territory in the coming days. The lorries, which are loaded with aid, would then pass through Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, so as to reach Gaza by way of the Rafah crossing on March 2. ‘London is not surprised by the unusual decision that Algeria has taken to allow the passing of the Palestinian solidarity convoy across its borders from Moroccan territory,’’ said Abdelhamid Mehri, a member of the Palestinian support committee, as quoted in the newspaper Echorouk. The borders between Algeria and Morocco were closed in 1994 following an attack on a hotel in Marrakech. Moroccan authorities accused the Algerian secret services of being behind the attacks and decided to introduce a visa system for the entry of Algerians into the country. Algeria responded by closing the borders, a block which has been seen as a symbol of the pre-existing tension in the Western Saharan region, a former Spanish colony which was occupied by Morocco in 1975. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Hamas ‘Happy’ With Obama’s $900 Million Pledge

Funds earmarked for U.N. agency that openly employs terrorists

TEL AVIV, Israel — Hamas is “very happy” with a pledge this week from the Obama administration to provide $900 million in aid for rebuilding the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, a spokesman from the Islamist organization told WND.

“We are very happy with this decision,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, speaking by cell phone from Gaza. “In the first place, this money will go toward reconstructing efforts.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UN Agencies Give Millions of Dollars to Rebuild Gaza

Gaza City, 25 Feb. (AKI) — Gazans whose homes were damaged or destroyed in the Israeli offensive that ended last month have, to date, received more than 7 million dollars in cash from United Nations agencies in a distribution that began last week.

Some 3,800 families have benefited so far from the distribution by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

To meet long-term shelter needs of the displaced, UNDP plans for 10,000 families to get between 1,000 and 5,000 dollars in cash aid, according to family size, current socio-economic status and level of home damage, the agency said last week.

It adds that major repair of damaged houses cannot be done until construction materials are permitted into the Gaza Strip, where, it estimates, over 14,000 homes were totally or partially damaged in three-weeks of fighting.

On Wednesday, Israeli media said that United States secretary of state Hillary Clinton has relayed messages to Israel in the past week, expressing anger at obstacles Israel is placing to the delivery of aid to the war-ravaged Gaza Strip.

Israeli authorities have not allowed construction materials to enter since last November, though the Security Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other UN top officials have repeatedly called on the country to fully open crossings into Gaza for humanitarian goods and reconstruction materials.

Israel, which launched its operation with the stated aim of ending rocket attacks by Hamas and other groups, says it has restricted access to the Strip both in response to attacks and for other security reasons.

Palestinian medical officials said more than 1,330 Palestinians were killed and more than 5,400 others were injured during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead launched in Gaza on 27 December.

Medical officials said the Palestinian dead included at least 700 civilians, many of them women and children.

Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians, hit by cross-border rocket fire, were killed in the conflict.

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

Middle East

Auction: Pearl Carpet and Precious Items From Mohammed’s Tomb

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, FEBRUARY 24 — A pearl carpet that according to tradition was created to adorn the tomb of Islamic prophet Mohammed, will be auctioned off by Sotheby’s in Doha in Qatar on March 19. To create this precious carpet, commissioned by the Maharaja Kande Rao Gaekwar’ of Baroda in the 19th century, 2 million basrà pearls gathered in the waters of the Gulf were used, among the world’s richest areas for the gathering of pearls of rare purity, explained a note from the New York auction house. The starting price for the masterpiece, which is further enriched by diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, is 5 million dollars, but organisers anticipate that the item will surely be sold at a much high value. On exhibition at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, the Baroda pearl carpet’ will be auctioned in Doha as the centerpiece of the event entitled: Art in the Islamic World’. (ANSAmed).

2009-02-24 12:05

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Bahrain — Iran: Manama Suspends Negotiations With Tehran, Winning Arab Solidarity

The decision was made after an official close to the Supreme Leader called the tiny country the 14th Iranian province. Mubarak was in Bahrain on Monday, and Abdullah II yesterday. Saudi Arabia is “strongly rejecting the Iranian statements.”

Manama (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Bahrain has suspended negotiations over the importing of Iranian gas. The decision, explained a “high official” cited by the Gulf Times, “was taken after the regretful remarks that touch on Bahrain’s sovereignty and do not support the relations between the two countries.” The reference is to a remark made last week by Ali Akbar Nateq Noori, a collaborator of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, according to whom Bahrain is the 14th Iranian province. Similar statements were made a few days earlier by a member of parliament, Daryush Qanbari.

Solidarity with the tiny country — with extensive oil resources, and the base of the United States Fifth Fleet — has been expressed in various ways by “moderate” Arab countries in the region. Monday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak went to Manama, and Jordanian King Abdullah II went yesterday. Also yesterday, the official Saudi news agency SPA reported the words of “an official,” according to whom “these irresponsible statements are only an attempt to defy historical and geographical facts.” A Saudi spokesman, cited by the same agency, said that the Iranian statement would block efforts to establish friendly relations between the Gulf Cooperation Council (editor’s note: which unites Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar) and Iran. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia while strongly rejecting the Iranian statements expresses its deep regret that such statements came from responsible officials close to the Iranian leadership.”

For its part, Bahrain, following an immediate protest by its foreign minister, Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad al-Khalifa, is now following up with the decision to suspend negotiations over Iranian gas, justifying this, according to a source cited by the national news agency BNA, by the “flagrant transgression against the sovereignty, independence, and Arab identity of Bahrain. It says that “repetitive Iranian claims would shake stability and security in the region, and hamper Gulf Cooperation Council endeavors to engage in bilateral relations based on mutual respect with Tehran.” The reference to the past is to what happened less than two years ago, in July of 2007, when an Iranian newspaper stated that Bahrain belongs to Iran. At the time, it toook a visit to Manama from Tehran’s foreign minister to quell the protests of the tiny country.

Bahrain is a Shiite-majority country — like Iran — in a predominantly Sunni region. For a few decades, until 1783, it was under direct Iranian control.

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


Iran: First Russian-Built Nuclear Plant Complete

Tehran, 25 Feb. (AKI) — Iran said on Wednesday that it has begun tests on its first nuclear plant, in preparations for its launch. The Russian-built plant is located in the vicinity of the southern port city of Bushehr.

An Iranian official, Mohsen Shirazi, said the visiting head of Russia’s state nuclear company, Sergei Kiriyenko, and his Iranian counterpart were at the plant to inspect work that included injecting virtual fuel into rods.

“This process started 10 days ago. Lead is used instead of nuclear fuel,” Shirazi told the media at the site.

Kiriyenko echoed Shirazi’s claim, saying that the construction of the plant is complete.

“The construction stage of the nuclear power plant is over, we are now in the pre-commissioning stage, which is a combination of complex procedures,” Kiriyenko told the media in Bushehr.

However, the reactor’s physical start-up is expected by the end of the 2009, where it can begin generating electricity.

The Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant has the capacity of producing 1,000 mega watts of electricity and its reactor uses light water, said Iran’s state news agency Irna.

The plant is located 15 kilometres south of the port city of Bushehr and its building started in 1974 by a German company but they did not continue the work after the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979.

A Russian Company named ‘Atomstroyexport’ signed a 1 billion dollar contract to complete the project in 1995, but its completion was delayed for several reasons, one of them including western accusations that Iran’s nuclear programme is a cover for the production of nuclear weapons.

The US and other western powers suspect Iran may covertly be building atomic weapons. However, Iran has consistently claimed its uranium enrichment programme is entirely peaceful and aimed solely at civilian nuclear power, in line with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The international treaty is aimed at stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.

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


Italy Working for Iran at G8 Meet

Tehran at parley on Afghanistan would be a ‘step forward’

(ANSA) — Rome, February 25 — Italy’s idea to involve Iran in the stabilisation of Afghanistan is gaining ground and could be on the agenda of talks with United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later this week, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Wednesday.

‘‘The operation is under way,’’ Frattini said amid moves by Italy as duty head of the Group of Eight (G8) to invite Iran to a conference on Afghanistan and Pakistan in Trieste at the end of June.

The issue is expected to be on the agenda when Frattini meets Clinton for the first time in Washington Friday.

Iran’s participation in the G8 conference ‘‘would be a political step forward clear to all,’’ said Frattini, who will also have his first meeting with US President Barack Obama’s special envoy on Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke.

Frattini stressed that Iran would have to be ‘‘seriously committed to the stabilisation’’ (of Afghanistan and Pakistan) and would have to act ‘‘in a transparent way’’.

The Italian foreign ministry reiterated that contrary to an announcement by the Iranian foreign ministry earlier this week, ‘‘no formal invitation has so far been made’’ The idea is ‘‘a working hypothesis which we intend to analyse with our allies,’’ it said.

Frattini said: ‘‘I hope there is a positive evaluation of the proposal by the American side’’.

He said Britain and France had already expressed interest.

On Tuesday, at a Franco-Italian summit in Rome, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he was sending an expert to Tehran ‘‘for consultations’’.

Frattini said he had already outlined the proposal to Holbrooke on the phone and his trip to Washington would be a chance ‘‘to speak better’’.

Italy is assessing the feasibility of its proposal with its allies and is also ‘‘weighing with the Iranians the characteristics, opportunities and conditions regarding Tehran’s participation’’ in the ministerial conference.

Frattini first publicly fielded the idea of inviting Iran to the Trieste conference when he visited Afghanistan last week and he later discussed it with Holbrooke.

He said Italy hoped that Iran would become a ‘‘talking partner’’ capable of helping to stabilise Afghanistan.

Iran’s nuclear programme may also be discussed during Frattini’s visit to Washington, which kicks off at the Italian ambassador’s residence Thursday night with talks with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitan and CIA chief Leon Panetta.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Saudi Lingerie Trade in a Twist

It would be bizarre in any country to find that its lingerie shops are staffed entirely by men.

But in Saudi Arabia — an ultra-conservative nation where unmarried men and women cannot even be alone in a room together if they are not related — it is strange in the extreme.

Women, forced to negotiate their most intimate of purchases with male strangers, call the situation appalling and are demanding the system be changed.

“The way that underwear is being sold in Saudi Arabia is simply not acceptable to any population living anywhere in the modern world,” says Reem Asaad, a finance lecturer at Dar al-Hikma Women’s College in Jeddah, who is leading a campaign to get women working in lingerie shops rather than men.

“This is a sensitive part of women’s bodies,” adds Ms Asaad. “You need to have some discussions regarding size, colour and attractive choices and you definitely don’t want to get into such a discussion with a stranger, let alone a male stranger. I mean this is something I wouldn’t even talk to my friends about.”

In theory, it should be easy enough to get women to staff lingerie shops, but parts of Saudi society are still very traditional and don’t like the idea of women working — even if it’s just to sell underwear to each other.

Rana Jad is a 20-year-old student at Dar al-Hikma Women’s College, and one of Reem Asaad’s pupils and campaign supporters.

“Girls don’t feel very comfortable when males are selling them lingerie, telling them what size they need, and saying ‘I think this is small on you, I think this is large on you’,” she says.

“He’s totally checking the girls out! It’s just not appropriate, especially here in our culture.”

Embarrassing experience

Nura, an administrative clerk at the same college, says she never buys lingerie in Saudi Arabia anymore.

“It’s really embarrassing. They try to give comments -’this might suit you better than that’ — it’s really not ethical.”

To be fair to the male shop workers, many of them find the experience just as embarrassing as their women customers.

They are torn, says Ms Asaad, between trying to do their job as salespeople and not stepping on any toes by doing something inappropriate, that could land them in hot water.

“Since we do have the option of replacing male salespeople with female salespeople I don’t see why this situation should continue.”

Because physical contact between unmarried men and women in Saudi Arabia is forbidden under strict segregation laws, women can also not be properly measured for their underwear.

Worse still, the kingdom’s religious police forbid lingerie shops even to have fitting rooms.

So if a customer wants to try an item on, she first has to pay for it, and then traipse to a public toilet to see if it fits.

If it doesn’t, she can easily get a refund, but most women find the experience so humiliating they buy items without trying them on, only to get them home and find they don’t fit and their money is wasted.

Frustration

Ms Asaad’s campaign began on the social networking website Facebook and is gradually getting larger.

Even Saudi Arabia’s male-dominated press is starting to take note, with several newspapers reporting on her fight.

The situation is all the more frustrating because the relevant legislation is already in place.

In 2006, the Saudi government passed a law stating that women should be allowed to staff any shops that sell women’s items, be it clothing, accessories or underwear.

But the law has still not been properly implemented.

No official reason is given for this, but one probable cause is that hiring female staff would put a lot of men out of work — not a popular move in a country where 13% of men are unemployed.

There are also Saudi Arabia’s Muslim clerics to contend with.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Exclusive: Army is Fighting British Jihadists in Afghanistan

Top Army officers reveal surge in attacks by radicalised Britons

British soldiers are engaged in “a surreal mini civil war” with growing numbers of home-grown jihadists who have travelled to Afghanistan to support the Taliban, senior Army officers have told The Independent.

Interceptions of Taliban communications have shown that British jihadists — some “speaking with West Midlands accents” — are active in Helmand and other parts of southern Afghanistan, according to briefing papers prepared by an official security agency.

The document states that the numbers of young British Muslims, “seemingly committed jihadists”, travelling abroad to commit extremist violence has been rising, with Pakistan and Somalia the most frequent destinations.

MI5 has estimated that up to 4,000 British Muslims had travelled to Pakistan and, before the fall of the Taliban, to Afghanistan for military training. The main concern until now has been about the parts some of them had played in terrorist plots in the UK. Now there are signs that they are mounting missions against British and Western targets abroad. “We are now involved in a kind of surreal mini-British civil war a few thousand miles away,” said one Army officer.

Somalia is also becoming a destination for British Muslims of Somali extraction who have started fighting alongside al-Qa’ida-backed Islamist forces. A 21-year-old Briton of Somali extraction, who had been brought up in Ealing, west London, recently blew himself up in the town of Baidoa, killing 20 people. The head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, has raised the worrying issue of British citizens being indoctrinated in Somalia, and Michael Hayden, the outgoing head of the CIA, warned that the conflict in the Horn of Africa had “catalysed” expatriate Somalis in the West.

But it is in Afghanistan that British forces are now directly facing fellow Britons on the other side. RAF Nimrod aircraft flying over Afghanistan at up to 40,000ft have been picking up Taliban electronic “chatter” in which voices can be heard in West Midlands and Yorkshire accents. Worryingly for the military, this has increased in the past few months, with communications picked up by both ground and air surveillance, showing the presence of more British voices in the Taliban front line.

The men involved are said to try to hide their British connections but sometimes “fall back” into speaking English. One senior military source said: “We have been hearing a lot more Punjabi, Urdu and Kashmiri Urdu rather than just Pashtu, so there appears to be more men from other parts of Pakistan fighting with the Taliban than just the Pashtuns who have tribal allegiances with the Afghan Pashtuns. It is this second group, the Urdu, Punjabi speakers etc, who fall back into English in, for example, Brummie accents. You get the impression that they have been told not to talk in English but sometimes simply can’t help it.”

Some of the British Muslims had originally trained in Pakistan to commit attacks in Kashmir. But security sources say the rising threat of Indian retribution, especially after the Mumbai attacks, had led to the Pakistani government curbing the activities of the Kashmiri separatist groups, so the fighters are being switched to Afghanistan. The numbers involved in Afghanistan, the intelligence document shows, are relatively few, dozens rather than hundreds, but the pattern of involvement is described as a cause for concern.

Last week, during a visit to Helmand, the Foreign Secretary, David Milliband, was shown Taliban explosive devices containing British-made electronic components. An explosives officer said the devices had either been sent from Britain, or brought over to the country. They ranged from remote-control units used to fly model airplanes to advanced components which could detonates bombs at a range of more than a mile.

Evidence of British Muslims fighting inside Afghanistan and training in insurgent camps in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas has been provided to the UK authorities by the Americans. The US has significantly stepped up its surveillance inside Pakistan as part of a more aggressive policy including cross-border raids by unmanned Predator aircraft.

The Americans are said to have raised the issue of the Pakistan connection, complaining that the UK is not doing enough to curb radical Muslims. The US pointed out that this threatens their own security because UK passport holders can get into the US under the visa waiver programme. The Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, the chairman of the Commons’ sub-committee on anti-terrorism, which has been examining the activities of British Muslim extremists, said: “We know the problem we have with UK-based jihadists. We also know that a number of them have been arrested trying to leave the country. With the UK intelligence services at full stretch, it is not surprising some of these jihadists had ended up in Afghanistan.”

Brigadier Ed Butler, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said British Muslims were fighting his forces. “There are British passport holders who live in the UK who are being found in places such as Kandahar,” he said. “There is a link between Kandahar and urban conurbations in the UK. This is something the military understands but the British public does not.”

Robert Emerson, a security analyst who has worked in South Asia, said: “There is ample evidence that British Muslims had trained in camps in Pakistan. What is emerging now is a picture of them being more active in Afghanistan, either providing support and logistics or in active service. The numbers are not particularly large, but it is worrying.”

Jonathan Evans, of MI5, said the number of extremists wanting to travel to Iraq had “tailed off significantly” as Britain begins the drawdown of its troops in the country. But there was “traffic” into Pakistan and Afghanistan. “What happens in Afghanistan is extremely important because what happens there has a direct impact on domestic security in the UK,” he said. “Pre-2001, they were able to establish terrorist facilities and to draw hardened extremists and vulnerable recruits to indoctrinate and teach techniques. If the Taliban is able to establish control over significant areas, there is a real danger that such facilities will be re-established.”

Last week, as Barack Obama ordered 17,000 extra US troops into Afghanistan, a confidential Nato report revealed that more than 30 per cent of the population believed the government of President Hamid Karzai had lost control of the areas in which they live and much of that has slipped back into Taliban control.

           — Hat tip: The Frozen North[Return to headlines]


India: for Muslim Clerics Conversion to Islam to Remarry is Unacceptable

Mullahs speak out after Haryana Chief Minister converts to marry again. The practice is widespread as people try to escape legal complications by converting to Islam.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Conversion to Islam to escape the legal complications of a second marriage as “un-Islamic” and “unacceptable,” this according to Muslim scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, who has waded straight into the controversial waters of conversions of convenience by people who want to bypass the law in order to remarry.

The practice is not new, but has acquired greater visibility after Haryana Deputy Chief Minister and Congress Party (I) leader Chander Mohan announced on 17 December 2008 his intention to marry former law officer Anuradha Bali after both convert to Islam.

Called the Chand and Fiza affair in the Indian press, the story generated so much controversy that the head of Haryana’s Panchkula district, home to the state capital, warned the wannabe second time groom not to show his face in his district for causing the scandal and bringing discredit to the Congress Party and the state government.

For Mullah Wahiduddin Khan, changing religion for utilitarian reasons is a no-no. Conversion can come “only after in-depth study and discussions about the religion.”

For him conversion on such grounds should be prevented through education “about the sanctity of the institution of marriage.” Would-be converts should “not take it as fun.”

Other Muslim scholars agree, including Mufti Muqarram Ahmad, leader of Delhi’s Muslim community, who slammed the practice. Islam “should not be used for hidden personal motives,” he said.

Qari Usman, an expert on hadith at the highly revered Darul Uloom or seminary in Deoband town in Uttar Pradesh, is equally critical of the practice.

“Adopting Islam with the intention to have a second wife is un-Islamic, incorrect and not justifiable,” he said.

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


No Place for Religious Freedom in the Maldives’ New Democratic Dispensation

President Nasheed had pledged freedom of expression and promised to uphold human rights. Instead under the Maldives’s constitution all Maldivians must still be Sunni Muslims. In order to keep his coalition together he has had to give the Ministry of Religious Affairs to the leader of one of the most intransigent Islamic parties. But voices of dissent are finding their way into the blogosphere.

Malé (AsiaNews/Agencies) — In reform-minded, pro-democracy President Mohamed Nasheed’s brave, new Maldives there is no place for religious freedom or Maldivians who are not Sunni Muslims.

Four months after historic elections marked the end of the 30-year unchallenged rein of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the Maldives are still far off from the changes proposed by the new president who is currently visiting Italy to promote his country as a tourist destination.

“We are escaping from censorship of freedom of expression, and from barriers to human rights today. We are going to[wards] another Maldives,” Nasheed had said during the election campaign, but the first few months of his rule have seen anything but that.

Under the 41-year-old former political prisoner religious freedom remains a pipedream. Sunni Islam is the state religion and the constitution clearly states that no Maldivian citizen can hold any other creed.

Human rights organisation Forum 18 reports that not only has Nasheed not changed anything from what existed under his predecessor, but has in fact increased the powers of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, now under Sheikh Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari, head of the Islamic Scholars Council of the Adhaalath Party, one of the two Islamic parties that backed Nasheed in the 2008 presidential election.

According to Forum18, many Maldivians have begun using anonymous weblogs to voice their concern over the situation. Many are afraid that the president might have simply handed religion over to Sheikh Bari in exchange for his party support to the coalition government.

The place of religion in society and discrimination against non-Muslims played a significant role in the election. During the campaign former President Gayoom had accused Nasheed several time of being a “Christian”, one of the worst possible insults that can be levelled against anyone.

The country’s old despot, who ran the archipelago from 1978 till 2008, also accused the opposition of trying to introduce “foreigners and Jews” as well as non-Islamic religions into the country.

His political adversaries retorted accusing him of not being Sunni Muslim.

Forum18 also reports that religion was not used only by openly Islamic parties like Adhaalath and the Islamic Democratic Party (IDP). Nasheed himself had to drop Aminath Jameel, a woman who trained at the Christian Medical College in Vellore (India), as his running mate, yielding to pressures both within and outside his party.

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


Pakistan: Militants Receive Compensation for Peace Deal

Karachi, 23 Feb. (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — Pakistani militants in the country’s northwest are understood to have received 480 million rupees ( 6 million dollars) in compensation after agreeing to a cease conflict with government forces for an indefinite period. Well-placed security sources have told Adnkronos International (AKI) that the militants agreed to lay down their arms and endorse the deal between the government and local leader Sufi Mohammad to impose Sharia law in the region.

“The amount has been paid through a backchannel, “ a senior security official told AKI on condition of anonymity.

“It is compensation for those who were killed during military operations and compensation for the properties destroyed by the security forces. In fact, negotiations for this package were finalised well before Maulana Sufi Mohammad signed a peace deal.”

The security official said the amount was delivered from a special fund of president Asif Ari Zardari. All the tribal areas come under the president’s jurisdiction and a special aid package, including a donation from the US, was designated for the tribal area by the president’s office and distributed through the governor’s office in the North West Frontier Province.

“Some other smaller amounts are also under negotation which shall also be delivered soon,” the official confirmed.

An historic agreement endorsing Sharia law was reached between the government and local leader Sufi Mohammad a week ago. The deal ended two years of fierce conflict in which at least 1,700 government soldiers and hundreds of civilians were killed and 600,000 people were displaced.

The Taliban endorsed the deal after Sufi Mohammad, head of the Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Mohammadi discussed details of the government’s proposal with Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah and demanded that the Taliban lay down its arms.

The Taliban initially expressed its concerns and demanded guarantees regarding the withdrawal of around 10,000 Pakistani army soldiers deployed in the Swat Valley.

On Monday, the director-general of Inter- Services-Public Relations major general Athar Abbas officially announced the end of military operations in the province’s volatile Swat Valley on Monday. He was talking to journalists in Islamabad.

The Pakistan army said it had ceased all operations against Taliban militants in Swat, even though US officials have expressed concern about the deal.

“The state failed to control foreign elements in Swat,” said Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas from Inter Services Public Relations said. “The militants were getting funds from state enemies.”

But Abbas also noted the failure of state machinery in Swat like police as the major reason for the government’s failure to defeat militants.

“It created a vaccum. Security forces just cannot operate without the help of state machinery,” he said.

“It is also essential to win the heart and minds of the people. Since militants blended with the civilian population, it was practically impossible to target them. In these circumstances, if the military continued its operations, innocent people would have been killed,” Abbas maintained.

Meanwhile leader of Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Mohammadi Sufi Mohammad said in a media conference in Swat on Monday that the peace agreement would be implemented in phases and appealed to people to come back to their homes.

He asked the Taliban to immediately stop their armed opposition movement and avoid carrying guns in public.

He also demanded the government to release jailed militants and ordered the military to immediately leave all schools and mosques.

Meanwhile, a shura or tribal council of mujahadeen leaders namely including Baitullah Mehsud, Sirajuddin Haqqani, Moulvi Nazeer and Gul Bahadur formed an alliance and vowed to stop all hostilites against Pakistani security forces .

Instead they vowed to launch a joint struggle against NATO forces in Afghanistan next month.

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


Pakistan: Taliban Wants Amnesty for Militants in Exchange for Peace

Karachi, 20 Feb. (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — The Pakistani Taliban is demanding an amnesty for jailed militants and the withdrawal of the armed forces from the Swat Valley in the country’s north-west before it endorses a peace agreement in the region. Taliban sources told Adnkronos International (AKI) that the Taliban’s shura, or tribal council, was expected to finalise its position late Friday and announce its response at the weekend.

Sources said that the leader of Sufi Mohammad, the leader of Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Mohammadi, discussed details of the government’s proposal to Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah, demanding that the Taliban lay down its arms.

But the Taliban expressed its concerns and demanded guarantees regarding the withdrawal of around 10,000 Pakistani army soldiers deployed in the Swat Valley.

The Taliban is also demanding the release of all prisoners including Maulana Abdul Aziz, a radical cleric linked to the Red Mosque seige that resulted in the deaths of more than 170 people in July 2007, as well as unconditional amnesty so that the Taliban can operate from its headquarters in Imam Dheri in Swat.

Leaders also want financial compensation for the families of members who were killed and for property damage caused by the Pakistani army.

After presenting the Taliban’s views, Fazlullah entrusted Mohamamad to negotiate with the government on the Taliban’s behalf.

Sources said that the Taliban and Mohammad had completed the third phase of their talks.

Fazlullah, the leader of the Taliban in Swat, is also said to be in contact with colleagues in North and South Waziristan and also consulted the head of the Tekrik-i-Taliban in Pakistan, Baitullah Mehsud.

Meanwhile, a curfew was imposed and troops were deployed after a suicide attack in Dera Ismail Khan in North West Frontier Province killed at least 27 people and wounded more than 50 others on Friday.

Security forces have confirmed that the cities of Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore were also on high alert in case the Swat peace negotiations failed, as a Taliban backlash is expected in the bigger cities of the country.

The Pakistani government has dismissed growing criticism of a peace accord it endorsed with Mohammad’s Tehrik Nifaz-i-Shariat Muhammadi for the introduction of Islamic Sharia law in the Swat Valley.

The peace deal announced on Monday allows for the imposition of Islamic Sharia law in the former tourist region and surrounding districts, in exchange for an end to the Taliban insurgency which has killed hundreds and forced hundreds of thousands to flee.

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


Thailand: Soldiers Killed and Beheaded in Troubled South

Bangkok, 20 Feb. (AKI) — Two soldiers were killed and later beheaded on Friday in an ambush believed to have been carried out by Muslim separatists in southern Thailand. Police said the soldiers were shot dead on their motorcycles as they guarded teachers at a school in Yala, one of the three southern predominantly Muslim provinces at the centre of a long-running insurgency.

“At least 10 gunmen using army weapons ambushed the group, killing two soldiers,” a police official said. “Then they beheaded them and took away their guns and bullet-proof jackets.”

No-one claimed responsibility for the killings, the latest in a violent campaign which has killed more than 3,500 people since January 2004.

Earlier this month, two paramilitary police were shot dead and decapitated in the region and last week three policemen were killed in a bomb attack.

Yala is the southernmost province of Thailand and was part of a Muslim sultanate until annexed by predominantly Buddhist Thailand a century ago.

Tensions have simmered in the region since Thailand annexed the mainly Malay sultanate in 1902.

The sultanate includes Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani, which have a Muslim majority in the Buddhist country.

Demands by Thai Muslims include the introduction of Islamic law and making ethnic Pattani Malay (Yawi) a working language in the region, as well as the improvement of the local economy and education system.

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

Far East

Asia: the Late, Great State of Taiwan

Obama dealing out island nation in playing his own China card

[Comment from JD: This was probably the price China demanded for not dumping their US dollars.]

It appears Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are about to play their China card, effectively selling Taiwan national security down the Yangtze River.

As far back as 1999, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair called Taiwan “the turd in the punch bowl.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Violent Crackdown by Chinese Authorities on Dissent Now a Daily Occurrence

More than 60 evangelical leaders are detained for meeting without authorisation. A Beijing law firm is shut for providing legal counsel to pro-rights activists. Anyone mentioning Charter 08 is persecuted. Ruling clique is steadfast in trying to impose its will, with violence if necessary.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Violence by Chinese authorities against people demanding religious freedom or opposed to the actions of the Communist government has become a daily occurrence. Examples abound. On 11 February police raided a private evangelical seminar in Nanyang’s Wolong district (central China) and detained more than 60 home Church leaders. In Beijing a law firm was shut down for providing legal counsel to human rights activists. Anyone stepping out of the official party line, getting together to pray or demanding Chinese law be enforced are feeling the authorities’ wrath.

Evangelical leaders who got together for a seminar after travelling far and wide to hear two South Korean pastors, were rounded them up, the China Aid Association reported. They were booked by police, forced to pay a fine and eventually released. The two Koreans were instead accused of “engaging in illegal religious activities” and expelled on 14 February, “banned from re-entering China for five years.”

Under the current system of government, Christians can only take part in activities organised Communist Party-run official groups. Even meeting to pray in private requires an authorisation and is banned.

In Beijing the Yitong Law Firm also felt the sting of the Haidian District Bureau of Justice when it was ordered closed for six months for “re-organisation.”

According to the China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), Yitong lawyers made the mistake of calling for direct elections to the Beijing Bar Association top leadership positions which are currently filled by appointees named by Communist Party bosses. What is more Yitong was providing legal counsel to well-known rights activists like Hu Jia and Chen Guangcheng and was employing as a legal aid worker Li Subin, a lawyer whose licence has been suspended for filing a suit against the Henan Bureau of Justice over abuses in the collection of lawyers’ registration fees.

The crackdown is also online where web encyclopaedia Weiku was blocked on 4 February for publishing articles and information about Charter 08. Only after the “offending” material was removed was it able to be back online.

Similarly, the authorities are not letting up in their threats and intimidations against people daring to speak about Charter 08, a document that calls on the Chinese government to better respect human rights and implement more democracy

According to CHRD figures at least 143 people have been interrogated so far by police with regard to Charter 08, but the number is likely higher.

And one signatory, Liu Xiaobo, has been in detention since 8 December 2008 for penning his name to the charter. His family has not yet been informed of the charges pending against him and his wife has been able to see only once since his arrest.

Even petitioners are not been spared; violence against them has become systematic. On 6 February Cao Shunli, Zhang Ming and other activists tried to present a petition to the State Council Information Office in Beijing. Not only was their submission refused but Cao and Zhang were detained by police till late that evening.

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

Immigration

European Council Appeals Over Lampedusa

(ANSAmed) — STRASBOURG, FEBRUARY 20 — Corien Jonker, the President of the Immigration Commission of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly has said that “an immediate end needs to be brought to the rapid deterioration of the situation for immigrants in Lampedusa”. Ms. Jonker was speaking at a seminar organised in Strasbourg the French Red Cross in collaboration with the Council of Europe. “We are profoundly worried about overcrowding and the worsening of conditions in the identification and deportation centre in Lampedusa”, added Ms. Jonker, who just two weeks ago signed a joint document with 20 other members of the Parliamentary Assembly in which they expressed “worry over the humanitarian situation” in the Lampedusa immigration centre. “Overcrowding has led to violent clashes among the detainees and security forces which have caused more than 60 injuries following the fire of last Wednesday”, said Ms. Jonker, urging Italian authorities to “revert to the procedure of sending immigrants to other centres for identification, so as to reduce the overcrowding on the island”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Lampedusa Revolt Makes Tunisian Headlines

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 19 — “The revolt of immigrants in Lampedusa” was splashed across the French-language Tunisian newspapers Le Temps (with photos of immigrants facing off against police) and Le Quotidien. The more widely-read La Presse, on the other hand, made no mention of the incident. The two newspapers report agency news (ANSA in Le Quotidien, ANSA and AFP in Le Temps) and a statement made on SkyTg24 from the Agrigento prefect. Only Le Temps (quoting ANSA) made reference to the fact that “the fire was set by about twenty immigrants protesting against the announced repatriation of 107 illegal Tunisian immigrants”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Malta: 230 Immigrants Arrive on Fishing Boat

(ANSAmed) — VALLETTA, FEBRUARY 18 — Two hundred and thirty immigrants have arrived at the port of Birzebbugia, in the south of Malta. The group, which includes 22 women and children, were found on an old fishing boat a few kilometres off the coast. The immigrants told rescuers that they were heading to Italy, but that the boat’s engine had broken down. Two Maltese navy patrol boats towed the raft towards the port, where the immigrants were identified and transferred to detention centres in Safi and Hal Far. A further 260 migrants arrived in the same area on February 1, whist two groups of 150 were intercepted in Maltese waters in December and January.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Maltese Parliament to Discuss Emergency

(ANSAmed) — VALLETTA, FEBRUARY 19 — The latest landing of 230 immigrants on the Maltese coasts has set off yet another political confrontation on the island state, with the Labour opposition asking for the parliamentary agenda to be suspended in order to debate the urgent issue of illegal immigration. Though Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi did not agree to a suspension of the parliamentary agenda, he did accept the request for a debate but without setting a date. The head of the Labour party in the opposition, Joseph Muscat, has accused the government of remaining silent on the seriousness of the situation, despite the constant landings of immigrants. The premier denies all such charges. The government has said that it is involved with the European Union and Italy in efforts to find the best way to deal with illegal immigration, while the Labour party in the opposition has replied that the population and the structures in place cannot hold up under the situation any longer. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

General

Al Gore Yanks Slide of Disaster Trends

After science group calls his information misleading

Two days after the talk, Mr. Gore was sharply criticized for using the data to make a point about global warming by Roger A. Pielke, Jr., a political scientist focused on disaster trends and climate policy at the University of Colorado. Mr. Pielke noted that the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters stressed in reports that a host of factors unrelated to climate caused the enormous rise in reported disasters (details below).

Dr. Pielke quoted the Belgian center: “Indeed, justifying the upward trend in hydro-meteorological disaster occurrence and impacts essentially through climate change would be misleading. Climate change is probably an actor in this increase but not the major one — even if its impact on the figures will likely become more evident in the future.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UN: FAII, Anti-Israeli Tones From Geneva Conference

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 25 — At the end of its national congress, the Federation of Italian-Israeli Associations (FAII) expressed “serious concerns over the anti-Israeli tones contained in the preparatory document for the future conference on racism”, Durban 2, which is planned for April in Geneva. “Considering the anti-semitic nature of Durban 1”, a statement from the Federation read, “The Federation is asking the Italian government to express its condemnation of the preparatory document and not to participate in the Geneva Conference, as an expression of the European Union’s position”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

2 comments:

The Venerable 1st Earl of Cromer said...

Apparently Ahmed was auotmatically expelled from the Labour Party upon conviction, but I'm not sure what that means for his place in the Lords.

Joanne said...

Since when can churches decide to take in Gitmo terrorists; what a load of crap that is!