Monday, June 22, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/22/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/22/2009The Iranian disturbances still dominate the news from the Middle East. Britain has decided to evacuate the families of its diplomatic staff. European embassies in Tehran are reluctant to shelter asylum-seekers. And the regime has officially banned prayers for Neda Soltani, the woman who was shot dead on the street last Saturday.

In other news, South Korean intelligence believes that a North Korean weapons ship is illegally transporting arms to the regime in Burma.

Thanks to Andy Bostom, Barry Rubin, CB, CSP, EMET, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, Paul Green, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Global Economy to Sink Deep, World Bank Says
4 Dead After Metro Train Derailment, Collision
Bricks Without Straw
Child Molester’s Dream Come True
Drenched in Blood of Slavery
Every “Law” Obama Signs Brings US Closer to…
Frank Gaffney: Missile Defense Misjudgment
From Bias to Adoration: The Absurd Reporting of Political News
FTC Plans to Monitor Blogs for Claims, Payments
Glenn Beck: The Letter
High Court Rules Narrowly in Voting Rights Case
Islamic Society Reaches Out to Other Faiths
Italy-USA: Berlusconi, With Obama It’ll be as it Was With Bush
Reading Miranda Rights to Terrorists is ‘Crazy’ and ‘Stupid, ‘ Say GOP Congressmen
Sherman Frederick: Why I Dumped Obama’s Party
Work Begins on World’s Deepest Underground Lab
Europe and the EU
British Passports to be Given to a Record 220,000 Migrants This Year
Burqas Are ‘Not Welcome’ in France: Sarkozy
Cyprus: Former Russian MP Charged With Triple Murder
Cyprus: EU Info Point to Serve Turkish Cypriots
EU Asks Horse Owners to Pledge Not to Eat Their Animals
Germany: Censorsula Can’t Stop Child Porn
Ireland: What Did We Expect When We Chose to Pay for a Madrasah?
Italy: Kercher Murder: Knox’s Mom on Stand
Italy: Gondoliers Face 173 Years in Jail
Man Involved in Achille Lauro Hijacking Dies
Mixed Marriages Increasing in Italy
Polish City Ravaged by Nazis to Cut Hitler’s Tree
Pope: Refugees Must be Welcomed Despite Problems
Swedish Cops Dump Toilets to Save Money
The Curious Case of the $134.5 Billion Briefcase
The Eurosceptics Are Just as Phoney as President Blair
UK: ‘Suicide Bomb Plot’ Schoolboy Learned About Explosives at 12 ‘To Feel Cool’
UK: BNP Teacher Ban ‘Is Considered’
UK: Conservative MEPs Form New Group
UK: Europe and a Squalid Blair, Cameron Pact That Could Tear the Tories Apart Again
UK: The Shocking Moment Police Officer Grabs Female Climate Change Protester by the Throat
UK: Tories Head New Rightwing Fringe Group in Europe
Serbia: Two Thirds of Citizens Support EU Integration
North Africa
Muslim Mob Attacks Church and Loots Christian Homes in Egypt
Israel and the Palestinians
Carter Helping Hamas Open Talks With White House
Dead Sea Peril: Sinkholes Swallow Up the Unwary
Middle East
Abusing EU Bid for Political Means Will Benefit Nobody
Analysis: Most Arabs Won’t Miss Iran’s Ayatollahs if They Fall
Andrew Bostom: Perpetuating Iran’s Islamic Culture of Hate
Bahrain Closes Paper in Iran Row
Britain Evacuating Families of Staff in Iran
Clare Lopez: Supporters of ‘Dialogue’ With the Iranian Mullahs Help Keep the US From ‘Meddling’ on Behalf of Freedom
EU Embassies Wary of Hosting Iranian Protesters
Gaza: Reconstruction; Turkish NGO Asks for Financial Support
Iran Bans Prayers for ‘Angel of Freedom’ Neda Agha Soltan
Iran Expert Afshin Molavi
Iran’s Guardian Council Admits to Election Irregularities
Iran’s Twitter Revolution
Iran: The Internal Balance of Power
Iran: Italy ‘Would Open Embassy’
Italy: No Response From Iran to G-8 Invitation
Potential for Apocalypse: Is War Between Iran and Israel Inevitable?
Report: Assad Wants Men Behind Attack on Israeli Embassy Free
Spiegel Interview With Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu
The Iranian Leadership ‘Has Lost Its Legitimacy’
Turkey: Beats Wife, Sentenced to Public Apology
Attack on Russian Regional Leader
Leader of Russian Region Wounded in Suicide Attack
Far East
N. Korea Accuses Obama of Nuclear War Plot
Official: N. Korean Ship Carries Weapons to Myanmar
Latin America
11 Bodies From Air France Disaster Identified: Officials
76 Migrants Sent Back to Libya
Calais on Riot Alert as Protesters Flood Town in Bid to End Border Controls
In Cairo President Obama Betrayed Jesus Christ When He Claimed to be a Christian
Jeff Jacoby: Orwell’s Time-Tested Warnings
SSRI Antidepressants Linked to Male Infertility
Swine Flu Tolls Leaps Past 52,000
The Plan for Socialist World Government
WHO: 51 More Swine Flu Deaths as Pandemic Spreads

Financial Crisis


Last week, I considered the possibility that Barack Obama would fail to reappoint Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Events last week, however, would seem to indicate that this would be a very surprising move. Despite various provocations Federal Reserve officials have given the White House and Congress, most notably their refusal to make public any information regarding the funds provided to them through the various bailout plans, the administration’s white paper actually proposes to expand the scope of the Federal Reserve’s legal authority.

In package of financial reforms announced on June 17, the Obama administration proposed a new role for the Federal Reserve described as the Systemic Risk Regulator. This would involve giving the private central bank responsibility to regulate large financial institutions that are not banks, which is ironic given the fact that it is the Federal Reserve, more than any other party, that creates systemic risk to the economy by its constant expansion of the money supply. This isn’t putting the proverbial fox in charge of the henhouse; it is more like taking a very fat fox with feathers in its mouth out of the henhouse and putting it in with the flightless birds at the zoo.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Global Economy to Sink Deep, World Bank Says

WASHINGTON — Despite optimistic reports from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank remains pessimistic on the global economy. In its latest report, the Washington-based international lender said the global economy will contract 2.9 percent this year. In contrast, the IMF is forecasting a global economic contraction of 1.3 percent this year.

The World Bank said the global recession this year will be deeper than it predicted in March and warned that a flight of capital from developing nations will swell the ranks of the poor and the unemployed.

The world economy will contract 2.9 percent, compared with a previous forecast of a 1.7 percent decline, the Washington-based lender said in a report Monday. Growth will be 2 percent next year, down from a 2.3 percent prediction, the bank said.

The bank, formed after World War II to fund health and development projects in poor countries, said that while a global recovery may begin this year, impoverished economies will lag behind rich nations in benefiting. The lender called for “bold” actions to hasten a rebound and said the prospects for securing aid for the poorest countries were “bleak.”

“The recovery is not going to be V-shaped,” said Alvin Liew, an economist at Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore. “We may see slower consumer demand over a prolonged period.”

The bank is more pessimistic than its sister organization, the International Monetary Fund. The IMF, which is forecasting a global contraction of only 1.3 percent this year and growth of 2.4 percent in 2010, said June 19 that it plans to revise estimates “modestly upward.”

The lender’s view also contrasts with that of billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros, who on June 20 told Polish television that the worst of the global financial crisis “is behind us.” The MSCI Asia Pacific Index of stocks rose 1.3 percent as of 2:22 p.m. Monday in Tokyo, led by BHP Billiton and China Mobile.

US, Japan forecasts

The World Bank cut its forecast for the U.S. this year, calling for a 3 percent drop in the world’s biggest economy, after predicting a 2..4 percent contraction in March.

Japan’s gross domestic product will shrink 6.8 percent, more than the previous prediction of a 5.3 percent decline, the lender said. The euro area’s economy may shrink 4.5 percent, compared with the previous estimate of a 2.7 percent contraction.

Global trade may drop by 9.7 percent, compared with a March forecast of a 6.1 percent decline.

“Unemployment is on the rise, and poverty is set to increase in developing economies, bringing with it a substantial deterioration in conditions for the world’s poor,” the World Bank said. While the world is set to return to growth in the second half of 2009, a recovery will be subdued, the report said.

Reduced capital inflows from exports, remittances and foreign direct investment means “increasingly grave economic prospects” for developing nations, the lender said. After peaking at $1.2 trillion in 2007, inflows this year may fall to $363 billion, it said.

Reduced aid from advanced economies because of the economic crisis will also likely weigh on their finances, the bank said.

Economic growth in the developing world will be 1.2 percent, the World Bank said, scaling its outlook back from 2.1 percent. Developing nations in eastern Europe and Central Asia will be some of the hardest hit, the revised forecasts show. The region’s economy is likely to shrink 4.7 percent this year, down from the 2 percent decline projected in March.

China, which is the biggest of the developing economies, will keep pumping money into its financial system during this “critical” phase of its recovery, Premier Wen Jiabao said in a statement on the government’s Web site Sunday.

Efforts to revive economies through stimulus spending should be coordinated, the bank said.

“Any country that acts alone — even the United States — may reasonably fear that increases in government debt will cause investors to lose confidence in its fiscal sustainability and so withdraw financing,” the report said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


4 Dead After Metro Train Derailment, Collision

WASHINGTON — A Metro train smashed into the back of another at the height of the Monday evening rush hour, killing at least four people and injuring scores of others as cars from the trailing train jackknifed into the air and fell atop the first.

One of the fatalities was a female train operator, Metro officials say. The woman’s name has not been released.

D.C. Fire Chief Dennis Rubin says 70 people are injured. Of those, two people have life-threatening injuries and 50 are classified as “walking wounded” injuries.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier says people who believe their loved ones were on the train can call 202-727-9099.

“It looks to be the worst Metro accident in D.C. history,” D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty says.

Metro General Manager John Catoe says it appears one of the trains was stopped on the tracks awaiting permission to clear the station when another train came up behind it and slammed into the back of the train.

“I give my deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives today,” Catoe says.

Washington Hospital Center is treating seven of the injured people, WTOP’s Kate Ryan reports.

The National Transportation Safety Board is now leading the investigation.

[Return to headlines]

Bricks Without Straw

As U.S. government authorities debate “cap-and-trade,” a gigantic new tax and rationing burden with which they plan to further hobble American coal, oil, and natural gas technology, consider for a moment the qualifications and accomplishments of the lawyers, bureaucrats, and now community organizers who have gradually displaced, as energy “decision makers,” the engineers and industrialists who built America’s energy industries.

Under the guidance of these worthies over the past several decades, a vast system of taxation, regulation, and government-sponsored litigation has been imposed upon our energy industries.

Cap-and-trade is just more of the same. Much more! These policies have created a business climate in the United States that is unfavorable for the production of energy, so most new energy production has been located abroad. Americans, therefore, now import 30% of their energy — a luxury they can no longer afford.

How much do we import? While most eyes glaze over in discussions of “gigawatts” and “zillions” of dollars, many have seen or read about Hoover dam — the great engineering miracle that harvests energy from the Colorado River. Hoover dam is still considered so important that it is now hidden behind “homeland security” precautions so rigorous that public photographs of the dam are forbidden, lest terrorists plot its destruction.

Today, the three-reactor Palo Verde nuclear power station near Phoenix, Arizona produces six times the electrical energy of Hoover Dam — electricity that powers Los Angeles. Palo Verde was supposed to have ten reactors, but the other seven were stopped by anti-nuclear propaganda in the 1970s and 1980s. Actual replacement cost of the three-reactor Palo Verde power station in 2009 — leaving out the extra costs imposed by government — is about $6 billion. So, the capital cost of nuclear equipment to replace the electrical output of Hoover Dam is about $1 billion. American energy imports currently cost about $1 billion per day.

Every day — every 24 hours — the energy policies imposed by Washington destroy an amount of capital that could build the electrical generating capacity of one complete Hoover Dam.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Child Molester’s Dream Come True

Two recent government actions, one legislative and one judicial, have called into question our society’s willingness to protect its youngest and most vulnerable members.

A hate crimes bill (H.R. 1913 and S. 909), dubbed by critics the “Pedophile Protection Act,” has already passed the House and is up for vote in the Senate. The bill earned its unofficial name when Democrats rejected an amendment to exclude pedophiles from legal protection. No doubt this legislation serves as a precursor to onerous hate speech legislation in the future.

On the judicial front, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in a divorce case that two minor children must be forced to mingle against their will with their homosexual father’s “gay” and lesbian friends during visitation. Claiming the children of Eric and Sandy Mongerson will not suffer harm from this contact, Justice Robert Benham overturned an earlier lower court ruling protecting the children from exposure to “overnight company with a member of the opposite sex, or with any person deemed to be a paramour, unrelated by blood or marriage, in the presence of a child.”

Beth Littrell, an attorney for the pro-homosexual group Lambda Legal, said, “The court has done the right thing today by focusing on the needs of the children instead of perpetuating stigma on the basis of sexual orientation.”

An AP report said the mother’s attorney, Lance McMillian, “claimed the father subjected the children to an ‘array of violent, sexual, abusive and wholly inappropriate conduct’ during a trip to Arkansas and contended the father was in a series of affairs with other men while still married.”


In a recent correspondence, Stefanowicz shared her own experiences and her concerns drawn from discussions with other adults who were raised in homosexual households. The following aspects typify these children’s experiences:

* Associating with the parent’s GLBT community creates painful gender identity confusion and prevents healthy development.

* Children are “silenced and forced to tolerate hearing speech, witnessing sexual behaviors, and going places they find offensive.”

* Children are saddled with “stress, depression, anxiety, suicidal tendencies, anger, sexuality confusion, and tremendous insecurity.”

* During Stefanowicz’s childhood, her father “traveled all over North America and to the Islands, finding ample cruising partners and locations.” She said it was not safe “to bring my good-looking boyfriends” home because they could be propositioned by her father to have threesome sex with another homosexual adult.

* A number of children feel sexually abused though association with the sights of the GLBT subculture and “witnessing their parent in sexual situations and multiple relationships.” She said it’s common for parents to take children to gay pride events sporting offensive sexual material, discussion and behavior.

* Stefanowicz says, “Some adult children express they have been sexually abused by a parent or partner(s) who have attempted to recruit them either directly or by innuendo and by example. Pedophilia is a big part of the subcultures.” Sadly, she recounts her father being sexually involved with an underage boy who later committed suicide.

* Stefanowicz has heard personal accounts from children who have contacted her. “They have been exposed to hepatitis and other pathogens because of living in close association with sexually active parents and partners. When young, dependent children share snacks, utensils, drinking glasses, use bathroom facilities and do not wash hands, touch washcloths … toothbrushes … children are at risk of becoming infected.” She recounts picking up “feces-covered sheets” after one of her father’s encounters and is concerned that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges the high level of disease risk associated with GLBT behaviors, yet fails to discuss infection transmission risk to children in their care.

* Stefanowicz sees firsthand the effect of hate crime laws in Canada. Predicting what is ahead for America should such legislation pass, she says, “It is deeply saddening to see how many churchgoers/conservatives/Republicans are in favor of hate crime (laws). Americans have no idea what hate crime really is all about.”

* Her concerns are backed up by statistics. A 2007 Gallup poll indicated a majority of Americans (68 percent) support expanding hate crimes laws. According to USA Today, “Majorities of frequent churchgoers (62 percent), conservatives (57 percent), and Republicans (60 percent) also were in favor of the legislation.”

Continuing, Stefanowicz says, “Unfortunately, charities that speak against homosexuality will lose their charitable status and be fined. Media will also get shut down by the FCC if anything negative is said about homosexuality, and mention is made of the health risks, research on causes, and possibility of people leaving the lifestyle. “Gay” activists will go back into web archives and make complaints about offensive articles and links. Pastors will also be sued and church denominations could lose their tax exempt status.”

Stefanowicz sees a dire future if hate crime laws are strengthened, stating, “With hate crime federally implemented, soon Human Rights Commissions — the likes of what we have in Canada — will hold tribunals in every state, prosecuting those who speak against the sin of homosexuality or mention any health dangers associated with homosexuality. … In Canada, it is a 100% conviction rate.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Drenched in Blood of Slavery

The U.S. Senate voted unanimously last week to adopt a resolution apologizing for slavery.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, lead sponsor of the resolution, said, “You wonder why we didn’t do it 100 years ago. It is important to have a collective response to a collective injustice.”

Only after decades of public education ignoring and distorting U.S. history can such a huge lie be said with a straight face.

Senator, you didn’t do it 100 years ago because 100 years ago you Democrats were enforcing Jim Crow segregation laws, poll taxes to keep blacks from voting, and riding around in sheets and pointy hats just in case blacks didn’t get the message.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Every “Law” Obama Signs Brings US Closer to…

Removing this usurper from office. How, you ask?

Those not walking around in a self induced coma are aware of the 38 lawsuits regarding Barack Hussein Obama aka Barry Soetoro aka Barry Obama aka Barack Dunham aka Barry Dunham, over his false citizenship claims. Double digit millions of Americans now know the legal facts or at least are questioning why Obama/Soetoro won’t release his long form birth certificate. Of course, that isn’t the core issue, but millions of us know there is something wrong or Obama/Soetoro would have released it by now, as well as his college transcripts as have other candidates and presidents.

Despite the bald faced lies by the compromised media, not a single case to date has been heard on merit or legal arguments..

Obama recently crowed to an audience of his cult followers and fellow Marxists:

“Why bother hanging out with celebrities when I can spend time with the people who made me one?” Obama asked the crowd of black tie journalists and media personalities gathered at the Washington Convention Center. “I know where my bread is buttered.” And: “I have to admit though, it wasn’t easy coming up with fresh material for this dinner,” Obama said. “A few nights ago, I was up tossing and turning trying to figure out exactly what to say. Finally, when I couldn’t get back to sleep, I rolled over and asked Brian Williams what he thought.”

Obama/Soetoro thinks that’s funny. It is the compromised media that helped “elect” this usurper and continues the black out regarding his real citizenship status. All these cable network anchors and reporters for the MSM are fake reporters and journalists. They have shamed their profession, and as Joseph Pulitzer said, “A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself.”


This usurper president is by far and and away the most aggressive destroyer ever to sit in the White House. A devout Marxist, Obama/Soetoro (with the blessing of his co conspirators in Congress) is ripping this country apart, shredding what’s left of the Constitution, destroying the free market, and in his narcissistic arrogance, thinks he can get away with it.

Each time this usurper signs another piece of unconstitutional legislation passed by a corrupt body of law breakers (Congress), we get closer to forcing the issue of his dual citizenship.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: Missile Defense Misjudgment

What on earth are they thinking? The Obama administration and its Democratic allies on Capitol Hill are significantly reducing America’s missile defense programs at the very moment when the need for such systems is becoming ever more palpable. It is hard to believe — especially in the wake of the President’s much-ridiculed decision to close Guantanamo Bay without a better plan for safely incarcerating its dangerous detainees — that either the Chief Executive or legislators really want to impale themselves on another national security decision that defies common sense.

The issue will be joined this week when the House of Representatives debates a GOP-sponsored amendment to the defense authorization bill that would restore funding for anti-missile systems cut or terminated by Team Obama and the majority on the House Armed Services Committee. The backdrop will be reported preparations by North Korea to launch a ballistic missile in the direction of Hawaii, possibly on the Fourth of July…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

From Bias to Adoration: The Absurd Reporting of Political News

The facts don’t lie; almost all programming conceived and controlled by the elites of network programming contains a blatant liberal and pro-big-government bias.

But the attacks on Palin go beyond bias and are a clear attempt to destroy her because as a beautiful, well-spoken, conservative female, she is threatening to the liberal machine that runs America.

As John Ziegler in his excellent documentary “Media Malpractice” has demonstrated, during the 2008 election the press moved from liberal bias to advocacy. In the movie, Ziegler demolishes Letterman’s employer, CBS, for their earlier mistreatment of Palin.

But CBS is not alone in the 2008 distortion game. While The New York Times published a highly critical report alleging that John McCain had an affair with a lobbyist and questioned whether he was eligible to be president because he was born on a military base, they ignored questions about Obama’s eligibility and his extreme inexperience.

Rather than talk about the issues, the media were busy ogling a shirtless Obama and elevating him as the world’s newest celebrity. Chris Matthews even reported that Obama gave him a tingly feeling in his leg, and he stated it was his job to make the Obama presidency a success.

The media have only gotten worse since the election. In recent weeks, Obama made the claim that his stimulus bill has “created or saved” over 150,000 jobs and will do the same for roughly 600,000 jobs this summer. This claim is completely fabricated; even the director of the Bureau of Labor Statistics admitted they could not prove how many jobs they have created and saved. Would President Bush have been allowed to con these same journalists by fabricating a story to back up his economic proposals?

The news media have ceased reporting the news; instead they focus on celebrity worship of Obama.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

FTC Plans to Monitor Blogs for Claims, Payments

Savvy consumers often go online for independent consumer reviews of products and services, scouring through comments from everyday Joes and Janes to help them find a gem or shun a lemon.

What some fail to realize, though, is that such reviews can be tainted: Many bloggers have accepted perks such as free laptops, trips to Europe, $500 gift cards or even thousands of dollars for a 200-word post. Bloggers vary in how they disclose such freebies, if they do so at all.

The practice has grown to the degree that the Federal Trade Commission is paying attention. New guidelines, expected to be approved late this summer with possible modifications, would clarify that the agency can go after bloggers — as well as the companies that compensate them — for any false claims or failure to disclose conflicts of interest.

It would be the first time the FTC tries to patrol systematically what bloggers say and do online. The common practice of posting a graphical ad or a link to an online retailer — and getting commissions for any sales from it — would be enough to trigger oversight.

“If you walk into a department store, you know the (sales) clerk is a clerk,” said Rich Cleland, assistant director in the FTC’s division of advertising practices. “Online, if you think that somebody is providing you with independent advice and … they have an economic motive for what they’re saying, that’s information a consumer should know.”

The guidelines also would bring uniformity to a community that has shunned that.

As blogging rises in importance and sophistication, it has taken on characteristics of community journalism — but without consensus on the types of ethical practices typically found in traditional media.

Journalists who work for newspapers and broadcasters are held accountable by their employers, and they generally cannot receive payments from marketers and must return free products after they finish reviewing them.

The blogosphere is quite different.

“Rules are set by the individuals who create the blog,” said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project. “Some people will accept payments and free gifts, and some people won’t. There’s no established norm yet.”

Bloggers complain that with FTC oversight, they’d be too worried about innocent posts getting them in trouble, and they say they might simply quit or post less frequently.

Between ads on her five blogs and payments from advertisers who want her to review products, Rebecca Empey makes as much as $800 a month, paying the grocery bill for a family of six. She also has received a bird feeder, toys, books and other free goods.

Now the 41-year-old mother of four in New Hartford, N.Y., worries that even a casual mention of an all-natural cold remedy she bought herself would trigger an FTC probe.

“This helped us. This made us feel great. Will I be sued because I didn’t hire a scientist to do research?” Empey said.

Empey, whose blogs include New York Traveler and Freaky Frugalite, said she discloses compensation arrangements on a page on her blogs or through a “support my sponsor” logo. She said most of her readers understand that she sometimes gets compensated.

By contrast, a mommy blogger on Double Bugs praised Skinny Cow low-fat ice cream sandwiches and thanked a Web site called Mom Central for the chance to try them. But there’s no clue that Nestle SA’s Skinny Cow division was giving bloggers coupons for free products.

Some bloggers believe more uniform disclosure and practices would help instill trust and make advertisers more comfortable working with bloggers. To them, the question becomes whether the FTC should be the one crafting standards.

“It would always be better for bloggers to self-police,” said Robert Cox, president of Media Bloggers Association in New Rochelle, N.Y. “We have laws on the books. They apply to everybody, not just people who write blogs..”

Yuli Ziv, who writes a fashion blog from New York, is working on one such effort at self-regulation, helping craft an ethics policy for about 15 Web sites as part of the Style Coalition started in January to help bloggers become more professional.

“It’s been an issue, regardless of the FTC,” she said. “It’s about trust.”

Existing FTC rules already ban deceptive and unfair business practices.. The proposed guidelines aim to clarify the law and for the first time specifically include bloggers, defined loosely as anyone writing a personal journal online.

“It’s sort of a recognition that word-of-mouth marketing in whatever form, whether electronic or not, is a significant part of the marketing strategy of modern companies,” Cleland said. “Because it’s new, I think it is imperative that we provide some kind of guidance.”

If the guidelines are approved, bloggers would have to back up claims and disclose if they’re being compensated — the FTC doesn’t currently plan to specify how. The FTC could order violators to stop and pay restitution to customers, and it could ask the Justice Department to sue for civil penalties.

Any type of blog could be scrutinized, not just ones that specialize in reviews.

So parents keeping blogs to update family members on their child’s first steps technically would fall under the FTC guidelines, though they likely would have little to worry about unless they accept payments or free products and write about them.

But they would need to think twice if, for instance, they praise parenting books they’ve just read and include links to buy them at a retailer like Inc.

That’s because the guidelines also would cover the broader and common practice of affiliate marketing, in which bloggers and other sites get a commission when someone clicks on a link that leads to a purchase at a retailer. In such cases, merchants also would be responsible for actions by their sales agents — including a network of bloggers.

Amazon declined to comment.

Cleland said the FTC would likely focus on repeated offenses that continue after a warning to stop.

Still, the agency has a big job ahead as new communications channels continually emerge. Advertisers now are paying some Twitter users to post short items through the increasingly popular messaging service. The FTC says the guidelines would cover such arrangements, regardless of the medium.

Even before the FTC commissioners vote on the final guidelines this summer, some in the blogging world have taken pre-emptive measures.

In May, IZEA, an Orlando, Fla.-based firm that matches advertisers with 265,000 bloggers, began sending reports to advertisers on whether hired bloggers are disclosing compensation arrangements, as IZEA requires. Such bloggers are paid as much as $3,000 for a 200-word post.

Over the holidays, IZEA ran a campaign in which bloggers who don’t normally shop at Sears Holdings Corp.’s Kmart stores were given $500 gift cards and encouraged to write about their experiences in the stores. To reduce the chance of a bad review, the retailer said it avoided bloggers who previously made negative remarks about the company.

Meanwhile, a blogger on TravelingMom was whisked away on a free Disney cruise in January. She stayed in an ocean-view stateroom, where she was greeted by Champagne on ice and a plate of cheese and fruit. Later in the trip, she and other bloggers basked in the sun on Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island.

“I’ve been on cruises before, but never like this one. The Disney Wonder (cruise ship) is … well … wondrous,” she gushed on her blog.

She did disclose the free trip.

Mandatory disclosures could change how reviews are perceived online because many Internet users might never imagine that bloggers get compensation.

“I don’t think, for the average reader of a blog, it immediately comes to mind that they actually have a relationship with the company,” said Sam Bayard, a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. “You think about (blogs) as personal, informal, off the cuff and coming from the heart — unfiltered, uncensored and unplanned.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Glenn Beck: The Letter

GLENN: I got a letter from a woman in Arizona. She writes an open letter to our nation’s leadership:

I’m a home grown American citizen, 53, registered Democrat all my life. Before the last presidential election I registered as a Republican because I no longer felt the Democratic Party represents my views or works to pursue issues important to me. Now I no longer feel the Republican Party represents my views or works to pursue issues important to me. The fact is I no longer feel any political party or representative in Washington represents my views or works to pursue the issues important to me. There must be someone. Please tell me who you are. Please stand up and tell me that you are there and that you’re willing to fight for our Constitution as it was written. Please stand up now. You might ask yourself what my views and issues are that I would horribly feel so disenfranchised by both major political parties. What kind of nut job am I? Will you please tell me?

Well, these are briefly my views and issues for which I seek representation:

One, illegal immigration. I want you to stop coddling illegal immigrants and secure our borders. Close the underground tunnels. Stop the violence and the trafficking in drugs and people. No amnesty, not again. Been there, done that, no resolution. P.S., I’m not a racist. This isn’t to be confused with legal immigration.

Two, the TARP bill, I want it repealed and I want no further funding supplied to it. We told you no, but you did it anyway. I want the remaining unfunded 95% repealed. Freeze, repeal.

Three: Czars, I want the circumvention of our checks and balances stopped immediately. Fire the czars. No more czars. Government officials answer to the process, not to the president. Stop trampling on our Constitution and honor it.

Four, cap and trade. The debate on global warming is not over. There is more to say.

Five, universal healthcare. I will not be rushed into another expensive decision. Don’t you dare try to pass this in the middle of the night and then go on break. Slow down!

Six, growing government control. I want states rights and sovereignty fully restored. I want less government in my life, not more. Shrink it down. Mind your own business. You have enough to take care of with your real obligations. Why don’t you start there.

Seven, ACORN. I do not want ACORN and its affiliates in charge of our 2010 census. I want them investigated. I also do not want mandatory escrow fees contributed to them every time on every real estate deal that closes. Stop the funding to ACORN and its affiliates pending impartial audits and investigations. I do not trust them with taking the census over with our taxpayer money. I don’t trust them with our taxpayer money. Face up to the allegations against them and get it resolved before taxpayers get any more involved with them. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, hello. Stop protecting your political buddies. You work for us, the people. Investigate.

Eight, redistribution of wealth. No, no, no. I work for my money. It is mine. I have always worked for people with more money than I have because they gave me jobs. That is the only redistribution of wealth that I will support. I never got a job from a poor person. Why do you want me to hate my employers? Why — what do you have against shareholders making a profit?

Nine, charitable contributions. Although I never got a job from a poor person, I have helped many in need. Charity belongs in our local communities, where we know our needs best and can use our local talent and our local resources. Butt out, please. We want to do it ourselves.

Ten, corporate bailouts. Knock it off. Sink or swim like the rest of us. If there are hard times ahead, we’ll be better off just getting into it and letting the strong survive. Quick and painful. Have you ever ripped off a Band-Aid? We will pull together. Great things happen in America under great hardship. Give us the chance to innovate. We cannot disappoint you more than you have disappointed us.

Eleven, transparency and accountability. How about it? No, really, how about it? Let’s have it. Let’s say we give the buzzwords a rest and have some straight honest talk. Please try — please stop manipulating and trying to appease me with clever wording. I am not the idiot you obviously take me for. Stop sneaking around and meeting in back rooms making deals with your friends. It will only be a prelude to your criminal investigation. Stop hiding things from me.

Twelve, unprecedented quick spending. Stop it now.

Take a breath. Listen to the people. Let’s just slow down and get some input from some nonpoliticians on the subject. Stop making everything an emergency. Stop speed reading our bills into law. I am not an activist. I am not a community organizer. Nor am I a terrorist, a militant or a violent person. I am a parent and a grandparent. I work. I’m busy. I’m busy. I am busy, and I am tired. I thought we elected competent people to take care of the business of government so that we could work, raise our families, pay our bills, have a little recreation, complain about taxes, endure our hardships, pursue our personal goals, cut our lawn, wash our cars on the weekends and be responsible contributing members of society and teach our children to be the same all while living in the home of the free and land of the brave.

I entrusted you with upholding the Constitution. I believed in the checks and balances to keep from getting far off course. What happened? You are very far off course. Do you really think I find humor in the hiring of a speed reader to unintelligently ramble all through a bill that you signed into law without knowing what it contained? I do not. It is a mockery of the responsibility I have entrusted to you. It is a slap in the face. I am not laughing at your arrogance. Why is it that I feel as if you would not trust me to make a single decision about my own life and how I would live it but you should expect that I should trust you with the debt that you have laid on all of us and our children. We did not want the TARP bill. We said no. We would repeal it if we could. I am sure that we still cannot. There is such urgency and recklessness in all of the recent spending.

From my perspective, it seems that all of you have gone insane. I also know that I am far from alone in these feelings. Do you honestly feel that your current pursuits have merit to patriotic Americans? We want it to stop. We want to put the brakes on everything that is being rushed by us and forced upon us. We want our voice back. You have forced us to put our lives on hold to straighten out the mess that you are making. We will have to give up our vacations, our time spent with our children, any relaxation time we may have had and money we cannot afford to spend on you to bring our concerns to Washington. Our president often knows all the right buzzword is unsustainable. Well, no kidding. How many tens of thousands of dollars did the focus group cost to come up with that word? We don’t want your overpriced words. Stop treating us like we’re morons.

We want all of you to stop focusing on your reelection and do the job we want done, not the job you want done or the job your party wants done. You work for us and at this rate I guarantee you not for long because we are coming. We will be heard and we will be represented. You think we’re so busy with our lives that we will never come for you? We are the formerly silent majority, all of us who quietly work , pay taxes, obey the law, vote, save money, keep our noses to the grindstone and we are now looking up at you. You have awakened us, the patriotic spirit so strong and so powerful that it had been sleeping too long. You have pushed us too far. Our numbers are great. They may surprise you. For every one of us who will be there, there will be hundreds more that could not come. Unlike you, we have their trust. We will represent them honestly, rest assured. They will be at the polls on voting day to usher you out of office. We have cancelled vacations. We will use our last few dollars saved. We will find the representation among us and a grassroots campaign will flourish. We didn’t ask for this fight. But the gloves are coming off. We do not come in violence, but we are angry. You will represent us or you will be replaced with someone who will. There are candidates among us when hewill rise like a Phoenix from the ashes that you have made of our constitution.

Democrat, Republican, independent, libertarian. Understand this. We don’t care. Political parties are meaningless to us. Patriotic Americans are willing to do right by us and our Constitution and that is all that matters to us now. We are going to fire all of you who abuse power and seek more. It is not your power. It is ours and we want it back. We entrusted you with it and you abused it. You are dishonorable. You are dishonest. As Americans we are ashamed of you. You have brought shame to us. If you are not representing the wants and needs of your constituency loudly and consistently, in spite of the objections of your party, you will be fired. Did you hear? We no longer care about your political parties. You need to be loyal to us, not to them. Because we will get you fired and they will not save you. If you do or can represent me, my issues, my views, please stand up. Make your identity known. You need to make some noise about it. Speak up. I need to know who you are. If you do not speak up, you will be herded out with the rest of the sheep and we will replace the whole damn congress if need be one by one. We are coming. Are we coming for you? Who do you represent? What do you represent? Listen. Because we are coming. We the people are coming.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

High Court Rules Narrowly in Voting Rights Case

WASHINGTON — The Voting Rights Act, the government’s chief weapon against racial discrimination at polling places since the 1960s, survived a Supreme Court challenge Monday in a ruling that nevertheless warned of serious constitutional questions posed by part of the law.

Major civil rights groups and other defenders of the landmark law breathed a sigh of relief when the court ruled narrowly in favor of a small Texas governing authority while sidestepping the larger constitutional issue.

After argument in late April, it appeared the court’s conservatives could have a majority to strike down part of the law as unnecessary in an era marked by the election of the first African-American president.

But with only one justice in dissent, the court avoided the major questions raised over the section of the voting law that requires all or parts of 16 states — mainly in the South and with a history of discrimination in voting — to get Justice Department approval before making changes in the way elections are conducted.

The court said that the Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No.. 1 in Austin, Texas, could apply to opt out of the advance approval requirement, reversing a lower federal court that ruled it could not. The district appears to meet the requirements to bail out, although the high court did not pass judgment Monday on that point.

Five months after Barack Obama became president, Chief Justice John Roberts said the justices decided not to determine whether dramatic civil rights gains means the advance approval requirement is no longer necessary. That larger issue, Roberts said, “is a difficult constitutional question we do not answer today.”

Attorney General Eric Holder called the decision a victory for voting rights and said the court “ensured that this law will continue to protect free and fair access to the voting booth.”

Debo Adegbile, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund lawyer who argued for the preservation of the law at the high court, said, “The fact is, the case was filed to tear the heart out of the preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act and that effort failed today.”

But critics of the law said the court made clear that it may not take such a restrained approach the next time a voting rights challenge comes it way.

“It leaves the courts wide open to another challenge. If someone files a new lawsuit, I think there’s a very good chance that down the line they might find it unconstitutional,” said Hans von Spakovsky, a legal scholar at the conservative-oriented Heritage Foundation.

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., one of only 33 lawmakers who opposed renewal of the law in 2006, said, “I’m disappointed that the justices laid out the case for why the law is unconstitutional and then stopped short of tossing it. I do feel optimistic, however, that the court’s dim view … means the law will not survive for the full length of its 25-year renewal.”

The court’s avoidance of the constitutional question explains the consensus among justices in the case rendered Monday, where they otherwise likely would have split along conservative-liberal lines.

Justice Clarence Thomas, alone among his colleagues, said he would have resolved the case and held that the provision, known as Section 5, is unconstitutional. “The violence, intimidation and subterfuge that led Congress to pass Section 5 and this court to uphold it no longer remains,” Thomas said.

Roberts himself noted that blacks and whites now register and turn out to vote in similar numbers and that “blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare.”

He attributed a significant share of the progress to the law itself. “Past success alone, however, is not adequate justification to retain the preclearance requirement,” Roberts said.

Still, the court did not decide that question in what Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently described as “perhaps the most important case of the term.”

The Voting Rights Act, first enacted in 1965, opened the polls to millions of black Americans. In 2006, the Republican-controlled Congress overwhelmingly renewed the part of the law which provided for the advance approval requirement for 25 years and President George W. Bush signed it.

The Austin utility district, backed by a conservative group opposed to the law, brought the court challenge. It said that either the district should be allowed to opt out or the entire provision should be declared unconstitutional.

Based on the tone of the questions when the case was argued in late April, many civil rights and election law experts predicted the Roberts-led court would indeed strike the measure down.

The court ruled instead on a provision of the law that allows a state or local government to seek to be free of the advance approval requirement.

The three-judge court in Washington, D.C., that originally decided the case said the utility district did not qualify as a local government that is eligible to bail out. The high court reversed that ruling Monday, saying “all political subdivisions” are eligible to file a bailout suit.

The Austin utility district is in the heart of Canyon Creek, an affluent suburb of about 3,500 residents that didn’t break ground on its first house until the 1980s. About 80 percent of residents in Canyon Creek are white, according to the 2000 census.

As recently as 2002, voters in Canyon Creek used a neighbor’s garage to cast their ballot in their utility board elections. The board wanted to change the polling location to a school, but first had to seek federal clearance.

The community got it, but Canyon Creek’s board felt that needing approval from Washington was an unnecessary obstacle in a tiny neighborhood with no history of minority voter discrimination.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Islamic Society Reaches Out to Other Faiths

D.C. convention to feature popular pastor; area group hopes Obama will attend

The Plainfield-based Islamic Society of North America is holding out hope President Barack Obama might make an appearance at its convention this year in Washington, D.C., over the Fourth of July weekend.

But even if Obama doesn’t show, the nation’s largest Muslim organization already landed a high-profile guest: Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren. Advertisement

He will join a panel discussion that is the main session of a four-day convention expected to attract 40,000 Muslims from across the country. Warren will be joined on the panel by Islamic Society President Ingrid Mattson and noted Muslim scholar Hamza Yusuf, among others.

“We are living in a pluralist country. It is critical for us to have positive relationships with people of other faiths,” said Sayyid Syeed, a longtime leader with the Islamic Society who focuses on building the organization’s interfaith ties. “(Warren) realizes that it is equally critical for him to work with people of other faiths.”


“ISNA is very interested in extending their connections with Protestant groups,” said Rafia Zakaria, an Indiana lawyer and associate editor at, a Web site that looks at Muslim issues. “Having a figure as high profile as him gives them legitimacy to extend those kinds of alliances with church groups that have a significant amount of power in the United States.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy-USA: Berlusconi, With Obama It’ll be as it Was With Bush

(AGI) — Washington, 16 Jun. — We have a friend in the White House: with Barack, it’ll be just like it was with George Bush.

Silvio Berlusconi is in Washington for the first time since Obama came to office. Yesterday he had a meeting with the US president for almost two hours, skipping over the rules of protocol which had set a time limit of 1 hour for the meeting between the two delegations. The issues discussed included those announced the day before: G8, Afghanistan, the economic crisis, Iran, the Middle East, Guantanamo. And the commitments were largely confirmed. What was surprising was not the contents but rather the tone. Obama repeated the word “friend” a number of times in reference to Berlusconi: he did so for the first time when he welcomed Berlusconi to the West Wing, putting his arms affectionately around his shoulders. He repeated it during the press conference in the Oval Office, when he described the Italian PM as a “great friend” whose “leadership he values” and whose “advice he accepts”. “I like Berlusconi as a person and our two countries love each other.

The bonds that have always existed between the two countries have been strengthened and cooperation will continue”. Obama made no direct mention of Fiat but he underlined his satisfaction with the bilateral economic dossier that has been concluded between the two countries. He twice thanked Italy for its involvement in Afghanistan and for having accepted the proposal to receive three Guantanamo detainees in Italy.

Berlusconi reciprocated, explaining that nothing has changed in relations between Italy and the US after the change in administration in Washington and the end of the Bush era. “I am bound to an oath of recognition towards the US who brought peace back to my country after the Second World War. I am here to work with President Obama as I did with Clinton and with Bush”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Reading Miranda Rights to Terrorists is ‘Crazy’ and ‘Stupid, ‘ Say GOP Congressmen

The Justice Department confirmed last week that FBI agents in Afghanistan are reading Miranda warnings to suspected terrorists captured there, a practice that Republican congressmen this week branded as “crazy” and “stupid.”


The Obama administration’s decision to make this statement to terror suspects captured on the battlefield in a foreign country has sparked outrage among several Republicans in Congress who spoke with It also contradicts what President Barack Obama said in March, when he indicated that Miranda rights did not apply to terror suspects captured overseas.


Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), as first reported in The Weekly Standard, said he was recently in Afghanistan and personally witnessed FBI agents reading the Miranda warning to captured combatants.

“I was a little surprised to find it taking place when I showed up because we hadn’t been briefed on it, I didn’t know about it,” said Rogers. “We’re still trying to get to the bottom of it, but it is clearly a part of this new global justice initiative.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sherman Frederick: Why I Dumped Obama’s Party

Nope, I don’t think I could have picked a worse time to go Republican. However, because KXNT-AM radio’s Alan Stock revealed my party switch last week, I feel the need to explain.

First, I’m not trying to time anything. Enough was enough. Could stand no more. So, when it came time to renew my driver’s license on June 9, I also gave the Democratic Party the pink slip.

I pushed the DMV clerk the paperwork. She shoved it back and said I didn’t have to fill out that form if my address remained the same.

“No, I want to change party affiliation.”

“Oh,” she said. “Had enough of the president, have we?”

“Up to here. I quit.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Work Begins on World’s Deepest Underground Lab

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Far below the Black Hills of South Dakota, crews are building the world’s deepest underground science lab at a depth equivalent to more than six Empire State buildings — a place uniquely suited to scientists’ quest for mysterious particles known as dark matter.

Scientists, politicians and other officials gathered Monday for a groundbreaking of sorts at a lab 4,850 foot below the surface of an old gold mine that was once the site of Nobel Prize-winning physics research.

The site is ideal for experiments because its location is largely shielded from cosmic rays that could interfere with efforts to prove the existence of dark matter, which is thought to make up nearly a quarter of the mass of the universe.

The deepest reaches of the mine plunge to 8,000 feet below the surface.. Some early geology and hydrology experiments are already under way at 4,850 feet. Researchers also hope to build two deeper labs that are still awaiting funding from Congress.

“The fact that we’re going to be in the Davis Cavern just tickles us pink,” said Tom Shutt of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, referring to a portion of the mine named after scientist Ray Davis Jr., who used it in the 1960s to demonstrate the existence of particles called solar neutrinos.

Davis and a colleague named John Bahcall won a share of the 2002 Nobel Prize for physics for their work.

The old Homestake Gold Mine in a community called Lead (pronounced LEED) was shut down in 2001 after 125 years. Pumps that kept the mine dry were turned off years ago, so workers have been drying it out to prepare for the new research.

Before the labs are built, crews must also stabilize the tunnels and install new infrastructure. The lab at 4,850 feet is not much to look at yet.. A rusty orange film covers the walls, floors, ceilings and debris left behind by miners.

The first dark matter experiment will be the Large Underground Xenon detector experiment — or LUX — a project to detect weakly interacting particles that could give scientists greater insight into the Big Bang explosion believed to have formed the universe.

Shutt, along with Brown University’s Rick Gaitskell and nearly a dozen collaborators will work at the site to search for dark matter, which does not emit detectable light or radiation. But scientists say its presence can be inferred from gravitational effects on visible matter.

Scientists believe most of the dark matter in the universe contains no atoms and does not interact with ordinary matter through electromagnetic forces. They are trying to discover exactly what it is, how much exists and what effect it may have on the future of the universe.

Physicists have said that without dark matter, galaxies might never have formed. By learning more about dark matter, they hope to understand better whether the universe is expanding or contracting.

The research team will try to catch the ghostly particles in a 300-kilogram tank of liquid xenon, a cold substance that is three times heavier than water. If they tried to detect dark matter above ground, the highly sensitive detector would be bombarded by cosmic radiation.

Scientists hope to start construction on the two deepest labs by 2012 and open them by 2016. The projects are expected to cost $550 million.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

British Passports to be Given to a Record 220,000 Migrants This Year

The number of British passports given to migrants is set to hit a record 220,000 this year.

In the first three months of 2009, 54,615 citizenship applications were approved — up 57 per cent on the same period in 2008.

At that rate, the number receiving passports — and with them the right to full benefits — this year will smash the record of 164,540 set in 2007.

Last year the total was 129,310, and when Labour came to power in 1997, just 37,010 people were given citizenship.

It means approvals have rocketed by almost 500 per cent under the current Government.


The top five native countries of those gaining citizenship in the past two years have been India, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia and Zimbabwe.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Burqas Are ‘Not Welcome’ in France: Sarkozy

French President says full-body veil is attack on dignity, and a sign of the “debasement” of women

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the Muslim burqa would not be welcome in France, calling the full-body religious gown a sign of the “debasement” of women.

In the first presidential address to parliament in 136 years, Mr. Sarkozy faced critics who fear the burqa issue could stigmatize France’s Muslims and said he supported banning the garment from being worn in public.

“In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity,” Mr. Sarkozy said to extended applause at the Chateau of Versailles, southwest of Paris.

“The burqa is not a religious sign, it’s a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement — I want to say it solemnly,” he said. “It will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic.”

Dozens of legislators have called for creating a commission to study a possible ban in France, where there is a small but growing trend of wearing the full-body garment despite a 2004 law forbidding it from being worn in public schools.

France has Western Europe’s largest Muslim population, an estimated 5 million people, and the 2004 law sparked fierce debate both at home and abroad.

Even the French government has been divided over the issue, with Immigration Minister Eric Besson saying a full ban would only “create tensions,” while junior minister for human rights Rama Yade said she was open to a ban if it was aimed at protecting women forced to wear the burqa.

The terms “burqa” and “niqab” often are used interchangeably in France. The former refers to a full-body covering worn largely in Afghanistan with only a mesh screen over the eyes, whereas the latter is a full-body veil, often in black, with slits for the eyes.

A leading French Muslim group, the French Council for the Muslim Religion, has warned against studying the burqa, saying it would “stigmatize” Muslims.

Mr. Sarkozy was due to host a state dinner Monday with Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Al Thani of Qatar, where women wear Islamic head coverings in public — whether while shopping or driving cars.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Cyprus: Former Russian MP Charged With Triple Murder

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, JUNE 19 — Russian police have charged 52-year-old former State Duma Deputy Mikhail Glushchenko with masterminding the triple murders of three Russian nationals in Peyia in 2004, daily Cyprus Mail reports. As the murders took place outside of Russia, Cyprus police said that an extradition request will be made so that the suspect can appear before a Cypriot court. Glushchenko was arrested at St Petersburg on Tuesday when he appeared at a local police station to pick up his renewed Russian passport. Authorities initially announced that Glusenko was being arrested on suspicion of involvement in a blackmail case, but later confirmed that he was charged with involvement in the murders of businessman Yury Zorin, translator Viktoria Tretyakova and fellow former LDPR Deputy Vyacheslav Shevchenko. The murders took place on March 24, 2004 at the villa in Peyias, where the three Russians lived. The violent crime in the quiet village took the nation by surprise. The bodies of the three victims were dismembered with an axe and were found wrapped in plastic bags in the two bedrooms and bathroom of the villa. Cypriot police at the time suspected that the Russian mafia was behind the murders, as they appeared to be the work of professionals. Glushchenko was an MP at the Russian Duma between 1995-1999 with the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party headed by Vladimir Zhirinovsky. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Cyprus: EU Info Point to Serve Turkish Cypriots

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, JUNE 19 — The EU Info Point located at the northern part of Nicosia is opening its doors to the public. The Info Point project has a budget of EUR 1.3 mln, financed by the Financial Aid Programme and aims to bring the Turkish Cypriot community closer to the European Union (EU), through information on the European Union’s political and legal order, as well as its main policies and activities. There is special emphasis on the EU Aid Programme for the Turkish Cypriot community in addition to the activities carried out by the EC Representation. Visitors of the Info Point will be able to obtain up-to-date information on various aspects of the EU via books, brochures, CDs, documents, leaflets and other informative materials available, as well as having access to information on the web using four terminals located at the premises. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU Asks Horse Owners to Pledge Not to Eat Their Animals

Horse owners will have to sign a pledge not to eat their animals under new EU legislation, it has been reported.

The rule, aimed at continental Europe, where two million horses are reportedly eaten every year, will still have to be signed in Britain.

The Horse Identification Regulations, which will come into force at the beginning of next month, is partly to stop vets’ drugs from entering human diets.

Anyone who refuses to sign up to the regulations could face prison or an unlimited fine.

Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, said: “I’d like to be a fly on the wall when the Queen and Princess Anne are asked to sign a form saying they’re not going to eat their horses.

“Measures to stop the trade in horse flesh may be a good thing. But any common sense in Brussels is drowned by the sheer weight of ludicrouse suggestions.”

The new law has left British horse and stable owners perplexed.

Kate Gillanders, of Kindross, Pertshire, told The Sun “We don’t see our horses as cattle. The thought of them being eaten is utterly repulsive. Brussels is poking its nose in where it should not be.

“The EU knows nothing about me and cares even less. This nonsense is somebody else’s obsession.”

A European Commission spokesman said the Government had agreed to the directive.

“It someone thinks we don’t understand the British mentality, then neither does the UK Government,” the spokesman added.

The new regulations come into force on July 1. Horses born after this date, and those born before June 30 who have not been issued a horse passport, will also have a microchip implanted.

A spokesman for the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs said: “Horse passports will clearly identify those horses which are not eligible for the food chain if they have been treated with substances which are potentially harmful to humans.

“By strengthening the current passport system we reduce the risk to human health, avoid the withdrawal of key veterinary medicines, and protect the horse meat trade in this country.”

Zebras and other “exotic equines” will also be subject to the legislation.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Germany: Censorsula Can’t Stop Child Porn

Let’s just get this out of the way upfront: I’m against child pornography. I’ve got two kids of my own and … well I don’t think I have to spell it out for you. Kiddie porn is bad, okay?

But authorising a spooky government agency to create a secret framework for blocking internet sites that politicians deem distasteful is a recipe for a dark future and a distraction for those that were actually fighting the good fight against child abuse.

Nonetheless, the German parliament on Thursday is expected to approve legislation that will allow the Bundeskriminalamt, or the country’s federal criminal police, to index and block alleged child pornography sites. Fair enough, we can all agree, those places are vile, as are the people that operate and visit them.

This legislation is the brainchild of Ursula von der Leyen, Germany’s conservative family minister and previously my favourite member of Chancellor Angie’s otherwise bumbling cabinet. She’s been rebranded Censorsula — Zensursula in German — by the web community despite her protestation she merely wants to protect the children. But then you have to wonder why she’s pushing legislation that sends Germany’s G-Men after websites rather than criminals.

Which serves as a handy transition to the first problem with this loopy legislation — the index will serve as a handy warning to kiddie porn peddlers that the government is on to them. It’s like a postcard informing them that their time is up. Only, it’s not — just their website’s time is up.

And to anyone who’s delved beyond the e-mail and HTML levels of the web, it’s apparent that the block will do little. Ever heard of newsgroups? IRC filesharing? How about USB sticks? Friends tell me these are the places you can get your favourite English-language TV shows, Lily Allen albums and viruses that attack bytes, not pigs and people.

But these superficial loopholes just show how little thought went into the thing. The reason I and 134,000 German internet users signed a digital government petition are against this thing is the door it opens: Once the architecture is in place — and the country’s internet service providers are complying — it won’t take much to expand the block.

I can hear the rumblings over on the right already: the status-quo crowd doesn’t believe Berlin would expand the ban. Oh really?

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has already tried this once. He asked the Justice Ministry to consider updating a law that allowed video cameras and automated toll stations on the autobahn designed for toll collecting to be used for crime-fighting — even though no one mentioned this during parliamentary debates over the toll system. The cameras are there, he said. It would be a shame to not allow them to reach their full potential.

And his Christian Democratic colleague Thomas Strobl already said he wanted to consider aiming the new law at violent video games too.

The concept of censoring the internet is nothing new — American corporations have floated the idea for years using the logic that if they provide it to you, they should have some say in what’s on it. And other countries are already doing it, all of them bastions of democracy such as China and North Korea.

So, you know, Germany will be in good company. Thanks a bunch, Censorsula.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]

Ireland: What Did We Expect When We Chose to Pay for a Madrasah?

Was anyone in the Department of Education even remotely surprised by the virtual failure of the Muslim school in Cabra to achieve even minimal standards of education?

It was effectively established as a madrasah, which would produce good little Muslims. That, I have no doubt, is what it has achieved. To be sure, they might not be well-educated little Muslims, and their career prospects are probably poor. But at least they are Muslims, the production of which was the intended function of the school.

Needless to say, no other country in Europe has allowed the creation of a separate Muslim educational system. That is Ireland’s melancholy contribution to the brainless heresy that is multiculturalism.

However, we are not alone in such cultural folly. In his truly wretched speech in Cairo on June 4, Barack Obama created a Muslim world which simply doesn’t exist, and never has. He accordingly reimagined history to credit Islam with the invention of the compass, of algebra, of pens and of printing. Sorry, Barack, old fellow, but the Chinese got to most of those first; and the greatest mathematic concept of all — the notion of zero, with a digit to represent it (a truly staggering intellectual advance), was the creation of Hindu civilisation.

But that’s what Western commentators always do when talking about the glories of Islam: they go back a thousand years or more and talk of Alhambra and how Islam cherished the great works of Ancient Greece, while Christian Europe had forgotten them. Blah blah blah. And President Obama indulged in another stereotype when he added western imperialism had denied “rights and opportunities to many Muslims”.

Hold on there. The first great truly global empire was the Islamic one, which spread from Arabia into Europe, North Africa and Europe in the century after Mohammed. It conquered by the sword, and ruled by the sword, and the Crusades were merely a logical European response to its ruthless imperial ambitions. And later, what would have happened to western civilisation if Don John had not been victorious at Lepanto? Or if Vienna in 1683 had fallen to the armies of the Caliph?

Islamic imperialism under the Moguls changed India: hence Pakistan today. Islamic slave traders ranged across the world, from west Cork to east Africa. It was Muslims who introduced the great slave bazaars, where western Europeans obtained the poor creatures to work in their Caribbean and American plantations. And the longest-lasting empire of them all in recent centuries was that of the Ottomans, whose writ ran from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. I personally regret the destruction of that empire: I would rather Saudi Arabia were ruled from Istanbul, than by the urbane savages who now govern it. But let us not pretend that the Ottoman Empire was other than an empire, in which Christians were second-class citizens, or that Muslims were always the colonised, rather than what they actually often were: conquerors and empire-makers.

Obama fatuously boasted in Cairo that the US government had gone to court to defend the right of Muslim women to wear the hijab “and to punish those who would deny it” (his words). Well, for a US President to be proud of American legal measures to intensify gender-apartheid tells us how far down the road of cultural-appeasement the West has gone. And believe me, when the legal triumph of the hijab leads to the full facial veil — as it inevitably will, as part of the great Islamic imperial project — that legal victory is one that the US government will come to regret, and sooner or later, have to undo.

History aside, what is the Islamic world achieving today? The Islamic School at Cabra might be seen as a template for the triumphs of Greater Arabia. Not one of its universities is in the top 200 universities of the world. It has no great institutions of research. No branch of science or technology prospers in any Muslim country. No electronic or medical discoveries are ever made in a Muslim society. No Islamic country has its own indigenous aircraft factory or computer industry. The combined GDP of all Arab countries, once gas and oil are discounted, is the same as that of Finland.

More foreign-language books are translated into Spanish every year than have been translated into Arabic in the past 300 years.. No Muslim country is so successful that immigrants are queuing to get in, which is just as well, because no Muslim country is so tolerant that it welcomes even moderate numbers of non-Muslim immigrants.

These are basic truths, that are so simple and obvious that A) no one ever says them, and B) our vigilante thought-police will probably seek to imprison those who do say them.

But let Cabra, which of course is funded by the taxpayer, speak for itself. Over an hour every day is spent in rote-learning of Arabic and the Koran, and in ritual cleansing. That is perhaps one fifth of the available teaching time, so educational standards are bound to suffer.

But, at least the school is mass producing devout little Muslims, which will be just fine and dandy, if Cabra ever becomes Cabrabia.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]

Italy: Kercher Murder: Knox’s Mom on Stand

Amanda and victim “got along great”

(ANSA) — Perugia, June 19 — The mother of an American exchange student on trial here for the murder of her British roommate took the stand on Friday and said the two girls “got along great” and had done “fun things together”.

Edda Mellas, the mother of defendant Amanda Knox, added that her daughter had been “very upset” over the murder of 22-year-old Meredith Kercher, who was found semi-naked and with her throat slit on November 2, 2007 in the house she shared in Perugia with Seattle-born Knox and two Italian women.

Mellas was called to testify about three phone calls she received the night Kercher was murdered.

She said the first call was made before the body was discovered and her daughter said she thought there was someone else in the house.

In the second two calls, Knox was clearly “very upset”, her mother said.

In her testimony, Mellas denied her daughter had considered leaving Italy after the murder, and before her arrest, and that she felt very bad about having accused Perugia-based musician Patrick Lumumba of being the murderer.

Democratic Republic of Congo national Lumumba, who had employed Knox in his pub, spend 15 days in jail before an alibi confirmed he had been working at his pub on the night of the murder and police failed to find any forensic evidence linking him with the crime scene.

He is suing Knox for damages as a civil plaintiff as part of the murder trial. Knox is on trial for the murder along with her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito whose father, Francesco Sollecito, also took the stand on Friday and said his son “wouldn’t hurt a fly”.

The father also said that his son had been very fond of Amanda and that they had had a “very beautiful love story”.

Speaking after his court appearance, Mellas said “they have no evidence against Amanda and she is telling the truth”.

“I think things are going well. Amanda was worried about me, as she always is, even if she’s the one on trial. She’ll be free very soon,” she added.

Prosecutors believe Knox, Sollecito and Ivory Coast national Rudy Guede killed Kercher while forcing her to participate in “a perverse group sex game”.

They claim Sollecito and Guede held Kercher’s arms while Knox slashed her throat with a kitchen knife.

The prosecution said Guede had also tried to rape Kercher.

Guede, 21, was sentenced in a separate trial to 30 years for sexual assault and murder. He is appealing the conviction and claims the crime was carried out by Knox and Sollecito alone.

The prosecution claims DNA evidence linked all three to the crime.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Gondoliers Face 173 Years in Jail

Protests were ‘naval blockade’, prosecutors say

(ANSA) — Venice, June 19 — Some 72 gondoliers who blocked Venice’s Grand Canal in a series of protests between 2003 and 2005 are facing a total of 173 years in jail.

Prosecutors on Friday accused the gondoliers, who were demonstrating against a restriction in working hours, of mounting a “naval blockade”.

Defence lawyers said this charge was not applicable because the protests took place on an inland waterway.

They also noted that the gondoliers let water buses through.

Gondoliers blocked Venice’s most famous canal and left gondolas outside the city mayor’s office in protest at rules aimed at solving the problem of the violent waves produced by boats going too fast.

In 2002, then Venice mayor Paolo Costa was tasked with resolving the so-called ‘moto ondoso’ which swept fragile buildings and monuments. Costa issued an ordinance to keep delivery vessels and gondolas from being on the Grand Canal at the same time.

The famed steerers of the black boats said the move was an unfair limitation of their trade.

Delivery firms, shops and businesses were also unhappy with the new rules and joined with the gondoliers in their protest.

Gondoliers also argued the orders would not work unless there were enough traffic police to make sure boats stuck to the rules.

The rules were later eased as city hall cracked down on the speeding boats.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Man Involved in Achille Lauro Hijacking Dies

ROME — A Palestinian man who helped plan the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship during which an American passenger was killed has died in an Italian jail.

Lawyer Sandro Clementi said Khaled Hussein died of a heart attack early Monday in a jail in Benevento, near Naples. He was 73.

Clementi said Hussein was convicted in absentia by a Genoa court and sentenced to life in jail in 1987 for helping plan the attack. Clementi said Hussein did not take part in the hijacking but provided logistical support..

Hussein was arrested in Greece in 1991 and then extradited to Italy.

Four Palestinian militants hijacked the ship off the Egyptian coast, killing Leon Klinghoffer, an elderly Jewish man from New York who was shot and dumped in the sea in his wheelchair.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Mixed Marriages Increasing in Italy

(ANSAmed) — NAPLES, JUNE 17 — Mixed marriages are on the rise in Italy: in 2007 around 24,000 were celebrated, against 5,000 marriages between two non-Italian citizens and 221,000 between two Italian partners. According to Iamu Foundation — the autonomous and independent scientific institute for research and initiatives on the multiethnic and multicultural community with special focus on international migration — weddings in which the bridegroom was not Italian increased from 5,000 in 2006 to 6,000 in 2007. Marriages between an Italian bridegroom and a foreign bride decreased from 19 to 18 thousand in the same period. In 2007 most brides were from Romania, followed by the Ukraine, Brazil, Poland, Russia and Moldavia. The number of Romanian brides fell sharply though from 4 thousand in 2006 to 2.3 thousand in 2007. The list of grooms is led by Moroccans, followed by Albanians and Tunisians. The group of Romanian bridegrooms dropped in one year from fourth to twelfth place. Three quarters of all weddings in Italy in which both partners were non-Italian nationals involved two partners of the same nationality, mainly Chinese, Senegalese and Albanians. Ukrainian, Polish and Moldavian brides are more open to marriages with other nationalities. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Polish City Ravaged by Nazis to Cut Hitler’s Tree

WARSAW, Poland — The towering tree is believed to have been Adolf Hitler’s gift to the occupied town of Jaslo — planted to the sound of a Nazi band during World War II.

Town authorities now want it cut down and burned to make way for a new roundabout. But some residents have become attached to the 40-foot (12-meter) oak and are lobbying to save it.

“The tree has not hurt anyone and is not guilty of anything,” protest organizer Kazimierz Polak said, adding that his group was appealing to local and regional authorities to preserve the tree. “It is growing healthy and tall. Let it grow.”

But Mayor Maria Kurowska said it was a reminder of Jaslo’s connection to Hitler, whose Nazi troops razed the town in late 1944 as the Soviet Army advanced.

“It’s only a tree; we have hundreds of them here,” Kurowska said. “Instead, I can plant trees in honor of Hitler’s victims.”

The tree also interferes with a planned roundabout that would increase road safety, she said, explaining why authorities were only now looking to have to removed.

But the mayor said she had received e-mails and letters from residents both for and against saving the oak.

Polak said he remembers the tiny tree arriving in April 1942 in a box wrapped in the Nazis’ swastika flag. It was a gift from Hitler on his birthday and came from the Austrian city of Braunau am Inn, where the Nazi leader was born in 1889.

With two friends, Polak watched German authorities plant the tree with great pomp — part of an effort to “Germanize” the town, he said.

Two years later as the Red Army approached, the Nazis ordered that the town be evacuated and looted, according to historians. By the time they left, only 39 of the town’s more than 1,200 houses remained.

Polak, now 81 years old, is the town’s source for information about the tree’s provenance. The mayor noted that he is active in studying Jaslo’s history and there is no reason to doubt his account.

Nevertheless, she said she was not convicted the tree should be spared.. The town will decide within weeks about the proposed roundabout.

“You plant trees in honor of truly great people, like John Paul II,” she said. “If we keep it, we will walk in the city center remembering this is Hitler’s tree.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Pope: Refugees Must be Welcomed Despite Problems

SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO, Italy — Pope Benedict XVI said Sunday that countries must continue receiving refugees despite the difficulties they create while also addressing the causes that drive so many people from their homes.

Italy has been battling waves of illegal migrants and has enacted a controversial accord with Libya under which it turns back refugees intercepted at sea before they can reach Italian shores to apply for asylum.

Vatican officials, the U.N. refugee agency and aid groups have denounced the new policy.

Benedict did not specify Italy in his comments marking the U.N. World Refugee Day, which was celebrated Saturday, making his appeal more general to all countries that deal with refugees.

“Many people seek refuge in countries fleeing situations of war, persecution and calamity, and their reception creates not a few problems” for the receiving countries, he said. But he stressed that welcoming them was “still right.”

Benedict spoke during a pilgrimage Sunday to San Giovanni Rotondo in southern Italy to pray before the remains of St. Pio of Petrelcina, the hugely popular Italian saint who purportedly bore “stigmata,” or wounds like those Jesus suffered at his crucifixion.

Tens of thousands of the faithful braved thunderstorms to attend an open-air Mass in front of the Renzo Piano-designed church built to cater to the throngs of pilgrims who visit Padre Pio’s shrine each year.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Swedish Cops Dump Toilets to Save Money

The Malmö police department will stop at no lengths to refrain from spending a penny, employees learned recently.

At first, staff thought they were getting a bum deal when two toilets near the surveillance unit’s offices were closed last week, the Sydsvenskan newspaper reports.

But when employees from the narcotics and criminal divisions also found themselves locked out of the bathrooms in their wings, employees began to suspect the closures were no accident.

As it turned out, officials at the department had decided to shut down several of the station’s toilets over the summer in an effort to keep from draining the public purse.

But someone forgot to tell workers at the police station, prompting the station’s workplace safety officer to lodge a complaint, at which point the toilets were once again opened for business.

“It didn’t quite go right. The toilets were closed too early,” Anita Elf, head of the station’s maintenance divison , told Sydsvenskan.

But Elf emphasized that the toilets would be closed during the summer, primarily on floors expected to be virtually devoid of employees over the summer holiday season.

Fewer toilets mean less cleaning, according to Elf, although the exact savings haven’t been calculated.

           — Hat tip: CB[Return to headlines]

The Curious Case of the $134.5 Billion Briefcase

A funny thing recently happened at the Italian-Swiss border. Italian authorities found a briefcase filled with $134.5 billion in U.S. government bonds. While this now appears to be merely a massive counterfeiting case, initial worries were that a major nation clandestinely attempted to unload a staggering sum of genuine U.S. dollar securities.


These bonds were not obvious forgeries. For nearly two weeks, Italian authorities probed their authenticity and eventually requested the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s appraisal. Asked what it concluded, SEC spokesman John Heine told me Wednesday: “I think I need to decline to comment on this.”

Wednesday evening, however, Bloomberg News quoted Treasury spokesman Stephen Meyerhardt. He called the bonds “clearly fakes” and added: “That’s beyond the fact that the face value is far beyond what’s out there.” Meyerhardt noted that only $104.5 billion in bearer bonds exist — $30 billion less than what that briefcase contained. That amount jointly would have made those Asian gentlemen America’s fourth-largest creditor, Bloomberg calculates, “ahead of the U.K. with $128 billion of U.S. debt and just behind Russia, which is owed $138 billion.”

A $500 million U.S. bond may sound fanciful. However, the federal government indeed produced them between 1955 and 1969. To alleviate some of the physical burdens and administrative costs of storing and handling lower-denomination bonds, the Treasury began offering securities with much higher face values.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Eurosceptics Are Just as Phoney as President Blair

Any day now you could wake up and find that you are subject to the rule of President-of-Europe Anthony Blair.

After the Irish and the Czechs have been clubbed into submission this autumn, the long-planned European Superstate will at last come into being. And Mr Blair is likely to be its Head of State. For those of a sensitive disposition, this means two horrible things happening at once.

It is bad enough that the ghastly Blair creature might rise from the political tomb, hands clasped in pious prayer, upper lip trembling with fake emotion, pockets crammed with money from the lecture circuit, drivel streaming from his mouth. That would perhaps be the only thing that might make the nation warm to Gordon Brown again.

But far worse is the awful truth, which so many have hidden from themselves, that Britain will from that moment cease to be an independent nation in any important way.

The EU will take on a ‘legal personality’ of its own, become a nation in its own right, one in which we are a subject province for the first time in more than a thousand years, less independent than Texas is of Washington DC.

And this is why I hate the people in politics and the media who call themselves ‘Eurosceptics’. What are they for? What good have they done? They stand about, mainly in the Unconservative Party, claiming to be concerned about the way the EU is swallowing this country.

But they refuse to take the one step that would actually make a difference. They will not call for this country to leave the EU. You will have to ask them why not. There is no reason Britain could not exist outside the EU, which sells more to us than it buys from us, drags us into trade disputes with the USA which are not in our interest, steals our fish, chokes our small business, mucks up our farms and milks us each year of incalculably large sums of money we could spend better ourselves.

There is every reason for us to go our own way, especially if we wish to preserve our unique laws and liberties against the fast-approaching ‘Stockholm Programme’ which aims to impose continental law on this country, together with a menacing set of surveillance powers quite beyond the control of our Parliament.

So the next time a ‘Eurosceptic’ presents himself to you for election, ask him why he won’t go the extra yard (not metre), and if he won’t do so, find a man who can. The time for scepticism is long past. What is there left to have doubts about? The thing is as bad as we feared. The time for secession has arrived.


Tearing down another safety net

Why would the Government be so keen to repeal a law which protects free speech? You decide. Here are the details. Last year, in a law called The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, New Labour created a new criminal offence, called ‘incitement to hatred on grounds of sexual orientation’.

I will not argue here about whether such a law is necessary or right. My point is different. What is important is that several Peers were concerned that such a law might one day be misused to prosecute the expression of opinion.

They rightly did not trust assurances that such a law could never be used for such purposes. They had noticed the increasing tendency of the police to menace individuals for voicing unfashionable opinions about homosexuality..

So they fought to insert a clause saying ‘for the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred’.

Government spokesmen claimed this was not necessary.

Maybe they’re right. Maybe they’re wrong. Who can tell the future? That’s the whole point, and wise law-makers know that laws are often used in ways never intended by those who drafted and passed them. But what harm can such a safeguard possibly do? None, obviously.

Yet, probably this Tuesday, the liberal State will mobilise its forces in the House of Lords to rip away this sensible safety net. If it succeeds, I predict that the result will be the persecution of Christians and others who wish to resist the sexual revolution.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Suicide Bomb Plot’ Schoolboy Learned About Explosives at 12 ‘To Feel Cool’

Isa Ibrahim, a former public schoolboy accused of planning to blow up a shopping centre in a suicide bomb plot, has told how he started learning to make explosives at the age of 12 to feel “cooler”.

The hospital consultant’s son, who changed his name from Andrew, told a court how he had been expelled from a series of private schools and had become addicted to drugs and computer games.

He is accused of conducting a reconnaissance trip around the Broadmead Shopping Centre in Bristol and making a suicide vest and a quantity of the homemade explosive HMTD, the same substance used in the July 7 attacks.

Asked by his defence counsel, David Spens QC, if there was “any truth that you were going to blow yourself up?” he answered, “There’s no truth in it.”

But Winchester Crown Court heard computer evidence showed Ibrahim first took an interest in the making of explosives at the age of 12.

“I didn’t like football, he said. “It’s difficult to know how to put it, it made me feel cooler. I didn’t have friends or a social life and it made me feel better about myself. I felt not such a sad loser.

“I was overweight and I didn’t have friends. It made me feel a bigger, cooler person.”

Wearing a polo shirt and tracksuit, he told Winchester Crown Court his father, Nassif is a Coptic Christian from Egypt who works as a consultant pathologist at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol and collects antique pottery, stamps, coins and Nazi memorabilia.

His mother, Victoria, is a Protestant Christian who works as an administrator at Bristol University Medical School and his older brother, Peter, went to Oxford University and is now studying to be a barrister and working in the City of London.

Ibrahim said he was at Queen Elizabeth Hospital School in Bristol when he started smoking cannabis and taking LSD at the age of 12.

“People in my year I thought were a bit geeky, a bit nerdy. A lot of it was the taboo of taking drugs in a private school at that sort of an age,” he said.

Ibrahim said he was suspended and asked to leave the school the day before his 13th birthday, and went on to be expelled from Colston’s School in Bristol and Downside Catholic boarding school near Bath.

He eventually passed eight GCSEs, including English language at grade A, five at grade B and one each at grades C and D in June 2005 at Bristol Cathedral School but by then he was taking magic mushrooms, cocaine and ecstasy, the court heard and his parents had decided to split up.

Ibrahim said his mother asked him to move out when she caught him using ecstasy and ketamine but his parents helped pay the rent on a flat.

He said he became addicted to heroin and crack cocaine and began stealing to fund his habit, forcing him to move into a hostel because he was not paying the rent.

He said he sold the Big Issue outside the Broadmead Shopping Centre to fund his £60-a-day drug habit where his father found him and started meeting him once a week to buy him food and take him for a meal.

Ibrahim was given a council flat in Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol, and went back to college to study for his A-levels but never managed to kick his drug habit, the court heard.

Ibrahim said he had also become addicted to on-line computer games involving “role playing” such as Diablo II, Mass Effect and Metal Gear Solid, playing from 7am to midnight during the school holidays, and later dropping out of college.

“I would just forget about everything else. I felt I didn’t need real friends because I had friends on the internet I could chat to. The whole point of the game was to beat them and get respect from them.”

At the end of 2006, after dropping out of college, he said he started attending the Empire Gym in Bristol where he took up body building and started taking steroids.

But he said he gave up after three months and went back to heroin and crack cocaine.

Ibrahim also showed the court some of his five tattoos, which included “HTID” on his right bicep, said to represent “Hardcore Till I Die,” and Hardcore across his stomach,

Ibrahim had nine teddy bears in his bedroom in Westbury-on-Trym, and said they would tell jokes and he would laugh.

He said one of the bears, called Mr Fox was “mischievous and “rude” and “makes jokes at others expense.”

Ibrahim admits possessing explosives but denies plotting a terrorist attack and planning to endanger life or property.

The trial continues.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: BNP Teacher Ban ‘Is Considered’

A possible ban on teachers in England from being members of the British National Party is under consideration, a government spokesman has confirmed.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families says ministers are investigating a ban.

But the profession’s watchdog, the General Teaching Council, has said membership of a legal party cannot be seen as “unprofessional conduct”.

A BNP spokesman said moves for such a ban were “naked intimidation”.

There have been calls from teachers’ unions for a ban on teachers belonging to the BNP.

Legal doubt

The NASUWT teachers’ union argues that belonging to the party is incompatible with “respecting ethnic, cultural and religious diversity”.

It says a ban could follow the example of serving police officers who are not allowed to be BNP members — and says that such an exclusion could be achieved through an amendment to teachers’ contracts.

The DCSF has now confirmed reports that ministers are exploring the possibility of introducing a ban for teachers — but without giving any further details of how or when such a ban might be introduced.

But suggestions that teachers could be “struck off” for membership of the BNP have been rejected by the teachers’ regulatory body in England — the General Teaching Council for England.

“The clear legal advice we have received is that membership of any lawful political party per se cannot amount to unacceptable professional conduct, nor can it of itself bar someone from registration with the GTC,” says the teaching council.

A spokesman for the BNP said that moves towards preventing teachers from BNP membership were an attempt to “corrupt the democratic process”.

The party had proved its popular appeal in recent elections, said the spokesman, and a ban on BNP membership for teachers would be a “vindictive” and “totalitarian” response.

“People have different opinions, but they can leave their politics outside of the classroom.”

It was unfair that such proposed restrictions would not apply to extreme left-wing teachers, the party’s spokesman argued.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Conservative MEPs Form New Group

Senior Tory William Hague has said the Conservatives’ new “anti federalist” bloc in the European Parliament will be “good for European democracy”.

The new European Conservatives and Reformists Group includes 55 MEPs from across eight member states.

Former Tory MEP Caroline Jackson warned it would create “bad blood” with traditional centre-right allies.

But Mr Hague said it would still work with the EPP group but differed from it on the extent of European integration.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World at One the way the Conservatives had left the European People’s Party grouping had been been “perfectly amicable”.

However, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the Tories “have dragged themselves from Euro-scepticism to Euro-extremism”.

‘Federal Europe’

Mr Hague said: “We do work, on a regular basis, with President Sarkozy’s party, with Chancellor Merkel’s party — that doesn’t mean we have to be in the same group in the European Parliament.

“These groups will often work together but clearly we differ with those parties about the extent of European integration.

“We don’t believe in the so-called federal Europe and it has got to be good for European democracy and diversity to have a grouping in the European Parliament with which we agree and can put an alternative point of view.”

“ The Tories have left the mainstream of European politics and joined forces with a rag-bag of parties with extreme views “

Ed Davey Liberal Democrats

The Conservatives will be the biggest party in the new group with 26 MEPs, including Northern Ireland’s Jim Nicholson of United Conservatives and Unionists — New Force.

Others who have signed up include 15 MEPs from the Poland’s Law and Justice Party (PiS), nine from the Czech Civic Democratic Party (ODS), and one each from the Dutch ChristenUnie, Latvian National Independence Movement (TB/LNNK), Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) and Belgian Lijst Dedecker (LDD).

One member of Finland’s Centre Party will also join the group, although the remainder of the party’s MEPs will remain in the liberal ALDE bloc.

Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey said the Tories had chosen “ideological isolationism” over influence.

He added: “This announcement confirms that the Tories have left the mainstream of European politics and joined forces with a rag-bag of parties with extreme views.”

‘Odds and sods’

But Mr Hague disagreed. He said the ODS — the party of former Czech PM Mirek Topolanek, who lost a confidence vote in May — were still the “leading party of the Czech Republic”.

The PiS were “the party of the president of Poland”, he said. Poland is governed by the centre-right Civic Platform.

Other allies in Finland, the Netherlands and Latvia were part of ruling coalitions, he added.

“These are no marginal parties they are mainstream parties that we are very happy to work with,” he said.

All members of the new group have signed up to the “Prague Declaration”, negotiated in the Czech Republic, which argues for EU reform and opposes federalism.

To form a group in the European Parliament and access EU funding, the Conservatives had needed to attract a minimum of 25 MEPs from at least seven states.

Mr Cameron pledged to cut the Conservatives’ ties with the EPP grouping during his 2005 Conservative leadership campaign.

The Tories have also been criticised for joining forces with the PiS, who in the past have tried to ban gay marches in Poland. Mr Hague told the BBC that the PiS’s attitudes to gay rights had changed.

Robert Oulds, director of the Eurosceptic Bruges Group, said: “The Conservative Party’s federalist rump, both at Westminster and Brussels, should now recognise that the tide has turned.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Europe and a Squalid Blair, Cameron Pact That Could Tear the Tories Apart Again

More than 12 years have passed since the last Tory government, fatally split over Europe and brought low by sleaze, was driven from office.

Although David Cameron now seems certain to lead the Tories back into power at the next general election, the problem of sleaze still exists (as shown by MPs’ scandalous expenses claims) — as do difficulties concerning Europe.


On top of this, there is a third issue of contention involving Europe — and this, I believe, is potentially the most divisive.

It concerns the plan, which has been backed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, to appoint Tony Blair as the EU’s first president.

Giving this dazzling international role to the former Labour prime minister would not only be highly controversial but it would also disgust many loyal Conservatives, who regard Blair with profound contempt.

William Hague spoke out for these Tories last week when he said: ‘We haven’t spent ten years opposing Tony Blair as Prime Minister of Britain to agree to him becoming President of the European Union.’

However, Cameron has been silent on the Blair candidacy. Many Conservatives fear that this is because a deeply cynical deal has been struck.

It works like this: Cameron has pledged to do nothing that would damage Blair’s chances; while Blair himself has agreed not to speak out and join the Labour campaign to prevent Cameron getting into Downing Street. This remarkable non-aggression pact has advantages for both sides.

Cameron strategists-believe that Labour has a better chance of recovery if Blair comes out and supports his embattled successor. Instead, they want to keep him out of the fray and see Brown struggle on — and lose — on his own.

As for Blair, he is acutely aware that his chances of becoming European President would be torpedoed if David Cameron, seen by all European leaders as the next British prime minister, sent out strong signals that his presidency would be unacceptable to a Tory government.

For David Cameron, this quiet compact with a man he has long admired looks like sensible politics which enhances his chances of winning the next election. But there are many Tory voters who see any Blair/Cameron axis as a squalid pact that sells out British interests.

Unless David Cameron comes clean on all this — as well as bringing Ken Clarke and William Hague back in line — Labour will be able rightly to claim that a Tory government would mark a return to the Cabinet feuding and acrimony of the 1990s.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]

UK: The Shocking Moment Police Officer Grabs Female Climate Change Protester by the Throat

Dramatic footage has been released of two women protesters being bundled to the ground after asking a policeman for his identification number.

The video shows one of the climate change protesters being held by the throat by a police officer.

The footage shot by police, who were policing the protest at the Kingsnorth power station in Kent last August, has been handed to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, according to the protesters.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Tories Head New Rightwing Fringe Group in Europe

David Cameron finally delivered on a four-year-old pledge to establish a new centre right grouping in the European parliament when the Tories announced they would lead a 55-strong bloc of social conservatives in Strasbourg and Brussels.

Labour accused the Tories of moving to the extremes of Europe after the party confirmed that its 26 MEPs would sit with Poland’s homophobic Law and Justice party among others on the right.

The launch of the new movement means Cameron has abandoned two decades of Tories being in the mainstream of European politics for a new alliance on the rightwing fringes.

When the new parliament meets for the first time on 14 July the Tories will sit in a new block, known as the European Conservatives and Reformists. This fulfils a pledge by Cameron during the 2005 Conservative leadership contest to leave the EPP-ED group in Strasbourg, the largest group, with members from the main centre right parties across the EU.

While the EPP centre-right mainstream encompasses governing parties in half the EU, the new grouping is almost exclusively made up of opposition figures from eight countries.

The Tories will be joined by 29 MEPs from seven other EU countries. Poland’s Law and Justice party will be the second largest in the group, with 15 MEPs, while the Civic Democratic party (ODS) from the Czech Republic will provide nine MEPs. The five other countries represented in the group will provide one MEP apiece, making it potentially unstable.

William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, yesterday hailed the founding of the new group, declaring that it dispelled the doubts of critics who said the Tories would struggle to meet the parliament’s rules for establishing groups. These say groups must have a minimum of 25 MEPs, from at least seven member states.

Hague dismissed “out-of-date and ill-informed” criticisms that Poland’s Law and Justice party was homophobic. “The Law and Justice party is a party committed to be against discrimination, for equality under the law,” he told the BBC.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the Law and Justice leader, underlined his mainstream credentials when he appeared in Warsaw with Cameron on 29 May. The former Polish prime minister, whose brother Lech is the Polish president, said: “European institutions should be effective, economical, and aid co-operation between member states. They should never interfere with individual rights or the free market.”

But the following day, at a rally in the city of Bialystock, Kaczynski appeared to revert to type. The Economist quoted him as saying: “If Europe is to be strong, it has to be Christian. And today it is anti-Christian, and especially anti-Catholic.”

The Tories strongly defend the new grouping on the grounds that it is wrong for the party to campaign on a Eurosceptic ticket in Britain only to sit in the highly federalist EPP-ED group in Strasbourg. Dan Hannan, a Eurosceptic Conservative MEP who wants Britain to leave the EU but to remain in the single market along Norwegian lines, has been pushing this case for the best part of a decade.

Critics of the new grouping cite three objections: that it includes a hotchpotch of different parties, some with mainstream views and others with views that would be on the hard right in Britain; that leaving the EPP-ED, which includes Angela Merkel’s CDU party from Germany and Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party from France, will diminish British influence in the European parliament, and that pledging to oppose EU federalism in the European parliament makes no sense because it has little say in deciding institutional changes.

David Miliband, the foreign secretary, said: “The Conservatives … have dragged themselves from Euroscepticism to Euro extremism. By removing the Conservatives from other mainstream centre right parties in Europe, David Cameron has isolated his party and potentially this country”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Serbia: Two Thirds of Citizens Support EU Integration

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, JUNE 19 — Director of the EU Integration Office Milica Delevic today stated that almost 61% of Serbian citizens support Serbia’s EU integration, reports Emportal. At a press conference presenting the results of the survey concerning Serbian citizens’ stance regarding Serbia’s EU integration, carried out in May, Delevic said that although some decrease has been recorded, a majority of citizens still believe that Serbia’s future lies within the EU. According to the survey 82% of citizens believe that visa liberalisation is of great importance for our country, 10% think that it is not important at all and 8% do not have any opinion on the issue. 49% said visa liberalisation matters to them while 33% said visa abolition is not important while 85% said they did not travel to the Schengen zone last year. 52% expect that life in the EU will make life better for the young, 44% expect better employment, and 40% hope to travel to the EU, while 30% see EU integration as a chance to settle the situation in Serbia. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Muslim Mob Attacks Church and Loots Christian Homes in Egypt

By Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — An Egyptian Muslim mob attacked a church on Sunday, 6/21/2009 in the village of Ezbet Boshra-East, El-Fashn, smashing its windows and assaulting Copts with clubs and white weapons, wounding 25 Copts, in the presence and with the instigation of the State Security.

On Monday 6/22/2009, El-Fashn prosecution issued an order for the village priest, Reverend Isaac Castor, to appear before them, on charges of sectarian sedition after three Muslim women accused him of hurling stones at them from inside the church.

The Church is still besieged by State Security and the priest is still confined to the Church walls, together with 10 people and three children not exceeding the age of five years. “The prosecution wants to get me out there, together with those who are with me, in order to make arrests. None of us are leaving the Church premises,” the priest said. “I do not know why I am besieged inside the Church in this way, together with my toddlers. I am not a criminal, neither are the people who are with me.”

Bishop Estephanos of Beba El Fashn Diocese, together with other priests called for a sit-in at the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin in El-Fashn, demanding the release of the unlawfully arrested Copts. The sit-in included families of those arrested, who refused to leave the Cathedral. (video of sit-in).

“As if I’m dreaming what went on, such savagery! It broke my heart to see my children [congregation] treated in such beastly and barbaric way” said Rev. Isaac to Coptic News Bulletin. “It is as if we are back to the Era of Diocletian” (Roman emperor who carried out the worst persecution in the history of the Copts) .

“A curfew was placed on Copts on Sunday in Ezbet Boshra-East village including me and my family, while Muslim offenders are free,” said Reverend Isaac

Homes of nearby Copts were broken into on Sunday by the Muslim mob, which included women, assaulting the residents including young girls, and destroying their furniture and looting electrical equipment. “These assaults were followed by security officers, assaulting Copts and destroying what remained of their belongings. When asked by a Coptic woman why they are doing this, the officers answered that they have ‘orders’ to do so,” added Reverend Isaac. “Now the Coptic inhabitants are living in terror.”

“State Security went into homes of the Copts and forcibly rounded up the men. At present 19 Copts are under arrest including children under twelve and people over 60 years of age,” said Reverend Isaac. “I have sheltered 10 other Copts in the Church to save them.”

The incident happened when 6 young Copts living outside the village came to visit the priest who lives at the top floor of a 3-storey building owned by the Church and which used for ceremonies and prayers. The same church was attacked by Muslims in August 2008. The security police tried to prevent the visitors from entering the village, but after an altercation they were allowed in. Later a police constable asked them to end their visit and leave separately. While on their way out, they found a Muslim mob awaiting them. Muslims harassed the young visitors and one Muslim woman struck a Coptic woman on the face. At that moment violence broke out, and Muslims began to attack the building using bricks and sticks, injuring 25 Copts, and destroying the priest’s car.

State Security has cut all telephone lines and the internet in the village, which is inhabited by 1500 Copts of the total 3000 inhabitants, to prevent them from getting in touch with the outside world, according to Reverend Isaac. “With all this strife, the Security wants to have grounds to issue a report confirming that this village is not suitable to have a church. We have no Church in the village and the nearest is 3 miles away, and can hardly accommodate its own congregation”

Human rights organization ‘Sunshine’ said that what is happening now in El-Fashn is a new trend in the violations carried out by the State Security against Coptic clergy. This trend began with the imprisonment of Father Mettaos Wahba for five years on false charges of forgery, and now an order has been issued against Father Isaac to ‘apprehend and bring,’ which has no legal grounds. “This is proof to the whole world that Egypt is persecuting the Copts,” according to Sunshine.

During his Sunday appeal to the world through Coptic News, Reverend Isaac said “Please help us, the whole world just looks and does nothing, where is President Obama’s talk about peace? All what we want is to raise our hands and worship God, equal to Muslims. We cannot take it any longer; we are ready to give up our lives, just let us pray.”

During the sit-in, Bishop Estephanos said: “We will all pray. Since matters reached this stage, if necessary we will all become martyrs. Our Coptic Church has been built on the blood of martyrs.”

[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Carter Helping Hamas Open Talks With White House

Proposes plan bypassing U.S. demand for terrorist group to recognize Israel

Former President Jimmy Carter presented Hamas with a written initiative intended to open talks between the Islamist group and the U.S. without Hamas having to accept all conditions previously laid out for dialogue by the American government, top Hamas officials told WND.

Those conditions, expressed twice by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are Hamas’ renouncement of violence, recognition of Israel and agreement to abide by previous PLO commitments. The conditions were adopted by the Mideast Quartet, which consists of the U.S., United Nations, Russia and the European Union.

Carter, however, handed Hamas last week a letter “that aims to open dialogue between Hamas and U.S.,” Mushir al-Masri, a member of Hamas’ parliament and a spokesman for the Islamist group, told WND today.

Two top Hamas sources told WND Carter’s initiative bypasses Clinton’s conditions and instead asks Hamas to recognize the so-called two-state solution as well as the Arab Peace Initiative.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Dead Sea Peril: Sinkholes Swallow Up the Unwary

EIN GEDI, Israel (AP) — Eli Raz was peering into a narrow hole in the Dead Sea shore when the earth opened up and swallowed him. Fearing he would never be found alive in the 10-meter-(30 foot-) deep pit, he scribbled his will on an old postcard.

After 14 hours a search party pulled him from the hole unhurt, and five years later the 69-year-old geologist is working to save others from a similar fate, leading an effort to map the sinkholes that are spreading on the banks of the fabled saltwater lake.

These underground craters can open up in an instant, sucking in whatever lies above and leaving the surrounding area looking like an earthquake zone.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Abusing EU Bid for Political Means Will Benefit Nobody

ANKARA — PM Erdogan predicts campaigns against Turkey will continue in the coming months due to the national elections in European states. ‘On this occasion let me tell you once again that making domestic politics over Turkey’s membership issue will not bring any benefits to any country,’ he says. Parliament will not recess before EU reforms pass, notes PM

The prime minister Monday warned against any attempt to abuse Turkey’s European Union membership process for political ends, saying such an approach would beneficial to nobody.

“I believe that using Turkey and Turkey’s membership issue as a political took in some countries is very wrong,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a luncheon given for Ankara’s ambassadors from EU member states.

Turkey formally began membership negotiations with the EU in October 2005 but the talks have slowed down over the years for a number of reasons, including Ankara’s refusal to open its ports to member Greek Cyprus as well as some countries opposition to the Turkish bid. In its last report, the EU Commission criticized Turkey over its slow pace of reforms.

No backtracking

“From time to time critics claimed we lost momentum and swept the EU issue to the peripheries. Let me put it very clearly and honestly that there is no a single instance of backtracking in Turkey’s speed and efforts,” assured the prime minister.

“However, certain statements made by the EU side and certain attitudes opened the way for a serious erosion in public enthusiasm and agreement,” warned Erdogan.

Early this month, a number of candidates in the European Parliament elections campaigned against predominantly Muslim Turkey’s EU bid, giving an upper hand to French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who have proposed to Ankara a privileged partnership instead of full membership in the EU.

In his address, while talking about several alternatives floated around by some EU member states, Erdogan looked at the ambassadors of France and Germany.

“There is no such term as ‘privileged partnership’ in our book,” he said.

Erdogan predicted that campaigns over Turkey would continue in the coming months due to the national elections in European states. “On this occasion let me tell you once again that making domestic politics over Turkey’s membership issue will not bring any benefits to any country. In the short run parties may believe it is beneficial but it must be seen that in the middle and long run such populist remarks will harm both the EU and Turkish-EU relations.”

Erdogan noted he would travel to Brussels this week to participate in the Crans Montana Forum set for Thursday and Friday. In remarks on an alleged military coup plan published in daily Taraf, Erdogan said no tension broke out in Turkey because of the alleged document and ruled out a conflict among the institutions.

“On the contrary, Turkey has the chance to demonstrate through this document that Turkey is acting one heart, one body in the face of anti-democratic scenarios,” said Erdogan.

The prime minister noted that Parliament would not go into recess before EU reforms passed. He also criticized Brussels for not opening entry talks with Turkey over the remaining chapters. The talks on taxation are expected to begin at an intergovernmental conference later this month. Turkey cannot start talks on social policy and employment chapter because the unions’ law has not yet passed in Parliament.

Fair game

In a televised interview Monday, the ambassador of the Czech Republic said the Turkish prime minister’s criticism of some EU member states for their firm opposition to Ankara’s membership in the EU was not wrong.

“The promises given to Turkey must be kept and the game must be played fair,” Eva Filipi was quoted as saying. “The Czech Republic is supporting Turkey’s EU membership.” Upon a question on the alleged military coup plan, she said the issue was not discussed during the luncheon but stressed the claims were a source of concern and that the EU was closely following the matter.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Analysis: Most Arabs Won’t Miss Iran’s Ayatollahs if They Fall

Many Arab governments, including the Palestinian Authority, are quietly hoping that the latest crisis in Iran will mark the beginning of the end of the radical regime of the ayatollahs and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Frustrated with Teheran’s long-standing policy of meddling in their internal affairs, representatives of the relatively moderate, pro-Western governments in Ramallah, Cairo, Beirut, Riyadh and other Arab capitals are hoping that regime change in Iran would undermine radical Islamic groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah.

These proxy groups, together with Syria — Iran’s strategic ally and facilitator in the Arab world — have long been viewed as a main source of instability in the Middle East.

Yet the Arab heads of state and their government officials appear to be doing their utmost to downplay the Iran crisis. They are obviously concerned that their constituents would follow suit and demand reforms and free elections.

Invoking Palestinian terminology, Arab editors and columnists have been describing the anti-government protests in Iran as an intifada.

“The pro-Iran camp in the Arab world is very worried,” said Abdel Rahman Rashed in an op-ed in the London-based Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat. “It’s natural for Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other pro-Iran groups to be afraid because their existence depends solely on the radical regime in Iran. If anything bad happens to this regime, they will suffer even more.”

Rashed hailed the Iranian protesters for opposing their government’s policy of funding Hizbullah and Hamas at a time when the economy in Iran is not doing well.

A number of Palestinian officials in Ramallah said they expected the collapse of the regime in Iran to have a “positive” impact on what’s happening in the PA-controlled territories. “The Hamas leaders must be in a state of panic,” said an adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas. “Without Iran’s support, Hamas couldn’t have staged a coup in the Gaza Strip two years ago.”

The official claimed that the Iranian government had given Hamas more than $150 million in the past three years, enabling the radical Islamic movement to maintain its tight grip on the Gaza Strip. He said that more than 80% of Hamas’s weapons come from the Iranians.

“Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollahs have long been working hard to export their radical Shi’ite ideology to Palestine,” said another PA official in Ramallah. “We will be more than happy to see the regime in Teheran disappear, together with Hamas and Islamic Jihad.”

But there is also concern in Ramallah that the crisis would force US President Barack Obama to focus on Iran rather than the Israeli-Arab conflict.

The “intifada” in Iran erupted just when it seemed that the issues of West Bank settlements and the two-state solution had been placed, thanks to the Obama administration, at the top of the world’s agenda.

Unlike former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Ahmadinejad never succeeded in winning the hearts and minds of the Palestinian masses despite his fiery rhetoric and threats to eliminate Israel.

Teheran’s open support for Hamas in the power struggle with Fatah, as well as its continued attempts to undermine the relatively moderate regimes in Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf countries, have alienated many Palestinians. Echoing these sentiments, Hafez Barghouti, editor of the PA-funded Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, held Teheran responsible for the ongoing sharp differences between Hamas and Fatah.

Egyptian mediation efforts between the two rival parties have failed because of the Iranians, who have turned Khaled Mashaal into another ayatollah, he said, referring sarcastically to the Syrian-based Hamas leader as “Ayatollah Mashalati.”

Like many of his colleagues throughout the Arab world, Barghouti expected the crisis in Iran to escalate, resulting ultimately in the downfall of the ayatollahs. “The winds of change will eventually reach the top brass of the Iranian regime,” remarked Palestinian columnist Muwafak Matar. “What’s happening there is more than a power struggle in the regime. It could be the beginning of a new era of awareness among the young people, who are aspiring for stability and rejoining the international community. They want a new Iran that does not interfere in the internal affairs of its neighbors or countries that are far away.”

Noting that Teheran had been meddling in the internal affairs of the Palestinians, Lebanese and Egyptians over the past few years, another Palestinian columnist, Rajab Abu Siriyyeh, said he did not rule out the possibility that Obama’s conciliatory approach to the Arabs and Muslims could have been one of the main reasons why tens of thousands of Iranians decided to take to the streets.

“They see the last election as an opportunity for real change in Iran,” he said. “Ahmadinejad’s policies have strained relations between his country and the Arab countries. We saw how Teheran recently dispatched a Hizbullah cell to attack Egypt.”

Abu Siriyyeh said that the Arab world, which is worried about Iran’s territorial ambitions in the Middle East, would not tolerate another four years of Ahmadinejad’s rule.

“The Arab countries will benefit in many aspects from the collapse of the current regime in Iran,” said Mohammed Husseini, secretary-general of the Arabic-Islamic Council in Lebanon. “The demise of the regime will remove a real threat to Arab national security and put an end to Teheran’s meddling in the internal affairs of others.”

Husseini voiced hope that the next regime in Iran would learn from the mistakes of its predecessors and refrain from “sticking its nose” into the Arab people’s affairs. He said that Iran’s proxy groups in the Arab world will then realize that they had made a “huge mistake” by placing Teheran’s interests above the interests of their own people.

           — Hat tip: CB[Return to headlines]

Andrew Bostom: Perpetuating Iran’s Islamic Culture of Hate

Commenting on the factional protests in Iran, anthropologist Roxanne Varzi [1], who is touted in a NY Times report today [2] (6/22/09)as having analyzed the methods by which Iran’s Islamic government spreads its ideology, notes how these demonstrations have “remained within religion,” i.e., Iran’s heritage of Shiite Islam. Varzi concludes that the opposition and erstwhile “reformist” movement also expounds “the whole Islamic discourse,” because “[I]t is not meant to be something anti-Islamic.”

But how can a “reformist” movement that shares the same oppressive core ideology—rooted in a half millennium old incarnation of Shiite Islam—overcome what amounts to nothing less than a culture of hate?

The profundity of this Shiite Islam-inspired culture of hate—which even 50 plus years of secular Pahlavi reforms (from 1925-1979) targeting the mullahs, specifically, could not undo—is no where better illustrated than in the plight of Iran’s indigenous Zoroastrian community.

Mary Boyce, Emeritus Professor of Iranian Studies at the University of London, has written comprehensive assessments of those Zoroastrian communities which survived the devastating jihad conquests of the mid 7th through early 8th centuries. The Zoroastrians experienced an ongoing, inexorable decline over the next millennium due to constant sociopolitical and economic pressures exerted by their Muslim rulers, and neighbors. This gradual, but continuous process was interspersed with periods of accelerated decline resulting from paroxysms of Muslim fanaticism- pogroms, forced conversions, and expropriations- through the latter half of the 19th century. During a lecture series given at Oxford in 1975, Boyce also noted how the Iranian ancestors of the Zoroastrians had a devoted working relationship (i.e., herding livestock) with dogs when they lived a nomadic existence on the Asian steppes. This sustained contact evolved over generations such that dogs became “a part in (Zoroastrian) religious beliefs and practices…which in due course became a part of the heritage of Zoroastrianism.” Boyce then provided an historical overview of the deliberate, wanton cruelty of Muslims and their children towards dogs in Iran, including a personal eyewitness account. Boyce describes these complementary phenomena based on an historical analysis, and her personal observations living in the (central Iranian) Yezd area during the 1960s. She spent a 12-month sabbatical in 1963-64 living in the Zoroastrian community of Iran (mostly in Sharifabad, on the northern Yazdi plain).

Below are extracts of her analysis of these phenomena which highlight the overwhelming obstacles to permanent, meaningful change of societal mores still posed today by the culture of hate Iranian Shiite Islamic supremacism has engendered…

           — Hat tip: Andy Bostom[Return to headlines]

Bahrain Closes Paper in Iran Row

Bahrain has ordered the closure of a prominent newspaper after it printed an article critical of political leaders in its powerful Gulf neighbour Iran.

No official reason was given for the closure of Akhbar al-Khaleej apart from that it had violated press laws.

Local sources said it was connected to a piece about Iran’s election crisis by a consultative council member.

Correspondents say Sunni-ruled Bahrain is wary of unrest being stirred up among the majority Shia population.

In the article entitled the Islamic Republic: Vehement Public Anger, Samira Rajab attacked Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Islamic revolutionary regime.

Poll winner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the election thanks to “millions of fraudulent votes”, the article alleged.

“After 30 years, the cover has been pulled away… and Islamic democracy has been shown in its most repugnant dictatorial forms,” the article said.

The writer, who like Iran’s leaders is a Shia Muslim, also referred to speculation that Mr Ahmadinejad may have Jewish ancestors.

The Bahraini Journalists Association expressed concern at the decision by the Ministry of Culture to suspend the publication of the paper until further notice, inviting it to reconsider it “to promote the atmosphere of freedom and democracy in Bahrain”.

There are long-running tensions between Bahrain’s Sunnis and the Shia Muslim majority, which have on occasion spilled over into civil unrest.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]

Britain Evacuating Families of Staff in Iran

LONDON — Britain’s Foreign Office said Monday it was evacuating the families of staff based in Iran amid continued violence in the wake of the country’s disputed election.

The decision came after repeated criticism of Britain by Iranian leaders, and an increasingly tense atmosphere following angry clashes between demonstrators and security officials.

Staff will remain in Iran for now, and the Foreign Office confirmed that it was not advising other British nationals to leave. However, it said officials are monitoring the situation with the utmost vigilance.

“The families of our staff have been unable to carry out their lives as usual. As a result, we are withdrawing the dependents of embassy staff,” a Foreign Office spokesman said on customary condition of anonymity in line with policy.

The Foreign Office later said that 12 people would be affected. It added that there had been no specific incidents at the British Embassy, apart from a small protest there a week ago.

Iran says at least 17 protesters have been killed in a week of unrest after the electoral council declared hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad winner of the country’s June 12 election. Followers of his main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, claim the result was a fraud and have been staging rallies on an almost daily basis.

Riot police attacked demonstrators with tear gas and fired live bullets in the air during a rally Monday in central Tehran.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has accused Britain of sending spies to manipulate the election, while the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei singled out the U.K. as the worst example among Western powers which he claims are seeking to interfere in Iran’s affairs.

Britain is one of the six nations involved in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. The West accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband has denied that Britain has sought to influence events in Iran.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Clare Lopez: Supporters of ‘Dialogue’ With the Iranian Mullahs Help Keep the US From ‘Meddling’ on Behalf of Freedom

The Obama administration’s failure to stand firmly with the forces of opposition to the mullahs’ regime in Tehran is drawing criticism at home and around the world. Even as many thousands of young Iranians take to the streets, furious at brazen election-rigging and fed up with corrupt clerics and their thuggish enforcers, the United States, erstwhile leader of the free world, has maintained a strict official policy of neutrality.

The question is, how did America fall from the soaring rhetoric of President George W. Bush’s 2005 State of the Union address — when he said: “And to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you” — to a position on the sidelines, passively watching Iranian security forces club and shoot unarmed demonstrators on the streets of Tehran?

The apparent answer is that advocates of a policy of accommodation that is more in sync with the priorities of the Tehran regime than with U.S. national security interests now wield influence from inside the Obama administration…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

EU Embassies Wary of Hosting Iranian Protesters

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Italy said Sunday (21 June) it had instructed its embassy in Tehran to provide humanitarian aid to wounded protesters, pending a co-ordinated response from all EU countries. But Sweden — which is about to take over the EU presidency — said it cannot grant asylum to refugees.

Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini said he would discuss a European Union-wide proposal to co-ordinate assistance for wounded demonstrators during a meeting in Stockholm on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the country — Iran’s leading trading partner in the EU — has instructed its embassy to help out “where there is a request or need for help from injured demonstrators,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Iranian state media reported that at least 10 more people died and over 100 were injured in clashes on Saturday between demonstrators contesting the re-election of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and riot-police using truncheons, tear gas and water cannons.

The Iranian government also arrested the daughter and four other relatives of former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the country’s most powerful men, in a move that indicated a rift among the ruling Islamic clerics over the disputed presidential election.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the attitude of Iranian authorities was “inexcusable,” and highlighted the government’s “pariah” status. Tehran, already isolated due to its nuclear ambitions, is now “depriving its people of their most basic democratic rights,” he said.

Earlier on, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a full vote recount. “Germany stands by the people in Iran who want to exercise their right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly,” she said. A new analysis of voting figures by independent British think tank Chatham House found “irregularities” in the turnout and “highly implausible” swings to Ahmadinejad.

British foreign secretary David Miliband warned the death toll “will raise the level of concern among Iranians and around the world,” while US president Barack Obama toughened his stance, calling on Tehran to stop “violent and unjust actions against its own people.”

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]

Gaza: Reconstruction; Turkish NGO Asks for Financial Support

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 18 — Erol Yarar, the chairman of the Palestine Platform, a Turkish non-governmental organization (NGO), asked for financial support for projects to reconstruct Gaza. “The Gaza Reconstruction Commission has carried out feasibility works of 460 projects for Gaza’s reconstruction, prepared projects and is seeking support,” Yarar said yesterday during an international conference in Istanbul where the Palestine Platform and the International Gaza Reconstruction Commission are organizing the First International Gaza Reconstruction Conference. Representatives from 30 countries participated in the conference that will end on Thursday, as Anatolia news agency reports. Also speaking in the conference, Irfan Gunduz, a MP from the ruling Justice & Development (AK) Party, said that Turkey expected the international community to lift the embargo on Palestine and Gaza, and give back the territories under invasion to their real owners. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iran Bans Prayers for ‘Angel of Freedom’ Neda Agha Soltan

Iran’s regime has issued a ban on memorials for a young woman whose death has become the focal point of protests against the clerical regime.

Neda Agha Soltan, 27, was dubbed the Angel of Freedom after a video which appeared to show her being shot by a government sniper was posted on the internet.

Graphic scenes show Neda — her name means “the call” — walking with her father among demonstrators, then separately when she was shot as well as attempts to save her life.

Online posters of the woman covered in blood quickly emerged, included one modelled on a prominent image of Barack Obama during the last US presidential campaign.

Some online posts speculated the image would rank alongside that of the unnamed man standing in front of a tank in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989 and the summary execution of a Vietnamese Communist prisoner by Colonel Nugyen Ngoc Loan in 1968.

Footage was posted on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook and was viewed by tens of thousands. Messages of sympathy and outrage flooded the internet following the posting of the videos.

The Iranian authorities have now sent out a circular to mosques banning collective prayers for the woman.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Iran Expert Afshin Molavi

‘Khamenei Has Never Seen a Crisis Like This’

This week’s protests in Iran are truly unprecedented, says Iran expert Afshin Molavi in an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE. The demonstrators come from all walks of life and from across the country. Discontent with Tehran’s hardline leadership is widespread.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: On Thursday, a million people demonstrated in the streets of Tehran. Are we witnessing a revolution in Iran?

Molavi: What we are witnessing on the streets is truly unprecedented in the history of the Islamic Republic. We have seen protests in Iran over the past years, such as student protests or teacher strikes. The world only sees the demonstrations in Tehran but they are taking place all over the country.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Who are the demonstrators? What part of society do they come from?

Molavi: We are witnessing the return of the Iranian middle class to the political space. This middle class is vibrant, modern, wired, eager to engage with the outside world, hungry for more social and political freedoms, and for better economic management. Many members of Iran’s urban middle class — and its important to remember that Iran is 70 percent urbanized — chose not to vote in the 2005 election, disillusioned with the failures of the reform movement led by (former Iranian president) Mohammad Khatami. They are returning in full after four years of Ahmadinejad and demanding that their votes be counted…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Iran’s Guardian Council Admits to Election Irregularities

Tehran — Iran’s powerful Guardian Council said Sunday there were some irregularities in the June 12 presidential election, which has been widely disputed and triggered bloody street protests. The Guardian Council admitted that the number of votes collected in 50 cities was more than the number of eligible voters, the council’s spokesman Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei told the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) channel.

He said this amounted to about 3 million questionable votes, but added that “it has yet to be determined whether the amount is decisive in the election results.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Iran’s Twitter Revolution

Ahmadinejad’s Fear of the Internet

With the Iranian authorities cracking down on the international press, the West is reliant on the Internet to find out what is happening on the ground. Hard as it might try, it will be difficult for the regime to easily stop the flow of information online. Web users around the world are rallying behind the protesters.

Even before the protests over Iran’s disputed presidential election began, it was clear that the Iranian regime feared the power of the Internet. But now an open war has broken out between the government and its security forces on the one side and protesting Web users on the other. Web sites are being blocked and Internet access in general seems to be more difficult — or even paralyzed.

On Wednesday, a senior spokesman for Iran’s military issued an open threat against bloggers and Web site operators in the country: Content which could “create tension” must be removed immediately, otherwise there would be legal consequences.

Iran’s rulers are afraid of the Internet partly because it is one of the main tools being used to organize mass protests and also because it undermines — at least partially — the current heavy restrictions on the international media in the country.

Within just a few days, a totally new symbiosis of “old” media and explicitly partisan “citizen journalists” has emerged. Given the crackdown on the international media, there is no other way to get the news out of the country: Western journalists who are still in the country are being threatened and are not allowed to leave their offices or to report from the streets of Tehran. Some are even being expelled from the country, like SPIEGEL ONLINE correspondent Ulrike Putz, who had to leave Iran on Monday.

But it’s evidently proving harder to quell the information flow out of the country on Internet sites such as Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Picasa, to name just a few sites being used by protesters. The micro-blogging site Twitter, which allows users to send messages of up to 140 characters and which has special feeds such as “#IranElection” devoted to the issue, remains an important tool, despite growing fears of infiltration by the Iranian secret service. It is hard to effectively block access to the platform, as it can be accessed through various different applications, including ones that run on mobile phones, as well as via the Web site. The service is a labyrinth with many entrances and exits…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Iran: The Internal Balance of Power

By Jonathan Spyer

One would need a heart of stone not to be moved by the scenes currently emerging from Iran: Hundreds of thousands of youthful demonstrators, taking to the streets to express their frustration at the restrictions of life under a theocratic oligarchy — with the communications revolution enlisted to bypass the heavy hand of the regime’s censors.

Nevertheless, at such a time, it is particularly important to employ the tools of cool and dispassionate analysis. It is therefore worth keeping three crucial facts in mind, when considering the events in Iran. Firstly, in so far as a real struggle for power is currently taking place, it is taking place within the boundaries of the Islamist regime, and not against it. Secondly, if one were to imagine for a moment the emergence of a real, popular leadership opposed to the regime, and were then to assess its chances of success, the following conclusion would be inescapable: at the present time, the regime possesses both the will and the means to ensure its survival. Thirdly, no such popular leadership currently exists.

Consider: Mir Hossein Moussavi, the hero of the demonstrators, is a product of the Islamic revolution of 1979 no less than is Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Moussavi served in the now defunct position of prime minister of Iran in the period 1981-89. In the latter part of that period, in 1987, the Iranian nuclear program was revived. Moussavi is a committed supporter of the Iranian system of governance known as Vilayet a-Faqih (rule of the jurisprudent), and of the severe and brutal repression which this system brings in its wake. He represents the establishment, conservative wing of the regime, as personified by former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Iran: Italy ‘Would Open Embassy’

Wounded demonstrators could take refuge if EU decides

(ANSA) — Rome, June 22 — Italy would open its Tehran embassy to wounded Iranian demonstrators as long as this was done in a European Union framework, the foreign ministry said Monday.

Italy “will not shrink from its willingness,” which has already been stated, the ministry said.

It said no request had so far come from demonstrators.

Demonstrators would have to be treated in hospital, the ministry added.

On Sunday Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said he had already told the embassy to get ready to take in wounded demonstrators in the event of EU members agreeing to Sweden’s suggestion to coordinate the move.

Sweden takes over the EU’s rotating presidency from the Czech Republic on July 1.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: No Response From Iran to G-8 Invitation

ROME — Italy considers its G-8 meeting invitation to Iran rejected since Tehran has not yet responded, the foreign minister said Monday in a sign of Rome’s growing impatience.

Italy had invited Iran to attend talks on Afghanistan and Pakistan to be held during the Group of Eight foreign ministers’ meeting starting Thursday in Trieste. Rome says Tehran could contribute to discussions on stabilizing the region.

Italy is Iran’s leading trading partner in the European Union and has long maintained that no lasting solution in the Middle East conflict can be found without Tehran’s involvement.

Rome kept its invitation to Trieste open even during the bloody crackdown on protests over Iran’s disputed presidential election. As of late Sunday, a Foreign Ministry communique expressed the hope that Iran might make its contribution to the region at the Trieste meeting.

But on Monday, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said that Iran had to respond by the end of the day. Later, he told TV evening news program TG5 that “I must consider that Iran has rejected the invitation.”

At that point, the Iranian Embassy in Rome was closed for the day, so it was not immediately possible to get Iranian comment about Italy’s decision.

Frattini’s spokesman, Maurizio Massari, said it would be difficult for Iran to focus on discussing stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan given its domestic turmoil — saying that its potential contribution was the very reason why Iran had been invited in the first place.

Frattini told TG5 that the regime’s silence on the invitation shows that “it has no interest in explaining to the world if it can be constructive at least in the Pakistani and Afghan region.”

The three-day meeting in the northeastern city of Trieste brings together the Group of Eight most industrialized nations and several other countries for wide-ranging talks.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will not attend the summit because she is recovering from surgery to repair a broken elbow, the State Department said Monday. William Burns, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, will head the U.S. delegation.

The Quartet of key parties trying to promote Mideast peace — the U.N., the U.S., the European Union and Russia — are also among the participants.

Reports of voting irregularities in the June 12 vote in Iran that re-elected hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have raised concerns in many European capitals, including London, Paris and Berlin.

“Italy will continue to strongly condemn the violence, the aggression against peaceful demonstrators,” Frattini told RAI state TV. “We will ask that the votes be recounted.”

Rome has also defended European allies from Iran’s accusations of foreign meddling, directed especially at Britain, France and Germany.

“There is no plot, no Western country has ever thought about a plot,” Frattini said in the interview with RAI. “We want transparency and truth, exactly what millions of Iranians in the streets want.

The Foreign Ministry statement Sunday urged Iran to take urgent but peaceful measures to end the violence and hold an open meeting with the country’s opposition.

Italy has instructed its embassy in Iran to provide humanitarian aid to the protesters wounded during the clashes, pending an EU-wide proposal to coordinate assistance. But so far the Italian Embassy has received no such requests for assistance, Massari said.

Also on Monday, the ministry issued a travel warning for Iran, advising Italians to postpone trips to the country.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Potential for Apocalypse: Is War Between Iran and Israel Inevitable?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may seem very different, but they are united in their apocalyptic religious visions. Their respective beliefs may be propelling them on a collision course with potentially horrific consequences.

A pair of more disparate twins hasn’t existed since the muscle-bound Arnold Schwarzenegger and the sharp-tongued, diminutive Danny DeVito played twins in the Hollywood movie of that name. One, the Israeli, is tall and thickset and often wears tailored suits. He is a gifted speaker and a militant anti-Iranian. The other, the Iranian, is short and slight and is almost always seen wearing an ordinary-looking beige windbreaker. He tends to be somewhat gauche and is a rabble-rousing populist and a self-declared enemy of Israel. The two men couldn’t be more different.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 59, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 52, are twins in spirit, which is not to imply in any way that they are morally equivalent. Both men are convinced of the absolute validity of their beliefs, both are obsessed by what they see as their higher calling, and both are convinced that theirs is a Messianic mission — a mission to “honor” a religion or “save” a people.

There is every indication that the coming nuclear negotiations between Washington and Tehran — if, indeed, they begin in the next few months with Ahmadinejad still Iranian president — will end in a stalemate by the end of the year. If that happens, US President Barack Obama will push for tougher sanctions against Tehran in early 2010, with the reluctant support of the Russians and Chinese. The leadership in Tehran will interpret this as an aggressive act and will likely speed up its uranium enrichment, meaning that Iran will only be a few months away from having the capability to build a nuclear bomb. At some point next spring, things could have proceeded so far that the Israelis could decide, even without Washington’s approval, to launch attacks against Iranian nuclear facilities. The entire Middle East would see thousands of casualties, and the consequences for the global economy would be devastating.

To understand what motivates the Iranian president and the Israeli prime minister, and what convictions guide their policies, it is important to examine the deeply religious ideas that shape both Ahmadinejad and Netanyahu and practically destine them to clash with each other: the theology of the Islamic Haqqani school and the Jewish concept of Amalek. And to understand why Tehran and Jerusalem, with Ahmadinejad and Netanyahu at their respective helms, have embarked on such an alarming and potentially devastating course, it helps — as this author has done — to have personally met the people involved and to have studied their milieu during numerous trips to Iran and Israel over the past three-and-a-half decades. These experiences form the pieces of a puzzle, and although the resulting image is not all-encompassing and does not explain everything, it is at least an image based on a concrete search for evidence and on personal experience of the reality on the ground…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Report: Assad Wants Men Behind Attack on Israeli Embassy Free

Syrian President Bashar Assad asked his counterpart from Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, to release two Hizbullah operatives who were arrested on suspicion of plotting a terror attack on Israel’s embassy in the capital Baku last year, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Seyassah report Sunday…

           — Hat tip: EMET[Return to headlines]

Spiegel Interview With Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu

‘Turkey Doesn’t Want Chaos in the Middle East’

With protests in Iran continuing, the Middle East seems as unstable as ever. SPIEGEL spoke with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, 50, about the regional implications of the unrest and about his country’s difficult relationship with Europe.

SPIEGEL: Minister Davutoglu, Iran, Turkey’s neighbor, is in the midst of the worst unrest since the Islamic Revolution 30 years ago. After having served for many years as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s foreign policy advisor, you are very familiar with Iran. What is your assessment of the situation?


Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants stable relations with all his neighbors. Here, with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2008.

Davutoglu: Turkey and Iran share a very long common history. We know our neighbor — and have for more than 1,000 years. No one should underestimate or misunderstand this proud country. The political atmosphere there is incredibly dynamic, as is Iranian society. It is very complex and multifaceted.

SPIEGEL: Did you expect political developments in Iran to take such an explosive turn?

Davutoglu: Yes, absolutely. As a country with very close relations with Iran, we knew how dynamic both the society and the political culture there are. I noticed two particularities in this election. First, there was the extremely animated and fiercely contested campaign phase, and then there was the high election turnout. This led to the emergence of very different interpretations of results after the election. I think that we should take this as a sign that the political process in Iran is very healthy.

SPIEGEL: But it is precisely the result that all of the president’s challengers are calling into question. According to the opposition, this election was seriously manipulated.

Davutoglu: We must leave the discussion of the issue to the Iranians. We cannot intervene from the outside.

SPIEGEL: Is there not much more at stake here, namely a struggle for democracy?

Davutoglu: That may be true, in the sense that the Iranian masses want to be heard. The people are unwilling to leave politics solely to the state, and they are very passionate. But I am not prepared to pass judgment as to whether or not the elections were properly carried out.

SPIEGEL: Have you congratulated Iranian President Ahmadinejad on his victory?

Davutoglu: Of course. This is standard procedure between two nations with friendly relations.

SPIEGEL: Perhaps you will have to congratulate a new Iranian president once again in the coming weeks.

Davutoglu: In any case, we will respect the outcome of the political conflict in Iran.

SPIEGEL: Then perhaps you could help us to better understand your neighbor Iran. Have we in the West underestimated the “green movement” of reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi?

Davutoglu: It isn’t just about Mousavi. I believe that the West generally has a simplified view of the situation. The West is still dominated by a Cold War-like logic when it comes to Iran. This results in a black-and-white image of the country. The true picture is far more complex. Iran also has a system of checks and balances, and it has more than one center of power. And there are various competing movements and individuals. This “human factor” in Iranian politics is often overlooked in the West.

SPIEGEL: Let’s talk about President Ahmadinejad, who visited Turkey in the summer of 2008. Doesn’t the alleged victory of hardliner Ahmadinejad have to be described as a political step backward for the peace process in the Middle East?…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

The Iranian Leadership ‘Has Lost Its Legitimacy’

Tehran is moving to stop massive protests in Iran, cracking down on the media and arresting hundreds of protesters. The Guardian Council, meanwhile, has said it will stand behind Ahmadinejad’s re-election despite electoral irregularities. German commentators see a change coming — possibly for the entire region.

As Iran faces its worst crisis since the Islamic revolution, the regime is hitting out at the West and cracking down on journalists. The persistance of the opposition movement and disunity among the powerful clerics may be revealing cracks in the regime but the leadership is fighting back with force.

With 17 people already reported killed since the disputed June 12 elections, opposition leaders on Monday called for people to show their solidarity with the victims by carrying black candles with green ribbons. Mir Hossein Mousavi, the opposition leader who is contesting his defeat at the hands of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also asked motorists to drive for two hours with their headlights turned on “to show their solidarity with families of martyrs killed in recent events.” Meanwhile, the powerful Guardian Council has admitted that there were some voting irregularities in the elections but said it should have no effect on the final results.

Guardian Council spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhoadai stated that the number of ballots in 50 districts exceeded the number of legal voters in those areas. He added, however, that “this has no effect on the results of the elections.”

According to the official results, Ahmadinejad received 63 percent of the vote, with Mousavi securing only 34 percent. The extent of the president’s win provoked widespread protests, particularly amongst young people and women who had been hoping for an end to Ahmadinejad’s hardline regime.

Brutal Force

The outburst of street protests continued for days, but by the weekend the regime had started to respond with brutal force. At least 10 people were killed on Saturday and 457 were arrested. Images posted online, including footage that purports to show the fatal shooting of a teenage girl, suggest that sharpshooters belonging to the religous militia, the Basij, may have been targeting the crowds.

According to reports, the streets of Tehran remained quiet on Monday. The challenge for the opposition now is to maintain the momentum of the demonstrations while at the same time avoiding further bloodshed. Mousavi, in statements posted to his Web site on Sunday, said he would stand by protestors “at all times” but added that he would “never allow anybody’s life to be endangered because of my actions. Significantly, the former prime minister called the Basij militia “our brothers” and “protectors of our revolution and regime.” He also urged supporters to refrain from violence and show self-restraint. On Saturday, Mousavi emphasized that he did not question the foundations of the Islamic Republic but that he simply aimed to renew it and purge it of what he called deceit and lies.

In what could be a sign of a split among Iran’s ruling clerics, relatives of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who runs the powerful Assembly of Experts, were briefly arrested. Rafsanjani and his family have been accused of corruption by Ahmadinejad and the 75-year-old ayatollah was notably absent on Friday when Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave an address calling for national unity and backing of the current president.

Meanwhile, the government has continued its attacks on foreign interference in Iranian affairs and is cracking down on the media. It expelled a BBC correspondent and arrested a reporter with Newsweek. In an English-language broadcast, Iranian state television accused an exile group known as the People’s Mujahedeen of being behind the street protests, while broadcasting the alleged confessions of what it described as agents working for Britain. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman on Monday lashed out at “meddling Western powers and international media.”

Reactions in Europe

British Foreign Secretary David Milliband rejected the accusations that protestors were being “manipulated or motivated” from abroad and denounced Tehran’s attempt to turn the election dispute into a “battle” with the outside world.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meanwhile called on the authorities in Iran to conduct a recount of the votes. “Germany stands on the side of the people in Iran who want to exercise their right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly,” she said in a brief statement released on Sunday. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that Iran stood at a “crossroads” and appealed to the leadership in Tehran to “do everything to prevent further escalation.”

Most German newspapers on Monday are searingly criticial of the Iranian leadership while some ponder what the opposition movement can do to keep up the momentum.

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

“Those who so brazenly manipulate elections and then use brutal repression to beat down people who would protest are clearly not interested in any kind of dialogue … much less that which would include talks on its nuclear program. The US government cannot just look over recent events and renew its offer of talks.”

“It is correct that US President Barack Obama’s tone has become sharper and called a spade a spade. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been more decisive in this regard and has clearly sided with those in Iran who are, despite the grave dangers, demanding their human and civil rights. For the powers that be in Iran, this is all too much: They have attacked Germany, Britain, France and the US, regardless whether they have been reserved in their critique. The president of Iran’s parliament, Ali Larijani, has called election-related comments from these countries ‘shameful.’“

“Shameful? He knows only too well that these elections were a farce. It will take more than just a recount before Iran can win the ‘respect of the international community,’ as Barack Obama said on Saturday. It must change its behavior. The regime is not prepared to do this, much less change its own character.”

The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

“With his political sermon, the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei missed a big opportunity to bring the two camps closer. His open threat to the opposition will, if anything, have the opposite effect. The revolt now has its heroes, its martyrs. Blood is flowing and the opposition will do everything to ensure that its victims haven’t died in vain.”

“It remains unclear where the opposition’s courage will lead. But the longer the protests last — and the longer the regime refuses to compromise — the less the protests will be about the actual election results. ‘The Islamic Republic is dead’ and ‘when we say dictator, we mean Khamenei,’ are remarks heard among the protesters after the election.”

“But the man spearheading the uprising is seeking everything but revolution. Mousavi wants to preserve and improve the Islamic Republic — not overthrow it. The same applies to his most important supporter, Iranian former President Hashemi Rafsanjani.”

“The momentum of the protest movement may soon steam past both of them.. Even if that doesn’t happen, even if the security forces manage to crush the protest, nothing will be the same again in Iran…”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Beats Wife, Sentenced to Public Apology

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 15 — “I apologise to my wife and the people of Arac for beating her”. In northern Turkey the court of Arac sentenced Mustafa Kadinci to print a leaflet with these words apologising for his wife-beating habits. He had to print 1,000 leaflets containing his apologies and hand them out in city streets and public offices in order to avoid spending two years in prison. The unusual sentence was issued by a local (female) judge, who also ordered Kadinci to plant 50 trees and nurture them for 6 months. The sentence was issued after the man was found guilty of locking up his wife at home after an argument sparked off by the fact that the woman, going against her husband’s will, went to visit her family. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Attack on Russian Regional Leader

The president of the southern Russian republic of Ingushetia has been wounded in an assassination attempt, apparently launched by a suicide bomber.

Yunus-Bek Yevkurov is said to be in a critical but stable condition in hospital, with head and chest injuries.

Reports said one bodyguard was killed and several others were wounded, after a car travelling at high speed rammed the president’s vehicle.

Ingushetia, which neighbours Chechnya, has seen violence soar recently.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called the attack, in the city of Nazran, “an act of terror”.

He has ordered the interior ministry and the Federal Security Service (FSB) “to fully investigate the attack on the Ingush president’s life and to take all the necessary law-enforcement efforts”, presidential press secretary Natalya Timakova said.


No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but it seems probable that it was carried out by Muslim separatists fighting against Moscow’s rule in Ingushetia, says the BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Moscow.

Monday’s attack is the third on a senior figure in Ingushetia in as many weeks.

On June 10, gunmen killed the deputy chief supreme court justice in Nazran as she dropped her children at a kindergarten.

Three days later, the region’s former vice prime minister was shot dead outside his home in Nazran.

Hundreds of refugees from the wars in Chechnya have settled in Ingushetia, a mainly Muslim republic, which is itself one of Russia’s poorest regions.

The insurgency in Chechnya has largely been suppressed, but the violence has spilled over and now seems to be escalating in Ingushetia and Dagestan.

President Yevkurov, a former paratrooper general, was installed by the Kremlin last year to try to bring stability to Ingushetia.

Mr Medvedev paid tribute to the progress made by Mr Yevkurov, saying: “The Ingush president did much recently both to bring order and… civil peace to the republic. The bandits did not like this activity.”

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]

Leader of Russian Region Wounded in Suicide Attack

NAZRAN, Russia — A suicide bomber badly wounded a provincial president in Russia’s North Caucasus on Monday, an assassination attempt that undermined the Kremlin’s claim that it has brought stability to the predominantly Muslim region.

Yunus Bek Yevkurov was the third top official to be wounded or killed in the last three weeks in the area of southern Russia around Chechnya, which was devastated by two separatist wars in the last 15 years.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing in Ingushetia province, where Yevkurov has tried to halt violence by Islamic militants.

A car rigged with TNT exploded as the presidential convoy traveled outside the provincial center, Nazran. The blast tore Yevkurov’s armored sedan to pieces and killed two of his bodyguards.

Yevkurov spokesman Kaloi Akhilgov said the president suffered a serious concussion and broken ribs, but that his life was not in danger. Hospital and emergency officials, however, said Yevkurov was in critical condition with burns, brain injuries and damage to internal organs.

Yevkurov’s burnt-out car stood in the grass off the roadside, its windows shattered, its wheels missing and most of its front end destroyed. Shrapnel was scattered for hundreds of meters (yards) and there was blood on the ground in several places. Two roadside houses had their roofs damaged and their windows shattered.

Russia’s chief prosecutor said Yevkurov was most likely targeted by militants or local criminal clans angry about his crackdown on corruption.

Rebels have felt increasingly cornered under Yevkurov, a former military intelligence officer who was named president in October as the Kremlin sought to bring a measure of stability to Ingushetia. The province had been plunged into violence under the previous leader, former KGB officer Murat Zyazikov.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called for “direct and ruthless” action against the perpetrators of the attack.

Alexei Malashenko, a North Caucasus expert at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said the attack demonstrated the federal government’s inability to stem the spread of Islamic militancy in the region. “The Kremlin can’t control anything in the Caucasus,” he said.

Malashenko said that while Yevkurov made enemies among corrupt officials in the region, the attack was most likely triggered by his actions against Islamic militants, who have moved easily between Chechnya and Ingushetia.. The attack came exactly five years after Chechen militants raided law enforcement offices in Nazran on June 22, 2004 — a coincidence that appeared to signal rebel involvement.

Last month, Yevkurov pooled efforts with Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed President Ramzan Kadyrov to conduct a security sweep along the forested border between the two provinces.

“The attempt to kill Yevkurov was a response to the joint operation by Chechen and Ingush police,” said Yulia Latynina, a political commentator who writes extensively about the North Caucasus. “Yevkurov has been very efficient on the job, and he angered the militants.”

While going after rebel leaders, the Ingush president also sought to negotiate pardons for some rebels who would agree to put down their weapons, as Kadyrov did in Chechnya.

Yevkurov had also moved quickly to end abuses against civilians by security forces — actions that contrasted sharply with the repressive rule of his predecessor and quickly made him popular in the region.

He flew economy class and until recently had refused to use an armored vehicle, Latynina said.

“Yevkurov was absolutely fearless,” she said. “He was a model officer.”

Ingushetia, one of Russia’s poorest regions, saw its scare resources drained by an influx of refugees from Chechnya. While Chechnya has become relatively more stable under Kadyrov, Ingushetia and other neighboring provinces have been increasingly plagued by violence.

On June 10, gunmen killed a deputy chief justice of Ingushetia’s Supreme Court opposite a kindergarten in Nazran as she dropped off her children. Three days later, the region’s former deputy prime minister was gunned down as he stood outside his home in Nazran.

On June 5, the top law enforcement officer of another North Caucasus region, Dagestan, was killed by a sniper as he stood outside a restaurant where a wedding was taking place

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Far East

N. Korea Accuses Obama of Nuclear War Plot

North Korea has accused US President Barack Obama of plotting a nuclear war on the communist nation by reaffirming a US assurance of security for South Korea, the North’s state media said.

In a first official response to last week’s US-South Korean summit, the state-run weekly Tongil Sinbo said in its Saturday edition Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak “are trying to ignite a nuclear war”.

“The US-touted provision of ‘extended deterrence, including a nuclear umbrella’ (for South Korea) is nothing but ‘a nuclear war plan,’“ Tongil Sinbo said.

It said it wasn’t a coincidence that the United States has brought “nuclear equipment into South Korea and its surroundings and staged massive war drills every day to look for a chance to invade North Korea.”

Pyongyang has created weeks of tension by conducting a second nuclear test and test-firing missiles.

At a summit with Lee in Washington Wednesday, Obama warned that North Korea is a “grave threat” and vowed to defend South Korea.

A Seoul presidential official told Yonhap news agency Lee would seek a written US commitment to provide a nuclear “umbrella” for Seoul as part of “extended deterrence” against Pyongyang.

North Korea detonated its second nuclear device on May 25, following the first one in 2006. It also went ahead with what Washington said was a disguised test of a long-range missile in April.

The United Nations Security Council in response agreed to tighter cargo inspections, a stricter arms embargo and new targeted financial curbs to choke off revenue for the North’s nuclear and missile sectors.

In response Pyongyang has vowed to build more nuclear bombs and start enriching uranium for a new atomic weapons program.

Some analysts say the sabre-rattling is part of an attempt by 67-year-old ailing North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Il, to bolster a succession plan involving his youngest son, Kim Jong-Un.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Official: N. Korean Ship Carries Weapons to Myanmar

SEOUL, South Korea — A North Korean-flagged ship under close watch in Asian waters is believed to be heading toward Myanmar carrying small arms cargo banned under a new U.N. resolution, a South Korean intelligence official said Monday.

Still, analysts say a high seas interception — something North Korea has said it would consider an act of war — is unlikely.

The Kang Nam, accused of engaging in illicit trade in the past, is the first vessel monitored under the new sanctions designed to punish the North for its defiant nuclear test last month. The U.S. military began tracking the ship after it left a North Korean port on Wednesday on suspicion it was carrying illicit weapons.

A South Korean intelligence official said Monday that his agency believes the North Korean ship is carrying small weapons and is sailing toward the Myanmar city of Yangon.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing the sensitive nature of the information, said he could provide no further details.

Myanmar’s military government, which faces an arms embargo from the U.S. and the European Union, reportedly has bought weapons from North Korea in the past.

The Irrawaddy, an online magazine operated by independent exiled journalists from Myanmar, reported Monday that the North Korean ship would dock at the Thilawa port, some 20 miles (30 kilometers) south of Yangon, in the next few days.

The magazine cited an unidentified port official as saying that North Korean ships have docked there in the past. The magazine’s in-depth coverage of Myanmar has been generally reliable in the past.

South Korean television network YTN reported Sunday that the ship was streaming toward Myanmar but said the vessel appeared to be carrying missiles and related parts. The report cited an unidentified intelligence source in South Korea.

Kim Jin-moo, an analyst at Seoul’s state-run Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, said the North is believed to have sold guns, artillery and other small weapons to Myanmar but not missiles, which it has been accused of exporting to Iran and Syria.

The U.N. sanctions, which toughen an earlier arms embargo against North Korea, ban the country from exporting all weapons and weapons-related material, meaning any weapons shipment to Myanmar would violate the resolution..

The Security Council resolution calls on all 192 U.N. member states to inspect North Korean vessels on the high seas “if they have information that provides reasonable grounds to believe that the cargo” contains banned weapons or material to make them. But that requires approval from the North.

If the North refuses to give approval, it must direct the vessel “to an appropriate and convenient port for the required inspection by the local authorities.”

North Korea, however, is unlikely to allow any inspection of its cargo, making an interception unlikely, said Hong Hyun-ik, an analyst at the Sejong Institute think tank outside Seoul.

A senior U.S. military official told The Associated Press on Friday that a Navy ship, the USS John S. McCain, is relatively close to the North Korean vessel but had no orders to intercept it. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Any chance for an armed skirmish between the two ships is low, analysts say, though the North Korean crew is possibly armed with rifles.

“It’s still a cargo ship. A cargo ship can’t confront a warship,” said Baek Seung-joo of the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses.

Tension on the Korean peninsula has been running high since the North’s May 25 nuclear test, with Pyongyang and Washington exchanging near-daily accusations against each other.

President Barack Obama assured Americans in an interview broadcast Monday that the U.S. is prepared for any move North Korea might make amid media reports that Pyongyang is planning a long-range missile test in early July.

“This administration — and our military — is fully prepared for any contingencies,” Obama said during an interview with CBS News’ “The Early Show.”

Still, ever defiant, North Korea declared itself a “proud nuclear power” and warned Monday that it would strike if provoked.

“As long as our country has become a proud nuclear power, the U.S. should take a correct look at whom it is dealing with,” the country’s main Rodong Sinmun said in commentary. “It would be a grave mistake for the U.S. to think it can remain unhurt if it ignites the fuse of war on the Korean peninsula.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Latin America

11 Bodies From Air France Disaster Identified: Officials

SAO PAULO (AFP) — Eleven of the 50 bodies recovered from an Air France jet that plunged into the Atlantic three weeks ago have been identified by fingerprints and dental records, Brazilian officials said Sunday.

The bodies were identified as “10 Brazilians and one foreigner,” officials in the northeastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco said in a statement.

Five of the Brazilians were male, the other five were female and the foreigner was male, it added.

The officials, part of a task force that also includes Brazilian police and forensic specialists conducting autopsies in the city of Recife, did not give further details about those identified.

They said the families of the identified Brazilians had been visited personally Friday and Saturday by police officers who broke the news.

The embassy of the foreigner who was identified was also notified.

A special morgue in Recife has received 49 of the 50 bodies recovered from the crash site 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) off Brazil’s northeast coast. The 50th body was due to be delivered by ship on Monday.

There were 228 people from 32 countries onboard the airliner, which went down June 1 off the coast of Brazil on a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. The cause of the disaster — the worst in Air France’s history — was not known.

Seventy-two French citizens, 59 Brazilians, 26 Germans and passengers from 29 other countries were on the flight.

Identification was initially being attempted using fingerprints, scars, surgical or dental characteristics, and tattoos on the bodies.

If those failed, DNA tests were to be carried out in a Brazilian police laboratory in Brasilia based on samples taken from relatives.

After bodies were identified, they were to be released to the families for burial, the statement said.

The Brazilian officials said they were still waiting for records and other information to identify bodies of foreigners.

“The lack of premortem data explains the small number foreigners identified,” they said in the statement.

Brazilian authorities leading the search for bodies and debris have fading hopes of finding any more remains. On Saturday, a sophisticated plane with on-board radar that found the first traces of the downed plane was taken off the operation.

A separate French operation looking for the plane’s black boxes was continuing, with a French military nuclear submarine scouring the crash zone.

It was trying to detect homing beacons that are expected to fade within a week.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


76 Migrants Sent Back to Libya

(ANSAmed) — PALERMO, JUNE 19 — A boat with 76 migrants on board, sighted yesterday 29 miles south of Lampedusa in waters where Malta is responsible for search and rescue operations, has been intercepted by a patrol boat of the Italian Coastguard. According to Maltese military sources, the non-EU citizens on board, including women and children, have been handed over to a Libyan patrol boat and taken back to Tripoli. The boat was spotted yesterday afternoon by a private Maltese aircraft which was flying over the Strait of Sicily. A German military aircraft of the joint Frontex patrol mission in the Mediterranean, stationed at the Maltese airport of Luqa, was also sent to the area. According to the same sources, the immigrants were handed over this morning to a Libyan military unit. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Calais on Riot Alert as Protesters Flood Town in Bid to End Border Controls

Calais was a town under siege yesterday as hundreds of protesters arrived to demand an end to border controls between France and Britain.

Riot police were on alert in the streets after intelligence reports raised fears of widespread violence.

Local authorities banned the sale or possession of any item with the potential to be used as a weapon — including bottles of gas and petrol.

Up to 2,000 police officers are expected to patrol the town.

Protestors — including many from Britain — have pledged to destroy the barbed wire fences and other security measures preventing illegal migrants getting across the Channel to England.

There have also been threats to burn ‘symbols of capitalism’ including local government offices, and even hotels run by prominent global chains.

There are currently some 2,000 migrants living rough in the Calais area, including many in shanty towns next to the ferry port.

A group calling itself ‘No Borders’ It is calling on protestors from all European countries to join them in ‘tearing down borders.’

The group is a mainly Internet based loose network of organisations and individuals in Britain and Europe which advocates freedom of movement and equality for all. T

he network says it operates on ‘an anti-authoritarian basis to struggle in solidarity with migrants to work towards a world without borders, capitalism or the state.’

Speaking of his concerns, local prefect Pierre de Bosquet said no less than 2,000 CRS riot officers would be ‘in the vicinity’ of the town, along with a squadron of mounted officers.

Mr De Bosquet said: ‘As a precaution, I’ve also obtained a prefect’s order allowing for a week-long ban on the sale, transport and carrying of any material which can be used as a weapon, or present a risk to anyone.

‘The sale of petrol and bottles of gas will also specifically be banned.’

Mr De Bosquet said police intelligence had revealed plans for wide scale violence.

‘We’ve intercepted messages from organisers calling on people to turn up with protective clothing but also with tear gas bombs,’ he said.

Last month Natacha Bouchart, the mayor of Calais, said the UK’s lax asylum system and benefits culture had ‘imposed’ thousands of illegal migrants on her town.

In a blistering attack in which she also called for millions in compensation, Mrs Bouchart said the UK was entirely to blame for the those who use the port as a staging point.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


In Cairo President Obama Betrayed Jesus Christ When He Claimed to be a Christian

On Radio Ulster’s ‘Sunday Sequence’ programme on Sunday morning, 7th June 2009, there was an item analysing the speech delivered by President Barack Obama at Cairo University on the previous Thursday, 4th June 2009. What was interesting was that the guests who were interviewed by presenter, William Crawley basically represented Jewish and Palestinian opinion — there was no Christian analytical input into the programme.

As a result the programme focussed very much on the possible political ramifications of the speech for the Middle East area and Israel in particular. I want in this article to look at some of the spiritual ramifications of this speech, particularly as they impact upon the line in the speech when Barack Obama declared, “I am a Christian”.

To do this I’m going to pose some questions, then look at some specific extracts of this speech by Mr Obama, this self-proclaimed “Christian”, comment upon these extracts and show how such comments do represent a betrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ.


Question 2:

Would a true convert to and faithful disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ give credence to any story that reduces Him to the level of a mere ‘prophet among prophets’, elevates a mere creature to a level greatly above Him and in a spiritual context declares non-Christians to be children of Abraham?

Speech extracts [2]:

All of us have a responsibility to work for the day… when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.

Comments [2]:

In this portion of his speech, Mr Obama, supposedly a Christian, has set his seal of approbation and approval upon an incident known fully to Muslims as ‘Isra and Mi’raj’ — an incident also referred to as ‘The Night Journey’.

Sura 17 in the Koran is titled ‘Al Isra’ or ‘The Night Journey’ and it opens with these words ‘Glory be to Him (Allah) who made His servant (Mohammed) go by night from the Sacred Temple (Mecca) to the farther Temple (believed by some Muslim scholars, though not all, to refer to Jerusalem) whose surroundings We have blessed, that We might show him (Mohammed) some of our signs’.

It is clear from what Muslims claim happened that their Jesus is merely ‘a prophet among prophets’ and that in fact Mohammed is the pre-eminent one. In his book ‘The Muslim Christ’ that I have already quoted from, Samuel M Zwemer quotes a Muslim account of this incident. In his pre-amble to the account Mr Zwemer wrote ‘The Transfiguration of Jesus Christ is surpassed by the story of Mohammed’s ascent into heaven, where he had personal communication with all the previous prophets, and leaving Jesus far below in the second heaven, himself mounted to the seventh, where, according to Muslim tradition, he ate and drank with God’.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Jeff Jacoby: Orwell’s Time-Tested Warnings

‘NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR’’ opens with one of the most famous first lines in modern English literature — the vaguely unnerving “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’’ The line it ends with is even more famous, and considerably more sinister: “He loved Big Brother.’’

George Orwell’s brilliant, bitter novel turns 60 this month, but after all these years it has lost none of its nightmarish chill. Its hero is the decidedly unheroic Winston Smith, a weak and wistful man who lives in the totalitarian police state of Oceania, which is ruled by the Party — personified in Big Brother, whose menacing image is everywhere — and in which the Thought Police ruthlessly suppress any hint of dissent. The Party enforces its will through constant surveillance, relentless propaganda, and the annihilation of anyone who rebels against its authority, even if only in private thoughts or conversation. Winston engages in such thought-crimes, first by secretly recording his hatred of Big Brother in a diary, then through a love affair with a young woman called Julia. Eventually he is arrested, interrogated, tortured, broken.

“Nineteen Eighty-Four’’ was Orwell’s warning of what unchecked state power can become…

           — Hat tip: Paul Green[Return to headlines]

SSRI Antidepressants Linked to Male Infertility

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning a few years ago that pregnant women taking the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant paroxetine risk giving birth to infants with major birth defects, including heart abnormalities.

Now comes word that the same drug (sold as Paxil, Paxil CR, Seroxat, Pexeva, and generic paroxetine hydrochloride) carries another danger that could keep babies from being born in the first place. A new study just published in the online edition of the journal Fertility and Sterility concludes as many as fifty percent of all men taking the antidepressant could have damaged sperm and compromised fertility.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Swine Flu Tolls Leaps Past 52,000

The World Health Organisation has reported a huge leap in the swine flu pandemic toll to more than 52,000 people infected and 231 dead.

The toll has risen by more than 7873 cases and 51 deaths since Friday, highlighting the steady spread of the A(H1N1) virus.

Swine flu has now been reported in 100 countries and territories.

And figures yet to be incorporated into the UN health agency’s official figures indicate an even higher toll. The Philippines has reported the first swine flu death in Asia, Iran joined the countries reporting their first cases, while Singapore quarantined a Hong Kong football team.

The United States led a group of countries that have seen dramatic increases in cases of virus, according to the new WHO figures released on Monday.

There were an extra 3594 cases taking the US total to 21,449 with 87 deaths. Mexico was stable with 7600 cases and 113 deaths.

But Chile, which is entering the southern hemisphere winter has also been badly hit with 1190 more cases (4315), including four deadly.

There have been an extra 805 extra cases in Canada (5710), where there have been 13 deaths.

Britain remains the worst-hit country in Europe. It has recorded 754 extra cases taking its total to 2,506, including one death.

In Australia there are 237 extra cases at 2436, with one death, though health officials are still to determine what role swine flu played in the death of the 26-year-old man who suffered from a range of health issues.

In Japan there are 160 more cases at 850. China has an extra 220 cases at 739. China’s health ministry website on Sunday said 414 people had fallen ill with swine flu.

A 49-year-old woman in the Philippines became Asia’s first fatality linked to swine flu, health authorities said.

She had been suffering from heart and liver ailments for some time, and the department said in a statement that her infection with the influenza A (H1N1) virus had worsened her condition.

The woman’s case had gone undetected until a doctor visited her in her home when she was already in critical condition, the department said.

Singapore on Monday quarantined 18 members of the Hong Kong youth football team after three players tested positive for swine flu ahead of the Asian Youth Games.

Thirteen players, three coaches, a physiotherapist and a team official were placed under quarantine at a suburban beach resort, a Games spokeswoman said.

Singapore authorities quarantined 19 members of the Philippine football squad at the weekend after one player tested positive for A(H1N1).

The spread of swine flu was highlighted when Iran’s health ministry reported the country’s first virus case in a 16-year-old boy who had just been to the United States, the the official IRNA news agency said.

The WHO said that its figures could not be considered reliable because some countries were no longer keeping total figures while other poor countries did not have the means to reliably detect cases.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

The Plan for Socialist World Government

These proposals, the document says, include initiatives involving “taxation for global objectives.”

While meaningless United Nations hand-wringing over the North Korean nuclear weapons program garnered the headlines, the world body is moving ahead with a global conference to lay the groundwork for world government financed by global taxes. The communist head of the U.N. General Assembly is leading the effort, but he is getting crucial support from “progressive” economists who advise the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party.

The United Nations Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development, previously scheduled for June 1-3, will now take place on June 24-26.

U.N. General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto is the U.N. point man on these “global governance” issues. We noted his role at the United Nations in a column last October. Now, even the New York Times is paying attention to what this crackpot has been up to.

D’Escoto, the Times said, believes the way out of the global financial crisis “should be lined with all manner of new global institutions, authorities and advisory boards,” including the Global Stimulus Fund, the Global Public Goods Authority, the Global Tax Authority, the Global Financial Products Safety Commission, the Global Financial Regulatory Authority, the Global Competition Authority, the Global Council of Financial and Economic Advisers, the Global Economic Coordination Council, and the World Monetary Board.

D’Escoto is the former foreign minister of Communist Sandinista Nicaragua and Catholic Priest of the Maryknoll Order who advocates Marxist-oriented liberation theology and won the Lenin Peace Prize from the old Soviet Union. D’Escoto also claims a Master’s of Science from Columbia University’s School of Journalism.

The Times interviewed Paul Oquist, D’Escoto’s senior adviser for the conference, who sat beneath portraits of Fidel Castro of Cuba, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, among others.

The problem is that the Times, in its story, “At U.N., a Sandinista’s Plan for Recovery,” didn’t mention until the 13th paragraph that the official U.N. list of “experts” behind the plan include an American economist, Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning professor from Columbia University who supported and contributed to Obama’s presidential campaign and advises Congressional Democrats on economic policy.

Stiglitz, an advocate of nationalizing U.S. banks, is also a member of the Socialist International Commission on Global Financial Issues and his name appears on a separate list of 15 “special advisers” to D’Escoto obtained from the U.N. by Inner City Press. Another name on the list-Noam Chomsky-is on the board of the Communist Party spin-off, the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

WHO: 51 More Swine Flu Deaths as Pandemic Spreads

GENEVA — The World Health Organization says the global tally of deaths from swine flu has increased by 51 to 231.

WHO says most of the latest deaths occurred in the United States.

It says Colombia, Chile and Canada have also reported fatal cases.

WHO says the number of reported cases reached 52,160 on Monday. This is an increase of 7,873 since Friday.

The global body says Algeria, Bangladesh, Brunei, Fiji and Slovenia reported their first cases over the weekend.

Earlier this month, WHO declared swine flu a “moderate” pandemic that would likely continue for 1-2 years.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]