Sunday, August 16, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/16/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/16/2009Wealthy Arab sheikhs from the Persian Gulf are buying up agricultural land in northern Israel. The land was privately owned, and had to be sold due to the financial crisis. A consortium of local farmers failed to raise enough money to keep the property in Israeli hands.

In other news, it cost the British taxpayers £500,000 to provide 500 police officers in an attempt to prevent trouble at yesterday’s annual BNP festival in Derbyshire. Leftist “anti-fascist” demonstrators gathered in hopes of disrupting the BNP event.

Thanks to Amil Imani, C. Cantoni, CB, Gaia, Insubria, JD, Sean O’Brian, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Colonial Bancgroup and Pennsylvania Thrift Shut
Regulators Seize 1 Nevada, 2 Arizona Banks
 
USA
Chicago City Government Closed for Business on Monday
‘Death Panel’ Is Not in the Bill… It Already Exists
Fear for Obama’s Safety Grows as Hate Groups Thrive on Racial Backlash
Obama Seeks to Track Visits to .gov Websites
Obama Could Use Pandemic to Declare Martial Law
White House Appears Ready to Drop ‘Public Option’
Won’t You Come Home Dennis Cardoza? Why Won’t You Come Home? They Cried the Whole Night Long.”
 
Canada
Overhauling Health-Care System Tops Agenda at Annual Meeting of Canada’s Doctors
Passport Row Canadian Back Home
 
Europe and the EU
Italy: Mafia Assets Worth €1.5mln Seized From Ex-Banker
Nuclear Riddle of Missing Ship as Pirates Demand a £1m Ransom
UK: BNP Event Costs Taxpayer £500,000 to Police, As Four Protesters Are Charged Following Clashes With Officers
UK: Four Charged After BNP Festival
UK: Honesty? Sorry, That is Not a Tory Policy
UK: Swine Flu Vaccine Linked to Deadly Nerve Disease?
UK: Secret Files Reveal Prince’s Diplomat Pal ‘Is a KGB Spy’
UK: Swine Flu Jab Link to Killer Nerve Disease: Leaked Letter Reveals Concern of Neurologists Over 25 Deaths in America
Why Must We Bow to the Intolerant Ways of Islam?
 
Balkans
Bosnia: Serbs Protest Against Shots Against Orthodox Church
Serbia: 2 Million Firearms for 10 Million Inhabitants, Press
 
North Africa
Banks: Algeria, Govt Blocks Consumer Credit
Egypt: Infibulation on 11 Year-Old, 1st Charges Brought
Morocco: 2.5 Tonnes of Cannabis Seized
Terrorism: Summit of Chiefs of Staff in Algeria
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Fatah: Qurei Reports Fraud, Women Also Protest
Fatah Change Reopens Israeli Debate on Barghouti
Gaza: Clashes Continue, At Least 5 Killed
Gulf Arab Money ‘Behind Purchases of Israeli Land’
Gulf State Arabs Buy Up Galilee Lands
Islamist Group Leader Blows Himself Up in Mosque as 24 Die in Worst Inter-Palestinian Violence in Two Years
No Soldier Missing, Alarm Over Kidnap Aborted
 
Middle East
EU: MPs Want UN Protection for Iranian Exiles at Iraqi Camp
Iran Bahais Face Espionage Trial
Iran Frees French Teacher on Bail
Jewish Exodus From Yemen
Tehran Denies Violence on Prisoners, Claims They Are Happy
The Islamic Republic of Iran Reality Check
Turkey: Helicopter Procurement Bid to be Finalized in Oct
Urgently Needed Jobs for Arabs
Women ‘To Join Iranian Cabinet’
Yemen: Rebels Clash With Military in North
 
South Asia
Indonesia: Islamic Boarding Schools Wage War on Terror
Orissa: Maximum Alert for the First Anniversary of Anti-Christian Pogrom
Pakistan: No Militant Attacks on Nuclear Sites, Says Army
Row Over Afghan Wife-Starving Law
 
Far East
Stop the Press: Three New Books in North Korea!
 
Australia — Pacific
Pesky Press Annoying You? Now You Can Just Sue Them
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Migrants Increasing in Gulf of Aden Despite Monsoon Season
Mutant Polio Virus Spreads in Nigeria
 
Latin America
Ex-Turks and Caicos PM Accuses UK
 
Immigration
Fewer Seeking Asylum in Sweden
Many Deported Felons Just Sneak Back Across Border
Spain Sees Significant Drop in Illegal Immigrants in 2009
 
Culture Wars
UK: Preacher Threatened With Arrest for Reading Out Extracts From the Bible in Public

Financial Crisis

Colonial Bancgroup and Pennsylvania Thrift Shut

Regulators on Friday shut down Colonial BancGroup Inc., a big lender in real estate development that marked the biggest U.S. bank failure this year, and a small bank in Pennsylvania.

The closures boosted to 74 the number of federally insured banks that have failed in 2009.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was appointed receiver of Montgomery, Ala.-based Colonial, with about $25 billion in assets, and Dwelling House Savings and Loan Association, located in Pittsburgh…

Dwelling House had $13.4 million in assets and $13.8 million in deposits as of March 31. PNC Bank, part of Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group Inc., has agreed to assume all of Dwelling House’s deposits and about $3 million of its assets; the FDIC will retain the rest for eventual sale.

Dwelling House’s lone office in Pittsburgh will reopen Monday as a branch of PNC Bank, the FDIC said…

[Return to headlines]


Regulators Seize 1 Nevada, 2 Arizona Banks

PHOENIX—Two Arizona banks were declared failed institutions on Friday and were taken over by federal or state regulators.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation took over control of Gilbert-based Union Bank, National Association. The FDIC agreed to sell its assets to MidFirst Bank of Oklahoma City. The bank’s only branch will reopen on Monday as a MidFirst branch.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

USA

Chicago City Government Closed for Business on Monday

The City of Chicago will basically be closed for business on Aug. 17, a reduced-service day in which most city employees are off without pay, according to a release from the Office of Budget and Management. City Hall, public libraries, health clinics and most city offices will be closed.

Emergency service providers including police, firefighters and paramedics will be working at full strength, but most services not directly related to public safety, including street sweeping, will not be provided, the release said.

[..]

The 2009 budget anticipates saving $8.3 million due to the reduced-service days.

[Return to headlines]


‘Death Panel’ Is Not in the Bill… It Already Exists

Former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin has come under fire for her Facebook post accusing President Obama and the Democrats of including a “death panel” provision the health care bill. The Associated Press recently ran a ‘Fact Check’ article rebutting Palin’s claim.

AP argues that the bill’s end-of-life counseling provision has been mistaken as a promotion of euthanasia and thus the death panel assertion by Palin and many other conservatives is false and misleading.

The New York Times has joined in the death panel bashing. Jim Rutenburg and Jackie Calmes assert the following:

There is nothing in any of the legislative proposals that would call for the creation of death panels or any other governmental body that would cut off care for the critically ill as a cost-cutting measure.

The AP is technically correct in stating that end-of-life counseling is not the same as a death panel. The New York Times is also correct to point out that the health care bill contains no provision setting up such a panel.

What both outlets fail to point out is that the panel already exists.

H.R. 1 (more commonly known as the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, even more commonly known as the Stimulus Bill and aptly dubbed the Porkulus Bill) contains a whopping $1.1 billion to fund the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research. The Council is the brain child of former Health and Human Services Secretary Nominee Tom Daschle. Before the Porkulus Bill passed, Betsy McCaughey, former Lieutenant governor of New York, wrote in detail about the Council’s purpose.

Daschle’s stated purpose (and therefore President Obama’s purpose) for creating the Council is to empower an unelected bureaucracy to make the hard decisions about health care rationing that elected politicians are politically unable to make. The end result is to slow costly medical advancement and consumption. Daschle argues that Americans ought to be more like Europeans who passively accept “hopeless diagnoses.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Fear for Obama’s Safety Grows as Hate Groups Thrive on Racial Backlash

Violent Signs, Gun, Standoff Latest in Emerging Anger Towards the President

Experts who track hate groups across the U.S. are growing increasingly concerned over violent rhetoric targeted at President Obama, especially as the debate over health care intensifies and a pattern of threats emerges.

The Secret Service is investigating a Maryland man who held a sign reading “Death to Obama” and “Death to Michelle and her two stupid kids” outside a town hall meeting this week. And in New Hampshire, another man stood across the street from a Presidential town hall with his gun on full display.

Los Angeles police officers apprehended a man Thursday after a standoff with him inside a red Volkswagen Bug car in Westwood, CA — the latest disturbing case even though officials said the man had mental problems.

“I don’t think these are simply people who are mentally ill or off their rocker,” Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told ABC News of those behind the threats. “In a very real sense they represent a genuine reaction, a genuine backlash against Obama.”

[Return to headlines]


Obama Seeks to Track Visits to .gov Websites

Planned lifting of ban on ‘cookies’ called ‘1984’-style spying effort

WASHINGTON — The Barack Obama administration has announced plans to lift a government ban on tracking visitors to government websites, and potentially, collect their personal data through the use of “cookies” — an effort some suspect may already be in place on White House sites.

A ban on such tracking by the federal government on Internet users has been in place since 2000, however, the White House Office of Management and Budget now wants to lift the ban citing a “compelling need.”

In fact, according to the Electronic Privacy and Information Center, federal agencies have already negotiated agreements and contracts with social networking sites like Google, YouTube, SlideShare, Facebook, AddThis, Blist, Flickr and VIMEO to collect information on visitors for federal web sites. All of these private companies are known to have agreements with federal agencies, but the public has never seen them.

In public comments submitted to the Office of Management and Budget, EPIC notes it has obtained documents that show federal agencies have negotiated these contracts with the private sector in violation of “existing statutory privacy rights.” Those agencies include: Department of Defense, Department of the Treasury, and the National Security Agency.

There are suspicions the White House is already involved.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Obama Could Use Pandemic to Declare Martial Law

Georgia Congressman Paul Broun warned attendees of a town hall event Tuesday that the Obama administration was planning to use a pandemic or a natural disaster to implement martial law in the United States.

Speaking at the North Georgia Technical College auditorium, Broun said that the “socialistic elite,” as well as Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, were planning to exploit a crisis to create a favorable climate for their stalling political agenda.

“They’re trying to develop an environment where they can take over,” he said. “We’ve seen that historically.”

Broun’s warning arrives on the back of a letter sent by The National Governors Association to the Pentagon last week, which condemns the military’s plans to usurp domestic control of National Guard and federal forces deployed in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

[Return to headlines]


White House Appears Ready to Drop ‘Public Option’

[…]

The White House indicated it could jettison the contentious public option and settle on insurance cooperatives as an acceptable alternative, a move embraced by some Republicans lawmakers who have strongly opposed the administration’s approach so far.

[…]

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the White House would be open to co-ops instead of a government-run public option, a sign Democrats want a compromise so they can declare a victory on the must-win showdown…

[Return to headlines]


Won’t You Come Home Dennis Cardoza? Why Won’t You Come Home? They Cried the Whole Night Long.”

From The Merced County (CA) Times

Normally this is the one time of the year that we can expect to hear from our Congressman. Traditionally there are Town Hall meetings to give the constituents a one on one with their Congress in discussion of the various topics being debated on Capitol Hill.

Our Congressman Dennis Cardoza says there will be no Town Hall meetings. He is not expected to return to Merced County over the summer recess…

[Return to headlines]

Canada

Overhauling Health-Care System Tops Agenda at Annual Meeting of Canada’s Doctors

SASKATOON — The incoming president of the Canadian Medical Association says this country’s health-care system is sick and doctors need to develop a plan to cure it.

Dr. Anne Doig says patients are getting less than optimal care and she adds that physicians from across the country — who will gather in Saskatoon on Sunday for their annual meeting — recognize that changes must be made.

“We all agree that the system is imploding, we all agree that things are more precarious than perhaps Canadians realize,” Doing said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“We know that there must be change,” she said. “We’re all running flat out, we’re all just trying to stay ahead of the immediate day-to-day demands.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Passport Row Canadian Back Home

A Canadian woman, stranded in Kenya for three months because officials said she did not resemble her passport photo, has arrived home in Toronto.

Suaad Mohamud was prevented in May from returning from a two-week holiday.

Canadian consular officials accused her of being an imposter, voided her passport and asked Kenyan officials to prosecute her.

The results of a DNA test finally proved her identity, clearing the way for her return to Canada.

Family members and a throng of reporters were waiting for Suaad Hagi Mohamud as she arrived back in Canada.

The lawyer for the the 31-year-old Somalian-born Canadian woman said that she intended to sue the governments of Canada and Kenya for their alleged roles in her detention.

Ms Mohamud’s ordeal began in May when she tried to leave Kenya after visiting her mother there.

Kenyan officials said that her face did not match her passport photo.

Canadian consular staff in Nairobi maintained that she was not who she claimed to be, even when Ms Mohamud handed over several other forms of identification.

It was not until a DNA test confirmed her identity on Monday that Canadian officials prepared emergency travel documents so that she could return to Toronto.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised a review of the case.

But opposition politicians and other critics say Suaad Mohamad’s case raises serious questions about the willingness of Canadian officials to protect their citizens who get into difficulties abroad.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Italy: Mafia Assets Worth €1.5mln Seized From Ex-Banker

Palermo, 14 August (AKI) — Anti-mafia police on Friday seized assets worth 1.5 million euros from a former banker in the Sicilian capital Palermo. Giovanni Gentile, who was sentenced to six years’ in jail for mafia association in 2007, was the target of a fresh investigation after he was found to be making large investments incompatible with the modest income he declared to authorities.

Police seized assets including land in the Palermo suburb of Castronovo di Sicilia, several properties in Palermo and in the southeastern Sicilian cities of Canicatti and Palma di Montechiaro, as well as current and savings accounts.

Anti-Mafia prosecutors ordered the assets to be seized from 59-year-old Gentile after following his financial transactions and investments for a number of years.

During their probe of Gentile, investigators said they uncovered close links between the mafia, businessmen, and politicians in a bid to obtaining public funding and control of public works contracts.

“Gentile was well inserted in the criminal activities of Castronovo di Sicilia and had strong ties to organised crime in Canicatti,” investigators said.

Gentile was given a three-year special surveillance order which bans him from leaving his home area in February this year.

The Italian government has vowed to defeat the mafia and this year police have arrested over 100 suspects, including mafia bosses, and seized tens of millions of euros in alleged mafia assets.

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


Nuclear Riddle of Missing Ship as Pirates Demand a £1m Ransom

The ransom demand came as The Mail on Sunday established radiation tests were carried out at the port of Pietarsaari in western Finland, where the Maltese-flagged ship Arctic Sea started its voyage.

The Turkish-built vessel, which was carrying £900,000 worth of timber, is feared to have been stormed by pirates looking for a ‘secret cargo’.

The fact that nuclear tests were conducted will fuel speculation that the ship did have a hidden cargo.

Enquiries by this newspaper have established that no checks were carried out on what was being transported in the hold prior to its departure from Finland on July 23.

And the FSB, the Russian security service, as well as MI5 have been involved in the investigation into the hijacked vessel.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: BNP Event Costs Taxpayer £500,000 to Police, As Four Protesters Are Charged Following Clashes With Officers

A large-scale operation to police the BNP’s annual Red, White and Blue Festival operation cost taxpayers £500,000 it emerged today, as 1,500 anti-fascist demonstrators protested at the event.

A total of 19 people were arrested following clashes with police at the controversial event on Saturday, with four of them charged today.

Three of them are accused of public order offences and one for obstructing the highway.

Police drafted in 500 officers to oversee the event, in its tenth year, in Codnor, Derbyshiire, and watched protesters using a camera mounted on a remote-controlled drone.

Despite coming under brief attack from a number of anti-Nazi protesters yesterday, a force spokesman said most people had been peaceful and cop-operative.

Doing little to dispel the image of a racist party, which the BNP denies, organisers had a man dress as Barack Obama and locked him in the stocks for people to hurl wet sponges at.

Protestor James McCord, 19 , from, Glasgow, said : ‘We’re here to tell the BNP that their policies are unacceptable and to make our opposition to them loud and clear.

‘As far as we are concerned they are neo-Nazis who are committed to stirring up hatred and division.’

Enlarge In the stocks: A man dressed as U.S. president Barack Obama is pelted with a wet sponge at the BNP’s Red, White and Blue festival today

Yesterday police said there were fewer arrests than last year and they were for ‘sporadic behaviour’. Marchers had chanted ‘Nazi scum off our streets’.

BNP deputy leader Simon Darby accused the protesters of causing trouble deliberately so the BNP would be blamed.

He said: ‘Local people wouldn’t even know we were here if they didn’t protest. We are just ordinary people having a bit of a laugh in the sun.’

On Friday an open letter was published on Unite Against Fascism’s website, condemning the event.

The letter, whose signatories include former London mayor Ken Livingstone, children’s author Michael Rosen and trade union leaders, said the event’s purpose was to ‘build up a hardened neo-Nazi core at the centre of the organisation’.

It said: ‘We condemn the BNP and its festival of race hate, and we urge people to reject this party’s poisonous and anti-democratic agenda.’

Enlarge Rivers of blood: A BNP member shows his support for Enoch Powell

This year is not the first time the festival has attracted opposition. Last year about 30 anti-BNP protesters were arrested after clashes with police.

Derbyshire Police have planned a ‘significant policing operation’ throughout the three-day event, including restrictions on the planned protests.

Yesterday a American white supremacist was stopped from entering the country to attend the Red, White and Blue Festival.

Preston Wiginton, a close associate of BNP leader Nick Griffin, was turned away at Heathrow because officials believed his presence would stir up racial tension.

There were suggestions he would be speaking at the event, but the BNP denied these rumours.

A UK Border Agency spokesman said Mr Wiginton, 44, was sent back to New York from Heathrow airport on Thursday.

Enlarge Anger: A protester waves a placard

The BNP’s deputy leader Simon Darby said of Mr Wiginton: ‘He came to last year’s Red, White and Blue and was coming to this year’s but they wouldn’t let him in for some reason. He wasn’t coming to speak.’

Mr Wiginton, a freshman student at Texas A & M university, wrote an essay in 2006 which described non-white immigration as ‘an abnormal growth that is threatening the life of American culture and the life of American people’.

He said: ‘If action is taken, and time is of the essence, this cancer can be eradicated.’

If not, he added, ‘the death of the American way of life, identity and sovereignty is certain.’

He is rumoured to spend half of the year living in a flat in Moscow that he sublets from a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke.

In October 2007 he organised and paid for Nick Griffin to speak at three American universities to coincide with Islam Awareness Week.

As well as financing the trip he also appealed to members of Nazi internet forums to donate money to the BNP.

Later that year he organised a march in the Russian capital at which leading Nazis addressed a crowd of fascists shouting ‘death to Jews’ and ‘glory to Russia.’

He also spearheaded the support for Griffin during his trial for inciting racial hatred in 2006, and set up an online petition urging the British Government to drop the prosecution.

He regularly posts anti-Semitic messages on the neo-Nazi website Stormfront.

One reads: ‘And the Jew — how many nations and economies have they destroyed — yes they were doing this in many centuries ago as well. The Jew has infested every nation — there is no where else to go.’

Nick Lowles, editor of anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, said the decision to ban him was ‘great news’.

He added: ‘He is one of the world’s most extreme racists — this shows what the BNP are really like.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


UK: Four Charged After BNP Festival

Four people have been charged after a protest by about 1,500 people against the BNP’s 10th annual Red, White and Blue festival in Derbyshire.

Three were charged with public order offences and a fourth with unlawfully obstructing the highway.

Derbyshire Police said most of those taking part in Saturday’s protest had been co-operative.

Officers made a total of 19 arrests for “sporadic behaviour” — fewer than last year.

Court dates for those charged have yet to be fixed.

Aerial camera

The police operation cost around £500,000 and involved more than 500 officers.

A spokeswoman said 18 of those arrested were men and the ages ranged from 21 to 49.

The protesters were watched by an aerial camera mounted on a remote-controlled drone.

Demonstrators from United Against Fascism joined forces with the TUC and Amber Valley Campaign against Racism.

Most demonstrators gathered in Codnor’s Market Place, chanting, “Nazi scum, off our streets” and waving placards.

BNP deputy leader Simon Darby said: “Local people wouldn’t even know we were here if they didn’t protest.

“We are just ordinary people having a bit of a laugh in the sun.”

At last year’s BNP event more than 30 protesters were arrested, although no-one was charged with an offence.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


UK: Honesty? Sorry, That is Not a Tory Policy

The worst thing a modern politician can do is to say what he really thinks. Tory MP Alan Duncan really thinks he couldn’t live on £64,000 a year, which he couldn’t, at least in the style to which he has become accustomed. Tory MEP Daniel Hannan thinks the NHS is a lumbering and inefficient State bureaucracy, which it is.

Both of these views are pretty common in the Tory Party, but they can’t be said out loud because the Tories are trying so very hard to be elected on a false prospectus.

The sad thing is that Daniel Hannan is in much more trouble with David Cameron than Alan Duncan.

Why? Because Mr Cameron has genuinely decided that the Tories must now bow the knee to the sacred NHS, however bad they know it is, in their frantic struggle to claw votes from the Liberal Democrats, and persuade Labour supporters to stay at home on polling day.

Labour may claim that there is a secret Tory agenda to privatise it, but actually there’s no such thing. I happen to think that we make too much of a fetish about health care, here and in America, because we’re all anxious to keep death at a distance and pretend it doesn’t exist.

I’ve used both the NHS and the American system. Both have advantages, both have drawbacks. I’ve often defended the NHS against ignorant bashing in the US, and defended the US system against ignorant bashing here. The truth is that doctors can patch us up if we injure ourselves, cure a rather limited number of diseases with pills or surgery, and comfort us if we feel rotten — but most of our ills are caused by the way we live, and many are the inevitable results of age.

Politics has no answer to this. That’s why Mr Duncan’s blurted honesty is much more politically significant than Mr Hannan’s.

So is the fact that he wasn’t instantly sacked. Mr Duncan, a keen supporter of the sexual and cultural revolution, is one of the Cameron inner circle. Like Mr Cameron himself — who makes greedy claims for a huge country house he could have paid for himself — he’s been let off.

Mr Hannan, by contrast, is quite principled and really ought to know better than to belong to the Tories at all.

He should realise that his future with them is now very dim, and quit. I really do hope voters get the correct message from all this.

The rich rewards still given to politicians are their pay-off for betraying the public. Those in all parties who are useful to the liberal elite, especially Tories, will continue to benefit. Don’t like it? Don’t vote for them. I never do.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


UK: Swine Flu Vaccine Linked to Deadly Nerve Disease?

Leaked letters raise fears of repeat of ‘1976 debacle’

Two letters from the U.K.’s Health Protection Agency to top neurologists, sent on the eve of a massive vaccination program against the H1N1, or swine flu, virus and leaked to a British newspaper, warn doctors to watch for an increase in cases of a fatal brain disorder which could be triggered by the vaccine.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome attacks the lining of the nerves, causing paralysis and inability to breathe, and can be fatal, London’s Mail on Sunday reported.

The first round of immunizations is scheduled for October and is set to treat 13 million pople, giving priority to “everyone aged six months to 65 with an underlying health problem, pregnant women and health professionals.”

Already, concerns have been raised over insufficient testing and lack of knowledge about the new vaccine’s effect on children.

The HPA letters, sent to 600 neurologists, cite the use of a similar swine flu vaccine in the U.S. in 1976 that caused more fatalities than the influenza.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Secret Files Reveal Prince’s Diplomat Pal ‘Is a KGB Spy’

A high-profile foreign ambassador could be expelled from Britain after it was revealed that top secret intelligence files suggest he is a KGB spy.

Kairat Abusseitov, Kazakhstan’s attache to London, is already at the centre of cash-for-lobbying claims surrounding Prince Andrew and multi-million-pound oil deals in the former Soviet republic.

Now evidence passed to The Mail on Sunday suggests he has been a KGB agent for 20 years.

[…]

The revelation is the latest controversy to hit Britain’s relations with Kazakhstan and the role of Prince Andrew, the Foreign Office’s Special Representative for International Trade and Investment.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Swine Flu Jab Link to Killer Nerve Disease: Leaked Letter Reveals Concern of Neurologists Over 25 Deaths in America

[…]

The letter from the Health Protection Agency, the official body that oversees public health, has been leaked to The Mail on Sunday, leading to demands to know why the information has not been given to the public before the vaccination of millions of people, including children, begins.

It tells the neurologists that they must be alert for an increase in a brain disorder called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), which could be triggered by the vaccine. GBS attacks the lining of the nerves, causing paralysis and inability to breathe, and can be fatal.

The letter, sent to about 600 neurologists on July 29, is the first sign that there is concern at the highest levels that the vaccine itself could cause serious complications…

[Return to headlines]


Why Must We Bow to the Intolerant Ways of Islam?

Jim Fitzpatrick MP and his wife were quite right to leave a wedding because it was segregated by sex, says Alasdair Palmer.

When Jim Fitzpatrick MP and his wife decided to leave a Muslim wedding party after they discovered it was segregated by sex, he did not anticipate the controversy his decision would generate. “It reflects badly on him,” said Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the former head of the Muslim Council of Britain. “It shows a lack of interest… to engage with people of different backgrounds.” Tim Archer, the Tory who is standing against the minister of state at the next election, commented that “Fitzpatrick is playing a certain race card to save his skin at the next election”.

All this because Mr Fitzpatrick did not want to imply that he endorsed sexual segregation by remaining at the party. Yet what can possibly be wrong with an MP, or anyone else, withdrawing from a celebration whose organisation suggests that women are not equal to men?

Some people claim that segregating the sexes is a matter of personal choice, like choosing between flavours of ice-cream. It has no implications in terms of your view of the equality of the sexes, any more than wearing the niqab or the hijab — the Islamic garments that cover women from head to toe — implies that you think women are inferior.

The Muslims who feel most strongly about sexual segregation, or about the importance of ensuring that women dress “modestly”, see those customs as ordered by God. They are profoundly offended by the idea that they reflect merely human choices. That is why there is a vocal strain of Islam in Britain that insists that Muslims should be governed, not by British law, but by sharia.

Islamic law does not, of course, accept that men and women have equal rights. Sharia courts in Britain have already judged that a man may have up to four wives at any one time; that a wife has no property rights in the event of divorce; that a woman may not leave her home without her husband’s consent; and that a woman cannot marry without the presence and permission of a male guardian.

In 2004, in response to pressure from some of its Muslim leaders, the Canadian province of Ontario planned to impose legally binding arbitration on Muslims according to sharia. The most vigorous protests came from Muslim women, who insisted that the main reason they had emigrated to Canada was to get away from it. Their arguments prevailed over those who claimed that sharia was merely “a choice” which should be allowed in any “multicultural society”.

There are other conflicts with the liberal tradition. A fundamental part of Islamic law is that someone who converts to another religion should be executed. In Islamic states, the death penalty for apostasy is on the statute books; even in Britain, very few spokesmen for the Muslim community will condemn such laws as wrong.

So it is a mistake to pretend that there is no conflict between principles that are supposed to animate British society — freedom of religion, equality of the sexes, and the primacy of secular law made by democratic representatives — and fundamentalist interpretations of Islam. But much official policy seems to be based on the hope that such a conflict is illusory, and will simply evaporate if we pretend it is not there.

For example, polygamy is illegal under British law. But while condemning it in theory, the Government endorses it in practice: each woman in such a relationship is entitled to the same benefits as the wife in a monogamous married couple.

Mr Fitzpatrick warns that segregation is a recent development, one which reflects the increasing influence of more fundamentalist strains of Islam. Perhaps it is time for the Government to consider a more vigorous stance in defence of Britain’s fundamental values, rather than continuing to pretend the issue has no more significance than the conflict between those who like chocolate ice-cream, and those who prefer hazelnut.

[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Bosnia: Serbs Protest Against Shots Against Orthodox Church

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, AUGUST 14 — Serbs living in Sarajevo and political representatives of the Republika Srpska have today condemned an incident in which several shots were fired against the orthodox church of Reljevo, near Sarajevo. This is the fifth attack of its kind against the orthodox church this year. “The shots against the church were the consequence of long-standing political tensions and hostility towards the Serbs of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Momcilo Novakovic, an independent MP at the Republika Srpska parliament, told the Tanjug press agency. Sarajevo police have arrested a 20-year-old man who confessed to firing the shots late on Tuesday night. Representatives from the Serb community have pointed out how other similar attacks have been reported recently against orthodox churches in Popalic, Tuzla and Petrovac. After the end of the war in 1995, Bosnia and Herzegovina was divided into two parts (as set out in the Dayton agreement), the Republika Srpska and the Croat-Muslim Federation. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Serbia: 2 Million Firearms for 10 Million Inhabitants, Press

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, AUGUST 14 — In Serbia, with a population of just over 10 million there are 2 million firearms held by private individuals, of which 1.1 million are legally registered while the other 900,000 are owned illegally reports Serbian daily Politika. “The annual increase in the number of weapons owned by private individuals is confirmed by police data, according to which, about 15,000 firearms are registered in Serbia each year,” wrote the Belgrade newspaper. Any adult that takes the necessary training course, as long as they have not been convicted for any weapons violations and are not under investigation, can obtain a firearms permit for personal defence purposes. According to data reported in Politika, about 1,800 firearms were seized from private citizens last year. The Serbian penal code carries a three-year prison sentence for the illegal possession of firearms. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Banks: Algeria, Govt Blocks Consumer Credit

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, AUGUST 12- An amendment to the financial bill that “authorises the banks to grant loans to private individuals only for mortgages” is the centre of controversy in Algeria. All other types of consumer credit including loans for cars, computers, heating and cooling systems, home appliances, and other products has been prohibited. According to the government, the new regulation will slow continuously increasing imports over the next two years and will be an incentive for domestic production. A decision, underlined economist Abderrahmane Mebtoul, cited by Le Maghreb, “that will mainly affect the middle class” and “will encourage black market loans with much higher interest rates”. In just a few days the price of used automobiles jumped by 20%, while sales at dealerships have been plummeting. The economic daily stated that almost no one in Algeria can afford a new car without some sort of credit. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Egypt: Infibulation on 11 Year-Old, 1st Charges Brought

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 14 — An Egyptian man has been charged with practicing female circumcision on an 11 year-old girl, reports the website of TV station Al Arabiya today. Ahmed Gad al-Karim, 69 year-old, is the first person to be tried for this type of procedure since an Egyptian law came into effect which treats all types of female genital mutilation as a crime. The law, which was passed in 2008, was fiercely criticised by the Islamic Brotherhood and by supporters of the Egyptian parliament, who maintained that they supported the practice as “conforming to Sharia law (Islamic law) and protecting the chastity of women”. However, the Islamic Institution responsible for religious opinion (Dar al-Iftaa) responded by saying that female genital mutilation is not part of the Islamic culture. Ahmed Gad al-Karim is accused of practicing infibulation after requests by the girl’s family. He was paid USD 27, according to investigators, for performing the operation, and used a standard scalpel during the operation. The girl was admitted to the local hospital in Minya, 600 km south of Cairo immediately afterwards, fighting for her life. “The Government must protect Egyptian women so that they can grow up in a healthy environment” said Cairo’s Public Prosecutor. “Despite the Egyptian law against female genital mutilation, many women all over Egypt still undergo this kind of operation”. Female genital mutilation in all its forms, including the most serious, like infibulation, is practiced in Egypt and in the other 27 African nations, both by Muslims and Christians, and contrary to popular belief it has no religious basis. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Morocco: 2.5 Tonnes of Cannabis Seized

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 14 — Moroccan police have seized 2.5 tonnes of cannabis founf inside two vehicles en route to Spain, according to Middle East Online. The first vehicle was property of a French citizen, while the second was the property of a Moroccan citizen resident in Belgium. Both of the vehicles were headed to the Spanish city of Algeciras. Morocco is one of the largest hashish producers, last year police seized 110 tonnes. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Terrorism: Summit of Chiefs of Staff in Algeria

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, AUGUST 12 — The chiefs of staff of Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger are gathering today and tomorrow in the southern part of the country, in Tamanrasset, to coordinate the fight against crime and terrorism. A military summit, reports a statement from the Algerian Defence Ministry, which will allow for the “consolidation of cooperation for the common struggle against the criminality that reigns near the border and terrorism”. In recent months, action from terrorist groups affiliated with al Qaeda for the Islamic Maghreb has increased in the Saharan region between Algeria, Mali, Niger and Mauritania. On August 8 a kamikaze blew himself up near the French embassy in Nouakhott, wounding two French security agents. A month and a half ago, again in the capital of Mauritania, an American, Christopher Legget, was assassinated. Responsibility for the attacks was claimed by the North African wing of al Qaeda. Terrorist activity has made the situation in the area more critical in addition to the limitless trafficking in humans, weapons and drugs. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Fatah: Qurei Reports Fraud, Women Also Protest

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM — Former Palestinian premier, Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) has said that he was the victim of electoral fraud during the election of Fatah’s Central Committee. Ahmed Qurei is one of the major defeats in the election. It is understood that he will appeal not only against the results of the vote but also against the way in which voting was carried out. The former premier stated that “external elements” had influenced the results of the vote and that the three former leaders of the Palestinian security forces, Mohammed Dahlan, Jibril Rajub and Tawfik Tirawi, who were elected to the Central Committee, had “coordinated with the occupying power (Israel).” Ahmed Qurei, who led the Palestinian delegation in the peace negotiations with the previous Israeli government until a few months ago, also said that he “no longer believes in a solution to the conflict with Israel based on the two-state solution.” Meanwhile Fatah female activists, according to daily newspaper Yedioth Aharonoth, have denounced the fact that no woman was elected to the Central Committee, even though one women is set to be co-opted. “Ours is a society,” they said, “that is behind the times and sexist.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Fatah Change Reopens Israeli Debate on Barghouti

(by Alessandro Logroscino) (ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM — A convict destined to life in prison or necessary interlocutor in a future peace agreement? The recent renewal in the ranks of Al-Fatah, the historic party for the Palestinian cause, and the triumphant election to the Central Committee (CC) of Marwan Barghouti, symbol of the second Intifada, detained in prison in Israel since 2002, reopened today the debate in Israel on the prospect of a possible, unprecedented release. It is a debate that has torn through the government in Jerusalem, including the opposition, even if for the moment it has apparently remained confined to the likes of a political talk show. Re-proposing the issue, which in reality isn’t so new, was Benyamin Ben Eliezer, Minister of Transport and member of the Labour wing that currently sits in the heart of the majority’s cabinet of right-wing Premier, Benyamin Netanyahu: an ex-general used to power. According to Ben Eliezer the results of the Fatah Congress in Bethlehem, certified today by the confirmation of a new Central Committee in which the moderate president of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen), will be surrounded by emerging leaders in their fifties inside which Barghouti remains the most popular, must be reflected upon. Better still a decision must be made: “Free Barghouti immediately and place him at the negotiation table, because there is no one else able to make the difficult decisions”. Interviewed on public radio, the Transport Minister did not speak on the accusations against Barghouti and his 5 life sentences in Israel, accusations that place him behind terrorist attacks that cost the lives of numerous civilians during the “Second Intifada” to which he claims innocence. The minister rather spoke on the political reality of the situation. “Peace”, he said, “is not created with beautiful souls, but with leaders who are able to impose their authority on all the different factions”, a characteristic which makes giving Barghouti a try worth it. It is an opinion openly shared by Avishai Braverman, his colleague in the government and member of the same party, but not by others. From the Prime Minister’s staff, anonymous sources limited themselves to specifying that at the moment, freeing Barghouti “is not in consideration”. The first public reactions from members of Netanyahu’s party (Likud, right-wing) appear irate, according to whom the Fatah congress will change nothing and, if it is not possible to make a real agreement with Abbas because “he is too weak”, with Barghouti and the fifty years old, it would not be possible because they are not trustworthy. “Freeing a murderer will not bring peace”, Limor Livnat, Minister of Culture and a figure close to the Premier, cut short. Scepticism was also displayed by Tzipi Livni, leader of the centrist opposition of Kadima. After being very hard on Netanyahu in recent months over his hesitation on the peace process and the relationship with the Obama Administration in the US, Livni remains cold on the Barghouti issue: the election in Bethlehem, she commented, “is not a sufficient enough reason to free him”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Gaza: Clashes Continue, At Least 5 Killed

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, AUGUST 14 — Clashes still underway in Rafah (the southern part of the Gaza Strip) between Hamas police and militants from an ultra-radical group with Al Qaeda leanings have killed five people and injured several others, as Palestinian medical sources in the area reported. The ultra-radical militants, from the Jund Ansar Allah group, barricaded themselves in the mosque after a sermon by their leader, Abdel-Latif Mussa, and initial shooting. Hamas police have given the insurgents an ultimatum, but other armed individuals have been seen arriving and a number of explosions have also been heard. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Gulf Arab Money ‘Behind Purchases of Israeli Land’

Vast tracts of Israeli agricultural land in north Israel’s Galilee area have been bought up by Arabs with financial backing from the Gulf, Israeli public radio reported on Saturday.

It said dozens of hectares (acres) have been bought and that a local farmers’ association had tried in vain to warn the Israeli authorities about the sale.

The radio station quoted Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon as saying the affair was not a matter for his department since “it concerns private land.”…

[Return to headlines]


Gulf State Arabs Buy Up Galilee Lands

(IsraelNN.com) Wealthy foreign Arabs have bought up hundreds of dunams of land in the Galilee, according to a report broadcast Saturday on Voice of Israel government radio. The land, which was owned privately and which was zoned for agricultural use, was sold due to economic hardship.

The buyers were wealthy citizens of Arab states in the Persian Gulf that do not have any diplomatic relations with the State of Israel.

Groups of Galilee Jewish farmers who tried to organize a counter-offer failed to raise enough money to purchase the land from its owners.

Agriculture Minister Shalom Simchon said he had no legal authority to intervene in the matter. The Israel Lands Authority, which owns most of the land in Israel, told the radio station it could not stop a transaction involving privately-owned land.

The Knesset last month passed a bill that mandates the sale of 400,000 dunams of the Land of Israel by 2014, the equivalent of 400 square kilometers, or 155 square miles (nearly 99,000 acres). The law allows another 400,000 dunams to be sold after 2014.

Kadima Knesset Member Nachman Shai slammed the same in a news release, saying “Israeli lands are being sold to the highest bidder,” just as expected and feared during the vote on land reform.

“The Israel Land Authorities reform is a loophole calling out to the robber, and it will attract, as expected, Arab investors from abroad, who will eventually gain control over significant pieces of land in Israel,” Shai said.

Meretz head Chaim Oron also pointed to the sale as proof that the land reform bill had been “misguided.”

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Islamist Group Leader Blows Himself Up in Mosque as 24 Die in Worst Inter-Palestinian Violence in Two Years

The leader of a radical Islamist group blew himself up today during a shootout with Hamas security forces on the Gaza strip.

The death of Abdel-Latif Moussa ended hours of violence sparked by a rebellious sermon at a mosque in the southern town of Rafah near the Egyptian border.

At least 24 people were killed, among them three children, in what has been called the worst inter-Palestinian violence in two years, which broke out late yesterday.

Hamas forces surrounded the mosque containing about 100 members of the Jund Ansar Allah fundamentalist group after a sermon given by Moussa in which he called for Gaza to be ruled by strict sharia law.

Moussa detonated the explosive vest he had been wearing in the early hours of this morning, along with an aide named Khaled Banat after killing a negotiator, said Ihab Ghussein, a Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman.

‘The so-called Moussa has committed suicide … killing a mediator who had been sent to him to persuade him and his followers to hand themselves over to the government,’ he said.

Hamas government spokesman Taher al-Nono said: ‘We hold Jund Ansar Allah and Moussa responsible for what happened because of his rash declaration of an emirate.’

Hamas also confirmed the death of one of its high-level commanders, Abu Jibril Shimali, who Israel says orchestrated the capture three years ago of Sergeant Gilad Schalit, an Israeli soldier who continues to be held by Hamas.

Today, the Jund Ansar Allah website vowed revenge: ‘We swear to God to avenge the martyrs’ blood and we will turn their women into widows,’ it read.

Dr Moaiya Hassanain of the Palestinian Health Ministry said that six Hamas police officers were among those killed in the fighting, which also wounded 150.

Residents in the town of Rafah, still sealed off to the media by Hamas forces, described a night of terrifying violence.

Hamas has ruled Gaza since routing the forces of Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.

The Jund Ansar Allah group first made their presence known with a border raid against an Israeli base in June when some of its fighters rode into battle on horseback. Three were killed.

Ghussein said the group was behind bombings of Internet cafes and of a wedding party.

The United States and European Union have condemned Hamas, which won the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary election, for its refusal to end violence and accept Israel’s existence.

Western powers are also calling on Israel to ease the blockade and have been urging Hamas to meet conditions to engage in peace talks.

Israel unilaterally ended its occupation of the Gaza Strip in 2005 and withdrew its forces and settlers. However, it retains control of Gaza’s borders, in cooperation with Egypt.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


No Soldier Missing, Alarm Over Kidnap Aborted

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, AUGUST 14 — A declaration of ‘all clear’ was announced late last night. The confirmation that no soldier is missing has alleviated fears of another kidnapping in the ranks of the Israeli army that were triggered yesterday afternoon by a declaration and subsequent claim of responsibility attributed to a self-styled Palestinian group. A military spokesman announced that, after a headcount, no Israeli soldier was found to be missing. Meanwhile the security forces (which set up a tight network of roadblocks and carried out searches with two helicopters) were recalled to normal “routine activity.” The alarm was triggered by a female soldier who said that she had seen two civilians loading a fellow soldier into a car near the entrance of the military base not far from the international airport of Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv. Subsequently the Palestinian MAAN press agency received a communication (which has since proved to be false), signed by an unknown group ( The Al Quds Army’, which in Arabic means Jerusalem), in which the group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier and which implied that he was now on Palestinian turf. This sparked an extensive search operation in the centre of Israel and on the border of the West Bank which lasted for several hours with heavy repercussions on traffic on the major roads in the country. This continued until the progressive demobilisation of roadblocks and the final ‘all clear’. The rumours about the alleged kidnapping brought back memories of Ghilad Shalit, the young corporal captured on the Gaza Strip border in 2006 who has been in the hands of the Radical Islamist Hamas for three years. His destiny remains at the forefront of negotiations between Israel and the fundamentalists for a potential release of prisoners mediated by Egypt. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

EU: MPs Want UN Protection for Iranian Exiles at Iraqi Camp

Brussels, 14 August (AKI) — A group of European MPs on Friday urged the United Nations to send a permanent mission to a refugee camp in northern Iraq, where Iranian exiles are alleged to have been violently attacked at the end of July. Residents at Camp Ashraf near the Iranian border claim at least nine residents were killed and another 450 injured when Iraqi security forces attacked the facility on 28 July and 29 July.

Friends of a Free Iran in the European Parliament held a media conference on Friday to appeal for UN protection for the 3,500 members of the People’s Mujahideen Organization of Iran (PMOI) who live there.

The Iranian opposition group has been in Iraq since 1986.

The organisation has claimed another 36 people at the camp which is 60 kilometres north of Baghdad were detained by Iraqi security forces and the MPs accused Baghdad of a “worrying” complicity in the move.

The MPs expressed their solidarity with the people of Ashraf and all the other Iranians around the world that have been conducting a hunger strike in a bid to raise awareness and pressure UN secretary-general to provide UN protection at the camp.

Amnesty International said the 36 Iranian residents believed to have been detained by authorities were at risk of being forcibly returned to Iran.

Amnesty said the detainees were taken to a police station inside the camp and reported to have been beaten and tortured before being transferred to the town of al-Khalis, 25 kilometres to the south, with no access to lawyers or medical care.

“Amnesty International has urged the authorities not to forcibly return any Camp Ashraf resident or other Iranians to Iran, where they would be at risk of torture and other serious human rights violations,” it said in a statement released this week.

“The organisation has called upon the Iraqi authorities to investigate all allegations of torture and beatings and to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Early this week human rights lawyers in Washington urged the Pentagon to take control of the camp and prevent further attacks and rights violations.

They claim that the Obama administration has largely ignored the issue and consider it a sovereign Iraqi matter.

But a Pentagon spokesman said the US defense department had no jurisdiction to assume control of the camp under the new bilateral security agreement that Washington reached with Baghdad in late 2008.

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


Iran Bahais Face Espionage Trial

Seven members of the Bahai faith in Iran are to go on trial on Tuesday on charges of spying for Israel and of “insulting sanctities”.

Six of the Bahais were arrested in May, 2008. The other one was arrested two months earlier. They were the leaders of the Bahais in Iran.

The Bahai faith is banned by the Islamic revolutionary leadership of Iran which considers it heretical.

Bahais claim some 300,000 members in Iran, where the faith originated.

Midnight raids

“The trial of the seven Bahais accused of spying for the Zionist regime of Israel and insulting sanctities will be held on Tuesday,” Hassan Haddad of the Tehran’s prosecutor office said, the official Iranian news agency reports.

Last year relatives of the six Bahai leaders arrested in May said they had been taken to Evin Prison in Tehran after intelligence ministry officers raided their homes in the middle of the night.

Hundreds of Bahai followers have been jailed and executed since Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979, the Bahai International Community says.

However, the government denies it has detained or executed people because of their faith.

The Bahais consider the man who founded their faith in the 19th Century, Bahaullah, to be a prophet.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Iran Frees French Teacher on Bail

Iran has freed on bail a 24-year-old French university lecturer who was charged with spying after last month’s presidential election.

A statement from the French presidency said Clotilde Reiss was in good health and would stay at the French embassy in Tehran awaiting a verdict in her trial.

President Nicolas Sarkozy’s office said it had asked that all charges against her and an embassy employee be dropped.

Ms Reiss went before an Iranian tribunal in a mass trial on 8 August.

She was arrested in Tehran on 1 July, after taking part in post-election street protests.

Hundreds of people were detained after violent protests that followed June’s disputed election.

Allies thanked

France has demanded that her case, and that of the French-Iranian embassy worker, who was released on bail last week, be thrown out.

“The French authorities now demand that the judicial procedures levelled against Clotilde Reiss and Mrs Nazak Afshar — which nothing can justify — be ended as soon as possible,” the French presidency said.

Mr Sarkozy thanked the European Union and allies, specifically Syria, for their help in obtaining Ms Reiss’s release from jail.

Earlier on Sunday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told state television that a verdict was likely in about eight days.

He said Ms Reiss’s statement in court — in which she apologised for attending the demonstration — was “worked on”, the AP news agency reported.

Ms Reiss was on a six-month teaching and research assignment in the central city of Isfahan.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Jewish Exodus From Yemen

(IsraelNN.com) According to the Yemen News Agency (Saba), most of the country’s remaining Jews are planning to emigrate due to Muslim persecution. The paper quoted the desert country’s Chief Rabbi, Yahya Yaish, as saying that Yemen’s entire remaining Jewish community would immigrate to Israel within days.

However, a report in the Jerusalem Post indicates that only half of Yemen’s 250 Jews are planning to come to Israel, while roughly 100 will emigrate to the United States and 20 or 30 will remain in Yemen.

Several Jewish families from Yemen have made aliyah to Israel this year. Immigration picked up following the murder of Jewish community leader Moshe Yaish al-Nahari, the brother of Rabbi Yaish, at the hands of a Muslim killer who warned him to convert to Islam or die.

Among the latest immigrants from Yemen to Israel were three sons of Moshe Yaish. His three daughters came to Israel in late 2008, shortly after his murder, to live with their aunts.

Other incidents of harrassment of Jews were reported as well, including beatings and kidnappings. In July, members of the Jewish community reported that a young bride had been kidnapped by a Muslim man she had spurned, and forced to marry him and convert to Islam. Muslim authorities rejected the allegations and said that the young woman had abandoned her husband of her own free will.

Media outlets in Yemen later released a video of the young woman addressing a camera and saying she had chosen to marry her new Muslim husband. However, the woman made no contact with her family or community, leaving Jews suspicious of the video’s veracity.

Most of Yemen’s Jews live in Sana’a. They were transferred to the city from the provinces of Sa’ada and Amran following harassment in those areas. Several have complained of severe poverty following the move to Sana’a, while those remaining in Amran face continuing threats.

One century ago, Yemen had an estimated Jewish population of more than 75,000. Several thousand left for pre-state Israel around the turn of the century and some Yemenite families were among the pioneers of the first neighborhoods built outside Jerusalem’s walls. The bulk of Yemen’s Jewish population, roughly 47,000 people, was brought to Israel shortly after the State of Israel was established in an operation called “Magic Carpet.”

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Tehran Denies Violence on Prisoners, Claims They Are Happy

Iran’s parliamentary speaker slams Karroubi’s claims, demands he produce “evidence” of abuse. Lawmakers on a fact-finding mission into abuse allegations say prisoners are “satisfied” with the way they are treated. But the wife of an imprisoned former deputy interior minister says he was subjected to physical and psychological torture. A Mousavi representative presents the names of 69 people killed during the disturbances.

Beirut (AsiaNews) — For the speaker of Iran’s parliament (Majlis), no detainee was victim of sexual abuse in prison; indeed, “all prisoners are satisfied with their situation,” said the head of a parliamentary committee. Conversely, the wife of a former deputy interior minister said that her husband was subjected to physical and psychological torture, whilst a representative of pro-reform leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi presented the names of 69 victims of post-election disturbances. The authorities had claimed only 26 dead.

Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani, a trusted supporter of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, described accusations made by Mehdi Karroubi that prison guards raped anti-government protesters, both men and women, as “sheer lies,” demanding instead the opposition leader and former presidential candidate “present evidence” to back his claims.

Government-owned Press TV cited Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of Iran’s Parliamentary Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy, who said that “all prisoners are satisfied with their situation in the Evin prison” (outside wall pictured).

It added that a Majlis fact-finding committee found that detainees’ complaints were mainly related to a temporary detention centre named Kahrizak, which was shut down on Khamenei’s orders.

In fact Evin is as a special detention centre, nicknamed the ‘torture factory.’ It was here that Iranian-Canadian photo-journalist Zahra Kazemi was beaten to death after being arrested for taking pictures of the structure, which has two special wings for political prisoners.

Similarly, Fakhrossadat Mohtashamipour, wife of Mostafa Tajzadeh, a former deputy interior minister, told Rooz, an online publication by Iranian exiles, that she is seriously worried about the physical and psychological torture her husband and other political prisoners have had to endure. She said he was able to speak with the family by phone for only a few minutes since days after the election

The United Nations has revised a previous statement by Ban Ki-moon in which the secretary-general congratulated the Iranian president on his re-election.

UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe said that “[i]t is not accurate to refer to this [Ban’s message] as a congratulatory letter.”

Instead, in his message the secretary-general said that he was taking “advantage of the occasion of the inauguration to express the hope that Iran and the United Nations will continue to cooperate closely in addressing regional and global issues,” Okabe said.

Having lost Ban Ki-moon’s “congratulations”, which Iranian media had originally played up, Ahmadinejad can still console himself with those from Japan, Turkey, Qatar and Russia. (PD)

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


The Islamic Republic of Iran Reality Check

By: Amil Imani

The Iranian people are calling for help and much of the world either turns a deaf ear or feels it has its own priorities to worry about. Then, the horrors keep playing out, unabated, in the streets, prisons and dungeons of the Islamic Republic of Iran. A reality check.

A 19-year old beautiful Taraneh was not shot with a single bullet to her chest as was the case with Neda Soltani. There were no bystanders in the dungeon with a cell phone to capture the prolonged torture, rape, and sodomy of this teen-ager.

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani[Return to headlines]


Turkey: Helicopter Procurement Bid to be Finalized in Oct

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, AUGUST 13 — The head of the Undersecretariat for the Defense Industry (SSM), Murad Bayar, said in Ankara that the tender process for the procurement of some 121 helicopters for the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) would be finalized by the end of October, daily Today’s Zaman reported. Speaking to reporters, Bayar said the SSM will accept bids for the tender until the end of September and make a final decision by the end of the following month. Italian defense electronics group Finmeccanica’s AgustaWestland company and the US-based United Technologies Corporation’s Sikorsky Aircraft company are the two firms that have submitted bids thus far. AgustaWestland first entered the Turkish market in September 2007, when Turkey signed a contract with the company for the production of attack and tactical reconnaissance helicopters (ATAK) for the Turkish Land Forces. The Defense Industry Executive Committee, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will have the final say on the issue. In their most recent meeting, at the beginning of July, Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said the government expected to hold another meeting shortly to discuss the helicopter purchase tender process. Sikorsky Vice President Stephen Estill told Reuters in April that the company could provide $8 billion in net profit for Turkey in the coming 20 years should the sides agree to sign a contract. The company had guaranteed to manufacture helicopters jointly with local firms and then purchase 200 of them. (ANSAmed).

2009-08-13 14:39

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Urgently Needed Jobs for Arabs

The Arab world is facing enormous challenges, and many of them are overlooked by media which seldom move beyond the Palestinian issue. The Arab world suffers from lack of democracy, lack of religious freedom, and lack of innovations and business development. But another huge problem is the present and the growing unemployment. Some even call it a ticking time bomb. The countries in the Arab League are anything but democratic. They have utterly failed their peoples. (Similar things can be said about Iran). Some experts say that the issue is not if Arab regimes will collapse, but when. The Economist deals with these issues in both the lead editorial and in a special 16-page report on the Arab world in the July 25 issue. Excerpts from the editorial: [The Arab states] have, for a start, failed to make their people free: six Arab countries have an outright ban on political parties and the rest restrict them slyly. They have failed to make their people rich: despite their oil, the UN reports that about two out of five people in the Arab world live on $2 or less a day. They have failed to keep their people safe: the report argues that overpowerful internal security forces often turn the Arab state into a menace to its own people. And they are about to fail their young people. The UNDP reckons the Arab world must create 50m new jobs by 2020 to accommodate a growing, youthful workforce—virtually impossible on present trends. … Can regimes that are failing their people so clearly really hold sway over some 350m people indefinitely? … The old pattern of Arab government—corrupt, opaque and authoritarian—has failed on every level and does not deserve to survive. At some point it will almost certainly collapse. The great unknown is when. Excerpts from the special report:From 1980 to 2000 Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Syria and Jordan between them registered 367 patents in the United States. Over the same period South Korea alone registered 16,328 and Israel 7,652. The number of books translated into Arabic every year in the entire Arab world is one-fifth the number translated by Greece into Greek. By far the biggest difficulty facing the Arabs — and the main item in the catalogue of socio-economic woes submitted as evidence of looming upheaval — is demography. The population of the Arab world is expected to grow some 40% over the next two decades. That amounts to almost 150m additional people, the equivalent of two new Egypts. But Arab countries already have the lowest employment rate in the world and one of the highest rates of youth unemployment, with about one in five young people out of work. The median age in the three most populous Arab countries — Egypt, Algeria and Morocco — is 24, 26 and 26 respectively. Barring some miracle, a large proportion of Arabs now entering adulthood face hard times and long periods of joblessness ahead, in societies that have systematically blocked peaceful, institutional avenues to political change. That is why so many analysts conclude that something has to give. Will the mass of Arabs continue to bite their lips and buckle under? Or is there a danger of an eruption?

           — Hat tip: CB[Return to headlines]


Women ‘To Join Iranian Cabinet’

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he will bring at least two women into his new cabinet — the first such appointments in Iran since the 1970s.

He told Iran TV he would propose Fatemeh Ajorlou as social security minister and Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi as health minister, among others.

Mr Ahmadinejad was sworn in for a second term on 5 August amid a crisis triggered by disputed polls in June.

Meanwhile another 28 people have gone on trial over post-election unrest.

More than 100 people are already on trial in Iran following the election, among them a number of senior politicians.

The trials have been criticised by several foreign powers, opposition groups and human rights campaigners, but authorities insist their legal proceedings are completely legitimate and conform to international standards of justice.

‘Rightful demands’

The latest trial comes a day after Mr Ahmadinejad’s main opponent in the election, Mir Hossein Mousavi, vowed to continue challenging the result in a social movement called Green Path of Hope.

“The Green Path of Hope is formed for the sake of people’s rightful demands and for claiming their rights,” the reformist Etemad Melli newspaper quoted him as saying.

He has described it as a grassroots movement, but he has not given many more details about how it will take the opposition campaign forward.

Official election results awarded Mr Ahmadinejad a sweeping victory in the polls. He is expected to announce his full cabinet line-up on Wednesday.

The women he has named could, if approved, become the first female cabinet ministers since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, although there have been female vice-presidents.

The BBC’s Tehran correspondent John Leyne says both are hardline conservatives.

Ms Ajorlou has supported tough enforcement of the Islamic dress code for women, and quotas for women at university.

Ms Dastjerdi, meanwhile, has in the past proposed introducing segregated health care in Iran, with women treating women and men men, though it was rejected as impractical.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Yemen: Rebels Clash With Military in North

Saana, 14 August (AKI) — Sixteen Shia militants and five soldiers were killed in clashes in northern Yemen on Friday, a day after 15 local aid workers were kidnapped in the country. Militants loyal to leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi attacked a government building in the northern province of Amran.

As many as 17,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in Saada province as the Yemeni military has bombed suspected bases of the Shia Muslim Zaydi sect.

Officials said on Friday that the fighting had moved from the town of Saada towards the southern border of the province, just 70km north of the capital, Sanaa.

Rebels kidnapped Red Crescent doctors, nurses, officials and administrators from a refugee camp in Saada on Thursday.

Yemen on Thursday announced conditions for a ceasefire to end a government offensive against the rebels in the north of the mainly Sunni Muslim Arab country.

But the rebels rejected the truce offer and denied holding any kidnapped civilians.

Officials say the rebels want to restore a form of clerical rule prevalent in Yemen until the 1960s. The rebels say they are defending their villages against government oppression.

Scores of people are thought to have been killed or wounded in the region in recent days.

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

South Asia

Indonesia: Islamic Boarding Schools Wage War on Terror

Ciberon, 14 August(AKI/Jakarta Post) — Hundreds of Indonesia’s Islamic boarding schools located in the northern coastal area of West Java have launched an anti-terrorism movement in an effort to prevent radical groups from using such schools as terrorist hotbeds.

The leader of the West Java chapter of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country’s largest Islamic organisation, Maman Imanulhaq Faqih declared the movement’s birth late on Wednesday in Cirebon. Hundreds of Islamic boarding school heads and thousands of students from about 500 ‘pesantren’, as the schools are called in Indonesia, were present.

Maman, the leader of Al Mizan Islamic boarding school, Majalengka said 1,000 Islamic boarding schools spread across Cirebon and its surrounding district supported the movement, as well as West Java’s Majalengka, Indramayu, and Kuningan districts.

“We don’t want the schools to be used as farms by terrorists to plant their seeds of terror. Our movement is fully supported by all pesantren in the northern part of West Java,” he stated.

Separately, NU scholar Nuruzzaman said it was possible the pesantren in northern coast of West Java could be used as terrorist hotbeds due to their strong cultural roots.

“Most of those pesantren are NU schools which are moderate and respect local cultures,” said Nuruzzaman, also a lecturer at Gunung Jati state Islamic University, Cirebon.

He said the four biggest pesantrens: Buntet, Babakan Ciwaringin, Kempek and Gedongan, were “the keepers” of moderate and cultural religious movements that had a strong influence across the country.

However, he admitted a “small” number of pesantren in the province were affiliated with radical Islamic boarding schools in Central Java.

“The number is small. We could count them on our hands. Though they are few, we have to watch them tightly to avoid violent actions.”

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


Orissa: Maximum Alert for the First Anniversary of Anti-Christian Pogrom

Deployment of special forces in Kandhamal during the festival of Janmastami. It is the first anniversary of the murder of Swami Saraswati Laxmanananda that sparked the anti-Christian violence last August.

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) — Twelve platoons of the Orissa State Armed Police Force and officials of 500 special police forces have been deployed in Kandhamal for the Hindu festival of Janmastami. In the summer of 2008, the anniversary was marked by the murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, on August 23, that sparked Hindu violence against Christian communities in Orissa. This year’s Janmastami falls on the 13th and is regarded by Hindu faithful as the first anniversary of Swami’s murder.

All the police stations of Kandhamal are in a state of maximum alert, and a company of Central Reserve Police Force (Crpf) have been stationed in the district. Among the Christians of the region there is the fear that the event could lead to further and more cruel violence in villages that were the scene of bloody clashes over a year ago. The memory of the assault last August is still alive and is a source of fear for religious and lay people who have suffered at the hands of Hindu fanaticism.

Sister Suma, Missionary of Charity in the parish of Shankarakole, explains to AsiaNews that the village “is a very sensitive area, very close to the Samadhi of Guruji, the burial place of the Swami”. On August 25 the parish was one of the first to suffer Hindu attacks. The clashes caused the death of Fr Bernard Digal, beaten for hours by the fundamentalists, who died after two months of agony from injuries sustained in the attack. The priest went to Shankarakole to meet the parish priest, Fr Chanda Alexander, who now remembers him saying: “Fr. Bernard is now in heaven interceding for all Kandhamal and especially for all priests”. Fr. Chanda survived the violence, and today continues to live among the people of the village “after one year not without tribulations and sufferings, but in which the community and the priests were able to experience the grace and love of God in their lives.”

The pastor of Shankarakole returned to his mission in the village “to bring the love of God to people, helping them to rebuild their lives and communities, and prepare for new trials if they are faced with them”.

From August 2008 to the present there has been no end to attacks on Christians in Kandhamal. After the first fierce assaults, which have caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of refugees, the attacks did diminish, but small and lager episodes of violence have occurred throughout 2009.

The climate of threat and insecurity continues to be palpable in many villages of the district and the situation is no different in other Indian states. On August 11, the All India Christian Council reported of an assault on the charitable works of the Protestant community in Annigere Gadag district in Karnataka. Activists from the Hindu movement Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh attacked the premises where the Evangelical Church has a assistance program for children, accusing those present of carrying out forced conversions.

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


Pakistan: No Militant Attacks on Nuclear Sites, Says Army

Islamabad, 14 August (AKI) — Pakistan’s military has denied claims by a British academic that local militants have attacked the country’s nuclear facilities. Amid growing international concern about the country’s security, Shaun Gregory, a professor from Bradford University, said that the country’s nuclear facilities had been targeted by militants at least three times in the past two years.

In an article published in a US military journal, Gregory said the threat was serious.

“The risk of the transfer of nuclear weapons, weapons components or nuclear expertise to terrorists in Pakistan is genuine,” he wrote.

But a military spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, said Gregory’s claims were “factually incorrect” and part of a western propaganda campaign to “malign Pakistan and its nuclear facilities”.

Gregory said there was a very serious strike by two suicide bombers on the Wah Cantonment Ordinance Complex, thought to be one of Pakistan’s main nuclear weapons assembly plants, northwest of Islamabad, in August 2008.

He also cited attacks including the suicide bombing of a nuclear missile storage facility at Sargodha, in central Punjab, in November 2007 and a suicide attack on Pakistan’s nuclear airbase at Kamra, near Wah, on 10 December 2007.

Gregory is director of the Pakistan Security Research Unit, established at Bradford University in the UK in March 2007.

Whether nuclear weapons fall in the hands of the militants or not, all three examples cited by Gregory have been presented out of context.

In each incident the attackers targeted the facility but were aiming their action at personnel in retaliation of Islamabad’s bloody Red Mosque siege and the Swat Valley military operation in 2007.

For instance, a suicide bomb attack on the Wah Cantonment Ordinance Complex which Shaun declared the most serious one, was in fact a naive attack in which the suicide bomber exploded himself in a crowd of poor laborers, employed in the complex, going home after work.

A spokesman for Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud accepted responsibility for the attack saying that workers were equally responsible for the crime because they manufactured the weapons used against militants in the North West Frontier Province near the Afghan border.

According to the Federation of American Scientists Pakistan has nine nuclear facilities.

Pakistan, and its neighbour India, joined the club of declared nuclear weapons states in 1998.

It has tested nuclear weapons on several occasions and insists that its nuclear weapons are fully secured.

But Gregory, while detailing the steps Islamabad has taken to protect them against Indian and US attacks, raised doubts about whether the geographical location of Pakistan’s principle nuclear weapons infrastructure, reportedly in areas dominated by Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, makes it more vulnerable to attacks.

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


Row Over Afghan Wife-Starving Law

An Afghan bill allowing a husband to starve his wife if she refuses to have sex has been published in the official gazette and become law.

The original bill caused outrage earlier this year, forcing Afghan President Hamid Karzai to withdraw it.

But critics say the amended version of the law remains highly repressive.

They accuse Mr Karzai of selling out Afghan women for the sake of conservative Shia support at next week’s presidential election.

The law governs family life for Afghanistan’s Shia minority.

Sexual demands

The original version obliged Shia women to have sex with their husbands every four days at a minimum, and it effectively condoned rape by removing the need for consent to sex within marriage.

Western leaders and Afghan women’s groups were united in condemning an apparent reversal of key freedoms won by women after the fall of the Taliban.

Now an amended version of the same bill has passed quietly into law with the apparent approval of President Karzai.

Just ahead of this Thursday’s Afghan presidential election, human rights groups suggest the timing is no accident.

“There was a review process — Karzai came under huge pressure from all over the world to amend this law, but many of the most oppressive laws remain,” Rachel Reid, the Human Rights Watch representative in Kabul, told the BBC.

“What matters more to Karzai is the support of fundamentalists and hardliners here in Afghanistan whose support he thinks he needs in the elections.”

Women’s groups say its new wording still violates the principle of equality that is enshrined in their constitution.

It allows a man to withhold food from his wife if she refuses his sexual demands; a woman must get her husband’s permission to work; and fathers and grandfathers are given exclusive custody of children.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Far East

Stop the Press: Three New Books in North Korea!

The dictatorial regime in Pyongyang, North Korea recently announced the publication of three new books:

1. “In the Course of Great Creation” (vol.4) tells about great services of General Secretary Kim Jong Il who made a model in composition of the Korean-style film music while guiding moviemaking on tens of occasions and about his lovely care for film workers.

2. The novel “Glowing Dawn” shows the life of officials, technicians and workers of an electric wire factory. It stresses that patriotism, in the past, was manifested in one’s devotion to winning back the ruined country and building the country, but today it is manifested in the effort for glorifying the motherland to the world.

3. The novel “Basis of Happiness” raises a question where the people in our era should find the true happiness, and shows through life the truth that everyone can enjoy true happiness only when he or she stoutly carries forward the spirit of self-reliance and thorough implementation of Party’s policies, which was displayed by the ten Party-members in Rakwon during the Fatherland Liberation War and the postwar rehabilitation and construction.

This is not only pathetic and sad, but also a grim reminder that billions of people in the world today don’t have free access to a variety of books and newspapers. Hundreds of millions are not allowed to own or read certain books, like the Bible, in North Korea, China, Cuba and many Muslim countries. But do remember that a mere 20 years ago the Bible had to be smuggled into Communist countries Europe. Things can change…

           — Hat tip: CB[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Pesky Press Annoying You? Now You Can Just Sue Them

The NSW Law Reform Commission reckons the trouble with freedom of speech is that it comes up trumps too often. But the commissioners yesterday released plans to do something about it: give those whose privacy has been violated by the press wider and less-constrained rights than any in the world to sue for damages.

[…]

The great protection offered in countries going down this track are solid guarantees of free speech in bills and charters of rights. We have nothing like that in NSW, which frankly pleases the NSW commissioners: a former judge, James Wood, a current judge, Kevin O’Connor, and Professor Michael Tilbury. It lets them lower the bar.

They write: “We can think of no reason why in Australian law freedom of expression or any other interest should be privileged above privacy.”

Courts elsewhere have developed a second great protection: only those “highly offended” can sue. That formula was developed in the US and refined in Britain, New Zealand and even here in the musings of the former chief justice Murray Gleeson, who thought being “highly offended” set “a useful practical test of what is private”.

But that’s too tough for the NSW commissioners. They want mere offence to be enough. What’s more, their report Invasion of Privacy makes it clear this wider test would include people who suffer no more than “annoyance and anxiety” at the hands of the media.

[…]

The commissioners are polite, intelligent men who have lived their lives around the courts. They’re happy to leave to judges the case-by-case task of working out what is “private” and who has “a reasonable expectation of privacy” and whether claims for privacy are outweighed by “competing public interest”.

None of those issues are now clear. Defining them would take many years. Meanwhile, newspapers would be published and news bulletins broadcast in a strange new world where the courts could punish the media for annoying people by honestly reporting accurate material contained in public documents.

Footnotes to their report reveal opposition to the proposals from the Law Council of Australia, the media Right to Know Coalition, the Law Society of NSW and the Press Council. And, for what it’s worth: me. We were all ignored.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Migrants Increasing in Gulf of Aden Despite Monsoon Season

The number of Horn of Africa migrants that crossed the Gulf of Aden from African coasts to Yemen nearly tripled during this year’s May-July monsoon season, the riskiest time to attempt the voyage and when there is usually a sharp decrease in numbers. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), some 11,000 people made the journey in the past three months, in respect to 4,000 in the same period in 2008 and only 200 in 2007. It is mainly Somalis and Ethiopians that attempt the at least 30 hour journey, crammed in small rickety vessels with little food and water. The UNHCR indicated that more than 5,000 people are waiting at the northern Somali port of Bossaso for the weather to improve next month. Based on figures released by the UNHCR in June, 146 migrants died and 85 went missing in the Gulf of Aden, crossed in 2009 by 522 vessels for a total of 25,764 people that landed on the coasts of Yemen. The route between Somalia and Yemen — door of the Arabian Peninsula for Horn of Africa migrants fleeing wars and famine — is considered among the most dangerous of the world. Many Somalis and Ethiopians are among the courageous that attempt the perilous journey, who often obtain refugee status from the UN.

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


Mutant Polio Virus Spreads in Nigeria

124 Children Afflicted This Year By Paralyzing Disease, Believed To Be Caused By Same Vaccine Used To Fight It

Polio, the dreaded paralyzing disease stamped out in the industrialized world, is spreading in Nigeria. And health officials say in some cases, it’s caused by the vaccine used to fight it.

In July, the World Health Organization issued a warning that this vaccine-spread virus might extend beyond Africa. So far, 124 Nigerian children have been paralyzed this year — about twice those afflicted in 2008.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Ex-Turks and Caicos PM Accuses UK

The ousted prime minister of the Turks and Caicos Islands has hit out at the UK government for imposing direct rule amid corruption allegations.

Politicians are accused of selling crown land for personal gain.

But premier Galmo Williams said UK Foreign Office findings of “systematic corruption” must also reflect badly on the territory’s British governor.

Power was transferred to the governor on Friday, when the Caribbean colony’s administration was suspended.

The UK government had been threatening action for several months after an inquiry commissioned by the Foreign Office returned a damning verdict.

It examined the actions of the Turks’ Cabinet and Assembly and found “information in abundance pointing to a high probability of systematic corruption or serious dishonesty”.

It also concluded there were “clear signs of political amorality and immaturity and of a general administrative incompetence”.

However, Mr Williams told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We have a British governor who’s responsible for good governance; who’s responsible for civil servants.”

This made the British government equally responsible for systemic weaknesses, he said, adding that his administration could have worked alongside the UK to address the problems.

“It’s a very sad day for us in Turks and Caicos to see… that democracy has been taken away from the citizens,” Mr Williams said.

He said his administration had not been given the same opportunities as British politicians, who were being allowed to put right the issues exposed by Parliament’s expenses scandal.

Mr Williams said he could not comment on accusations that former premier Michael Misick had corruptly built up a multi-million dollar fortune since coming to power in 2003.

Mr Misick resigned in March but has denied the allegations and says he attracted valuable foreign investment to the islands.

The imposition of direct rule for two years went ahead after a legal challenge by Mr Misick failed at the UK Court of Appeal earlier this week.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Fewer Seeking Asylum in Sweden

The number of foreigners seeking asylum in Sweden has fallen by 17 percent in the first half of 2009, compared to the same period last year, according to the Swedish Migration Board’s (Migrationsverket) mid-year report to the Swedish government.

This development is in direct contrast to the trend in the rest of Europe, where the number of asylum seekers increased by 18 percent in the first six months of 2009, reported Sveriges Radio Östergötland.

Between January and June 2008, 12,270 people sought asylum in Sweden. The equivalent figure for 2009 is 10,135. The decline is primarily due to a decrease of 74 percent in the number of Iraqis who sought asylum compared to the year before.

The largest group of asylum seekers is now from Somalia. Thus far in 2009, 2074 people from Somalia have applied for asylum in Sweden, according to SR Östergötland.

           — Hat tip: CB[Return to headlines]


Many Deported Felons Just Sneak Back Across Border

The goal of the U.S. government’s expanding program to rid the country of foreign-born criminals is clear: Find illegal immigrants who commit violent crimes and deport them so they no longer pose a threat to the public.

The government has successfully deported hundreds of thousands of foreign-born criminals in recent years. But a significant number have come back again, illegally, to the United States, often to commit more crimes, according to government data and interviews with law-enforcement authorities, federal prosecutors and criminal-defense lawyers.

There are no broad government statistics on how many deported criminals re-enter the United States illegally, but arrests by Border Patrol agents in the Tucson region alone suggest the number is high. In fiscal year 2008, 16 percent of the 317,696 immigrants arrested by agents in Tucson, one of nine sectors on the U.S.-Mexican border, were charged with felony counts of re-entering illegally, either because they had prior felony convictions in the U.S. or previously had been formally deported. Crossing the border illegally is typically a misdemeanor.The illegal re-entry of people who have been deported, especially those with criminal histories, represents one of the most vexing and persistent problems in the government’s stepped-up effort to battle illegal immigration. The government doesn’t have the resources to prosecute all of them, and in the past most were simply just deported again.

The goal is to prevent deported criminals who re-enter the U.S. from committing more crimes and to deter others from re-entering, said Joseph Koehler, an assistant U.S. attorney in Phoenix who supervises a unit that prosecutes these cases.

The only way to deter violent criminals who get “formally kicked out of the country” and repeatedly return is to “make it very clear that there is a sanction for coming into the United States,” Koehler said.

But even that is no guarantee that a criminal prosecuted for re-entering the country illegally, sent to prison and then deported again won’t sneak back into the country.

“I’d say it happens fairly frequently,” Koehler said. “It certainly is not the majority of the people we prosecute, but there are a significant number who do.”

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank in Washington, D.C., that favors less immigration, said prosecuting deported criminals who return to the United States is effective at preserving public safety because it takes criminals off the street.

“These are not just people coming to work as bus boys,” she said. “They are coming to return to a life of crime.”

But, she said, it is difficult to say whether prosecuting deported criminals actually deters them or others from re-entering illegally.

“The only way to stop that is to have better security at the border,” she said.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Spain Sees Significant Drop in Illegal Immigrants in 2009

MADRID, Aug. 15 (Xinhua) — The number of illegal migrants trying to reach Spain dropped significantly in 2009 as the country intensified its coastal patrol and repatriations, Interior Ministry data showed on Friday.

A total of 4,457 African illegal migrants reached Spanish coasts in the first seven months of 2009, down 40 percent from the same period last year and equaled almost a quarter of the number recorded in 2006.

The Interior Ministry said stringent policies of border control and repatriation have held back many potential illegal immigrants.

Spain’s Canary Islands, which is located just off the northwest coast of mainland Africa and often serves as the springboard for illegal immigrants to enter the European Union (EU), have seen a significant fall in illegal immigrants. In the first seven months of 2009, only 1,798 illegal migrants arrived in the islands, down 63.6 percent from 2008.

In April and May this year, there were no single illegal immigrants setting foot on the Cannary islands, breaking a record held since 1999 that there had been illegal immigrants landing at the islands every month.

Several countries in southeastern Europe including Spain and Italy are the prior destinations of African illegal migrants. They usually departed from coasts in Mauritania, Morocco and Algeria. Many of them died in the sea due to the rough conditions of boats and weather.

To combat illegal immigrants, the EU set up special funds to help Spain, Italy and some other countries to strengthen coastal patrols.

Spain has also signed contracts with Mauritania and some other countries which are sources of illegal immigrants in hopes of preventing illegal boats from setting sail.

Once illegal immigrants are caught, identification and repatriation work can be done speedily with international cooperation.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: Preacher Threatened With Arrest for Reading Out Extracts From the Bible in Public

A street preacher is at the centre of a row over freedom of speech after police threatened to arrest him for reading the Bible in public.

He was reading passages from the Old and New Testaments while his father distributed leaflets containing the message of the gospel.

“At 2pm, I was approached on more than one occasion by several police officers who falsely accused me, stating that I was inciting hatred with homophobic and racial comments,” he said.

“One plain-clothed officer, who was with the other two uniformed officers, said: ‘It is against the law to preach and hand out tracts: preaching causes offence and handing out tracts is harassment and could result in an arrest.’“

Mr Hayworth said that at about 2.30pm a second officer confirmed that his colleague had accused the preacher of inciting religious and racial hatred and wanted to warn him that this was an arrestable offence.

The second officer, Mr Hayworth claimed, also warned him his actions were being videoed and recorded, and he stopped preaching.

[…]

Chief Inspector Chris Hill, of Greater Manchester Police, said: “Police were called to St Ann’s Square in Manchester city centre following complaints from members of the public who considered the comments being made by two street preachers as racist and homophobic.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

1 comments:

Sebastian said...

This is proof that the new threat to freedom and civil liberties comes from the intolerant left in the name of tolerance.
Tolerance, hate and such are concepts that are like double edged swords which cut both ways, in order to protect the civil liberties of homosexuals who are the main issue here, it cannot be allowed to restrict the freedoms of others. In the name of a fashionable tolerance towards the one they have inadvertantly approved of hate and intolerance towards those of other beleif systems specifically Christians. But if a society is top truly be open and tolerant then we must maturely accept that there are and will be ideas which are mutually exclusive and incompatible with one another and true respect and freedom means that they must both practice tolerance. Homosexuality must by its nature hate Christianity and doctrinal purity of it and Christianity must hate it, by hate I mean they are antagonisitc, and that is just the way it is. The authorities cannot make them what they are not, which is compatible or force the approval of one from the other, which is the problem.