Friday, August 28, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/28/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/28/2009The city of Copenhagen is going to get its first mosque, to be built in — where else? — the Nørrebro district. It will even have minarets, Inshallah.

In other news, a proposed bill in the U.S. Senate would grant the President extraordinary powers during a “cybersecurity emergency” to take control of private computer networks.

Thanks to A Greek Friend, C. Cantoni, Diana West, Insubria, Israel Matzav, JD, Sean O’Brian, Steen, TB, Tuan Jim, Zenster, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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USA
ABC, NBC Won’t Air Ad Critical of Obama’s Health Care Plan
Bill Would Give President Emergency Control of Internet
Diana West: Lion of the Senate?
Liberals Use Kennedy’s Death to Push Obamacare
More on Internment Camps
Newt Gingrich: President Obama Should Fire Attorney General Eric Holder
Obama Adviser’s Reply to 9/11: Solidarity With U.S. ‘Victims’
Obama’s Health Rationer-in-Chief
Obamacare Activists to Crash D.C.’s Massive Tea Party?
Obama’s Nazi Straw Man: An Old Alinsky Trick
Remove ICLEI — Restore the Republic
Satire: Senate Dems to Honor Kennedy by Each Insuring a Poor Family
Seven Lessons of Cash-for-Clunkers’ Failure
Stop ‘Emotionalizing’ The Cap-and-Trade Debate
Tax Cuts Could Get Health Care Back on Track
Why the Washington Post Censored Robert Novak
 
Canada
Kids: The Worthiest Enterprise
 
Europe and the EU
Czech Rep: Czech Romany Given 20 Months in Prison Over Girl’s Abduction
Denmark: Mosque Being Built in Copenhagen
Denmark: Court to Decide on Lisbon Treaty
Germany: Hiding the Truth About Husseini
Germany: Terrorist Suspect Arrested En Route to Islamist Training Camp
Germans Detain Suspect in Anti-US Terror Plot
Germany: Former RAF Terrorist Arrested in Connection With 1977 Murder
Ireland: Marriage Has Special Status for Good Reason — Children
Ireland: Group Wants Cash to Fight ‘Godless’ Treaty
Italy: Assaulted Gay Couple: PD Demands Concia Bill’s Approval
Italy: Rome Council Steps Up Surveillance After Gay Attacks
Italy: Cortona Spotlights Banned Books
Italy: Religious Libraries Can Create Dialogue, Tettamanzi
Italy: Berlusconi Paper vs Church Editor
Italy: Mourinho Slams Ramadan Flap
Italy: Berlusconi Sues La Repubblica
Italy: Berlusconi Sues Media for ‘Libel’
Merkel: No Connection Between Iran and Holocaust?
Netherlands: Wilders Compares Prophet Mohammed to Pig
Netherlands: Wilders’ Party Loses Support
Netherlands: Court: Hells Angels Not “Wrongfully Prosecuted”
Sweden: Gothenburg Arrests Made Over Disturbances
Sweden: Alliance Parties Agree to Reduce Taxes
Sweden: Stones Thrown at Gothenburg Firemen
Swedish Police to Publicly Identify Suspects
Switzerland: Zurich Gunman Trial Raises Army Weapon Questions
UK: Brown Plans to Take Cash From the Poorest Families
UK: Brown Under Pressure Over Lockerbie as Cameron Steps Up Attack Over Gaddafi Prisoner Swap Deal
UK: Fresh Embarrassment for David Cameron Over NHS
UK: Foreign Surgeons Flown to UK to Cut Waiting Times ‘Botched One in Three Operations’
UK: Hundreds Report Poor Care Suffered by NHS Patients
UK: Man Jailed for Raping Teens in Back of Car
UK: The Castle That Survived 700 Years — Now Conquered by the Yobs of Broken Britain
Voting Until They Get it Right in the European Union
 
Balkans
Kosovo Leadership Confronts EU Authorities
Kosovo Police Question 4 Alleged Terror Suspects
Serbia: IMF Writes Off $500mln Debt
Serbia: One Person Every Eight on the Edge of Poverty
Serbia-France: Interex Invests Eur30 Mln in Eight Stores
 
North Africa
Libya: Medvedev and Putin Will Not Attend
Libya: Sarkozy Not to Attend Gaddafi’s Celebration
Libya: AU Summit, Italians Invited as Observers
Libyan Ambassador: Gaddafi-Berlusconi Rapport Above Disputes
Libya: 40th Anniversary, Two French Aircraft in Fly-Past
Scots and Swiss Deal With Separate Libyan Crises
Tourism: Italian-French Guidebook to Tunisian Sahara
What’s the Matter With Muslim Men?
 
Israel and the Palestinians
5 Arrested at Ramadan Prayers in Jerusalem
Haaretz-Lieberman, Clash Continues
Remembering the Hebron Massacre
Settlements: USA Ready to Skirt East Jerusalem Issue
Silicon Israel
TV: Settlement Freeze in Two Weeks
US Funding New West Bank Road Signs Written in Arabic and English
 
Middle East
Auto Sector: Volkswagen, Qatar Acquires 10% Stake in Porsche
Banks: Bahrain: Accord With Australian Group
Energy: Qatar Eager About Building Gas Pipeline to Turkey
Iraq: Baghdad Calls for Syria to Hand Over Terror Suspects
Lebanon: Internet Company With Israeli Contacts Closed
Lebanon: Peres: ‘Hezbollah Has 80,000 Rockets’, Beirut Denies
Lebanon: Beirut Synagogue Reopens With Hezbollah Approval
NATO Chief Urges Turkey, Greece to End Scuffle
Qatar Hub of Arab Film Industry After Tribeca Festival
Saudi Prince Injured by Militant
Suicide Bomber Lightly Injures Senior Saudi Prince
 
Russia
Russia: Medvedev Promises Support to Muslim Leaders of N. Caucasus
 
Caucasus
6 Wounded in Chechnya Suicide Bombing
 
South Asia
Call for More India Nuclear Tests
Hambali Off Hook Over 2002 Bali Bombings
India: Make Nuclear Programme Accountable
India: Thermonuclear Pretensions
Malaysia: Protest Over Proposed Temple
Orissa: Impunity in Kandhamal, Where Law and Order Have Collapsed
Pakistan: Curbs on Nuclear Scientist Lifted
‘Still No Justice’ In East Timor
UN Says 30,000 Flee Myanmar Amid Fears of Civil War
 
Far East
Giving China Help With Cyber Warfare
Japan: Rise in Child Abuse Cases
N. Korea to Release Fishermen
Why South Korea Holds the Key to Middle East Peace
 
Australia — Pacific
Entrenched Racism in Australia — UN
 
Immigration
16 Migrants Rescued Off the Sardinian Coast
55 Egyptian Migrants Land in Sicily
Eritreans: Dinghy Photo Confirms Concerns
Ireland: Rules for Jobless Migrants Eased
Libya: Berlusconi Visit to Celebrate Friendship Pact
Malta Landings: A Migrant Found Dead
NZ: 3000 Overstayers Could Have Cases Reopened
Obamacare Won’t Cover Illegal Immigrants? Yes it Will, Says Congressional Research Service
Switzerland: Population Hits 7.7 Million on Immigration Wave
 
Culture Wars
Court Orders Christian Child Into Government Education
EU: State Could Take Custody of Teen Homeschooler
Schwarzenegger Wants Your ‘Thoughts’ On ‘Gay’ Day
Wall St. Journal Also Confirms House Health Care Bill Has Tax-Funded Abortions
 
General
Climate Change ‘To Cost More Than £300 Billion’
‘Facebook Doesn’t Bar Hateful Content Against Jews’
Shariah Finance is a Zero-Sum Game

USA

ABC, NBC Won’t Air Ad Critical of Obama’s Health Care Plan

The refusal by ABC and NBC to run a national ad critical of President Obama’s health care reform plan is raising questions from the group behind the spot — particularly in light of ABC’s health care special aired in prime time last June hosted at the White House

The refusal by ABC and NBC to run a national ad critical of President Obama’s health care reform plan is raising questions from the group behind the spot — particularly in light of ABC’s health care special aired in prime time last June and hosted at the White House.

The 33-second ad by the League of American Voters, which features a neurosurgeon who warns that a government-run health care system will lead to the rationing of procedures and medicine, began airing two weeks ago on local affiliates of ABC, NBC, FOX and CBS. On a national level, however, ABC and NBC have refused to run the spot in its present form.

“It’s a powerful ad,” said Bob Adams, executive director of the League of American Voters, a national nonprofit group with 15,000 members who advocate individual liberty and government accountability. “It tells the truth and it really highlights one of the biggest vulnerabilities and problems with this proposed legislation, which is it rations health care and disproportionately will decimate the quality of health care for seniors.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Bill Would Give President Emergency Control of Internet

Internet companies and civil liberties groups were alarmed this spring when a U.S. Senate bill proposed handing the White House the power to disconnect private-sector computers from the Internet.

They’re not much happier about a revised version that aides to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, have spent months drafting behind closed doors. CNET News has obtained a copy of the 55-page draft of S.773 (excerpt), which still appears to permit the president to seize temporary control of private-sector networks during a so-called cybersecurity emergency.

The new version would allow the president to “declare a cybersecurity emergency” relating to “non-governmental” computer networks and do what’s necessary to respond to the threat. Other sections of the proposal include a federal certification program for “cybersecurity professionals,” and a requirement that certain computer systems and networks in the private sector be managed by people who have been awarded that license.

“I think the redraft, while improved, remains troubling due to its vagueness,” said Larry Clinton, president of the Internet Security Alliance, which counts representatives of Verizon, Verisign, Nortel, and Carnegie Mellon University on its board. “It is unclear what authority Sen. Rockefeller thinks is necessary over the private sector. Unless this is clarified, we cannot properly analyze, let alone support the bill.”

Representatives of other large Internet and telecommunications companies expressed concerns about the bill in a teleconference with Rockefeller’s aides this week, but were not immediately available for interviews on Thursday.

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


Diana West: Lion of the Senate?

This week’s column examines the embargo the media, from left to right, slap on fact after death. They may think it’s good manners (or good politics), but it’s not only a disservice to readers and viewers, it’s dangerous for democracy.

Something about the death of a famous liberal person turns the media into grieving widows whose dictum against speaking “ill” of the dead eliminates all sober analysis of the life in question. Once, death in the passing parade came to us, more or less, in “just-the-facts, ma’am” obituaries. Now, breaking, live and for the duration, a celebratory loop plays on about even the most mixed and controversial public lives.

Notice I said “mixed” and “controversial,” restrained terminology to describe the life and times of Sen. Ted Kennedy, whose death triggered a media dump of Hallmark-curlicued tributes that all begin with “lion of the Senate” — as though that were his official title — and finish with “the end of Camelot,” as though that were his actual residence, not the tagline of an ancient PR campaign.

Question: How does the 1969 death of Mary Jo Kopechne — whom the married, panicked and first-term Sen. Ted Kennedy left to drown in 7 feet of Chappaquiddick water — apply to the “lion” from “Camelot”? Answer: It doesn’t. Remember? Don’t speak ill of the dead. Kennedy fixture Ted Sorensen’s gloss in Time magazine is typical, depicting “the Chappaquiddick incident” as merely ending Kennedy’s “bright prospects for still higher office.”

The “Chappaquiddick incident” ended more than presidential prospects. It ended the life of a woman unlucky enough to have depended on Ted Kennedy. But it didn’t end Kennedy’s political career as it should have — and would have any non-Kennedys…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]


Liberals Use Kennedy’s Death to Push Obamacare

The US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hinted big time on Wednesday what was coming. She reminded everyone that having the Health care bill was the cause of Ted Kennedy’s life. He also said at the democratic convention in August 2008 that Health care reform was the cause of his life. OK, we get it. Anyone can see with his voting record in his 46-year career in the Senate that he was big on health care.

[Comments from JD: You could see this coming from a mile away.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


More on Internment Camps

I felt it was time for someone such as me to publicly broach the subject. Needless to say, the response was overwhelming. Even more interesting is the fact that the web link to the National Guard Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) of “Internment/Resettlement Specialist” that I included in my column was removed shortly after the column was published. Was this a coincidence? Of course, the U.S. Army still has their web site soliciting recruitment for “Internment/Resettlement Specialist” online…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Newt Gingrich: President Obama Should Fire Attorney General Eric Holder

Among the president’s cabinet appointments, the Attorney General is unique.

Whereas the Secretary of Transportation is responsible for the nation’s highways and airways, and the Secretary of Agriculture oversees the nation’s farms, the Attorney General’s charge is upholding the rule of law — the glue that holds together a self-governing people.

In the latest skirmish in the Democratic Party’s war on the CIA, Attorney General Eric Holder has failed to uphold this fundamental public trust. And for that, there should be consequences.

Earlier this week, on the same day that the administration released a six-year-old report on terrorist interrogations, Holder announced he is appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the CIA officials who conducted the interrogations.

We know from long experience, of course, that special prosecutors in Washington quickly become self-justifying. To rationalize their existence, they must find people to prosecute, and find they do.

So Holder is tasking his lawyers to prosecute the men and women who worked — successfully — to keep America safe since September 11, 2001. Fair enough. It’s not too politically palatable perhaps, but the law is the law.

Or is it?

Americans could be forgiven for believing, on the basis of shamefully twisted mainstream media coverage, that the recently revealed 2004 CIA Inspector-General report at the center of this controversy is merely a cataloging of CIA abuse.

But in fact, the report methodically described a carefully limited and, with a few exceptions, faithfully implemented program of enhanced interrogation techniques — techniques that yielded what the report itself deems valuable results.

The report also details the exceptions, cases in which interrogation techniques were used that were outside the carefully developed regime.

But here is the crucial fact for Holder: All of the allegations of unauthorized methods — all of them — have already been carefully evaluated by career prosecutors. These were legal officials who, unlike Holder, do not owe their jobs to any partisan political figure.

Impartial prosecutors evaluated 20 incidents of unauthorized activity and decided against taking legal action in all cases but one. In that one case, in which a contract employee attacked a terrorist detainee with a metal flashlight, the contractor was found guilty. His case was appealed and his conviction upheld.

In other words, justice was done.

But apparently for Holder, justice under a Republican administration doesn’t mean the same thing as justice under a Democratic administration.

On the day the report was released, CIA Director Leon Panetta — himself an Obama appointee — protested that the CIA received “multiple written assurances its methods were lawful.”

The report reveals that the men and women of the CIA not only worked diligently to develop and adhere it these methods, but that their work also yielded intelligence that saved lives.

Never mind. There’s a new sheriff in town.

Holder, uniquely duty-bound to uphold the law, has disregarded the law as applied by his predecessors because he disagrees with their politics.

You could say that this is behavior more befitting a Third World dictatorship than the United States of America, except that even Third World dictators don’t unilaterally disarm in the process of administering politically driven “justice.”

The Obama Administration, still in the middle of a war with the radical wing of Islam, is waving a white flag of surrender. The honorable thing would be for the president to come out and say it; to tell the American people that be believes the threat manifest on 9/11 has passed. That we can now return to business as usual.

Instead, the president is silent on Martha’s Vineyard, and his surrogates are blaming the political prosecutions of CIA officials on the Attorney General.

Even if you believe this convenient division of political culpability, the Attorney General has failed to honor the law. He has given into — or faithfully carried out — the revenge fantasies of the anti-American left.

If Obama won’t uphold his fundamental duty as Commander-in-Chief to defend those who have been defending America, the least he can do is insist that his Attorney General uphold his fundamental duty to defend the rule of law.

If Holder and his senior team won’t do the right thing and resign their positions, Obama should do the right thing and fire them.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Obama Adviser’s Reply to 9/11: Solidarity With U.S. ‘Victims’

White House ‘rowdy communist’ held vigil for Muslims

One day after the 9/11 attacks, the organization founded by President Obama’s “green jobs czar” held a vigil in which it expressed solidarity with Arab and Muslim Americans as well as what it called the victims of “U.S. imperialism” around the world.

WND previously reported Van Jones, special adviser for green jobs, enterprise and innovation to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, is an admitted black nationalist and radical communist.

Jones was the leader and founder of a radical group, the communist revolutionary organization Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement, or STORM.

STORM’s official manifesto, titled, “Reclaiming Revolution,” has surfaced on the Internet.

[…]

Cabral is the late Marxist revolutionary leader of Guinea-Bissau and the Cape Verde Islands.

WND previously reported Jones named his son after Cabral and reportedly concludes every e-mail with a quote from the communist leader.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Obama’s Health Rationer-in-Chief

White House health-care adviser Ezekiel Emanuel blames the Hippocratic Oath for the ‘overuse’ of medical care.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, health adviser to President Barack Obama, is under scrutiny. As a bioethicist, he has written extensively about who should get medical care, who should decide, and whose life is worth saving. Dr. Emanuel is part of a school of thought that redefines a physician’s duty, insisting that it includes working for the greater good of society instead of focusing only on a patient’s needs. Many physicians find that view dangerous, and most Americans are likely to agree.

The health bills being pushed through Congress put important decisions in the hands of presidential appointees like Dr. Emanuel. They will decide what insurance plans cover, how much leeway your doctor will have, and what seniors get under Medicare. Dr. Emanuel, brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, has already been appointed to two key positions: health-policy adviser at the Office of Management and Budget and a member of the Federal Council on Comparative Effectiveness Research. He clearly will play a role guiding the White House’s health initiative.

Dr. Emanuel says that health reform will not be pain free, and that the usual recommendations for cutting medical spending (often urged by the president) are mere window dressing. As he wrote in the Feb. 27, 2008, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA): “Vague promises of savings from cutting waste, enhancing prevention and wellness, installing electronic medical records and improving quality of care are merely ‘lipstick’ cost control, more for show and public relations than for true change.”

True reform, he argues, must include redefining doctors’ ethical obligations. In the June 18, 2008, issue of JAMA, Dr. Emanuel blames the Hippocratic Oath for the “overuse” of medical care: “Medical school education and post graduate education emphasize thoroughness,” he writes. “This culture is further reinforced by a unique understanding of professional obligations, specifically the Hippocratic Oath’s admonition to ‘use my power to help the sick to the best of my ability and judgment’ as an imperative to do everything for the patient regardless of cost or effect on others.”

In numerous writings, Dr. Emanuel chastises physicians for thinking only about their own patient’s needs.

[…]

Dr. Emanuel concedes that his plan appears to discriminate against older people, but he explains: “Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination. . . . Treating 65 year olds differently because of stereotypes or falsehoods would be ageist; treating them differently because they have already had more life-years is not.”

The youngest are also put at the back of the line: “Adolescents have received substantial education and parental care, investments that will be wasted without a complete life. Infants, by contrast, have not yet received these investments.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Obamacare Activists to Crash D.C.’s Massive Tea Party?

Health ‘reform’ advocates organize ‘well-funded’ counterattack for next day

Just as thousands of taxpayers from across the nation are planning to descend on Washington, D.C., to take their fight against excessive spending, bailouts, growth of big government and soaring deficits to the front door of the U.S. Capitol — “Obamacare” proponents have responded with a well-funded counterattack scheduled for the following day.

In a major movement unaffiliated with — but inspired by — Fox News’ Glenn Beck’s 9-12 Project, called the National Taxpayer Protest, thousands of Americans are answering the call and booking travel arrangements to make their voices heard at Capitol Hill on Sept. 12.

Robert Reich, former Labor secretary for President Bill Clinton, called for yet another “march on Washington” on Sept. 13 in support of including a public option in Obama’s health “reform.”

“If enough people feel that’s the best way for their voices to be heard, and can’t be heard in any other way, then we march,” he said in Politico’s Arena.

Reich encouraged public option proponents to “make a racket.”

[…]

Dick Armey, chairman of FreedomWorks, one of the groups organizing the Sept. 12 event, said in a newsletter, “It’s no coincidence he picked the day after our event to try and organize his — Reich, allied with the likes of MoveOn.org, the AFL-CIO, and the other usual suspects on the Left, are trying to overshadow and drown out our event and its limited government message.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Obama’s Nazi Straw Man: An Old Alinsky Trick

When Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and now the president’s own deputy press secretary conjure up images of Nazis at healthcare town halls, they are engaging in one of the oldest tricks in anyone’s book, but an especial favorite of their mentor, Saul Alinsky.

Alinsky himself employed this method, quite deviously. Alinsky biographer, Sanford D. Horwitt provides an anecdote using precisely this same diabolical tactic to deceive the people. From Horwitt’s Let Them Call Me Rebel:

“…in the spring of 1972, at Tulane University…students asked Alinsky to help plan a protest of a scheduled speech by George H. W. Bush, then U.S. representative to the United Nations — a speech likely to include a defense of the Nixon administration’s Vietnam War policies. The students told Alinsky they were thinking about picketing or disrupting Bush’s address. That’s the wrong approach, he rejoined, not very creative — and besides causing a disruption might get them thrown out of school. He told them, instead, to go to hear the speech dressed as members of the Ku Klux Klan, and whenever Bush said something in defense of the Vietnam War, they should cheer and wave placards reading, ‘The KKK supports Bush.’ And that is what they did, with very successful, attention-getting results.”

Planting major falsehoods has been a favorite Alinsky strategy from the start. His acolyte, Barack Obama, learned his Industrial Areas Foundation lessons on deceiving for power while on a side trip during his Harvard years, then taught the Alinsky power tactics at the University of Chicago.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Remove ICLEI — Restore the Republic

I have included a list of 544 American cities in which ICLEI is being paid with tax dollars from city councils to implement and enforce Sustainable Development. ICLEI is there to assure that the mayors keep their promises and meet their goals. Climate change, of course, is the ICLEI mantra. Here’s just some of the programs ICLEI provides cities and towns, in order to spread their own particular political agenda in the name of “community services” and environmental protection, they include…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Satire: Senate Dems to Honor Kennedy by Each Insuring a Poor Family

News fairly unbalanced. We report. You decipher.

As a tribute to the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, whose year-long battle with brain cancer ended Tuesday, Senate Democrats have announced that each of them will purchase a health insurance policy to cover a poor family for the rest of their lives.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said his colleagues would also encourage every American Democrat who earns more than $100,000 per year to do the same. Reid has invited Republicans to emulate the move, and he speculated that “they’ll probably cover two families each just to flaunt their wealth.”

The gesture comports with Kennedy’s lifelong ambition to get health care for every American, as well as his reputation as a lawmaker who could bridge partisan divides to get things done. With today’s announcement, the national health care reform debate effectively ended.

“This is a win-win,” said Reid. “Not only can we insure most of the uninsured by simply having wealthy Democrats adopt a poor family, but since my paycheck comes from the government, my liberal friends will be glad to know that the taxpayers are subsidizing this program. It’s a public option. Sen. Kennedy would be proud.”

Nevertheless, resistance to the plan is expected to come from liberal Democrats wary of “anything that smacks of moralistic compassion without legislative compulsion.”

“If you let people think that it’s up to them to care for their neighbors,” the unnamed senator said, “they’ll start wondering why that doesn’t apply to other activities we currently mandate. It’s a slippery slope.”

In support of the voluntary program, Senate Democrats could be seen wearing wristbands inscribed with “WWTD” — an acronym that means “What Would Teddy Do?”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Seven Lessons of Cash-for-Clunkers’ Failure

It’s over, finished, done. And quiet returns to the auto showrooms of America. Cash-for-Clunkers has outlived its funding. But left us with a host of useful lessons.

First, government forecasters are really bad at their job. The program was originally funded with $1 billion of taxpayer money to cover rebates of $3,500-$4,500 on cars traded in for more fuel-efficient models, and the money was expected to last for about six months. It lasted for one week.

The $2 billion added to keep the program alive lasted less than a month. No surprise, then, that the government just discovered that its forecast of the deficit in the coming decade is light by a mere $2 trillion, or almost 30 percent.

Second, the government’s talents, whatever they might be, do not include efficient administration of its programs. The 135 pages of rules setting out what dealers had to do to recapture the refund money they laid out, were constantly changed, the web site they were to use to apply to get their money back frequently crashed, and some had to drop out of the program because they had run out of cash.

The Department of Transportation assigned 2,000 workers to process dealer paperwork, but they seemed unable to get the money to dealers who, having laid it out in response to promises of prompt repayment, desperately needed the cash. So if you think the President’s plan to “reform” health care will make it easier to cope with the paperwork surrounding hospital and doctor’s bills, think again.

Third, Cash-for-Clunkers proved that if you give people $4,500 to buy a durable good, they will be more likely to buy it while the refund is available than later. But it does not show that the increase in spending meets one of White House economist Larry Summers’ tests — sustainability.

The buyers of the almost 700,000 cars — 41 percent from Japanese makers and 39 percent from the (once) Big Three — for which dealers have filed $2.88 billion in refund requests included many who merely accelerated their purchase. Estimates are that 60 percent of buyers would have bought cars this year without this incentive. So dealers are expecting a very quiet few months.

And from the stimulus effect of the program must be deducted the appliances, clothes and other stuff that consumers will not buy in the future, now that they have the burden of lease or loan payments for their new vehicles.

Fourth, if you want to reduce dependence of foreign oil, don’t look to Cash-for-Clunkers for help. On the best of assumptions about the fuel saved by replacing inefficient Clunkers with cars that get perhaps 10 mpg more than the Clunkers they replace, the reduction in gasoline consumption will cut our oil consumption by 0.2 percent per year, or less than a single day’s gasoline use.

Unless, of course, the new car is more frequently driven because lower fuel consumption lowers the cost of driving, and increases the pleasure of taking to the road, in which case the saving will be less, or none.

Christopher Knittel, associate professor of economics at the University of California, estimates that the cost of reducing emissions was somewhere between $237 per ton and $365 per ton. Since the market price for carbon has fluctuated between around $20 and $40 per ton, “the program is an expensive way to reduce greenhouse gases.” But cost is not something this Congress and the administration systematically factor into their policy ruminations.

Fifth, but fuel saving was only one goal of the program. The main stated goal was to cut carbon dioxide emissions and thereby postpone the day when the globe will be so warm that the ice cap melts, islands are inundated and we face a gory future. That, the program did, although only inconsequentially, given the pell-mell construction of coal plants in China and India. But at a horrendously uneconomic cost.

Sixth, unionization matters. Cash-for-Clunkers added $3 trillion to the billions of taxpayer money expended to save General Motors and Chrysler, i.e., members of the United Auto Workers. What a like sum might have done for furniture makers, or the hotel industry, or small businesses, was never even considered.

Seventh, programs such as Cash-for-Clunkers have no regard for lower-income consumers. By mandating the destruction of trade-ins, Congress removed 700,000 cars from the used-car market, inevitably driving up prices of the cars that lower-income consumers tend to buy.

And by ordering that a trade-in’s engine be destroyed by replacing its engine oil with a sodium silicate solution (which turns out to be in short supply!), Congress sharply reduced the salvageable used parts that are bought mostly by poorer consumers to keep their cars running.

There’s more, but you get the idea. It takes a politician to declare Cash-for-Clunkers a success.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Stop ‘Emotionalizing’ The Cap-and-Trade Debate

Environmental activists who favor anti-global warming regulations like the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill now before the U.S. Senate have long claimed that government intervention is essential to save the planet from an imminent man-made catastrophe. In fact, only Waxman-Markey threatens to be a man-made catastrophe. The bill would create billions of dollars’ worth of government credits to businesses that reduce carbon emissions. Businesses that exceed the required reductions could sell the credits to firms that fail to do so. The approach won’t work because it would use a government mandate to create a market for which there is no consumer demand.

Since the American economy is mainly powered by energy produced from carbon fuels and will be for the foreseeable future, reducing carbon emissions requires slowing or eliminating economic growth, with the result that 2 million more Americans will become unemployed by 2012, according to an analysis by the conservative Heritage Foundation. Similarly, the Brookings Institution — certainly no sentinel of rightward analysis — also predicts dire economic results from Waxman-Markey.

To overcome such objections, environmental advocates project a dire future in the hope Congress will adopt measures like Waxman-Markey to assuage public fears. At least one major environmentalist leader has confessed to “emotionalizing” the anti-global warming case as a way of capturing public attention and generating support. Gerd Leipold, retiring director of Greenpeace, in an Aug. 7 interview with the BBC, conceded that Arctic ice would not all melt by 2030, contrary to his organization’s prediction earlier this year.

But when pressed by the BBC reporter to defend such predictions in Greenpeace news releases and briefing materials, Leipold admitted errors but defended them as a necessary means to an end: “What we have said by and large over the last 20 years I think was wise and was rational and reasonable. … We are confronted with a world that has unfortunately only recently woken up to it. We as a pressure group have to emotionalize issues, and we are not ashamed of emotionalizing issues.”
In other words, Greenpeace is engaging in propaganda.

Waxman-Markey has already passed the House, but in September, the Senate will have an opportunity to de-emotionalize the debate over the bill. And Senate members do, they should take a hard look at the pronouncements of Greenpeace and other environmentalist groups, and separate the propaganda from the facts.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Tax Cuts Could Get Health Care Back on Track

The raging national debate over Obamacare revolves largely around spending. Should Washington plunge itself $1.1 trillion deeper into medicine? While this conversation dominates the headlines, Americans also should consider how tax cuts could improve the delivery and payment of health care.

Republicans, for instance, have proposed tax credits to help Americans purchase health insurance that they would own, control and carry with them throughout their lives, rather than rely on employers to provide such coverage. Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, M.D.’s, Patients Choice Act would make insurance more affordable via tax credits worth up to $2,300 for individuals and $5,700 for families.

Those with incomes too low to pay federal taxes would receive “refundable” tax credits to finance coverage. Perhaps these could be distributed as “health stamps.” Like food stamps, this would be public assistance. Health stamps, like food stamps, would let low-income Americans exercise choices of their tastes and preferences, not government’s.

Tax cuts could help answer the difficult question of how to handle those with pre-existing medical conditions. Why not make premium revenues tax-free when private underwriters accept uninsured individuals with such maladies? Let’s say that Acme Insurance covers a diabetic at $5,000 annually. If that premium payment were tax-free, Acme could apply that full $5,000 to its bottom line, without paying Uncle Sam a 35 percent ($1,750) corporate tax. This added value should encourage insurers to include those who they otherwise might consider financial liabilities.

“As a diabetic, I think tax-favored premiums for those with pre-existing conditions could make it easier for insurers to sign up someone like me,” says Manhattan financier Brett Shisler. “Such a reform would give me peace of mind.”

As New York philanthropist R. Randolph Richardson recently noted at an Atlas Economic Research Foundation seminar, why not reward doctors who donate their services to needy, uninsured patients? Imagine that Dr. Gomez sees the uninsured every Tuesday and Thursday mornings. She could treat the value of these four hours of weekly foregone revenue as a charitable deduction.

The goal here is to entice millions of health care professional to contribute their services to those who cannot afford them and cannot secure or purchase insurance. Why not turn thousands of clinics and examination rooms into the domestic equivalent of Doctors Without Borders?

Government should limit itself to certifying people as uninsured and needy so that prosperous-but-stingy people do not game the system.

Washington politicians could make it easier for sole proprietors to purchase health insurance by shielding premiums from the 15.3 percent payroll tax. Large corporations already may deduct employee health costs. America’s 22 million self-employed business owners, however, must pay full freight for health insurance, plus payroll taxes on that money.

The National Association for the Self-Employed cites a Mr. Smith, who works for himself. His health coverage costs $5,000 annually.

He also pays the 15.3 percent levy ($765) on this money. “No other owner or employer in the U.S. pays this additional tax on their health coverage,” NASE explains.

Changing the rules for itemized deductions would help, too. Taxpayers only may exclude medical costs that exceed 7.5 percent of income, not the 2 percent threshold for miscellaneous itemized deductions. Lowering the medical ceiling to match that for everyday expenses would help Americans finance their own health care.

Some might argue for simplifying and flattening the Tax Code rather than adding these fresh nuances. However, tax fighters generally prefer incentives that let insurers and doctors make arrangements with needy patients, rather than empower Washington politicians and bureaucrats to mismanage a brand-new, costly, baroque subsidy system.

“These complexities pale in comparison to the 1,000-plus pages of the Democrats’ health care legislation, not to mention tens of thousands of pages in new regulations,” says National Taxpayers Union spokesman Pete Sepp. “The tax code long has stood in the way of helping individuals purchase insurance they can afford, and it’s time to remove those obstacles.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Why the Washington Post Censored Robert Novak

In his book, The Prince of Darkness, the late journalist Robert Novak described how the Washington Post, which carried his columns, censored one of them. The censored column concerned the activities in Washington, D.C. of Cuban agent-of-influence Orlando Letelier. Novak describes how the Post’s editorial page editor, Philip Geyelin, “spiked” the column because of “displeasure with the column’s content.” Letelier, a Chilean Marxist working for Cuba, had been manipulating the media and Congress before his…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Canada

Kids: The Worthiest Enterprise

George Orwell once wrote that the pacifist was free to indulge his opposition to war only because someone else was prepared to take up arms to defend his rights.

Similarly, the advocate of childlessness relies on the willingness of others to produce children, not just to keep the species going, but also to produce the taxpayers the childless will need to fund his old-age health and pension benefits.

Those who could have children, but choose not to, are, of course, indulging in the ultimate self-centeredness. Were everyone to copy their preference, within a generation there would be no more human race.

By their action — or more accurately, their inaction — they are saying to the rest of society, “Alright, you unimaginative proles. You take care of the mundane business of keeping the species going — you do the heavy lifting — while we go about endlessly spoiling ourselves and indulging our personal interests. Just be sure you produce enough spawn to keep our retirement benefits coming when we turn old.”

There is no doubt that childbearing turns some parents into insufferable bores. As French author Corinne Maier — whose book No Kids: 40 Good Reasons Not To Have Children is the impetus for this commentary series — wrote, parents who feel they must share the visual record of their child’s birth with dinner party guests or let their toddlers record the message on the family answering machine or enter into detailed descriptions of junior’s potty training are guilty of self-indulgence, too.

I call this subset of new parents, the Baby On Board Crowd (BOBC) for their tendency to believe everyone will be as interested as they are in the minutiae of baby’s day-by-day development. They affix those annoying stickers to the rear windows announcing to the world that their vehicle has a baby inside, as if that is somehow going to make other drivers more cautious around their crossover or van.

The real purpose of these stickers is to trumpet to the world, “Look at us, we have a baby!,” because they are completely ineffective at shielding junior against the drunk driver or speeder.

This puts the BOBC only slightly above the Children Make the Best Accessories Cluster (CMBAC)— those parents, usually upper-middle class, who have had children largely for the way they and their offspring look so darling together in matching yoga outfits.

While also somewhat selfish, at least both the BOBC and CMBAC are being gushingly unendurable on behalf of another, tiny someone else. Their sacrifice may not be entirely martyrish, but at least they are caring for something greater than the self.

Moreover, to the rest of the world, the wilfully childless are every bit as tedious, with tales of their latest trek, wine-tasting, retreat weekend, home restyling, spa treatment or ocean kayaking encounter with orcas. And, of course, their tiresome tales have the double burden of being all about me, me, me.

I confess, I cannot fully comprehend why anyone would deny themselves the absolute joy of having children. Of the many hats I wear, the two I would give up last are husband and father.

Can children be trying, annoying, temperamental, heart-breaking and difficult? Of course. Caring for them and raising them is often hard, exhausting, emotional work. They change your life in ways you cannot conceive until you have them. But being parents is the most worthwhile enterprise my wife and I have ever entered into.

I never knew the full, rich dimensions of love until I held our infants in my arms, saw the wonder on their faces when they took their first steps, had my first adult discussions with them and saw deep understanding of their world emerge.

Now nothing — nothing — brings me greater joy than the small, smiling nod and quiet “Mmm” on our daughter’s lips when I’ve made a meal she likes, or the way our son can truly crack me up with jokes and gags he makes up.

I look forward to big family holiday gatherings, vacations together, graduations, first dates, concerts and shared everyday triumphs and failures until I am gone from this world.

If there are 40 reasons not to have children, there are 4,000 better ones why we should.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Czech Rep: Czech Romany Given 20 Months in Prison Over Girl’s Abduction

Brno — The Brno Regional Court today sentenced Czech Romany Ladislav Danis to 20 months in prison for having assisted in the abduction of a 15-year-old girl in Prostejov, south Moravia.

The case was connected with a dispute between two Olah Romany clans from Brno and Ostrava, north Moravia.

The court proceedings were accompanied by strict security measures over the fears of clashes between the Romany clans.

Danis was first also charged with having shot and wounded the girl’s relative during the abduction, but the court acquitted him of attempted murder charges.

It found him guilty only of restriction of personal freedom.

The High Court returned the case to the Regional Court that was to assess whether the Romanies from Ostrava influenced witnesses and threatened them to protect Danis.

The wounded man identified Danis previously as the shooter, but later he changed his testimony several times. In the end he said he had not seen the shooter.

Danis was first given only 15 months in prison, though the state attorney proposed up to 15 years.

Another three men were convicted of the abduction this year and the verdict has taken effect.

The media reported that the Romany dispute was provoked by the kidnapping of a Romany girl whose father demanded a dowry from the family of the alleged kidnapper. It ended up in a shoot-out in which a man was seriously wounded.

The whole case culminated with a brawl in the centre of Brno on February 24 in which about 70 Romanies were involved. Some 40 policemen had to intervene to calm down the incident.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Denmark: Mosque Being Built in Copenhagen

Muslims in the capital will finally have fitting place of worship with a mosque being constructed

Copenhagen’s first mosque will be a blue dome structure in the Nørrebro district after the City Council voted in favour of approving a district plan for its construction.

The council voted yesterday for a 2000sqm former machine factory on Vibevej Road to be transformed into the 32m tall place of worship for the city’s Muslims.

The building’s frontal facade will be 13m tall, while the blue dome stretching another 24m up. The mosque will also have two minarets at a height of 32m. The minarets will be largely symbolic as they will not be used to call people to prayer, reports TV2 News.

The building will include a prayer room, amphitheatre, conference centre, library and housing quarters for visiting imams.

The project is being organised by the Ahlul Bait Association and is expected to cost about 50 million kroner, which will be funded through private donations.

‘Copenhagen has a cathedral, a Russian church, a synagogue and of course we should also have a new mosque. I hope it will be a place that’s full of life and inviting to show that Copenhagen is a diverse city,’ said Klaus Bondam, head of the city’s technical and environmental department.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Denmark: Court to Decide on Lisbon Treaty

The Eastern High Court hears arguments today on whether a case against the prime and foreign ministers over the Lisbon Treaty is relevant.

The Eastern High Court is to hear arguments today on whether a case brought by 38 Danes against the prime and foreign ministers for failing to send the EU’s Lisbon Treaty to referendum, is at all relevant.

Irrespective of whether the court finds in favour of the petitioners or the ministers, both sides have said they will appeal to the Supreme Court if the court finds against them.

Constitution The petitioners claim that the Lisbon Treaty should have been sent to referendum under paragraph 20 of the Danish Constitution as they claim the treaty is a constitution in disguise and represents a devolution of sovereignty.

Junior Counsel to the Treasury Peter Biering, who represents the two ministers, has chosen to contest the relevance of the case. Legal counsel to the government has maintained that the Treaty did not require a referendum.

Given the decision by both parties to appeal the court’s decision on relevance, a court case is unlikely to be heard in the Eastern High Court on the core issue of the case until 2011 — provided that an eventual appeal in the Supreme Court finds the case to be relevant.

Paragraph 20 of the Danish Constitution reads as follows:

(1) Powers vested in the authorities of the Realm under this Constitutional Act may, to such extent as shall be provided by statute, be delegated to international authorities set up by mutual agreement with other states for the promotion of international rules of law and cooperation.

(2) For the enactment of a Bill dealing with the above, a majority of five-sixths of the members of the Folketing shall be required. If this majority is not obtained, whereas the majority required for the passing of ordinary Bills is obtained, and if the Government maintains it, the Bill shall be submitted to the electorate for approval or rejection in accordance with the rules for referenda laid down in section 42.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Germany: Hiding the Truth About Husseini

The publicly funded Multicultural Center’s (Werkstatt der Kulturen) decision to remove educational panels of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Muhammad Amin al-Husseini, who was an ally of Adolf Hitler, from a planned exhibit, sparked outrage on Thursday among a district mayor, the curator of the exhibit, and the Berlin Jewish community.

The famous photo of Adolf Hitler sitting with Grand Mufti Hajj Muhammad Amin al-Husseini.

SLIDESHOW: Israel & Region | World The curator, Karl Rössler, told The Jerusalem Post that it is a “scandal” that the director of the Werkstatt, Philippa Ebéné, sought to censor the exhibit.

“One must, of course, name that al-Husseini, a SS functionary, participated in the Holocaust,” said Rössler.

The exhibit covers the “The Third World during the Second World War” and three exhibit panels of 96 are devoted to the mufti’s collaboration with the Nazis.

The grand mufti delivered a talk to the imams of the Bosnian SS division in 1944, and was a key Islamic supporter of Nazi Germany’s destruction of European Jewry.

Ebéné denied that there was an “agreement “ reached with the local German-Muslim community to shut down the exhibit. She termed media queries regarding an agreement as “Eurocentric.”

She told the Post that the exhibit was intended as a “homage to soldiers from African” countries who fought against the Nazis.

When asked about her opposition to the inclusion of the mufti panels, she asked, “was there ever a commemoration event in Israel to honor the [African] soldiers?”

Rössler was notified last Friday that Ebéné wanted to take out the panels dealing with the grand mufti, but he rejected her demand to remove them.

Meanwhile, the exhibit in its uncensored version has been relocated to the UferHallen gallery.

Maya Zehden, a spokeswoman for the 12,000-strong Berlin Jewish community, told the Post that Ebéné’s rejection of the exhibit showed “intolerance,” and a director who is “incapable of acting in a democratic” manner.

Zehden urged that the Berlin government consider replacing Ebéné as director. Zehden also sharply criticized Günter Piening, Berlin’s commissioner for integration and migration, for defending Ebéné’s decision to censor the exhibit.

Piening told the large daily Tagesspiegel that, “We need, in a community like Neukölln, a differentiated presentation of the involvement of the Arabic world in the Second World War.”

Zehden termed his statement “an appeasement attempt” to ignore the fact that “there was no official resistance from the Arabic world against the persecution of Jews” during the Shoah.

She accused Piening of showing a false tolerance to German-Arabs in the neighborhood by not wanting to deal with disturbances from the local community.

Piening issued conflicting statements to the Post. While denying his statement to the Tagesspiegel, he said, however, that his comment was stripped out of a context of quotes.

He said the “reason” for the removal of the grand mufti panels dealt with a “misunderstanding of the background of the exhibit.”

In an e-mail to the Post, Heinz Buschkowsky, the district mayor in Neukölln, where the exhibit was originally planned, wrote, it is a sign of “anticipatory obedience to avoid probable protests. I do not consider this position to be good.”

He added that Piening’s statement is a “repression of the facts dealing with anti-Semitism.”

The district mayor wrote that the center by its own “claim to stand for freedom, tolerance, and culture should be careful not to set off suspicion that it is imposing censorship.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Germany: Terrorist Suspect Arrested En Route to Islamist Training Camp

Police have arrested a 24-year-old suspected of helping the Sauerland terrorist cell currently on trial in Düsseldorf. He was reportedly on his way to an Islamist training camp.

Federal prosecutors believe the Turkish-German, named as Kadir T., allegedly supported the four-member Sauerland cell by purchasing a video camera and night-vision goggles in June 2007 for the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) in Pakistan. Cell member Adem Yilmaz is thought to have worked with the extremist group, which has been linked to al-Qaida.

Yilmaz allegedly used his brother Burhan Yilmaz to hand over the items, the Karlsruhe-based federal prosecutors said.

According to daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Friday, Kadir T. was travelling to the Afghan-Pakistan border to attend a terrorist training camp when he was arrested on Thursday.

The Sauerland cell is currently on trial after being arrested in September 2007 for planning attacks on Americans in Germany.

Earlier this month 29-year-old mastermind and German Islam convert Fritz Gelowicz admitted in court that he and the three other defendants had aimed to kill as many US soldiers based in Germany as possible. The planned attack was meant to warn Germany to remove its troops from Afghanistan.

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


Germans Detain Suspect in Anti-US Terror Plot

Police in Germany have arrested an additional suspect connected to the Sauerland terror cell. According to the federal prosecutor, the man is a 24-year-old Turkish-German from the central state of Hesse. He is believed to have been preparing to travel to a terrorist training camp.

German officials said Friday they had arrested an additional terror suspect with connections to the so-called Sauerland group, a terror cell whose leaders are currently on trial in Düsseldorf for planning terrorist attacks against American targets in Germany. Officers with the Federal Criminal Police Office said they detained 24-year-old German-Turk Kadir T. on Wednesday.

The man is suspected of purchasing a video camera and a night-vision device for the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) terror group. The devices were given to Adem Yilmaz of the Sauerland cell, who is then believed to have passed them along to IJU through his brother Burhan, prosecutors said.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is reporting that Kadir T. was preparing to travel to a terrorist training camp located in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area at the time of his arrest. Police investigators say they have evidence that the suspect was planning to obtain training for conducting terrorist attacks at the camp. An investigating judge at the German Federal Court of Justice on Thursday ordered the man to be held in investigative custody, Federal Prosecutor’s Office officials said. The man is said to be from the city of Langen near Frankfurt. He is accused of supporting a terrorist organization and violating German export laws.

The suspect is believed to have been recruited by the members of the Sauerland group currently on trial and other members of IJU, the paper reported. But the extent to which the suspect provided support to the terror group is unclear. The only concrete evidence is that he planned to train in a terror camp, the paper reported, citing sources within the police investigation.

Adem Yilmaz and three other suspected members of the Sauerland group are currently being tried in Düsseldorf’s higher regional court. The Federal Prosecutor has charged the men with planning massive car bomb attacks on United States citizens and American facilities in Germany, where the US Army has a number of bases.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Germany: Former RAF Terrorist Arrested in Connection With 1977 Murder

German authorities have arrested Verena Becker, a former leftist terrorist for her suspected role in the murder of West German federal prosecutor Siegfried Buback.

Becker was detained at her Berlin home on Friday after incriminating material was found during a search of her apartment last week. A new investigation into Buback’s shooting was launched last year based on DNA evidence.

According to the arrest warrant, Becker made “essential contributions to the preparation and execution of the attack.” Two other men escorting Buback were also killed.

Becker’s DNA was found on the envelope in which a letter claiming responsibility for the assassination was sent by the RAF. Such a discovery would not have been possible with the forensic technology available to investigators 32 years ago.

Other members of the now disbanded Red Army Faction (RAF) have already been convicted of the April 7, 1977 assassination, but a case against Becker was dropped in 1980 for lack of evidence. Prosecutors say they have no evidence directly linking Becker to the masked gunman who fired the shots at Buback’s car from a motorcycle, but do have clear indication of her involvement in the killings.

Becker has already served a prison sentence for her role in other terrorist attacks, but she has been free since 1989. The RAF terrorized West Germany in the 1970s with a campaign of bombings and murder intended to inspire a “worker uprising” and create a hard-line communist state.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Ireland: Marriage Has Special Status for Good Reason — Children

by David Quinn

Having wrecked the economy, our leaders are now doing their best to wreck society itself. Why leave a job half-finished?

One way they are helping to wreck society is by destroying the special status of marriage.

Last Saturday, Cardinal Sean Brady delivered a major homily in Limerick in which he criticised government plans, backed by the opposition, to legislate for same-sex civil partnerships.

Of course, being a bishop, at least half the public will automatically turn against whatever he has to say regardless of the merit or demerits of the actual argument.

But as the cardinal rightly pointed out, what the Government is proposing to give to same-sex couples is virtually marriage, despite the gay lobby’s protests to the contrary.

He said that what was being planned would hugely change people’s concept of the family, and for the worse.

What we have done to the family in Ireland over the past few decades has been to increasingly detach getting married from having children.

Mind you, the middle class don’t usually do this.

They may be liberals in theory, but they are traditionalists in practice because the vast majority of middle-class people wait until they marry before they have children.

Deep down, they know that this is best for children, and best for the couple also.

Going it alone, or being forced to go it alone, is very difficult — on both the adult and on the children.

It is much more in working class areas that having children has been detached from marriage, and with often devastating consequences as the gangs frequently step in and take over the role of ‘dad’ to the boys.

Liberals are fond of goading conservatives for claiming the roof would cave in following this or that liberal reform.

The roof hasn’t caved in, they say, society is still fine. But by this reckoning you might as well say the economy is fine.

After all, unemployment may be soaring towards 17pc but the vast majority of us will still have our jobs even when things hit bottom.

Apart from higher taxes, the economic meltdown will actually leave very many people relatively unscathed.

However, this doesn’t alter the fact that the economy is in a disastrous state.

The same kind of analysis applies to the often baneful outcome of many of the liberal reforms of the past few decades — namely rising crime, rising suicide, substance abuse and family breakdown.

Most of us will never be a victim of anything but petty crime, if that. The vast majority of us will never come directly into contact with suicide, thank God.

Only a smallish minority will use drugs or abuse alcohol. As for family breakdown, most of us will also remain untouched by that.

However, the number of couples whose marriages have broken down has risen 500pc in just 20 years to 200,000 couples, plus their children.

More importantly, one in four children is now raised without the benefit of both a married mother and a father living under the same roof as them.

So it’s true that social breakdown, like the economic breakdown, doesn’t hit everyone equally hard, but it’s happening all the same, no matter what liberals may think.

In some parts of society, the roof has completely caved in. Having detached having children from getting married, we are now preparing to detach having children from heterosexuality itself.

This is absolutely stunning.

The Government, admittedly, is not about to permit adoption by same-sex couples in the short-term, but it will follow inexorably from permitting a form of civil partnership that is all but marriage.

That is the logic of it because the political establishment has completely forgotten why marriage has historically been given preferential treatment — special status — by society.

Historically, marriage has received such treatment because of children and more precisely because of our desire to try and ensure that as many children as possible enjoy the benefit of being raised by a married mother and father who love them.

When you think about it, compared with marriage, every other kind of relationship, and not just same-sex ones, is “discriminated” against.

But, in truth, it is not discrimination to treat different situations in different ways and no relationship is the same as marriage from a child’s point of view because no other relationship can give a child a married mother and father.

Therefore, marriage between a man and a woman deserves special treatment.

The gay agenda completely turns this view on its head.

It says there is nothing special about heterosexual marriage and there is nothing advantageous in having a loving, married mother and father.

It insists that two men or two women will do just as well.

This is what the gay agenda does.

It persuades us that children have no need of a mother and father and no right to a mother and father, even in theory.

This is an offence against natural justice, and the Government has no business helping this agenda along.

[Return to headlines]


Ireland: Group Wants Cash to Fight ‘Godless’ Treaty

AN anti-abortion group is seeking €120,000 from its supporters to defeat the “Godless” Lisbon Treaty.

Coir plans to circulate one million leaflets and put up 12,000 posters in the run-up to the Lisbon referendum.

The right-wing Catholic organisation was responsible for the ‘three monkeys’ posters in the first Lisbon vote, which proved highly effective.

In a fundraising letter to Coir supporters, obtained by the Irish Independent, Fr John Brady compares his organisation to the “missionaries of old”.

“We need to lead this battle against a treaty which would bring about a new empire, where the unborn child has no rights, and God himself is forgotten,” he writes.

Fr Brady, the spiritual adviser to Coir, says not a word of the treaty has been changed and the assurances obtained by the Government are not legally binding.

Coir spokesman Richard Greene says their posters will start going up next week. He said the group has a few thousand activists to assist with its campaign and the ‘Yes’ campaign is getting too much media exposure. “We believe the whole over-coverage of the ‘Yes’ campaign has been counterproductive,” he said.

Sinister

But European Affairs Minister Dick Roche accused Coir of being a “sinister organisation”.

“It is a secretive organisation, very closely associated with Youth Defence. It takes a very extreme view on issues — not just on the Lisbon Treaty,” he said.

And the Referendum Commission, the independent information body, says the Lisbon Treaty proposes “no changes in relation to abortion or family rights”.

[Return to headlines]


Italy: Assaulted Gay Couple: PD Demands Concia Bill’s Approval

(AGI) — Rome, 25 Aug. — “We are very pleased with the position statement of Rome’s mayor, Gianni Alemanno, whom, following the violent attacks perpetrated against gay men in the Italian capital, confirmed once again his full support for the government bill against homophobia brought forward by our deputy, Paola Concia. As the PD group in the Chamber, we have often mentioned the need for legislational measures against the hateful acts of intolerance against homosexuals and we have already asked president Fini to schedule the approval of the bill as soon as the Parliament will reopen. We hope that Alemanno’s statements will not be left as just words but they will convince the majority of the need to speed up the bill’s approval in the Chamber,” said Martina Sereni, spokesperson for the office of the president of the Democratic Party in the Chamber of Deputies.

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


Italy: Rome Council Steps Up Surveillance After Gay Attacks

Rome, 26 August (AKI) — Rome’s conservative mayor Gianni Alemanno has ordered more security cameras to be installed at city’s main gay venues following several recent homophobic attacks in the city. On Tuesday, a gay disco in Rome’s northeastern Tibertina district was set alight and last Saturday two young gay men were attacked at one of the city’s main summer venues in the southern EUR district.

An extra security camera as already been installed at EUR’s ‘Gay Village’ since Saturday’s attack, in which one of the gay men was stabbed and the other struck with a glass bottle.

The new camera is connected around the clock to the local police station.

Following consultations with Rome’s gay community, the city council has also agreed to create and fund an observatory on sexual intolerance, to be run jointly with the city’s gay associations.

The city council has also agreed to sponsor a bill that would make sexual intolerance an ‘aggravating factor’ in crimes committed against individuals.

“Repecting the law and the individual must be a value for absolutely everyone,” Alemanno said on Wednesday.

He denied that homophobic violence was growing in Rome.

“Rome is a tolerant city, but we need to go after and punish a small minority of dangerously intolerant individuals,” he stressed.

One of Rome’s main gay organisations, the Mario Mieli Circle disagreed with Alemanno’s assessment, describing the recent attacks as “intimidating”.

“We are certain they stem from blindly violent attitudes to the gay, lesbian and transexual community.

“But our community will not be cowed by the general climate of fanatical intolerance. We urge the government and security forces to bring to justice the perpetrators of these vandalous acts towards people and property,” the association added.

It will on 12 September organise a special ‘Killer Cow’ disco called ‘White Party — More Culture, Less Fear’ in Rome’s Marconi district. The event coincides with Rome’s ‘White Night’ when many museums and monuments are open to the public all night.

Noone was injured in Tuesday’s arson attempt against Tiburtina’s Qube discoteque. It was closed for maintenance at the time of the attack and firemen managed to extinguish the blaze before it spread through the building.

Police on Tuesday arrested a 40-year-old former boxer in connection with Saturday’s EUR attack. He is known locally as ‘Swastika’ for his predilection for carving the Nazi symbol on local park benches.

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


Italy: Cortona Spotlights Banned Books

Ovid, Boccaccio, Galileo, Darwin in Tuscan town

(ANSA) — Cortona, August 28 — This Tuscan town is hosting an exhibition in celebration of historic books outlawed during their day for their radical sexual, religious, political and scientific ideas. I Libri Proibiti (The Forbidden Books) showcases over 40 volumes dating from the 16th to the 20th centuries, on loan from collections belonging to London’s renowned antiquarian bookseller, Quaritch, and Italy’s Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Foundation.

One of the stars of the exhibition is the original manuscript of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. Completed in 1956, it was rejected by dozens of Russian publishers for its allegedly anti-Marxist ideas but was smuggled out of the Soviet Union by Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli.

Learning of plans to publish the book abroad, the KGB quickly banned the novel at home, but by then it was too late and in 1957, Feltrinelli simultaneously published editions in both Russian and Italian in Milan.

The novel was translated into English in 1958, which was the same year Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Among the other items on display is a book by English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, whose works drew fierce criticism — including parliamentary censure — for their “atheism, blasphemy and profaneness”, and who was eventually forced to publish in the Netherlands. The Satyricon, a banned book by French alchemist and physician Nicolas Barnaud, contains a painstakingly detailed and accurate list of the mistresses, prostitutes, illegitimate children and servants of churchmen in every diocese of 16th-century France.

An English-language Koran published in 17th-century London, translations of Ovid’s Ars Amatoria and detailed Renaissance anatomical studies, drawn from outlawed human dissections, are among the other forbidden works on display.

The exhibition, divided into themes, draws out developments in thought over the centuries.

In particular, it points out that the Catholic Church’s register of banned publications, the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, is practically a Who’s Who of modern Western thought. Works by Galileo Galilei, Dante Alighieri, Nicolaus Copernicus, Giovanni Boccaccio and Charles Darwin all appeared on the register at some point during its 400-year history. The exhibition can be visited at Palazzo Vagnotti until September 6. photo: original copy of Darwin’s On The Origin of Species (1859)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Religious Libraries Can Create Dialogue, Tettamanzi

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, AUGUST 24 — Renew the role of the religious libraries, making them instruments for religious literacy and dialogue between cultures, also by way of creating synergy between the various centres. This is the invitation made by Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi today to a gathering of representatives of libraries that collect documentation of Jewish, Christian and Islamic culture, in Milan for a study meeting. The event, organized as part of the world congress for librarians which opened yesterday in Fieramilanocity, took place at the Ambrosiana Library and was set up as a series of round tables for the officials from Italian and Mediterranean centres of religious culture. History, underscored the Archbishop of Milan, “teaches that the confessional libraries, in rabbinical schools, the schools for Koran studies, in cathedrals and monasteries, have saved documents fundamental for culture and tradition from destruction”. “The role of these libraries”, continued Tettamanzi, “today is not finished”. The cardinal believes “it would be opportune to unite the forces, and starting from the technical aspect, try and create a functional coordination, a reorganization of services, and why not a complementary synergy between them?” “Religious culture” said the cardinal, “is too insufficient today, and religious illiteracy, or near religious illiteracy is a spreading plague”. In these terms the libraries “can be the privileged sites of human and spiritual growth, of information and training, of elevating and refining the spirit”. And above all, there is dialogue, a subject close to Tettamanzi’s heart, which the cardinal did not hesitate to underline on this important occasion. “The meeting today, is very opportune, our time has real need of solid basis for dialogue and sharing of different realities of experience and culture”. This direction has been already taken by the Milan Ambrosiana Library. The historic religious institution, founded in 1609 by Cardinal Federico Borromeo, over the centuries has gathered a vast collection of Arabic manuscripts and its Academy, among other things, is setting up a study division on the Near East for both Hebrew and Arabic culture. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Berlusconi Paper vs Church Editor

Bishops paper chief Boffo accused of hypocrisy

(ANSA) — Rome, August 28 — A daily owned by the family of Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Friday accused the editor of the Italian bishops daily of hypocrisy in criticising the premier’s allegedly immoral lifestyle.

Under the front-page banner headline The Supermoralist Condemned For Harassment, Il Giornale reported that Avvenire editor Dino Boffo had plea-bargained a 516-euro fine in 2004 for pestering a woman in the winter 2001-2002 to leave her husband, with whom he was in a relationship.

Boffo, 57, who has penned editorials on the premier’s friendship with a teenage girl and a prostitute’s claims she slept with him, condemned the attack as “barbaric”. He claimed he had been the “first victim” in the phone-call affair.

The Italian bishops association (CEI) issued a statement confirming “full confidence” in Boffo and praised him for editing Avvenire with “indisputable professional ability, balance and prudence”.

The Il Giornale article was accompanied by an opinion piece by editor Vittorio Feltri, entitled Why We Are Unmasking The Moralists.

“With the premise that we have nothing against homosexuals,” he wrote, “the fact remains that the editor of Avvenire is not fit to launch furious anathema against other sinners”.

“Boffo has become in the eyes of many people the interpreter of the Church’s thinking on the scandal that has been hogging the headlines since the start of the summer,” said Feltri, whose daily was sold by Berlusconi to his brother after he first became premier in 1994.

“Well, if the bishops have entrusted Boffo with the task of being their spokesman they are way off the mark because…he is bereft of the moral requisites for playing the moralist”. While Avvenire has voiced unease among the faithful, the Vatican itself has been silent.

But Catholic weekly Famiglia Cristiana, sold in churches every Sunday, has gone further than Avvenire, saying the premier had “overstepped the bounds of decency” with his “indefensible” behaviour. MEDIA STORM KICKED OFF WITH TEEN IN MAY. The premier has been at the centre of a media storm that began in May with a public divorce spat with his wife Veronica Lario and allegations of links with a teenage girl — Noemi Letizia — which surfaced after Lario accused him of”consorting with minors”.

At the time, L’Avvenire published a front-page editorial calling for “a premier who, with sobriety, is able to be the mirror of his country’s soul”.

After more recent allegations from escort girl Patrizia D’Addario who said she spent a night with the premier at his official residence in Rome, Avvenire voiced a sense of “malaise,” “desolation” and “suffering” and ran a series of readers’ letters voicing their concern over Berlusconi’s alleged behaviour.

In his most recent editorial, Boffo accused Berlusconi of “embarrassing much of the country”. PREMIER SKIPS ‘REPENTANCE’ MASS, SUES FOR DAMAGES.

The Il Giornale attack came on the same day he cancelled a much-anticipated attendance at a high-profile Catholic ‘repentance’ Mass.

The newspaper’s blast also followed Thursday night’s news that the premier was suing left-leaning daily La Repubblica for one million euros in damages over questions it has been posing daily on Letizia and D’Addario and a separate article suggesting the premier might be open to blackmail.

Berlusconi’s absence from Friday’s Mass in L’Aquila was announced by the Vatican, which said he was sending his Cabinet Secretary Gianni Letta in his stead, “to avoid manipulation”.

Letta has reportedly been working behind the scenes to re-establish good relations between the premier and the Church. The Feast of Forgiveness dates back to when Celestine V was crowned pope in L’Aquila at the end of the 13th century, a period of turmoil when Rome was seen as unsafe for the election. To mark the occasion a Papal Bull was issued, absolving of their sins anyone who enters the cathedral on August 28. Berlusconi, 72, has categorically denied any “steamy or more than steamy” involvement with teenagers, explaining there was nothing “spicy” about his attendance at the Letizia’s birthday party because he had a long friendship with her family.

Last week Berlusconi told a celebrity magazine he owns, Chi, that Avvenire had been misled to accept “lies for truth”.

“I’ve never had ‘relations’ with minors and have never organised ‘spicy parties’. I’ve simply taken part in engaging dinners which were absolutely in line with morality and elegance. And I’ve never knowingly invited anyone to my house who was not a serious person” the premier told the weekly.

Berlusconi recently admitted that he was “no saint” after left-leaning daily La Repubblica and sister weekly Espresso posted audio tapes and transcripts that it alleges are of conversations between the premier and an escort girl on their websites.

After photos of scantily clad guests and a naked man partying at his Sardinian home were published, Berlusconi then found himself embroiled in the escort scandal when D’Addario claimed she and other women were paid by Bari businessman Gianpaolo Tarantini to attend parties at the premier’s residences.

La Repubblica and Espresso last month made available tapes of phone calls and conversations she allegedly had at the premier’s Rome house which D’Addario said she secretly recorded when she claimed to have spent the night there.

‘TRASH’ Berlusconi has slammed the press’s coverage of the escorts probe as “just rubbish, just trash”, while his lawyer Niccolo’ Ghedini said last month that the recordings were “without any merit, completely improbable and the fruit of invention”.

Earlier this month, the premier told a news conference he had “no skeletons in the closet” and “nothing to apologise for” neither to his family or the public.

A poll published by La Repubblica on July 21 said Berlusconi’s approval rating fell by four points to 49% in May.

Polling was suspended in June ahead of European elections, where he did less well than expected.

In October 2008 the same poll put his score at 62%.

photo: Boffo with pope in 2005

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Mourinho Slams Ramadan Flap

‘It’ll be your fault if something happens to me’

(ANSA) — Milan, August 28 — Inter Milan boss Jose’ Mourinho on Friday blasted the media for misquoting him on Muslim midfielder Sulley Muntari’s Ramadan fast and spurring death threats from Islamists.

“If something happens to me it will be your fault,” the coach told reporters after Britain’s Daily Star reported that at least one extremist site had threatened to kill him.

Last week an Italian Muslim association criticised Mourinho for allegedly suggesting Ghanaian international Muntari was off-colour in Inter’s opening match because he was suffering from dehydration in the sweltering heat.

“The situation with Muntari is your responsibility,” Mourinho told reporters Friday.

“I know what I said, there are tape recordings, but you like to change words. I said: ‘Muntari’s decision is not to be criticised because it is a question of faith and religion. That means that I accept it (and) I never said Muntari should forget his religion and practice. If anyone in the Muslim community is angry with me it’s your fault”.

After the 1-1 draw with newly promoted Bari, Mourinho was asked about Muntari’s substitution 30 minutes into the game and replied: “Who knows? It seems to me it had something to do with Ramadan…Ramadan doesn’t come at the best time for a player, to play a football match”.

Muntari is expected to start Saturday night’s derby against AC Milan.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Berlusconi Sues La Repubblica

Premier also on the offensive against the foreign press

(ANSA) — Rome, August 28 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi is suing the country’s second-largest newspaper for defamation, the daily reported Friday. According to front-page article in La Repubblica, Berlusconi has asked for one million euros in damages for the newspaper’s recent coverage of the premier’s personal life.

It was later learned that the premier intended to take similar action against foreign publications. In May, Berlusconi’s appearance at aspiring showgirl Noemi Letizia’s 18th birthday party triggered a media storm when his wife, Veronica Lario, filed for divorce on the basis that she “(could) not stay with a man who consorted with minors”. Then in June, escort Patrizia D’Addario came forward alleging that she and other women were paid to attend parties at the premier’s residences. D’Addario also claimed to have spent the night at the premier’s house in Rome. La Repubblica later published excerpts of phone calls and conversations D’Addario claimed to have recorded while she was there. In filing against La Repubblica, Berlusconi’s lawyers cited an article the Rome daily has published every day since May, containing ten questions it wants answered about the premier’s relationship with Letizia and alleged involvement with call-girls. Lawyers also cited an article published on August 6 entitled Berlusconi Open To Blackmail, reviewing coverage of the escort affair in the foreign press. The article contains a quote from French weekly Nouvel Observateur suggesting a link between Berlusconi and the Russian mob via Bari businessman Gianpaolo Tarantini. In response to the law suit, La Repubblica editor Ezio Mauro wrote Friday that “because (Berlusconi) is incapable of telling the truth about the political muck he has created…he has asked the courts to prevent journalists from verifying the truth”. The lawsuit is the latest in an ongoing feud between the premier and the left-leaning daily. In June, the Espresso group which owns La Repubblica, filed suit against the premier for telling businesspeople to boycott advertising “in certain newspapers”.

‘NO COMMENT’ BY DAILY TELEGRAPH ON POSSIBLE SUIT.

Britain’s Daily Telegraph would neither confirm nor deny on Friday on whether it may be sued for libel by Berlusconi.

“At the Daily Telegraph we never comment on polemics which involve us, we write about it directly in our newspaper,” the daily’s public relations chief, Fiona MacDonald, told ANSA. “The Daily Telegraph never releases statements on controversies of a legal nature because these are private matters,” she added. Another British daily, The Guardian, told ANSA that its legal office had received no notification of possible legal action by the Italian premier.

Berlusconi’s lawyer Nicola Ghedini on Friday told British news agency Reuters that similar action would be taken against foreign publications for their coverage of the premier’s private life. These were said to included Nouvel Observateur and the Spanish daily El Pais. News of the suits came on the same day that a daily owned by Berlusconi’s family, Il Giornale, accused the editor of the Italian bishops daily of hypocrisy in criticising the premier’s allegedly immoral lifestyle. Under the front-page banner headline The Supermoralist Condemned For Harassment, Il Giornale reported that Avvenire editor Dino Boffo had plea-bargained a 516-euro fine in 2004 for pestering a woman in the winter 2001-2002 to leave her husband, with whom he was in a relationship.

The attack sent shockwaves even through Berlusconi’s own center-right party and he later distanced himself from an article.

In a statement Berlusconi said, “the right to privacy is a sacred principle which applies always and to everyone. “I have reacted strongly against the fanciful gossip used to attack my private life over the past few months. “For the same reason, I can not endorse what Il Giornale published today about the editor of Avvenire”.

However, this failed to convince some politicians including Catholic scholar Rocco Buttiglione, chairman of the opposition Union of Center (UDC) party, who said that Berlusconi cannot deny responsibility for “this attack by his pet journalist published in his own family newspaper”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Berlusconi Sues Media for ‘Libel’

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is launching legal action against media outlets across Europe for their coverage of his private life.

Mr Berlusconi has been at the centre of a number of alleged scandals in the past few months.

His lawyers say he has been subjected to an intolerable campaign of slander and is now fighting back.

Mr Berlusconi has in his sights publications in Spain, France, Britain and here in Italy.

His lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, says they are suing for libel over a series of stories that has involved teenage models and paid escorts.

‘Sign of weakness’

Mr Ghedini said among those being targeted were the French weekly Nouvel Observateur for publishing a story called “Sex, Power and Lies”, and the Spanish newspaper El Pais, for showing photos of naked guests at Mr Berlusconi’s villa in Sardinia.

Mr Ghedini would not say which British publications could face action, though Mr Berlusconi has accused fellow media tycoon, Rupert Murdoch, of mounting a personal attack on him via the London Times, which Mr Murdoch controls.

Mr Ghedini said Mr Berlusconi expects to come in for harsh criticism like any other politician, but he said some papers, including La Repubblica, had run an intolerable campaign — which also discredited Italy — against the prime minister.

It is not clear if Mr Berlusconi is willing to go to these countries to give evidence in person. That seems unlikely.

And while it is not unprecedented for a head of government to mount libel cases while still in office, the scale and scope of Mr Berlusconi’s intended response is rare.

Italy’s opposition says Mr Berlusconi’s attacks on the media are “a sign of fear and weakness”.

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


Merkel: No Connection Between Iran and Holocaust?

Coming from the Chancellor of the country that perpetrated the Holocaust at a press conference with the leader of the country that most embodies its survivors regarding the country that denies the Holocaust and threatens to produce another one, this statement is simply incredible.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in response to a question about the analogy being made between Iran and Nazism, “There is no comparison between the Holocaust and the Iranian nuclear program. Things have changed since then.

“The Germans did unthinkable things to the Jewish people and therefore, I believe the result is the German need to defend Israel and maintain its security. This is why we feel so responsible now in the Iranian matter as well. We will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel against the Iranian threat. Nonetheless, I object to the analogy between the two things.”


           — Hat tip: Israel Matzav[Return to headlines]


Netherlands: Wilders Compares Prophet Mohammed to Pig

THE HAGUE, 28/08/09 — Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders has seized on a news report from Saudi Arabia for peppery written questions to the cabinet. In these, he compares the Islamic prophet Mohammed to a pig.

Wilders has requested clarification from Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen on a marriage in Saudi Arabia between an 80 year old man and a 10 year old child. The child had run away from her elderly husband, but was brought back to him by her father, the English-language website Arab News reports based on a Saudi newspaper.

Wilders asks the minister if he shares the view that “this man is behaving like a pig, just like the barbarous Prophet Mohammed, who married the six year old girl Aisha.” The PVV leader wants Verhagen to summon the Saudi Arabian ambassador to express his repugnance.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Netherlands: Wilders’ Party Loses Support

Geert Wilders’ anti-immigration PVV party would take 24 seats in the 150-seat parliament if there was a general election tomorrow, four down on last month, according to the latest Politieke Barometer opinion poll.

At the beginning of July, support for the PVV had reached an all-time high of 32, making it the most popular party in the country. It currently has nine seats in parliament.

The new poll says the Christian Democrats are now in the lead, with 37 seats. Coalition party Labour (PvdA) is up two seats at 24.

Meanwhile, research by Synovate for tv programme Nova shows that almost 40% of Wilders’ supporters back the PVV because they have lost faith in the government and other political parties.

Jewish support

Just under 20% would vote for the party because of its stand on Islam, the research shows. Wilders wants the Koran to be banned and has called for an end to Muslim immigration.

One third of the party’s supporters agree there are too many foreigners in the Netherlands, one-fifth think there should be more effort to cut crime and 16% would vote PVV because of Wilders himself.

Nova also reports that Wilders has considerable support among the Netherlands Jewish community. ‘Wilders is one of the few politicians who actively works for Jewish affairs,’ Jewish activist Benjamin Samkalden told the AD.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


Netherlands: Court: Hells Angels Not “Wrongfully Prosecuted”

Former Dutch Hells Angels president Big Willem and Harry Stoeltie, the current vice-president of the bikers group have lost their damages case against the state.

The two men wanted 1.8 million euros in reparations following their detention earlier this year. The court denied that they had been held without reason, arguing that soft drugs and weapons had been found in the Hells Angels club home and in the men’s private homes. It was also held against them that they refused to cooperate with the police inquiry.

In all, 24 Hells Angels had demanded damages for wrongful prosecution, but all but four of the cases were thrown out. One case will be dealt with later.

Ex-chairman Big Willem, whose real name is Willem van Boxtel, will appeal the decision.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Sweden: Gothenburg Arrests Made Over Disturbances

Police in Gothenburg have arrested eight young people connected to one of the areas affected by disturbances over the past ten days.

Police, fire fighters and ambulance crews have all come under attack by stone-throwing young people over the past ten days in different parts of Gothenburg. The latest incident happened on Thursday night when fire fighters, called to extinguish a blaze in a newspaper storage box in the district of Väst Frölunda, were set upon by a gang of youths pelting them with rocks. They ran off when police arrived on the scene.

Police say they don’t know the reasons behind arson attempts on various cars, mopeds and buildings, including a nursery, and subsequent stone throwing attacks. They do suspect however that criminal gangs, prevalent in the Gothenburg area, are exploiting the social unrest to drain police resources as well as to recruit new members.

In turn, several young people have complained to the local newspaper “Göteborgs-Posten” about what they feel is police harassment in the area, commenting as well that the unrest is also a protest over high levels of youth unemployment.

On Friday, the newspaper reported that police had arrested eight youths in connection with earlier disturbances in the Hisingen area, the oldest was 22 years of age, and the youngest 14.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Sweden: Alliance Parties Agree to Reduce Taxes

The Alliance parties have agreed to reduce income tax by 10 billion kronor next year, as part of the fourth stage in the parties’ in-work tax credit programme (jobbskatteavdraget), news agency TT has revealed. The tax cuts will mean individual tax reductions of up to 250 kronor per month.

At their summer conference in Vaxholm last Saturday, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said that the Moderate Party’s position in budget negotiations between the government parties is for a tax reduction of 10 billion kronor.

Asked about the position in Västerås, Fredrik Reinfeldt said that nothing is settled in the negotiations. But two independent sources within the Alliance privy to the negotiations confirmed to TT that the parties are in agreement about the tax reductions.

“You can refer to what Reinfeldt said in Vaxholm,” said one of the sources, on the question of how large the tax reductions would be.

A tax reduction of 10 billion kronor would mean a tax break of between 200 and 250 kronor per month for most employed people. According to the Ministry of Finance’s calculations, in the short-term that would mean 3,000 more jobs, and 10,000 more in the long term.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Reducing taxes creates jobs…wait…what? ;p]

The fourth stage in the Alliance parties’ in-work tax credit programme will mean an auxiliary nurse will have 204 kronor more per month and a high school teacher will have an extra 245 kronor per month. Pensioners will not receive a deduction under the Moderates’ position, an issue that has been a source of conflict within the Alliance parties.

The Christian Democrats have argued that pensioners should also receive a share of the tax reduction. The Centre Party has suggested instead a tax reduction for employer taxes, but according to the Moderates, the new tax reduction will benefit more people.

According to the TT source, all parties can look forward to a future for their own demands, which have been taken into account during the Alliance government negotiations.

That should mean that even pensioners will receive something in the autumn budget. It has been clear for some time that county councils will receive more money, but it remains unclear how much. Less certain is whether the money will also be enough to satisfy the Centre Party’s demands for reduced employer tax.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Sweden: Stones Thrown at Gothenburg Firemen

Fire fighters in Gothenburg were attacked with stones on Thursday night as they rushed to tackle the latest in a series of fires with suspected connections to youth gangs that have raged across the city in the last week.

The rescue workers were met by stone-throwing youths shortly after midnight as they attempted to put out a fire in a newspaper storage box on Tamburingatan in the Västra Frölunda suburb.

There were no injuries as police quickly arrived at the scene and dispersed the group.

Earlier in the evening, firemen managed to contain a fire in a shed on Rubingatan, also in Västra Frölunda. The shed was destroyed and police classified the incident as arson, as there was a serious risk that the fire could have spread ot a larger adjacent building.

Later a moped was set alight in by the nearby Vattnedal school on Smaragdgatan, where a pre-school was ravaged by flames on Wednesday night.

Fire brigades were again in action later in the night following reports of two car fires on the island of Hisingen.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Swedish Police to Publicly Identify Suspects

Police in Skåne in southern Sweden will shortly begin publishing pictures of criminal suspects on the police website, a practice that may soon be adopted all over the country.

The pictures will be taken from surveillance cameras and the police hope that the general public will help investigate and identify criminals.

“It is common that people who commit crimes are captured on film. Now we will give people who have information about a crime the opportunity to help solve the crime,” Skåne police’s information director, Lars Förstell, told news agency TT.

But the initiative has attracted criticism from numerous quarters. The risk is not just that the police publish pictures of innocent people, but moreover that there are consequences for the ability of convicted criminals to rehabilitate themselves in society, according to professor of criminology at Stockholm University, Jerzy Sarnecki.

But his major criticism is the tendency for the police to acquire more and more power.

“We have a system that increasingly restricts fundamental freedoms and rights. It is in some ways taking small, small steps towards a police state that I am actually really concerned about,” Sarnecki said.

On Friday, Stockholm police also threw their support behind the initiative.

“I am really convinced that this model will become nationwide,” police spokesperson, Kjell Lindgren, told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.

“I can’t say when, but that it is coming is obvious. Before the end of this year we will certainly see more authorities publishing surveillance pictures. Whether or not Stockholm is one of them I dare not say,” he said.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Switzerland: Zurich Gunman Trial Raises Army Weapon Questions

An army recruit has been sentenced to 17 years in jail after being found guilty of murdering a young woman by shooting her at random with his military-issue gun.

The sentence in the Hönggerberg case, as it is known was imposed by a Zurich court on Tuesday after a one-day trial. The prosecution had demanded 20 years, while the defence had called for 12 years maximum.

The Swiss army has since introduced a number of measures to stop such incidents happening again. A national vote is also due to be held on whether army guns should be stored at home.

On November 23, 2007, the man, then aged 21, had just finished training camp for new recruits to Switzerland’s militia army.

After stopping at home, he climbed a small hill in the Zurich Höngg district, taking with him his army-issue gun and some ammunition he admitted stealing from the camp.

The man then took aim at the 16-year-old victim, a trainee hairdresser, who just happened to be waiting at a nearby bus stop, as if in a computer game, reports say, and fired a fatal shot.

The trial, which had aroused huge public interest, was not held under military colours because the man went home before he carried out his attack.

In an interview in Monday’s Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, the parents of the dead girl — speaking for the first time — said that the accused had only shown remorse late in the day.

The couple believe that the army should take some responsibility, as the perpetrator was able to steal munitions and was allegedly known to the justice authorities.

“No gun should be given to this kind of person,” the father was quoted as saying.

“ No gun should be given to this kind of person. “

Victim’s father Army and political action

The army has taken action since the incident, said Christoph Brunner, the deputy spokesman of the Swiss armed forces.

A pilot project at the Recruiting Centre in Sumiswald, one of six places where people undergo fitness and psychological assessments before being accepted into initial army training, has been carrying out personal security checks. These tests, to weed out security risks, are normally done after training is completed.

“We hope to be more efficient and faster in getting the results of personal security checks,” Brunner told swissinfo.ch. The results of the pilot project will be communicated soon.

Brunner said that the army had also ordered the cantons to take assault rifles away from 100 members of the Swiss armed forces.

A third measure allows a person with concerns over the psychological state of a relative to hand over their army rifle to the police.

In addition, last week the government announced plans to allow checks on any serving army staff member. This was previously banned for data protection reasons. The move still has to be approved by parliament.

“The army and the chief of the armed forces are in favour of every measure that can be of use so we don’t have another Hönggerberg,” Brunner said.

“ We hope to be more efficient and faster in getting the results of personal security checks. “

Christoph Brunner, armed forces Nationwide vote

Tom Cassee, secretary of the pacifist Group for Switzerland Without an Army, believes more should be done. It is one of the groups behind a proposal on banning military firearms at home, which is slated for a nationwide vote next year.

“The army knows that there is immense pressure on them so they try and do tiny little steps but for us it’s clear it’s not enough at all,” he told swissinfo.ch.

Storing army rifles at home is a long-standing tradition for the militia army, to be ready for a call to arms in times of crisis. Around one million military weapons are estimated to be in circulation.

But most active members are no longer allowed to store munitions, following a decision by parliament two years ago. Ammunition is mainly kept in central arsenals.

Gun debate

Anti-gun campaigners argue that having guns at home is a safety risk, with Cassee adding that munitions were reportedly easy to steal or to declare lost.

Experts claim that around 300 deaths each year are caused by army weapons, which can also play a role in domestic violence and suicides.

Apart from the Hönggerberg case there has been a series of other highly publicised murders with army weapons over the past decade, including an attack on the Zug cantonal parliament in 2001 which left 14 people dead.

However, those in favour of keeping the tradition argue that decommissioning is a weakening of Swiss security and a vote of no confidence in soldiers.

A security study last year suggested that support for the practice was falling. It found that just 34 per cent of the population was in favour, compared with 57 per cent in 1989.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


UK: Brown Plans to Take Cash From the Poorest Families

Gordon Brown is facing a Labour revolt over plans to cut the benefits of the poorest families by up to £15 a week, The Times can reveal.

Proposals to be implemented next April, a month before a general election, could mean some people losing a fifth of their income. The move, which has provoked anger among Labour backbenchers, was compared last night with the fiasco over the abolition of the 10p rate of income tax. At the moment 300,000 people on low incomes are allowed to keep up to £780 a year of their housing allowance if they find accommodation that costs less than the maximum benefit.

The Treasury says that the policy costs too much and that the ability to pocket any surplus should be scrapped from April 1. The change would take place three months after the rate of VAT is increased to 17.5 per cent.

Crisis, the housing charity, said that it could mean that people on £65-a-week jobseeker’s allowance losing 20 per cent of their income.

Frank Field, the former Labour welfare minister who led the revolt over the abolition of the 10p rate of income tax, said that he would try to stop the measure being pushed through Parliament.

Karen Buck, a Labour MP who campaigns on housing, said: “We should not under any circumstances be taking money from the poorest and making them choose between reasonable housing bills and meeting day-to-day expenses. I don’t know how many that applies to. Either way, either the savings aren’t there or poor people will suffer.”

The reform was introduced to give tenants greater control over their housing arrangements by paying the rent themselves, and the option to trade quality for extra cash.

The Government believes that abolishing the policy will save £160 million, but Labour MPs point out that the removal of competition means that landlords will raise rents to the allowance maximum. Landlords have been pressing for the change because they want rent to go directly to them.

Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrat housing spokeswoman who discovered the change, said: “£15 a week may be small change to ministers, but for families struggling to make ends meet it is incredibly important. Gordon Brown has once again abandoned the people who need the most help.”

The change was announced in the small print of the Budget. The Government said that 600,000 people received the housing allowance, which replaced the old housing benefit in April 2007, and it has estimated that 300,000 claim a surplus.

Mr Field said that it was a retrograde step that destroyed the whole purpose of the allowance. “At one stroke, they get rid of a reform aimed at getting flexibility into a fairly inflexible market by giving people incentives to shop around. The timing for this could have been decided in Conservative headquarters.”

He plans to table amendments opposing the new policy.

Leslie Morphy, of Crisis, said: “This proposal is ill considered and potentially counterproductive. It beggars belief that the Government intends to introduce this when, by its own admission, it has no idea what the impact on claimants will be. We urge the Government to reconsider.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Local housing allowance is aimed at providing the people who need it most with decent accommodation. This small change will not affect our customers’ ability to pay their rent and further support is available to those on a low income to help with other expenses.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


UK: Brown Under Pressure Over Lockerbie as Cameron Steps Up Attack Over Gaddafi Prisoner Swap Deal

David Cameron stepped up his attack on Gordon Brown over the Lockerbie affair tonight as Colonel Gaddafi’s son said there was an ‘obvious’ link between trade talks and a UK-Libya prisoner deal.

Saif Gaddafi said it was ‘not a secret’ that a lucrative oil and trade deal signed by Tony Blair in 2007 had been connected to attempts to get Abdelbaset Ali al Megrahi returned to Libya.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Fresh Embarrassment for David Cameron Over NHS

There was fresh embarrassment for David Cameron from his European MPs yesterday after he was urged to introduce a charge for patients to visit their GP.

Chris Tannock, the Conservative spokesman on foreign affairs in the European Parliament, said all working people could pay a £10 fee to visit their General Practitioner, with extra fines for those who failed show up for an appointment.

The MEP suggested that the payments would help fund the cash-strapped National Health Service.

But his proposal was immediately ruled out by Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, who said that the system would cost more to run than it would provide in revenue.

It is the second time in a month that the Tory leadership has had to distance itself from comments on the NHS made by Conservative MEPs.

Mr Cameron faced calls to sack Daniel Hannan after the MEP went on television in America to describe the NHS as a “relic” during a discussion about President Barack Obama’s proposed health care reforms.

After Labour seized on the row to question the Conservatives’ commitment to free health care, Mr Cameron described Mr Hannan’s views as “eccentric” and made clear his own strong support for the NHS.

Dr Tannock, who worked as a consultant psychiatrist before being elected as an MEP, outlined his suggestion during a discussion on Channel 4 News.

He said: “I would be totally in favour of small co-payments, small payments being made if you turn up to things and perhaps small fines being levied if you do not.

“I know they are controversial but I don’t think people who are in a job would be against say spending £10 to see their GP or being fined £10 if they don’t show up to an out-patients, so that’s the sort of thing I would like to see.”

Dr Tannock also suggested that doctors should face a pay freeze.

He said: “Right now the doctors in the NHS are the most highly paid doctors in the public health services in the whole of Europe, possibly the world, so maybe we may have to have a freeze on doctors’ pay in the future.”

But Mr Lansley said that the “great majority” of NHS health care should be “based on our need not our ability to pay”.

He added: “Charles may say ‘oh well £10 to see a GP’ — well that would not make any difference to hospital care and frankly, if you tried to put in such a system, by the time you have done all the bureaucracy of raising the money and levying some fines, you would not be raising any money for the NHS anyway.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


UK: Foreign Surgeons Flown to UK to Cut Waiting Times ‘Botched One in Three Operations’

hospital which flew in Scandinavian surgeons to reduce waiting times is being sued after it was alleged that one third of the operations carried out were botched. Surgeons from Sweden, Denmark and Finland were flown into Britain between 2003 and 2006 as part of a £3million scheme to speed up hip and knee replacements. But concerns were raised about the quality of the work carried out and many patients fear the surgeons were insufficiently trained or skilled. More than one third of people operated on at Weston-super-Mare General Hospital (WGH), Somerset, had an unsatisfactory result and six legal cases are now being considered.

Terry Heath, 65, who lives with wife Patricia in Bristol, is taking the hospital to court after a botched knee replacement operation left him unable to walk without crutches. The former Airbus worker said his life has been ‘changed completely’ by the overseas surgeon’s mistake. Terry said: ‘When I got the phone call about Weston hospital getting Swedish surgeons over to ease waiting lists I said if they are genuine surgeons I will have it done.

‘I didn’t think they would have spent all that money bringing them over if they were not up to the job. But I would not have had it done if I had known about this. ‘This has changed our lives completely. I can’t even get in the bath. ‘I was always active and would have worked until I was 70 if this had not happened but I have just deteriorated.’

Keen golfer Terry underwent replacement knee surgery at WGH in 2004 but had to be operated on again one year later to correct mistakes. But four years later, he is still suffering from severe pain and cannot walk without crutches. Terry, who suffers from a condition which means he has shorter than average limbs, has now launched a claim for damages against the hospital. His case will be heard next June and his solicitor Richard Barcan is now investigating whether the Scandinavian surgeon who operated on him was properly trained. Mr Barcan said: ‘That sort of information we have not been given at the moment, yet it is so far down the line. ‘In the meantime we cannot do anything to improve Mr Heath’s life.’

In 2004, consultant David Shewring sent letters to his patients claiming overseas doctors employed by Weston Area Health Trust (WAHT) may not have been skilled enough to carry out operations. In May this year it emerged that more than one third of patients operated on by Scandinavian surgeons in WGH had an unsatisfactory result. At least six of these people have sought legal help and are considering claiming damages against the hospital. WAHT, which runs the hospital, is currently conducting a review into the use of overseas surgeons which is due to be completed later this year. A spokeswoman for WGH said she was unable to comment on the matter due to ongoing legal proceedings.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


UK: Hundreds Report Poor Care Suffered by NHS Patients

Patients Association receives huge response after publishing stories of people left lying in excrement or without food

Health campaigners were “overwhelmed” by hundreds of e-mails and calls yesterday after publishing a report into poor care suffered by more than a dozen NHS patients.

The Patients Association said that it had received a huge response from the public after publishing stories of people left lying in their own faeces and urine, having call bells taken away from them or being left without food or drink.

In a statement, the charity accused the Government of “ignoring the scale of the problem”, adding: “We’ve been inundated by hundreds of e-mails and calls from patients across the country contacting us to offer their support and relate their own experiences of poor care.

“It is very clear, that whilst still representing a small proportion of the care being given by the NHS, the numbers of people receiving substandard care are not small. The NHS treats millions of patients each year. Even if 2 per cent of these are given substandard care this equates to tens of thousands of people.”

The Conservatives revealed figures that showed about 1,000 people a year were dying with pressure sores in England and Wales.

The condition, linked to poor hygiene and long periods spent bed-ridden in hospital or at home, has been cited regularly on death certificates over the past five years, a response to a parliamentary question disclosed.

The Department of Health maintained that surveys show that 98 per cent of NHS patients are satisfied with their care.

However, the Government’s Chief Nursing Officer said that the treatment of some of the 16 patients mentioned in the Patients Association’s report, was “clearly unacceptable”.

Christine Beasley added that nurses who were accused of neglecting patients could be investigated and struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

“They [the stories] make not only very distressing reading for patients but very sombre reading for the nursing profession,” she said. “I think any nurse that provides that sort of care — or in fact does not provide that sort of care — should be treated very, very seriously and if necessary, if it’s at that level, should absolutely be struck off.”

Each NHS trust implicated in the report was offered the opportunity to respond to the allegations. Many said that they had carried out their own investigations into what had happened, or said that complaints continued to be dealt with by the indepedent Health Ombudsman. There were no details about whether any individual nurses had been investigated or sanctioned by the NMC, which regulates the 600,000 nurses working in Britain.

The Council said it received more than 2,000 initial allegations from NHS employers, the police and the public in 2008-09, of which 584 went to a hearing. As a result, 216 nurses and midwives were struck off.

The Department of Health said that any patient who wished to complain about poor care should first contact the service that they were unhappy with, or the local primary care trust that commissioned the service, typically within 12 months.

Where complaints cannot be resolved at a local level, or if complainants are still unhappy, they can refer ther matter to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman for review.

Anne Milton, MP, the Conservative health spokeswoman, said: “NHS frontline staff are currently being overburdened by red tape and paperwork and are consistently being spread too thin and too wide across the service. They must be released to do the job that they are there to do — to help people — or risk yet more unnecessary and needless deaths.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


UK: Man Jailed for Raping Teens in Back of Car

A 22-year-old man who raped two 13-year-old girls in his car after supplying them with alcohol has been jailed for 14 years.

Munshur Ali, from Hyde in Greater Manchester, asked his victims for directions and began chatting with them before offering the young girls a lift.

Ali drove the girls to an off licence in Stockport and bought them a bottle of vodka to drink.

He then took them to a church and raped the pair twice in the back of his car.

While passing sentence, Judge Peter Larkin said: “You subjected these two vulnerable, naive 13-year-olds to a terrifying ordeal.”

The judge described the 22-year-old as “devious and manipulative”.

He said: “Not only have you made serious and deeply unpleasant allegations against the two girls, you also concocted a defence to fit the prosecution evidence against you.”

The girls’ mothers, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told Sky News their children were just too trusting.

“We are absolutely devastated,” one mother said.

“To any other young girls, I just want to say if you are going out — stay with a group… And never get into anyone’s car.”

The second mother said: “It’s easy to say don’t drink, but it’s part of growing up. And it’s so easy to get hold of alcohol now — I think the Government needs to crack down on that.

“They are not the same children now. He didn’t show any remorse at court, joking with his friends. It’s disgusting.”

Speaking outside court, Detective Constable Lindsey Morgan said: “Both the girls have basically lost their innocent childhood, and they are traumatised by what’s happened to them.”

When asked about Munshur Ali she commented: “I think he was a sly, evil person… and he went out on this evening knowing that his intention was to get vulnerable girls into his car and rape them.”

           — Hat tip: A Greek Friend[Return to headlines]


UK: The Castle That Survived 700 Years — Now Conquered by the Yobs of Broken Britain

It has survived more than 700 years of warfare, bearing witness to bloody battles and vicious sieges.

But for the first time in its history, Flint Castle has come up against a formidable enemy: the yobs of broken Britain.

Yesterday it emerged that the keepers of the historic fortress, on the North Wales coast, have been forced to close the castle to the public during the day after coming under attack from drunken teenagers.

They claim their staff have been spat upon and threatened by youngsters from nearby housing estates, who smash bottles and treat the ancient ruins as a drinking den.

John Wallis, site operations manager for Cadw — the Welsh equivalent of English Heritage — who run the castle, said the behaviour of the youths was making it too dangerous to keep it open to the public.

‘We are extremely frustrated with the ongoing spate of vandalism,’ he said.

‘Youths are behaving inappropriately, continuing to drink on site even though it’s an alcohol-free zone, smashing bottles and threatening staff.

‘The cleaners are spat upon and are having bottles thrown at them.

‘Even though Cadw has invested considerable resources at this monument, we cannot at present guarantee the safety of visitors. Therefore we have found it necessary to close this site until further notice.’

Flint Castle was the first medieval castle to be built by Edward I as part of his campaign to conquer Wales.

Costing almost £9,000, it took an army of 3,000 men to build between 1277 and 1286. Some of its walls are as much as 23ft thick.

Standing on the estuary of the River Dee, it survived major attacks by the Welsh in 1282 and again in 1294, when the English constable, William de Ralegh deliberately burned much of the castle and Flint town to avoid it being captured by the Welsh.

The monument was subsequently rebuilt but in 1647 was again besieged and demolished by Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads during the English Civil War, leaving the ruins that are found today.

It has been open to the public for the past 90 years, but in recent times Cadw have been forced to spend more than £100,000 in measures to secure the castle from vandalism.

Local Jean Thomas, 53, said: ‘The kids haven’t got much to do around here so they go into the castle and some end up causing trouble.

‘Some of them can be right little monsters.

‘The problem is that they buy cheap alcohol from local shops and just go into the castle to drink it. It has been causing problems and something needs to be done.’

Flint councillor Ian Robert agreed but questioned whether Cadw should have shut the castle or come up with an alternative solution.

He claimed that, despite being officially closed, the monument played host to several hundred visitors attending the Big Dee Festival — a festival celebrating the Dee estuary — last Saturday.

‘While the incident with Cadw staff is regrettable it has to be asked whether the castle really is unsafe for visitors,’ he said.

‘I have been told that Cadw closed the castle last Thursday, but during that time a few hundred people attended the Big Dee Festival on Saturday.

‘It begs the obvious question, is it safe or isn’t it?’

Mr Wallis said Cadw were seeking an urgent meeting with North Wales police and the local council to try and work out how to tackle the vandals.

‘All parties need to make a concerted effort to put an end to this harassment,’ he added.

[Return to headlines]


Voting Until They Get it Right in the European Union

When it comes to the European Union, any vote to increase authority in Brussels is viewed as final. Any vote against consolidating power is treated as merely temporary.

The Lisbon Treaty is the perfect example of such a power grab. Among other things, it shifts responsibilities from national parliaments to European parliament, reduces the number of areas where unanimity is required (eliminating national vetoes), creates a president as a person (as opposed to rotating presidencies for nations), and creates a foreign minister to push a continental foreign policy.

In June 2008, Ireland voted against the treaty. Since the agreement requires unanimous agreement, the referendum theoretically killed the attempt. However, the European elite insisted that Ireland vote again. Dublin will hold a revote on October 2.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are unwilling to debate popular dissatisfaction with a consolidated government. Hans-Gert Poettering, the last president of the European Parliament (EP), even advocated locking out anti-federalists: “I think it is very important that the pro-European MEPs cooperate well so the anti-Europeans cannot make their voices heard so strongly.”

An Open Europe poll from 2007 found that roughly 75 percent of Europeans-with a clear majority in every nation-wanted to vote on any new treaty transferring power to Brussels. Lisbon likely would fail in about half of the EU member states.

No wonder former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, who played a leading role in drafting the original constitution, opined about the need “to avoid having referendums.”

Spanish EU Commissioner Joaquin Almunia claimed that it is not “very democratic” to hold a referendum on complicated issues like the Lisbon Treaty. German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble declared: “A few million Irish cannot decide on behalf of 495 million Europeans.”

Some Treaty advocates proposed throwing Ireland out of the EU or relegating the country to associate status. Most, however, preferred to pressure Dublin to hold another poll.

Some Treaty advocates proposed throwing Ireland out of the EU or relegating the country to associate status. Most, however, preferred to pressure Dublin to hold another poll.

To sweeten the pot, so to speak, other European governments have promised several future concessions. Yet last December, Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin stated, “We will not be asking people to vote on the same proposition.”

What Dublin received, however, was the promise of future action, not present amendments. To Irish Socialist MEP Joe Higgins, the guarantee process is “an elaborate charade.” Similarly, explains Open Europe’s Lorraine Mullally: “Despite lengthy negotiations and lots of superficial statements about ‘respecting’ the Irish ‘no’ vote, not a single comma has changed.”

Regardless, if it doesn’t succeed the second time around, threatened one German Socialist MEP, Ireland will face “isolation” and “second class” status. British MEP Daniel Hannan writes of an Irish friend who told him, “We didn’t fight off the might of the British Empire just so as to be bossed about by the Belgians.”

Moreover, the Czech and Polish presidents have to yet to sign off on the agreement. If Britain’s Conservatives come to power before the Lisbon process is completed, they are likely to reverse the Labor government’s ratification.

Oxford professor Timothy Garton Ash wrote in the Guardian of “the essential grandeur of this project we call the European Union, where nations born in so much blood work together freely in a commonwealth of democracies.”

He is right, but his argument actually works against the Lisbon Treaty, or at least the current ratification process. Democracy doesn’t mean drowning out the voices of those who would be forced to live under the government.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Kosovo Leadership Confronts EU Authorities

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — The president and prime minister of Kosovo have walked out of talks with EU representatives in the first serious bilateral rift since Kosovo declared independence last year.

The meeting in Pristina on Thursday (27 August) was designed to soothe ethnic Albanian fears over a new police co-operation agreement between the EU’s police mission to Kosovo, EULEX, and Serbia’s interior ministry.

The co-operation protocol will help EULEX and Serb police share information on cross-border organised crime and is a pre-condition for Serbia to obtain visa free travel to the EU in 2010.

Kosovo leaders said that EULEX’ direct dealing with Serbia undermines their attempt to establish a sovereign state.

“The Kosovo leaders reiterated in the meeting their firm position against the protocol and emphasised that from today any debate and discussion on this issue is completely closed. Kosovo does not take any obligation and responsibility for issues which it has not decided in a sovereign way,” the office of Kosovo president Fatmir Sejdiu said.

The statement came out after Mr Sejdiu and Kosovo prime minister Hashim Thaci broke off talks with EULEX chief Yves de Kermabon and the EU’s civilian representative to Kosovo, Pieter Feith.

The police protocol has stoked anger in the majority ethnic Albanian population in Kosovo.

On Wednesday, the ethnic Albanian Vetevendosja (“self-determination”) movement attacked EULEX vehicles in events leading to 21 arrests.

“We want the Republic of Kosovo to join the EU. But what we need are economic experts, doctors, scientists to help us develop. Not EU policemen to rule over us in a completely unaccountable way,” Vetevendosja leader Albin Kurti told EUobserver.

Mr Kurti said Serbian police were involved in the killings of ethnic Albanian civilians in the 1990s: “They are criminals. They killed 12,000 people and only a dozen or so of those responsible are in prison.”

Serbia’s minister for Kosovo, Goran Bogdanovic, gave provocative comments to the Serbian Vecernje novosti newspaper on Thursday.

“With this document [the police protocol], the EU is confirming Serbia’s integrity even on the areas that our country does not have full control over,” he said.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February 2008 with the backing of the EU institutions and the US. Twenty two out of 27 EU states have recognised its sovereignty. But Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Slovakia and Romania have not.

The EU visa free deal will cut across ethnic lines in the Balkans.

The agreement is to embrace the majority Orthodox Christian countries, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia. But it will exclude the majority Muslim Kosovo and Albania.

Bosnian Muslims will also be stuck with visa requirements. But most Bosnian Serbs will benefit from the EU deal because they hold Serbian passports.

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


Kosovo Police Question 4 Alleged Terror Suspects

Kosovo police are questioning four suspects, including a U.S. citizen, about their alleged links with terrorism, they said Friday. The four were arrested for illegal possession of weapons and endangerment, but “charges could be expanded” to include terrorism, pending an investigation, police spokesman Arber Beka said.

He says police found two Kalashnikov rifles and five hand grenades during the arrests early Friday in the western town of Prizren. Beka declined to comment on allegations in the local media that the suspects are linked to Islamist radicals.

Local media said the raid was executed in cooperation with the FBI, but Beka said police would not confirm or deny that.

“We cooperate with police from other countries in dealing with cases of organized crime and terrorism,” Beka said.

Police also seized a laptop computer believed to contain information about the suspects’ plans.

The arrests come a month after Kosovo police said they shared information with the FBI investigation that led to the arrest of a Kosovar in the United States, accused of plotting with six Americans to carry out terror attacks in other countries.

Earlier this year three ethnic Albanian brothers from the former Yugoslavia were each sentenced to life terms without parole for plotting to kill military personnel at New Jersey’s Fort Dix. The men were arrested in May 2007.

Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians are staunch supporters of the U.S. and see America as the driving force behind Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia last year.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Serbia: IMF Writes Off $500mln Debt

Belgrade, 27 August (AKI) — The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has written off 550 million dollars of Serbian debt relating to Kosovowhich last year declared independence from Serbia, economy minister Mladjan Dinkic said on Thursday.

Serbia has continued to pay off 1.7 billion dollars of Kosovo debt since 1999 — when it was placed under United Nations control after NATO airstrikes drove out Serb forces.

Dinkic said the government had asked the IMF a year ago to relieve Belgrade from paying the Kosovo debt because Serbia doesn’t collect taxes there and has no control over Kosovo.

The Serbian economy has been hit hard by the global downturn and is expected to contract by more than 5 percent this year.

The previous Serbian government led by prime minister Vojislav Kostunica however insisted on keeping paying off the Kosovo debt.

It feared that Belgrade’s failure to do so could be interpreted as implicit recognition of Kosovo’s independence.

Kosovo became a member of the IMF this year, but Serbia remains opposed to Kosovo’s independence and via its key ally and permanent UN Security Council member Russia is blocking Kosovo’s bid to gain a United Nations seat.

Dinkic said writing off of Kosovo debt didn’t mean that Serbia would recognise Kosovo.

“The sovereignty of a state is one thing and fiscal policy another,” Dinkic said.

He suggested the money could be much better used to help the tiny minority of 100,000 Serbs remaining in Kosovo who largely depend on economic aid from Belgrade.

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


Serbia: One Person Every Eight on the Edge of Poverty

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, AUGUST17 — According to the latest data, a person every eight in Serbia is living on the edge of poverty, with about RSD9000 (around EUR100) of spending money per month, reports radio B92. From September of last year to March of this year, the number of employed persons in Serbia decreased by 133,000. Many people cannot afford most things they see in the supermarket, despite the fact that government officials are always reminding the public that Serbia has some of the lowest prices in all of Europe. “More expensive food is selling less and there is a trend for decreased sales of cheaper food as well. Strategic articles are being bought sugar, oil, flour, salt. The trend of buying kitchen appliances has decreased by about 20%”, Merkator-Roda retail store official Ljubisa Blagojevic said. “This is a depression, a strong depression for the beginning of the year because of the crisis. Prices are still increasing and Serbia still has the largest inflation rate in Europe in the first seven months of the year,” Economic analyst Ivan Nikolic said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Serbia-France: Interex Invests Eur30 Mln in Eight Stores

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, AUGUST 19 — French retail chain Interex announced it has invested EUR30 million in the opening of eight stores in Serbia so far, reports BETA news agency. Opening a new Interex store in the town of Obrenovac, near Belgrade, Interex General Manager for the Balkans Patrick Berthet announced that the company plans to open 10 more stores in the Balkans in 2009, two of which will be in Serbia. Berthet said that the hypermarket in Obrenovac spans 3,500 square meters, 1,600 square meters of which is retail space, and employs 40 workers. “The store sells 10,000 products, 98% of which are domestic goods,” he said. Berthet declined to reveal how much money was invested in the construction of Interex in Obrenovac, saying that the company’s goal was “not to invest much in construction, but in low prices.” The first Interex store in Serbia opened in 2004. The company has employed 350 workers so far. Interex is part of the French group Les Mousquetaires, which boasts 4,000 stores in Europe, 130,000 employees and annual trade of EUR33 billion. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Libya: Medvedev and Putin Will Not Attend

(ANSAmed) — MOSCOW, AUGUST 27 AGO — The leader of the Kremlin, Dmitri Medvedev, and Premier Vladimir Putin are not scheduled to attend the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Libyan revolutionary which will take place next week. The news was reported by sources at the presidency and the Russian government. A source at the Kremlin specified that Medvedev “will not go to Libya” that day although he has received an invitation, because his diary is full. As for Putin, his spokesman Dmitri Peskov pointed out that “the premier will be in Gdansk on September 1 for a previously arranged visit.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Libya: Sarkozy Not to Attend Gaddafi’s Celebration

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, AUGUST 27 — The French Cabinet Office has denied this morning that President Sarkozy could go to Tripoli on Tuesday for the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the revolution which brought the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi to power. The Elysée has denied the statement given by organisers of the 40th anniversary of the revolution in Libya, according to which Sarkozy was to have taken part alongside the Russian president and prime minister, Medvedev and Putin. “It was never even discussed,” said those working with the French president, added that there will not even be a delegation sent to Tripoli for the celebrations. Representing France at the event will only be the French ambassador to Tripoli, Francois Gouyette. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Libya: AU Summit, Italians Invited as Observers

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, AUGUST 26 — The upcoming African Union Summit, which will take place in Tripoli on Monday August 31 under an enormous tent set up on the sea front in the midst of three days of events and celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the Al Fatah revolution, the most important national holiday in Libya, will deal with the areas of crisis on the continent. Italy’s director general for African Countries of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Giuseppe Morabito, and Italian Ambassador to Addis Ababa, Raffaele De Lutio, invited as observers by the president of the AU Commission, Jean Ping, will participate in the summit. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Libyan Ambassador: Gaddafi-Berlusconi Rapport Above Disputes

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 26 — A note issued by Libya’s Ambassador in Rome has expressed regret at attempts to exploit Silvio Berlusconi’s visit to Tripoli for political ends and confidence in how “the understanding between the Leader Gaddafi and Prime Minister Berlusconi is far above current disputes”. The note has been issued ahead of the mission by Italy’s premier to Libya on August 30 to mark the first anniversary of the signing of the Italo-Libyan Friendship Treaty. The communique states: “We regret that even today there are those attempting to exploit news stories to sully the nature of the renewed rapport of friendship and collaboration between Italy and Libya which has been laboriously achieved after so many years”. “The friendship between Italy and Libya, the economic and cultural cooperation and the understanding between the Leader Gaddafi and Prime Minister Berlusconi are far above current diputes”, the Ambassador concludes. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Libya: 40th Anniversary, Two French Aircraft in Fly-Past

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, AUGUST 26 — Italy will not be alone in sending its air-force display team to join in the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of Muammar Gaddafi’s ascent to power in Libya: France is to send two “RafaleS’ of its own air-force. They will join in an airborne parade over Tripoli on September 1 which will see the participation of around 80 fighter and transport craft from other countries. The news comes from the press office of the French Embassy in the Libyan capital. The fly-past will also provide a chance to see once more the Libyan Mirage F-1, which France has made airworthy once more under a recently-signed contract for the refurbishment of a dozen such aircraft. France will also be taking part in the international military band festival taking place between August 28 and September 4, represented by the main band of its Foreign Legion. This band comprises over 50 musicians who are well-known with the French public, especially for the July 14 performances on the Champs-Elysees. So far, 20 military bands, representing as many countries, have arrived in the Libyan capital. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Scots and Swiss Deal With Separate Libyan Crises

While President Hans-Rudolf Merz’s apology to Libya for the arrest of Hannibal Gaddafi continues to resonate, Scotland is dealing with a separate Libyan crisis.

Last Thursday — the day Merz announced he had ended a year-long feud with Tripoli by apologising for the arrest of the Libyan ruler’s son in Geneva last year — the Scottish government released a Libyan national, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, from prison.

Megrahi, convicted of the 1988 Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie in Scotland, received a life sentence in 2001. Terminally ill, he was allowed home to die.

The Scottish decision has provoked strong criticism, in particular in the United States, where threats have been made of a tourism and economic boycott of the country.

Rob Corbidge, foreign editor with the Scottish daily The Scotsman, talks to swissinfo.ch about the parallels — and differences — between the two cases.

swissinfo.ch: What is the political mood like in Scotland following the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi?

Rob Corbidge: It is quite divided. Some people in Scotland are very supportive of the government’s decision and at the other end of the spectrum, a lot of Scots are appalled by it. What the split is, in statistical terms, I couldn’t say but it must be around fifty-fifty.

swissinfo.ch: Megrahi was returned to Libya just as Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz apologised to Tripoli over a legal case brought against Colonel Gaddafi’s son in Geneva. Has anyone in Scotland drawn parallels between these two events?

R.C.: No, they haven’t, yet. Mainly because the release and return of Megrahi had such an impact here that really the country’s attention was so focused on that that people didn’t really take much notice. There was newspaper coverage, but not a great deal.

The parallels to Switzerland are not so easy to draw. We carried a number of stories on the Hannibal Gaddhafi case and that decision by the Swiss government appears to have been taken on a much more blatantly commercial basis than the one taken by the Scottish justice minister. Whereas the reading here is, yes, there probably will be some benefits to Britain as a whole from this Megrahi release, essentially because Gaddafi runs his country like a family business.

swissinfo.ch: It’s interesting that both the Scottish justice minister and President Merz made similar comments taking full personal responsibility for the decisions they had taken…

R.C.: The Scottish National Party government has stood solidly behind Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. The Swiss president seems to be in a slightly different position.

Another interesting comparison might be that MacAskill acted on behalf of one part of the United Kingdom and has potentially caused trouble for it as a whole. Whereas the Hannibal Gaddafi case was a matter for canton Geneva and therefore not a matter for the national president.

It’s almost the reverse comparison there that we’ve got a subsidiary part of the UK potentially causing trouble for the UK as a whole and in Switzerland you have got what should have been a local issue being taken over at a national level, and to an extent the whole country humiliated. And it’s very difficult for the Swiss president to say “I take personal responsibility” when his whole country’s stock will suffer. Because it will be seen as if you just push the Swiss around a bit, they’ll cave in.

swissinfo.ch: There were reports that foreign expatriates in Libya — including British and Swiss — could have faced serious repercussions if the Lockerbie bomber died in his Scottish prison cell. How important a consideration was this for the Scottish government?

R.C.: I don’t think that was a consideration at all. What I’m certain of is, that if Gaddafi had decided he wanted to make life difficult for British nationals in Libya he could have done. To suggest there would have been a popular groundswell against British nationals in Libya if Megrahi had died in a Scottish prison or hospital, I don’t believe that. If Gaddafi wanted to cause trouble for Brits he could do.

I think Switzerland is frankly an easier country to bully in that respect because we [British] are quite unpopular anyway. I was surprised at Switzerland’s actions as they seemed to have a case against Hannibal Gaddafi. I don’t see why they had to apologise.

swissinfo.ch: President Merz returned from Libya empty handed, although he had verbal assurances that the Swiss hostages would be released. Britain also seems not to have benefited from the release of Megrahi from prison…

R.C.: Not yet and directly. But this is all in the context of the 40th anniversary of Gaddhafi taking, or seizing power, in Libya. He clearly wants to pass the country over to his son and therefore he wants to aggrandise himself as much as possible, to show himself as a great father to the nation, the one who brings back its lost sons, such as Megrahi. But Switzerland got something more personal: don’t mess with this family!

Morven McLean, swissinfo.ch

QUICKPOLL

Was Switzerland right to apologise to Libya for the 2008 arrest of Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife in Geneva ?

YES 19% NO 81% This poll ends on: 21.09.2009

This is a non-representative survey by swissinfo. Only one vote is possible per person.

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THE GADDAFI AFFAIR

July 15, 2008: Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife Aline are arrested at a Geneva hotel after police receive reports that they have mistreated two servants.

After two nights in detention, the couple are charged with inflicting physical injuries against the servants. The Gaddafis are released on bail and leave Switzerland.

July: Two Swiss nationals are arrested in Libya. Swiss businesses are forced to close their offices and the number of Swiss flights to Tripoli is cut.

July: Bern forms a task force and sends a delegation to Libya. Two Swiss nationals arrested in Libya are released from jail.

January 2009: Talks are held in Davos with Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, one of the Libyan ruler’s sons. A diplomatic delegation travels to Tripoli.

April: Hannibal and his wife, along with the Libyan state, file a civil lawsuit against the Geneva authorities in a Geneva court.

May: Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey visits Libya, reporting “significant progress”.

June: Libya withdraws most of its assets from Swiss bank accounts.

August: Merz, who meets the Libyan prime minister but not Gaddafi, apologises in Tripoli for the arrest.

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THE MEGRAHI AFFAIR

The Scottish government released the terminally ill Abdelbaset al-Megrahi from prison on August 20.

Megrahi was sentenced to life in prison in 2001 for his part in blowing up the New York-bound Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988, killing 259 people on board and 11 people on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland. Judges ruled in 2003 that he must serve a minimum of 27 years before he could apply for parole.

Megrahi denies he played a part, saying he was an airline executive, not a Libyan intelligence agent as charged.

He was held in a prison in the town of Greenock in western Scotland as he was tried and convicted under Scottish law.

In November 2008, Megrahi’s lawyers asked a court to free him on bail, saying he was suffering from advanced prostate cancer.

In May 2009 Libya applied to the Scottish government for him to be sent home as part of a prisoner transfer agreement.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Tourism: Italian-French Guidebook to Tunisian Sahara

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, AUGUST 25 — ‘De’couvrez le Sud: Oasis, Chotts, Grand erg oriental, Ksour…” is the title of a guide written in Italian and French, which appeared in bookshops in recent days, published by Alif. Its aim, as the title suggests, is to publicise the Tunisian Sahara, with its many peculiarities and uniqueness, often ignored by mass tourism. This could be because at 90,000 sq km it seems small compared to the Algerian Sahara (2 million sq km), Libyan, Egyptian and Sahel countries (Chad, Niger, Mali). However it is a ‘tiny concentration’ of elements which are spread out in the other deserts, such as its sea and mountain oases which are somewhat rare elsewhere. Then there are the lunar landscapes of Matmata, with its cave-dwelling inhabitants; the immense chott (a 5,000 sq km saltwater lake), which Ferdinand de Lesseps wanted to turn into an inland sea; there are the Temerza waterfalls and the ksour, fortified granaries used as habitations with their interesting architecture; there are the cities of Tozeur and Nefta, faithful reconstructions of ancient Iraqi cities and a carefully preserved ecosystem. This is a guidebook for a journey which for some people is not new, but is definitely more thorough. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


What’s the Matter With Muslim Men?

Now another question, and I don’t have the answer to this one: What do Muslim men’s parents tell them when they are little? If you look around, it doesn’t seem like they have been getting the same message as other kids.

In Egypt, 83 percent of native women and 98 percent of foreign women report that they have been sexually harassed by Egyptian men, and not just verbally. Yes, that Egypt — the cradle of civilization, the folks who ran the world before Muhammad was born. Before Jesus. Before Moses. Before Abraham.

To confound popular logic, in the same study more than half the Egyptian women reporting attacks were veiled. Of Egyptian men surveyed, 62 percent admit to having harassed women, but 53 percent say it was the women’s fault, and the veiled women agree. Among excuses given by the harassers were that they were bored, and that the women must either be beautiful or be hiding something. Being beautiful is against the law in Egypt? Even if you cover it up? I hear that getting a job and going home to your family in the evening work wonders in the jihad against boredom, but that probably isn’t as much fun as hanging out on street corners acting like a sleaze ball.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

5 Arrested at Ramadan Prayers in Jerusalem

Some 90,000 Muslims worshipped at the Aksa Mosque on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount on Friday as part of a Ramadan celebration that has been marred by violence in previous years, police said.

The prayers were held amid heavy security as thousands of policemen were deployed in a bid to ward off the anti-Israel riots that developed in the past.

Five Arabs were arrested for disturbances ahead of the prayers, including a man from Issawiya for allegedly attacking a police officer who tried to search him at the Lion’s Gate. The policeman was lightly wounded in the incident.

The security establishment loosened restrictions governing who could enter Jerusalem from the West Bank to allow Palestinian men over 50 and women over 45 to enter, as well as Palestinians with special permits. Under the usual Israeli restrictions, only Palestinians with permits are allowed to enter Jerusalem from the West Bank.

However, many Palestinians seemed to be unaware of the restrictions. At West Bank checkpoints, tour buses brought hundreds of Palestinians hoping to attend the prayers, but many were turned away.

The restrictions did not apply to Palestinians who live in east Jerusalem, who hold Israeli residency rights, or Muslim citizens of Israel, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Israel Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. David Cohen stressed that police, particularly those in Jerusalem, were making maximum efforts to enable religious freedom for Muslims wishing to visit the Temple Mount.

He added that the Jerusalem District Police currently had a lot to deal with — the temple Mount prayers and haredi riots against the opening of the Carta parking lot on Saturdays. Regarding the latter, Cohen said police were acting with restraint.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Haaretz-Lieberman, Clash Continues

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, AUGUST 26 — The clash between the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz and the country’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, leader of Israel’s far-right Yisrael Beitenu party, continues today. Haaretz analyst Aluf Ben asked in a harsh comment for the dismissal of the minister by Premier Benyamin Netanyahu (Likud). “The damage he causes to our State and its foreign relations is getting worse,” wrote Ben, adding that Lieberman’s foreign policies is similar to the ‘farce’ of Labour Defence Minister Amir Peretz in operations in Lebanon in the summer of 2006. Minister of National Infrastructure Uzi Landau, a leader of Yisrael Beitenu, responded immediately: “Haaretz has opened the hunt on Lieberman and is dedicated to his systematic defamation,” he said. Last Sunday it became clear that Lieberman had sent a letter to Haaretz in which he complained about the distortion of the news regarding him. The newspaper replied by publishing two biting anti-Lieberman caricatures. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Remembering the Hebron Massacre

Until 1929, Jews had lived in the city for three millennia.

[Comments from JD: WARNING: Graphic Content.]

Yet another wrenching exile and return, now rarely remembered, occurred 80 years ago this week. On Aug. 23-24, 1929, the Jewish community of Hebron was exiled following a horrific pogrom. The tragedy is known as Tarpat, an acronym for its date in the Hebrew calendar.

Until 1929, Jews had lived in Hebron for three millennia. There, according to Jewish tradition, Abraham purchased the cave of Machpelah to bury Sarah. It was the first parcel of land owned by the Jewish people in their promised land. Ever since, religious Jews revered Hebron as the burial site of their matriarchs and patriarchs. Conquered, massacred and expelled over the centuries, Jews always returned to this sacred place.

[…]

It began on Friday afternoon when Arabs attacked Jews with clubs and murdered a yeshiva student. The next morning, joined by local villagers, Arabs swarmed through Hebron screaming “Kill the Jews.” They broke into the home of Eliezer Dan Slonim, where many Jews had gathered for safety. There they wielded knives and axes to murder 22 innocents. In the Anglo-Palestine Bank, where 23 corpses were discovered, blood covered the tile floor. That day, three children under the age of five were murdered. Teenage girls, their mothers and grandmothers were raped and killed. Rabbis and their students were castrated before they were slain. A surviving yeshiva student recounted that he “had seen greater horrors than Dante in hell.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Settlements: USA Ready to Skirt East Jerusalem Issue

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, AUGUST 27 — The USA is reportedly ready to change the subject about freezing Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem in exchange for a formal commitment from the current Israeli government on a settlement freeze in the West Bank. This was reported today, based on speculations from diplomatic sources, in the online edition of Haaretz in Tel Aviv after Premier Benyamin Netanyahu’s meetings in London and Berlin on the thorny issue. Yesterday, Netanyahu met with the Obama administration’s envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, to speak about obstacles to the pace process with the Palestinians, including the issue of settlement expansions. According to Haaretz, there is no agreement yet on the issue, which is the focus of a dispute between Israel and the international community as well as uncharacteristic friction with the US over the past months. But Netanyahu revealed that he has convinced at least Washington to accept keeping East Jerusalem out of a requested settlement freeze. East Jerusalem is not considered to be part of Israel throughout the world after it was annexed in 1967, but the Premier considers it “the eternal and indivisible capital” of Israel. The White House would continue with their stance of not legitimising Israel’s right to continue its building projects in East Jerusalem, but at the same time it would stop insisting that the Israeli government explicitly include the Holy City in an agreement involving a settlement freeze. An agreement that will involve the West Bank, although the Israeli Premier seems willing to except at the moment only a 9-month temporary freeze while awaiting further developments and broader agreements. If a compromise were to take place, an official agreement on a settlement freeze could arrive within two weeks in a joint declaration from Netanyahu and Mitchell, said Israeli TV station Channel 10 last night. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Silicon Israel

How market capitalism saved the Jewish state

The most precious resource in the world economy is human genius, which we may define as the ability to devise significant inventions that enhance survival and prosperity. At any one time, genius is embodied in just a few score thousand people, a creative minority that accounts for most human accomplishment and wealth. Cities and nations rise and thrive when they welcome entrepreneurial and technical genius; when they overtax, criminalize, or ostracize it, they wither.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


TV: Settlement Freeze in Two Weeks

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, AUGUST 26 — An announcement on a Jewish settlement freeze in the West Bank will be issued in two weeks according to reports this evening by Israeli private TV station channel 10, after meetings between Premier Benyamin Netanyahu in London with US envoy in the Middle East George Mitchell. The station did not provide further details on the announcement, which should precede resumed Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. At the end of the meeting between Netanyahu and Mitchell, Israeli government sources, cited by the TV station, reported that there has been progress towards a solution to the controversy between Israel and the US regarding Washington’s request for a complete stop to all building plans, including those currently underway, in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


US Funding New West Bank Road Signs Written in Arabic and English

New road signs in Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank will be in Arabic and English, without Hebrew, a US official said Thursday.

Mindy Masonis, spokeswoman for the US Consulate in Jerusalem, said the new signs will be part of a larger program aimed at improving conditions in the West Bank. The development is seen as part of the preparation for a future Palestinian state.

Masonis said no signs are being taken down, but the new ones in the Palestinian areas will be in Arabic and English. The sign project accounts for about $175,000 of a three-year, $20 million U.S. aid project to improve services in the West Bank.

Among the other aspects of the program are better processing of drivers’ licenses and improvements in the road system, Masonis said.

           — Hat tip: A Greek Friend[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Auto Sector: Volkswagen, Qatar Acquires 10% Stake in Porsche

(ANSAmed) — BERLIN, AUGUST 14 — Qatar has signed an agreement to acquire a stake in Porsche. The emirate should acquire a 10% stake of the Stuttgart automaker in addition to a majority of Volkswagen options in Porsche’s portfolio, totalling about a 20% stake in the top European automaker, wrote German press agency DPA today. The agreement, which was signed today, confirms Qatar’s entrance into Volkswagen’s capital (VW) as the third leading shareholder of the German group. The emirate, according to VW financial official Hans Dieter Poetsch, will hold “about the same stake possessed by Lower Saxony,” or 20%. Qatar representatives met with Wolfgang Porsche in Stuttgart today. Porsche has not made public how much Qatar will pay to buy the 10% stake held by the family, but the emirate has committed to provide the auto manufacturer up to 265 million euros in credit. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Banks: Bahrain: Accord With Australian Group

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 25 — Gulf Finance House (Gfh), based in Bahrain, signed yesterday a confidential memorandum of understanding with Australian based Macquarie group to develop a joint islamic financial services venture in the Middle East, Gulf Daily News reports. “This strategic partnership with Macquarie represents an exciting opportunity as we look to continue the bank’s diversification into new geographies and opportunities”, said Gfh’s new chief executive Ahmed Faour. Macquarie will invest approximately USD 100 million in the next year.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Energy: Qatar Eager About Building Gas Pipeline to Turkey

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, AUGUST 19 — While praising Turkey’s regional role in the Middle East, Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani has voiced his country’s support for the construction of a gas pipeline between his country and Turkey. Al-Thani’s remarks came at a joint press conference following talks with President Abdullah Gul in Istanbul. The emir of Qatar arrived in Istanbul on Monday for a two-day working visit. On Tuesday, the emir and Gul attended a meeting of the Turkish-Qatari Business Council which was hosted by the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) and the Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK). Speaking at the joint press conference, al-Thani firstly thanked Gul and Erdogan for the role they had played with respect to the Palestinian issue and the attack on Gaza. “We are eager to have a gas pipeline from Qatar to Turkey. We discussed this matter in the framework of cooperation in the field of energy. In this regard, a working group will be set up that will come up with concrete results in the shortest possible time,” al-Thani was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency. Gul said the two had discussed cooperation in the area of energy in detail. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Iraq: Baghdad Calls for Syria to Hand Over Terror Suspects

Baghdad, 27 August (AKI) — Iraq has warned that relations with neighbouring Syria would not improve until Damascus handed over terrorists alleged to have plotted a devastating bombing in Baghdad. “Our relations with Syria have reached a crossroads of whether they choose to have good relations with Iraq, or whether they choose to protect persons who attack Iraq,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

Bilateral relations effectively collapsed on Tuesday when the countries withdrew their envoys in the wake of the twin truck bomb attacks in Baghdad, which Iraq claims were planned in Syria.

On several occasions, Iraq has presented Syria with a list of people it says have plotted attacks in Iraq, Dabbagh said.

Meanwhile, a series of car bombs around Baghdad have killed one person and wounded at least 11 others on Thursday.

Police said a roadside bomb in Taji, north of the city, killed a civilian and wounded five other people.

In Baghdad’s Adhamiya neighborhood, at least two bombs attached to parked cars wounded six people.

The attacks occurred as troops tightened security around Shia mosques and political offices ahead of a massive funeral procession for prominent Shia leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.

Thousands of people are expected to mourn the leader of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council later this week before he is buried in the holy city of Najaf.

There were reports of several other violent attacks in the Iraqi capital on Thursday.

Four people on Wednesday were wounded in a roadside bomb blast in eastern Baghdad, a police source and 12 others were injured when two bombs exploded in the Adhamiya neighbourhood of northern Baghdad.

The bomb attacks have worsened since the twin bomb blast outside the foreign ministry, which killed at least 95 people and injured hundreds of others on 19 August.

The attacks have stepped up since US troops pulled back from Iraqi cities at the end of June and prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki has warned of an upsurge of violence ahead of January’s elections.

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


Lebanon: Internet Company With Israeli Contacts Closed

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, AUGUST 12 — An Internet provider that supplied services to Lebanese government institutions was closed due to an order issued by the Attorney-General’s office because it had contacts with Israel, reports the press in Beirut. The decision was made on Saturday after a raid carried out by the army on the offices of the company in the city of Barouk, in the zone of Chouf, just a few kilometres from the capital. During the search, soldiers discovered that the company’s servers were supported by a company that distributes services to the region through Israel, which was then confirmed by employees during interrogations. According to Hezbollah TV station al Manar, the company was reported to legal authorities in April, but the intervention of “important politicians” prevented the company from being shut down. According to al Manar’s website, various Internet providers were supported by Israeli servers in order to improve the quality of their Internet connections and to improve profit margins, violating a law that prohibits Lebanese citizens with any contact with Israel, a country with which Lebanon is still formally at war. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Lebanon: Peres: ‘Hezbollah Has 80,000 Rockets’, Beirut Denies

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, AUGUST 24 — Lebanon’s Foreign minister, Fawzi Sallouk, has denied claims made by Israeli president Shimon Peres, which were based on reports in Saturday’s edition of Kuwaiti daily Al Rai, that the Lebanese Shiite and pro-Iranian movement, Hezbollah, presently holds 80 thousand missiles. “I do not know how he (Peres) might have managed to count all these rockets… He is blessed with a vivid imagination”, Sallouk is quoted by today’s Daily Star of Beirut as saying. High-ranking Hezbollah officials have nonetheless repeated that the military capabilities of their movement has been greatly strengthened following the 2006 war fought against Israel. The leader of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has stated that the movement possesses missiles capable of striking anywhere within Israel. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Lebanon: Beirut Synagogue Reopens With Hezbollah Approval

(by Lorenzo Trombetta) (ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, AUGUST 24 — No longer covered with weeds, the Star of David in the Beirut synagogue, a rare trace of one of the most flourishing Jewish communities in the Middle East, was visible today after the beginning of the long awaited restoration of the temple, perhaps a prelude to the end of the semi clandestine existence that the Jews in Lebanon have lived in for decades. Isaac Arazi, who has been president of the local Jewish community for the last four years, speaking to ANSA said, “the restoration of the synagogue is only one of the objectives in a project that includes the restoration of the Jewish cemeteries in Beirut and Sidon and the opening, shortly, of an civil register and information office”. In a country where being Jewish is nearly synonymous with being “Israeli” and therefore the “enemy”, for the last 200 Jews remaining, all over fifty years old, coming out of anonymity is a risk but also a challenge. “We have thrown ourselves in the water”, says sixty six year old Arazi, who doesn’t rule out a meeting with representatives of the Shiite anti-Israeli movement Hezbollah. The Party of God never opposed the restoration of the temple, but “with Hezbollah there are still no direct contacts”. “The project’s total value is about one million and 200 thousand dollars”, said Arazi. “Now we are only at the beginning and we have raised a little more than 150 thousand dollars, mostly from Swiss and Italian Jewish contributors, but we need more help”, added Arazi. The Maghen Abraham synagogue dates from 1926 and for half a century, until the start of the civil war (1975-90), it was one of the 16 synagogues in Lebanon and one of the oldest in the Middle East. Half destroyed by the fighting, sacked more than once and used as a refuge for rivals militias, the walls of the building with three interior aisles remained standing, the walls inside painted a now faded turquoise blue. The skeleton stands amidst the dust of numerous building sites for the construction of modern apartments in Wadi Abu Jmil, one the district, not a ghetto, of Beirut’s Jewish community. “Here there was the college of the Universal Israeli Alliance, where even Muslim and Christian professors taught, kosher butchers and the branches of two local Jewish banks”. After the first Arab-Israeli war in 1848, Lebanon was the only Arab state where the number of Jews increased instead of decreased, Jews fleeing Mosul, Aleppo, Baghdad and Damascus, “in Beirut we found refuge together with the other Jews that came in the last centuries fleeing the Inquisition”. In the 1950s and 1960s there were more than 20,000 Jews in Lebanon. “We never felt threatened”, remembers Arazi. At least until the Israeli invasion in 1982, when the equation of Jewish means collaborator began to inspire kidnapping, leading to the killing of 14 members of the community. The following flight abroad (many going to Italy, to Milan) and many mixed marriages also reduced the number of Lebanese Jews, excluded from public administration, the police and the army since 1948. “Before the birth of Israel”, points out Arazi, “there were Lebanese Jewish colonels and commissioners”. The news of the starting of the restoration of the synagogue could induce Jews of Lebanese origin to return from abroad. “We hope so”, says Arazi, “but first there has to be peace”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


NATO Chief Urges Turkey, Greece to End Scuffle

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has called on Greece and Turkey to improve their relations, saying ongoing tensions between the two countries are endangering NATO and EU missions in Afghanistan and Somalia by putting ground troops at risk.

Rasmussen is due to discuss the issue with Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis during a meeting today (28 August), after having met with Turkish authorities yesterday.

He said his message to both governments was to improve their relations, as bilateral tensions between the two countries are preventing the alliance from concluding an agreement aimed at improving troop security in Afghanistan and in operations off the Somali coast.

Greece has recently complained about Turkish army jets flying over its territory in violation of international agreements, fuelling tensions between the two rival neighbours, which have been divided over the Cyprus issue for decades (see ‘Background’).

“I […] hope that during my term, we will see an improvement in relations between two very important allies: Turkey and Greece. While these are bilateral issues, the effects of these tensions are felt far beyond, NATO-EU relations being the most obvious,” Rasmussen stated before leaving Brussels.

In a blog hosted on the NATO website, Rasmussen admits that Greece and Turkey’s conflicts are of a bilateral nature, but he adds that a point has been reached whereby these conflicts are harming the alliance’s operations.

According to Rasmussen, NATO is currently unable to conclude an agreement to assist EU police in Afghanistan due to the ongoing Greece-Turkey strife. Meanwhile, in the Horn of Africa, NATO and the EU are conducting naval operations, but have been unable to reach agreement on how they could assist each other.

In Turkey, Rasmussen attended an iftar (fast-breaking dinner) with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The host used the opportunity to urge Rasmussen, who previously drew harsh criticism following the publication of cartoons seen as insulting the Prophet Muhammad in his country Denmark, to engage in institutional relations with Muslim countries for better dialogue with the Muslim world.

The Greek press reports that a dispute over the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is also on the menu of the talks in Athens. Macedonia’s NATO accession was recently blocked by Athens over the conflict (EurActiv 03/04/09).

The Greek prime minister indicated that he would use the opportunity to call on the alliance to improve its relations with Russia, the Greek and Russian press reported.

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


Qatar Hub of Arab Film Industry After Tribeca Festival

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 25 — The capital of Qatar will become the heart of the Arab film industry, said the organisers of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival. The festival is the main event outside the USA linked to the show created by Robert De Niro, and will start on October 29. “We are not here to host a 4-day festival and then leave” said festival director Amanda Palmer, quoted by Gulf Times. “This is a long-term commitment to help the region’s film industry” she added. “At the moment there are many extraordinary films made in the Arab world” Palmer continued, “but people wouldn’t be able to see them if they weren’t shown during the film festival.” Around 30 films will be presented during the festival, including films shot in the region or films that discuss the Arab world. Palmer most films shown in Qatar are American products or Bollywood films and that it is therefore necessary to promote Arab films. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Saudi Prince Injured by Militant

A wanted militant blew himself up in the office of a Saudi prince responsible for security, state news agency SPA has reported.

The man had wanted to personally tell Prince Muhammad bin Nayef in his Jeddah Interior Ministry office that he would give himself up.

The prince, who was meeting well-wishers for the holy month of Ramadan, was slightly injured.

The news agency did not identify the suicide bomber.

Saudi-owned al-Arabiya television showed Prince Mohammed meeting King Abdullah later.

He has been involved in the kingdom’s anti-terror strategy

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]


Suicide Bomber Lightly Injures Senior Saudi Prince

A suicide bomber lightly wounded a senior prince largely credited for Saudi Arabia’s anti-terrorism campaign when he blew himself up just before going into a gathering of well-wishers for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the state news agency said Friday.

It was the first known assassination attempt against a member of the royal family since Saudi Arabia began its crackdown on al-Qaida affiliated militants eight years ago following the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States.

The militant who attacked the assistant interior minister, Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, late Thursday at the Ramadan gathering in Jiddah had previously expressed his intention to give himself up to the official, the Saudi Press Agency quoted the royal court as saying.

It is customary for senior members of the royal family to hold regular open gatherings where citizens can air grievances, seek settlement of financial or other disputes or offer congratulations.

           — Hat tip: A Greek Friend[Return to headlines]

Russia

Russia: Medvedev Promises Support to Muslim Leaders of N. Caucasus

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Even Russia’s going dhimmi!]

SOCHI, August 28 (Itar-Tass) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has promised comprehensive support to the Muslim leaders of the North Caucasus.

“We must secure all possible support to the authority of the Islamic leaders, muftis and those who serve on the Caucasus,” Medvedev said in the course of his meeting in Sochi with muftis and heads of republics of the North Caucasian region on Friday.

“We will not be able to cope with the problems that exist here, without firming the authority of the Islamic leaders.”

“In this, you can fully count on the support of the Russian government and the head of state,” Medvedev said.


He supported Ramzan Kadyrov who noted “it is necessity to look for errors in oneself and correct them without feeling shy.”

“There aren’t sinless here; everybody can err. So we must face the truth and find modern answers to questions which ordinary people ask,” Medvedev said.

Only in this case the authorities will be effective and modern, he added.

The Russian president believes it is necessary to set up a television channel teaching the basics of Islam.

“We’re now transferring to digital broadcasting, it expands opportunities, so I think one might consider finding a channel which would teach and interpret Islam, traditional for our country,” the head of state said.

Medvedev called for not using the phrase “Islamic extremist.”

“I support what Chechnya President Ramzan Kadyrov said. We should not call extremists “Islamic extremists.” The correct name for a bandit is just “bandit,” there is no religious content in him, even if he might imagine that he’s a pious Muslim. He’s not a Muslim, he’s a bandit,” Medvedev said.


According to the Russian leader, it is necessary to work out a program to work with young people in the North Caucasus.

“Regrettably, gangs still succeed in taking young people under their wing, into their criminal activity; it’s a fact,” Medvedev said, “in this connection it would be the right thing to work out a complex program of work with youths in the North Caucasus.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Caucasus

6 Wounded in Chechnya Suicide Bombing

Three policemen and three civilians have been wounded as two terrorists trying to escape capture in Chechnya blew themselves up, police said Friday.

It is the second suicide bombing this week in Chechnya and part of a rising wave of violence in Russia’s North Caucasus.

Chechen Interior Ministry spokesman Magomed Deniyev said that police blockaded the two terrorists in a house in the town of Shali overnight. He said when police demanded they give themselves up, the terrorists opened fire and then set off explosives attached to their bodies.

Deniyev said three policemen and three civilians were hospitalized with shrapnel wounds.

Separatist rebels and Russian troops have fought two full-scale wars in Chechnya over the past 15 years, and small clashes persist.

           — Hat tip: A Greek Friend[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Call for More India Nuclear Tests

India should conduct further nuclear tests to establish itself as a true nuclear power, the former head of India’s main nuclear body has said.

PK Iyengar told the BBC that he made it clear in 2002 that India’s nuclear tests were inconclusive and ambiguous.

His comments come as atomic scientist K Santhanam, who was associated with India’s 1998 nuclear tests, said they were not as successful as claimed.

This was dismissed by the government and former colleagues.

The Indian tests led to similar tests by Pakistan, raising fears of a nuclear conflict between the two countries.

Endorsement

“If India wants to declare itself as a nuclear power and confirm to the military that you have all the means of designing a thermo-nuclear device which can go into a missile, which can be dropped from an aircraft or can be launched from a submarine, you need many more tests,” Mr Iyengar, the former chairman of Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), told the BBC.

Mr Iyengar also said that India’s 1998 nuclear test was not a deterrent against China, though it was against Pakistan.

“The Chinese are aware of it and that should be a worry for India,” he said.

Mr Iyengar’s endorsement of Mr Santhanam came soon after the latter’s claim was dismissed by the Indian government.

On Wednesday, Mr Santhanam claimed that the “yield in the thermo-nuclear device test was much lower than what was claimed”.

He said one of the tests — on a hydrogen bomb — had not worked and that India would have to carry out more tests for a credible nuclear deterrent.

Mr Santhanam is a respected Indian atomic scientist who was project director of the 1998 nuclear tests.

His remarks on India’s nuclear capabilities sparked protests from the government as well as some fellow scientists.

The government swiftly dismissed the claim saying it was based on no scientific evidence.

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


Hambali Off Hook Over 2002 Bali Bombings

HAMBALI, the terrorist mastermind believed to be behind the Bali bombings, is set to escape justice for his role in the 2002 attacks that killed 202 people, 88 of them Australians.

Senior US officials have told The Weekend Australian that military prosecutors lack the evidence to charge the Indonesian terror suspect over the bombings of the Sari Club and Paddy’s Bar on October 12, 2002.

The news will come as a blow to relatives of those who perished in the deadliest terrorist attacks ever perpetrated against Australians. It follows the execution in Indonesia last year of the three bombers, Imam Samudra and brothers Amrozi and Mukhlas.

While authorities are confident they can tie Hambali to other terrorist attacks across the archipelago — ensuring he is almost certain to remain in custody — US officials say it is unlikely the 45-year-old will be charged over his role in the Bali bombings.

A senior US official close to the investigation said the problem boiled down to a lack of admissible evidence. “As it stands now, the case against Hambali on Bali is weak,” he said. “But the investigation has not stopped. It is ongoing.”

Despite the lack of evidence, there is a near universal consensus among experts, intelligence analysts and government officials that Hambali was involved in the twin blasts in the Kuta tourist strip.

Former Office of National Assessments Indonesia analyst Ken Ward said while Hambali was probably not involved in the operational planning, he was believed to have contributed $US30,500 to fund the crime.

“He didn’t necessarily choose the Sari Club or Paddy’s Bar but he was the one who directed that soft targets be the object of Jemaah Islamiah’s operations in Indonesia,” Mr Ward said.

Hambali, whose real name is Riduan Isamuddin, was arrested in 2003 in Thailand as part of a US-led operation.

It has since emerged that Hambali, along with other detainees in Guantanamo Bay, was subjected to waterboarding, or simulated drowning.

As al-Qa’ida’s chief of operations in Southeast Asia, he is implicated in a string of attacks across Indonesia, including the 2003 attack on Jakarta’s Marriott Hotel that claimed 12 lives and a series of Christmas Eve church bombings that killed 19.

Hambali was the head of Mantiqi One, the JI cell covering Malaysia and Singapore. His deputy, Mukhlas, was the field commander for the nightclub blasts.

Indonesian authorities, who also want to prosecute Hambali, were for the first time granted access to the link man between al-Qa’ida and JI earlier this year.

It is understood that while the Bali case against Hambali may be weak, prosecutors are much more optimistic about proving his participation in the Marriott bombing, which, according to US authorities, Hambali helped finance.

“The Marriott case is strong,” the senior US official said.

“The Bali case is under development. It hasn’t been ruled out, but it’s a much harder case to make.”

US military prosecutors have hinted strongly they would seek the death penalty for Hambali. Former chief prosecutor Colonel Mo Davis said in 2007 there was a good chance Hambali would be charged with murder.

In January, Hambali’s case was thrown into limbo after US President Barack Obama suspended the military commissions set up by his predecessor, George W. Bush, to try enemy combatants held at Guantanamo Bay.

It’s understood authorities have not categorically ruled out charging Hambali for the nightclub bombings.

But the bleak verdict on the current state of the case was backed by a second US official, who said prosecutors stood little chance of convicting him on the evidence available, despite intelligence indicators linking him to the bombing.

As a result, it was highly unlikely prosecutors would refer charges for Hambali’s role in the Bali killings.

“That’s become the consensus over time,” he said.

“None of which means we don’t think he did it, but having evidence that you can walk into court is very difficult.

“It’s not that we think we got the wrong guy.

“It’s just there’s a big difference between thinking we have somebody who’s in some way responsible and having the kind of proof we can take into court.”

Australian National University Indonesia expert Greg Fealy said Hambali was almost like the treasurer of JI.

“Whenever they had a big expenditure, the leadership would go to Hambali and ask him to either find or release the money for it,” Dr Fealy said. “He was directly involved in all of those financing issues.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


India: Make Nuclear Programme Accountable

India’s cosseted nuclear programme has been shielded from parliamentary scrutiny and CAG audit. So, it is hard to reliably determine whether the sole thermonuclear test fizzled out quickly or was a success, however, modest. But some facts speak for themselves.

One telling fact is that more than 11 years later, India has not weaponised the thermonuclear technology, even though the test in 1998 was supposed to have catapulted the country into the big-power league.

The thermonuclear test, obviously, was not merely intended as a technology demonstrator. Therefore, it is legitimate to ask: What has been the security benefit for the country from that test? Even more glaring is another fact: More than 35 years after Pokhran I, India stands out as a reluctant and tentative nuclear power, still lacking even a barely minimal deterrent capability against China.

Given the growing military asymmetry with China, a proven and weaponised Indian thermonuclear capability, backed by long-range missiles, is critical to deter the assertive and ambitious northern neighbour. But today, India does not have a single Beijing-reachable missile in deployment.

Had India developed and deployed a minimal but credible nuclear-weapons capability, China would not have dared to mess with India. But the increasing Chinese bellicosity, reflected in rising border incursions and hardening of Beijing’s stance on territorial disputes, suggests China is only getting emboldened against a weaker India.

Consider yet another unpalatable fact: No country has struggled longer to build a minimal deterrent or paid heavier international costs for its nuclear programme than India. The history of India’s nuclear-weapons programme is actually a record of how it helped establish multilateral technology controls. Pokhran I, for example, impelled the secret formation of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). India’s space programme helped give birth to the Missile Technology Control Regime.

Yet, before it has built a credible minimal deterrent, India came full circle when it entered into a civilian nuclear deal with the US and secured an exemption from NSG last year to import high-priced commercial nuclear power reactors and fuel. In doing so, it had to accept non-proliferation conditions that aim to stunt its nuclear-deterrent development.

Through this deal, India is seeking to replicate in the energy sector the very mistake it has made on armaments. Now the world’s largest arms importer, India spends more than $6 billion every year on importing conventional weapons, some of dubious value, while it neglects to build its own armament-production base. Conventional weapons simply cannot deter a nuclear adversary.

Deterrence against a nuclear foe can only be built on nuclear capability, especially a second-strike capability that can survive the enemy’s first strike to inflict massive retaliation.

More broadly, Indian policymakers have yet to recognise that no nation can be a major power without three attributes: A high level of autonomous and innovative technological capability; a capacity to meet basic defence needs indigenously; and a capability to project power far beyond its borders, especially through intercontinental-range weaponry. India is deficient in all the three areas.

It is not an accident that all the countries armed with intercontinental-range ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are permanent members of the UN Security Council. But rather than aim for a technological leap through a crash ICBM programme, India remains interminably stuck in the Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) stage.

Against this background, the latest claim that the 1998 thermonuclear test performed well under par can only further damage the credibility of India’s nuclear posture. The controversy over the thermonuclear test, however, is nothing new. No sooner had the test been conducted than a former head of the Indian nuclear programme, P K Iyengar, questioned official claims of success.

In such a setting — with critics within and outside the country questioning the success of the test — India must be ready to convincingly re-demonstrate its thermonuclear capability, should a propitious international opportunity arise from a nuclear test conducted by another power.

Nuclear deterrence, after all, is like beauty: It lies in the eyes of the beholder. It is not what India’s nuclear establishment claims but what outsiders, especially regional adversaries, believe that constitutes deterrence (or the lack of it).

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


India: Thermonuclear Pretensions

K SANTHANAM’S admission that the hydrogen bomb test in 1998 was a dud elicited a curious response from Brajesh Mishra, the national security adviser at the time. The BJP coalition government, he said, chose to believe the then DRDO chief, APJ Abdul Kalam, who, Mishra claimed, vouched for the success of the test.

This raises the question whether Kalam, a rocket engineer, knows more about nuclear weapon systems than nuclear scientists such as Santhanam or even a host of nuclear stalwarts, including P. K. Iyengar, former chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, et al, who went public immediately after the tests with their doubts about the efficacy of a design yielding meagre fusion energy ( no more than 20 kilotons, according to Santhanam) and who adduced convincing scientific reasons why the test was a fizzle.

In the event, the defence ministry spokesman’s brave attempt to reassure the public by saying that nuclear security- wise, the country is adequately “ covered” rapidly reduced the controversy to a joke considering that both the ministry and, in fact, the armed forces, have been studiously kept out of the “ nuclear loop”. But why are Messrs Iyengar and Santhanam convinced that resumption of nuclear testing and the rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty that Washington has begun pressuring the Manmohan Singh regime to sign, are essential? Firstly, because data and that too from a single, flawed, thermonuclear test is grossly inadequate for the purposes of writing simulation software, compared to 1,800 tests conducted by the US, 800 tests by Russia, and 75- odd tests by China. And because the most advanced Indian computers, according to Anil Kakodkar, chairman, DAE, are capable of only two trillion operations per second when, for realistically simulating a thermonuclear explosion, the computing speeds required are in the range of 1,000 trillion operations per second.

Secondly, testing is not necessary if sophisticated and inordinately expensive technological infrastructure is available.

Thus, for example, an inertial confinement fusion facility to produce miniature thermonuclear explosions to help design new types of hydrogen weapons, and the dual axis radiographic hydro test facility to improve the boosted fission trigger for thermonuclear weapons, is why countries such as the US need never test again.

But for an India without such paraphernalia, further testing is an imperative.

Repeated testing begets reliable, proven and safe nuclear and thermonuclear armaments and enhances the credibility of a country’s deterrent posture.

Richard Garwin, a renowned American thermonuclear weaponeer, has indicated the scale of complexity involved in configuring a workable hydrogen bomb.

Some 2,000 design features and processes have to work just right, he has stated, for the thermonuclear weapon design to be deemed a success. H OW IS one to square this observation with the Indian government’s view that, notwithstanding the deficiencies in test data and limitations in computing speeds, the Indian weapons designers have to cope with, its weapons are credible? Moreover, without serial testing how is the Indian military end- user to know whether the presumed design kinks have actually been ironed out and the weapons rendered capable of performance as advertised? Besides, the questionable provenance of India’s “ thermonuclear” weapons is too well known for them to hold any terrors for an adversary willing to take a chance on calling India’s bluff in a strategic crisis. China may do that in the context of its own wide array of weapons and warheads, each extensively tested mated to their vectors — a range of land and sea- based ballistic and cruise missiles.

India, in contrast, has tested an operationally ready 20 KT fission warhead and that too only once in 1998, as part of the Shakti series. The government has sedulously propagated a myth that all nuclear weapons are equal in their impact, that an Indian 20 KT “ firecracker” is the equal of a 3.3 megaton standard issue warhead atop the Chinese Dongfeng- 21 intermediate range ballistic missiles targeted at India, which is patent nonsense.

The psychological dread generated by the mere threat of use of a megaton ( or, million tons of TNT equivalent) bomb by Beijing cannot be matched by a retaliatory threat posed by small yield nuclear ordnance of the type the Indian strategic forces bank on. Faced with thermonuclear annihilation, Delhi will quickly fold; after all, the Indian government has routinely been unhinged by lot less. Without a regime of open ended thermonuclear testing, the Indian strategic forces will have to contend with uncommon risks.

Sidney Drell, a reputed American physicist, has mooted a simple formula to judge the quality of deterrence provided by physically untested nuclear and thermonuclear weapons. One has to calculate, he said, whether the margins of performance of such an arsenal are greater than the risks the nation faces. In the matter of the Indian strategic thermonuclear weaponry, it is plain to see that it is all risk and uncertain performance.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Malaysia: Protest Over Proposed Temple

KUALA LUMPUR — DOZENS of Malaysian Muslims paraded on Friday with the head of a cow, a sacred animal in Hinduism, in a dramatic protest against the proposed construction of a Hindu temple in their neighborhood.

The unusual protest by some 50 people in Shah Alam, the capital of Selangor state, raises new fears of racial tensions in this multiethnic Muslim-majority country where Hindus comprise about 7 per cent of the 27 million population.

The demonstrators who marched from a nearby mosque after Friday prayers dumped the cow head outside the gates of the state government headquarters. Selangor adjoins Kuala Lumpur.

Protesters stomped on the head and spat on it before leaving the site, Xavier Jeyakumar, a state government official in charge of non-Muslim affairs, told The Associated Press.

‘This is a sign of disrespect, insensitivity and a huge insult to the Indian community,’ he said.

Such an overt display of religious discord is almost unheard of in Malaysia, which has carefully nurtured racial harmony among its three main ethnic groups, Malay Muslims, Chinese and Indians, since 1969 when the country suffered its worst racial riots.

The demonstrators said their neighborhood, Section 23, has a 90 percent Muslim population and building a Hindu temple there was inappropriate.

‘If there is blood you (the government) will be responsible,’ Malaysiakini, an independent news Web site, quoted a protest leader Ibrahim Haji Sabri as saying.

‘I challenge (Selangor government leaders) to go on with the temple construction. I guarantee bloodshed and racial tension,’ Ibrahim said amid chants of ‘Allahu Akbar,’ or God is great, the Malaysian Insider, another news Web site, reported.

Both sites posted pictures of the protest showing a bloodied cow head.

Muslim Malays and the Chinese and Indians — who are Christian, Hindu, Sikh and Muslim — have generally been careful about not offending each others’ religions. — AP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Orissa: Impunity in Kandhamal, Where Law and Order Have Collapsed

One year after Hindu extremist violence, the future of Christians remains uncertain. The culprits are free to roam the district and discrimination against those who have returned to their homes continues. Government and police are inert. Signs of hope in some villages where Christians and Hindus together oppose extremist groups.

Bhubhaneshwar (AsiaNews) — K.P. Fabian IFS is a retired diplomat of the Indian government, ex-ambassador to Italy, Qatar, Finland and Canada. He is currently president of the humanitarian organization Indo-Global Social Service Society. In July of this year, Fabian took a trip to the district of Kandhamal in Orissa visited refugee camps, where many Christians are still housed, and met with the local superintendent of police, Catholic leaders and other Christian denominations. A year after Hindu violence he describes the situation of insecurity in which victims of the pogroms of August 2008 still live, the impunity afforded perpetrators and “the collapse of law and order in the district.”

Normalcy is still a far off dream for the victims of the anti Christian violence in Kandhamal , fear still lurks in the heart of the people and while the anniversary of the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati — which trigged off the large scale violence and the complete break down of the law and order situation in the district- went off without an incident, yet the question still remains about the future of the Christians in Kandhamal district.

The atrocities occurred because those responsible for it had planned and wanted it to happen and, equally, because it was abundantly clear to the organizers that the state government will not prevent them, and will not take action against them after they have carried out their plans.

It was utterly imprudent on the part of the state government to have permitted the procession carrying the dead body of the late Swami Lakshamananda to take a 250 km route over two days, stopping in front of churches and homes of Christians. In fact, a good part of the atrocities occurred with the Collector and the Police Superintendent standing by.

In Orissa the first attack on a church dating back to 1967, the first assault on a Christian community is 1984. We must also remember the government’s reluctance to take legal action when Graham Staines, Australian Protestant missionary, was burnt alive with his two sons in January 1999 [see AsiaNews, 20/01/2009, Widow of Graham Staines: “Do not give up hope, pray for India”].

In December 2007 there were other attacks that preceded the one in August 2008. Even then, the Orissa authorities took no action against those who had promoted the campaign of violence against Christians. And of course the same people have implemented their plans in August, sure to go unpunished.

On my trip to Orissa I was shown the man who had raped Sister Meena; [see AsiaNews, 24/10/2008, Sister raped in Orissa accuses police of being “friendly” toward rapists ] he was riding a motor bike. I was told that his son too was part of the mob which had attacked Fr Thomas Chellan and Sr Meena [see AsiaNews, 03/09/2008, Orissa: after his calvary Father Thomas willing to go back to serve those who hurt him] . The justice system has broken down, even in the case when a cop was killed and a police station burnt down at Gochapada in Kandhamal all the accused were acquitted, this is clearly indication that the state is unwilling to even defend itself.

There is rampant witness intimidation and even if two or three such persons are arrested from a village the situation will immediately change for the better. It is because some people have good and solid reasons to believe that they are immune to law’s processes that the displaced cannot return to their villages.

Some of those who have returned to their villages continue to face severe difficulties. They are denied access to water and to firewood. They cannot even buy goods from shops owned by non-Christians. If they are daily wage-earners they cannot get even employment.

The Central Government should bring political pressure on the Orissa Government to act. It is the responsibility of the Orissa Government to send out a signal that those who are obstructing the return of the displaced will be dealt with sternly. All those responsible for violence against others and destruction of property should be brought to book. About 2,600 complaints have been made and about 700 cases have been registered, but the police has not taken consequential action and in some cases the alleged offenders have obtained anticipatory bail.

On a brighter note in at least three villages (Gohingia, Gundani, and Malikpadi) the Hindus and Christians got together and prevented the mob from attacking any one in the village and in at least two villages (Chanchedi and Gudrikia) those who attacked the Christians have apologized.

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


Pakistan: Curbs on Nuclear Scientist Lifted

A court in Pakistan has lifted the final restrictions on controversial nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, allowing him total freedom of movement.

Dr Khan, whose work helped Pakistan become a nuclear state, spent years under house arrest after he admitted selling off nuclear weapons secrets.

In February 2009 most restrictions on him were lifted, but he still had to notify authorities of his movements.

He subsequently filed a petition arguing for further freedoms.

Dr Khan confessed to transferring nuclear weapons technology to Libya, North Korea and Iran in 2004 but was later pardoned by former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

He has since said that the charges against him were false and that his confession was “forced”.

The BBC’s Syed Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad says that despite his confession and detention, Dr Khan remains very popular among many Pakistanis who regard him as a national hero.

But the “father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb” was placed under house arrest and not allowed to meet anyone.

This included US and IAEA experts who wanted to investigate the extent of his proliferation activities, our correspondent says.

The US has repeatedly said it wants to question Dr Khan, but Pakistan has always refused access.

‘No limitations’

“Dr Khan can come and go anywhere as he pleases, and no one should prevent him from doing this,” Justice Ejaz Ahmed, the presiding judge at Lahore high court, said in his remarks in court.

“We must implement the Islamabad high court’s decision in spirit and letter.

“There should be no limitations on Dr Khan’s movements and meetings.”

In his petition to Lahore’s high court, Dr Khan argued, “I continue to be a prisoner despite having been released on court orders.

“The government has used the judgement of the Islamabad high court by limiting my movement under the guise of providing me security,” he said.

The Lahore court is the highest judicial body of Pakistan’s Punjab province.

It is not clear whether the authorities will heed the court’s decision.

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


‘Still No Justice’ In East Timor

East Timorese victims of the violence of 1999 and of Indonesia’s occupation have yet to receive any justice, says a report by Amnesty International.

Many perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity between 1975 and 1999 have still not been brought to trial, the human rights group says.

Amnesty says East Timor is haunted by a “culture of impunity” — a decade after voting for independence from Indonesia.

The group has called on the UN to set up an international criminal tribunal.

Donna Guest, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific deputy director, said the victims of the atrocities need a “clear commitment” from both the Indonesian and Timorese governments as well as the UN to investigate all allegations and bring those responsible to trial.

“Disappointed Timorese victims provided testimonies time and time again to various mechanisms, but they have still not seen significant signs of accountability,” she said.

The Timorese and Indonesian governments have “chosen to avoid justice for the victims”, which has “weakened the rule of law in both countries”, she went on to say.

Monumental task

Ten years ago an overwhelming majority of East Timorese people voted for independence from Indonesia.

But in the lead-up to the vote and in its aftermath, militia loyal to the Indonesians went on a rampage.

Amnesty International says at least 1,200 people were killed, and the crimes included rape, disappearances, arbitrary arrests and unlawful killings.

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


UN Says 30,000 Flee Myanmar Amid Fears of Civil War

BANGKOK — Fighting between Myanmar’s isolated ruling junta and rebel ethnic armies in the remote northeast has driven up to 30,000 refugees into China, the UN said, as analysts warned of a full-scale civil war.

As thousands fled across its border, China issued a rare admonishment to its southern neighbour and close ally, urging it to resolve the conflict that has broken out in Kokang, a mainly ethnic Chinese region of Myanmar’s Shan state.

A battle between the Kokang rebel group and the government’s army began on Thursday in violation of a 20-year ceasefire, according to the US Campaign for Burma (USCB), which uses Myanmar’s former name.

The mass exodus began after Myanmar’s junta deployed troops in the region on August 8 and now “only elderly peoples are left at homes”, while at least one Myanmar policeman was reportedly killed during the battle, the USCB added.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which is liaising with local Chinese authorities on the displaced people’s needs, said up to 30,000 crossed into the Chinese border town of Nansan, in southwestern Yunnan province.

“We have been informed that local authorities in Yunnan province have already provided emergency shelter, food and medical care to the refugees,” UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic said.

A statement from the Chinese foreign ministry said it “hopes that Myanmar can appropriately solve its relevant internal problems and safeguard the stability of the China-Myanmar border”.

“We also urge Myanmar to protect the safety and legal rights of Chinese citizens in Myanmar,” said spokeswoman Jiang Yu in the statement, posted on the ministry’s website.

China is Myanmar’s main source of military hardware and a major consumer of its vast natural resources, despite Western concerns over the military-ruled nation’s rights record.

Chinese state media reported Friday that Beijing had increased its number of armed police along the Myanmar border.

The English-language Global Times, citing local officials, said that Myanmar nationals were still crossing the border into Yunnan province, without giving a specific figure.

Another ethnic group, the United Wa State Army, has now reportedly joined the Kokang forces’ fight against the Myanmar junta, according to Khuensai Jaiyen, editor of the Shan Herald Agency for News.

“People say they have been hearing gunshots and explosions,” he told AFP, warning that other groups currently under ceasefire agreements could join in.

“If the Burmese army is returning to a reconciliatory stance it might get better, but if not it might be blown into a full-scale civil war.”

He added that the government was trying to create stability ahead of elections scheduled in 2010 but warned: “It will be the opposite.”

David Mathieson, a Myanmar analyst at Human Rights Watch, agreed full-scale civil war was “a very real fear.”

“This could potentially be the flashpoint that draws in several other groups to the resumption of open conflict,” he said.

Myanmar, under military rule since 1962, has signed ceasefires with 17 ethnic armed groups.

The USCB said before the battle that the Kokang forces — known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army — had split, with one faction joining the government’s troops occupying Laogai, capital of the Kokang region.

The other faction had refused to obey the junta’s order to place its troops under army control.

Peng Jiasheng, leader of the rebel group, issued a statement via USCB late Thursday on the “urgent need of peaceful and patient discussion between all parties concerned.”

Refugees began to flee three weeks ago after Myanmar sent dozens of military police to crack down on a gun-repair factory suspected of being a front for drugs production, sparking fear among locals, Chinese media said.

According to the USCB, the junta has since deployed thousands of troops to the region and announced that Peng Jiasheng and his family were fugitives wanted for narcotics production.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Far East

Giving China Help With Cyber Warfare

Plan may make it easier to hand over militarily critical exports

The Obama administration is considering easing U.S. export controls to China even though the director for national intelligence is warning about Chinese cyber warfare threats to U.S. military information systems. In addition, there are increasing reports of Chinese military buildup to match U.S. capabilities, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

The one group jubilant over the White House decision to undertake yet another comprehensive review of U.S. export control laws toward China is the U.S. business community.

“The U.S. has one of the most robust export control systems in the world,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said last week. “But it is rooted in the Cold War era of over 50 years ago and must be updated to address the threats we face today and the changing economic and technological landscape.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Japan: Rise in Child Abuse Cases

The number of children dying at the hands of abusive parents and guardians is rising. Slightly more than 100 children are losing their lives to abuse each year. The figure, which includes those caught up in family murder-suicides, means that on average two children are being killed each week.

Cases into which child guidance centers investigate are also on the rise. In fiscal 2008, centers across Japan handled some 43,000 cases, a record high and a six-fold increase from 10 years before. We are appalled at the number of parents who use force against their children or neglect to properly care for them.

Since the child abuse prevention law went into effect in 2000, the government has strengthened the authority of child guidance centers in phases. Since 2004, abused children can be admitted to child welfare facilities without the consent of parents so long as the action has court approval. Starting spring 2008, in cases where child abuse is suspected and guardians refuse to cooperate with authorities, the centers have been empowered to break locks and enter homes with court permission.

There were two such cases in fiscal 2008. In the Tohoku region, a girl of lower grade of elementary school age was taken into protective custody. Although she had not been to school at all, in two months after entering a children’s home, she was able to read and write hiragana. Her parents reacted with hostility at first, but eventually relented and agreed to her admittance to the children’s home. The local child guidance center had been in contact with the girl’s family for several years but was unable to even meet with them. That prompted officials to raid the house.

“When we use force, relations with guardians tend to deteriorate. We try to avoid it as much as possible but we made an agonizing choice for the sake of the child,” the director of the center said.

However, for children to recover from the trauma of abuse, welfare facilities do not always provide adequate settings. Nationwide, such facilities are nearly full and in some areas, they are packed beyond capacity. There are only 31 medical facilities across the nation that can provide intensive care to children suffering from the trauma of abuse.

Child welfare facilities need to drastically increase their staff numbers, especially with regard to psychologists and psychiatrists who specialize in treating abused children. Each caseworker at child guidance centers handles about 100 cases. The figure is more than double that of the United States and Europe. Even though the number of staff has increased over the past 10 years, it has yet to catch up with the steep rise in child abuse cases.

While action must be taken to separate and protect such children from their parents, the important thing is to work toward providing support until children and parents can be reunited. Society must help by supporting neighbors facing family problems and poverty.

In cases of death resulting from causes other than murder-suicides in families, 80 percent of the victims were children 3 years old or younger. Nearly half of them were not even 1 year old. In many cases, they are children of unwanted pregnancies or the mothers have mental problems, officials say.

As a measure to prevent child abuse, local governments across Japan are initiating programs to ensure that all families of newborns are visited by an official within four months of birth. Officials speak to parents and listen to their anxieties and problems concerning child care and, if necessary, refer them to nonprofit organizations, welfare programs, hospitals or other organizations that specialize in child-care problems. Such systems will prove more effective if they are put to practice from pregnancy.

Local community networks should watch over young parents with problems in an effort to reduce as many victims of child abuse as possible.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


N. Korea to Release Fishermen

SEOUL — NORTH Korea has told South Korea that four fishermen whom it detained almost a month ago will be released on Saturday, officials said.

The four South Korean crewmen on a squid fishing boat drifted into the North’s east coast waters on July 30 due to a malfunctioning navigation system.

‘Through a military hotline, North Korea notified the South that the Yeonanho and its crew will be transferred to our side on the East Sea tomorrow at 5pm (4pm Singapore time, 0800 GMT),’ Seoul’s unification ministry said in a statement quoted by Yonhap news agency.

The North had said the boat ‘illegally intruded’ into its territorial waters in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) and it was conducting an investigation.

The announcement that they will be released came the same day the two nations agreed to resume reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 war.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Why South Korea Holds the Key to Middle East Peace

Two seemingly unrelated yet dramatic developments occurred this week. South Korea launched a rocket into space. Meanwhile, the Israelis and Palestinians announced the possible re-start of peace talks.

The satellite the Koreans were trying to put into orbit sadly fell back to Earth, burning in the atmosphere. The plucky Koreans are surely undeterred. You can depend on them to ultimately succeed.

As for the peace talks I mentioned, they will probably go nowhere fast, just like most recent efforts. But even if they do make progress, it really doesn’t matter. Real peace, not just fragile cease-fires pretending to be peace, will require a different kind of thrust than mere diplomacy.

Let us imagine that the latest announcement of a new beginning for peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians leads to something really genuine. Further suppose that talks gather momentum, somehow breaking the perennial deadlock of settlements, borders and the status of Jerusalem. Finally, let us visualize, on the eve of the signing of this historic treaty, the leaders of all of the Arab states and Iran are swept up by this peace fever and line up at the UN to sign a 1000-year peace treaty with Israel.

It would not matter.

Treaties may get both sides to not shoot at each other (which for the most part, has already been achieved, even between Israel and the Arab states with which it is still formally at war). But a lasting peace in the Middle East will not come so long as terrorists (think Hamas and Hezbollah) or revolutionaries (a la the innumerable Islamist political opposition groups) threaten to overthrow the Arab regimes. The horrendous social and economic conditions of the Arab make it likely that any peace agreement that might be reached in the short term would be overturned by radicals aching to tear up those treaties the deposed regime made with the “Zionist entity”.

This is not to let Israel and its backers off the hook. Peace in the region is still a far greater guarantor to Israel’s security than it’s current military superiority. But to truly achieve something more than a decades-long ceasefire, radicalism among its neighbors must be squelched.

Anti-Semitism plays a part, but is certainly not the most important reason why increasing numbers of Arabs are turning to radical Islam. Syria, Egypt, Saudia Arabia, Iran and others just have too many young people, not enough jobs to go around, and no ability to change their situation so long as the thuggish regimes of the Middle East continue to hold sway. To drain the swamp of radicalism, these states themselves will have to open up their sclerotic political and economic systems, provide some measure of freedom and prosperity to their people and thus engender the kind of stability that can lead to true peace in the Middle East.

This brings us back to Korea. From a xenophobic and technologically backward hermit kingdom at the turn of the twentieth century, it became in turn an enslaved Japanese colony, a splintered yet liberated American protectorate, and finally a devastated war-torn mass of ruined villages and refugees the North Koreans left in their wake in the South. In 1950, this tiny country was broken, worse off even than the Arab Middle East of the time.

Sixty years later, South Korea is the 15th largest economy in the world, with an entrenched democratic political system and, despite the temporary setback of this week, an active space program. No one worries that South Korea, or a radical group within that country, will suddenly provoke war with it’s neighbor (which is particularly nice, since now we only have to worry about the North Koreans setting off a war along the most heavily fortified border on the planet). And Korea is merely one of the more dramatic examples of what a nation bereft of natural resources but willing to invest in its human capital can achieve within two generations.

But back in the Middle East, all of the Arab states, comprising a far larger population and geographic area than South Korea, have a combined GDP less than the country of Spain (at one time a Muslim outpost in Europe). Space program? The closest thing to an Arab astronaut we might see in the next while could only be a Hamas suicide bomber strapped to an augmented Ashoura rocket.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: What a great mental picture.]

The point being, that for real, sustainable peace between Israel and its avowed enemies to take hold, extreme transformations must take place in the Arab world and Iran. Economic development alone is no guarantor of peace, since certain Arab states and Iran may simply continue to buy more weapons or fund terrorist groups. The transformation will be more about their young people getting trained to produce and sell the products and ideas that the rest of the world wants, rather than spending long hours considering the evil of Western influence and the extent to which Jews are biologically related to pigs and monkeys. It will be about political leaders focusing on building themselves up, not on the evils of foreign devils. These societies surely won’t change in order to make peace with Israel, but rather because this kind of development is what their people want. Peace could simply be a by-product.

With great resolve from the concerned nations of the Middle East to meet their internal challenges and defeat radicalism, “peace in the Middle East” can mean far more than just ink on paper .

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Entrenched Racism in Australia — UN

THE intervention into remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory is clearly discriminatory, and that there is “entrenched” racism in Australia, the United Nations special delegate on indigenous rights says.

James Anaya didn’t pull any punches after his two-week visit of the country.

He said the Rudd Government should reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act in the NT “right away” because the intervention was discriminatory.

“It undermines the right of indigenous peoples to control their own destinies, their right to self-determination,” he said.

He also said the Stolen Generations should be paid compensation.

“Demeaning” actions

Prof Anaya said that while there was no doubt special efforts were required to combat indigenous disadvantage and abuse of women and children, the intervention’s “broad sweep” went too far and was incompatible with various international conventions, covenants, treaties and declarations.

“Some kind of special measures could be justified but they need to be narrowly tailored to the specific circumstances that exist,” he said.

Compulsory income management and blanket bans on alcohol and pornography were “overtly discriminatory” and further stigmatised already stigmatised communities.

“People who have a demonstrated capacity to manage their income are included,” he said.

“It’s inappropriate to their circumstances but is also, as expressed by them, demeaning.”

The indigenous rights expert was also scathing of federal Labor’s insistence that housing funds would only flow if indigenous communities signed over their land.

“It’s a mistake to assume that indigenous peoples … aren’t capable of taking care of their homes,” Prof Anaya said.

“Indigenous control can be appropriate to indigenous peoples’ development, to their aspirations, to indeed being in control of their lives like all others.”

As for compensation for indigenous people taken from their families by government agencies, the UN rapporteur was unequivocal: “There should be reparations,” he said.

Communities “impressive”

But it wasn’t all negative news for the Rudd Government.

Prof Anaya praised Labor for taking “significant steps” to try and improve the human rights and living conditions of indigenous Australians.

He also congratulated the Government for supporting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples earlier this year and officially apologising to the stolen generations in 2008.

There was hope, he said.

“I have been impressed by the strength, resilience and vision of indigenous communities determined to move towards a better future despite having endured tremendous suffering at the hands of historical forces and entrenched racism.”

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

Immigration

16 Migrants Rescued Off the Sardinian Coast

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, AUGUST 24 — “The Algerian coast guard, in collaboration with its Italian colleagues, intercepted and rescued sixteen irregular migrants, a few kilometres off the coasts of Sardinia”. The news was announced by Abdelaziz Zaidi, station commander of the Annaba coast guard, 600 kilometres east of Algiers, from where the boats heading for Italy sail, APS press agency reported. According to Zaidi “the Algerians on board where facing a difficult situation”. The rescue operation “was launched when the migrants contacted their families by phone and they alerted authorities,” he added. The migrants are currently in Sardinia. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


55 Egyptian Migrants Land in Sicily

(ANSAmed) — SIRACUSA, AUGUST 27 — The 55 immigrants stopped yesterday afternoon off the coast of Siracusa by a Financial Police patrol boat, are reportedly all Egyptian nationals. Financial Police officials, after arresting two individuals accused with aiding and abetting illegal immigration, carried out a series of verifications regarding the migrants onboard the fishing boat. The migrants said that they were Kurds and came from the coast of Turkey in order to be able to request asylum. Investigations by the Financial Police, who seized numerous mobile phones with foreign SIM cards, allowed officials to identify the actual nationality of the immigrants, who according to investigators, departed from the Egyptian coasts. The migrants could possibly be immediately deported and the two human traffickers will face trial in Siracusa. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Eritreans: Dinghy Photo Confirms Concerns

(ANSAmed) — VALLETTA (MALTA), AUGUST 26 — Today, seven days after the event, Malta’s armed forces have released a photo of the dinghy with five Eritreans on board which was rescued off Lampedusa by a motor launch of Italy’s excise police, the Guardia di Finanza. The air-view photo, taken on August 19 by an aircraft taking part in the Frontex mission, “documents” the action of the Maltese navy, which, having hooked the drifting dinghy to another dinghy, refuelled the vessel and supplied those on board with life-jackets. According to the Maltese authorities, the picture is confirmation that the five Eritreans “were in a good state of health”, as the army spokesperson, Ivan Consiglio, writes, and that their dinghy, being “clean and in a perfect state” couldn’t have held another 73 migrants who, according to the story told by the survivors, perished during the crossing. In fact, the photo, which is fuzzy, shows the five survivors supine on the dinghy’s planking; the only woman on board, who is still hospitalised due to her dangerous condition at Palermo’s Cervello hospital, is crouched over next to the outboard motor. The dinghy does not appear “spotless” at all, as the Maltese affirm and its length (of 12 metres) is fully compatible with the notion of carrying around eighty persons, as is confirmed by Italy’s Guardia di Finanza on the basis of their experience of numerous incidents involving other vessels of similar dimensions. And this is not all. The photo issued by the Maltese armed forces contains another incongruity: the photo was taken at 10.34 local time, but in the fax sent to the Guardia di Finanza, at 7.30 on the following day, is notice given of a vessel “sighted” at 10.48, without any mention of an action by the Maltese, who had already hooked up the vessel at the time. The release of the photo, then, only strengthens doubts and concerns over Malta’s role in the affair. (ANSAmed).

2009-08-26 20:07

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Ireland: Rules for Jobless Migrants Eased

Migrant workers who lose their job will be allowed to stay in the country longer to seek further employment, under new rules announced today.

Up until now migrant workers with work permits from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), which includes the EU, Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Switzerland, who were made redundant had only three months to find alternative employment or leave the country.

However, under the changes announced today by Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern, migrant workers who have held an employment permit for less than five years will now be able to stay for up to six months after losing their jobs.

In addition, non-EEA migrant workers who have lived and worked in Ireland for five years under the work permit system will be granted a new permission to live and work without the need to apply for another work permit.

The easing of immigration rules comes after the Government was heavily criticised after introducing new legislation in June which meant that unemployed migrant workers could only apply for jobs which had been advertised by Fás for at least eight weeks.

Speaking this afternoon, the Minister said there was a need to protect those who had lost their jobs.

“The Government is determined to do all in its power to tackle the rise in numbers of people finding themselves without work or with reduced working time as a result of the global recession,” said Mr Ahern.

“Now that we are in more difficult economic times, we cannot simply discard law abiding migrant workers, who have been living and working legally in Ireland for several years, when they become redundant. They have made a contribution to Ireland’s economy and society and we need to give them some breathing space to get back to work,” he added.

The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) welcomed today’s announcement saying that the Government “had done the right thing” in allowing unemployed workers more time to find jobs.

“These changes will make a significant difference in the lives of thousands of non-EEA migrant workers who have committed themselves to Ireland, but whose lives have been hanging in the balance. These changes give migrant workers greater equality and greater opportunity to support their families and to contribute to Irish society,” said Bill Abom, deputy director of the MRCI.

However, Fine Gael was dismissive of the changes to the immigration rules.

The party’s spokesman on immigration and integration, Denis Naughten, said the easing of the rules was a case of “wallpapering over the massive cracks in a misguided policy approach”.

“The Government’s announcement today is just another failure on the part of Fianna Fáil to implement a coherent immigration policy in what can only be described as a chaotic system,” he said.

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


Libya: Berlusconi Visit to Celebrate Friendship Pact

Rome, 27 August (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi will travel to the Libyan capital, Tripoli, on Sunday to celebrate the first anniversary of a controversial friendship treaty that allows Italy to repatriate migrants intercepted in international waters. He will leave the same day and will not attend the 40th anniversary of Libya’s independence on Tuesday, Italy’s under-secretary for foreign affairs, Alfredo Mantica, said.

Despite Berlusconi’s absence on Tuesday, an acrobatic display team from the Italian air force will perform a flyover to mark the country’s independence, Mantica said.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Russia’s president Dmitry Medvedev and Britain’s Duke of York have also decided against attending the festivities.

Earlier this week, Berlusconi came under pressure from the opposition to cancel his trip amid outrage over the hero’s welcome Libya gave Lockerbie bomber Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi upon his release from a Scottish jail last week.

Venezuela’s Left-wing president Hugo Chavez and some 40 to 50 African heads of state will reportedly attend the six-day celebrations to mark the coup which brought Colonel Gaddafi to power in the former Italian colony.

Among those due to attend are Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, who has been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur by the UN’s International Criminal Court.

Berlusconi has become one of Libyan leader and former renegade Muammar Gaddafi’s main international sponsors.

Under the Italian-Libyan friendship accord,Tripoli agreed to help stem the tide of illegal migrants heading for Italian shores in return for an apology for the colonial era.

The repatriation to Libya since May of boatloads of illegal immigrants has drawn sharp criticism from the United Nations, the Vatican and human rights groups who are concerned that refugees are being denied their right to request asylum.

Under the friendship accord, Italy also pledged nearly four billion euros in investment in Libyan infrastructure, including a new 2,700 km highway, and has provided several coastal patrol boats to Libya.

A separate agreement provides for Italian defence contracts in Libya and oil and gas concessions for Italian energy companies such as ENI and Enel.

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


Malta Landings: A Migrant Found Dead

(ANSAmed) — VALLETTA, AUGUST 27 — Two rafts carrying 80 migrants, one of whom was dead, have arrived on Malta. The first raft landed in Marsaxlokk, while the second was intercepted by the Maltese navy off the coast of Birzebbugia. The victims’ body was found next to the sea craft which had gone adrift. Among the 79 migrants there are 14 women, three of whom pregnant, and a seven-year-old girl. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


NZ: 3000 Overstayers Could Have Cases Reopened

Up to 3000 overstayers with New Zealand-citizen children will be able to file their cases for reconsideration, says an immigration lawyer.

“I don’t expect there to be a flood of appeals, but I think there will definitely be renewed interest now after the Supreme Court decision,” said lawyer Richard Small, who is organising an immigration clinic for the Tongan Community in Onehunga this afternoon, where he expects the issue of overstayer appeals to be “quite high” on the agenda.

A Supreme Court decision last month involving two Chinese overstayer parents with citizen children highlighted legal flaws in the way immigration officials dealt with the issue.

The court upheld the appeals in both cases, and formally dismissed the Immigration Minister’s cross-appeal.

Former Immigration Minister Tuariki Delamere, now an immigration consultant, is in Samoa to advise former overstayers there that they may be able to appeal their removal from New Zealand.

Mr Delamere will offer to take anyone who wishes to appeal on as a client, and said he had discussed the overstayer issue with lawyers who said there are issues that could well open the door for people.

Immigration New Zealand said Mr Delamere was offering false hope.

“Mr Delamere is unnecessarily raising people’s hopes,” says Graeme Buchanan, the Department of Labour’s head of legal services.

“The decisions involved cases about specific families and were made on those terms.”

Mr Buchanan said he would be very surprised if the court’s decision offered any hope for overstayers who had returned to Samoa.

“Mr Delamere says that the Supreme Court ruling means decisions going back 15 years can be reviewed, but the Immigration Act makes it very clear that any decision has to be challenged within three months.”

Mr Buchanan added that any challenge by an overstayer would be an expensive process, because they wouldn’t qualify for legal aid.

Meanwhile, immigration watchdog group Kiwi Immigration Watch said the potential loss for the New Zealand taxpayer “by way of compensation for over nine years of wrongful deportation” could amount to millions.

“The sheer scale of the problem could dwarf the compensation shouldered already by ratepayers now being paid out to victims of leaky homes,” said spokesman Allan Hughes.

CITIZEN CONFUSION

  • Children born in NZ before 2006 attained automatic citizenship, but some have been removed from the country with their overstayer parents.
  • A Supreme Court judgment in April involving Chinese overstayers says Immigration New Zealand must consider the best interests of the citizen children in the cases involved.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Obamacare Won’t Cover Illegal Immigrants? Yes it Will, Says Congressional Research Service

Among the many claims being made durng the August recess by Democrats from President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, to the lowliest back-bencher is that Obamacare absolutely, positively, cannot possibly ever in a million, zillion years provide coverage to illegal immigrants.

Just this past weekend during his regular Saturday address — devoted to addressing what he called “false claims about reform” — Obama said he wants “an honest debate” on health care reform, “not one dominated by willful misrepresentations and outright distortions.”

In what he called the “first myth” being spread by critics of his proposal for a government-run health care system, Obama said they are wrong in claiming illegal immigrants will be covered: “That is not true. Illegal immigrants would not be covered. That idea has not even been on the table.” Obama said.

Well, Mr. President, that idea must have been tucked under a stack of background briefing papers over there in the corner of the table because the Congressional Research Service (CRS) says this about H.R. 3200, the Obamacare bill approved just before the recess by the House Energy and Commerce Committee chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-CA: “Under H.R. 3200, a ‘Health Insurance Exchange’ would begin operation in 2013 and would offer private plans alongside a public option…H.R. 3200 does not contain any restrictions on noncitzens—whether legally or illegally present, or in the United States temporarily or permanently—participating in the Exchange.”

CRS also notes that the bill has no provision for requiring those seeking coverage or services to provided proof of citizenship. So, absent some major amendments to the legislation and a credible, concrete enforcement effort in action, looks like the myth on this issue is the one being spread by Obama, Reid, Pelosi, et. al.

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


Switzerland: Population Hits 7.7 Million on Immigration Wave

Switzerland’s population experienced the largest increase in nearly 50 years last year to place the country among Europe’s fastest growing nations.

The permanent population in 2008 stood at 7,701,900 people, according to definitive figures released by the Federal Statistics Office on Thursday. That is 108,400 more people, or 1.4 per cent, over the previous year. Nearly 90 per cent of the new residents were immigrants.

Laws allowing citizens of the European Union to live in Switzerland and vice versa were introduced in 2007 and have helped fuel the increase.

For the first time since 1997 the jump in the number of Swiss citizens was the result not only of naturalisations but also of the number of births. Slightly more than 600 Swiss babies were born last year compared to the number of Swiss who died.

Net births among all groups totaled 15,500 last year, accounting for less than ten per cent of the population increase.

Nevertheless, the overall growth rate is the most significant leap observed since 1961. The number of new residents last year is roughly equal to the population of canton Zug near Zurich.

The growth rate for urban areas (1.6 per cent) was higher than in rural areas (1 per cent).

On the European level, only Luxembourg and Ireland grew faster than Switzerland in 2008.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Court Orders Christian Child Into Government Education

10-year-old’s ‘vigorous’ defense of her faith condemned by judge

A 10-year-old homeschool girl described as “well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising and intellectually at or superior to grade level” has been told by a New Hampshire court official to attend a government school because she was too “vigorous” in defense of her Christian faith.

The decision from Marital Master Michael Garner reasoned that the girl’s “vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to [her] counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view.”

The recommendation was approved by Judge Lucinda V. Sadler, but it is being challenged by attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund, who said it was “a step too far” for any court.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


EU: State Could Take Custody of Teen Homeschooler

‘The real issue is the right of parents to control the upbringing of their children’

A critical hearing is scheduled in Germany in that nations’ war against homeschoolers to determine whether a family can continue to control the education of its high-performing son, 14.

According to Joel Thornton of the International Human Rights Group, the court hearing Sept. 22 is for Hans and Petra Schmidt, who live in Southern Bavaria.

From their home, the Schmidts have taught their children, Josua and Aaron, for nine years. Josua, 16, recently finished tests documenting his completion of all the requirements of the schooling system, but the fight remains over the future schooling for Aaron, who has been tested as performing at high academic levels, Thornton said.

“This hearing is to determine whether the Schmidts keep the legal custody of their one child remaining in school or have the court take that custody and give it to the Youth Welfare Office,” Thornton said.

“Why is this so important? It is not just about homeschooling. The real issue is the right of parents to control the upbringing of their children,” Thornton added. “One of the fundamental rights of parents is the right to educate their children according to the dictates of their own religious beliefs.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Schwarzenegger Wants Your ‘Thoughts’ On ‘Gay’ Day

Harvey Milk dubbed ‘sexual predator,’ ‘public liar’ while lawmakers seek to honor him

SACRAMENTO — Just days after California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his selection of homosexual activist Harvey Milk for the California Hall of Fame, the announcement has fueled concerns about passage of a bill requiring a mandatory “gay” day in public schools.

Milk, a homosexual icon considered by some to be “a martyr for gay rights,” was among 13 Californians the governor honored Aug. 25 because they “embody California’s innovative spirit and have made their mark on history,” according to the announcement.

But Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, a leading West Coast pro-family organization, said he is disappointed about the governor’s selection of Milk for the honor.

“Harvey Milk was a notorious sexual predator, advocated multiple sexual relationships at the same time, was a public liar and is in no way a good role model for children,” Thomasson said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Wall St. Journal Also Confirms House Health Care Bill Has Tax-Funded Abortions

The Wall St. Journal is the latest mainstream media outlet to confirm what pro-life advocates have been saying for months. It has acknowledged that the House version of the government-run health care plan allows for taxpayer financing of abortions.

Although President Barack Obama has accused pro-life advocates of lying and leading pro-abortion groups deny that abortion funding is in the bill, pro-life advocates have said as much.

On the House side of Congress, they point to an amendment that not only explicitly authorizes funding, but mandates abortion coverage in the system HR 3200 creates.

Today, the WSJ confirms that provision, known as the Capps amendment, paves the way for making taxpayers fund abortions with the money they contribute to the government-run system.

“An amendment approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee would allow coverage of abortion,” the respected financial newspaper reported. WSJ added that the taxpayer money paying for abortions would “come from the portion of the premiums that are paid by the individuals.”

“A sliver of those monthly premiums would be segregated and abortion services would be reimbursed from that separate account,” the Journal indicated.

“The amendment also says there would have to be at least one plan that covers abortion and one that doesn’t in every part of the country,” the Journal adds.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

General

Climate Change ‘To Cost More Than £300 Billion’

The world will have to spend £300 billion, three times as much as previously thought, adapting to the effects of climate change, scientists have said.

The UN originally said it would cost just £25 to £105 billion ($40-170 billion), or the cost of about three Olympic Games per year, from 2030 to pay for the sea defences, increase in deaths and damage to infrastructure caused by global warming.

However a new study by leading scientific body the International Institute for Environment and Development and the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London estimated it will cost more than triple that amount per annum.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


‘Facebook Doesn’t Bar Hateful Content Against Jews’

The Facebook social networking Web site is violating its own terms and conditions on incitement to hatred, The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs charged in a report released on Thursday.

“Facebook has through ignorance created an anti-Semitic policy platform where the only explicitly allowed hate is that, within certain parameters, directed against Jews,” the report said.

“Despite the initial Terms of Use and Code of Conduct, Facebook has never been eager to play a proactive role in shaping an online culture against discrimination and hate,” the document’s author wrote, bemoaning “Facebook’s reluctance to take action unless pressured into it by the media.”

The Web site “has watered down the provisions against various types of hateful content and dropped its promise to provide a ‘safe place on the Internet,’“ the report continued.

Dr. Andre Oboler, who compiled the report, told The Jerusalem Post, “I hope that this will help Facebook realize that there is a serious issue.”

Late last year, the site was forced to reconsider its terms and conditions of use after receiving complaints from the Jewish Internet Defense Force and Christoph Gunkel, a German journalist.

The letter from the JIDF demanded that Facebook take offline five Holocaust-denial groups with names such as “Based on the facts… There was no Holocaust,” “Holocaust: A series of Lies,” and “Holocaust is a Myth.”

Holocaust denial is illegal in 13 countries and banned in other countries under broader laws that prohibit racial vilification, but Facebook claims it is duty-bound to allow its users to upload such content in the name of “free speech.”

The complaints helped generate public interest in Holocaust denial on the Web site, and consequently Facebook made a raft of changes to its terms and conditions.

Previously, words that were defined as derogatory, demeaning, offensive, harmful, defamatory, abusive, inflammatory, vulgar, obscene, fraudulent, invasive of privacy or publicity rights, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable were banned, but these strictures have now been deleted.

The reference to local, regional and national laws has also vanished.

According to the report from The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, “In May 2009, Facebook went into damage control in response to the media interest in Holocaust-denial groups it hosted… This occurred six months after Facebook was notified that such groups not only breached its Terms of Service but were illegal under national laws banning Holocaust denial in several countries.”

“Unfortunately what Facebook did, combined with all these things that they’ve dropped — is a very big change in approach. Facebook was originally about providing a ‘safe place on the Internet,’ what with users having to register by school and be of a minimum age, but now it seems to be a site where anything goes,” Oboler said.

“I really do hope that Facebook will reconsider the way in that they changed their approach. Holocaust denial is the tip of the iceberg, and while I would like them to recognize them it as hate speech, their whole approach to offensive content should be reconsidered,” he said.

There’s already been a massive reaction to Holocaust denial on Facebook, as seen by the almost 85,000 people around the world who have joined a pressure group called United Against Holocaust Denial, Oboler told the Post.

Facebook has rarely deleted groups and other pages on its Web site that host material denying the Holocaust, but according to The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs report, “Facebook as a private company does indeed have both the right and a moral obligation to remove this hateful content.”

The report notes that earlier this year, Facebook was “forced to take a stand on the Holocaust-denial issue,” and that Facebook became involved in “a lot of internal debate” following an assertion by Randi Zuckerberg, the site’s marketing director (and sister of founder Mark Zuckerberg), who said it was “Facebook’s policy to not remove groups that deny the Holocaust.”

In a guest entry on Thursday on the American Jewish Committee’s Z Word Blog (blog.z-word.com), Oboler warned against “the use of online social networking and content collaboration to share demonization, conspiracy theories, Holocaust denial, and classical anti-Semitic motifs with a view to creating social acceptability for such content.”

The report also cited Facebook’s relative zealousness in removing pictures of breast-feeding mothers earlier this year, while leaving content denying the Holocaust online.

“Facebook’s official response in the media has been to defend their right not to take action (unless legally required to) based on a ‘free speech’ argument. This came at the same time, and from the same spokesperson who made announcements about Facebook’s crackdown on pictures of breast-feeding mothers as ‘obscene’ and therefore a violation of their Terms of Service,” Oboler wrote.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Shariah Finance is a Zero-Sum Game

Osama bin Laden created al-Qaeda in the belief that the West must be defeated by force. It was only after he saw the trillion-dollar-plus damage the 9/11 attacks wrought that he realized that America can best be defeated through economic means. Many Salafistrategists and Wahhabi thinkers had come to this conclusion long before bin Laden did. In fact the father of the concept, Abul-Ala Mawdudi, had written about economic jihad decades earlier, during the Cold War.

Today America has no competitor militarily as it spends more on defence than all the other nations of the world combined. But at the same time, thanks in part to globalization — which means nothing more than increased interdependence — America is ironically more vulnerable than ever. The current global financial state of affairs is proof of that. The U. S. has become increasingly beholden to those nations and financial choke-points where the greatest concentration of American dollars and government bonds can be found. At the same time, imbalances in import-export ratios and declining domestic savings rates magnify the fact that the U. S. economy is more and more dependent upon the behaviour of political elites and institutions outside of its borders. As a result, the health of the U. S. economy and the Western economic system is more difficult to vouchsafe than ever before.

Even before the events of Sept. 11, 2001, there existed a push across Western financial markets to create shariah-compliant instruments and vehicles for Arab banks and Muslim consumers. Just open any issue of the Financial Times or The Economist for evidence of how successful this effort has been. The overall figures speak for themselves. Although not long established, shariah finance last year already totalled $1-trillion and has demonstrated on average a 12-15% annual growth rate. It is projected that by 2020 up to 60% of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims will not use the services of normal secular banks but be putting their money in shariah-compliant institutions. As a result, the U. K. has already taken the strategic decision to make London the shariah finance capital of the world.

We know that banks need money, especially now. The oil-rich nations and their sovereign wealth funds have money to invest in and acquire Western financial entities. It is fine if these groups stipulate special terms in their interactions, as long as the terms are business-related and reasonable. However, if the justification for specific financial restrictions and special behaviour is not commercial, but religious, we would do well to be acquainted with the logic behind such stipulations since religion can be effectively used to camouflage unsavoury intentions. Of course, religion need not necessarily be

seen in this context as a threat. Rather the question is:What are the ultimate motives of those who are using religion to shape Western financial structures from the inside? In the case of shariah finance, the justification is not simply religious but ideological. The vast majority of bankers and financial analysts have no idea that this strategically designed movement is based upon a lie. The lie is that Islam forbids the charging of interest. In truth, as anyone versed in the Muslim faith is aware, Islam has something to say about riba, or usury, but it does not outright ban interest.

The Bank of England and the British government decided without doing the requisite due diligence that the U. K. should have a pivotal role in shariah-compliant global finance. They did so without understanding what the consequences for Britain’s legal and financial system could be. Under Islam the duty of jihad is linked to the duty to tithe (zakat), and tithing can only be done in ways that are shariah-compliant. Westernapproved shariah finance is therefore a perfect channel to feed the beast of military and political jihad. Moreover, as originally conceived by extremist ideologues and fundamentalists, shariah finance has as its goal the total replacement of the current secular economic system. To quote the pre-eminent expert on shariah finance, Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo of the U. K.: “Islamic scholars and some leaders are making strategic use of the impetuses of both faithful Muslims and Western financial institutions and governments to erect a massive and fast-growing parallel financial system based solely on religious fiat and arbitrated only by themselves.”

The inventor of economic jihad, Abul-Ala Mawdudi, himself wrote: “It is impossible for a Muslim to succeed in his aim of observing the Islamic pattern of life under the authority of a non-Islamic system of government.” Therefore economics, which are regulated by government, must be fully compliant with shariah. The kufir (infidel) system is forbidden, impure and must be displaced. Thus, shariah finance must be understood as a zero-sum game — one more tool with which to establish the universal sovereignty of Islam.

Incredibly, even President Obama has fallen into the trap of helping those who wish to undermine our Western system. In his Cairo speech, the President said, “I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat,” the obligation to tithe and one of the five mandatory pillars of Islam.

The President is perhaps unaware that jihad and zakat are closely connected to each other. Yet by making this statement, the President has inadvertently endorsed the funding of jihad, since part of the obligation of Islamic tithing is to support those fighting to defend and spread Islam. One of the most important living figures in jihadi thought today, Yousef al-Qaradawi, the religious adviser to the Muslim-Brotherhood as well as al Jazeera Television, has made clear that “[t]he most important form of jihad today is serious, purposefully organized work to rebuild the Islamic society and state and to implement the Islamic way of life in the political, cultural and economic domains. This is certainly most deserving of zakat.”

At the moment Western banks are more vulnerable than they have ever been. China has our dollars yet our banks need cash inflows. As Western banks acquiesce to religious requests and the number of shariah compliant institutions and instruments grows, Western political strength will be increasingly undermined and established ways of doing business weakened. At the same time, the fundamentalists who want to destroy our system will make more and more money.

A few years ago the chairman of the Bank of England could have stopped the internal usurpation of the British financial system. Now it is too late. For America it is not. We can act to preserve our system and its values. Our power today is measured not in tanks or aircraft carriers but in our incredible economic might. Our adversary well understands this and also that kinetic warfare is now less important than political warfare, in the form of economic jihad. We will not be defeated by another 9/11, or even by a string of such attacks. But we may be defeated if our economy and legal system are critically weakened. It is time that we arrived at the same conclusion as the foes we face and began to battle the political, legal and economic subversion of our system.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

4 comments:

heroyalwhyness said...

First mosque in Copenhagen?
Sigh.

Why would beautiful Copenhagen permit it's long held lovely image to fade
to a mere Hans Christian Anderson
fairy tale
. . .only to become
an Islamic nightmare?

[lyrics for song @link]

I sailed up the Skagerrak
And sailed down the Kattegat
Through the harbor and up to the cay
And there she stands
waiting for me
with a welcome so warm
and so gay
Wonderful Wonderful Copenhagen
Friendly old girl of a town
'neath her TAVERN LIGHTS
on this merry night
LET US CLINK AND DRINK ONE DOWN to
Wonderful Wonderful Copenhagen
Salty old queen of the sea
Once I sailed away
But I'm home today
singing Copenhagen
Wonderful Wonderful
Copenhagen for me.


Days appear to be numbered for those tavern lights and clinking/drinking to Copenhagen's wonderful wonders.

Robin Shadowes said...

Indeed, no more Tuborg or Carlsberg for the danes and the only hygge left will be the stonings, lashing and beheadings but in that case, the hygge will all be on the new-danes side...

4Symbols said...

UK: Brown Plans to Take Cash From the Poorest Families.

This is a MASSIVE story that the MSM and the political elite have colluded to conceal. Dressed up as a policy of welfare reform it in fact social engineering on a par with the former Soviet Union.

"and the option to trade quality for extra cash."

The "quality" in this case actually means area, the forced creation of ghettos that will equal any in the Third World.

laine said...

The minarets are optional on mosques since muezzins' screeching is piped out electronically now. Minarets are built as symbolic fists blighting the skylines and smiting the eye of native citizens, foreshadowing how they will be physically cowed in the near future.

Not a single additional mosque should be built until there is reciprocity for churches, synagogues and other non-Muslim places of worship in Muslim countries. No minarets should be allowed under any circumstances in Western countries to clash with their Euro Christian heritage.

This unreciprocated permission to build what are not just centers for worship but empire building outposts, with armaments hidden within as necessary is idiotic.