Saturday, August 29, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/29/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/29/2009A North Korean ship loaded with munitions bound for Iran has been intercepted by the United Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf. The ship was very multicultural — it was Australian-owned, was flying a Bahamas flag, was controlled by a French conglomerate, and the actual export was arranged by the Shanghai office of an Italian company.

And all that when there are UN sanctions barring any weapons shipments to Iran. Hmm…

In other news, Indonesian police claim to have uncovered a plot to assassinate President Obama when he makes his next visit to Indonesia.

Thanks to A Greek Friend, Amil Imani, C. Cantoni, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JD, Sean O’Brian, Steen, TB, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Federal Reserve Board Fights to Keep Its Secrets
 
USA
Crown Heights, NY — Anti-Semitic Attack Against 11-Year-Old Girl, Mom Claims
Obama Consolidating Power Over Americans
The Defining Issue of Our Time
The Powerful Un-American Media
To Enslave a Nation
Wake Up, America: Forced Vaccinations, Quarantine Camps, Health Care Interrogations and Mandatory “Decontaminations”
 
Europe and the EU
Blair’s Libya Talks ‘Included Prisoner Deal’
Cyprus: Society Must Change Attitude to Gays, Ombudswoman
Germany: Terrorist Suspect Arrested En Route to Islamist Training Camp
Greece: 21,000 Hectares Burned, Talk of Reshuffle
Guantanamo Inmates’ Portugal Move
Italy: Berlusconi and Tremonti Meet: Relations With Lega Solid
Italy: Berlusconi Cancels Dinner With Vatican No.2
Italy: Berlusconi to Sue Left-Wing Daily for Over €1 Mln
Netherlands: ‘Apartheid at Islamic Schools’
Netherlands: State Secretary: Islamic School Can Never be Closed
Norway Allows Burkini Swimsuits in City Pools
Rotterdam Police in Two Shooting Incidents
Sweden: Serial Rapist Sentenced to Prison
Sweden: Gothenburg Arrests Made Over Disturbances
Sweden: Firemen Injured by Projectile Rocks
 
Balkans
Croatia: Anti-Smoking Laws and Crisis Hitting Restaurants
EU: Serbia Fit to Apply, Italian Ambassador Says
Serbia: Voters Care More About Economy Than Politics
 
Mediterranean Union
Environment: France to Create Exclusive Fishing Zone in Med
 
North Africa
Algeria: Tibhirine, French Judges Want Access to Documents
Cinema: After Indigenes, Bouchareb Shoots Film on Algeria
Egypt Arrests Protesters Against Bahai Neighbors
Egypt Preparing New Health Insurance Law
Italy-Libya: USA, Berlusconi Can Visit Whoever He Wants
Libya: Revolution Anniversary, Megrahi Will Not Attend
Libya: Tripoli Sources, Green Smoke From Frecce Tricolori?
Libya: 40th Anniversary; Tunisian Army to Join Parade
Ramadan: Watermelon Trafficking Between Algeria-Tunisia
Steep Drop in Marseilles — Algeria Goods Traffic
Tunisia: Increased Popularity Among the English
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Economy: Israeli-Palestinian Trade Growing
Gaza: Footage of Hamas-Salafite Shooting on the Web
Hamas Resumes Kassam Rocket Attacks
Hezbollah: Israeli Had Escaped From Mental Hospital
Netanyahu: PNA Must Recognise Israel as Jewish State
West Bank, PNA Removes Hebrew Road Signs
 
Middle East
American Donut & Coffee Chain to Enter Turkish Market
Amil Imani: A Call to New Resolve
Gulf: Women’s Revolt, Violence and Revenge Increasing
Islam: From Youtube to Naqatube, The Islamic Alternative
Netanyahu Talks of Peace, Wants Sanctions for Iran
Qatar Buys Into VW
Ramadan: UAE: 2,000 Euros Reward for People Who Quit Smoking
Thousands Mourn Iraqi Shia Leader
Turkey: Thirty-Percent of Households Have Internet, Survey
Turkey: Hunger and Poverty Lines Up in August, Report Shows
UAE Seized N.Korea Arms Shipment Bound for Iran
 
South Asia
Bangladesh: Muslims Threaten Catholic Women of Dewtola Village
Fury at NATO’s Afghan Clinic Raid
Indonesia: Militant Fugitive ‘Thrives’ With Islamist Support
Indonesia: Christians Call for Rejection of Sharia-Inspired Bills
Indonesia: Military Commander: ‘Report People With Sorban and Jubah’ [Islamic Outfit]
Pakistan: Court Frees Khan From House Arrest
Terrorists to Kill Obama in Indonesia?
U.S. Says Pakistan Altered Missiles Sold for Defense
 
Far East
Tokyo-Vote: Towards a Political Earthquake
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Ethiopia ‘Seizes’ Town in Somalia
Two Peacekeepers Seized in Sudan
 
Culture Wars
More Students Wear ‘Islam of the Devil’ Shirts to School
 
General
The Next 100 Years

Financial Crisis

Federal Reserve Board Fights to Keep Its Secrets

Warns disclosing where money went would cause ‘irreparable harm’

The Federal Reserve Board, despite being ordered to disclose to whom it awarded roughly $2 trillion in discount “stimulus” loans, is fighting to keep the information under wraps as a protected “trade secret.”

Earlier this week, a U.S. district court judge rejected the Fed’s argument that the names of borrowers are exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act and ordered the board to release the information by Monday, Aug. 31.

The Fed’s board of governors, however, has now filed a motion asking the judge to delay enforcement of the order, seeking time to appeal and arguing that disclosing which banks borrowed the funds could lead to a backlash from the banks’ customers and stockholders.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

USA

Crown Heights, NY — Anti-Semitic Attack Against 11-Year-Old Girl, Mom Claims

Crown Heights, NY — An 11-year-old Jewish girl was attacked at a Crown Heights playground by a band of black youths who slammed her into a metal slide, kicked her repeatedly — and pelted her with anti-Semitic invective, the girl’s mom said.

“Dumb Jew! B——! Why are you here? Why are you in this world?” the boys screamed as they pummeled Nechama Benjamin at a Montgomery St. playground.

The shocking attack by at least three boys is being investigated by police. The beating caused Nechama to black out and left her with a bloody nose — and a terrible fear of leaving home, her mom said.

“My daughter told me she is afraid to go out, to go to the park — to go anywhere,” said Elka Benjamin, 31.

Nechama went to the local park with her 6-year-old brother around 6 p.m. Although Crown Heights has long been plagued by racial and religious tension, Nechama’s mother thought it was okay for her kids to go to the playground alone because the family lives on the same block.

Trouble started when one of a group of boys playing soccer tossed the ball at Nechama, hitting her in the leg, her mother said.

She tossed it back — and an argument ensued. The boys surrounded Nechama, taunting her mercilessly, her mother said.

Then the boys grabbed her by the hair and dragged her from the bench to a playground slide.

Nechama spoke to cops Tuesday at the NYPD’s 71st Precinct stationhouse, where a boy who witnessed the incident was also questioned.

No arrests have been made, a police source said last night.

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


Obama Consolidating Power Over Americans

Congressman Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) is mad as hell and he’s speaking out. In an exclusive with NewswithViews.com, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, spoke out regarding President Barack Obama’s decision to supervise interrogations of terrorists from the White House.

“At the same time the situation in Afghanistan is getting decidedly worse and the Taliban is advancing, the Obama Justice Department is launching [a plan] that risks disrupting CIA counterterrorism initiatives. This is the last thing that should happen when the president is sending more troops into harm’s way, and the nation’s top military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, said over the weekend that AlQaeda still remains a threat to America and our interests abroad,” the veteran lawmaker said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


The Defining Issue of Our Time

Exclusive: Henry Lamb pegs health-care debate as ‘fulcrum upon which rests the future’

Everyone agrees that the nation needs health-care reform. If this is true, why can’t one side or the other actually win the battle for congressional votes and reform the health-care system?

The progressives in Congress, mostly Democrats, want a system in which the government provides health care to everyone. Some go so far as to claim that health care is a basic human right. This side of the debate believes that it is immoral for people who need health care not to get it, and that government is the only entity with the money to provide it.

The conservatives in Congress, mostly Republicans, realize that before government can provide health care for anyone, the money to pay for it must first be taken from the people who earn it. This raises a question: If the money to pay for health care must first be taken from the people, why not let the people keep their money and pay for their own health care?

The answer is this: Some people earn enough money to pay for their own health care, and some don’t. Therefore, government must take enough money from those who earn it to pay for the health care needed by those who cannot pay for their own care.

The progressives in Congress, mostly Democrats, consider this to be a perfectly legitimate function of a socialist government: Take from those who have, and redistribute to those who have not.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


The Powerful Un-American Media

What happened to integrity, honesty, fairness, truth, reality, and the old-fashioned love of America and what is best for her citizens? While all of us were listening intently for one simple, honest question from our news media, why did a man named Joe the Plumber have to birth the only real question? Why did the majority of the media, while telling us that Joe seemed well spoken and sort of smart for a plumber, begin immediately drawing our attention away from his simple, honest question, digging like badgers for the devious, dark side of this unsuspecting American? Does the media think that Americans are stupid? There are millions of smart Joes, and many of us are like-minded when it comes to our conclusion of what the media has become. Doesn’t the media think of their viewers as partners in American business who have a huge stake in what happens to our beloved country? What is the agenda of this dishonest un-American group of powerful information gatherers? What gives them the right to pressure and confuse us with an overabundance of misstatements and to constantly bombard not-so-truthful allegations every minute of every day on the not-so-lucky Americans that aren’t grounded within themselves?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


To Enslave a Nation

How do you enslave a whole nation, even the whole world? In ancient Egypt the people paid 20% of everything they earned each year to the government and they called it bondage, but in many countries of the “world” today the people pay far more to their governments each year and they call it freedom. There has been a plethora of theories as to why and how governments obtain the legal power to compel people to labor without pay under the enforceable authority of statutory systems of public service.[1] The answer is rather straightforward, but most people will not want to hear the truth of it.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Wake Up, America: Forced Vaccinations, Quarantine Camps, Health Care Interrogations and Mandatory “Decontaminations”

(NaturalNews) The United States of America is devolving into medical fascism and Massachusetts is leading the way with the passage of a new bill, the “Pandemic Response Bill” 2028, reportedly just passed by the MA state Senate and now awaiting approval in the House. This bill suspends virtually all Constitutional rights of Massachusetts citizens and forces anyone “suspected” of being infected to submit to interrogations, “decontaminations” and vaccines.

It’s also sets fines up to $1,000 per day for anyone who refuses to submit to quarantines, vaccinations, decontamination efforts or to follow any other verbal order by virtually any state-licensed law enforcement or medical personnel. You can read the text yourself here: www.mass.gov/legis/bills/senate/186/st02pdf/st02028.pdf

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Blair’s Libya Talks ‘Included Prisoner Deal’

The son of Colonel Gaddafi has said his father targeted the transfer of the Lockerbie bomber more than two years ago during talks with Tony Blair.

In early 2007, the then prime minister met with the Libyan leader in a desert tent to discuss trade and oil.

Although Abdelbaset al Megrahi’s name was never mentioned, Gaddafi’s son said a prisoner transfer arrangement agreed as part of the “deal in the desert” deliberately targeted the convicted Libyan.

But Saif al Islam al Gaddafi said those discussions had nothing to do with Megrahi’s eventual, controversial release on compassionate grounds last week.

His comments were reported as an opinion poll showed many Britons believed the decision to release the bomber was connected to British oil interests in Libya.

Of those questioned, 45% thought Megrahi’s return had more to do with oil than his terminal illness — a statement only 24% disagreed with.

The Populus poll for The Times found 61% of the 515 people quizzed disagreed with the decision to free Megrahi, compared to 27% who agreed.

In an interview with The Herald newspaper, Mr Gaddafi said: “For the last seven to eight years we have been trying very hard to transfer Mr Megrahi to Libya to serve his sentence here.

“We have tried many times in the past to sign the PTA (prisoner transfer agreement) without mentioning Mr Megrahi, but it was obvious we were targeting Mr Megrahi and the PTA was on the table all the time.”

He added: “It was part of the bargaining deal with the UK. When Blair came here we signed the agreement.

“We didn’t mention Mr Megrahi. We signed an oil deal at the same time. The commerce and politics and deals were all with the PTA.”

The release of Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer, from Scotland’s Greenock prison caused a storm of controversy on both sides of the Atlantic.

Jubilant scenes at Tripoli airport for the man convicted of murdering 270 people in the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 sparked international condemnation.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he had been “repulsed” by the hero’s welcome Megrahi received in Libya.

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


Cyprus: Society Must Change Attitude to Gays, Ombudswoman

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, AUGUST 18 — In her capacity as head of the Anti-Discrimination Body, the Cyprus’ Ombudswoman Iliana Nicolaou has said that the society of the island must change its attitude to homosexuality and the state must stop behaving as though homosexual couples do not exist. According to Nikolaou — as Cyprus Mail reports today — the government is guilty of discrimination by not recognising the rights of married gay couples to reside in EU states with their spouses even if they are from countries outside the bloc. The Ombudswoman said that the state has an obligation to make it easier for partners to enter and reside in Cyprus, according to EU law. The lack of legal recognition of same-sex partnerships means that non-EU nationals with Cypriot or EU partners are not granted residency and are often deported. This happens despite the EU directive that Member States must facilitate entry and residence for people who are included in the definition of ‘family members’. This should not be limited only to relations based on traditional marriage but also include people who live together. Member States must facilitate the right of residence of these partners, including spouses of a different sex, and must justify any refusal to grant entry or residence. Nicolaou submitted her report to the Interior Ministry, requesting measures to stop all discrimination against gay couples. The report was based on two cases. One case involved an Iranian man in a relationship with a Cypriot man. The Iranian was denied political asylum even though he faced execution in Iran. The second case involved a Canadian man in a civil marriage with a Cypriot man. The authorities have refused to grant him residency but only a visitor’s visa. As a result of this he cannot work, making life in Cyprus very difficult for him. A 2006 poll showed that 75% of Cypriots still disapprove of homosexuality, with only 14% in favour of same-sex marriage. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[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: TB[Return to headlines]


Greece: 21,000 Hectares Burned, Talk of Reshuffle

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, AUGUST 26 — Twenty-one thousand hectares of forest went up in smoke and 150 houses were destroyed in fires raging across the Greek region of Attica over the past few days, and the opposition has requested that Costas Karamanlis provide an explanation — while the press is predicting an imminent reshuffle. This morning fire fighters have said that “no fires are active in Greece at the moment”, and the government has announced a plan to replant forestland in Attica and impede any sort of speculation concerning the building sector, after accusations by communists who said that the blazes were a case of “organised arson”. Also, compensation has been promised for economic losses suffered. The main opposition party, the Socialist PASOK, has harshly attacked the centre-right government, joining the ranks of the rest of the opposition and calling the fires “a preventable catastrophe”. The press continues to ask for an explanation. “Ministers, you have also been burnt” was the headline on today’s left-wing daily Elephterotypia, alluding to recurrent speculation — which was strengthened after the fires — on a government reshuffle. The conservative paper Kathimerini, instead, explicitly forecast a reshuffle before the international exhibition in Thessaloniki, set to get underway on September 5 and to be inaugurated by Karamanlis. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Guantanamo Inmates’ Portugal Move

Two Syrian nationals held at the US detention centre in Guantanamo Bay have been transferred to Portugal.

The two detainees from the Cuban facility, who arrived in Portugal on Friday, have not yet been named.

The US has asked European countries to accommodate former inmates who cannot return to their countries of origin because of the risk of persecution.

France, Germany and Italy are among some of the countries that have agreed to take them in.

The two Syrian detainees “are not subject to any charge, they are free people and are living in homes provided by [the] state,” Portuguese officials were quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

US President Barack Obama has promised to close Guantanamo Bay facility by January 2010. It was opened by the Bush administration in 2002 to house suspected terrorists.

Although more than 540 detainees have departed Guantanamo for other countries, some 220 reportedly remain in the Cuban facility.

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


Italy: Berlusconi and Tremonti Meet: Relations With Lega Solid

(AGI) — Rome, 27 Aug. — This morning Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the Minister for the Economy, Giulio Tremonti met at Arcore, the Prime Minister’s Milan residence.

According to a note from the Prime Minister’s office, the most important issues of the political season to come were discussed in the meeting, “Prime Minister Berlusconi and Minister Tremonti stated that the relationship between the Lega Nord (Northern League) party and the government coalition is solid, ready for the upcoming regional elections and parliamentary proceedings which are due to start.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Berlusconi Cancels Dinner With Vatican No.2

Rome, 28 August (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Friday cancelled plans to attend a religious service for the remission of sins in the quake-hit city of L’Aquila and a dinner with the Vatican’s secretary of state, Tarcisio Bertone. Berlusconi and Bertone were due to head to the city for the annual “Perdonanza” or festival of forgiveness, instituted by the 13th-century Pope Celestine V.

The scandal-plagued Berlusconi was to have been accompanied by his equal opportunities minister, Mara Carfagna, a former model to whom the premier once professed: “If I weren’t married, I’d marry you.”

But at the last minute Berlusconi’s office announced he would not be attending the event to “avoid exploitation” and would send his top aide, Gianni Letta, instead.

The prime minister “has delegated as representative of the Italian government, Gianni Letta, undersecretary of the cabinet to avoid exploitation”.

Earlier on Friday, the Vatican released a statement saying that Cardinal Bertone “went to the city of L’Aquila today to renew the warm feelings and affection of the Holy Father for the people hit by the earthquake”.

Berlusconi has been largely out of public view for weeks following the scandal over his liaison with young women, including a high-class prostitute, that prompted his wife to announce she was divorcing him.

The premier was to have joined Bertone at the Santa Maria di Collemaggio basilica, the symbol of L’Aquila, to take part in a religious procession that ends with the ceremonial opening of the basilica’s doors.

Letta has reportedly been waging an intense diplomatic campaign with the Vatican to obtain an audience for the prime minister with Pope Benedict XVI — a request that has yet to be granted.

According to the newspaper, Berlusconi is said to still be reeling from a searing editorial published in mid-August by the Catholic bishops’ daily Avvenire deploring his “arrogant omission of sober conduct.”

Vatican officials and the Catholic weekly La Famiglia Cristiana have in recent months strongly criticised Berlusconi amid allegations he gave parties filled with attractive young women and slept with a prostitute at his Rome residence last November.

Eyebrows have also been raised by Berlusconi’s attendance in late April at the 18th birthday party of Naples lingerie model Noemi Letizia, who calls him ‘Daddy’ and said she visited him in Rome and Milan whenever he telephoned her.

Pope Celestine issued a papal edict, in 1294 granting a plenary indulgence, or the remission of the temporal punishment due to sin, to anyone who entered L’Aquila’s basilica between the nights of August 28 and 29 and was “truly repentant and had confessed.”

Each year, thousands of the faithful flock to the basilica to participate.

This year, the observance has particular resonance following the April earthquake, which killed nearly 300 people in L’Aquila and surrounding areas, drove some 50,000 from their homes. The basilica was severely damaged in the quake.

In addition, this year marks the 800th anniversary of the birth of Celestine, a hermit and saint who was the only pope to have resigned.

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


Italy: Berlusconi to Sue Left-Wing Daily for Over €1 Mln

Rome, 28 August (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is suing the left-wing daily La Repubblica for one million euros plus unspecified damages for posing questions about his relationship with teenage model Noemi Letizia and other aspects of his private life.

Berlusconi claims the 10 questions the newspaper published in an article on 26 June are “highly slanderous” and “rhetorical”, his lawyers said.

“The damage done to Mr Berlusconi is massive, due to his high public profile and the extensive readership of La Repubblica,” they stated.

The premier this week also began libel proceedings against La Repubblica over a second article it published on 6 August about negative international press coverage of him entitled “Berlusconi can be blackmailed now — foreign media still on the attack”.

Berlusconi has never answered the list of questions which the paper demanded him to answer in the public interest over his relationship with Letizia.

He attended Letizia’s 18th birthday party in Naples, she calls him ‘Daddy’ and has said she visited him in Rome and Milan whenever he called her.

La Repubblica has frequently re-published its 10 questions for Berlusconi, which demand him to reveal how he met Letizia and where, why he has contradicted himself repeatedly and whether he has frequented other minors.

But the questions also asked him to justify selecting numerous showgirls as candidates for his conservative People of Freedom party, and asked if he was really unaware that 42-year-old escort Patrizia D’Addario who says she slept with him last November and dozens of others he allegedly entertained were prostitutes.

He is said to be especially outraged by an article published by French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur cited in La Repubblica’s 6 August article.

The French article alludes to the existence of a tape that allegedly implicates Italy’s equal opportunities minister and former showgirl Mara Carfagna and education minister Mariastella Gelmini on Berlusconi’s sexual antics.

In an exclusive interview earlier this month with the weekly magazine, Chi, Berlusconi denied allegations of sexual misconduct saying he never had “relations with minors” and only attended parties and dinners that were morally acceptable. Chi is published by his own media conglomerate.

Letizia claims to be a virgin and alleges her relationship with Berlusconi is platonic.

But D’Addario has supplied prosecutors with audiotapes and photos which she says prove her claims that Berlusconi slept with her.

La Repubblica and its sister weekly L’Espresso in July published a series of excerpts from the audioptapes and transcripts on their websites.

Spanish daily El Pais in June published several compromising photos taken by Sardinian paparazzi Antonello Zappadu at Berlusconi’s Costa Smeralda villa.

They included topless young women and a nude man, believed to be former Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolanek, cavorting poolside.

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


Netherlands: ‘Apartheid at Islamic Schools’

AMSTERDAM, 18/08/09 — Orthodox Islamic schools treat Dutch teachers who are not Muslims as inferior beings. They have to have their meals separately and cannot be greeted in the same way as Muslims, says a former teacher at the As Siddieq school in Amsterdam.

Hennie Metsemakers was suspended by the school a year and a half ago because she spoke of religions other than Islam in the lessons. “I had drawn a timeline and shown the most important events of a number of beliefs on it.” Not only was that forbidden, but she was also ordered to teach the children that Christianity would be abolished, she told Het Parool newspaper.

A few years ago, a number of teachers had already left the As Siddieq school due to the extremely orthodox attitude of its management. According to Metsemakers, the board has meanwhile succeeded in imposing the orthodox signature on all staff members, even though half the team consists of non-Muslim teachers.

Non-Muslim teachers at As Siddieqschool and other schools are treated kindly, but not as full-value colleagues. Metsemakers had gone to work at the school full of integration ideals. “The leadership was attentive and nice, but turned out to have a hidden agenda. In the breaks, we had to eat separately. We were not allowed to be greeted in the same way as Muslim teachers, not with the word salaam, peace, because non-Muslims cannot know what peace is.”

According to Metsemakers, the school wants to teach children that they are not allowed to be friends with non-believers. “Only Muslims can after all be good people.”

Metsemakers has meanwhile warned the Education Inspectorate about the school. The As Siddieq is subsidised by the Dutch government.

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


Netherlands: State Secretary: Islamic School Can Never be Closed

THE HAGUE, 29/08/09 — There are no conditions under which a government-subsidised school can be closed down. An extremely poor quality of education or the brainwashing of children are not criteria that make closure legally possible, according to Education State Secretary Sharon Dijksma.

In TV talk show Knevel & Van der Brink, the Labour (PvdA) state secretary responded to criticism that her ‘rigorous measures’ against an ultra-orthodox Islamic school went no further than a five percent subsidy cut. Islamic primary school As Siddieq in Amsterdam faces this reduction in subsidy until 1 March. In the meantime, the Education Inspectorate will check to see if things improve. If not, subsidy will be squeezed further.

According to the Inspectorate, the education offered by the school falls short in ‘essential areas’. Dijksma confirmed that the school teaches 6 and 7 year olds that only Muslims can be good people. “The school actively thwarts integration”. As Siddieq has around 900 pupils.

A Christian woman who briefly worked at the school for idealistic reasons recently stated in newspaper Het Parool that she was not allowed to be greeted with ‘Salam’ (peace) like the other teachers because non-Muslims cannot know peace. She also had to eat her meals separately.

When Knevel & Van der Brink asked Dijksma why she does not simply close the school down she replied that there is nothing in Dutch law that makes this possible . The only measure she can take is to raise the pressure by threatening with increasing subsidy cuts, she said. The 4.5 million euro subsidy is being cut by only 5 percent “because the sanction needs to be proportional”.

Amsterdam municipality also subsidised the school but has now discontinued the subsidies entirely. Alderman for education Lodewijk Asscher (PvdA) has requested the board to step down, but to no avail. “They will not accept criticism of any kind. They blame everything on everybody else”, as the frustrated alderman stated after a meeting with the school. Incidentally, the chairman of the board of As Siddieq was not present at this talk; he has been staying in Egypt for weeks.

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


Norway Allows Burkini Swimsuits in City Pools

“Some people say they need to cover up,” Jan Zander, responsible for sports and recreation, said. “We think it is important that those who live in this city can bathe and use the pools.”

The ruling comes as Oslo’s neighboring European country’s crack down on the swim attire, which resembles a wetsuit with built-in hood. Recently, a Paris swimming pool refused entry to a young Muslim woman wearing burkini.Officials cited hygiene rules, adding to tensions over Muslim dress in France and sparking a threat by the woman of a lawsuit.

The anti-immigration mayor of the northern Italian city of Varallo Sesia has also barred Muslim women from wearing the swimsuit and said they risk paying a fine of €500 ($700) if spotted at swimming pools or riversides.

“The sight of a ‘masked woman’ could disturb small children, not to mention problems of hygiene,” mayor Gianluca Buonanno was quoted as saying.

The new Oslo regulations quoted by the radio said swimmers who cover their bodies for cultural and religious reasons have to wear clean clothing designed especially for bathing.

Zander denied that such garments were necessarily unhygienic.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Rotterdam Police in Two Shooting Incidents

Beach shooting

Souces say the youth was probably shot by police. Six people were also injured when a gang of around 80 youths began causing trouble at the free Sunset Grooves festival.

Officers involved in breaking up the fighting say in today’s AD that the crowd was after their blood.

‘It was as if we entered an arena filled with lions,’ one experienced officer told the paper. ‘Hundreds of people were chanting ‘there you have the cancer Jews’. Everyone was pushing at us, throwing sand in our eyes…. it was war, really war.’

The trouble reached a climax when five police officers had been isolated by a group of youths and the first warning shots were fired, the paper says.

‘Some of the group stormed towards us. Fences were being thrown at us. I thought ‘we are not going to make this’,’ another officer told the paper. ‘I was sweating from fear and I could smell it.’

Other officers claim the dead youth, Robby van der Leeden, was literally thrown at them. ‘We tried to help him, we took hold of his arms but we had to flee. We dragged him along for some 500 m,’ one officer told the AD.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


Sweden: Serial Rapist Sentenced to Prison

An 18-year-old man was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison for assaulting and raping two young women in northwestern Stockholm.

Earlier in the summer, the man was suspected of being behind a series of violent rapes in the Stockholm suburb of Tensta. However, police could only connect the man to two of the cases, a brutal attack of a young woman in Spånga on May 3rd and a similar attack of another young woman in Spånga on May 25th.

The man has now been convicted of aggravated rape and attempted rape. He has also been ordered to pay 182,000 ($26,000) to both victims. After serving his sentence, the man may not return to Sweden prior to 2024.

The man is an international fugitive and has an extradition request has been filed by authorities in Belgium, where he is suspected of raping at least five women.

In the attack on May 3rd, the man broke into the woman’s residence, hit her 30 times in the head, got a stranglehold on her neck and violently forced her to perform oral sex.

During the trial, the woman testified about the humiliation, the brutal violence and the fear she felt. She was convinced that the man was going to kill her.

The second attack occurred in a similar manner, but the woman was able to yell for help and put up so much resistance that the man gave up and fled.

           — Hat tip: TB[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: TB[Return to headlines]


Sweden: Firemen Injured by Projectile Rocks

Disturbances related to several fires continued on Friday night in Gothenburg in western Sweden.

“Objects were also thrown at busses and trams; among other things a windshield was broken,” said deputy police commander Sven Persson.

Rocks were also thrown at emergency response workers. On the way to a fire in the neighbourhood of Gällbo, a firetruck was hit by a large rock that broke the windshield. Two firemen were injured.

“One guy had glass splinters in his eye and another had an injured arm,” Bo Holmlund of the greater Gothenburg Fire and Rescue Service (Räddningstjänsten Storgöteborg) told TT news agency.

The firemen were treated on the scene by paramedics and were then taken to the hospital, but neither of them were seriously injured.

Two cars caught fire on Friday night in the neighbourhood of Västra Frölunda in Gothenburg. Police said that when they arrived a lot of people were out on the street to see what had happened.

“The fire had evidently started in one car and then spread to the other,” Persson said.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Croatia: Anti-Smoking Laws and Crisis Hitting Restaurants

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, AUGUST 25 — The ban on smoking in closed spaces, which was introduced in Croatia in May, together with the recession, has hit restaurants and bar owners particularly hard, recording increased losses of sometimes over 50% compared to last year, according to a report by the Association of Restaurateurs which was published today in the Zagreb press and in which they appeal to the Government to ease the situation by modifying the anti-smoking laws. The effects are especially visible in the big shopping centres where there are no balconies or open-air terraces for smokers, and where the first bars have closed in recent weeks. “They can’t claim that it is just the fault of the recession, seeing as despite the difficulties, shopkeepers are not closing like we are being forced to” observed President of the Association, Miroslav Folnegovic Kulec. Since the beginning of the year retail sales in Croatia have fallen by 16.6%, while turnover in bars and restaurants in non-tourist areas has fallen by between 50 and 60%. At the end of summer and the tourist season the same trend will be seen along the coast, says the report. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


EU: Serbia Fit to Apply, Italian Ambassador Says

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, AUGUST 28 — According to Italy’s Ambassador in Serbia, Armando Varricchio, “Italy believes that Serbia should be assigned candidate nation status, as an applicant to join the other members of the European Union, and that the time has arrived for Belgrade to make an application to join the EU”. In an interview in today’s edition of the city’s most widely sold newspaper, Vecernje Novosti, the Ambassador stated that Italy is making great efforts to free up Serbia’s process of integration with Europe, and that the Belgrade government is on the right track to succeed over the coming months. Ambassador Varricchio noted that Italy was giving its full backing to starting the Agreement of Stabilisation and Association (ASA) with Serbia, both within the EU and in its individual contacts with European partner states. The arrest of the former commander of the Serb-Bosnian forces, Generale Ratko Mladic, would have had a further positive impact on European public opinion, the ambassador added. Brussels gave a positive assessment of the latest report by its Head Procurator of the International Criminal Tribunal at the Hague, Serge Brammertz, on Belgrade’s level of collaboration with the Tribunal. Varricchio also pointed out that Italy’s Foreign minister, Franco Frattini, has proposed a summit of EU and US government heads dedicated to the Western Balkans, which may be held next year, ten years after the Zagreb summit which started the process of integration of the countries of the Balkans with the EU. The Italian diplomat concluded by announcing that an Italo-Serb summit is to be organised for September and that a visit to Belgrade by Italy’s deputy minister for economic development, in charge of foreign trade, Adolfo Urso, has been scheduled for September. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Serbia: Voters Care More About Economy Than Politics

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, AUGUST 27 — Serbian voters are more interested in economic and social issues than political ones, according to a survey carried out by the highly-respected public opinion institute CESID. The survey, according to the TV broadcaster B92, showed that 30% of voters support the Democratic Party (DS) under president Boris Tadic and 30% the Serbian Progress Party (SNS) under Tomislav Nikolic, a conservative who left the Serbian Radical Party (ultranationalist) a few months ago to found a more moderate political party in favour of EU membership. The next general elections in Serbia are set to take place in 2012. “The deciding factors for voters are work-related problems and those related to unemployment, living standards, how to get out of the crisis, economic stability, social stability and concerns, and the struggle against the constant spread of corruption in Serbia,” said Professor Zoran Stoiljkovic, an expert on sociological issues quoted by B92. “Whoever manages to send more convincing messages on these issues and proves that he is not corrupt will be supported by Serbian voters,” he added. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Environment: France to Create Exclusive Fishing Zone in Med

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, AUGUST 24 — The French government has decided to set up an exclusive economic zone (ZEE) in the Mediterranean to protect its fish stocks. The announcement was made by the country’s Ecology Minister, Jean-Louis Borloo, following an excursion on the sea off Cassis, in the South. The decision, he said, has been taken “because the strain on the resources, especially fish stocks, made by vessels coming from across the globe and without any controls except those in the 15 miles of territorial waters, are no longer sustainable”. The ZEE is to have a circumference of a roughly 70 miles, corresponding to the present ecological protection zone. The idea of a ZEE, which is regulated by a United Nations convention on rights at sea (the so-called Montego Bay Convention) of 1982, allows coastal states to extend their prerogatives beyond the 12 miles of their territorial waters, up to a maximum of 200 miles. France has already created an ecological protection zone in the Mediterranean in connection with the fight against pollution at sea, while the ZEE will concern fishing and all marine resources. By decreeing an exclusive zone, France accords itself the right to regulate fishing activities, but also to exploit the sea bed’s resources (oil, wave energy, minerals, etc). “This is a change in strategy, aiming to protect French fisheries and avoid the arrival of mighty fishing fleets in the Mediterranean”, the minister said, “in general, we hope that within the framework of the Mediterranean Union, more and more countries will decree their own exclusive zones. If everyone did it, every point in the Mediterranean would be under the control of a single state.”. “If the ZEE is created, the Libyans will no longer be able to come and fish here, especially not for red-fin tuna, in French waters”, Olivier Laroussinie, the director of the Agency for Protected Sea Areas, pointed out. French fishery associations have been heartened by the decision, which they say they have been pushing for since 2006. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Tibhirine, French Judges Want Access to Documents

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, AUGUST 27 — Judges working on the enquiry into the murder in Algeria in 1996 of the seven monks of Tibhirine have asked the French Minister for Defence, Hervé Morin, the Minister of the Interior, Brice Hortefeux, and Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, for the documents held by the various ministries be released from the French official secrets act. Anti-terrorism judges Marc Trevidic and Yves Jannier would particularly like access to a report by General Francois Buchwalter, who was the French military attaché in Algeria at the time. According to Buchwalter, the monks were killed a short time after being kidnapped, by shots fired from Algerian army helicopters, and not by the Islamic terrorists who claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. On June 25 the general, now retired, confirmed that he had found out from an Algerian friend, an officer in the army whose brother was at the command of one of the helicopters, that they started firing on the tents in Medea, believing that they were wiping out a group of fundamentalists. The former officer said that he had informed the head of the army and the ambassador of the time, writing them a report, to which he “never received a reply because an information black-out was requested by the diplomat in order to avoid damaging relations between the two countries.” The request for the documents to be made public also concerns documents which may be held by the French authorities, particularly the secret services, regarding links between fundamentalists and the Algerian secret services. President Sarkozy has already said that he is in favour of such a decision, but it will be the job of the CCSDN (Commission consultative du secret de la défense nationale) to decide whether to release the documents or not, on the basis of requests from ministers. The monks were kidnapped in the night of March 26 — 27, 1996. Their heads were found two months later, while their bodies were never recovered. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Cinema: After Indigenes, Bouchareb Shoots Film on Algeria

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, AUGUST 28 — Rachid Bouchareb is busy shooting the film ‘Hors la loi’, a kind of sequel to ‘Indigenes’, which opens with the bloody repression which took place at Setif, in eastern Algeria on May 8 1945, showing Algeria’s process of de-colonialization up to independence in 1962 through the stories of three brothers as well as evoking the war in Indochina and the October 17 1961 repression in Paris of an independence demonstration. With its budget of around 19 million euros, filming began in Setif at the end of July, and continues in Tunisia, France, Belgium, Germany and the USA, at the United Nations headquarters. The cast is almost the same as that of Indigenes — the forgotten story of 130,000 African soldiers conscripted by France during the Second World War — which in Cannes was awarded the male actors’ prize for the five actors: Sami Bouajila, Roschdy Zem, Bernard Blancan, Jamel Debbouze and Samy Naceri. The latter, who has legal problems in France, declined the invitation, while Debbouze’s participation in the ceremony gave rise to controversy in Algeria where the Franco-Moroccan actor is considered persona non grata for his pro-Rabat stance over the issue of the former Spanish Sahara and his pro-Israel attitude, especially since his visit to the Wailing Wall with his head covered by a kippah. The Algerian authorities denied him a visa in both 2006 and 2007, but this time he was granted one, despite a protest in Algeria’s daily L’expression. The production team attempted to keep his arrival in Setif a secret, despite its being announced on Algerian sites and blogs, due to the actor’s unpopularity in the country. A photo of him wearing a kippah on his head has appeared in the guise of a “wanted” poster on the Internet. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Egypt Arrests Protesters Against Bahai Neighbors

Egypt protestors opposing relocation of 25 Bahai families

Egyptian police arrested 70 villagers on Thursday who were protesting against the relocation of Bahai families to their area after they were chased out of another village in southern Egypt, security sources said.

About 150 people from Ezba and surrounding villages in Sohag province gathered outside regional government offices to voice opposition to the relocation of 25 Bahai families to government-sponsored housing near their homes, the sources said.

Bahais, who number between 500 and 2,000 in Egypt, call their faith’s 19th-century founder a prophet — anathema to Muslims who believe Mohammad was God’s final messenger.

Rights activists say Bahais face systematic discrimination in the conservative Arab country, which does not officially recognize the faith.

In April, Muslims attacked houses belonging to Bahai residents of another village in Sohag over a period of three days, forcing 30 families to flee the mainly Muslim village of Shuraniya.

Some villagers from Ezba said the protesters had gathered from Wednesday after word spread that some of those displaced from Shuraniya had settled in the area two weeks ago.

However a rights group advocating on behalf of the Bahai families said no permanent homes had been found for them.

Soha Abdelaty, the deputy director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said the families were still negotiating with the government.

Bahais, in an important ruling for members of unrecognized religions, last year won the right to obtain government identity papers so long as they omit any reference to their faith. But the faith is still vilified by some media, activists say.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Egypt Preparing New Health Insurance Law

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, AUGUST 27 — Egyptian Finance Minister announced that a working group comprising the Ministries of Finance and Health is currently preparing the final draft of the new health insurance law to refer it to the Cabinet. The law will be referred to Parliament in its upcoming session. The new system aims to reduce the amount of disposable income spent on health care to around 35% only. One of the most important benefits in the new law is the expansion of health insurance coverage to include less privileged citizens, in return for a small amount of money, with the government bearing the cost of the poorer individuals, estimated to be 20% of Egypt’s population. The new law has identified additional sources for funding for the new health insurance system, including levying a sales tax on tobacco products.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy-Libya: USA, Berlusconi Can Visit Whoever He Wants

(ANSAmed) — WASHINGTON, AUGUST 26 — For the American State Department “Italy is a sovereign country, the prime minister can meet with whoever he wants to”, therefore the United States “has no comment” about Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s imminent visit to Tripoli, reported a State Department spokesperson today to ANSA. “Our position on the issue of the release of Mr. al-Megrahi is clear and we have expressed it over the past days,” said a spokesperson for the US State Department, referring to the release by Scottish authorities of Libyan terrorist Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who was convicted in Scotland for the Lockerbie attack and returned to Tripoli on August 20. The United States said that the release of al-Megrahi was “disturbing” and defined the images of the triumphal welcome that was reserved for him in Libya as “shameful and disgusting”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Libya: Revolution Anniversary, Megrahi Will Not Attend

(ANSAmed) — LONDON, AUGUST 28 — The Lockerbie bomber, Abdebaset Al-Megrahi, who was released in Scotland for humanitarian reasons and has since gone back to Libya, will not take part in the official ceremonies planned to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s rise to power. The news was announced by the Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, in an interview released to Scottish newspaper The Herald. “On September 1, Megrahi will be in hospital,” he said, “and he will have no role in the ceremonies”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Libya: Tripoli Sources, Green Smoke From Frecce Tricolori?

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, AUGUST 26 — The classic tricolour smoke or a single line of green smoke, in honour of the Libyan flag? Just days before the Frecce Tricolori’s display in Tripoli, on September 1, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the revolution in which Colonel Muammar Gaddafi overthrew King Idriss, the matter is still unclear. For several days the Frecce Tricolori’s (Italy’s equivalent of the Red Arrows) website reports that “an enormous Italian tricolour in the skies of Tripoli will be unfurled by ten Frecce Tricolori over Libya”. But from Libya’s point of view it is not to be taken for granted. According to local sources, the subject is still being discussed. Apart from the colours, the arrival of the Frecce is eagerly awaited by Libya; notwithstanding the debate in Italy over the appropriateness of their presence, they will land at the Maitiga military airport in Tripoli on August 30. PAN, the National Acrobatics Patrol, will take part in celebrations with 9 MB339 planes. They will not perform their usual flight programme, for “security reasons” explains a diplomatic source, but will limit themselves to two fly-pasts over Tripoli and will alternate with another sixty Libyan planes and planes from other countries during a parade to celebrate the anniversary. The Italian pilots are expected to return to the Rivolto base on September 2. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Libya: 40th Anniversary; Tunisian Army to Join Parade

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, AUGUST 26 — The Tunisian Army is to take part in the military parade in Tripoli to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Libya’s revolution. The Tunisian formation will comprise sixty members of its special forces. The Tunisian Army’s brass band is also in Tripoli as part of the International Festival of military music, scheduled to run from August 25 to September 4.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Ramadan: Watermelon Trafficking Between Algeria-Tunisia

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, AUGUST 27 — It was a well-known fact that smuggling was a lucrative and varied business on the Algerian borders: south and east, to Tunisia, and west, to Morocco. But this must be the first time that the annals of the Maghreb country’s customs report the confiscation of 2,500 kg of watermelon. The news was reported by APS. The confiscation, announced by the customs’ central offices, took place in Tebessa, along the Tunisian border, where hundreds of watermelons were being transported on the small goods vehicles usually employed by smugglers. This type of product, according to customs, is illegally introduced only during the Ramadan period, considering the good value for money of fruits and vegetables in Tunisia. Aside of the usual smuggled goods, such as weapons, petrol and drugs (which are all very popular throughout the year), new unusual movements across borders will be seen around Aid El Khebir, the Feast of Abraham’s sacrifice. On this occasion, smugglers will travel in the opposite direction, and the tasty Algerian muttons, highly regarded in the whole of the Maghreb region, will clandestinely enter Tunisia. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Steep Drop in Marseilles — Algeria Goods Traffic

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, AUGUST 26 — The new tax regime imposed by Algeria in July, which was aimed at curbing imports, are wreaking havoc with goods traffic from the port of Marseilles to the country. This is the content of a complaint issued by the Maritime and River Union, (UFM) which represents port enterprises. These measures “directly threaten activities in the eastern basins by many of our members, where 35-40% is headed for Algeria” and “the turnovers of some of our companies are up to 75% dependent on these exports”, the UFM wrote in a letter addressed to Anne-Marie Idrac, the deputy trade minister, informing her of “the concerns of French professionals who work with Algeria”. Four fifths of traffic has evaporated, a UMF spokesperson noted, citing the case of the shipping company Marfret, whose General Director, Bernard Vidil, confirms: there has been a huge drop: goods are being held up with total disarray. In 2008 trade between Marseille-Fos and Algeria, its third most important trading partner, rose 8% to reach 8.7 tonnes, or 9% of the port’s total traffic. The new tax measures have tightened up import procedures for goods, with the objective of breaking the country’s dependence on foreign imports and boost national production. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Tunisia: Increased Popularity Among the English

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, 21 AUG — Tunisia “is enjoying an increase in popularity among English families and couples,” Mark Littlefair, director of the Thomas Cook travel agency, was quoted as saying. Tunisia, in his opinion, offers an important additional value in money terms (because of the exchange rate) with prices in the north African country defined as “attractive” especially for all inclusive package holidays, Littlefair was quoted as saying by African Manager magazine. “Tunisia is also an important destination for golfers and is starting to be popular as a destination for long periods in the winter season,” Littlefair said. Another British agency that is especially attentive to Tunisia, Just Sunshine, publishes a catalogue with offers for the winter season. Its director, Chris Mannel, says Tunisia’s advantages include that of “being beyond the euro zone,” so that holidays, especially in the winter, are extremely good value. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Economy: Israeli-Palestinian Trade Growing

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 26 — Trade between Israel and Palestine is growing steadily, reaching 5.2 US dollars in 2008, reports economics daily Globes, which reported data from the Israeli Ports Administration today. Israeli trade with the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) grew last year by 28%, and from 2.4 to 3.6 billion dollars since 2006. Palestinian imports and exports to Israel are also up. Both grew by 12%, from 900,000 to 1 million dollars last year. Israeli-Palestinian commercial data was published by the Ports Administration on the occasion of a meeting of 40 Palestinian businesspeople and representatives from the Israeli Foreign Ministry at the border cargo terminal at the Allenby bridge. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Gaza: Footage of Hamas-Salafite Shooting on the Web

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, AUGUST 25 — The first images of the shooting on August 14 in Rafah (south of Gaza) between Hamas militia and the militia of Jund Nassar Allah (a local Salafite group modelled on al Qaeda) were released yesterday on the internet. During the fight, which lasted hours and in which 28 people were killed and more than a hundred injured, Hamas managed to keep the press and onlookers at a safe distance. The footage was filmed in secret near the mosque in which the leader of the Salafite group, Mussa Abdel Latif, had barricaded himself. Latif was killed in the battle. The images show several Salafite militiamen in line in the courtyard opposite the mosque, while the Hamas militia start shooting them. A local Hamas member, Ribhi Rantisi, denied on Israeli military radio that the militia of Jund Nassar Allah have been executed, underlining that they have been killed in combat. Rantisi also denied any presence of Al Qaeda in Gaza. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Hamas Resumes Kassam Rocket Attacks

Arab terrorists in Hamas-controlled Gaza resumed rocket fire on Israel the morning of the Sabbath, firing one rocket at the Sdot Negev region near northern Gaza crossings. The missile exploded in an open area, and no injuries or damage were reported.

At least 234 rockets and mortars have hit Israel since the end of Operation Cast Lead last January. Terrorists have escalated attacks over the past week, breaking a silence that had prevailed for several weeks.

Israel media generally have played down the attacks unless they cause damage or injuries.

Palestinian Authority media have increasingly reported false accounts of supposed Israeli incursions into Gaza. IDF spokesmen thoroughly dismissed Thursday’s account in the Bethlehem-based Maan news that Navy ships beheaded an Arab fisherman with artillery fire following a mortar shell attack and sniper fire at Israeli soldiers patrolling near Gaza crossings.

Incitement against Israel in PA media continues to be common despite the American Roadmap that specifically calls for the PA to halt provocations to violence and hatred.

South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu told Maan this week that Israeli must talk with Hamas because “you don’t make peace with friends; you negotiate with those who are regarded as pariahs.”

He also said that he previously has told de facto Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh that rocket attacks on Israel are violations of “the right to life.”

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


Hezbollah: Israeli Had Escaped From Mental Hospital

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, AUGUST 28 — 30-year-old Igor Kagan, the man who escaped from “an Israeli mental hospital”, has been returned to Israel unharmed after crossing one of the “hottest” border in the Middle East and ending up in southern Lebanon, traditionally controlled by Shia anti-Israeli militia Hezbollah. The news was reported by the Hezbollah “Party of God”. The Al Manar TV news website belonging to Hezbollah reports that the anonymous man, “identified as Igor Kagan, an Israeli of Russian origins”, was delivered at dawn this morning by Beirut-based servicemen to UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. “He had escaped from a mental hospital,” explained the website. The young man was stopped on Tuesday by the Lebanese army in the vicinity of the border village of Aytarun, along the central section of the Blue Line of demarcation between the two countries, after he had managed to cross the electric fences and minefield on the Lebanese side, undisturbed by Israeli forces. An Israeli military spokesman had already announced the return to the country this morning, through UNIFIL, of a young man, resident south of Tel Aviv, and suffering from mental problems. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Netanyahu: PNA Must Recognise Israel as Jewish State

(ANSAmed) — BERLIN, AUGUST 27 — Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed today his request that Palestinians must acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state. This, he said during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is a condition to reach the goal of peace in the Middle East. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


West Bank, PNA Removes Hebrew Road Signs

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, AUGUST 28 — Roadsigns written in Hebrew are gradually disappearing from the West Bank’s main road network, says today’s edition of the daily Maariv, stating that their removal has been ordered by the PNA’s minister of public works, Muhammed Ashtaye. In place of signposts written in three languages (Hebrew, Arabic and English) sign posts written in just two languages are being installed: Arabic and English. Minister Ashtayeh has also ordered improvement works to the West Banks principal roads. Maariv says that these provisions, which are partly financed by the US aid agency, USAID, are part of the Salam Fayyad government’s policy of creating a Palestinian state within the coming two years. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

American Donut & Coffee Chain to Enter Turkish Market

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, AUGUST 20 — “Krispy Kreme”, a popular U.S. and Canadian donut & coffee chain is getting prepared to enter the Turkish market with a 3.5 million USD investment by the Qatari Almana Group, as Anatolia news agency reported. The group, which aims to expand the donut market in Turkey, will open the first Krispy Kreme cafe at Istanbul’s famous Bagdat Caddesi by the end of August 2009. Krispy Kreme is a chain of donut stores based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, United States and sells a variety of donuts, among them is its traditional “glazed donut”. Select varieties of Krispy Kreme products are also sold in many supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, and gas stations in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Amil Imani: A Call to New Resolve

Unlike anything encountered in recent memory, the formidably complex and unique situation present in today’s Iran poses an enormous challenge. It defies any conventional solution, and simply resorting to civil disobedience is the equivalent of fighting off a pack of hungry and blood-thirsty wolves with tooth-picks! The incredibly ruthless, deceptive, and cunning nature of the present regime, bundled together with an Islamic modus operandi, creates an enigma and a number of paradoxes.

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani[Return to headlines]


Gulf: Women’s Revolt, Violence and Revenge Increasing

(by Alessandra Antonelli) (ANSAmed) — DUBAI — The Kuwaiti wedding that ended in tragedy, when the ex-wife of the groom set fire to the tent where the ceremony was being held, killing 47 women and children, violently uncovered a reality which, according to sociologists and criminologists, is not as rare as previously thought. In fact, the trend of deranged wives deciding to have their revenge on former husbands, for the wrongs and humiliations suffered, is on the increase. “The reasons behind the strong increase in violent reactions to the loss of a husband are still unclear, but there is no doubt that it is a wide spread phenomenon”, said Hatu Al Fasi, professor of Women’s History at the King Saud University of Riad, Saudi Arabia. One of the factors influencing this behaviour may be linked to the emancipation of women in the region, which brings an increased awareness of their individuality and rights, often disregarded by men, which also reflects onto other social trends, according to sociologists. For instance, the ever-increasing number of divorces in all countries of the oil-Gulf area (46% in the United Arab Emirates, 33% in Qatar, 32% in Saudi Arabia), the number of single women (35% in the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain) and the increase of marriageable age. But, beyond all researches and hypothesis, the events are clear — and they are on the rise. In the Najran province, in Saudi Arabia, a divorced woman set fire to her ex-husband’s car, parked in front of the house where he lived with his new wife. Her original intention was to set fire to the house itself, but the woman apparently changed her mind at the last minute. Again in Saudi Arabia, another woman shot and killed her husband’s new wife (Islamic religion allows men to have as many as four wives) and she then gave herself up to the police. “The Kuwaiti tragedy is the most serious one we have had, in terms of innocent lives lost, but it is similar in nature and motive to the ones in Saudi Arabia,” said Saudi criminologist Ahmad Al Mahmoud. Meanwhile, men are starting to take precautions. Prevention is better than cure, and a few days ago a Kuwaiti man demanded police protection during his wedding celebrations while another one went to the police after his daughters from the first wedding threatened to kill his second wife, who was their same age. This particular incident divided the local blogger community, between those that supported the man’s right to a second wedding and those that criticized the indifference with which family divisions and the daughter’s grief was treated. The topic of an increased fighting spirit in women against men seems to be headline news also in Tunisia. In Tunisi, in fact, a shelter home, Le Refuge, has been set up to give protections to ten men that suffered abuse at the hands of their wives, and to whom the institution provides, on top of food and accommodation, also a psychological support system. Another organization, the Association Tunisienne des Hommes Battus, is being set up to bring support and solidarity to the male victims of domestic violence, According to the data published by Tunisian newspaper Le Quotidien, 10% of married men suffer from domestic violence while 30% is victim of heavy verbal abuse. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Islam: From Youtube to Naqatube, The Islamic Alternative

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 28 — With the aim of preventing the youth from watching profane or sexually explicit video clips online, a group of young saudis have developed a “clean” alternative to YouTube called NaqaTube. According to daily Arab News, NaqaTube is simply an amalgamation of elements consider pure from islamic moral. The logo website is, “Partecipate with us in a clean website”, an inside, a clear and simply graphic, show material religiously inclined: is it possible to see, on over 10 channel, featurings from scholars, imams and preachers. One of the moderators, who did not wish to reveal his real name, said that clips on NaqaTube are religiously safe and often edited prior to being uploded. Women’s images are totally forbidden, along with non muslim music. Also censored clips that are against the saudi government and the political and cultural establishment. “Our dream is to decline the number of visitors to YouTube. Our website has received from 5.000 to 6.000 visitors since its launch two months ago”, underlined moderator — that also added — “We are promoting a moderate Islam, nothing extreme”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Netanyahu Talks of Peace, Wants Sanctions for Iran

(ANSAmed) — BERLIN — Benjamin Netanyahu went on the attack in a complex chess match to re-open the peace process in the Middle East, calling for “paralysing sanctions” against Iran to prevent the risk of possible nuclear aggressions. But the Israeli Premier was up against another talented player: German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened up to sanctions, asking however for progress in agreements for a settlement freeze in the Palestinian Territories. Netanyahu’s stop in Berlin on his European tour ended with a crowded press conference, during which the distance between the two sides was evident, however, on the chessboard that is the Middle East, important pieces were moved, which in the coming weeks could serve to quickly find a common starting point. “The most important thing that we can do is apply paralysing sanctions against Iran”, said the Israeli Premier, underlining that this “would make it possible to apply real pressure on the regime in Tehran”. Netanyahu also thought about Plan B, explaining that if the UN Security Council does not reach an agreement on stiffer sanctions, the US and EU would have to act. The Israeli Premier also confirmed his request for Palestinians to acknowledge the Jewish state and he found a willing interlocutor, who stood firm on her positions. “Time is running out” on the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme, said the chancellor, observing that with a lack of progress by September, “we will examine harsher measures in the energy and finance sectors”. Netanyahu’s request seems to coincide with a broader plan cited yesterday by British daily The Guardian, which would call for a sort of trade with Israel when negotiations resume: rigid sanctions against Iran ‘repaid’ with a partial freezing of building projects in the settlements. According to this plan, USA Presidente Barack Obama could announce that the peace process will resume already at the meeting of international leaders for the UN General Assembly on September 23 or the G20 summit on September 24-25 in Pittsburgh. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Qatar Buys Into VW

The Gulf state of Qatar has taken a 6.78-percent stake in Europe’s biggest carmaker Volkswagen as part of a plan to take over around 17 percent of the company, Volkswagen said on Friday.

Qatar’s investment will total some €7 billion and the country will become the third biggest shareholder in Volkswagen behind the Porsche and Piech families and the German state of Lower Saxony.

The agreement is part of a broader deal hammered out this month to merge Volkswagen with luxury sports-car maker Porsche, which incurred heavy debts in a recent failed bid to take over its far bigger rival Volkswagen.

Volkswagen shares were down 1.54 percent at €136.82 on the Frankfurt stock market on Friday afternoon. The company’s shares have fallen by 40 percent since August 13 when the Volkswagen-Porsche merger deal was announced.

Christian Wulff, state premier of Lower Saxony, said he was optimistic that the fusion of VW and Porsche would not cost any jobs in his state. “The deal is only worth it if it makes one and one equal three,” he said, hopeful that the merger would create more jobs.

Wulff also assuaged fears that the state of Baden-Württemberg would lose the Porsche headquarters, stressing that it was important that Porsche maintained its autonomy despite the merger.

“A Volksporsche would be a disaster,” Wulff said, hoping to quash rumours that VW were planning a budget Porsche model.

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


Ramadan: UAE: 2,000 Euros Reward for People Who Quit Smoking

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, AUGUST 27 — People who quit smoking are to be amply rewarded. This is part of the new anti-smoking campaign launched by the councillor’s office for Islamic Affairs of the emirate of Sharjah, which is offering 2,000 euros to anyone taking advantage of Ramadan to give up smoking once and for all. “We want to take advantage of Ramadan because if you can go a whole day without smoking then you go your whole life without smoking,” explained Twalib Ibrahim Al Merri. During Ramadan, followers are asked to refrain from smoking, as well as drinking and eating, between dawn and sunset. Some 100 people have already registered for the initiative — they will have medical tests when they join the campaign and when Ramadan ends. Those who manage to stop smoking (and who will be checked up on in future) will be rewarded 2,00 euros and another two rewards of 1,000 euros each. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Thousands Mourn Iraqi Shia Leader

Thousands of Iraqi Shias have turned out to mourn the powerful Shia Muslim leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim on the second day of funeral proceedings.

Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, died in Tehran on Wednesday of lung cancer, and his body was flown back to Iraq yesterday.

Hakim, an important power-broker, will be buried in the city of Najaf, where a large security operation is under way.

Separately, at least 15 people have died in two bomb attacks.

Tight security

As his funeral procession passed through the mainly Shia areas south of Baghdad, the route was lined with thousands of mourners, many wearing black.

After being taken to the important Shia shrines in Karbala, his coffin will be moved to the holy city of Najaf.

He is due to be buried there next to his brother, Muhammad Baqr, who was killed six years ago to the day in a suicide car bombing in the city.

Iraqi security forces have mounted a huge security operation in Najaf, with their performance under scrutiny after their failure to prevent a series of recent large-scale attacks.

North of Baghdad, there were two separate bomb attacks on Saturday, one targeting a police station. At least 15 people were killed.

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


Turkey: Thirty-Percent of Households Have Internet, Survey

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, AUGUST 19 — The results of a recent survey conducted by the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) on information technology usage in households has shown that Internet usage in Turkey has increased this year compared to last year, as Today’s Zaman reports. Some 30% of households in Turkey currently have access to the Internet, up from 25.4% in 2008. ADSL is the most widely used method of connecting to the Internet, with 85.6% of the market share. The most popular activity among individuals surveyed was e-mailing (72.4%), while reading online newspapers and magazines came in second. A total of 56.3% said they mostly used the Internet to download music. The most common reason cited for not having access to the Internet at home was “lack of need,” with 30.1%. Some 50.5% of males use computers while the share of men who use the Internet is 48.6%. These numbers are 30% and 28% for females, respectively. Asked how often they use computers, 61.2% of computer users said every day, while 59.3% of Internet users surf the Internet every day. While 57.6% use the Internet at home, 32.4% have Internet access at work, and 24.1% visit Internet cafe’s, which are widespread in Turkey. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Turkey: Hunger and Poverty Lines Up in August, Report Shows

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, AUGUST 28 — The monthly salary necessary in Turkey to adequately feed a family of four, referred to as the hunger line, has increased by 0.4% to TL 741 (about 350 euro) in August from TL 738 in the preceding month, Today’s Zaman reports quoting a survey by the Confederation of Turkish Labor Unions (Turk-Is). The monthly Hunger and Poverty Line Survey, released by Turk-Is, also determined that the poverty line — the amount that a family of four should earn monthly in order to pay its rent and meet its basic needs, such as food, transportation, clothing and education — rose to TL 2,424 in August, up from July’s TL 2,404. Turk-Is reported that the hunger line is TL 195 higher than the current minimum wage and that TL 741 could feed a family of four for only 22 days, adding, “Considering the other expenditures such as rent and bills, things are becoming harder for people.” Noting that poverty is a fact of society, Turk-Is said this becomes more apparent, particularly through the efforts of charity organizations, during the holy month of Ramadan. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


UAE Seized N.Korea Arms Shipment Bound for Iran

  • Arms included rocket launchers, detonators, RPGs
  • Seizure of shipment took place on Aug. 14
  • Countries linked include Australia, France, Italy, China

(Adds details about weapons, countries involved)

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 28 (Reuters) — The United Arab Emirates has seized a cargo of North Korean weapons being shipped to Iran, which would have violated a U.N. embargo on arms exports from the communist state, Western diplomats said on Friday.

The weapons seized on Aug. 14 included rocket launchers, detonators, munitions and ammunition for rocket-propelled grenades, they said. The ship, called the ANL-Australia, was Australian-owned and flying a Bahamas flag.

Diplomats said the UAE reported the incident, which occurred two weeks ago, to the Security Council sanctions committee on North Korea. The committee sent letters to Tehran and Pyongyang on Aug. 25 informing them of the seizure and demanding a response within 15 days.

“Based on past experience … we don’t expect a very detailed response,” one of the diplomats said on condition of anonymity.

The diplomats said the Australian firm whose ship was seized is controlled by a French conglomerate and the actual export was arranged by the Shanghai office of an Italian company. The diplomats did not name any of the firms involved.

“The cargo was deceptively labeled,” said a diplomat “The cargo manifest said that the ship contained oil boring machines. But then you opened it up and you found these arms.”

Diplomats said both North Korea and Iran appeared to be in breach of Security Council resolution 1874, which banned all arms exports from North Korea and authorized states to search suspicious ships and seize and destroy banned items.

The resolution was imposed after North Korea’s second nuclear test in May. The council imposed sanctions on Pyongyang after its first test in October 2006, but the measures were never enforced, mainly because China showed no interest in seeing them implemented.

Diplomats said the UAE seizure, which was done on the basis of the country’s own intelligence reports, was an important success for the beefed-up North Korean sanctions regime and would hopefully deter further attempts at skirting sanctions.

Tehran has also been punished with three rounds of U.N. sanctions for its nuclear program, which Western powers fear is aimed at producing atomic weapons. Iran says it has a peaceful atomic program that will generate electricity, not bombs.

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

South Asia

Bangladesh: Muslims Threaten Catholic Women of Dewtola Village

At the root of the tensions Christian ownership of stalls in the local market. The women are helpless because most of the men of the village have emigrated to Europe or moved to Dhaka to find work.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — Catholic women of the village of Dewtola can no longer go to mass because of continual threats from local Muslims. For the past several weeks tensions have been mounting around the parish of St. Francis Xavier in Golla, Nawabgonj district.

Michael Gomes, a local Catholic leader, tells AsiaNews that “defenceless women and children are being intimidated. Most of the men of the village have emigrated to Europe or moved to Dhaka to find work”.

The threats originate from disputes over the village market where many stalls are run by some of the more than 3 thousand 700 Christians living in the area. Muslim traders want to take possession of them and have already on several occasions tried to use force to expel the non Muslim owners.

Already in 2006, for the same reason, a crowd of 200 people attacked the Catholic faithful as they were going to church and destroyed some of their stalls at the market. “Now the climate is back to being that of three years ago — says Gomes — we live in a situation of deep insecurity and despite having alerted the local authorities nothing has happened.”

The story is further complicated by the private interest of local politicians. Gomes says that “the local union leader is linked to the Muslims and says that the market can not be the exclusive property of Christians”.

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


Fury at NATO’s Afghan Clinic Raid

A member of the Afghan parliament has criticised a Nato air strike on a clinic where a Taliban leader was being treated for his injuries.

US and Afghan forces attacked the clinic in the Sar Hawza district of Paktika province, eastern Afghanistan, on Thursday.

Khalid Faroqi, who represents Paktika province, said it was an offence to fire on such a facility.

Nato says that troops first made sure there were no civilians inside.

It says security forces were fired upon as they approached the clinic and responded by ordering helicopter strikes.

Amnesty International has called for an investigation into the attack, but added that if the Taliban fired first, they had committed a serious violation.

Nato said one soldier was killed and seven gunmen were arrested, but local officials said 12 militants died in the incident.

“After ensuring the clinic was cleared of civilians, an AH64 Apache helicopter fired rounds at the building, ending the direct threat and injuring the targeted insurgent in the building,” Nato said on Thursday, adding that there were no civilian casualties.

Meanwhile, Nato troops and Afghan security forces say they have killed several gunmen, including a woman, in an exchange of fire with militants linked to the Taliban.

Officials said that the insurgents were killed in a gun battle in northern Kunduz province as troops approached a militant compound.

Nato said a number of weapons were recovered from the compound.

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


Indonesia: Militant Fugitive ‘Thrives’ With Islamist Support

Jakarta, 28 August (AKI) — Islamist militant Noordin Mohamed Top, considered the mastermind of several deadly bombings in Indonesia including attacks on two Jakarta hotels in July, has “survived” and “thrived” because of a strong network of support, according to a new report. The International Crisis Group said Noordin, one of the most wanted criminals in Asia, remains at large because of the strong support he draws from a southeast Asian network of militants.

The report, entitled Indonesia: Noordin Top’s Support Base, said Noordin, who in 2004 broke away from the Islamist Jemaah Islamiyah which has links to Al-Qaeda, relies on “an inner circle of long-term associates” linked to the group.

“His network is proving to be larger and more sophistocated than previously thought,” the report said. “Noordin retains an inner circle of JI militants who have been with him for the last four or five years.

“He can rely on many more, including teachers at JI schools and their students, to provide hiding places or logistical aid as needed.”

The July Jakarta hotel bombings have produced calls for greater security and harsher laws, but the Crisis Group said more urgent priority should be given to understanding the terrorists’ local support base.

“Most Indonesians are outraged by terrorist attacks on civilians, but the ideology that legitimises those attacks is hard to eradicate”, says Sidney Jones, the Crisis Group’s senior adviser to the Asia Programme.

“One individual with the right contacts can create a security cordon for Noordin that extends to several different towns and villages”.

Malaysian-born Noordin was a key figure behind the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings in Indonesia and remains one of Asia’s most wanted fugitives.

Noordin was thought to be a key recruiter and financier for JI, but analysts say he has now formed his own militant group. He has narrowly escaped capture several times.

Earlier this month, Indonesian security forces thought they had killed Noordin in a raid at a remote farmhouse in Central Java, but DNA tests later confirmed that the dead man was not him.

“When the police investigation of these attacks is finally finished, an independent evaluation of lessons learned would be desirable”, says Jim Della-Giacoma, South East Asia Project Director.

“The immediate task, however, is to capture Noordin and the other suspects — alive if possible”.

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


Indonesia: Christians Call for Rejection of Sharia-Inspired Bills

Church leaders fear legislation will lead to religious intolerance; church, orphanage opposed.

JAKARTA, August 19 (Compass Direct News) — The Indonesian Council of Churches (PGI) has called for the rejection of two bills inspired by sharia (Islamic law).

The Halal Product Guarantee Bill and the Zakat Obligatory Alms Management Bill, both under consideration in the Indonesian parliament, cater to the needs of one religious group at the expense of others, thereby violating Indonesia’s policy of pancasila or religious tolerance, said the Rev. Dr. A.A. Yewangoe, director of the PGI. “National laws must be impartial and inclusive,” Yewangoe told Compass.

“Since all laws are binding on all of the Indonesian people, they must be objective. Otherwise discrimination will result … The state has a duty to guard the rights of all its citizens, including freedom of religion.” Muslim groups, meantime, recently moved to close more Christian institutions.

On July 21, following complaints from community groups, police forcibly dismantled a church in West Java on grounds that it did not have a building permit — previously denied even though all requirements had been met — while similar groups in East Java successfully lobbied for the closure of a Catholic orphanage claiming that it planned to “Christianize” local children.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Indonesia: Military Commander: ‘Report People With Sorban and Jubah’ [Islamic Outfit]

JAKARTA — Haryadi Soetanto, military commander of the Diponegoro division of the Indonesian army, has said that Indonesians should not be scared to report people that dress different than what is normal in the current Indonesian culture. “If there are foreigners wearing a sorban (Islamic headscarf or turban) or jubah (Islamic long robe) or even wear a beard, they should be reported to the local authorities. The people should be more direct in this kind of situations,” he said.

According to Soetanto Indonesians are still far to easy in this kind of things. However the Indonesian army is already protecting Indonesia, it still needs information from the Indonesian public in case of threats. But awareness is still way to low, he said. “Over and over again there are bomb explosions, but Indonesians get to see this as something normal instead of reacting to it in a direct way,” Soetanto said.

“The people of Indonesia have to be aware that they too are responsible in creating a safe nation. Terrorism can come from many different ways and we have to be aware,” said Soetanto. The Indonesian army already checks those who enter Indonesia through various entry points. They also work together with the Immigration Offices. “We can not prevent foreigners from coming in, because most don’t have anything bad in their mind, but if people act strangely, people should not hesitate to report that to the local authorities.”

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Pakistan: Court Frees Khan From House Arrest

Islamabad, 28 August (AKI) — A Pakistani court on Friday ordered the government to lift any remaining restrictions on a scientist alleged to have shared nuclear technology with Iran, North Korea and Libya, his lawyer said. The ruling in the case of scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan is certain to provoke alarm from India and the United States, which still regards him as a proliferation risk.

Khan’s lawyer, Ali Zafar, said the Lahore High Court had ruled that “nobody can restrict the movement of A.Q. Khan” and that notices had been issued to the government and police to explain their action.

“It is excellent and heart warming and very gratifying,” Khan told reporters at his home. “I think the people who have been involved in playing mischief with me will get the message and allow me live a peaceful, private life as a citizen.”

It was unclear whether authorities would abide by the decision. Judges and government officials were not available for comment on Friday.

Khan admitted on television in early 2004 that he operated a network that spread nuclear weapons technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

He was pardoned by then president Pervez Musharraf, but immediately placed under de facto house arrest.

In February, the Islamabad High Court announced he was a ‘free citizen’.

Since then, he has had to tell authorities of his travel plans and gain permission for guests to visit him at home.

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


Terrorists to Kill Obama in Indonesia?

Terrorists in Indonesia are said to have detailed plans to stage a terrorist attack on American president Barack Obama. The attack should be carried out by sharp shooters. This information was made public by a safety expert in Indonesia. Obama is expected to bring a visit to Indonesia in November this year.

The Indonesian police has released pictures of two out of four suspected sharp shooters. They are said to be located to a movement that has close ties with terrorist organization Jemaah Islamiyah. The plans for the murder were found during the investigation of the attacks on two hotels in Jakarta last month. Five suspects in this case have been captured while three others were killed by the police.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


U.S. Says Pakistan Altered Missiles Sold for Defense

WASHINGTON — The United States has accused Pakistan of illegally modifying American-made missiles to expand its capability to strike land targets, a potential threat to India, according to senior administration and Congressional officials.

The charge, which set off a new outbreak of tensions between the United States and Pakistan, was made in an unpublicized diplomatic protest in late June to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and other top Pakistani officials.

The accusation comes at a particularly delicate time, when the administration is asking Congress to approve $7.5 billion in aid to Pakistan over the next five years, and when Washington is pressing a reluctant Pakistani military to focus its attentions on fighting the Taliban, rather than expanding its nuclear and conventional forces aimed at India.

While American officials say that the weapon in the latest dispute is a conventional one — based on the Harpoon antiship missiles that were sold to Pakistan by the Reagan administration as a defensive weapon in the cold war — the subtext of the argument is growing concern about the speed with which Pakistan is developing new generations of both conventional and nuclear weapons.

“There’s a concerted effort to get these guys to slow down,” one senior administration official said. “Their energies are misdirected.”

At issue is the detection by American intelligence agencies of a suspicious missile test on April 23 — a test never announced by the Pakistanis — that appeared to give the country a new offensive weapon.

American military and intelligence officials say they suspect that Pakistan has modified the Harpoon antiship missiles that the United States sold the country in the 1980s, a move that would be a violation of the Arms Control Export Act. Pakistan has denied the charge, saying it developed the missile itself. The United States has also accused Pakistan of modifying American-made P-3C aircraft for land-attack missions, another violation of United States law that the Obama administration has protested.

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

Far East

Tokyo-Vote: Towards a Political Earthquake

On August 30, the country faces its most important election in 60 years. Liberals, who have had almost continuous control since 1958, risk being voted out of government. The sunset of the alliance between politicians, industry and bureaucracy. The severity of the economic crisis and the new international role of the country.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) — On 21 July, Prime Minister Taro Aso dissolved the lower house and called elections for August 30. Japan is now faced with the most important elections in the last 60 years. The birth of a new Japan, capable of dealing positively with the challenges that history poses, depends on the results.

The protagonists of the vote are the Jiminto (Liberal Democratic Party, LDP) and Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan, DPJ), the first has governed the country almost uninterruptedly since 1958, the second is the largest opposition party, founded in 1998. According to inquiries conducted by the newspaper Asahi, in Sunday’s elections, the opposition party (DPJ) might gain as many as 320 seats, two-thirds of the 420 of the lower house, while the ruling party (LDP) would get around 100. A revolutionary reversal. At the time of the dissolution of the House, the LDP had 300 seats while the DPJ only 120.

Sun sets on ‘55 system

Two expressions help to focus the historical uniqueness of the event: “System ‘55” and “iron circle”. The first refers to what political analyst Shingo Ito described as follows: “Japan is a rich nation, with a modern and stable democracy and peace. So why for half a century has it looked almost like a one-party state, lasting as long as that of Communist China?”. The answer lies in the long electoral success of the Liberal Democratic Party and the ‘iron triangle’ that has forged with industry and with the powerful bureaucracy”. This unique democratic structure is referred to by historians, precisely as “System ‘55” because it was formed in 1955 when the Liberal Party and the Democratic Party joined giving rise to the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Curiously, its brilliant founder, Ichiro Hatoyama (1883-1959) is the great-grandfather of Yukio Hatoyama, the current president of the DPJ.

Yoshikazu Sakamoto, professor emeritus of political science at the prestigious Tokyo University, said that “the (Liberal Democratic) party focused on pragmatism rather than on ideals or political philosophies in what can be described as a form of economic nationalism”. To achieve this pragmatism, or, in more concrete terms, a global economy, the group at the top of the LDP forged links with the captains of industry and an efficient bureaucracy, forming a strong group of national power set, precisely described as “the iron circle”. The most famous districts of Tokyo, after that of the Imperial Palace and those adjacent to it, are Nagatacho, home of the official residence of the Prime Minister and the headquarters of the LDP and Kasumigaseki, where the buildings of the ministries are situated, ie the bureaucrats, who are in continuous dialogue with the creators of the economy.

An abundant and continuous flow of money from large companies to Nagatacho was used by the party leadership to support its provincial organizations. Meanwhile, diligent bureaucrats in Kasumigaseki, in dialogue with industry, prepared bills that the government presented to parliament and, without fail, were approved of by the absolute majority of the governing party. “Japan probably would not have become an economic power — writes Takehito Yamamoto, professor of economics at Waseda University (Tokyo) — if it had not forged the so-called ‘iron triangle’ with business leaders and bureaucrats”.

The leading role of citizens

In this election the alternative is not between one party and another but between a clear and strong government and a weak government, manipulated by a hidden group of powers. In other words, the Japanese people of 2009 is not the same people of the sixties.

The popularity of Junichiro Koizumi, prime minister from 2001 to 2006 confirms this. Koizumi was a dyed in the wool conservative nationalist. This is seen in the break in relations with China over his repeated visits to Yasukuni Shinto shrine, a symbol of militarism in the ‘40s, and to an undermining of the pacifist Article 9 of the Constitution by sending national defence troops to Afghanistan. But he proved he both wanted and knew how to govern independently of the gray eminences of the LDP. Hence the high popularity that he has earned.

When in 2005, his bill for privatizing the post office (the most “Bank” powerful in Japan) was rejected by the opposition of some high ranking members of the LDP (his party), he dissolved the House, expelled the rebels, called elections and swept to victory.

The two prime ministers who succeeded him: Shinzo Abe (26 wk. 2006-12 wk. 2007) and Yasuo Fukuda (23 wk. 2007 — 1 week. 2008) resigned after less than a year in office and the current leader Taro Aso was put on the ropes by a steady decline in popularity.

“Instead of appealing to popular opinion — says Tanefuchi Etsushi, professor at Waseda — the Liberal Democratic Party idly changed leaders from Abe to Fukuda to Aso. The people now think it is time for a radical change. They do not really have high expectations of the DPJ. People very simply, but with great determination, want a change in power “, ie they want leaders who can govern.

The seriousness of the challenge

The Japanese people are highly mature. In saying this we do not refer to the older generation who, not without good reasons, supported the “system 55”, or to young people who, unfortunately, are fearfully without ideals, but to men and women of middle age. Many of them have an excellent intellectual formation and given the high quality of Japanese media, are aware of the seriousness of the challenges that Japan must face without further delay.

We will indicate one on a national level that, if not the main issue, is without doubt the most urgent, that being the economic crisis. Twenty years ago 80% of Japanese population belonged to the middle class, today the percentage has dropped to 47%.

The positive legacy of the LDP

The collapse of the “system ‘55” does not mean the end of the party that created it. Some believe that its likely election defeat may be a good lesson for its “rebirth”. Kazuhisa Kawakami of Gakuin University observes: “Even if it goes to the opposition, the LDP can use its great organizational power, which is higher than that of the DPJ, and enhance its efforts to listen to public opinion” and, we add, effectively collaborate with the political group that will be chosen to govern.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Ethiopia ‘Seizes’ Town in Somalia

Ethiopian troops have seized control of a strategic town in Somalia, eyewitnesses say.

Belet Wayne is near the Ethiopian border and the Ethiopian troops are reported to have taken control of the town without a fight.

Ethiopian troops intervened in Somalia in 2006 and removed Islamists from power. They officially left Somalia in January as part of a peace deal.

The Ethiopian government has denied that their troops have returned.

In recent months, there have been frequent reports that the Ethiopian soldiers are back.

While eyewitnesses say they have taken control of the town of Belet Wayne, this has been denied by the government spokesman in Addis Ababa, Bereket Simon.

Rebellion fears

Christian Ethiopia does not want hardline Islamist insurgents in charge of territory near the common border.

It fears that this could fuel the rebellion in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia which is inhabited by ethnic Somalis.

Recently there were reports that a large number of Ethiopian soldiers had entered Somalia at a time when Islamist forces had taken control of part of Belet Wayne.

Eyewitnesses say that as the Ethiopians moved in the Islamist troops left the town without a fight.

In 2006, Ethiopia invaded Somalia and defeated the Islamists who had seized control of much of the country.

This caused a great deal of resentment in Somalia and helped the Islamists gain support.

They returned with a more extremist agenda and in recent months have been fighting the interim government for control of the country — a conflict which has forced more than a million people to flee their homes.

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


Two Peacekeepers Seized in Sudan

Two members of the joint UN/African Union (Unamid) peacekeeping force have been kidnapped in Sudan’s western Darfur region, officials say.

A Unamid spokesman said the pair — a man and a woman — were abducted in the western town of Zalingei.

The victim’s nationalities have not been made public.

It comes two days after the UN’s military commander in the region said the six-year war there between the government and rebels was over.

The UN says 300,000 people died in the conflict in Darfur, but the Sudanese government puts the figure at 10,000.

Almost three million people are said to have been displaced by the fighting.

The commander, Gen Martin Agwai, said the region now suffered more from low-level disputes and banditry than the violence of recent years.

Spokesman Noureddin Mezni said armed men attacked the Unamid staff residence in Zalingei at 0430 (0130 GMT) and abducted the pair, whom he described as civilians.

Mr Mezni said the abductions were the first of Unamid members, although there have been a series of kidnappings of aid workers in the region.

He said contact had been made with the captors, but did not give any further details.

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

Culture Wars

More Students Wear ‘Islam of the Devil’ Shirts to School

More children from the Dove World Outreach Center arrived Tuesday at area public schools with shirts bearing the message “Islam is of the Devil” and were sent home for violation of the school district’s dress code when they declined to change clothes or cover the anti-Muslim statement on their clothing.

School district staff attorney Tom Wittmer said the shirts violated a district ban on clothing that may “disrupt the learning process” or cause other students to be “offended or distracted.”

“Students have a right of free speech, and we have allowed students to come to school wearing clothes with messages,” Wittmer said. “But this message is a divisive message that is likely to offend students. Principals, I feel reasonably, have deemed that a violation of the dress code.”

Wittmer said the school district allows students to express their religious beliefs but also must protect other students, such as members of the Muslim faith, from discrimination based on their religious beliefs.

He said there also has to be equal treatment of different faiths.

“The next kid might show up with a shirt saying ‘Christianity is of the Devil,’“ Wittmer said.

First Amendment scholars said the school district’s policy is likely legal and constitutional. Ron Collins, a scholar with the nonprofit First Amendment Center in Washington D.C., said courts give public school officials a “significant amount of latitude” in regulating student dress that could disrupt the classroom or a school function.

“Here, it’s not only a religious expression,” Collins said. “It’s a religious expression that is hostile to other forms of religious expression.”

Collins did note that student speech is afforded more protection at the college or university level.

Catherine Cameron, a faculty member at the Stetson College of Law, said the school district “likely has a good leg to stand on from a First Amendment standpoint” because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in several cases that public schools may quash speech deemed disruptive “even if it steps on the other child’s free speech rights.”

On their front, the T-shirts had a verse from the Gospel of John: “Jesus answered I am the way and the truth and the life; no one goes to the Father except through me,” and this statement, “I stand in trust with Dove Outreach Center.” The message “Islam is of the Devil” is on the back of the shirt.

On Monday, a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Talbot Elementary was sent home because of the shirt. On Tuesday, two Eastside High students and one Gainesville High student were sent home and a student at Westwood Middle had to change clothes because of the shirt, according to members of the Dove congregation.

Dove Senior Pastor Terry Jones said no local company “had the guts” to print the shirts. Dove member Wayne Sapp said he then ordered the shirts over the Internet from a company that allows individuals to design their own shirts. His daughter, Faith Sapp , 10, was the Talbot Elementary student sent home Monday. She said she was allowed to wear the shirt to school on Tuesday — with the Gospel message on the front visible but the anti-Islam message on the back covered.

Wayne Sapp’s daughter, Emily Sapp, 15, was the student sent home from Gainesville High on Tuesday. Both Faith and Emily Sapp said it was their decision, not that of their parents, to wear the shirts to school in order to promote their Christian beliefs. Emily Sapp said the “Islam is of the Devil” statement was aimed at the religion’s beliefs, not its members.

“The people are fine,” she said. “The people are people. They can be saved like anyone else.”

Wayne Sapp said he believed the school district’s dress code allowed too much room for subjectivity when principals and school administrators determine what is offensive or distracting clothing.

He added that his children decided it was time to “stand up for what they believe instead of saying the rules might not let me do it” and said that society has grown “so tolerant of being tolerant” that free speech is eroding.

Jones said that, to him, spreading the church’s message was “even more important than education itself.”

All of the Dove members interviewed said that, while they would not like a student wearing a shirt with an anti-Christian message on it to school, they believed students have the right to do it.

Saeed R. Khan, president of the Muslim Association of North Central Florida, said the anti-Islam message should not be accepted when “schools are supposed to be teaching tolerance for others.”

“It’s pretty offensive, isn’t it?” Khan said of the message on the back of the shirt. “Particularly in a school setting where you are trying to create an atmosphere where people are supposed to respect each other and live with each other, where we have people of every ethnicity and every religion.”

Jones and Wayne Sapp said congregation members have not decided whether their children will be allowed to continue to go to school with “Islam is of the Devil” visible on their clothing because they want their children to get an education — and that does not happen when they are sent home for violating the dress code.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

General

The Next 100 Years

Japan and Turkey form an alliance to attack the US. Poland becomes America’s closest ally. Mexico makes a bid for global supremacy, and a third world war takes place in space. Sounds strange? It could all happen. . .

[…]

This is not an Americentric view of the world. The world is Americentric. The US marshals the economic resources of North America, controls the world’s oceans and space, projects force where it wishes — wisely or not. The US is to the world what Britain once was to Europe. Both nations depended on control of the sea to secure their interests. Both nations understood that the best way to retain control of the sea was to prevent other nations from building navies. Both understood that the best way to do that was to maintain a balance of power in which potential challengers spent their resources fighting each other on land, rather than building fleets that could challenge their control of the sea.

The US is doing this globally. Its primary goal is always to prevent the emergence of a single power that can dominate Eurasia and the European peninsula. With the Soviet Union’s collapse, China’s limits and the EU’s divisions, there is currently no threat of this. So the US has moved to a secondary goal, which is to block the emergence of any regional hegemon that could, in the long term, grow into something more dangerous. The US does what it can to disrupt the re-emergence of Russian national power while building relations with bordering countries such as Poland and Turkey. It encourages unrest in China’s border regions, using the ideology of human rights as justification. It conducts direct or surrogate wars on a seemingly random basis, from Somalia to Serbia, from Iraq to Afghanistan.

Many of these wars appear to go badly. However, success is measured not by the pacification of a country, but by its disruption. To the extent that the Eurasian land mass is disrupted, to the extent that there is perpetual unrest and disunion from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the US has carried out its mission. Iraq is paradigmatic. The US intervention resulted in a civil war. What appeared to be a failure was, in fact, a satisfactory outcome. Subjectively, we would think George W Bush and his critics were unaware of this. But that is the point of geopolitics. The imperatives generate ideologies (a democratic Iraq) and misconceptions (weapons of mass destruction). These, however, are shadows on the wall. It is the geopolitical imperatives, not the rhetoric, that must be understood in order to make sense of what is going on.

Thus, the question is how these geopolitical and strategic realities shape the rest of the century. Eurasia, broadly understood, is being hollowed out. . .

[…]

The ultimate prize is North America. Until the middle of the 19th century, there were two contenders for domination — Washington and Mexico City. After the American conquest of northern Mexico in the 1840s, Washington dominated North America and Mexico City ruled a weak and divided country. It remained this way for 150 years. It will not remain this way for another hundred. Today, Mexico is the world’s 13th-largest economy. It is unstable due to its drug wars, but it is difficult to imagine those wars continuing for the rest of the century. The heirs of today’s gangsters will be on the board of art museums soon enough.

Mexico has become a nation of more than 100 million people with a trillion-dollar economy. When you look at a map of the borderland between the United States and Mexico, you see a huge flow of drug money to the south and the flow of population northward. Many areas of northern Mexico that the US seized are now being repopulated by Mexicans moving northward — US citizens, or legal aliens, or illegal aliens. The political border and the cultural border are diverging.

Until after the middle of the century, the US will not respond. It will have concerns elsewhere and demographic shifts in the US will place a premium on encouraging Mexican migration northward. It will be after the mid-century systemic war that the new reality will emerge. Mexico will be a prosperous, powerful nation with a substantial part of its population living in the American south-west, in territory that Mexicans regard as their own.

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

2 comments:

James Higham said...

Yes and therein lies the proof of what has been said for four or five years now in the sphere. This thing is gloabl, with the collusion of those most don't suspect.

Joshua said...

Mexican mass migration has been a threat since Teddy Kennedy got the 1965 Bill passed. Assimilate? Half the Mexicans that come in can't even speak Spanish after 500 years of contact; they speak Indian dialects.