Monday, September 14, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/14/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/14/2009A middle-aged man in Munich was beaten to death by two teenaged punks when he attempted to protect two younger teenagers who were being harassed by the older boys. The article gives no explicit information, but one may assume from the context that this was an instance of cultural enrichment.

In other news, the three men who were convicted in the UK of planning to blow up a jet with liquid explosives have been sentenced to life in prison.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, CB, CSP, Diana West, Insubria, JCPA, JD, JP, LN, Lurker from Tulsa, Sean O’Brian, Steen, TB, Tuan Jim, Zenster, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Dubai’s Trail of Dud Deals Shows Sovereign Wealth Gone Awry
EU: A Pre-Crisis Treaty for a Post-Crisis World
France: Value of Houses Down, Not Since World War Two
Reps. Michael Burgess, M.D., and Michele Bachmann: Real Reform Doesn’t Demand Government Invention
The False Dawn
 
USA
Another Soldier Challenging Orders
Buy Health Insurance or Face Wrath of IRS
Four Part Process Leading to Sustainable Development
Frank Gaffney: ‘Here, The People Rule’
Obama ‘Clones’ Bush in Killing Sovereignty
Obama Will be the Hand That Feeds You
Obama Buyer’s Remorse Begins Among Blacks
Pemex Paying $638m to Fluor-Empresas Ica Venture
You Lie, Indeed!
 
Canada
The New, Insufferable Ignatieff. Arrogance Personified.
 
Europe and the EU
“Avvenire” Has Two Readers Who Don’t Get Along: The Bishops and the Vatican
Berlusconi: Free Press? A Catholic-Communist Joke
Berlusconi: Italians Want to be Like Me
Berlusconi, Steel Alliance With the Lega
Berlusconi: Reform of Criminal Proceedings is Ready
Broken Tulips: Geert Wilders on Trial
Denmark: Intelligence Agency Warns Against Kidnap Threat
England: September 13th, 2,000 Catholic Parishes Rallying Against Racism
EU Countries Practice ‘Secret’ Diplomacy, Hamas Says
EU: Governance of Mediterranean, Aims and Proposals
France’s Hardline Immigration Minister Eric Besson Calls for ‘Debased’ Burkha to be Banned
France: Federtrasporti, Carbon Tax Will Hit Road Traffic
France: Immigration Minister, Yes to No-Veil Law
Germany: Deadly Beating in Munich Sparks Debate Ahead of Elections
Germany: Two Terror Suspects Appear Before German Court
German Police Dawdle
Harris Tweed Maker Drops ‘Scottish’ Marketing Over Lockerbie Release
Ireland: Cóir Launches Heart Blitz as Image War Hots Up
Italy: “No More Dynasty Jibes. Fininvest Companies Deserve More Respect”
Italy: Women Deny Claims They Had Sex With Berlusconi
Milk: French Producers Want European Strike Immediately
Neo Nazis Working With Islamists….
Netherlands: Knowledge of War is Fading, Says Anne Frank Director
Police: Pakistan Suspect is Swede Once at Gitmo
Portuguese MPs Most Active in Monitoring EU Law
Spain: ETA Under Siege Changes Pyrenees for Alps
Study to Assess Values of Swedish Police Cadets
Trade: Ikea Will Double Its Presence in Italy
UK: ‘Thanks, You Little F*****’: Family Horrified After Restaurant Bill Makes Clear What Waiters Thought of Molly, Two
UK: Airline Plot Trio Get Life Terms
UK: Government’s Secret Deal With Gaddafi Saved Killer of WPC Yvonne Fletcher From UK Trial
UK: Government Accused of Secret Deal With Libya on Murder of British Policewoman
UK: Look, Vulnerable People! Quick Draft a Daft Law
UK: Parents Protest at Ofsted Inspections for Children Taught at Home
UK: Sixty Men in 9/11 City Centre Street Brawls.
UK: Two Thousand Schoolgirls Suffer Suspected Ill-Effects From Cervical Cancer Vaccine
UK: Transatlantic Plane Bomb Plotters Jailed for Life
UK: We Need to Confront Islamist Extremists, Not Conciliate Them
UK: Young Woman Dies of DVT After Medics Fail to Spot Broken Leg
 
Balkans
Serbia: Controversial Press Law Passed
 
North Africa
Morocco: Mohammed VI Starts the Opening of 33 Mosques
Tunisia: Campaign Against Cigarettes and Narghile Underway
 
Israel and the Palestinians
City of Rome Contributes to Playground in Sderot
Olmert Defends Gaza Retreat, Lebanon War, Cast Lead
Palestinian “Policemen” Killed in Gaza Operation Were Trained Terrorists
Ronchi: Israel Wants Negotiation, Message to PNA
 
Middle East
Despite Pressure to Normalize Relations, Saudi Arabia Steps Up Boycott of Israel
Energy: Turkey’s Dependence on Russian LPG on the Rise
Pray Less, Work More, Says Islamic Preacher
 
South Asia
107-Year-Old Malaysian Woman Seeks 23rd Hubby
Adulterers Face Stoning in Indonesia’s Aceh
Afghanistan: Osama Bin Laden Taunts Barack Obama: ‘You Are Powerless to Stop the Afghan War’
Berlin Calls Air Strike in Afghanistan ‘Necessary’
Indonesia: Catholic Community Organizes Fast Breaking for Poor Muslims
Islamic Extremists Threaten Life of Catholic Minister Leading the Fight Against Blasphemy Law
Musharraf Admits US Aid Diverted
Tajikistan: Divorce Via SMS
 
Far East
N. Korea: Will Obama Come to Kim Jong-Il’s Rescue?
Vietnam Releases Detained Blogger
 
Australia — Pacific
Ethnic Squad Titles ‘Racist’
Rudd ‘Has Lost Border Battle to Smugglers’
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Al-Qaeda Somalia Suspect ‘Killed’
More Brits Heading to Somalia for ‘Jihad’: Report
 
Immigration
Afghans in Indonesia ‘Paid to Return’
Immigrants, Anchor Babies Weigh Down Obamacare
Ireland: New ‘Bridging Visa’ For Immigrants
Landing in Calabria, 40 Immigrants Stopped
Tunisians Reach Pantelleria in Jet-Ski
UN Against Sending Back, Rights Violated
USA: Immigration Raids Yield Jobs for Legal Workers
 
Culture Wars
Obama School-’Safety’ Chief: How to Jam Homosexuality
 
General
Codex Alimentarius and the Idiocracy
The Green Revolution Wasn’t Green Enough

Financial Crisis

Dubai’s Trail of Dud Deals Shows Sovereign Wealth Gone Awry

Sept. 14 (Bloomberg) — Dubai investment firm Istithmar World may be the first sovereign wealth fund to liquidate after a $27 billion spending spree financed largely with borrowed money, people briefed on the matter said.

Unlike government-controlled funds in Kuwait and Abu Dhabi, flush with cash from oil production, or in China, backed by export earnings, Istithmar fueled purchases such as the takeover of Barneys New York by borrowing as much as 90 percent of the money, the people said. Istithmar’s parent, Dubai World, tapped Middle Eastern and European banks including Barclays Plc, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and Deutsche Bank AG, leaving those three with combined debt holdings of at least $1.5 billion, the people said.

“Dubai sovereign wealth funds are leveraged like private equity funds,” said Rachel Ziemba, a senior analyst covering sovereign wealth funds at Roubini Global Economics, a New York- based economic research firm. “Istithmar belongs to a parent company with a significant amount of debt coming due.”

Istithmar contributed about $2.5 billion of its own cash to back $27 billion of purchases since 2003, the people said, speaking anonymously because the strategy was private. It used so-called non-recourse bank loans, backed by specific assets, to finance about 75 percent of its acquisitions, one of the people said. The rest was funded with a mixture of its own cash and money borrowed from banks on a term-loan basis that was backed by Istithmar or Dubai World, the person said.

W, Mandarin Oriental

Istithmar’s deals were part of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s attempt to raise the Arabian Peninsula emirate’s profile as he tried to vault it into the top ranks of the world’s financial centers.

Under Chief Executive Officer David Jackson, the former Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. executive who has led the fund since 2006, and his predecessor, Muneef Tarmoom, Istithmar roamed the world to target high-end businesses. The fund bought a stake in Perella Weinberg Partners, the boutique advisory firm run by Joseph Perella, and two of Manhattan’s most exclusive hotels, the W Union Square and the Mandarin Oriental at the Time Warner Center. It acquired the Queen Elizabeth 2, the Cunard Line flagship for more than three decades, with plans to convert it into a hotel to be moored beside the emirate’s Palm Island.

Istithmar also bought stakes in Cirque du Soleil, the Montreal-based company known for staging extravagantly acrobatic circus-like performances around the world, and Yacht Haven Grande, a marina complex in the Caribbean catering to so-called mega- yachts.

Some Soured Deals

“The government wanted to put Dubai in the same league as London and New York,” said Victoria Barbary, a senior analyst in London at Monitor Group, a consulting firm based in Cambridge, Mass. “When times were good, the government was happy to have Jackson and his team making headlines around the world.”

Many of the deals have soured.

Barneys is in talks with creditors about a restructuring or bankruptcy. Loehmann’s Holdings Inc., a discount retailer with more than 60 stores that was acquired by Istithmar in 2006, had its junk- rated debt rating cut three notches last week by Standard & Poor’s, based on “poor” operating performance.

Shares of GLG Partners Inc., a hedge fund with offices in New York and London in which Istithmar bought a 3 percent stake, have lost more than 61 percent of their value since the deal was announced in June 2007.

In November of 2007, Istithmar sold an office tower at 280 Park Avenue, home to the headquarters of the National Football League, for $1.28 billion. It had bought the tower for $1.18 billion 17 months earlier, public records show.

‘Top of Market’

“They realized they had defined the top of the market,” said Peter Slatin, editorial director at Real Capital Analytics Inc., a New York research firm that tracks commercial property sales.

The deals have forced Istithmar to halt investments and threaten to unseat Jackson, the CEO, people familiar with the situation said last week. Co-Chief Investment Officers John Amato and Felix Herlihy are leaving, according to Istithmar.

Now, Dubai World is in talks with its creditor banks to restructure at least $12 billion in debt, a person close to the talks said, speaking anonymously because the negotiations are private. Istithmar or its assets will probably be sold to help its parent repay the debt, the person said. Nakheel PJSC, the Dubai World unit behind a series of palm-shaped, man-made islands on the emirate’s coast, has a $3.52 billion Islamic bond due in December. Islamic bonds adhere to a prohibition against receiving or paying interest.

Istithmar is ‘Key’

Dubai World last week said Jackson had its “full support,” adding that Istithmar “will continue to be a key subsidiary into the future.” Sheikh Mohammed also said last week that he wasn’t concerned about the emirate’s ability to repay at least $4.52 billion of debt this year.

“I assure you we are all right, the U.A.E. is all right, and we are not worried,” Sheikh Mohammed said to reporters at his Zabeel palace in Dubai. The government must repay a $1 billion Islamic bond maturing in November in addition to the Nakheel bond due in December.

George Dalton, general counsel at Dubai World, referred requests for comment to spokespeople for the group, who didn’t reply yesterday.

Besides Istithmar and Dubai World debt held by Deutsche Bank, Barclays and RBS, much of what remains is held by lenders based in the Middle East, the people said. Spokespeople for the three banks declined to comment yesterday.

MGM Mirage Investment

The investment strategy of the funds was flawed, according to Chris Turner, the 45-year-old British risk manager who was hired in 2007 as director of risk management at Istithmar’s real estate unit.

“At least half the $10 billion I was involved with at Istithmar was poorly invested and completely un-hedged,” Turner said in an interview yesterday. Turner, who now lives in Europe, says he left Istithmar last year and was accused of embezzlement. He denies those claims and said he is prepared to fight the charges in court.

One example of risky investing, according to Turner, came in 2007, when Dubai World bought about $5.5 billion of MGM Mirage stock at between $82 and $95 without any hedge. The stock now trades at about $12.

“The attitude there was: We’re a private equity firm and as such we don’t need to hedge our investments because we understand the inherent risks and believe in our decisions,” Turner said.

‘More Careful Now’

Refinancing Dubai’s debt became more difficult with the onset of the global credit crisis as lending froze. It has about $80 billion of outstanding corporate and government debt, according a report by Moody’s in February. That almost matches the emirate’s $82 billion gross domestic product in 2008, the report said.

“We’ll be more careful now,” Sheikh Mohammed told reporters in Dubai on Sept. 9. “The crisis came for everyone, not just Dubai. People had to fight.”

Abu Dhabi, the wealthiest member of the U.A.E. with more than 85 percent of the federation’s total oil output capacity, helped provide Dubai with a $10 billion bailout in February. Dubai home prices plummeted 47 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, the steepest drop of any market, according to Knight Frank LLC.

“Abu Dhabi is now and will continue calling the shots in Dubai,” said Rochdi Younsi, head of Middle East research at Eurasia Group, a New York-based political-risk consulting firm, who expects additional bailouts from Abu Dhabi. “They’re making serious demands that Dubai keep only its viable arms and consolidate or shut down overleveraged ones like Istithmar.”

Istithmar and Dubai World are being advised on their debt restructuring proposals by at least one outside consulting firm, people familiar with the matter said.

“It’s critical that Dubai downplay any restructuring of Istithmar as business-as-usual,” Younsi said. “They’ve put way too much money and resources to let their reputation collapse.”

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]


EU: A Pre-Crisis Treaty for a Post-Crisis World

So what will happen if the Irish vote No in their second referendum on the Lisbon treaty on October 2? Would a No vote not produce a massive political crisis, both in the European Union and in Ireland? Might it not lead to a speculative attack against Irish government bonds, and raise the risk of outright default? Last year, after a first referendum produced an overwhelming No, I argued in a series of columns that a definite rejection of the treaty would effectively strike that country off the political and economic map.

I no longer believe that to be the case. If the Irish vote No, I now believe it will be the end of the treaty, not of Ireland. The presidents of Poland and the Czech Republic will suspend ratification processes indefinitely. The treaty will not come back the following year, or even in five years, not even in disguise, or with a different name.

The main reason for my change of mind has been the conduct of the EU during the financial crisis, and the narrow-minded reassertion of national sovereignty in macro- and microeconomic policy. If EU leaders do not have the strength and solidarity to treat economic crisis management as a common endeavour, they will not have the strength, let alone the unanimity, it would require to isolate Ireland. It has never been safer not to ratify a European treaty than it is now.

None of this would have mattered until recently, since almost everybody took it for granted that the Irish would vote Yes in their second referendum. Voting No twice in a row is a serious business, and nobody believed in their hearts and minds that the Irish were really all that serious about a treaty that most voters, including government ministers, have not even read.

But there seems to be a non-trivial chance that the No vote might prevail again. A recent Irish opinion poll suggested that the lead of the Yes campaign was melting, just as it did ahead of the first referendum. Another poll, at the weekend, produced a much more stable majority for the Yes campaign. I would still expect the Yes campaign to prevail, though this is not a done deal yet. What helps the treaty’s proponents is that the No campaign is not nearly as well-organised as it was last year. But then again, the government of Brian Cowen, the Irish taoiseach, is hugely unpopular, and voters often use referendums to express disapproval of an incumbent prime minister.

There is an intrinsic problem for the Yes campaign in Ireland, but also in other places, which is that the core of the treaty was negotiated seven years ago. This is a pre-crisis treaty for a post-crisis world. It addressed the fears and reflected the aspirations of a previous generation of politicians, who believed that the EU could overtake the US as the world’s leading economic power. If we had to reinvent the treaty from scratch, we would probably produce a very different text.

One of the treaty’s most significant changes is the strengthening of the rights of the European parliament. Would we still want to prioritise this today, in view of the steadily declining voter turn-out at European parliamentary elections? Consider, also, the sordid piece of political theatre playing out in Brussels. This Wednesday, the European parliament is scheduled to vote for the reappointment of José Manuel Barroso for a second term as European Commission president. On the latest count, he will probably win the ballot, even though he has no intrinsic majority. He seems to have wooed many of his critics with behind-the-scenes political promises.

This sort of activity was harshly criticised by Germany’s constitutional court in its recent ruling on the Lisbon treaty. In Brussels, everybody co-governs, some with more influence, some with less. The German justices argued that the chronic lack of an opposition suggests that the European parliament is not a proper parliament, merely an assembly.
The parliament’s behaviour raises the question of why one would want to to ratify a treaty one of whose main effects would be to strengthen its powers. I am not opposed to this as such, because I still harbour the hope that a stronger parliament might behave differently. But a stronger parliament could be either more or less transparent.

Bearing in mind the EU’s main defects at present, such as its inability to co-ordinate during a crisis, its failure to enact policies to strengthen its potential growth, and its failure to project itself effectively at a global level, the treaty’s institutional and legal changes will offer little comfort.

I have been, and still am, an unenthusiastic supporter of the Lisbon treaty, because its institutional rules are more appropriate for an enlarged EU. But I, too, find the treaty increasingly hard to defend with a straight face. The Irish Yes campaign could once again find itself in a tight spot. It is not that easy to explain why this particular treaty is necessary when the real problems of the EU lie so obviously outside its scope.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


France: Value of Houses Down, Not Since World War Two

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, SEPTEMBER 7 — “This hasn’t been seen since the Second World War”: the Office of Information and Economic Forecasts (BIPE) announced today that the value of property in France fell by 3% in 2008, and by 2% in 2009. A recovery will not be seen until 2011. Forecasts warn that the value of housing assets will be just under 10,000 billion euros in 2010. Not until 2011 to 2014 will it begin to increase again, “but at a much lower rate than that seen before the crisis” says the statement by the BIPE. The double-figure growth rates between 2003-2006 will be followed by rates lower than 5%, like those which followed the housing crisis at the beginning of the 1990s. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Reps. Michael Burgess, M.D., and Michele Bachmann: Real Reform Doesn’t Demand Government Invention

Washington Democrats have a plan: Big government stimulus package? Check. Cap and trade national energy tax? Check.

They’ve managed to push through every piece with minimal Republican support or even input. They bring their bills to the floor at the very last minute, giving no lawmaker time to read the legislation and giving no citizen time to voice his or her opinions on it.

Witness the AIG bonuses that were actually protected by the so-called stimulus package. The American people were furious to learn that these CEOs were receiving taxpayer-funded bonuses, and the lawmakers who voted for the stimulus were caught red-handed, unfamiliar with their own bill.

We took part in the town hall experience this past month. Dr. Burgess held three town halls in his district. Then, he joined Rep. Bachmann at two public meetings in Minnesota to share his perspective as a doctor and a member of one of the committees working on the legislation.

People want to know why Washington thinks it’s OK to add a trillion-dollar reform to the historic tab that has been run up for their children and grandchildren. Most of all, they want to know why Congress is charging ahead with a grand and expensive wholesale restructuring of our health care system when there are smaller, less expensive, bipartisan ideas for reform that haven’t even been given a shot.

We have the highest-quality care, but it remains too expensive and too inaccessible. However, implementing a bank-breaking and inefficient government-run health care program is not the change the American people want.

The heat of the debate revolves around costs and control. A debate on health care cannot escape a debate about the federal budget; it is caught in the middle of our nation’s ailing economy.

Recent projections suggest we will reach a federal deficit of $1.6 trillion this year with a total of $9 trillion added to the national debt in the next decade. We cannot ignore the significant costs of the Democrats’ proposals and simply place the burden on future generations.

We don’t need to break the bank in order to reform our health care system.

Expanding and strengthening tax-free health savings accounts so people can save for health expenses will help people afford the care they need. Association Health Plans will allow small businesses and families to access lower costs for coverage by getting them the sort of economies of scale big businesses enjoy.

Allowing people to purchase health insurance across state lines will increase competition among insurers and apply positive pressure to states to reduce costly mandates. And real tort reform would cut down on the costs of defensive medicine and frivolous malpractice suits.

Rep. Bachmann has a bipartisan bill to allow all health expenses to be tax-deductible for individuals, as it is now for employers. Leveling this playing field not only brings down costs for all, but puts consumers in control of their care.

Rep. Burgess has introduced health care legislation aimed at reducing health care costs, improving choices and ensuring there are enough doctors to care for America’s patients. He is also a strong advocate for meaningful medical liability reform, an area of reform critical for doctors and one that has proved to be effective and successful in his home state of Texas.

Hopefully Congress has learned from the people during the August recess and will work together to implement real, bipartisan, common-sense health care reforms that provide quality, affordable health care.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


The False Dawn

The economists of the OECD are far more serious and credible than the likes of CNBC’s Jim Kramer, who errantly announced the end of the recession in April. And, yet, they are no more likely to be correct about the economic recovery they are now forecasting than they were back in 2007, when they predicted 2008 GDP growth of 2.8 percent in the United States and 5.2 percent for the global economy.

[…]

Unfortunately, all of this good news is reliant upon a combination of statistical chicanery and a failure to correctly apply the very economic theory upon which the mainstream macroeconomic statistics are based. Both the chicanery and the failure could be expected, as the attempted manipulation of statistics is normal government behavior while the failure is the inevitable result of confusing the map with the land. Consider, for a moment, the composite leading indicators from which the OECD’s economists have drawn their conclusions:

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

USA

Another Soldier Challenging Orders

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) — A soldier set to deploy overseas is challenging her orders, arguing President Obama is not a natural-born U.S. citizen.

Captain Connie Rhodes’ lawyer and army officials were set to face off in federal court in Columbus Friday but the proceedings stalled.

U.S. District Court Judge Clay Land held an emergency hearing but the captain, a doctor for the Army, wasn’t there.

Her attorney says Rhodes is due at Fort Benning Saturday but was forbidden to leave Fort Riley in Kansas to attend Friday’s hearing.

Orly Taitz, her lawyer, says instead of providing President Obama’s vital records and proving that he is legitimate, the government is “intimidating and harassing” an officer.

“This is a doctor. This is a surgeon- a highly respected member of the community and they’re basically subjecting her to a court martial and possible imprisonment if she disobeys her order and appears at the hearing. This should not be happening to any officer, to any enlisted,” Taitz said.

Captain Rhodes is one of hundreds of service members represented by Taitz, all planning on filing similar lawsuits questioning President Obama’s status as Commander in Chief.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Buy Health Insurance or Face Wrath of IRS

Last week when I first read Byron York’s article titled “Health care reform means more power for the IRS,” I felt like I was reading the script of a horror movie. I was in such disbelief that I spent hours looking for the specific section in H.R. 3200 that expanded the powers of the Internal Revenue Service.

Unfortunately, I found it. It’s Division A, Title IV on pages 167-215 called Amendments to IRS Code of 1986. The expanded powers of the IRS in H.R. 3200 would empower the IRS to require taxpayers to show proof of health insurance coverage, collect fines on individuals and employers who did not have adequate proof of health insurance and determine whether your health insurance was a government approved plan.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Four Part Process Leading to Sustainable Development

But how do you remove people from the land? One step at a time. Let’s begin with a biosphere reserve. A national park will do. A huge place where there is no human activity. How about Yellowstone National Park? Then you establish a buffer zone around the reserve. Inside the buffer only limited human activity is allowed. Slowly, you squeeze until you squash that human activity.

Once accomplished, you extend the area of the biosphere to the limits of the former buffer area — and then you create a new buffer zone around the now larger biosphere and start the process over again. In that way, the Biosphere Reserve acts like a cancer cell, ever expanding, until all human activity is stopped.

And there are many tools in place to stop human activity and grow the reserve.

[…]

The second path is called Smart Growth. After they herd you into the city, they have more plans for you in regimented and dense urban communities.

They put a line around the city and tell you no growth can take place outside that line. Urban sprawl, they say disdainfully. They refuse to build more roads as a ploy to get you out of your car into public transportation, restricting mobility.

[…]

Third, inside the human habitat areas, government is controlled by an elite ruling class called stake holder councils.

These are mostly Non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, who, like thieves in the night, just show up to stake their claim to enforce their own private agendas. The function of legitimate government within the system will be simply to enforce the dictates of the councils.

The councils are unelected, but all powerful. They are controlled by a small minority in the community, but they are all powerful. They will make you ask permission (usually denied) for anything necessary to live in the community.

They destroy business. They dictate the number of outlets a business may have in a community, not matter what the population demands. For example, in San Francisco there can only be seven McDonalds. Period.

[…]

The fourth path is Public/Private Partnerships. Today, many freedom organizations are presenting PPPs as free enterprise and a private answer for keeping taxes down by using business to make a better society.

In truth, many PPPs are nothing more than government-sanctioned monopolies in which a few businesses are granted special favors like tax breaks, the power of eminent domain, non-compete clauses and specific guarantees for return on their investments.

(…)

For example, using government to ban its own product, General Electric is forcing the mercury-laden green light bulb on you, costing 5 times the price of incandescent bulbs. Such is the reality of green industry.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Frank Gaffney: ‘Here, The People Rule’

On the CBS “60 Minutes” Sunday night, President Obama tried to allay concerns that his headlong rush to get a health care bill enacted defies the time-tested axiom that haste-makes-waste: “I intend to be president for a while and once this bill passes, I own it.”

The comment may have been intended as just a colloquial way of describing the responsibility that the chief executive will have for making the new health system work. Against the backdrop of myriad other aspects of this presidency, however, a more literal — and worrying — interpretation seems in order.

Mr. Obama’s remark prompted a pointed response by Weekly Standard editor William Kristol on the magazine’s website: “No, Mr. President. It’s not about you. If legislation passes, you don’t own it. We all own it. Any health care bill will become part of the U.S. Code, not simply an item on the Obama White House web site. We will all feel its effects. We are all responsible for the future of our country. Here the people rule.”…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]


Obama ‘Clones’ Bush in Killing Sovereignty

You thought plan was dead, but Democrat brings it back

NEW YORK — President Obama is continuing President George W. Bush’s effort to advance North American integration with a public-relations makeover calculated to place the program under the radar of public opinion and to deflect concerns about border security and national sovereignty.

The Obama administration has “rebranded” and “refocused” the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, or SPP, to advance the Bush administration’s agenda of North American integration under the rubric of the “North American Leaders Summit,” a less controversial banner, according to confidential sources in the U.S. Department of Commerce and State Department who agreed to speak with WND only if their comments were kept off the record.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Obama Will be the Hand That Feeds You

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was ordered out of the room by leading conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, who is a medical doctor — a rarity in the world of pundits.

Krauthammer said Palin’s comments about “death panels” in Obamacare were not helpful in a serious debate on the government takeover of health care.

But then Dr. Krauthammer wrote that the result would only be a “gentle nudge” toward that hooded figure in the corner of the room, that grim fellow with the scythe.

Hmmm. Maybe we should invite Palin to come back in.

Krauthammer wrote before we saw the Department of Veterans Affairs dredge up a how-to book on end-of-life decision making for wounded vets. The book, “Your Life-Your Choices,” had been deep-sixed by the Bush administration. It was reissued by the Obama administration. The book includes various “exercises” for vets that suggest more than a gentle nudge toward death. How about a sharp kick?

What will our veterans, wounded and quite possibly depressed, think when they are given a book that tells them about the possibilities of ending it all? And what kind of help is it to gently nudge them toward the Hemlock Society — that practiced ender of all pain?

We need to focus more on what President Obama himself has said about ending lives. Now is when we really miss Tim Russert, who passed away suddenly in June 2008. In February of that year, Russert put an easy question to then-Sen. Obama during the Democrats’ Cleveland debate. I remember it well.

RUSSERT: “Senator Obama, any statements or vote you’d like to take back?”

OBAMA: “Well, you know, when I first arrived in the Senate that first year, we had a situation surrounding Terri Schiavo. And I remember how we adjourned with a unanimous agreement that eventually allowed Congress to interject itself into that decision-making process of the families.

“It wasn’t something I was comfortable with, but it was not something that I stood on the floor and stopped. And I think that was a mistake, and I think the American people understood that that was a mistake. And as a constitutional law professor, I knew better.

“And so that’s an example I think of where inaction …”

RUSSERT: “This is the young woman with the feeding tube …”

OBAMA: “That’s exactly right.”

RUSSERT: “… and the family disagreed as to whether it should be removed or not.”

OBAMA: “And I think that’s an example of inaction, and sometimes that can be as costly as action.”

Most of what Obama read about Terri Schiavo is not true. She was not dying. She was not comatose. She was not in a persistent vegetative state. She was severely brain-damaged.

She did require food and nutrition via intravenous tube. Her husband had, as they say, moved on. He argued with Terri’s loving family. Mr. Schiavo wanted those tubes removed. Without food and water, Terri would die. So would we all.

Mr. Schiavo said Terri had told him she would “not want to live like that.” Who would?

But the real question is: If you have to receive nutrition and hydration by tube, would you want someone to pull the tube?

As president, Obama has been knocking down the idea that he wants “to pull the plug” on your grandmother. Still, in the above quoted exchange with Russert, Obama said he regretted that he had not been more willing than 99 U.S. senators to hasten Terri Schiavo’s death.

She should have been denied access to the federal courts, Obama said. She wasn’t dying until they pulled her feeding tube. When she was dying, armed guards stationed at her bedside prevented family members from giving her cracked ice for her cracked and bleeding lips.

If “controlling costs” is the reason for the whole drive to nationalize health care, pulling feeding tubes from medically fragile people is an obvious “no-brainer.” Under Obamacare, he or one of his minions will decide how much health care you get. When they decide you’ve had enough, you will be denied access to the courts. Obama’s will be the hand that feeds you.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Obama Buyer’s Remorse Begins Among Blacks

Americans of all political persuasions agree that the nation has problems — big problems.

And here’s where we all part company. The political left, which now controls our government, thinks we need more government — a lot more. Those on the political right see our problems as a result of excess government and want to move things in the opposite direction.

The fact that Democrats, with their man in the White House and control of both houses of Congress, are having difficulty getting their Big Government programs passed says something about the strength of the grassroots push-back now taking place. This stirring is even occurring among blacks.

According to the Pew Research Center, the president’s approval rating nationwide is now 10 points lower than it was in April. Included in this is a three-point drop in his approval among blacks.

Star, you might say, a drop in approval ratings among blacks from 95 percent to 92 percent is trivial. Not so, I say. If we assume this reflects the 16 million blacks who voted for Obama in November, a three-point shift means there are about a half-million blacks who now have buyer’s remorse.

This is meaningful. You take real risks going against the establishment in black America. Psychological risks, professional risks and sometimes risks to personal safety. Peeling off a black who voted for Obama means moving heaven and Earth.

Even a star like Bill Cosby incurred the wrath of the black establishment when he started talking about black families and personal responsibility. As a result, he backed off and toned down his message.

Recall during the campaign that candidate Obama ruffled Jesse Jackson’s feathers when he spoke about personal responsibility among black males. An inadvertently “on” microphone picked up Jackson saying that he wanted to castrate Obama (not exactly in that language).

The black conservative is not that rare freak of nature that so many think.

According to a Pew Research Center report, almost a third of blacks consider themselves conservative. These folks have always been inclined to be quiet because of the social pressures and intimidation. But this is changing.

Despite slurs, intimidation and widely reported physical attacks from union thugs, a few brave black souls have showed up at Tea Party protests.

I’m getting more and more calls from black conservatives around the country running for local office. I see black conservative Web sites popping up, and there are even black rappers rapping a conservative message.

Who, after all, could know more about the lie of government and the pretense of political answers to life’s problems than blacks? It’s black families that have been devastated by welfare state programs and black kids who are now trapped in hopeless public schools. And, overwhelmingly, it’s black unborn children who never see the light of day.

How can blacks who have their eyes open not have noticed that it was Obama who killed the Washington, D.C., Opportunity Scholarship voucher program and sent black children back to one of the worst public school systems in the country?

The Cato Institute reported that, after adjusting for inflation, funds spent on public schools have doubled since 1970, with no improvement in education performance and a decrease in graduation rates. This is government at work.

The Israelites wandered for 40 years after they left Egypt, giving time for the slave generation to disappear and for a new generation to bear the responsibilities of freedom.

Next year marks 40 years since the decade of the 1960s, which gave us the civil rights movement.

I see a new generation of freedom-loving, churchgoing black Americans coming on the scene. Many voted for Obama out of racial pride. But their values and aspirations for freedom are causing a change of heart.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Pemex Paying $638m to Fluor-Empresas Ica Venture

A joint venture of Irving-based engineering and construction company Fluor Corp. and Mexican-based Empresas ICS S.A.B. de C.V. received a $638 million contract from Mexico’s state-owned oil company for two refinery projects, Fluor said Monday.

Pemex is paying the venture for engineering, testing and startup of two low-sulfur gasoline plants, one to be built in a Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon, refinery and the other to be built in Ciudad Madero, Tamaulipas.

The Cadereyta refinery project includes a 42,500 barrel-per-day catalytic distillation train, the associated amine regeneration unit, flare and all ancillary facilities.

The Madero refinery project includes two 20,000 barrel-per-day catalytic distillation plants, the associated amine regeneration units, flare and all ancillary facilities.

The work is scheduled to take 44 months.

Empresas ICS is a Mexico-based engineering and construction company.

In midday trading, Fluor shares fell 24 cents to $54.04 and the American depositary shares of Empresas ICS slipped 8 cents to $8.93.

           — Hat tip: Lurker from Tulsa[Return to headlines]


You Lie, Indeed!

Cheers to Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., for having the courage, in reality, the guts, to call Barack Obama what he is — a liar.

Wilson’s two words — “You lie” — came during the president’s speech to a joint session of Congress, which in reality was another Obama sales pitch to promote votes for his drastic revision of health care for this country.

Obama was reiterating that illegals would not be covered in the plan and, apparently, Wilson had enough and shouted out that the statement was a lie.

What did Obama say?

“There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.”

Wilson’s response? “You lie.”

Obama’s reaction? “That’s not true.”

It was a direct challenge to the president of the United States, Barack Obama, that he was not speaking the truth; that he was lying to elected representatives of the citizens of the country and indeed, all Americans, about legislation that would affect every one of them for decades.

Nancy Pelosi nearly was nearly apoplectic on the podium. Wilson’s outburst was a drastic breach of congressional protocol. You just don’t do that.

I have a question for Nancy Pelosi: Just what is it you don’t do? Tell a lie or speak the truth?

Who was most incorrect?

[…]

I have the full copy of H.R. 3200 at home on my dining room table — all 1,017 pages of it. I’ve read it all. There’s nothing in it that screens out non-residents, much less illegal aliens.

Indeed, two congressional committee attempts to pass legislation to specifically require proof of legality were twice voted down by Democrats.

That speaks volumes; they do not want illegal aliens screened out from receiving benefits. How else do you interpret those votes?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Canada

The New, Insufferable Ignatieff. Arrogance Personified.

It appears Hedy Fry was telling the truth when she claimed she had nothing to do with a demeaning flyer sent out by the Liberal Party, which suggested Canada is no longer a country worth being proud of. Badmouthing Canada and its place in the world appears, bizarrely enough, to be a new Liberal party strategy.

That became evident in an insulting, offensive speech delivered by party leader Michael Ignatieff to a lunchtime gathering of the Canadian Club of Ottawa today, the day of Parliament’s return. If you were wondering what Mr. Ignatieff did all summer, now you know: drinking deeply at the well of Liberal arrogance, filling himself with huge draughts of the conceit and self-importance so central to the party’s existence, to the point he is now capable of casually writing off whole sections of the country’s history and millions of Canadians because they don’t comply with the one essential element of true Canadianism: they aren’t Liberals.

The essence of the flyer sent out under Fry’s name is that Canadians can no longer be proud of their country, because it is run by Conservatives. That message was reinforced again and again by a sneering, dismissive Ignatieff. Never mind the democratic system, never mind that true Canadians love and respect their country no matter who occupies 24 Sussex or has the most seats in Parliament. To Ignatieff, as to so many Liberals before him, Canada only counts when it’s run by Liberals.

Listen to this hogwash: “After the last four years, it’s hard to remember how much Canada once mattered,” Ignatieff claimed nonsensically, writing off the risks, sacrifices and achievements of Canada’s troops in Afghanistan as nothing. Canadians may care deeply about the men and women who have sacrificed their lives there — they line the highway in honour every time another body comes home — but to Ignatieff and his Liberals this is nothing to be proud of, not enough to make us “matter”.

Or this drivel: “For the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, the international scene exists only to score points on the domestic scene. And our credibility on the international scene has suffered in consequence. The Conservatives are giving up Canada’s place in the world.”

So the Conservatives’ principled stand against China based on its human rights abuses is dismissed as a cheap grab for votes. From who, the huge Canadian Taiwanese community? Ignatieff is far more upset that we’re not angling for more trade with Beijing, as the Chretien government did so vociferously, because human rights can always be ignored when money’s on the line. Harper’s strong line on the Middle East — which Mr. Ignatieff happens to share, though he neglected to mention it — is forgotten. Far better to pander to fashionable assaults on Israel by leftwing cranks who think the only democracy in the Middle East is the equivalent of apartheid.

No, Mr. Ignatieff, in the unctuous, condescending tone he gets when he’s angling to establish his innate superiority, has concluded that Canada’s voice has gone mute: “They note our silence in international councils and ask: Where is Canada?” — a notion that might come as a surprise to President Barack Obama Wednesday when he sits down for his latest face-to-face discussion with the Prime Minister.

Mr. Ignatieff is all trite talk and happy history. He hauls out all the hoary old Liberal icons — blue helmets, peacekeeping, multilateralism, Lester Pearson. In what can only be classified as a direct accusation of racism, he asserted that Conservatives only care about white Canadians, charging that “if their name is Souad Mohammed, our government abandons them.” Ottawa may have mishandled the case of Suaad Hagi Mohamud — Mr. Ignatieff’s deep concern apparently doesn’t entail spelling her name properly — but deliberately mistaking bureaucratic bungling for deliberate government bigotry is beneath contempt.

Mr. Ignatieff declared that under Liberal plans for a “Big Canada” (because Canada under any other party is small, weak and unimportant) we would stay in Afghanistan beyond 2011, a position that ignores the fact the Liberals had to be dragged kicking and screaming into endorsing the Conservatives’ desire to keep them there even that long.

“Our Canada will champion an agenda of international governance reform … and to ensure a truly inclusive global forum, we would offer to host and fund a permanent G-20 secretariat in Canada.” Oh boy, a new building full of civil servants in Ottawa. Now THAT will make us important.

Best of all, he pledges: “Our Canada will renew our relationship with the U.S. At a time when Europe is tearing down its borders, North America is raising fences between friends. The number of visitors to Canada from the United States has fallen to its lowest level in a generation. The impact on cross border trade will hurt the United States as much as it hurts us.”

So after Liberals spent eight years mocking, lampooning and insulting the U.S., when Liberal MPs stomped on replicas of the President and paraded around self-righteously denouncing a war in which American troops were giving their lives, after all that Mr. Ignatieff will now sail in and “renew our relationship.” Well gee, I bet they can hardly wait.

If this is the “new” Michael Ignatieff, the one who’s been in the development stages for the nine months since he assumed the Liberal leadership, they should stuff him in a crate and ship him back to Harvard. Canadians don’t need to be insulted by a man who thinks we’re small and unimportant and can only be made suitable for the world stage through the leadership of him and his insufferable party. Canadians took their measure of the Liberal party over decades of exposure, an experience Mr. Ignatieff didn’t share while he was living and working elsewhere. The party lost the last two elections as a direct result, and I can’t believe this kind of imperious sermonizing from a visiting professor is going to win back any of that lost respect.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

“Avvenire” Has Two Readers Who Don’t Get Along: The Bishops and the Vatican

The newspaper of the Italian bishops is under attack, and its director has resigned. But Church leaders appear to be divided. “Avvenire” is even getting hit by friendly fire. From the secretariat of state

ROME, September 10, 2009 — In his September 3 letter of resignation as director of “Avvenire,” the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, Dino Boffo denounced the formation of “ecclesiastical factions” at war with each other, stirred up by the controversy surrounding him.

In a letter to the bishops a few months ago, Benedict XVI was even more straightforward: “If you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another.”

The fact that there are divisions and conflicts among the Church’s upper hierarchy, sometimes exploding disastrously, is beyond question. The main disagreement over Italian politics today is between the two shores of the Tiber: between the secretariat of state on the one side, and the Italian bishops’ conference on the other.

“Avvenire” is the newspaper of the bishops. But the attack conducted against the private life of its director, Boffo, by the newspaper “il Giornale,” owned by the brother of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, has been viewed and experienced in opposite ways on the two sides of the Tiber.

***

For the secretariat of state, the real and proper attack was and is another, conducted by others, by an anti-Catholic force that, in its judgment, is spearheaded by “la Repubblica,” the leading newspaper of the secularist left, and is ultimately aimed at the pope and, after him, his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

On the morning of August 28, Bertone was much more infuriated over an article by the theologian Vito Mancuso in “la Repubblica” than over the simultaneous eruption of the campaign by “il Giornale” against Boffo and his criticisms of the prime minister…

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Berlusconi: Free Press? A Catholic-Communist Joke

(AGI) — Rome 7 Sept. — The notion that the press is not free in Italy “is a joke conceived by a minority of Catholic-Communists and their newspapers” said the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi. “Press freedom”, he said, on Italian morning television programme ‘Mattino Five’, “is not the freedom to mystify, insult and slander and for this reason I have turned to the magistrates”. Berlusconi spoke of criticism aroused by his presentation of complaints to newspapers La Repubblica and L’Unita. Of the action that Trade Union FNSI are preparing to organise, Berlusconi has said that it draws upon a “minority joke, that is above all pedalled by Catholic-Communists, who unfortunately comprise 90% of Italian newspapers. “They wish for a free press to become a press of mystification insults, defamation and slander. And thus,” he added, “I have been forced to turn to the magistrates to reaffirm an important principle — so that press freedom does not descend to this.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Berlusconi: Italians Want to be Like Me

(AGI) — Rome, 7. Sept “Why do the public appreciate Silvio Berlusconi in such great numbers? Because the majority of Italians in their innermost thoughts want to be like me, because they know me and like me.” So said the Prime Minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi during a telephone interview on Italian television programme ‘Mattina Cinque’. “Moreover ,” he added “they know that Silvio Berlusconi doesn’t steal and doesn’t use power to his personal advantage as nearly everyone who has preceded me in this difficult job, particularly from the opposition party, has done previous to me.” He then continued, “because I defend the Italian people from those people who wish to turn Italy into a Police State. They know that there was a plan to make every credit card payment of more than 100 euros traceable, and that I have fortunately prevented this from happening. Besides, this, the Left wish to bring in an unpopular property tax and reintroduce a bank deposit on first properties. To Maurizio Belpietro who asked for a more concise response to this issue, Berlusconi responded: “ We want a serious programme, if you want a short response, turn to the Left, who have no programme.” On his personal popularity Berlusconi cited “surveys according to which it rises above 70%.” “An unparralleled result across the western democracies underlining the success of my first year.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Berlusconi, Steel Alliance With the Lega

AGI) — Rome, 9 Sep. — Pdl “will increasingly connect with its steel allies, the Lega”, said prime minister Silvio Berlusconi speaking on occasion of the ‘Atreju’ party. Commenting on candidatures for the upcoming regional elections, he announced that “we will meet next week to decide the names of the candidates. We will do it in connection with the ally we have forged an alliance of steel, the Lega, with whom we will debate presidential candidates for certain regions”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Berlusconi: Reform of Criminal Proceedings is Ready

(AGI) — Rome, 9 Sep. — The reform of criminal proceedings “is ready”, said prime minister Silvio Berlusconi speaking on ‘Atreju’. He added that “With this reform no citizen will enter court asking whether the judge will be brave and will be able to resist the accusation theories made by the prosecutor, who will become a prosecution lawyer”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Broken Tulips: Geert Wilders on Trial

by Diana West

One of the most fascinating essays I’ve ever read about Islam in all these many years since 9/11 (when I first started reading essays about islam) is in the essential book, The Legacy of Jihad, by Andrew G. Bostom.

It is by the French theologian Jacques Ellul and it is called “The Influence of Islam.” The essay discusses the influence of Islam on Christianity — namely, what was “imported into Europe” from Islam that took root in Christianity.

Among other things, Elllul links the elevation of canonical law, the entrenchment of the divine right of kings, and the emergence of “holy war” as evidence of what he notes was a one-way cultural exchange propelled by contact, competition and war with Islam. Islamic influence was an import into Christendom, but there was no reciprical export of Christian influence into Islam.

Another aspect of this influence that I remember being quite struck by when I first read the essay some years ago had to do with the emergence of Christian notions of “providence,” which, as Ellul writes “is never a biblical word” or concept, but was helped into Christian doctrine by the Islamic concept of submission, particularly the Muslim formulation mektoub, “It was written.” He writes…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]


Denmark: Intelligence Agency Warns Against Kidnap Threat

Wearing national symbols abroad makes Danes a target, says national intelligence agency PET

Intelligence agency PET, together with the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI), is warning companies and individuals to avoid using Danish symbols, flags and corporate logos when abroad in order to minimise the risk of kidnapping.

In a guide published today, PET suggested that Danes consider limiting the display of national symbols in the countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, parts of the Middle East and North and East Africa, and during politically charged events in other countries.

‘Because al-Qaeda has a closer focus on Denmark, it is PET’s assessment that there is a considerable risk that Islamic militants will try to carry out targeted kidnapping of Danes in some places abroad,’ said PET chief Jakob Scharf. Last week, on the anniversary of the 11 September 2001 terror attacks, Scharf said the number of specific threats against the country had become more serious.

The threats stem primarily from al-Qaeda, due to simmering anger over the publication of the Mohammed cartoons and Denmark’s military engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The travel instructions were compiled in response to those threats and are based on cases of kidnapping of foreigners in the countries in question.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


England: September 13th, 2,000 Catholic Parishes Rallying Against Racism

All the Catholic parishes of England and Wales will join, on September 13th, in the Sunday of Racial Justice, to coincide this year with the 25th anniversary of Carj, the Catholic Association for Racial Justice. The topic chosen for the 2009 Sunday of Racial Justice is “Changing the face of Great Britain and Ireland” and means to show how to face the challenge that is thrown by racism which is still alive in many populations. To advertise their action, over 2,000 parishes have equipped themselves with posters, biblical publications, case-studies, reflections and even children’s materials. “Racism is a sin that divides us — states the bishop of Brighton, mgr. Kieran Conry —, racist ideologies and behaviours can have no place whatsoever in a civil society. From this perspective, for 25 years now Carj has been investing energies in fighting all forms of racism, by promoting laws and decrees against this plague that, despite everything

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


EU Countries Practice ‘Secret’ Diplomacy, Hamas Says

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — High-ranking officials from European countries hold talks with Hamas on a weekly basis despite an EU ban on diplomatic contact, a spokesman for the group has told EUobserver.

“We meet a lot of them from France, from Spain, from Germany, from Italy, from England, from Luxembourg. When they listen to us and we spend a couple of hours with them, they understand what is the real image of Hamas,” the group’s spokesman, Ghazi Hamad, told this website in a telephone interview on Saturday (12 September).

“None of them are ministers in their governments … some of them are ambassadors. Some are assistants to ambassadors,” he said. “Some of them are very close to the president of their country, or to the foreign minister.”

Any high-level European visits would go against the spirit of a 2006 EU decision to halt talks with the militant organisation. The EU in 2003 also listed Hamas as a terrorist entity, putting a legal block on financial assistance.

“I can’t give any names,” Mr Hamad said. “Most of them want to keep it a secret. They want to continue contact but they don’t want to be pestered by the Israeli authorities when they come.”

He referred to Germany’s work in negotiations on the release of Israeli hostage Gilad Shalit, revealed last month by Egypt, as an example of useful European intervention.

“The Germans have come as a mediator. They try to contribute, to help with their experience of prisoner exchanges. Everybody sees that these people have an important role,” Mr Hamad said.

Hamas sees the European Union as a more neutral party than the US in the Middle East peace process. But it is critical of the EU’s acceptance of a US “monopoly” on the talks. It is also aggrieved at what it sees as EU double standards in maintaining normal relations with Israel.

Keeping silent

“When I met [EU foreign relations chief] Mr Javier Solana in 2005, I told him: ‘Why do you put Hamas in the terrorist list and at the same time you say that the [Israeli] assassination policy is not legal, that building settlements is not legal, that building the wall in the West Bank is not legal? So why don’t you impose sanctions on Israel, or isolate Israel?’ He kept silent,” Mr Hamad said.

“The last war in Gaza should give a red light to the Europeans that this country is not normal. They killed 1,500 people in 20 days,” he added, in reference to Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in January. “Why did the EU keep silent on this? Many friends of mine were killed. Many friends. Innocent people, who have no connection to Hamas.”

Mr Hamad warned that if the EU revives a 2008 plan to upgrade diplomatic ties with Israel, it would damage links with Arab states.

“I think this would have very bad consequences on the relationship between Europeans and the Arabs and Muslims,” he said. “The EU must understand that Hamas is a big organisation now, a political player. Many countries in the Arabic and Muslim world respect Hamas.”

The EU has said it is willing to lift the 2006 diplomatic ban if Hamas accepts Israel’s right to exist and renounces violence.

But aside from the technical requirements, the EU and Israel portray Hamas as extremists who murder political opponents and who subscribe to a 1988 charter containing prophecies of an Islamic state and anti-Semitic language about Jewish plots to rule the world.

Under cover of war

A recent Human Rights Watch report said that masked gunmen went on a killing spree in Gaza during and after Operation Cast Lead.

The gunmen murdered 32 people, mostly suspected of collaborating with Israel, between 27 December and 31 March, the report said. Gunmen also inflicted bullet wounds on the legs of 49 people, mostly linked to the rival Palestinian group, Fatah, in January.

Mr Hamad admitted that “some people” broke Palestinian law. But he said that Hamas authorities have tried to curb internecine attacks.

“We made some mistakes. But this is not our policy. Our government is against all kinds of torture. We punished many people from the government, from Hamas itself,” he said.

The spokesman described the 1988 charter as an anachronism which is no longer politically relevant.

“Many changes have taken place in Hamas since 1988 and you have to take this into account. This [the charter] is not a reference for Hamas policy, especially in recent times,” he said. “Hamas today is more open, more pragmatic. We are not against Jewish people. We are not against Jews because they are Jewish. We are against the occupation.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


EU: Governance of Mediterranean, Aims and Proposals

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, SEPTEMBER 11 — With the objective of strengthening maritime governance of the Mediterranean, the European Commission has issued a communication to its 27 member states listing the goals to work towards, along with a first tranche of commitments. Europe’s seaboard dimensions are indicative: 70,000 km of coastline, of which almost 7,500 are in Italy, in which over 40% of Europe’s populations live and which produce more than 40% of its GDP. 60% of tourism in Europe is concentrated in its coastal area. As for its sea-going fleet, this represents 40% of the world total and its seas supply 40% of the oil and 60% of the gas consumed in Europe. Maritime policies also have an important occupational aspect: Italy is second only to Poland in the number of people employed in the sector. The objectives of the new strategy: — PLANNING OF THE MEDITERRANEAN MARITIME SPACE, to which end the EU Commision is setting up a study to be followed by a pilot project to promote transversal practices; — INTEGERATED MANAGEMENT OF COASTAL ZONES, to enact a more coherent approach. Brussels is to supply an online inventory of the best practices across the maritime basins to increase the ‘knowledge bases’ through the Seventh EU Framework Programme; — NEW RESEARCH DRIVES in inter-sector research; — INTEGRATED MARITIME SURVEILLANCE to increase security in the Mediterranean. A pilot project has already been launched to strengthen cooperation and information exchange between national authorities responsible for monitoring maritime surveillance. The European Commission proposes that: — the parties concerned and regional administrations should be encouraged to manage maritime affairs in a more integrated way, committing themselves in maritime governance activities; — a working group be created on integrated maritime policies to set up dialogue and exchange of best practices, e.g. with the support of EU funding for territorial cooperation; — technical assistance be made available within the frame work of the European neighbourhood and partnership programmes with third countries in the Mediterranean who are interested in taking up the new challenge; — the United Nations 1982 conventions on maritime rights be ratified and applied; — multilateral and inter-sector cooperation be stepped up through targeted studies; — the participation of non-EU countries of the Mediterranean with the Frontex Agency be encouraged via dialogue and financial assistance. Over recent years, this agency has stepped up its aid to EU countries affected by the great flows of irregular migrants. This is to go hand-in-hand with strengthened cooperation set up for combating the maritime narcotics trade. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


France’s Hardline Immigration Minister Eric Besson Calls for ‘Debased’ Burkha to be Banned

France’s hardline immigration minister has launched a fresh demand to ban the burkha — decribed by president Nicolas Sarkozy a sign of ‘subservience and debasement’.

Eric Besson said the Islamic full head and body covers were ‘unacceptable’ and not welcome in France.

His demand for a total ban comes after 58 French MPs called last June for a public inquiry on whether it should be illegal for women to hide their faces in public.

Mr Sazkozy backed the move, saying at the time: ‘This garment makes women prisoners and deprives them of their identity.

‘I say solemnly that they are not welcome on the territory of the French Republic.’ Women’s rights groups and left wing MPs went even further, describing the item as a ‘walking coffin’ and and a ‘mobile prison’.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


France: Federtrasporti, Carbon Tax Will Hit Road Traffic

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 11 — The carbon tax for next year announced yesterday by president Nicolas Sarkozy will cost the road cargo transport sector (cargo trucks and vehicles) about 1.1 billion euros. The president of the French federation of transport and logistics companies (TLF), Philippe Grillot, made the estimate. In an interview with the online edition of the Le Monde newspaper Grillot said that with the compensation measures announced by Sarkozy for some categories “penalized” by the new tax, the road transport sector would not recovery more than 350 million euros. The carbon tax (17 euros for every tonne of Co2) is part of a “punitive system”, said Grillot, pointing out that “it would be better to have an incentive system”, like for example junking the older, more polluting trucks. The TLF president believes the carbon tax risks “damaging the French operators” and “destroying jobs” because, “it’s not with the introduction of a tax that you can transfer the flow of cargo towards rail or maritime transport”. Also taking a stand against the new tax is Jean-Paul Deneuville, the general delegate of the National Federation of Road Transport (FNTR), who said in Le Monde that there would be a “fiscal pandemic” in the sector which will be under three level of taxation: the truck eco-tax, the carbon tax, and the fuel energy saving certificate”. A punishment the FNTR calls unjust in that “in the last 20 years the sector has reduced polluting gas emission by 80%”. The new environmental tax announced as a “revolution” by Sarkozy concerns the consumption of gas, oil and coal, but not electricity, which in France is in large part supplied by nuclear power stations. The tax will cause a .04-euro increase for every liter of gasoline and 4.5 for every litre of diesel. The 17-euro price is not a fixed price and is destined to increase in the coming years.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


France: Immigration Minister, Yes to No-Veil Law

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, SEPTEMBER 14 — French immigration minister Eric Besson said he was in favour of a law that would prohibit Muslim women from wearing a burqa in France. Speaking on the Europa 1 radio station, Besson defined the full covering as “insupportable”, “against the national identity, the principals of the Republic”, and in particular, “equality between men and women”. The yes to the prohibition against the burqa follows the no by Besson to another government measure regarding immigration, the DNA test for immigrant family members who ask to join their families in France. The ordinance, part of the immigration law voted in two years ago, will not be applied. “I will not sign the decree to apply it”, said the minister. “I already notified prime minister Francois Fillon. The fact is that they are not able, in the time limits imposed, to respect the spirit or the letter of the law. The consulates are not ready. And the palpable emotion the regulation provoked has harmed the image of France. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Germany: Deadly Beating in Munich Sparks Debate Ahead of Elections

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Cultural Enrichment?]

A deadly beating in broad daylight has sparked a new debate in Germany on the sensitive topics of public safety, civil courage and juvenile justice, shortly before national elections.

A tragic drama that took place over the weekend in Munich appears likely to become a campaign topic in upcoming parliamentary elections. It has fired up simmering debates over juvenile justice, as well as moral decay and civil courage in Germany.

On Saturday afternoon, Sept. 12, a businessman riding a local tram stepped in to protect a group of four young teenagers from three youths, 17 and 18 years old, who were harassing the youngsters for money.

The 50-year-old man called the police from his cell phone, and offered the four, ages 13 to 15, to accompany them off the tram at his end destination, the wealthy Munich neighborhood of Solln.

After they got off the tram, however, the older teens continued to harass the younger ones. The good Samaritan tried to intercede, and the two young men attacked him, punching and kicking him until he was unconscious on the tram platform. According to police, he died in the hospital a few hours later.

The attackers have been taken into custody, and prosecutors have said they will likely be charged with murder. The 18-year-old offender, who was drunk at the time of the crime, has a previous record of assault and battery, theft and extortionate theft.

The story has shocked Munich and the rest of the country, and immediately raised the specter of a similar attack in late 2007, when a retiree was nearly beaten to death by two youths in a subway station. That attack became a topic in the then-hotly-contested parliamentary election in the state of Hesse, with the focus on social decline and the fact that the attackers in that case had migrant backgrounds.

Crime, juvenile justice on election agenda

In contrast to the 2007 attack, however, the offenders in Saturday’s deadly beating are both Germans born in Munich, noted Munich prosecutor Laurent Lafleur. Still, the Christian Socialist Union, the Bavarian sister party to Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats, appears ready to make the case a campaign issue. They have used it to call for stricter juvenile sentencing and increased public video surveillance.

On Monday, Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer said the case should lead politicians to think about how to better combat crime, and that no subject should be considered taboo.

Meanwhile, Bavaria’s conservative Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann called for the maximum penalty for juveniles to be raised, from 10 to 15 years imprisonment. The state’s justice minister, Beate Merk, also of the CSU, said 18 to 21 year olds should be sentenced as adults. Currently in Germany, offenders that age can also be sentenced according to milder juvenile sentencing guidelines.

Horrible consequences for civil courage?

Conservative parliamentarian Peter Ramsauer also joined the debate. He accused Social Democrats of having blocked stricter juvenile sentencing rules and said the Social Democrats had failed “to do the least thing” to combat juvenile crime.

In response, a spokeswoman for Germany’s Minister of Justice, Brigitte Zypries, who is a Social Democrat, dismissed the CSU demands. Despite recent events there is no need to change the law since, indeed, judges can already sentence 18 to 21 year olds as adults, she pointed out.

And SPD lawmaker Dieter Wiefelspuetz complained to the Rheinische Post newspaper that the CSU had shown a “unique brand of irresponsiblity” by making policy recommendations just hours after such a horrible event.

Meanwhile, police are concerned that the case could mean that people who witness crimes or dangerous situations in the future will be afraid to speak out, with potentially damaging consequences for law enforcement and the overall social fabric.

The investigators in the case say they are worried about the signal sent on crime-prevention. The victim behaved exactly as he should have, police agreed: He got involved, wasn’t aggressive; and called the police — but he died anyway.

Police spokesman Wolfgang Wenger told AFP news service: “The worst thing that could happen is that the message that comes out of this is: ‘Don’t get involved.’ “


           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Germany: Two Terror Suspects Appear Before German Court

Two supposed al-Qaeda members were brought before a German court. They are accused of having provided money and weapons to the terrorist network.

The 31-year-old men, Omer O. and Sermet I., had a date at a regional appeals court in Koblenz on Monday, Sept. 14.

The men, from Sindelfingen near Stuttgart, are said to have been members of the Islamist terror group al-Qaeda since 2004 at the latest.

They are accused of providing money and equipment for terrorist camps. Omer O. is purported to have provided cash and materials, including bulletproof vests and a laptop, to al Qaeda in 2005 and 2006. Moreover, he is said to have recruited at least two potential fighters for the terror group from Germany.

Afghanistan training camp

In early 2006, prosecutors say, Omer O. spent time in a terrorist-training camp on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where he learned to use weapons. Likewise, Sermet I. is said to have brought money and fighting materials to al Qaeda.

The Koblenz court appearances are part of an ongoing case. In July, the court convicted German-Pakistani businessman Aleem N. for al Qaeda membership, and on eight counts of breaching German export laws. He was sentenced to eight years behind bars.

In July, prosecutors said Aleem N. supported al Qaeda for years, raising money, distributing propaganda material and recruiting new members. He was thought to be a key figure for the organization’s German operations.

Sauerland contacts

Aleem N. was first arrested in February of 2008, on allegations that he belonged to al Qaeda. Omer O. and Saleem I. are said to have worked for, and together with, Aleem N.

Aleem N. is also believed to have maintained contacts with two German converts to Islam arrested earlier this year along with a Turk on terrorism charges. The trio, picked up in the Sauerland region of Germany, are accused of making explosives intended for use against Americans living in Germany.

Al Qaeda was established in 1989 by Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. The West has been trying to destroy it since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


German Police Dawdle

German police refused to pass a passenger list to their Danish colleagues to prevent a kidnapping.

Police on the Danish island of Funen could possibly have stopped the kidnapping of four-year-old Adam from his mother — but German police refused to hand over an airline passenger list from Hamburg.

“I think we could have stopped him before he left if the Germans had helped with the necessary information. Now I’m afraid he’s got a lot further than our investigations,” Dept. Chief Superintendant Peder Anker tells Fyens Stiftstidende.

German border The young boy did not return to his mother after paternal visiting rights expired on Saturday. The man’s car was found at the Danish-German border at Padborg. According to eyewitnesses, the 31-year-old father, and his son Adam Alaa Hassan Moussa were last seen at Hamburg Airport.

“This bears all the marks of a kidnapping and that he has already left the country, as his mother contacted us at 5.25 p.m. on Saturday. We have issued a missing person’s report across the Schengen area and are now waiting for the passenger list from Hamburg,” says Duty Officer Per Sterobo.

Facebook The boy’s mother Helle Jensen and her friends have begun a group on Facebook to find her son and are asking for help from anyone who has seen or heard from Adam.

“A lot of Danes fly via Hamburg and I just hope someone has seen something so that I can get my son back,” Jensen, who has full parental custody over her son, tells B.T.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Harris Tweed Maker Drops ‘Scottish’ Marketing Over Lockerbie Release

The biggest manufacturer of Harris tweed has dropped the word “Scottish” from its marketing campaign in America amid fears of a consumer backlash over the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

Harris Tweed Hebrides said it had to “de-Scottishify” the product after receiving feedback that sales could suffer.

The company, whose chairman, Brian Wilson, a former government minister, believes it was a mistake to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, has removed references to Scotland and Scottish imagery from its promotional material.

Instead, the firm plans to use a neutral image of a model in a tweed frock coat reclining on a couch.

Mark Hogarth, the company’s creative director, said it had decided to focus on the brand’s island heritage rather than its Scottish credentials ahead of the launch of its fashion collection in New York next month.

He said that he was forced to rethink the marketing campaign because of the anti-Scottish backlash that followed the release of Megrahi, 57, who is terminally ill, last month.

“We are not going to promote ourselves as a Scottish company as we would previously have done,” said Mr Hogarth.

“From everyone we spoke to in the US, the feeling came back that a serious mistake had been made in releasing Megrahi.

“It really wasn’t seen as a British decision in the media there, but a Scottish one. While in Scotland and in the UK as a whole there may be a sense of ambivalence about Megrahi’s guilt, in the US they are very much as one.

“We have been getting a lot of feedback and we have had to de-Scottishify the image of the brand. If he had not been released we would not have altered anything.

“We had hoped to increase the proportion of our US sales to double digits within a year and then see double digit growth in the year after that, but that could be seriously affected. We are quite worried.”

Other manufacturers have also expressed concern about a possible boycott of Scottish goods.

Jim Walker, managing director of Walkers Shortbread, said his company had received e-mails and letters from American customers saying that they would no longer be buying its products.

“We just hope that people realise that this is a decision of the Scottish government and not the Scottish people,” he said. “The whole situation hasn’t done Scotland’s image on the world stage much good.”

William Glen & Son, the Callander-based retailer of whisky, kilts and shortbread, said customers had visited its store in San Francisco to ask for an explanation of the Scottish Executive’s decision to free the bomber.

[Return to headlines]


Ireland: Cóir Launches Heart Blitz as Image War Hots Up

POSTER CONTROVERSY: ANTI-LISBON group Cóir has begun another controversial poster campaign warning of serious consequences if the Lisbon Treaty is passed.

The group has produced a series of four pink, heart-shaped posters, containing provocative slogans such as “the EU loves low wages” and “Kiss your freedom goodbye”.

One of the posters displays the message “We love our Constitution, Vote No” while another claims “Politicians love the gravy train”.

The group’s initial campaign posters, which included a claim that the minimum wage would drop as low as €1.84 if the treaty were passed, have been labelled as “cynical” and “disingenuous” by Yes campaigners.

However, Cóir spokesman Richard Greene said: “We’ve got a huge response to our first series of posters.

“So much so that Cóir’s campaign website is now the most popular Irish website on Lisbon.

“We’re expecting these pink hearts to build on that.

“The colour and appearance of our second wave of posters will get a lot of attention, and they are delivering an effective, hard-hitting message,” he said

Mr Greene said postering was a vital part of any successful political campaign and that Cóir, with only a fraction of the budget of the Yes campaign, had succeeded “in raising crucially important issues by designing relevant posters and getting them up on poles ahead of the competition”.

He said that 4,000 of the new posters would be erected in the coming days, and that a third series of posters was also planned later in the campaign.

Several prominent Yes groups and campaigners have denied responsibility for a series of anti-Cóir posters, depicting a monkey holding a placard emblazoned with the words “No to Nuts”, and including the message “Are Cóir driving you nuts, Vote Yes to Lisbon”.

The posters, which were erected along several of the capital’s busiest thoroughfares last week, have been taken down by Dublin City Council.

Mr Greene declined to speculate as to who was behind the posters but said he believed they represented “a huge own goal for the Yes side” as they were deeply offensive to people who suffered from psychiatric illness.

He said he was concerned that Cóir posters were being taken down illegally across the country, especially in Dublin and Cork, and that the group had made a formal complaint to the Garda.

Cóir said it was planning to spend about €250,000 on some 11,000 posters and up to one million leaflets.

[Return to headlines]


Italy: “No More Dynasty Jibes. Fininvest Companies Deserve More Respect”

Marina Berlusconi calls for end to gossip

She has said nothing in recent months, except when Dario Franceschini called Silvio Berlusconi a bad father. On that occasion, Marina Berlusconi and her siblings made their annoyance clear. Now, Ms Berlusconi is in the Milan office from where she runs the Fininvest empire, flicking through the group’s press cuttings in these past difficult months when private life, social events and politics became inextricably tangled. “Look at this. The papers have been on our case for months, treating our companies like so many trophies to be shared”. The rant starts here but it goes much further. She sidesteps the first, mandatory question.

In the past few months the papers have been full of talk about divorce, the Berlusconi dynasty…

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Women Deny Claims They Had Sex With Berlusconi

Rome, 10 Sept. (AKI) — A day after allegations that Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi allegedly entertained more than 30 women at more than 18 parties, several women on Thursday strongly denied having had sexual relations with the country’s leader. Giampaolo Tarantini, a Bari businessman under investigation for abetting prostitution has admitted inviting more than 30 women — many of them escorts — to attend parties organised by the prime minister.

Tarantini has told prosecutors that many of the women were paid 1,000 euros for “sexual services”, while others were “just paid expenses” at the parties.

Showgirl Barbara Guerra, one of the women who attended the parties said she was shocked by the claims and denied ever having sex with the 72-year-old Italian leader.

“I have never had sex with Berlusconi. My father is 50 years-old and a man of this age would make me sick, let alone Berlusconi, I could not go to bed with my grandfather,” said Guerra, in an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

Tarantini said he arranged for Guerra and escort Ioana Visan to travel to Rome for a party at Berlusconi’s Rome residence on 8 October 2008.

Guerra, who has appeared in the reality show Fattoria 4 aired on one of Berlusconi’s television channels, was in tears as she denied claims that she had a sexual encounter with the prime minister.

“This is absurd, it is a nightmare. I am not an escort and I have never taken money from Tarantini,” said 30-year-old Guerra.

The showgirl was worried that this would be the end of her career as a TV star and she would lose two television contracts.

When asked about whether Berlusconi helped her with her TV career, Guerra said she did it by herself and did not have any help from Berlusconi.

“In Italy, everyone knows that a ‘leg-up’ is needed, and if he decided in the future to help me out, I would say thank you.”

However, Guerra admitted that she met Tarantini at a party held at Berlusconi’s Rome residence, Palazzo Grazioli.

Another woman named by Tarantini was Carolina Marconi, a 30 year-old, Venezuelan-born TV star, who also denied having had sex with Berlusconi.

“If you would like to know my relationship with the premier, I do not call him ‘papi’. Above all because he is an old man…and just to clarify, I never went to bed with him,” said Marconi.

Another of the women allegedly implicated in the scandal is Visan, who said she would not make any statements until she spoke to her lawyer.

Meanwhile, the offices of Italian daily Corriere del Mezzogiorno, a subsidiary of the larger Corriere della Sera were reportedly searched by authorities after the latest allegations were published on Wednesday.

Head of the Bari investigation, Giuseppe Scelsi, accompanied by Italian tax police asked the journalists and the deputy editor for proof of what they had published.

Tarantini told public prosecutors that many of the women were paid 1,000 euros for “sexual services”, while others were “just paid expenses” at 18 parties.

The Bari businessman revealed that he had an ambition to get acquainted with the prime minister and win his trust. He said he wanted to use women and cocaine to penetrate Italy’s public administration and gain success.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Milk: French Producers Want European Strike Immediately

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, SEPTEMBER 10 — Some French milk producers have launched the appeal, together with their European colleagues for a strike “starting tonight” to protest, after over a year of crisis in the sector, collapsing milk prices and the deregulation of the market wanted by Brussels. “I am making the appeal to all French and European milk producers to suspend their deliveries staring tonight”, declared Pascal Massol, president of the Association of independent Milk Producers, and French member of the European Milk Board (EMB). The EMB, whose national and regional leaders are currently meeting in Paris, gathers 100,000 milk producers across 14 European countries (including Italy). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Neo Nazis Working With Islamists….

Well, this is quite the coalition…

Alongside the internationally better known National-Democratic Party of Germany or “NPD,” the German People’s Union (DVU) is one of the two main German political parties of the so-called “extreme Right.” As discussed in my earlier PJM report here, in German usage this expression is, in effect, just a euphemism for neo-Nazi currents and organizations. Both the NPD and the DVU are officially classified as “right-wing extremist” organizations by Germany’s domestic intelligence service, the so-called Office for the Protection of the Constitution or “Verfassungsschutz.” A statement published by the DVU on Wednesday, however, makes clear just how misleading it is to describe Germany’s contemporary Nazi groups as “right-wing.”

The topic of the DVU statement [German link] is the “Al-Quds Day” demonstration that was held on Saturday in Berlin. The statement reads as follows…

           — Hat tip: CB[Return to headlines]


Netherlands: Knowledge of War is Fading, Says Anne Frank Director

Hans Westra is resigning as director of the Anne Frank Foundation after 27 years during which he turned the activist group that manages the Anne Frank house into a professional organisation. “The story needs to be told and told again.”

Hans Westra (64) has announced he will resign as the director of the Anne Frank Foundation next year. He has worked for the foundation that operates the Achterhuis, the Amsterdam canal house where Anne Frank hid from the Nazis, for 35 years, 27 of which as its director. “You shouldn’t exceed your own expiration date,” Westra said in an interview in his office.

From there Westra can see the hiding places where the Frank family lived from 1942 until it was found and deported in 1944, and the yard with the famous tree that is now supported with poles. The rotting chestnut tree Anne wrote about in her diary made headlines two years ago when a court-case prevented it from being felled.

But despite international media attention for the fate of a tree, Westra has noticed it has become harder to get the story of Anne across. Young people don’t grow up knowing the context of the Second World War, because the generation that has lived through it is disappearing. And because immigrant children don’t have the historic connection with the war. “We have to be more active in schools. That’s why we’re doing a project where Turkish and Moroccan children become tour guides. That really works, but we have to keep feeding it,” Westra said.

Puting Anne first

His current activities as director are far removed from what the Anne Frank Foundation focused on when it was founded in 1957 as a “wild lefty action group”, in Westra’s words. He has turned it into a professional organisation that puts the Anne Frank House and “Anne herself” first.

In the 1970s and 80s the foundation was active on different fronts. It spread condoms and pro-abortion leaflets and its members stood front row in all sorts of demonstrations. “We protested against nuclear bombs, against Janmaat [a nationalist politician who spoke out against immigrants]. In those years we were the resistance against all evil, so to speak.”

Westra remembers how the museum and the foundation were really very different entities. “Americans lined up to see where Anne had lived, we got 200,000 visitors per year.” But that was not something the foundation was particularly interested in. “We didn’t care, but it brought in the money.”

When he became the director in 1983 his protesting days were over. “I put the museum first, and I became opposed to politicising Anne. In 1984 agriculture minister Ad Ploeg called us a ‘crypto-communist organisation’. That got us thinking about what we were doing.”

Trauma on society

And the audience changed as well. “In the 1950s the Americans appropriated Anne Frank. A large number of our visitors are still from there, but we see more Dutch people and other Europeans now. Because of the big trauma on society the Second World War caused, it took years before people who had survived the camps for example were able to deal with the confrontation of other people’s stories.”

Having been born in 1945 Westra grew up in a non-Jewish house where the war was not talked about.

“After founding the foundation Otto Frank [Anne’s father, the only one of the family who survived the war] said he did not want it to be a Jewish foundation. We have always had prominent Jewish members on our board, but I agree with Otto: it is about the confrontation with the story and that story is for everybody.”

Westra did run into problems with the Anne Frank Fund, which was founded by Otto Frank in Basel. “That fund manages the diary texts — until 2016 that is, when the copyright expires,” he said. “In the 80s they took us to court after we claimed the name Anne Frank. We won that case. The fund wanted to own the brand and said we planned to use it to sell jeans and teacups with her name on it. When all we wanted was to protect the name. Anne Frank is the most famous face of the Holocaust, so we must make sure that her name is not used for commercial purposes.”

Disney movie

Westra said he wants to prevent Anne Frank’s image from debasing. “Otto himself was more pragmatic about that. In the 50s he agreed to an American theatre production that portrayed Anne as a happy American girl and only touched on the Holocaust. And Disney is making a movie about her now.”

But can Anne interest future generations? “That will be the great challenge for my successor,” Westra said. “The story needs to be told and told again to fight discrimination, racism and anti-semitism. I think more than half of the population of Amsterdam now doesn’t know what happened in the war.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Police: Pakistan Suspect is Swede Once at Gitmo

A terror suspect recently detained in Pakistan is the same Swedish national once held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay, police said Monday. He and others in his group were allegedly trying to join al-Qaida in the country’s lawless tribal areas.

The development appeared to underscore the difficulty with predicting the path Guantanamo detainees will take upon their release, with the Pentagon having acknowledged that a small but notable percentage of one-time inmates have joined, or rejoined, militant groups.

Dera Ghazi Khan police chief Mohammad Rizwan told The Associated Press that authorities made the identification after interrogating the man, Mehdi-Muhammed Ghezali. A copy of his Swedish passport obtained by the AP showed that his face matched that of previously published photos of the man held at Guantanamo.

“I do confirm that he is the same person. He is a very dangerous man,” Rizwan said.

Ghezali was arrested on the outskirts of Dera Ghazi Khan, a southern Pakistani town, on Aug. 28 along with a group of foreigners including seven Turks and three other Swedes who lacked proper immigration stamps.

A Swedish man with the same name was arrested in Pakistan in 2001 and held for two years at Guantanamo. The U.S. released him in 2004.

Ghezali — born in Sweden to a Finnish mother and Algerian father — was reportedly part of a group of 156 suspected al-Qaida fighters arrested in 2001 by Pakistani authorities while fleeing Afghanistan’s Tora Bora mountains. He has denied ties to al-Qaida and said he was in the region only to learn more about Islam.

He is believed to be about 30 years old now.

The other Swedes arrested were identified as Munir Awad and Safia Benaouda and a young boy who was apparently their son, according to a police report obtained by the AP through the Interior Ministry.

Benaouda and Awad are the same names of two people who also have been in the news before.

A Swede named Safia Benaouda, then 17 years old, was held by Ethiopian authorities after being taken into custody along the Somali-Kenyan border in 2007. She told a Swedish newspaper that she was interrogated for weeks by white foreigners and asked about extremism in Sweden. A man named Munir Awad was identified as her fiance.

The Benaouda who was held in Ethiopia is the daughter of Helena Benaouda, chairwoman of the Swedish Muslim Council.

In Sweden, where the arrests have made headlines, Helena Benaouda told the tabloid Expressen over the weekend that she had not been able to reach her daughter, whom she thought was in Saudi Arabia.

“She is supposed to be in Mecca to celebrate Ramadan. But now I haven’t been able to reach her by telephone and as a mother and grandmother I am now very worried,” she was quoted as saying. “If it turns out that this is my daughter I will obviously seek an explanation to this.”

The police report obtained by the AP says the detained group had entered Pakistan from Iran and had planned to travel to North Waziristan, a lawless, militant-riddled tribal area along the Afghan border, to join al-Qaida operatives hiding there.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry declined to offer immediate comment on Monday, though Sweden has confirmed that three of its citizens were arrested in August by Pakistani police.

Swedish lawyer Peter Althin, who represented Ghezali and his family during his time in Guantanamo, said Ghezali’s father had once again asked him to represent his son if the identification pans out.

“My assignment will be the same as last time. I will assist the family with contacts with the foreign ministry and make sure that he is either released or given a trial and a legal representative in Pakistan,” he told AP. “The important thing is that he is given a lawyer and a chance to defend himself in a fair way.”

The Pentagon said it was working on issuing a comment.

In May, the Pentagon said 5 percent of Guantanamo Bay detainees were believed to have participated in terrorist activities since their release and an additional 9 percent are believed to have joined — or rejoined — the fight against the U.S. and its allies.

The Defense Department said 74 of approximately 540 detainees who had been released at that point had taken up the fight, or were suspected of doing so.

The Pentagon said it had fingerprints, DNA, photos or reliable intelligence to link 27 detainees to the fight since their release.

The other 47 detainees were believed to be involved with terrorist activity because of what the Pentagon described as significant reporting or analysis, or unverified but plausible information from a single source.

           — Hat tip: LN[Return to headlines]


Portuguese MPs Most Active in Monitoring EU Law

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — The Portuguese parliament has been by far the most active in commenting on legislative proposals coming out of Brussels, while the parliament of its Iberian neighbour, Spain, has not sent a single remark to the EU capital since the process was put into place in 2006.

The latest figures from the European Commission, obtained by EUobserver, show that Portuguese MPs have sent 102 comments on draft EU laws and position papers over the past three years — a fifth of the total 505 comments seen from all 27 member states.

The next busiest were the French Senate, with 58 submissions since 2006, the German upper house (48), the Swedish parliament (44) and the British House of Lords (39).

The most active of the former Communist states that joined the EU in 2004 is the Czech Republic, whose senate has submitted 41 remarks.

At the other end of the scale, the parliaments of Spain, Malta and Romania have sent no comments to Brussels. Assemblies in a total of 15 member states have made 10 or less remarks since 2006.

Introduced exactly three years ago, the comment scheme sees the European Commission send its legislative proposals and consultation papers directly to national parliaments when they are published.

The move was supposed to bridge the gap between Brussels and EU citizens, with parliaments asked to look in particular into whether the European Commission really was the best level at which to act (the subsidiarity principle) and whether it was acting proportionately.

Past proposals attracting attention from parliaments — who also sometimes just comment to say they approve of a plan — include a law regulating divorce in different countries and one on liberalising postal services.

National deputies’ opinions are then “duly considered” by the commission, but it is not obliged to change its proposals.

Looking to the Lisbon Treaty

The underwhelming response does not bode well for the slightly more powerful mechanism contained in the EU’s proposed new set of rules, the Lisbon Treaty.

Under the treaty, yet to be ratified in all EU states, the commission must review — although not necessarily withdraw — a proposal if at least one third of national parliaments (nine) claims it breaches the subsidiarity principle.

If a simple majority of parliaments continue to object to the proposal, but the commission maintains the draft as it is, then member states and the European Parliament have to decide if they agree or not with the national objections.

The proper functioning of this article, hailed at the time as a big step toward involving national parliaments in EU decision-making, depends on MPs in the various member states forming a position within the eight-week deadline and galvanising other assemblies to act.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Spain: ETA Under Siege Changes Pyrenees for Alps

(by Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — MADRID, SEPTEMBER 7 — ETA, under siege from fierce judicial and police pressure, has left the Pyrenees for the Alps, and has moved its hideouts close to the borders of Italy and Switzerland. The discovery of weapons and explosives in the French Alps confirms this. Fears that the Basque separatist organisation has found refuge in Switzerland and is using the territory were expressed by one of the heads of the Swiss Green party. ETA seems to have transferred its illegal bases from northern Spain the northern France. The capture on August 19 of three of the organisation’s members, Aitzol Etxeburu, Alberto Machain and Andoni Sarasola, in the ski resort of Le Corbier-Villaremembert in the Alps, on the border of Italy and Switzerland, confirmed theories by French and Spanish anti-terrorism investigators. In recent months the hideout of Josu Ternera, believed to the be military leader of ETA, was discovered in the same area. The three suspected terrorists, who were posing as tourists, were using their cover in order to replenish their ‘zulos’, the mountain hideouts where explosives and weapons used in attacks are hidden. Of the latest 14 ‘zulos’ found in the last two weeks, one was in Grenoble, far from the French-Basque country — and recently the territory favoured by illegal operations — 11 were between Tosoa and Montpellier. The organisation spread weapons and hideouts over a wide territory in order to carry out attacks and show that they are alive and still strong, despite the offensive by the judiciary and the police, and the ever-increasing social isolation in Spain and France. At least two groups are active: one is responsible for the attack on the Guardia Civil army base in Burgos (66 injured), the other carried out the explosions in Majorca in August which killed two Guardia Civil. According to El Mundo, the military-logistical shift corresponds to a political strategy, with the creation, by the outlawed Batasuna formation, of a ‘lobby in Switzerland’ with the aim of finding a place outside the EU which would allow ETA to create new support networks for the Basque pro-independence movement. This is confirmed by a report on Switzerland’s interior security by the Federal Police office, relating to 2005 and cited in an article in Swiss newspaper Le Temps, signed by the Director of the Greens, Noël Pedreira. The attempt to set up a lobby with several Swiss parliamentarians would allow Batasuna to be in some way legitimised and to use the Swiss territory “as a rearguard for its own activities”, as it did in the past with France. For this reason a deputy from the Swiss Labour Party Josep Zisyadis, has announced the creation in the Swiss Parliament of a “friendship group with the Basque people”, co-presided by Zizyadis, ecologist Daniel Vischery and socialist Carlo Sommaruga. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Study to Assess Values of Swedish Police Cadets

The attitudes and values of Swedish police cadets are to be assessed before and after they complete their training, following a number of noteworthy racist comments by police in recent months.

The evaluations will be carried out as part of a Nordic research project which includes the participation of Sweden’s three police training academies, the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper reports.

Around 300 students who have just begun their training will participate in a preliminary study in order to test the questions which will be asked.

The larger study is due to start during the autumn term of 2010.

The research project comes following a number of incidents in the past year which appeared to reveal a certain level of racial insensitivity within the Swedish police force.

In February, three Malmö police officers were reassigned for calling young people in the predominantly immigrant district of Rosengård “blattajävlar”, an ethnic slur which translates roughly into “damn coloured people” or “damn immigrants”.

A short time later, it was revealed that a police training course in Skåne in southern Sweden included names such as “Neger Niggersson” and “Oskar Neger” (Negro).

More recently, a commander from Landskrona in southern Sweden is at risk for a reprimand after she described a suspect as a “neger”.

And an investigation has been launched into an incident in which a Stockholm police officer is reported to have said, “It’s nice to have a chance to smack a negro” in connection with the carrying out of a deportation order against an African man, reports SvD.

“You get equally upset and saddened every time these sort of things happen. We can’t do more than work toward our goal of zero-tolerance,” Marina Rydholm, head of human resources with the National Police Board (Rikspolisstyrelsen), told the newspaper.

All cadets who enter police training programmes in Solna near Stockholm, Umeå in northern Sweden, and Växjö in south central Sweden, will participate.

Police students from Oslo in Norway as well as from Tampere, Finland will also be included in the study.

“We want to see what it is they are after, their backgrounds, views of the profession, how they view society’s basic values, and how those develop over time,” Harriet Jakobsson Öhrn, the head of operational development at the Solna police academy and member of the study’s steering committee, told SvD.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Trade: Ikea Will Double Its Presence in Italy

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 11 — IKEA, the Swedish furniture giant, is planning to double its presence on the Italian market. Italy is the fifth largest market for the multinational, which establishes its presence with 15 megastores. To bring to life the plan of doubling its stores in Italy, the company will require a 980 million euros investment. The sales trend in Italy has been positive, even though it was affected by the international economic crisi. Over the next six months, IKEA will open three new stores. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


UK: ‘Thanks, You Little F*****’: Family Horrified After Restaurant Bill Makes Clear What Waiters Thought of Molly, Two

Most parents have experienced their young children getting restless when waiting for a meal in a restaurant.

But not many get the bill at the end of it with a message describing their offspring as a ‘little f*****’.

This is what happened to parents Craig and Kimberley Cartin at a Mexican restaurant in Halifax, West Yorkshire, where they received the receipt which had ‘Thankyyou littell f*****’ written on it.

Visiting the brand new eaterie, called Cactus Joe’s, on its opening weekend the family had already been frustrated by slow service and poor food, which caused hungry two-year-old Molly to complain.

The couple believe her mild protests triggered the shocking comment — despite being seated in the advertised ‘kids’ zone’.

Fuming Craig, a 34-year-old administrator, said: ‘I couldn’t believe my eyes. The meal was indifferent anyway but to be abused on the bill is unbelievably offensive.

‘I consider myself a fairly easy-going guy but this was too much, it’s awful behaviour.

‘Molly was a bit grumbly, a bit moany, but her behaviour certainly wasn’t terrible — so this was just uncalled for. Presumably they meant to delete it before printing but it’s still no excuse.’

Kimberley, 25, who was also with one-year-old daughter Megan at the time, described how the family had to wait a long time for their meal and then the offensive bill.

She said: ‘It was really quiet when we were in there.

‘But somehow they still managed to take that long to serve us and after about 20 minutes, Molly started to get restless and a bit impatient.

‘She wanted to get up and walk around but we wouldn’t let her so she had a little tantrum.

‘When we asked for the bill there was another long wait so I went up to pay at the counter and that is when I saw the swear word on the bill.

‘I couldn’t believe it. The woman looked really embarrassed and the manager apologised but I could still see people whispering and sniggering.

‘It’s out of order.’

Restaurant owner Steve Ryan apologised for the message and said the member of staff responsible, believed to be a 29-year-old manageress, had been sacked.

He said: ‘This was absolutely inexcusable and it won’t be tolerated. The person involved has been sacked and I am planning on consulting my lawyers to see if I can take further action against her.

‘I have visited the customer involved and invited him to be our guest this weekend. We offer unreserved apologies.’

The incident rounds off a torrid first fortnight for the restaurant.

After opening on August 28 it had to close again just days later because the gas supply was inadequate causing dozens of cancellations.

Kimberley said she and Craig turned down the restaurant’s offer to be their guest.

[Return to headlines]


UK: Airline Plot Trio Get Life Terms

Three men who plotted to blow up liquid bombs on flights from the UK to North America have been jailed for life, with minimum terms of up to 40 years.

Ringleader Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28, was jailed for at least 40 years.

Plot “quartermaster” Assad Sarwar, 29, must serve at least 36 years, while Tanvir Hussain, 28, was jailed for at least 32 years at Woolwich Crown Court.

Their aim was a terrorist outrage to “stand alongside” the 9/11 attacks on the US in history, the judge said.

Mr Justice Henriques called the plot “the most grave and wicked conspiracy ever proven within this jurisdiction”.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said the sentences “reflected the severity of this horrendous plot to kill and maim thousands of people”.

“I’m very pleased the jury gave a sentence that was proportionate to this potential crime,” he said.

“Our police and our national security service is a national asset, they’ve proven that again today.”

The trial heard that at the time of his arrest, Ahmed Ali, of Walthamstow, east London, had identified seven US and Canada-bound flights that were to be attacked within a two-and-a-half-hour period.

“I’m satisfied that there is every likelihood that this plot would have succeeded but for the intervention of the police and the security service,” he said.

“Had this conspiracy not been interrupted, a massive loss of life would almost certainly have resulted — and if the detonation was over land, the number of victims would have been even greater still.”

The judge said that the plot had “reached an advanced stage in its development”, with the men in possession of enough chemicals to produce 20 detonators.

The flights due to be targeted were from London’s Heathrow airport to San Francisco, Washington, New York, Chicago, Toronto and Montreal.

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


UK: Government’s Secret Deal With Gaddafi Saved Killer of WPC Yvonne Fletcher From UK Trial

The family of murdered PC Yvonne Fletcher were horrified yesterday to learn that a secret deal had been struck with Libya making it impossible to bring her killer to justice in the UK.

In a further favour for the Gaddafi regime, the Foreign Office agreed to drop its demands to try the man who gunned her down outside the Libyan Embassy in London in 1984.

The deal was signed off by Justice Secretary Jack Straw three years ago, when he was Foreign Secretary and Britain was negotiating trade and oil deals with Tripoli.

A year later, Mr Straw also agreed to include the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al Megrahi in a prisoner transfer agreement to preserve a lucrative oil contract between BP and Libya.

Details of the secret deal led to claims that the Government is letting the Libyans ‘get away with murder’.

Ministers stand accused of misleading the family of PC Fletcher, who have campaigned for 25 years to have her killer handed over for trial in Britain.

Her mother Queenie said yesterday that she had not been told about a deal. ‘They should have informed us. We were never told they’d agreed to this. No, never.’

Tory Daniel Kawczynski, who chairs the all-party group on Libya, said Foreign Secretary David Miliband had failed to come clean about the deal when the MP accompanied the Fletcher family to discuss the murder investigation last week.

And Peter Smyth, chairman of the 30,000-strong Metropolitan Police Federation, contrasted the government’s attitude to PC Fletcher’s killer with the willingness of ministers to extradite Asperger’s sufferer Gary McKinnon to face trial for computer hacking in the U.S.

Officers attempt first aid on W.P.C. Yvonne Fletcher as she lies mortally wounded on the pavement outside the Libyan Peoples Bureau.

‘I can’t think of a more coldblooded murder than that of PC Fletcher,’ he said. ‘We are letting the Libyans get away with murder. Where is the justice in that? Frankly, it smacks of corruption.

‘Over the past three years, the Government has allowed her family to build up their hopes that her killer might be brought to justice, when all along there had been a backroom deal which made this highly unlikely.’

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


UK: Government Accused of Secret Deal With Libya on Murder of British Policewoman

The Government has been accused of securing a secret deal with Libya that ensured the killer of a British policewoman will never be brought to justice in Britain.

The Foreign Office has been forced to refute allegations that it agreed Britain would never attempt to try the murderer of WPC Yvonne Fletcher, who was shot outside the Libyan embassy in London 25 years ago.

However, Anthony Layden, Britain’s former ambassador to Libya, has said that he signed an agreement with the Libyan government in 2006, when Jack Straw was the foreign secretary and Britain was in the midst of negotiating trade deals with Libya worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

The deal is said to have followed a visit by Tony Blair, then prime minister, to meet the Libyan leader Colonel Gadaffi in March 2004 after he announced that Libya was ending its nuclear weapons programme.

The Sunday Times said the deal was completed in an exchange of ambassadors’ letters in 2006.

Queenie Fletcher, WPC Fletcher’s mother, has said that she was not told about a deal. “They should have informed us,” she said. “We were never told they’d agreed to this. No, never.”

WPC’s sister, Heather, said that the family had been aware that any trial would likely have taken place in Libya.

A Foreign Office spokesman, said: “It is entirely misleading and simply wrong to suggest that there was a ‘secret deal’ over the treatment of any suspect in relation to the murder of Yvonne Fletcher.

“The two ambassadors exchanged letters which underlined the position as it stood at the time — prior to 2008, Libyan law did not allow for extradition for trial in other countries. So a trial in Libya was the only outcome that would reflect our determination to see justice done.

“It is vital that the investigation is allowed to resume. The Fletcher family deserves answers. We continue to make every effort to press the Libyan Government to allow Metropolitan Police Service to visit. The Prime Minister personally raised this with Gadaffi in their meeting in July.

“The FCO and the Fletcher family are in regular contact. Our shared priority is to get the Metropolitan Police back into Libya to complete the investigation. The Foreign Secretary met a member of WPC Fletcher’s family on 10 September 2009 to take stock of progress towards this aim.”

“The Fletcher family know all this and have not considered it to be a big issue.”

The disclosure of the alleged deal will spark fresh criticism of the government, following the row over the early release of Abdelbaset Ali-Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, whose health was this weekend said to be deteriorating.

Daniel Kawczynski, a Conservative MP who met David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, last week with a member of the Fletcher family to discuss the police investigation into the murder, said that Mr Miliband had not mentioned a deal with Libya.

He said: “None of this was mentioned. I think they deliberately misled us. I find it extraordinary that the Foreign Office have tried to mislead myself and the Fletcher family.”

The Libyans have reluctantly co-operated with Scotland Yard detectives investigating the murder.

They have now suspended any assistance pending their own questioning of David Shayler, a former MI5 officer, who claimed there was a British-backed plot to kill Gadaffi.

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


UK: Look, Vulnerable People! Quick Draft a Daft Law

Have the architects of the cockamamie child vetting scheme actually met a child? Their lack of realism suggests not

It is not difficult to elicit howls of rage from libertarians over vetting, databases and state nannying. Matthew Parris’s magnificent denunciation in these pages of the new Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) and its vast powers to screw up youth groups with compulsory certificates of innocence and £5,000 fines was only the first fleck of the weekend’s foaming outrage. Nor is it difficult to get John Humphrys’ dander up by confronting him at dawn with a moronically droning civil servant repeating empty formulas about “our children”.

However, when the chorus of outrage is joined by Esther Rantzen (“We have to be sensible and I don’t think we are”), the NSPCC (“We are getting a bit too close to the line”), and the President of the Royal College of Paediatrics (“A real danger”), then government faces a perfect storm. By the time you read this Gordon Brown may well have shuffled backwards into consultation and delay, at least until election day.

The critics are quite right. It’s a stupid, excessive scheme, and its big sister the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) has little to be proud of either. But the criticisms so far have focused on intrusiveness, the insult to all adults, the barrier of fear between generations, the appalling fact that this organisation can use hearsay and unproven allegations, and the obvious point that most child abuse takes place in the home — so the cost of the ISA (£77 million set-up, plus £40 million a year) would be better spent improving social work.

All true. But what puzzles me most about this cockamamie scheme, and many others devised by supposedly intelligent human beings in government, is the extraordinary lack of daily realism. It is as if the word “vulnerable” has a mystical power to suspend all reason. As soon as any group is named vulnerable, no law is deemed too daft. Employment law now states that if you’re not gay, but think that your boss might think you are and dislike you for it, then even if the said boss has never in fact given it a thought and merely resents your idling, you — not he — are in the right. Persecution mania trumps everything: the law now defines racism, disability discrimination and religious insult as anything “perceived” to be such by the victim “or any other person”. It is a paranoid’s and busybody’s charter.

The latest category of vulnerable victims, we learnt on Saturday, is the otherwise healthy, but determined, binge boozer. Despite clear laws against being drunk and disorderly in a public place, the lurching drunk must now, under guidelines issued to the weary 3am copper, be treated as a person “in need of medical assistance”, rather than being shoved in a cell to sleep it off — under half-hourly supervision — and face charges in the morning.

But to return to the ISA, the new vetting-and-barring authority. One of the weirdest aspects of it, as of the CRB, passes unremarked. When droning bureaucrats and drippy ministers wave tiny shrouds and prate about keeping “our children” safe from snatchers and groomers, what do you visualise? Toddlers? Madeleine McCann? Small girls like Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, bright-faced lads in the under-10 football team? You perhaps forget that a child is legally defined (under the UN Convention) as “any person who is under the age of 18 years”. You can have spent nearly two years earning, married, imprisoned, serving in the Forces or sailing round the world alone and still anybody having contact with you must be vetted, because you are so very Vulnerable.

Once you pass 18 you are on your own. Unless you join another “vulnerable” group. The definition of the v-word, in which condition we must meet only people with government certificates of non- wickedness, is alarmingly loose. Not only the extremely frail, demented or seriously ill are included but anybody who “misuses drugs and/or alcohol” or has “emotional problems”. Gosh. I was very emotional all last week after an extremely sad funeral and I may well have misused some whisky. Yet I cannot be sure that the parcel man who had “contact” with me at the door carried a certificate to prove he would not cause me emotional (“or developmental”) harm while I signed his chit.

OK, I stretch it to the absurd: go back to the solid, worrying matter of the ISA and children. Anyone who has actually met a child might notice that their capacities change with time. The architects of the scheme do not. There is an obvious case for taking close care about who has power over very small children, too young to be warned against sexual dodginess or told that they can safely report to a trusted carer anything that makes them uncomfortable. There is, equally, a need to exclude provenly violent or coercive criminals from getting even biggish teenagers alone in a car or tent. The CRB is meant to do that (even so, it made 1,500 serious errors last year). But as children grow into reasonableness, their safety is best promoted by frankness: by teachers, doctors and mentors who talk straight and listen properly, and by decent street lighting and beat policing. Not by excluding them from ever meeting anyone without a certificate.

None of that growing-up process is reflected in the new regime. Nothing suggests that Philip Pullman reading a story to a class of Year 7s, or a willing mum helping to shepherd GCSE trips to the Natural History Museum, presents less of a peril than handing babies over to an unchecked playgroup volunteer. It assumes that teaching navigation to 30 hulking sea cadets in a Portakabin offers precisely the same opportunity for wickedness as giving a lone three-year-old a lift in your car. Admittedly, if the new rules had set an age limit of say, 12 years old, there would have been a case in the Daily Mail the following week of an evil volunteer driver grabbing a particularly traumatisable 13-year-old footballer’s thigh instead of the gearshift. But hard cases make bad law.

One other thing baffles me. How can it be healthy to keep shovelling off the responsibility of professionals on to layer upon layer of distant agencies? If there were no ISA, or indeed Criminal Records Bureau, it would be incumbent on schools and groups to check several references properly and personally, to exert strong canny judgment and to keep a close eye on their staff, paid and unpaid. But ask anyone in the sector: these days they hardly do.

It’s all in the paperwork. No time to look up.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


UK: Parents Protest at Ofsted Inspections for Children Taught at Home

Thousands of parents are prepared to go to court over plans to limit home schooling, The Times has learnt.

Parents whose children are educated at home do not have to register with their local authority and are not inspected. But proposals being considered by the Government would change this and threaten parents’ ability to choose the curriculum for their children, campaigners say.

“We have a lot of problems with inspectors because they know schools and that model of education isn’t very useful when you are teaching a small number of children,” said Leslie Barson, who is organising a demonstration this week against the plans.

The home-educated child dictated what they learnt, she added. “It doesn’t matter what they learn about, as long as they think it’s a fantastic world out there. The beauty of home education is its flexibility. This would be outlawed by the local authority.” The Badman report, published this year, recommends that home educators should be made to register with councils annually and set out in writing their plans for educating the child for the next year. They would also be inspected.

Graham Badman, the author of the report, said that home education as it stood lacked “the correct balance between the rights of parents and the rights of the child either to an appropriate education or to be safe from harm”.

Ed Balls, the Children’s Secretary, has said that he backs Mr Badman’s findings.

Opponents will gather in Central London tomorrow to demonstrate against the plans and have begun a petition on the No 10 website, which already has almost 3,000 signatories, asking the Prime Minister to reject the proposals.

They claim that implementing the plans will cost councils £150 million a year and put extra pressure on already oversubscribed schools. Campaigners are also planning to march on Westminster next month.

“We are hoping to get it stopped at this early stage,” Dr Barson said, “But this is a fight to the death. There are people talking about civil disobedience. We would take it to the highest court that we could,” she added.

It is not known how many children are home-educated because they do not have to be registered. Supporters of the plans argue that they will help to protect children who are targets of child trafficking or forced marriage.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


UK: Sixty Men in 9/11 City Centre Street Brawls.

MASS brawls broke out between Muslim and white groups on the streets of Swansea on the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Around 60 people were understood to have been involved in the two connected incidents outside Swansea City Mosque on St Helen’s Road and Sin City nightclub on Friday night.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


UK: Two Thousand Schoolgirls Suffer Suspected Ill-Effects From Cervical Cancer Vaccine

Doctors’ reports show that girls of 12 and 13 have experienced convulsions, fever and paralysis after being given the vaccine, which is now administered in schools as part of efforts to prevent women developing cancer.

Others suffered nausea, muscle weakness, dizziness and blurred vision, according to a special report drawn up by drug safety watchdogs.

A support group says it has received dozens of calls from parents who believe their daughters have been damaged by the vaccine.

The parents of one teenage girl given the jab last autumn believe it was to blame for repeated seizures which have left her with brain damage and psychosis.

[…]

But the report prepared by the MHRA earlier this month also discloses cases in which teens have suffered convulsions, eye rolling, muscle spasms, seizures and hyperventilation soon after being given the jab.

The analysis by the MHRA, drawn up this month, found 2,107 patients had reported some kind of suspected adverse reaction to Cervarix. Several reported multiple reactions, with 4,602 suspected side-effects recorded in total.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Transatlantic Plane Bomb Plotters Jailed for Life

LONDON — Three British Muslims were sentenced Monday to life in jail for plotting to blow up transatlantic airliners with liquid bombs in Al-Qaeda-inspired suicide attacks on the scale of September 11.

Judge Richard Henriques said the plot was “the most grave and wicked conspiracy ever proven within this jurisdiction”, as he passed sentence at the top-security Woolwich Crown Court in southeast London.

“The intention was to perpetrate a terrorist outrage that would stand alongside the events of September 11, 2001 in history,” he said.

The plot, foiled in August 2006, triggered the wide-ranging rules now in place on carrying liquids aboard commercial aircraft.

Ringleader Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28, was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum 40-year term.

The plot’s “chemist and quartermaster” Assad Sarwar, 29, must spend a minimum of 36 years behind bars, while fellow plotter Tanvir Hussain, 28, Ali’s right-hand man, must serve at least 32 years.

The trio were told they may never be released.

The counter-terrorism operation to foil the London-based plot was the biggest ever in Britain, costing 35 million pounds (58 million dollars, 40 million euros).

Henriques said: “There is every likelihood that this plot would have succeeded but for the intervention of the police and the security service.

“A massive loss of life would almost certainly have resulted.”

The plotters targeted seven flights from London’s Heathrow airport to New York, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto and Montreal. The jets would have been mid-air simultaneously, prosecutors said.

Some of the men recorded so-called martyrdom videos featuring threats to the West of waves of terrorist attacks.

“This was a viable and meticulously planned conspiracy and I conclude it was imminent,” Henriques said.

The plot was “an act of revenge inspired by extremist Islamic thinking”, aimed at the “governments of several allied forces in Iraq and Afghanistan”, he added.

The tighter security measures and restrictions on liquids now seen on flights worldwide are “entirely attributable to this conspiracy”, he said.

The judge said emails showed “the ultimate control of this conspiracy lay in Pakistan”, saying the plot was run, monitored and funded from there.

The six-month trial was peppered with evidence that the gang was frequently in communication with Al-Qaeda-linked figures in Pakistan.

On September 7, a jury found Ali, Sarwar and Hussain guilty of conspiracy to murder by blowing up transatlantic airliners.

Prosecutors said they plotted to drill holes in the bottom of plastic drinks bottles, drain the contents and inject liquid explosive with a syringe before sealing the holes with glue. That way the bottle tops would remain unopened.

The home-made liquid explosive was to be concocted from hydrogen peroxide and Tang, a soft drink available in powdered form.

When mixed with such an organic material at an appropriate strength, hydrogen peroxide has explosive qualities.

The bottles would be detonated using the substance HTMD, concealed in regular AA 1.5-volt batteries.

Henriques said the gang had other targets in their sights, including power installations.

“You had within your contemplation a campaign of bombing which would have a devastating effect upon this country,” he said.

A fourth man, 31-year-old Umar Islam, who was convicted of the more general charge of conspiracy to murder, was sentenced to life in jail with a minimum term of 22 years.

John McDowall, head of the British police’s Counter Terrorism Command, said: “This has been a lengthy, resource-intensive and meticulous investigation, which has culminated in the convictions and today’s long sentences.

“I cannot thank enough all those involved in bringing these terrorists to justice.”

Prosecutors are seeking a third trial for three men found not guilty of plotting to blow up airliners, following a hung jury on the wider charge of conspiracy to murder.

A hearing on October 5 will determine whether Ibrahim Savant, 28, Arafat Waheed Khan, 28, and Waheed Zaman, 25, will face another trial.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


UK: We Need to Confront Islamist Extremists, Not Conciliate Them

The conviction of the terrorist bomb plotters shows that we need to confront the Islamists, and show that being Muslim and Western are indeed compatible, says Ed Husain.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: The editorial’s weak, but the comments that follow show that there are still plenty of Brits with balls!]

On July 7, 2005, my sister missed one of the trains that was attacked by the bombers by four minutes. I was living in Saudi Arabia, but returned to Britain to help this country better understand why so many young activist Muslims were becoming extremists — as I briefly had. The convictions this week of three men who wanted to attack transatlantic flights show why that task remains as urgent as ever.

Organised hatred, separatism, and extremism were present in Britain’s cities and campuses long before July 7, often cloaked in the guise of moderation. But very few people understood the complexities of extremist ideology, while many politicians had Muslim constituents they did not want to upset.

The toughest task has been convincing Muslim leaders of the need to end denial, and stop playing politics with Islamist extremism. At a recent meeting with a Muslim grandee, I was stunned to learn that he thought the British government had carried out the July 7 bombings, to give it an excuse to spy on us.

It beggars belief how many Muslim organisations have claimed that by founding Quilliam, a counter-extremist think tank which argues that there is no inherent contradiction between being Muslim and being Western, I have somehow sold out, become a patsy of the intelligence services.

I have very little idea about the espionage industry. But what have we got to hide? Why are we so worried? We should be proud citizens in a liberal democracy, committed to protecting our country from terrorist attacks just like any other crimes. Instead, I am attacked on websites, newspapers and Islamic television channels in the crudest terms.

Nor are our politicians standing up to the threat. When Quilliam’s researchers revealed that Abu Qatada, “al-Qaeda’s ambassador to Europe”, was smuggling propaganda letters from inside a British prison, the then justice minister turned up on the BBC to dismiss our findings and say such work was “unhelpful”. Boris Johnson recently called for greater understanding and tolerance of Islam at the East London Mosque — the same place where I and many others were introduced to radical Islamist ideology, and whose Saudi-trained imam is a signatory to a document that many say calls for attacks on the Royal Navy.

Politicians send a confused message of wanting to uproot extremism, but courting the most illiberal, anti-secular organisations. Granted, these are becoming Britain’s largest Muslim institutions, dominating the Muslim Council of Britain and others. But does that mean we further strengthen them?

Today, Britain does not understand religion. Muslims cluster together, separating themselves from a society that, in Alastair Campbell’s famous phrase, “does not do God”. In Beeston, which produced the suicide bombers on the London Underground, it is painful to see children dressed in Saudi-style clothing — girls covered in black, boys in white robes. Teachers dare not question it — but what’s religious about an infant covering her hair?

When I visit America, I see Muslims who are free, vibrant, dynamic, and fully American. In France, too, there are greater rates of inter-religious marriages: Muslims marrying people of other faiths, and negotiating how we coexist. In Britain, rates of Muslims marrying outside their faith community are woefully low, and the numbers returning to the villages of Pakistan and Bangladesh for a spouse worryingly high.

I want to see a Britain free from threats of Islamist terrorism, to see my daughter grow up in a country where she is not judged by others for not wearing Arab clothes. But if we continue to strengthen the worst aspects of “community” and religious identity at the expense of an overarching British identity, separatism and conflict will simply fester on.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


UK: Young Woman Dies of DVT After Medics Fail to Spot Broken Leg

A young woman collapsed and died of a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) three weeks after a hospital had failed to diagnose a broken leg.

Even after the fracture was confirmed, doctors failed to identify that deep vein thrombosis had developed when Andrea Norris presented with symptoms, an inquest heard.

The 23-year-old learning support assistant had been working at a further education college when she slipped and fractured her left leg.

Three weeks later, Miss Norris’ fiance, Robert Stanton, found her on the floor of their home. Despite desperate attempts by paramedics to revive her, she died at the scene.

The inquest was told that Miss Norris was taken to West Suffolk Hospital on January 30, where doctors told her she had a sprain and didn’t bother to X-ray her.

After hearing the evidence, the coroner criticised the hospitals involved and said the systems for identifying DVTs should be improved.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Serbia: Controversial Press Law Passed

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, AUGUST 31 — The Serbian Parliament today adopted new laws on information, which has divided government forces and which provoked strong criticism from the OSCE, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the major Serbian press associations. The government rejected the two dispositions which had caused the main objections. The modifications which the Government passed concerned recording methods, greater State control and large increases in fines and sanctions for contravening the new laws. The financial penalties could result in bankruptcy and eventual closure. The International Federation of Journalists sent a letter to Serbia’s President Boris Tadic last week, as well as to Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic and other leaders of the country, saying that they were concerned over the amendments to the law, which go ‘against the freedom of the press and violate European principles over freedom of information”. A third disposition, which has also been the subject of criticism, has been upheld: it allows fines for the publication of information which is considered to be false or defamatory. The fines are considered excessive by opponents of the law. The chief of the OSCE mission, Hans Ola Urstad, expressed his concerns over the drafted law in a statement issued last week in Belgrade. He said that the fines provided by the text of the law were ‘to high in the context of Serbia, and could lead to self-censorship and the closure of the media”. (ANSAmed).

2009-08-31 17:51

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Morocco: Mohammed VI Starts the Opening of 33 Mosques

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, SEPTEMBER 11 — On the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan, King of Morocco Mohammed VI has started off the opening of 33 mosques in the country. Twenty-two new mosques will be built, two will be expanded and nine will be renovated. The operation, carried out with the ministry of Muslim Affairs, will cost a total of 110 million dinars (around 10 million euros).(ANSAmed).

2009-09-11 17:02

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Tunisia: Campaign Against Cigarettes and Narghile Underway

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, SEPTEMBER 10 — A progressive ban on smoking in cafes and restaurants, written warnings on packages, an awareness campaign on TV and in newspapers. Tunisia has declared war on smoking since smokers make up over 35% of the population and there are growing numbers of women who are addicted to cigarettes. “In cafes and restaurants, the ban on smoking will be progressive in order to allow separate zones to be set up,” explained Mounira Ennabli of the Health Ministry to Le Temps. “There will be warning messages written on packages and the word ‘light’ will be eliminated since it has no value in medical terms.” Chicha, better known as narghile, which is offered to clients in many cafes in Tunisia, will be banned. “It is a serious problem,” said Mounira Ennabli, “because smoking narghile is like smoking an entire pack of cigarettes.” The anti-smoking campaign will also be accompanied by TV commercials and ads in newspapers. Hundreds of doctors in public hospitals will be made available to half those who want to quit smoking. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

City of Rome Contributes to Playground in Sderot

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 10 — The City Council of Rome, headed by Mayor Gianni Alemanno, has approved making a contribution to the City of Sderot (Israel) for the “Joseph Caro” project, to build a playground with reinforced concrete structures, “to assure the safety of the children in case of missile attacks,” read a statement. The project, continued the statement from the City, was designed in collaboration with the Jewish community in Rome. “It is an important initiative,” said Mayor Alemanno, “realising a commitment I made during a recent trip to Israel and meetings in Rome with Sderot Mayor, David Buskila.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Olmert Defends Gaza Retreat, Lebanon War, Cast Lead

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, SEPTEMBER 9 — Some months after having left active politics, ex-Premier Ehud Olmert (Kadima) reappeared in public today and passionately defended the big decisions of his final years in office: the unilateral retreat from Gaza (undertaken when he was still vice-Premier under Ariel Sharon in 2005), the war in Lebanon against Hezbollah (2006) and operation ‘Cast Lead’ against Hamas in Gaza (2009). “The decision to dismantle the settlements was made at the right time”, Olmert said while testifying before an official investigative commission that is looking into the reabsorption of 8,000 Israelis that used to live in the Gaza Strip. The commission, wanted by State Controller, Micha Linderstrauss, is composed of three jurists: Eliahu Matza, Yedidia Stern and Shimon Ravid. Olmert specified of having seen the necessity since 2003 (when he was still a Likud leader) to adopt unilateral measures if negotiations with the Palestinians failed to take off. “The Israeli government made serious errors over the last 4 decades regarding the settlements”, Olmert admitted. In the absence of other unilateral moves on Israel’s part, it can now be feared that a bi-national Israeli-Palestinian state will be formed. “It is in our interest to impede that which is happening and the only way is to reach an agreement in a very short time that includes painful renouncement of land”. In absence of such an agreement, Israel will have to carry out more unilateral activity. Olmert also defended the necessity of confronting Lebanon’s Hezbollah three years ago, and with Hamas fighters in Gaza. Those military campaigns were crowned by success, he added. At the origin of the investigative commission are the protests of the ex-Gaza settlers, according to whom government apparatuses were not up to the situation and four years down the road many of them are still live on the margins of society, without a fixed home. According to Olmert, part of the blame can be laid on bureaucracy and the other part on the ultra-Zionist rabbis of the same settlements.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Palestinian “Policemen” Killed in Gaza Operation Were Trained Terrorists

Jonathan D. Halevi

  • After international human rights organizations accused Israel of killing innocent Palestinian “traffic policemen” during the Gaza operation, a detailed investigation shows that a decisive majority of the Palestinian “policemen” were members of the military wings of the Palestinian terror organizations and fighters who had undergone military training.
  • Among the 343 members of the Palestinian security forces who were killed, 286 have been identified as terror organization members (83 percent). Another 27 fighters belonging to units undergoing infantry training raises this total to 313 (91 percent).
  • Lumped under the rubric of the “Palestinian police” are all the security bodies that fulfilled combat and terror roles against Israel, the intelligence and preventive intelligence bodies, as well as those active in policing and maintaining order. Those serving in all of the Palestinian security apparatuses in 2007 and 2008 took part in terror activity and fighting against the IDF.
  • In the December 27, 2008, attack on an officer training course at Gaza police headquarters, 89 dead were counted. Of these, 60 (67 percent) belonged to Hamas and almost all were members of its military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades. The total number of terror activists and fighters among those killed at police headquarters was 81 (91 percent).
  • The human rights organizations which reported on Palestinian casualties in Gaza failed to mention the affiliation of hundreds of Palestinian security personnel who were members of terrorist organizations and who were trained fighters, thus artificially inflating the list of “civilians” killed by the IDF…

           — Hat tip: JCPA[Return to headlines]


Ronchi: Israel Wants Negotiation, Message to PNA

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, SEPTEMBER 9 — Andrea Ronchi , minister of European Policies, is acting as an informal ambassador to assure the leaders of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) that “Israeli leadership, alignments aside, wants to reopen peace talks”. To do so he moved between Jerusalem and Ramallah on Italy’s account, which president Shimon Peres praised as a nation capable of “building bridges and not walls”. After speaking with Peres, Israeli deputy foreign minister Dany Ayalon, and a personal meeting with Palestinian premier Salam Fayyad, Ronchi said that “Israel is acting seriously and wants to reopen peace talks”, and added that he had been asked “to act as an ambassador in Ramallah” of this intention. Ronchi pointed out that the invitation addressed to the PNA (which in Fayyad’s words is ready to open talks for the establishment of an independent State “by 2010”, as long as Israel “backs its words with facts”) is “to do the same, because peace can be achieved, but with everybody’s help, free of dogmas or prejudice”. Repeating italy’s support to the “two State” solution, but also its “no to any dialogue with Hamas, the radical Palestinian Islamic organisation holding power in the Gaza Strip which has been “inserted in the black list (of international terrorism)” thanks in part “to the efforts (as foreign minister) of Gianfranco Fini”. Ronchi, who criticised as “unfathomable” the postponement announced by the Swedish presidency of the EU in office of its visit to Jerusalem, claimed that the Obama administration “redesigned the strategies of international politics”, and that the Israeli leadership “is aware of the importance of this moment”. Speaking of criticism which the international community addressed to Benyamin Netanyahu’s government for its authorisation of yet more construction in the Jewish settlements on the West Bank and east Jerusalem, Ronchi played the whole thing down, stating that “everyone’s needs must be understood, we must not linger on single episodes, but look at the general picture and work on a common plan” to reopen peace talks. In this context the Italian government sticks by the “two States for two people” solution, pointing on one side to achieve “a Palestinian State free from the threats of terrorism and fundamentalism”, and on the other to the “inviolable right of Israel’s security”. Ronchi complained that at times Europe looks at Israel through “deformed lens”, and stated that “a democracy such as Israel’s cannot be insulted, nor can we confuse the attackers with the attacked”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Despite Pressure to Normalize Relations, Saudi Arabia Steps Up Boycott of Israel

Riyadh’s boycott-related requests of US companies rise more than 76%

By Michael Freund

Despite efforts by Washington in recent years to bring about a normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab world, Saudi Arabia has been steadily intensifying its enforcement of the Arab League boycott of Israel, the Jerusalem Post has learned.

A review of US Commerce Department data conducted by the Post found that the number of boycott-related and restrictive trade-practice requests received by American companies from Saudi Arabia has increased in each of the past two years, rising from 42 in 2006 to 65 in 2007 to 74 in 2008, signifying a jump of more than 76%.

The bulk of these requests were related to the companies’ or products’ relationship to Israel. Typically, Saudi officials ask foreign suppliers to affirm that any goods exported to the desert kingdom are not manufactured in Israel or contain any Israeli-made components.

US law bars American companies from complying with such demands, and requires them to report any boycott-related requests to the federal government.

The Commerce Department figures reflect only those requests that have been officially reported to the US government. Figures for 2009 are not yet available.

Contacted by the Post, a US Treasury Department official confirmed that there is ample evidence that the Saudis continue to enforce the boycott of Israel.

According to the official, statistics compiled by a number of US government departments and federal agencies all “indicate that American companies continue to receive boycott requests from Saudi Arabia”.

Citing figures collected by the Internal Revenue Service, the official said that of the cases that were reported to the IRS, “55 percent of the boycott requests from Saudi Arabia led to boycott agreements”.

Two months ago, the US Treasury Department published a list of eight Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, which it says continue to boycott Israel. The list appeared in the Federal Register, the official journal of the US government.

Washington has been attempting to get Riyadh to improve relations with the Jewish state, thus far without success.

On July 31, after talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal rejected Washington’s efforts, telling reporters that, “Incrementalism and a step-by-step approach has not and, we believe, will not lead to peace.”

Saudi Arabia’s ongoing enforcement of the boycott also appears to violate repeated promises that it gave to Washington in recent years to drop the trade embargo against the Jewish state.

In November 2005, the desert kingdom pledged to abandon the boycott after Washington conditioned Saudi Arabia’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) on such a move. A month later, on December 11, Saudi Arabia was granted WTO membership.

The WTO, which aims to promote free trade, prohibits members from engaging in discriminatory practices such as boycotts or embargoes.

The Saudi boycott of Israeli-made goods is part of the decades-old Arab League effort to isolate and weaken the Jewish state economically.

The League established an Office for the Boycott of Israel in Damascus in 1951, aimed at overseeing implementation of the economic and trade embargo against the Jewish state.

In recent years, enforcement of the boycott has waxed and waned. Some Arab League members, such as Egypt and Jordan, ceased applying it after signing peace treaties with Israel, while others, such as Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia do not enforce it. Other Arab states, such as Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, continue to bar entry to goods made in Israel or those containing Israeli-made components.

[Return to headlines]


Energy: Turkey’s Dependence on Russian LPG on the Rise

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, SEPTEMBER 8 — Turkey’s dependence on Russia when it comes to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), has been increasing, daily Referans reports. The country’s LPG import from Russia increased to more than 120,000 tons within one year and set a new record. Russia’s ranking improved from fifth place last year to third this year, among the countries Turkey imports LPG from. Turkey’s LPG imports from Russia totaled 82,000 tons for the first six months of 2008. That figure rose to 208,000 tons during the same period this year. Most of Turkey’s LPG imports are from Algeria and Norway. The total amount of LPG Turkey imported during the first six months of the year was 1.488 million tons. Russia has developed fast in terms of Turkey’s LPG imports, according to the “Turkish LPG market summary of market figures” report by the Energy Market Regulatory Authority (EMRA), focusing on the period covering the first half of the year. Automotive LPG usage also increased in the first six months of the year compared to the same period of 2008, according to domestic LPG trade data. (ANSAmed).

2009-09-08 12:58

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Pray Less, Work More, Says Islamic Preacher

For Egyptian-born Muslim cleric and television host, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, there is a simple answer to Egypt’s productivity problem — pray less, work more.

“Praying is a good thing … 10 minutes should be enough,” Al-Jazeera television personality Qaradawi says in a religious edict, or fatwa, published on his website.

Praying five times a day is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the well-known requirements of making a pilgrimage to Mecca and of giving alms to the poor.

Two of each day’s five sessions — the dhuhr (noon) prayer and asr (afternoon) prayer — fall within working hours, bringing work to a standstill at least twice a day in many places.

A prayer generally takes an average of 10 minutes, but it can be extended if a worshipper chooses to recite one of the longer verses of the Koran.

And before the prayers themselves, there is also a mandatory ablution during which worshippers must wash their faces, hands and arms, feet and heads. In large office buildings, the trips to the bathroom can also eat away at valuable work time.

Qaradawi’s plea to reconcile faith and productivity may hit some hurdles as it risks upsetting the deeply entrenched custom of “prayer breaks” at work.

Society’s increased Islamisation over the past 30 years has already silenced some critics of long prayer sessions.

According to an official study, Egypt’s six million government employees are estimated to spend an average of only 27 minutes per day actually working, reflecting a real problem with productivity.

Qaradawi’s fatwa is aimed at removing prayer as a pretext for not producing.

Religious beliefs in Egypt are very overt, from the headscarf covering the majority of women’s heads to the bruise on many a man’s forehead showing how piously and how often he has touched his head to the ground in prostration.

In every large company, factory or public building, there is a formal prayer space. Individual prayer rugs, slumped over the backs of chairs or folded neatly on a desk, are often at hand in public offices, ready to be grabbed once the call to prayer booms out over the public address system.

In downtown Cairo, lies Mugamma, a 13-storey building that is the beating heart of Egypt’s sprawling bureaucracy, where 65 different government services are performed by some 18,000 employees.

Thirty thousand people walk through the doors of the vast Soviet-style building every day, hoping to get a passport or a work permit, or whatever it is they need.

“But when it comes to prayer time, and there are many, there is no hope of anything getting done for an unknown length of time,” says Ahmed Ghani, whose company has tasked him with scouring the labyrinth for official stamps.

The 90s Egyptian cult film comedy “Terrorism and Kebab” (Al-Irhab wal Kabab) recounts the tribulation of a middle class man’s adventure in the Mugamma with the lead role played by Egyptian screen giant Adel Imam.

Frustrated by the bureaucracy and repeatedly being told to wait for a government employee to finish his prayer, Imam’s character ends up in a tussle with a security guard and is mistaken for a terrorist.

Qaradawi has a few ideas of his own to help shorten the prayer time: Muslims can do the mandatory pre-prayer wash at home before reaching the office, instead of in the office toilets during working hours.

“To save some time, they can also just put some water over their socks, instead of taking (socks) off to wash the feet,” Qaradawi says in his fatwa.

While it may be too early to judge the effects of the popular sheikh’s fatwa on productivity in the work place, Egyptian clerics, in a rare show of unity, have largely agreed with the Qatar-based cleric.

“He’s right. I cannot say the contrary. One must not waste time at work and use prayer as the pretext,” Sheikh Fawzi al-Zifzaf, of the centre of Islamic studies at Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s main seat of learning, told AFP.

As for Mohammed al-Shahhat al-Gendi, secretary general of the Council of Supreme Islamic affairs, “10 minutes are absolutely suitable for one prayer.”

“Improving productivity is not at all contrary to Islam,” he told AFP.

They both also agree with Qaradawi when he says: “Praying is of course compulsory, and if everyone were to pray, it shows that society is on the right track.”

           — Hat tip: LN[Return to headlines]

South Asia

107-Year-Old Malaysian Woman Seeks 23rd Hubby

A 107-year-old Malaysian woman says she is ready to marry for the 23rd time because she fears her current drug addict husband might leave her for a younger woman, a report said Monday.

Wook Kundor made headlines four years ago when she married Muhammad Noor Che Musa, a man 70 years her junior in northern Terengganu state, with pictures of the couple’s wedding splashed across regional newspapers.

But Wook is now looking for new love as she fears that Muhammad, 37, who is undergoing voluntary drug rehabilitation treatment in the capital Kuala Lumpur, will leave her once the program ends, she told the Star newspaper.

“Lately, there is this kind of insecurity in me,” the paper quoted her as saying, showing a photograph of the smiling, wrinkled-faced centenarian wearing a Muslim headscarf.

“I realize that I am an aged woman. I don’t have the body nor am I a young woman who can attract anyone.”

“My intention to remarry is to fill my forlornness and nothing more than that,” she said, adding that she felt lonely without her husband by her side to celebrate the coming Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr next week.

Wook said she planned to visit Muhammad on the second day of Eid if her neighbors were willing to drive her to the capital.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Adulterers Face Stoning in Indonesia’s Aceh

“This law will be effective in 30 days with or without the approval of Aceh’s governor,” he said.

The “qanun jinayat”, or sharia, Islamic law, for crimes, covers adultery, consumption of alcohol, rape and homosexuality. Adultery is punishable by stoning to death, while other punishments include caning, gold fines and imprisonment.

The administration of Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf, a former rebel fighter of the separatist Free Aceh Movement, is opposed to the strict sharia law. It had urged a delay in the bill’s deliberation.

The provincial government initially proposed the law but now says it rejects some of the clauses added by parliament and wants to make some further revisions.

The law replaces elements of the civil code with sharia or Islamic law. It stipulates punishments of up to 100 lashes of the cane for unmarried people who commit adultery and death by stoning for married people.

Aceh is the only province in predominantly Muslim Indonesia to use sharia for its legal code, introduced as part of an autonomy deal in 2002.

It had previously only partially adopted sharia law, enforcing modest Muslim dress codes, mandatory prayers five times a day, fasting and the giving of alms to the poor.

The Islamic law code was introduced under a broad autonomy package granted by Indonesia’s central government in 2001 to pacify the hard-line Muslim region’s demand for independence.

Separatists in Aceh had been fighting the Indonesian government since 1976 until a peace deal in 2005.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Afghanistan: Osama Bin Laden Taunts Barack Obama: ‘You Are Powerless to Stop the Afghan War’

Osama bin Laden has taunted Barack Obama in a new audio tape, claiming the US president is ‘powerless’ to stop the war in Afghanistan.

Americans’ inability to grasp why the September 11 attacks occurred has ‘cost you a lot without any result whatsoever’, the Al Qaeda chief added.

The remarks by the terrorist leader were released two days after the eighth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks that he ordered.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Berlin Calls Air Strike in Afghanistan ‘Necessary’

The German Defence Ministry on Monday stood by a controversial air strike that is thought to have caused scores of civilian casualties in Afghanistan two weeks ago.

“This attack was militarily necessary,” said Defence Ministry spokesman Thomas Raabe at press briefing in Berlin.

He added the government had not changed its assessment despite an Afghan inquiry that said 30 innocent people had died in the bombardment of two fuel trucks near Kunduz on September 4.

“If there were civilian victims it would be tragic and would have our deepest condolences and we would take care of these cases,” he said, but added Berlin would not comment on the findings by the investigation initiated by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

That inquiry concluded over the weekend that 99 people, including 30 civilians, died in the air strike called by Bundeswehr Col. Georg Klein.

Raabe also said Gen. Wolfgang Schneiderhan, the Chief of Staff of the Bundeswehr, had flown to Afghanistan to gain his own impression of the incident. He is to meet with the head of the ISAF mission, US Gen. Stanley McCrystal.

The German government and military have faced immense pressure after Klein called in NATO air support to destroy the trucks taken by the Taliban near the Afghan city of Kunduz. Berlin at first contended that only Islamist insurgents had been killed in the air strike, but later said there had been an unspecified number of civilian victims.

NATO is still investigating the incident and Germany last week issued a round of formal diplomatic protests to fellow allies asking them to refrain from criticising the incident until the inquiry concludes.

Some 4,400 German troops are serving in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Germany only began major military deployments abroad a decade ago, breaking a post-war taboo, and the air strike has moved what was already an unpopular mission up the agenda ahead of general elections in less than three weeks.

Both Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats and her challenger Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s centre-left Social Democrats support Germany’s military engagement in Afghanistan, as do the opposition Free Democrats and Greens. Only the hard-line socialist party The Left demands the immediate withdrawal of German forces.

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


Indonesia: Catholic Community Organizes Fast Breaking for Poor Muslims

JAKARTA (UCAN) — Tari, a 34-year-old Muslim woman who daily scavenges for food in Central Jakarta, says she is grateful to a Catholic lay association for organizing a fast-breaking program for poor and marginalized Muslims.

“I am very happy that there is a religious community which really cares for little people like us,” the mother of three told UCA News.

Tari was among 200 poor Muslims, including street vendors, cobblers, parking attendants and motorcycle taxi drivers, invited by the international Community of Sant’Egidio to break their fast in its compound in West Jakarta on Sept. 6.

After the program, each participant received a package containing milk, biscuits, syrup, instant noodles, soap, toothpaste and shampoo.

Eveline Winarko, coordinator of the Sant’Egidio community in Jakarta, told UCA News the program “aims to promote respect for poor people and an appreciation for those fasting” during the Islamic month of Ramadan.

She said funds for the program came from the community’s members who also prepared food for the occasion.

The Sant’Egidio community was founded in Rome in 1968 following the Second Vatican Council as a movement of Catholic laypeople dedicated to evangelization and charity. Today it has more than 50,000 members in Italy and more than 70 countries throughout the world.

It also believes that dialogue between religions, as recommended by the Second Vatican Council, is the best way to achieve peace and cooperation between religions.

Winarko said that the Sant’Egidio community in Jakarta has held similar programs each Ramadan since 2007. This year it also invited a lay Muslim leader, Muhammad Said, who gave a talk prior to the fast breaking.

“We thank this community for caring for us and gathering us here for our fast breaking,” Said told participants. “This community invites all of us to practice our religion. We should speak in a good way, have respect for others and promote tolerance,” he said.

Said told UCA News that “this program is charitable in nature since it gathers and helps poor Muslim people,” and did not aim at proselytizing.

Commenting on rumors that such a program might have such an agenda, he said these were only rumors. “The community does care for poor people,” he stressed.

Kholid, a cobbler with five children, agreed, saying he felt the program was “a manifestation of tolerance and concern for small people.”

Sant’Egidio has around 500 members and 16 communities across Indonesia.

It holds many events throughout the year including Christmas celebrations with poor people, prayer meetings several times a week and visits to the elderly and street children.

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


Islamic Extremists Threaten Life of Catholic Minister Leading the Fight Against Blasphemy Law

Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti confirms he was the subject of intimidations. He says however that he is ready “for any kind of sacrifice for his people”. All he wants is justice for the victims of Gojra and compensation for survivors. The National Commission for Justice and Peace continues its action to repeal the country’s blasphemy laws.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — “I have been receiving death threats and phone calls from extremists for a long time but these threats cannot stop me from working on behalf of the minorities of the country,” Federal Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti told AsiaNews.

A Catholic, Mr Bhatti said that recent threats against him are the consequence of his call for justice on behalf of the victims of the Gojra violence and his commitment to human rights and the repeal of the controversial blasphemy laws.

On 30 July thousands of Muslim fundamentalists descended upon the village of Koriyan where they set 51 Christian homes on fire. Two days later, on 1 August, at least 3,000 extremists went after the Christian community in Gojra, burning seven people to death (including two children and three women), and injuring another 19 whilst torching about a hundred homes.

The minister, who is also president of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), said that “the government is well informed about these fresh threats.”

“The extremist elements are angry,” he added, “because we are doing our best to provide protection and justice to the victims of Gojra and for the elimination of all discriminatory laws in the country.”

“I am not scared of these cowardly threats,” he said. “I stand firm with regards to my mission,” which is to ensure “equal rights for minorities” and provide them with “a respectable status in society”.

Furthermore, he said he was ready “for any kind of sacrifice for his people,” prepared to “continue his struggle till the last drop of blood.” Such threats, he insisted, “cannot stop me”.

In Pakistan there have always been elements “against peace and social harmony” but “we have to fight against them, courageously.”

Recently the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Pakistani Catholic Church openly referred to the latest violence against religious minorities in Kasur, Gojra and elsewhere as it launched a petition to repeal the discriminatory articles in the Pakistan Penal Code

According to NCJP figures, at least 964 people have been charged between 1986 and August 2009under the Code’s blasphemy provisions. They include 479 Muslims, 119 Christians, 340 Ahmadis, 14 Hindus and 10 of unknown religion.

Some 32 people have also been victims of extra-judicial killing by angry mobs or individuals, most of whom have not been prosecuted.

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


Musharraf Admits US Aid Diverted

Former president Pervez Musharraf says the US military aid given to Pakistan during his tenure was used to strengthen defences against India.

The money was used to arm the troops who moved with their equipment from the western border to the east based on the perceived threats, he said.

The US gave $10bn dollars to Pakistan to fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

In 2007, Pakistan rejected a report which said it had used $5bn on weapons systems designed to fight India.

Pakistan’s military had described the New York Times report as “nonsense”.

‘Did right’

“Wherever there is a threat to Pakistan, we will use it [equipment provided by the US] there. If the threat comes from al-Qaeda or Taliban, it will be used there. If the threat comes from India, we will most surely use it there,” Mr Musharraf told Pakistan’s Express News television channel.

“There is nothing like this equipment has come from the US and must only be used against Taliban, or that equipment has come from China and must be used against this or that,” he added.

Mr Musharraf confirmed that the weapons were indeed used against India.

“We did right. What we did, we did right. We have to ensure Pakistan’s security. From whichever side the threat comes, we will use the entire force there.”

Mr Musharraf said he did not care if this diversion of aid angered the US.

“Whoever wishes to be angry, let them be angry, why should we bother? We have to maintain our security, and the Americans should know, and the whole world should know that we won’t compromise our security, and will use the equipment everywhere.”

Meanwhile, India said Mr Musharraf’s statement merely confirmed “what we have suspected over a long time and what we have suggested all along”.

“We do not feel that such assistance should be turned around and used against us,” news agency Reuters quoted India’s junior external affairs minister Shashi Tharoor as saying.

“We pose no threat to Pakistan and we find that this kind of diversion is neither in the interest of the sub continent nor of those who are giving this assistance.”

This is the first time Pakistan has admitted to diverting the US aid to strengthen its defences against India.

In the past, Pakistan’s army has dismissed claims that aid from the US had been misappropriated.

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


Tajikistan: Divorce Via SMS

Tajik men working abroad are gradually adopting a new way of divorcing their wives. The divorce resolution is messaged by a cell phone, Asia-Plus agency reports. The latter cites Matluba Satarova, the chairwoman of the Committee for Family Issues of Sogd Region of Tajikistan.

“The reality like many women complain is that husbands who are long cut from home working as labor migrants ultimately find new partners and set up new household with them, and sms “talaq” to their wives (“Talaq”- literally means “I divorce you”. The divorce takes effect once it is pronounced thrice). Lack of official divorce certificate does not even matter. The majority of women, especially the ones who live in rural areas are forced to submit to age-old traditions and return to their parents’ home as grass widows. There they are live under humiliation and hostility of relatives and neighbors, and after a while the younger ones join the work force of an affluent elderly fellow-villager as his second or third wife”-says Matluba Satarova.

According to Human Rights Organizations of Tajikistan only this year more then 100 Tajik women have already been messaged “talaq”. Independent observers estimate that mobile divorces have already affected several thousand people. The growing number of men working abroad to earn for living has initiated divorce lately.

Meanwhile, the Council of Tajikistan Ulems (muslim authorities — Ferghana.ru) believes that divorce via mobile phone does not contradict to canons of Islam as long as the communication is witnessed by least one person. This is why the Sogd Region authorities intend to approach the Muslim clergy with an official request to prohibit “phone divorces”.

According to various sources, about a million of Tajik citizens toil for years abroad. Three fourth of these migrants are men ranging in age range from 18 to 55. This is almost a half of the capable male population of the country. They leave in search of a decent earning, leaving their wives and numerous children behind with a vain hope of returning in a year or two.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Far East

N. Korea: Will Obama Come to Kim Jong-Il’s Rescue?

The United States seems to have agreed to the bilateral dialogue that North Korea wanted so badly. The clue was perhaps in former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s Pyongyang visit in early August. Voice of America on Saturday said Clinton proposed to Kim Jong-il a North Korea visit by the U.S. envoy for North Korea, Stephen Bosworth. The report suggests Clinton did not go empty-handed when he sought the freedom of two U.S. journalists detained in the North. The propaganda was that the journalists’ release was entirely separate from any direct Washington-Pyongyang contact and that President Barack Obama’s stood firm in North Korea policy.

Seeing no change in U.S. insistence on the framework of the six-party nuclear talks since the inauguration of the Obama administration, the North’s no. 2 man, Kim Yong-nam, on July 15 said that the North will not return to the six-party talks, which are “over for good.” China dispatched its Vice Foreign Minister and chief nuclear negotiator Wu Dawei to Pyongyang on Aug. 17-21, and he attempted to persuade the North Korean leadership of bilateral talks within the framework of the six-party talks. That merely confirmed the North’s insistence on bilateral Washington-Pyongyang talks. China probably knew this in advance. Now the U.S. State Department says that consensus has been formed among the relevant countries that direct Washington-Pyongyang talks can take place after all.

So North Korea appears to have prevailed. The North Korean delegation to the funeral of former President Kim Dae-jung, led by two senior officials, conveyed their leader Kim Jong-il’s message to President Lee Myung-bak on Aug. 23. Upon leaving, the delegation made remarks suggesting they were satisfied with the results of the meeting. They must have told the South to agree to bilateral talks between the North and the U.S. in return for another inter-Korean summit.

On Sept. 1, a North Korean delegation, headed by Vice Foreign Minister Kim Yong-il, visited Beijing. Earlier, Pyongyang took a series of conciliatory steps like the release of a South Korean worker detained in the border city of Kaesong and the crew of the fishing boat 800 Yeonan abducted to the North, resumption of family reunions and package tours to the Mt. Kumgang resort.

Yet on Sept. 3, when Bosworth left for a tour of South Korea, China and Japan to sound out their views on the six-party talks, North Korea, in a letter to the UN Security Council chairman, announced that its experimental uranium enrichment entered the “final stage,” that the reprocessing of spent fuel rods is being completed, and that already extracted plutonium is being turned into weapons. This sounds like saber-rattling incompatible with the North’s attempts to approach America, but in fact is a kind of a stimulant to Washington-Pyongyang dialogue, suggesting that it is urgent for the U.S. to stop the developments and that the North has no alternative but to take that route if the U.S. procrastinates, according to Joel Wit, a former U.S. State Department official who was a consultant to Obama.

Obama seems to have been pressured by the criticism in the country that there is no progress in his campaign pledge to talk to America’s enemies, and North Korea’s uranium claim gives almost the impression of being pre-arranged so Obama could revive his pledge and talk. Bosworth’s remarks on completing his three-country tour, that nothing has changed in North Korea’s attitude and that there will be no bilateral talk outside the framework of the six-party talks may have been a smoke screen.

Why does North Korea so desperately want to talk to the U.S.? Many experts believe that the North faces a crisis. Damage from cold weather, heavy rains and blight have hurt the harvest to the point where another famine looms. At this point, South Korea has suspended aid until the North denuclearizes, American aid has already been suspended, and even China is not as forthcoming as it used to be. Coupled with rumors of Kim Jong-il’s ill health and problems involving the succession, the North is seeking an exit strategy, and is looking to the U.S.

Is our government’s attitude as stable and trustworthy as President Lee’s confidence suggests? In a meeting with security advisers on Friday, Lee spoke of a “turning point” in the North Korean nuclear issue and stressed the need to maintain leadership in the atmosphere of inter-Korean dialogue. But it seems that the North does not think of Korea as an equal partner in discussing issues related to the Korean Peninsula, and the recent unannounced opening of the floodgates of the Hwang River Dam is clear evidence of what it really thinks.

There is no guarantee that the U.S. will not recognize the North as a nuclear state, under cover of letting it use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and that the South will not be dragged around in a replay of the past pattern where Seoul provided all the money and technology for the construction of light-water reactors in the North.

If Obama’s pragmatism kicks in, and Lee’s pragmatism compels him to follow, Kim Jong-il will utter cries of delight yet again. South Korea and the U.S. are in danger missing, as they did in 1998, the best opportunity to get the North to abandon its nuclear programs and opt for reform and opening.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Vietnam Releases Detained Blogger

A Vietnamese blogger detained by police has said she was freed after promising she would quit writing her blog, which has been critical of the government.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh is the last of three bloggers recently detained and then released by police.

A Vietnam Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said the three had been arrested legally for national security reasons.

Analysts say the authorities want to prevent blogs becoming a news source and a tool for opposition groups.

On 27 August, blogger Bui Thanh Hieu, also known as Nguoi Buon Gio, was arrested in Hanoi.

A day later journalist Pham Doan Trang, who worked for one of the most visited semi-official news websites in the country — VietnamNet, was also detained by the security police. She too ran a well-read personal blog.

Blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh was arrested on 2 September in the central city of Nha Trang. All three have now been released.

Internet popularity

As official media generally stay silent on any subjects deemed sensitive and controversial by the ruling Communist Party, many Vietnamese have turned to the internet to share information and discuss topics of interest.

Analysts say the communist government fears it can not control the more than two million personal blogs in Vietnam as they become increasingly popular as an information medium.

“The Vietnam Communist Party and its security apparatus cannot tolerate matters they do not control. Territorial surveillance, bloc wardens and informers work when suspects are territorially based,” says Vietnam analyst, Carlyle Thayer, from the Australian Defence Force Academy.

“Cyberspace represents a more formidable challenge because anonymous citizens can post their views and exchange ideas with others both inside and outside Vietnam.”

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

Australia — Pacific

Ethnic Squad Titles ‘Racist’

A LEADING Liberal MP has vowed to do all he can to abolish the Middle Eastern organised crime squad, saying ethnic branding has no place in crime fighting.

John Ajaka is a lawyer and parliamentary secretary to the state Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell. He said his stance on the squad contradicted Liberal Party policy but many of his colleagues agreed with him in private.

Mr Ajaka, an MP in the upper house, said he wanted police to have more resources to arrest criminals, but he believed that naming squads after ethnic groups vilified whole sections of society.

The NSW Police Force also has an Asian crime squad.

“There should definitely be an organised crime squad and we should have zero tolerance for crime.

“I have no problems beating and bashing criminals in the metaphorical sense, but imagine the outcry if we had an Italian organised crime squad or a Hellenic crime squad or an Aboriginal crime squad.

“I have lobbied the Government about this and I have lobbied my colleagues and many of them agree with my views and many have said it is something we should look at.

“If we get into government I will be immediately pushing my colleagues for a new approach. The names of these squads isolates and vilifies these communities, but even worse, it can generate a hero worship situation with young people.”

Mr Ajaka, born in the Illawarra to Lebanese-born parents, said crime crossed all sectors of society.

He said people who moved to Australia tried to embrace the country but the Middle Eastern and Asian crime squads showed Australia was not prepared to embrace them. “We put them in pigeon holes and leave them there,” he said.

Naming squads after ethnic groups made scapegoats of whole communities for the sake of making others feel safe, he said.

Jack Passaris, chairman of the Ethnic Communities’ Council of NSW, said organised crime squads “may well be one of the more effective ways of combating serious crime”, but the names were a problem.

“Police should be allowed to focus on crime while treating all communities equally,” he said.

“Race-based crime squads like the Middle Eastern organised crime squad and Asian crime squad are counter-productive as they marginalise communities by associating them with crime. Moreover, the existence of such crime squads has the potential to create undesirable stereotypes within the police force.”

The Middle Eastern and Asian squads are the only two squads with race-based names among the 12 state crime command squads.

A police spokesman said the two squads did not target ethnic communities, only the criminals who worked within them.

“These specialised squads are able to work closely with the communities to target those involved in organised crime,” he said.

“The NSW Police Force makes no apologies for targeting criminals, particularly those involved in high-level and violent organised criminal enterprises.”

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


Rudd ‘Has Lost Border Battle to Smugglers’

THE Federal Opposition has renewed calls for an inquiry into Australia’s border protection laws, after another boat carrying suspected asylum seekers was intercepted off the northwest coast.

Border Protection intercepted the vessel, carrying 83 passengers and four crew, at midnight AEST, Friday night about 80 nautical miles south of Ashmore Island.

It is the second boat intercepted this week after a vessel carrying seven passengers was found in the same area on Monday.

Fifty-six Afghanis trying to travel to Australia in a wooden boat were also detained in Indonesia this week, a navy official said on Friday.

Opposition spokeswoman for Immigration Sharman Stone said the Federal Government has “clearly lost the battle to people smugglers”.

It is the 30th boat that has been intercepted since the Rudd government “went soft” on border protection last August, she said on Saturday.

“For the sake of those risking their lives and to better protect Australia’s orderly immigration program we must have a detailed analysis of what has gone wrong with Labor’s strategy,” Dr Stone said in a statement.

“Again, I call for an urgent inquiry into the relationship between the Rudd government’s softened stance on border protection and the surge in people smuggling in Australia.”

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Al-Qaeda Somalia Suspect ‘Killed’

US forces have “likely killed” a top al-Qaeda suspect during a US military raid in Somalia, a US official has told the BBC.

The suspect, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, is wanted over 2002 attacks on a hotel and an Israeli airliner in the Kenyan port of Mombassa.

He has been on the FBI’s list of top suspects for years.

The claim followed earlier reports that foreign troops had attacked Islamist militants in southern Somalia.

A second US official said US special forces carried out the attack early on Monday Washington time.

The official said the operation had been “successful” and he believed Nabhan was dead.

The earlier reports said the troops wore uniforms with French insignia, and had attacked a vehicle carrying Islamists from the al-Shabab group.

A French military spokesman denied his country’s forces were involved.

The reason for the confusion over the identity of the troops was not immediately clear.

‘Helicopter strike’

Witnesses said the soldiers took away two men, and two bodies were left in the road after the attack in the southern coastal town of Barawe.

They said the attack had been carried out by helicopter.

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


More Brits Heading to Somalia for ‘Jihad’: Report

The heads of the U.K.’s top spy agency MI5 warned that at least 100 British citizens have gone to fight or train in Somalia since 2004, according to the left-leaning Independent newspaper, citing unnamed sources.

“We would have started at below 20 five years ago, when Somalia was not significant enough to be put under close surveillance,” a senior Home Office source told the paper Saturday, adding that the number increased each year.

“You have to remember that Somalia is not a place you would go for a holiday. It is particularly striking when people with no Somali family are going there; it looks as if some people are being attracted by the lawlessness.”

A moderate Muslim leader from outside London told the paper he had heard of young men travelling to Somalia to join extremist groups.

“I’m hearing it from parents,” Sheikh Ahmed Aabi said. “They say they [their children] are joining the jihad. This is a big problem facing our community.”

Growing concern

The officials are particularly concerned about the number of people with no direct family connection to Somalia who are travelling there, noting that it has become an alternative base for Islamic radical groups like al-Qaeda and al-Shebaab.

Although Afghanistan and Pakistan remain the main destination for British would-be jihadists, the paper said officials see Somalia as the next major challenge to combating terrorism under the guise of Islam.

“I have seen figures that are not in the public domain that suggest there is an increasing flow of young Britons into Somalia,” the paper quoted opposition conservative parliamentarian Patrick Mercer, chairman of the counter-terrorism subcommittee, as saying.

“There is now a mixture of British people, from numerous backgrounds, who are heading out there and that is causing great concern.”

A 21-year-old British Somali who blew himself up at a checkpoint in southern Somalia in 2007 was believed to have entered the country overland from Kenya.

Terrorism training

The Shebab, an al-Qaeda inspired movement designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S., is at the forefront of a three-month-old offensive to topple Somalia’s President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and has imposed strict Sharia law in areas under its control.

The paper said a confidential report in 2002 identified 16 terrorism training camps in Somalia and that the U.S. claimed the network had expanded, reaching beyond the war-torn country’s own borders into American’s Midwest and Australia.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Afghans in Indonesia ‘Paid to Return’

Hundreds of Afghan asylum seekers detained in Indonesia as they sought to reach Australia have been sent home in recent months after allegedly being offered a financial inducement.

The Age newspaper says the asylum seekers desperate to flee their war-torn homeland had also allegedly been told they had next to no chance of being resettled in another country.

Indonesia’s director for immigration law enforcement, Muchdor, told the newspaper 376 asylum seekers — almost all of them Afghans — had been repatriated recently, flown to Dubai and then Kabul under a program managed by the Jakarta office of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

The Age claims a surge in repatriations has prompted criticism from refugee advocates that the policy is endangering lives, and represents a recasting of the Howard government’s abandoned Pacific Solution with a similarly inhumane “South-East Asian solution”.

It comes as Indonesian authorities said they had detained 56 Afghans off the eastern island of Lombok who were attempting to travel by wooden boat to Australia.

Three Indonesian boat crew were also arrested.

Australia provides funding for the IOM in Indonesia, including its repatriation programs. It also funds the detention centres that hold asylum seekers in Indonesia.

The Age reports that asylum seekers say they are placed under extreme pressure and feel they have no choice but to take up the offer to go back to Afghanistan, currently in the grip of its worst violence since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

“The IOM officials come around and they tell us ‘don’t bother, nothing is going to happen for you’,” said one asylum seeker, who asked The Age not to be named.

He said the IOM was offering individuals about $2000 in cash payments to return. It is understood that families get more.

Australia allocated $8 million for the IOM in this year’s budget.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Evans rejected the notion that the sharp increase in repatriations had been driven from Canberra.

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


Immigrants, Anchor Babies Weigh Down Obamacare

Like virtually every issue that faces the nation, our health-care problem is greatly exacerbated by mass immigration — both legal and illegal. A total of 43 percent of non-citizens lack health insurance, compared to just 12.7 percent of native-born Americans. These uninsured immigrants impose huge strains on our health-care system that helped create the crisis we currently face.

Plenty of analysts and commentators have exposed how illegal aliens will receive health care under Obamacare. They point out that while the bill claims to prohibit illegal aliens from receiving benefits, the Democrats repeatedly blocked amendments that would screen for the illegals. Steve Camorata of the nonpartisan Center for Immigration Studies recently estimated that 6.6 million illegal aliens will be eligible for public health care.

This is an outrage for hard-working American citizens, but I’d like to focus on two other important but largely ignored aspects of our immigration crisis that will cost taxpayers billions of dollars if Obama’s health-care boondoggle is passed.

[…]

But the obvious intent, as well as the “subject to jurisdiction thereof” clause, is ignored by federal policy that gives children of illegal aliens born in the United States automatic citizenship.

What does this have to do with the health-care debate? Under the plan right now, only one family member needs to be eligible for government health care, then the whole family can get free health care.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Ireland: New ‘Bridging Visa’ For Immigrants

A temporary visa scheme is to be introduced for immigrants who have become undocumented for reasons beyond their control.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern today confirmed that immigrants from outside the European Economic Area who have become undocumented through no fault of their own will soon be eligible to apply for a temporary residence permit or “bridging visa” of four months.

The permit will give holders the chance to find a job or, if they are already employed, to obtain a work permit from the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment. It is expected the scheme will open for applications from October 1st up to the end of the year.

The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions welcomed the introduction of the “bridging visa”, which follows a commitment included in the social partnership agreement Towards 2016 after long-running campaigns by both groups.

The Government had previously signalled that it had reservations about such a move because it could provide an incentive for illegal immigration. While there are no official figures to indicate how many people may be eligible to apply for the scheme, the MRCI estimates it could benefit several thousand.

The group has documented dozens of cases of workers who were either promised work permits by their employers when they arrived in the country, or whose employers never renewed their permits. Such workers are often left in a legal limbo and are unable to access social welfare, even though they may have been making social insurance contributions in the past.

In a statement, Mr Ahern stressed that the programme was not a regularisation but a temporary permit that would be issued only to a specific category of undocumented immigrant. It will not be open to those who entered the State illegally.

“It is very important that foreign nationals who are in Ireland and working here do so legally at all times. However, I am aware that there will be a small minority of cases where it is clear from the evidence that the reason for the individual becoming undocumented is not the fault of the migrant but of the employer,” Mr Ahern said.

“Where migrant workers have not been treated fairly by their employer and this has been the cause of their undocumented status it is appropriate that we give them the chance to put things right.”

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


Landing in Calabria, 40 Immigrants Stopped

(ANSAmed) — ISOLA CAPO RIZZUTO (CROTONE), SEPTEMBER 14 — Forty immigrants, including 12 children, eight women and 21 Turkish Kurd, Afghan and Iraqi men were stopped on state road 106 after having landed on the Crotone coastline. The immigrants, taken to shore by a fishing vessel, were found on the state road 106 between the districts of Isola Capo Rizzuto and Cutro. Police, Carabinieri and Misericordia volunteers arrived on the site and accompanied all the immigrates to the S. Anna identification centre for processing. All the immigrants are reported to be in good health. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Tunisians Reach Pantelleria in Jet-Ski

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, SEPTEMBER 8 — Two young Tunisian males were able to reach Pantelleria from Kelibia (Cap Bon) on two jet-skis. The distance between the Kelibia (Tunisian seaside resort on the Gulf of Hammamet) and the island is only 22 nautical miles. The two illegal immigrants, according to reports today in French-language newspaper Quotidien, faked that they were tourists to rent the two jet-skis for 200 dinars (just over 100 euros) and made their departure. According to Le Quotidien, they were stopped at sea by the Italian Coast Guard just before landing on Pantelleria. Their journey is reminiscent of a similar voyage by 4 Algerians between the ages of 22 and 30, who, according to reports in July in Algerian daily, Echouroukda, reportedly managed to make it to Sardinia on-board 4 stolen jet-skis. The four immigrants departed from the Tunisian coast after staying in a luxury hotel and renting the jet-skis, which were equipped with GPRS, and petrol tanks. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


UN Against Sending Back, Rights Violated

(ANSAmed) — GENEVA, SEPTEMBER 14 — The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, criticised immigration policy that “abandons and sends back without verifying in an adequate way if they have fled persecution, in violation of international human rights”. In a speech expected tomorrow, the text of which was released today in Geneva, Pillay cited the case of the rubber dingy of Eritreans that went un-rescued between Libya, Malta and Italy in August. Pillay explains that in “many cases, authorities send these immigrants back and left them to face danger if not death, as if they were sending back boats full of hazardous waste”. “The policy of detaining irregular migrants of their criminalization and bad treatment in the border controls must stop”, added Pillay who continues to affirm that “today, with the premise that ships in difficulty are carrying migrants, the ships that pass them by ignoring calls for help, are in violation of international rights.” “In many cases, authorities send these immigrants back and leave them to face danger if not death, as if they were sending back boats full of hazardous waste”, stresses the High Commissioner mentioning the situation in the Mediterranean, the Gulf of Aden, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and other seas. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


USA: Immigration Raids Yield Jobs for Legal Workers

When federal agents descended on six meatpacking plants owned by Swift & Co. in December 2006, they rounded up nearly 1,300 suspected illegal immigrants that made up about 10% of the labor force at the plants.

But the raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents did not cripple the company or the plants. In fact, they were back up and running at full staff within months by replacing those removed with a significant number of native-born Americans, according to a report by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

That was the most extreme example of what has become an increasingly common result of the raids: “They were very beneficial to American workers,” according to Vanderbilt University professor Carol Swain.

“Whenever there’s an immigration raid, you find white, black and legal immigrant labor lining up to do those jobs that Americans will supposedly not do,” said Swain, who teaches law and political science.

Exactly who is filling the jobs has varied, depending on the populations surrounding the plants:

  • Out West, one of the Swift plants raided by ICE, had a workforce that was about 90% Hispanic — both legal and illegal — before the raids. The lost workers were replaced mostly with white Americans and U.S.-born Hispanics, according to the CIS.
  • In the South, a House of Raeford Farms plant in North Carolina that was more than 80% Hispanic before a federal investigation is now about 70% African-American, according to a report by TheCharlotte Observer.
  • Throughout the Great Plains, a new wave of legal immigrants is filling the void, according to Jill Cashen, spokeswoman for the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents 1.3 million people who work in the food-processing industry. Plants are refilling positions with newly arrived immigrants from places such as Sudan, Somalia and Southeast Asia.

Recession plays a factor in shift

Steven Camarota of CIS said native-born Americans are not only willing to take on those jobs, but currently fill a majority of them.

Native-born workers outnumber immigrants 3-to-1 in construction jobs and 2-to-1 in farming, fishing and forestry jobs, according to Camarota.

T. Willard Fair, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Miami, said it has taken the greatest recession in a generation for poor Americans to line up to work in fields and factories.

“We’ll take anything now,” Fair said. “We’re willing to be exploited for a while.”

After ICE agents descend on poultry-processing plants, pork factories and meatpacking facilities across the USA, in some cases plant owners are forced to raise wages to get Americans to sign up, Swain said.

Catherine Singley, a policy analyst for the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights organization, said the post-raid increases in salaries were also necessary for Americans to accept the harsh, dangerous working environments.

She said wages did not plummet in recent decades because of immigrants undercutting Americans, but because employers took advantage of the immigrant population fearful of seeking help from authorities.

“If you’ve got a segment of the workforce that’s afraid to speak out against violations of their labor rights, then that drags down wages and working conditions for all workers,” Singley said.

A report released last week by the NCLR found that the occupational fatality rate for Latinos remained the highest among ethnic groups in the country for the 15th straight year in 2007, when 937 Latinos died on the job.

“That’s something that native-born Americans and native-born Latino workers are dealing with for the first time,” she said, referring to the general working conditions faced by workers in factories, plants and fields.

New leverage for workers

As the face of factory workers changes, so do the issues that workers and employers must tackle.

Cashen said her union had to negotiate with plant managers in Nebraska and Colorado to allow employees to properly observe the Islamic holiday of Ramadan.

This month, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that the Colorado plant was wrong to fire more than 100 Muslim workers who walked out during Ramadan last year in a dispute over prayer breaks.

“Ten years ago, we were negotiating to provide for Cinco de Mayo,” Cashen said, referring to the Mexican holiday. “If you walk in the doors of a plant, you’re going to see … the United Nations.”

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

Culture Wars

Obama School-’Safety’ Chief: How to Jam Homosexuality

‘If Radical Right can succeed in portraying us as preying on children, we will lose’

President Obama’s choice to monitor school safety once boasted that he introduced homosexual advocacy into the school system in Massachusetts by manipulating the message presented to lawmakers.

The revelations about Kevin Jennings, who was named assistant deputy secretary for the office of Safe & Drug Free Schools in the U.S. Department of Education, come just as several of Obama’s “czars” have come under scrutiny for their actions, opinions and affiliations.

[…]

In 1995, he gave a speech in which he described how he has used the concept of “safety” in schools to promote homosexual advocacy in public schools in Massachusetts. He gave a speech called “Winning the Culture War” at the Human Rights Campaign Fund Leadership Conference on March 5 of that year.

Excerpts have been posted on the website of MassResistance, where chief Brian Camenker has worked to oppose the demands of homosexual activists.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

General

Codex Alimentarius and the Idiocracy

For those readers not familiar with the Codex Alimentarius Commission, it is just one more of these mass-uniformity structures. Originally created in 1962 by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization with the noblest of stated intentions — that is, to protect consumer food health and eliminate barriers to international food trade — the Codex Alimentarius Commission has been engaged in developing food standards and guidelines that will be imposed from the Top down. Captured by interests antithetical to health freedom, Codex is now well on the path to promulgating food rules that will lead to ‘dumbed-down’ health — a kind of health Idiocracy — for individuals throughout the World.

That is precisely why the National Health Federation (NHF), an international nonprofit consumer health-freedom organization, has been sending me to these Codex committee meetings every year for ten years in a row now.

[…]

In particular, NHF has opposed the Codex Vitamin and Mineral Food Supplement Guidelines that were adopted in framework form in 2004-2005, and that will limit access to healthy dietary supplements as well as ‘dumb down’ their potencies to non-beneficial levels. These maximum upper permitted limits have not yet been set. However, if the Germans, Danes and others have their way, then ridiculously-low limits will be imposed that will ensure that supplements pose no competition with their pharmaceutical industry. For example, the German Institute (BfR) that has conducted ‘research’ into this area has determined that niacin is dangerous to consumers at levels higher than 17 milligrams per capsule! This is the madness that they would impose upon the rest of us as they die from their drug-and-sausage-induced heart attacks. That is a party we have no intention of joining!

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


The Green Revolution Wasn’t Green Enough

Norman Borlaug saved a billion lives from starvation. But decades on, his farming methods threaten the health of the planet

[Comment from Tuan Jim: You knew it would happen — the human-oriented environmentalist just wasn’t green enough. :facepalm:]

For someone of my generation, growing up under postwar food rationing, the idea that food would always be plentiful and cheap seemed about as likely as a portable phone that you could carry around with you.

For many of us the dire predictions of Thomas Malthus were all too credible. Malthus had advanced the dismal theory that human populations would always grow faster than their food supply. It meant you could forget all your grand ideas about progress. Every social advance was destined to be brought to nothing by famine.

The singular achievement of the agronomist Norman Borlaug, who died at the weekend, was to take away this age-old fear, at least for those of us in the rich West.

In a crop-breeding programme that won him the Nobel Peace Prize, he developed a clutch of wheat varieties with remarkably short stems. As a young farming journalist I remember writing about one of the first to appear in Britain, a diminutive variety called Hobbit.

Compared with the taller traditional wheats, the short-strawed types shifted a higher proportion of plant sugars into the seedhead or ear of the plant, where the grains were formed. In this way they were capable of producing dramatically higher yields. But to achieve them they needed huge amounts of chemical fertiliser. Borlaug once remarked that “if the high-yielding wheat and rice varieties are the catalysts that ignited the revolution, chemical fertiliser is the fuel that powered its forward thrust”.

His Green Revolution led to a near-doubling of wheat yields in India and Pakistan during the late 1960s. Altogether more than a billion people are believed to have been saved from starvation as a result of the new varieties.

Over the past 30 years Western governments have poured subsidies into the development of so-called high-yield grain production. One early result was the notorious grain mountains of the 1970s and 1980s which, far from alleviating hunger, did much to undermine the development of food production in poor countries. Borlaug intended his methods to be used for the benefit of people across the planet. Instead they were seized on by industrial countries with the wealth to pay for expensive seeds and fertilisers. Where they were used in developing countries, this often came at the cost of a crippling debt burden…

[Comment from Tuan Jim: as some of the commenters note — he’s not even in the ground and he’s already being torn to shreds…typical.]

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

8 comments:

Etruscan said...

"A middle-aged man in Munich was beaten to death by two teenaged punks when he attempted to protect two younger teenagers who were being harassed by the older boys. The article gives no explicit information, but one may assume from the context that this was an instance of cultural enrichment."

The FAZ describes them as "German with no immigration background".

Baron Bodissey said...

Etruscan,

Well, I'll be blowed -- based on the fact that the article refers to a previous incident that involved cultural enrichers, I assumed that this was a coded way of saying that the latest murderers were also enrichers.

I stand corrected.

Ilíon said...

"In other news, the three men who were convicted in the UK of planning to blow up a jet with liquid explosives have been sentenced to life in prison."

So, these days, as of mid-2009, what does "sentenced to life in prison" mean? Three months, or is it still six?

Zenster said...

UK: Airline Plot Trio Get Life Terms

Their aim was a terrorist outrage to “stand alongside” the 9/11 attacks on the US in history, the judge said. [emphasis added]

The correct word isn't "outrage". Islam's mere existence, along with its equally repulsive shari'a law is an "outrage".

Intentionally crashing fully loaded passenger airliners into occupied skyscrapers, slaughtering hundreds of schoolchildren, bombing packed commuter trains and seaside resorts are ATROCITIES and need to be called by that name. Outrage doesn't even begin to describe the routine and limitless barbarity that Islam inflicts upon our modern world.

Ilíon said...

That's a good point, Zenster. What they attempted wasn't merely an "outrage" ... much as 9/11 wasn't merely a "tragedy."

Zenster said...

Ilíon: That's a good point, Zenster. What they attempted wasn't merely an "outrage" ... much as 9/11 wasn't merely a "tragedy."

Thank you for noticing, Ilíon. The MSM's routine downplaying of Islam's constant predations against all other cultures is nothing short of criminal. It only serves to diminish what should be a much stronger public response to such disgusting and heinous acts.

I anticipate a day when, true to form, Islam will overreach itself in one supremely appalling act of ultra-violence, the monstrosity of which no amount of spin or understatement can minimize. The world’s current state of collective denial over Islam’s intrinsically evil nature only serves to assure that when the dam holding back mass disapproval bursts, the ensuing deluge will spark the Muslim holocaust that looms in our future.

Islam, by its very nature, willfully and knowingly drives towards this goal in its demand for a global caliphate. It would like nothing more than several hundred million deaths. The West’s sole obligation is make sure that the overwhelming majority of those fatalities are Muslim.

Ilíon said...

Indeed.

As my only little part of resistence to the PC crap, I refuse any longer to use the term 'Muslim.' We already have a good English word of long standing to denote the Mohammadeans: Moslem. I use that word.

Ilíon said...

oops ... "own," not "only"