Thursday, October 15, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 10/15/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 10/15/2009A huge controversy has arisen in Italy over the alleged payment of bribes to the Taliban. Last year ten French soldiers were ambushed and killed in Afghanistan, and there is now a report that the Italians whom the French replaced had been paying the Taliban to leave them alone. The French were never informed of the arrangement when they took over the assignment, and so they paid the price.

The Italian government vehemently denies that it ever paid any bribes.

In other news, the BNP has announced that as of its party conference next month, it will change its official policy and allow non-whites to join.

Thanks to A Greek Friend, AA, Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Fausta, Fjordman, Frontinus, Gaia, Insubria, JD, Nilk, Politically Incorrect, Sean O’Brian, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Social Security to Make it Official: No Cost of Living Increase
The Kerala Exception. A Trip to India’s Most Christian and Peaceful State
 
USA
CAIR Attempts to Torpedo Capitol Press Conference
CAIR Spent $160,000 to Silence Savage
Daniel Pipes: Cair’s Inner Workings Exposed
FCC Commissioner Says Diversity Chief’s Ideas for Regulating Free Speech Are ‘Troubling’
For Sale: The Backyard White House With Oval Office and Lincoln Bedroom for a Bargain $10m
House Republicans Accuse Muslim Group of Trying to Plant Spies
‘Now We Have Proof’ Jihadis Infiltrating D.C.
Robert Wexler, Passionate Florida Liberal, Quits Congress
Tentative Inspection Program Would Allow Russia to Visit U.S. Nuclear Sites
Will Washington Still Respect us in the Morning?
 
Europe and the EU
EU: Legal Steps Against Greece for Road Haulage and Fuel
EU: Portugal: Greece Professional Qualification Controversy
France: Muslim Football Team Excluded After Spat With ‘Gay’ Team
France: Islamic Art Treasures on Display in Paris
Germany: Intelligence Agency Warns of Iranian Spies
Italy: Abducted Muslim Cleric and Wife Seek €15mln Damages
Italy: Lesbians ‘Attacked’ By North African Immigrants
MEPs Seek More Power Over Diplomatic Service
Netherlands: Rotterdam to Combat Cynicism
Nobel Peace Prize for Obama: Berlusconi: Investment for Future
Now Muslims Demand Full Sharia Law in UK
Spain: Possible Fine for Failing to Treat Wastewater
Strait Bridge: Berlusconi, Work Begins This December
Sweden: Hip Diaper Bag a Must for the Discerning Dad
UK: Ambulance Crew Barred From Helping Girl, 9, With Fractured Skull ‘Because They Were Having Their Lunch’
UK: BNP to Consider Non-White Members
UK: Corner Shop Worker Told to Stop Singing in Her Store — Or Pay for a Performing Licence
UK: Father and His Brothers ‘Murdered Daughter in Honour Killing for Loving Wrong Man’
UK: Farm Subsidy System ‘In a Mess’
UK: Shame of Drunken Student Caught Urinating on War Memorial During ‘Carnage’ Mass Pub Crawl
UK: Why 1 in 5 Boys Can’t Write Own Name After Year at Primary School
 
Balkans
Croatia: EU: Corruption and Organised Crime Main Challenges
Kosovo: 13:421 Dead and Missing in War, NGO
Project Results at Risk, EU Court of Auditors
Threat by Bosnia Serbs Alarms Europe and US
 
North Africa
Arabs for Israel: Meet the Egyptian Woman Who Campaigns Against Sharia
Egypt: Government Also Prohibits Niqub in Schools
Increasing Use of Face Veil Worries Egyptian Government
Libya: Gaddafi’s Son Likely Libya’s Number Two, Press
Libya to Demolish Notorious Prison, Frees 88 Islamists
Transport: ATR Signs Contract to Sell Two 42-500s to Libya
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Dangerous Life of Wine-Lovers in Islamist Gaza
Petition to Urge World Leaders: Vote No to Biased Goldstone Report
‘Secret Memo’ Eyes a New Foreign Policy
UK Rejects Goldstone Report at Unhrc
US ‘Furious Over Incitement Against Obama’
 
Middle East
Archbishop of Kirkuk: For 1600 Years, Iraq Has Been a “Country of Martyrs”
Bomb Attack on Sunni Imam: Killed Because He Criticized Al-Qaeda
God Furious if Women Governors: Iran Cleric
The West’s Choice of Strategy: Defending Itself From Terror Attacks or Combatting a Radical Strategic Threat?
Turkey: EU: Focus on Freedom of Press and Fundamental Rights
Turkish TV Series Angers Israel
Vatican: Bishop Urges Turkey to Recognise Armenian ‘Genocide’
Will it be Another ‘Lost Century’ For the Arab World?
 
Russia
Journalist Criticises Those Who Miss the End of the USSR, They Call for His Expulsion From Russia
Russia to Allow Pre-Emptive Nukes
Russia’s Putin Warns Against Intimidating Iran
Washington Promises to Tone Down Criticism of Kremlin
 
South Asia
Afghanistan: Cabinet Office, Times Accusations Totally Unfounded
Afghanistan: La Russa, We Will Sue the Times, It’s Rubbish
Asia: Does Al-Qaida Have Key to Unlock Pakistan Nukes?
French Troops Were Killed After Italy Hushed Up ‘Bribes’ To Taleban
Italy: Govt Denies Claims it ‘Bribed’ Afghan Taliban Militants
Italy Fury at ‘Taliban Pay’ Claim
Million Dollar Babies in Kabul
Pakistan: Taliban Leader Warns India Will be ‘Attacked’
Pakistan: Muslim Leader: Government Hostage to the Extremists Will Not Abolish the Blasphemy Law
 
Far East
Death Sentence for a Chinese Han, At the Origin of Xinjiang Clashes
New Moscow-Beijing Axis to Restrain the West
 
Australia — Pacific
Teen Describes Home Invasion Terror
 
Latin America
Honduras: Is Zelaya Going to Spain?
 
Immigration
Germany in Uproar After Politician Says the ‘Unspeakable’ About Turkish Immigrants
Italy: Illegal Egyptian Migrants Deported
Italy: Muslim Intellectual Urges Integration
Italy: We Can’t Allow Irregular Migrants, Manganelli
Poll: Mexicans Say Mexican-Americans Owe Loyalty to Mexico Over U.S.
UN: Crime of Illegal Immigration Discriminatory
Yishai: Migrant Workers Using Their Children to Stay in Israel
 
Culture Wars
Police ‘Arrest’ Jesus Image
 
General
Islamism Must Carry a Price

Financial Crisis

Social Security to Make it Official: No Cost of Living Increase

The Social Security Administration will withhold an annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) next year for the first time since the increase became automatic in 1975, as President Obama calls for another round of $250 checks for 50 million seniors, veterans and retired workers.

WASHINGTON — The Social Security Administration makes it official Thursday: There will be no cost of living increase for Social Security recipients next year, the first year without one since automatic adjustments were adopted in 1975.

The announcement comes as President Barack Obama and key members of Congress call for a second round of $250 payments to more than 50 million seniors, veterans, retired railroad workers and people with disabilities.

The payments would be equal to about a 2 percent increase for the average Social Security recipient. The cost: $13 billion.

Obama called on Congress Wednesday to approve the payments, and several key members of Congress said they would.

“This additional assistance will be especially important in the coming months, as countless seniors and others have seen their retirement accounts and home values decline as a result of this economic crisis,” Obama said in a statement.

Blame falling consumer prices for no automatic increase next year. By law, Social Security’s cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, is pegged to inflation, which was negative this year, due largely to falling energy costs.

The $250 payments would go to Social Security recipients as well as those receiving veterans benefits or disability benefits, railroad retirees and retired public employees who don’t receive Social Security. Recipients would be limited to one payment, even if they qualified for more.

Obama said he would not allow the payments to come out of the Social Security trust funds and further erode the finances of the retirement program. Social Security already is projected to pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes in each of the next two years.

However, Obama did not offer any alternatives to finance the payments. A senior administration official said Obama was open to borrowing the money, increasing the federal budget deficit. The official, who requested anonymity, was not authorized to speak on the record.

The $250 payments would match the ones issued to seniors earlier this year as part of the massive economic recovery package enacted in February. Those, too, were financed with borrowed money.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he supports sending out another round of payments, as did Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over Social Security in the House.

Other lawmakers said Social Security recipients shouldn’t get the extra payments because the formula doesn’t call for it.

“I think it would be inappropriate,” said Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H. “The reason we set up this process was to have the Social Security reimbursement reflect the cost of living.”

Social Security payments increased by 5.8 percent in January, the largest increase since 1982. The big increase was largely because of a spike in energy costs in 2008.

Inflation has been negative this year as gasoline prices have dropped 30 percent and overall energy costs have dropped 23 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Social Security payments, however, cannot go down. The average monthly Social Security payment for all Social Security recipients is $1,094.

[Return to headlines]


The Kerala Exception. A Trip to India’s Most Christian and Peaceful State

There are ten times more Catholics there than elsewhere, but they live in peace with the Hindus and Muslims. Education is generalized, with equality between men and women. The only threat to this miracle comes from a Marxist government

ROME, October 5, 2009 — The synod of bishops on “The Church in Africa,” which runs from yesterday until October 25, calls attention back to the continent that over the past century has seen the most explosive missionary expansion of Christianity.

The Christian fertility of Africa contrasts with that of another continent, Asia, which instead shows itself to be much more impervious to the Gospel.

In Asia, the Philippines is the only nation with a Christian majority, and South Korea is the only nation in which Christianity is growing. Elsewhere, Christians are a more or less scant minority, in many cases busy resisting persecution, oppression, hostility of every kind.

Asia’s two giants are emblematic. Not only from China, but also from democratic India the news media constantly report cases of violence against Christians. In recent years, Orissa has been an authentic place of martyrdom.

And yet not all of India is like this. There is a region in which Christians are ten times as numerous — 20 percent, as opposed to 2 percent of the national media — and above all live in peace.

That region is Kerala. Christianity has extremely ancient roots there, and the Christian imprint is still extraordinary. Kerala is not rich, but it is by far the most educated state in India, with very high levels of education among women as well (in the photo). It is the state that for many decades has had the most balanced birth rate, fundamentally because all of the girls go to school, and therefore get married later than girls elsewhere. Most of the schools there, of every order and degree, are Christian.

Kerala is also the Indian state with the highest level of literacy. Since last year, a weekly edition of “L’Osservatore Romano” has been printed there in the local language, Malayalam. 20,000 copies of it are sold, twice as many as the Italian language edition.

The extraordinary nature of Christianity in Kerala has been highlighted in the latest issue of “Oasis,” the multi-language international magazine published by the patriarchate of Venice, and aimed at the East.

The issue opens with an editorial by the bishop emeritus of Changanacherry of the Syro-Malabar Catholics, Joseph Powathil. It contains a reportage from Kerala, supplemented with a fascinating and detailed reconstruction of the history and unique features of Christianity in the region, written by the priest and patristics scholar Thomas Koonammakkal.

The following is an extensive extract from the reportage.

__________

The Amazing Secrets of Kerala

by Luca Fiore

“We are different flowers of the same plant”. Basheer Rawther, a lawyer in Changanacherry, chooses this image to describe the relationship between the Hindus, Muslims and Christians living in Kerala. It is of no importance that Rawther belongs to the Muslim community. Ask anyone in the street and more or less they will give you the same answer. This region in south-west India seems to be a world apart with respect to the image that this country has given of itself over the last few months. Here, all things considered, the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, which is just over a thousand kilometres away, and the pogroms against the Christians of Orissa, are seen as dramatic but distant events. […] In this context, Kerala stands out as an exception that cannot be ignored.

On arriving in Kerala it is not long before one understands that things work

differently with respect to the big cities of the country that everyone looks to for economic records. None of the splendours of the Bollywood that sparkles in the Mumbai hotels, none of the Silicon Valley-like activity to be felt in Bangalore. Life goes on slowly, like the small canoes sailing down the internal waterways, the backwaters, which run along the coast and make their way into the interior. […] On their journey the boats sail past small villages with mosques, temples and schools, and tiny groups of houses where people live on narrow strips of reclaimed ground, just a few metres wide. […] The women wear almost exclusively saris or the salwar kameez (tunic and trousers) and it is rare to see them dressed in the western style. For the men it is different, even if the lungi, a piece of coloured material that is wrapped around their waists, is the most common form of clothing for everyday life. In Kerala it is not rare to see large elephants in the roads used as working animals: they transport tree trunks or are used as hoists in timber-yards. […]

The 35 million inhabitants of Kerala live on an average pro capita income of ?550 a year. The two staples of the local economy are fishing and agriculture, so much so that the hundreds of thousands of excellent graduates coming from local universities are forced to look for work in the rest of India or on the other coast of the Arabian sea. Almost one million and a half of the inhabitants (about 4%) live abroad, particularly in the countries of the Persian Gulf. It is no mystery that it is the remittances of the immigrants that maintain the local economy and now that the development of cities like Dubai is paralysed by the economic crisis, it is foreseeable that the flow of money from abroad is destined to slow down.

THE CHRISTIANS OF SAINT THOMAS

But Kerala boasts other records. In 1957, in fact, it became the first region of the subcontinent where the democratic elections were won by a Marxist party. It is also the first Indian state as regards literacy: 91% against 65% in the rest of the country; it is the first Indian region for longevity (ten years more compared with the national average age of 69) and has the lowest number of socio-economic inequalities between men and women or between castes. Lastly, Kerala is the Indian state with the highest rate of religious pluralism. This is in fact a concrete example of real coexistence, notwithstanding the mosaic of communities forming it: most of the population is Hindu, but 25% is Muslim and 20% is Christian. This is a huge percentage if one thinks that the average Christian population in India is calculated at 2.3%. […]

The coexistence among the different religious groups, in Kerala, dates back to time immemorial. Saint Francesco Saverio, the Spanish Jesuit missionary who landed on these Indian shores in the wake of Vasco da Gama, was surprised to find a considerable number of Syriac rite Christians. The arrival of Christianity in India, in fact, dates back to 52 AD according to tradition when the Apostle Thomas arrived in Kerala owing to the contacts with the colonies of Jewish merchants already present on the coasts of the Arabian sea. The Apostle’s tomb is kept in Cennai (Madras) and the Christians of these areas are called Thomas Christians, the Christians of Saint Thomas. Even though historically speaking there is no certainty about the arrival of the Apostle on the coasts of Kerala, the local churches — in particular those of Syriac rite — are proud of their direct connection with the apostolic tradition. The peaceful arrival of Islam dates back to the VII century; this came about by means of the Arab spice merchants. […]

THREE RELIGIONS AT THE SAME SCHOOL DESKS

At Fort Cochin all the complexity of the culture and history of Kerala can be felt. The traces of the colonial age, the baroque churches and the Portuguese style houses with their deep blue window frames alternate with the little shops selling typical products, craftsmen’s workshops, humble precarious houses. In Fort Cochin one can also visit an ancient synagogue that bears witness to the presence of a small Jewish community. Almost everywhere, stuck on the brick walls, can be seen the electoral posters of the local Communist Party. In the main street of the old part of the city there is one of its two offices with a mural depicting Che Guevara. The bizarre pantheon of this Marxist party in fact houses, besides the Argentinean guerrilla, also Saddam Hussein and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. It is even possible to see the three faces looking out on posters during public protests. What Saddam Hussein and Mother Teresa have to do with it can soon be explained: along with Che Guevara, here in India they have become the symbol of the fight against poverty and the colonial power of the west.

Even though it is true that the Muslim community is concentrated in the north of Kerala and the Christian one in the south, it must be emphasised that ‘ghettoes’ inside the towns and villages do not exist: Christians and Muslims are often neighbours. From the terrace of one of the many shops in Fort Cochin, the old Portuguese colony around which present day Kochi has been built, you can see a mosque, a church and a Hindu temple practically in the same neighbourhood. The children of the different religions begin to live side by side sitting at their school desks. From being classmates, they will often go on to be colleagues at work. At Changanacerry, for example, everyone knows how important is the friendship, which began at school, between H. E. Msgr. Joseph Powathil, emeritus Archbishop of the local diocese and former president of the Indian Bishops’ conference, and Narayana Panikker, secretary general of the Nair Service Society, a charitable Hindu association with 5,600 sections in Kerala for a total of 6.5 million followers. There exists a heartfelt friendship between them that has encouraged and promoted the good coexistence between the Christian and Hindu communities. Even during one of the most critical periods in the history of India, between 1967 and 1970, when 1,365 incidents between Hindus and Moslems were recorded, only 142 took place in the south of the country.

But what gives the physical sense of this coexistence is above all the religious feasts, of which there is a great number. On saints’ days hundreds of stalls selling all sorts of objects appear in the streets which are lit up with a thousand coloured lights. Life comes to a halt in the town or village and everyone, also Hindus and Muslims, take part in the feast. […] The relations between the different religions, in some cases, border on syncretism: it happens that the Hindus worship Christian saints seen as incarnations of their one divinity.

THE FACTORS BEHIND CONVERSION

Conversions among the different groups are rare, but there are some. In Kerala nobody practises proselytism except the hardened Pentecostals. It can happen that some Hindus convert to Christianity without incurring too many objections from their family. In a small parish of Kottayam, for example, one of the parishioners converted from Hinduism. She is an illustrator of children’s books and on Sundays she stays after the mass to wait for her twelve year old daughter to come out of Sunday school. In the same parish a Muslim woman married a Christian and was baptised. They speak about it openly, without any fear at all. This in unthinkable in many Muslim countries. The fact that this woman has incurred no problems, or that she is still alive, says a lot about the general attitude in Kottayam. H. E. Msgr. Abraham Mar Julios, Bishop of Muvattupuzha, recounts that recently thirty Hindu families in his diocese, who had immigrated from Tamil Nadu, converted to Christianity. They are very poor families, which came to Kerala because the breadwinners had found work in a gravel quarry. What convinced them to leave their own religion? “The people I spoke to” — says Mons. Mar Julios — “told me that they had been captivated by the parish community of their village. They were hit by the fact that the Christian community is a ‘praying community’, by the fact, that is, that Christians pray together and that they are conceived as a community. Hindu prayer is always individual and rarely does the keeper of the temple know the people who go to the place of worship to any extent. The parish priest usually knows all his parishioners by name”.

Father Lorenzo Buda is a monk, he has a long white beard growing down over his orange habit in which his painfully thin body is wrapped. He lives in a monastery in the middle of the jungle on the southern Ghat mountains, on the border with Tamil Nadu. The village is called Idukki and is little further than 60 kilometres from Kottayam. Here the people are very simple and very poor. Fifty people have asked him for baptism during his ten years in Idukki. “It’s difficult to say why they ask to become Christians” — explains Father Buda — “but some people told me that they had never felt loved in such a way before”.

THE BURDEN OF CASTE, THE TEMPTATION OF VIOLENCE

“There is no doubt — explained the French anthropologist Louis Dumont in his monumental ‘Homo Hierarchicus’ in 1966 — that often the Untouchables, by converting to Christianity, answered the call of an equalitarian religion preached by the powerful, but it does not appear that their social standing has in fact improved, either in the Hindu environment or for that matter in the Christian one”.

If, on the one hand, it is true that the burden of the caste system still weighs upon the society of Kerala, as in the rest of India, the promotion of education by the Church has undoubtedly made it possible to mitigate the rigid hierarchical system of society and has given many children belonging to the lower castes and the untouchables the possibility to improve their social condition. On the other hand, it is also true that, as Dumont states, not even the Christians of Kerala are completely free from conceiving society from a caste point of view. Basically the caste is stamped on the fate of Indians by their family name. And that name is borne right to the grave. This, in any case, is also true for the Christians.

Even though Kerala must be considered, and rightly so, an example of inter-religious coexistence, there have been several clashes among the different communities in the last years, particularly between Hindus and Muslims. With regard to the Christians, the episodes of violence have until now only involved things and rarely people. It can happen, in fact, that a church may be the target of stone-throwing or a votive chapel be destroyed, but in Kerala nobody has yet gone so far as killing for religious reasons. In 2004 in a village near the town of Kozhikode (Calicut), 35 people, armed with iron bars and shouting Hindu slogans, attacked four nuns and three brothers of the order of Mother Teresa. Some of the assailants ordered the nuns to leave the village and to stop converting Hindus to Christianity. This is however an isolated case. It is true, though, that in the last decade the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Hindu nationalist party in power in India until 2004 but a minority in Kerala, has been more and more vehement in its claims for ‘an India of the Hindus’.

At the same time the episodes of violence have increased that are ascribable to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, considered the armed branch of the BJP. In the Islamic madrasas the preaching of the Jihad against the Hindu oppressors has begun. On different occasions Islamic militants have been arrested while fighting in Kashmir, and it happened that the Islamic organisations themselves considered fundamentalist openly condemned the use of the madrasas as hiding-places for arms and explosives. Furthermore, it is known that the financing comes directly from Iran, Pakistan and other middle-eastern countries. Over the last years the National Development Front, an Islamic movement working for the defence of the socio-economic rights of Muslims, dalits and other backward classes has become increasingly successful. Recently the NDP announced that it will seriously commit itself to the Dawa, the missionary preaching to other communities and has accused the other Moslem associations of neglecting this type of activity. The Jamaat-Islami, an organisation that seeks to spread ‘the true awareness’ in the Muslim society and to cleanse it from all the non-Islamic rituals and superstitions, is on the rise. At present in Kerala this movement is taking on a more moderate approach than in the rest of India and has declared that it is open to dialogue with the other religions. The other emergent organisation is the Students Islamic Movement of India which calls for the “liberation of India” by means of its transformation into an Islamic state.

The fact remains that the majority of the mappilla, as the Muslims of Kerala are commonly called, have not yet given in to the voices of fundamentalism. “The Muslims of Kerala” — explains the Islamologist Father James Narithookil — “can be distinguished from the Muslims of the rest of India, first of all by the language which is Mappila Malayalam, a mixture of northern Kerala dialect and Arabic, while in the rest of India the Muslims speak Urdu. In fact, Arabic was the language of commerce on the coasts of Kerala well before the spread of Islam. Compared with the Muslims of the rest of India, those of Kerala are more educated and more sociable. They are certainly more inclined to harmony and inter-religious coexistence and they are more willing to cooperate with Hindus and Christians for social and moral progress”. […]

WHY KERALA IS THE EXCEPTION

But what really is the secret of Kerala? What is it that allows this handkerchief of land to remain an oasis of coexistence, despite its exceptions and contradictions? If the Christian, Hindu or Muslim is asked why Kerala has not yet become Orissa, their answer is always the same: “education”. […] As mentioned before, in this region the rate of literacy is the highest in India and is certified according to European standards. There are various reasons for this record, but there is no doubt that the presence of a sizeable local Christian community dating back thousands of years has promoted, through a visible commitment, the spread not only of schools and universities but also of a mentality that would otherwise be impossible in the rest of Hindu and Muslim India. Even before the arrival of the Portuguese, it was the Christian priests that began to teach the faithful to read and write Syriac so they could follow the liturgy, considering that the only schools existing before that were basically training centres for the highest caste, the Brahmins. Today the presence of the Christians in the region is undoubtedly considerable. It is thought that as far as concerns the Catholics alone they number about 4.8 million, with 29 dioceses, over 4,200 parishes, 8,000 priests, 31,000 nuns. […]

Another record held by Kerala is the flourishing of religious vocations. In fact, almost all the dioceses have a minor seminary and Kerala is one of the few regions able to ‘export’ priests and nuns. The reasons for this phenomenon are various and not easy to identify. According to Msgr. Joseph Perumthottam, the Archbishop of Chaganacherry, the main reason is to be found in the education that these young people get at home: “there are still many families who are deeply devoted to religion and have a profound respect for the vocation to priesthood. As a result they do not try to stop their children from undertaking this path a priori. It must be said however that even here the numbers are slowly diminishing”. Such a great wealth of ‘labour force’ makes it possible for the Catholic church to run over 5,800 schools and universities: 1,800 nursery schools, 1,300 junior schools, 650 middle schools, 1,000 secondary schools, 600 professional schools and several universities. If one thinks that the local government subsidizes about 12,000 schools and that not all the Catholic schools are subsidized, it is clear that the Church of Kerala supports 50-60% of the religious instruction. These are schools that are open to everyone and where Muslims, Hindus and Christians — as well as receiving a first level education — learn to know each other, respect each other and to even become friends. As much as it may sound strange to a European way of thinking, the Christian schools, for the most part Catholic, are not perceived by the Hindus as a threat or an instrument of proselytism. […] The influence of the Catholic Church on the mentality of the local population also passes through a deep commitment in the social sphere. The numbers speak for themselves here too: 300 orphanages, 400 rest homes, 440 hospitals and 91 publications.

If the role played by the church in society is without doubt central, above all in education, there also exists a positive effort in this direction by Muslims and Hindus. The Samastha Kerala Jameyyat ul-Ulama is an important school of thought of ‘tradionalist’ Islam, which is against so-called ‘modernist’ Islam. This organisation, widespread in Kerala since before Indian independence, has conceived a model of ‘part-time madrasa’, offering, that is, a type of religious education that lets pupils also regularly attend secular schools. This has encouraged, as well as literacy also a greater integration of the society of Kerala and a more serene relationship with modernity on the part of the local Muslims.

THE MARXIST TRAP

In this rather composite framework, the Communist Party of Kerala, which has the majority in the local government, plays a decisive role in the future of Kerala. Over the decades, it is true to say, the Communist Party has alternated with Congress but it has always been the first party to obtain consensus from all the religious groups of the region. At the last elections held two years ago, the communists came back to power and began a confrontation with the Catholic Church.

The point at issue was the freedom of education. In 2007, in fact, the government proposed a reform of the education system which according to the Catholic Church is aimed at creating political control over the subsidized schools, taking away the right from those running them to choose collaborators and enrol students. Also from the cultural point of view, the policy in state schools is going in the direction of discrediting religious experiences, so that it was not only the Muslim, Hindu and Christian associations that protested against the introduction of text books furthering atheism, but also secular organisations.

The bishops of Kerala do not miss an opportunity to express their concern. According to H. E. Powathil it was an electoral strategy to attract attention in view of the recent general elections. So much so that over the last few years there have been various provocative proposals put forward by government committees: sanctions for the third child, the introduction of euthanasia and so on. For the head of the Syro-Malankara Church, the Catholicos Mar Baselios Cleemis, it is the advance of secularism and atheism, and their effects at a social level, that constitutes one of the biggest challenges not only for the Church but also for Kerala.

The stakes are high: if it is true that the Church plays a prominent role in maintaining the peaceful nature of coexistence in Kerala, to attack its role in education can only weaken the immune system of the region against its fundamentalist opponents. Those who are in power today do not seem to realise this. Probably because they do not understand what the example of Kerala can mean for the future of the whole of India.

(From “Oasis,” year V no. 9, July 2009)

English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.

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

USA

CAIR Attempts to Torpedo Capitol Press Conference

Hits back with ‘criminal report’ about undercover investigation

Despite protests and threats from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, four Congress members went ahead with a press conference at the U.S. Capitol yesterday to call for an investigation of the Muslim lobby group based on documents uncovered in the explosive new book “Muslim Mafia,” by WND Books.

Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., received a fax Tuesday from CAIR’s in-house legal counsel, alleging the authors of the new book, set for release today, had engaged in “criminal actions” and warning that a report already had been filed with law enforcement authorities.

[…]

The CAIR lawyer told Myrick, co-founder of the Congressional Anti-Terror Caucus, she should “be aware that CAIR has contacted law enforcement authorities and filed a criminal report against those people that we believed have participated in the plot or furthered its goals. CAIR will also pursue civil damages against anyone responsible for defamation, theft of business documents, theft of trade secrets and invasion of privacy.”

The publisher of “Muslim Mafia,” WND CEO Joseph Farah, responded to CAIR’s fax with a letter to Myrick pointing out the CAIR documents were legally obtained by Gaubatz’s son, Chris, who went underground as a volunteer intern at the Islamic group’s national office for six months.

Farah explained Chris Gaubatz “was asked to shred documents he believed might be criminal evidence … and involve matters of national security. On advice from counsel, he collected those documents and preserved them. None of the documents were ‘stolen.’”

“They were, in fact, handed to him by CAIR employees for destruction,” Farah wrote to Myrick. “All of the documents are available for review by appropriate law-enforcement authorities and, in fact, some have already been provided to them.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


CAIR Spent $160,000 to Silence Savage

New book reveals memos behind campaign to run radio star off the air

An explosive new book based on a daring six-month undercover operation exposing the subversive agenda of the Council on American-Islamic Relations reveals the Muslim group spent $160,000 in an unsuccessful effort to run top-rated nationally syndicated radio host Michael Savage off the air.

Internal CAIR documents uncovered in “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America” show that despite its high cost and the continued success of Savage’s show, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad believed the campaign was “worth every penny,” because, he says, the radio star lost at least $1 million in advertising.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Daniel Pipes: Cair’s Inner Workings Exposed

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has, since its founding in 1994, served as the Islamist movement in North America’s most high-profile, belligerent, manipulative and aggressive agency. From its headquarters in Washington, D.C., CAIR also sets the agenda and tone for the entire Wahhabi lobby.

A substantial body of criticism about CAIR exists, some of by me, but until now, the group’s smash-mouths and extremists have managed to survive all revelations about its record. The publication today of “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America” (WND Books) may, however, change the equation.

Written by P. David Gaubatz and Paul Sperry, the investigation is based largely on the undercover work of Gaubatz’s son Chris, who spent six months as an intern at CAIR’s D.C. headquarters in 2008. In that capacity, he acquired 12,000 pages of documentation and took 300 hours of video.

Chris Gaubatz’s information reveals much that the secretive CAIR wants hidden, including its strategy, finances, membership and internal disputes, thereby exposing its shady and possibly illegal methods. As the book contains too much new information to summarize in small compass, I shall focus here on one dimension — the organization’s inner workings, where the data show that CAIR’s claims amount to crude deceptions.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


FCC Commissioner Says Diversity Chief’s Ideas for Regulating Free Speech Are ‘Troubling’

(CNSNews.com) — Federal Communications Commissioner Robert McDowell said Tuesday that statements about regulating freedom of speech in broadcasting made by FCC Chief Diversity Officer Mark Lloyd are “troubling.” Everyone should be concerned when federal regulators have the power to impact freedom of speech, McDowell added.

In his 2006 book “Prologue to a Farce: Communication and Democracy in America,” Lloyd wrote that public broadcasting outlets should be funded at a level “commensurate with or above those spending levels at which commercial operations are funded.” He said that the funds do so should come from “license fees charged to commercial broadcasters”—the same “commercial broadcasters” that would have to compete with these public broadcasting outlets.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


For Sale: The Backyard White House With Oval Office and Lincoln Bedroom for a Bargain $10m

It comes complete with an Oval Office, Lincoln Bedroom and of course the famous white facade.

But there is no sign of President Barack Obama at this White House — because it is a scaled-down replica built in a suburban backyard.

Now, owner Fred Milani — who built the impressive 16,500 sq ft structure seven years ago — has reluctantly put it up for sale following a huge downturn in the American housing market.

The mini-White House, situated in Atlanta, Georgia, was placed on the market at just under $10m, a snip compared with the value of the Washington D.C. original.

Mr Milani, an American-Iranian, told the Atlanta Journal: “I still do not want to sell, but I will.”

“Really, I am not very political. The architect just asked, ‘How about I build you the White House?’ and I said yes. That is the whole story.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


House Republicans Accuse Muslim Group of Trying to Plant Spies

Republican members of the Congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus said the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) have tried to plant “spies” within key national-security committees in order to shape legislative policy.

Reps. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), Paul Broun (R-Ga.) and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), citing the book Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld that’s Conspiring to Islamize America, called for the House sergeant at arms to investigate whether CAIR had been successful in placing interns on key panels. The lawmakers are specifically focused on the House Homeland Security Committee, Intelligence Committee and Judiciary Committee.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


‘Now We Have Proof’ Jihadis Infiltrating D.C.

Congress seizes on explosive new book based on daring undercover CAIR probe

As revealed in a new book detailing the operation and its findings, the Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, is not the beneficent Muslim civil-rights group it claims to be. Indisputable evidence now shows CAIR and other “mainstream” Islamic groups are acting as fronts for a well-funded conspiracy of the Muslim Brotherhood — the parent of al-Qaida and Hamas — to infiltrate and destroy the American system.

Until now, CAIR has remained a powerful force in the nation’s capital and across the country, from demanding the Obama administration stop FBI counter-terrorism tactics to compelling a school district to apologize to Muslims.

That influence, many believe, may be coming to an end, as a result of the undercover investigation — which included the son of a veteran counter-terrorism investigator, who grew a beard and converted to Islam, as well as two veiled female interns.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Robert Wexler, Passionate Florida Liberal, Quits Congress

It’s kind of a shocker for political groupies, news that a popular and not-in-any-way-endangered Democratic incumbent has decided to leave Congress.

Robert Wexler, a staunch liberal voice from Boca Raton, railed against Republicans who impeached President Clinton and fought for a paper-verification of all ballots after Florida’s flawed (remember hanging chads?) election in 2000.

During last year’s election, he was an early and avid supporter of Barack Obama despite strong support for Hillary Clinton in his district. Trying to deflect talk in January that he might be rewarded with an appointment in the new administration, Wexler said, “I have a dream job, a job I love.”

Today he announced that he’s resigning after 19 years in Congress to head a Washington think tank called the Center for Middle East Peace & Economic Cooperation, founded by Slim-Fast founder S. Daniel Abraham.

[Comments from JD: Note wb’s comment following the article: “given wexlers ties to radical islam it could be he is getting out while the getting is good. if the muslim mafia investigation is allowed to go further there will be several members of both house of congress possibly being indicted for giving aid and comfort to hamas and other terror groups.”]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Tentative Inspection Program Would Allow Russia to Visit U.S. Nuclear Sites

Russia and the United States have tentatively agreed to a weapons inspection program that would allow Russians to visit nuclear sites in America to count missiles and warheads.

The plan, which Fox News has learned was agreed to in principle during negotiations, would constitute the most intrusive weapons inspection program the U.S. has ever accepted.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Will Washington Still Respect us in the Morning?

For those who seek it, absolute power has always been worth lying to attain.

In an action equivalent to handing a heart patient a Big Mac and a pack of cigarettes, late last week President Barack Obama unveiled his plans for creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, as well as pre-emptively striking out at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which opposes the measure.

[…]

There are conscientious Democrats and independent voters who supported Obama and are now having difficulty believing they’ve hitched their wagons to an administration and a Congress that represent motives and methods they consider to be contemptible, oppressive and the antithesis of their core values.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

EU: Legal Steps Against Greece for Road Haulage and Fuel

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, OCTOBER 8 — The European Commission has decided to take legal steps against Greece, because the country still has not implemented European regulations on freedom of establishment for road haulage operators and in the fuel sector. Brussels believes that new operators are being discriminated without taking specific conditions and the financial situation of applying firms into account. According to Brussels, Greece has failed to meet European regulations, restricting registrations of transport vehicles to third parties and introducing minimum prices for transport services. According to the EC, the fixed rates could discourage foreign investors from entering the Greek haulage sector and could keep existing firms from developing their business. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


EU: Portugal: Greece Professional Qualification Controversy

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, OCTOBER 12 — The European Commission has decided to begin an infraction procedure against Portugal and has sent a reasoned opinion to Greece for not adhering to EU regulations on recognising professional qualifications. In Portugal’s case, Brussels has called for the application, after Bulgaria and Romania’s entrance into the EU, of measures to be implemented for professional qualifications, specifically updating the list of qualifications that allow for automatic recognition. Until EU regulations are applied, Bulgarian and Romanian citizens risk unnecessary bureaucratic delays to obtain recognition for their professional qualifications. Greece does not acknowledge the title of veterinary surgeon obtained elsewhere in the EU and if the Commission does not receive a satisfactory response in two months, the case will be heard in front of the EU Court of Justice. Greece currently requires slow bureaucratic procedures to acknowledge veterinary diplomas instead of providing an automatic equivalency, in accordance with EU regulations. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


France: Muslim Football Team Excluded After Spat With ‘Gay’ Team

Paris, 14 October (AKI) — An amateur football team in France made up entirely of Muslims was on Wednesday excluded from a tournament after it refused to play against another team earlier in October because of their name which included the word ‘gay’ in it.

The amateur club Creteil Bebel was excluded from the tournament by the Amateur Football League, a statement said on its website on Wednesday after it refused to play against the Paris Foot Gay club on 4 October.

“The team Creteil Bebel is excluded from the LFC for refusing to compete and for discrimination,” said the site of the Amateur Football League in its website.

On 4 October, Creteil Bebel sent a message to the Paris Foot Gay club saying they would not play against them because of their name.

“Sorry, but from the name of your team and in accordance with the principles of our team, a team of practising Muslims, we can not play against you. Our beliefs are far more important than a football match, once again sorry we have warned you so late,” said an e-mail statement by the amateur club Creteil Bebel to the Paris Foot Gay club (PFG).

After the statement, PFG quickly denounced the message, saying that their team is not only open to gay people, but also heterosexuals, blacks, and people from all religions.

“On our team we have blacks, whites, beurs (French citizens of North African origin) and people from all religions. It is symptomatic that the communal groupings of some clubs do not offend anyone, but the mere mention of the word “Gay” in the middle of football inspires contempt or fear,” said the statement.

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


France: Islamic Art Treasures on Display in Paris

(by Antonella Tarquini) (ANSAmed) — PARIS, OCTOBER 5 — The aim of the exhibition opening tomorrow in the Institute of the Arab World in Paris is to spread knowledge and appreciation of Islamic art, an art which does not merely hold religious purposes, as the ‘Islamic’ definition may lead to believe, but is in most part profane. The exhibition includes a selection of 417 pieces between manuscripts, carpets, ceramics, glassware, metallic objects and jewellery, lacquers and boiseries, miniatures and gouaches: the most impressive and notable pieces of the fabulous collection belonging to Nasser David Khalili, a Jewish billionaire of Iranian origins who owns what is considered to be the most important collection of the world, comprising 20,000 works of art, from the VII to the XIX century, from all Islamic countries. Khalili himself is a legend: living in London, according to the Sunday Times he is the fifth riches man in the UK. He left Teheran at 22, in 1967, with only 750 dollars to his name. Assembling his fortune starting with the copyrights of his first book on geniuses, written when he was only 13, and adding to it with investments in the real estate sector and in new technologies, due to the then-lower prices in the art market, he purchased, over the last 40 years, not only Islamic art but he also owns the most important collection of Japanese art from the Meiji era, 2,000 pieces that Japan would most likely want to buy back from him. A strong supporter of the idea of using art knowledge as an instrument for peace and understanding, Khalili donated 40,000 free manuals on Islamic art to universities in London and in the Arab world, including the Palestinian territories and two Popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, applauded his efforts towards peace and dialogue between people and religions, carried out through his Maimonides Foundation. To him, the real weapon of mass destruction is ignorance. The exhibition, which will last until March 14, his divided in three different sections. “Faith, Wisdom and Destiny”, a testimony to the relation between art and sacred based on the holy sites, Mecca and Medina; “The Patrons’ Ateliers: Caliphs, Emirs and Sultans”, which describes the development of court art created for many sovereigns, which also serve as model for civilized society; “A Universe of Shapes and Colours”, which explores different expressions of creativity to satisfy senses “as an anticipation to paradise”. The collection, after being on display in Australia and the United Arab Emirates, arrives in Europe for the first time and includes pieces from many different countries (such as Persia, Afghanistan, India, Egypt, Morocco, Spain) some of which are truly extraordinary: Korans richly embellished, pages of calligraphy, paintings, chiselled weapons. But most of all, in a time when Islam is the object of too many misunderstandings, this exhibitions is an exhortation to tolerance as it shows that Islamic art is for the most part profane, figurative, multicultural. Next to the traditional illuminated pages of religious inspiration stand fifty or so exceptional and startling miniatures freely representing men, women, animals, hunting scenes, combat and love scenes. According to the catalogue, in Persia, Turkey or India, or more rarely in Maghreb countries, to celebrate life by bodily representing living beings was always allowed, if not even encouraged. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Germany: Intelligence Agency Warns of Iranian Spies

Germany’s domestic intelligence service on Thursday warned those critical of Iran’s regime to be aware of threats and intimidation from the country’s secret police.

“We know that the Iranian service has people marching along with demonstrations,” Manfred Murck, spokesperson for the Hamburg Verfassungsschutz office, told broadcaster ARD.

Murck confirmed research from the broadcaster’s show “Panorama,” which found that Iranian secret police are attempting to identify participants in anti-Iran protests within Germany.

“We have documents that show they are taking videos, that he wants to specifically seek out people,” he continued, referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Iranian secret service has also been trying to cultivate contacts within Germany, intelligence officials believe. “Panorama” located a man of Iranian heritage in Berlin who said he had been coerced into working with the Iranian authorities.

Meanwhile 25-year-old filmmaker Narges Kalhor made a last-minute decision to seek asylum in Germany on Monday after she was warned she might be arrested upon her return for showing a film critical of the regime’s human rights abuses.

The daughter of a top advisor to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad premiered “Darkhish,” or “The Rake,” last Friday at the Nuremberg Human Rights Film Festival.

Based on Franz Kafka’s short story, “In the Penal Colony,” the 10-minute film features a machine that brutally punishes alleged criminals by etching their transgressions into their flesh. Film festival organisers described the machine as a “symbol for a totalitarian barbarism” condemning Iran’s brutal penal system.

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


Italy: Abducted Muslim Cleric and Wife Seek €15mln Damages

Milan, 7 October (AKI) — The wife and the lawyer who is representing an Egyptian cleric allegedly kidnapped in the northern Italian city of Milan and later tortured in 2003 by the CIA are seeking millions of euros in compensation.

Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr’s wife Ghali Nabila has claimed 5 million euros while lawyers acting for Nasr, a terror suspect known as Abu Omar, have asked for 10 million euros.

“My client suffered distress that cannot be imagined by any human being,” Nasr’s lawyer Carmelo Scambia told a Milan court on Wednesday.

Scambia sharply criticised the Italian state for “obstructing the truth” in Nasr’s case.

Several former Italian secret service officials have invoked state secrecy in refusing to testify at the trial in absentia of 26 CIA agents allegedly involved in Nasr’s abduction and transportation to an Egyptian jail, where he claims he was tortured.

Nabila has asked for 5 million euros to compensate the suffering she endured after not knowing for years what had become of Nasr. He was allegedly flown to Egypt, held in jail and tortured there. He was released in February, 2007.

“His kidnapping was an act against state security, that stole some of Abu Omar, his wife and family’s life,” said Nabila’s lawyer, Luca Bauccio.

The former US and Italian secret service agents implicated in the rendition trial “acted like a group of criminals,” Bauccio said. “We will never know if Abu Omar is innocent or guilty.”

Italy’s former spymaster Nicolo Pollari is among a total of 33 defendants at the trial. Prosecutor, Armando Spataro last week demanded a 13-year prison sentence for Pollari and sentences of between 10 and 13 years for 26 other defendants

Spataro said there was “inescapable” evidence proving Pollari’s responsibility and that of his former second-in-command Marco Mancini, for whom he has demanded a 10-year jail term.

Lawyers for conservative premier Silvio Berlusconi have rejected as “an intolerable attack” claims by prosecutors that he is trying use state secrecy to prevent the incrimination of Italian secret agents, as did the previous centre-left government of Romano Prodi.

Italy’s Constitutional Court ruled in March that prosecutors at the trial could not cite documents covered by state secrecy.

Washington has defended the use of ‘extraordinary renditions’ in which terror suspects are kidnapped and flown to third countries for interrogation, saying they are a valuable tool in the fight against terrorism.

Human rights advocates say renditions were the CIA’s way to outsource the torture of suspected terrorists to countries where it was practised. The CIA has not commented on the practice.

Nasr was suspected of recruiting Muslim fighters to train in Afghanistan. He could still face arrest if he returns to Italy.

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


Italy: Lesbians ‘Attacked’ By North African Immigrants

Padova, 14 October (AKI) — Two lesbian women in the northern Italian town of Padua claim they were insulted by two North African immigrants and physically assaulted by one of them as they kissed in a public park. The two women, a 19-year-old Brasilian and a 37-year-old Italian, are an item.

The women told police who answered their emergency call that immigrants first insulted them, and one of the men then pushed the Brasilian women off her bicycle after she kissed her girlfriend late on Tuesday.

The Brasilian was in tears when police arrived at the park and both women were taken to a nearby hospital’s emergency department. The Brasilian decided not to undergo a medical examination and said she did not want to make an official police complaint.

Police said they had been unable to trace the two North African men and some eyewitnesses claimed they had seen the two lesbians earlier quarrelling at the park.

The incident happened late on Tuesday — the same day that the Italian parliament voted to shelve a bill placing gay and transgender people in Italy under legislation outlawing discrimination on grounds of ethnicity, nationality and belief.

The parliment voted by 285 to 222 with 13 abstentions that the bill was “unconstitutional”, drawing immediate criticism from gay rights groups and associations.

Homophobia and crimes against gay people have been on the rise in Italy in recent years, with a string of attacks and incidents being reported in cities across the country.

According to figures from the association Arcigay, there were eight gay-hate killings and 52 non-lethal attacks in Italy in the first nine months of this year, compared with nine killings and 45 other attacks in 2008.

There has been a spate of attacks in the Italian capital, Rome, which two years ago elected a formerly neo-fascist mayor, Gianni Alemanno. Last week, Silvio Berlusconi’s government announced a ground-breaking 2million euro media campaign against discrimination.

The money will pay for TV commercials, newspaper advertisements and posters to be put up on hoardings and in buses and trains, Italy’s equal opportunities minister Mara Carfagna said. The move was welcomed by gay rights groups

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


MEPs Seek More Power Over Diplomatic Service

The European Parliament wants to have more control over the planned European External Action Service.

Members of the European Parliament are threatening a major confrontation with national governments in a bid to gain influence over the European Union’s new diplomatic service.

Member states favour giving a separate status and a separate budget to the European External Action Service created by the Lisbon treaty and due to be set up next year to support the new high representative. That means it will not be wholly controlled by the European Commission nor by the Council of Ministers.

But leading MEPs want the new service to be part of the Commission, because that will entitle the Parliament to scrutinise the service’s budget, granting it a degree of control. Warnings are emerging that if the Parliament does not get its way, it is ready to take the new Commission hostage by delaying the necessary vote on its appointment.

The dispute could derail progress just as member states are reaching consensus on many of the issues surrounding the new service, so that it can start work once ratification of the Lisbon treaty is completed.

The service, which will be responsible for implementing the EU’s foreign policy and crisis management missions, will be made up of officials working on external relations in the Commission and the secretariat of the Council, as well as member states’ diplomatic services. It could grow to more than 6,000 staff over time.

EU ambassadors have largely approved a paper drafted by the Swedish presidency of the EU that proposes incorporating all the country and thematic desks from the Commission’s external relations department, as well the Commission’s delegations abroad — which will become “Union delegations”. The Commission would retain responsibility for trade and enlargement, and decisions still have to be reached on which parts of development policy should come under the service.

Setting up the common service as a separate entity aims to combine the Commission’s long-standing experience in managing policies such as development aid and economic co-operation with the Council’s expertise on foreign and security policy. Member states are reluctant to locate it within the Commission because this would cede more control over security and defence policy than they are willing to relinquish.

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


Netherlands: Rotterdam to Combat Cynicism

Rotterdam city council has set up a special website where staff can report co-workers who are too cynical, the NRC reports on Thursday.

Since last week, the city’s 14,000 civil servants have been able to register concerns about colleagues whose ‘bitterness’ is spoiling the atmosphere at work.

Not all think it is a good idea, the paper says. ‘It’s just another typical example of the need to control,’ one official told the NRC.

A spokesman for the council said the initiative was not meant to spur workers into telling tales on their colleagues but to offer help. In addition, ‘support point’ had probably been a better name for the project than ‘reporting point’, he said.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Nobel Peace Prize for Obama: Berlusconi: Investment for Future

(AGI) — Rome, 9 Oct — “In the Council of Ministers, we applauded the news that Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize award. It is an investment for the future. Now Obama will be able to have an ecumenical relationship with everyone.” The statements were made by PM Silvio Berlusconi.

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


Now Muslims Demand Full Sharia Law in UK

A RADICAL Muslim group sparked outrage last night as it launched a massive campaign to impose sharia law on Britain.

The fanatical group Islam4UK has ­announced plans to hold a potentially ­incendiary rally in London later this month.

And it is calling for a complete upheaval of the British legal system, its officials and ­legislation.

Members have urged Muslims from all over Britain to converge on the capital on October 31 for a procession to demand the full implementation of sharia law.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Spain: Possible Fine for Failing to Treat Wastewater

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, OCTOBER 8 — Spain may be fined for failing to implement a decision of the European Court of Justice from 2007 regarding wastewater treatment in the Valencia region, particularly in the area of Playa de la Motilla. The European Commission has sent Madrid a final warning to correct the situation, before possible legal steps. “Untreated urban wastewater” said Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, “poses a threat to the European citizens and damages the quality of rivers, lakes and European coast waters. I ask Spain to take urgent steps. Otherwise the Commission will consider to ask the Court to impose sanctions”. The cities of Sueca, Benifaio, Sollana, Almussafes and other coast cities discharge their wastewater in a sensitive area, the coast of Frente in the Albufera national park, close to the beach of Motilla.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Strait Bridge: Berlusconi, Work Begins This December

(by Federico Garimberti) (ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 14 — The heavy “inherited” public debt must not prevent the construction of major works which remain fundamental for the country, starting with the bridge over the Messina strait that must see work start before the end of the year. Silvio Berlusconi, speaking to managers and shareholders of the companies that run the Malpensa and Fiumicino airports, donned his business suit again. And in doing so he guaranteed that the government has no intention of abandoning its plan to revive infrastructures mentioned during the electoral campaign. The occasion was offered by the presentation of development plans for SEA and ADR, the companies that run the hubs in Rome and Milan, and his audience included members and managers of the mentined companies, members of the government (ministers Altero Matteoli and Sandro Bondi, undersecretary Gianni Letta), the mayors of the two cities (Gianni Alemanno and Letizia Moratti), and even exponents of the opposition such as Massimo D’Alema, who at the end of the event had an intense talk with Letta. After having listened to the speeches of the presidents of ADR and SEA, Fabrizio Palenzona and Aldo Bonomideve, Berlusconi stated that “Our country must awake from a long sleep which also led it to a negative balance”. The aim is to “overcome the infrastructural, logistics and mobility gap” which afflicts the country and represents a real “bottleneck” which to date has “prevented the full exploitation of Italy’s “wealth”. He added that if such hurdles were removed, it would allow for a greater flow of tourists and foreign investors. Of course, he added while noting public accounts, we must “account for” the debt which we have “inherited”. But, he emphasised, this deadweight “must not prevent us from innovating and removing obstacles” which lie in the path of the creation of infrastructures. In short, it must not “prevent the stimulation of public and private investments towards that which is most urgent”. Then again, there’s plenty of time, and he fully emphasised this aspect, stating that “The government is looking at a long stretch in which to become operational”. However, he continued, it is better to start as soon as possible. That is why before the year is over work will start on the construction of what the government sees as the main symbol of the plan for infrastructures which the government announced during its electoral campaign. Berlusconi confirmed that “In December and January we will start on the realisation of another fundamental infrastructure” for Sicily and the South, i.e. the bridge over the Messina strait. (ANSAmed).

2009-10-14 19:49

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Sweden: Hip Diaper Bag a Must for the Discerning Dad

Nothing says ‘cool dad’ like a dashing nappy bag, writes Joel Sherwood, who finds his street cred only slightly hampered by a hasty online purchase.

My manhood hinges apparently on the type of diaper bag I carry around.

This revelation became clear when I was recently looking to buy this all-important bag, which is meant to hold everything a parent needs for their infant when away from home including, but not at all limited to, extra diapers.

Let me preface this by saying that as a new father I have more than willingly undertaken a number of activities that one could see in some measure as emasculating or adolescent. I have, for example, given good thought to whether our daughter should wear hose with certain outfits. I now see no problem going into baby talk or making silly faces anywhere and anytime. I also, ahem, seem to be fine with regularly writing about babies. All this, I feel, is hard evidence I’m taking this fatherhood thing in stride.

But I apparently have issues with diaper bags. While surveying the market for this product, I followed a hot tip and found a website selling baby gear designed especially for dads. The diaper bags they sold turned out to be everything I could dream of in such gear.

The bags were hefty and rugged, with wide flaps, bold zippers and loads of compartments. There were a bunch of different styles to choose from and each had a cool name, like “DudePack”. The bags came in tough colours like camouflage, with kick-ass skull-and-bone or dragon emblems if wanted.

In an online product demo clip, which I watched several times, the company showed that one of their latest bags — called “Green Dude” — had a checklist imprinted permanently on the material reminding users what items to make sure to pack.

I found this not the least bit condescending. Instead, this company had ticked all the diaper bag criteria boxes I didn’t even know I had. I told myself I’d be damned if I’m going to carry around diapers in any bag of a colour that didn’t blend undetectably into a jungle background and which didn’t tell me what to put in it.

Just to be 100% sure that I was making the right choice, my wife and I decided just as mere formality to look at some of the more conventional diaper bags you see around aimed not just at male parents.

We discovered these had essentially all the same features, excluding certain style elements, as the guy-targeted bags and were about half the price. Some of them even looked kind of rugged and came in camo too. Critically, one of the companies selling these more run-of-the-mill looking bags delivered overnight.

In the end, it was logistics that forced our hand. We prioritized fast delivery and so we ended up buying the more conventional bag. It’s grey, with magnets to close up compartments instead of zippers. No dragon insignia.

I’ve come to terms with the decision. We got what we needed and saved a little money.

But seeing the bag in actuality rather than virtually revealed that it may have a more feminine look than first thought. I noticed there’s no messenger bag-like flap cover at the bag opening that in my mind clearly separates unisex bags from, say, purses. It’s also not immediately evident if the bag strap is long enough to go over my head and across my body, courier-style. When it’s not hanging from the stroller, I might have to carry the bag over just one shoulder, purse-style.

I’m not sure how all this is going to go. On one hand, I guess a diaper bag doesn’t completely define a person. Other factors in the end may weigh in too. On the other hand, though, I fear I might always wonder what kind of man I could have become if we hadn’t prioritized speedy delivery.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


UK: Ambulance Crew Barred From Helping Girl, 9, With Fractured Skull ‘Because They Were Having Their Lunch’

Ambulance staff battling to save a nine-year-old car crash victim were told the nearest back-up crew could not help as they were on their lunch break.

Bethany Dibbs was struck by a car as she crossed the road on her scooter and ended up in a coma with a fractured skull.

An ambulance crew arrived and called for help, only to be told by their operator that under strict meal break regulations the closest additional crew still had a few minutes left on their lunch break.

The paramedics were informed it would take 20 minutes for another crew to arrive.

In the end one of them called their colleagues directly and they abandoned their lunch and raced to help.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: BNP to Consider Non-White Members

BNP leader Nick Griffin has agreed to ask his party to amend its constitution so it does not discriminate on grounds of race or religion, a court heard.

The UK’s equalities watchdog had argued the BNP broke the Race Relations Act by restricting members to “indigenous Caucasian” people.

The court heard Mr Griffin had agreed to use “all reasonable endeavours” to revise its constitution.

BNP members will be asked to agree to the changes at a meeting in November.

Mr Griffin was not at the hearing at Central London County Court on Thursday morning.

Membership frozen

But Robin Allen QC, counsel for the commission, said Mr Griffin had agreed to present party members with a revised constitution at its general meeting next month and the party had agreed not to accept new members in the meantime.

The BNP agreed to use “all reasonable endeavours” to revise its constitution so it did not discriminate on what are termed “protected characteristics” in clause four of the Equality Bill — which include race, gender and religious belief.

But BBC correspondent Andy Tighe said it remained to be seen whether Mr Griffin could persuade his party to allow the change.

The case centred around a section in the BNP constitution which said membership was restricted to “indigenous British ethnic groups” including the “Anglo-Saxon folk community” and the “Celtic Scottish folk community”.

During a previous hearing the judge said no evidence had been presented to suggest many people from ethnic minorities wanted to join the BNP.

But John Wadham, of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said that was not the point.

‘Not political’

He told the BBC: “Everyone has to obey the law in this country, we have already taken proceedings against the Labour Party, we have now won these proceedings against the British National Party.

“The law is for everyone, this is not a political issue for us, the key issue for us is the lawfulness of their membership criteria. It is for other people to decide whether their policies are right or wrong.”

He added it was “unfortunate the BNP spent several months before conceding and dealing properly with our legal requirements” and said the EHRC would be monitoring the party’s compliance with the court order on membership.

This year’s European elections saw the party have its first two Euro MPs elected.

BNP spokesman Chris Roberts told the BBC: “If we want to be in the electoral process, which we do, and we are being forced by the establishment to change our rules then we are going to have to change them.

“But the fundamental beliefs of our party and our core principles will never change.”

Bankruptcy fear

On the BNP website Mr Griffin had asked supporters to help fund the “horrendous” bills for the legal case and accused the commission of “trying to bankrupt us”.

Richard Barnbrook, the party’s representative on the London Assembly, said he believed BNP members would vote in favour of a reformed constitution.

“The first reason being that trying to fight this court case would bankrupt the party and we have more important issues to deal with, including elections.”

The court heard Mr Griffin would be given 10 days to submit a signed undertaking confirming the proposed changes. The case was adjourned until 28 January.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


UK: Corner Shop Worker Told to Stop Singing in Her Store — Or Pay for a Performing Licence

Music police have told a grandmother to stop singing behind the counter of the corner shop where she works — or pay for a licence.

Sandra Burt began serenading customers at the A & T Food Store in Clackmannan, near Stirling, after the owners were contacted by The Performing Right Society and told they would have to pay an £80 annual fee to keep the radio on in the shop.

They decided not to bother and now 56-year-old Sandra sings tracks ‘from anyone from The Noisettes, to the Rolling Stones’ as she stocks the shelves and weighs customers’ purchases.

One delighted regular has even compared her voice to Amy Winehouse.

Now, however, the PRS, which collects royalties on behalf of music industry bosses and artists, has told her that her ‘spontaneous outbursts of joy’ constitute live public performance, and she could have to pay annual fees of ‘four figures’.

Gareth Kelly, music sales advisor for PRS, said that Mrs Burt was getting up to ‘mischief’ to get round the radio licence fee.

He said: ‘Using any copyright material in your store, without paying for it, is illegal.

‘It doesn’t matter whether you’re singing a Robbie Williams track, or listening to a Robbie Williams track, you still have to pay for it.

‘She could be fined for not having a live performance licence, and if the fine isn’t paid, then she could potentially be taken to court.’

The PRS said that Mrs Burt could be judged to be giving daily performances, which would require individual daily licences, taking the annual cost up to ‘four figures’.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Father and His Brothers ‘Murdered Daughter in Honour Killing for Loving Wrong Man’

A 15-year-old schoolgirl who disappeared 10 years ago was murdered by her father after falling in love with the wrong man, a court heard today.

Tulay Goren became a ‘worthless commodity’ in his eyes after she began a relationship he saw as inappropriate, jurors were told.

Her father Mehmet Goren killed Tulay ‘to restore the so-called honour’ of his family, said Jonathan Laidlaw QC, prosecuting.

Tulay had fallen in love with a man called Halil Unal who she met in summer 1998 at a clothes factory where her mother worked, the Old Bailey heard.

She went missing in January 1999 and her body has never been found, the Old Bailey heard.

Mr Laidlaw said: ‘The circumstances in which Tulay was killed and the background to this murder demonstrate that Mehmet did not act alone in this offence because this was what has become known as an honour killing.’

It is alleged that she was killed after Mehmet consulted with older brother Ali, the senior figure in the family, and younger brother Cuma.

Ali was in Workington, Cumbria where he ran a cafe on the day of the alleged murder while Cuma was closer at hand and appeared to have been involved in the disposal of the body, jurors were told.

Mehmet Goren, 49, of Woodford Green, and his brothers, Cuma Goren, 42, and Ali Goren, 55, both of Walthamstow, deny murdering Tulay on January 7 1999.

They also deny conspiracy to murder her boyfriend, Halil Unal, between May 1998 and February 1999.

Members of the Kurdish family had arrived in Britain from Turkey in the early 1990s and claimed political asylum, the court heard.

Tulay, one of Mehmet’s four children, was 12 when she came to this country, jurors were told.

By the time she was 15 she had been ‘assimilated in London life’ and attended Woodbridge High School in Woodford Green, Mr Laidlaw said.

He said that Tulay was often in trouble at school, while she had problems at home with her father, a part-time fish and chip shop worker, who gambled.

‘What ultimately caused the most terrible of problems within this family and was ultimately to lead to Tulay’s murder was a relationship she formed in London with a man called Halil Unal,’ Mr Laidlaw said.

‘Despite their differences in age, Tulay pursued Halil. She clearly loved him.

‘Tulay’s father was outraged and was filled with a sense that his reputation and that of his family had been destroyed. Halil was viewed in every sense as an unsuitable boyfriend and potential husband.’

Mr Unal, who was 30, came from a different town in the Kurdish region of Turkey and was brought up as a Sunni Muslim while the Gorens were from the Alevi branch of the faith, jurors heard.

Mr Laidlaw told the court that while they came from places no more than 60 miles apart, a relationship between an Alevi Muslim and a Sunni Muslim ‘would not have been tolerated’.

More…

He said the discovery of the affair ‘would have produced in Mehmet a fear that she had lost her virginity and in his eyes would leave her as a worthless commodity in terms of his ability to marry her off’.

In December 1998, Tulay told police her father had slapped her, then went to live with her uncle Cuma, jurors were told.

A few days later Mehmet beat up Mr Unal and the day after Tulay ran away before turning up at Leytonstone police station, the court heard.

She said she had rowed with her father about her relationship and he had been violent towards her, Mr Laidlaw said.

Tulay told police she wanted to be taken to a children’s home rather than return to the family but her mother persuaded her to change her mind, the court heard, and the girl said she did not want to take the matter further.

‘She did, however, ask that her complaints be fully documented should there be any further incidents,’ said Mr Laidlaw.

Tulay ran away again to stay with her boyfriend and attempts were made to gain her family’s approval for marriage.

A civil ceremony was due to take place on December 21 1998 but it did not go ahead as it turned out she was still 15 — but Tulay returned from Hackney Registry Office to continue living with her boyfriend, the court heard.

On January 6 her family took her back home and held her captive, Mr Laidlaw told the jury.

Mr Laidlaw added: ‘On January 7, these men attempted to ensnare Halil by persuading him to come to the family home but Tulay managed to warn him of the trap and his life was saved.

‘Tulay was not so fortunate. She was never seen again alive and the prosecution’s case is that she was murdered at her home later that same day.

‘The body was hidden in the back garden for a short while and removed a week or so later. Tulay Goren’s remains have never been recovered.’

On January 20, Mr Unal went to a meeting with Tulay’s father and community elders and on the promise of a chance to speak to her on the phone came away from the group where he was attacked by Mehmet with an axe, the court heard.

Tulay’s boyfriend alerted police to her disappearance and her father was arrested but he maintained she had simply run off, Mr Laidlaw said.

But now her mother Hanim Goren, who at the time said very little, is due to give evidence for the prosecution, he added.

Police also now had a better understanding of ‘honour-based violence’, he said.

When the defendants were arrested last year they made no comment to questions asked of them while Ali and Cuma made statements denying knowledge or involvement in Tulay’s murder and a plot to murder her boyfriend, the court heard.

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


UK: Farm Subsidy System ‘In a Mess’

The EU farm subsidies system is a “masterclass of misadministration” in most of the UK, the head of the Commons Public Accounts Committee has said.

Edward Leigh MP was responding to a National Audit Office report condemning the high cost to the taxpayer.

Farming minister Jim Fitzpatrick has disputed figures showing average claim processing costs were £285 in Scotland, but £1,743 in England.

He said “real progress” had been made but conceded serious problems existed.

The EU’s Single Payment Scheme provides grants to farmers for maintaining their land.

When asked if he could find anyone who thought the system worked well, Mr Fitzpatrick told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think that would be a difficult thing to produce… the answer, I suspect, is a straightforward no.”

The NAO’s report accused the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), which administers the scheme, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) of showing scant regard for protecting public money in the process of handing out the grants to farmers.

The agency has been heavily criticised in the past for shortcomings in its operations.

Delays to farmers’ payments in 2006, blamed on computer failures at the agency, cost millions of pounds and were described by MPs in a 2007 report as a “fiasco”.

There was widespread anger at the time that no ministers or civil servants resigned as a result.

‘Unforeseen costs’

The National Audit Office said the current average cost of processing a claim in England was now £1,743.

This is often much more than the value of the claim itself and is far more than the average of £285 under the simpler Scottish system.

The report said that since the scheme’s creation in 2005 it had racked up more than £680m in “unforeseen additional costs”, including £304m in extra staff costs and £280m in penalties for late payments and administrative errors.

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


UK: Shame of Drunken Student Caught Urinating on War Memorial During ‘Carnage’ Mass Pub Crawl

It’s a shocking scene that will appal any person, even in a country where binge-drinking has become an accepted pastime for so many.

Ironically, it will come as no surprise to discover the man concerned is a 19-year-old university student who was taking part in an organised mass pub crawl in Sheffield.

During the course of the seven-hour drinking marathon there were all too familiar scenes of debauchery.

Scantily-clad women collapsed on the street, while young men dangerously ran through passing traffic oblivious to the dangers.

Around 2,000 university students took part in the Carnage UK event. Organised through a website by a private company, students paid £10 each to take part in the drinking session on Sunday night.

For their money they got an official T-shirt and access to all seven club and bar venues involved in the event.

As dozens of students in Sheffield were drinking themselves into oblivion similar scenes were taking place in Cardiff where around 3,000 university students took part in a Carnage UK event there.

As the night progressed two people were taken away in ambulances and one was arrested by police in the Welsh capital for a nightclub assault on a woman.

Splashed across the back of the official t-shirt was a list of ‘tasks,’ including ‘have fun with a fresher, harass a steward and snog five randoms,’ which according to the event’s Facebook page needed to be fulfilled ‘by those getting in to the spirit of things.’

Many of the students were in fancy dress to adhere to the ‘doctors and nurses’ theme.

By the end of the night at least half of the students who stumbled out of Embrace nightclub in Sheffield city centre appeared worse the wear for drink.

None more so than Philip Laing, 19, a sports technology student at Sheffield Hallam University.

At around midnight he was in such a shocking state that he curled up for a sleep in front of a shop window, only to be woken by a group of giggling girls. Laing then ran across the street, falling down and hitting his head on the pavement in the process.

He was then helped to his feet and walked over to the First World War memorial in Baker’s Pool where he urinated over the monument.

People in the area seemed oblivious to his actions. But the incident was reported to security staff who washed down the memorial with buckets of water. South Yorkshire Police said if he had been seen he would have received a fixed penalty fine.

Laing at the time was in no fit state to comment, but his friend Ross White, 19, said: ‘It’s been a brilliant night so far. Every night’s a big night when you’re a student, we’ve got to get in amongst them, do you know what I mean?’

Another teenager said: ‘This is the biggest night of the year so you’ve got to make the most of it.’

By 2am the the street was littered with puddles of sick, discarded kebab wrappers, pieces of broken glass and the Carnage revellers who couldn’t make it home.

The memorial’s desecration was condemned by Russ Murray, general manager of the regional Royal British Legion.

He described the student’s actions as a ‘despicable act.’

He said: ‘Whether he has intentionally done it or not realised because of drink it is deplorable and outrageous.

‘There are people of his age who are currently serving in Afghanistan who have suffered as a result.

This is a war memorial and stands for the sacrifices people have given in the past and continue to do so today. Behaviour like this is appalling.’

Yesterday a now sober Mr Laing issued an apology through his university.

He said: ‘I am deeply ashamed of this photograph and I am sincerely sorry for my behaviour. I didn’t realise how much alcohol I had consumed that night and also hadn’t eaten since lunchtime, which worsened the effect. I have no recollection of the events in the photograph, although I recognise that this does not excuse my actions. I apologise unreservedly for any offence I may have caused.’

Carnage UK is run by Birmingham-based Varsity Leisure Group Ltd. It operates similar events across the country, covering ‘45 student cities.’

The company, headed by managing director Paul Bahia, 29, has faced criticism from student groups for being ‘irresponsible’ and there have been calls for such events to be banned.

The website warns students that ‘ID will be required at all venues’ and states that ‘Carnage encourages responsible drinking.’

Free soft drinks and discounted food is available to revellers, while guidelines advise those taking part to ‘drink in moderation and do not binge.’ It also insists the venues do not offer cut-price drinks promotions and unpaid stewards are on hand to ‘supervise’ and monitor drinkers going from one venue to another.

A statement from the Varsity Leisure Group said: ‘VLG has the greatest respect and admiration for all those who lost their lives in the defence of this country. It is appalled and saddened by anyone treating a monument to commemorate those people in a disrespectful manner.’

It added: ‘VLG’s events are managed very responsibly. VLG works hard and closely with local Police to ensure that the events take place without major incident.’

Today Exeter University officials voiced their outrage over planned Carnage events in the city, where a student died following a binge-drinking session in 2006.

Business student Gavin Britton died on a pub crawl with the university’s golf society, just days after starting his course.

He was caught on camera the night he died standing on chairs and downing spirits — including one cocktail which contained twelve shots.

Gavin, of Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, was found in the street still wearing his fancy dress costume.

The Carnage events are expected to take place on October 25 and November 15 in several pubs Gavin visited before his death.

Exeter Police Commander John Vellacott said: ‘We understand that Carnage UK is a legitimate company but we had a student die on a similar event.

‘Any kind of event that encourages and includes binge drinking to such an extent that medical attention is needed is not welcome.’

A spokesman for Exeter’s Student Guild added: ‘We in no way endorse this event. The message portrayed by the title and nature is not something we agree with.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


UK: Why 1 in 5 Boys Can’t Write Own Name After Year at Primary School

One in five boys cannot write their name after a year of schooling as girls race ahead, official figures revealed yesterday.

Boys have fallen further behind girls in key areas of development, including writing and the ability to concentrate, following the introduction of Labour’s ‘nappy curriculum’ last year.

Eighteen per cent are unable to write their own name and simple words such as ‘mum’, ‘dad’ and ‘cat’ by the time they reach the end of primary school reception classes at age five.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Croatia: EU: Corruption and Organised Crime Main Challenges

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, OCTOBER 14 — Ahead of its future accession to become EU member, “Croatia must carry out more reforms: in its justice system and in the fight against corruption and organised crime, as well as the problem of access by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to its documents”. These, according to European Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn, are the main challenges for Croatia. He said this during the presentation of the most recent report of the European Commission on Enlargement 2009. “Corruption prevails in several regions” the report reads. “The number of investigated cases has gone up, but the number of trials is still very low. There has been a limited investigation into corruption on high levels, frustrated by political meddling. The number of threats against journalists who are investigating cases of corruption and organised crime has increased”. Publishers and journalists are put under political pressure, causing “concerns about the freedom of expression”. From an economic viewpoint, the government’s policies haven’t always had clear goals for the medium term. Structural reforms are carried out slowly according to Brussels, and business has hardly improved. The country’s employment rate is low and its labour market too rigid, and not much has been done to increase the efficiency of public expenditure causing the deficit to rise. Other reforms are necessary in the Croatian administration, its justice system, competition and agriculture. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Kosovo: 13:421 Dead and Missing in War, NGO

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, OCTOBER 7 — A total of 13,421 people died or are still missing in the Kosovo conflict between January 1998 and December 2000, according to figures released in Belgrade by the human rights fund, a Serbian NGO. Of these 13,421 victims 10,533 are Albanians, 2,238 Serbs, 126 Roma, 100 Bosnians, 40 Montenegrins, 24 Ashkali, 18 Egyptians, 13 Turks, 10 Hungarians, 8 Gorani, 4 Macedonians, 2 Bulgarians, 2 Czechs, 2 Croatians, 3 Russians, 2 Slovenians and one Slovak. It has not yet been possible to establish the nationality of the other 294 people. The youngest victim — the NGO specified — was a 1-year-old Roma boy, Nadjmedin Krasnici, killed at home in 1999. The oldest was a Serbian woman of 81, Nada Vasic, who died in her home in Pristina in August 1999. Natasa Kandic, head of the Serbian NGO, said that the data are still preliminary and that the final list will be presented next year. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Project Results at Risk, EU Court of Auditors

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, OCTOBER 13 — The European Commission was promoted, with reserve, by the Court of Auditors for work carried out in the western Balkans concerning Justice and Internal Affairs projects from 2000 to 2006 which cost approximately 500 million euros. An assessment carried out in Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia claims that the main problem is the recurrent absence of a plan to maintain achieved results, a form of coordination with the beneficiaries. Monumental works or training activities were carried out and then abandoned, placing their sustainability at risk. During the press conference in Brussels, Court of Auditors member Maarten B. Engwirda explained that “The reason lies in the continuous weakness and the lack of commitment by the beneficiaries, since most project initiatives did not come from the region, but from the Commission or other outside stakeholders”. An exemplar case is given by the Court of Appeals set up in Vlora (Albania), where the European Commission invested 770,000 euros. The Court of Auditors stated that results were positive in the short term. The number of cases reviewed in the new building in 2007, the first year of activity, was more than double the past. Unfortunately, at the moment of auditing there was no electric power because the budget for fuel for the power generator ran out four months before the end of the year. This mean no computers and a limited number of reviewed cases, thereby limiting the overall effectiveness of the project. A three billion euro investment to upgrade the Kamensko border pass in Bosnia Herzegovina to allow the transit of all sorts of goods and products turned out to be a hole in the water. At the end of the EU project, the government of Bosnia Herzegovina downgraded the pass, and lowered traffic, despite it being on the most practical route between Split in Croatia and central-western and southern Bosnia Herzegovina. Without informing the European Commission, which was kept ignorant of the event. Consequently the Court of Auditors invited the executive power in Brussels to seek greater involvement by the beneficiaries in order to guarantee the sustainability of the projects, on top of a range of general recommendations. First of all, to plan interventions according to targets set in annual programmes, e.g. to promote regional cooperation by prioritising common border passes. Engwirda stated that “It is vital for these borders to be secure, considering the risk of trafficking people and drugs”. Another recommendation was to link projects (such as training) to investment plans by pooling together structural and human resources. Furthermore all donors, including the Commission, should better coordinate their mutual initiatives with each other, whereas in terms of the supply of equipment, common investment teams managed by the beneficiary Countries should be set up. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Threat by Bosnia Serbs Alarms Europe and US

The leader of the Serbian half of Bosnia today demanded the right to break up the country as part of a constitutional reform package that is being pushed by the EU and the US.

Milorad Diodik’s demand to be allowed the right to secede collided with an ultimatum from Brussels for Bosnia’s feuding leaders to agree on reforms to streamline the dysfuctional state or forget about their prospects of union membership. Senior European and American officials had emergency talks in Sarajevo last week with Bosnia’s estranged political leaders and will return next Monday.

The US and Europe have suddenly become active in the Balkans, amid growing international fears that Bosnia could drift back into conflict if the Bosnian Serbs were to mobilise.

“We need certain constitutional changes in Bosnia-Herzegovina,” said Olli Rehn, the European commissioner for enlargement, who issued ultimatum to the country’s leaders.

But officials in Brussels and Sarajevo were gloomy about the chances of success. In the 14 years since the Bosnian war ended with the country divided into a Serbian half and a Muslim-Croat federation, the country has become entrenched as a partitioned international protectorate headed by a European viceroy and dominated by nationalist politicians who refuse to deal with one another.

Dodik today told western officials preparing next week’s talks that any constitutional reforms would need to include a new article giving the two halves of Bosnia the right to hold a referendum.

“It’s an extremist position,” said an EU diplomat in Sarajevo. “Dodik has already got everything he wants. Now he wants the right of secession.”

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

North Africa

Arabs for Israel: Meet the Egyptian Woman Who Campaigns Against Sharia

I recently met an Egyptian writer called Nonie Darwish, the founder of the unlikely sounding Arabs for Israel. What makes her story so amazing is that her father was a senior Egyptian military leader (and founder of the Palestinian Fedayeen) who was killed by the Israelis, and Darwish had grown up being taught to hate Jews. But after Israeli doctors saved her brother from a stroke, and seeing the disastrous influence of Sharia law on Muslim countries, she is now a staunch supporter of the Jewish state and a Christian. Here is the interview, from this week’s Catholic Herald (the original can be found here):

Slight of build and dressed in the stylish manner of the European-influenced Arab middle class, Nonie Darwish could be any wealthy Levantine in Paris or west London.

But behind the veneer of Egyptian elegance is a one-woman anti-jihad machine, a Christian convert from Islam, founder of a group called Former Muslims United and author of two books highly critical of Sharia law, Arab policy towards Israel and Islamists’ ambitions for global conquest.

[…]

“When I left Egypt it was a hot day and everyone came to greet me with sun dresses, with no arms. When I landed again, in 2001, those same cousins came to greet me wearing Islamic clothes in the heat of August in Egypt. One of them was completely covered in black. Even her face, it was a slit. She’s a physician, and she did it on her own — the government didn’t force her, nor did her husband. In fact she forced her husband to go to mosque more and to be more obedient to Islamic tradition. Some women are more radical than men.”

[…]

“The West is no longer proud of the Judeo-Christian culture and democracy. It does not believe in its own beliefs. Tolerating intolerance is not a sign of virtue, but gross negligence. The West hates itself and it’s very sad.”

She shakes her head at the thought that elements of Sharia law are recognised in England.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Egypt: Government Also Prohibits Niqub in Schools

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, OCTOBER 13 — After the ban on the ‘niqub’ imposed by Grand Imam Al Azhar in schools linked to the theological centre, it’s the turn of public institutions. Egyptian Education minister, Yustri el-Gamal, had decided to revive a ministerial directive from 1995 to prohibit veils that cover a woman’s face and leave only the eyes showing, according to a report today in the Al Akhbar newspaper. The decree from 1995 the ministry has resurrected has to do with school uniforms which don’t allow the use of the niqab. The debate of headscarves in Egypt increased at the beginning of October after the Imam of the Azhar university in Cairo ordered a girl to take off the niqab because it has “nothing to do with religion”. After a few days the Imam, Mohamed Sayyed Tantawi, justified his decision to prohibit the niqab to protect girls and avoid that repeated cases in which some men covered in niqabs were able to enter university dormitories and subsequently arrested. The highest council of Al-Azhar university announced the decision to ban the covering from all schools controlled by the theological centre but only for courses attended and held by women and during exams if the presence of men is not foreseen. The council considers the wearing of the niqab legitimate in homes, on the street and in the school court yards. According to the religious leaders, the ban on the veil will be useful to contribute to a climate of trust, sharing and understanding between teachers and students. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Increasing Use of Face Veil Worries Egyptian Government

Most Egyptian women wear the headscarf there is concern in the country regarding the increasing number who have taken to wearing the niqab, which covers the face and is common in neighboring Saudi Arabia, a trend that worries the government as it battles a lurch towards fundamentalism

Women dressed in stark black, their faces veiled and their hands sometimes gloved, are becoming a common sight in Cairo, a trend that worries the government as it battles a lurch towards fundamentalism.

Most Muslim women in Egypt wear the hijab, which covers the hair, but the niqab, which covers the entire face, is becoming more popular on the streets of Cairo. The issue has been brought into sharp focus following reports this week that Mohammed Tantawi, head of the Islamic Al-Azhar University, told a girl to remove her niqab when he toured a high school funded by his institution.

Tantawi, the country’s top religious authority, reportedly also said that he intends to ban the niqab at the university. The ministry of religious endowments has distributed booklets explaining that wearing a niqab is un-Islamic while the health ministry wants to ban doctors and nurses from wearing the austere veil.

A decision has also reportedly been taken to ban students from wearing the niqab in the residences of the state-run Cairo University, although the university authorities deny this is the case. Outside one the university’s female residences, students said they had been stopped at the gates when they tried to enter wearing face veils.

“I don’t understand their point of view. If it’s for security, we can lift the niqab for security and show them our IDs,” a student, who gave her name only as Heba, told AFP. Three veiled students huddled together nearby reviewing a complaint to the university that they had written and planned to lodge. A security guard said he had been ordered to bar women from entering the residence wearing a niqab, even if they showed their faces for identification. “From a security standpoint, the niqabs weren’t a problem for us,” he said. “They would show their faces when asked. I was surprised by the decision. “If you want reasons, ask the education ministry,” he said.

The education ministry denied there was a ban. “There is absolutely no ban against students wearing the niqab,” said ministry spokesman Adli Reda. He said the orders were to have the students show their faces when asked for identification, because several men were caught last year sneaking into the residence wearing the niqab. A university spokesman also denied there was a ban on niqabs.

Hossam Bahgat, of the rights watchdog the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said however he had received complaints from students who had been banned from entering Cairo University residences because they were wearing the niqab. Bahgat said there was a tendency to ban students with known opposition leanings from living in residences, especially those affiliated with the banned Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest opposition group.

The niqab, however, is not usually associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which advocates a peaceful transition to an Islamic government through elections. Supporters of the niqab say wearing it brings women closer to God, and that they should be allowed to choose their own dress. The majority of mainstream Muslim scholars — who agree a woman must cover her hair — say the niqab is unnecessary.

It is commonly associated, in the Middle East, with followers of Salafism, an ultra-conservative school of thought mostly practiced in Saudi Arabia. Salafism has much in common with the ideology of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, but most of its practitioners shun politics, putting the emphasis on spreading the puritan creed of emulating the practices and beliefs of early Muslims.

Analysts said the niqab trend is a source of concern not only for the government but for Al-Azhar as well. Egypt has over the years witnessed a series of large-scale attacks by fundamentalist militants, starting with the assassination of president Anwar Sadat in 1981.

This year, it arrested two cells of Islamists blamed for a bombing in a Cairo bazaar that killed a French teenager, and a botched jewelry store heist that killed four Christian Copts. “There are government concerns about Salafism,” said Diaa Rashwan, an expert on political Islam with the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. “There is a secular trend in government, and the niqab is against that,” Rashwan said. “And Al-Azhar has always had a cautious dislike towards other trends that challenge its legitimacy.”

Al-Azhar has long enjoyed a reputation as Sunni Islam’s most eminent source of learning and religious edicts. Many Salafists however view Al-Azhar’s theological teachings with contempt.

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


Libya: Gaddafi’s Son Likely Libya’s Number Two, Press

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, OCTOBER 13 — Seif al Islam, the eldest son of Libyan leader Muhammar Gaddafi, will most likely be named “coordinator of social and popular committees” the second highest post in the country, a role equivalent to head of state, according to a report today in the Korina Libyan newspaper. Last week Colonel Gaddafi, during a closed door meeting with “peoples’ representatives” asked for an official role for his son, not limited to a mandate of just four years, so he could bring to term his reform projects. According to local press reports, afterwards, the “social and popular committees” which include tribal leaders as well as leaders from the various religions, held a meeting to discuss the role to assign Seif al Islam, put forward as his father’s successor. The committees, the executive power in the country, unanimously decided to nominate Seif al Islam coordinator of social and popular committees with duties that allow him to head the People’s Congress, the government and the security departments”, reported Korina. During the meeting last week the colonel is said to have wanted to leave his eldest son the management of national affairs in order to dedicate himself to the problems of Africa”. While not holding an official office, Seif al Islam has been moving forward with a reform project to modernize the regime with a constitution and a 70 billion dollar economic development plan, without putting the power of the leader in question. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Libya to Demolish Notorious Prison, Frees 88 Islamists

TRIPOLI (AFP) — Libya on Thursday freed 88 Islamists and announced it will demolish Abu Slim prison, notorious for what human rights groups say was a 1996 massacre in which more than 1,000 prisoners were killed.

The Islamists with Al-Qaeda links walked out of the Tripoli prison, an AFP correspondent at the scene reported.

The Kadhafi Foundation, headed by Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam, confirmed the planned closure of Abu Slim, saying the remaining inmates would be transferred to another jail.

The building “will be destroyed in the next few days,” a Libyan source told AFP, adding that a residential district and a green space would replace the prison, which has often been used to detain political prisoners.

The government has begun “procedures to compensate families of martyrs who died in the clashes” in 1996, the Foundation said without giving details.

Human Rights Watch said that the Libyan security forces killed at least 1,200 prisoners in a hail of bullets in 1996 in circumstances that remain unclear.

The Foundation, in a joint statement with lawyers’ groups, said: “45 members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and 43 members of other jihadist groups were freed” from Abu Slim on Thursday.

“Apart from the LIFG members, the other people freed were former Al-Qaeda members who were active in Afghanistan or Iraq,” Saleh Saleh Abdessalem, an aide to Seif al-Islam, told AFP.

Gathered in the prison courtyard, the detainees met journalists before greeting their families amid ululation by women and cries of “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest).

Some broke down in tears in front of their children, wives and relatives.

Ibrahim Buhlig, 35, is free after 11 years in prison. He told AFP he left Libya at the age of 16 to fight against Russian troops in Afghanistan. He was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 1998, then extradited to Libya.

According to Abu Hashem, his nom-de-guerre, the release programme followed “talks with Seif al-Islam through the intermediary of (Libyan cleric) Ali Sallabi.”

The Kadhafi Foundation said it is “working to strengthen peace in Libya,” emphasising the “big success” of the dialogue with the LIFG, formed in secret in Afghanistan in the early 1990s and which came to public notice in 1995 when it launched an armed campaign against Kadhafi’s regime.

Al-Qaeda announced in November 2007 that the LIFG had joined the jihadist network.

The men’s release comes at a time when Seif al-Islam is reportedly being proposed for Libya’s second most important job,”coordinator of social and popular committees,” a position equivalent to head of state.

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


Transport: ATR Signs Contract to Sell Two 42-500s to Libya

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, OCTOBER 7 — At the Lavex aviation salon currently being held in Tripoli, ATR, an equally-owned joint venture between Finmeccanica subsidiary Alenia and European group, EADS, signed a contract with Libyan Airlines for the sale of two 48-seat ATR 42-500s. The value of the contract, the group’s first in Libya specified a statement, is 35 million euros. Delivery should take place soon, by the end of the year, according to the commercial manager of the group, Jacques Desbarats, who expressed satisfaction that they have penetrated a market that has great potential for the development of its domestic airline traffic. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Dangerous Life of Wine-Lovers in Islamist Gaza

Abu Mohammed goes to great lengths to enjoy his wine in Gaza. Risking the wrath of the enclave’s Islamist Hamas rulers, he sneaks to the rooftop of an abandoned house to make his own nectar of the gods.

Here in his secret hideaway, Abu Mohammed carefully turns grapes into home-made vintages he savors only in the privacy of his own home, far away from the disapproving eyes of Hamas police and Gaza’s conservative society.

“I started making my own wine after Hamas took power,” says the 40-something civil servant who, like all the other Gaza bootleggers interviewed by AFP, declined to give their real names for fear of being arrested.

“I asked friends how to do it and I did some research on the Internet,” he says.

Abu Mohammed risks much to indulge his palate.

Gaza has always adhered to traditional Islam and alcohol has never been widely available in the coastal strip.

Before Hamas swept the January 2006 parliamentary election, anyone could bring alcohol in from Israel and Egypt and a handful of restaurants and bars served spirits.

But that stopped when Hamas — the Arabic acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement — routed loyalists of the rival secular Fatah faction from the territory in June 2007 after a week of deadly street clashes.

Since then, the sale of alcohol in Gaza has been banned altogether under a de facto law imposed by Hamas.

“No liquor is authorized,” warns a sign to visitors at the Erez border crossing checkpoint with Israel in the north, saying any alcohol found will be destroyed on the spot.

Meanwhile the smugglers doing a brisk trade in everything from cars to diapers through tunnels between southern Gaza and Egypt refuse to whisk alcohol into the territory for fear of running afoul of Hamas.

The procedure

So people like Abu Mohammed must resort to their own devices.

“First I wash the grapes well, then I take off the stems, then I press them with my bare hands,” he says, demonstrating the procedure. “The seeds stay at the bottom. I filter the juice and then add a small bit of yeast to speed up the fermentation, which takes at least 40 days.”

The result, he admits, is “not as good as ‘real wine’“ but under the present circumstances it is all he can get.

He knows that by indulging his palate he’s playing with fire.

“I am terrified by the idea of being discovered by Hamas police,” he says. “That’s why I make sure to do it all alone and in secret and above all not to sell it.”

Hussein knows the feeling. The 56-year-old — who has been making his wine in small wooden barrels “to add flavor” — is not only “afraid of being discovered by the Hamas police, who will have no mercy,” but also of losing face in a socially conservative society that does not look kindly on imbibers.

Ziad, 30, says he drinks alone to minimize any chances of getting caught.

Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu says Gaza’s Islamist rulers “act on a case by case basis in line with Palestinian law.”

Legal framework

“We act against commercial quantities. In cases of personal use production, we respect the law.”

There are no figures on how many people in Gaza make their own booze, but anecdotal evidence suggests they are either very few or very good at hiding.

Jamal Dahshane, who heads the Hamas police anti-drug unit and considers confiscating alcohol a “social duty,” admits he’s never run across such a case.

“Even if we discover that a person makes his own alcohol, we don’t have the means to arrest him because Palestinian law does not prohibit alcohol consumption,” he says. “Only the selling of alcohol can be considered as a criminal offence.”

But Gaza’s daring bootleggers aren’t taking any chances.

All drink the fruit of their labors in very limited circles, at home, at night and either alone or with only wives and a few close friends present.

Ziad has never gotten drunk. Abu Mohammed allows himself to get tipsy, but never tipples more than four glasses.

Hussein does get drunk, and it once led to dangerous consequences — his neighbors saw him behaving strangely and confronted him. He denied he had been drinking and has tried to be more discreet since.

But despite all the risks and the fears, no one has any intention of giving up their dangerous hobby.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Petition to Urge World Leaders: Vote No to Biased Goldstone Report

The U.N. Human Rights Council is about to vote on an Arab-sponsored resolution seeking to endorse the biased Goldstone Report. If this dangerous text is adopted, the U.N. Security Council will be asked to begin proceedings on the indictment of Israeli leaders and officers in the International Criminal Court. The crime? Defending civilians from 10,000 Hamas rocket attacks. If adopted, terrorism will win, democracy will lose, and more innocents will die. The U.S. will oppose the text, but the European Union votes remains critical. Act now: urge E.U. leaders to vote No.

           — Hat tip: Politically Incorrect[Return to headlines]


‘Secret Memo’ Eyes a New Foreign Policy

Tel Aviv, 7 October (AKI) — An alleged secret memorandum drawn up by Israel’s foreign ministry and obtained by an Israeli daily says the Jewish state will move away from “lone dependence” on the United States as a strategic ally and will instead refocus its policy towards the developing world.

Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman intends to discuss with senior ministry officials the implementation of the five-page document, according to sources quoted by Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post — which obtained a copy of the memo.

“For decades, Israel has neglected entire regions and continents, including Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe and the Balkans, and Central and Southeast Asia. The cost of this neglect has been immense, and has been evident at the UN and other international forums,” said the memo, quoted by The Jerusalem Post.

The policies would see an expansion of ties with parts of the world “neglected” by previous governments, lowering expectations of a breakthrough in peace negotiations with the Palestinians that will “take it off the international agenda”.

“We can reach a temporary settlement between the sides (Israelis and Palestinians), even without solving the core issues, including Jerusalem, the right of return and borders. This is the most that can be achieved realistically, and it is crucial to convince the United States and Europe of this.”

The memo also says Israel would move away from US dependence.

“There is no replacement for Israel’s special relations with the United States, without a doubt Israel’s best friend in the world,” said the memo, prepared at the request of Lieberman in recent weeks.

“But, the lone dependence on the United States is unhealthy for either side and presents difficulties for the US. Israel must build coalitions with other states on the basis of shared interests. In this way, it will expand and strengthen the circle of support, something which will be a relief for the US as well.”

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


UK Rejects Goldstone Report at Unhrc

The United Kingdom became the first Western country with voting rights on the UN Human Rights Council to clearly state that it would not endorse the Goldstone Report or the draft resolution based on that report, which had been placed before the council’s two-day special session that opened Thursday in Geneva.

Jurist Richard Goldstone sits next to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay while delivering the report at the session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva on Sept. 29.

“We can not endorse the report and can not vote for the resolution as tabled,” the UK told the council on Thursday. It added that it did not consider it necessary to hold a special session on the report.

The Palestinians, through Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan and Tunisia, had submitted a five-page draft resolution to the council, which condemned Israeli human rights violations in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

It also calls on the council to endorse the Goldstone Report, which accuses Israel of committing war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during its military operation in Gaza last winter, known as Operation Cast Lead.

Although the report focused largely on Israeli actions in Gaza, it did state that both Hamas and Israel had violated international law.

But the resolution before the council explicitly mentioned only Israeli violations of international law.

President Shimon Peres meets with Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in Jerusalem on Thursday.

The council is expected to endorse the resolution. But both Israel and the Palestinians have vied for the support of the Western countries, which are a minority-voting bloc on the council.

It is expected that on Friday, the US will vote against the five-page resolution that endorses the report. The European position is unclear.

Israel has warned that endorsement of the report, which would send the document onto UN bodies in New York for further action, risks undermining Middle East peace.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told the 47-member council that she supported the report’s recommendations, “including its call for urgent action to counter impunity” — meaning that Israel and Hamas must investigate and prosecute those who committed war crimes.

Pillay said it was necessary for both sides “to carry out impartial, independent, prompt, and effective investigations into reported violations of human rights and humanitarian law” as recommended by the report.

Pillay said holding war criminals accountable and respect for human rights “are not obstacles to peace, but rather the preconditions on which trust and, ultimately, a durable peace can be built.”

Israeli Ambassador Aharon Leshno-Yaar rejected the Goldstone report as “biased and flawed,” warning that a vote endorsing the document “will set back hopes for peace.” He accused the council, which has a history of passing resolutions critical of Israel, of using the report for more “Israel bashing.”

He said the UN debate had “nothing to do with human rights” but rather with internal Palestinian politics.

The United States has taken a similar view that excessive attention to the report and alleged crimes in the Gaza war could hamper efforts to rejuvenate peace efforts.

“We stand at an important moment, and must all be mindful of the larger context of ongoing efforts to restart permanent status negotiations that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state” said US diplomat Douglas M. Griffiths.

He said Washington supported calls for those responsible for violations to be held accountable, but wanted this to be done by Israeli and Palestinian authorities themselves.

“Countries need and deserve the space to work through what processes will be most effective, and this cannot be dictated from outside,” he said.

PLO Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Ibrahim Khraish said Israel had spurned his government’s effort at reconciliation.

Palestinian and Israeli rights groups warned Thursday against burying the report.

“I don’t think you can build a peace process on injustices that you try to sweep under the rug,” said Jessica Montell, head of the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

“We hope the Goldstone report doesn’t end as piles of paper,” added Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

Ahead of the UN Human Rights Council session, Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke on the phone with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US National Security Adviser James Jones.

On Tuesday night, the defense minister spoke with several other world statesmen and diplomats, including the British and French foreign ministers, and urged them not to adopt the findings of the report.

President Shimon Peres blasted the Goldstone report in an earlier meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in Jerusalem.

“Israel has investigated every war and action which it was compelled to undertake. We do not need outside judges,” he said.

“We will not allow a majority that is hostile to Israel to judge us. If the Human Rights Council wants to be fair, I suggest that it consider Iran’s call for Israel’s destruction.”

Peres stated that a tribunal “must be beyond reproach” and that there was no doubt the Arab League and opponents of Israel had a majority on the council.

“If the UN wishes to investigate, let them first investigate Iran for its call for Israel’s destruction. Iran is a UN member,” stressed Peres.

“Ahmadinejad was recently given the red carpet treatment in the halls of the organization. There is a limit to hypocrisy,” the President said and added, “Why isn’t Iran being investigated? Why does everyone remain silent?”

Peres called upon the UN once again to establish clear rules of engagement for the war on terrorism. He said that although such codes of conduct were implemented in classical warfare, of army versus army, no guidelines existed as of yet for the war on terrorism.

“Hamas fired missiles at homes, operated out of the heart of the population and used children as human shields,” he said. “No investigative committee, including Goldstone’s, has provided an answer as to how to prevent Hamas’s despicable acts of terrorism against Israeli citizens.”

Meanwhile, Nigeria, Brazil, Bosnia, Lebanon and Gabon won seats on the UN Security Council on Thursday. The five countries faced no opposition in their bid for seats on the UN’s most powerful body and were elected on the first ballot by the 192-member General Assembly. They will serve two-year terms on the Security Council starting on January 1, 2010. Bosnia and Lebanon will be in the rare position of being subject to scrutiny by the council while serving on it.

           — Hat tip: Frontinus[Return to headlines]


US ‘Furious Over Incitement Against Obama’

Jerusalem, 9 October (AKI) — The United States administration is said to be ‘furious’ over alleged Israeli incitement against president Barack Obama over his efforts to restart the peace process and freeze illegal Jewish settlement construction, Israeli media said on Friday, quoting an unnamed US Democratic congressman close to the president.

“There are people here who are playing with fire by damaging our relationship with the US,” the source said, quoted by Israeli daily Haaretz and adding that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been personally involved in incitement.

The source said he was stunned by the level of anger over attempts to portray Obama to the American public as an enemy of Israel.

Obama considers a halt to settlement expansion a key element of a future peace accord between Israelis and Palestinians.

The first Jewish settlements — considered illegal under international law and a thorny issue between Israelis and Palestinians — were erected after the 1967 Six-Day war inside the so-called Green Line, demarcating a border between the West Bank and Israel.

Israel’s construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has increased distrust of Israel’s intentions among Palestinian negotiators.

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

Middle East

Archbishop of Kirkuk: For 1600 Years, Iraq Has Been a “Country of Martyrs”

Diocese remembers the massacre of Christians in 409 AD, in which hundreds of people were beheaded for their faith. Program includes a fast for peace, prayers, masses and a conference. Archbishop Sako: the persecutions have not stopped “the story and the journey” of Christians, strong in the Holy Spirit and the Eucharist.

Kirkuk (AsiaNews) — For 1600 years, Iraq has been “a country of martyrs”, which finds in the “Holy Spirit and the Eucharist” the strength to bear witness to the faith “despite persecution”. So says Mgr. Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk, on the eve of a week of celebrations to mark 1600 years since the massacre of Iraqi martyrs. A long series of past and present violence, but one which has not stopped “the sacred history of the Christians … and their journey.”

In 409 AD hundreds of Christians were beheaded for their faith. “Among them — said Msgr. Sako — a widow named Scirin-Miskenta, with two children, and general Tahmazgerd, who carried out the decree of the king, who ordered the massacre. “Seeing their faith, serenity and the trust of the widow — continued the prelate — Tahmzgerd converted to Christianity” and as a result was “beheaded later.” Around 470, to commemorate the massacre of Christians, the bishop of Kirkuk Maruta “built a sanctuary” on the hill where “the martyrs were buried”. The “Red Church”, as it is called, junits Christians and Muslims and is now “the graveyard of the Chaldeans”; the relics of martyrs, custodied on the main altar, have always been a destination for the processions of the faithful.

To celebrate the anniversary of the martyrdom, the diocese has organized a series of events: on Wednesday, a day of fasting for peace; Thursday, hymns of the martyrs and a conference at the recently restored Sanctuary; on Friday Mass will be celebrated; on Saturday a play, staged by the choir of the cathedral and the church of St. Joseph. Under the slogan “true to our fathers in faith,” Christians in Kirkuk want to “bear witness to the faith, love, trust and openness.”

The history of violence and persecution against Christians has continued uninterrupted. Abductions, kidnappings, assassinations, fleeing families are the dramatic testimony of a “chain of martyrs — underlines Msgr. Sako — that continues. Our country is dotted with shrines to martyrs that people constantly visit, it is a spirituality of martyrdom”. Christians find the strength to “remain faithful” in the “Holy Spirit, but also in the liturgy, especially the Eucharist.” “In every Mass — added the archbishop of Kirkuk — we are called upon to make the sacrifice of Christ in our life, in his words; take, break, give … Do this in memory of me: this is the sacred history of Christians and …. their journey”.

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


Bomb Attack on Sunni Imam: Killed Because He Criticized Al-Qaeda

Jamal Humdai was known for his sermons against extremism and sectarian violence. Bomb detonated while he was driving his car, he had just finished leading the Friday prayers. It is the second deadly attack against an Islamic cleric in a few days.

Baghdad (AsiaNews / Agencies) — A Sunni imam in Baghdad, known for his criticism of Al Qaeda and the so-called resistance groups in Iraq, was killed in an attack on October 9. Humdai Jamal was driving his car when the vehicle was blown up by a bomb placed by unknown persons in the car. The cleric had just finished the Friday sermon at Saqlawiyah, 75 km north-east of Baghdad. Police said that two other people in the car were wounded in the attack.

The imam is known for its criticism against Sunni extremists and Al Qaeda and his sermons in which he asked the faithful not to succumb to sectarian violence that paralyzes the country.

This is the second assassination in recent days of religious figures in Iraq. Last week, Bashir al-Juheishi, the Sunni imam in Mosul, was killed in an attack with the very same dynamics as the one unleashed on Humdai. Al-Juheishi was also known for his positions against Al Qaeda deeply rooted in the northern Iraq city.

Major Qassim al-Moussawi, spokesman of the armed forces, stresses that the recent assassinations demonstrate the extremist’s new strategy. The military says that a new generation of “small adhesives cans” are claiming numerous victims on the streets of Iraq. The weapons are “easily applied to cars and buses to target individuals. Al-Moussawi said that these bombs are easily handled even by women and children whom extremists recruit because they are less exposed to checks and searches.

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


God Furious if Women Governors: Iran Cleric

“If some people want to change the principles and values of the revolution without considering the views of clerics, they will face the fury of God and of the people,” Grand Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpayghani said on his website.

Golpayghani was reacting to remarks by interior minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar in the holy city of Qom last week, who when asked whether Iran would appoint women as governors of provinces, replied: “Yes. It is possible.”

Golpayghani said the appointment of women in such top jobs was against sharia (Islamic) law.

“They come to Qom, the centre of Shiite Islam, and announce that they will appoint women as governors of some provinces. Do you want to fight with the Quran and the Prophet with such talks that go against sharia?” he asked.

“Who are you against? God’s rule or the definite rules of religion?”

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has also faced stiff resistance from hardline clerics, including Golpayghani, in appointing women as cabinet ministers.

Lawmakers, however, did approve one woman cabinet minister — the first female minister of the Islamic republic — during a vote of confidence in September.

In recent years Iranian women have outnumbered men in universities but they still account for only around 15 percent of the official work force.

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, women have been banned from becoming judges and suffer from legal inequalities with men in marriage, divorce and inheritance.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


The West’s Choice of Strategy: Defending Itself From Terror Attacks or Combatting a Radical Strategic Threat?

by Barry Rubin

There are two basic strategies being put forth in the West and particularly the United States today in regard to the challenge from radical and Islamist forces. The narrower, terror-only strategy is a far more tempting one to follow. It is less expensive, less risky, and makes it far easier to claim success. That’s why it has such enormous appeal and is generally the one being adopted.

The Terror-Only Strategy

In this approach, the problem is defined as direct terror attacks on Western territory and facilities elsewhere like embassies. The enemy is those groups which directly target the West, meaning al-Qaida and its allies plus various independent local self-made terrorists (who are influenced, of course, by Jihadist propaganda).

Since these groups have no major state sponsor, this is a narrow counterterrorism strategy which does not require confrontation or conflict with any other country. It can be handled largely as a police and criminal matter. Success is measured by an ability to keep such attacks to an absolute minimum.

Moreover, it permits the luxury of ignoring attacks on or in other countries—including Israel especially—as not being a matter of much concern. [Even the United States has increasingly taken this stance. After the massive terror attack on Mumbai, India, Pakistan’s policy of sponsoring anti-Indian terrorism has been for all practical purposes ignored. U.S. aid to Pakistan climbs steeply with no conditionality about stopping attacks despite the fact that Pakistan has done nothing to punish the terrorists involved, much less the Pakistani intelligence officers who direct them. The Administration has conducted engagement of Syria with no serious reference to Syria’s sponsorship of terrorism against Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, or Israel. When Iraq protested Syrian involvement in a bloody recent attack the U.S. government declared its neutrality.

Thus, a whole category of terrorist revolutionary groups and their state sponsors can be ignored. If you don’t bother them, it is hoped, they won’t bother you. (This is not without exception, though, as Western states have been willing to put sanctions on Hamas, though these are under some challenge.)

This strategy also has an internal aspect. Since only those small groups which want to attack on their territory are the problem, it can be argued that the best defense is to work with Islamist groups which, no matter how extreme their ideology and their support for terrorism abroad, don’t engage in violence on your own territory.

While there is a sharp debate over the domestic aspect of the strategy—some countries like Britain and France are ready to work with “moderate” Islamists, others aren’t—it has clearly won out on the international front and has been adopted by the Obama Administration.

The Anti-Islamist Strategy

This seems closer to the Bush Administration’s view and is thus considered discredited in most Western policymaking circles. The concept here is that radical Islamist forces threaten Western strategic interests and pose the principal threat of this era…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]


Turkey: EU: Focus on Freedom of Press and Fundamental Rights

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, OCTOBER 14 — Turkey is still weak on the front of freedom of the press and fundamental rights according to the European Commission. “The high fines imposed on Dogan Media Holding have hurt the group’s profitability and therefore effect, in practice, the freedom of the press in Turkey”. This is what the EU Commission report on Turkey affirmed, as a part of the 2009 enlargement package that was presented today in Brussels, according to which there is the need to support the principles of proportionality and equality in these proceedings connected to state revenue. Moreover, according to Brussels “the Turkish judicial framework still does not supply sufficient guarantees for the exercising of freedom of expression and is therefore often interpreted in a strict manner by prosecutors and judges”. Another Achilles heel for Ankara, according to the EU report, is the fact that some of the defenders of human rights continue to face trials related to their work, and it is necessary to increase efforts to decrease impunity for those who violate human rights. The cause of “great worry” for Brussels is the particular impunity for those responsible for torture and mistreatment. In general, the full respect and protection of languages, cultures and fundamental rights are still far from European standards. Limited efforts have been made by Ankara to increase tolerance and promote minority integration. While on the whole, the evaluation of the European Commission expresses “worry over the independence, impartiality and efficiency of the judicial system”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Turkish TV Series Angers Israel

Israel’s foreign minister has ordered Turkey’s ambassador to be summoned over a Turkish TV series that portrays Israeli soldiers killing children.

Avigdor Lieberman said the programme, broadcast on Turkey’s state television, incited hatred against the country.

In one clip screened on Israeli news channels, an Israeli soldier takes aim at a smiling young girl and kills her.

The complaint is the latest to strain the relationship between Turkey and Israel.

Strategic ties

In a statement, Mr Lieberman said the series, which “presents Israeli soldiers as the murderers of innocent children, would not be appropriate for broadcast even in an enemy country and certainly not in a state which maintains diplomatic relations with Israel”.

Another clip from the series — which tells the story of a Palestinian family — reportedly shows a bullet fired by an Israeli soldier travelling in slow motion towards a Palestinian child.

The programme was broadcast on Tuesday evening on Turkey’s TRT One Channel.

Turkey is one of the few Muslim countries to have relations with Israel, but these have suffered since Israel’s offensive in Gaza in January.

Last week, Ankara cancelled an international military exercise in which Israeli pilots were due to participate.

Israel’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak sought to play down the rift, stressing that the two states shared “longstanding, important and strategic” ties.

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


Vatican: Bishop Urges Turkey to Recognise Armenian ‘Genocide’

Vatican City, 13 October (AKI) — An Armenian Catholic bishop from Egypt, Krikor-Okosdinos Coussa of Alexandria, has called on Turkey to accept that the World War I killings of many hundreds of thousands of Armenian Christians were genocide. Successive Turkish governments have refused to do so, arguing atrocities took place on both sides, and that Muslims also died.

“In 1915, the Ottomans … killed the Armenian people in Greater Armenia and Lesser Armenia (Turkey). One and a half million people perished during this genocide,” Coussa told a synod of African bishops taking place in Rome.

The killings drove the Armenians from Turkey to the Middle East and throughout the world, he noted.

“The leaders of the Armenian State and the heads of the Armenian Churches (Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical) are performing an act of public pardon towards the Turks.

“We do so while appealing to the Turks to recognise the genocide, to pay homage to the martyrs and to grant Armenians their civil, political and religious rights,” Coussa said.

In an apparent reference to a landmark agreement signed last weekend between Turkey and Armenia normalising ties and ending a century of hostility, Coussa stated: “The path of reconciliation between the two States has begun.”

Many Armenians have protested the accord, saying it does not fully address the 1915 killings.

The agreement calls for a joint commission of independent historians to study the genocide issue.

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


Will it be Another ‘Lost Century’ For the Arab World?

King Abdullah’s trip to Syria raises questions about the Arab world’s capacity to take charge of its own history and cope with modernity. If the impact of the meeting between the Saudi and Syrian leaders on government formation in Lebanon is any indications, naysayers seem to have the upper hand.

Beirut (AsiaNews) — Will the Arab world take advantage of the 21st century better than it did with the 20th? The Saudi king’s visit to Syria, with all the political ghosts it has raised, is a good time to ask that question.

A few years, Ghassan Tuéni, Jean Lacouture and Gérard Khoury looked at the main developments of the history of the Arab Middle East in The Lost Century: The Middle-East from the Ottoman Empire to the American (in French).

In it, the authors tried to understand the reasons for the Arab world’s incapacity to successfully take charge of its own history and cope with modernity. Ostensibly, such a failure could be attributed primarily to an inability in Arab societies to allow reason to emerge as “autonomous sphere” in political and cultural life. However, the issue is complex and deserves closer attention. Without exception, all Arab societies are involved in this process. The opening of a new mega university in Saudi Arabia, a place of exchange and modernity, is a sign of that.

The book comes down hard on many Arab countries for sacrificing their elites in the name of progress that never materialised; it slams how easily military dictatorship went hand in hand with nepotism and corruption; it points out how Arab countries failed to intelligently use oil resources to build a real economy and achieve any form of lasting political union; and finally it highlights the sense of loss felt in many Arab countries, Palestinians first and foremost, for the tragic fate of Palestine. A sense of lost opportunity runs through the book.

Of course, the West played a crucial role in this loss through its cynicism (called “realpolitik”), economic interests, compromises, concessions to dictators, treason (the 1917 Balfour Declaration in favour of Jewish national home), blindness, especially American vis-à-vis Israel, best exemplified today by the tragedy in Gaza and ongoing Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Ten years into the new century and no one knows yet whether the lessons of the past have been learnt or whether the new century will just pass the Arabs by. Indeed, danger weighs heavily on the Arab Renaissance (an-Nahda) of the 19th century, which despite some cultural shortcomings found embodiment in certain democratic experiences.

Like other Arab countries Lebanon is a prisoner of its history, demography, communal divisions, societal fragmentation, individualism and a culture of impunity rooted in Hizbollah’s militarisation, all of which is slowly moving towards chaos. How long will it last?

Will King Abdullah’s visit to Syria have a positive impact on the formation of Lebanon’s government?

It will, if Lebanon is treated as “neutral ground” and its new cabinet is allowed to be set up; if an Arab common market follows along the lines of emerging regional labour and financial markets; if a spirit of cooperation is treated as an absolute necessity to cope with the political, economic and military challenges now faced by the Arab world.

It will not, if a spirit of confrontation continues with Lebanon as a bargaining chip in regional politics; if Iran continues to use Lebanon as a card in its negotiations with the West; if the United States continues to view Hizbollah as a “terrorist party” and refuses to grant it any indirect international legitimacy, all this on the eve of Lebanon’s two—year membership as a non-permanent member of the United Nations starting next year.

Sadly, the naysayers are in the driver’s seat right now. Dominated by Tehran’s nuclear programme and its political and ideological expansionism, and threats of Israel’s military retaliation and its arrogant settlement actions, events in the region are or could get out of hand.

Despite US President Barack Obama’s apparent good will, nothing will change if the means to get Israel to see reason continue to be so unconvincing.

It is hard to see how amidst all this haze, a divided Lebanese ship can find a safe harbour.

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

Russia

Journalist Criticises Those Who Miss the End of the USSR, They Call for His Expulsion From Russia

Alexsandr Podrabinek is threatened by pro-Putin youth movement Nashi. His is one of the many cases showing an attempt to rehabilitate the figure of Stalin and the Soviet regime. The operation involves the Kremlin and concerns the Russian Orthodox Church.

Moscow (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Journalist Alexsandr Podrabinek is the victim of a violent derogatory campaign for his criticism of attempts currently underway in Russia to rehabilitate the Soviet Era.

An example of these attempts occurred in July when a diner named ‘Anti-Soviet’ opened in Moscow. The owners adopted the name as a tongue-in-cheek reference to its location across from the Hotel Soviet, built by Stalin in 1952. However, an organisation of World War II veterans objected to the name, finding it offensive, and demanded the authorities take down the sign.

On 21 September, Podrabinek published an article on Yezhednevny Zhurnal online, expressing doubts about the latest attempt to rehabilitate the Soviet Era.

After the publication of the article, Podrabinek and the Yezhednevny newsroom received telephone threats from the pro-Putin movement ‘Nashi’, claiming that they were defending the “honour of veterans”. The group held a picket near the journalist’s house, published his home address and demanded his expulsion from Russia.

The Podrabinek affair, like the restaurant case, is a revealing sign of attempts in Russia to rehabilitate the figure of Stalin and Soviet regime. According to a number of Russian commentators, this operation has the government’s signature written all over. In fact, on 19 May 2009, President Dmitrij Medvedev set up a commission against “attempts to falsify history at the expense of Russia’s interest.” The main activity of the new agency is the Second World War, which Moscow calls the Great Patriotic War.

Many newspapers met the establishment of the commission and the opinions of its supporters with a great deal of scepticism. Newspapers like Vremja No­vostej and The New Times have lamented the “attempts to turn Stalin into ‘an efficient manager’.”

The Orthodox Church has not been immune from the controversy. The clearest example is the recent publication of a book by Fr Georgij Mitrofanov, Russia’s Tragedy in the 20th Century, which focuses among other things on the controversial figure of General Andrej Vlasov, who first was a Stalin loyalist, and then sponsored an army of Russian volunteers allied to the Nazis against Moscow.

Vlasov’s legacy has been quite an embarrassment for the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate at home. For the former, the general is “a symbol of resistance to atheistic Bolshevism on behalf of the renaissance of historical Russia.” By contrast, the Patriarchate has tried to distance itself from the position of the overseas Church, whilst maintaining a united front at home.

The makeover of Stalin’s image and the Soviet Era go together with an attempt by Russian rulers to restore the country’s cultural identity, an impossible mission without the cooptation of Russian Orthodoxy.

The Moscow Patriarchate, in spite of itself, is much involved in this issue, and has often been accused of playing right into the Kremlin’s hands in order to gain cultural supremacy in Russian society.

Aleksandr Cipko, a philosopher and editorial writer, from the pages of Nezavisimaja Gazeta on 15 September slammed the operation to revive the myth of Russia’s supremacy over the West. For him, there is a danger that Stalin will be seen as the embodiment of the original Russian project rather than Communism.

The philosopher is angered by self-styled “true patriots” who “not only associate, but identify Russianness, orthodoxy and Stalinism as one, and exclude freedom, dignity, personhood, material well-being, from so-called ‘fundamental Russian values’.”

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


Russia to Allow Pre-Emptive Nukes

MOSCOW (AP) — A top Russian security official says Moscow reserves the right to conduct pre-emptive nuclear strikes to safeguard the country against aggression on both a large and a local scale, according to a newspaper interview published Wednesday.

Presidential Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev also singled out the U.S. and NATO, saying Moscow’s Cold War foes still pose potential threats to Russia despite what he called a global trend toward local conflicts.

The interview appeared in the daily Izvestia during a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, as U.S. and Russian negotiators try to hammer out a nuclear arms reduction treaty by December. It also came amid grumbling in Moscow over U.S. moves to modify plans for a missile shield near Russia’s borders rather than ditch the idea outright.

Patrushev said a sweeping document on military policy including a passage on preventative nuclear force will be handed to President Dmitry Medvedev by the end of the year, according to Izvestia.

Officials are examining “a variety of possibilities for using nuclear force, depending on the situation and the intentions of the possible opponent,” Patrushev was quoted as saying. “In situations critical to national security, options including a preventative nuclear strike on the aggressor are not excluded.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Russia’s Putin Warns Against Intimidating Iran

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned major powers on Wednesday against intimidating Iran and said talk of sanctions against the Islamic Republic over its nuclear programme was “premature”.

Putin, who many diplomats, analysts, and Russian citizens believe is still Russia’s paramount leader despite stepping down as president last year, was speaking after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Moscow for two days of talks.

“There is no need to frighten the Iranians,” Putin told reporters in Beijing after a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

“We need to look for a compromise. If a compromise is not found, and the discussions end in a fiasco, then we will see.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Washington Promises to Tone Down Criticism of Kremlin

The US needs the Kremlin’s support on Iran, Afghanistan and disarmament. Now Washington has promised Moscow to stop its continual criticism of Russia’s democracy in a bid to get it on board. But Russian human rights activists are furious about what they see as American apathy to their plight.

[…]

Such skirmishes should now be a thing of the past. According to the Russian newspaper Kommersant, Michael McFaul, who advises Obama on Russia, has promised a ceasefire. Kommersant reported that McFaul had already on Monday met the Russian administration’s deputy chief of staff, Vladislav Surkov, and assured him of a radical change of course in Washington. “We came to a conclusion that we need a reset in this respect too and we should give up the old approach that had been troubling the Russian-American partnership,” McFaul told the newspaper.

[…]

The pragmatic turn in American policy toward Russia follows the realization that the US needs Moscow’s cooperation. In the long term, Barack Obama can only achieve his vision of a nuclear-free world with the help of the Russians. In the short term, Washington is aiming for a new nuclear disarmament agreement to succeed the START treaty, which expires in early December. Obama is also hoping for Russian support in relation to the conflict in Afghanistan and Iran’s nuclear program.

As a further concession, Moscow will be brought on board during planning for a new missile defense system, according to McFaul. Then-Russian President Vladimir Putin had made a similar proposal two years ago, when he also offered the US the use of the Gabala radar station in Azerbaijan.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Cabinet Office, Times Accusations Totally Unfounded

(AGI) — Rome, 15 Oct. — “With regard to what has been published by The Times about the Italian involvement in Afghanistan, the Berlusconi government would like to point out that it has never authorised nor allowed any form of payment of money to insurgent groups linked to the Taleban in Afghanistan, nor does it have any knowledge of any previous government doing so.” The statement was issued by Palazzo Chigi, the Italian Cabinet Office. “Sufficient proof of this,” continues the statement, “is found in the fact that, in the first half of 2008, Italian forces deployed in Afghanistan suffered a number of attacks and, specifically in the Surobi district, on 13 February 2008, Second Lieutenant Francesco Pezzulo was killed.” “Despite environmental difficulties,” continues the statement, “work by the Italian contingent continued in line with the instructions from the government on the basis of pledges undertaken at international level, giving unanimous consensus as part of NATO and by the allies. It is similarly helpful to underline that, as press agencies reported at the time, the Forward Operational Base (FOB) work in the Surobi district was praised and recognised by ISAF and, in particular, by US General David McKiernan, who was at the time commander in chief of the NATO forces in Afghanistan, who highlighted “the results achieved by the Italian forces, in particular in the Surobi district.” “By constructing bridges, wells, schools and giving agricultural assistance,” continues the note, “this area, which was rural before the arrival of the Italians, has become a model to be followed by ISAF. Likewise, in the period indicated, there were numerous thanks and acknowledgements for the contribution made by Italian Intelligence, recognised as capable of providing an extremely timely information service contextualised for all the ISAF forces. “Likewise it is ruled out,” continued the note, “that, at the beginning of June 2008, the US ambassador in Rome forwarded a formal complaint from the US regarding hypothetical payments to Taleban insurgents.”

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


Afghanistan: La Russa, We Will Sue the Times, It’s Rubbish

(AGI) — Rome, 15 Oct. — “The information published by The Times today with words not spoken with probability but with certainty are absolute rubbish and will be considered as such. I have instructed my head of Cabinet to instruct lawyers to sue The Times. We’ll wait to see who has the power to do so, whether it be my ministry or the government, but this is my evaluation.” Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa was speaking during a brief press conference at the Cabinet Office during the Council of Ministers. “The news that says that we paid the Taleban in order not to be attacked,” continued La Russa, “is insulting to our dead and to our army. No state body has ever operated in the way reported by The Times. And for this reason I consider it hateful that a newspaper, which is working on an anti-Italian principle, has published news without verifying it. The newspaper is not acting honourably.”

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


Asia: Does Al-Qaida Have Key to Unlock Pakistan Nukes?

Security experts worry about access to arsenal

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton isn’t too concerned about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, saying that she has “confidence in the Pakistani government and the military’s control over nuclear weapons,” according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

However, when she dismisses the prospect that Islamic militants could overthrow the Pakistani government of President Asif Ali Zadari and gain control of its nuclear arsenal, her opinions are at odds with security specialists concerned that individuals in the Pakistani military are colluding with al-Qaida.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


French Troops Were Killed After Italy Hushed Up ‘Bribes’ To Taleban

When ten French soldiers were killed last year in an ambush by Afghan insurgents in what had seemed a relatively peaceful area, the French public were horrified.

Their revulsion increased with the news that many of the dead soldiers had been mutilated — and with the publication of photographs showing the militants triumphantly sporting their victims’ flak jackets and weapons. The French had been in charge of the Sarobi area, east of Kabul, for only a month, taking over from the Italians; it was one of the biggest single losses of life by Nato forces in Afghanistan.

What the grieving nation did not know was that in the months before the French soldiers arrived in mid-2008, the Italian secret service had been paying tens of thousands of dollars to Taleban commanders and local warlords to keep the area quiet, The Times has learnt. The clandestine payments, whose existence was hidden from the incoming French forces, were disclosed by Western military officials.

US intelligence officials were flabbergasted when they found out through intercepted telephone conversations that the Italians had also been buying off militants, notably in Herat province in the far west. In June 2008, several weeks before the ambush, the US Ambassador in Rome made a démarche, or diplomatic protest, to the Berlusconi Government over allegations concerning the tactic.

However, a number of high-ranking officers in Nato have told The Times that payments were subsequently discovered to have been made in the Sarobi area as well.

Western officials say that because the French knew nothing of the payments they made a catastrophically incorrect threat assessment.

“One cannot be too doctrinaire about these things,” a senior Nato officer in Kabul said. “It might well make sense to buy off local groups and use non-violence to keep violence down. But it is madness to do so and not inform your allies.”

On August 18, a month after the Italian force departed, a lightly armed French patrol moved into the mountains north of Sarobi town, in the district of the same name, 65km (40 miles) east of Kabul. They had little reason to suspect that they were walking into the costliest battle for the French in a quarter of a century.

Operating in an arc of territory north and east of the Afghan capital, the French apparently believed that they were serving in a relatively benign district. The Italians they had replaced in July had suffered only one combat death in the previous year. For months the Nato headquarters in Kabul had praised Italian reconstruction projects under way around Sarobi. When an estimated 170 insurgents ambushed the force in the Uzbin Valley the upshot was a disaster. “They took us by surprise,” one French troop commander said after the attack.

A Nato post-operations assessment would sharply criticise the French force for its lack of preparation. “They went in with two platoons [approximately 60 men],” said one senior Nato officer. “They had no heavy weapons, no pre-arranged air support, no artillery support and not enough radios.”

Had it not been for the chance presence of some US special forces in the area who were able to call in air support for them, they would have been in an even worse situation. “The French were carrying just two medium machine guns and 100 rounds of ammunition per man. They were asking for trouble and the insurgents managed to get among them.”

A force from the 8th Marine Parachute Regiment took an hour and a half to reach the French over the mountains. “We couldn’t see the enemy and we didn’t know how many of them there were,” said another French officer. “After 20 minutes we started coming under fire from the rear. We were surrounded.”

The force was trapped until airstrikes forced the insurgents to retreat the next morning. By then ten French soldiers were dead and 21 injured.

The French public were appalled when it emerged that many of the dead had been mutilated by the insurgents— a mixed force including Taleban members and fighters from Hizb e-Islami.

A few weeks later French journalists photographed insurgents carrying French assault rifles and wearing French army flak jackets, helmets and, in one case, a dead soldier’s watch.

Two Western military officials in Kabul confirmed that intelligence briefings after the ambush said that the French troops had believed they were moving through a benign area — one which the Italian military had been keen to show off to the media as a successful example of a “hearts and minds” operation.

Another Nato source confirmed the allegations of Italian money going to insurgents. “The Italian intelligence service made the payments, it wasn’t the Italian Army,” he said. “It was payments of tens of thousands of dollars regularly to individual insurgent commanders. It was to stop Italian casualties that would cause political difficulties at home.”

When six Italian troops were killed in a bombing in Kabul last month it resulted in a national outpouring of grief and demands for troops to be withdrawn. The Nato source added that US intelligence became aware of the payments. “The Italians never acknowledged it, even though there was intercepted telephone traffic on the subject,” said the source. “The démarche was the result. It was not publicised because it would have caused a diplomatic nightmare. We found out about the Sarobi payments later.”

In Kabul a high-ranking Western intelligence source was scathing. “It’s an utter disgrace,” he said. “Nato in Afghanistan is a fragile enough construct without this lot working behind our backs. The Italians have a hell of a lot to answer for.”

Haji Abdul Rahman, a tribal elder from Sarobi, recalled how a benign environment became hostile overnight. “There were no attacks against the Italians. People said the Italians and Taleban had good relations between them.

“When the country [nationality of the forces] changed and the French came there was a big attack on them. We knew the Taleban came to the city and we knew that they didn’t carry out attacks on the Italian troops but we didn’t know why.”

The Italian Defence Ministry referred inquiries to the Prime Minister’s Office. A spokesman said: “The American Ambassador in Rome did not make any formal complaint. He merely asked for information, first from the previous Government and then from the current Government. The allegations were denied and they are totally unfounded.”

Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister, defeated Romano Prodi at elections in April 2008.

The claims are not without precedent. In October 2007 two Italian agents were kidnapped in western Afghanistan; one was killed in a rescue by British special forces. It was later alleged in the Italian press that they had been kidnapped while making payments to the Taleban.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Italy: Govt Denies Claims it ‘Bribed’ Afghan Taliban Militants

Rome, 15 October (AKI) — The Italian government on Thursday vehemently denied claims that it paid Taliban militants to keep the peace in areas of Afghanistan under its military command. “The Berlusconi government has never authorised or allowed any form of cash payment to members of the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan,” the government said in a statement published on its website.

“Nor does it have information of any such payments made by the previous Italian government,” the statement continued.

British daily The Times on Thursday cited senior NATO officials as saying Italian secret service had been paying tens of thousands of dollars to Taliban commanders and local warlords to keep the peace in Afghanistan’s Sarobi district in Paktika province, east of Kabul, and in the western province of Herat.

US intelligence officials had found out about the alleged Italian payments through intercepted telephone conversations, the NATO officials said, cited by the Times.

The Italian government statement also denied the paper’s claim that the US Ambassador to Italy made in June last year a formal protest to the Italian government over the alleged payments — several weeks before the the Taliban massacred 10 French soldiers in a shocking ambush in Sarobi district.

“We categorically deny that the US ambassador in Rome in early June 2008 sent a formal complaint to the Italian government on behalf of his country over alleged payments to Taliban insurgents,” the statement said.

“You only need to remember that in the first half of 2008 alone, Italian troops in Afghanistan suffered numerous attacks, especially in the Sarobi area where on 13 February, sub-lieutenant Francesco Pezzulo was killed.”

Unnamed western officials quoted by the Times, said that because the French knew nothing of the ‘bribes’ paid by Italy, they made a catastrophically incorrect threat assessment that led to the deadly Taliban ambush.

“It might well make sense to buy off local groups and use non-violence to keep violence down. But it is madness to do so and not inform your allies,” the Times quoted one official as saying.

The Italian government defending the Italian mission in Afghanistan’s record, saying its soldiers had won praise from NATO commanders for their “exemplary” achievements in reconstructing Surobi district, including building bridges, wells, schools and agricultural infrastructure.

But the claims about the Italian payments are not unprecedented. In October 2007, two Italian agents were kidnapped in western Afghanistan; one was killed in a rescue by British special forces. It was later alleged in the Italian press that they had been kidnapped while making payments to the Taliban.

Italy’s government is lead by prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who defeated former centre-left premier Romano Prodi at elections in April 2008.

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


Italy Fury at ‘Taliban Pay’ Claim

Italy has angrily denied a UK newspaper report that it paid Taliban fighters in Afghanistan to keep the peace.

Italy’s defence minister said his country was planning to sue the Times newspaper over the claims.

French forces took over the area unaware of the policy, leaving them unaware of the risks, the paper says. Ten soldiers were killed within weeks.

In France, opposition socialists demanded the defence minister should answer questions on the claims.

The Times’ report, quoting Western military officials, says the policy was operated by Italian secret services in Afghanistan’s Sarobi area, east of Kabul.

Warlords as well as Taliban commanders were paid, the paper says, with the amounts running to tens of thousands of dollars.

France took over control of the region in 2008, apparently believing it to be a low-risk area, the paper says, as only one Italian had died in the previous year.

But within a month of the French take-over, 10 soldiers were killed and 21 injured in a mountain ambush.

An unnamed Afghan army officer also told French news agency AFP that Italy had paid the Taliban to avoid casualties.

“We knew that Italian forces were paying the opposition (fighters) in Sarobi so they would not be attacked. We have information on similar agreements made in the western Herat province by Italian soldiers under Nato command there,” he said.

“A lot of Nato countries with troops operating in the rural areas of Afghanistan pay the insurgents so not to be attacked.”

‘Garbage’

But Italy, France and Nato dismissed the claims.

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


Million Dollar Babies in Kabul

Until 2001, the national stadium in Kabul was used by the Taleban for public executions of men and women. It now represents salvation for the first Afghan female boxers. Training is tough and made even more difficult by the many layers of clothes the girls are obliged to wear, including the veil. However, their wish to make their great dreams come true is even more powerful. They want to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Fahima hops around, with her arms in a defensive position she throws a straight punch, then a hook. At each blow the black punching bag sways, and the dull noise made by her fists echoes in the cavernous room. Until 2001 the Kabul national stadium was used by the Taliban for public executions of men and women. It now represents salvation for the first Afghan female boxers, a refuge from attacks in the city streets, from soldiers in tanks or at check-points and even by their own families.

They train hard, their hijabs moving with each jump, absorbing the sweat from their brows. “Hit harder, come on, hit!” shouts Fahima’s sister, 15- year-old Shabnam Rahimi, who is so skinny her gloves look enormous. Boxing seems an incompatible sport for her slim frame. Training is tough and made even more difficult by the many layers of clothes the girls are obliged to wear, including the veil. But what is at stake is of the greatest importance, with the magnetism that characterises special events such as the Olympics. For a year this vivacious group of girls has been dreaming of something all athletes aspire to and these are girls who experience challenges every day of their lives. Now that female boxing has been added to the 2012 London Olympic Games their dreams may come true.

They are trained by former heavy weight boxer, 25-year-old Tareq Shawl Azim, who left Afghanistan with his family after the 1979 Soviet invasion. “I knew that sooner or later I would return home,” he told the BBC. Tareq did more than that. “We had very few punching bags. Four to be precise and three were handmade. There were not enough for thirty athletes.” Tareq contacted Fairtex Gear Inc., a San Francisco based company, asking them to help with boxing equipment, to be supplied free of charge, for a female boxing team in Kabul. Those working at Fairtex must have fallen out of their chairs in surprise on reading the request and above all the location it came from, Afghanistan. But Tareq’s sporting curriculum worked as a guarantee and the punching bags arrived. Once the former slaughterhouse had been transformed into a gymnasium, all that remained to be done was to persuade or at least reassure the fathers of these young boxers.

All thirty girls told us they had experienced problems persuading their parents, although Tareq’s presence did help solve what initially appeared to be an insoluble problem. “They all come from poor families,” says Tareq’s assistant Saber Sharif, “rich families do not allow their daughters to come and box here.” It is a shame, because according to these Afghan Million Dollar Babies there are many advantages. “Since I started training” explained Shabam, who with her sister is one of those short-listed for London, “I feel far more self-confident. And boxing is also a lot of fun, not just for boys.” During the Taliban dark ages, women did not even have the right to think such things. “We women can do everything nowadays in Afghanistan” adds the young boxer.

Things have changed. In some ways the invasion by American and her allies has improved the lives of women, but there is still a great deal to be done. According to some, choosing boxing as one of the sports used to encourage female emancipation is a debatable choice. Teaching them jabs, hooks and punches is seen as inciting them to violence. “That is not exactly true,” they say at the CPAU, Cooperation for Peace and Unity, an NGO working in Afghanistan that sponsors female boxing. “We do not wish to encourage aggressiveness in girls. We wish to help them feel stronger and more self-confident through boxing. Through boxing it is easier to destroy the stereotype of Afghan women as submissive and hidden under a blue burqa. It is a sport that requires physical and mental tenacity and the ring is a metaphor for the challenges addressed every day by Afghan women.”

Translated by Francesca Simmons

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


Pakistan: Taliban Leader Warns India Will be ‘Attacked’

Islamabad, 14 October (AKI) — The Pakistani Taliban’s new leader Hakimullah Mehsud warned India of future attacks and sent a message to Pakistan’s army that if it wanted a halt to attacks, it would have to stop taking orders from the Americans.

“We are fighting the Pakistan army, police and the frontier corps, because they are following American orders. If they stop following their orders, we will stop fighting them,” said Mehsud in a video interview aired by British news channel Sky News on Wednesday.

Mehsud also said he would send his soldiers to the Indian border to fight once Pakistan had been turned into an Islamic state.

“We want an Islamic state. If we get that, then we will go to the borders and help fight the Indians.”

Haikimullah’s messsage surfaced after Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri slated the Pakistani army, describing it as a “puppet” and a “Crusader tool” to save United States and NATO troops from certain defeat in Afghanistan.

Al-Zawahiri’s warning was contained in a video posted to Muslim extremist websites on Tuesday. The video warned Pakistan’s military would be defeated in a ground offensive in the militant stronghold of South Waziristan and called on Pakistanis to give full support to Jihad or holy war.

In early October, Mehsud appeared on local television vowing ‘severe’ new attacks to avenge the death of late Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who is believed to have died in a US drone strike in Waziristan on 5-6 August.

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


Pakistan: Muslim Leader: Government Hostage to the Extremists Will Not Abolish the Blasphemy Law

Irfan Mufti denounces the “weakness” of the executive which needs the fundamentalist wing to stay in power. He speaks of a “game of compromise” and the lack of “political will” to reject the norm. Archbishop Saldanha thanks Muslim MPs who proposed the abolition of the law.

Lahore (AsiaNews) — The ruling party Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is “weak” and is not able to “abolish the blasphemy law.” So says Irfan Mufti, director of South Asian Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-PK), who tells AsiaNews that the country lacks the “political will” to reject the “controversial law”. Meanwhile, Msgr. Lawrence John Saldanha, president of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), sent a personal letter of thanks to colleagues who have proposed the abolition of the norm in the parliamentary session of 8 October.

Irfan Mufti, Muslim, explains that “some of the allies in government” are of religious extraction and “have no intention” of abolishing the blasphemy law; the government, on the other hand, does not want to lose the support of these parties and perpetrates “a game of compromise” that does not allow substantial changes in the country.

Commenting on some recent statements by President Asif Ali Zardari, who last week met with Pope Benedict XVI, the director of SAP-PK underlines the fact that there is “only political vacuum” and questions “what the concrete steps” have been undertaken by the Head of State to “stop the abuse of the blasphemy law”. The Muslim leader confirms the position of the organization — in conjunction with a broader civil society movement that brings together the countries of South Asia — which “calls for the complete abolition of the blasphemy law” because it “goes against the people and social harmony”.

Two months after the events at Gojra, which killed seven Christians, there are no signs that justice will be ensured for victims. Archbishop Lawrence John Saldanha is “worried” because he fears that even in this case — as happened several times in the past — the attackers will go unpunished. The prelate, however, has wanted to thank the parliamentary Muslims who, in recent days have called for the abolition of this law.

Mgr Joseph Coutts, bishop of Faisalabad, reports that he “is still waiting” for a “public inquiry into the events in Gojra,” as assured long ago by the Chief Minister of Punjab. The Christians of the village, meanwhile, denounce “new death threats” and live “hidden away from the extremists who want to eliminate us all from the city”.

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

Far East

Death Sentence for a Chinese Han, At the Origin of Xinjiang Clashes

The court in Shaoguan also ruled life imprisonment and penalties of five to eight years for those responsible for the clashes in a factory city in southern China. The episode sparked Muslim Uyghurs protests in Xinjiang in July that culminated in clashes between demonstrators and police, 200 dead, 800 injured and hundreds of arrests.

Urumqi (AsiaNews / Agencies) — A man of Han ethnicity was sentenced to death and another to life imprisonment for killing two Uyghur workers, which occurred in June in Shaoguan, Guangdong Province.

The City Court has sentenced nine other ethnic Han with between five and eight years in prison, all involved in the assassination of two immigrants who worked in a factory in the South.

Han workers had accused the two Uyghurs immigrants, from Xinjiang, of violence against two women also employed in the factory. The group of Han then beat the two Muslim workers with sticks and rods, killing them, and sparking clashes between workers of the two ethnic groups.

Following the events of Shaoguan thousands of Uyghurs took to the streets of Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, to protest against the murder and the marginalization they endured. The Han population in Xinjiang has in hand the economy and the local administration. On the night of July 6th Army and the Chinese police dealt with the demonstrators, causing at least 200 Muslims deaths, 800 wounded and arresting hundreds of protesters. The violent response by Chinese police sparked strong international criticism against Beijing.

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


New Moscow-Beijing Axis to Restrain the West

Russia and China sign deals worth US$ 3.5 billion, agree to develop jointly Central Asian energy resources. Washington forced to look on, silent, as the Taliban extend hand to SCO.

Beijing (AsiaNews) — The countries of Central and East Asia that belong to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) should better coordinate their action to better manage the Afghan crisis, join in an energy pact and limit Western influence in the region, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on the sidelines of the SCO summit. Russia and China are SCO’s core members, and a “shared stance” by the two “on certain issues” can help “restrain some of our more hot-headed colleagues,” the Kremlin’s strongman said in message likely meant for US President Barack Obama.

In addition to Russia and China, SCO includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Iran, Mongolia, India and Pakistan have observer status.

Until this year, Moscow and Beijing were major rivals over the former Soviet republics of Central Asia and their resources. At present Moscow controls the region’s gas exports through Gazprom, but Beijing has challenged its dominance with a deal in June to buy 40 billion cubic metres of gas annually from Turkmenistan starting next year. Work on a 7,000-kilometre pipeline from Turkmenistan to China is slated for completion later this year.

Yet what could have led to confrontation has become the basis for cooperation.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao yesterday reached a deal with his Russian counterpart. Russia’s state-run natural gas monopoly Gazprom and China National Petroleum Corporation reached a framework agreement for the supply of about 70 billion cubic metres of gas a year.

No price has been set yet and no contract signed, said Gazprom’s chief executive Alexei Miller, but the value of the agreement should be close to US$ 5 billion, analysts said.

Yesterday, Wen Jiabao also oversaw the signing of US$ 3.5 billion worth of business deals, including an order for ballistic missiles and two loans of US$ 500 million each from China’s from Development Bank and Agricultural Bank to Russia’s VTB and VEB. For Wen, deals with friendly markets like Russia’s are preferable.

The two countries have been brought together by the world’s financial crisis explains, and a shared desire to limit US influence in Central Asia.

Moscow urgently needs to sell its gas to markets outside of Europe, whilst Beijing needs energy, a situation that has instilled caution in Chinese leaders when it comes to dealing with the Kremlin.

Improving Sino-Russian relations have led Russia to change its mind on tougher Western sanctions against Iran and side with China.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was in Moscow this week, pressed for Russian support on the issue, but Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dimmed US hopes, saying that even a threat of sanctions would be “counterproductive,” thus changing the position Russia took at the UN General Assembly last month. Now Moscow’s top diplomat backs China’s insistence on mediation as the better option.

Taliban leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan have also praised Sino-Russian rapprochement, and called on neighbours to oppose the occupation of Afghanistan by foreign forces, pledging, “Once back in power we would establish good relations with all of Afghanistan’s neighbours”.

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

Australia — Pacific

Teen Describes Home Invasion Terror

A 19-year-old woman has described the terror of fending off a burglar with her bare hands and a knife during a home invasion at her house in Doubleview yesterday afternoon.

Melissa said she was sleeping at her Oxcliffe Road home yesterday afternoon when she was awoken by a dark skinned man who pulled the blanket off her.

“The next thing I know he jumped on top of me and put his hand around over my mouth telling me not to say anything or do anything,” she said.

But the teenager, who moved from South Africa to Perth two years ago, fought back, pulling her attacker’s hair and striking him in the face.

The attacker eventually pushed her away and left the room, shutting the door behind him.

“My boyfriend keeps a fishing knife in the room and I grabbed it and went after him. He was standing in the lounge and when he saw me with the knife he tried to grab it from me,” she said.

A scuffle ensued during which time Melissa sustained a cut to the hand.

“The whole time I was thinking no matter what he does to me I am going to make sure that I hurt him as well,” she said.

The man who demanded money and alcohol eventually fled via the back door with a small amount of alcohol.

Stirling Det-Sgt Darryl Evans described the teenagers actions as brave while cautioning the public to ensure that they are more vigilant even during the day.

“It was a pretty brazen attack a young girl 19 years of age home alone and even being more vulnerable by being asleep at the time and he took full advantage of that. But to her credit she is extremely brave,” Det-Sgt Evans said.

The offender is described as dark skinned, 170cm tall, with curly blonde hair and was wearing no shoes, a red singlet and board shorts.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Honduras: Is Zelaya Going to Spain?

I have confirmed from a very reliable source it’s very likely that ousted president Mel Zelaya will be going to Spain.

Unless Zelaya changes his mind, that is.

Mind you, this is STILL in the “strong rumors” stage, even when Gateway Pundit was posting on it three hours ago.

We continue to wait for an official announcement from the governments of Honduras and Spain, and the US State Department.

However, considering Zelaya’s erratic behavior, my bet is that there won’t be a formal announcement until Zelaya himself is about to land in Spain.

Tags: Manuel Zelaya, Mel Zelaya

           — Hat tip: Fausta[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Germany in Uproar After Politician Says the ‘Unspeakable’ About Turkish Immigrants

Bluntness and bitterness have long been elements of integration debates in Europe. But emotion often obscures an important question: Why do many ethnic groups integrate well into society while others do not? A look at the German situation.

It took a while, but by last Thursday the controversy finally reached a Turkish cafe on Hobrechtstrasse in Berlin’s Neukölln neighbourhood. A group of men with little else to do — because they are either retired or unemployed — usually meets there in the afternoon. The men sit in the sparsely furnished room under a ceiling fan, drinking tea from elegantly curved glasses and discussing politics over the electronic blubber of video games coming from the back room.

Servet Kulaksiz starts the conversation on Thursday. A 50-year-old early retiree, he taps his finger against a photo of Thilo Sarrazin on the cover of the Turkish daily newspaper Sabah and launches into a tirade. “The man is right. Many foreigners don’t even want to become integrated here. They collect their unemployment payments, but aside from that, they do nothing.”

Could it really be that Sarrazin, Berlin’s former finance senator, is right, after all? The man who accuses Turks and Arabs in Berlin of being, for the most part, “neither willing to be integrated nor capable of doing so,” and claims that they have “no productive function, other than in the fruit and vegetable trade?”

Nevzat Çitlak grabs the newspaper from the table as he walks by. “You yourself don’t believe what you’re saying,” he says to Kulaksiz. Çitlak has been unemployed for six years. “There aren’t even any jobs for Germans in Berlin. How am I supposed to get one?” he asks. A carpenter by trade, Çitlak has been living in Berlin since the 1980s. He barely speaks German, and he is currently attending a language course. “But it won’t do me any good now,” he says. “It’s too late.” A man sitting in the back corner shouts: “What Sarrazin says is pure racism.”

The patrons have been arguing about the same issues that have captured the attention of the rest of Germany since Lettre International, a Berlin publication targeted at intellectuals, published the controversial interview with Sarrazin, now a member of the board of the German central bank, the Bundesbank, two weeks ago…

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Italy: Illegal Egyptian Migrants Deported

Catania, 7 October (AKI) — A group of 18 Egyptian illegal immigrants were expelled from Italy on Wednesday after arriving in the southern Italian island of Sicily on Tuesday.

The migrants were placed in a charter flight at 1:00 am local time which departed from the southern Italian city of Catania, to the Egyptian capital Cairo, said a statement by Italy’s interior ministry.

Italy’s conservative government led by prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has drawn widespread international criticism from the United Nations, Catholic church and humanitarian groups for its hardline policies on illegal immigration.

Under a law enacted in July, people entering Italy without permission face fines of up to 10,000 euros and immediate expulsion.

The law also provides for citizen anti-crime patrols in towns and cities and triples the amount of time illegal immigrants can be detained in holding centres from two to six months.

Italian coastal patrol vessels have turned back thousands of would-be illegal immigrants in the Mediterranean without first screening them for asylum since May.

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


Italy: Muslim Intellectual Urges Integration

Milan, 14 October (AKI) — A prominent North African Muslim sociologist living in Italy on Wednesday launched a passionate plea for immigrants to integrate in their host societies, arguing that failure to do so stokes religious fundamentalism.

In an op-ed published in leading Italian financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore, Khaled Fouad Allam, claimed that Italy’s failure to an an official government body to oversee the Muslim community has allowed garage and basement mosques to spring up and imams with dubious credentials to flourish.

Article 8 of the Italian Constitution says “all religions are equal before the law,” wrote Allam, who teaches at Universities of Trieste, Urbino and at the Stanford University of Florence. Algerian-born Allam is a naturalised Italian citizen.

“Other religions than the Catholic faith have the right to organise according to their own states, provided these do not conflict with Italian law,” he wrote, quoting the constitution.

But Islam’s lack of a religious hierarchy which represents Muslims as well as elements of Sharia law, such as polygamy, place it at odds with key European norms, noted Allam.

“The intervention of the state would appear to be the lesser of evils at a time when the Muslim faith and Europe find themselves facing a totally new situation: the creation of an Islam outside its traditional geographical confines,” he wrote.

The conservative Italian executive has suspended the ‘Consulta Islamica’ or Muslim dialogue body. This was set up under the previous centre-left Italian government to create an “Italian Islam” not just an “Islam in Italy”, Allam said.

“Today, now that everything seems to be on hold, the problems haven’t gone away, starting with the scourge of terrorism, as shown by the attack on the military barracks in Milan,” Allam stated.

He was referring to the botched bombing against the ‘Santa Barbara’ barracks on Monday by a 35-year-old Libyan immigrant, Mohammed Game. Another Libyan and an Egyptian have been arrested over the attack.

A lack of authoritative Muslim institutions and individuals is stoking such terrorist acts and ‘honour’ killings by Muslims like the one in northeast Italy last month of a young Moroccan woman, Sanaa Dafani, who had an Italian boyfriend, Allam argued.

“Italian Islam is in disarray. The mosques are unaccountable and some are in the grip of extremist groups which are banned in their countries of origin and are trying to regroup abroad,” he warned.

Allam said Italy and other European countries urgently need to train men and women who reconcile European and Islamic values.

This new generation should provide Muslims with authoritative religious leadership and replace the many “flagrantly mediocre” leaders currently to be found, he argued.

“Otherwise social cohesion which is essential to all democracies will be put at risk,” Allam concluded.

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


Italy: We Can’t Allow Irregular Migrants, Manganelli

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 13 — “We cannot allow illegal immigration that damages regular immigration and is a source of criminality”, said Italy’s police chief, Antonio Manganelli, addressing the National Conference of Prefects. Security today, explained Manganelli, “suffers severely from the unresolved problem of clandestine immigrations. One of the reasons for citizens’ lack of safety consists of the difficult integration of diverse elements”. But he underlined, “there is also a problem of real security: of 900,000 who committed crimes reported in 2008, about 300,000 were foreigners. And in the prisons 30-35% of the inmates are illegal immigrants. So the problem exists and it is resounding”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Poll: Mexicans Say Mexican-Americans Owe Loyalty to Mexico Over U.S.

(CNSNews.com) — Nearly 70 percent of Mexicans surveyed said that Mexican-Americans — including those born in the United States — owe their primary loyalty to Mexico, not the U.S., according to a Zogby poll commissioned by the Center for Immigration Studies.

The in-person poll, taken during August and September, sampled 1,004 Mexicans across the country on subjects related to illegal immigration and amnesty in the United States.

When asked “Should the primary loyalty of Mexican-Americans be to Mexico or to the U.S.?” 68.8 percent of respondents in Mexico said that it should be to Mexico, while only 19.7 percent said it should be to the United States. Another 11.5 percent of respondents said they were not sure.

Steven Camarota, director of research at the CIS, told CNSNews.com that the Spanish phrase translated as “Mexican-Americans” (“los estadounidenses de origen mexicano”) was carefully selected to ensure that respondents knew that it included those born in the U.S. He particularly stressed the Spanish word ‘estadounidenses.’

“It means ‘United States-ian’ — (that’s) how it translates,” he said, “and it’s understood by everyone in Mexico to include, clearly, people born in the United States of Mexican ancestry.”

Camarota also told CNSNews.com that just over one-third of respondents (36 percent) said that they would come to the U.S., if they could. Of that group, 68 percent said they think that Mexican-Americans owe loyalty to Mexico over the United States.

The data shows that the percentage of potential illegal immigrants who hold that belief is nearly identical to the percentage among the general Mexican population, Camarota said.

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


UN: Crime of Illegal Immigration Discriminatory

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, OCTOBER 14 — The crime of illegal immigration is “discriminatory”, warned Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations, in Brussels today. For this reason “we can call on Italy to change the law, and we do not exclude that option”. “We already raised the issue”, she continued, “when the draft Security package was presented, and we will continue to do so”. The issue will also be discussed in a meeting between Pillay and the Swedish presidency of the EU. According to Pillay, “the same rules should apply to all for the same crimes”, and the crime of illegal immigration is therefore “discrimination” which works against illegal immigrants. “We punish the criminalisation of migrants just for being irregular migrants”. Pillay also pointed out that “the human rights of illegal immigrants cannot be suspended”. Referring to Italy, the UN High Commissioner also tackled the issue of freedom of the press. “We are monitoring the situation in Italy, and wherever freedom of the press is threatened”. Pillay said that it is “a priority right”. She announced that she would be in Italy next year, although only as a guest of the Vatican for the moment. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Yishai: Migrant Workers Using Their Children to Stay in Israel

Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Thursday defended his decision to deport some 1,200 children of illegal foreign workers from the country, saying that the migrant workers were “using their children in order to stay in Israel.”

“Let’s not be naive bleeding hearts,” Yishai told Army Radio. “The parents of the foreign children are using their kids and turning them into a talisman to secure their continued stay in the country. The workers tell their children what to say in order to stay in Israel, and do not want to return to their real homes,” he said.

“If the migrant workers’ children will not be deported, labor immigrants will continue to exploit the state’s kindness and will go on laundering their visas. Every country in the world must know we are not asylum state.”

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

Culture Wars

Police ‘Arrest’ Jesus Image

Protesters say picture with waving middle fingers should have been targeted

A new video has been posted on YouTube revealing how police in Rockford, Ill., “arrested” a drawing of Jesus that was being used by a pro-life protester at an abortion business — even though a different drawing purporting to be of Jesus waving both middle fingers at the pro-lifers was left untouched.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

General

Islamism Must Carry a Price

By Daniel Greenfield

Islamists are sworn to make war on the West, to drive out freedom and democracy, replacing them with the mandated tyranny of Islamic law.They declare all laws and all nations that do not originate or abide by Islamic law to be invalid. And they reserve the right to make war on them by any means necessary, from the political to the economic to the terroristic.

And yet it might surprise many people to realize that most Islamists are not haggard fanatics living off dried goat meat in caves. Instead many of them are doctors and lawyers working in major American and European cities, they serve as advisors to Western politicians and write newspaper columns. Their organizations are treated with respect and given veto power over the policies of governments whose existence they reject.

And that in a nutshell is the trouble of it all. Because Islamism should carry a price, instead it only carries rewards. Islamists in Europe and America do not actually have to be isolated hermits working out of a few ghettos. Instead they are able to gain all the benefits of the West, from advanced degrees to high paying jobs to political recognition, while maintaining their hatred for the West.

The results are inevitable. The investigation of a CERN physicist for contacts with Al Queda, and a Glasgow doctor and dentist attempt to carry out an airport car bombing. These are not the alienated or disenfranchised immigrants, a description that the press routinely uses to try and turn the perpetrators into victims. No, some are even European born. Rather what they are are Islamists who blended successful lives in the society of the infidels, with their own religious fanaticism. And they were able to do that because tolerance for Islam eliminated any barriers and obstacles to being both Islamists and middle class professionals…

           — Hat tip: AA[Return to headlines]

4 comments:

scottthong said...

Bush saved 750,000 Iraqi lives:

http://scottthong.wordpress.com/2009/10/15/bush-saved-750000-iraqi-lives/

Avery Bullard said...

Bush saved 750,000 Iraqi lives

And he killed thousands of Americans, Brits, and Europeans. His war also destroyed Iraq's ancient Christian population.

Graham Dawson (Archonix) said...

Here's one. Victim of family rape speaks out.

Nobody is being identified because of a court order and it takes until the very last two paragraphs to reveal what is pretty obvious right from the start, that this was carried out by muslims. The hints are there. She was ostracised from her "community", talk of extended familial abuse, beaten for being pregnant, group rape by the males in her family and their associates, and so on.

I wonder if the gag order on revealing their names is a new method of preventing people from knowing that these are muslims?

Thrasymachus said...

Hi folks,

No time to stand and stare this week, but thought I'd recommend a smashing book I'm reading at the moment...

It's by Christopher Caldwell and is called "Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West" and may be found here...

http://www.amazon.com/Reflections-Revolution-Europe-Immigration-Islam/dp/0385518269/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1255729579&sr=8-1

Though curiously in my own bookshop in Londond the title is the same until the colon after which it is titled "Can Europe be the same with different pople in it?" Really.

It's very good indeed. Highly recommended to all GoV readers.

Thrasy