Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 10/21/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 10/21/2009The big news today concerns the arrest of a terrorism suspect in a raid on a home in Sudbury, Massachusetts. The suspected terrorist is the scion of an affluent culturally enriched family in the western Boston suburb. The neighbors are shocked.

In other news, Geert Wilders’ question-and-answer session at Temple University in Philadelphia was cut short by jeering students who disrupted the proceedings. The Dutch politician was able to show Fitna and give a speech before the protesters put an end to the session.

Thanks to 4symbols, Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Gaia, Henrik, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JD, JP, Lurker from Tulsa, Nilk, Sean O’Brian, Steen, Takuan Seiyo, TB, The Observer, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
American Airlines Parent Reports $359 Million 3Q Loss
Deserted Shopping Mall Bleak Symbol of Fed Bailout
Follow the Money
Is Alternative to Dollar in Works?
It’s Official! U.S. Government is Bankrupt
UK: ‘We’ll be Paying to Clear Up This Economic Mess for a Generation’ Says Mervyn King as City Firms Boost Bonuses to £6billion
Why Were Lessons of 1998 Mini-Crash Ignored?
An Easy Military Decision for Obama: Asks ‘Brave’ Troops to Compete in Green Government Contest
Book Exposes CAIR’s Exaggerations, Efforts to Stymie Law Enforcement
Congressional Black Caucus, Blue Dogs Join Conservatives to Oppose Internet Regulations
Developing News: Terror-Related Arrest Made in Sudbury
Did Obama Swing His Own Nobel?
‘Flying Imams’ Rewarded for Ominous Airline ‘Stunt’?
Hoyer Says Constitution’s ‘General Welfare’ Clause Empowers Congress to Order Americans to Buy Health Insurance
Indiana: Veteran Identified in Movie Theater Shooting
Look Who’s Married to Obama’s Media ‘Controller’
Marriott Urged to Cancel CAIR Banquet
Obama Plans to Sign Over Control of US
‘Praise be to Allah, We Are in Bermuda Now’
Sausage-Making at Its Worst
Sudbury Suspect’s Neighbors Stunned by Arrest
The Incredible Chutzpeh of a Gigantean Jackass
Wilders’ US College Visit Cut Short
Woman Recants Story of West Virginia Abuse
Toronto 18 Videos Show Group’s Deadly Plan
Europe and the EU
Audio: UK Doomsayers Spew ‘Hysteria’ To Bully Politicians
Barroso Rejects Suggestion Irish Voters Were Bullied
EU Ban on Sales From Recreational Fishing Will Hit Finnish Enthusiasts
Fishing Cheats to Lose Licences in EU Crackdown
Frenzy of Snooping as Norway Puts All Tax Records Online
German Officials Reject Charges of Two-Classes of Swine-Flu
Hostages Freed After French Siege
Iraqi Shoe Thrower Given Hero’s Welcome in Geneva
Italy: Over 95:000 Women Sign Anti-Berlusconi Petition
Italy: Berlusconi Takes Legal Action Over ‘Harem’ Photos
Italy: Muslims and Christians Hold Dialogue Day
Italy: Moroccans to Hold Anti-Polisario Demo
Pope Approves Special Rules and Structures to Welcome Anglican Clergy, Including Married Priests
Sweden: Far-Right ‘No Threat’ To Red-Green Cooperation
UK: Apology for Singing Shop Worker
UK: Big Brother Britain: £380 a Minute Spent on Tracking Your Every Click Onlineby James Slack
UK: Blair ‘To be Made EU President Next Month’
UK: Last Union Jack Flown at Trafalgar ‘Must Remain in Britain’
UK: Man Staged Nearly 100 Car Crashes in Cash Scam
UK: We Can’t Afford to DNA Test Your Skirt, Police Tell Victim of Sex Attack
UK: What Have You Done With My Daughter? Mother of ‘Honour Killing’ Girl Turns on Husband in Courtroom Confrontation
Vatican: Pope Opens Door to Mass Conversion of Anglican Priests
‘What Do the Sweden Democrats Want to Do With US Muslims?’
North Africa
Egyptair Hijack Attempt Thwarted
Lockerbie: Rumours of Al-Megrahi’s Death, Libya Silent
UK Lawyer Denies Lockerbie Bomber is Dead
Where to Bury a Dead Copt?
Israel and the Palestinians
A Gift to Terrorism From the UN
Israel-USA: Manoeuvres to Test Antimissile Defences
Solana: Palestinian State Within ‘67 Borders
Things Look Catastrophic But it Will Work Out, Why I’m Optimistic
Middle East
Boys and Girls Together in Saudi Primary Schools
Energy: Lebanon, New Generators to Satisfy Demand
Gas: Berlusconi-Qatar Emir Inaugurate Adriatic LNG Terminal
Gas: Rovigo Regasification Plant Functional, Qatar 45% Share
Italy-Jordan: Rania on Twitter, Rome Eternal and Romantic
Italy-Jordan: Rania, Islam Has No Room for Honour Crimes
Kuwaiti Women Win Passport Rights
Sharia Slowly Advancing in Najaf and Basra, For Non-Muslims Too
Turkey to Become Italy’s Most Favored Investment Destination
Turkey-Italy: Istanbul; Clock Tower on Time for 2010
Turkey Worsened Press Freedom Record
Hank Paulson Held a Secret Meeting With Goldman Sachs in Moscow
Chechen “Culture Centres” In Europe, A Mask for Fundamentalism and Dictatorship
‘Sabotage’ Derails Georgian Train
South Asia
Afghan Women Dread the Return of Taliban Regime and Repression
Jammu and Kashmir: Catholics Call on Government to Protect Their Schools
Pakistan: Schools and Colleges Shut After Islamabad Blasts
West Java: The Construction of the Catholic Church of Saint Mary Blocked
Far East
Adrift on a Russian Island
Vietnam: in 2008, 30 Thousand Montagnards Became Catholics
Sub-Saharan Africa
Guinea Junta Faces EU Sanctions
Islamists Break Somali Port Truce
Australia: Asylum Boat Was Scuttled
Britain’s Population to Hit 70 Million by 2029
Italy: Imam’s Marriage to a Catholic Rattles Muslim Hardliners
More Finnish-Born Kids Speak No Finnish or Swedish
UK: Home Office Has Lost Track of 40,000 Rejected Migrants
UK: Immigration to Drive Up Britain’s Population to 70 Million Within 20 Years
Culture Wars
Italy: RU486: Gasparri, AIFA to Decide After Senate Hearings
U.N. Report Says Counterterrorism Measures ‘Risk Unduly Penalizing Transgender Persons’
The “Rent Seekers” — Green Corporations
The Myth of the World Community

Financial Crisis

American Airlines Parent Reports $359 Million 3Q Loss

American Airlines Inc.’s parent, AMR Corp., reported a net loss of $359 million, or $1.26 a share for the third quarter, blaming a drop in revenues and a poor economy.

Excluding special items largely related to the sale and retirement of aircraft, AMR said it lost $265 million or 93 cents a share. The analysts’ consensus was for a 95-cent loss.

“A difficult revenue environment driven by the weakened global economy continues to overwhelm the benefit of significantly lower fuel prices,” AMR chairman and chief executive Gerard Arpey said in the company’s announcement, “but our third quarter accomplishments better position us to address these near-term challenges and be competitive and successful for the long haul.”

AMR said it had $5.13 billion in operating revenues in the third quarter, down 20.2 percent and $1.30 billion from third quarter 2008. That drop in revenue cancelled an almost identical decline in fuel expenses, from $2.72 billion in third quarter 2008 to $1.45 billion in the most recent quarter.

A year earlier, AMR reported a $31 million profit, but that figured was boosted by a $432 million gain from its American Beacon Advisors sale. Excluding that and other special items, AMR lost $374 million, or $1.45 a share, in third quarter 2008.

The company touted the steps it had taken to increase its liquidity, finance aircraft and refinance outstanding debt in the third quarter. Its unrestricted cash and short-term investments sat at $4.1 billion on Sept. 30, up from $2.8 billion at the end of the second quarter.

“We believe the strong vote of confidence we received from our strategic partners and investors reflects our long track record of meeting our obligations and belief in our ability to address the many challenges our industry faces,” Arpey said.

“But we must remain focused on returning to profitability, since profits are the only way to secure our long-term future,” he said. “I want to thank our employees for their efforts during a tough period and am confident they will continue to rise to meet the challenges ahead.”

Also Wednesday, AirTran Holdings Inc., parent of AirTran Airways Inc., reported that it earned $10.4 million, or 8 cents a share on revenues of $597.4 million. That compares to a loss of $94.6 million, or 81 cents a share, on revenues of $673.3 million in third quarter 2008.

Continental Airlines Inc. said it lost $18 million, or 14 cents a share, on revenues of $3.32 billion last quarter, compared to a $230 million loss, or $2.09 a share, on revenues of $4.16 billion a year earlier.

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

Deserted Shopping Mall Bleak Symbol of Fed Bailout

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) — A $29 billion trail from the Federal Reserve’s bailout of Wall Street investment bank Bear Stearns ends in a partially deserted shopping center on a bleak spot on the south side of Oklahoma City.

The Fed now owns the Crossroads Mall, a sprawling shopping complex at the junction of Interstate highways 244 and 35, complete with an oil well pumping crude in the parking lot — except the Fed does not own the mineral rights.

The Fed finds itself in the unusual situation of being an Oklahoma City landlord after it lent JPMorgan Chase $29 billion to buy Bear Stearns last year.

That money was secured by a portfolio of Bear assets. Crossroads Mall is the only bricks and mortar acquired through bailout. The remaining billions are tied up in invisible securities spread across hundreds, if not thousands, of properties.

It is hard to be precise because the Fed has not published specifics on what it now owns. The only reason that Crossroads Mall has surfaced is that it went into foreclosure in April.

Noah Diggs, who had just successfully concluded a search for work here as a shop assistant, was surprised and somewhat alarmed to learn the U.S. central bank now owned the property.

“That is a bad thing, right?” he said, surveying the empty parking lot on a rainy morning in early October.

Public anger over the bailout of rich Wall Street bankers has evolved into wider opposition toward government intrusion into the private sector, complicating President Barack Obama’s efforts to reform financial regulation and healthcare.

The controversial action to save Bear Stearns in March 2008 was defended as less damaging for the U.S. economy than letting it fail. The merit of this argument was underscored in September 2008 when rival investment bank Lehman Brothers foundered, sparking a global financial panic.

But paper losses to the Fed on the Bear Stearns rescue stood somewhat above $3 billion at the last quarterly valuation in June, contributing to the disquiet that has hardened political opposition toward granting the Fed any more power.

This was a central part of Obama’s proposed financial reform rules that he says would prevent in the future the kind of systemic failure that sent financial markets and the economy into a tailspin last year.

Part of the public concern stems from the sheer scale and complexity of the bailouts and what they will eventually cost taxpayers, with the assets shrouded in oddly named limited liability companies held by the New York Federal Reserve Bank, one of the 12 regional Fed banks in the U.S. central banking system.

On top of Bear Stearns, the Fed lent $60 billion to prop up insurance giant American International Group a few days after Lehman went under, and is also standing behind over $400 billion of assets owned by Citigroup Inc and Bank of America Corp.

In fairness, the Bear Stearns losses so far are relatively small compared to the size of the overall portfolio, or indeed the Fed’s current overall balance sheet of $2.1 trillion.


But a drab shopping mall illustrates the wider challenge of extricating the Fed from its foray into private finance, especially in commercial real estate where sinking property values raise the threat of big loan losses.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has called commercial real estate loans a “serious problem,” and another Fed official has warned they could undermine a hoped-for economic recovery.

“What the Fed and banks have said they are worried about is a new wave of losses on commercial real estate and here is an example of an early adopter in the Fed’s portfolio,” said Lou Crandall, chief economist at Wrightson ICAP in Jersey City, New Jersey.

“The fact that the thing was written so that the Fed does not have the oil rights is just classic. Not that that is the Fed’s fault,” he said.

Crossroads Mall, half-empty after anchor stores Macy’s, JC Penney, Montgomery Ward and Dillard’s all pulled out, was brought out of foreclosure in April with $77 million in debt, according to Ann Marie Randolph at the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s office. It is now up for sale for $24 million.

Paul Ravencraft, an investment broker with Price Edwards and Co. in Oklahoma City retained by the Fed to sell the property, said the current sales climate was tough.

“Financing will be difficult, and it will probably require a lot of equity,” he said.

Losses are potentially at taxpayer’s expense because the Fed generally makes a fat annual profit running the country’s payments system and other operations, and any losses reduce how much it can pay out to the U.S. Treasury, and hence taxpayers.

The Fed’s $29 billion bailout of Bear Stearns was secured by a portfolio of Bear assets that included $5.5 billion in commercial loans, including the note on Crossroads Mall that went into default.

A big part of the portfolio — $16.4 billion at the end of June — consists of debt issued by government-owned agencies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which continue to pay out.

But the value of the commercial loan holdings has already been written down to $4.4 billion.

In part, this decline in value is because two other pieces of the Bear Stearns collateral — Extended Stay Hotels, and the GrandStay Residential Suites Hotels in Oxnard, California — have sought court bankruptcy protection.

Extended Stay owes the Fed almost $900 million, consisting of $153 million in commercial mortgage-backed securities and $744 million in junior mezzanine debt, while GrandStay won Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with a bit under $10 million in debt.

Joseph Sholder, the Santa Barbara lawyer acting for GrandStay, was startled to discover that the lender who had tried to take control of the property was the Federal Reserve.

Court papers simply identified GrandStay’s creditor as Maiden Lane Commercial Mortgage Bank Securities Trust-2008.

The Fed created a special vehicle called Maiden Lane to hold the assets on its balance sheet pledged against the Bear loan. Maiden Lane is the name of the lower Manhattan street behind the New York Fed’s building.

However, Sholder said that on reflection, he really should not be so surprised by the news of the Fed’s involvement.

“They seem to have their finger in every pie,” he said

[Return to headlines]

Follow the Money

“An honest politician,” Secretary of War Simon Cameron supposedly said, “is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.” By Cameron’s definition, we have the most honest government in the history of the United States. Congress and the White House have been bought by the unions, the entertainment industry and the plaintiffs’ lawyers. And they stay bought.

Why else would Congress and the White House pick this time, when unemployment is tottering on the precipice of 10 percent, to force through a health care bill that will raise taxes, destroy one-sixth of America’s private sector and increase the deficit by billions? Why else would Congress and the White House declare the revamping of health care along DMV lines an absolute priority? Why else would Congress and the White House determine that American’s top priority — contrary to every poll taken over the last year — is dealing with health insurance?

The fact is that everyone stands to lose from the Democratic plan to nationalize health care — except key Democratic constituencies.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Is Alternative to Dollar in Works?

Plan for ‘Special Drawing Rights’ creates competition for reserve currency

The administration of President Barack Obama, without congressional authorization, is advancing a plan that could end the use of the U.S. dollar as the world reserve currency by setting up International Monetary Fund Special Drawing Rights to compete.

The move comes as the dollar heads toward a 14-month low of $1.50/euro and as some top fund managers, including some of President Obama’s top financial supporters, worry the decline will continue as long as Obama depends on China to fund trillion dollar budget deficits.

It is Obama’s promise to participate in a G20 nations agreement by giving $250 billion to the IMF to set up the alternative reserve currency that now has been documented in the final communiqué of the London meeting, according to the G20 website.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

It’s Official! U.S. Government is Bankrupt

‘It’s only a matter of time before the public realizes it’

The real 2008 federal budget deficit was $5.1 trillion, not the $455 billion previously reported by the Congressional Budget Office, according to the 2008 Financial Report of the United States Government released by the U.S. Department of Treasury, Jerome Corsi’s Red Alert reports.

The difference between the $455 billion “official” budget deficit numbers and the $5.1 trillion budget deficit based on data reported in the 2008 financial report is that the official budget deficit is calculated on a cash basis, where all tax receipts, including Social Security tax receipts, are used to pay government liabilities as they occur.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘We’ll be Paying to Clear Up This Economic Mess for a Generation’ Says Mervyn King as City Firms Boost Bonuses to £6billion

Mervyn King was scathing about Labour’s failure to reform the banking system and get to grips with spiralling debt.

He stunned ministers in a hard-hitting speech by suggesting their refusal to hive off the ‘casino’ investment arms from High Street banks could lead to a crisis ‘even worse than the one we have experienced’.

And he warned that rapid increases in the national debt meant Britons would be paying to clear up the mess ‘for a generation’.

His intervention came as official figures revealed public borrowing soared to a record £77.3billion in the first six months of the financial year — the highest half-yearly figure since the Second World War.

Critics said that each day, the Government was taking on £40 of extra debt for every household in the land.

In an explosive speech to business leaders in Edinburgh last night, Mr King:

Claimed the financial crisis was caused in part by the Government’s ‘inadequate’ regulatory system.

Warned inflation will pick up in the months ahead because of rising petrol prices, falls in sterling and the reversal of the cut in VAT.

Called for a ‘serious review’ of how the banking industry is structured.

There are increasing calls for reforms to create a ‘firewall’ between High Street banking, such as savings accounts and mortgages, and riskier internationally-traded services.

It would prevent the kind of ‘casino banking’ that put savings at risk and brought the economy to its knees.

The Royal Bank of Scotland, which is now 70 per cent owned by the taxpayer, has hired dozens of City high-flyers on bumper salaries for its investment arm — in defiance of its pledges to rein in pay.

Mr King told business leaders in Ediburgh that the sheer scale of support that had been given to the banks was ‘breathtaking’.

‘In the UK. . . it is not far short of a trillion — that is, one thousand billion pounds, close to two-thirds of the annual output of the entire economy,’ he said.

‘To paraphrase a great wartime leader, never in the field of financial endeavour has so much money been owed by so few to so many. And, one might add, so far with little real reform.’

It is hard to see how the existence of institutions that are “too important to fail” is consistent with their being in the private sector.

‘Encouraging banks to take risks that result in large dividend and remuneration payouts when things go well, and losses for taxpayers when they don’t, distorts the allocation of resources and management of risk.

‘That is what economists mean by ‘moral hazard’. The massive support extended to the banking sector around the world, while necessary to avert economic disaster, has created possibly the biggest moral hazard in history. The ‘too important to fail’ problem is too important to ignore.

He said of the national debt: ‘We shall all be paying for the impact of this crisis on the public finances for a generation.’

Mr King said the economy would likely return to growth in the second half of this year, although he warned that the gains would be modest.

But he dismissed the idea that better regulation can ensure that speculation by the banks does not result in future problems as a ‘delusion’.

Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling have said they want to strengthen regulation of the banks rather than slice them up.

But Mr King was damning about encouraging firms to take risks that result in huge payouts for bankers when things go well — but massive losses for the taxpayer when they go badly.

‘The massive support extended to the banking sector around the world has created the biggest moral hazard in history’ Mr King warned that if the response to the financial crisis focused on the symptoms rather than the underlying causes ‘we shall bequeath to future generations a serious risk of another crisis even worse than the one we have experienced’.

On inflation, he warned: ‘It will pick up over the next few months reflecting higher petrol prices, recent falls in sterling and the reversal of the cut in VAT.’

His comments came as City firms prepare for bumper bonus payouts a year on from the near-meltdown, helped by rising stock markets and a lack of competition.

A report today said the City was expecting a 50 per cent rise in annual bonuses to £6billion.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research said better-than-expected second and third quarter figures from the banking industry will result in a leap from the £4billion seen in January’s annual bonus round.

And last week investment bank Goldman Sachs said it had earmarked a mammoth £10.3 billion in compensation and benefits for staff for the first nine months of 2009 alone.

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne said: ‘Mervyn King’s speech is powerful and persuasive. His analysis of how the Government’s system for regulating banks failed and how there has been little real reform since is one I share.’

Official figures showed last night that Britain had the biggest budget deficit for any September since records began.

The £14.8billion shortfall compared with a deficit of £8.7billion a year earlier, the Office for National Statistics said.

The total debt rose to £ 824.8billion at the end of September, equivalent to 59 per cent of national income — another record.

The think-tank the Centre for Policy Studies said that when debts hidden from official figures — such as unfunded public sector pension costs and private finance initiative projects — were taken into account, the Government was taking on £40 in extra debt per household every day.

But the Chancellor insisted now was not the time to embark on an ‘exit strategy’ from the Government’s massive fiscal stimulus.

Mr Darling insisted the deficit figures were ‘broadly in line’ with Treasury expectations and there were encouraging signs the economy is ‘moving towards recovery’.

A study has predicted that thousands of companies could go bust next year.

Company restructuring specialist Begbies Traynor said evidence is mounting that Britain may be at the mid-point of a ‘W’ shaped recession and that a deluge of business failures is likely in 2010.

Around 134,000 companies had shown signs of financial distress in the third quarter, it said.

In its ‘Red Flag Alert’ report, which monitors struggling companies, Begbies said: ‘Similarities can be drawn with the recession of the early 1980s which also saw a temporary rise in business confidence in 1981 before rapidly deteriorating in 1982.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Why Were Lessons of 1998 Mini-Crash Ignored?

The American financial system almost collapsed in 1998 when a hedge-fund, “Long Term Capital Management” went belly up. In a harbinger of 2008, banks had placed huge derivative bets on the Russian economy with LTCM.

The Fed forced 13 US and international banks to purchase the hedge-fund. Altogether $4.6 Billion was lost.

A PBS Frontline Documentary “The Warning” magnificently shows that although the American (and world) economies are at stake, the Clinton and Bush Administrations refused to regulate the derivative market, and allowed it to grow to an eventual $595 Trillion during the housing bubble.

Not only did they refuse to regulate the industry, they forced out Brooksley Borne, the Chair of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, who had demanded action.

During the credit crisis last year, former fed chairman Alan Greenspan was hauled before Congress and asked why he had refused to regulate these markets. The documentary shows him confessing that he had been “mistaken.” The “world view” that had guided him for 40 years —that markets were self regulating— had been wrong.

[Return to headlines]


An Easy Military Decision for Obama: Asks ‘Brave’ Troops to Compete in Green Government Contest

President Barack Obama signed an executive order earlier this month requiring federal agencies to set a 2020 greenhouse gas emission reduction target within 90 days — and he followed up by asking “our brave men and women in uniform” and government employees to compete in the GreenGov Challenge.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Book Exposes CAIR’s Exaggerations, Efforts to Stymie Law Enforcement

The bottom line, the authors say, is that “CAIR is unsupported by the broader Muslim population, which finds it more a liability than an asset. And given the anemic size of its member database, CAIR cannot possibly deliver on its threats to bring the weight of the Muslim community to bear against national politicians, CEOs, or advertisers for media personalities it doesn’t like.”

But even though CAIR is a paper tiger when it comes to mobilizing Muslim voters, the organization has had numerous successes in other areas — particularly in undermining law-enforcement efforts to secure Muslim cooperation in terrorism investigations.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Congressional Black Caucus, Blue Dogs Join Conservatives to Oppose Internet Regulations

Two groups of House Democrats that are not always on the same political page have joined forces to oppose federal regulation of Internet traffic currently under consideration by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The FCC is moving forward with plans to approve “net neutrality,” rules that essentially would prohibit Internet service providers from charging add-on fees to certain Web sites for accessing their networks. Advocates of net neutrality argue that without new rules, a duopoly of cable and telephone companies can “discriminate” against certain Web content.

But 72 House Democrats, all members of either the centrist Blue Dog Caucus or the more liberal Congressional Black Caucus, signed a letter to the FCC charging that “net neutrality” regulations would stifle competition.


Supporters of net neutrality rules include the left-wing and the media reform group Free Press. Opponents include the pro-free market group Freedom Works and the conservative Family Research Council.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Developing News: Terror-Related Arrest Made in Sudbury

A man has been arrested on federal terrorism-related charges in Massachusetts. Federal authorities plan to announce Wednesday morning in Boston that they foiled plots to launch terrorist attacks inside and outside the United States. The Boston Globe reports on it’s web site authorities arrested a 27-year-old man in Sudbury. Reports say in addition, two others have been implicated.

WBZ News Radio Boston

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Did Obama Swing His Own Nobel?

The latest rumor is that three of the five Norwegian political hacks on the PC Committee were against giving the golden bauble to Our Messiah (Peace Be Upon Him!) — until something made them change their minds. The two members of the ruling party apparently talked the other three into making it “unanimous.” Now they’re all getting big flak and scurrying for cover.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘Flying Imams’ Rewarded for Ominous Airline ‘Stunt’?

Police detective: ‘Acts of staged controversy could be used to desensitize security personnel’

It’s a jubilant night over at CAIR.

The nation’s self-proclaimed foremost Muslim civil rights group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is celebrating what it calls a “victory for justice and civil rights” and an end to the fear of “flying while Muslim,” thanks to a legal settlement reached earlier today.

But a best-selling new book, which definitively exposes CAIR as an arm of the dangerous Muslim Brotherhood, reveals the highly disturbing “rest of the story” of the six “flying imams.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Hoyer Says Constitution’s ‘General Welfare’ Clause Empowers Congress to Order Americans to Buy Health Insurance

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that the individual health insurance mandates included in every health reform bill, which require Americans to have insurance, were “like paying taxes.” He added that Congress has “broad authority” to force Americans to purchase other things as well, so long as it was trying to promote “the general welfare.”

The Congressional Budget Office, however, has stated in the past that a mandate forcing Americans to buy health insurance would be an “unprecedented form of federal action,” and that the “government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States.”


David B. Rivkin, a constitutional lawyer with Baker & Hostetler, told that Hoyer’s argument was “silly,” adding that if the general welfare clause was that elastic, then nothing would be outside of Congress’ powers.

“Congressman Hoyer is wrong,” Rivkin said. “The notion that the general welfare language is a basis for a specific legislative exercise is all silly because if that’s true, because general welfare language is inherently limitless, then the federal government can do anything.

“The arguments are, I believe, feeble,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Indiana: Veteran Identified in Movie Theater Shooting

MUNCIE — The young military veteran who shot and killed himself in a Muncie movie theater late Monday has been identified as Jacob W. Sexton, 21, of Farmland.

Sexton was on leave from serving in the Afghanistan war, but was set to return, according to the coroner’s office.

Sexton was in the movie theater with three companions, two of them his brothers, watching “Zombieland.”

City police Sgt. Mike Engle said the shooting took place about 20 minutes into a late-night showing of the motion picture, a Woody Harrelson comedy with a horror theme, at the Kerasotes Showplace 12, 800 E. Princeton Ave.

Police were called to the theater about 10:30 p.m.

In addition to the shooting victim, his two brothers and a friend, about eight other people were in the theater at the time, the police sergeant said.

Witnesses reported hearing a loud pop, then were further startled to hear the victim’s companions scream over what they had just witnessed, with one of the young men beating on a wall in anguish.

Sexton died of a gunshot wound in the head. No one else was injured, according to police.

Engle said one of the other men was the owner of the handgun involved, and had handed it to the shooting victim, at his request, just before the fatal shot was fired.

Police believe at least three of the young men, including Sexton had been drinking before going to the theater.

Sexton had argued with theater employees after being asked to produce an ID to view the R-rated movie, saying he had killed 18 people in the service of his country, witnesses told police.

Investigators were able to interview nearly nearly all of the other theater patrons who were viewing the movie at the time of the shooting, Engle said about 2 a.m. Tuesday.

Monday’s incident came only three days after the Friday night arrest of an Iraq War veteran from Lynn who allegedly fired a shotgun at Randolph County sheriff’s deputies. Those officers were not wounded.

[Return to headlines]

Look Who’s Married to Obama’s Media ‘Controller’

Official attacking network, anti-’birther’ lawyer a couple

Attacking Fox News and defending President Barack Obama is a family affair for Anita Dunn, the White House communications director who has blasted Fox as an arm of the Republican Party and talked about “controlling” the news media.

She’s married to Robert Bauer, the chief of the political law group at Perkins Coie, the Seattle law firm hired by the White House to defend President Obama in court cases challenging his “natural born” citizenship status in the United States and thus, his eligibility under the U.S. Constitution to be president.

Dunn is targeting Fox News with criticisms emanating from the administration that it isn’t even a news network, while Bauer has done his best to prevent the American public from seeing a wide range of President Obama’s records that could prove, or disprove, his eligibility to occupy the Oval Office under the Constitution’s requirement that the president be a “natural born” citizen.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Marriott Urged to Cancel CAIR Banquet

Imam who seeks demise of ‘filthy’ U.S. featured speaker at fundraiser

A nonprofit activist group that “alerts Americans about the threat of radical Islam” has launched a campaign to urge a Washington-area hotel to cancel its hosting of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ annual banquet this week, which features a controversial Muslim imam who foresees a violent overthrow of the “filthy” U.S. government assisted by jihad warriors armed with Uzis.

The New York City-based Clarion Fund points out co-keynote speaker Siraj Wahhaj, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing investigation, was featured on a panel in 2005 titled, “Replacing the Constitution with the Koran: ‘Conquest or Conversion’ through Islamic Propagation.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Plans to Sign Over Control of US

Monckton said, “At the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, this December, weeks away, a treaty will be signed.” He goes on to describe that in addition to every third world country, the US, by the hand of Barack Hussein Obama will also sign. To those who hold Al Gore up as a true prophet, this is a wonderful thing. The United States will finally be forced to answer for their sole destruction of the world’s environment. What they don’t say is that this will be the culmination of a long, patient strategy by the world’s communists to destroy the last stronghold of the west.


Copenhagen shares much of the same acclaim from Europe as Stockholm, the headquarters of the Nobel committee. There you will find similar socialist philosophies and a similar disdain for the “cowboy” attitude of Americans. In those circles we are viewed as being…well, not housebroken is a pretty close approximation. Obama was given the Nobel prize, not for anything he did, but for what he was expected to do, which is sign over the rights of Americans to a global government. A socialist global government.

You don’t believe me? Check out this section of the published treaty:…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘Praise be to Allah, We Are in Bermuda Now’

Former Guantánamo bay prisoners swap jumpsuits for Bermuda shorts

It has been four months since Mamut and three other Chinese Uighur Muslims were brought blinking into the Bermudan sunlight after a secret pre-dawn flight from Guantánamo bay, where they had been imprisoned for seven years.

The unique resettlement project — which will be mirrored soon when eight of their fellow Uighur detainees are given new homes in the Pacific island of Palau — has worked out well for the Bermuda four.

The men say they are adapting to their new lives on this tiny island, home to roughly 65,000 people, and spend much of their spare time swimming or fishing in the ocean.

[Return to headlines]

Sausage-Making at Its Worst

As liberals rush Obamacare through Congress, let’s review the disparity between promises and text. Joe Wilson’s declaration “You lie!” is ringing truer with each passing day.

Barack Obama promised “transparency” and to give the public five days to read the bill, but Sen. Jim Bunning’s amendment to require the bill, along with a final Congressional Budget Office score, to be posted online 72 hours before the vote was defeated. Reps. Brian Baird, D-Wash., and Greg Walden, R-Ore., have been trying to get the House to agree to post the bill 72 hours before the vote. Most Republicans have signed on, but the Nancy Pelosi leadership is unwilling.

The Democrats still hope to rush the bill through unread. The 1,100-page stimulus bill was posted online only 13 hours before the vote, and the 1,200-page cap-and-trade bill was posted only 15 hours before the vote.

Obama promised that the health-care bill would not cover illegal aliens, but Sen. Chuck Grassley’s amendment to require immigrants to prove their identities with photo IDs was rejected.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sudbury Suspect’s Neighbors Stunned by Arrest

Residents in the upscale suburb of Sudbury were shocked Wednesday to learn one of their own now faces terrorism charges.

27-year-old Tarek Mehanna was arrested at his parents’ home in Fairhaven Circle by federal agents and Sudbury police early this morning.

He and two other men allegedly planned attacks inside and outside the United States, including a plot to kill people at a mall.

His neighbors told WBZ it’s not something they expected in this normally quiet town about 20 miles west of Boston.

“I still find it hard to believe,” said neighbor Paul DeMarco, who admitted he didn’t know much about Mehanna.

“He takes his afternoon walks. When he’s driving by, very friendly, waves, says ‘Hi’, seems everyday normal.”

Mehanna is a U.S. citizen. Police say he’s lived in the Sudbury home for several years with his parents.

Investigators have been keeping an eye on him since 2001.

Mehanna had been out on bail after he was indicted in January for allegedly making false statements to the FBI in a terrorism investigation.

His father, Dr. Ahmed Mehanna, is professor of medicinal chemistry at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in Boston.

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo[Return to headlines]

The Incredible Chutzpeh of a Gigantean Jackass

Was there ever a doubt that global warming is a scam?

Take a look at the action of the Department of Energy.

They just recently loaned $529 million dollars to a Finnish company that is producing a $90,000 dollar hybrid sports car (that is $90,000 per car Clyde).

These funds are supposed to be used to create, or save American jobs, not sent overseas to create Finnish jobs building cars that none of us can afford in the first place.

Now comes the really interesting part, guess who is now receiving profits from this little venture by way of ownership of a fair amount of stock in this company?

You guessed it, the charlatan that invented the global warming scam in the first place, “Al Gore”.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Wilders’ US College Visit Cut Short

A question and answer session by Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders at a US college was cut short on Tuesday after ‘the tone of the event began to turn nasty’ and some of the several hundred students ‘began jeering’, news agency AP said on Wednesday.

Wilders had been invited to show his video compilation Fitna to students at Temple University in Philadelphia by a student body called Temple University Purpose. The trip was paid by the California-based David Horowitz Freedom Center, AP said.

During his speech, Wilders stated that ‘our Western culture is far better than the Islamic culture and we should defend it.’

He also said a resolution co-sponsored by the US and Egypt deploring attacks on religions while insisting that freedom of expression remains a basic right was a ‘disgrace’ and criticised president Barack Obama for his efforts to extend a hand to the Islamic world, saying that such appeasement marks ‘the beginning of the end’, AP reported.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Woman Recants Story of West Virginia Abuse

(CNN) — A 22-year-old woman whose claims that she was abused in a trailer in rural West Virginia in 2007 helped send six people to prison now says she made up the story, her lawyer said Wednesday.

Attorney Byron Potts says his client is not being pressured to recant her story.

“She is recanting her entire story,” attorney Byron Potts told reporters in Columbus, Ohio, about his client, Megan Williams, who moved there after the incident. “She says it did not happen. She fabricated it.”

He added, “She wanted to get back at her boyfriend. She was mad at him.”

In 2007, police acting on a tip found the black woman in a trailer with cuts and bruises. She said she had been stabbed in the leg and beaten, sexually assaulted, forced to eat feces and subjected to a racial slur by her white captors.

The suspects included a mother and son, a separate mother and daughter, and two men. All are still jailed, according to the prosecutor who handled the case.

The incident, which drew extensive media coverage, stirred outrage around the country. Civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton called for the incident to be investigated as a hate crime.

Last year, all six defendants pleaded guilty and were given terms of up to 40 years in prison.

Potts said his client was coming forward “to right the wrong perpetrated on these six individuals.” He added that she told him all her injuries except for the bruises on her face were self-inflicted. The bruises, he said, were from an altercation she had had with her then-boyfriend before the incident in question.

Potts described Williams’ feelings as “total remorse; that’s why she’s coming forward. She is remorseful for having these people spend time in jail.”

Asked if she was being pressured to recant, he said, “No, she’s not being pressured into this.”

Williams had been expected to speak herself, but Potts said she would not appear before the news media because she was afraid for her safety.

He said she was “fully aware” that she might face criminal charges, “but she still wanted to go forward with this.”

Brian Abraham, the former Logan County prosecutor who handled the case, defended the convictions. “The case wasn’t based on her statements,” he said, noting that Williams never testified in the case. “The case was based on the evidence discovered by the police, including the confessions of the six defendants.”

He added, “All six of them have been in jail without filing appeals. If they file something afterwards, the evidence was pretty overwhelming for the charges on which they were convicted.”

The current county prosecutor, John Bennett, said he could not comment on whether the case would be reopened. He said he represented one of the suspects in 2007 and so would let a judge decide how to handle the potential conflict of interest.

Sharpton said, “If they are being held under false information and she misled authorities, and if the authorities went solely on her testimony, then they should be released.” But he added, “If there are other circumstances around the recanting, we should know what they are.”

[Return to headlines]


Toronto 18 Videos Show Group’s Deadly Plan

Video Part one (0-1:56): The RCMP built and exploded a bomb similar to the one that the Toronto 18 cell was allegedly tried to build.

Part two (1:57-7:22): The RCMP caught members of the group unloading bags of ammonium nitrate.

Part three (7:23-8:07): Footage of one of the Toronto 18 members trying a remote detonator was also seized by investigators

Part four (8:08-9:12): An alternate view of the test explosion shows that the explosion would have done significant damage.

BRAMPTON — The two scrawny terrorists are unloading bags labeled ammonium nitrate from the back of a delivery truck when one of them looks up and recoils in shock, while his partner backs into a wall and raises his hands in surrender.

A four-member police tactical team dressed all in black descends, laying them spread-eagled on the floor of the warehouse and cuffing their hands behind their backs before one of the officers raises his thumb to say mission accomplished.

The dramatic arrests of Saad Khalid and Saad Gaya, members of the “Toronto 18” terrorist group that was planning to detonate truck bombs in downtown Toronto, was captured on a video released on Tuesday by the court. (see above)

The video is among dozens of Crown exhibits that form the case against Zakaria Amara, who admitted on Oct. 8 he was the leader of the bomb plot. An Ontario judge approved their release, allowing Canadians to view them for the first time.

The videos show the terrorists testing an electronic detonator and meeting in the dark. Also released was a video of a test explosion conducted by the RCMP, which built and detonated a bomb using the same formula as the terrorists. The result is a huge blast that flipped a metal shipping container.

The Toronto 18 were homegrown al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists who attended a training camp north of Toronto and planned attacks in southern Ontario they hoped would force Canada to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.

“The eventual plan for which the group was training was an attack which would cripple infrastructure and involved attacking Parliament and blowing up truck bombs,” reads an agreed statement of facts that forms part of Amara’s guilty plea.

Also released on Tuesday were messages the terrorists exchanged in thumb drives in an attempt to avoid police surveillance. In one of them, Amara tells his accomplice to conduct reconnaissance in Toronto using a camera.

“Don’t do anything too suspicious. Just check out everywhere, you known downtown. Check different places just uh, oh yeah and also for the chemical set like I told you I need a filter, I need Pyrex, I need something to weigh, for weighing, you know.”

Amara’s rambling instructions on planning the attack are interspersed with religious tracts such as, “God all mighty says in the Koran…instructing the faithful that when they meet a group of non-believers or when they are battling they should remember God a lot and that will keep them, God willing, being steadfast.”

Amara, 24, pleaded to two counts of terrorism and is to be sentenced in January. Khalid, Gaya and Ali Dirie have also pleaded guilty and another man, Nishanthan Yogakrishnan, was convicted. Another six are awaiting trial.

A Mississauga gas jockey, Amara revealed his plans to an undercover police agent, telling him the plot involved renting three U-Haul vans and packing them with explosives. The vans were to be parked at the Toronto Stock Exchange, the CSIS regional office on Front Street and at a military base between Toronto and Ottawa.

The bombs were to be detonated remotely at about 9 a.m. in mid-November, 2006. Police arrested the group on June 2, 2006, before the attacks could be carried out.

A judge said the men were motivated by an extremist interpretation of Islam that portrayed Canada as a “near enemy.”

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Audio: UK Doomsayers Spew ‘Hysteria’ To Bully Politicians

Professor shreds British PM’s claims of 50 days to avoid climate catastrophe

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Barroso Rejects Suggestion Irish Voters Were Bullied

THE IRISH vote for Lisbon was a declaration of independence from the United Kingdom Independence Party, the president of the EU Commission said yesterday.

Speaking at the EU Parliament, José Manuel Barroso rejected suggestions that the commission had bullied the Irish into submission.

Mr Barosso was taking part in what was the first ever questions and answers session with a president of the commission at the parliament.

UKIP MEP Nigel Farage said the commission had managed to “bully the Irish into submission the second time around”.

Mr Barroso told him not to be disappointed about the Irish result in which 67 per cent of people voted to accept the Lisbon Treaty.

He said it showed that when there was a real debate with real ownership, there can be strong support for Europe.

“In fact, it was a declaration of independence of Ireland from the UK Independent Party because you were there making a campaign and Ireland said No to you and your party,” Mr Barosso said.

Asked whether the commission had taken any steps to ensure the transition between the Nice and Lisbon Treaties, Mr Barroso said it was waiting to see what the Czech Constitutional Court would decide before taking any steps.

In response to a question from Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly on the division of competencies among commissioners in the new commission, Mr Barroso appeared to hint he would like Ireland to nominate a female candidate.

He said Ireland had not yet nominated a candidate and he had written to member states requesting they nominate women in particular.

Mr Barroso told another MEP he was “most vexed” about the gender balance on the commission.

During the one-hour question-and-answer session, Mr Barroso also said the commission was preparing an exit strategy from the current financial situation, but that it would not take effect before 2011.

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

EU Ban on Sales From Recreational Fishing Will Hit Finnish Enthusiasts

At a meeting in Luxembourg that went on into the small hours of Tuesday morning, European Union fisheries ministers eventually reached agreement on a new control regime to prevent fishermen across the EU from landing illegal catches.

The agreement follows repeated reports of undeclared or illegal catches that the European Commission argues have hindered conservation efforts.

Aside from controls on professional fishermen, including penalty points that could lead to the suspension or withdrawal of a fishing licence, there will also be new limits on recreational fishing where it is considered to threaten endangered fish stocks.

The main beef for Finnish fishermen is that the EU is to prohibit the sale of catches taken by amateur fishermen in their boats in Finnish marine waters.

Finland opposed the mover, but other countries carried the day.

“The decision is likely to increase the grey economy”, said Minister of Agriculture Sirkka-Liisa Anttila (Centre Party) in Luxembourg on Tuesday.

The sales ban will come into effect from the beginning of next year and it will mean Finland will have to consider what sort of sanctions would be suitable for breaches of the rules.

Finnish recreational fishermen in sea areas particularly catch salmon.

In future, the sale of any extra salmon — or any other fish caught from the sea — to the neighbours or to relatives will be off-limits.

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

Fishing Cheats to Lose Licences in EU Crackdown

EU fisheries ministers agreed on Tuesday (20 October) to crack down on overfishing, saying their fishermen would get points on their fishing licences each time they broke rules or quotas and would be banned for excessive infractions.

The points system, taking effect next year, is part of a drive to reduce excessive fishing which has severely depleted European stocks of cod, haddock and hake.

Ministers agreed new quotas for Baltic cod and herring and put on hold a controversial proposal that national tallies include fish landed by recreational anglers.

They also cut the amount of overfishing that will be tolerated to 10% from 20 — drawing criticism from a Green member of parliament that this was accepting “legalised cheating,” though on a reduced scale.

Under the new points system, if fishermen rack up a certain number of offences — for example, using small-mesh nets to trap extra fish, or fishing in closed seasons — they will lose their right to fish in EU waters for several months.

After five serious infractions, they risk losing their licences permanently.

“The consumers must know that the fish for sale in the shops has been caught legally,” said Swedish Agriculture Minister Eskil Erlandsson, who chaired the meeting.

EU countries that fail to enforce the new system could lose access to EU funds for overhauling their fisheries and could even have their quotas cut.

The controls reduce the margin fishermen are given for overfishing from 20% to 10. But that did not go far enough, said Green politician Raül Romeva, who led the debate on fisheries controls in the European Parliament.

“These new measures will tighten the net on […] abuses, but I regret that further effective provisions were allowed to slip away,” said Romeva. “The regulation allows up to a 10% margin over catch limits, which is essentially a form of legalised cheating.”

Ministers also agreed that cod fishing can be increased by between 9 and 15% in the Baltic Sea next year, after signs the stock was recovering there.

Fishermen will be given a 15% increase in the allowable catch for eastern Baltic cod to about 51,000 tonnes, and an increase of 8.6% for western Baltic cod to around 17,000 tonnes.

The herring catch will be reduced by 16.5% in the western Baltic — less severe than the 21% cut recommended by scientists. Herring quotas will be cut 12% in the Baltic’s main basin.

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

Frenzy of Snooping as Norway Puts All Tax Records Online

For anyone who has ever wondered what their boss earns or how much their friends and neighbours are worth: move to Norway. Oslo has set a new standard in transparency by publishing all citizens’ tax records online.

Norwegians have been thrown into a frenzy of snooping following the publication of the latest tax records on the internet.

The financial affairs of everyone from football stars and high-earning executives to the youthful heirs of large fortunes have been laid bare in national newspapers after the annual lists, which have been available for public scrutiny since 2002, were put online last week.

The daily newspaper Aftenposten has focused its attention on Norway’s best known businessmen, such as the hotel tycoon Olav Thon, who took home some 1.4 million crowns (£123,000) after tax. It has splashed lists of the top 10 wealthiest writers, lawyers, actors and comedians across its front pages.

The tabloid paper VG delves into the not-so-private financial affairs of glamorous footballers and members of the Norwegian royal family — revealing, for example, that the junior royal Pia Haraldsen took home 185,000 crowns after tax — while the country’s leading entrepreneurs, from stock-brokers and economists to media tycoons, are the targets of the financial daily DN’s online investigations.

But it is not only the great and good whose tax records are accessible to all and sundry: nobody in Norway can escape the prying eyes of those curious enough to search a person’s details on the online database. All that is needed for a full run-down on an individual’s financial status, their tax payments and income is their name, address and age.

Enthralled by this glimpse into the private lives of their acquaintances, Norwegians are searching like mad for details on their bosses, colleagues, friends and neighbours before the records are removed from the internet at the end of this month.

Tax returns have been theoretically accessible to the public in Norway since 1863, but, until two years ago, it required a lengthy process of application in person at a local tax office, which generally acted as deterrent for all but the keenest of snoops. The launch in 2002 of a searchable database of tax records was greeted with a storm of controversy from those who — for whatever reason — were unwilling to have citizens’ private affairs made available for all to see.

It took just one year for these critics to temporarily scupper the scheme, and, in 2003, the right-wing government led by the then prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik passed a law restricting online access to financial records to a maximum of three weeks from the day of publication.

But the step was vehemently opposed by journalists and campaigners committed to transparency in Norwegian society, and it appears likely that the recently elected left-leaning government of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg will abandon the deadline for next year’s lists.

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

German Officials Reject Charges of Two-Classes of Swine-Flu

The difference between the two vaccines is that the one meant for members of the government is said to have fewer side-effects. It also lacks certain additives which are said to be present in the version for the general population.

A spokesperson for the German interior minister, quoted by the Berliner Zeitung newspaper, said that the vaccines marked for the government were ordered months ago, when there were no clear differences between the two vaccines. She added that the other version was not a second-class vaccine.

According to a separate report in the mass-circulation Bild newspaper, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Health Minister Ulla Schmidt are planning on getting vaccinated with the shot provided to the general population.

[Return to headlines]

Hostages Freed After French Siege

A French hostage siege is over, local media say, several hours after armed men took six people captive at a supermarket in the suburbs of Paris.

Police said a gang of men attacked the Lidl discount store in Sevran, north of the capital, at around 0800 (0600 GMT).

Police surrounded the scene and made contact with the hostage-takers. The captives were released gradually over the following few hours.

Two hostage-takers were arrested, AFP news agency said.

The agency said two suspects were seen emerging from the store with their hands in the air, before being handcuffed and taken away by police.

It is not known what the motive of the armed men was.

Witnesses said all surrounding roads were closed off and the scene was swarming with police.

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

Iraqi Shoe Thrower Given Hero’s Welcome in Geneva

GENEVA: Iraqi journalist Muntadar Al-Zaidi who hurled his shoes at US President George W. Bush was given a hero’s welcome in Geneva on Monday far warmer than the subdued reception in his own homeland.

“I am one of the victims of the occupation,” Al-Zaidi said at a press conference alongside two local politicians, repeating his allegations that he was severely tortured, including with electric shocks, during his nine months of Iraqi detention.

He pledged to decline all gifts from wealthy Arabs until he sets up a foundation to support suffering Iraqis and said he was visiting Switzerland and other countries with financial support from friends.

Al-Zaidi was released three months early for good behavior, and, with the help of his Geneva lawyer, obtained a tourist visa for Switzerland.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Italy: Over 95:000 Women Sign Anti-Berlusconi Petition

Rome, 19 October (AKI) — Over 95,000 women in Italy have signed an online petition berating Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi over his “offensive” treatment of women, after a sexist insult he made earlier this month on a live Italian television talk show to female Italian opposition MP Rosy Bindi.

The women include women from many walks life, including academics, actresses and publishers. The Italian Association of Partisans has also now signed the petition. “We strenuously recall the decisive, contribution to the World War II Resistance (against Nazism and Fascism) to win democracy, equality and freedom in Italy,” the association wrote.

When Bindi (photo) interrupted Berlusconi on the late-night state TV talk show Porta a Porta , Berlusconi told her: “I recognise you are increasingly more beautiful than you are intelligent.”

Bindi, 58, replied: “I am not one of the women at your disposal, prime minister.”

Berlusconi tried to laugh off his comments, claiming they were “only a light-hearted joke for the public”.

He appeared hours after the country’s highest court stripped him of his immunity to prosecution, reactivating a series of criminal court cases against him.

His remarks produced a furore in Italy, especially among feminists, who were outraged by the personal nature of his remarks to Bindi, a former Italian health minister and MP for the opposition Democratic Party.

Bindi reportedly received thousands of messages of support, including calls from Italy’s former prime minister Romano Prodi and from Walter Veltroni ex-Democratic party leader and former Mayor of Rome.

Current Democratic Party leader Dario Franceschini demanded an apology from Berlusconi for his “rude and vulgar insults.”

A number of Facebook groups sprung up promoting “Solidarity with Rosy Bindi”.

Meanwhile, the on-line campaign on left-leaning daily La Repubblica’s website, ‘We are all Rosy Bindi’ gained support, also via social networking websites. It invited readers to identify themselves as a “woman offended by the premier”.

The petition took the form of an open letter to La Repubblica signed by the French-Italian academic Michela Marzano, the writer and journalist Barbara Spinelli and Columbia University professor Nadia Urbinati.

“We protest against this cretinisation of women, of democracy, of politics itself. This man offends women and democracy. Let’s stop him.”

La Repubblica and its sister weekly L’Espresso has led coverage of the sex scandals that have dogged Berlusconi over the past six months, including allegations that he slept with a prostitute, dated at least one minor and invited escorts to parties and fielded attractive young women as candidates for his ruling People of Freedom party.

Berlusconi’s unfeminist remarks are legion. He has described women over 50 as “the menopause section” has claimed Italy “has the most beautiful secretaries” and complained the Spanish cabinet was “too pink” because it has several female ministers.

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

Italy: Berlusconi Takes Legal Action Over ‘Harem’ Photos

Bergamo, 20 October (AKI) — The former director of an Italian weekly appeared in court on Tuesday after his magazine earlier published photos of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi surrounded by young women at his villa in Sardinia.

The lawyer of the weekly’s former director Pino Belleri asked Berlusconi to appear in court in the northern Italian city of Bergamo as a witness, in the court’s first hearing.

Belleri was sued by Berlusconi for violation of privacy and for receiving stolen goods.

The paparazzi-style shots were taken by Sardinian photographer Antonello Zappadu, who snapped at least 10,000 pictures of guests there from 2006 to 2009.

At the time of publication of the issue of the weekly magazine ‘Oggi’ in 2007, entitled ‘Berlusconi’s Harem’, the premier was the leader of the opposition party Forza Italia.

‘Oggi’ is published by the RCS Media Group, which also publishes leading Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

The photos published by ‘Oggi’ in 2007 showed at least five women, some of them contestants in Italy’s Big Brother TV show which is broadcast by one of the channels owned by the Berlusconi family, Mediaset.

One of the photos show two dark-haired girls sitting on the premier’s lap during Easter weekend and another of the premier walking arm in arm with two other women through his luxurious villa in Sardinia.

The women, identified as Barbara Pedrotti, a model, and Angela Sozio, former Big Brother contestant are also on the list of witnesses in the trial.

Sozio was chosen by Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party to run as a candidate for the European parliament. However, after much controversy, they were left out of the elections by Berlusconi himself, media reports said in April.

A privacy watchdog banned ‘Oggi’ from publishing other pictures it acquired, one of which reportedly includes Berlusconi slipping his hand inside the shirt of one of the women and another one of the premier grinning broadly as two young women kiss in front of him.

Both Berlusconi’s spokesman Paolo Bonaiuti and his lawyer Nicolo Ghedini have claimed the photos were taken during a political meeting of Forza Italia, the premier’s party, which is now part of the conservative People of Freedom party.

Zappadu earlier this year tried to sell many pictures of the premier at his villa to an Italian magazine for 1.5 million euros, but Berlusconi obtained a court injunction banning the publication in Italy of the pictures and police seized 700 of the photos.

Another set of embarrassing photos of Zappadu’s were eventually published in a Spanish daily in July 2009, while 10,000 other shots are in possession of a Colombian photo news agency, Ecoprensa.

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

Italy: Muslims and Christians Hold Dialogue Day

Rome, 20 October (AKI) — Members of the Christian and Muslim communities across Italy are organising a dialogue day on 27 October. The initiative is being spearheaded by a fortnightly online Christian magazine, and is supported by dozens of groups and associations from both faiths.

A series of talks, concerts and debates aimed at improving inter-faith dialogue and mutual understanding will be held in various cities under the initiative, which is now in its eighth year.

Three events are being held in Italy’s capital, Rome, to mark the interfaith dialogue day including one at the lower house of the Italian parliament. Events are also taking place in the northern city of Milan and the southern cities of Naples, Caserta and Avellino.

Italian-born, Muslim journalist Sumaya Abdel Qader, and intellectuals Paolo Naso and Brunetto Salvarani will take part in a debate taking place at the Protestant Cultural Centre in Milan entitled ‘ Muslims and Italians too?’.

Azerbaijani musician Fakhradin Gafarov will also give a concert in Milan as part of the interfaith dialogue day.

Organisations taking part in the initiative include the Italian Islamic Alliance, based in Milan, the Islamic Relief charity, Christian groups including the Viottoli Association, the Christian community in Pinerolo near the northern city of Turin, and the Council of Christian Churches in Trento in the northern Italian Trentino region.

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

Italy: Moroccans to Hold Anti-Polisario Demo

Florence, 21 October (AKI) — Members of the Moroccan community in Italy are planning to hold a march in the central Italian city of Florence to protest against the activities of Morocco’s outlawed Polisario Front. The Algerian-backed separatist movement is fighting for independence in the mineral-rich Western Sahara in southern Morocco.

North African organisations from across Italy are expected to take part in a sit-in at Campi Bizenzio in the Province of Florence.

The anti-Polisario Front protest coincides with the presence in Italy of its members Omar Mih and Abdelaziz Almorrakechi, who are taking part in a Europe-wide twinning week with the region of Tuscany surrounding Florence from 23-25 October.

“The sit-in will have a particular resonance and will bear witness to the association’s commitment to raising awareness among the public and institutions about what is happening in the refugee camps in Tindouf in Algeria.

“There are 100 people living there who are dependent on international humanitarian aid, on whom no census has been carried out and who have not been identified,” said a statement from the Moroccan community in Florence, one of the groups organising the sit-in on Saturday.

The residents are not allowed to live outside the camp, return to Morocco or live in a third country, the association said.

“The Moroccan communities therefore intend to draw the world’s attention to grave human rights violation in that ‘grey area’ of the Mediterranean where human trafficking to Europe and organised crime which fuels international terrorism is taking place,” it added.

The association said it would be pushing for an urgent enquiry into cases of arbitrary detention in the notorious Arrachid prison and allegations of torture against people who have “disappeared”, of mass graves and of theft of humanitarian aid destined for Tindouf residents.

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

Pope Approves Special Rules and Structures to Welcome Anglican Clergy, Including Married Priests

Married clergymen and bishops will be ordained by the Catholic Church but will not be able to become ordinaries, this according to the forthcoming Apostolic Constitution approved by Benedict XVI. The purpose is to allow Anglicans to retain their traditions and liturgy, whilst professing fidelity to Rome.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) — Benedict XVI has decided to create a structure for Anglican clergy and groups who want to join the Catholic Church. The forthcoming Apostolic Constitution will provide for “Personal Ordinariates”, thus allowing “for the ordination as Catholic priests of married former Anglican clergy.”

The ordination of Anglican priests in the Catholic Church is nothing new. In 1982, John Paul II had approved provisions whereby married Anglican clerics who wanted to become Catholic priests could perform their ministerial service.

Benedict XVI has decided to provide a framework for such a situation, this according to a Note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about personal Ordinariates for Anglicans entering the Catholic Church.

Personal Ordinariates “will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. Under the terms of the Apostolic Constitution, pastoral oversight and guidance will be provided for groups of former Anglicans through a Personal Ordinariate, whose Ordinary will usually be appointed from among former Anglican clergy.”

The Apostolic Constitution “provides a reasonable and even necessary response to a world-wide phenomenon, by offering a single canonical model for the universal Church which is adaptable to various local situations and equitable to former Anglicans in its universal application. It provides for the ordination as Catholic priests of married former Anglican clergy. Historical and ecumenical reasons preclude the ordination of married men as bishops in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The Constitution therefore stipulates that the Ordinary can be either a priest or an unmarried bishop.”

Ultimately, the papal document “seeks to balance on the one hand the concern to preserve the worthy Anglican liturgical and spiritual patrimony and, on the other hand, the concern that these groups and their clergy will be integrated into the Catholic Church.”

This, according to the Note, is due to events that occurred since the Second Vatican Council, most notably the decision by some Anglican communions to ordain women and “openly homosexual clergy” and bless “homosexual partnerships.”

Following such experiences, in addition to decisions by individuals, “Sometimes there have been groups of Anglicans who have entered while preserving some ‘corporate’ structure. Examples of this include, the Anglican diocese of Amritsar in India, and some individual parishes in the United States which maintained an Anglican identity when entering the Catholic Church under a ‘pastoral provision’ adopted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and approved by Pope John Paul II in 1982.”

“We have been trying to meet the requests for full communion that have come to us from Anglicans in different parts of the world in recent years in a uniform and equitable way,” said Card William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“They have declared that they share the common Catholic faith as it is expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and accept the Petrine ministry as something Christ willed for the Church. For them, the time has come to express this implicit unity in the visible form of full communion,” he added.

The provision of this new structure, the Note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said by way of conclusion, “is consistent with the commitment to ecumenical dialogue, which continues to be a priority for the Catholic Church, particularly through the efforts of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.”

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

Sweden: Far-Right ‘No Threat’ To Red-Green Cooperation

Left Party leader Lars Ohly on Tuesday changed his stance regarding pre-election cooperation with other parties on the left, emphasizing that the far-right Sweden Democrats would never threaten to split the nascent red-green partnership.

“We won’t leave one another,” he told the TT news agency.

Ohly admitted that his earlier opposition to increased cooperation with the Social Democrats and the Green Party ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections was wrongheaded.

“I was wrong,” he told journalists during a Tuesday press conference.

In announcing his about face, Ohly cited increased pressure from voters, including leaders from Swedish labour unions.

The question of the Left’s willingness to work with other left-leaning parties was also made more pressing following an article in the Dagens Industri newspaper questioning the Left’s place in the Riksdag should the far-right Sweden Democrats make it into the Riksdag following the next election.

The article claimed that the Greens may join together with the Centre Party and the Liberals (Folkpartiet), both of which are currently in the governing centre-right Alliance coalition, in order to keep the Sweden Democrats from achieving a kingmaker roll in a new government.

“We’re all in agreement that we’re sticking together, even if such a situation comes up, just as we’re not going to create any red-green government with support from the Sweden Democrats,” Ohly told reporters.

According to the Left Party leader, there is no chance that the Greens or the Social Democrats would abandon his party in favour of cooperation with any of the centre-right parties.

The Left Party has previously been cool to the idea of developing a common electoral platform with the Social Democrats and the Greens, preferring instead that each party develop its own policies to ensure that election results reflect voters’ level of support for given policies.

But Ohly is confident that when the party meets for its next party conference in May, the Left will adopt his new line of thinking, which also means that the Left won’t push issues which go against compromises already reached with the other two parties.

“I’m convinced that the conference will accept that certain questions need to be decided through the red-green partnership,” said Ohly.

“It’s more important to have a change in government than to grow the ranks of the Left Party.”

Ohly’s announcement of his party’s new approach to working with the Greens and the Social Democrats comes amid mounting concerns about the electoral chances of the far-right Sweden Democrats following party leader Jimmie Åkesson’s controversial opinion article in which he claimed that Muslims represent Sweden’s greatest external threat.

The article, published on Monday in the Aftonbladet newspaper, has been reported as hate speech to Sweden’s highest legal official, who is now considering the matter.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

UK: Apology for Singing Shop Worker

A shop assistant who was told she could not sing while she stacked shelves without a performance licence has been given an apology.

Sandra Burt, 56, who works at A&T Food store in Clackmannanshire, was warned she could be fined for her singing by the Performing Right Society (PRS).

However the organisation that collects royalties on behalf of the music industry has now reversed its stance.

They have sent Mrs Burt a bouquet of flowers and letter of apology.

Mrs Burt, who describes herself as a Rolling Stones fan, said that despite the initial warning from the PRS, she had been unable to stop herself singing at work.

They would need to put a plaster over my mouth to get me to stop, I can’t help it

Sandra Burt

Singing shop worker

The village store where Mrs Burt works was contacted by the PRS earlier this year to warn them that a licence was needed to play a radio within earshot of customers.

When the shop owner decided to get rid of the radio as a result, Mrs Burt said she began singing as she worked.

She told the BBC news website: “I would start to sing to myself when I was stacking the shelves just to keep me happy because it was very quiet without the radio.

“When I heard that the PRS said I would be prosecuted for not having a performance licence, I thought it was a joke and started laughing.

“I was then told I could be fined thousands of pounds. But I couldn’t stop myself singing.

“They would need to put a plaster over my mouth to get me to stop, I can’t help it.”

In response to the furore created by their initial hardline, the PRS contacted Mrs Burt to apologise.

In a note attached to a large bouquet of flowers they said: “We’re very sorry we made a big mistake.

“We hear you have a lovely singing voice and we wish you good luck.”

           — Hat tip: 4symbols[Return to headlines]

UK: Big Brother Britain: £380 a Minute Spent on Tracking Your Every Click Onlineby James Slack

An astonishing £380 a minute will be spent on surveillance in a massive expansion of the Big Brother state.

The £200million-a-year sum will give officials access to details of every internet click made by every citizen — on top of the email and telephone records already available.

It is a 1,700 per cent increase on the cost of the current surveillance regime.

Last night LibDem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne described the sum as ‘eye-watering’.

‘There is already enough concern at the level of Government snooping,’ he said.

‘In an era of tough spending choices, it cannot be a justified response to the problems we face as a country to lavish millions of pounds a year on state spying.

‘The increase in money spent on tapping phones and emails is all the more baffling when Britain is still one of the few countries not to allow intercept evidence in court, even in terrorist cases.’

State bodies including councils are already making one request every minute to spy on the phone records and email accounts of members of the public.

The number of snooping missions carried out by police, town halls and other government departments has rocketed by 44 per cent in two years to a rate of 1,381 new cases every day.

Ministers say the five-year cost of the existing regime is £55.61million, an average of £11million a year.

This is paid to phone companies and service providers to meet the cost of keeping and providing private information about customers.

The cost of the new system emerged in a series of Parliamentary answers.

It is to cover payments to internet service providers so they can store mountains of information about every customer for a minimum of 12 months, and set up new systems to cope.

The actual content of calls and emails is not be kept — only who they were from or to, when they took place and where they were sent from.

Police, security services and other public authorities can then request access to the data as part of investigations.

Some 653 bodies are currently allowed access, including councils, the Financial Services Authority, the Ambulance Service and fire authorities and prison governors.

The new rules allowing access to internet records will be introduced by Parliament before the end of the year.

They are known as the Intercept Modernisation Programme.

Ministers had originally wanted to store the information on a massive Government-run database, but chose not to because of privacy concerns.

Yesterday Alex Deane, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: ‘The Government is preparing to make British people pay through the nose so that they can track our movements online.’

But a Home Office spokesman said the costs involved were entirely separate from those necessary to comply with the European Data Retention Directive, which requires the storage of phone and email records.

‘Communications data is crucial to the fight against crime and keeping people safe,’ he added.

‘We have made clear that there are no plans to collect and hold the content of everyone’s communications.’

There were 504,073 made last year to intercept email and telephone records under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. It was passed ostensibly to fight terrorism.

But it has been used to spy on people suspected of putting their bins out on the wrong day, dropping litter and attempting to cheat school catchment area rules.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Blair ‘To be Made EU President Next Month’

Tony Blair could be crowned first President of Europe at a special summit of EU leaders next month.

Diplomatic sources say French President Nicolas Sarkozy is pushing for an extraordinary meeting in Brussels to install the former prime minister in the new £275,000-a-year post.

Supporters of Mr Blair’s candidacy are racing to get a deal stitched up as doubts grow about whether the forthcoming inquiry into the Iraq war could prove a major stumbling block.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Last Union Jack Flown at Trafalgar ‘Must Remain in Britain’

The flag will be auctioned in London today, the anniversary of Admiral Lord Nelson’s victory over a joint French and Spanish fleet off the Spanish coast in 1805.

It is expected to fetch at least £15,000. Charles Miller, the auctioneer, has said he believes it is the last surviving flag flown during the battle.

Margaret Hodge, the culture minister, has said that if the flag is bought by a foreign bidder, she will impose a temporary export ban on it to allow British museums or other institutions to make a matching bid.

The case would then be referred to the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, which advises ministers on which items should not be allowed to leave Britain.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Man Staged Nearly 100 Car Crashes in Cash Scam

LONDON (Reuters) — A Briton who cost the insurance industry some 1.6 million pounds by staging almost 100 car crashes as part of a scam to win fraudulent payouts, was jailed for 4-1/2 years on Wednesday.

Mohammed Patel, 24, charged 500 pounds a time to stage accidents which enabled fraudsters to claim an average of 17,000 pounds from their insurers.

Police said he staged at least 92 crashes between 2005 and 2008, each time persuading the other driver to believe they were at fault.

The plot was uncovered after workers in an office block by the main A34 road in Cheadle, near Manchester, became suspicious about a regular number of crashes taking place at a nearby roundabout.

AXA insurance, one of the firms caught up in the scam, investigated and contacted police. Detectives found that Patel deliberately caused crashes for his clients by braking suddenly so the vehicle behind could not avoid a collision.

The claimants then demanded compensation from the victim’s insurance firm for personal injury, legal fees, courtesy cars, and often with the damage to the cars fabricated.

Manchester’s Minshull Street Crown Court heard that fraudsters were able to claim on average 17,000 pounds from insurance firms for each of the crashes Patel caused, the Press Association reported.

Patel himself raked in around 46,000 pounds for his role, and from his earnings he treated his girlfriend to gifts, two luxury cars and foreign holidays, police said.

“Patel was prepared to put lives in danger to make money,” said Sergeant Mark Beales.

“This abuse of the insurance claims system has implications for all law-abiding road users.”

Patel, from Bolton, admitted 17 charges including conspiracy to defraud, dangerous driving and driving while disqualified.

Another 24 co-conspirators are also due to be sentenced for their role in the scam.

“The cost of insurance fraud adds on average 44 pounds to every policyholder’s insurance premium annually,” said John Beadle, chairman of the Insurance Fraud Bureau.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

UK: We Can’t Afford to DNA Test Your Skirt, Police Tell Victim of Sex Attack

Traumatised by a sex attack in a park, a teenage girl was at least comforted by the likelihood the man would be identified by DNA.

Priya Francome-Wood, 17, had kicked and struggled free after he lay on top of her.

Police said they were in no doubt she had managed to escape a serious sex attack.

They took away her skirt and T-shirt, telling her ‘a surprising amount of DNA’ can be transferred in such cases.

But five days later Miss Francome-Wood’s hopes were shattered by a phone call from police in Bournemouth, where she was attacked during a weekend visit to a friend.

To her horror, they said they could not justify spending £500 on DNA testing.

Bizarrely, part of the reason was that she had fought the man off.

That meant the crime was classed as a simple assault, rather than a sex attack which would have been fully investigated.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: What Have You Done With My Daughter? Mother of ‘Honour Killing’ Girl Turns on Husband in Courtroom Confrontation

Tulay Goren, 15, went missing more than 10 years ago after allegedly being murdered by her father Mehmet for falling in love with the wrong man.

His wife Hanim Goren told the Old Bailey she believed her husband was responsible for the schoolgirl’s disappearance.

In dramatic scenes at his trial today, the 45-year-old turned to speak directly to him in the dock as he looked intently across at her.

‘Look at my face. What did you do to Tulay? Say it so that I can…,’ she said, before being stopped by trial judge Mr Justice Bean.

Mrs Goren said: ‘It was Mehmet who disappeared Tulay. I am sure of that.’

The schoolgirl’s father is alleged to have killed her after consulting with his brothers, Cuma and Ali, who are in the dock alongside him.

Mrs Goren said that after Tulay disappeared she was told not to mention the girl’s name and photos of her, her Turkish identity card, and her birth certificate were torn up.

She claimed that her husband said: ‘There will not be anything left inside belonging to Tulay.’

Mrs Goren, speaking through a Turkish interpreter, also told the jury: ‘After Tulay went missing, he attempted to beat me up a few times.’

She said she repeatedly confronted her husband about her daughter’s disappearance, increasingly so since her younger daughter was killed in a car crash in 2006.

‘I was saying it to his face openly, frankly. I was saying to him, “You swallowed Tulay”. I was saying, “She is alive, in your tummy”. I kept saying it,’ Mrs Goren told the court.

‘During the last few years I started saying it more. Since I lost Hatice I started saying it even more.’

She then asked the judge: “My Lord, I would like you to give me permission for two minutes, I apologise.”

Mrs Goren shuffled round in the witness box before addressing her husband directly and asking what had happened to Tulay.

But the judge said: ‘Please stop. You are here to answer questions from counsel.’

Mrs Goren said when she had previously confronted her husband, he said: ‘I don’t know anything, I didn’t do anything.’

She told the court: ‘He used to say ‘those who did it are over there’. I don’t know who he meant.’

Mrs Goren said when she threatened to go to the police, Mehmet said he would tell them she and her relatives were responsible for the disappearance.

She said parts of her statement to police in February 1999 were untrue and ‘the reason was Mehmet’, but she later changed her story.

‘They said “What did you do to Tulay? Did you do it?”. I couldn’t take it any more and I revealed. I told the truth to the police then, everything.’

The court heard that in March 1999 she was arrested for perverting the course of justice and then murder, and interviewed again.

Mrs Goren was released without charge and she later asked to speak to the police in April and June.

Mehmet, 49, of Woodford Green, north east London, together with Cuma Goren, 42, of Walthamstow, east London, and Ali Goren, 56, also of Walthamstow, deny murdering her on January 7 1999.

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

The trial continues.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Vatican: Pope Opens Door to Mass Conversion of Anglican Priests

Vatican City, 20 October (AKI) — Pope Benedict XVI has on Tuesday created new rules for Anglican priests who want to be part of the Catholic church, allowing them to join while maintaining their identity and their traditions, even if they are married.

Vatican Cardinal William Joseph Levada explained how, “with the preparation of an Apostolic Constitution, the Catholic Church is responding to the many requests that have been submitted to the Holy See from groups of Anglican clergy and faithful in different parts of the world who wish to enter into full visible communion.”

The new rules are being implemented amid splits among followers of the Anglican faith worldwide over the issues of ordinanation of women priests and homosexuality. The recent developments have led conservatives in the Church of England to consider joining the Roman Catholic Church.

In a media conference on Tuesday held in the Vatican, Levada said the Vatican’s Apostolic Constitution offers a single model for the Church and it also provides for the ordination of married priests.

“The forthcoming Apostolic Constitution provides a reasonable and even necessary response to a worldwide phenomenon, by offering a single canonical model for the universal Church which is adaptable to various local situations and equitable to former Anglicans in its universal application. It provides for the ordination as Catholic priests of married former Anglican clergy.”

“Our communion is therefore strengthened by such legitimate diversity, and so we are happy that these men and women bring with them their particular contributions to our common life of faith,” concluded Levad. He is also the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In a joint declaration on the same subject, Catholic Archbishop Vincent Gerard Nichols of Westminster and Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury affirmed that the announcement of the Apostolic Constitution “brings to an end a period of uncertainty for such groups who have nurtured hopes of new ways of embracing unity with the Catholic Church.”

“It will now be up to those who have made requests to the Holy See to respond to the Apostolic Constitution”, which is a “consequence of ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.

There are over 77 million Anglicans worldwide, the third largest group after Roman Catholics Eastern Orthodox Christians.

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

‘What Do the Sweden Democrats Want to Do With US Muslims?’

Anna Waara, chairperson of Swedish Muslims for Peace and Justice, calls for politicians and the media to reject in the strongest possible terms the views expressed in an opinion piece by Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson, in which he refers to Muslims as the greatest threat to Sweden since World War II.

through the open use of the same kind of rhetoric used to denigrate Jews in the 1940s. The party feels comfortable propagating pure lies in an opinion piece that’s out there for all to see; their calculation is that this won’t be a problem, since they assume that antipathy toward Muslims will predominate in the public debate.

When it comes to the view of Muslims in today’s society, the apparent dehumanization and total lack of nuance lead to a situation in which Muslims are viewed as an inordinately terrifying phenomenon. This is driven home by the fact that the Sweden Democrats’ frontal attack is met by a deafening silence from the country’s otherwise so vociferous leader writers.

The Sweden Democrats have a right to express themselves, and should preserve that right, but in a democratic society there is nothing forcing people to listen. Freedom of expression is an important foundation, which enables people to take a stance on the kind of society they want Sweden to become.

What’s surprising is that the media establishment has received the Sweden Democrats’ views with a sense of calm. The party’s message contains errors that are misleading or, in some cases, consist of pure propaganda. Despite this, a lot of what they say is permitted to pass without critical examination, vocal protests, or sober counter-argumentation. This offers a snapshot of the current societal climate with regard to Muslims and Islam.

What the Sweden Democrats portray is an enemy within, in a society they wish to divide into “us against them”. Such views have never led to a healthy, peaceful society, and Åkesson’s propaganda represents a direct threat to the 200-year tradition of peace we have here in Sweden.

It would be particularly troubling if the established parties were to replicate the Sweden Democrats’ rhetoric, providing succour to this sort of propaganda. We have seen it before in Europe — in Srebrenica for example, where 7,000 to 8,000 Muslims were murdered simply because of their identity. This happened just fifty years after the Holocaust: the kind of outrage that was never supposed to happen again.

There’s a risk that Islamophobia and intolerance will become established and accepted in Sweden. Is that really the kind of society we want to live in?

A major Gallup poll thought to represent the opinions of 90 percent of the world’s Muslims has shown that 93 percent are against acts of violence. None of the 7 percent who did not respond that they were opposed to violence cited religious reasons. They made reference instead to political reasons, such as achieving freedom from oppression. This is the same freedom considered so fundamental to Western values.

The study also supports the view that young Muslims, contrary to what Åkesson might claim, do not want extremism, fanaticism or violence; instead they strive for freedom, rights and democratization. The survey also showed that Muslims view Islam as a religion that confers on them a sense of meaning, direction, purpose and hope.

Swedish Muslims for Peace and Justice (Svenska Muslimer för Fred och Rättvisa) is Sweden’s first Muslim peace organization. Our aim is to be one of the foremost organizations promoting peace and security in Sweden and Europe, based on justice, Islamic principles, and human rights. With this in mind, we have previously invited the Sweden Democrats to debate with us; we have engaged in a dialogue with them because we believe in talking to those with dissenting opinions. We believe in a society characterized by diversity, which is why we find the Sweden’s Democrats’ rhetoric so frightening.

The party openly displays its defiance towards Swedish values such as respect and tolerance. It is extremely important going forward that the established parties do not slip under the net and co-opt the views the Sweden Democrats are trying to propagate, rather than countering them. The Sweden Democrats want to create the kind of society that can not be achieved by peaceful means in light of the prevailing conditions in multicultural Sweden. It is with this in mind that their election promise to do all they can to create a uniform Sweden raises so many critical issues. Just what do the Sweden Democrats want to do with us Muslims?

The question brought to a head by Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats is that of the kind of society we want to live in. I am certain that I don’t want to live in a society pervaded by opinions that are laced with hatred, ignorance and intolerance, and in which not all individuals are permitted to feel safe — regardless of who the messenger might be. What kind of society do the Sweden Democrats want to live in?

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptair Hijack Attempt Thwarted

An attempted hijacking by a man wielding a knife from an in-flight meal has been thwarted by guards, EgyptAir officials said.

The incident happened shortly after the plane, carrying almost 90 people, took off from Istanbul, Turkey, heading to Cairo.

The Sudanese man threatened crew members and demanded that the flight be diverted to Jerusalem, officials said.

He was detained by air marshals, and the flight landed in Cairo.

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

Lockerbie: Rumours of Al-Megrahi’s Death, Libya Silent

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, OCTOBER 21 — News of the death of Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, the former Libyan agent found guilty of the Lockerbie bombing, which has appeared on Sky TV today and soon after denied by al-Megrahi’s Scots lawyer, has not been confirmed in Libya. Terminally ill with a tumour, Al-Megrahi was released from prison on August 20 by the Scots authorities on health grounds. On his arrival in Tripoli, on August 21, al-Megrahi was given a hero’s welcome which led to loud protests by the families of the victims of the attack and by a large section of the international community. On September 9, al-Megrahi unexpectedly met a delegation of African parliamentarians and journalists who had come to Tripoli to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the birth of the African Union. The man appeared visibly worn down by his illness, seated in a wheelchair with his face covered by a mask. “It is a complete falsehood,” said lawyer Tony Kelly, when contacted by Reuters, denying the news broadcast by Sky News, which cites sources.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK Lawyer Denies Lockerbie Bomber is Dead

“It’s not true… he’s alive and I know that for a fact,” the AFP news agency quoted Scottish lawyer Tony Kelly as saying.

Kelly did not give details but said he had spoken to Megrahi, who is suffering from prostate cancer, today and he was fine.

Britain’s Sky News television, quoting unidentified sources, said there were reports that Megrahi had died but stressed the reports were still not confirmed by Libyan officials.

Megrahi was freed from a Scottish prison two months ago, on the grounds that he was terminally ill.

A short time earlier, spokesmen for British and Scottish authorities said they were investigating the reports. “We’re trying to confirm reports that Megrahi has died,” said a spokeswoman for the Scottish government.

Megrahi was convicted in January 2001 at an extraordinary Scottish court convened in the Netherlands.

He mounted an unsuccessful appeal in 2002 and in 2007 his case was sent for a second appeal — which his lawyers dropped shortly before his release on compassionate grounds in August.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Where to Bury a Dead Copt?

In Hawwara, Fayoum

Nader Shukry

It is obvious that discrimination against Copts does not stop at the issue of building churches or restoring existing ones. The building of a new church requires the approval of the president of Egypt, and the restoration or renovation of churches requires the approval of the local governor. Such approvals are not easy to come by; even though some take a year or two to be issued, others—many others—may take as long as 30 to 40 years or may never materialise in the first place. No matter how direly in need of a church, a congregation is confronted with countless bureaucratic or security hurdles intentionally placed in its path, so that the entire process is reduced to one of humiliating, arduous effort. Watani has frequently termed it the Copts’ Via Dolorosa.

Copts frequently face similar hurdles when it comes to places to bury their dead. It is eight years now that the Copts’ cemetery in the village of Hawwara in Fayoum, 100km southwest of Cairo, has been partially flooded because of rising levels of underground and sanitary drainage water. All applications to the authorities for licence to restore the cemetery and build new tombs have gone unanswered. The end result is that the Copts of the village and those of six neighbouring villages and towns, who use the same cemetery, are unable to properly bury their dead.

The flooding

The Copts of the village of Hawwara told Watani that their cemetery dates back to 1913. Ten years ago a preparatory school was built adjacent to the cemetery and secondary schools were built in its southern vicinity. Even though the building law stipulates that a 200-metre distance should be kept between a cemetery wall and the nearest building, the schools were built at much closer distances. A water reservoir erected for the benefit of the schools worsened the situation by helping to raise the level of the water table. The underground water and the sanitary drainage water from the schools rose to inundate the major part of the cemetery. Entire tombs were flooded, coffins floated on top of the water, many of them and the bodies that had been buried inside deteriorated and disintegrated. In 2000 a request to rescue the cemetery was filed to the authorities by those in charge.

Mortifying embarrassment

One of the tomb owners, Saïd Farahat, told Watani that, following the request, the local government sent suction units to draw the water out of the tombs and made some repairs to the sanitary drainage facilities which serve the schools. “These measures, however,” Mr Farahat said, “were insufficient to stop the water overflow, so we sent SOS messages to Fayoum governor and to the ministers of health, education, and environment. To this day no—one bothered to respond. The water now threatens the major part of the cemetery, to say nothing of the damage to the environment. Given that this cemetery serves six towns and villages, it is of utmost importance to do something to rectify matters. All we ask is to be allowed to fill the land and rebuild the tombs at a higher level.”

His family tomb, Mr Farahat said, was flooded five years ago. No efforts at repair worked. When a death occurred in the family last year they had to bury their dead in borrowed space in someone else’s tomb. In rural communities where burying the dead is a means of honouring them and every family takes pride in its own burial place, burying a family member in a strange tomb is a mortifying embarrassment.

No permit

Another villager, Abdel-Sayed Rizq, relates a similar experience. His sister-in-law was terminally ill and the family expected her death any day. Mr Rizq, wishing to avoid any unpleasant surprises once the death occurred, went to check that the family tomb was in good shape. He found it flooded with water, and had to move the coffins that were buried there temporarily to a neighbour’s tomb which had escaped flooding. Mr Rizq then began to repair the family tomb, but was immediately stopped in his tracks by the police who told him he had no permit to carry on any repairs. For nine months Mr Rizq shuttled between the offices of local government officials and security officials to obtain a permit but without success. In the meantime his sister-in-law died and the family had to bury her in their neighbour’s family tomb. Mr Rizq found this so humiliating that he decided to take the coffin and demonstrate silently in front of the security office, but the church leaders persuaded him it would only serve to ignite matters and would not solve the burial problem.

Now, Mr Rizq says, the neighbours are asking him to move his family’s coffin from their tomb since they, predictably, need the space. “And where am I to bury my dead?” he asks.

What and why?

Watani took the problem to Hamdi Abdel-Rahman, deputy to the head of the local government in the village. Mr Abdel-Rahman confirmed that the cemetery is flooded; a field report by the local government head already proves that, he said. The head, however, has been on leave for three months. “The local government has no objection to repairing and restoring the tombs,” Mr Abdel-Rahman said, which implies that the objection is coming from the security authorities. And which still begs the answer why no permit has so far been issued to restore the cemetery?

So until the Copts obtain the required permit, what are they supposed to do when one of them dies?

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

Israel and the Palestinians

A Gift to Terrorism From the UN

Il Giornale, October 18, 2009

Once someone said that, sooner or later, the U.N would cast a majority vote to state that the world is square and that this resolution would be unassailable.

The U.N. is consistently turning the tables on reality. In fact, this organization and all its agencies and bodies, such as the Human Rights Council, have an automatic majority of Islamic countries and of so-called non aligned anti-American and anti-Israeli countries that vote any decision based on their interests. That is the interests of obsolete and new dictatorships without any concern for truth and with a perverse interpretation of human rights. And these rights are the more righteous and human the more they meet their agenda.

But now we are all in danger. Two days ago, the U.N. approved the report by judge Goldstone who provides his personal description of the war in Gaza in 575 pages. And even if we are used to the worst when it comes to Israel, this is a bitter pill that we will have to take wherever in the world there is a non conventional war; that is a war where there are not two armies fighting each other, but, on one side there is an army and, on the other, there are fanatic and terrorist militias who believe they have the right, indeed the duty, to use civilian populations to conduct their war. Let us imagine, for example, that, in its anti-Al Qaeda and anti-Taliban offensive — which is indispensable to prevent Islamic extremists from getting hold of (90) atomic bombs — the Pakistani army is governed by rules under which they must not face their enemies hidden in civilian facilities, houses, mosques and schools. Let us imagine that in Afghanistan, the USA, the UK, France and Italy are morally and criminally liable for setting up check points — possibly one close to the other — to surround an area to prevent terrorists full of explosives from leaving. Let us imagine that all this is considered as a clear violation of human rights, as a “voluntary” persecution of the civilian population; that this is prohibited under international law and therefore it is a crime to be judged first by the Security Council and then by the International Court in the Hague. In fact, this is the procedure envisaged in the Goldstone report, which ultimately will put Israeli soldiers on the defendants’ bench.

Let us suppose that even these decisions are based on the favorite lies spread by the organizations professionally committed to destroying Israel and making it the number one enemy. These are the witnesses chosen by Goldstone to draft his report. And so the realities depicted in this text are simply lies: for example, the witnesses always deny the presence of Hamas fighters in certain areas to explain that Israel has fired against civilians. But it is the Hamas website itself that boasts about the nice fight conducted by its militias. The report denies the use of ambulances to transport weapons, the use of the U.N. offices and private homes as trenches, as reported by many witnesses. It denies that the whole Hamas leadership was based under a hospital. It ignores the use of mosques like stores for weapons… and, above all, it does not acknowledge that the war was a reaction to years of terrorist persecutions and to tens of thousand of missiles. And this should be of concern for the free world.

It is well known that Israel is the most tasteful meal for the U.N.

One third of the U.N. security council resolutions have been passed to condemn it, while infamous serial violators of human rights such as Yemen, Libya, Iran, Cuba, Sudan, almost all Arab countries, China, all the Countries that create armies with child soldiers (300 thousand), those who throw their enemies from rooftops, like Hamas, go around undisturbed.

Finally: no one should please say that it wants peace. In order to arrive at an agreement to give up land, Israel has to take enormous risks for its people. As shown by the withdrawal from Gaza and Lebanon, Israel remains at the mercy of the enemy’s missiles. If Israel is denied the right to defend itself, how can it become even smaller in favor of its enemy?

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

Israel-USA: Manoeuvres to Test Antimissile Defences

(by Giorgio Raccah) (ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, OCTOBER 21 — Two weeks of joint Israeli-American missile defence exercises began this morning in Israel with the deployment of military air and naval units, in operation Juniper Cobra. They are the most imposing biennial military manoeuvres by the two countries, in their tenth year. The show of strength seems to be aimed at Iran, which has threatened to destroy Israel, and which is continuing its intensive nuclear and missile programme, suspected of having purely military intentions. The exercises are aimed at demonstrating the USA’s support for Israel in the face of threats to its existence. President Barack Obama sent a message to this effect yesterday to participants at a seminar on the future, confirming that the relationship between the two countries goes well beyond strategic interests. In a joint statement issued by a spokesman for the military it was confirmed that Juniper Cobra is not intended to be a response to events in other parts of the world. One thousand American soldiers from the European Command (Eucom) are taking part in the manoeuvres. They arrived in Israel in recent days with a large quantity of military equipment, along with the same number of Israeli soldiers. The importance of the operation is also indicated by the fact that they are being carried out under the joint command of Commander of the US Sixth Fleet, Admiral Mark Fitzgerald, and chief of the Israeli Air defence force, General Doron Gavish. Short, medium and long-range missile defence systems, such as the American Thaad, Aegis and Patriot systems, and the Israeli anti-missile system Arrow, will be tested during the two weeks. Verifications will also be made on the capabilities of advanced radar systems in the Neghev, and on the coast, to spot long distance missile launches aimed at Israel, including non-conventional missile heads. Simultaneous missile attacks from Iran, Syria and Hezbollah will also be simulated. They have rockets and missiles lined up capable of striking deep inside Israeli territory and cities like Tel Aviv, where intensive air activity can currently be heard clearly along the coastline. Some of the missile defence systems are staged on US marine vessels, with 17 ships berthed at Israeli ports and along the Israeli coast. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Solana: Palestinian State Within ‘67 Borders

(ANSAmed) — RAMALLAH — The European Union supports the creation of an independent Palestinian State next to Israel, with all territories within 1967 borders including the entire West Bank and East Jerusalem. European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana said this today in his meeting in Ramallah with the president of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). “It is time to re-launch the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations” said Solana. He added that the peace process must be resumed without hesitation, because “nothing can be obtained without accepting some risk”. Talking yesterday in Washington, the Palestinian chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said that the PNA is willing to discuss all issues with the Obama administration — which is leading the attempts to re-launch the peace process -, but that it remains skeptical on the prospect of the resumption of direct talks with the Israeli government of Premier Benyamin Netanyahu. Yesterday Netanyahu used exceptionally passionate words to ask Abu Mazen to resume the talks to reach a ‘two-State solution’. In his appeal Netanyahu did not give in on the US and EU demands of a freeze on Jewish settlements, which the Palestinians consider to be a crucial condition for a credible dialogue.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Things Look Catastrophic But it Will Work Out, Why I’m Optimistic

by Barry Rubin

Every day dreadful things happen in the Middle East and in the echoes of that region—diplomacy, news coverage—in the West. Yet things are by no means as bad as they seem. Precisely because a lot of what happens simply doesn’t reflect reality, ultimately the material effect is minimized.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing,” warned Edmund Burke. But even when those who should be the defenders of liberty spend their time coddling and apologizing to evil, that still doesn’t mean it’s home free.

Let’s examine two aspects of the situation: Israel-Palestinian (and Arab-Israeli) along with the effort of Islamists to seize power in Muslim majority countries. By the way, it is the second—not the first—of those two topics is by far the most important in the Middle East, arguably the most important issue for our entire era. Then we’ll say a few words about President Barack Obama’s learning opportunity.


Despite all the sound and fury—note this well—absolutely nothing has changed on this issue since the end of the Gaza war in January. The Palestinian side is intransigent and has no interest in serious negotiations, therefore these go nowhere. Hamas has been intimidated into virtually stopping its attacks on Israel. (Note to Western leaders: force still works at achieving reasonable goals.) Israel’s morale and national unity is relatively high; the economy continues to do well, especially in light of the international recession.

A potential crisis in U.S.-Israel relations has been brilliantly defused by the Israeli government. The Obama Administration has still not taken—despite a lot of questionable verbiage—any material step against Israel. The West wants to pretend it is negotiating peace but won’t devote much real effort to doing so.

Therefore, all this talk of freezing construction, final status negotiations, Western pressure, Palestinian threats, and so on has amounted to absolutely nothing in practice.

What is the long-term prospect? On one hand, there will be decades more—an entire generation at least—without formal peace. Yet that doesn’t mean war either but rather a status quo punctuated by sporadic low- to medium-level violence. The biggest danger, a Hamas takeover of the West Bank, has been pushed back. Israel’s defensive capacity grows steadily stronger. Life will go on.

Again, please note that there is possibly no issue in the world which generates as much media coverage, academic publication and debate, peace plans and conferences, and Western officials’ speeches as the Israel-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflict. And yet nothing really changes. Keep that in mind every day…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Boys and Girls Together in Saudi Primary Schools

This is an experiment limited to 15 private schools and only the first three primary grades. But the initiative, which follows that of the “mixed” university built by King Abdullah confirms the will for a cautious modernization.

Riyadh (AsiaNews) — Boys and girls together in the same school. What looks like a real revolution that shatters the old Saudi tradition of the absolute division of the sexes has started with the permission given by the Committee for private and foreign education to 15 primary schools for girls to admit even male children.

This is an experiment, as it is currently limited to private schools, the first three classes and outside of lessons. “The boys — explained, the committee chairman, Muhammad Hassan Yousif to Arab News — can mingle with the girls in all school facilities, garden, courtyard and coffee shop and even join them in the morning ceremony.”

The official added that the Ministry for Education — which is part of the Committee — has given the schools texts to be distributed among children and added that some schools have already begun to expand the initiative. Difficulties, in his view, could emerge for pupils who after the third year will enter the regular primary schools for boys. “They will have only male teachers and this could create problems for those who are accustomed to female teachers”.

According to the assistant undersecretary for education, Saad Al-Fohaid, the experiment will not be extended, for the time being, to state schools.

The initiative, despite all its limitations, is a clear sign of King Abdullah’s desire for cautious modernization. It comes on the heels of the inauguration, on 23 September, of the avant-garde King Abdullah University Science and Technology (KAUST). Wanted by King Abdullah in person and situated in Thwala, 80 kilometers from Jeddah, in the north, the University (pictured) provides for the simultaneous presence of male and female students. These, as well as teachers, have fewer constraints in clothing and can drive a car, activities forbidden to women, without incurring the punishment of the muttawa, the religious police, who are not allowed on campus according to the university statute.

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

Energy: Lebanon, New Generators to Satisfy Demand

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, OCTOBER 19 — Lebanon’s Ministry for Energy and Water is planning to purchase 300-megawatt generators to satisfy the country’s growing demand for electricity. The purchasing project — which will cost around 250-300 million dollars — will be presented to the Lebanese Parliament in a short while. Currently, Lebanon produces 1,600 megawatts of electricity, while the current demand is around 2,400 megawatts, says the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) in Beirut. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gas: Berlusconi-Qatar Emir Inaugurate Adriatic LNG Terminal

(ANSAmed) — VENEZIA, OCTOBER 19 — Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi arrived in the ‘Teatro La Fenice’ for a bilateral meeting with the Emir of Qatar, His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani that will precede the inauguration ceremony of the Adriatic LNG terminal. A show will be dedicated to the work carried off the shores of Rovigo following the 2005 business agreement with the help of Qatar Petroleum, ExxonMoil, Edison and many companies from Italy and Qatar. A ballet company with 28 performers, two pairs of dancers, singers, acrobats and Italian musicians, and a group of artists from Qatar will re-enact the path that led to the construction of the terminal, which on its own can meet 10% of national demand for gas, through a new route from Qatar. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gas: Rovigo Regasification Plant Functional, Qatar 45% Share

(ANSAmed) — VENICE, OCTOBER 20 — After over 10 years in the making, today the regasification plant in Rovigo has entered into operation. Edison (10%), Exxon Mobile (45%), and Qatar Terminal Limited (45%) all hold stakes in the plant. Dubbed the Adriatic Nlg, it is the first off-shore terminal located on a seabed: situated of the coast of the Veneto, it is destined to issue 8 billion cubic metres of gas to Italy’s energy network per year, about one-tenth of the country’s energy requirements. At last night’s inauguration, at La Fenice Theatre in Venice, Italian Premier, Silvio Berlusconi and Qatari Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, were both present. The collaboration with the Arab state, a gas supplier that is holds partial control over the plant and is a partner is the project, is “a matrimony”, said Berlusconi, “that could provide an extraordinary result”. The Premier pointed out that “Italy relies on foreign countries for its energy and therefore must diversify its energy supplies” to avoid “interruptions” in their supplies as has occurred in the past “on the gas pipeline that brings in gas from Siberia passing through the Ukraine”. Edison Managing Director, Umberto Quadrino speaking about the Rovigo regasification plant, said, “ it is a new element in an energy system that is more balanced and diversified” and increases “Italy’s energy security”. Edison assured itself usage rights for 25 years for 80% of the capacity of the regasification plant (equal to 6.4 billion cubic metres per year). It took five years to build the terminal, a huge reinforced concrete structure that is 47-metres high, 88-metres wide, and 180-metres long. The regasifier, built by Algeciras (Spain), close to the Strait of Gibraltar, was transported by sea last summer, pulled by four tug-boats for 3,150km to its current location, 15km off the coast of Porto Levante (Rovigo), where it was placed on the seabed at a depth of about 28 metres. The structure allows for methane tankers (which transport liquefied gas) to dock and empty their loads into the terminal’s two steel tanks. The natural gas, which is converted into gaseous phase, is then issued onto the national energy market through underwater gas pipelines. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy-Jordan: Rania on Twitter, Rome Eternal and Romantic

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 20 — Rome is “a creature of unique, eternal, and oh-so-romantic beauty and personality”. Queen Rania of Jordan is enthusiastic in describing her impressions of the capital this morning on Twitter. She arrived for an official visit yesterday evening, along with her husband, King Abdallah II. “I admire Rome’s reticence to abandon too much of itself in favour of modern comforts,” writes the Queen in another post on the popular social network. Right after their meeting with President Giorgio Napolitano and his wife Clio, King Abdallah will see the leaders of the House and Senate, Gianfranco Fini and Renato Schifani. Meanwhile Rania will visit the Galleria Borghese, accompanied by Sandro Bondi, the Culture Minister. The royal couple’s Roman day will end with a dinner at the Quirinale, and they will stay in the capital until Thursday. King Abdallah will be received by Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, tomorrow at noon in Villa Madama. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy-Jordan: Rania, Islam Has No Room for Honour Crimes

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 20 — “In Islam, there is no room for honour crimes” which are the result of “backwards traditions”, said Queen Rania of Jordan, who is presently in Rome, commenting in an interview with Vanity Fair, which will be in newsstands tomorrow, speaking about the murder in Italy of Sanaa, the girl who was killed by her Moroccan father because she was dating an Italian. “Islam is against murder, and it is against taking justice into your own hands. These crimes go against human and civil law, they also go against divine law,” explained Rania. “The causes of the crimes are outdated traditions: many people are not aware of this, but honour killings also occur in non-Islamic societies” and “religion does not justify it”. “In Jordan,” she continued, “20 honour killings per year occur, which is not necessarily a high number. But for me it is still too many”. Education is the focus of the queen’s activity and she has dedicated the 1Goal initiative to education in poor countries, launched with the support of the football (FIFA), political (Bill Clinton, Gordon Brown), and artistic world (Bono). “1Goal is a great new campaign,” she said, “focussed on the Football World Cup, which will be held for the first time next year in Africa. Half of the children in the world that do not go to school live in Africa. We want fans to sing and cheer and ask world leaders to maintain their promises to help the 75 million children who do not go to school today, allowing them to go in the future. We are not asking for money, we are asking for people to go on-site and sign. Starting today until the end of the World Cup, we hope to collect 30 million signatures,”which we will bring to the summit of world leaders”. As for women, “I see that in our societies, women have to work double to obtain half of the career of a man. I want to stress that gender equality is a universal commitment: it is not only a Middle Eastern problem, it is present throughout the world. Having said that, it is true that in some countries the problem is more acute than in others”. Finally, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “is the cancer of the Middle East,” she said. “Until it is resolved, it will continue to be a source of injustice and where there is injustice, there is rage, there is a lack of hope, and this gives life to further violence and negativity, it feeds extremist ideologies, a terrible inheritance for future generations. If the issue remains unresolved,” she concluded, “its negative effects will be felt elsewhere too. I don’t believe that we would have such extreme ideologies in the world if there were not so much injustice.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Kuwaiti Women Win Passport Rights

Kuwaiti women will be able to obtain their own passport without the consent of their husbands, following a ruling by the country’s constitutional court.

The court, whose decisions are final, said the previous requirement was in violation of guarantees of freedom and gender equality in the constitution.

The decision came about when a woman complained her husband had prevented her from leaving the country.

The country’s first female MPs were elected in May 2009.

The article abolished by the court dated back to Kuwait’s 1962 passport law which required a husband’s signature on a woman’s passport application.

Aseel al-Awadhi, one of the new MPs, welcomed the passport law ruling as a “victory for constitutional principles that puts an end to this injustice against Kuwaiti women”.

Government housing

It is the latest gain for women in the oil-rich Gulf state which has made a number of strides towards gender equity in recent years.

The presence of female MPs followed the granting of equal political rights in 2005.

Women voted for the first time in 2006 — albeit in segregated polling booths — in a by-election where they made up 60% of eligible voters.

Kuwaiti women enjoy more freedoms than in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, where there is strict gender segregation and women are not allowed to drive cars.

Women activists welcomed the passport ruling but say they still need equal access to government housing and the right to pass citizenship to their children.

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

Sharia Slowly Advancing in Najaf and Basra, For Non-Muslims Too

Alcohol sales and other activities contrary to Islam are banned in these cities. Mgr Sako, bishop of Kirkuk, says Iraq’s constitution is ambiguous because it respects religious freedom whilst banning laws contrary to the principles of Islam.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) —For the past ten days, no one has been able to drink or buy alcoholic beverages in Najaf because of a bylaw adopted by local authorities. The decision comes as the latest in a series, suggesting that Sharia is being slowly implemented in Iraq, and that it also applies to non-Muslims.

Najaf is considered a holy city for Shia Muslims because the first Shia imam and fourth caliph, Ali ibn Abi Talib, is buried there. Because of the city’s special nature as a Shia holy city, the provincial council ruled unanimously that “drinking, selling or transporting alcohol of any kind in whatever quantity” was inappropriate since such activities are incompatible with Islam. Violators, even if they belong to another religion, face the possibility of being sued before a court. The ruling applies to the city of Najaf and its province and includes a ban on advertising.

It is a decision “against democracy, civil liberties and human rights,” said Mgr Louis Sako, Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk. “It will just encourage trade in bootleg alcohol because people will continue to drink, but in secret.”

More importantly, the new rule is a sign that Islamic law is creeping into some Iraqi cities, Mgr Sako warns.

Last August for example, the Basra Provincial Council, which rules over Iraq’s second largest city, banned the sale of alcoholic beverages following a request by Shia parties, which dominate this southern region.

Ahmad al Sulaiti, deputy governor of the province and a religious leader elected with the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (previously known as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq or SCIRI), motivated the ban on alcoholic beverages on the ground that Iraq’s constitution “bans everything that violates the principles of Islam.”

The problem lies with constitution itself. When the new charter was adopted, religious minorities, especially Christians, had pointed out its ambiguities.

“It guarantees respect for religious freedoms, but at the same time in Article 6 establishes that no law can be adopted that is contrary to the Muslim religion,” Mgr Sako said. “It was clear from the start that this would create serious problems for minorities.”

For historical reasons, the sale of alcoholic beverages is in the hands of the Christian community and represents an important source of income for Christians. However, terrorism and attacks by Muslim fundamentalists against stores selling alcoholic products have forced many businesses to close. Now, many of those who still sell such products expect the new bylaw to hit their already half-empty pockets even harder.

According to Mgr Sako, Iraq needs leaders who are “more realistic, open and truly willing to help people mature.” The constitution, for example, “does not envisage in any concrete way how to guarantee equality between men and women, regulate polygamy or the right to convert, something which is banned by Islam but which pertains to the realm of freedom of conscience.”

For the prelate, there is a risk that “Iraq will fall back a few centuries, when Sharia was imposed on the entire population.”

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

Turkey to Become Italy’s Most Favored Investment Destination

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, OCTOBER 20 — Turkey will attract the largest share of Italy’s foreign investment, Antonio Paoletti, the vice president of Italian Chambers of Commerce and the president of the Trieste Chamber of Commerce, said yesterday, adding that they have been working to improve cooperation between the companies of the two countries. Speaking at a press conference in Istanbul, as Today’s Zaman reports, Paoletti noted that they have been working to improve bilateral economic relations between Turkey and Italy for about six years. About 800 entrepreneurs from Trieste and its neighboring cities have visited Turkey over the past three years, while 640 Turkish entrepreneurs went to Italy in the same period, Paoletti said. The Italian Chambers of Commerce as a whole along with a number of Italian businessmen is in Turkey to have talks and discuss opportunities for cooperation with Turkish firms, all in a bid to further improve economic ties between the two countries’ companies, he said. “Despite the global financial crisis, the companies of the two countries can enjoy growth if they act in cooperation,” Paoletti said, adding that there are lucrative opportunities in the fields of transportation/logistics, the wood industry and the machinery and construction sub-industries. Paoletti stated that their primary aim is to shift production units to either Turkey or Italy but that they also plan to expand into other countries by making mutual investments with Turkish firms. He pointed out that Italy currently has an important number of companies operating in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, this in addition to Turkey, but it is unlikely to invest in countries such as China or India because they are located at too great a distance and Italy mostly has small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The SMEs’ size prevents them from expanding into distant markets. For this reason, Paoletti noted, Turkey will get the largest amount of Italian foreign investment. The number of Italian SMEs currently in Turkey is around 800, he said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey-Italy: Istanbul; Clock Tower on Time for 2010

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, OCTOBER 19 — After nearly a year since restoration work began, Dolmabahce Palace has lit up its newly renovated clock tower, daily Hurriyet reports. The works were carried out in cooperation with the Italian Association for Restoration, Assorestauro, the Italian Trade Organization and the Turkish Directorate for National Palaces. “Istanbul’s selection as Capital of Culture has given us the perfect opportunity to work together, bringing the latest technology and best practices from Italy to Turkey’s mosques and palaces”, Italian Trade Commissioner, Roberto Luongo, said at the opening ceremony. During the initial stages of the project, Turkish staff members were trained in the methods and materials used by Italian firms. The latest technology, including photogrammetry and 3D laser-scanning systems, were implemented in the project and the lighting designs were overhauled. A representative of Assorestauro pointed out that “the lamps illuminating the tower were placed strategically in order to highlight the eclectic motifs on the tower”. Turkish Parliament deputy Nevzat Pakdil, Italian Ambassador Carlo Marsili and Italian Trade Center President, Ambassador Umberto Vattani, cut the ribbon after giving speeches. The tower was commissioned by Sultan Abdulhamit II, built by the Armenian court architect, Sarkis Balyan, in 1895 and stands today as a monument to Ottoman modernization efforts. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey Worsened Press Freedom Record

Turkey fell back 20 places in this year’s RSF Worldwide Press Freedom Index. The country shares rank 122 together with the Philippines. The front-runners for press freedom are Denmark, Finland and Ireland. Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea bring up the rear of the index.

The International Reporters Without Borders (RSF) organization published its annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index on Monday. Turkey fell back 20 places compared to last year and ranks on position 122 among a total of 175 countries.

Turkey is one place ahead of Venezuela and shares its position with the Philippines. In 2008 Turkey shared rank 102 with Armenia, which fell back to position 111 in 2009. Northern Cyprus went up to rank 51, Greek Cyprus became 25th.

Newspaper bans and censorship made Turkey lose ground in the index

According to the report,Turkey’s big fall was due to a surge in cases of censorship, especially censorship of media that represent minorities (above all the Kurds), and efforts by members of government bodies, the armed forces and judicial system to maintain their control over coverage of matters of general interest.

The index reveals that Turkey and Croatia, 2 candidates for EU membership, experienced dramatic falls. Croatia became 78th and fell 33 places, and Turkey fell 20 places to rank 122.

In Croatia, which hopes to join the EU very soon, certain aspects of Serbo-Croatian relations are a source of tension and are off-limits for the media. Journalists who violate the taboo are often the targets of violence. Organised crime groups have also been responsible for physical attacks on journalists.

Political struggles harmed press freedom in Italy and France

For the first time since 2002, the press freedom index’s top 20 is not quite so European. Only 15 of the 20 leading countries are from the Old Continent, compared with 18 in 2008. Eleven of these 15 countries are European Union members. They include the top three, Denmark, Finland and Ireland. Another EU member, Bulgaria, has been falling steadily since it joined in 2007 and is now 68th (against 59th in 2008). This is the lowest ranking of any member of the union.

One of the lowest ranking counties from the European Union is Italy (49th), which got the worst ranking of the EU’s six original founders. Il Cavaliere’s harassment of the media, increased meddling, mafia violence against journalists who expose its activity and a bill that that would drastically curb the media’s ability to publish official phone tap transcripts explain why Italy fell for the second year running.

France (43rd) did not fare much better, falling eight points because of judicial investigations and arrests of journalists and raids on news media, and also because of meddling in the media by politicians, including President Nicolas Sarkozy.

No press freedom under occupation

This is the first time that Israel (internal) is not at the head of the Middle Eastern countries in the press freedom index. The country fell 47 places to 93rd position. Like the United States, Israel has a separate ranking for activities outside its own territory. Israel (extraterritorial) also fell to 150th position. The USA improved 20 places to 20th place and ranks on 108th position for occupied countries likewise.

The region’s most repressive countries, Uzbekistan (160th) and Turkmenistan (173rd), have not evolved significantly and their journalists are still subject to censorship, arbitrary treatment and violence.

Russia (153rd) tumbled 12 places, below Belarus for the first time. The reasons for this fall, three years after Anna Politkovskaya’s murder, include continuing murders of journalists and human rights activists who help to inform the population, and physical attacks on local media representatives. They also include the return with increasing force of censorship and reporting taboos and the complete failure to punish those responsible for the murders.

Assaults in Armenia, censorship in Azerbaijan

Armenia (111th), fell sharply because of several cases of physical violence against journalists and political tension that continued to affect the media and society.

There was no change in Azerbaijan, where the situation continued to be really worrying. This was clear from the Reporters Without Borders monitoring of press coverage during the presidential election campaign in November 2008 and from the National Television and Radio Council’s decision to ban foreign radio stations (BBC, Radio Free Europe and Voice of America) from broadcasting on local frequencies.

Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea bring up the rear of the index. (EÖ/VK).

           — Hat tip: Henrik[Return to headlines]


Hank Paulson Held a Secret Meeting With Goldman Sachs in Moscow

During that long summer between the collapse of Bear Stearns and the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Hank Paulson held a secret meeting with the board of Goldman Sachs in Moscow.

Andrew Ross Sorkin tells the tale of the meeting in his new book, Too Big To Fail:

When Paulson learned that Goldman’s board would be in Moscow at the same time as him, he had [Treasury chief of staff] Jim Wilkinson organize a meeting with them. Nothing formal, purely social — for old times’ sake.

…He and Treasury had had enough trouble trying to fend off all the Goldman Sachs conspiracy theories constantly being bandied about in Washington and on Wall Street. A private meeting with its board? In Moscow?

For the nearly two years that Paulson had been Treasury secretary he had not met privately with the board of any company, except for briefly dropping by a cocktail party that Larry Fink’s BlackRock was holding for its directors at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi in June.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Chechen “Culture Centres” In Europe, A Mask for Fundamentalism and Dictatorship

Summary executions of Chechen human rights activists or opponents to the Kadyrov regime push Chechen refugees to warn European governments. Chechen president praises Sharia, requires women wear the veil and limits the sale of alcoholic beverages.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — Chechen refugees in Europe are telling Western governments to be wary that the “Chechen Culture Centres” the Chechen government wants to open across the Old Continent are nothing but venues for the regime to stifle Chechen dissent. They warn that these unofficial embassies could also be used to spread propaganda in favour of radical Islam, which the pro-Moscow Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov is already doing at home. All this is being done with the approval of Moscow, which until a few years ago was bent on eradicating every form of political Islam in Chechnya because of its alleged support for al-Qaeda terror.

The first to speak out are Chechen refugees in Denmark who published an appeal to the government and parliament of Denmark about plans by Kadyrov’s bloody regime to open a so-called embassy in the Danish capital.

However, for Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, these centres are intended to “inform” Chechen migrants about the situation in their homeland and help those who want to go home. Chechen refugees disagree.

“Taking into account the daily terror inflicted on both the relatives of the members of the Chechen resistance movement and members of international human rights organisations investigating the murderous activities of Kadyrov’s regime, as well as the recent political assassinations of Chechens in Austria, Turkey, and Dubai, we would have reason to be seriously worried about our own security if Kadyrov’s representatives set foot in Denmark. [. . .] No promises of heavenly pleasures in Kadyrov’s Chechnya or physical threats against us will force us to return to a country where [. . .] people are deprived of their basic democratic rights and freedoms guaranteed under the UN Declaration of Human Rights, signed by Russian leaders, the appeal read.

In addition to Denmark, the pro-Moscow regime in Chechnya plans to open offices in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, and Poland, home to sizable populations of exiled Chechens.

According to Chechnya’s Minister of Information, there are over 100,000 Chechens living in Europe, but the overall number of Chechens living outside of Russia is estimated to be around 209,000.

Experts are alarmed by another aspect of Kadyrov’s initiative. They are concerned that the new “culture centres” could be used as propaganda hubs for the Chechen leader’s own version of Islamic fundamentalism, which he is promoting at home.

Except for the remaining Islamist terror cells that are still operating in the “pacified” Russian Republic, Islam is undergoing a renaissance of sorts as Sharia is imposed on many aspects of daily life.

Since February, for example, alcoholic beverages with more than 15-degree proof can only be sold in the morning between 8 and 10 pm. Women working in public buildings are now required to cover their head. European-style weddings gowns showing cleavage are banned.

What is more, the Chechen president now praises polygamy, justifies honour killings and claims that a return to Islamic principles is a way to counter Wahhabi missionaries.

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

‘Sabotage’ Derails Georgian Train

A goods train has been derailed in a blast in Georgia, which officials said was “sabotage”. No-one was hurt.

A railway spokeswoman said TNT may have been used against the train, which was carrying oil products. The blast broke nearby windows and damaged power lines.

It took place on a line between Senaki and the Black Sea port of Poti, one of two used to transport oil and gas to Europe from the Caspian Sea.

There have been several recent blasts in the area, near breakaway Abkhazia.

Some have been described by Georgian officials as “terrorist acts”, and blamed on separatists from Abkhazia.

There have been tensions in western Georgia since the war between Russia and Georgia in August 2008 over another breakaway region, South Ossetia.

Following the conflict Russia recognised both regions as independent.

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

South Asia

Afghan Women Dread the Return of Taliban Regime and Repression

by Wazhma Frogh

AS an Afghan woman who for many years lived a life deprived of the most basic human rights, I find unbearable the thought of what will happen to the women of my country if it once again falls under the control of the insurgents and militants who now threaten it.

In 2001, when the war in Afghanistan began, the liberation of Afghan women was one of the most important justifications for military intervention. Has the world now changed its mind about Afghan women? Is it ready to let them once again be killed and tortured by militants? Does the world no longer believe in the principles it supported in 2001?

Handing over Afghanistan to those who intend to keep the country centuries behind most of the world — to men who do not view women as human beings — would not only call into doubt the global commitment to human rights, it would also raise questions about the commitment of Western democracies to such rights and to democratic values.

Bearing in mind how fragile the Afghan government is at this moment, it will not take long for the country’s women to come under attack again. The consequences will be worse this time because no matter how limited our success, we have at least managed to act in the forefront of public life in Afghanistan. We have had a taste of what it’s like to have rights.

And it is not us alone. On my way to Kabul’s international airport recently, I noticed a crowd of taxi drivers sitting under a tree at the airport taxi stand. They were mourning the deaths of Italian troops and Afghans in the suicide attack on Sept. 17 near Kabul. As I talked with them, I realized that they were not only saddened by the deaths but frightened by what they might mean.

“Today, after eight years, if the foreign troops leave … we will go back to the same Afghanistan that seemed like a funeral every day,” one of the drivers said. “This time, the loss will be huge, because during the past eight years we have made significant progress in becoming part of the rest of the world, so much so that our enemies despise us for it.”

There has been progress in Afghanistan, as many such people will tell you. But can it be maintained if Washington and its allies shift their focus solely to dismantling al-Qaida while regarding the Taliban as a lesser threat? The answer to that question will be a life-or-death matter for many thousands of women in my country, and men as well.

The fact that it is even being considered makes me wonder: Have people forgotten that it was the Taliban that put the lives of millions of Afghans at risk for the sole purpose of protecting Osama bin Laden — thus making it clear that their loyalty was to him alone? What is to stop this from happening again under Taliban rule?

Afghans understand the need for international assistance, both for the country’s development and for the strengthening of its military. This is especially evident now that the insurgency and the violence are less their own creation than an unwanted gift from the other side of the border with Pakistan.

We see some of NATO’s allies rapidly losing interest in Afghanistan, even though they admit that if the country is left to the insurgents, the consequence will be many more incidents like the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

They are being persuaded by a propaganda war on the part of insurgents who seem to have convinced much of the world that they are winning the war. But in fact the enemy will win only if the international community allows itself to be influenced by this propaganda campaign.

The question to keep in mind for all parties involved is, what motivated them to come to Afghanistan in the first place? The answer: global security and the protection of human rights in Afghanistan. Are these two purposes no longer valid?

Afghans do not want to rely forever on such help. They want to take ownership of the war against terrorism and insurgents. History has proved that we have always fought in defense of our sovereignty, and that is why patriotism is central to this war.

With good training and adequate weaponry, the Afghan army can win the trust of villagers, who will support it in protecting villages from suicide attackers and insurgents. To achieve this goal, the international community should work with the Afghan government as an ally and avoid creating a parallel government competing with that Afghan government.

It would be helpful to hold an international conference in Afghanistan to allow the government and parliament to come up with common solutions for all parties to adhere to. Such international engagement inside Afghanistan would give a sense of ownership to Afghans, offering a change from the international conferences of the past, where Afghans rarely found an opportunity to express their opinions and offer solutions.

At this time of violence and anxiety, it is important for the international community and the United States to reaffirm their commitment to Afghanistan rather than questioning whether it is worth defending an entire people against those who would install another brutally repressive regime under which women cannot be educated or seek to improve their lot, where “justice” is meted out in mass public executions, where repression is the rule — and where new terrorist plots will inevitably be hatched to attack the United States and its allies.

The people of Afghanistan, and most fervently its women, desire a long-term and consistent relationship with the United States and European democracies. We do not want to become another Vietnam. We want to be an example of the success of global commitment to making the world a better and safer place for everyone, from New York to London to Helmand.

The writer, a graduate student at Warwick University in Britain, is the recipient of the US State Department’s 2009 International Women of Courage Award for Afghanistan

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

Jammu and Kashmir: Catholics Call on Government to Protect Their Schools

Church authorities call on the Indian State not to interfere in the internal affairs of Church-run institutions and instead focus on discrimination caused by a tense political situation.

Srinagar (AsiaNews) — The Catholic Church of Jammu and Kashmir has threatened to shut down its schools if the State government does not guarantee security to its teachers and staff in lieu of interfering in the internal affairs of Catholic institutions, said Joseph TK, a liaison officer with the Catholic Church, after the district collector in Baramulla intervened in a dispute between the administration and teachers at the St Joseph Higher Secondary School.

Trouble began when staff members protested accusing the administration of favouring a specific party in a case involving teachers. Church representatives complained about the district collector’s intervention in the school management, demanding the authorities investigate “anti-Christian and anti-religious” reasons behind the staff protest rather than matters internal to the school.

The Church also submitted a memorandum to Omar Abdullah, the chief minister of the state, demanding security for all its employees and institutions.

Mgr Peter Celestine, bishop of the Diocese of Jammu-Srinagar, told AsiaNews that the “political situation is volatile and there is tension all around, even though the Church is not party to politics.”

In Jammu and Kashmir, “Christians are a miniscule minority, a mere 0.0014 per cent” in the overwhelmingly Muslim State.

Despite this, the Church runs a number of welfare and educational organisations. Its schools have about 7,000 students, mostly Muslims.

“Muslim boys can dress according to Islamic principles and wear skull caps; girls can wear the purdah,” the bishop of Jammu-Srinagar said.

“Occasionally, there are attacks on our institutions and also personnel on the basis of fabricated news; however, there is no suspicion from the authorities,” he added. “The authorities are respectful of the Christian missionaries and we are never under any threat from the administration.” In addition, “we share a cordial relationship with Muslim religious leaders. “.

Still the prelate said that he would like to see the State do more to protect minorities, especially Christians, against discrimination.

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

Pakistan: Schools and Colleges Shut After Islamabad Blasts

Islamabad, 21 October (AKI) — Schools and colleges across Pakistan stayed closed after suicide bombers attacked an Islamic university in the capital, Islamabad, killing up to seven people including three female students and wounded dozens. The schools will remain closed until further notice, Pakistani daily Dawn reported.

The government decided to close educational institutions at all four of Pakistan’s provinces after Tuesday’s simultaneous blasts at the International Islamic University campus in Islamabad and in view of reports that terrorists could attack schools and colleges, hijack student buses and take hostages.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed the Islamabad attack and said there would be more violence unless the army ended its offensive in the South Waziristan tribal area bordering Afghanistan.

The Islamabad terror assault was the first attack since the army began it offensive against militants there last week. Troops and militants were reportedly locked in fierce clashes in areas of of South Waziristan controlled by the powerful Mehsud tribe.

Unnamed sources were quoted as telling Dawn that said that militants had repulsed an attack in area around Kotkai — Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud’s hometown.

Kotkai is also the alleged base for Qari Hussain Mehsud, once known as the mentor of the Pakistan Taliban’s suicide squad.

The army said 12 Taliban fighters had been killed since late on Monday and four security personnel had lost their lives.

Pakistan’s Geo News quoted unnamed sources as saying security forces were on Wednesday continuing to shell suspected militant hideouts in Ladha, Makeen and other adjacent areas of Southern Waziristan.

Geo News cited the sources as saying six foreign militants had been killed in the areas of Sararogha, and seven local extremists had died in Makeen and Ladha.

Pakistani forces have demolished the homes of Hakeemullah Mehsud and suicide attacks mastermind Qari Hussain Mehsud in Kotkai area of Southern Waziristan, Geo News reported.

Pakistani authorities claimed on Tuesday around 100 suspected Taliban militants have been killed in the military offensive. The death toll is impossible to confirm independently as the battle zone is sealed off and all communication lines were reported to be down.

Pakistan’s interior minister, Rehman Malik, said on Tuesday the deadly Islamabad university blasts had been a “security lapse”. Islamic extremists have now broadened their assault on female education in Pakistan to Islamabad’s International Islamic University, Malik said.

The militants had previously concentrated on attacking girl schools in the troubled northwestern Swat area, Malik noted.

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

West Java: The Construction of the Catholic Church of Saint Mary Blocked

Two years ago the go ahead was granted by local authorities, who have now stopped the project over alleged “irregularities”. The Christian community speaks of an excuse and leaves the matter in the hands of a lawyer. “It may take up to 10 years to get permission to build a church in Indonesia, only to have it retracted under pressure from Islamic movements”.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — The Catholic Church of Saint Mary in the district of Purwakarta, West Java province, will not be built, the authorities have revoked the building permits issued two years ago. It is a massive disappointment to the faithful, who had supervised the preparation of all documents and had obtained all necessary permits. Local officials argue that there have been some “irregularities”, in the process that led to the issuance of the go ahead. According to the Christians these irregularities are a pretext to block the project.

The process for building a church in Indonesia — Catholic or Protestant — is quite complicated and may take five to ten years to obtain all permits required by law. The procedure is governed by the Izin Mendirikan Bangunan (IMB), a species of written protocol that allows for construction to commence and is issued by local authorities.

The story gets more complicated if it is a place of Christian worship: permission must be obtained from a number of residents in the area where the building is to be constructed and the local Group for Interfaith Dialogue. And even if the permission is granted “unspecified reasons” can come into play that will lead officials to block the projects. Often, this occurs after pressure from the Muslim community or radical Islamic movements in the name of religious fanaticism.

Yesterday, the Indonesian newspaper Tempo reported on an order issued by Dedi Mulyadi, head of Purwakarta district, who officially revoked the permit — issued two years earlier — to build the church of Saint Mary in the village of Cinangka in sub-district Bungur of Sari. Jaenal Arifin, a local official, explained that the letter is dated 16 October and that there were some “irregularities” discovered in the granting of the IMB. The investigation into the resident’s approval carried out by the Interfaith Dialogue Forum Agency (Fkub) revealed “45 positive opinions” instead of “over 60” as required by law. “So the permit — concludes Arifin — has been withdrawn.” Hadi, an official with the local church of Saint Mary does not want to comment on the story and explains that “everything is in the hands of our lawyer.”

In the past, Indonesia has recorded cases of sudden and mysterious revocation of permits to build Christian places of worship. Among these, a Protestant church, blocked by Nurmahmudi Ismail, former leader of the PKS — a radical Islamic movement — and current mayor of Depok, in the regency of Bogor. In 2004, a Pentecostal church in Tanjun Senen, in the city of Bandar Lampung (capital of Lampung province) was closed by a local protest, raised against the construction of the building. (MH)

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

Far East

Adrift on a Russian Island

A political crisis erupts

By Andrei Lankov

YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK — In 1976-1977, Soviet authorities on Sakhalin Island, located off the east coast of Russia and to the north of Japan, found themselves in the midst of a political crisis involving the local Korean population. The ethnic group then numbered some 30,000, and had always been seen as somewhat suspicious. After all, they were from South Korea — the embodiment of capitalist evils in the Soviet propaganda of the era — and many of them did not take Soviet citizenship until decades after the Soviet Union took ownership of the island in 1945.

The older generation wanted to go home, and made no secret of the fact. However, for a while it was not possible as the the Soviet Union had no diplomatic relations with South Korea and even Japan would not accept Sakhalin Koreans. It was Japan that had first sent (or rather lured) many of the Koreans to work on the island in mines and fisheries owned by Japanese authorities and companies during the late 1930s and early 1940s.

By 1974, the Japanese government, assuming that many of the Korean’s would eventually go on to South Korea, said it would accept Sakhalin Koreans who wished to move to Japan. Somewhat surprisingly, the Soviet government accepted the proposal and government agencies in Sakhalin began to collect applications from those who wished to go.

As one former official told this author, the Soviet authorities initially believed the number of applicants would be small, since by that time the younger generation of Sakhalin Koreans was doing quite well in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). However, these estimations were proven wrong, and Soviet officials were wrong when they assumed that the younger generation would not particularly want to leave.

First, the authorities underestimated the lure of the developed world which, as most Soviet people knew, lay outside the closed borders of the USSR. Second, they did not take into account the patriarchal nature of traditional Korean families. The father (or grandfather) knew best, and the older generation would stop at nothing to go back home.

The number of applications began to climb, creating the potential for a major political embarrassment. A likely large-scale exodus of people from the USSR to South Korea would seriously damage the image of the USSR — as well as create additional troubles in already tense relations with North Korea. So, the policy was suddenly reversed, and in late 1976 the Soviet authorities stopped accepting applications. They made it clear that people would be allowed to go only under exceptional circumstances (indeed, such permits were occasionally issued, but the numbers were small).

This led to a minor political uprising. Sakhalin Korean activists began to collect signatures and draft letters of protest. In late 1976, inhabitants of Korsakov, a tiny town in the southernmost part of the Sakhalin Island, witnessed a scene nobody would expect to see in the sleepy and politically docile Soviet countryside — a real anti-government demonstration. A small group of people gathered near the local city hall, equipped with slogans — “Let’s us go! We do not want to live in the USSR!” The police had no trouble in dispersing the group, which essentially consisted of one family, that of To Mang-san.

The authorities did not want the crisis to spread. At the same time, they preferred to avoid responsibility (and bad publicity) by prosecuting the dissenters through normal legal channels. After all, by 1976, Joseph Stalin rule was a thing of the past and — contrary to what many people in the West still believe — politically motivated arrests were relatively rare. In the USSR of the 1970s, less than 1,000 people were in prisons as political criminals — a great difference to the 1.2 million imprisoned at the time of Stalin’s death.

Authorities found a way to teach a cruel lesson without compromising themselves. Unfortunately, some prominent activists of the repatriation movements, including the unlucky participants of the Korsakov demonstration, had North Korean citizenship. Therefore, they were aliens that could be easily deported if they made trouble.

In 1977, five activist families, including that of To Mang-san (some 40 people altogether) were deported to North Korea. It seems that in some cases the law was broken, since a few of the deportees (children of the main troublemakers) had acquired Soviet citizenship. Most deportees made it clear that they had no wish to leave the USSR and go to their country of citizenship, but they were nonetheless escorted by the police to the border railway station and from there transferred to North Korean authorities, to be never seen or heard of again.

There are few doubts that a sorry fate awaited them. In 1977, North Korea was a truly Orwellian state, so Pyongyang authorities would not view well at all North Korean citizens who had publicly expressed the desire to defect to the South. Throughout the last two post-Soviet decades, civil society in Sakhalin as well as the authorities undertook measures to learn about the fate of To Mang-san and other victims, but no reply was ever received from the North Korean side.

The Sakhalin Koreans were aware enough about North Korea, so the deportation of the activists sent waves of terror through the community and immediately silenced the repatriation movement.

These events also coincided with a generational shift within the Korean community. The younger generation had other goals in mind, many did not see South Korea as their lost home, and were quite eager to gain Soviet citizenship. As of 1988, out of some 35,000 Sakhalin Koreans, only 2,621 had no citizenship, and merely 456 remained citizens of North Korea. Their home was on Sakhalin, and this soon came to be felt.

The first generation of Sakhalin Koreans did not boast a good education, even by the meager standards of the era. They came to the island as unskilled laborers. The Soviet takeover did not change their lives that much. The Koreans worked at the fisheries and mines, and sometimes they were also employed as loggers.

None of the first generation spoke fluent Russian in 1945, and few of the adults acquired a good command of the language. For a while, Sakhalin had a fully functional Korean-language cultural sphere. Until 1964, Koreans attended schools where Korean was the only language of tuition. Teachers for those schools were trained on the island, in a two-year college program, in the town of Poronaisk.

A Korean-language newspaper, first called “Korean Worker” but then properly renamed “Lenin-ui kil-lo” (Following Lenin’s Way), was published on the island. In the 1970s, it was issued five times a week and boasted a disproportionately large staff of 30 journalists and editors.

For a while, a Korean Culture House operated in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the island’s capital. A Korean-language theater even briefly existed there. All these were money losing activities, so only the generous support of the state made it possible. As a Korean newspaper’s former chief editor told the present author, “Back then, in the 1970s, we had no trouble with recruiting. We paid good salaries, and the local authorities immediately provided our journalists with good apartments.” Needless to say, apartments were government property and came almost for free. This lavish support was justified — and usually sincerely perceived — as a manifestation of the “Leninist policy in the nationalities’ question”.

Already in the late 1950s, local teachers had began to notice that Korean children were over-represented among the academically successful students, even though their parents could seldom express themselves in Russian. This made Koreans stand out from other local ethnic minorities, whose representatives were quietly believed to be academically unpromising. The trend became even more pronounced in the 1960s and later; the best students on Sakhalin tended to be Korean.

Meanwhile, the economics of the community changed. Many Koreans continued to work in fishing and mining, but others discovered even better — although more difficult — jobs that were compatible with their poor education and peculiar legal situation. They switched to private vegetable farming. As a professor of the local university, himself born on Sakhalin in the 1950s, remarked, “Without Koreans we would not starve, perhaps, but we would have to live on the almost inedible stuff they shipped here from the continent. You cannot imagine the disgusting taste of dried potatoes and dried onions which used to be our staple food before the Korean farms flourished.”

Indeed, since 1960 or so Koreans nearly monopolized the vegetable supply to the Sakhalin markets. No large private plots were allowed under the Soviet system, but Koreans managed to squeeze exceptional harvests from small plots which could be owned privately. Money earned in agriculture was largely invested in children’s education.

Parental pressure, as well as the sincere sympathies of local teachers and school administrators, made the authorities revise their policy on college admission. As a rule in the USSR, foreign citizens were deprived of the right to enter colleges and universities (unless they arrived through a government-sponsored program or were formally recognized as political refugees). Nonetheless, in 1956 an exception was made for Sakhalin Koreans, who were allowed to study in local colleges regardless of their citizenship. Nonetheless, employment remained a problem, since nearly all prestigious white-collar jobs remained closed for “foreigners”.

Korean-language schools became an impediment, since to be admitted to a good college, a student should, first and foremost, speak Russian. Korean was seen as a burden, especially when the chances of returning to the ancestral lands were slim. The Korean-language schools could not possibly prepare the younger generation for academic and career success — and such success became a part of the parents’ dream.

Thus, in 1964 the Korean schools ceased to function. This step is often presented as a part of some official “drive for Russification”, but elder Koreans agree that it was, above all, Koreans themselves who wanted their children to switch to the “normal” Russian-language schools. The decision was approved by the majority, and only the older generation — people who still thought that repatriation would be possible one day — tended to oppose it.

From the 1970s, the Korean community was increasingly dominated by the younger generation — people who spoke Russian fluently (increasingly as their main or sole native language), had a good education, and wanted to have a good life in the country where their parents were once locked against their will.

Nonetheless, it seems that some hint of dissatisfaction remained in the community, making it quite different from the Koreans of Central Asia who, despite the 1937 tragedy — when 172,000 ethnic Koreans were deported from the Russian far east to Central Asia under Stalin’s policy of systematic population transfer — were remarkably loyal to the Soviet system. Another peculiarity was a relatively low level of intermarriage. In 1988, merely 10% of the Koreans were married to a person of different ethnic background.

The policy of perestroika (restructuring), initiated by USSR president Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985, was a mixed blessing for the island, though the Korean community generally benefited much from the changes. The old island economy heavily relied on government subsidies and collapsed almost overnight once these subsidies dried up in the early 1990s.

The factories came to a standstill, with locally produced paper, for example, becoming so expensive that it was cheaper to ship paper from Finland. The population began to drift away from the island. Those who remained had to rely on fishing (largely illegal but this was seldom prosecuted) just to have something to eat. Crime became widespread, and Koreans, being on the average more affluent than members of other ethnic groups, suffered most. Things changed for the better in the late 1990s, when rising oil prices and discoveries of new oil and gas deposits in the seas near the island led to a minor oil boom.

Overall, Koreans benefited from the changes. The government did not matter that much in the new system, and generally speaking, they ceased to be seen as suspicious troublemakers. New career paths, especially in business, opened and were enthusiastically taken. Relations with South Korea boomed, and many Sakhalin Koreans now work in Korean companies (even though these Korean companies are far less active then their Japanese competitors).

The same cultural association that had seen activities restricted or forbidden in the Soviet era, has mushroomed. Daily flights now connect the island with Seoul, and visits to the country of ancestors, long an unattainable dream, have become commonplace — it’s cheaper to go to Seoul than to Moscow, which is over 10,000 kilometers away.

Perhaps, the single-most important change came in the late 1990s, when the dream of the oldest generation came true. Japan and Korea jointly funded the creation of a special apartment complex for elderly Koreans who wished to return to their homeland. These elderly are entitled to normal South Korean social benefits and an old-age pension, which is very moderate by South Korean standards but quite generous by the standards of the Russian countryside.

Those who cannot take care of themselves any more can be placed in a special nursing home. One has to be born before 1945 to be eligible for this program, and now it seems as if a majority of those eligible have applied or are going to apply, so numbers of the returnees might reach some 3,000.

Meanwhile, the next generation of Sakhalin Koreans is staying on the island, though some have moved to other Russian cities. The presence of Koreans in the local business elite, among educated professionals and administrators (as well as among teachers) is well above their percentage of the total population. As a local teacher told me, “Koreans are our local Jews. Very smart. And unlike Jews, they also used to do a lot of farming.” Not any more: younger Koreans do not farm, so the skilled farming on the island is increasingly taken over by recent migrants from China.

However, the enthusiasm for Korean culture proved short-lived and it had died out by the late 1990s. At a meeting where the problems of the community were discussed, one of the participants said, “It is clear that young people do not want to learn Korean. I see it in my family, and in my friends’ families: if the youngsters want to learn a foreign language, they choose English or Japanese, but never Korean.” Nobody objected, and this is a self-evident truth now.

This year, the Korean department at the Sakhalin State University could not even recruit enough students to fill the quota of the state-paid (essentially free) admission, and a private college on the island which used to have a Korean section did not admit anyone. Sakhalin Koreans have not avoided the fate of many successful ethnic minorities — the price to be paid for success is assimilation. Nonetheless, we can be sure that they will remain a distinct community for another generation or two. And, they have already played a remarkable role in the history of the region.

Andrei Lankov is an associate professor at Kookmin University in Seoul, and adjunct research fellow at the Research School of Pacifica and Asian Studies, Australian National University. He graduated from Leningrad State University with a PhD in Far Eastern history and China, with emphasis on Korea. He has published books and articles on Korea and North Asia.

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

Vietnam: in 2008, 30 Thousand Montagnards Became Catholics

The figure emerged during the celebration of World Mission Day. In Vietnam, this year, the celebration is intertwined with preparations for the Jubilee of 350 years of the Church in the country and 60th anniversary of the institution of the Episcopal Conference. And the Redemptorists mark 40 years of their mission in the highlands.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) — Last year 30 thousand Vietnamese from the Central Highlands (Montagnards) were baptized and 20 thousand others are preparing to become Catholics. The data was emphasized by the Bishop of Kontum, Michael Hoang Duc Oanh, at the World Mission Day. “It is the work of the Holy Spirit — he tells AsiaNews — with the sincere participation and contribution of so many people”.

Since 1926, Pope Pius XI urged all churches to encourage missionary activity. Benedict XVI, in his message for the Day, reiterated that mission is the fundamental task of the Church. “I remind all Churches, old and young, that God called them to be the ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘light of the world’. I urge them to proclaim the Good News of Jesus to everyone everywhere in the world. You must consider the mission to non-Catholics as the primary pastoral commitment”.

This has a particular value now in Vietnam, where the Church is preparing to celebrate its Jubilee for over 350 years of mission (1659-2009) and the 50th anniversary (1960-2010) of the creation of the Conference of Bishops. Recently, at the second annual meeting of bishops in the diocese of Xuan Loc, in a pastoral letter the bishops wrote that “the Jubilee of 2010 is an opportunity to render all Vietnamese participants in the joy of faith. To achieve this, we need the faith and cooperation of all members of the Church”.

In this period the Redemptorists are also celebrating 40 years of their mission in the highlands. They have been present there since 1969. A celebration was held last Sunday at the missionary Centre of the Diocese of Kontum Pleikly. 5 thousand of faithful were present drawn from five missionaries centres, mostly ethnic J’rai and Banari (see photo). The mass was celebrated by Bishop Michael Hoang Duc Oanh, partly in Vietnamese and partly in the J’rai language.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Guinea Junta Faces EU Sanctions

Guinea’s military junta is facing the prospect of an arms embargo imposed by the European Union, reports say.

EU member states are believed to have voted on the decision on Wednesday, although it still has to be formalised.

Sources told the BBC there had been a “consensus” between voting members that the action was necessary.

The move comes after 150 unarmed opposition supporters were killed by soldiers in the capital, Conakry. A UN investigation has already begun.

During the unrest Guinean troops opened fire on opposition protesters angry that the country’s military leader, Capt Moussa Dadis Camara, intends to run for president early next year.

It was claimed women were stripped and raped in the streets during the protest.

‘Travel ban’

The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) has already imposed an arms embargo on Guinea over the killings.

France also quickly suspended military ties with Conakry.

Now EU sanctions and arms embargo could come as early as next week, reports the BBC’s Chris Mason, in Brussels.

Leaders also face a travel ban and a freeze on financial assets once the sanctions are signed by foreign ministers.

According to draft conclusions, the EU decided to target members of Guinea’s junta and their associates, “responsible for the violent crackdown or the political stalemate in the country,” the AFP news agency reported.

Last week, the EU’s development chief Karel de Gucht said Capt Moussa Dadis Camara should be put on trial for crimes against humanity.

Guinea’s previous government was overthrown in a bloodless coup last December, after the death of former head of state Lansana Conte, who had ruled the country since 1984.

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

Islamists Break Somali Port Truce

Fierce clashes have broken out between two Somali militant Islamist groups near the southern port of Kismayo, breaking a recent ceasefire deal.

An al-Shabab spokesman said his group had fought off an attack from the Hizbul-Islam group, killing some of their fighters.

There has been no independent verification of his claims.

The two groups began fighting over the port at the start of this month, but agreed a truce shortly after.

The militants had ousted government troops from Kismayo last year and agreed to govern the port together.

But al-Shabab named an administration last month which excluded Hizbul-Islam, sparking the fighting.

After a truce for most of this month, al-Shabab spokesman Sheikh Hassan Ya’qup said Hizbul-Islam attacked his fighters in Birta, 60km (37 miles) north of Kismayo.

“We repulsed them — they left some dead bodies behind,” he said.

Analysts said it was the first time Hizbul-Islam had been on the offensive in the dispute.

Their members were reported to have fled Kismayo after at least 12 people were killed in fighting at the start of the month.

The country has been wracked by conflict since 1991, when it last had an effective national government.

Islamist militants and warlords control much of southern Somalia, fighting against government troops.

The government, backed by the UN and African Union, controls only small parts of the capital, Mogadishu.

Some three million people — half the population — need food aid, while hundreds of thousands of people have fled the country.

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


Australia: Asylum Boat Was Scuttled

(Youtube video:

A BOAT carrying 78 asylum-seekers was rescued by the Australian navy only after those on board deliberately sabotaged it, it has been revealed.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd personally took up the case for the boat’s passengers with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, The Australian reports.

As Indonesian officials yesterday expressed irritation at the face-saving deal struck by Dr Yudhoyono and Mr Rudd, Border Protection Command intercepted another boat in Australian waters carrying 24 people.

The boat with 22 passengers and two crew was stopped 10 nautical miles north of Ashmore Reef. The interception was the 34th this year.

The debate over asylum-seekers continued to gather heat yesterday, with the Uniting Church writing to the Prime Minister urging Australia to lead on the issue.

The intervention of the church into the already charged debate came as sources told The Australian those on board the vessel rescued off the coast of Sumatra on Sunday sabotaged the boat.

Sources said the boat had been deliberately disabled, by punching or drilling holes into the hull, effectively forcing the navy to take the passengers on board.

The revelation gives credence to claims by the opposition’s immigration spokeswoman, Sharman Stone, that asylum-seekers were manipulating Australian goodwill to ensure their passage to Australia, a suggestion angrily rejected by a succession of Rudd government ministers.

On Tuesday, SBY announced Indonesia would take the asylum-seekers after Mr Rudd personally raised their plight.

It followed an hour-long meeting between the two leaders at the presidential palace on Tuesday night after Dr Yudhoyono’s inauguration, and was a historic first step in a new Canberra-driven “Indonesia solution” to the boatpeople crisis.

Mr Rudd confirmed Australia and Indonesia would work together to resolve the issue. “That will mean providing additional assistance to our friends in Indonesia to help with the resettlement task,” he said.

“There is nothing remarkable in that.”

While Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal talked up the resolution as a “humanitarian” one based on the poor health of a girl on board the Customs vessel the Oceanic Viking somewhere off Sumatra, there was little urgency in Jakarta or Merak yesterday about receiving the group.

“The news is still extremely unclear,” a senior operations officer in the Indonesian navy’s western fleet said.

“If it was Australia that helped (the asylum-seekers), Australia that answered the distress call, why should they be brought to Indonesia? It’s strange.”

The navy colonel, who asked not to be identified, pointed out that his role in any operation totransport the Sri Lankans to the port at Merak would be a major one. “But so far I have been given no information from headquarters,” he said.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans said he had not been privy to discussions between Mr Rudd and SBY.

“I think it’s just a sign of the broadening regional co-operation with Indonesia, Malaysia and other partners,” Senator Evans said of the deal.

But international law experts said Indonesia was obliged to allow the asylum-seekers to land anyway.

International law expert Don Rothwell of the Australian National University said once it was clear that HMAS Armidale had rescued the 78 Sri Lankans from a vessel in distress in the Sunda Strait, international law permitted them to land at the nearest port.

Senator Evans was also forced to defend Mr Rudd over his use of the term “illegal” migrants in relation to asylum seekers.

“The PM is a very effective communicator,” Senator Evans told the ABC. “He was very keen to send a strong message about our attitude to border security and he did that.”

Senator Evans’s remarks came in the wake of growing criticism of Mr Rudd’s rhetoric on asylum seekers, with the Australian Workers Union, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, and Victorian Labor MP Michael Danby rebuking the Prime Minister for his language.

Yesterday, the Uniting Church president Alistair Macrae added the church’s voice to those concerned about Mr Rudd’s toughened stance.

“While we acknowledge the importance of appropriate national security policies, we do not believe these should adversely affect the fulfilment of our international obligations to people in genuine need of our protection from persecution,” he said.

“As a stable and wealthy country in the region, Australia has a responsibility to lead by example in providing protection to refugees.”

Senator Evans also lashed out at suggestions by Dr Stone that the rescue on Sunday represented a new tactic by people-smugglers.

“I think the opposition was suggesting yesterday somehow that we shouldn’t respond to these crises,” he said. “I think that’s just reprehensible.”

Yesterday, a spokesman for Mr Rudd denied the Indonesians had been offered any inducements to take the 78 asylum-seekers, who according to Senator Evans were expected to arrive in Merak today.

But yesterday a crisis meeting between Indonesian immigration, foreign ministry and navy officials failed to resolve the impasse, with Foreign Ministry official Andri Hadi emerging to admit he had “no idea” where the Oceanic Viking was.

Mr Hadi was unable to confirm when the Customs boat was expected to arrive, then refused to answer questions about the medical needs of the child previously cited as the key reason for the humanitarian imperative behind the decision. He said Indonesia was taking the 78 Sri Lankans simply because “their boat is unseaworthy”.

He did concede, however, that the Oceanic Viking was thought to be somewhere in Indonesian waters.

Yesterday, Mr Djalal claimed news reports of the issue being a “standoff” between Australia and Indonesia were “definitely not the case”, but on the ground in Merak it was clear the President had not ordered his bureaucrats to make great haste — regardless of the alleged condition of the young girl involved.

On the dock itself, an immigration official named Arifin expressed disgust at the thought of having to admit yet another round of asylum-seekers into the already overloaded Indonesian system.

“We don’t even know what kind of people these are,” the official said. “You have to squeeze them out one by one to find out.”

Naval officers at Merak’s commercial port also said they had been given orders not to allow any foreign ships to dock.

Nonetheless, the 30m wooden cargo ship housing a separate group of 255 Sri Lankans apprehended 10 days ago remained tied up at the wharf, with its occupants still refusing to get off.

They were waiting to have their situation assessed by immigration officials so that staff from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees could take over and process their refugee claims. A UNHCR spokesman said it had not yet been requested to act.

While the President’s inner circle had been expected to be revealed yesterday, just 24 hours after the President and new Vice-President Boediono were sworn in for their five-year terms, advisers said the cabinet’s make-up would remain a matter of speculation until at least Friday.

The wheels of Indonesia’s bureaucracy, slow to move at the best of times, appeared to have ground almost to a halt.

           — Hat tip: The Observer[Return to headlines]

Britain’s Population to Hit 70 Million by 2029

The population of Britain is set to increase at its fastest rate in at least a century, driven by an immigrant ‘baby boom’.

Britain will be Europe’s biggest country by 2060 with 77m people

Every year 425,000 more people will be living here, the equivalent of a city the size of Bristol.

Immigrant numbers have fallen only 10,000 from the last ONS projections two years ago.

They predict 180,000 new arrivals every year over the next quarter century.

When the immigrant ‘baby boom’ is taken into account, migration will account for two thirds of population growth.

It took 50 years for the population to increase from 40 to 50 million between 1898 and 1948.

Statisticians are now going back through their records to see if the rate of increase is the fastest since records began.

The small fall in immigration means the population will hit the 70 million mark one year later than previously thought.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said earlier this year that he “did not lie awake at night” worrying about the population hitting 70 million.

Guy Goodwin, ONS director of population statistics, said the vast bulk of the population increase would be in England.

Across Britain the total will hit 71.6 million in 2033 from just over 61 million now. Of those 60.7 million will be living in England.

Mr Goodwin said: “If the projection is realised, England will have the population of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland combined.”

Northern Ireland’s population is set to rise to 2 million from 1.8 million now.

Wales will see a 10 per cent increase in its population, from three to 3.3 million.

Scotland’s will go up to 5.5 million from 5.2 now, a smaller increase in part due to lower life expectancy among Scots.

Shadow immigration minister Damian Green said: “This shows how irresponsible Alan Johnson was when he said in July that he did not lie awake at night worrying about a population of 70 million.

“The failure of Labour to control immigration has left us in this difficult position.

“A Conservative Government would introduce a limit on the numbers allowed to come here to work, as well as other measures to fight illegal immigration.”

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas pointed to the slight slowdown in immigration as evidence the Government’s points-based system was starting to bite.

“Today’s projections show that population growth is starting to slow down, the impacts of the radical reforms we have made to the immigration system over the last two years are working,” he said.

“Last year saw a 44 per cent fall in net migration and we expect that fall to be sustained and reflected in future projections.

“Our new flexible points based system is giving us greater control on those coming to work or study from outside Europe, ensuring that only those that Britain needs can come.”

Britain has seen high population growth of the levels predicted in the past but only for short periods of time during the baby boom of the 1950s and 1960s.

Sustained growth of the level predicted has not been seen in at least a century.

Mr Goodwin said: “That reflects really the speeding-up of the population growth as time has gone on in recent years.”

Longer-term predictions, which the ONS emphasised are inherently more difficult to get right, put the population at 85.7 million in 2083.

Campaigners for sustainable development said the figures were a “wake-up call” and warned of the impact on demand for public services.

Peter Madden, chief executive of Forum for the Future, said: “Population growth will put greater pressure on our public services and increase competition for housing.

“Protecting our environment and meeting climate change targets will become even harder. And unless it is handled properly, social cohesion will suffer,” he said.

“These projections are a wake-up call for politicians. They must start planning now to manage population growth in a way which benefits people and the environment and which respects our obligations to the international community.”

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of think tank MigrationwatchUK, said: “The Government is in denial about the impact of immigration on our population growth.

“Seventy per cent of the fastest growth rate in history is due to immigration.

“That is equivalent to the entire population of London in the next 25 years.

“Government measures are just scratching at the surface. Really serious measures are needed, and soon.”

Ukip leader Nigel Farage said: “The ONS’s figures are a damning indictment of decades of failed immigration policies.

“The suggested rises will have a devastating impact both on our infrastructure, and also our culture.

“Britain urgently needs proper borders and immigration checks, both from within and without the EU.

“Until we control our own borders, we will be able to do nothing to halt these rises.

“Any party claiming that they can control immigration without first taking back control of our borders is trying to hoodwink the electorate.”

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Italy: Imam’s Marriage to a Catholic Rattles Muslim Hardliners

Turin, 20 October (AKI) — Moroccan imam Abdellah Mechoune’s imminent marriage to Italian Catholic Sara Campanile in the northern Italian city of Turin has has been welcomed by friends and families but has rattled Muslim hardliners there. The couple got to know each other in a deprived, multi-ethnic area of the city that has seen simmering tensions between the immigrant and Italian communities there.

“Sure, Muslim fundamentalists — I prefer the word ‘ignoramus’ — have difficulty understanding and accepting us, but this doesn’t matter,” said Mechoune, quoted by Turin-based daily La Stampa on Tuesday.

“Catholics have many sound principles, which a devout Muslim can share, and vice-versa. I am Muslim, and Sara is Catholic — we don’t expect each other to give up our faiths.”

Mechoune is due to marry Campanile on Saturday in a civil ceremony. He met the inter-faith activist four years ago at Turin’s International Inter-religious Federation. Mechoune is the former imam of the San Salvario mosque and is now a travelling preacher at various mosques in and around Turin.

“We share many ideas — about peace, aversion to all forms of violence, and the rejection of terrorism,” said Mechoune.

The two 30-year-olds fell in love as they worked together on local parish projects in Turin’s multi-ethnic, high-crime San Salvario neighbourhood. The run-down district for much of the late 1990s became a symbol of Italian urban conflict over immigration.

The couple celebrated their engagement several months ago in Morocco with Mechoune’s family. Mechoune’s mother is due to attend the wedding in Turin, La Stampa reported.

But Mechoune has also been welcomed into Campanile’s family “with so much affection” he said, adding that the couple’s friends have also backed them all the way.

If they have children, the couple will allow them to “freely learn” religious principles, said Mechoune .

“When they are old enough, they can decide for themselves, without us telling them what to think. They’ll be free to determine their own lives,” he said.

By a happy coincidence, Campanile does not like pork or alcohol, items which will not be appearing at meals in the couple’s new home in a village on the outskirts of Turin.

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

More Finnish-Born Kids Speak No Finnish or Swedish

A small but increasing number of Finnish-born children are entering school with no knowledge of either Finnish or Swedish. In Helsinki, for example, around ten first-graders come to class each year speaking only a foreign language.

Schools have “preparatory courses” in place to help immigrant students learn enough Finnish or Swedish to join regular classes. But these were set up for older kids. Until recently, there hasn’t been a need to educate Finnish-born toddlers.

“At home, they speak their own native language and the parents don’t know Finnish. And if the children don’t go to day care, they haven’t really heard Finnish anywhere,” says Sandra Casals, who teaches preparatory classes in Helsinki. “These children have such a poor grasp of Finnish that they can’t enter the mainstream classes.”

Room is being made for these children in prep classes, but some educators say that it would be far easier if the children were exposed to either Finnish or Swedish at a much younger age.

“A seven-year-old is past the age of language-learning sensitivity,” says Helsinki city’s education director Marjo Kyllönen. “Children learn best at around two years of age. This is why it’s important to find ways to expose the child even younger so they can start school in a normal class with others their own age.”

Many educators feel that it should be stressed to immigrant parents how important early socialisation into Finland’s languages and culture is. For this reason, immigrant parents are given the option to enrol their children in day care even if one or both of the parents is at home. Many, however, still prefer to take care of their children at home.

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

UK: Home Office Has Lost Track of 40,000 Rejected Migrants

The Home Office has lost track of tens of thousands of migrants who were refused extensions to their visas more than six years ago, it emerged yesterday.

Officials have no idea whether the immigrants left the country as required or are still in Britain as illegal migrants.

Lin Homer, chief executive of the Border and Immigration Agency, disclosed the latest backlog of immigration cases in a letter to the Commons Home Affairs select committee.

The revelation comes three years after John Reid, then Home Secretary, described the Home Office’s immigration department as “not fit for purpose”. His made his attack over the failure to deport foreign national prisoners after they had served a jail sentence and the backlog of failed ayslum cases.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Immigration to Drive Up Britain’s Population to 70 Million Within 20 Years

Immigration will account for two thirds of population growth in the UK over the next quarter of a century, according to official figures released today.

Around 180,000 immigrants will arrive in this country every year, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) said.

The surge in immigration will mean that in less than 25 years the UK’s population will increase by 10 million to more than 71 million in 2033 — the fastest rise since the post-war baby boom.

Every year 425,000 more people will be living in the UK, the equivalent of a city the size of Bristol.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Italy: RU486: Gasparri, AIFA to Decide After Senate Hearings

(AGI) — Rome, October 19 — Maurizio Gasparri has made assurances that AIFA will not decide on the RU486 before the end of the Senate investigation on the abortion pill. “There won’t be easy abortion at home in Italy”, explained the Senate PDL whip in a statement. “The director general of the Italian Pharmaceutical Agency also specified that no definitive decisions will be published in the Official Gazette until the Senate investigation is made in the time and means necessary”, pointed out Gasparri, “so the AIFA recognized the sovereignty of the government and parliament in verifying that the RU486 is not used in violation of law 194 on interrupting pregnancy”.

As to use, “dispensing the abortion pill in Italy must be only in a hospital setting, on admission, and even AIFA acknowledges this and agrees”, he explained, “anyone, breaking the law, either in a health centre or a hospital, who gives the abortion pill to an out-patient will be immediately reported and face legal proceedings”. Therefore, he concluded, “the investigation which begins again Wednesday in the Senate, is to verify that there will not be abuses in administering the RU486 and that no anti-life initiatives take root in our country”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

U.N. Report Says Counterterrorism Measures ‘Risk Unduly Penalizing Transgender Persons’

A report by U.N. Special Rapporteur Martin Scheinin that is awaiting approval by the United Nations General Assembly says that security measures taken to detect terrorists “risk unduly penalizing transgender persons whose personal appearance and data are subject to change.”

The report, which was issued August 3, places emphasis on “persons of diverse sexual orientation and gender identities” and recommends that counterterrorism operations be more sensitive to gender issues.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


The “Rent Seekers” — Green Corporations

In economics, “rent seeking” is a term that describes the process by which corporations, unions, trade groups, and individuals try to gain unfair advantages through politics and lobbying rather than via competitive trade in the free marketplace.

Going “Green” has proven to be one of the favorite ways by which corporations position themselves to benefit.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Myth of the World Community

From the fluttering blue flag of the U.N. with its stylized symbol of the map of the world enclosed by olive tree branches, to the whole collection of global organizations and imagery right down to posters featuring children from every country holding hands, and the rest of the globalist propaganda— Americans have been imprinted as never before from a very early age with the idea that they are part of a global community, rather than merely one nation. But behind the olive branches and the posters of smiling children, lies a very different truth entirely.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


laine said...

In 21st century academia and in the larger community, it's always the un-fluent Left that shouts down, throws pies/shoes at, bites or otherwise physically threatens its opposition, never the Right.

And the Left invariably describes itself as intellectual while projecting its neanderthal behavior onto the opposition it maims!

Conservatives are fools for letting them get away with this reversal. Start getting the facts out and repeat and repeat until even the dullest leftist gets it. THEY are the biters, the out of control brats.