Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/22/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/22/2009A recent poll in the UK — which is hard to credit — shows that the Labour Party has reclaimed lost ground from the Tories, making the Lib-Dems the power brokers in the elections next spring. How likely is that? British readers are invited to voice their opinions.

In other news, at an international conference of communist parties in New Delhi, the representative of the American party said that there has never been a better time to be a communist in the USA.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Diana West, Esther, Gaia, Insubria, JD, JP, KGS, REP, Sean O’Brian, Steen, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
- - - - - - - - -
Financial Crisis
In Spain: Supermarket for the Needy
The Coming Deficit Disaster
 
USA
American Faces Jail for Pulling Woman’s Headscarf
Black Gang Members Charged With Hate Crimes
Christian Conservatives Pray for God to Kill President Obama
Major Hasan and Holy War
‘No Better Time to be a Communist in US’
Obama, The Nobel Prize and the IRS
Palin’s Pastor Meets the Press
Parade Bars Mrs. Claus
Troubled Young Latinas in Therapy Embrace Ancient Mexican Wisdom
Ultimatum: Investigate ACORN or More Videos Coming
 
Canada
Smiling on Facebook Costs Depressed Woman Her Insurance
 
Europe and the EU
Brzezniski: East Europeans Should Stop Behaving Like Children
Czech Senate Bans Appearance by Controversial Dutch Politician Geert Wilders
Daniel Hannan: EU is ‘In a Democratic Mess’
Dutch Trouble Makers Whipped as Punishment
Finland Mulls Plea System to Unburden Courts
Gitmo Prisoner Slahi Tells Brother He Wants to Return to Germany
Italy: Transsexual Prostitutes ‘Afraid’ After Death
Police Confirm Car Bomb Attack in N. Ireland
Sister of UN ‘Suicide’ Scientist Who Died in Mysterious Fall Rescues Potential Evidence From Destruction
Spain: Inquiry Into Foundation Behind Pope’s Visit
Swiss Visas for Libyans Down to a Trickle
Switzerland: Minaret Challengers Gain Ground Ahead of Ballot
UK: Britain’s New Internet Law — As Bad as Everyone’s Been Saying, And Worse. Much, Much Worse.
UK: Envoys Called Back to Calm Muslim Hotspots
UK: Teacher ‘Suspended Over 9/11 Creative Writing Task’
UK: We’ll Give the Tories a Majority, Says Clegg: Lib Dem Leader Pledges to Avert Election Deadlock
Video: New EU President Confirms New World Order Desire
Video: Jihad Milkshake
 
North Africa
Agriculture: Tunisia, Date Harvest Increase Predicted
Alaoui: Morocco Has Turned the Page, Audience Says No
Algeria Acquits Two Former Guantanamo Bay Detainees
Books: Story of Italians in Morocco
Muslim Violence Ongoing in Egypt — Christians Plead for Help
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Barak: We Must Crush IDF Refusal With an Iron Fist
Frolicking in the Quicksand: How the Obama Administration Keeps Making Huge Mistakes in the Middle East
Ultra-Orthodox Pressure Stalling Mosque, Church at Ben-Gurion Airport
 
Middle East
Confront Deviant Ideologies, Says Saudi Arabian King
Iran Cleric: We’ll Hit ‘Heart of Tel Aviv’ If Attacked
Iran War Games to Defend Nuclear Sites
Iraq Report: Secret Papers Reveal Blunders and Concealment
Muslim Countries Seek Blasphemy Ban
NATO: Italy Launches Demining Project in Jordan
Sarkozy Outshines Obama as King of Mideast Mediation
Sleiman Seeks Abolition of Religion in Lebanese Politics
Turkey to Buy 6 Subs at Reduced Price From Germany
Turkish Figures Rank High on List of World’s Most Influential Muslims
U.S. Fears Iraq Development Projects May Go to Waste
UAE: 500 Mln Euros to Strengthen Air Force
Why Won’t the Arabs Protect Themselves From Iran by Actively Battling Against Tehran Having Nuclear Weapons?
 
South Asia
“Wall Street Would Gain From Pakistan Violence”
British Council: Pakistan Facing ‘Frightening’ Demographic Disaster
Hindu Nationalist BJP Against Equal Rights for Christian and Muslim Dalits
India: Wahabism Linked With Terrorism; Saudi Envoy Stages Walkout
Malaysia Opposition Aide Teoh Beng Hock’s Body Exhumed
Report Warns of Pakistan’s Younger Generation Losing Faith in Democracy
Taliban Suffocate Pakistan Buddhist Heritage
US Helps Build Anti-Taliban Afghan Militias: Report
 
Far East
EU: Herman Van Rompuy and Baroness Ashton: The EU’s Perfect Couple of Nobodies
Japan’s Native Ainu Fight for Cultural Survival
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Somali Militants Al-Shabab ‘Seize Southern Town’
 
Latin America
Chavez Praises Carlos the Jackal as ‘Revolutionary Fighter’
It’s Called Darkest Peru for a Reason
 
Immigration
UK: Citizenship Language Scam Exposed

Financial Crisis

In Spain: Supermarket for the Needy

(by Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 20 — It has already been branded as “el super de los necesitados”, the supermarket for the needy. It is the first of its kind to open in Spain in Girona (Catalonia). An initiative headed by Caritas, the Red Cross, and the Girona Food Bank, the market will help the families that have been hit hardest by the economic crisis. At first glance it is similar to a department store: frozen food products in the freezers, perishables and vegetables in the refrigerators, products on the shelves, and shopping carts. Obviously, there is not a very wide selection since only basic necessities are offered: rice, pasta, milk, sugar, flour, oil, legumes, eggs, etc. All products will be free or will be sold for a nominal fee. Access, according to reports today in the Catalonian press, is limited only to the needy, unemployed, or families with no source of income due to the economic crisis whose difficult situation has been certified by the municipality’s social services department and by assistance groups such as Caritas or the Red Cross. Rising unemployment in the past year, which in Spain is over the 18-percent mark and will hit 19.3% next year according to OECD estimates, has created an new army of poor people that not even charitable organisations are able to handle. There are increasing numbers of families that are not able to pay their bills or risk losing their homes because they are not able to make their mortgage payments. This is why in Girona, Caritas and the Red Cross decided with the Municipality to join forces in a pilot project that will attempt to deal with this new dramatic social situation. The supermarket of the new poor will be able to supply food to about 5,000 families per year, 3,000 more than those who have turned to food distribution centres that Caritas has opened in various points in the city. Many do not go to these centres out of shame, hence the opening of a supermarket, which would provide a dignified alternative, explained Caritas. The profile of the new poor includes people between the ages of 25 and 40, the majority of which are families supporting two children, with at least one disabled family member, and who are not able to cover their food and housing expenses. Many live in makeshift homes, sheds, on the street, or in crisis centres, observed Pilar Cano of the Red Cross, which has the task of directing needy families to food centres. Food aid could be sporadic or be extended continuously for a maximum of three months, which could be lengthened further only in special circumstances in order to not create a situation of dependency on social services. The homeless will have the right to products free of charge, while those with greater resources will pay partially. The government will partially fund the centres and the other part will be paid for by those making use of them until their economic situation improves. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


The Coming Deficit Disaster

The president says he understands the urgency of our fiscal crisis, but his policies are the equivalent of steering the economy toward an iceberg.

President Barack Obama took office promising to lead from the center and solve big problems. He has exerted enormous political energy attempting to reform the nation’s health-care system. But the biggest economic problem facing the nation is not health care. It’s the deficit. Recently, the White House signaled that it will get serious about reducing the deficit next year—after it locks into place massive new health-care entitlements. This is a recipe for disaster, as it will create a new appetite for increased spending and yet another powerful interest group to oppose deficit-reduction measures.

Our fiscal situation has deteriorated rapidly in just the past few years. The federal government ran a 2009 deficit of $1.4 trillion—the highest since World War II—as spending reached nearly 25% of GDP and total revenues fell below 15% of GDP. Shortfalls like these have not been seen in more than 50 years.

Going forward, there is no relief in sight, as spending far outpaces revenues and the federal budget is projected to be in enormous deficit every year. Our national debt is projected to stand at $17.1 trillion 10 years from now, or over $50,000 per American. By 2019, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) analysis of the president’s budget, the budget deficit will still be roughly $1 trillion, even though the economic situation will have improved and revenues will be above historical norms.

The planned deficits will have destructive consequences for both fairness and economic growth. They will force upon our children and grandchildren the bill for our overconsumption. Federal deficits will crowd out domestic investment in physical capital, human capital, and technologies that increase potential GDP and the standard of living. Financing deficits could crowd out exports and harm our international competitiveness, as we can already see happening with the large borrowing we are doing from competitors like China.

At what point, some financial analysts ask, do rating agencies downgrade the United States? When do lenders price additional risk to federal borrowing, leading to a damaging spike in interest rates? How quickly will international investors flee the dollar for a new reserve currency? And how will the resulting higher interest rates, diminished dollar, higher inflation, and economic distress manifest itself? Given the president’s recent reception in China—friendly but fruitless—these answers may come sooner than any of us would like.

           — Hat tip: REP[Return to headlines]

USA

American Faces Jail for Pulling Woman’s Headscarf

An American woman has been charged with a hate crime after she verbally attacked and tugged at the hijab, or headscarf, of a Muslim woman following the Fort Hood murders, press reports said.

Two days after the Fort Hood shooting, Valerie Kenney approached U.S.-born Amal Abusumayah at a grocery store and shouted, “the guy that did the Texas shooting, he wasn’t American, and he was from the Middle East,”referring to Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, a U.S. citizen born in Virginia.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Black Gang Members Charged With Hate Crimes

26 incidents of verbal harassment, assault, robbery of white or Latino victims

The Denver Police Department arrested 32 men and juvenile boys after a months-long undercover investigation into what police said were racially motivated assaults and robberies in downtown Denver, including the LoDo entertainment district.

A task force composed of Denver police, the FBI and the Denver district attorney’s office investigated 26 incidents in which groups of black males verbally harassed, assaulted and at times robbed white or Latino males, according to Denver Police Chief Gerry Whitman.

All of the suspects are young black males, most of whom told police they were associated with either the Rollin’ 60s Crips gang or the Black Gangster Disciples gang.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Christian Conservatives Pray for God to Kill President Obama

That’s not very Christian-like, now is it? Nevertheless, a few religious zealots have taken their dislike of U.S. President Barack Obama to a new level — bumper stickers and t-shirts which command viewers to pray for the president’s death. Of course they don’t come right out and print “Pray for our President to die”. Instead, the perpetrators take a far more cowardly approach, utilizing the slogan “Pray for Obama — Psalm 109:8”.

If you take the time to look up Psalm 109:8, you’ll notice right off that it is not a happy and cheerful passage. Psalm 109 is better known as “A Cry for Vengeance”. Psalm 109:8 specifically reads:

“Let his days be few; and let another take his office.”

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Major Hasan and Holy War

A domestic Islamic threat is real, and the FBI is unprepared to fight it.

By REUEL MARC GERECHT

For those of us who have tracked Islamic militancy in Europe, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s actions are not extraordinary. Since Muslim militants first tried to blow a French high-speed train off its rails in 1995, European intelligence and internal-security services have increasingly monitored European Muslim radicals. Whether it’s anti-Muslim bigotry, the large numbers of immigrant and native-born Muslims in Europe, an appreciation of how hard it is to become European, or just an understanding of how dangerous Islamic radicalism is, most Europeans are far less circumspect and politically correct when discussing their Muslim compatriots than are Americans.

A concern for not giving offense to Muslims would never prevent the French internal-security service, the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST), which deploys a large number of Muslim officers, from aggressively trying to pre-empt terrorism. As Maj. Hasan’s case shows, this is not true in the United States. The American military and especially the Federal Bureau of Investigation were in great part inattentive because they were too sensitive.

Moreover, President Barack Obama’s determined effort not to mention Islam in terrorist discussions—which means that we must not suggest that Maj. Hasan’s murderous actions flowed from his faith—will weaken American counterterrorism. Worse, the president’s position is an enormous wasted opportunity to advance an all-critical Muslim debate about the nature and legitimacy of jihad.

European counterterrorist officers know well that jihadists can appear, self-generated or tutored by extremist groups, inside Muslim families where parents and siblings lead peaceful lives. Security officials live in fear of the quiet believer who quickly radicalizes, or the secular down-and-out European who enthusiastically converts to a militant creed. Both cases allow little time and often few leads to neutralize a possible lethal explosion of the faith.

It shouldn’t require the U.S. to have a French-style, internal-security service to neutralize the likes of Maj. Hasan…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


‘No Better Time to be a Communist in US’

NEW DELHI: The three-day international conference of communist and workers’ parties began on Friday amidst a call to intensify popular struggles and expand solidarities in the wake of the current world capitalist crisis.

So confident are communist leaders of the solution they can offer to current crisis in capitalism that even the leader of Communist Party of USA, Scott Marshall, said, “There could not have been a better time to be a communist in USA than this.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Obama, The Nobel Prize and the IRS

The President’s Expected Donation of His Nobel Prize Cash Could Cause Him Tax Headaches

Regifting has a long and honorable history. No doubt even ancient peoples did it, passing on to someone else a gift they didn’t want or need. But the term itself is of recent origin—credited to a 1995 episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s eponymous series.

Since then, regifting has literally come out of the closet. In an poll, 60% of women and 40% of men admitted to having regifted.

Even more respectable is the practice of regifting a cash award to charity. Most recently, President Obama said he’d be donating the $1.4 million Nobel Peace Prize to charity.

That raises the question: What are the tax implications of getting a gift or prize, and what are the tax consequences of regifting it? It turns out that the answers are different for gifts and prizes.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Palin’s Pastor Meets the Press

What would you do if you were the pastor of an ordinary evangelical church and a member of your flock suddenly became the most controversial person on this planet?

That is what happened to the Rev. Larry Kroon of Wasilla Bible Church when Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska became the GOP nominee to be vice president. To say that all heckfire broke loose would be an understatement. Kroon’s church was, quite literally, invaded by reporters from sea to shining sea and from, literally, all corners of the world.

The professionals showed up, of course. That would be the journalists who are experts at covering politics. After the first stage of hurricane Palin, Kroon realized that many or most of the reporters who were camped out on his church lawn had little or no interest in religion, his church or even the role that faith had played in Palin’s life and career. Many didn’t get it and they didn’t want to.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Parade Bars Mrs. Claus

At today’s Raleigh Christmas Parade, Santa Claus will go stag.

Parade organizers gave his wife the boot Friday afternoon, citing worry that children wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between Claus and Mrs. Claus if both were wearing red and white suits.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Troubled Young Latinas in Therapy Embrace Ancient Mexican Wisdom

‘Strength to know they come from people who built great pyramids and civilizations’

Nancy Villagran and her mother weren’t getting along, but that wasn’t the worst of it.

“I was running away from home,” said the petite 14-year-old Mexican-American from Gilroy. “My mother and father weren’t getting along, and I had depression.”

She’s back home now, and the whole family is in therapy, thanks to a special research project that introduces troubled young Latinas to the culture and wisdom of their Mexican ancestors. The thinking behind the approach is that the girls’ personal foundations have been shattered or were weak all along and the best way to build moral strength and pride is by connecting them to the philosophical and spiritual teachings of ancient Mexico.

“This is part of their ethnic identity,” said Rosalva Vargas, a therapist at Rebekah Children’s Services in Gilroy. “It gives them strength to know they come from people who built great pyramids and civilizations.”

According to Vargas, who holds a doctorate in child social development, a lot of mental health programs preach “cultural relevance” but don’t actually use culture in treatment. So she and colleague Randall Ramirez designed a treatment program with hefty doses of Mexican culture.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Ultimatum: Investigate ACORN or More Videos Coming

Undercover filmmakers warn Holder release will be timed to 2010 elections

Andrew Breitbart, whose BigGovernment.com rocked Washington with undercover videos exposing ACORN corruption, has issued U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder an ultimatum: Conduct an investigation into ACORN, or more videos will be released just in time to drop a bombshell on the 2010 elections.

“This message is to Attorney General Holder,” Breitbart said on the Fox News network’s “Hannity” last night. “I want you to know that we have more tapes, it’s not just ACORN, and we’re going to hold out until the next election cycle. … If you get into an investigation, we will give you the tapes; if you don’t give us the tapes, we will revisit these tapes come election time.”

[…]

“There’s a lot of hypocrisy,” Breitbart said. “At the end of the day they’ve recognized that Eric Holder, the Attorney General, has not initiated an investigation into ACORN after we now have seven tapes. … It was Hannah, James, and me who were being investigated, that’s why we’ve been forced to offer this latest tape.”

The “latest” tape Breitbart referred to was yet another undercover sting, this team exposing Lavelle Stewart of ACORN in South Central Los Angeles, who tells Giles and O’Keefe — posing as a prostitute and pimp hoping to establish a quiet, international, underage prostitution ring — that they will have to hook up with “someone who’s on that international sex business level.”

“14 and 15 year olds been traveling overseas for years,” Stewart said before offering to do research and hinting that she has had meetings with porn magnate Larry Flynt.

[Comments from JD: Video at article link]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Canada

Smiling on Facebook Costs Depressed Woman Her Insurance

Agent cites pictures showing her having good time at bar, birthday party, beach

Nathalie Blanchard, 29, has been on leave from her job at IBM in Bromont, Que., for the last year and a half after she was diagnosed with major depression.

The Eastern Townships woman was receiving monthly sick-leave benefits from Manulife, her insurance company, but the payments dried up this fall.

When Blanchard called Manulife, the company said that “I’m available to work, because of Facebook,” she told CBC News this week.

She said her insurance agent described several pictures Blanchard posted on the popular social networking site, including ones showing her having a good time at a Chippendales bar show, at her birthday party and on a sun holiday — evidence that she is no longer depressed, Manulife said.

Blanchard said she notified Manulife that she was taking a trip, and she’s shocked the company would investigate her in such a manner and interpret her photos that way.

“In the moment I’m happy, but before and after I have the same problems” as before, she said.

Blanchard said that on her doctor’s advice, she tried to have fun, including nights out at her local bar with friends and short getaways to sun destinations, as a way to forget her problems.

She also doesn’t understand how Manulife accessed her photos because her Facebook profile is locked and only people she approves can look at what she posts.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Brzezniski: East Europeans Should Stop Behaving Like Children

Washington, Nov 17 (CTK) — East Europeans should stop behave like small children, start to deal with their own problems by themselves and not to go to the United States complaining about Russian aggressiveness, for instance, Zbigniew Brzezinski said in in interview for the public Czech Television (CT) Tuesday.

Brzezinski, former national security adviser to U.S. president Jimmy Carter who is referred to as the “grey eminence” of U.S. politics, gave the interview on the day of the 20th anniversary of the events in Prague that resulted in the fall of the Communist regime.

He said he predicted the disintegration of the Communist system in 1968 already when Soviet troops [together with other Warsaw Pact soldiers] invaded then Czechoslovakia [to crush the Prague Spring reform movement].

Brzezinski said he declared then that this is the start of the final stage of the Communist system because its internal discords were clearly visible and were devastating.

He said Czechoslovakia was definitely not in such a revolutionary mood like Poland or Hungary.

Brzezinski said, however, he visited Czechoslovakia in the spring of 1968 and met many people. The political turmoil was very intensive and when the Soviet troops came, the regime alone had no more forces to fully eliminate all the people.

They lost work, they were discriminated against, they were treated very badly, but they still were there. And when the regime started to disintegrate more, they also started to be more committed, Brzezinski said.

Turning to Czech fears of Russia 20 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, he said there are reasons for embarrassment of the country, of its attempts to resume its influence by means of economic instruments, by gaining control in strategic firms of the energy system, for instance.

But people should not dramatise the problem and they should think of that it is mainly their responsibility to deal with it. They should not expect anyone to solve their problems for them, Brzezinski said.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Czech Senate Bans Appearance by Controversial Dutch Politician Geert Wilders

The Czech Senate on Thursday banned an appearance by the controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders on its premises. Mr Wilders was going to screen his anti-Islamic film, Fitna, and address a conference held by Czech anti-Islamists and Euro-sceptics.

The controversial anti-Islamic movie Fitna by Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom, was due to be shown in the Czech Senate on November 30. Mr Wilders, who will be coming to Prague at the invitation of a Czech anti-Islamist website, eurabia.cz, and Civic Democrat Senator Jirí Oberfalzer, was also going to deliver an address entitled “Free Speech and the Islamization of Europe”. The news immediately sparked a huge controversy, and Senate leaders eventually banned Mr Wilders from appearing on the premises of the upper chamber. Civic Democrat Premysl Sobotka is the Senate’s chair.

Premysl Sobotka “When I found out about the details, and when I learned about what he was going to talk about here in the Senate, I said clearly it was a problem that such a controversial politician should appear in one of the chambers of the Czech Parliament.”

The Senate’s media commission, which originally approved the event, revoked its decision. Meanwhile, the Civic Democratic Party distanced itself from the invite, and so did the heads of both chambers’ foreign committees. I asked one of the organizers, Daniel Kotula, whether he was surprised by the reaction.

“I expected that there would be some voices that would not welcome Wilder’s visit but I did not expect that they would be from the Civic Democrats because they and Mr Wilders have very similar opinions. So I don’t understand. I expected this from some Social Democrats or the Greens for instance, but not from Civic Democrats.”

Senator Jirí Oberfalzer, who is well-known for his opposition to the EU’s Lisbon treaty, and the editors of eurabia.cz are now looking for another venue. They want to draw attention to how the Lisbon treaty will change the immigration policies within the EU. Daniel Kotula again.

Geert Wilders “It’s also related to the Lisbon treaty because it has some paragraphs related to immigration. Now that the Lisbon treaty is ratified, the EU can change immigration flows within the European Union, from example from Italy to central Europe.”

The country’s several-dozen-thousand-strong Muslim community is unfazed by the event, regardless of where Geert Wilders will screen his anti-Islamic movie. Mohammad Abbas is the head of the Muslim Union of the Czech Republic.

“Traditionally, the Muslim community here ignore such provocations. This man is coming to provoke, and I think that if we react to this, it will be exactly what he wants. He wants to show Muslims as people who are not rational. I think the best thing is to ignore him, just like that.”

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]


Daniel Hannan: EU is ‘In a Democratic Mess’

The European Union is an economic, demographic and democratic mess, writes Daniel Hannan.

“It’s all very well to criticise, Hannan, but what would you do if you were in Van Rompuy’s shoes?” So asked a euro-enthusiast friend when I had finished tearing into Thursday night’s stitch-up.

It’s a fair question, and it won’t quite do to answer that I wouldn’t be starting from here. The EU is in an economic mess: its share of world GDP will fall from 26 per cent to 15 per cent in 2025. It is in a demographic mess: 40 years of low birth rates have left it with a choice between depopulation and mass immigration. And it is in a democratic mess, with turnouts plummeting.

So what would I do? Step one is easy: I’d abolish the Common Agricultural Policy, thereby giving a greater boost to Europe’s economies than any number of bail-outs and stimulus packages. Food prices would fall sharply: the average family would save more than £1,000 a year in grocery bills, with the greatest savings being made by those on the lowest incomes. Scrapping the CAP would also be the single greatest gift Europe could give the Third World. It would remove the main barrier to a full WTO agreement. Oh, and it would take a penny off income tax into the bargain.

With the CAP out of the way, it would be easy enough to dismantle the rest of the Common External Tariff. I’d phase out all structural, cohesion and social funds, releasing armies of consultants and contractors to more productive work. Ditto the staffs of dozens of euro-quangos: the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs, the European Food Safety Authority, the European Chemicals Authority, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions and so on.

Now the biggie: deregulation. According to the Commissioner for Enterprise, Gunther Verheugen, the benefits of the single market are worth around 180 billion euros a year, while the cost of complying with Brussels rules is 600 billion euros. In other words, by its own admission, the EU costs more than it’s worth. The solution? Heap the bonfire with pages of the acquits communautaire: the EU’s amassed regulations. Scrap the directives that tell us what hours we can work, what vitamins we can buy, how long we can sit on tractors, how loudly we can play our music. Return power to national governments or, better, to local authorities — or, best of all, to individual citizens.

I would confine the EU’s jurisdiction to matters of a clearly cross-border nature: tariff reduction, environmental pollution, mutual product recognition. The member states would retain control of everything else: agriculture and fisheries, foreign affairs and defence, immigration and criminal justice, and social and employment policy.

The European Commission could then be reduced to a small secretariat, answering to national ministers. The European Court of Justice could be replaced by a tribunal that would arbitrate trade disputes. The European Parliament could be scrapped altogether; instead, seconded national MPs might meet for a few days every month or two to keep an eye on the bureaucracy.

You will, of course, have spotted the flaw in my plan: it would put an awful lot of Eurocrats out of work. Which, sadly, is why it won’t happen. For, whatever the motives of its founders, the EU is now chiefly a racket: a massive mechanism to redistribute money to those lucky enough to be on the inside of the system.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Dutch Trouble Makers Whipped as Punishment

From Dutch: Two boys who threw apples against a window in Wijk en Aalburg were caught by the owner of the house, and with the help of a neighbor he gave them a whippiing. The man admitted he went too far.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Finland Mulls Plea System to Unburden Courts

The Justice Ministry is considering a legal change that would allow criminals to cut down their sentences by literally paying for their crimes — in cash. Officials say such a system could shave time off lengthy trials; but some critics are wary of letting criminals buy lighter sentences.

The glut of cases at Finnish courts has created a backlog, extending the time it takes to get a hearing or trial.

Officials are now looking for innovative ways to unclog courts. The Justice Ministry is examining whether a plea bargain system could offer some relief. Criminals who plead guilty to their crimes could see reduced sentences or fines.

Justice Minister Tuija Brax says white-collar crimes may be ideal for plead-outs.

“Financial crime investigations demand vast resources from police and prosecutors,” says Brax.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Gitmo Prisoner Slahi Tells Brother He Wants to Return to Germany

A Guantanamo Bay prisoner who admitted — under torture — to having organised trips to Afghan training camps for aspiring Jihadists including three of those involved in the 9/11 attacks, says he wants to return to Germany if he is released.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi, 39, who comes from Mauretania but lived and studied in Duisburg and Essen between 1988 and 1999, told his brother, who lives in Düsseldorf, he wanted to come back to Germany.

Der Spiegel reported that the brother, Yahdih Ould Slahi, received an hour-long phone call from Guantanamo Bay, in which Slahi said he would be asking to return to Germany if he was released.

Slahi is seen as one of the most high-profile prisoners held in the notorious prison due to his admission to a string of allegations after being subjected to sleep deprivation, constant noise, sexual humiliation and threats against his mother.

These allegations included recruited Islamists and arranging for 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta to visit a training camp in Afghanistan.

He later retracted all his admissions, writing in a letter that he simply said yes to everything that was put to him, to stop the torture.

Military prosecutor Stuart Couch, who was expected to lead a case against Slahi, dropped the case in 2004 due to what he described as ‘cruel and inhumane’ treatment.

Since then Slahi has been held in Guantanamo Bay prison awaiting some kind of legal process — albeit in a cell kitted out with privileges such as a television and computer.

He is one of up to 70 prisoners currently held in the prison for which the US government has no plan.

He was arrested while in Mauritania where he was working in the IT industry. Slahi told his brother he would like to remain in that industry, but would prefer to work and live in Germany.

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


Italy: Transsexual Prostitutes ‘Afraid’ After Death

Rome, 20 Nov. (AKI) — Rome’s transsexuals feared for their lives after a transsexual prostitute linked to a major political sex scandal was found dead in the Italian capital on Friday, a friend told Italian media. Brenda, the Brazilian transsexual prostitute was found dead after a fire broke out in her northern Rome apartment early Friday.

Transsexuals in the area rejected claims that Brenda committed suicide.

Brenda made headlines after allegedly having more than one sexual encounter with the former governor of the Lazio region Piero Marrazzo in an extortion, sex and drugs scandal, which led to the governor’s resignation in October.

“They killed her. I do not know who. She was in a bad psychological state, she wanted to go back to Brazil. Now they must find who did this,” said Barbara, a transsexual friend of Brenda, told reporters.

Meanwhile, Rome’s public prosecutor said that the case would be investigated as a homicide, adding that Brenda had suffocated from the smoke after the fire.

“We are all at risk. We live in fear,” Barbara, told reporters, adding that police were not protecting them.

“The police have done nothing, and all the transsexuals who live in this area are at risk of death. We are very afraid of the Rumanians,” Barbara told reporters, adding that the owner of the house where she lived wanted to evict Brenda.

“Brenda wanted to leave, she had already prepared her suitcases,” said Barbara.

Early reports said that Brenda’s semi-naked body had no signs of violence and a bottle of whisky was found next to her.

Barbara also told reporters that she had a few drinks with Brenda before she died.

“Brenda had been living here for six years. I saw her last night, she was fine, but was very worried. We drank together at a parking lot and then we went to her house where we left her watching television.”

Marrazzo, the former governor of the Lazio region (photo), once tipped as a future leader of Italy’s centre-left, resigned from his post in late October after a video emerged that apparently showed him with a transsexual prostitute.

When questioned in early November, Marrazzo, who is married with three children, admitted to several encounters with Brenda and another transsexual prostitute named Nathalie.

Later, reports surfaced about another, longer and allegedly more compromising video of him with cocaine.

“I had encounters of this kind with another person, a so-called Blenda (the name Blenda was used in the police minutes), which is a name that I read in the newspapers recently and which I remember,” said Marrazzo.

“During one of the encounters with Blenda, I remember seeing another transsexual, but whose name I do not recall. I think I only had two encounters with Blenda,” said Marrazzo.

At the time, the magistrate asked the former Lazio governor if he knew anything about a video of him recorded by a transsexual.

Marrazzo said he did not remember “because of his state of confusion due to the occasional consumption of cocaine…”

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


Police Confirm Car Bomb Attack in N. Ireland

Police confirmed on Sunday a car bomb attack overnight outside a police building in Northern Ireland, in what officials called a “reckless” attempt to undermine peace in the province.

The vehicle was driven late Saturday night through barriers outside the Belfast headquarters of the supervisory Northern Ireland Policing Board, but the bomb inside failed to detonate properly, Northern Ireland police chief Matt Baggott said.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Sister of UN ‘Suicide’ Scientist Who Died in Mysterious Fall Rescues Potential Evidence From Destruction

The sister of a British scientist who died in a mysterious fall has told how she rescued potential evidence from being destroyed by police..

Beverley Hall, 49, said she has been forced to store the clothes her brother wore on the night he died after officers revealed they were due to be burned.

She is now campaigning for police to investigate properly the death of Timothy Hampton, who plunged from the 17th floor of a UN building in Vienna last month.

Austrian detectives have insisted that Mr Hampton, a 47-year-old scientist involved in monitoring nuclear activity, committed suicide.

But Mrs Hall, who runs a caravan park in Newbury, Berkshire, believes there is enough evidence — including signs of bruising around her brother’s neck consistent with strangulation — to suggest he did not kill himself.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Spain: Inquiry Into Foundation Behind Pope’s Visit

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 20 — The judge of Madrid’s Supreme Court, Antonio Pedreira, investigating in the Gurtel case of alleged corruption connected to the Partito Popolare, is now looking into the party’s links with the foundation that organised the visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Valencia in 2006. The news comes in statements made to El Pais by Paula Sanchez de Leon, the official responsible for justice and public administration and spokesperson for Valencia’s regional government. The judge has requested documentation relating to the Foundation for the 5th Global Family Meeting, the spokeswoman said. The Foundation, constituted between the regional, provincial and communal governments and the diocese of the Archbishop of Valencia to organise the Pope’s visit, had expenses of 12.2 million euros. The judge has also requested from regional state TV broadcaster Canal-9 Radio Televisi Valenciana, its contract with the company Teconsa for the sound recording and the installation of the giant screens during the Pope’s visit. A contract from which the corruption network around Francisco Correa of Orange Market is accused of having derived more than one million in kick-backs, police say. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Swiss Visas for Libyans Down to a Trickle

Switzerland has drastically reduced the number of visas granted to Libyan citizens, with only 83 issued so far this year compared to 5,902 in the same period last year.

In response to a motion submitted by the Foreign Affairs Commission of the House of Representatives, the government on Thursday revealed the extent of the restrictions imposed since the detention of two Swiss businessmen by the regime in Tripoli.

The men were first detained in Tripoli in July 2008, days after the arrest of the Libyan leader’s son Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife Aline in Geneva on charges of mistreating their servants.

Swiss representatives abroad no longer have the right to issue visas to Libyans and all applications are currently being referred to the Foreign Ministry and Federal Migration Office.

Earlier this month, Libya complained about a European policy of restricting Schengen visas to Libyan citizens. Switzerland is part of the Schengen area, and under the agreement has a veto over the allocation of the visas which allow border-free travel throughout the 25 member countries in mainland Europe.

Claiming that the majority of Libyan applications were being denied, deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaïm denounced a “systematic and programmed solidarity with Switzerland”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Switzerland: Minaret Challengers Gain Ground Ahead of Ballot

A proposal to ban the construction of minarets appears to be winning support, but is still some way short of a majority, according to the latest opinion poll.

Two weeks ahead of the nationwide vote at the end of November, 53 per cent of respondents said they reject the rightwing initiative, while 37 per cent said they approve the ban. A further ten per cent were still undecided.

The survey was carried out by gfs.berne — a leading research and polling institute — on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, swissinfo’s parent company.

“The percentage of supporters is on the increase, which is untypical for a people’s initiative. But the no side still has an edge,” said the head of institute, Claude Longchamp.

The survey, which was conducted among more than 1,200 citizens across the country between November 9 and 14, found that the ban appears to be popular among supporters of rightwing parties, residents of rural areas and towns in the German-speaking part of the country, as well as among less qualified people.

“This is a pattern known from other campaigns which target the fears and concerns of the population,” Longchamp added.

However, he was surprised by evidence that the divisive initiative has gained ground among citizens without clear party affiliation — this group accounts for up to 30 per cent of respondents — compared with a first poll in October.

Islam’s alleged pretension to power, symbolised by minarets, is the argument which has the most popular appeal, according to researchers.

Human right concerns were frequently quoted by opponents of a ban, while potential damage to Switzerland’s international relations also appeared to sway opinion their way.

There was clearly no dominant argument on the no side, and opponents of a ban had been wrongfooted by the direction the pro campaign took, according to Longchamp.

“It appears they underestimated the importance of a broad discussion about Islam in our society. It was clearly not sufficient to reject the anti-minaret posters,” he said.

“The rightwing cleverly extended the debate to issues including integration of Muslims and their faith. These concerns have never been addressed in a nationwide context before.”

He says opponents have so far failed to identify a political weakness in the initiative.

Uncertainty

Based on the findings of the latest poll, and given the increasing support for outlawing new minarets, experts conclude that the ballot is more open than after the first survey a month ago.

“The outcome of the ballot is uncertain, but the approval rate for a ban will most likely be below the 50 per cent threshold,” Longchamp said.

He said it was not possible to forecast the result on November 29, but the poll gave an indication of the mood among citizens two weeks before the vote.

Longchamp also pointed out that it is crucial to consider the focus of polls and the methods used.

A survey by the MIS market research institute earlier this month found opponents of minarets in Switzerland ahead of supporters.

The poll included people who are not eligible to vote and did not cover the Italian-speaking region of the country. The gfs.berne institute survey claims to be nationwide and to have been conducted only among potential voters.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


UK: Britain’s New Internet Law — As Bad as Everyone’s Been Saying, And Worse. Much, Much Worse.

The British government has brought down its long-awaited Digital Economy Bill, and it’s perfectly useless and terrible. It consists almost entirely of penalties for people who do things that upset the entertainment industry (including the “three-strikes” rule that allows your entire family to be cut off from the net if anyone who lives in your house is accused of copyright infringement, without proof or evidence or trial), as well as a plan to beat the hell out of the video-game industry with a new, even dumber rating system (why is it acceptable for the government to declare that some forms of artwork have to be mandatorily labelled as to their suitability for kids? And why is it only some media? Why not paintings? Why not novels? Why not modern dance or ballet or opera?).

So it’s bad. £50,000 fines if someone in your house is accused of filesharing. A duty on ISPs to spy on all their customers in case they find something that would help the record or film industry sue them (ISPs who refuse to cooperate can be fined £250,000).

But that’s just for starters. The real meat is in the story we broke yesterday: Peter Mandelson, the unelected Business Secretary, would have to power to make up as many new penalties and enforcement systems as he likes. And he says he’s planning to appoint private militias financed by rightsholder groups who will have the power to kick you off the internet, spy on your use of the network, demand the removal of files or the blocking of websites, and Mandelson will have the power to invent any penalty, including jail time, for any transgression he deems you are guilty of. And of course, Mandelson’s successor in the next government would also have this power.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Envoys Called Back to Calm Muslim Hotspots

BRITISH ambassadors to Muslim countries are travelling back to Britain to help to counter the propaganda of radical Islamic clerics. So far 25 senior diplomats have met Muslims in radical hotspots such as Luton, where, earlier this year, troops returning from Iraq were jeered on the streets by extremists. At the little-publicised “outreach” meetings, Muslims can talk to the diplomats directly about British foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Violent extremists use misconceptions about foreign policy as a way to radicalise vulnerable young people in the UK,” said a Foreign Office spokesman.

“Through a programme of outreach events, ambassadors and senior officials work with local partners in Muslim communities across the country to challenge those misconceptions. These events are a chance for well-informed officials to explain our foreign policy and to get a better understanding of what people think about it.”

Ambassadors and other senior British diplomats in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and Morocco have joined in the meetings. Sir William Patey, ambassador to Saudi Arabia, has flown back to Britain twice to visit Muslims — in Redbridge, Essex in July, and in Edinburgh in September. Last month the ambassador to Morocco met Muslims in northwest London.

The meetings are part of the Prevent initiative, which was set up after the London suicide bombings in July 2005 to stop people becoming terrorists or coming under the influence of “anti-British” ideas. The Foreign Office is also paying for senior British Muslims to travel to Pakistan and other Muslim countries to counter stories about the maltreatment of Muslims in the UK.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


UK: Teacher ‘Suspended Over 9/11 Creative Writing Task’

A primary schoolteacher has been suspended after telling seven-year-old pupils to write stories imagining that their fathers had died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it has been reported.

Kathy Young, 29, is said to have left children traumatised after also asking them to imagine that they had been killed in the destruction of the World Trade Center.

Parents complained to Oxclose Village Primary School in Washington, Tyne and Wear, after their children reportedly came home in tears following the creative writing lesson.

Mrs Young, who has a nine-year-old daughter, devised the task as children observed the anniversary of the 2001 al-Qaeda attacks in which 2,995 people died, it is claimed.

“How can she set young children this kind of essay? Many of them have been left traumatised by her ridiculous lesson,” one parent told a Sunday newspaper.

Unburied bodies tell the tale of Detroit — a city in despair

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article6926247.ece

The abandoned corpses, in white body bags with number tags tied to each toe, lie one above the other on steel racks inside a giant freezer in Detroit’s central mortuary, like discarded shoes in the back of a wardrobe.

Some have lain here for years, but in recent months the number of unclaimed bodies has reached a record high. For in this city that once symbolised the American Dream many cannot even afford to bury their dead.

“I have not seen this many unclaimed bodies in 13 years on the job,” said Albert Samuels, chief investigator at the mortuary. “It started happening when the economy went south last year. I have never seen this many people struggling to give people their last resting place.”

Unburied bodies piling up in the city mortuary — it reached 70 earlier this year — is the latest and perhaps most appalling indignity to be heaped on the people of Detroit. The motor city that once boasted the highest median income and home ownership rate in the US is today in the midst of a long and agonising death spiral.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


UK: We’ll Give the Tories a Majority, Says Clegg: Lib Dem Leader Pledges to Avert Election Deadlock

David Cameron could be forced to accept an offer of support from Nick Clegg after a poll suggested Britain is on course for its first hung Parliament since 1974.

The LibDem leader declared for the first time that he would back the Tories if they emerge as the largest party but do not secure an overall working majority.

It came after a survey put Labour only six points behind the Conservatives — enough to leave Mr Cameron 35 seats short of a majority.

The LibDem leader insisted he could not prop up the party with the second highest number of seats.

Mr Clegg’s intervention is a heavy blow to Gordon Brown, who has been working to entice the Lib Dems by pledging a referendum on reforming the voting system to allow proportional representation.

Labour insiders admit that their best hope is to close the gap with the Conservatives sufficiently to leave them short of a working Commons majority.

The party was boosted on Sunday by a poll putting it on 31 per cent, with the Tories on 37 per cent. Most recent polls have put the Tories between ten and 15 points clear.

It is the narrowest gap between the two main parties since last December and suggests Mr Cameron is struggling to win over enough floating voters.

If replicated at an election expected next spring, the poll — which also shows economic optimism at its highest level since 1997 — would deliver the first hung Parliament since the snap General Election of February 1974, after which Edward Heath resigned.

The findings left the main parties contemplating two elections next year, since whoever emerged as leader of the largest party would be likely to seek a more decisive mandate after a few months.

Mr Clegg indicated that if the Tories emerge as the largest party, as the poll suggests, he would put Mr Cameron in No 10 either by allowing him to form a minority government or in a formal coalition.

‘I think it is just an inevitable fact, it’s just stating the obvious, that the party which has got the strongest mandate from the British people will have the first right to seek to govern either on its own or with others,’ he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme.

‘It’s whichever party — whether it’s the Liberal Democrats, Labour or the Conservatives — have the strongest mandate from the British people.’

Saying he did not regard himself as a ‘kingmaker’, Mr Clegg added: ‘I start from a simple principle. The votes of the British people should determine what happens.’

Mr Cameron said he had never believed the result of the election was a foregone conclusion.

‘I think the state of the nation’s opinion is that people are disillusioned with Labour, with the Government, they are disillusioned also with politics, but they are not going to just hand it over to the Conservatives,’ he said.

‘We have got to work for it and earn it. I have got to work for it and earn it.’

The Tory leader rebuked business spokesman Kenneth Clarke for suggesting that a hung Parliament would be worse than a Labour victory.

‘Anything would be better than another five years of Labour,’ he said.

Shadow Commons leader Sir George Young told Sky News: ‘Any complacency that there may have been in my party will certainly have been put on one side by the poll showing the gap narrowing.

‘I would rather have a clear Conservative victory, then if we do not get that I would like the Conservatives as the largest party.’

Tory sources pointed out that the poll was conducted at the height of sympathy for Mr Brown after what was seen as unfair attack over a letter of condolence sent to the mother of a soldier killed in Afghanistan.

‘On the bright side, at least this poll should ensure Gordon Brown stays on,’ said one, who regards the Prime Minister as a huge drag on Labour fortunes.

But a former Labour minister said the poll showing the party closing the gap made it ‘more, not less likely’ that Mr Brown would face another assault on his leadership.

‘This poll should jolt people into realising that with a new leader, there really would be everything to play for,’ he said.

The Mori survey showed Mr Brown’s personal ratings remain in the doldrums.

Only 34 per cent of people are satisfied with his performance, against 59 per cent who are dissatisfied. Mr Cameron had approval ratings of 48 per cent, with 35 per cent against.

After the ‘Turnip Taliban’ rebellion in Norfolk, David Cameron is facing fresh unrest over attempts to promote women candidates.

Activists in Beckenham, South London, condemned as ‘ridiculous’ an edict there must be three women on the shortlist for the seat, and lodged a complaint with party chairman Eric Pickles.

And a group dubbed the ‘Suffolk Swedes’ are resisting attempts to parachute Katy Bourne, a businesswoman from a Labour-supporting family, into Mid Suffolk.

[Return to headlines]


Video: New EU President Confirms New World Order Desire

‘Copenhagen is another step towards the global management of our planet’

[Comments from JD: Paragraph below is by the poster of the video.]

As plain as it comes, the newly “elected” [****] that is the EUSSR president confirms the desire for a one world government, a New World Order of worldwide oppression and the spread of worldwide Communism. If it didn’t hit you what the EU project is all about, the new EU “president” confirms it for you in this clip. Recorded from BBC News 24, 19 November 2009.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Video: Jihad Milkshake

Anjem Choudary, the man behind Islam4uk, wants to turn Buckingham Palace into a mosque, impose sharia law in the UK, and destroy Britain’s porn industry. We took him for a milkshake (his favourite is chocolate). Click through to watch a movie of our date.

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

North Africa

Agriculture: Tunisia, Date Harvest Increase Predicted

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, NOVEMBER 19 — A ten percent increase has been predicted for the 2009-2010 date harvest in Tunisia, compared to the same period last year. Tunisia is the worlds top exporter of the high quality Deglet Ennour, and production is predicted to increase by 14 percent. Regarding exports in general, they reached 69,000 metric tons in the 2008-2009 season, destined for about 60 countries; the number one market is Morocco, followed in order by France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. There has also been a solid increase in this market for Turkey (2,230 metric tons), Russia (2,820 metric tons) and Malaysia (2,000 metric tons).(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Alaoui: Morocco Has Turned the Page, Audience Says No

(by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 18 — In the last 5 years the way of making film in Morocco has changed significantly: from the technology to the issues touched on, from the language used to nude scenes. It is a true revolution for the censorship army and the public not so inclined to “put up with” not just the images, but also the strong criticism of power and society. In this way, Sanaa Alaoui, a young Moroccan actress who has worked in a number of films, shorts and TV series in Morocco, Spain, France and Mexico, told ANSAmed of the evolution of the seventh art in her country of origin. “Today’s filmmakers”, she said, “have modernised the way of making a film. In addition to the quality, which is clearly superior, the stories that our films tell have also changed: talking about drugs, prostitution, corruption politics and sex ten years ago was simply unimaginable. There are censors, but the directors are daring to challenge them”. In a scene from Oud el Ward (La beaute’ eparpillee, 2007) by Lahcen Zinoun — a film that was presented at the XV edition of the Medfilm Festival in Rome. And for which she won the best actress award at the Tangiers Festival — Sanaa bared her chest. “In that moment”, ‘the actress explained, “the actresses clothes are torn off, she is humiliated and practically denuded’. It is a scene that was subject to debate in Morocco and for which the beautiful Sanaa was held as an example by the press. “I was just doing my job”, the artist replied, who wanted to stress that she would never do a gratuitous nude scene, because she “detests vulgarity”. If Moroccan film has taken steps forward, not all of the public has been willing to accept this evolution. A film like Casanegra (2008) by Noureddin Lakhgaari, shocked the eyes and ears of the more “chaste” population of the kingdom. “In Morocco”, Sanaa explained, “there are two types of spectators: Those ready to accept crude language, even if vulgar, and who want to see things change in their country, and those who don’t admit that the kingdom is spoken badly of, and don’t accept the bitterness of the tales”. The result is that Moroccan society and the public is split in two. “It is thanks to the work of these directors that Morocco will evolve”, Alaoui concluded. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Algeria Acquits Two Former Guantanamo Bay Detainees

Two Algerian men held at Guantanamo Bay for seven years on terror charges have been acquitted at a trial on being returned home, state media report.

Faghoul Abdelli and Mohamed Terari were arrested in Afghanistan by Pakistani police after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US, reports said.

They both denied having any connection to militant groups and said they were “brutally tortured” in US custody.

Algeria’s state prosecutor had called for a 20-year jail term for the men.

US President Barack Obama made closing the detention centre down a key part of his election campaign and set a deadline of January 2010.

But last week he said that date would be missed.

He did not set a specific new deadline for closing the camp, but said it would probably be later in 2010

Officials are trying to determine what to do with some 215 detainees still held at the Cuba prison.

Mr Obama’s administration says it will try some detainees in US courts and repatriate or resettle others not perceived as a threat.

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


Books: Story of Italians in Morocco

(ANSAmed) — BOLOGNA, NOVEMBER 20 — Travellers, artists, emigrants: Italians who have lived in Morocco during the ages and leaving traces of their presence. Their memories and journals, their stories and the result of 6 years of research to reconstruct a largely unknown history have been collected in the book “Schegge di memoria-Gli italiani in Marocco” (“Fragments of memory — Italians in Morocco”) by Roberta Yasmine Catalano, the Lebanese writer born in Rome in 1975 who has lived in Morocco for 15 years. The book was published recently but will unfortunately not be distributed in Italy. It will be presented tomorrow in Bologna by a Moroccan woman who has lived in Italy for a long time, Khadija Madda, teacher of the Arabic language and president of the Italo Calvino association in Bologna. She will discuss the book together with the writer and the immigration councilor of Bologna, Simona Lembi. The book tells the story of Italians in Morocco from the start of the 12th century. It tells the story of the first great emigration of Italians to Morocco early in the 20th century, looking for a better future, of their dramatic experiences in the French and American prisoner camps in WWII, and the contribution the Italians have given to Morocco’s economic development after its independence, also thanks to Enrico Mattei. The book offers a unique opportunity to get to know the stories and viewpoints of the Italians who have lived in Morocco between 1600 and 2000 and who have had an inevitable impact on the development of the country. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Muslim Violence Ongoing in Egypt — Christians Plead for Help

by Mary Abdelmassih

Farshoot, Egypt (AINA) — Since early morning on Saturday, November 21, the Upper Egyptian town of Farshoot, as well as the neighboring villages of Kom Ahmar, Shakiki and Ezbet Waziri, has been the scene of ongoing Muslim mob violence against Coptic Christian inhabitants. The mob looted, vandalized and burnt Coptic property, while Copts hid indoors fearing to venture out. Reuters Cairo reported that a witness said “chaos is overwhelming (in the city).”

The Violence is still going on. There are reports that seven Coptic women have been abducted.

Witnesses said that nearly 3000 angry Muslims have congregated since the early morning in front of the Police Headquarters in Farshoot, in an effort to kidnap Girgis Baroumi while being transported to court to renew his detainment, in order to kill him. Bishop Kirollos said it was agreed with the family of the Muslim girl Yousra to await the Court decision “but they did not wait for that.”

Coptic priest Rev. Benjamin Noshi was driving his car when the mob stopped and assaulted him, fracturing his skull. He is currently in hospital.

By the evening most Coptic businesses were looted and burnt. “They are destroying the Coptic economy in these areas,” says Wagih Yacoub of Middle Eadt Christian Association.

A witness said that some Coptic families were thrown out of their homes, which were occupied by Muslims.

Although security forces were deployed, they are not taking any action to stop the violence, they are stationed to protect the Farshoot police headquarters after the angry mob pelted it with stones before going in and attacking the officers. Chief Investigating Officer Essam Hany was injured along with others.

Witnesses said that the Police watched the mob but made no arrests and were just dispersing the mob from one street, only for them to appear in the next.

The violence was prompted by reports of sexual abuse of a girl by 21 year-old Copt Guirgis Baroumi, from Kom Ahmar, on Wednesday November 18, 2009. The 12-year-old Muslim girl has been identified as “Yousra.” Girgis is detained by the police pending investigations and awaiting results of forensics. Many Copts believe that the rape incident is by Muslims to use it as a pretext to start violence against them.

In an interview with Free Copts, Bishop Kirollos said that the attacks were definitely preplanned and made use of the students from Al-Azhar Institute in Farshoot. He also pointed out to the failing role of the security forces, which disappeared without giving proper justifications, despite several demands by the church to put an end to these grave violations against Christians and their property.

He also added that even if the story of the indecent assault on the Muslim teenager was true, this was purely an individual incident and does not call for an attack on masses of peaceful Christians, who denounced this individual act which does not comply with Christian teachings. “So why the barbaric attacks by the mobs? and why have the security forces not stopped them?”

Talking to Coptic News Bulletin, the Bishop said that after being informed of the accusations of the rape on Wednesday, he has taken the frightened Copts of the villages of Kom Ahmar and Shedid out of the village to safety. “However, Coptic-owned businesses, pharmacies and cars in Farshoot and Ezbet Waziri are completely destroyed,” he said.

Rev. Elisha, Pastor of St. Michaels Church in Farshoot described Saturday’s violence as “similar to the Tartar Wars, they burnt down shops, pharmacies, broke down doors of homes and terrorized the inhabitants.” Commenting on the alleged rape incident, he said that it is doubtful, besides prosecution did not allow anyone to meet with the accused Copt. “The Farshoot investigating officer told me that the Muslim girl was only sure that her attacker wore a black jacket — nothing more.”

“We have never been so frightened and humiliated as Christians in all our lives. The mob made wooden crosses and burnt them in the street,” according to one witness. “Our religion, and our Lord were openly insulted.”

As no one is venturing into the streets, none of the Coptic inhabitants contacted were able to confirm if there were any losses in human lives, or the number of injured.

Bishop Kirollos held an urgent meeting with all Coptic priests in the region, in view of the gravity of the situation. He gave instructions that no Sunday church services would be held on 11/22/09 fearing for the safety of the Christian congregations.

“If the International Human Rights Organizations around the world keep quiet about what is happening to the Copts in Egypt, then they are of no use, they just use slogans, nothing more,” one witness lamented.

[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Barak: We Must Crush IDF Refusal With an Iron Fist

Defense Minister Ehud Barak reiterated on Saturday his pledge to crack down on Israel Defense Forces soldiers who refuse to carry out orders, saying Israel should not hesitate to act forcefully to crush the phenomenon.

“A country that wishes to live must put an end to refusal by the right and left with an iron fist,” said Barak in a closed meeting.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Frolicking in the Quicksand: How the Obama Administration Keeps Making Huge Mistakes in the Middle East

by Barry Rubin*

Of course, the Obama Administration has its defenders. They either ignore criticism of the Administration’s foreign policy or claim it is all partisan and ideological. And yet the truth is that if you watch the government’s policy on a daily basis it is truly remarkable how many dumb, avoidable mistakes are made.

I won’t supply a long list here but instead will talk about the latest one. Let’s take it step by step to see what a mess is being created.

Background: Israel announced in 1993, at the time of the Oslo agreement with the PLO, that it did not view construction on existing settlements as a violation. The Palestinians, during the ensuing 16 years, never made this a big issue. The U.S. government, while it can say it technically opposed this, was pretty quiet about it, never did anything.

Then President Barack Obama came to office and made the construction issue the centerpiece of his Middle East policy, sometimes it has appeared to be the keystone of his whole foreign policy. It may seem like an exaggeration but often it seems as if the administration believes that if Israel stopped building 3000 apartments all the region’s problems would go away.

So far, the Administration has wasted almost ten months in this pursuit. First, it shouted at Israel as if it were some servant to do it fast or else. Then when Israel didn’t, the Administration realized that perhaps Israel should get something in exchange for the concession. So it went to Arab states and asked—presuming, wrongly, that they are desperate for a peace agreement—for some compromise but got nothing.

Now it had destroyed its own policy since the Palestinian Authority (PA) refused to come to negotiations until there was a complete freeze. How could it be less hardline than the president?

But there was a solution, sort of. Israel agreed to stop all construction once the apartments currently being built are finished. And naturally, Israel said, this didn’t apply to east Jerusalem.

The United States accepted the deal, with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton exulting about what a huge concession Israel was making. Aside from everything else, the U.S. government knew how big a risk Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was taking with his coalition.

Ok. Sorry to give you all this background but it is necessary to understand how the Administration loves to jump in the quicksand.

So what happened? The PA couldn’t stand to see Israel being praised and doesn’t want to negotiate peace any way. So it threw a temper tantrum: riots in Jerusalem, threats by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to resign, refusal to go to negotiations with Israel, and a clamor for a unilateral declaration of independence.

The hubbub about a unilateral declaration of independence was almost universally described in the media as arising from Palestinian frustration. Not at all. It is based on their own position: Why make a compromise peace with Israel when you can just claim everything you want, ensuring the door be kept open for a future struggle to wipe Israel off the map entirely?…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]


Ultra-Orthodox Pressure Stalling Mosque, Church at Ben-Gurion Airport

Ultra-Orthodox political pressure has stalled the construction of a church and a mosque at Ben-Gurion International Airport for the past five years, aviation sources told Haaretz.

This came to light after several clergy members wrote to the Israel Airports Authority, requesting it allow for a church in Terminal 3.

Haaretz inquired, and learned that the plans for the new terminal included both a church and a mosque, but that they never were built.

IAA spokeswoman Ronit Ekstein said she “would rather not comment at this stage.”

The request for a church inside the terminal was made by one of the leaders of the Belgian church in Jerusalem, Father Christian Eeckhout.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Confront Deviant Ideologies, Says Saudi Arabian King

From Ahmad Kamil Tahir

MECCA, Nov 22 (Bernama) — Muslims are still paying a heavy price for the 9/11 incident and are losing out more with every act of terror, the Custodian of Islam’s two holiest mosques King Abdullah was reported as saying by Saudi Arabia’s English daily, Arab News.

“Enmity from within, which is the most perilous, can be seen in attempts to kidnap moderate Islam by gangs of ignorant people who propagate rigidity out of fear of everything that is new? without any consideration for the rules of the religion,” said the king in his opening speech of the Muslim World League’s 10th annual convention here Saturday.

His speech was read out on his behalf by Mecca Governor Prince Khaled Al-Faisal.

“Despite the fact that the (Saudi) Kingdom practices moderation and came into existence under the banner of Islam, it has suffered a lot because of a devious politicised doctrine which has sneaked incognito into the country,” he said.

He pointed out that the Kingdom had been successful to a great extent in removing deviant ideologies and closing all doors to them. He was referring to the extremist ideologies propagated by Al-Qaeda supporters.

The king urged Islamic scholars and organisations to stand firmly against deviant ideologies in order to protect Muslim societies from their proponents’ nefarious designs and prevent their further spread among Muslim youths.

He said enemies of Islam and Muslims were mobilising their political machinery and the media “to distort our image and create hatred against us.” He blamed the irresponsible actions of a few for the anti-Islam campaign.

King Abdullah urged Muslims to play an important role in rebuilding human civilization in this age of science and technology.

“We have to pay more attention to human development and teach our youths contemporary sciences and technologies while giving utmost attention to Shariah subjects and remaining committed to the Islamic constitution,” he said.

The king said there was no harm in taking science and technology from others and molding them to suit the moderate Islamic pattern.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


Iran Cleric: We’ll Hit ‘Heart of Tel Aviv’ If Attacked

A senior Iranian cleric warned on Saturday that the Islamic Republic would fire missiles at Tel Aviv if attacked, shortly after Iran’s military announced it would begin large-scale drills on Sunday to help protect its nuclear facilities.

“If the enemy should want to test its bad luck in Iran, before the dust from its missiles settles in this country, Iran’s ballistic missiles would land in the heart of Tel Aviv,” said cleric Mojtaba Zolnour, the IRNA news agency reported.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Iran War Games to Defend Nuclear Sites

[Note: There is a short video at the link. — Sean]

Iran has begun five days of large-scale war games to simulate attacks on its nuclear sites, officials said, warning it will retaliate if provoked.

The head of Iran’s air defence said the aim of the exercises was to thwart aerial reconnaissance and air attacks.

Another official warned Tehran would retaliate with a missile strike on Tel Aviv, if it was attacked by Israel.

Iran is under intense pressure over its nuclear programme, which critics say is intended to produce nuclear weapons.

The US and Israel have not ruled out the prospect of a military attack to prevent Iran developing nuclear bombs. Tehran insists its programme is peaceful.

Annihilation warning

The head of Iran’s air defence, Brig Gen Ahmad Mighani, told state media the aim of the war games, which will cover an area of 600,000 sq km (230,000 sq miles), was “to display Iran’s combat readiness and military potentials.

“Due to the threats against our nuclear facilities it is our duty to defend out nation’s vital facilities,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mojhtaba Zolnoor, an aide to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned Iran would respond to any Israeli attack.

“If the enemy attacks Iran, our missiles will strike Tel Aviv,” he was quoted as saying by the official Irna news agency.

The commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards’ air force wing said Iran’s air defence forces would “annihilate” Israeli warplanes if they attacked.

“Their [Israeli] F-15 and F-16 fighters will be trapped by our air defence forces and will be annihilated,” Amir Ali Hajizadeh told Iran’s Fars news agency.

“Even if their planes escape and land at the bases from which they took off, their bases will be struck by our destructive surface-to-surface missiles.”

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


Iraq Report: Secret Papers Reveal Blunders and Concealment

On the eve of the Chilcot inquiry into Britain’s involvement in the 2003 invasion and its aftermath, The Sunday Telegraph has obtained hundreds of pages of secret Government reports on “lessons learnt” which shed new light on “significant shortcomings” at all levels. They include full transcripts of extraordinarily frank classified interviews in which British Army commanders vent their frustration and anger with ministers and Whitehall officials.

The reports disclose that:

Tony Blair, the former prime minister, misled MPs and the public throughout 2002 when he claimed that Britain’s objective was “disarmament, not regime change” and that there had been no planning for military action. In fact, British military planning for a full invasion and regime change began in February 2002.

The need to conceal this from Parliament and all but “very small numbers” of officials “constrained” the planning process. The result was a “rushed”operation “lacking in coherence and resources” which caused “significant risk” to troops and “critical failure” in the post-war period.

Operations were so under-resourced that some troops went into action with only five bullets each. Others had to deploy to war on civilian airlines, taking their equipment as hand luggage. Some troops had weapons confiscated by airport security.

Commanders reported that the Army’s main radio system “tended to drop out at around noon each day because of the heat”. One described the supply chain as “absolutely appalling”, saying: “I know for a fact that there was one container full of skis in the desert.”

The Foreign Office unit to plan for postwar Iraq was set up only in late February, 2003, three weeks before the war started.

The plans “contained no detail once Baghdad had fallen”, causing a “notable loss of momentum” which was exploited by insurgents. Field commanders raged at Whitehall’s “appalling” and “horrifying” lack of support for reconstruction, with one top officer saying that the Government “missed a golden opportunity” to win Iraqi support. Another commander said: “It was not unlike 1750s colonialism where the military had to do everything ourselves.”

The documents emerge two days before public hearings begin in the Iraq Inquiry, the tribunal appointed under Sir John Chilcot, a former Whitehall civil servant, to “identify lessons that can be learnt from the Iraq conflict”.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Muslim Countries Seek Blasphemy Ban

Muslim countries prepare for a tough war on protecting religious symbols and beliefs from mockery by bringing a ban proposal on blasphemy to a vote in the UN General Assembly. The move comes four years after cartoons of the prophet Muhammad set off violent protests across the Muslim world

Pakistani protesters rally against the republishing of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in Danish newspapers in Quetta, Pakistan. AP photo.

Four years after cartoons of the prophet Muhammad set off violent protests across the Muslim world, Islamic nations are mounting a campaign for an international treaty to protect religious symbols and beliefs from mockery — essentially a ban on blasphemy that would put them on a collision course with free speech laws in the West.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press show that Algeria and Pakistan have taken the lead in lobbying to eventually bring the proposal to a vote in the U.N. General Assembly. If ratified in countries that enshrine freedom of expression as a fundamental right, such a treaty would require them to limit free speech if it risks seriously offending religious believers. The process, though, will take years and no showdown is imminent.

The proposal faces stiff resistance from Western countries, including the United States, which in the past has brushed aside other U.N. treaties, such as one on the protection of migrant workers. Experts said the bid stands some chance of eventual success if Muslim countries persist. And whatever the outcome, the campaign risks reigniting tensions between Muslims and the West that President Barack Obama has pledged to heal, reviving fears of a “clash of civilizations.”

Four years ago, a Danish newspaper published cartoons lampooning the prophet Muhammad, prompting angry mobs to attack Western embassies in Muslim countries, including Lebanon, Iran and Indonesia. In a countermovement, several European newspapers reprinted the images. The countries that form the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference are now lobbying a little-known Geneva-based U.N. committee to agree that a treaty protecting religions is necessary.

The move would be a first step toward drafting an international protocol that would eventually be put before the General Assembly — a process that could take a decade or more. The proposal may have some support in the General Assembly. For several years the Islamic Conference has successfully passed a nonbinding resolution at the General Assembly condemning “defamation of religions.”

If the treaty was approved, any of the U.N.’s 192 member states that ratified it would be bound by its provisions. Other countries could face criticism for refusing to join. The United States has declared it won’t accept international treaties that restrict its Constitution’s First Amendment right to free speech. But there are signs the U.S. is worried by the Islamic Conference campaign. Behind the scenes it has been lobbying hard to quash the proposal, dispatching a senior U.S. diplomat to Geneva last month for talks described as akin to trench warfare. “The U.S. presence can be significant in determining the whole destiny of the process,” said Lukas Machon, who represents the International Commission of Jurists at the U.N.

From a legal point of view, “the whole exercise is dangerous from A-Z because it’s a departure from the practice and concept of human rights,” Machon said. “It adds only restrictions.” In a letter obtained by the AP, Pakistan said insults against religion were on the increase. The Islamic Conference “believes that the attack on sacredly held beliefs and the defamation of religions, religious symbols, personalities and dogmas impinge on the enjoyment of human rights of followers of those religions,” the letter said. It was sent last month to members of the Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards, a temporary committee created to consider a previous anti-racism treaty.

In a separate submission to the committee, Pakistan proposed extending the treaty against racism to require signatories to “prohibit by law the uttering of matters that are grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion.” It’s not clear who would decide what is considered grossly abusive, but each country’s criminal courts would likely have initial jurisdiction over that decision, according to Marghoob Saleem Butt, a Pakistani diplomat in Geneva who confirmed the campaign’s existence and has lobbied for the ban. “There has to be a balance between freedom of expression and respect for others,” Butt said in a telephone interview. “Taking the symbol of a whole religion and portraying him as a terrorist,” said Butt, referring to the Muhammad cartoons, “that is where we draw the line.”

One American expert with more than 20 years experience of the U.N. human rights system said the treaty could have far-reaching implications. “It would, in essence, advance a global blasphemy law,” said Felice Gaer, a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The independent, congressionally mandated panel issued a report last week warning that existing laws against blasphemy, including in Pakistan, “often have resulted in gross human rights violations.”

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


NATO: Italy Launches Demining Project in Jordan

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, NOVEMBER 19 — The headquarters of NATO today saw the launch of the Atlantic Alliance’s project, led by Italy, dedicated to demining activities and the elimination of non detonated military debris in Jordan. It is called the Nato Trust Fund, stemming from the programme “Partnership for Peace” as a part of “Mediterranean Dialogue”. This experience in Jordan, already the 2nd Nato project of its kind, does not only give concrete help to the local people who live with the mine emergency, but is a road opener for similar initiatives in other countries of the region, contributing to a new image for the Atlantic Alliance in the area. In this sense, the project “shows a new form of cooperation with civilians” affirmed Claudio Bisogniero, deputy secretary general of the Alliance, for the occasion of the signing of the deal with Namsa, the Nato agency for supply and maintenance, charged with managing the activity on the ground. The Italian ambassador, Stefano Stefanini, as well as stressing the humanitarian aspect of the project also wanted to highlight its political significance. “We are thinking of the strengthening of Mediterranean dialogue in Nato and the implementation of the Trust Fund will be a clear demonstration of the large potential for this partnership”. The initiative, which will begin in December of this year, provides for a programme of mine risk training “involving 100,000 people”, explained Jordan’s ambassador Ahmad Masadeh, “in three provinces heavily affected by the problem”, that is Ajloun, Jerash and Zarqa. The idea “is not just that of changing the lives of many people but that of opening new pathways for tourism and agriculture” added Masadeh, who stressed the efforts Jordan has made to make its territory safer, in the prospect for peace in the region. In addition to the training aspect, the project will involve the supply of equipment for the destruction of ordinance and ammunition at the Jordanian army’s demilitarization centre in Zarqa. This centre could become a future institution for training for dismantling open to other countries in the region. The Italian contribution to the project is 700,000 euros, while the total budget is that of 2.6 million euros for 2 years. Spain, who is already ready to begin, will probably be joined by the Netherlands. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Sarkozy Outshines Obama as King of Mideast Mediation

For decades the cafe’s, classrooms and mosques of the Middle East have discussed American intervention in the region.

Eight years of American-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a subsequent promise by U.S. President Barack Obama to turn a new page in American relations with the Muslim world have only heightened the United States’ role in the Middle East.

But in the battle fields outside Kabul, the mosques of Tehran and Damascus and the halls of power in Jerusalem, people are discussing an entirely different international player: Sarkozy.

In what has been termed “diplomatic activism”, in the two years since he assumed the French presidency Sarkozy has launched a ‘Union for the Mediterranean’, pushed France to the forefront of international mediation in Syria, taken Europe’s most aggressive stance towards Iran, made friends with Israel, officially joined NATO in Afghanistan, and most recently flown to Saudi Arabia to convince the royals to support a Middle East peace conference in Paris.

Sarkozy’s saunter into Middle Eastern diplomacy is seen by the region’s pundits and politicians alike in stark contrast to the approach of the U.S. president, who after almost a year in office has made a brief stopover in Riyadh and a grandiose speech in Cairo.

“This is all a sort of French diplomatic activism which the president of France believes will give him international clout,” Shlomo Aronson, professor of politics at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, told The Media Line. “He also has a large Muslim minority in France, so he is showing his activism and refusal to sit on his hands.”

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Sleiman Seeks Abolition of Religion in Lebanese Politics

President Michel Sleiman called in a television speech on Saturday for the establishment of a committee to work towards the abolition of religion-based politics in Lebanon.

“To encourage vast participation (in political life), a national committee should be established and charged with abolishing confessionalism in politics,” he said in a speech marking Sunday’s 66th anniversary of independence.

Sleiman also proposed “changing the electoral law relating to general elections in order to obtain better representation and restore to expatriates their rights, including nationality and the right to vote.”

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Turkey to Buy 6 Subs at Reduced Price From Germany

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, NOVEMBER 20 — Turkey’s Navy will buy six modern non-nuclear submarines to be built by Germany’s HDW shipyards at a price nearly 20% lower than what the Germans had originally offered, daily Hurriyet reports quoting procurement officials as saying. The Defense Industry Executive Committee, Turkey’s top decision-making body on defense procurement, selected HDW over its French and Spanish rivals in the summer of 2008. At the time, the program’s expected cost was announced to be nearly 2.5 billion euros. After year long price and work-sharing negotiations between the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, Turkey’s procurement agency, and the German company, a final contract was signed in July. No price was specified in the public announcements for the contract at the time, but Hurriyet Daily found out that the cost of the program was around 1.96 billion euros, which is nearly 500 million euros lower than the original price. The Kiel-based HDW, a subsidiary of the German conglomerate ThyssenKrupp, will now build six modern U-214 type submarines with Turkish partners. Ankara hopes the new U-214 submarines will start operating in 2015. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Turkish Figures Rank High on List of World’s Most Influential Muslims

Names like Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Fethullah Gülen, Abdullah Gül and Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu are ranked near the top of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims, according to a report published by the Amman-based Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre.

“The 500 Most Influential Muslims 2009,” a report edited by Georgetown University professors John Esposito and Ibrahim Kalin, was released in book format last week and aims to “provide a window into the movers and shakers of the Muslim world” and “highlight people who are influential as Muslims, that is, people whose influence is derived from their practice of Islam or from the fact that they are Muslim.” The book profiles the top 50 influential Muslims in descending order in a list topped by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia and Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan comes in fifth on the list, with the book noting in its profile the efforts on the part of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government to increase religious freedom, bring the country into the European Union and increase rights for Turkey’s large Kurdish minority.

The other three Turks who made the top 50 list are Muslim preacher Gülen (No. 13), Turkish President Gül (No. 28) and Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Secretary-General Ihsanoglu (No. 40). The report notes in the case of Gülen that he is an exception to the general status of the top-50 players as attributable to the influence they wield as a result of their being monarchs, religious scholars and leaders of religious networks.

“[An] … important exception is Fethullah Gülen, a preacher, thinker and educator, who having assumed the leadership of a religious movement started by Said Nursî (1878-1960) has gone on to become a global phenomenon in his own right. His popularity and authority in Turkey have been the driving force of the social movement that is widely thought to have brought around the social and eventually political changes of which politician Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been the ultimate heir — that is the enfranchisement of Muslim politics in Turkey,” the report says.

Zaman editor-in-chief, Gülen movement listed as influential

Outside of the top 50, the other 450 Muslims on the list are not in numerical order, but are rather grouped by nation within broader categories such as women, youth, media, arts and culture, and even radicals. Turkish daily Zaman’s Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanli is on the list for his influence with the newspaper and for authoring five books and a play. Ali Bulaç, a columnist for both Zaman and Today’s Zaman, is also listed, as “an influential pro-Islamic intellectual and journalist who … promotes the advantage of Islamic values and the revival of Islamic intellectualism in contemporary Turkey.”

Three Turkish women made the list: Turkish first lady Hayrünnisa Gül (listed under women), Women’s Rights Association against Discrimination (AKDER) Vice President Fatma Benli (listed under development) and haute couture fashion designer Rabia Yalçin (listed under arts and culture).

A total of 20 Turks were listed in the book, with other names including Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Religious Affairs Directorate head Ali Bardakoglu, Ibrahim Kalin, Harun Yahya, Hayrettin Karaman, Necmettin Erbakan, Fuat Sezgin, Mehmet Görmez, Halit Eren, Mehmet Aydin and Mustafa Çagrici.

In addition to the 500 individuals listed in the book, the book sets aside a section for international Islamic networks, in which the Gülen movement takes its place. Noting the Gülen movement’s peaceful means of preaching and community organization, the book notes: “The Gülen Movement started out as a distinctly Turkish movement but has since spread worldwide. Gülen has schools in almost every corner of the globe.”

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


U.S. Fears Iraq Development Projects May Go to Waste

$58 billion spent at risk because Baghdad can’t maintain facilities on their own

BAGHDAD — In its largest reconstruction effort since the Marshall Plan, the United States government has spent $53 billion for relief and reconstruction in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, building tens of thousands of hospitals, water treatment plants, electricity substations, schools and bridges.

But there are growing concerns among American officials that Iraq will not be able to adequately maintain the facilities once the Americans have left, potentially wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and jeopardizing Iraq’s ability to provide basic services to its people.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UAE: 500 Mln Euros to Strengthen Air Force

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, NOVEMBER 18 — During the third day of the aeronautics fair underway in Dubai, the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed two agreements to step up air defence. The contract is for two Swedish-built Saab AEW reconnaissance planes, a 150-million-euro investment, and twenty-five PC-21combat planes for pilot training, ordered from the Swiss Pilatus Aircraft for 345 million euros. The purchase of the two Saab 340AEW is very important, commented the daily paper The National, since they are the first air surveillance system that the UAE have ever had, until now having always used land surveillance ones. The delivery of all the planes is expected to occur between the second half of 2011 and the first half of 2012. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Why Won’t the Arabs Protect Themselves From Iran by Actively Battling Against Tehran Having Nuclear Weapons?

by Barry Rubin

It isn’t hard to conclude that Iran having nuclear weapons is a direct threat to Arab states, except Syria—Tehran’s ally—which would benefit. Why, then, don’t Arab states and intellectuals public express more concern?

Western observers were shaken up when at a debate in Qatar, the relatively moderate Arab audience split almost down the middle between those cheering and those jeering the idea of Iranian nuclear weapons.

One member of the audience said:

“Why in the first place should Iran seek the trust of anyone? Iran is an independent, sovereign country, and it has every single right to defend itself. If it wants a bomb, definitely it should have one.”

The audience cheered.

Another man said:

“There is something called balance of power. As long as there is Israel, we need a nuclear bomb.”

A serious analysis would have to include three main points in explaining this seeming suicidal desire of many Arabs that the real worst enemy of the current Arab order become really, really powerful:

First, fear. Iran is strong, aggressive, close, and represents an ideology that appeals to some of their people. To stand up to Iran’s growing strength could incur costly hostility, pressure and subversion now. And once Tehran gets nuclear weapons, it will remember and take revenge on those who have tried to thwart it.

Second, there is the Middle Eastern version of Political Correctness which, unlike its Western version, has very sharp teeth…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

South Asia

“Wall Street Would Gain From Pakistan Violence”

A dramatic rise in violence in Pakistan could be beneficial for Wall Street, which would like to capitalize on “world-wide fear” to rehabilitate the dollar, believes journalist Webster Tarpley.

“All the hot money of the world, under the condition of a world-wide panic might flee back into the dollar, which would allow the propping up of the dollar compared to the euro and the yen,” Tarpley told RT. “Suppose you have a full-scale civil war in Pakistan. Suppose the Taliban get somewhere near the nuclear forces of Pakistan. That would result in a large regional crisis causing some kind of a shocking, spectacular world panic. There are people in Wall Street who would like to do that.”

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


British Council: Pakistan Facing ‘Frightening’ Demographic Disaster

Young people in Pakistan are deeply frustrated, profoundly religious and have little faith in democracy, according to a British Council report which warns of a demographic disaster in the making.

One third of Pakistanis aged 18 to 29 who were surveyed believe in sharia, or Islamic law; half have “a great deal of confidence” in religious-based education; and more than 60 per cent have faith in the army — the only widely trusted institution of the state. They believe they do not have adequate skills for the workplace and little anticipation of being able to compete fairly for jobs.

The findings appear to show the basis of Pakistan’s difficulties in rallying the country against extremism and being an effective long-term partner for the West in the anti-terrorism fight.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Hindu Nationalist BJP Against Equal Rights for Christian and Muslim Dalits

The Bharatiya Janata Party and a Hindu Dalit organisation announce a two-month long nation-wide mobilisation to defend the 1950 Constitution Order. The proposed action is in response to a sit-in sponsored two days ago by the Catholic Church of India for the repeal of the same Order because it discriminates Dalits based on religion. The BJP accuses the government of betraying the constitution and conspiring in favour of minorities.

Mumbai (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) announced nation-wide mobilisation against the extending to Christian and Muslim Dalits rights now available to Hindu Dalits alone. Between 26 November 2009 and 26 January 2010, the SC Reservation Rights Protection Manch, a Hindu Dalit organisation, will carried out a number of initiatives, round tables, sit-ins and meetings on the topic ‘Honour the Constitution’ in order to defend the 1950 Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order that grants rights and privileges to Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist untouchables.

BJP general secretary Thavar Chand Gehlot, who is a member of the Hindu Dalit organisation, said that extending the rights of scheduled castes to all outcastes would be a betrayal of the constitution. In line with this argument, he has accused the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of sinister designs and of conspiring to usurp the rights of scheduled castes in favour of minorities.

The announcement was made two days after the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, the National Council of Dalit Christians and the National Council of Churches in India sponsored a sit-in in New Delhi (picture). On that occasion, thousands of Christian and Muslim Dalits marched through the streets of the capital to demand changes to the 1950 Constitution Order (see Nirmala Carvalho, “Thousands of Christian and Muslim Dalits march against discrimination,” in AsiaNews, 18 November 2009).

Untouchables excluded from such protection have been demanding redress for many years. However, no measure of pressure has been able to force successive governments to change the Order for the past 59 years.

Yet, various parties and state legislatures have backed demands by Christian and Muslim Dalits, provoking the anger of the BJP.

Likewise, the main opposition party lambasted the National Commission for Linguistic Minorities for coming out in favour of discriminated outcastes.

For Gehlot, the Commission is acting in bad faith and in league with Christians and Muslims to distort the country’s culture and traditions.

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


India: Wahabism Linked With Terrorism; Saudi Envoy Stages Walkout

NEW DELHI: Saudi Ambassador to India Faisal Al-Trad walked out of an international conference of jurists in protest after noted Indian jurist Ram Jethmlani’s accusation that the Wahabi sect of Islam was responsible for terrorism. The conference was attended by Indian President Pratibha Patil, Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan and Law Minister Veerapa Moily. Jethmalani said “Wahabi terrorism” indoctrinated “rubbish” in the minds of young people to carry out terrorist attacks. He lamented that India was friends with a country that supported Wahabi terrorism. The event’s organiser, Adesh Aggarwala, said the ambassador had walked out but returned after Moily’s statement that Jethmalani’s views were not supported by the government or the organisers. Moily said terrorism could not be attributed to any particular religion. iftikhar gilani

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


Malaysia Opposition Aide Teoh Beng Hock’s Body Exhumed

The body of a Malaysian opposition activist who died in police custody has been exhumed after a pathologist said there was an 80% chance he was killed.

Teoh Beng Hock fell nine stories to his death from the offices of the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission in July.

He was said to have committed suicide after being questioned over allegations that his boss had misused public funds.

The authorities will be conducting a second autopsy on the body, following suspicions of foul play.

Last month Thai pathologist Pornthip Rojanasunand said marks on the body suggested Mr Teoh had been tortured and strangled.

Her testimony had been sought by the opposition-led authorities in Selangor state — where Mr Teoh was an aide to a member of the state cabinet.

Abuse of power?

The BBC’s Jennifer Pak in Kuala Lumpur says her story gave credence to a widely held belief that Mr Teoh’s interrogation was part of a government drive to discredit opposition politicians after their success in 2008 elections.

The ruling coalition’s confidence was shaken after it lost its two-thirds majority for the first time in four decades.

The country’s anti-corruption commission has called on a British pathologist to observe the second post-mortem on Mr Teoh’s body.

The Malaysian government has accused the opposition of politicising his death.

In July, a member of the governing coalition quit to join the opposition Pakatan Alliance.

Chua Jui Meng said he was concerned about alleged abuse of power and Mr Teoh’s unexplained death.

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


Report Warns of Pakistan’s Younger Generation Losing Faith in Democracy

Pakistan faces a “demographic disaster” if its leaders fail to invest in a youth population that is disturbingly cynical about democracy, has greatest faith in the military and is resentful of western interference, according to a study published tomorrow.

The report, commissioned by the British Council, says the nuclear-armed country is at a critical point, with its population forecast to swell by 85 million, from its current 180 million, over the next two decades.

“Pakistan is at a crossroads,” said David Steven, an academic who helped write the report. “It can harness the energy of that generation, and collect a demographic dividend. But if they fail to get jobs and are poorly educated, it faces a demographic disaster.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Taliban Suffocate Pakistan Buddhist Heritage

AFP — Archaeologists warn that the Taliban are destroying Pakistan’s ancient Gandhara heritage and rich Buddhist legacy as pilgrimage and foreign research dries up in the country’s northwest.

“Militants are the enemies of culture,” said Abdul Nasir Khan, curator of Taxila Museum, one of the premier archaeological collections in Pakistan.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


US Helps Build Anti-Taliban Afghan Militias: Report

The United States has begun helping a number of anti-Taliban militias in several parts of Afghanistan in hopes for a large-scale tribal rebellion against the radical Islamic movement, The New York Times reported.

The newspaper said US and Afghan officials were planning to spur the growth of similar armed groups across the Taliban heartland in the southern and eastern parts of the country.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Far East

EU: Herman Van Rompuy and Baroness Ashton: The EU’s Perfect Couple of Nobodies

What her [Ashton’s] latest elevation might mean for the future of Europe remains anyone’s guess. Frantic to shed some light on her trajectoire météoritique, the EU-friendly Brussels daily Le Soir was able only to tell its readers that since arriving in town a year ago, she had signed a trade agreement with South Korea, and was “sur le point“ of ending a wrangle over customs duties on South American bananas.

[…]

When he isn’t trying to hold the place [Belgium] together, Herman writes Japanese-style haiku poems and an agonised blog wallowing in solitude, pessimism, and mortality, leading Belgian cartoonists to portray him as an elderly black-robed cleric bent beneath the burdens of conscience and duty. “All human beings must, at some point in their lives, choose between mystery and absurdity…” he mused recently.

Happily, the EU combines both qualities in abundance. The mystery flows from its famously opaque workings — and the absurdity, from appointments such as last week’s.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Japan’s Native Ainu Fight for Cultural Survival

Japan’s native people, the Ainu, once hunted bears and fished for salmon in the wild forests of the country’s far north, but today they are an ethnic minority fighting for their cultural survival.

Like indigenous peoples elsewhere, the Ainu suffered through an era of forced assimilation which took a heavy toll on their customs, language and way of life, leaving them a disadvantaged minority in modern Japan.

As the group keeps struggling to redress past wrongs and revive its rapidly fading traditions, its community leaders say they hope for support from Japan’s new centre-left government, which took power in mid-September..

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Somali Militants Al-Shabab ‘Seize Southern Town’

The Somali Islamist group al-Shabab says it has taken control of the southern town of Afmadow without any resistance from rival militants.

The town, in Lower Juba region, had been controlled by rival group Hisbul-Islam, but its members are reported to have withdrawn without a fight.

The two militant groups have been fighting each other for months for control of this region.

Al-Shabab wants a strict version of Sharia law imposed around the country.

The situation in the southern town is reported to be tense.

Witnesses told the BBC they had seen heavily armed al-Shabab fighters patrolling the town centre in trucks.

They say a large number of people have fled their homes in fear of violence.

Reports say a non-governmental organisation has shut its offices and stopped all essential work in the area. Some of its staff have left the town.

Al-Shabab issued a statement saying it had taken the town from Hisbul-Islam without a fight.

On Saturday, at least eight people died and many more were injured after clashes between Hisbul-Islam and al-Shabab on the outskirts of the town.

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

Latin America

Chavez Praises Carlos the Jackal as ‘Revolutionary Fighter’

‘I defend him. It doesn’t matter to me what they say tomorrow in Europe’

Hugo Chavez is defending alleged terrorist mastermind Carlos the Jackal, saying the Venezuelan imprisoned in France was a “revolutionary fighter” rather than a terrorist.

The Venezuelan president praised Carlos—whose real name is Ilich Sanchez Ramirez—during a speech Friday night saying: “I defend him. It doesn’t matter to me what they say tomorrow in Europe.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


It’s Called Darkest Peru for a Reason

A bunch of people in Peru have been arrested for killing their fellow citizens, then extracting the fat from the corpses, which they distil, package in smart bottles and sell to stupid European women as a beauty product. This is clearly not an ethical industry — particularly when you consider the huge number of air miles involved.

We do not read enough about Peru but when we do it is always diverting. You may remember their fabulously lunatic Maoist terrorists, the Shining Path, and stories about villagers living in terror of the chupacabras, a spiny, bear-like ghoul which sucks the blood of goats and sometimes interferes in an inappropriate manner with Peruvian peasants.

I sometimes wonder if Peru is a real country at all, or simply a fiction dreamt up by Jonathan Swift. Certainly he would have found much to admire in Peru’s unorthodox attempts to break into the cosmetics market. Is there anything women wouldn’t rub onto their faces if they thought it would make them look younger?

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Immigration

UK: Citizenship Language Scam Exposed

Immigrants who don’t understand English have been able to buy language certificates that give them the right to settle in Britain.

An investigation by The Sunday Times has found that staff at English language colleges in London and Birmingham have been offering migrants who speak little or no English Home Office-regulated English and Citizenship certificates for £250 each. Tests are rigged to allow almost anyone to pass.

Staff hand out crib sheets with questions and answers in English. Others let candidates write the sound of English words on the sheets in their own tongue, so the answers appear right, but they don’t know what they are saying.

At the UK Learning Academy in Birmingham, a staff assessor told an undercover reporter that candidates did not have to take any courses or speak any English to pass the tests. The assessor simply asked if the candidate knew their own name, date of birth and address. When told that they did, the assessor replied: “That’s all right then. That’s a guaranteed pass.”

Yesterday the Academy said it had sacked the assessor for “gross misconduct”. Directors at a second college under investigation said they had suspended its English course, while a third college removed the website advertising its course. Chris Grayling, shadow home secretary, said: “These revelations are particularly alarming and reveal another major abuse of our system for immigration.” He called for the certificates to be suspended.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

4 comments:

Paul Weston said...

David Cameron has thrown away his majority over the last few weeks.

He applies "positive discrimination" toward potential party candidates, twists and turns over the Lisbon Treaty, and arranges contrived and agonisingly sorrowful photo shoots in the grounds of Westminster Abbey on Remembrance Sunday.

He is a disgrace as a man, let alone as a Conservative.

He could win a landslide majority in the next election simply by promoting 5 core Conservative tenets.

1. A total halt on all immigration, save for persecuted whites in Zimbabwe/South Africa.

2. A crackdown on Radical Islam.

3. A referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

4. Schools to promote traditional education rather than politically correct social engineering.

5. Criminals to be treated as criminals rather than the victims of "social injustice" coupled with locally elected police chiefs.

None of this is going to happen though, because call me Dave is not really a Conservative at all.

The Lib/Dems think they may be gifted a power share, but there could well be a massive gain for the BNP and UKIP in the election next year.

Elections in 2014 though, will be interesting. Dave will have fully emerged as a Blue Blair by then; the UK will have all sorts of problems on its hands and a party which appeals to the core Conservative bloc could do very well.

No such party exists in Britain today. It did exist once though. It was called the Conservative Party.

Perhaps we need a new counterrevolutionary party

Graham Dawson (Archonix) said...

WE don't have power brokers in the traditional European sense, as we're a first-past-the-post system. Whoever gets the largest party in parliament makes the government. However, what we may get is a hung parliament (if only!) where no one party has an absolute majority, akin to the waning years of the Major government. In these situations you can get the Lib Dems playing something like a power broker but mostly what you get is a lot of argument. In many ways it's a more honest parliament. Party whipping doesn't produce the same effects and there's a likelihood of MPs voting for what they want rather than what the party wants.

Mostly, though, it'll cripple anything Cameron or whomever is in charge wants to do.

The public have sat up and taken notice of the fact that Cameron is, despite claims to the contrary, just another politician. His polls took a huge hit after he backtracked on his promise to hold a referendum on Lisbon (which would be impossible anyway - he knew it would be impossible when he made the promise). Now he's refusing to allow for an in-or-out referendum because he knows that the outs would win it.

Just another wet europhile in a blue tie.

Sean O'Brian said...

"A recent poll in the UK — which is hard to credit — shows that the Labour Party has reclaimed lost ground from the Tories, making the Lib-Dems the power brokers in the elections next spring. How likely is that?"

I don't find it hard to credit, as Peter Hitchens writes about this all time and says that the media - particularly the journalist friends of David Cameron, who used to work in PR - usually intrepret the polls in the Conservative Party's favour. This was partly the subject of his last book, The Broken Compass. Here is a long article on polls which he wrote two years ago: How to read an opinion poll

What seems to have happened at the moment is that (for the reasons Paul Weston lists above) the Conservative Party's poll numbers have dropped a small bit - they had already dropped to 39 per cent on 11 Nov, they're on 37 per cent now - but it is enough that the tenuousness of their lead (and it was never really the great surge that was reported) has become more difficult for the media to disguise.

As for Labour they will be very hard to get rid of at all due to their cultural success. For instance 20 years ago Oxford had two Tory MPs. Now one seat is held by Labour and the other by the Lib Dems. The Tories have no representation on the Oxford city council (which they dominated in the '70s) and can't find enough candidates to stand in every ward. This shift is not the result of ordinary campaigning but has occured because the intellectual life at Oxford is now completely dominated by leftism.

4Symbols said...

The point is the Conservative Party ceased being conservative decades ago, they damaged traditional conservative politics to the point that even with this grotesque Labour Government and a bankrupt economy people will think twice about voting for the Conservative Party in an election they should really win hands down.

In any case I think the real politics will be in the street after the election in spite of the outcome, which at a guess maybe a Labour win.