Saturday, November 28, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/28/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/28/2009A terrorist bomb planted under the railroad tracks in Russia exploded under a train yesterday and killed at least 26 people, some of them fairly high-ranking government officials. The Russian authorities say that the blast may have been the work of Chechen separatists.

In other news, Tiger Woods’ close encounter with a fire hydrant is now alleged to be the result of a domestic dispute. According to TMZ, Mrs. Woods was upset with her husband and chased him down the driveway with the golf club, using it to smash the back window of his SUV.

For a long time Tiger Woods seemed to be a cut above the rest of the celebrities — but then he had to go and get himself a Swedish wife. Maybe he and Paul Anka can exchange tips on how to deal with those hot-blooded Scandinavian women.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Esther, Insubria, KGS, Sean O’Brian, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Islamic Finance Was Not Immune to the Credit Crunch
 
USA
“Party Crashers” Had Five-Year Relationship With Obama Before State Dinner
Christian Church, Native American Tribe Reconcile
Guess Who Came to Dinner?
Muslims Work Toward Mosque
Obama’s Personal Physician Friend Was a Marxist, Too
Publisher Admits Obama Book Ghostwritten by Bill Ayers
Synagogue in Virginia Opens Doors to Muslims
Tiger Woods: Injuries Caused by Wife, Not Suv
 
Canada
Canadian Health Care to US Up 450%
 
Europe and the EU
Austria, Germany Blocking EU-US Data Deal
British Policing Has ‘Lost Its Way’, Says Top Officer
Climategate Master Criminal Phil Jones Collected $22.6 Million in Grants
Denmark: Arabic on Copenhagen Schools Syllabus
Dutch FM Backs Turkey Over Wilders
EU Bureaucrats to Receive ‘Recession Proof’ Pay Rise
Germany Home to 90 Combat Islamists: Report
Germany: US Man Missing for Seven Days in Frankfurt
Italy: Pro-Cross Activist ‘Screamed Profanities’
Obama’s Visit Costs Norway Millions
Obama Going to Copenhagen Too Early: Sarkozy
Spain: Catalonia’s Papers Defend Statute in Joint Editorial
Spain: Editorial on Catalonia Statute Shakes Politicians
Switzerland: Divisive Minaret Ban Plans Face Voters’ Verdict
UK: Libel Tourism Gagging Scientific Free Speech
UK: Schizophrenic Who Stabbed a Vicar to Death ‘Was Not Properly Assessed’
UK: Theft Arrest for Chief Inspector
UKIP Offered Tories Election Deal in Return for EU Vote
 
North Africa
Egypt-Algeria: Diplomatic Clash Leaves Economic Shadow
Tunisia: Italian Navy Modernises Kuriat Lighthouse
 
Israel and the Palestinians
2,000 Protest Haredi Religious Coercion in Jerusalem
Gaza: Militant Struck by Israeli Air Fire Dies
Netanyahu Rejects Minister’s Comment on Obama
 
Middle East
Football More Important Than Palestinians
Lebanon: Hezbollah Arms Legitimized in Gov’t Draft Programme
Saudi Troops ‘Captured’ By Houthi Rebels in Yemen
Saudis Blast Govt After Deadly Jeddah Flood
Yemen: Rebels Block Key Highway
 
Russia
Russia Blames Terrorists as Dozens Killed in Train Crash
U.S. Gears Back Criticism of Two Russia-Backed Pipelines
 
South Asia
2 Afghans Allege Abuse at U.S. Site
NATO Has Lost Its Way in Afghanistan, Army Chief Tells Muslims
Pakistan: Taliban Trying to Destroy Buddhist Art From the Gandhara Period
 
Immigration
Expert From Sweden: No Need to Fear China Nor Islam
French Parties Testing the Political Waters on Immigration Law Changes
French Film About Illegal Immigrant Trying to Enter Britain Wins Top EU Award
Ireland: Suspended Term for Trying to Bribe Immigration Officer
Spain: Congress Approves New Laws on Foreigners
Spain to Support Malta on Immigration
 
General
‘Gender Jihad’ In the Service of Women’s Rights

Financial Crisis

Islamic Finance Was Not Immune to the Credit Crunch

Times are difficult; we are still mired in a financial crisis. And debt is the problem, somehow: subprime mortgages stated this whole mess, along with mortgage-backed securities (MBS), collateralised debt obligations (CDO) and other debt and derivatives instruments.

But how? Is debt itself the problem? Were Islamic banks and institutions affected in the same way as conventional institutions? If not, why not?

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

USA

“Party Crashers” Had Five-Year Relationship With Obama Before State Dinner

While the big gun media and American Secret Service are out there investigating “party crashers” Tareq and Michaele Salahi, no one’s telling the truth: Obama knew the Salahis when he was still an Illinois senator.

Polo Contacts Worldwide could make it easy for the investigating Secret Service by brown-enveloping them this picture:

[Return to headlines]


Christian Church, Native American Tribe Reconcile

NEW YORK — Members of one of America’s oldest Protestant churches officially apologized Friday — for the first time — for massacring and displacing Native Americans 400 years ago.

“We consumed your resources, dehumanized your people and disregarded your culture, along with your dreams, hopes and great love for this land,” the Rev. Robert Chase told descendants from both sides. “With pain, we the Collegiate Church, remember our part in these events.”

The minister spoke on Native American Heritage Day at a reconciliation ceremony of the Lenape tribe with the Collegiate Church, started in 1628 in then-New Amsterdam as the Reformed Dutch Church.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Guess Who Came to Dinner?

Given the deep-bow-to-American-enemies style of President Barack Obama, it is not even close to likely that Tareq Salahi was a party crasher at the president’s first official state dinner on Friday night.

Salahi is a former board member of The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), a 501(c), non profit, non-partisan organization based in Washington, D.C, established in 2003 “to provide an independent voice for Palestinian-Americans and their supporters and to promote peace”. While all references to Salahi have been scrubbed on its homepage, they can still be found on a Google search cache of ATFP’s site. (google-cache112809.jpg)

According to the ATFP home page, “Mr. Salahi travels the world as the Team Captain for the United States Polo team and represents both the United States and Palestine on his diplomatic polo tours.

[Return to headlines]


Muslims Work Toward Mosque

GLENDALE — The Islamic Center of Glendale celebrated the second most holy Muslim day Friday for the first time, a sign that it is building momentum toward establishing a mosque in the area, religious leaders said.

The center, a community nonprofit established earlier this year, welcomed about 400 Muslims from various ethnicities and backgrounds to celebrate the Prophet Ibrahim and Eid ul-Adha, a day celebrated by Muslims worldwide with the pilgrimage to Mecca, about 70 days after Ramadan.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Obama’s Personal Physician Friend Was a Marxist, Too

The push to socialize US Heathcare came, not from from the “people”, but from small clique of Marxists, led by a man with close persional ties to president Barack Obama. This group’s goal is fully socialized, government run “single payer” healthcare-as long promoted through Congressman John Conyers’ National Health Insurance Act, or HR 676. The leader of this Marxist clique is Quentin Young-a retired Chicago physician, a life long Marxist activist and long time friend and political ally of Barack Obama.

[Return to headlines]


Publisher Admits Obama Book Ghostwritten by Bill Ayers

The founder of Times Books — publisher of President Barack Obama’s autobiography Dreams From My Father — Thomas Lipscomb recently dropped a huge bomb on the Obama White House. Now a senior fellow at the well-regarded Annenberg Center, Lipscomb contends that Obama’s story was actually ghostwritten by former terrorist and cop-killer William Ayers.

During the presidential campaign if asked how close he was with the former bomb-maker for Weathermen, Obama would claim that Bill Ayers was merely “a guy who lives in my neighborhood,” and “not somebody who I exchange ideas with on a regular basis.”

But according to Lipscomb’s Accuracy in Media report: “Obama had to give up on a $150,000 Simon & Schuster contract because he couldn’t complete the manuscript, his sources were telling him Obama finally had to bring in a ghostwriter to put together his highly praised Dreams From My Father for Times Books. He had a million pieces of tape, pictures, memos, notes, and no manuscript.”

Unfortunately for Obama, he was caught at a July 10, 2008, meeting in Fairfax, Virginia proudly saying the following: “I’ve written two books. I actually wrote them myself.”

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Synagogue in Virginia Opens Doors to Muslims

In the US state of Virginia there is a remarkable relationship between the local religious communities. The Muslim community is growing and mosques are filling up quickly, so Muslims have begun to visit synagogues.

Rizwan Jaka, a devout Muslim and community activist, finds nothing wrong with reciting his prayers in a synagogue.

“Coming here to the synagogue is just as comfortable for me as going to a mosque, and it is something that is very special for me and my family. I will remember this for the rest of our lives,” notes Rizwan.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Tiger Woods: Injuries Caused by Wife, Not Suv

Tiger has yet to be formally interviewed by the Florida Highway Patrol — that should happen this afternoon. But we’re told Tiger had a conversation Friday — with a non-law enforcement type — detailing what went down before his Escalade hit a fire hydrant.

We’re told he said his wife had confronted him about reports that he was seeing another woman. The argument got heated and, according to our source, she scratched his face up. We’re told it was then Woods beat a hasty retreat for his SUV — but according to our source, Woods says his wife followed behind with a golf club. As Tiger drove away, she struck the vehicle several times with the club.

Tiger WoodsWe’re told Woods became “distracted,” thought the vehicle was stopped, and looked to see what had happened. At that point the SUV hit the fire hydrant and then hit a tree.

We’re also told Woods had said during the conversation Friday he had been taking prescription pain medication for an injury, which could explain why he seemed somewhat out of it at the scene.

[Return to headlines]

Canada

Canadian Health Care to US Up 450%

Record numbers of Ontarians are being sent to the U.S. by their government for routine health care that should be available at home. A Metroland Special Report shows thousands of others are funding their own medical treatments south of the border, at high personal cost. The numbers have been rising for the last 10 years. Government approvals for out-of-country health care funding are up 450 per cent. Should Ontarians have to use a passport to get health care?

Even though Ontario has taken measures to reduce wait times, the system is still sagging under pressure and generating patient angst. Need an MRI? The wait is 109 days, according to provincial wait-time figures. As of Nov. 1, nearly 140,000 people were on waiting lists for CT and MRI imaging alone. Centres such as Unasource are more than willing to welcome Canadians looking for expedited care. The modern rooms, high-tech equipment and plush extras may not surprise choosy American patients. For Ontarians who are focused on faster care, the extras are an added comfort.

At Sky Ridge, the wait time for a specialist appointment and joint-replacement surgery is measured in days. In Ontario, where more than 8,500 people are waiting for knee-replacement surgery, 90 per cent of patients will have the surgery within the provincial target of 182 days. But, that wait only starts after the surgery is scheduled, a process which can add months to the timeline as patients wade through referrals and specialist appointments. The waits can be agony, and many people look south out of desperation, said Janet Walker, a B.C. nurse who is researching the impact of wait times on patients. “In Canada, we hear that, yes there are waits, but it’s only for elective surgery,” she said. “So, we imagine that it’s not important and not painful, and that is just not the case.”

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Austria, Germany Blocking EU-US Data Deal

EU interior ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday — their last official talks this year — hope to endorse an interim agreement permitting US justice authorities to data from the interbank transfer service SWIFT.

Brussels — Austria and Germany were on Friday still blocking a planned accord allowing the United States to use data about European citizens in anti-terror investigations as a November 30 deadline closes in.

EU interior ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday — their last official talks this year — hope to endorse an interim agreement permitting US justice authorities to data from the interbank transfer service SWIFT.

If Austria and Germany continue to hold out, “the Americans will no longer have access to European data” from the SWIFT network from the end of the year, an EU diplomat said.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


British Policing Has ‘Lost Its Way’, Says Top Officer

British policing has “lost its way” amid the “noise and clutter” of Government targets, initiatives and new laws, the chief of inspector of police has said.

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Climategate Master Criminal Phil Jones Collected $22.6 Million in Grants

Excerpts from a post by Michael Shedlock — “It’s now official. Much of the hype about global warming is nothing but a complete scam. The global warming thesis was completely fabricated.

“Inquiring minds are reading Hacked: Hadley CRU FOI2009 Files on The Reference Frame by Luboš Motl, a physicist from the Czech Republic.

“So far, the most interesting file I found in the “documents” directory is pdj_grant_since1990.xls which shows that since 1990, Phil Jones has collected a staggering 13.7 million British pounds ($22.6 million) in grants.

“Phil Jones, the main criminal according to this correspondence, has personally confirmed that the website was hacked and that the documents are authentic. See Briefing Room.

I wonder if Phil remembers the $22.6 million in grants. I wonder if he “remembers” only those things that the IPCC wants him to remember.

[Return to headlines]


Denmark: Arabic on Copenhagen Schools Syllabus

City Council aims to recognise Arabic-speaking population by adding a new optional school subject School pupils in Copenhagen will be able to take Arabic as a second language from the age of 12, following a new decision from the Education…

School pupils in Copenhagen will be able to take Arabic as a second language from the age of 12, following a new decision from the Education Ministry.

Copenhagen’s city council had applied to the ministry to offer Arabic, alongside the existing language subjects of English, French and German.

The ministry has turned down the request as it wants to keep the standard languages, reports Jyllands-Posten newspaper, and instead Arabic will be an optional subject offered in 7th grade.

Danish People’s Party (DF) education spokeswoman, Marlene Harpsøe said the decision was a catastrophe.

‘It’s not public schools’ job to teach Arabic. It’s something you can do in your spare time. Arabic isn’t a language that you need in the same way as German for example, as Germany is a large trading partner,’ Harpsøe said.

Schools already have the option of offering languages such as Arabic as optional subject choices in 8th and 9th grade, but according to the ministry, no schools have chosen to do so.

The Danish Union of Teachers previously recommended that Arabic be introduced in schools and union spokeswoman Dorte Lange was pleased with the news about the Copenhagen project.

‘We live in a globalised world and every day deal with Arabic countries among others. Schools should also look past Europe and offer language subjects such as Arabic, Hindi, Chinese and Turkish,’ Lange said.

Social Democrat education spokesman for Copenhagen, Jan Andreasen, believes DF had misunderstood the inclusion of Arabic on the syllabus.

‘It won’t replace the teaching of Danish. We just want to utilise the fact we have a large Arabic population in Copenhagen who could be better at Arabic and use the language in their business career,’ said Andreasen.

‘Many of these young people have problems because they don’t speak Danish or Arabic so well’.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


Dutch FM Backs Turkey Over Wilders

The Netherlands — Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen says his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, is free to refuse to receive the Dutch populist politician Geert Wilders.

The PVV leader intends to travel with a parliamentary delegation to Turkey early next year but Turkey’s foreign ministry refuses to receive him.

Wilders has asked Foreign Minister Verhagen to lodge a complaint over the refusal. Verhagen is only willing to point out to Ankara the need for conversations with Dutch MPs and the attending advantages.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


EU Bureaucrats to Receive ‘Recession Proof’ Pay Rise

Baroness Ashton, the newly appointed EU foreign minister who is also a European Commission vice-president, will pocket an extra £9,000 on top of her basic annual salary of £241,000.

Eurocrats will get the 3.7 per cent pay rise despite negative or near to zero rates of inflation across Europe, soaring unemployment, falling wages and austerity measures in most national public sectors.

Despite never having been elected to public office, Lady Ashton will now earn over £52,000 more than Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister.

Unlike the Eurocrats, most British public sector workers, including front line doctors and nurses, are facing pay freezes as the government reins in public spending that has been bloated by bank bailouts.

EU officials, who already pay reduced taxes and who are currently demanding free travel on public transport, will get the pay increase, with six months paid retrospectively, in time to celebrate the New Year.

Meanwhile, average pay rises in Britain have fallen to one per cent, the lowest increase on record, as almost half of British firms have frozen their employees’ pay.

Mats Persson, a spokesman for Open Europe think tank, said that already well paid officials needed to wake up to “what’s happening outside the Brussels bubble”.

“This is a PR disaster for the Commission. No wonder people find it hard to identify with the EU institutions,” he said.

The commission, which disclosed the figures yesterday, insisted that the pay rise is calculated in reference to civil service pay averages in eight EU countries and a special cost of living index for Brussels.

“This is an objective method,” said a spokesman. “But I cannot tell you if the method has ever gone down as well as up.”

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, said: “There is no recession for the EU bureaucracy. After the Lisbon Treaty enters into force next week there be will be thousands more of them.”

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


Germany Home to 90 Combat Islamists: Report

There are about 90 combat-trained Islamists in Germany moving among underground networks, Focus magazine reported Saturday, as intelligence agencies and police prepare to overhaul the country’s anti-terrorism approach.

Some 30 of them have actual fighting experience through clashes with US or Pakistani soldiers, the magazine reported, citing German security sources.

In total, 185 Islamists trained in terrorist camps in central Asia had lived or worked in Germany in the past 10 years, the sources said.

New, young radicals were no longer recruited only through mosques, but also in universities, prisons and sports clubs, the report said.

The security sources wanted Germany to take a stronger stance in the future towards deradicalising young Islamists.

According to a separate report in magazine Der Spiegel, the Joint Terrorism Defence Centre (GTAZ) — a co-operation between various German police and intelligence agencies — will hold a forum in December to overhaul the country’s anti-terrorism strategy and come up with fresh approaches.

The efforts would be aimed at native German converts to Islam, as much as radicals with immigrant backgrounds.

Until now, anti-radicalisation measures had been piecemeal across Germany’s states, ranging from educational comic books to one-on-one conversations with violence-prone Islamists, the Spiegel report said.

The forum, organised by the Interior Ministry, would also study Jihadists who had already been convicted and imprisoned, as they posed their own danger in jail, where they could radicalise other prisoners.

To fight this problem, moderate Imams and Islamic organisations could be brought into counter the influence of radicals in jails, the Spiegel report said.

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


Germany: US Man Missing for Seven Days in Frankfurt

A 22-year-old American man went missing in Frankfurt seven days ago — vanishing without a trace after attending a concert with a friend, his father told The Local on Friday.

Devon Hollahan and his friend Josh Friedman had travelled to Frankfurt from Prague, where Hollahan works as an English teacher, to attend a concert by the band Portugal The Man on November 20.

Hollahan and Friedman had been drinking beer and were “tipsy” after attending an after party with the band, his father said. They then took a taxi to central Frankfurt to find their hostel around 3 am, getting out at the Hotel Luxor before heading to the Taunusalange metro station — on the edge of the city’s red light district.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Italy: Pro-Cross Activist ‘Screamed Profanities’

(ANSA) — Genoa, November 27 — A man campaigning to keep crosses in Italian classrooms shocked shoppers in Genoa Friday when he burst into profanities after being challenged by a passer-by.

Eye witnesses said the man, an activist for the regionalist Northern League, got into a heated argument while leafleting against a recent ruling against classroom crosses by the European Court of Human Rights.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Obama’s Visit Costs Norway Millions

From Danish: The Norwegian gov’t gave the police 80 million kroner for th visit, and the army 12 million kroner.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Obama Going to Copenhagen Too Early: Sarkozy

PORT OF SPAIN — French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday questioned US President Barack Obama’s decision to attend the start of upcoming negotiations on global warming instead of the decisive final days.

“We can’t allow the presence of one single head of state to stymie the world’s affairs,” Sarkozy told reporters ahead of the Copenhagen conference which opens on December 7.

“The decisive moment is December 17 and 18. If some come at the beginning and others at the end, when will we be able to take decisions?” he asked.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Spain: Catalonia’s Papers Defend Statute in Joint Editorial

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 26 — The twelve daily papers published in the region of Catalonia put out a joint editorial today, entitled “The Dignity of Catalonia”, defending the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, for which the People’s Party presented an appeal to the Constitutional Court. Awaiting the court’s decision, the long editorial asks for the contents of the Autonomy Charter not to be reshaped. The preamble defines Catalania as a nation, approved by the Catalonian Parliament and ratified by referendum in 2006. The article calls into question the authority of the Constitutional Court to make a decision on the Statute, as only six of its twelve members are fully functioning at the moment (four have finished their terms and are awaiting substitution; one was declined, and one post is empty after the head of the court’s death). Directed at Spanish public opinon, as La Vanguardia notes, the article expresses the concerns of many sectors of Catalonian society, given the possibility of an extremely restrictive verdict. According to the text, expectations are high and there is no shortness of apprehension, given the evidence that the Constitutional Court has been pushed by events to act as a fourth chamber, in opposition to the Catalonian Parliament, the General Courts, and the opinions liberally expressed at the polls. The editorial was published in the following dailies: La Vanguardia, El Periodico de Catalunya, Avui, El Punt, Segre, Diari de Tarragona, La Maana, Diari de Girona, Regi 7, El Nou 9, Diari de Sabadell, and Diari de Terrassa. On Tuesday, Premier Jose’ Luis Rodriguez Zapatero appealed for calmness, throwing water on the flames of controversy provoked by indiscretions seeping into the verdict determining the constitutionality of the Statute, awaited for three years. I have faith in the Constitutional Court’s good judgement and in our constitutional system, assured Zapatero. But Catalonia remains on a war-path.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Spain: Editorial on Catalonia Statute Shakes Politicians

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 27 — The joint editorial published yesterday by newspapers and some radio stations in Catalonia in favour of the Statute for autonomy entitled “Catalonia’s dignity”, has shaken the political world in Spain. The initiative was supported by the four major unions, including UGT and Comisiones Obreras, the five main Catalan entities including the small and medium sized companies, seven professional associations, the Chamber of Commerce and groups like the Barcelona Futbol Club and the Economy Club. All support the position expressed by the tripartite governing Catalonia consisting of Psc-Erc and IU-Ivc, and by the opposition CiU, which warned on severe consequences of a judgement by the Constitutional Court limiting the preogatives contained in the Statute, which in the preamble defines Catalonia as “a nation”. After nearly three years of deliberations, the Constitutional Court wrote the judgement on the appeal on the constitutionality of the statute — approved by a majority and ratified by a referendum in 2006 — presented by the Peoples Party. The alarm rang in Catalonia on the news leaked by the press relative to the judgement of the unconstitutionally of more than 40 of the 126 articles. However, in the rest of Spain, the majority opinion, according to todays issues of newspapers like El Mundo, El Pais and the conservative Abc, consider the editorial published by the Catalan media insupportable pressure on the high court. To defuse political tension, the government attempted to douse the flames, hoping that the cuts in the Statute will be less than those leaked, according to sources cited today by Publico, a publication close to the government of José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. The premier asked the PP to retract the case of unconstitutionality. On the table, as underlined by La Voz de Galizia, there is the architecture of the pluralist state of the autonomous areas, as defined by the Spanish Constitutional Court. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Switzerland: Divisive Minaret Ban Plans Face Voters’ Verdict

Voters have the final say on Sunday on a proposal by members of rightwing and ultra-conservative groups to outlaw the construction of minarets in Switzerland.

The ballot puts the Swiss policy on religious minorities and integration of immigrants under the spotlight. But the highly divisive plan has limited chances of winning a majority, according to experts.

The government and most political parties as well as churches and the business community have come out strongly against a proposed ban.

“The initiative is a kind of ‘proxy war’. Its supporters say they are against minarets. But they want to fight what they consider creeping Islamicisation and sharia law;” said Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf.

Opponents also warn that approval of the proposal would fuel Islamic extremism and damage Switzerland’s image aborad, particularly in the Muslim world.

However, supporters of a ban argue minarets are a symbol of an Islamic claim to power.

“The Islamic religion is intolerant, but we do not want to limit freedom of religion, we want to outlaw the political symbol,” says Ulrich Schlüer, a member of the rightwing Swiss People’s party and one of the leading promoters of the anti-minaret initiative.

The group says it is time to act now before Christian values are undermined and violence flares in Muslim ghettoes as in neighbouring European states.

The promoters claim there is public concern about the growing Muslim community in Switzerland, radical imams, the role of women, as well as head scarves and other dress codes.

Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf Immigrants

The number of Muslim immigrants has increased to about 350,000 (up to 4.5 per cent of the Swiss population) since the 1990s. Most of them came from the former Yugoslavia and Turkey and are considered moderates.

There are an estimated 160 mosques and prayer rooms in Switzerland, mainly in disused factories and warehouses. Only four of them have a minaret, including the mosques in Geneva and Zurich.

In the wake of heated debates at a local level about requests to build more minarets, members of the People’s Party and the Federal Democratic Union collected enough signatures to force a nationwide vote.

The campaign in the run-up to the vote on Sunday was marked by a provocative poster campaign which was criticised as racist by non-governmental organisations and international bodies.

“The supporters succeeded in forcing a broader debate about integration of Muslims in Swiss society,” said political scientist Claude Longchamp.

An opinion poll by his gfs.berne research institute two weeks ahead of the ballot found the margin between opponents and supporters narrowing. Nevertheless a majority of potential voters still rejected a minaret ban.

Given that the issue is one that generates strong feeling on either side, turnout is expected to be above average — around 50 per cent.

Alongside the anti-minaret initiative, voters will also decide on a separate proposal by an alliance of peace groups and centre-left political parties to ban the export of weapons and other war materiel.

It is the third time in nearly 40 years that pacifists have sought to win a majority for their cause.

The pacifists, including the Group for a Switzerland without an Army, argue that arms exports are incompatible with Switzerland’s foreign policy aims and traditional neutrality.

The government and most political parties have warned the initiative would cost thousands of jobs and weaken Switzerland’s defence capabilities.

The initiative has no realistic chance of winning approval at the ballot box, but observers note that the campaign has appealed to young citizens and to women in particular.

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


UK: Libel Tourism Gagging Scientific Free Speech

Britain’s libel laws are strangling free speech, a doctor being sued by an American company after criticising its research has warned.

Peter Wilmshurst said that libel tourism, which allows foreigners to sue for damages in British courts, is endangering the right of scientists and academics to scrutinise each other’s works.

The consultant cardiologist at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital faces financial ruin after he spoke out at a conference in America, criticising the research of U.S. company NMT Medical into a device to plug holes in the heart.

His comments were picked up by an American health website and ran online for three days.

But he is being sued in the UK because, in theory, the website could have been viewed in this country and British courts are seen as more likely to award large payments for damages.

Dr Wilmshurst said: ‘I’m being sued for something that appeared on an American website for three days two years ago.

‘It makes me rather more angry that the law can be used in his way to suppress information that may be in the public interest for us to know.

‘There is a fundamental principle of science at stake here. People have to be free to challenge research.’

[Return to headlines]


UK: Schizophrenic Who Stabbed a Vicar to Death ‘Was Not Properly Assessed’

A cannabis-crazed psychopath stabbed a vicar to death after a series of blunders by mental health authorities, a damning report has found.

Geraint Evans, who was obsessed with Satanism, knifed Father Paul Bennett, 59, in his country churchyard in front of the vicar’s wife Georgina.

An investigation found Evans had walked out of an appointment with mental health assessors eight months before the tragedy — because they were 40 minutes late — yet no attempt whatsoever was made to contact him.

If he had received a full assessment, the report found, the 24-year- old would have been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and would have been given appropriate treatment, lowering the chances he would kill.

Last night Mrs Bennett said the assessors’ inaction had had ‘the most dire of consequences on her family’ and that her husband had made a ‘ terrible sacrifice’ so lessons could be learned.

[Return to headlines]


UK: Theft Arrest for Chief Inspector

A senior Nottinghamshire Police officer has been arrested on suspicion of shoplifting.

Ch Insp Kim Molloy was arrested on Tuesday at the Tesco Extra store on Top Valley Drive in Top Valley, Nottingham.

It is understood the arrest is in connection with the alleged theft of make up from the store.

Ch Insp Molloy was taken to a nearby police station and bailed pending further inquiries. She has not been suspended from her job.

A spokesman for Nottinghamshire Police confirmed that a 44-year-old woman was arrested in connection with the incident and had been bailed until February.

Ms Molloy is a long-serving officer with the force and heads up the Offender Management programme on its Community Engagement Committee.

She also conducted a review of the county’s special constabulary in 2008 which refocussed their efforts on community policing.

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


UKIP Offered Tories Election Deal in Return for EU Vote

The UK Independence Party says it offered not to fight the next general election if the Conservatives agreed to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

New UKIP leader Lord Pearson of Rannoch told the Times he offered a deal after its strong European elections showing.

He told the BBC he thought a referendum would have gone against the treaty — meaning Britain would have effectively left the EU and UKIP could disband.

The Conservatives said any mention of a deal had been rejected “straight away”.

The ex-Tory peer told the BBC: “Well, the version in the Times is slightly paraphrased and condensed.

“We offered that if we got a clear, written promise with an agreed wording for a referendum on whether we stayed in or left the European Union… then we would stand down for the general election, providing we had this absolutely clearly in writing.

“And then when we had the referendum — which we believed we would win — we would then be out of the European Union and then at that point UKIP, well it would have been up to UKIP, but it would probably have disbanded because its major point would no longer be in existence.”

Lord Pearson said he had taken the proposed deal to Lord Strathclyde, the Conservative leader in the Lords, after UKIP beat Labour into third place in this year’s European elections.

He said he was acting on behalf of Mr Farage and told Lord Strathclyde to relay the offer to Tory leader David Cameron.

Lord Pearson told the BBC: “We made this offer to Tom Strathclyde, who was going to see David Cameron two days later. He said I’ll talk to David.”

However Lord Pearson said in the end he did not get an answer. He told the Times: “I’m so angry with them now.”

The Times said both Mr Farage and Lord Strathclyde had confirmed the meeting did take place.

[…]

Shadow Europe minister Mark Francois said of Lord Pearson’s comments: “We don’t make policy on the basis of secret deals with other parties; we decide our policies on the basis of what is right for the country.

“As we have said, a made-up referendum after ratification would be pointless.”

Lord Pearson gained nearly half of the approximately 9,900 votes cast by UKIP members in the leadership contest.

Following his victory, he said the Lisbon Treaty was “the last nail in the coffin of our democracy” and his objective at the next election would be to force a hung Parliament and a “realignment” in British politics.

UKIP does not have any MPs but has 13 MEPs and among its key aims is pulling the UK out of the European Union.

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

North Africa

Egypt-Algeria: Diplomatic Clash Leaves Economic Shadow

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, NOVEMBER 27 — Egypt’s investments in Algeria total almost 740 million euros, as against the 11 million invested by Algeria in Egypt. These figures reflect a potential consequence of the politico-diplomatic war being waged between the two countries, triggered off by recent events on and off the football field in qualifying for the World Cup finals. These numbers alone are enough to show that, should the affair get worse and if appeals to boycott Egyptian products and calls to suspend trade launched by some Algerian MPs at the height of the crisis have any effect, it would be Egypt who comes off worse. “Business affected, too” reads the English-language weekly supplement to the government-backed daily Al Ahram. Apart from citing figures released by the General Authority for Investments and Free Zones, the paper speaks of damages totalling 54 million dollars being suffered by Orascom Telecom in the attacks on its group’s shops and premises following the spread of rumours in Algeria that some Algerian fans had been killed during the match on November 14 in Cairo. It also points out that the Francophone daily, Tribune, has over past days said that the Algerian government intends to nationalise the branches of foreign companies which intend to up roots from the country as well as to step up state control of the economy. The question relates not only to some recent measures taken by the Algerian government such as the non-retroactive one which obliges foreign-based import companies to cede 30% of their capital to a local partner, or require a 50% involvement of an Algerian partner in any foreign investment project. The newspaper in fact cites an Efg-Hermes study on the impact of the new measures which oblige foreign companies benefitting from tax relief to reinvest an equivalent amount in Algeria. It also reminds its readers of the intention of the Algerian government, announced by Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia on August 10, “to take a majority stake in any future investment project involving foreign capital, without specifying the date and the industries to which the measure would be applied”. Another piece of news at the centre of the issue was made official at the height of the soccer-fuelled political crisis: that the Algerian authorities are forcing Orascom Telecom Algeria to pay around 596 million dollars, in back payments for the period 2005-2007 and fines: it is a decision which Orascom soon said it would appeal against. On the other hand, Al Ahram also notes that the Ota subsidiary in Algeria, Diezzy, has over eight years taken about 63% of the market, without counting the Algerian activities of Orascom Cement, the construction arm of the group, and that of Arab Contractors, a company 100% owned by the Egyptian government. Today, says the French-language weekly of Al Ahram, there are 32 Egyptian investment projects in Algeria, with Egypt the main investor in the country and at least 10 thousand Egyptian citizens working there. As for trade, it is up 53% in the space of one year. These are figures that give an idea of the importance of the Algerian market for Egypt, but not only, if the rumours are true that in the event of a cooling in trade relations, other countries are standing by to jump in. Meanwhile in the shop windows of some Cairo streets, you can still read the sign: ‘Algerians not allowed in’.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Tunisia: Italian Navy Modernises Kuriat Lighthouse

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, NOVEMBER 26 — The lighthouse on the Kuriat island in the Gulf of Monastir has been entirely modernised by the Italian Navy. The intervention is part of the cooperation project between the two countries’ navies as concerns safety in navigation and the safeguarding of human lives at sea. The renovations were carried out by an officer and seven technical experts from the Lighthouse Technical Centre (Maritecnofari) of the Italian navy, with assistance from two units: the Tavolara and the Palmaria. The former was used for the transport of all materials necessary, while the latter was used for the pick-up of old equipment. The works were carried out by Rear Admiral Nicola De Felice, Naval Attaché at the Italian Embassy in Tunis which (at the end of the works donated a bronze commemoration plaque to the Tunisian Navy Lighthouse Service in Monastir. In the past the Italian navy had also modernised the Capo Bon lighthouse as well as the one on the Isola dei Cani. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

2,000 Protest Haredi Religious Coercion in Jerusalem

About two thousand secular Israelis demonstrated in central Jerusalem on Saturday evening, to protest police weakness in the face of what they branded ultra-Orthodox religious coercion and violence.

Police said there was no violence as protestors marched through the western part of Jerusalem, waving blue and white Israeli flags and holding placards reading “Jerusalem will not fall,” and “We are sick of [religious] coercion.”

The demonstration came after months of Haredi protests against parking lots in the capital that are open on Shabbat, which occasionally spilled over into violence.

There have recently also been demonstrations against computer chip manufacturer Intel for running a plant in Jerusalem on the Sabbath; earlier on Saturday, dozens of ultra-Orthodox Jews protested outside facility.

MK Nitzan Horowitz, of the left-wing Meretz party, participated in the march, during which he denounced the frequent recourse to violence by the ultra-Orthodox.

“Once its education, another time it’s Intel; once it’s the Pride March — but these are just excuses to demonstrate force, violence and coercion,” he said.

“There will be no Jerusalem without seculars, there will be no Jerusalem without a free Kiryat Yovel; and if Jerusalem will not be free, the State of Israel won’t be free either.”

Horowitz was referring to a largely secular Jerusalem neighborhood into which hundreds of ultra-Orthodox families have moved, leading the residents to fear a Haredi takeover.

The Forum of Organizations for a Free Jerusalem, an umbrella group for secular organizations, held the march under the slogan, “Taking Jerusalem back — and by walking.”

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


Gaza: Militant Struck by Israeli Air Fire Dies

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, NOVEMBER 27 — One of the four militants struck at dawn today in the Jabalya refugee camp in an attack by the Israeli air force has died in a Gaza hospital, local sources say. According to a military spokesperson in Tel Aviv, the four were armed and were preparing to launch a rocket into Israeli territory. The spokesperson added that the militia were alligned to ‘Jaljalat’, a fundamentalist Salafist group influenced by al-Qaeda. The spokesperson nonetheless reaffirmed that Israel holds Hamas responsible for the prevention of such incidents. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Netanyahu Rejects Minister’s Comment on Obama

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, NOVEMBER 27 — A remark by Israel’s Minister for Culture and Sport, Limor Livnat, gave rise to an extremely awkward situation within the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, when in a meeting with Likud activists Livnat called the Obama administration “terrible” towards Israel. Netanyahu immediately issued a statement assuring that the female minister had not been expressing the position of his government which, instead, “highly esteems the close alliance with the United States, which is continuing with the Obama administration.” Today Livnat said that she did not remember using the word “terrible” (which, however, had been heard by a number of journalists), but reiterated that Obama stands out for his “rigid” stance towards the current Israeli government. Livnat’s remark has come at an unfortunate time for Netanyahu, just after the painful decision by his government’s Defence Council to freeze new building activities in the West Bank. The main aim of this decision, note observers, is to create a conciliatory climate in relations between Jerusalem and Washington. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Football More Important Than Palestinians

From Dutch: Buthaina Shaaban, adviser to Syrian president Assad, says that Arabs should stop fighting about football and start worrying about protecting those under siege in Gaza, Jerusalem and other holy Arab places.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Lebanon: Hezbollah Arms Legitimized in Gov’t Draft Programme

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, NOVEMBER 27 — The Lebanese government of national unity is preparing to approve the text of its programme, after a specially created commission within the executive finalised the draft, in which the right of the Shiite Hezbollah movement to use its arsenal against Israel in the name of resistance is confirmed. In their ninth consecutive sitting and despite opposition from several Christian ministers from the parliamentary majority, the members of the commission yesterday evening reached an agreement on the text that will be approved next week by the government in full. The text, like the one by the previous government formed in 2008, states that the executive, on the basis of its responsibility to safeguard the sovereignty, the independence, the unity and territorial security of Lebanon, repeats the right of the people, the army and the Resistance (synonym of Hezbollah) to liberate and take back the farms of Shebaa, the hills of Kfra Shuba and the northern part of the village of Ghajar, in reference to territories occupied by Israel and claimed by Lebanon. Among the other paragraphs of the draft that stand out: the one regarding the strengthening of Lebanese-Syrian relations, as they impose the historical bonds and the common interests of between the two peoples and the two states, and the one in which the government pledges to follow every effort on the issue of the death in Libya in 1978 of the Iranian-Lebanese Shiite imam Mussa Sadr and his two companions. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Saudi Troops ‘Captured’ By Houthi Rebels in Yemen

Nine Saudi soldiers have been captured by Houthi rebels during fighting in northern Yemen, a rebel spokesman says.

Speaking from Germany, Yahya al-Houthi told the BBC their grievance was with the Yemeni government and urged Saudi Arabia to stay out of the conflict.

The Saudi defence ministry has confirmed nine soldiers are missing and may have been taken prisoner.

The Houthis accuse Riyadh of supporting the Yemeni armed forces by letting them launch attacks from its territory.

Later, the rebels said on their website that Saudi planes had carried out bombing raids about 30km (19 miles) inside Yemen.

A statement said the attack on Saqayn district had caused civilian casualties, but gave no further details.

Saudi forces have been carrying out air and artillery strikes on Yemen for several weeks, after the rebels killed a border guard in a raid.

‘Marginalisation’

The Houthis, named after the family of their leader, say they are trying to reverse the political, economic and religious marginalisation of the Zaydi Shia community.

They also accuse Saudi Arabia of supporting the Yemeni armed forces by allowing them to launch attacks from its territory, a charge both countries deny.

The Yemeni government accuses the Houthis of wanting to re-establish Zaydi clerical rule, which ended in 1962.

The Zaydi community are a minority in Yemen, but make up the majority in the north of the country.

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


Saudis Blast Govt After Deadly Jeddah Flood

AFP — A Saudi lawyer said on Saturday he will sue the city of Jeddah, as thousands took to Facebook to blast authorities in a rare burst of open outrage after floods killed almost 100 people in the Red Sea port.

The toll jumped to 98 from Wednesday’s floods, after authorities discovered more bodies, said a civil defence official.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Yemen: Rebels Block Key Highway

New York, 27 Nov. (AKI) — Armed militants have blocked the main highway in southern Yemen leaving dozens of people stranded for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. According to the Arab TV network, Al-Arabiya, many were people travelling from the north were unable to reach the southern port city of Aden for the festival.

Five Yemenis died in clashes on Wednesday between security forces and southern separatists who say the northern-based government discriminates against the south, where most of Yemen’s oil facilities are located.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Russia

Russia Blames Terrorists as Dozens Killed in Train Crash

Top government officials among the dead, as Moscow blames homemade bomb that could signal renewed campaign by Chechen rebels

Russia was tonight coming to terms with its most deadly terrorist attack in years after investigators confirmed that a powerful improvised bomb caused Friday’s devastating train crash in which at least 26 people, including several top government officials, were killed.

The head of Russia’s FSB counter-terrorism agency, Alexander Bortnikov, said the bomb, hidden on the railway line between Moscow and St Petersburg, contained the equivalent of 7kg (15.4lb) of TNT. Officers had found “elements of an explosive device”, he said.

Today two huge cranes lifted up wreckage at the crash site as workers searched for the missing. Officials said 18 people were still unaccounted for. Nearly 100 people injured in the crash were being treated in hospitals. Russia’s president, Dmitry Medvedev, called for calm amid speculation the explosion could be the start of a new campaign by Chechen extremists. “We need there to be no chaos, because the situation is tense as it is,” he told Russian TV.

The luxury Nevsky Express was carrying 682 passengers and 29 crew from Moscow to Russia’s second city St Petersburg. It was derailed at 9.34pm on Friday, close to the village of Uglovka, 250 miles north west of Moscow.

Yesterday witnesses described how they heard a “tremendous crash” as the train derailed. “At exactly 9.30pm, 15 minutes after we had passed Bologoye [in the Tver region], we heard an almighty slap,” survivor Boris Gruzd told radio station Ekho Moskvy. “It seemed to me as if we had lost a wheel or smashed through some kind of obstacle. I didn’t hear any explosion.”

Gruzd said the train driver braked severely. The passengers then spent 30 minutes unaware that the last three wagons of the 14-carriage train had flown off the rails. “The first wagon was 1.5-2kms away from the rest of the train. The second had completely flipped over. The third had come off the rails, but was near the main part of the train and was still standing vertically. As far as I know nobody from this wagon was seriously hurt.”

Passenger Igor Pechnikov described being in the second of the three derailed cars. “A trembling began, and the carriage jolted violently to the left. I flew through half of the carriage,” he said.

Gruzd said that the passengers immediately began collecting warm clothes and mattresses to help the injured. But he said it was extremely difficult to reach people trapped in the mangled carriages — with rescuers peering into the gloom and using flashlights.

So far investigators have not said who they believe planted the homemade bomb. In the days before the crash villagers reported seeing a suspicious individual. “As far as theories go … our main version is that this was an explosion of an unknown device, by unknown individuals. Put simply, it was an act of terror,” Vladimir Yakunin, Russia’s railways minister, said yesterday.

Yakunin said the incident was “analogous” to another derailment on the same line three years ago, also involving the Nevsky Express, in which 19 people were injured. Russian prosecutors blamed that derailment on Chechen rebels, who have been fighting an on-off war against the Russian state for two decades.

According to Ekho Moskvy, a radical neo-Nazi group opposed to migrants from the former Soviet republics of central Asia has claimed responsibility for Friday’s crash, which paralysed train travel yesterday and delayed 27,000 passengers. Other nationalist groups later denied the report.

There seems little doubt that the Kremlin will point the finger of blame at Islamist insurgents currently waging a guerrilla campaign across the north Caucasus. Rebel fighters have carried out numerous attacks in recent months, including suicide bombings, in their apparent attempt to establish an Islamic caliphate.

Russian prosecutors said they believed Pavel Kosolapov, an ex-solider and former associate of the late Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev, masterminded the previous derailment. Kosolapov is currently on the run. Prosecutors have arrested two residents of Ingushetia and charged them with helping carry out the 2006 attack.

Yesterday, investigators said they had discovered a 3ft crater beneath the rails where the bomb had gone off. Reuters, however, said that its reporters at the scene had been unable to find it. Earlier, Russian news agencies had quoted transport officials as saying the cause may have been an electrical fault. Russia has a poor record of serious accidents caused by Soviet-era infrastructure.

Among the named dead so far were several senior Kremlin bureaucrats, including Boris Yevstratikov, the head of Russia’s Federal Reserve Agency, and Lyudmila Mukhina, a deputy head in the Federal Fishing Agency. A former St Petersburg senator, Sergei Tarasov, also died.

[Return to headlines]


U.S. Gears Back Criticism of Two Russia-Backed Pipelines

The U.S. has toned down its once-strident criticism of two controversial Russian-backed pipelines, a shift in rhetoric that coincides with strong progress on the high-profile projects in recent months.

For years, the Bush administration argued against building the two gas pipelines — Nord Stream, which will run from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, and South Stream, which will cross the Black Sea into Eastern Europe. The pipelines steer clear of Ukraine, with which Russia has had a string of transit disputes that disrupted the flow of gas into Europe in recent years.

Some Eastern European states such as Poland also resisted Nord Stream, fearing it would deprive them of lucrative transit fees, while Germany said it would improve Europe’s energy security. The U.S. took the position that both pipelines, strongly promoted by the Kremlin, would increase Europe’s already heavy dependence on Russian natural-gas imports and stifle competition.

But the Obama administration has damped the anti-Russian rhetoric. Where U.S. diplomats once railed against the power of OAO Gazprom, the Kremlin-controlled gas company, and accused Russia of using its natural resources as a political weapon, they now emphasize engagement and dialogue.

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

South Asia

2 Afghans Allege Abuse at U.S. Site

Teenagers say they were interrogated at secretive Bagram holding center

KABUL — Two Afghan teenagers held in U.S. detention north of Kabul this year said they were beaten by American guards, photographed naked, deprived of sleep and held in solitary confinement in concrete cells for at least two weeks while undergoing daily interrogation about their alleged links to the Taliban.

The accounts could not be independently substantiated. But in successive, on-the-record interviews, the teenagers presented a detailed, consistent portrait suggesting that the abusive treatment of suspected insurgents has in some cases continued under the Obama administration, despite steps that President Obama has said would put an end to the harsh interrogation practices authorized by the Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


NATO Has Lost Its Way in Afghanistan, Army Chief Tells Muslims

Nato has lost its way in Afghanistan and needs to rediscover the conviction to succeed against the Taleban, the head of the Army has admitted.

In a frank interview with a Muslim newspaper, General Sir David Richards, the Chief of the General Staff, compared the success of the initial operation to topple the Taleban in 2001 with the present counter-insurgency campaign that has led to thousands of casualties among Nato troops over the past eight years.

Speaking to Muslim News, General Richards said: “Look at the huge popularity of the Nato intervention in 2001. What we’ve done is lost our way a bit and need to find it again and have the moral and physical conviction that we can do these things.”

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Pakistan: Taliban Trying to Destroy Buddhist Art From the Gandhara Period

Archaeologists and experts sound the alarm. The ancient Indo-Hellenistic heritage of the country could go the way of the Bamiyan Buddhas, in neighbouring Afghanistan. Digging and research have stopped; tourists are nowhere to be seen because of attacks and violence.

Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Pakistani and foreign archaeologists have set off the alarm bell, warning that the Taliban are destroying Pakistan’s ancient Gandhara heritage, which includes some of the oldest representations of the Buddha. Because of violence, tourists shy away from the country’s northwest and local works of art are increasingly at risk of going the way of the Bamiyan Buddha statues, which the Taliban destroyed in 2001.

“Militants are the enemies of culture,’ said Abdul Nasir Khan, curator of Taxila Museum, home to one of the premier archaeological collections in Pakistan, some 20 kilometres south of Islamabad.

As one of the foremost archaeological sites in Pakistan, Taxila possesses some of the most important artefacts from the Gandhara civilisation, which peaked between the 5th century BC and the 2nd century AD.

Emerging in the wake of the conquests by Alexander the Great, the Gandhara kingdom blended Indian traditions and Hellenistic culture, with representations of the Buddha taking on human forms that resemble Greek divinities, especially the god Apollo.

“‘Even in Taxila we don’t feel safe. The local administration has warned us about a possible attack on this museum. We have taken some extra security precautions but they aren’t sufficient and we lack funds,” Khan said.

“For weeks we don’t get even a single foreign visitor. If visitors don’t come, if sites are not preserved and protected, if research stops, what do you think will be the future of archaeology?’“ he noted.

In March 2001, Taliban militants in neighbouring Afghanistan blew up two 1,500-year-old Bamiyan Buddha statues in defiance of international appeals.

The Taliban oppose all forms of art like music, dance, girls’ education and impose a strict interpretation of Islamic rules.

Their extremist vision has since spread into Pakistan and could negatively affect that country’s artistic and cultural heritage.

In September 2008, the Taliban twice tried to blow up 7th century Buddhist relics in the Swat Valley.

In recent months, the same area has been at the centre of fighting between the Taliban and the Pakistani military.

“This is the worst time for archaeology,” Khan said. “Militancy has affected it very badly. There were 15-20 foreign missions working in this field, now this research has completely stopped,”

Once Peshawar, the capital of the North-West Frontier Province, attracted thousands of tourists, eager to see the region’s rich artistic and cultural assets. Now it is off-limits to foreigners because of the ongoing violence.

“Tourist companies have closed. Foreign visitors have stopped coming and museums with monuments and other archaeological sites look deserted,” said Qazi Ijaz, an official at Peshawar museum.

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

Immigration

Expert From Sweden: No Need to Fear China Nor Islam

Prague — The world of the 21st century undeniably faces new global challenges — from terrorism, nuclear power, ecological refugees to drug cartels and pirates.

“It is not as it used to be in the 1960s when one telephone call was good enough to secure the safety of the world,” Prague 6 mayor Tomáš Chalupa said at a conference titled the Security of the European Union and Czech Republic in the multipolar world in the 21st century that took place in Prague.

“Today we don’t even know what number to call,” he added half-jokingly.

[…]

The immigration policy issue is hotly debated these days in the EU. Do you think all the 27 EU member states are able to find a solution that everybody would be happy about?

The countries that are facing immigration more than the others (Spain, Greece, Malta) are doing it. They are pushing more than the rest of us. Some countries like Sweden have been pushing too for some time but without much success. But it is obvious the situation now cannot continue, though.

The Commission’s idea now is to reward countries that volunteer to accept asylum-seekers. Per each refugee they would receive 4,000 euro. This is probably the only way to do it.

Because if the Commission tries to make it compulsory, they will not succeed. And yet, there will be countries that will say that 4,000 euro is nothing compared to the expenses and dangers the countries face when they take refugees.

There has been much talk lately about the islamisation of Europe. Prague 6 mayor Tomáš Chalupa pointed out at the beginning of the conference that the name Mohammed is the most common name in Western cities. Should Europe fear islamisation then?

Mohammed is really the most common name now. But we should not divide people along the religion line. To some degree I can understand people that the world has changed totally for them and it may be difficult to accept that. It takes some time to adjust to the new world. In a way it is sad that the world is changing. But we have to find a way to live with each other. Otherwise we will have problems of all kinds.

What I don’t like is that some European countries do not agree to lift the free trade barriers in North Africa. Just because we do not want them to compete with us, especially with their agricultural products. But if we were a bit more generous with them, helping them to stay where they are, we would have less illegal immigrants coming to Europe.

[…]

But according to SIPRI China is among the first ten countries in the world that have spent on armament in 2009. It also supplying arms to Africa, Burma etc. There is still not a threat in your view?

It is not the main threat to the world but it is a problem. But there are many European countries that are doing the same. By the way, France is selling high technology weapons to Russia right now.

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


French Parties Testing the Political Waters on Immigration Law Changes

POLLING DAY may be four months away, but a political row over whether to issue undocumented immigrants with residence permits has shown France’s government and opposition parties already positioning themselves for next year’s regional elections.

With more than 5,000 long-term undocumented migrant workers having taken part in strikes since mid-October to demand official residence status in France, Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry this week proposed a “large scale regularisation” scheme for sans-papiers who met certain criteria.

“Those who are here a long time, who work, who pay their taxes — there is no reason why they shouldn’t have their rights,” Socialist former prime minister Laurent Fabius added.

The main opposition party’s intervention came in response to plans announced by the government last weekend to introduce tougher sanctions for companies that employ undocumented staff. According to the CGT trade union, there are up to 400,000 sans-papiers in France, with most concentrated in the catering, building and security industries.

“[The government] are going to close half of all restaurants,” scoffed a senior socialist quoted by the financial newspaper Les Échos .

While some interpreted the Socialists’ move as an attempt, in advance of the regional elections next March, to reclaim the ground it has recently lost to rival left-wing groups, the ruling UMP party — conscious of the need to guard its own terrain against incursions from the National Front — has not missed the opportunity to press its own credentials on immigration.

Minister for Immigration Éric Besson — a member of the Socialist Party before he defected in 2007 — called the opposition party “irresponsible” for broaching the idea of regularisation, while several of his colleagues said even mentioning the notion could attract more illegal immigration.

“As long as I am president of the Republic, I will not accept a comprehensive regularisation of those who don’t have their permits. I’ll never accept it, because it’s contrary to my idea of the values of the republic,” President Nicolas Sarkozy said during a visit to a Parisian suburb on Tuesday.

Several European countries — including France, Spain and Italy — have introduced amnesty schemes for different categories of undocumented immigrants in the past 20 years, but a spokesman for the Élysée Palace said EU states had agreed last year, during the French presidency of the European Council, that they would refrain from adopting any “mass regularisation” programmes.

While the debate has exposed differences of approach and rhetoric between Mr Sarkozy’s UMP and the Socialists, the parties’ policies do not appear radically different.

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


French Film About Illegal Immigrant Trying to Enter Britain Wins Top EU Award

A French film about an illegal migrant who tries to swim across the Channel from Calais to Britain has won a top EU award for its celebration of ‘integration’ in Europe.

The controversial movie called Welcome dramatises a ‘likeable’ migrant’s illegal attempt to reach our shores.

When released earlier this year the film was criticised by many who said it glamourised the illegal efforts of migrants to get into Britain.

But MEPs in Brussels this week awarded it the EU’s prestigious Lux Film Award.

The annual prize is given by the European Parliament for the film which best illustrates ‘the European integration process, topical European issues or cultural diversity in the Union’.

The film centres on a Kurdish refugee who has failed to sneak aboard lorries and ferries to the UK — so decides to swim the 18 miles to the Kent coast instead.

A French lifeguard played by popular actor Vincent Lindon decides to help the Kurd make the crossing.

But the attempt is unsuccessful, and the lifeguard is finally arrested by frontier police for trying to help a migrant enter Britain illegally.

The film’s director Philippe Lioret also whipped up a storm of controversy this year for likening the situation of Calais migrants to that of Jews under the Nazi occupation during World War Two.

As well as the award — shaped like a Tower of Babel — Mr Lioret was handed a cheque for £80,000, part of which he must use to have the film subtitled or dubbed into all 23 languages of the European Union.

A Calais police spokesman said after the film hit French cinemas in March: ‘I think we would be disappointed if it made breaching frontier controls look like some kind of noble quest.’

Council chiefs in Calais also said they hoped the film would not present sneaking into Britain as a ‘worthwhile task’.

A spokesman said: ‘The idea of making a refugee very likeable, then to have the audience rooting for him to successfully swim to Britain goes against everything border patrols in France and the UK are trying to achieve.

‘Anyone with a genuine case for asylum should have it heard through the correct channels, and not try to side-step customs and security.’

Mr Lioret said his film was aimed at criticising a French law that makes it a crime to help illegal immigrants.

He said: ‘To see that a decent guy can all of a sudden be charged and imprisoned for helping a migrant is crazy. It feels like it’s 1943 and we’ve hidden a Jew in the basement.’

The film’s main star Vincent Lindon, who plays the lifeguard, also spoke out in support of the hundreds of British-bound migrants massed on the French coast.

He said after the film’s release: ‘I believe we must respect human beings. The people in Calais are often treated worse than dogs.’

The EU’s website for the Lux film award says it is aimed at ‘showing the process of building Europe in a different light’.

It adds: ‘As the European Union works on a new treaty, the artistic and narrative quality of the winning film will give the audience a glimpse of a submerged dimension of the European venture the individual, perhaps the intimate, dimension.’

After receiving his award, director Mr Lioret said it showed that MEPs backed his film’s controversial view of illegal immigration.

He said: ‘We see this as a sign of support for the values which the film defends commitment, solidarity and open-mindedness against all attempts to go backwards.’

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


Ireland: Suspended Term for Trying to Bribe Immigration Officer

A woman has been given a three-month suspended jail sentence after she pleaded guilty to attempting to bribe a garda to regularise work permits for two fellow employees at the restaurant where she worked.

Xuan Wang (27), Oliver Plunkett Hill, Fermoy, Co Cork, pleaded guilty at Fermoy District Court to attempting to bribe immigration officer Garda Maurice Mulcahy at Fermoy Garda station on May 31st.

Insp Tony O’Sullivan told how Garda Mulcahy had asked the two foreign nationals to attend Fermoy station in relation to work permit issues but Wang, who worked in the same restaurant, arrived instead accompanied by another person.

She handed her passport containing six €50 notes to Garda Mulcahy and whispered to him:

“You keep it, it’s for you.”

Garda Mulcahy immediately notified a Garda colleague of the attempted bribe and Wang was later charged.

Judge Michael Pattwell said bribery was a serious matter.

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


Spain: Congress Approves New Laws on Foreigners

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 26 — The Spanish Congress gave its final approval to law reforms for foreigners, with 180 votes in favour (Psoe, CiU, Coalicion Canaria), 163 votes against (PP, Pnv, UpyD, Erc, Iu-Icv e Nafarroa Bai), and 3 abstentions. The new reforms, the fourth in a short time, are: the maximum stay by immigrants in temporary detention centres increases from 40 to 60 days; a restriction in the possibility of reuniting families, consent for children who are minors and only family members over 65 or for humanitarian reasons; the legal protection of repatriated minors; the possibility of granting stay permits or work permits to immigrant women who are victims of domestic violence; the creation of a register of foreigners entry and departure. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Spain to Support Malta on Immigration

(VALLETTA) — Spain will support Malta’s bid to host a new European asylum bureau, the Spanish foreign minister said on Thursday.

Earlier this year the European Commission said it would set up the European Asylum Support Office to help member countries deal with immigration.

“Spain understands the problems Malta faces over illegal immigration and we will make this issue a priority of our European Union presidency,” Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said.

Spain will take over the rotating EU presidency in January 2010.

At a joint press conference with his Maltese counterpart Tonio Borg, Moratinos said Spain wanted to address illegal migration in a concrete manner by giving Frontex, the EU’s border control agency, a new, more efficient role. Madrid will keep close contact with Malta, Greece and Cyprus to achieve better results on immigration, Moratinos said.

Malta and Spain on Thursday signed agreements on a range of subjects, including maritime affairs, education and culture.

Moratinos was in Malta accompanying Spanish King Juan Carlos on a two-day state visit ending later Thursday.

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

General

‘Gender Jihad’ In the Service of Women’s Rights

The 44-year-old US writer Asra Nomani is viewed as a prominent representative of “Gender Jihad”. For the former Wall Street Journal reporter, there is no contradiction between Islam and feminism. She spoke to Alfred Hackensberger

In both western countries and Muslim societies feminism and Islam are mostly regarded as irreconcilable opposites. Why are they not compatible?

Asra Nomani: Yes, I’m always hearing that view at my lectures. But as far as I’m concerned, the two go hand in hand. I think Islam was originally a feminist religion. The Prophet Mohammed was a feminist, like his first wife Khadija, his daughter Fatima and his wife Aisha. None of them allowed themselves to be pushed aside, and they all spoke their minds. I don’t think Islamic feminism is an apparent contradiction.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

3 comments:

Graham Dawson (Archonix) said...

They say Latino women are passionate and hot-blooded but all they do is shout and cry, if my sister in law is any good example. Swedes cry too, but it's usually reserved for after they've stuck the knife in your front. These days the knife is verbal but the intent is the same and the reason - don't look like you're going to betray her for another woman, even if you don't think you are, because she'll kill you. And when she's done organising the ceremonies she'll leap on the funeral pyre with you.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful news. The Swiss have approved the minaret ban! http://english.aljazeera.net/news/europe/2009/11/2009112915164769444.html Where can we buy cookoo clocks to show our support?

lee said...

D,

yep, room temperature...

I left out the cyanne pepper...it's optional...

the medicinal properties of honey are remarkable...did'ja know honey virtually never spoils....

wikipedia on "honey":
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey#Preservation