Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/13/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/13/2009The big news of the day concerns Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was attacked by a disgruntled member of the audience after giving a speech at a political rally in Milan. The attacker hit Mr. Berlusconi in the face at close range with a souvenir sculpture of Milan’s cathedral. The prime minister suffered a broken nose, cuts, and two damaged teeth. He spent the night in the hospital.

In other news, police in St. Cloud, Minnesota, believe they have identified the hate-filled person who posted obscene anti-Islamic cartoons on the city’s telephone poles this past week.

Thanks to Esther, Fjordman, Frontinus, Gaia, JD, KGS, Steen, TB, TV, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Drugs Money ‘Saved the Banks From Collapse’ During Global Crisis, Claims UN Drugs and Crime Chief
US Should Take Germany as Example, Says Obama Advisor
 
USA
CAIR Finally Under Investigation
CAIR: Franklin Graham Repeats Attack on Islam
Freedom in the Balance
Get Global Warming Out of Our Schools
Investigator: Air Tran Fears ‘Flying Imams’ Fallout
Judge Rules Effort to Strip ACORN of Federal Funds Unconstitutional
Muslims in US Equally Vulnerable to Radicalisation as in Europe: NYT
NYC: Gyro Stabbing Suspect Claims His Life Was on the Line
St. Cloud: Anti-Islamic Cartoons Spur Nonprofit to Offer Reward
St. Cloud: Police Say They Know Who Posted Anti-Islamic Cartoons
U.S. Agencies Investigating Interpreters Suspected of Helping Al Qaida at Gitmo
Young Muslim Women in West Are Increasingly Vulnerable to ‘Honor Killings’
 
Europe and the EU
Ambassador Wants Danish-American Eco-Boom
Belgium Waffles — Two Nations, After All?
Chabad Rabbi Attacked in Vienna
Copenhagen Climate Summit: 1,000 Anarchists Arrested
Danish Police Arrested at Least 200 Climate Activists Today as They Attempted to March on Copenhagen Docks.
Denmark: 80,000 Jobs Saved
Italy: Berlusconi’s New Bloomer as He Sends EU Leaders Doodles of Women’s Knickers at Summit
Italy: PM Silvio Berlusconi Taken to Hospital After Being Attacked at Rally in Milan
Italy: Attacker Breaks Berlusconi’s Nose
New Religious Newspaper in France
Northern Irish Dissidents Forming “New IRA” — Report
Rights Group Condemns Creeping Anti-Roma Extremism
Swiss Man Builds Mock Minaret to Protest Ban
UK Muslims Are Europe’s Most Patriotic
UK: ‘Our Faith is Being Targeted … and We’ve Been Thrown to the Lions’: The Christian Hoteliers Accused of Insulting Muslim Guest Reveal
UK: Ministers Told: Don’t Call Islamic Extremists “Islamic Extremists”
UK: Swine Flu Pandemic ‘Less Lethal Than Expected’
UK: Schoolboy, 12, Suspended for ‘Crisp Dealing’
UK: Speculation Mounts That Gordon Brown May Call an Early Election
 
North Africa
Muslim Scholar Publishes Anti-Christian Book in Egypt
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Israeli Settlements Are More Than Legitimate
Jewish Lobby Wages War on Christmas Trees
 
Middle East
Iran Leader Says Opposition Protests “Anti-Islam”
Iranian Scientist Who Vanished ‘Gave Nuclear Secrets’ To UN Inspectors Sent to Qom Site
Muslim Inventor Set to Take Orthopaedic Prayer Rugs Worldwide
US Baghdad Chief Confirms Syrian Security Failure
Yemen’s Houthis Hold Secret Meet With Iran
 
Russia
In Shift, U.S. Talks to Russia on Internet Security
 
South Asia
‘Israelis in Goa Disastrous for Tourism’
Lahore Falls to Extremists
Taliban Was the Target of German Airstrike: Reports (Roundup)
Tigers Shot Trying to Surrender: General
 
Far East
China Demotes Editor After Obama Interview: Sources
Philippine Kidnappers Demand Animal Sacrifice
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Somalia Islamist Militants Execute 2 Men
 
Immigration
Britain’s Tolerance to Islam Results in More Than 1m Muslims Setting Up Home Here
Letter From Spain
Tom Tancredo: 3 Months After Joe Wilson, Obama Still Lies
 
Culture Wars
Beyond Debate?
Climate: The New God of Left-Wing Christianity
Coming to a School Near You: The Dangerous Religion of Howard Zinn

Financial Crisis

Drugs Money ‘Saved the Banks From Collapse’ During Global Crisis, Claims UN Drugs and Crime Chief

Drugs money saved some banks from collapse at the height of the global crisis the United Nations’ drugs and crime chief claimed today.

Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, told the Observer that there were signs that some banks were rescued by billions of dollars that ‘originated from the drugs trade and other illegal activities.’

Speaking from his office in Vienna, Costa explained that in the second half of 2008, lending was the banking system’s main problem.

‘The system was basically paralysed because of the unwillingness of banks to lend money to one another,’ he told the newspaper.

He said he had seen evidence that the proceeds of organised crime were the ‘only liquid investment capital’ available to some banks on the verge of collapse last year.

Costa said that as a result, a majority of the $352bn (£216bn) of drugs profits was absorbed into the economics system, effectively laundering it.

The UNs’ drugs and crime chief said that he was first made aware of evidence that illegal money was being absorbed into the financial system around 18 months ago, although he would not name countries or banks that may have received drugs money.

A British Bankers’ Association spokesman told the newspaper: ‘We have not been party to any regulatory dialogue that would support a theory of this kind.

‘There was a clear lack of liquidity in the system and to a large degree this was filled by the intervention of central banks.’

Costa’s claim comes as police launch a new anti-drugs campaign that aims to appeal environmentally-minded cocaine users with the message that snorting cocaine destroys the rainforest.

The campaign warns that for every gram of cocaine made, four square metres of rainforest are destroyed.

The campaign, headed by the police and Greenpeace, comes amid evidence that cocaine use is on the increase among young people in the UK.

It has been suggested that lower prices have contributed to the prevalence of the drug.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


US Should Take Germany as Example, Says Obama Advisor

One of President Barack Obama’s senior economic advisors Paul Volcker said the US could take a leaf out of Germany’s book when it comes to creating an export-based economy.

Speaking in an interview with news magazine Der Spiegel, Volcker said he admired Germany’s economic model, and suggested that the US should consider a shift towards exporting to help the US recover from the economic crisis.

“In some ways, I think the labour cost is higher in Germany than it is in the United States but you can somehow maintain that export edge,” Volcker said, “You are dedicated to exporting, we are dedicated to financial engineering and it hasn’t worked out too well.”

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

USA

CAIR Finally Under Investigation

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a longtime partner of the FBI in its efforts to reach out to American Muslims, now appears to be under criminal investigation by that same FBI. It’s a refreshing breakthrough of sanity in the FBI’s dealing with the domestic terror threat — and it came to light just as CAIR was poised to win yet another victory in its ongoing campaign of harassment and intimidation against anyone who dares draw attention to jihadist activity in the United States.

CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas terror funding case — so named by the Justice Department. CAIR operatives have repeatedly refused to denounce Hamas and Hizballah as terrorist groups. Several former CAIR officials have been convicted of various crimes related to jihad terror. CAIR’s cofounder and longtime Board chairman (Omar Ahmad), as well as its chief spokesman (Ibrahim “Honest Ibe” Hooper), have made Islamic supremacist statements. Yet despite the many indications that CAIR was not exactly a paragon of patriotism and loyalty to Constitutional values, the FBI worked closely with CAIR for years — until the organization’s unindicted co-conspirator status was too much even for the politically correct Feds, and the FBI ended work with CAIR in fall 2008.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


CAIR: Franklin Graham Repeats Attack on Islam

Muslim civil rights group calls for meeting to clear up ‘misconceptions’

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — A prominent national Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization today requested a meeting with Christian evangelist Franklin Graham to discuss his latest remarks attacking Islam.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said it has received a number of complaints from concerned Muslims who watched an interview last night on CNN during which Graham stated in part: “…we have many Muslims that live in this country. But true Islam cannot be practiced in this country. You can’t beat your wife. You cannot murder your children if you think they’ve committed adultery or something like that, which they do practice in these other countries… I don’t agree with the teachings of Islam and I find it to be a very violent religion.”

SEE: Franklin Graham Repeats Attacks on Islam (Video)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByovBdIRV2o

In 2002, Graham said terrorism is part of “mainstream” Islam and claimed the Quran, Islam’s revealed text, “preaches violence.”

In 2001, Graham stood by remarks he made about Islam at the dedication of a chapel in North Carolina. At that event, he said: “We’re not attacking Islam but Islam has attacked us. The God of Islam is not the same God. He’s not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It’s a different God, and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion.”

Following that incident, CAIR called for a meeting between Graham and national Muslim leaders to “come together as people of faith to promote inter-religious understanding and mutual respect.” Graham did not respond to CAIR’s 2001 letter.

In a new letter sent today to Graham, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad again called for a meeting at which Graham could be offered accurate and balanced information about Islam.

Awad wrote: “I believe your views on Islam are unworthy of a respected religious leader and are based on misinformation and misconceptions that could be cleared up in a face-to-face meeting with representatives of the American Muslim community.”

In his letter, Awad quoted the Quran, which states: “Invite (all) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for your Lord knows best who have strayed from His Path and who receive guidance.” (16:125)

Franklin Graham is the son of Billy Graham, an internationally-known Christian minister who is respected by Muslims worldwide.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Freedom in the Balance

The war in Washington is far more than a battle between political parties; it is a war for the survival of America. Forget the labels; forget the political affiliation. Focus on the people who believe that America must remain a nation that honors its Constitution and cherishes the freedom of every individual. These are the people who must be elected. People who want to transform the foundation of America must be rejected. Freedom cannot co-exist with a government that insists on controlling its citizens.

For generations, government has been moving away from the idea of constitutional limitations. Now, Congress no longer even pays lip service to the Article I, Section 8 congressional limitations of power. Now, led by a devout, admitted “wealth-spreader,” the federal government is moving rapidly to bury all traces of individual freedom. The new government now under construction will require that the pursuit of happiness begin at the desk of a federal bureaucrat and follow only the path prescribed by government.

The federal government has already imposed, or is imposing, what is called Sustainable Development. This “sound-good” label obscures the control government exercises over where an individual may live, what type of transportation must be used and even the kind of materials that may be used in his home. This is not freedom; this is tyranny.

Government has taken control of land use through wetland, critical habitat, urban boundary zones and other control mechanisms. Government is attempting to take control over all water in the United States, as well as the activities that may affect water (S. 787).

Government ignored its constitutional limitation when it used its citizens’ money to bail out those financial institutions it favored, while allowing others to go broke. Government didn’t even consider the Constitution when it fired the CEO of General Motors, reorganized a private corporation and used tax dollars to buy a controlling interest.

Government is taking control over energy use by declaring carbon dioxide to be a pollutant and allowing the EPA to regulate it. Government is attempting to create a “cap-and-trade” program that will not only control the energy available to individuals, but will also produce windfall profits for the government at the expense of the individual.

Nothing in the Constitution authorizes the government to take control of the health-care industry. Nevertheless, legislation now pending will create more than 100 new bureaucracies to take control of virtually every facet of health care.

The federal government has become the tyrannical king our forefathers fought so hard to cast off.

The next two elections will determine whether the great American experiment succeeds — or not.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Get Global Warming Out of Our Schools

Because of the recent revelations of “Climategate” (see source materials below) and my experience raising two children in private and public schools in California, I believe we need to start a nationwide campaign to get “global warming” immediately removed from the curriculum of our schools.

We cannot wait for politicians or activists to do any more damage to our future generation. “Global warming” is not just an objectionable and discredited scientific theory. Teachers are grafting the loony climate-change premise onto lifestyle, religion, and politics in “science” classrooms. It cannot stand.

The leaked e-mails and subsequent evaluation of their contents, which inspired the term “Climategate,” sound the alarm that we have been fooled for thirty years. There is good cause to believe that the “global warming” data was contorted to achieve a desired result, that true facts were suppressed or destroyed, and that truth-tellers were censored by climate gurus on a mission.

Even if a local school district does not want to accept that “global warming” has been completely debunked, the argument can be made that the “theory” is so suspect that it will likely be investigated in Congress, if not in a criminal fraud venue. It cannot be passed off to students as “settled science.” Insist on removing “global warming” until there is consensus sometime in the future.

For those who do not have children, or whose children are either young or grown up, let my recent personal experience with public school science instruction provide an insight:

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Investigator: Air Tran Fears ‘Flying Imams’ Fallout

Worry over ‘predatory lawsuits’ keeping Atlanta ‘dry run’ very ‘quiet’

A licensed private investigator who has looked into the conflicting reports over the Air Tran Flight 297 incident in Atlanta — described by some passengers as an apparent “dry run” for a hijacking — says the details are being kept quiet because the airline doesn’t want to be targeted with lawsuits like what happened in the “flying imams” case in Minneapolis three years ago.

According to a report from Douglas Hagmann, founder and director of the Northeast Intelligence Network, and a multi-state licensed private investigative agency, “everyone from the airline to the TSA and other government agencies want to keep [the situation] very quiet.”

“The reasons, I have been told, is fear of predatory lawsuits, negative publicity from accusations of religious profiling, and the obligatory subjugation to mindless mandatory Muslim sensitivity training that make a mockery of our American system of values,” he wrote.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Judge Rules Effort to Strip ACORN of Federal Funds Unconstitutional

The U.S. government’s move this fall to cut off funding to ACORN was unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Friday, handing the embattled group a legal victory.

U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon issued the preliminary injunction against the government, saying it’s in the public’s interest for the organization to continue receiving federal funding.

ACORN claimed in its lawsuit that Congress’ decision to cut off its funding was unconstitutional because it punitively targeted an individual organization.

Gershon said in her ruling that ACORN had raised a “fundamental issue of separation of powers. They have been singled out by Congress for punishment that directly and immediately affects their ability to continue to obtain federal funding, in the absence of any judicial, or even administrative, process adjudicating guilt.”

[…]

ACORN’s lawsuit was filed in federal court in Brooklyn and sought reinstatement of the funds. Quigley said millions of dollars in funds should begin to flow again to ACORN next week. The judge said the “public will not suffer harm by allowing the plaintiffs to continue work on contracts duly awarded by federal agencies.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Muslims in US Equally Vulnerable to Radicalisation as in Europe: NYT

New York, Dec. 12 (ANI): With the surfacing of a string of terrorism cases in which American Muslims were involved, US counterterrorism experts have been forced to change their earlier perception that Muslims in the United States were not very vulnerable to radicalisation.

During the lull following the 9/11, it was thought that American Muslims were well assimilated in diverse communities, and hence, they showed little extremist capabilities unlike their European counterparts.

But recent cases — including the Fort Hood rampage, the alarming account of five young Virginia men who went to Pakistan and are suspected of seeking jihad and David Coleman Headley accused of last year’s Mumbai terror attacks — are causing concern among American counterterrorism experts, the New York Times reports.

“These events certainly call the consensus into question. The notion of a difference between Europe and United States remains relevant,” said Robert S. Leiken, who studies terrorism at the Nixon Center in Washington.

But the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the American operations like drone strikes in Pakistan, are fuelling radicalisation at home, he added.

“Just the length of U.S. involvement in these countries is provoking more Muslim Americans to react,” he added.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


NYC: Gyro Stabbing Suspect Claims His Life Was on the Line

The man suspected of stabbing and killing a college student who cut in line at a Midtown food cart told cops that the victim’s brother put a knife to his neck moments before the fatal altercation. Ziad Tayeh, 26, is on trial for manslaughter after a 2006 dispute with 19-year-old victim Tyrone Noel Gibbons, his brother Shannon Gibbons, and a friend at the Halal Chicken and Gyro stand at 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue. After the three men cut in line, they exchanged words with Tayeh: “I was hungry,” he told police during a videotaped confession screened for jurors. “They called me a punk!”

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


St. Cloud: Anti-Islamic Cartoons Spur Nonprofit to Offer Reward

A St. Cloud human rights group has offered a $1,000 reward in the hopes of finding the person responsible for posting anti-Islamic cartoons in the city this week.

Create CommUNITY, a nonprofit organization that promotes racial harmony, announced Friday that the money would be posted with the Tri-County Crime-Stoppers for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in the case.

The crude cartoons were found stapled to a pair of utility poles Tuesday. They depict the prophet Mohammed in derogatory ways, the Qur’an and a swastika. One of the posters was stapled to a pole outside the Mandeeq Shop, a discount store named in honor of the native name for Somalia.

The city attorney’s office is investigating whether the cartoons violate any criminal statutes and, if they do, the case could be treated as a bias crime.

Police have received tips in the case but have made no arrests.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


St. Cloud: Police Say They Know Who Posted Anti-Islamic Cartoons

St. Cloud police said Friday evening that they have identified the person responsible for posting obscene anti-Islamic cartoons at two locations this week.

While police believe they know who posted the obscene material, no one has been arrested or cited as they wind up their investigation, according to Sgt. Marty Sayre. The suspect’s name has therefore not been released.

The police reports will be forwarded to prosecutors for review and possible charges.

Help from witnesses and the public were credited with moving the investigation forward.

Graphic, sexually explicit cartoons were posted on utility poles in the 10 block of Second Avenue Northeast and the 300 block of Fifth Avenue South. They were found Tuesday.

Sayre said prosecutors have told investigators that they will pursue charges in the case. State law prohibits the distribution of obscene material, which is defined as work that the average person would find offensive and serves no literary, artistic, political or scientific purpose.

The incident can be reported as a bias offense. Being reported as such does not mean it will lead to an enhanced sentence, but can be reported for statistical purposes.

St. Cloud Police Department reported nine bias offenses in 2008, according to the FBI Hate Crime Statistics report.

At least two advocacy groups have come forward to condemn the cartoons. The state chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations spoke out against the cartoons Thursday and asked other religious and political leaders to do the same.

“Our state’s political and religious leaders need to speak out strongly against anti-Muslim hate, just as they would speak out against any other form of intolerance,” said CAIR-MN Communications Director Jessica Zikri on Thursday.

On Friday the executive director of Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas issued a statement condemning the cartoons. Steve Hunegs called the acts heinous and urged anyone with information to come forward.

“It is tragic that extremists cling to racist, xenophobic, anti-Islamic, and other bigoted ideas,” Hunegs said in a statement. “The Muslim community is an integral part of the diverse and democratic society in Minnesota and we stand in solidarity with them.”

Anyone with information about the incident can contact police at 251-1200 or Crime Stoppers at 255-1301.

Create CommUNITY offered a $1,000 reward to anyone who gives information that leads to the arrest of the person responsible.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


U.S. Agencies Investigating Interpreters Suspected of Helping Al Qaida at Gitmo

Law enforcement sources said up to 10 Arabic and Pashtu linguists employed by the U.S. military were being investigated on suspicion that they helped Al Qaida inmates conceal information during interrogations at Guantanamo.

Almost all of the suspected interpreters were hired on a contractual basis by the Defense Department in the aftermath of the Al Qaida suicide strikes on New York and Washington in 2001.

“The possible new spy ring involves several Arabic linguists, some also Egyptian and Syrian immigrants,” Paul Sperry, a leading analyst on Al Qaida at the Hoover Institution, said.

[…]

Critics, citing political pressure, asserted that the Pentagon failed to eliminate the alleged Islamist moles at Guantanamo. They said the Pentagon ignored proper vetting procedures and employed Muslims with family links to jihad groups in the Middle East and Pakistan.

The alleged moles were said to have been in contact with Khalid Sheik Mohammed, charged with planning the 2001 attacks and scheduled to stand trial in New York City. A report prepared for the U.S. intelligence community asserted that Mohammed and other Al Qaida detainees were believed to have benefited by the moles.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Young Muslim Women in West Are Increasingly Vulnerable to ‘Honor Killings’

Since the brutal slaying of 37-year-old Aasiya Hassan and the murder charges filed against her husband, Muzzammil Hassan, in February, there has been at least one murder labeled as an “honor killing.” In Arizona, an Iraqi immigrant was accused of running over his daughter with his car.

These two cases have triggered a lot of writing and discussion about honor killings and domestic violence. Here in Erie County, a number of seminars have been offered in various communities in the hope of raising awareness of the widespread violence against women. Many of these community discussions have focused on the issue of whether Hassan’s killing in Orchard Park was in fact committed by the husband — who has pleaded not guilty — as a kind of Islamic honor killing. Some Muslims were offended by that labeling of her murder, and summarily oppose the use of any term but domestic violence to describe the act.

As a major part of my teaching at the University at Buffalo Law School, where I offer a course titled “The Effects of Culture and Religion on Family Laws,” I have been researching honor killings and domestic violence for the last several years. Hassan’s murder trial is scheduled for next year. Until we hear the evidence, none of us can really know if this killing was meant in some way as an honor killing or whether it was just another terrible act of domestic violence.

But although we don’t know the facts yet, we do know that this would not be the first time a Muslim woman has been killed in this country in the name of “honor” at the hands of her husband or her father. There have been numerous cases of such murders being committed in the United States, murders that clearly fit into the typical pattern of honor killings.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Ambassador Wants Danish-American Eco-Boom

Danish green initiatives couple with American high-tech innovation is the key to a sustainable future, according to the US ambassador

Cooperation between Danish companies within the field of renewable energy and American high-tech companies stand to be greatly expanded if Laurie S. Fulton gets her way.

The US ambassador to Denmark is gearing up for a green technology boom across the Atlantic, praising the Scandinavian country’s clean energy efforts, especially in wind power.

Fulton, who took the post early this summer, is working hard to promote cooperation between leading Danish companies and American manufacturers such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Intel.

‘I’m currently putting together a major seminar, scheduled to be underway in the first half of 2010,’ she told Berlingske Tidende newspaper.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Belgium Waffles — Two Nations, After All?

Ever since it was carved by treaty out of the Dutch, French, and German borderlands after the Napoleonic wars, Belgium has been an odd kind of country—short on space, sunlight, and national identity. It was a shotgun marriage of two peoples, the Dutch-speaking Flemings in Flanders and the French-speaking Walloons in Wallonia, who, apart from a shared Catholicism had almost nothing in common. Since Brussels, the Belgian capital, is also the seat of government for the 27-nation European Union, Belgium has become a symbol of the unity-in-diversity that EU bureaucrats aspire to. But the marriage of Flanders and Wallonia, never a love match, has in recent decades entered a thrown-crockery phase. It has become a burning question whether the country is headed for an outright divorce, of the sort that broke Czechoslovakia into two countries after the Cold War.

The question has largely been answered. Belgium already looks less like a country than a loose confederation of two states. Partly thanks to half a dozen reforms pushed through since the 1970s by nationalists on both sides, French speakers and Dutch speakers inhabit different cultural universes. Most people have never heard of the major politicians, the major actresses, and sometimes even the major athletes on the other side of a country that is smaller than Maryland. They inhabit different political universes, too. Except in one nettlesome suburban area of Brussels, Flemings and Walloons are not permitted to vote for the same parties at the national level. They don’t even obey the same laws. A major political squabble in recent years has involved whether Flanders or Brussels (which is itself an autonomous region) sets the noise pollution standards for planes flying into Zaventem international airport.

The main stereotype that outsiders bring to Belgium is the idea that all of this conflict was sowed for no very good reason by obstreperous Flemish fascists. And that is why the first thing the Flemish nationalist leader Bart De Wever wants to explain as he settles in for lunch in the dining room of the Flemish parliament in Brussels (that’s separate from the Belgian parliament a few hundred yards away) is that his New Flemish Alliance party (N-VA) is not to be confused with the Vlaams Belang. Foreign coverage of Belgium tends to focus on the VB, a right-wing party that used to be called the Vlaams Blok. Along with its appeal for Flemish autonomy, the VB mixed in a big dollop of strongly stated anti-immigrant rhetoric. Its style resembled that of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front in France or the late Jörg Haider’s Austrian People’s party. The VB was very successful, too, winning key posts in Antwerp and increasing its score every election until it suddenly stalled out earlier this decade.

De Wever’s N-VA is not that kind of party. It is true that his party splintered off from the same postwar movement of the nationalist right. Both parties believe that Dutch-speaking Flanders should break away from Belgium, leaving French-speaking Wallonia to fend for itself. But De Wever, who used to be a university professor specializing in 19th- and 20th-century political history, stresses that the VB, by getting wrapped up in anti-immigrant agitation, became an enemy not just of his own party but also of the cause of Flemish nationhood more generally. “They are the ‘objective ally’ of the Belgian state,” he says, “the most principled argument for Belgium. People think: ‘If this is the face of an independent Flanders, we’re better off with Belgium.’?” De Wever favors instead what he calls an “inclusive nationalism.”

The second thing he insists on is that Americans may have an especially hard time seeing what is wrong with Belgian federalism as it now exists. With its already enormous devolutions of political authority to Flanders and Wallonia, Belgium now looks like the kind of federalism that American states’-rights advocates used to dream of. What needs to be remembered, he explains, is that the United States started as a loose confederation of independent states, which have slowly (and perhaps excessively) coalesced over the centuries. “We’re different,” he says. “We started as a unified nation-state and slowly but surely fell apart.”

The Belgian state, in fact, now has little to do. National responsibilities of the smaller kind—from road-building to education—have migrated downward to the regions. National responsibilities of a larger kind have migrated upward to the European Union. Belgium uses the euro. And although there is still no EU army, cash-strapped Brussels has decided to pretend there is. It recently announced the closure or downsizing of dozens of military bases.

One of the roots of Belgium’s instability is that it has seen one of the swiftest reversals of ruling class and subject class that modern history affords. In the early years of the Belgian state, French-speaking Walloons were top dog. They remained the country’s elite until well after the Second World War. The faded French shop signs you can see in certain old neighborhoods in Dutch-speaking Ghent are a lingering reminder of the time when a Fleming had to speak French to participate in national life. Walloons almost never learned Dutch. Today the Dutch-speakers are rich and the French-speakers are poor, and the two generally communicate, if at all, in English.

Over the summer, Erik Buyst, an economic historian at the University of Leuven, wrote an enlightening short essay on how that happened. In the 19th century, Flanders was behind the eight-ball. You could say it was wiped out by free trade, just as Wallonia was enriched by it. Flemish agricultural products were undercut by cheap foodstuffs from America, and Flanders could not make linens—once the mainstay of its economy—as cheaply or as well as Britain. The country emptied out, much as Ireland did during the potato famine. A lot of Flemish nationalism, in fact—the kind De Wever and other modernizers want to overcome—is of an “Irish,” never-forget-a-slight variety. Wallonia, by contrast, had coal and iron mines, which in turn bred engineering expertise, which made its upper-middle classes masters of the cobalt and copper deposits in Belgium’s vast, inhumane Central African empire. Wallonia was an exporter of locomotives and other advanced machinery.

In the middle of the twentieth century, though, that situation got turned upside-down. A shift in energy resources was a big reason why. The coal mines of the South were depleted, requiring Belgium to import oil, and convert its industries to it. That meant building refineries on the coast, which was Flemish. Belgians, rightly or not, often describe coastal Flanders as the second-largest petrochemical economy in the world outside of Houston.

Wallonia is described through its own similarly graphic metaphor: as Britain without Thatcher. That the income of Flanders overtook that of Wallonia sometime in the mid-1960s is not just an accident of natural resources. It had political causes too. The heavily unionized South, with its rigid system of wage bargaining and a lavish welfare state won through uncompromising labor agitation, was totally resistant to change. For all the attention Flemish nationalism has received, the Walloons also gave an impetus to the breakup of Belgium, for their own economic reasons. They wanted to seize control over national economic policy in order to protect their dying industries. Wallonia would be an economy of coal, iron, and steel or it would be nothing. It wound up nothing. “In contrast with e.g. Glasgow or Bilbao,” Buyst writes, “a successful reconversion to tertiary activities never materialized.”

That scared foreign investors, particularly American ones, who were pouring into Europe in the decades after World War II. Already by the 1960s, 80 percent of the foreign companies present in Belgium were in the Flemish north, according to the Ghent university political scientist Carl Devos. Wallonia is now a basket case. Charleroi, the regional hub, shows a lot of the outward signs of a city run by a Socialist party machine: 30 percent unemployment, life expectancies that have receded to their levels in the 1950s, municipal council members sitting in jail, and a tendency of helpful locals to describe it as “our Detroit.”

It is not surprising, then, that much of the rhetoric of Flemish nationalism has a Reaganite ring to it. Flanders, with 58 percent of Belgium’s people, is paying for 66 percent of its social services, amounting to 4.4 billion euros in welfare transfers, according to the Action Committee for Flemish Social Security. That is an astonishing amount of money in a country of 11 million people.

That does not necessarily mean that the Flemish nation is going to storm out of the Belgian household in a huff. A number of things make the Belgian state extremely difficult to dismantle. But these factors for cohesion are all weakening.

First is Brussels, the love child of the Flemish-Walloon pairing, which both cultures claim as their capital. It is historically a Flemish city in the heart of Flanders, but it became the seat of the Francophone elite in the last century, to such an extent that Belgians used to joke that Brussels controlled three colonies: Flanders, Wallonia, and the Congo. It is now the bureaucratic capital of the European Union as well, which has French as one of its two working languages. An independent Flanders would either have a mammoth and expanding Francophone megalopolis at its very heart, or it would be a doughnut-shaped entity with one of the most dynamic cities in Europe excised. For the first time in recent months, though, certain Flemish nationalists have begun to moot the possibility of setting up their own country without Brussels in it.

The second factor holding Belgians together is their monarchy, whose binding capacity comes from a paradox: (a) The royal family is Francophone, and (b) Dutch-speakers have traditionally liked it better than French-speakers do. A referendum was held after World War II on whether King Leopold III ought to be returned to power. (He had been removed by the Nazis and sent to Germany under mysterious circumstances.) Flemings supported his return; Walloons opposed it. But today, the monarchy has been politicized by the task of keeping the country in one piece, and Flemings have grown increasingly republican. Barely a majority of Flemings support the monarchy. Although the royal family now speak Dutch better than they did, most young people see the royals as favoring the Walloons.

Finally, there is the country’s national pension fund, which would have to be broken up along with the country, probably along a formula highly unfavorable to Flemings. But in a time of demographic decline and a mounting ratio of dependent retirees to active workers, the Belgian welfare state is no more viable over the long term than any other. (Given the massive unemployment in the South, it is probably less viable.) It cannot fulfill the role of holding the country together if it is an actuarial fiction. A complicating factor is the Belgian government’s role in rescuing three major banks in last year’s banking crisis. This creates another incentive for the status quo—but it puts pressure on state services, too.

There is an irony here, and one that has given Flanders’s nationalistic modernizers an opening. Historically, both Flanders and Wallonia have pushed for more autonomy, but in very different ways. Flanders has traditionally wanted more respect for its culture, following the model of other great but downtrodden peoples seeking to gain full civil rights. There is a Catalonian or Québécois aspect to the way they lobbied for university instruction in their own language, winning those rights only on the eve of the Second World War. They were willing to give up a bit of economic power, as the economist Olivier Boehme has shown, in defense of cultural purity. Wallonia, by contrast, took its culture for granted. Its priority was seizing the policy levers it needed to keep its dying industrial economy intact. Both sides got exactly what they wanted. But the romantic, ethereal, “cultural” agenda of the Flemings won them real-world benefits. The hard-headed, brass-tacks, “objective” agenda of the Walloons has been a disaster in practical terms.

One of the results of this reversal of fortunes has been a high-stakes battle around history, an attempt to show the Flemish cultural agenda as somehow corrupt at its heart. There are not many places in Europe where the battle rages more furiously over who deserves blame for the country’s 20th-century mistakes. (Spain is one.) Each side tries to portray the other as having committed worse excesses of collaboration. One side claims the Nazis freed Flemish POWs before Walloon ones; the other notes that Flanders had no collaborators more zealous than the Francophone fascist Léon Degrelle.

In public relations terms, the Francophones won this battle in a rout. It is the Vlaams Belang in Antwerp, not the National Front in Charleroi, that became the focus of worries that the Belgian right was fascistic and beyond the pale. Over the past couple of decades, Flemish and Belgian conservative parties erected what they called a cordon sanitaire around the Vlaams Belang to keep it out of government, citing its position on immigrants as xenophobic. Whether this was good politics or not, today it looks increasingly unfair, as all Belgian parties, left and right, Flemish and Walloon, come to the realization that reforms of immigration policy will be necessary to protect the Belgian school and social-service sector. Gerolf Annemans, the VB’s leading intellectual, says that the cordon sanitaire is “purely political.” Most of his opponents would agree with him, although they do not say so on the record.

On the other hand, De Wever is right that the VB’s focus on immigrants was a mighty distraction from the important business of establishing workable Flemish governments. VB leaders used to eschew contacts with serious mainstream nationalist parties where they existed and governed (Catalonia and Scotland), preferring to spend time consorting with unstable atavists like Jörg Haider. Although the VB still gets a quarter of the vote in Antwerp, the N-VA and another liberal nationalist party are, if you take their votes together, quickly catching up. Most analysts believe the VB’s star has been falling since the Socialists passed them as Antwerp’s largest party in 2006.

De Wever sees the Catalans and Scots as allies always, and as models sometimes. “Barcelona,” he says of the Catalan capital, “is living propaganda for self-rule.” It is Catalonia, the engine of the Spanish economy, that offers the best parallel to the Flemish situation at the moment. “Our cultural battles are over,” says De Wever. “We are not second-class citizens anymore.” He is right about that, but it is a pleasant surprise to hear it. There is nothing rarer than a nationalist party or a civil-rights movement willing to take “yes” for an answer.

Christopher Caldwell is a senior editor at THE WEEKLY STANDARD and the author of Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]


Chabad Rabbi Attacked in Vienna

A Muslim man attacked a Chabad rabbi Saturday night as he was conducting the annual ceremony to light the public Chanukah menorah in Stefenfaltz Square in the city of Vienna, Austria.

The attacker hurled himself at Rabbi Dov Gruzman, principal of the city’s Jewish school run by the Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidic movement, and began punching him, a local resident told Arutz Sheva.

As the rabbi tried to hold off his attacker, the Muslim suddenly bit his victim, severing part of his finger in the process. The Muslim was caught and arrested by police, and was held for questioning. The rabbi was evacuated to the hospital where doctors rushed to reattach his finger.

Gruzman told Arutz Sheva that the Muslim had raced towards the entrance at the beginning of the ceremony and began to curse the Jews who were there and the Jewish people in general. “I tried to hold him off, to keep him away from the entrance and he bit me really hard, and that’s how he injured me,” he said.

The event itself did not discourage Rabbi Gruzman, and in fact strengthened his resolve. “We are glad that such an event occurred,” he said. “Today, because of what happened, we are planning [a much larger event]. We increased the number of sufganiot [Chanukah jelly doughnuts] from 50 to 700 — and this is our answer to the attack and to anti-Semitism.”

However, the rabbi himself will be unable to participate in Sunday evening’s ceremony due to the fact that he is still hospitalized, and being monitored for infection from the bite. Nevertheless, he emphasized, through the Chanukah lighting ceremony he sends his blessing to every Jew around the world.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]


Copenhagen Climate Summit: 1,000 Anarchists Arrested

Nearly 1,000 people were arrested in Copenhagen yesterday as anarchists and left-wing activists fought running street battles with police in the Danish capital as negotiations continued at the climate summit.

Cobble stones were thrown through the windows of the former stock exchange building and foreign office buildings in the city, but police made a large number of pre-emptive arrests under a controversial anti-hooligan law.

Suspected troublemakers were herded into a closed-off street, made to sit down and then tied up with plastic cuffs. They were then bused to a detention centre set up for the climate conference.

Police said four cars were set on fire during the evening. One policeman was hurt by a stone and a Swedish man injured by a firework.

“You don’t have to use that kind of violence to be heard,” said Connie Hedegaard, the Danish minister presiding at the United Nations talks. She condemned rioters after welcoming the main march at a candlelit vigil outside the conference centre.

One activist group accused the police of abuse complaining people had been forced sit on the road for hours in near-freezing temperatures.

The day’s main demonstration — a march involving 40,000 people — remained good natured but there remain fears that a hard-core of more violent demonstrators may still be waiting until later in the week, when President Barack Obama and other world leaders will arrive, to protest.

Inside the Bella Centre, delegates at the COP15 climate summit gathered around flat-screen TVs, showing both the police crackdown and the peaceful rally of environmental compaigners.

Despite the protesters’ urgings, there are growing fears that the summit could degenerate into an undignified global squabbling match with poor nations accusing their rich counterparts of forging a “backroom deal” at a secret dinner.

The split that the meeting has exposed between wealthy and impoverished nations was laid bare with news that ministers from a select clique of 40 countries were dining together away from the summit venue.

The meal, held behind closed doors at an undisclosed location, was viewed as a last-ditch attempt to cobble together a politically acceptable deal after a week of discussions marred by in-fighting, and “greener than thou” posturing over who is most to blame for global warming. Ministers are desperate to have a document ready when heads of state arrive for the final stages of the two-week conference on Thursday.

Leading them will be Gordon Brown, who has fashioned himself as a global champion in the battle against climate change, and who is arriving ahead of other top statesmen in a bid to stamp his authority on the meeting.

But so far officials from 194 countries have failed to make any substantive agreements on even the most basic goals.

Arguments are still raging over targets and deadlines for limiting global temperature rise, as well as the extent to which rich nations should fund green projects for poor ones, and whether emerging economic superpowers like China should balance green considerations against much-needed development.

Washington and Beijing have also traded insults over whether China should fund its own green measures or receive handouts financed largely by the West.

With signs of an irreconcilable split growing between the large and powerful and the small and poor, last night’s dinner, attended by countries including Britain, the US, China and India — was viewed as an attempt by mostly bigger, better-off nations to strike a deal in private.

“A lot of the deals are done in back rooms but there has to be transparency at the same time,” said Keith Allott, of the World Wildlife Fund, which claims smaller nations are being left out of the process.

Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, attempted to paint a brighter picture of the conference, insisting he was optimistic of a deal by the time heads of state arrived.

“This remains difficult in process terms because we have 100 and something leaders arriving on Thursday and we have to get to an agreement by the time they leave,” he said.

“The world is doing what it has never done before, which is trying to peak emissions and see them fall. It is not a done deal, it remains in the balance.”

Mr Brown plans to travel to Copenhagen on Tuesday evening, a day earlier than planned, in an attempt to help “seal the deal”. Downing Street sources said the Prime Minister was expected to hold one-to-one meetings with key figures including Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary-General.

He will attend a formal dinner on Thursday and an all-day session on Friday before returning to Britain that night. A source said: “He remains concerned that the commitment for a deal is still short of what is required.”

A productive meeting at Copenhagen is widely seen as being crucial to the credibility of the global campaign on climate change. But the first week saw slow progress. Rich and poor repeatedly clashed over the need to reduce greenhouse gases, with Africa and the small island states threatening to walk out unless the developed nations committed to deeper cuts.

Many of the exchanges were bad-tempered, souring an event that aspires to be a vehicle for better global co-operation. He Yafei, China’s vice minister of foreign affairs, said he was “shocked” at US climate change negotiator Todd Stern’s assertion that Beijing did not need any American money. “It’s not just about the US and China, it’s the whole international community,” he said, insisting that climate change was historically the fault of the West. “The US is a developed country and China is part of the developing countries. To tackle global climate change we need to work together.”

Ian Fry, the representative of the tiny Pacific island of Tuvalu, has also claimed that even the more vulnerable countries’ intended target to restrict global warming to a rise of 1.5C will leave his island underwater because of rising sea levels.

However, the G8 and major developing economies believe it is realistically impossible to restrict temperature rises to less than 2C. They have also accused developing nations of demanding more “go green” cash than they actually need.

After seven days’ negotiating there is so far only a draft agreement on the table. The framework for a possible “Copenhagen Protocol” talks about cuts for developed nations of between 25 and 45 per cent by 2020, and calls on rich nations to pay their poorer cousins to reduce their emissions. But blanks remain in what negotiators term the “square brackets” — where officials must eventually insert precise figures and dates.

There is also the question of making the agreement enforceable in law. Britain has already suggested that a further summit will be necessary in six months’ time to address the issue.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Danish Police Arrested at Least 200 Climate Activists Today as They Attempted to March on Copenhagen Docks.

About 1,000 protesters from across Europe had joined the march on the fringes of the UN climate summit but police quickly moved to disrupt it as it targeted the Danish shipping giant Moller-Maersk.

A couple of hundred protesters, many of them British, were corralled at a junction near the American embassy about a mile from their target in an echo of the controversial “kettling” tactics deployed at G20 protests in London earlier this year.

Outnumbered at least 2-1 by police in full riot gear, the protesters were told that they would be searched individually and then released. But when some of the activists refused to co-operate the entire group — including a Times reporter — were told that they were under arrest and taken to a requisitioned warehouse in Valby, on the outskirts of town, where they were processed and put into cells.

The reporter, who was later released, said that there had been no violence.

The police had already deemed the demonstration illegal and quickly stormed a float on which the ringleaders were travelling, grabbing their megaphones. “Take a chill pill, police,” one demonstrator shouted before having his loudhailer confiscated. “We haven’t done anything yet.”

A Copenhagen police spokeswoman confirmed around 200 arrests. “It was an illegal demonstration. They were bringing gas masks and things to throw,” she said.

Activists at the summit, where at least 115 world leaders are due to sign an accord to tackle global warming on Friday, had already complained of heavy-handed treatment from the police after mass arrests yesterday.

Police said that they had released all but 13 of 968 protesters arrested during a mass march on the summit venue yesterday afternoon. Of those, only three — two Danes and a Frenchman — were due to appear in court on preliminary charges of fighting with police.

Conference delegates were taking the day off today, enjoying the sights of Copenhagen, although environment ministers and their top negotiators were meeting informally at the Danish Foreign Ministry and at hotels around the city trying to agree financing terms and emissions targets under a new deal. An agreement is likely to include a green tax on the shipping industry.

An estimated 40,000 people joined yesterday’s march toward the Bella Centre, the sprawling conference centre that is hosting the 192-nation summit. They chanted and carried banners reading “Demand Climate Justice,” “The World Wants a Real Deal” and “There is No Planet B” as they marked for miles past officers in riot gear, police dogs and the flashing lights of dozens of police vans.

Police said that riot squads moved in to arrest activists at the tail end of the demonstration when some of them started vandalising buildings. Windows were broken at the former stock exchange and the Foreign Ministry. A police officer received minor injuries when he was hit by a rock thrown from the group and one protester was injured by fireworks, Flemming Steen Munch, a police spokesman, said…

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Denmark: 80,000 Jobs Saved

From Danish: The Danish finance minister says that the financial policy and lower interest rates saved up to 80,000 jobs.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Italy: Berlusconi’s New Bloomer as He Sends EU Leaders Doodles of Women’s Knickers at Summit

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi shocked leaders at an EU summit on Friday by sending them doodles showing women’s underwear through the ages.

He passed round his etchings of bloomers and thongs as the leaders discussed climate change at the meeting in Brussels.

His vulgar prank caused titters among some, but indignation among others who passed them back to him.

European leaders present included Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen and EU foreign envoy Baroness Cathy Ashton.

It is understood the rude drawings passed across Mr Brown’s desk, but it is believed he ignored them.

Mr Berlusconi, 73, started doodling as the leaders discussed giving more money to help poorer nations combat the effects of climate change.

At first, the other leaders thought he was making his own calculations with a view to taking part in the complex talks. Then they realised he was sketching women’s underwear.

One source said the etchings were headed ‘Women’s knickers through the ages’.

The doodles are said to have included loin cloths used by Egyptian women, Victorian bloomers, French satin knickers, thongs and G-strings.

‘No one could believe it,’ said a source. ‘He was scribbling away and then sent round some jottings with women’s knickers on it. Some people were amused. Some were not.’

Mr Berlusconi has been plagued by allegations of sexual impropriety since April. His wife Veronica filed for divorce after his attendance at a girl’s 18th birthday party.

Patrizia D’Addario, a 42-year old escort girl, claimed that she had spent the night with Mr Berlusconi.

He denied any knowledge of her being a paid escort.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Italy: PM Silvio Berlusconi Taken to Hospital After Being Attacked at Rally in Milan

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been struck in the face after leaving a meeting in Milan.

He was left ‘profusely bleeding’ from the mouth.

It was reported that a protester in a crowd hit Berlusconi with either his fist or a blunt object as the Prime Minister signed autographs outside the Piazza del Duomo..

The 73-year-old was rushed away from the scene in a car.

News reports said a man, in his 30s or early 40s, was immediately detained as the suspected assailant and taken to police headquarters.

Witnesses told reporters the assailant appeared to have punched Berlusconi while holding a metal object in his fist.

State TV showed Berlusconi with blood on his lips as he was lifted to his feet by aides.

A spokesman for Berlusconi says he didn’t immediately have any information about the incident, which happened after the premier delivered a long, rousing speech to his conservative supporters Sunday evening.

According to Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, a small group of protesters were shouting slogans and whistling during the rally.

There were reports of scuffles between the protesters and security staff.

During the gathering Berlusconi told supporters: ‘They paint me as a monster, but I don’t think I am one — firstly because I am good-looking and secondly because I’m a decent chap.’

The attack follows a controversial few months for the Prime Minister, who was the subject of allegations that he slept with prostitutes after his wife filed for divorce.

Last week tens of thousands of people attended an anti-Berlusconi rally in Rome.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Italy: Attacker Breaks Berlusconi’s Nose

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was rushed to the hospital Sunday evening with a fractured nose and bloodied lip after a man threw a statuette at the premier’s face from close range at the end of a political rally.

Mr. Berlusconi had been shaking hands with supporters in a dense crowd when a man wielding a statuette broke through the crush of people and assaulted the premier. Mr. Berlusconi’s bodyguards hustled the premier into the back of a car while police detained the attacker, identified as 42-year-old Massimo Tartaglia. Police said Mr. Tartaglia didn’t have a criminal record.

Mr. Berlusconi, 73, will remain in charge of Italy’s government while he is in the hospital.

A billionaire media mogul with a penchant for making controversial public statements, he has long been one of the most polarizing figures in Europe’s political landscape. Sunday’s attack, however, shows how tensions in Italy are running higher than ever.

“This hurts the country,” said Paolo Bonaiuti, a spokesman for Mr. Berlusconi’s conservative government. “What worries us is the climate of violence.”

Support for Mr. Berlusconi remains strong among many Italian voters. However, swaths of the Italian public have become increasingly angry with the premier during the past year. Mr. Berlusconi’s personal life has undergone heavy scrutiny since last spring, when his wife announced she wanted a divorce. More recently, Mr. Berlusconi has made repeated calls for deep changes to Italy’s constitution and judicial system after Italy’s Constitutional Court struck down a law shielding sitting prime ministers and other top officials from criminal prosecution.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is in a Milan area hospital after he was attacked at a political rally in the northern Italian city. Video courtesy of Reuters.

Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa, who was standing near Mr. Berlusconi when he was assaulted, told an interviewer on television that the attack stemmed from “all the tension we’ve seen in this period,” adding: “For months there has been a campaign of hatred against Berlusconi.”

The Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, called the attack “a serious and worrying act that shows the real risk of violent words turning into violent acts.”

The incident took place moments after Mr. Berlusconi addressed a political rally in Milan, which was open to the public.

Among the crowd was a group of protesters who repeatedly shouted at him during his speech. Mr. Berlusconi had interrupted his speech to challenge the protesters, booming: “We must oppose you, because you want to transform Italy into a screaming piazza.”

“Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you,” Mr. Berlusconi yelled, pointing at the protesters.

After his speech, Mr. Berlusconi made his way through the crowd, greeting supporters along the way. Police said Mr. Tartaglia attacked the premier with a souvenir sculpture of Milan’s spire-laden cathedral. It is unclear how the assailant got close enough to strike him.

Doctors attending to Mr. Berlusconi planned to keep him in the hospital under observation, Mr. Bonaiuti said. He said the premier had suffered a cut to his lip and damage to two teeth, as well as a fracture along the bridge of his nose. Images of the premier with a swollen, blood-smudged face were splashed across Italian television.

The attack is likely to fuel debate in a country already divided over Mr. Berlusconi’s leadership.

Last week, he delivered a speech at a meeting of European Union leaders, calling for changes in the Italian Constitution. The speech drew immediate protest across Italy. He also lashed out at Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano, a respected figure who is considered the guardian of the constitution.

Mr. Napolitano condemned Sunday’s attack as a “grave and rash act of aggression.”

“Political and institutional conflict must remain inside the limits of responsible self-control and civil dialogue,” Mr. Napolitano said.

[Return to headlines]


New Religious Newspaper in France

From Dutch: Bayard Presse is publishing the first free (Christian) religious paper, which will initially be given out in Marseille.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Northern Irish Dissidents Forming “New IRA” — Report

BELFAST (Reuters) — Republican dissidents in Northern Ireland have formed a new militant organisation to escalate attacks which have targeted British army and police this year, the Sunday Times reported, citing Republican sources.

A spokesman in Belfast for Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, said: “We have no knowledge of it so we can’t comment on something that we know nothing about.”

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Rights Group Condemns Creeping Anti-Roma Extremism

Bucharest — A Romanian Roma rights group on Thursday condemned a growing “extremism” against the minority in European countries, according to a report.

The Romani Criss association said 2009 was the year of “reinventing extremism in Europe” adding “the situation is alarming, as extremism against Roma is gaining ground in several European countries.”

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Swiss Man Builds Mock Minaret to Protest Ban

Shoe-shop owner, Guillaume Morand, who is not a Muslim, built the mock minaret as an extension of his chimney and sprayed it in gold paint in defiance of a constitutional amendment approved in a nationwide referendum last month.

“It was scandalous that the Swiss voted for the ban,” Britain’s TimesOnline quoted Morand as saying. “Now we [the Swiss] have the support of all the far-right parties across Europe. This is shameful.”

Morand said he viewed the ban was all the more “scandalous” given that Switzerland actively encourages Arabs to “visit the country and to spend their money here.”

The far-right Swiss People’s Party, which initially called for the ban, accused Morand of using the tower for self-publicity but Morand insists the plastic tower is a “message of peace and tolerance.”

“Our minaret is pretty. You could say I’m proud of it and I’m happy that people are talking about it,” Morand, 46, said.

Morand said, however, that his neighbors were not pleased with the structure and have “showered him with racist insults,” the paper reported, adding since the minaret was erected this week at least one of Morand’s neighbors has threatened to demolish it.

Morand also said local police have photographed the structure and have threatened to file a report, which could lead to a legal battle but the shop-owner is not worried and says “I think I’ll just get a letter from a judge. If they give me a fine, I will contest it. There’s no justification for a punishment over this.”

Peaceful religion

Meanwhile on Saturday some 500 protesters gathered outside parliament in Bern to condemn the ban on the building of new minarets, which Switzerland has only four of.

Some were seen with cardboard placards reading “Islam” and “We are Muslims, not Hitler,” as organizers from the Swiss central Islamic council, sought to send a message that Islam is a peaceful religion that teaches its followers to respect other faiths.

Nicolas Blancho, a Swiss Muslim co-organizer of the demonstration, told the crowd that Muslims are not seeking to impose Shariah law in Switzerland, the domestic ATS news agency reported.

The minaret ban drew widespread criticism internationally, with U.N. high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay calling the ban “deeply discriminatory, deeply divisive and a thoroughly unfortunate step for Switzerland to take.”

The Swiss government sought to assure the country’s 400,000 Muslims, who are mainly of Balkan and Turkish origin, that the outcome was “not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture.”

Switzerland has around 200 mosques, with just four minarets between them.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


UK Muslims Are Europe’s Most Patriotic

Muslims in Britain are the most patriotic in Europe — but more than a quarter in some parts of the country still do not feel British, according to a new study.

The report, funded by George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist, found that on average 78% of Muslims identified themselves as British, although this dropped by six points in east London.

This compares with 49% of Muslims who consider themselves French and just 23% who feel German.

The findings, based on more than 2,000 detailed interviews, suggest that Muslims may be better integrated in Britain than in other parts of the European Union.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: ‘Our Faith is Being Targeted … and We’ve Been Thrown to the Lions’: The Christian Hoteliers Accused of Insulting Muslim Guest Reveal

When they called their hotel The Bounty House, Benjamin and Sharon Vogelenzang did so in the hope it would be ‘filled with peace and plenty’. The sentiment might sound corny, but they meant it.

The couple have spent ten years refurbishing a large, rather plain building in the Liverpool suburb of Aintree, hoping to run a ‘boutique’ guest house in accordance with their own deeply felt Christian beliefs.

But there has been little peace or plenty in recent months for the Vogelenzangs, and soon there might be no Bounty House either.

Last week, they were cleared of insulting a Muslim guest when high-profile ‘hate crime’ allegations were thrown out by a judge to public applause. But, faced with £400,000 of debt and the wreckage of a business they say has been all but destroyed by the controversy, there has been little celebration for Ben and Sharon — just bewilderment at the way they have been treated.

The experience has left them questioning their faith in the police, in the Crown Prosecution Service and in a British establishment that seems bent on protecting all manner of rights and sensitivities. Unless, that is, you are a church-going Christian.

It has done little to improve their confidence in the way their case was handled to learn that Detective Constable Tracy O’Hara, the officer who played a leading role in the prosecution for the unusual crime of religiously aggravated harassment and took charge of their interrogation, is a leading light in the Merseyside Police Gay And Lesbian Support Network.

‘It was a nightmare we couldn’t wake up from,’ said Sharon, speaking for the first time since their disturbing ordeal began eight months ago. ‘We are ordinary, hard-working people. We are also law-abiding and we have always had faith in the law and the police. They are supposed to protect standards of decency. Now we feel betrayed.’

Even today, the Vogelenzangs are cautious in what they say — understandably so. They have received abusive emails and threats of violence and are anxious to return to some semblance of normality. But there is no disguising their shock at a turn of events that has come close to ruining them.

‘The whole thing has been a stomach-churning experience. It has upset us and our family physically,’ said Ben. ‘We think the Christian faith is being targeted by those in authority and that we have been thrown to the lions.

‘It is all to do with political correctness. Minority groups seem to be treated fairly, but people like us in the majority groups are being pushed to one side. It is completely unbalanced.’

[…]

‘One of the two officers took notes and the interview was recorded on tape. It was extremely hard to sit there and listen to a lot of lies being told about us.’

In retrospect — though the police always acted professionally — Sharon feels they were trying to ‘push’ the case, in which she and her husband were accused of breaking Section Five of the Public Order Act.

‘We had already spent an hour each with our solicitor,’ she said. ‘It felt like a nightmare, even though he said it was a low-level accusation and didn’t think that it would warrant us being charged.

‘But he warned that if it did go that far and we needed his firm’s services, we would be means-tested to see if we would be eligible for Legal Aid. I knew we could not afford their services. So even before I got into the interview room with the police officers, I was scared.

‘The officers kept saying how serious these accusations were. They stuck to questions about the events that allegedly took place. They didn’t ask what we personally believed.’

Sharon said the six hours in the police station ‘felt like being in a bad dream — a surreal experience we couldn’t escape from’.

She added: ‘DC O’Hara, who asked most of the questions, was professional and courteous but very determined in her manner. It felt like she asked us the same questions twice.

‘The other female officer, Detective Sergeant Rhodes, also started asking me the same questions until my solicitor stepped in and said, “I think she has already answered that.”

‘The officers told us that a serious complaint had been made against us. We felt intimidated and humiliated. They kept saying we were there voluntarily, but if we hadn’t gone in they would have come and arrested us on our doorstep.’

As Ben points out, it was shocking enough to be there in the first place. ‘We are totally law-abiding citizens,’ he said. ‘We grew up with the idea that the police are your friends. I am not so sure now.’

[…]

Fortunately for them, and for the course of justice, Judge Clancy was listening — and he threw out the case after only a few minutes’ summing up, without even retiring to consider his verdict.

Describing Mrs Tazi’s evidence as ‘inconsistent’, he said that her account could not be trusted and that she was not quite the religious person she had presented herself to be in the witness box.


He referred to a conversation with the ambulance driver who took her to the pain-management course, in which she had told him the hotel owners ‘were taking the p*** out of me’.

Ben said: ‘We were surprised how fast the judge reached his decision.

‘We were also amazed at the media interest — newspapers and TV stations from all over the world were ringing up.

‘When we came out of court, we were so relieved — stunned but relieved. There was sustained applause for five minutes after the verdict was given.’

Life is still difficult, though. The threats and abuse have left them fearful. ‘Some of the messages are scary,’ said Ben. ‘They were saying things like, “We will get you. We will smash you up. We know where you live.”

‘Will these threats be investigated as vigorously as the allegations against us? That remains to be seen.’


           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Ministers Told: Don’t Call Islamic Extremists “Islamic Extremists”

MINISTERS have been BANNED from using words like Islamist and fundamentalist — in case they offend Muslims.

An eight-page Whitehall guide lists words they should not use when talking about terrorism in public and gives politically correct alternatives.

They are told not to refer to Muslim extremism as it links Islam to violence. Instead, they are urged to talk about terrorism or violent extremism.

Fundamentalist and Jihadi are also banned because they make an “explicit link” between Muslims and terror.

Ministers should say criminals, murderers or thugs instead. Radicalisation must be called brainwashing and talking about moderate or radical Muslims is to be avoided as it “splits the community”.

Islamophobia is also out as it is received as “a slur that singles out Muslims”.

The guide, produced by the secretive Research, Information and Communications Unit in the Home Office, tell ministers to “avoid implying that specific communities are to blame” for terrorism. It says more than 2,000 people are engaged in terror plots.

The guidance was branded “daft” last night by a special adviser to ex-Communities Secretary Hazel Blears. Paul Richards said: “Unless you can describe what you’re up against, you’re never going to defeat it. Ministers need to be leading the debate on Islamic extremism and they can’t do that if they have one hand tied behind their back.”

The Home Office said: “This is about using appropriate language to have counter-terrorism impact. It would be foolish to do anything else.”

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


UK: Swine Flu Pandemic ‘Less Lethal Than Expected’

A study by the chief medical officer has revealed that there have been only 26 fatalities out of every 100,000 people with the illness

The first flu pandemic of the 21st century is less lethal than experts feared, killing only 26 out of every 100,000 people who became ill, a study by the chief medical officer reveals today.

But a third of deaths have been among healthy people who would not have been eligible for vaccination under the present strategy. Sir Liam Donaldson and colleagues say in their paper published online that vaccination may have to be extended to a wider population than at present.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


UK: Schoolboy, 12, Suspended for ‘Crisp Dealing’

A 12-year-old pupil at a Liverpool school where fatty drinks and snacks are banned has been suspended for “crisp dealing”, it is reported.

Joel Bradley was caught allegedly selling a packet of Discos at a marked-up price of 50 pence.

The student at the Cardinal Heenan High School was given a day’s suspension because it was the second time he had been caught.

His father, Joe, told the Liverpool Echo the youngster was being “victimised” for the enterprise, which could earn him as much as £15 a day.

Mr Bradley, from Norris Green, admitted he too had once been caught selling canned drinks, chocolate bars and crisps from a van outside the school.

He said: “I think the school has made a beeline for him because of what I’ve done.”

Cardinal Heenan’s head teacher Dave Forshaw said: “We are a healthy school and proud of it.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Speculation Mounts That Gordon Brown May Call an Early Election

Alistair Darling is preparing to deliver a pre-election Budget in the spring, despite a wave of speculation that Gordon Brown may opt for an early contest.

Treasury officials are working on the expectation that there will be a Budget in mid-March, even though David Cameron yesterday became the latest politician to suggest that the election will come on March 25. If he is right there would not be time for a Budget, which cannot come earlier than three months after the Pre-Budget Report.

Labour and Conservative chiefs admitted that they were on the alert for an early election, but Mr Brown was reported to be holding to his favoured date of May 6.

Mr Cameron said that the Tories were ready for a March poll. “I have said to all my team to be ready in the new year for an early election. All systems are go, we are clearing manifestos,” he told Sunday Live on Sky News.

           — Hat tip: Frontinus[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Muslim Scholar Publishes Anti-Christian Book in Egypt

by Mary Abdelmassih

Cairo (AINA) — Christian in Egypt are up in arms this week over a controversial book issued as a free supplement with this month’s Al-Azhar magazine, describing Christianity as a Religion of “idolatry” and claiming that the Holy Bible is a misquotation of the original one. The book was published by State-owned corporations that are financed by taxpayers, Christians as well as Muslims.

The controversial book is titled “Scientific Report” and authored by Dr. Muhammad Imarah, a member of Al-Azhar’s Islamic Research Academy (IRA), which is affiliated with the Ministry of Religious Endowments. The book discusses Christian dogma, casts doubts over it, and asserts that Christianity is a “religion of polytheism.”

Coptic lawyer Naguib Ghobrial, president of the Egyptian Union of Human Right Organization, has filed a complaint with the Attorney General against Dr. Mohamed Imarah, accusing him of adopting a systematic approach to “ruin Egypt by inciting sectarian rifts between the sons of one nation and defamation of a divine religion recognized by the Egyptian Constitution.”

Ghobrial added that what Imarah wrote “defames the Christian dogma, in contradiction with Article 98 of penal law dealing with derision of religion.”

Ms. Elaine Kellini, Coptic member of the People’s Assembly, said she has ordered a copy of Imarah’s book and would take legal action against him, if it was proven that he defamed Christianity.

The Egyptian Newspaper Al Destoor in its December 7 issue reviewed the controversial book, saying Imarah published his book in reply to a proselytizing book called “We Are Ready To Answer” by an unknown Christian author who took the alias name of Dr. Samir Morcos. Imarah said the book was presented to the Islamic Research Academy (IRA) to obtain permission for publication, which the IRA duly turned down, “as it contained many false allegations regarding Islam, making of the Koran a lie, therefore promoting hatred towards Christians,” and that he was obliged to answer back.

In a second statement to Al-Destoor, Imarah said that the Islamic Academy approved unanimously in its 25 June 2009 his “Scientific Report” and approved the recommendation to have it published as a supplement to Al-Azhar Magazine. He also changed his assertion about the origin of the alleged anti-Islam book, saying it was likely issued by foreign entities wanting to tamper with the tenets of Islam and harm national unity.

Yesterday Al-Destoor wrote that “Islamic Research Academy announces support for Mohamed Imarah in his attack on Christianity,” stressing that Aly Abdolbaqi — Secretary of the Islamic Research Academy — said that the Academy supports Imarah in his “Scientific Report” response, and that he is ready to stand by his side on this issue.

In the first chapter of the book Imarah cites eleven reasons why that the Bible, with its Old and New Testaments, has been distorted from its original version.

In the second Chapter Imarah accuses Christians of making Jesus a God with all the functions of God Almighty, a substitute for the Father and “Creator of all things.” “They have gone beyond the Trinity and the multiplicity of gods, to reach idolatry, in which Jesus takes the place of the Father.” He went on to attack the Gospel of St. John, saying: “this Gospel alone takes one on the path of idolatry and polytheism, makes the ‘Word’ — Christ — as a substitute for God.”

In the third and last chapter Imarah criticizes the anonymous Christian author about infallibility, sin, and miracles, which is denied to all prophets and messengers with the exception of Christ alone. “This book goes as far as denying Mohamed, the Prophet of Islam, of miracle-making,” writes Imarah.

Most Christians in Egypt, believe that no such Christian writer or proselytizing book ever existed or was presented to the Islamic Academy, and that this imaginary book was used by Imarah, whom has a history of defaming Christianity, as a pretext to defame Christianity again. Many have questioned the usefulness of the laws of defamation of religions adopted by the State, when they are not applied uniformly

In December, 2006, Dr Imarah wrote a book called “The Sedition of Takfeer [apostasy],” which published by the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, which is under the auspices of Al-Azhar’s Islamic Research Academy (IRA), It included a paragraph which “explicitly described Christians as infidels, just like Magus and idol-worshippers, who are destined to eternal hellfire in the afterlife and whose property and lives can be lawfully seized during their lifetime.”

The defamation of Christianity and the incitement of Muslims against Egyptian Christians was so grave in this book that Dr. Imarah was threaten by a barrage of lawsuits. At the time, Imarah apologized, explaining that the paragraph in question was no more than a quote from a century-old book by the grand Islamic Imam Mahmoud Hamed El-Ghazali, defining faith and atheism. His excuse was that he quoted the old text without “thinking.” The book was recalled and later printed with the derision of Christianity removed.

None of the Muslim scholars interviewed wanted to give their opinion about Imarah’s new “Scientific Report,” except the controversial Sheikh Youssefel Badry, who told Freecopts “what came in Imarah’s book is the truth as advocated by the Koran, Imarah brought nothing new,” adding “the Bible is not the word of God, and God never pledged to save it (from distortion)”

According to Free Copts, the Coptic Orthodox Church has no intention of responding to the new book, so as not to give it undue importance, especially that “Imarah brought nothing new to what he previously wrote, and we have answered him several times in the past.”

Dr. Safwat Bayaadi, President of the Anglican Communion in Egypt, told Copts-United that he is writing to Grand Sheikh Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, expressing his disappointment. “This book is attributed to Al-Azhar, and when a prestigious and official state institute like Al-Azhar does that, we have to ask how could this happen?”

[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israeli Settlements Are More Than Legitimate

Critics may assail them on other grounds, but no one can deny that they are legal. In fact, the 1922 Mandate for Palestine encourages them.

President Obama asserts, seconded by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, that “America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements” in the West Bank. Both have praised the 10-month freeze on new residential building — excluding eastern Jerusalem — that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced late last month.

Netanyahu now calls for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to resume negotiations or take the blame for lack of progress when the “one-time-only” freeze expires. Abbas’ precondition — adopted after Washington’s pronouncements — is that all Israeli construction, including in eastern Jerusalem, must cease permanently.

Too bad international diplomacy doesn’t have a replay button. If it did, the parties could look back at history, which would show that Israeli settlements not only are legitimate under international law but positively encouraged.

The basic relevant provision, the League of Nations’ 1922 British Mandate for Palestine, Article 6, encourages “close settlement by Jews on the land, including state lands and waste lands not required for public use.” Most Israeli settlements in the West Bank have been built on land that was state land under the Ottomans, British, Jordanians and, after the 1967 Six-Day War, under the Israelis, or on property that has been privately purchased.

The United States endorsed Article 6 by signing the 1924 Anglo-American Convention, a treaty stipulating acceptance of the mandate. The League of Nations is long gone, but Article 6 remains in force. The United Nations’ 1945 Charter, Article 80 — sometimes known as “the Palestine article” — notes among other things that “nothing in the charter shall be construed to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any states or peoples or the terms of existing international instruments.”

Eugene Rostow, U.S. undersecretary of State for President Lyndon Johnson — who is an authority on international law and the coauthor of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which outlines requirements for Arab-Israeli peace — reaffirmed this principle. In 1990, he said: “The Jewish right of settlement in the West Bank is conferred by the same provisions of the mandate under which Jews settled in Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem before the state of Israel was created.”

As for Resolution 242’s call for “secure and recognized boundaries,” according to Rostow in 1991 in another piece, a careful look at the wrangling over the resolution in 1967 makes it clear that it did not mandate Israeli withdrawal from all of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and Sinai peninsula to the post-1948 armistice lines.

Many who allege that Jewish communities in the West Bank violate international law cite the 4th Geneva Convention, Article 49. It states that an occupying power “shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” But Julius Stone, like Rostow a leading legal theorist, wrote in his 1981 book, “Israel and Palestine: An Assault on the Law of Nations,” that the effort to designate Israeli settlements as illegal was a “subversion . . . of basic international law principles.”

Stone, Stephen Schwebel, a former judge on the International Court of Justice, and others have distinguished between territory acquired in an “aggressive conquest” (such as Nazi Germany’s seizures during World War II) and territory taken in self-defense (such as Israeli conquests in 1967).

The distinction is especially sharp when the territory acquired had been held illegally, as Jordan had held the West Bank, which it seized during the Arab states’ 1948-49 war against Israel.

Further, Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention was intended to outlaw the Nazi practice of forcibly transporting populations into or out of occupied territories to labor or death camps. Israelis were not forcibly transferred to the West Bank, nor were Palestinian Arabs forced out of it. Two years after President Carter’s State Department determined that Israeli settlements violated international law, President Reagan said flatly that they were “not illegal.”

One can argue, as Reagan did and Obama does, that Israel’s establishing towns in the disputed territories after 1967 obstructs diplomacy, or, as some Israeli critics do, that building Jewish communities near Palestinian Arab population centers disperses the country’s Jewish majority too widely. But one cannot accurately declare the settlements illegal.

Eric Rozenman is Washington director of CAMERA, the Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


Jewish Lobby Wages War on Christmas Trees

A new front for religious battles: Hotels and restaurants. The “Lobby for Jewish values” this week began operating against restaurants and hotels that plan to put up Christmas trees and other Christian symbols ahead of Christmas and the civil New Year.

According to the lobby’s Chairman, Ofer Cohen, they have received backing by the rabbis, “and we are even considering publishing the names of the businesses that put up Christian symbols ahead of the Christian holiday and call for a boycott against them.”

Fliers and ads distributed among the public read, “The people of Israel have given their soul over the years in order to maintain the values of the Torah of Israel and the Jewish identity.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran Leader Says Opposition Protests “Anti-Islam”

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned opposition leaders on Sunday to distance themselves from protesters whom he accused of acting “against Islam” as he labeled the June presidential election legal and said the case was closed.

“Those who shout slogans in the name of these people (opposition leaders), hoist their pictures and speak of them with respect are in a point which is the exact opposite of Imam (founder of the revolution Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini), revolution and Islam,” Khamenei said on state television.

Iran’s official media accuses pro-opposition students of tearing up a picture of Khomeini, during a state organized rally on last Monday that turned violent when the opposition hijacked the rally to protest against the government.

Referring to the disputed June election, which the opposition says was rigged in favor of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Khamenei said:

“The election is over. It was legal and they could not demonstrate their claim (of vote fraud).”

“Some people created riots and encouraged people to stand against the system… paving the way for our hopeless enemies to undermine the Islamic revolution.”

The elite Revolutionary Guards urged the judiciary on Sunday to confront in a “revolutionary way” those behind an “insult” to Ayatollah Khomeini.

Khamenei said the opposition rallies where illegal.

“They are openly violating the law, they insulted imam Khomeini,” he said.

The leader urged authorities to identify “those behind the insult to imam Khomeini.”

Meanwhile the exiled leader of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, arrived in Iran on Sunday on a visit where he was due to meet top officials including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

A Hamas statement from Meshaal’s Damascus headquarters said the visit was part of a regional tour, but gave no further details.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Iranian Scientist Who Vanished ‘Gave Nuclear Secrets’ To UN Inspectors Sent to Qom Site

An Iranian scientist who vanished six months ago has revealed secrets of his country’s nuclear programme with international weapons inspectors, The Sunday Telegraph has learned.

Shahram Amiri briefed United Nations nuclear monitors in a clandestine meeting at Frankfurt airport just hours before they flew to Iran to inspect a hidden uranium enrichment plant, according to French intelligence sources.

An award-winning atomic physicist, Mr Amiri had worked at the heavily-guarded underground site at Qom. He was attached to a Tehran university named by the EU last year as part of the regime’s nuclear-proliferation operations.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Muslim Inventor Set to Take Orthopaedic Prayer Rugs Worldwide

Ritual prayer for Muslims with knee problems can be painful, but an entrepreneur in Germany has patented a revolutionary solution to facilitate the centuries-old tradition — orthopaedic prayer rugs.

Adnan Pirisen’s idea for the padded prayer rug came to him in the middle of the night.

“I’d been thinking that as Muslims we start to get knee pain over the course of time from kneeling at prayer, but we always dismissed it as part of life and duty,” the 46-year-old Schwentinental resident told The Local on Friday.

Pirisen’s 71-year-old mother suffers from knee pain, and he’d begun to have similar problems when he had his eureka moment. By the time his parents took a pilgrimage to Mecca for the Hajj last year, he had a prototype ready to send along with his mother, who reported substantial interest from other Muslims.

Just a few months later in April 2008, Pirisen patented a more streamlined version of the orthopaedic prayer rug, which packs up into a handy tote bag.

“My parents told me that the people in Mecca all had bags to carry their rugs, but they were unwieldy and difficult to deal with in high temperatures, so I thought it would be great to combine the rug with the bag to make things easier,” he said, adding that people can also use them to carry water, books and other necessities.

Now after one month of online sales, he has sold some 500 rugs and plans to take his softer, gentler version of the prayer mat with a 12-millimetre cushion to fellow Muslims worldwide. He has even specialised to include a child-size rug and the extra-cushy “Lux” version. Inquiries from potential business partners have already come in from the Netherlands, England, France and Dubai — where he plans to attend a trade show next year.

“I had nothing to do with rugs before,” the Turkish-born entrepreneur told The Local. “I was an electronic technician and owned my own business for years.”

He now employs his wife, two sons and a foreign sales representative with plans to expand in their Schleswig-Holstein home just outside Kiel in 2010.

“It’s really fun for me, it was always a dream of mine to invent something that would help people,” he said. “I thought that everything had already been invented, but that’s not true.”

Orthopaedic surgeon and director of the Göttingen University Hospital Wolfgang Schultz told news agency DDP that padding for the knees while praying was a sensible idea.

“The pressure to the knee is very strong doing this, particularly during extended kneeling,” he said.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


US Baghdad Chief Confirms Syrian Security Failure

The general stated that the United States is providing security support to Yemen within the framework of military cooperation provided by Washington to its allies in the region. He added that the U.S. ships found in Yemen waters are not only there for monitoring but for also for hindering the flow of arms to the Houthi rebels.

Petraeus added that he has asked Syria to exert greater effort to prevent terrorist infiltrators from passing through its territory into Iraq. He revealed that the recent drop in the number of infiltrators from 110 to less than 10 per month was due to al-Qaeda movement restrictions and not because of Syrian efforts.

Petraeus also revealed that officials of the former Iraqi regime are in Syria, including Izzat al-Douri, Saddam Hussein’s former vice president. The officials are living in Syria with complete freedom and some even own satellite channels. The general emphasized that this has created tension between Iraq and Syria. He said Iraqis hopes that Damascus will limit the activities of Saddam Hussein’s remaining supporters who are now calling for a change in Iraq’s new regime.

The full interview will be aired on Al Arabiya on Monday Dec. 14 at 7:00 KSA local time (16:00 GMT).

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Yemen’s Houthis Hold Secret Meet With Iran

Unnamed intelligence sources on the Saudi-Yemeni border detected a secret meeting between Yemen’s Houthi rebels and an official from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and top Hezbollah leaders, press reports revealed Sunday.

Arab and Egyptian sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the meeting was held last month to plan for an escalation of the conflict between the Shiite rebels and the Yemeni and Saudi forces, London-based Asharq al-Awsat reported.

According to the sources, Yemen’s refusal to receive Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki for the second time was motivated by knowledge of the meeting which Yemen sees as proof Tehran is backing the Houthis.

The Yemeni army says it recently thwarted several attempts by Iranian ships to smuggle weapons to the rebels. The ships in question, however, did not bear any official flag.

The sources told Asharq al-Awsat they were surprised by Jeffery Feltman’s, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, statements that there is no evidence supporting the involvement of Iran in the Houthi conflict.

“Many of our friends and partners have talked to us about the possibility of outside support to the Houthis and we have heard the theories about Iranian support to the Houthis,” Feltman said in a regional security conference held in Bahrain.

“To be frank, we don’t have independent information about this,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, Ali Mohamed al-Ansi, director of the Yemeni National Security Bureau, said there is strong evidence that Iran is backing the Houthi rebels but he cannot disclose details to the media.

“The ship Yemen intercepted in October was smuggling arms to the Houthis,” he said on the fringes of the Manama dialogue, the conference held in the Bahraini capital to discuss the strategic and security challenges facing the Gulf region. “We also have proof that it was coming from Eritrea.”

In addition to Iran, Ansi said Houthi rebels are also backed by al-Qaeda.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Russia

In Shift, U.S. Talks to Russia on Internet Security

Mr. Sokolov characterized this new round of discussions as the opening of negotiations between Russia and the United States on a possible disarmament treaty for cyberspace, something Russia has long sought but the United States has resisted.

“The talks took place in a good atmosphere,” he said. “And they agreed to continue this process. There are positive movements.”

A State Department official, who was not authorized to speak about the talks and requested anonymity, disputed the Russian characterization of the American position. While the Russians have continued to focus on treaties that may restrict weapons development, the United States is hoping to use the talks to increase international cooperation in opposing Internet crime. Strengthening defenses against Internet criminals would also strengthen defenses against any military-directed cyberattacks, the United States maintains. An administration official said the United States was seeking common ground with the Russians.

The United Nations discussions are scheduled to resume in New York in January, and the two countries also plan to talk at an annual Russia-sponsored Internet security conference in Garmisch, Germany.

The American interest in reopening discussions shows that the Obama administration, even in absence of a designated Internet security chief, is breaking with the Bush administration, which declined to talk with Russia about issues related to military attacks using the Internet.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

South Asia

‘Israelis in Goa Disastrous for Tourism’

A book published by the Council for Social Justice and Peace (CSJP), an arm of the Roman Catholic Church in Goa, presents Israeli tourists as a “burden” to those who live in the area.

Claiming the right to say no: a study of Israeli tourist behavior and patterns in Goa was authored by 11 seminarians in 14 sections and totals 96-pages in length.

The study was based on an undercover survey and personal experiences of the members of the seminary as they traveled around Goa finding Israelis in the many tourist spots.

Officially released by the Goa archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao on Sunday, the book critiques the behavior of Israeli tourists with copies available for sale at several church-supported outlets throughout Goa.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Lahore Falls to Extremists

From Dutch: Lahure used to be the liberal center of Pakistan. In recent years, Pervez Musharraf has given a free hand to Muslim extremists.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Taliban Was the Target of German Airstrike: Reports (Roundup)

Berlin — German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg came under renewed pressure on Saturday, after media reports that a lethal airstrike in Afghanistan had been aimed directly at Taliban fighters, rather than vehicles they had seized.

The September attack, which claimed up to 142 victims according to NATO reports, came after the government had decided to take firmer action against the Taliban, according to a report by daily Leipziger Volkszeitung.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Tigers Shot Trying to Surrender: General

NEW DELHI: The Defence Secretary of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, told a battlefield commander to kill Tamil Tiger rebel leaders rather than allow them to surrender in the closing stages of the country’s civil war, the former army chief Sarath Fonseka alleges.

General Fonseka, who retired as military chief last month and is a candidate in presidential elections next month, told the Sri Lankan newspaper The Sunday Leader that Gotabaya Rajapaksa, brother of the President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, instructed soldiers not to take prisoners as the Tamil Tigers were overrun by Government troops in May.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Far East

China Demotes Editor After Obama Interview: Sources

BEIJING (Reuters) — The top editor of a Chinese newspaper that interviewed U.S. President Barack Obama has been demoted, sources said, in a move they described as fallout from Communist Party censors’ anger over its handling of the story.

Xiang Xi, the top editor of the Southern Weekend weekly newspaper who interviewed Obama during his visit to China in mid-November, has been named as “executive” editor-in-chief and placed under a new top editor this week after pressure from the ruling Communist Party’s propaganda department, said three employees of the paper.

They all requested anonymity, saying they feared punishment for speaking about the move, which has also been discussed on Chinese-language Internet sites.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Philippine Kidnappers Demand Animal Sacrifice

Tribal gunmen refused to hand over 47 hostages on Sunday as a four-day kidnap drama in the southern Philippine jungle took a bizarre twist with demands for animal sacrifices.

“The negotiations are in stand-off,” said Alfredo Plaza, a government spokesman for the negotiating team..

About 400 soldiers and police were on standby around the gunmen’s mountain hideout on the strife-torn southern island of Mindanao.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Somalia Islamist Militants Execute 2 Men

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Witnesses say Islamist militants have executed two men accused by the fighters of murder and adultery.

Witnesses in the town of Afgoye southwest of the capital say the Hizbul Islam militants on Sunday stoned to death the man accused of adultery and shot the man accused of murder. They say the militants summoned the town’s residents to watch the executions.

Islamic courts run by radical clerics have ordered executions, floggings and amputations in recent months. In some areas militants have also banned movies, musical telephone ringtones, dancing at weddings and playing or watching soccer.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Britain’s Tolerance to Islam Results in More Than 1m Muslims Setting Up Home Here

More than a million Muslims have migrated to Britain because it is more sympathetic towards Islam than other European countries, a study has found.

Latent Islamophobia in Europe means that many of those who move to the continent eventually end up in Britain, because it is seen as more tolerant.

There are now some 1.1million Muslim immigrants in the UK, according to the report by IPPR, the Blairite think tank. It means around 46 per cent of Britain’s 2.4million-strong Muslim population were not born in this country.

Migration: There are now 1.1m Muslim immigrants in the UK, which means about 46 per cent of Britain’s Islamic population were not born in this country

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: ‘The rapid rise in the Muslim population is just one way in which mass immigration promoted, even encouraged, by this Government has affected the whole nature of society.’

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


Letter From Spain

“No Whites Allowed.” Thus read the signs at the entrances of several bars in the alleys of Torrejón de Ardoz, a town of 100,000 just 20 kilometers from downtown Madrid. Over the past 10 years, this working class burg governed since 2007 by the People’s Party (the more conservative of Spain’s two major parties) has seen its population increase by around 3,000 a year. According to the local immigration department, created in 2008 and managed by a Romanian immigrant, almost 25% of torrejorenos are foreigners. This is the average proportion of foreign residents in the suburbs of both Madrid and Barcelona. The highest concentration of immigrants, however, is found in certain rural areas of the south and southeast, where the need for agricultural workers offers North Africans as well as Latin Americans and Eastern Europeans a chance to improve their job prospects.

The tale of Torrejón’s barrio de la estación, a formerly quiet neighborhood which turned into a no-go area after the arrival of African Muslims (most of the former residents of the alleys left when police stopped patrolling the area and their calls to report violent incidents and anti-social behavior went unanswered), represents the downside of immigration in Spain, which is rapidly transforming the face of the nation as well as its ethnic and religious composition, and is creating new social and political cleavages.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Tom Tancredo: 3 Months After Joe Wilson, Obama Still Lies

Three months ago, my former colleague Joe Wilson famously yelled, “You lie!” when Barack Obama falsely claimed, “There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.”

Liberals went nuts, but Rep. Joe Wilson was right. Obama conceded as much when two days later the White House issued guidelines to close some of the loopholes that allowed illegal aliens to acquire health insurance in the House bill. But despite those guidelines, illegal aliens are still eligible for Obamacare under both the House and Senate bills.

An analysis by the non-partisan Center for Immigration Studies exposes how easily illegal aliens will be able to exploit our health-care system under Obamacare. The health-care bill contains four provisions that increase government spending. There are two massive government expansions: the much discussed “public option” and a sharp increase of Medicaid subsidies. In addition, it includes two ostensibly market incentives: the semi-private “Health Insurance Exchange” and “Affordability Credits” that are basically tax credits for low income households. However, the Exchange will be heavily subsidized by the government, and families eligible for “Affordability Credits” are not paying taxes, so a “tax credit” is just another form of welfare.

What this means is that any part of the health-care bill that illegal aliens are eligible for will involve subsidies by the American taxpayers. Illegal aliens are eligible for all of them! The CIS study notes that the House bill contains absolutely no provisions excluding illegal aliens from the public option or Health Insurance Exchange.

[…]

According to The Hill newspaper, this was a concession to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who threatened to block the bill if illegal aliens were banned.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Beyond Debate?

Is belief in global-warming science another example of the “madness of crowds”? That strange but powerful social phenomenon, first described by Charles Mackay in 1841, turns a widely shared prejudice into an irresistible “authority”. Could it indeed represent the final triumph of irrationality? After all, how rational is it to pass laws banning one kind of light bulb (and insisting on their replacement by ones filled with poisonous mercury vapour) in order to “save electricity”, while ploughing money into schemes to run cars on … electricity? How rational is it to pay the Russians once for fossil fuels, and a second time for permission (via carbon credits) to burn them (see box page 36)? And how rational is it to suppose that the effects of increased CO2 in the atmosphere take between 200 and 1,000 years to be felt, but that solutions can take effect almost instantaneously?

Whether rational or not, global warming theory has become a political orthodoxy. So entrenched is it that those showing any resistance to it are described as “heretics” or even likened to “Holocaust deniers”.

[…]

Such pronouncements from these commentators and from other people highly placed in government, international organisations, the press, academia and science make the debate seem closed and the conclusion beyond dispute. Yet the plain fact is that there is something deeply unscientific about the theory of global warming. Despite this, it has gained such widespread, uncritical acceptance that any scientist expressing a doubt often finds his or her actions tarred with accusations of the rankest political and personal motivations.

How this situation came about says much about how science is co-opted to sway public opinion. The case is built, deliberately or not, on misleading images and interpretations that have been perpetuated by parties with a vested interest. It morphs into a tool for governments to intimidate their populations into passive acceptance of very real changes: from the tiny, such as accepting miserable fluorescent light instead of the incandescent light we’ve been used to; to the major, like welcoming nuclear power plants and obliging rainforest tribes to make way for biofuel plantations.

Indeed, much of what is presented as hard scientific evidence for the theory of global warming is false. “Second-rate myth” may be a better term, as the philosopher Paul Feyerabend called science in his 1975 polemic, Against Method.

[…]

Social scientists call it “cascade theory”: the idea is that information cascades down the side of an “informational pyramid”, like a waterfall. It is easier for people, if they do not have either the ability or the interest to find out for themselves, to adopt the views of others. This is, without doubt, a useful social instinct. As it has been put, cascade theory reconciles “herd behaviour” with rational choice, because it is often rational for individuals to rely on information passed on to them by others.

Unfortunately, it is less rational to follow wrong information, and that is what can often happen. We find people cascading uselessly — like so many wildebeest fleeing a non-existent lion — in so many everyday ways. A lot of economic activity and business behaviour, including management fads, the adoption of new technologies and innovations, not to mention the vexed issues of health and safety regulation, reflect exactly this tendency of the herd to follow poor information.

[…]

Even restricting our survey to the past 100,000 years, the relationship is not as Gore and others think. Far from increases in CO2 leading to higher temperatures, the ice-core record shows rises in temperatures preceding (by between 200 and 1,000 years) increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Which is what you would expect. Slightly higher temperatures mean more plant and animal life, and that means more CO2.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Climate: The New God of Left-Wing Christianity

With the ClimateGate revelations of flimsy “science” behind the man-made global warming theory, the role of the religious left in promoting this fraudulent scheme now deserves serious media scrutiny. Because that is unlikely, consider the following:

Dr. James Wanliss, Associate Professor of Physics at Presbyterian College, has written The Green Dragon, a book about how environmentalism is actually committed to “the reconstruction of a pagan world order” and “rejection of Christian spirituality.” Wanliss argues that the environmental movement “is a religion with a vision of sin and repentance, heaven and hell. It even has a special vocabulary, with words like ‘sustainability’ and ‘carbon neutral.’ Its communion is organic food. Its sacraments are sex, abortion, and when all else fails, sterilization. Its saints are Al Gore and the InterGovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

“Both professing Protestants and Roman Catholics bear a burden of guilt for the current political mess we are in with the global warming and other hysterias,” he argues. “If the church had not turned from the gospel of Jesus Christ it is unlikely the Green Dragon would have been able to so deeply sink its fangs into our lives.”

Major U.S. religious groups involved in the “climate change” campaign include the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, the Catholic Campaign on Climate Change, the Evangelical Environmental Network and the Evangelical Climate Initiative.

Dr. E. Calvin Beisner, national spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, identifies evangelical leftist Ron Sider as a key figure behind the Evangelical Environmental Network and the Evangelical Climate Initiative. “He’s been pressing for wealth redistribution for over thirty years, and the global treaty being touted to fight global warming is nothing if it isn’t an exercise in wealth redistribution,” says Beisner.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Coming to a School Near You: The Dangerous Religion of Howard Zinn

Sunday night, the History Channel airs The People Speak, a star-studded presentation of Howard Zinn’s Voices of A People’s History of the United States. Accompanying this series is the Zinn Education Project, a curriculum meant to expose children from pre-school through high school to American history through the philosophical lens of Zinn.

[…]

But to truly understand Zinn, and why his work has no place in public education, all a person needs to know is this — Howard Zinn is not an historian at all; Howard Zinn is a religious zealot.

Now, this is not to say that Zinn or his followers believe in God. Theirs is a secular religion, but religion none-the-less. It is a faith in what Rousseau called the natural morality of man, an innate goodness that has only been corrupted by the oppressing evil of power, wealth and property. It is a belief that when man is truly free, free from ‘wage slavery,’ from bankers and bosses, from states and from God, he will at last be purged of all sin. Laziness and violence, covetousness and anger, all of these will disappear when the liberation arrives. The religion is Marxism, Zinn’s denomination, Democratic Socialism (or possibly Anarcho-Syndicalism), but all of it, in the end, is simply Communism.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Since Berlusconi was struck by someone wielding a statuette-souvenir I would have assumed the attacker was as tourist

Zeke said...

The Minnesota story is chilling. Posting anti-Islamic cartoons on a telephone poll is a serious crime! What happened to the Freedom of Speech? I note that the definition of "obscene" is so broad that mere political speech would qualify. I note also that "hate crimes" are being considered as additional charges.