Saturday, January 16, 2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/16/2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/16/2010In the last week or two, Malaysian Muslims have been attacking churches in a controversy over the right of Christians to use the word “Allah” to mean “God”, which has been the tradition in Malaysia for centuries. Today comes news of blowback: a mosque has been vandalized with a bottle of rum. There are no indications so far that Christians were responsible, but tensions between Muslims and Christians were inflamed by the incident.

In other news, a Muslim woman in France who wrote and stars in a play that makes fun of Islam from a feminist perspective was doused with gasoline on the street by unknown assailants. The attackers apparently attempted to ignite the gasoline, but failed.

Thanks to BB, C. Cantoni, Fjordman, Gaia, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JD, Steen, TB, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Fury at £1bn Bonuses for Bailed-Out Bank Goldman Sachs’ UK Staff
 
USA
Fort Hood Shooting ‘Terrorism’: US
Incoming AG to Feds: Hands Off My State
Lawyers Poised for Lawsuit in Senate Election
Pastor Stages Own Protest Against CAIR
Son of Climategate! Scientist Says Feds Manipulated Data
Unicorn Rider to the Rescue… Obama Will Fly to Beantown to Save Coakley
US Gasoline Likely to Top $3 in Spring, Summer-Eia
 
Europe and the EU
Denmark: Cartoon Paper Was to be Truck Bombed
France: Record Low for Electricity Exports
France: Petrol Attack on Actress in Muslim-Themed Play
Italy: Jews Split Over Pope’s Historic Synagogue Visit
Rome: Chief Rabbi Emeritus Supports Papal Visit to Synogogue
Spain: Galicia Nationalists Arrested
Spain: 3 Bodies Kept for Months, Family Awaiting Resurrection
UK: Al-Qaeda and the Enemy Within
UK: Arsenal of Hatred: 11 Years for BNP Loner Who Built Bombs in His Attic
UK: Brown U-Turn on Territorial Cuts
UK: Double Standards Row as Ed Balls Refuses to Ban Smacking at Mosque Schools to Avoid ‘Upsetting Muslim Sensitivities’
UK: Whitehall Rebels Over ‘Brutish’ Gordon Brown
 
Balkans
Bad Weather: Albania, Italian Aid Convoy Reaches Durres
Italy-Croatia: Napolitano, Full Support for EU Membership
Serbia: More Passengers to Europe After Visa Abolition
 
Mediterranean Union
Egypt: EU Representative, Human Rights a Priority
EU: Palestinian and Polish Youth Project Takes Off
 
North Africa
Algeria: Arab Free Trade Zone, Ban on Importing 1,141 Products
Egypt: Killing of Christians; Tantawi, All Sons of Same Country
Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Elects New Head
Gaza: More Palestinian Gunfire on Egyptian Barrier
Literature: Great Libyan Italianist Tillisi Dies
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Gaza: Hamas Soldier Dies in ‘Jihad Mission’
Israeli Anti-Immigration Wall: US, Defensive Right
 
Middle East
Assad in Riyadh: Syria-Saudi Arabia Discuss Yemen
Nuclear: France-Kuwait Strike Civilian Nuclear Energy Deal
Syria: Over 20 Mln Residents at Beginning of 2009
Turkey-Turkish Ambassador, Ayalon is Uncouth
Turkey: EU Opens News Information Centre on Accession
Turkey: Call Intensifies for Real Democratic Transformation of Turkey
 
South Asia
Malaysia Mosque Vandalized Amid “Allah” Row
Malaysia: Friday Sermons Urge Muslims to Unite Over ‘Allah’
Rum Bottle Thrown at Malaysia Mosque Amid Tension
 
Latin America
Haiti Earthquake: Looters, Machete Gangs and Fights for Water as Aid Still Struggles to Get Through
 
Immigration
Don’t Vote for Anyone Pushing Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Greece: Officer, Migrant Hurt After Road Rage Row
 
Culture Wars
Homosexual Imperialists Target Uganda
Planned Parenthood Raising Funds to Push Birth Control, Contraception in Haiti

Financial Crisis

Fury at £1bn Bonuses for Bailed-Out Bank Goldman Sachs’ UK Staff

Investment bank Goldman Sachs is expected to spark fury this week by paying £1bn in bonuses to its UK staff.

Its 5,400 employees are in line to receive an average of £185,000 each, with some senior executives being given a multi-million-pound portion of the windfall.

The payments are being made by the bank — whose boss Lloyd Blankfein recently said he was ‘doing God’s work’ — as part of global salaries and bonuses to staff of more than $20billion (£12billion) for 2009.

But critics have pointed out that this is another example of taxpayers subsidising a ‘bonus culture’ as Goldman Sachs was propped up by a $10billion US Government bailout in October 2008.

Labour MP Nick Ainger, a member of the Treasury Select Committee, said: ‘This is outrageous. Goldman Sachs have benefited directly from taxpayer support to the banking system. It’s impossible to justify these bonuses when we’re coming out of recession.

‘The reason Goldman Sachs is making so much profit is they’re one of the few investment banks still operating. With rates so low it’s not difficult for banks to make a profit. It hasn’t taken a great deal of effort for them to earn these profits.

‘The banks have a major credibility issue here. If taxpayers hadn’t pumped trillions into the global banking system Goldman Sachs would have gone down just as Lehman Brothers did.’

The payout comes little more than a year after the entire American banking sector was bailed out as part of the US government’s $700billion recovery plan during the global credit crisis.

Blankfein was among several bankers who appeared before the US senate last week to explain their role in the crisis and justify their latest mammoth pay day.

Goldman Sachs will be one of several banks to benefit from a pay bonanza this month as others —including Citigroup, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley — are also due to issue results including multibillion-pound bonus pools.

Low interest rates, government backed cash injections to the credit markets, and a rallying stock market have helped Goldman Sachs enjoy a bumper 12 months and annual profits are expected to reach a record.

Goldman Sachs and 49 other banks in the US, including the American subsidiaries of Barclays, HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland, face a vast tax bill after President Obama last week announced a Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee to repay state bailouts under the American Troubled Asset Relief Programme (TARP).

The fee will be based on the size of a bank’s liabilities.

Analysts expect Goldman Sachs will have to pay about $1.18billion a year for the next ten years under the US tax while Barclays will face a pretax bill of about £345million a year, HSBC £265million a year and RBS £;48million a year.

In the UK, Goldman Sachs and others will also face a multi-millionpound tax bill under the Chancellor’s bonus tax, announced in his Pre-Budget Report. Banks will have to pay a tax of 50per cent on bonuses above £25,000 paid in the UK in this financial year, a law which is likely to land Goldman Sachs with an extra tax bill of up to £500 million.

JP Morgan, which announced bumper profits last Friday, is thought to be paying bonuses of about £65million in the UK and faces a British bonus tax bill of at least £30million.

Alistair Darling intended to curb bonus payouts. With this in mind, the Treasury estimated it would earn about £550million from the tax.

But most banks are expected to continue paying bonuses and pay the extra tax. Some analysts now predict the total take for the Treasury from its bonus tax could be as high as £5billion.

British banks start reporting their financial results in mid-February.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

USA

Fort Hood Shooting ‘Terrorism’: US

“This department is burdened by 20th-century processes and attitudes, mostly rooted in the Cold War,” Gates said.

WASHINGTON — In a major U-turn on the shooting rampage at Fort Hood military base, the Obama administration described the deadly attack as an ‘act of terrorism’.

“It certainly in my mind was an act of terrorism,” a senior US official told reporters on condition of anonymity late Friday, January 15, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

He said the November 5 shooting, which killed 13 people and wounded 30, was a “terrorist tactic”.

Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Malik Hasan is the sole suspect in the shooting rampage.

Some US lawmakers have been quick to describe the shooting an act of terrorism, citing reports on the psychiatrist’s contacts with an American imam living in Yemen.

The Yemeni imam reportedly had links with a young Nigerian who tried to blow up a US-bound plane on Christmas Eve.

But US officials have tended to be careful not to portray the shooting rampage as an act of terrorism.

The US official said that it was unclear if the army psychiatrist was directed to act from abroad.

“This is an ongoing investigation,” said the official. “Motivation is always a difficult thing to determine.”

“We are still acquiring knowledge about different people involved, and whether or not there was any type of direction, control, inspiration that led to the events on that day.”

Army Faulted

A Pentagon review into the shooting has faulted military leaders for failing to report changes in the psychiatrist’s behaviour, The Washington Times reported.

“As a result of our review, it appeared that there were several officers who did not apply the army’s policies to the perpetrator,” said Togo West, a former army secretary, who led the review with a former chief of naval operations, Vernon Clark.

The review said “some medical officers failed to apply appropriate judgment and standards” in assessing Hasan.

In personnel evaluations, medical officers failed to take into account Hasan’s overall conduct and instead focused only on his academic work, it said.

The review recommended an “accountability review” for several army officers for failing to properly supervise the suspected psychiatrist, which could include disciplinary measures.

The report urged improvement of the joint terrorism task forces and assigning more military officers.

The review portrayed the Pentagon as badly prepared for internal threats and that it failed to share information with commanders about personnel.

“We have not done enough to adapt to the evolving domestic internal security threat to American troops and military facilities that has emerged over the past decade,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.

“In this area, as in so many others, this department is burdened by 20th-century processes and attitudes, mostly rooted in the Cold War. Our counterintelligence procedures are mostly designed to combat an external threat such as a foreign intelligence service.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Incoming AG to Feds: Hands Off My State

Virginia leader chomping at the bit to fight ‘Obamacare’

Officials in Virginia a short time ago joined attorneys general in a dozen other states to object to the provisions of “Obamacare,” the pending legislation that would give the federal goverment unprecedented control of health care, and the state’s incoming attorney general is chomping at the bit to get to work on the issue.

Ken Cuccinelli, who will take the oath of office this weekend, said it’s a simple matter of the government lacking authority to impose the decisions members of Congress are making for their constituents.

“I believe the individual mandate violates individual rights,” Cuccinelli said in an interview. “I do not believe the federal government has the legal authority in the [U.S.] Constitution to mandate that individual Americans purchase health insurance.

“A corollary to that is that the [Senate] bill, as it is currently written, requires state governments to set up healthcare exchanges to facilitate individual mandates. I do not believe that under the Constitution the federal government has the authority to dictate or effectively force states into its bureaucracy,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Lawyers Poised for Lawsuit in Senate Election

GOP candidate dead even with heavily favored Dem to replace Kennedy

Lawyers are being positioned even over the weekend to file a legal action quickly in support of the GOP candidate in the Massachusetts special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy should he succeed in defeating a hand-picked Democratic successor.

There is concern that since a victory by Republican Scott Brown over Attorney General Martha Coakley in the battle to replace Kennedy would threaten President Obama’s health care plan in the U.S. Senate — Brown has promised to be a key vote against the plan — Democrats in power would delay certifying the election and getting him seated in the Senate.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Pastor Stages Own Protest Against CAIR

Says huge mosque project will be used to recruit radicals

A Pompano Beach, Fla., Christian leader who has alleged a huge Islamic mosque being built in the neighborhood of his 600-member church will be used to recruit people who hate America has scheduled a public protest of the project.

Rev. O’Neal Dozier, a former NFL player who now is minister at the Worldwide Christian Center, has announced plans for a protest rally in front of the partly constructed mosque at 10 a.m. on Feb. 6.

“It will be directly in front of the mosque that is being built. We’re expecting hundreds of people to be there,” he told WND.

“We hope to raise the people’s consciousness even more towards what we’re fighting here,” he said.

Dozier has told WND the building is being constructed by the Islamic Center of South Florida with support from the national Council on Islamic-American Relations, which is becoming the subject of increasing protests around the country.

[…]

Dozier said the mosque membership presently meets in another building CAIR leaders say is too small. But Dozier has alleged the only reason CAIR needs a facility the size of the 30,000-square-foot project under construction is for recruitment of membership into a cadre of citizens who share a hatred of whites and the U.S. government.

Dozier, who has served on an advisory committee for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, said the only reason for such a large facility is to fill it with “angry black people,” he told WND earlier.

That idea was more or less confirmed by Altaf Ali of CAIR, who told local reporters while the project was being developed, “They picked that spot because they were sympathetic to the black struggle and believed the feelings were mutual, especially since the persecution after 9/11.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Son of Climategate! Scientist Says Feds Manipulated Data

Reporting points in coldest regions simply eliminated by U.S. agencies

In a one-two series of Climategate aftershocks that assuredly will further rattle the global warming community, a report has been issued by U.S. researchers accusing government agencies of cherry-picking temperature readings used to assess global temperatures, and a series of embarrassing e-mails were released revealing what happened when a blogger dared to point out a mistake by NASA climate scientists.

The new report is from scientist Joseph D’Aleo and was highlighted in a report on global warming on KUSI television in San Diego.

[…]

He blamed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which he described as “seriously complicit in data manipulation and fraud.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Unicorn Rider to the Rescue… Obama Will Fly to Beantown to Save Coakley

It’s magic time.

The White House announced that Barack Obama will fly into Boston this weekend to save the floundering Coakley campaign.

[Return to headlines]


US Gasoline Likely to Top $3 in Spring, Summer-Eia

The price U.S. consumers pay for gasoline is expected to top $3 a gallon this spring and summer, the Energy Information Administration said on Tuesday in its new monthly forecast.

“Pump prices are likely to pass $3 per gallon at some point during the upcoming spring and summer,” the EIA said. “Because of growth in motor gasoline consumption, the difference between the average gasoline retail price and the average cost of crude oil widens in 2010 before starting to level out in 2011.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Denmark: Cartoon Paper Was to be Truck Bombed

U.S. prosecutors have released an extended indictment in the case against two men charged with conspiracy against the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, suggesting that the newspaper’s offices in Denmark were to have been the target of a truck bomb attack.

Jyllands-Posten was the Danish newspaper that originally commissioned and printed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed which angered many Muslims. One of the cartoonists, Kurt Westegaard, has recently been the target of an attack on his life. A 28-year-old Somali is currently on remand in Denmark on attempted murder charges.

Two detained in U.S. In the U.S. case involving the newspaper, two men are currently in custody in Chicago charged with having planned the attack — a Pakistani-American David Headley and a Pakistani-Canadian Rana Tahawwur. Headley, whose name was Daood Gilani before changing his name, is said to be helping U.S. agencies.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


France: Record Low for Electricity Exports

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JANUARY 13 — Exports of electricity by France halved in 2009, falling to the lowest levels for a quarter of a century, mainly because of numerous interruptions in its nuclear reactors, announced the Network for the Transportation of Electricity, adding that there was a fall of 47% on 2008, the lowest figure since 1985, when France’s nuclear park (58 reactors) was still under construction. Electricity consumption fell by 1.6% to 486 TWh (terawatt/hour, the equivalent of one thousand billion watts) in 2009, as a result of the economic downturn, according to the annual accounts of the managers of the high tension power line which is a branch of EDF. France, which remains the largest exporter of electricity in Europe, imported for the whole of October, for the first time in 27 years, because of a fall in French electricity production by 5.5%. Frances nuclear power stations produced 390 TWh in 2009 (-6.8%), the lowest level since 1999. A number of reactors were at a standstill during the winter, the period of highest demand, due to accidents or maintenance work, and production at the hydraulic power stations fell by 9.2% to the lowest level since 2006 because of a drop in rainfall in the Alps and central France. According to President of RTE, Dominique Maillard, the fall in exports was also due to the crisis, which caused demand to fall in neighbouring European countries, especially Italy (-6.7%). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


France: Petrol Attack on Actress in Muslim-Themed Play

An actress was doused with petrol in Paris in an attack thought to be related to her role in a feminist play she wrote about Algerian women.

The 45-year-old, who goes by the name of Rayhana, said two men approached her while she was walking to the theatre on Tuesday, grabbed her from behind, slapped her face and poured petrol on her. “I could smell the petrol. A flame brushed my hat and then I ran,” she said.

She has since been placed under police protection and the investigation into the attack is being led by the anti-terrorism unit, which has tackled many cases involving Muslim extremists.

Rayhana is starring in At My Age, I Still Hide to Have a Smoke, a play she wrote about a group of women who chat about their lives during a visit to an Algiers spa. The sell-out play features unflattering views on Muslim men.

In the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s attack, the actress said she had received threats and complained to police.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


Italy: Jews Split Over Pope’s Historic Synagogue Visit

Rome, 15 Jan.(AKI) — An historic visit by Pope Benedict XVI to the Rome synagogue on Sunday has divided Italy’s Jewish community. Holocaust survivors have joined one of the country’s most senior rabbis, Giuseppe Laras, in plans to boycott the pope’s visit.

The papal visit has provoked a fierce debate since Benedict signalled in December he would advance moves to make wartime Pope Pius XII a saint.

Many Jews claim that Pius, who was pope between 1939 to 1958, did not do enough to defend Rome’s Jews from Nazi persecution and ultimately extermination during World War II.

“In my opinion the visit will accomplish very little for dialogue between Catholics and Jews,” Laras, the president of the Italian Rabbinical Council, said in an interview with Adnkronos on Thursday. “The only one that will benefit from the visit is the Church.”

Prominent 82-year-old Holocaust survivor Piero Terracina and other Jews who survived Nazi persecution have also signalled plans to boycott the pope’s visit.

Terracina said Pius XII remained silent when over a thousand Jews were rounded up in the Rome ghetto in October 1943 and sent to death camps.

But Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, defended the synagogue’s invitation to the pontiff.

Di Segni told reporters that the community had discussed extensively whether to cancel the visit and decided that it must go ahead despite what happened.

He said he and Laras had “different views, and time will tell which of us has made the right choice”.

Di Segni said that Pius XII and his pontificate remained a controversial issue in the community.

The president of Rome’s Jewish community, Riccardo Pacifici, countered Laras’ said the pope’s visit to the synagogue in the heart of the city’s Jewish ghetto was a symbol of interfaith outreach.

“I have the uttmost respect for Laras’ point of view but interfaith dialogue is better,” he said in a statement.

The synagogue overlooks the Tiber river and sits at the edge of the Jewish Ghetto which was established in 1555, when Pope Paul IV walled Jews into an area of about 2.4 hectares to segregate them from Christians.

In October 1943 Nazi occupying forces burst into the Jewish quarter and sent more than 1,000 people to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Only 16 people survived extermination.

The Vatican claims Pius worked quietly behind the scenes to protect Jews as well as Catholics during World War II but the church has refused to allow full public access to Vatican archives from that time.

The visit will be the first by Benedict to the city’s synagogue and the first by a pope since his predecessor Pope John Paul II visited the synagogue in 1986.

Di Segni said he planned to raise the issue of Pius when he welcomed the pope on Sunday.

He added that this would also demonstrate that it was possible to have dialogue even when we have different convictions.

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


Rome: Chief Rabbi Emeritus Supports Papal Visit to Synogogue

Rome, 15 Jan. — (AKI) — Rome’s rabbi emeritus countered criticism of Pope Benedict XVI’s approaching visit to the city’s central synagogue by saying it will help create a bridge between the Vatican and Jews.

“Only by talking can you find a common way between the two religions. The door of dialogue must always remain open,” Elio Toaff said Friday in an interview with Adnkronos.

The papal visit has provoked a fierce debate since Benedict signalled in December he would advance moves to make wartime Pope Pius XII a saint.

Many Jews claim that Pius, who was pope between 1939 to 1958, did not do enough to defend Rome’s Jews from Nazi persecution and ultimately extermination during World War II. The Vatican claims he worked out of the public eye to help the Jewish cause.

Holocaust survivors have joined one of the country’s most senior rabbis, Giuseppe Laras, in plans to boycott the pope’s visit.

Toaff, who was Rome’s chief rabbi when Pope John Paul II visited the synagogue in 1986, called the event “historical” and “symbolic.”

“For the first time a pontiff visited a synogogue, making a gesture of brotherhood toward the Jewish people and correcting centuries of persecution,” Toaff said. “This gesture started an irreversible path of dialogue between the two faiths.”

Toaff has sided with Rome’s current chief rabbi Riccardo Di Segni and other leaders of Rome’s Jewish community who have defended the synagogue’s invitation to the pontiff.

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


Spain: Galicia Nationalists Arrested

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 14 — Two youths from Galicia in contact with the movement for national independence (Galicia is located in north-western Spain) were arrested after being found with a homemade explosive device. The report was made by police sources. The two men, one of which is under the age of 18, were stopped at a police roadblock while they were travelling in their car towards Pontevedra. Police agents searched the car and found and seized a 5-litre tank of petrol, a dozen firecrackers, six gas cylinders and a Molotov cocktail, a device which the sources claim is similar to those used in past attacks carried out by pro-Galicia nationalists. Roadblocks were boosted all over Spain to prevent attacks while Spain is in office presiding the EU. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Spain: 3 Bodies Kept for Months, Family Awaiting Resurrection

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 15 — For weeks or even months a family of Taiwanese immigrants kept the dead bodies of three of their family members, which were in an advanced stated of decomposition, in the living room of their home, watching over them because a Taiwanese faith healer predicted their resurrection, they told city police. The chilling discovery was made yesterday by police in a cottage in the town of San Martin de Valdeiglesias in the Community of Madrid. The dead bodies of three people, a 4-year-old child, a 13-year-old boy, and head of the family, 46-year-old Pi Kun Lee, were found in a corner of the house where the 44-year-old wife and the other three children of the couple, who were all minors, were living. The latter were in conditions of complete abandonment; unfed, dirty, and in a serious state of shock. According to initial reports, the three victims, who did not show any signs of abuse, could have died from an infection, possibly meningitis. The dead bodies underwent an autopsy, which should indicate the cause of death. The finding occurred after the school attended by the children ordered an inspection, since the Lees were absent from school since November 17. When police knocked on the door of the small cottage, they encountered a terrifying scene: in the living room, which was pervaded by an awful smell and littered with garbage, was the mother and three children (14, 11, and 6-years-old), watching over the three bodies of their family members, whose bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition. According to accounts from the 14-year-old surviving daughter to police, a faith-healer from Taiwan reportedly told them that their family members were not dead and that they would wake up. The surviving family members have been taken to the hospital. The news of the finding has shaken the town residents with horror and bewilderment. Several neighbours reportedly confirmed that they did not see the Lees leave their home in the past two months, but no one notified police. Pi Kun Lee worked in the town of Alcorcon (Madrid) in an import-export warehouse. They were considered to be a model, well-integrated family. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


UK: Al-Qaeda and the Enemy Within

elegraph View: Britain’s reputation for free speech has been ruthlessly exploited.

The American State Department’s assessment that Britain has a greater concentration of al-Qaeda supporters than any other Western country is a shocking indictment of years of inertia on the part of successive governments. Throughout the 1990s, Britain became a haven for international terrorist organisations that appeared not to pose a direct threat to this country but certainly did to others. They attracted a growing number of zealots — preachers who found easy converts to radicalism among the country’s large population of young and disaffected Muslim men.

Only this week, the Government has moved to ban Islam4UK, an off-shoot of al-Muhajiroun, an organisation whose leader, Omar Bakri Mohammed, was allowed to live as a refugee in Britain until he unwisely decided to leave voluntarily; he has now been refused readmission. The hardline Islamist group, Hizb ut-Tahrir, continues to operate freely in British universities despite a pledge by Tony Blair in July 2005 to ban it. This country’s worst mainland terrorist outrage was perpetrated by British-born al-Qaeda supporters and a conspiracy to kill thousands travelling by plane across the Atlantic was hatched here. Even the attempt to blow up a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day had a British connection. This country has a long and proud tradition of free speech and tolerance of dissident political opinion, but it has been ruthlessly exploited. Grotesquely, we even pay benefits to those who despise our way of life and would do us harm. We have allowed an enemy to grow in our midst that will pose a threat to us and to others for many years to come.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


UK: Arsenal of Hatred: 11 Years for BNP Loner Who Built Bombs in His Attic

This is the fearsome collection of guns, bombs and ammunition found at the home of a former British National Party activist fascinated by ‘things that went bang’.

For a decade Terrance Gavan stockpiled an arsenal of home-made weapons, including nail and ball-bearing bombs, shotguns, pen guns and pistols.

The 39-year-old former neo-Nazi turned his home into a bomb and gun factory, leaving hand grenades, shotguns, knives and fireworks littered around his attic bedroom.

Gavan, a former soldier, had converted it into a workshop, complete with a metal lathe and bullet press which he kept alongside an extensive collection of weapons and military equipment, including knives, a samurai sword, camouflage clothing, guns and bullets.

The cache was discovered when anti-terror police searched the terraced house he shared with his mother in May last year after Gavan was linked to a website selling parts for weapons.

They discovered 54 homemade explosive devices which he had constructed over a decade, including 21 nail bombs, four bombs packed with ball bearings and 28 other devices, such as pipe-bombs and reactivated hand grenades.

One booby-trap bomb was even disguised as a packet of cigarettes.

Yesterday, the weapons-obsessed loner was jailed for 11 years at the Old Bailey.

The court heard that Gavan, who worked as a bus driver, had been making bombs since the age of ten and also made his own guns.

Police found ten firearms including two pen guns, three with silencers and two gas-fired pistols converted to fire live ammunition.

He had even tested a gun by firing it through a Yellow Pages book and at the bedroom walls of his home in Batley, West Yorkshire.

Also at the property were 40 knives, a crossbow and arrows, 120 bullets, air rifles, gun components, gunpowder and chemicals including hydrogen peroxide and weed killer.

Army bomb disposal experts spent six days searching and removing the explosives from his home.

They discovered that he had been making grenade launchers when officers stumbled upon the weapons factory.

Among his vast collection of books on war, he had manuals on booby traps, unconventional warfare techniques, improvised munitions and guerilla warfare operations.

Gavan also had a CD version of The Anarchist’s Cookbook, a 1970s underground publication which contains instructions for making explosives.

When arrested, Gavan admitted he had an ‘obsession with things that go bang’ and said he had made the guns and bombs ‘for the illicit thrill of owning them, to see if you can make them and then play with them’.

The court heard that as a boy he would test his own homemade explosives.

As a teenager he had a brief stint in the RAF and then went on to join the Royal Dragoons in 1988.

Gavan served with them for five years, during which he spent 280 days in military detention for nine separate disciplinary incidents.

In November 1993 he was discharged from the Army after being jailed for brandishing a loaded gun at a friend during a pub row while absent without leave.

Then, in 2007, he joined the BNP. Alongside letters and magazines from the BNP found in his bedroom, officers found a notebook of his rants against illegal immigrants.

In it he wrote: ‘A patriot must be always be ready to defend his country from his enemies and their government-He also said all illegal immigrants should be sent home.

Earlier, Gavan admitted 22 charges relating to the manufacture and possession of improvised explosive devices, firearms and ammunition plus six offences under the Terrorism Act.

He also admitted the possession of a weapons manual. Sentencing him at the Old Bailey Mr Justice Calvert-Smith said: ‘The explosives, firearms, ammunition and books and computer files were amassed by you over a period of ten years.

‘This represents ten years of continual and continuous serious offending.’

Anti-terror Detective Chief Superintendent-David Buxton said: ‘Gavan was an extremely dangerous and unpredictable individual,’ who used his extensive knowledge to manufacture and accumulate devices capable of causing significant injury or harm.

‘As such he posed a very clear risk to public safety.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


UK: Brown U-Turn on Territorial Cuts

The prime minister has abandoned plans to impose a £17.5m cut to the training budget of the Territorial Army, saying it was the “right thing to do”.

The U-turn came after Gordon Brown spoke to former defence secretary John Reid, amid calls from his own party to intervene and reverse the cutbacks.

Tory leader David Cameron said Mr Brown had been forced into a “humiliating climbdown” by the opposition.

On Monday, the government reduced the scale of the cuts from £20m to £17.5m.

It backtracked on plans to suspend all routine TA training for six months and offered a compromise of one night’s training each month for personnel not due to be deployed to Afghanistan.

Training cutbacks

But Mr Brown told MPs that he had now decided that the TA training budget would remain untouched, meaning most units would continue to train one night a week, as well as one weekend a month.

The issue has been raised at the last two prime minister’s questions — including by Conservative leader David Cameron himself at last week’s session.

At PMQs on Wednesday, Mr Cameron said he welcomed “the government’s complete U-turn” on cutting the money from the TA, something he said had been brought about by questions from him, Conservative and Labour MPs.

But Mr Brown said the Tory leader was “wrong” to suggest he was not supporting defence as an extra £1bn had been spent on the Afghan mission and a further £1bn on defence.

“Having looked at all the issues … I decided it was the right thing to do,” Mr Brown said of the decision not to proceed with the TA cuts.

Authority ‘weakened’

But the Conservative leader said he could not “even be straight forward when he’s performing a U-turn” and the PM kept “getting it wrong”.

In previous weeks Mr Brown argued those heading to Afghanistan would get the training required and said the cuts were because army chiefs wanted to focus on the regular Amy.

But with a Conservative debate on the issue due on Wednesday afternoon, and nearly a dozen Labour MPs criticising the decision, Mr Brown changed his mind.

Former defence secretary John Reid and former defence aide Eric Joyce — who resigned last month over concerns over military policy — were among Labour backbenchers concerned about the possible impact of reduced training on recruitment and retention of territorials.

Labour MP Lindsay Hoyle had urged Mr Brown to intervene personally in the dispute, likening it to the situation earlier this year over the Gurkhas when the government was embarrassingly defeated in a Commons vote.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said Labour MPs were willing to take Mr Brown on because his authority had been “gravely weakened” by his handling of the expenses scandal.

Credit due

But Transport Secretary Lord Adonis said the prime minister should be applauded for acting on the concerns of MPs.

“When governments do take the right decision, why not give them credit for doing the right thing?” he told the World at One.

“The government has done the right thing by the TA and by those who are serving abroad…We have restored the funding. TA officers will get the full training they received before and I think that is the right thing.”

For the Lib Dems, Simon Hughes said the decision to cut TA training in the first place was “completely bizarre”.

“It should never have been on the agenda,” he said.

“All the argument about our troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere is that they have not been given the basic kit and training.”

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


UK: Double Standards Row as Ed Balls Refuses to Ban Smacking at Mosque Schools to Avoid ‘Upsetting Muslim Sensitivities’

Schools Secretary Ed Balls has been accused of refusing to ban Islamic schools from smacking children for fear of upsetting Muslim ‘sensitivities’.

Mr Balls was last week urged to close a legal loophole which gives teachers in Britain’s estimated 1,600 schools associated with mosques the right to smack children — even though it is banned in other schools.

He refused, prompting claims that he is allowing an alleged ‘culture of physical abuse’ in some of the mosque schools — or madrasahs — go unchecked.

Smacking is banned in all State and private schools. However, it does not apply to madrasahs, where pupils usually study in the evenings or at weekends, because the ban exempts schools where children attend for less than 12.5 hours per week.

Lib Dem schools spokesman David Laws, who is spearheading the campaign to close the smacking loophole, said: ‘The Government needs to legislate to protect children — not leave an opt-out simply because it fears some ethnic or religious backlash.’

He was supported by Labour MP Ann Cryer, who said it would be ‘bonkers’ if the Government did not act. She said: ‘I suspect people are frightened of upsetting the sensitivities of certain members of the Muslim faith.’

A report just over a year ago warned that madrasah students had been slapped, punched and had their ears twisted.

Irfan Chishti, a former Government adviser on Islamic affairs, said that one madrasah student was ‘picked up by one leg and spun around’ while another pupil said a teacher was ‘kicking in my head like a football’.

In a separate report in 2006, leading British Muslim Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui raised fears that physical abuse in madrasahs was ‘widespread’.

MPs have been told some of the alleged abuse of children in the Islamic schools may be the result of ignorance of laws on the treatment of children among Muslim parents and teachers.

Mrs Cryer, whose Keighley constituency in Yorkshire has a large ethnic community, claimed some of the children being illtreated in Islamic schools were those with special needs.

She said she was alerted to the problem by a local schoolteacher-I had a lot of problems in a madrasah in my constituency,’ said Mrs Cryer.

‘They don’t seem to have any understanding of special needs children. If a kid isn’t learning their Koranic verses terribly well, they think it’s because they are being naughty, not because they have an incapacity.

‘It isn’t always a question of just beating. They have a particular punishment called the “chicken position” where a child must squat on the floor until they get very uncomfortable.’

She denied she was biased against Islamic schools and said classes run by ‘strange Christian sects’ should also be covered by the smacking ban.

The corporal punishment exemption also covers Sunday schools, home tutors and other people who are considered to be acting ‘in loco parentis’.

They can still smack children as long as the punishment is ‘reasonable’ — the same rule as applies to parents.

But experts suspect the real problems occur in madrasahs, although they believe it also an issue with some fundamentalist Christian Sunday schools.

Last night, Dr Siddiqui said the mistreatment of children was not restricted to Islamic schools and insisted that mosques had improved. Some had now introduced ‘recognised child protection’ policies, he said.

A spokesman for Mr Balls’ department denied that his refusal to change the law was based on fears of upsetting Muslim opinion.

‘We have no evidence the law is being abused or that children are being abused in these circumstances,’ he said.

He also claimed that if the Government banned madrasahs and Sunday schools from smacking children, it would then have to ban grandparents and other relatives from doing the same.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


UK: Whitehall Rebels Over ‘Brutish’ Gordon Brown

GORDON BROWN’S government is “weak” and “dysfunctional” with a “strategic gap” at its heart, Britain’s top civil servants have warned, in a devastating critique of the state of Whitehall.

A report, based on the testimonies of 60 senior civil servants, has found that Downing Street and the Treasury “have few tools beyond the brute force of political edict”.

The analysis by the respected Institute for Government, which is funded by Lord Sainsbury, Labour’s largest donor, concludes that despite Downing Street’s grip on power, there is a “conspicuous lack of a single coherent strategy for government”.

In an ominous warning for the governance of Britain, it warns that there must be a wholesale reform of Whitehall if it is to function properly after the general election.

The report, Shaping Up: A Whitehall for the Future, was overseen by Sir Michael Bichard, a former permanent secretary, and will be published tomorrow. Some of the startlingly frank observations by civil servants include:

- Downing Street lacks a coherent strategy and is reduced to issuing “barmy ideas” as it squabbles with the Treasury. Giving No 10 greater powers would inflict only more harm on the country.

- Ministers have lost their grip: “The machine is starting to pull away from them. There is a sense that you are at the end of an era.”

- The Treasury has given up on its duty to control public spending because it has been “hijacked and turned into a social policy department, a welfare department, a reducing international debt department, an everything-under-the-sun department”.

The grim diagnosis emerged as a YouGov poll for The Sunday Times put the Tories on 40% with a nine-point lead over Labour, at 31%, both unchanged on last month and with Labour holding on to the gains that it had made in the wake of the pre-budget report. The Liberal Democrats are up two points at 18%.

Brown has seen a 10-point increase in his personal ratings, suggesting that the recent botched leadership coup may have boosted his popularity. However, he remains less popular than David Cameron or Nick Clegg.

The Institute for Government recorded a series of anonymous interviews with senior civil servants, most of whom have worked for Labour throughout its 13 years in power. The Sunday Times has seen interviews given to the institute that are considered too frank for inclusion in the final report and has also spoken to officials.

The mandarins express their frustration at a lack of vision from No 10, coupled with an obsessive attempt to micro-manage policy.

“It’s no great secret that Gordon is not strategic,” one figure told The Sunday Times, while another said Downing Street and its secretariats were “a cacophony of silence and confusion”. A third remarked: “The centre [No 10] is certainly dysfunctional and the Cabinet Office is fragmented.”

The report concludes: “The office of the British prime minister holds a concentration of formal power greater than that of almost any other country in the developed world.

“In contrast, the fragmentation and lack of co-ordination at the centre of the civil service — the Treasury, No 10 and the Cabinet Office — leads to an administrative centre that is relatively weak. This curious situation has created a strategic gap at the heart of British government which inhibits the ability to set overall government priorities and translate them into action.”

In unpublished research gathered by the institute, the director-general in one Whitehall department said: “What comes out of No 10 is lots of barmy ideas. It’s the worst possible kind of policy making, which is ‘here is a problem, let’s have a kneejerk reaction to it tomorrow on what we’re going to announce’ and quite frankly the less contact with No 10 the better.”

A former government figure said that at one stage the Treasury felt it could rein in Downing Street only by sending memos totting up the amount of spending commitments that No 10 had made each week. Another director-general told the institute: “All the worst bits of policy making come from the centre. It’s these people who think you change the world by publishing a strategy. And you don’t change a thing by publishing a strategy, it makes no difference whatsoever.”

The report finds: “There is a gap at the centre of Whitehall — a conspicuous lack of a single coherent strategy for government as a whole.”

It adds: “Many interviewees felt highly ambivalent about more assertive co-ordination from the centre. While they wanted stronger leadership, they were also concerned about the potential for micro-management and poorly co-ordinated central initiatives.”

It quoted one interviewee’s “strident” comment that adding to Downing Street’s powers would only harm the country further: “I think making the centre bigger would be a disastrous thing to do, because what that would do is mean that you’ve got a bigger problem to manage. At least keeping it small means there’s only so much damage that can be done.”

One retired mandarin who has worked for every premier since Margaret Thatcher said the bunker mentality was worse than at any stage under the Tories or Blair. He said: “It’s worse than under previous prime ministers. With Blair they did invite you to meetings, but not with Brown. They contracted into a little bunker.”

He added: “I had a very good working relationship with Downing Street under Blair but that changed when Brown came in and it contracted to a very small circle of people. You just got orders from Downing Street, not consultation, and that is still continuing today.”

As the country grapples with the collapse of the national finances, there will be alarm at the criticism of the Treasury’s loss of focus. Although the report does not blame Brown by name, he was in charge for a decade as chancellor of the exchequer.

One mandarin said the Treasury was failing to control public spending because it was trying to interfere in everything else: “The only thing it did not do was try to control public expenditure and try to get value for money from it, or set any sensible objectives.”

This weekend Bichard said: “The civil service and politicians must work better together for the whole of government. There is still a lack of corporate endeavour, despite great efforts to change that.”

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “We will obviously study the report with interest. But we do not accept the conclusion on Cabinet Office, No 10 and HM Treasury co-ordination.”

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Bad Weather: Albania, Italian Aid Convoy Reaches Durres

(ANSAmed) — TIRANA, JANUARY 14 — Emergency relief from Italy to help the population struck by the floods in the north west of Albania arrived at the port of Durres this morning. Over 40 tonnes of supplies, including 15 electricity generators, 4,000 blankets, 6 boats, draining pumps, tent and energy food, were handed over to the Albanian authorities. The aid convoy, accompanied by chargé d’Affaires for the Italian Embassy in Tirana, Francesco de Luigi, and personnel from the Italian Cooperation, went straight to the military airport in Gjader, in the north of the country, where two Italian army helicopters sent to Albania in recent days along with a group from Italy’s Civil Protection force, will begin distribution of the aid in the region of Velipoja, one of the areas worst hit by the flooding. The Albanian authorities today reaffirmed their great appreciation for the outstanding collaboration and support offered by Italy to tackle the emergency in the north west of the country.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy-Croatia: Napolitano, Full Support for EU Membership

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, JANUARY 13 — Italy’s staunch support for Croatia’s rapid integration into the European Union was reiterated by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, who stressed the intensity and energy that characterises Italy and Croatia’s bilateral relations. In a congratulatory message sent to Croatian President-Elect, Ivo Josipovic, issued today in Zagreb by the Italian Embassy, Napolitano observed how Croatia has made “extraordinary progress in recent years that allowed them to become a member of NATO at the summit in Strasbourg/Kehl last April, and to begin the definitive conclusion of negotiations for EU membership.” “Zagreb,” added the Italian head of state, “will be able to continue to count on Italy’s friendship and support, which remains a firm and convinced supporter of the prospective entrance of Croatia into the EU in a rapid timeframe.” Croatia, in Napolitano’s view, “has made significant steps, which at times were not easy, in its path to bring it closer to European and Atlantic institutions.” “Now it is necessary to pursue the final stretch to crown the legitimate European aspirations of the Croatian people with similar determination.” President Napolitano, in his message to Josipovic, stressed how on a bilateral level “relations between Rome and Zagreb are experiencing a phase of pronounced intensity in all sectors thanks to productive dialogue that finds an ideal framework in which to develop our collaboration in the memorandum of bilateral cooperation signed in Zagreb in 2009.” “Bilateral relations, strengthened also through the recent visit by President Mesic,” concluded Napolitano, “will be able to continue to expand and deepen, contributing at the same time to a further reinforcement in regional cooperation.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Serbia: More Passengers to Europe After Visa Abolition

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, JANUARY 13 — Since December 19 Serbian citizens no longer need a visa to visit the countries of the Schengen area. From that moment, the number of visits to European cities by these citizens has increased by more than 20% compared with the same period in the previous year. Milan and Roma are among the most popular destinations. The management of Belgrade’s international airport Nikola Tesla reports that the sharpest increase has been recorded for flights to Milan(+45%), Munich (44%), Prague (40%), Rome (32%) and Vienna (30%). The recently started direct flights on Budapest have recorded an occupancy rate of 80%. Austrian Airlines has started a third daily flight on Vienna. From February 1 — the starting date of the low-cost Niki Airlines — the Austrian capital will become the city with most direct flights to and from Belgrade. Like the Serbian citizens, also Macedonians and Montenegrins no longer need visas to visit the European countries of the Schengen area. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Egypt: EU Representative, Human Rights a Priority

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 15 — “Human rights are a priority in the European Union’s foreign policy and are the foundation of its neighbourhood policy, which aims to create a common zone of prosperity, as well as stability and democracy,” in the Euro-Mediterranean area, said Marc Franco, the head of the EU delegation in Egypt. A country where, he added, “this issue must also be put on the table and discussed as part of our common values.” An issue that cannot be separated from Egypt’s request for an upgrading of the country in the bodies that define European policy in the Mediterranean. “My hope is that we move in this direction,” observed Franco, “but this cannot be separated from dialogue on human rights and democracy.” Stumbling blocks are still in place, he highlighted, for freedom of expression and association, and the rule of law. Even though “I have the impression that things are moving in the right direction” on both fronts, he added. There are many independent newspapers and critical articles in the pro-government publications, he observed, and thanks to the presence of the ombudsman, “people have an opportunity to dispute the government’s decisions”. However, there are still “important questions to be posed”, he stressed, hoping that the criticisms by the National Council for Human Rights, chaired by Boutros Ghali will be “taken seriously by the government”. As for the Christians in Egypt who are launching criticisms about discrimination and violence, with the most recent tragic episodes on Christmas Eve in Nagaa Hamadi? “Regarding this, we are certain that the government will carry out a thorough investigation”, responded Franco. But certainly “there are many areas that can be improved” in the relationship between the two communities’, he observed. “It is not up to us to say what needs to be done, we can only encourage dialogue between the government and the Coptic church in a search for solutions to problems that the Christian community is certainly dealing with.” Another issue is the parliament elections in 2010 and presidential elections in 2011; events where international supervision has already been requested by, for instance, potential candidats Mohammed El Baradei and Amr Moussa. “We are ready to provide assistance”, responded the EU representative, “not just to monitor, but also to prepare for voting. Supervision is part of the electoral process in most countries and there are international expectations for it. Now wéll see what the government wants to do”. According to diplomatic sources, though, this issue could also be put on the table regarding Egypt’s aspirations for increased influence. Excellent results, concluded Franco, for the cooperation projects conducted by the EU with Cairo in the healthcare, education, and transport fields. “We are working very well,” he stressed, “and we have found excellent partners for projects, made part of reform programmes desired by the government itself. With 240-250 million euros annually, the EU is the second largest donor to the country after the U.S., but it is not so much a question of the quantity of the aid; the quality of the projects and cooperation remain paramount.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


EU: Palestinian and Polish Youth Project Takes Off

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JANUARY 15 — A cultural exchange project involving 24 Polish and Palestinian youths, entitled “Let’s Film”, organised by the Together Polska Foundation has started. The project is funded by the Anna Lindh Foundation, financed by the EU to promote dialogue among peoples and organisations in the Euro-Mediterranean area. The initiative, reports the ENPI site (www.enpi-info.eu), has begun in Jerusalem and will last 10 months, with the objective of involving participants to use their leadership abilities and creativity, as well as promoting active citizenship through intercultural teaching. The method is based on interaction, video-animation and film production. The “Let’s Film” project is divided into 4 phases, which include a visit to Jerusalem, a meeting in the Palestinian Territories, one in Poland and a final evaluation, again in Poland. >From the first stop in Jerusalem, they will have to shoot four documentaries, an animated film and a photo exhibition on daily life in Jerusalem seen through the eyes of the Palestinians and their Polish peers. The project therefore provides the occasion for the Polish youths to understand better the Arab culture and the most pressing issues that regard their peers, while the Palestinian youths can host young people from Europe that are not just tourists for a day, and who they can interact with over a long period of time. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Arab Free Trade Zone, Ban on Importing 1,141 Products

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JANUARY 14 — Algeria would like to ban a total of 1,141 products of different types from Arab Free Trade Zone countries (ZALE). Redouane Allili, from the Algerian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was quoted by APS as saying that the “black list” included products from the agro-food, agricultural, textile, appliances and electronic goods sectors, as well as the paper and cardboard one: all products from “priority sectors” which Algeria would like to protect for a set period of 3 or 4 years. The list will have to be approved at the Arab League’s next economic and social summit meeting in February. Similar lists prohibiting imports have already been approved for countries such as Morocco and Egypt, for 800 and 700 products, as well as Syria, Tunisia, Lebanon and Jordan. Over the first ten months of 2009, Algerian imports of products from the Arab Free Trade Zone reached 1.37 billion dollars, compared with the 1.05 billion seen in 2008. Exports instead dropped sharply, from 2.18 billion in 2008 to 1.04 billion in the first few months of 2009. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Egypt: Killing of Christians; Tantawi, All Sons of Same Country

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 15 — “Christians and Muslims are children of the same country, and they have equal rights and duties”, emphasised the great imam of Al Azhar, Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, who held the Friday sermon today in the new mosque of Ganaa Hamadi, the city where Christians were massacred on the evening of the Coptic Christmas. The Minister of Religious Affairs, Mohamoud Hamdi Zaqzouq, was also present. Insisting on the concepts of “justice”, “tolerance” and “equality”, Sunni Islam’s greatest authority indicated the verse of the Koran which states that “he who kills but one innocent soul, kills all of humanity”. Islam and the Sharia, he continued, do not have “anything to do with those who attack others”. And “the soul, honour and dignity of Christians must be protested as those of Muslims are”. The differences in the faiths, Tantawi went on, “do not impede all human beings from cooperating” and “all forms of hate, ‘foolish’ racism and ‘blind’ fanaticism must be refused”. Islam, he stated, gives all people their rights, both Muslims and non-Muslims. Muslim blood is like that of Christian blood and must be protected, as well as Christian honour”. He also reminded of the phrase spoken by Pope Shenouda III in recent years: “Egypt is not a country in which we live, but a country that lives in our hearts”. After having also cited the example of the businessman Naguib Sawiris, a Coptic, but who employs many Muslims, Tantawi concluded by repeating the same prayer three times: “God remove internal wars from Egypt”, using the plural of the Arabic word ‘fitna’ to indicate internal conflicts and civil wars in the Islamic world, “both those that are visible and those that are hidden”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Elects New Head

Egypt’s outlawed opposition Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, has named a conservative figure, Mohammed Badi, as its new leader.

Mr Badi, a 66-year-old veterinary professor at Beni Suef University, will be the eighth general guide since 1928.

His election by senior members of the group follows internal elections last year in which conservatives did well and prominent reformists were defeated.

He succeeds Mohammed Mahdi Akif, who became the first leader to step down.

The Brotherhood has influenced Islamist movements around the world with its model of political activism combined with charity work.

It has been banned from open political activity since 1954, and leading activists are frequently arrested and imprisoned by the authorities.

Despite this, Brotherhood members standing as independent candidates won 20% of the seats in the last parliamentary election in 2005, its best ever result.

Regional impact

After the announcement of his election by the group’s Shura Council on Saturday, Mr Badi told members: “Show the world the true Islam, the Islam of moderation and forgiveness that respects pluralism in the whole world.”

Analysts say a conservative leader is likely to steer the Brotherhood away from political activism, and instead focus on religious and social work.

The government has also passed laws making it harder to contest future elections, including October’s parliamentary polls.

“There are two causes for the regression of political work. The first is intense government pressures and the constitutional changes made on participation in elections,” Diaa Rashwan told the AFP news agency.

“The other factor is that Mr Badi is not involved in public work — he is part of the ideological work,” he added.

Another analyst, Khalil al-Anani, warned that the Brotherhood’s withdrawal from political life, coupled with the government’s continuing crackdown on Islamists, might leave a vacuum that more militant voices could fill in the future.

The BBC’s Yolande Knell in Cairo says the path the Brotherhood chooses under Mr Badi will have implications beyond Egypt.

It is related to other Islamist groups in the Arab world, many of whom are also debating the merits of political engagement, she says.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Gaza: More Palestinian Gunfire on Egyptian Barrier

(ANSAmed) — RAFAH, JANUARY 15 — More gunfire has come from Gaza against the construction work on the new barrier that the Egyptians are building at the border. The shots, which erupted at dawn according to a local source, caused the cancellation of a planned inspection to be carried out by a delegation from the United States, as well as the fleeing of workers. Two digging machines were also damaged. A state of alert was declared along the border. In recent days, during a Palestinian demonstration against that new barrier which should serve to halt the digging of tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Egypt for smuggling goods, but also weapons for Hamas, an Egyptian soldier was killed by gunfire. Yesterday it became clear that the Egyptians are set to start construction on a two kilometre long anchoring structure off the coast of Gaza, to serve as support for the marine patrols against arms trafficking. American military personnel trained in diving will be involved in the project. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Literature: Great Libyan Italianist Tillisi Dies

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 14 — Khalifa Mohammed Tillisi, one of Libya’s best-known and respected writers, and one of the greatest italianist in the Arab world, has died in Tripoli, at the age of 80. The news featured prominently in Libyas main newspapers, and was announced in the General Peoples Congress. Tillisi was known throughout the world for his literary works, his poetry, his histories and literary criticism. In Italy he was known for being one of the greatest Arab Italianists, the author of an Arabic-Italian dictionary. He translated works by writers such as Luigi Pirandello and Eugenio Montale into Arabic, and other writers like Pablo Neruda and Federico Garcia Lorca from Italian into Arabic. His passion for Pirandello’s work was well-known, and he wrote a number of essays on the writer, which have been collected in two volumes: ‘A journey towards words and Literary notebooks’. The funeral will take place tomorrow, following Friday prayers, in the presence of leaders from the worlds of politics and culture. “His death leaves a void in the country and in my heart too, because I have lost someone who was a friend for more than 60 years,” Ali Sadik Husnein, Secretary General of the Academy of the Arabic Language in Tripoli, told ANSAmed. Their friendship dates back to 1951, when Libya first gained independence, “and we all wanted to do something for the nation, and Kahlifa and I decided to teach Arabic in schools,” explains Husnein. >From then on Tillisis commitment to literature went hand in hand with his public commitment. Husnein remembers the several assignments given to Tillisi, including “parliamentarian, Minister for Culture, Ambassador, publisher, President of the High Commission for Culture, Radio and Television, Vice President of the Union of Arab People of Letters, not forgetting the Honorary Degree awarded him by the L’Orientale University in Naples”. But the work which his friend Husnein remembers most of all is what he describes “as a beautiful long poem in Arabic,” published in 1990 and entitled ‘The poem of the single verse’. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza: Hamas Soldier Dies in ‘Jihad Mission’

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, JANUARY 15 — Today, the Ezzedin al-Qassam Brigades — the armed wing of Hamas — announced the death of one of the soldiers last night in Deir el-Balah, in the central area of the Gaza Strip. The militiaman has been identified as 25-year-old Imad Al-Salqawi. The group limited itself to saying that the man died during a “Jihad”, or holy war, mission. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Israeli Anti-Immigration Wall: US, Defensive Right

(ANSAmed) — WASHINGTON, JANUARY 14 — The United States has said that the building of a barrier to try to stop illegal immigration along the Israeli-Egyptian border is part of Israel’s “right to defend itself”. The State Department has issued a statement saying that “Israel has the right to defend itself, to monitor and protect its borders. Israel holds the sole responsibility for security and the keeping of order on the Israeli side of the border.” On Sunday, the Israeli government approved the building — to be done in three phases — of a 250 km barrier along its border in the desert in order to block the main routes used by illegal immigrants. On Monday Egypt called the decision “Israeli internal affairs”. Israel has repeated criticised the Egyptian government for its lack of control over its part of the border, though Egyptian police do not hesitate to open fire on African migrants trying to get into Israel. In 2009, 20 of the latter were killed. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Assad in Riyadh: Syria-Saudi Arabia Discuss Yemen

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, JANUARY 14 — Syrian President Bashar al Assad is continuing his official visit to Saudi Arabia today, which is part of efforts by Damascus to reconcile with one of the main allies of the U.S. in the region. According to reports this morning by the pan-Arab press, after arriving last night in Riyadh, Assad immediately met with King Abdullah. During the encounter the two leaders reiterated their will to “develop bilateral relations” and to “strengthen cooperation between in two countries in various areas.” The Syria-Saudi Arabia summit comes after a meeting held in Damascus in October, during which the two countries reconciled after four years of strong political and diplomatic tensions, mainly over Lebanon. Diplomatic sources in Damascus and Riyadh told the press yesterday that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak could arrive at the summit, another key ally of the U.S. in the region, which has had poor relations with Syria for years. Assad, who will remain in Saudi Arabia “for several days” also discussed the crisis in Yemen with King Abdullah. Both confirmed that they “want to maintain Yemen’s territorial integrity and stability.” The Syrian leader also condemned “attacks against Saudi Arabian territories” by Yemeni rebels in the north. Riyadh’s ground and aviation forces have been directly involved for months along the south-western border in the “Sixth War” ongoing between Shiite rebels in the north of Yemen and the government in Sanàa. Yemen and Saudi Arabia have accused Iran — a close ally of Syria — on more than one occasion of instigating the revolt in the north. Tehran has always denied any involvement, while protesting against Saudi Arabia’s “interference” in Yemen’s domestic affairs. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Nuclear: France-Kuwait Strike Civilian Nuclear Energy Deal

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JANUARY 15 — France and Kuwait signed a deal in the civilian nuclear energy field involving supplying equipment, training, research, and exchanging information, announced the head of the French Commission for Atomic Energy, Bernard Bigot, who stressed that this is the first stage of cooperation between the two countries in the civilian nuclear energy sector. The accord, he added, is destined to help Kuwait develop a nuclear energy programme and to define the country’s requirements. During a visit to Paris in March, Kuwaiti Deputy Premier and Defence Minister, Jaber Mubarak al-Ahmad al-Sabah, reiterated the will of his country to cooperate with France in the sector. In March, Kuwaiti emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, announced that a French company, whose name was not indicated, was examining a plan for civil nuclear energy programme. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Syria: Over 20 Mln Residents at Beginning of 2009

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, JANUARY 14 — At the beginning of 2009, the resident Syrian population topped 20 million inhabitants, while at an overall level Syrian citizens — including those living in other countries — reached 23 million, according to the Syrian Central Statistics Office. According to official data, Syrian males numbered 11.6 million and females 11.4 million. Other statistics released and included in the Italian embassy in Damascus newsletter included vehicles (which at the end of 2008 numbered 1.537 million, including 95,827 for public transport), healthcare facilities (482 public and private hospitals with 30,210 beds), and university-level education (at the end of 2008 12,330 students were enrolled in Syrian universities). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Turkey-Turkish Ambassador, Ayalon is Uncouth

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JANUARY 13 — The tone of the ongoing diplomatic row between Turkey and Israel shows no sign of abating, following a nasty incident on Monday between Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Dany Ayalon and Turkey’s Ambassador to Tel Aviv, Oguz Celikkol. This evening in fact, Celikkol spoke to press agency Anadolu in Tel Aviv, describing Ayalon’s behaviour towards him in no uncertain terms as “uncouth”. The crisis between the two countries erupted on Monday, when Ayalon (who belongs to the ultra-nationalist party Israel Beitenu) summoned Celikkol to hand him a statement of protest over the fierce criticisms made by Turkish Premier Tayyip Erdogan over Israeli flights over Lebanon, and the bombardment of Gaza. The summons took place in an irregular and humiliating manner for the Turkish diplomat, who was received in front of television cameras with no handshake, no Turkish flag, and was forced to sit on a chair which was lower than Ayalons. Ayalon also complained to the Turkish diplomat about a drama broadcast by a private Turkish TV station called “The valley of the wolves” in which Israeli secret service agents are shown as child abductors. “A Deputy Minister who thinks about the height of the chairs and thinks that makes him superior is just uncouth”, said Celikkol, who said that the meeting with Ayalon took place in a “respectful atmosphere”. The problems started later, when the Israeli media referred to the meeting and said that Ayalon, speaking to journalists in Hebrew, told them that seating Celikkol on a lower seat in a room without the Turkish flag had been “a deliberate decision”. “If Ayalon had said in English what he said in Hebrew, I would have left the room immediately”, concluded the Turkish diplomat. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Turkey: EU Opens News Information Centre on Accession

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JAN 14 — The European Union will open a new Eu information Centre in Istanbul today to provide people with information about the Eu, its policies, and Turkeys accession process. The office, according to the Eu delegation in the country, will be run in cooperation with the Istanbul Chamber of commerce and will be part of an information network with 16 centres across Turkey to inform the public. “The addition of the Istanbul Eu information Centre — said Ambassador Marc Pierini, Head of the delegation of the European Union to Turkey — is a milestone in the improvement of the flow of information available to the citizens and businesses of Turkey. This network has now reached 16 major cities in Turkey and will expand further to reach 20 very soon”. The new Eu Information centre will organise events and activities for groups like students, media, youth, women, businesses and civil society organisations, like exhibitions, competitions and a national quiz for high school students. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Turkey: Call Intensifies for Real Democratic Transformation of Turkey

For the first time a demonstration of Turkish in solidarity with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which is becoming a point of reference for those who want a positive evolution of society. In their favour the latent conflict between the old Kemalist establishment and the new middle class created by AKP.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) — Turks have demonstrated (see photo) to express solidarity with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and all minorities which have for centuries been part of Turkey. The march took place, for the first time, a few days ago and although only a hundred people participated, the event attracted the interest of the Turkish media, who rushed en masse to the Fanar, which has become a landmark of the “alternative” voices, who want a real democratic development in the nation.

The ongoing positions of the Patriarch Bartholomew has certainly contributed to this, particularly his latest declaration, in an interview with CBS, that “well feel crucified in Turkey”. This has caused the negative reaction of the Foreign Minister Davutoglu — from whom Erdogan has distanced himself, albeit elusively — as well as that of most Turkish press.

Participants in the demonstration are part of the “Genc Siviller” (young people) and are students and intellectuals, of various ethnic and religious extraction, among them most notably Baskin Oran. This proves that Turkey is not the homogenized mass, that the old Kemalist establishment wanted to accomplish with its secular-nationalist ideology and the elimination of all differences, using, where necessary, to the tools of ethnic cleansing and coups.

Members of the “Genc Siviller” call themselves sons of the tears shed for democracy, and as their representative Bilal Mecit said, they want to raise awareness among large segments of the Turkish population regarding the conquest of true democratic freedom and rebel against any coup tendencies, which are a recurring feature in Turkish politics.

The same spokesman said that the so-called “Cage Plan” was a planned attack against Christian minorities, that included the murder of Bartholomew and that aimed to attribute the responsibility to Muslims. Foiled two months ago, the plan was to discredit the current government internationally and provoke the intervention of the army under the pretext of wanting to prevent the Islamization of Turkish society.

Certainly it is interesting to see the events of this kind outside the headquarters of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, when just 2-3 years ago on the same site demonstrations took place of the opposite mold, all moves by nationalists and people who adhere to the left, but who were in the pay of old establishment and demanded the closure of the Patriarchate and opposed the visit of Benedict XVI in Turkey.

In short as commentators in Istanbul have for some time been pointing out, in movements for real democratic transformation of Turkish society and groups from the world of print media are beginning to consolidate. They also supported by the continuous and latent confrontation between the old Kemalist establishment and the new AKP middle-class created, inspired by the Ottoman model. This has allowed a loosening of the stifling grip that the political apparatus in Turkey has always exercised on the population and gives the younger generations a taste for real freedom, that was completely unknown in the past.

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

South Asia

Malaysia Mosque Vandalized Amid “Allah” Row

A Malaysian mosque was vandalized following attacks on 11 churches, threatening to deepen a row over the use of the word “Allah” to refer to the Christian God in this mainly Muslim but multiracial country.

The Saturday incident in the Borneo island state of Sarawak is the first against a mosque after the arson and vandalism attacks on churches, and could stoke anger among Malay Muslims who make up 60 percent of the country’s 28 million population.

Malaysia’s deputy police chief Ismail Omar said police found broken glass near the outside wall of the mosque, and warned troublemakers against whipping up emotions.

“Don’t make any speculation. We are investigating this incident. The situation remains peaceful and no one should take advantage of this to create something bad,” Ismail told Reuters.

Ismail could not confirm whether the bottles thrown at the mosque were that of alcoholic beverages, which is forbidden to Muslims, but said he believed the act was vandalism.

The use of “Allah”

The row stems from a court ruling that allowed a Catholic newspaper to use “Allah” in its Malay-language editions, which caused Muslims to protest outside mosques on Friday last week.

Most of the attacks have been against churches but a Sikh temple was also vandalized on Wednesday.

The office of the lawyer representing the Catholic publication in the court case over the use of the word was broken into and ransacked on Thursday.

The use of “Allah” is common among Malay-speaking Christians, who account for 9.1 percent of the population, especially in the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak.

Opinions are split, but many Malays have expressed unhappiness over allowing the word to be used by Christians.

A page created in the online networking site Facebook to protest the use of the word by non-Muslims has so far attracted more than 220,000 users.

The Berita Harian Malay language newspaper reported on Saturday that 70 Muslim-Malay groups would submit on Monday a memorandum appealing for intervention from the titular Malay rulers who oversee Islamic affairs in their respective states.

Stoking nationalism

The Malaysian government has strongly criticized the attacks on churches, but has been accused of stoking Malay nationalism to protect its voter base after the opposition made unprecedented gains in 2008 elections.

In Geneva, the World Council of Churches said it was disturbed by the attacks and called on the Malaysian government to take immediate action.

Malaysia’s mainly Chinese and Indian non-Muslim ethnic minorities, who form 40 percent of the country’s population, abandoned the ruling coalition in the 2008 general elections partly due to complaints over increasing religious marginalization.

Analysts have said the arson attacks, though not an immediate risk, are raising worries among some foreign investors at a time when Prime Minister Najib Razak has pledged to lure more foreign investment.

Malaysia, which between 1990 and 2000 accounted for half of all foreign direct investment into it, Thailand and Indonesia, has now lost its leading position. Najib is trying to woo them back with economic liberalization measures.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Malaysia: Friday Sermons Urge Muslims to Unite Over ‘Allah’

Kuala Lumpur: Friday sermons in Selangor mosques today [Friday, January 15] reminded Muslims to unite over the “Allah” controversy, and described the use of the word by Christians as an attempt to undermine the position of Islam in the country.

According to the text of the sermon — prepared by the Selangor Islamic Department (Jais) — allowing Christians to use the word “Allah” would create religious tension. It also called on the Muslims to set aside their political allegiance on this matter.

“Although some [of] us may have [a] different ideology, it should not compromise the sanctity of the religion just for the sake of position and power,” according to the sermon, in an apparent reference to Muslim politicians who are deeply divided over the issue.

Earlier this week, the Sultan of Selangor issued a directive to uphold the stance that the word “Allah” may not be used by non-Muslims when referring to God in the Malay language.

“The decision of the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Thursday, Dec 31, allowing the Herald — The Catholic Weekly to use the word ‘Allah’ was shocking to Muslims nationwide,” said the sermon, which was meant for delivery before the start of Friday prayers. “The use of the word ‘Allah’ by the Christians, especially in writings, must be stopped by the government. According to Islamic principles, the government has the right to take pre-emptive measures to stop [the] expected damage,” it added.

It also reiterated the stand made by Muslim groups opposed to the High Court ruling — that the move would create confusion among Muslims.

“We are worried that all churches will be renamed Baitullah (House of God), the Bible will also be renamed Kitabullah, and more confusion will arise if all religions in the country use the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God. Their aim is to equate Islam with other religions in the country. In fact, Islam is the religion accepted by Allah, there is no other religion but Islam. Islam came from Allah, while other religions were man-made,” it added.

The sermon also cited the Cabinet decision in 1986, banning the use of four Arabic words — including “Allah” — by non-Muslim as well as the state enactment which restricts the use of the word. The enactment was meant to prevent the word from being used for propagating other religious views to Muslims.

[…]

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Rum Bottle Thrown at Malaysia Mosque Amid Tension

Vandals threw a rum bottle at a mosque in the first attack on a Muslim house of worship after almost a dozen similar assaults on churches in Malaysia the past week, police said Saturday.

Police have dismissed the attacks as vandalism, but they have caused disquiet in multiracial Malaysia and raised fears of more widespread religious tensions.

One Sikh temple and 11 churches have been hit -most of them with molotov cocktails- since Jan. 8. One church was partially gutted, though the others sustained only minor damages. No arrests have been made.

The unrest follows a Dec. 31 court ruling that allowed non-Muslims to use the word “Allah” to refer to God. The verdict upset Muslims who make up 60 percent of Malaysia’s 28 million people. The government has argued allowing Christians to use the word will confuse Muslims and entice them to convert.

The bottle was thrown at a mosque in eastern Sarawak state late Friday and found smashed near an outer wall inside the compound, said local police chief Abu Bakar Mokhtar. He said they didn’t know if it contained any alcohol when vandals threw it. Most Muslims consider alcohol illegal.

[…]

The unrest centers on the court ruling, in which the Herald, the main newspaper of the Roman Catholic Church in Malaysia, argues it has the right to use the word “Allah” in its Malay-language edition because it predates Islam and is commonly used by Christians in other predominantly Muslims countries, such as Egypt, Indonesia and Syria. It is also used in Malay-language Bibles.

The government has condemned the attacks and assured Christians, who make up some 9 percent of Malaysia’s population, they are safe. But the attacks aren’t abating. The office of lawyers representing the newapaper Heraldin their legal fight was also ransacked earlier this week.

[…]

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Haiti Earthquake: Looters, Machete Gangs and Fights for Water as Aid Still Struggles to Get Through

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

Haiti teetered on the brink of total anarchy tonight as looters rampaged through the streets of Port-au-Prince in search of food and water.

With desperately needed aid still barely trickling through, some survivors were reduced to fighting for scant supplies.

Witnesses reported gangs of young men armed with machetes stalking through the capital. As the security situation continued to deteriorate, UN peacekeepers warned aid workers they needed to travel with guards.

The Brazilian military, which heads the operation, said victims were increasingly desperate.

‘Unfortunately, they’re slowly getting more angry and impatient’ said spokesman David Wimhurst,

‘I fear, we’re all aware that the situation is getting more tense as the poorest people who need so much are waiting for deliveries. I think tempers might be frayed.’

‘They are scavenging everything. What can you do?,’ said Michel Legros, 53, as he waited for help to search for seven relatives buried in his collapsed house.

Hard-pressed government workers, meanwhile, were burying thousands of bodies in mass graves.

There is still little sign of many survivors getting aid. No foreign assistance had reached the downtown area of Port-au-Prince, one of the worst-affected areas.

Ordinary Haitians sensed the potential for an explosion of lawlessness. ‘We’re worried that people will get a little uneasy,’ said attendant Jean Reynol, 37, explaining his gas station was ready to close immediately if violence breaks out.

‘If they see a truck with something, or if they see a supermarket which has collapsed, they just rush to get something to eat.’

The quake’s destruction of Port-au-Prince’s main prison complicated the security situation.

International Red Cross spokesman Marcal Izard said some 4,000 prisoners had escaped and were freely roaming the streets.

‘They obviously took advantage of this disaster,’ Izard said.

But Byrs said peacekeepers were maintaining security despite the challenges. ‘It’s tense but they can cope,’ she said.

The UN World Food Programme said post-quake looting of its food supplies long stored in Port-au-Prince appears to have been limited, contrary to an earlier report Friday.

It said it would start handing out 6,000 tons of food aid recovered from a damaged warehouse in the city’s Cite Soleil slum.

A spokesman for the Rome-based agency, Emilia Casella, said the WFP was preparing shipments of enough ready-to-eat meals to feed 2 million Haitians for a month. She noted that regular food stores in the city had been emptied by looters.

It emerged today that desperate Haitians had set up roadblocks of corpses in Port-au-Prince in protest at the lack of emergency aid reaching them after the catastrophic earthquake.

Shaul Schwarz, a photographer for TIME magazine, said he saw at least two blockades formed with bodies of earthquake victims and rocks.

‘They are starting to block the roads with bodies. It’s getting ugly out there. People are fed up with getting no help,’ he said.

Rescue efforts have been blighted by poor infrastructure and lack of heavy lifting equipment — as well as the damage wrought by the disaster.

The humanitarian crisis in the capital is the worst many aid workers have ever seen.

With streets and buildings littered with rotting corpses and filled with the sounds of screams, some have compared it to a scene from hell.

More than 100 paratroopers of the US 82nd Airborne Division arrived at the Port au Prince airport overnight, boosting the U.S. military presence to several hundred on the ground. Others have arrived off Port-au-Prince harbor on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

Helicopters have been ferrying water and other relief supplies off the Vinson into the airport, US military officials said.

The command said other paratroopers and Marines would raise the U.S. presence to 8,000 troops in the coming days. Their efforts will include providing security, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Hilary Clinton to visit HaitiU.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she would visit Haiti on Saturday with new USAID chief Rajiv Shah to get a firsthand look at the earthquake relief effort.

‘I also have decided after consulting with President Obama and others in our government that I will be traveling to Haiti tomorrow with USAID administrator Dr. Raj Shah,’ Clinton told a news briefing on Friday.

‘We will be meeting President Preval and other members of the Haitian government along with the members of the U.S. government team on the ground,’ Clinton said.

The trip would also allow her to personally convey support to the people of Haiti, she said.

Hundreds of bodies were stacked outside the city morgue, and limbs of the dead protruded from the rubble of crushed schools and homes.

Experts say people trapped by Tuesday’s quake would begin to succumb if they go without water for three or four days.

Haitian President Rene Preval told The Miami Herald that over a 20-hour period, government crews had removed 7,000 corpses from the streets and morgues and buried them in mass graves.

For the long-suffering people of Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation, shock was giving way to despair.

‘We need food. The people are suffering. My neighbours and friends are suffering,’ said Sylvain Angerlotte, 22.

‘We don’t have money. We don’t have nothing to eat. We need pure water.’

At Toussaint L’Ouverture International Airport, a stream of US military cargo planes was landing Friday, but they had to circle for an hour before getting clearance to land because the quake destroyed the control tower and radar control, and the US military was using emergency procedures.

Aid workers have been blocked by debris on inadequate roads and by survivors gathered in the open out of fear of aftershocks from the 7.0-magnitude quake and re-entering unstable buildings.

‘The physical destruction is so great that physically getting from point A to B with the supplies is not an easy task,’ Casella, the WFP spokeswoman in Geneva, said at a news conference.

Estimates of the number of dead vary wildly with some believing as many as 100,000 have been killed.

The Haitian Red Cross said it believed 45,000 to 50,000 people had died and 3 million more — one third of Haiti’s population — were injured or left homeless by the 7.0 quake that hit on Tuesday.

Fears were growing today for British woman Ann Barnes, a PA to the UN police commissioner in Haiti.

The headquarters in Port-au-Prince has completely collapsed, killing many who were inside.

Miss Barnes has been missing since the earthquake though the UN have not confirmed that she is among the dead.

In the car park of the capital’s L’Hopital de la Paix, those awaiting treatment lay among the dead and dying in 90f heat.

A tearful man pointed to his young daughter, her legs broken and face gashed. Her sister had died.

A little boy sobbed among the bodies while two injured women, their legs crushed, propped each other up.

In a makeshift hospital at the Hotel Villa Creole Margaret Germaine-Doillard, a French teacher in her 40s, lay on the ground drifting in and out of consciousness.

She was on a second-floor balcony of her school when the earthquake struck, celebrating a belated Christmas party with more than 300 students and teachers.

There is no way to know how many died at St-Louis de Gonzague, a prestigious Roman Catholic school where some of Haiti’s leaders have studied, including former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier.

Germaine-Doillard said she knew of only about 10 students, several teachers and the school’s principal who survived.

As she lay in the 80-degree heat, her thoughts remained with her pupils.

‘We couldn’t save the students,’ she murmured. ‘We couldn’t save the students.’

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Don’t Vote for Anyone Pushing Comprehensive Immigration Reform

A couple of days ago I wrote a commentary in which I commended Senator Grassley of Iowa for his efforts to get the State Department to finally implement a program that would require special agents of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to be assigned to all of the visa issuing posts. At present, according to the news report I have attached below, only 14 such posts of more than 220 have such agents of the DHS assigned to provide assistance in discerning aliens who, out of national security concerns, should not receive visas.

[…]

“It is extremely troubling that an ambassador can inhibit the ability of DHS in carrying out its mission,” Grassley wrote in his letter.

Certainly the ambassador should have the ability to make decisions about how business is conducted at the Embassy or Consulate they preside over, however, it is in my judgement, nuts to think that an ambassador should be given so much discretionary authority that he (she) can ignore a mandate that has incredibly important national security implications for our nation. This is especially worrisome when you consider that many ambassadors are given their positions as a result of political considerations and that an ambassador may not have an extensive background in national security or a lengthy history as a State Department employee.

In conjunction with this, it is also worth noting that a number of ambassadors have gone on to lobby on behalf of those very same countries in which they had previously served as ambassador, after they stepped down from that position. You really have to wonder at the potential for conflict of interests in these instances.

[…]

Today the inspectors who work for CBP are instructed to admit foreign nationals who have tourist visas for virtually an automatic six month period. Do you know of anyone who is not abandoning their jobs who could take of six months from work and not lose their jobs? It is clear that the goal of the government, in this era, is to remove as much discretionary authority from the employees of DHS while giving an incredible amount of discretionary authority to ambassadors and other political appointees!

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Greece: Officer, Migrant Hurt After Road Rage Row

Two Syrian immigrants faced an Athens prosecutor yesterday after allegedly attacking an off-duty police officer in the central district of Patissia, one using a screwdriver and the other his motorcycle helmet.

According to police, the 22-year-old officer had been driving a car in which his brother and father were passengers, when the two Syrians, aged 28 and 29, pulled up on a motorcycle and began accusing him of harassing them by sounding his horn. The 28-year-old allegedly used a screwdriver to stab the officer in the face while the other Syrian is said to have started hitting the officer with his motorcycle helmet.

According to police the younger of the two migrants head-butted a pane of glass on his arrival at the Patissia police precinct, suffering minor injuries. Both migrants have pending applications for political asylum in Greece.

           — Hat tip: BB[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Homosexual Imperialists Target Uganda

The State Department may not be able to keep terrorists out of the United States, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has enough time on her hands to spend 45 minutes complaining to the President of Uganda about an effort in that country to toughen laws against homosexuality.

The President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, says that Clinton spoke to him for 45 minutes about the proposed legislation, which hasn’t even been the subject of hearings by the parliament. Museveni, who rules over a conservative East African country that is 85 percent Christian, said that he told Clinton that the bill will be considered by the appropriate authorities and that he had heard that homosexuals come from Europe and recruit young people using money. He said that Mrs. Clinton agreed that such practices constituted sexual exploitation.

Officially, the State Department opposes human trafficking for sexual purposes. Its Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, led by Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, is supposed to “provide the tools to combat trafficking in persons and assists in the coordination of anti-trafficking efforts both worldwide and domestically.”

Mrs. Clinton’s preoccupation with Uganda’s opposition to homosexuality may have something to do with the fact that billionaire George Soros, a major financial backer of the Democratic Party and President Obama, has been funding efforts in Africa to promote the interests of “sexual minorities.” Obama has embraced the “gay rights” agenda.

In February of 2009, the Soros-funded Open Society Initiative for East Africa, in partnership with Media Development in Africa (MEDEVA), boasts that it “successfully broadcast the first ever television program featuring sexual minority rights in Uganda.”

The Open Society Institute said the program was necessary because “Uganda is a country that currently criminalizes homosexuality and commercial sex work, and has repeatedly made efforts to silence sexual rights activists.”

The term “sex work” is another name for prostitution. The Open Society Institute wants Uganda to expand rights for homosexuals and legalize prostitution.

Before that, the Open Society Institute held a four-day workshop on legal strategies “to promote lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights in Africa.”

Homosexual media activists in the U.S. such as Rachel Maddow of MSNBC and Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post have falsely depicted the bill in Uganda as an effort to kill homosexuals. In fact, it is designed to save lives by restricting dangerous homosexual practices, including pedophilia, child rape, and the deliberate spreading of the AIDS virus. The controversial death penalty provision, which even some pro-family activists in the U.S. find objectionable, is for crimes of “aggravated homosexuality.”

Capehart has said that Uganda, which is heavily dependent on foreign aid, should be deprived of foreign assistance if the bill becomes law. Capehart and other foreign homosexuals are clamoring for the bill to be withdrawn from the Ugandan Parliament or vetoed if passed.

But the Christians in Uganda want to keep these dangerous foreign influences out of their country.

George Oundo, a former homosexual, has confessed that he recruited school children into homosexuality as part of a program funded by foreign interests and operating in Uganda under the cover of a group called Sexual Minorities Uganda.

The United Nations has been caught distributing a pamphlet encouraging homosexuality among teenagers.

Interestingly, one or the few mainstream media stories to explore the issue in somewhat objective fashion appeared on National Public Radio. Barbara Bradley Hagerty noted in her story that “To understand how this bill came to be, one needs to know the story of King Mwanga. In 1886, Uganda’s king ordered some two dozen male pages to have sex with him, and when they refused because of their Christian faith, he ordered that they be burned to death. Every year on June 3, Ugandans celebrate a national holiday honoring the Christian martyrs and deploring the pedophile king.”

[Return to headlines]


Planned Parenthood Raising Funds to Push Birth Control, Contraception in Haiti

Following the earthquake in Haiti, millions of people are dealing with death, a lack of food and water, shelter, and basic medical care. Planned Parenthood, sending a good time for a fundraising opportunity, is asking for donations for its local affiliate to promote birth control and condoms.

In a new note sent to its supporters on Facebook, Planned Parenthood talked about the giving opportunity.

“The international Planned Parenthood arm is accepting donations for PROFAMIL, a locally based Haitian organization,” the abortion business says. “Fully 100% of donations will go directly to PROFAMIL’s operations.”

At the International Planned Parenthood secure giving web page, the abortion giant says PROFAMIL has been operating in Haiti since 1984 to provide “sexual and reproductive healthcare.”

The group “educates the public about prevention and ensures widespread access to condoms” to “young people aged 10-25” with “regular condom demonstrations.”

In other words, Planned Parenthood is asking for money to help it pass out condoms and birth control to children who are looking for their next meal and medical care for injuries they and their family sustained in the earthquake.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

1 comments:

American Delight said...

From the article about Assad in Riyadh: "The Syrian leader also condemned 'attacks against Saudi Arabian territories' by Yemeni rebels in the north..."

Curious... I wonder what the Saudis used to bribe the Syrians to condemn Iran's Houthi friends...