Friday, January 29, 2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/29/2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/29/2010The city of Austin, Texas has passed its own municipal law limiting CO2 emissions and instituting a carbon-trading scheme which is even more extensive than that proposed under the federal “Cap and Trade” bill — which has not yet passed Congress.

In other news, a ninth person has died of anthrax in Scotland, apparently from injecting contaminated heroin. Meanwhile, for the first time ever China has passed a law forbidding the eating of dog and cat meat.

Thanks to 4symbols, Amil Imani, C. Cantoni, Diana West, Gaia, GEC, Insubria, JD, JH, KGS, Lurker from Tulsa, Sean O’Brian, TB, TT, Winds of Jihad, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Oklahoma High-Speed Rail Grant Rejected
Paulson Says Russia Urged China to Dump Fannie, Freddie Bonds
Ron Paul Bill Seeks Coin and Bullion Tax Ban
Airports Could Get Mind-Reading Scanners
Authorities Seek Deal With Detroit Suspect on Cooperation, Guilty Plea
Brown Tells AP He’ll Sometimes Side With Democrats
D.C. Court Case Demands Obama Explain Eligibility
Gang Wonderland — “The Unhappiest Place on Earth!”
NY Pols Stunned to Learn Obama Administration Opposes Funding for 9/11 Health Bill
Texas: Austin’s Carbon Reduction Plan More Than “Cap and Trade” Bill Proposal
U.S. Embraces Copenhagen Pact, Senators Rework Bill
U.S. Democrats Vow to Move Ahead on Healthcare
Andrew Weaver, IPCC Computer Modeler and Political Chameleon
Europe and the EU
Bin Laden ‘Apostles’ To Preach in U.K
Church of England Bishops Say EU is ‘Place for Elites’ That Needs to ‘Reduce Bureaucracy’
Denmark: Romanian Traffickers Picked Up
EU-Funded Think Tanks Defend Their Credibility
French Justice is EU Justice is Bent Justice
Italy Launches New Anti-Mafia Plan
Italy: Fiat Confirms Shutdown of Sicilian Plant
Italy: Downloading Il Duce
Italy: New Mosque ‘Attacked by Vandals ‘ in Tuscany
Netherlands: Illegals Escorted to Four-Star Hotel
Pope and Antipope. The Strange Case of the Administrative Elections in Rome and the Region
Scotland: Anthrax Drug Deaths Rise to Nine
UK: Siddique Terror Conviction Quashed on Appeal
Mediterranean Union
Human Rights: Freedom of Association Worsens in Med, NGO
North Africa
Algeria: In 10 Years, 29,000 Children Without Families
Egyptian Christian Framed in Sexual Assault Case
Hamas Military Commander ‘Assassinated in Dubai’
Human Rights: HRW Calls Situation in Algeria ‘Very Serious’
Libya: Appeal Trial Today for One of the Two Swiss Nationals
Niqab is Not a Religious Obligation, Al Azhar Confirms
Israel and the Palestinians
Dershowitz Critiques Goldstone Report
Middle East
Amil Imani: The Islamic Republic of Torture, Rape & Murder
Diana West: is Iraq the “New Iran”?
Saudis to Regulate ‘Chaotic Fatwas’
Sharia’s Dominion
South Asia
Afghan Men Struggle With Sexual Identity, Study Finds
Beijing Fetes 16th-Century Missionary
Malaysia Charges 3 Muslims for Church Firebombing
Malaysia Court Rejects Anwar Ibrahim Evidence Appeal
Pakistan: Zardari Sacrifices Goats to ‘Ward Off Evil’
Ten Aussies Killed in India, Families Claim
Far East
Cats and Dogs to be Taken Off Menu in China
Sub-Saharan Africa
China’s Anti-Piracy Role Off Somalia Expands
Fifth of Swedish Population Foreign
Italy: Gov’t Approves Plan Against Illegal Market Work
Culture Wars
Muslim Student Adviser: Death Penalty for ‘Gays’
The Myth of Nazi Persecution of Gays
Bill Gates Makes World’s Biggest Ever Single Charitable Donation With £6.2bn for Vaccines for Children
Muslim Inventions That Shaped the Modern World

Financial Crisis

Oklahoma High-Speed Rail Grant Rejected

OKLAHOMA CITY — President Barack Obama announced the recipients of $8 billion in stimulus grants for high-speed rail projects Thursday, and the Oklahoma Impact Team has learned Oklahoma will not be getting any of the funding.

Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation confirmed the news Thursday afternoon expressing disappointment that the state will not get any of the funding. ODOT submitted an application last October 1 for $2 billion of the federal grant money to create a high-speed rail corridor between Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and to make improvements to the existing Heartland Flyer route.

According to news reports, the big winners of the grant money are California, Florida and Illinois. Specifically, California will receive $2.3 billion to begin work on an 800-mile-long, high-speed rail line tying Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area to Los Angeles and San Diego. Florida is getting $1.25 billion to build a rail line connecting Tampa on the West Coast with Orlando in the middle of the state, eventually going south to Miami. Illinois and Missouri are getting $1.1 billion to improve a rail line between Chicago and St. Louis so that trains can travel up to 110 mph.

ODOT was hoping to use the money to, first and foremost, provide high-speed rail service between downtown Tulsa and downtown Oklahoma City along the I-44 Turner Turnpike corridor. The project would have included the construction of new overpasses, new signaling and the acquisition of new equipment. Money would also have been used to make improvements along the Heartland Flyer route: rail crossing upgrades, switch improvements, and double track between Oklahoma City and Norman.

State transportation officials said the application was worth the effort and they continue to look at opportunities to improve and expand rail service in the state. ODOT has committed up to $125,000 to assist Kansas with a study looking at the possibility of extending passenger rail service from Oklahoma City north to Wichita and Kansas City, allowing riders to connect more easily with Amtrak’s northern routes.

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

Paulson Says Russia Urged China to Dump Fannie, Freddie Bonds

Russia urged China to dump its Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds in 2008 in a bid to force a bailout of the largest U.S. mortgage-finance companies, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said.

Paulson learned of the “disruptive scheme” while attending the Beijing Summer Olympics, according to his memoir, “On The Brink.”

The Russians made a “top-level approach” to the Chinese “that together they might sell big chunks of their GSE holdings to force the U.S. to use its emergency authorities to prop up these companies,” Paulson said, referring to the acronym for government sponsored entities. The Chinese declined, he said.

[Return to headlines]

Ron Paul Bill Seeks Coin and Bullion Tax Ban

Congressman Ron Paul [R-TX] on Wednesday introduced legislation that would, if signed into law, end taxes on coins and bullion and repeal legal tender laws. The bill’s lofty goal is to reintroduce a system of competing currencies.

“At this country’s founding, there was no government controlled national currency. While the Constitution established the Congressional power of minting coins, it was not until 1792 that the US Mint was formally established,” Rep. Ron Paul said.

“In the meantime, Americans made do with foreign silver and gold coins. Even after the Mint’s operations got underway, foreign coins continued to circulate within the United States, and did so for several decades.

[Return to headlines]


Airports Could Get Mind-Reading Scanners

WeCU Technologies is building a mind-reading scanner that can tell if a given traveler is a potential danger — without the subject’s knowledge. WeCU Technologies (pronounced “we see you”) is creating a system that would essentially turn the public spaces in airports into vast screening grounds:.

“The system … projects images onto airport screens, such as symbols associated with a certain terrorist group or some other image only a would-be terrorist would recognize, company CEO Ehud Givon said.

“The logic is that people can’t help reacting, even if only subtly, to familiar images that suddenly appear in unfamiliar places. If you strolled through an airport and saw a picture of your mother, Givon explained, you couldn’t help but respond.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Authorities Seek Deal With Detroit Suspect on Cooperation, Guilty Plea

Authorities are inching toward an agreement that would secure cooperation from the suspect in the failed Detroit airliner attack, according to two sources familiar with the case, even as fresh details emerged about the intense and chaotic response to the Christmas Day incident.

Seizing on the near miss, GOP lawmakers have mounted a sustained attack on President Obama and the Justice Department, saying they may have lost out on valuable intelligence by charging Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in a federal court rather than under the military justice system.

But new details complicate that narrative, suggesting that Abdulmutallab, 23, clammed up even before he was informed of his right to remain silent — a warning that could have come later had he been placed in military custody. He continued to speak to authorities before undergoing treatment for second- and third-degree burns below the waist that occurred during a bid to detonate explosives on Northwest Flight 253.

The incident has provoked criticism that federal agencies missed intelligence signals that might have prevented the attack, and has reignited a fierce debate about the adequacy of traditional law enforcement tools to combat terrorist threats.

Public defenders for the Nigerian student are engaged in negotiations that could result in an agreement to share more information and eventually a guilty plea, the sources said.

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

Brown Tells AP He’ll Sometimes Side With Democrats

Scott Brown says he has already told Senate Republican leaders they won’t always be able to count on his vote. The man who staged an upset in last week’s Massachusetts Senate special election, in part by pledging to be the 41st GOP vote against President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday that he staked his claim in early conversations with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Whip Jon Kyl.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

D.C. Court Case Demands Obama Explain Eligibility

Contends president’s allegiance is to Britain, Kenya, Indonesia

A prominent attorney who has shepherded a number of high-profile legal cases challenging Barack Obama’seligibility to be president has brought a “Quo Warranto” case to district court in Washington, D.C., alleging his allegiances have included Britain, Kenya and Indonesia.

A Quo Warranto action, first recorded some 800 years ago, essentially is a demand to know by what authority a public figure is acting. The case, brought by California attorney Orly Taitz on behalf of herself, was assigned to Chief Judge Royce Lamberth.


John Eidsmoe, an expert on the U.S. Constitution now working with the Foundation on Moral Law, an organization founded by former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, previously told WND the demand was a legitimate course of action.

“She basically is asking, ‘By what authority’ is Obama president,” he told WND when the issue first arose. “In other words, ‘I want you to tell me by what authority. I don’t really think you should hold the office.’“

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Gang Wonderland — “The Unhappiest Place on Earth!”

A Los Angeles tour company is offering a “Gang Tour” ( You just can’t make this stuff up. Can you imagine the tour guide telling about the gang lifestyle? It might go like this…

“And here we have the drama and tragedy of South Central, vividly brought to you by LA Gang Tours—notice this historic intersection, Florence and Normandy, site of the famous Reginald Denny incident, where the White truck driver was beaten to an inch of his life.”

“Over there, notice the same spot where Rodney King was beaten by White, racist Simi Valley cops—evoking the 1991 riots.”

Only in America! White suburbanites, bored with TV reruns and hyped up with a jaded sense of self-importance, mixed with a quixotic measure of “hope and change,” would pay some scamming gang punks $65 to “tour” the hood and gawk at a segment of humanity that has been forgotten by the world. When did we become so insane as to pay modern-day marauders, rapists of our women, assailants of our liberty, and those trashers of all that is good in our society? How have we come to legitimize the felons and violent destroyers of our neighborhoods, gracing them with a status conveyed upon hard-working, civic-minded citizens?

The story in the LA Times reads like some Kafkaesque visage, where the elites have the once-in-lifetime opportunity to hob-nob with those faceless killers and defacers of our landscape. Of course, once the bus “tour” pulls to a stop at a corner plagued by graffiti, the bereft passengers have concluded that only an “insensitive” society could have wrought such social mayhem. One passenger from Germany points out the “class” warfare angle, and guilt is heaped upon more guilt.

What the “tour” won’t show you is the lives destroyed by the gangs. The murdered, maimed, the intimidation, racketeering and protection rackets, the thousands of young boys and girls that on good days, walk to school in utter trepidation, on bad days, stay home for fear of their lives.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

NY Pols Stunned to Learn Obama Administration Opposes Funding for 9/11 Health Bill

The Obama administration stunned New York’s delegation Thursday, dropping the bombshell news that it does not support funding the 9/11 health bill.

The state’s two senators and 14 House members met with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius just hours before President Obama implored in his speech to the nation for Congress to come together and deliver a government that delivers on its promises to the American people.

So the legislators were floored to learn the Democratic administration does not want to deliver for the tens of thousands of people who sacrificed after 9/11, and the untold numbers now getting sick.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Texas: Austin’s Carbon Reduction Plan More Than “Cap and Trade” Bill Proposal

Austin Energy’s Carbon Reduction Plan calls for Austin’s CO2 emissions to be reduced by a greater amount than what the the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 calls for.

Also known as the “cap and trade” bill, the act was passed by the US House of Representatives in June and calls for emissions to be reduced by 17% by 2020, compared to the recorded levels in 2005. Austin Energy head Roger Duncan says the local utility’s plan calls for a 20% reduction.

To see the presentation Duncan presented to the Austin City Council yesterday, click here.

Duncan says putting the plan in place could potentially cost the city around $2.6 billion. He says Austin Energy customers should expect to see a slight rate increase in three years, stemming from some of the changes that have already been made.

           — Hat tip: JH[Return to headlines]

U.S. Embraces Copenhagen Pact, Senators Rework Bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The Obama Administration formally embraced the Copenhagen Accord on global warming on Thursday, a day after the president urged a fractious U.S. Congress to get to work on comprehensive legislation to stem the nation’s emissions.

U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern gave notice to the United Nations that the country will aim for a 17 percent emissions cut in carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for global warming by 2020, from 2005 levels.

The move, which confirmed the goal set by the White House late last year, was conditional on other countries also submitting their pollution-cutting targets to the accord, Stern said.

The condition was likely aimed at fence-sitters in Congress who do not want to see the United States commit to steps on fighting global warming unless other major polluters like China and India go along.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

U.S. Democrats Vow to Move Ahead on Healthcare

Democratic congressional leaders said on Thursday they would keep pushing for a stalled healthcare overhaul and would explore all options to pass it, but acknowledged the process would not move quickly.

The day after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address to the U.S. Congress, leaders in the Senate and the House of Representatives said they would not abandon the bill despite sharp Democratic divisions on how to proceed.

“We will move on many fronts — any front we can,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of the overhaul, mired in legislative gridlock since last week’s Republican win in Massachusetts cost Democrats their crucial 60th vote in the Senate.

“We must take whatever time it takes to do it,” she told reporters. “But we are going to get healthcare reform passed for the American people.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Andrew Weaver, IPCC Computer Modeler and Political Chameleon

Andrew Weaver, professor at the University of Victoria Canada, is now deserting the sinking Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ship. This comes after being among the most duplicitous and disingenuous members of the IPCC as Lead author and participant in the chapter on computer models. He tells us “its approach to science should be overhauled.” He claims, “the (IPCC) process has taken on a life of its own” and become “tainted by advocacy.”

Few defended the approach more vigorously and personally than Weaver. He built up his role in the IPCC and pushed his receipt of the Nobel Prize to further his political agenda in Canada and the Province of British Columbia, Canada. He was instrumental in making the Province the first North American jurisdiction with a carbon tax. An achievement many of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) and IPCC people must envy, but one other countries must avoid.

The Magical Mystical Manipulated Models

For thirty years I’ve watched and protested as climate science was hijacked and perverted for political purposes. Disclosure of the participants their methods and objectives are gradually being exposed because of the leaked e-mails. There is a great deal more to come on deliberate falsification of records, manipulation of data, and control of the flow of information. But the most significant is yet to explode and involves Weaver among others and the computer models.

Computer codes were also released with the e-mails. Undoubtedly this occurred because the person who disclosed the extent and degree of malfeasance knew their significance. The real rot began in climate when the computer modelers moved into the discipline. I watched as at meeting after meeting they became the keynote speakers and dominated the agenda and other participants. Weaver was in the forefront as well as Wigley, Mann, Schneider, Schlesinger and Boer. Of course, they all ignored the lack of data or inadequate understanding of mechanisms as the basis being blinded by their political agendas. Weaver ran for the NDP (socialists) in a School Board election in Victoria.

Computer models are still a waste of time in climate studies and in particular forecasting of future weather and climate. However, they provide the mystique and apparent public unassailability because they don’t understand them. As Pierre Gallois explained, “If you put tomfoolery into a computer, nothing comes out of it but tomfoolery. But this tomfoolery, having passed through a very expensive machine, is somehow ennobled and no-one dares criticize it.” I use an effective challenge, which resonated with the public. When talking with farmers I would urge them to phone Environment Canada and ask for the forecast for the following summer knowing the reply would be we don’t do long term forecasts. I then suggest they phone the next day and ask what it was going to be like in 50 years knowing the answer would be warmer. The IPCC tried to partly cover this by saying they were scenarios not forecasts. RealClimate the bullyboy protectors of CRU then claimed short-term forecasts were for weather but long term were for climate. This seemed to work but I knew it was nonsense because the climate is the average of the weather and therefore completely dependent upon the data and understanding of the mechanisms of weather.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Bin Laden ‘Apostles’ To Preach in U.K

Intel agents warn Britain ‘main attraction for extremist Islamics’

While Britain’s threat level remains at “severe” — the second highest alert that a terror attack is “highly likely” — hardline Muslim extremists who have been labeled by the intelligence services as “the apostles of bin Laden” are due to speak at the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff next month and at Birmingham University in March, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Jonathan Evans, the director of MI5, in a recent lecture at Bristol University, warned that Britain now is “the main attraction for extremist Islamic preachers.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Church of England Bishops Say EU is ‘Place for Elites’ That Needs to ‘Reduce Bureaucracy’

Senior Church of England bishops have made an unprecedented attack on the European Union, calling it an undemocratic and secretive bureaucracy that fails to understand the challenges facing the continent.

The prelates accuse officials in Brussels of seeing all problems in terms of the economy and ignoring the threats to society posed by immigration and the changing environment.

And they say that millions of pounds of public funds risk being wasted on redevelopment projects unless local people and religious groups are also involved to bring about “spiritual regeneration” of deprived areas.

It is the first time the Church’s leaders — by no means Eurosceptics — have made public such detailed criticism of the European institutions that govern much of life in Britain today.

The submission by the House of Bishops Europe Panel was published on Thursday in response to a document called EU 2020, a strategy to make the 27-state union a “smarter, greener social market” following the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty.

That policy, published in draft form by the European Commission in November, set out how the EU can recover from the financial crisis as well as improve education, low-carbon technology and the role of the European Parliament.

In reply the bishops, led by the Rt Rev Christopher Hill, the Bishop of Guildford, make a series of highly critical points about the EU itself and its remoteness from ordinary people.

They say: “The European institutional public sphere is largely a public discourse for elites, it is a sphere in which citizens remain uninvolved. This has in turn contributed to the EU’s democratic deficit.


The bishops say it is “disconcerting” that EU 2020 focuses on “exclusively economic” terms, even though recent upheaval has shown that the entire “fabric of our societies and economy was not sustainable”.

They claim “real and pressing” challenges facing Europe need to be considered, including “sustainable immigration policy” including its “impact on social cohesion”.

Although the bishops welcome the emphasis on preserving the environment in EU 2020, they point out that “just attaching greed words to new developments” is not good enough.

They agree that improving the skills of Europe’s workforce is important but claim a “fundamentally materialist” approach that ignores cultural and philosophical knowledge “cannot be sensible”.

The lesson of urban regeneration in Britain has been that “unless there is some ‘spiritual regeneration’ that is to say animation of the spirit of the local Community, the money will be wasted or fail to deliver the desired outcomes”.

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

Denmark: Romanian Traffickers Picked Up

Danish police have picked up suspected traffickers in Romania.

Four Romanian nationals suspected of trafficking women have been picked up by Danish police in Romania and are to be presented at a remand hearing in Copenhagen today.

The four have been under an Interpol warrant since November in connection with a human trafficking case in the Copenhagen neighbourhood of Vesterbro in which three other Romanians have already been detained.

According to the charges, at least eight women have been trafficked and forced into prostitution in Denmark. A Turkish man has also been remanded, charged with receiving the women in Denmark and forcing them onto the streets.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

EU-Funded Think Tanks Defend Their Credibility

UOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — The European Commission will in 2010 pay €6.7 million in subsidies to a group of think tanks and NGOs.

The grants cover 58 organisations, ranging from some of Brussels’ best known talking shops, such as Cafe Babel and the European Policy Centre (EPC), to niche bodies such as the European Paralympic Committee.

The top 10 recipients are: the Platform of European Social NGOs on €700,000; Notre Europe €605,000; the European Council on Refugees and Exiles €500,000; the European Movement International €430,000; Association Jean Monnet €250,000; the Council of European Municipalities and Regions €240,000; the Association of Local Democracy Agencies €209,000; the Lisbon Council €200,000; the Fundacion Academia Europea de Yuste €195,000 and Friends of Europe €192,000.

The money is part of a larger €30 million a year pot in the commission’s education and culture department, which pays for a scheme to promote “common values” and to get ordinary people interested in politics.

“I think it’s fair that an EU citizen should learn about the European Union of which he or she is a part. We make no apologies for explaining what the EU is about,” commission spokesman John Macdonald told EUobserver.

But for some, Brussels’ generosity is not so innocent.

“They are setting up their own committees claiming that these are independent think tanks when, in fact, they are cheerleaders for the EU,” Pieter Cleppe, from the British eurosceptic think tank, Open Europe, said.

“They do not question the EU to the extent they would if they were not being funded by it. That’s the whole point of the grants.”

Several of the beneficiaries, such as the European Movement International, Friends of Europe and the Union of European Federalists, have an openly pro-integration position. Just one, Statewatch, which gets 39 percent of its budget from the commission, is a devoted critic of the EU institutions.

Mr Cleppe’s allegations are potentially the most damaging for policy analysts, such as the EPC, the Centre for European Policy Studies (Ceps) or Notre Europe, whose reputation for objectivity is central to their work.

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

French Justice is EU Justice is Bent Justice

Yesterday Dominique de Villepin, the former French Prime Minister and current political rival to Nicholas Sarkozy, was cleared by three French judges of a conspiracy in 2004 to destroy Sarkozy’s career by linking him to illegal arms dealing. De Villepin walked out of court ‘not guilty.’

Within hours, Jean-Claude Marin, the state prosecutor, announced he intends to appeal the ‘not guilty’ verdict. He rejects the acquittal and intends to force de Villepin to undergo a second trial.

As de Villepin has already pointed out, the prosecutor is under ‘the hierarchical authority’ of the justice minister and the president: in other words, Sarkozy has engineered the appeal by the prosecutor. ‘The decision in a political decision,’ he says, motivated by Sarkozy’s hatred of him.

The hatred is certain. Just days after the month-long trial opened, the president went on television and referred to de Villepin and the other defendants as ‘guilty.’ In Britain, that sort of political interference could result in a mistrial — not to mention a prosecution for contempt of court.

Any decision to force a second trial — what then, with another ‘not guilty’ verdict, a third trial? — would clearly be unjust. But for us it is a handy decision. It illuminates just what passes for justice in France, the model for the ‘euro-justice’ under whose power the Lisbon Treaty has put us all.

Cut your way through the thickets of the treaty and you will see that, among many other things, the EU’s ‘Judicial Cooperation Unit,’ Eurojust — yes, I know, you’ve never heard of it — will gain the power to initiate investigations of British subjects and order arrests. All British vetoes in all areas of police and judicial cooperation are to be abolished. The treaty allows for the creation of a European Public Prosecutor — Monsieur Marin, perhaps — who could prosecute British subjects, indeed, prosecute them again and again. And more, and worse.

Go through de Villepin’s complaints against the second prosecution and you will note that there is no complaint against double jeopardy. Prosecutor Marin’s rejection of de Villepin’s acquittal shows that the system of what passes for justice on the Continent does not include a prohibition against double jeopardy: a man who has walked from a court with a ‘not guilty’ verdict can be tried straight away again on the same charge.

Of course, the ghastly Tony Blair did introduce double jeopardy in murder prosecutions in Britain (and he was wrong to do so). But even then, a second trial must depend on new evidence. Not in France, it seems. A man who is cleared of a charge by the courts can be taken straight back in on the same charge, with the same evidence, and be tried again, even if the charges are, as they seem to be in the de Villepin case, being manipulated by the servants of the President (or, The Dwarf, the name by which the willowy and well-bred Villepin dismisses the 5 feet 5 inch immigrant-offspring Sarkozy).

Any Briton can find himself in danger of being extradited to France and face just such double jeopardy, such serial prosecution, because the European law embraced by the Government gives virtually no protection against extradition to any EU jurisdiction.One can guess that British businessmen may be in particular danger of facing such charges as de Villepin did, linked as they were to names on a bank account.

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

Italy Launches New Anti-Mafia Plan

Code to gather laws, confiscation agency in Reggio

(ANSA) — Reggio Calabria, January 28 — Italy on Thursday unveiled a new anti-mafia plan putting together all current laws against organised crime and setting up a national agency to oversee seizures of assets from the Mob.

The cabinet met in Reggio Calabria, where the new agency is to be located, shrugging off recent threats from the Calabrian crime syndicate ‘Ndrangheta.

The plan, drafted by Interior Minister Roberto Maroni and Justice Minister Angelino Alfano, will collect and streamline all existing anti-mafia legislation.

“This new code can be used by all law enforcement groups to fight the mafia,” Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi told a press conference.

The plan will draw a national map of mafia assets, set up a new data base and stop organised crime infiltrating public tenders, he said.

“Firms will have a black list of companies so they know who not to sub-contract work to,” the premier said.

Maroni said the plan would also target illegal waste disposal, one of the mafia’s biggest earners, while Alfano said a state insurance net would be created for extortion victims.

But the cornerstone of the plan, Berlusconi stressed, will be the agency to control the seizure of assets from ‘Ndrangheta, as well as the Camorra in Naples and Cosa Nostra in Sicily.

Unlike the other measures, which were put into bills to be presented to parliament, the agency was established by decree, effective immediately.

It will be ready to start work “in two weeks”, Maroni said, stressing the importance of asset confiscation as “a fundamental tool” in the anti-mafia battle.

Asked about the possible danger of the mafia buying back assets at auction, Berlusconi replied: “We’ll seize them again”.

Berlusconi also stressed the importance of keeping the number of illegal immigrants in Italy down because “they swell the ranks of criminals”.

This prompted a sharp reaction from the opposition Democratic Party (PD), with PD Senate whip Anna Finocchiaro, among others, accusing the premier of criminalising migrants.

The premier also repeated his conviction that TV shows about the mafia were “hurting Italy’s image” and “this bad habit should be stopped”, prompting a Catholic TV viewers group, Aiart, to note that the premier’s Mediaset group had produced and broadcast two of the highest-rating recent shows including one on jailed ex-Cosa Nostra chief Toto’ ‘the Beast’ Riina.

In other reactions, National Anti-Mafia Prosecutor Pietro Grasso said he would discuss the merits of the plan when he had examined it, while the small opposition Communist Party accused the government of staging “a publicity stunt”. After the cabinet meeting, the premier met with Reggio prosecutors and said they “did not seem at all worried” about the recent ‘Ndrangheta threats.

‘Ndrangheta, now reckoned to be Italy’s strongest mafia, has sent three apparent warnings to the government ahead of the cabinet meeting.

The fire bombing of the entrance to the main courthouse in Reggio on January 3 was followed a week ago by the discovery of a car containing rudimentary explosives a few hundred metres from Italian President Giorgio Napolitano’s route to the airport after a visit to the city.

Then, on Monday, a bullet was sent to a Reggio prosecutor involved in key probes and trials against ‘Ndrangheta.

On his visit last Thursday, Napolitano said ‘Ndrangheta, which dominates Europe’s cocaine trade, was now “Italy’s most insidious breed of mafia”.

The government has cracked down hard on ‘Ndrangheta since the murder of a leading regional official in 2005, a vendetta massacre in Duisburg, Germany in 2007, recent race riots in the town of Rosarno and a stream of episodes of extortion and murder which have highlighted the mafia’s continuing local dominance.


Maroni said Thursday the new confiscation agency will be a “key in dismantling the economic power” of the mafia, which according to a survey Wednesday generates business equivalent to almost 10% of GDP, making it “Italy’s biggest private enterprise”.

Homes, farms and other assets confiscated from Italy’s mafias have been turned to public use in recent years including a Riina villa which has become the Corleone tax HQ.

On Wednesday police made the third of three recent massive assets seizures, totalling some 1.4 billion euros ($2 billion), against businessmen linked to Cosa Nostra head Matteo Messina Denaro, who took over command of the Sicilian mafia in the wake of the 2006 arrest of boss of bosses Bernardo Provenzano.

Asset seizures have also played a key role in the state’s fight against ‘Ndrangheta, including a Dolce Vita landmark cafe in Rome, and the Camorra, including numerous construction and waste management firms.

Italy has caught many mafiosi on the most-wanted list in the last two years.

Those arrested have included most of Provenzano’s would-be heirs and most of the remaining leaders of the Casalesi clan, exposed in Roberto Saviano’s book Gomorrah, whose jailed chieftains recently saw their life sentences upheld.

Several ‘Ndrangheta figures have also been caught including those responsible for the Duisburg massacre.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Fiat Confirms Shutdown of Sicilian Plant

Cheaper to pay workers not to produce, CEO says

(ANSA) — Rome, January 28 — Fiat’s chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne has confirmed that the automaker intends to leave its plant in Sicily and denied that he was seeking to ‘blackmail’ the government and unions by suspending production at all Italian plants for two weeks later this winter.

In an interview published by the Rome daily La Repubblica, Marchionne said that “in the future Fiat does not intend to use the Sicilian plant for any of its activities”.

Fiat announced in its latest restructuring plan that it intended to stop production at Termini Imerese and boost output at its other four plants in Italy.

Workers and unions have been protesting against the decision and the factory is currently at a standstill because employees will not allow supply trucks to enter the facility.

Fiat is shutting down the plant because of its excessive costs, said to add an additional 1,200 euros per vehicle, and Marchionne observed that “were we to pay our employees their full salaries until they reached retirement age and not produce a single car, we would come out ahead in the end. It’s a ridiculous situation”.

In regard to Fiat’s decision to suspend production in all its Italian plants the last week in February and first week in March, temporarily laying off some 30,000 workers, Marchionne said that “there should be no surprise about this. We have been saying for some time that without (government) incentives there would be consequences at the factories”.

When Fait announced the suspension on Tuesday, it added that should the government delay extending last year’s green ‘cash-for-clunkers’ trade-in initiatives, “production levels will continue to be adjusted to demand”. The automaker added that the suspension was needed because “after a positive period in the latter part of 2009, orders were drastically down in January, lower even than in the same month last year when the market crisis was acute”.

Unions, which are engaged in government-sponsored talks with Fiat on its restructuring plan, accused the automaker of trying to blackmail them, while the government said Fiat was “not helping matters” by taking such action.

Industry Minister Claudio Scajola said on Wednesday that the incentives the government was considering for the automobile sector would be reduced in terms of value and limited in regard to time, compared to those granted in 2009. Incentives, Scajola explained, “are a drug and in the long-term destabilise the market. This why we intend to offer less and for a shorter period of time. Their aim should be not just to renew the fleet of vehicles in the country but also to encourage safer and more fuel-efficient cars”. The minister also said that the government wanted to extend the incentive system to other sectors of the economy other than automobiles “which continue to suffer from the economic downturn”. According to Marchionne, without adequate incentives Fiat sales in Italy would fall from two million last year to 1.7 million in 2010.

The government has hinged its support for Fiat’s restructuring plan on the automaker’s pledge to boost domestic production from some 650,00 vehicles last year to upwards of 900,000.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Downloading Il Duce

Mussolini iPhone App Stirs Passions in Italy

The iMussolini app has become a top seller in Italy.

An iPhone application offering the speeches of the World War II dictator Benito Mussolini has become a bestseller in Italy. While the app’s creator defends it as a valuable historical tool, others claim it is glorifying fascism.

It’s just a simple iPhone application. But it has proven enough to trigger a raging debate in Italy. After all, the app happens to offer the full text of over 100 speeches by the country’s Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

After having been released on Jan. 21, the application, known as iMussolini, has rocketed to the second-place spot — behind a wallpaper application — on the Italian version of iTunes.

“This is really a flabbergasting phenomenon,” wrote one commentator Wednesday on the online version of the daily La Reppublica, “especially when you consider the fact that the iPhone has gained cult status for the Facebook and Web 2.0 generation. These aren’t nostalgic old people and historians of the fascist era but kids and young adults that spend time and money on the Internet and get their information from it.”

The application was created by Luigi Marino, a 25-year-old programmer from Naples. “It’s a delicate page in our history that should never be forgotten,” Marino told Bloomberg News, adding that he was “stunned by the success” of the application, which now gets more than 1,000 downloads a day at 79 euro cents ($1.11) a pop.

Marino is careful to point out that he did not intend for his creation to be used as a tool for glorifying Mussolini, who ruled as Italy’s “Duce” (leader) from 1922 until his death in 1945. But, he adds: “It’s not like you can’t find the materials I used online, at the newsstand or in the library.” To drive home the point, on Marino’s advertisement for the application, he writes: “I would like to make it clear that this history-related application does not celebrate fascism.”

‘Are We Insane?’

But whatever Marino’s intentions might have been, the application has taken on a life of its own. Users on the Web site, a blog dedicated to discussing related Apple products and applications, have written effusive comments such as “Sainthood now!” “Thanks for making an application on one of the greatest statesman in our history” and “Whoever doesn’t like this application can always go live in China.” Those that oppose the application respond with comments like “I’m going to puke,” “This is just unadulterated masturbation for fascist egos” and “Are we insane? Collecting the speeches of a dictator who ruined Italy?”

Marino is not thrilled about such pro-Mussolini comments, many of which can also be found in the comments section attached to the application’s iTunes store page. On his advertisement for the application, he asks “all users to avoid making inappropriate comments that glorify fascism and advocate crimes” and urges people to “avoid turning a history-related application into an opportunity for useless ideological clashes that are completely out of place.”

He adds that he has asked Apple to remove such remarks from the comments page, but that it has yet to act. The Corriera della Sera newspaper notes that the Italian version of Apple’s application store says that comments are blocked using an automatic keyword-identification system, adding that “obviously none of the words used on the iMussolini program are on the black list.”

For now, though, Marino can be happy that he gets 70 percent of sales revenues. “In the meantime, I’d like to make some improvements to iMussolini suggested by users,” Marino told La Repubblica, “and I’m thinking of making similar applications. But to avoid any scandals, perhaps they will be about people like Gandhi.”


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

Italy: New Mosque ‘Attacked by Vandals ‘ in Tuscany

Siena, 28 Jan. (AKI) — Italy’s second biggest mosque being built in the picturesque region of central Tuscany has been attacked by vandals, a local imam has claimed. Construction of the mosque at Colle Val d’Elsa in the province of Siena is almost complete except for the mosque’s decorations, local imam Ezzedin El-Zir, told Adnkronos International (AKI).

El-Zir told AKI that he and other local Muslim leaders had pressed ahead with building of the mosque and Islamic centre despite attacks by vandals.

But police told local media that thieves not vandals had entered the building site and stolen the mosque’s electrical wiring system and drainpipes.

The thieves took advantage of poor security at the site, police said.

“We are waiting for new permits to resume building work and by the middle of this year the mosque will be completed,” said El-Zir.

He disputed police claims that thieves had entered the building site.

“We are convinced that vandals did attack the mosque because they broke a lamp post and guttering,” he said.

“But this episode does not discourage us from taking forward dialogue with all groups in the province of Siena,” he said.

At the same time he called for more security at the new mosque.

Mosque building has proved a contentious issue in Italy, especially in high-immigrant northern regions such as Veneto and Milan and its surrounding areas.

There is only one official mosque in Italy, the Rome Mosque and Islamic Centre.

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

Netherlands: Illegals Escorted to Four-Star Hotel

VLAARDINGEN, 29/01/10 — A group of foreign workers has been brought to a four-star hotel after being removed by the police in Vlaardingen from illegal accommodation, De Telegraaf reported yesterday.

The 10 men, who are working in the port of Rotterdam as welders, painters and cleaners, have for some time been living in empty business premises on De Vergulde Hand industrial estate. By order of Mayor Tjerk Bruinsma, the police raided the premises after a tipoff on their illegal habitation. The men turned out to have Greek and Turkish nationality.

Bruinsma considered that replacement accommodation must be found immediately. They were booked into a four-star hotel in Spijkenisse.

Who is to pay the hotel bill is not yet clear. Whether it is possible to claw back the costs from the owner of the premises where the men were sleeping is under investigation, because he is considered responsible for allowing the illegal habitation.

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

Pope and Antipope. The Strange Case of the Administrative Elections in Rome and the Region

Running for governor of Lazio is Emma Bonino, who has always been an unflagging adversary of the Church. Many of the Catholic clergy and laity support her, and the hierarchy is giving her free rein. One secular intellectual is rebelling, and making accusations

ROME, January 28, 2010 — More than half a century after that long ago 1952, and in both cases with administrative elections around the corner, the diocese of the pope is today presented with the same threat: that its civil government may fall into enemy hands.

But the Church’s reactions today appear much different than they did then.

In 1952, the pope and the Vatican authorities, in a state of high alarm, swung into action in person. Fearing the electoral victory, right under the Vatican walls, of communists and socialists who at the time were closely connected to the empire of Moscow, Pius XII ordered the Catholic party — Democrazia Cristiana, led by Alcide De Gasperi, whose beatification cause is underway — to enter an alliance with the parties of the far right in a civic list headed by the elderly priest Luigi Sturzo — also on his way to the glory of the altar — and actively supported by Catholic Action and its civic committees.

De Gasperi refused. In the administrative elections in Rome, he held firm the alliance with the secular centrist parties, the same alliance he was in as prime minister of Italy. And the numbers proved him right. The communists and socialists were defeated in Rome.

Nonetheless, Pius XII punished De Gasperi for disobedience, refusing to receive him in audience with his wife and daughter Lucia, on the occasion of their thirtieth wedding anniversary and their daughter’s religious vows.


Today the political landscape is dramatically different in Italy. Democrazia Cristiana is gone. The Catholics have been dispersed through all the parties. The national government is headed by Silvio Berlusconi, the leader who on life, the family, and education is the leader closest to the Church’s expectations. The government of the Lazio region, and therefore of the pope’s diocese, is held by a leftist administration, the distant and faded heir of the defunct communist party.

In recent months, this administration has suffered a heavy blow from the resignation of its president, Giuseppe Marrazzo, undone by sordid indiscretions involving transsexuals and cocaine. Without an alternative candidate of their own, in order to retake the government of Lazio in the regional elections that will be held in two months the leftist parties have agreed to support an external and independent presidential candidate, a symbol of the most extreme anti-Catholic radicalism, Emma Bonino (in the photo).

Emma Bonino is a veteran of “human rights.” But among these “rights” — which she defended as a member of the European Commission — she has always included abortion, euthanasia, homosexual marriage, drug decriminalization, in short the entire panoply of what John Paul II called the “culture of death.” Since the 1970’s, a video has been circulated showing her proudly performing an abortion on a woman using a tin can and a bicycle pump.

So how is the Church reacting to this challenge represented by the Bonino candidacy? Certainly not as it did in 1952. In part because today it is unthinkable that the pope should personally dictate to Catholics a specific political “mechanism” for confronting the danger.

In the Church as well, in fact, as in the political realm, many things have changed since then. The Italian Church no longer has a Catholic party of reference. It moves freely across the whole political landscape. Its battle is for a “culture guided by Christianity.” And thanks to this freedom and enterprise, it is sometimes able to be more influential in the public sphere than it was in the past. This is the Ruini model, from the name of the cardinal who led the bishops’ conference for sixteen years, until 2007.

If and how this model is working today, in the Bonino case, is a matter of heated discussion.


The discussion was ignited by an intellectual who does not belong to the Church, but for years has been a vigorous apologist for the vision of Karol Wojtyla, Joseph Ratzinger, and Camillo Ruini: Giuliano Ferrara, director of the opinion newspaper “il Foglio.”

For him, the spark came from an article — harshly critical of Bonino — published on January 20 in “Avvenire,” the newspaper of the Catholic bishops’ conference. Domenico Delle Foglie, the author of the article, is a prominent Catholic who organized the “Family Day” for the bishops two years ago, and directs the website “Più voce. Cattolici in rete.” He is a former deputy director of “Avvenire,” and last autumn was nearly at the point of being asked to direct the paper, in the place of the outgoing Dino Boffo and in continuity with him, as a dyed-in-the-wool Ruini follower.

But even before Delle Foglie wrote his article, in the main party of the Italian left, the Partito Democratico, Bonino’s candidacy had divided the Catholics who are part of it. Two of them, Renzo Lusetti and Enzo Carra, had abandoned the party, judging it no longer inhabitable. But others, like Franco Marini and Maria Pia Garavaglia, had hailed the Bonino candidacy, even recommending her as “capable of issues and initiatives that are at the heart of Catholic voters.”

Against these “submissive” and “deluded” Catholics, Delle Foglie wrote that Bonino instead embodies at least three serious dangers.

The first is symbolic: a “slap in the face to the Christian community” on the part of “a representative of militant animosity toward the Christian vision of man and the world.”

The second danger is that, if she should win, newly elected president Bonino would go to work making Lazio “a laboratory for all the zapaterisms,” from the name of the ultra-secularist Spanish prime minister.

The third is the “ultimate hypocrisy” that Bonino has already demonstrated during the electoral campaign, when she has promised to work “with and for Catholics,” although she has spent her entire life fighting against the Church.

So, the day after the publication of this article in “Avvenire,” on the front page of “il Foglio” Ferrara completely endorsed what Delle Foglie had written. But at the same time, he lashed out against the bishops’ newspaper for burying the article on page 11, for downplaying it as the personal opinion of the writer, essentially for showing timidity in addressing a question that has nothing to do with urban planning or other debatable business, but those supreme principles defined by the pope himself as “non-negotiable.”

In short, Ferrara concluded, alluding to what the Church did in 1952 and before: “Better the Civic Committees of the past than the timid ‘Avvenire’ of today.”


The following day, Ferrara got a reply from “Avvenire” director Marco Tarquinio. And Ferrara responded back twenty-four hours later, confirming his criticisms. Meanwhile, however, “il Foglio” had done something else. It had sent one of its top journalists, Marianna Rizzini, to explore the dioceses of the Lazio region in order to hear what its priests and faithful think about the Bonino candidacy.

The response of the first diocese surveyed, Viterbo, was unrelenting. The title: “Grassroots Church with Emma. Survey in Viterbo. Catholic opinion firmly, sometimes fervently, in favor of the pro-abortion, pro-divorce, pro-euthanasia candidate, who has called the embryo ‘an inert lump’. Objections rare, and timid.”

In effect, in Marianna Rizzini’s report from Viterbo, the only ones who opposed Bonino were the “missionaries” of the Movement for Life, who dedicate their lives to seeing that children are born, not aborted.

The second report, from the diocese of Frosinone, was hardly more encouraging.


At this point, the bishops entered the fray. The first, Angelo Bagnasco, is the cardinal who replaced Ruini as president of the bishops’ conference. In his introductory address for the winter session of the CEI on January 25, Bagnasco said he had this “dream”:

“I would like this session to contribute to the emergence of a new generation of Italians and of Catholics who, while being part of the struggle of today’s culture and equipping themselves to inhabit it sensibly, feel that the republic is something important and exalted, since it is capable of marking the destiny of all, and who for its sake are willing to give the best of their thoughts, their plans, their days. Italians and believers who feel their responsibility before God as decisive in political activity.”

And again…

English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.

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

Scotland: Anthrax Drug Deaths Rise to Nine

The number of drug addicts who have died in Scotland after being infected with anthrax has risen to nine.

Health Protection Scotland said tests had confirmed the infection in a heroin user who had died in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area on 12 December.

This would make it the earliest death connected to anthrax although it is the latest to be diagnosed.

Investigations continue into whether contaminated heroin or a contaminated cutting agent may be to blame.

The outbreak began with the identification of cases in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde in December.

So far, the total number of confirmed cases is 18, across six Scottish health boards.

Health Protection Scotland said this represented the first known outbreak of anthrax to have occurred in the country in conjunction with drug use.

The head of the outbreak control team, Dr Colin Ramsay, said: “No drug samples tested to date have shown anthrax contamination, although a number of other types of potentially harmful bacteria have been found.

“It must therefore be assumed that all heroin in Scotland carries the risk of anthrax contamination and users are advised to cease taking heroin by any route if at all possible.

“While we appreciate that this may be extremely difficult advice for users to follow, it remains the only public health protection advice possible based on current evidence.”

Dr Ramsay said filters would not make heroin safe for drug users.

Symptoms of infection include swelling, redness, abscesses or ulcers on skin where the needle has entered, often with septicaemia.

Anthrax is a deadly bacterial infection which occurs mostly in animals in Asia and Africa.

Humans are seldom infected and it is extremely rare for anthrax to be spread from person to person.

           — Hat tip: 4symbols[Return to headlines]

UK: Siddique Terror Conviction Quashed on Appeal

Appeal Court judges have overturned the conviction of a man branded a “wannabe suicide bomber” by prosecutors.

Mohammed Atif Siddique, 24, a student from Alva, Clackmannanshire, was convicted of terrorism charges in 2007.

But Lord Osborne said some directions given to the jury by the trial judge were a “material misdirection” and amounted to a “miscarriage of justice”.

Siddique will remain in custody until 9 February, when the Crown will say if it wants to seek a fresh prosecution.

The shopkeeper’s son was convicted in October 2007 after a four-week trial in Glasgow.

He was found guilty of two charges under the Terrorism Act 2000, one under the Terrorism Act 2006 and a breach of the peace.

The most serious charge related to the possession of articles that gave rise to “reasonable suspicion” they were connected to terrorism.

The jury found Siddique had amassed and distributed terrorist propaganda via websites and provided instructional material about guns and explosives over the internet.

His conviction on that allegation resulted in a six-year prison term.

The Crown Office will indicate at the next hearing in February if it wants to seek a fresh prosecution in relation to the terror charge.

A spokeswoman said: “We note the decision of the appeal court and will be considering the judgement.”

Giving the appeal judges’ decision, Lord Osborne criticised the way the trial judge explained the main Terrorist Act charge to the jury.

The judge, sitting with Lords Reed and Clarke in Edinburgh, said the misdirection amounted to “a miscarriage of justice”.

His family has always insisted he was not a terrorist and was made a scapegoat by the legal system.

Siddique also protested his innocence throughout, claiming that when he downloaded material from the internet he was motivated only by curiosity. He denied he was planning a terrorist attack.

During his appeal hearing last summer, defence lawyers argued that much of the material in his possession was widely available on the internet.

Defence QC Donald Findlay described the Terrorism Acts as “draconian” and advocate depute Derek Ogg QC, for the Crown, admitted that the legislation was “controversial”.

The charges followed Siddique’s arrest in April 2006 as he waited to board a plane to Pakistan.

Siddique’s lawyer Aamer Anwar said he would be making no comment until after the conclusion of the proceedings on 9 February.

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

Mediterranean Union

Human Rights: Freedom of Association Worsens in Med, NGO

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JANUARY 28 — These are dark times for the freedom to associate in the south shore countries of the Mediterranean. National legislative bodies continue, in reality, to impose limits and human rights activists are strictly controlled. The situation was outlined in 10 countries on the south shore, Turkey and the EU in the most recent report of the Euro-Mediterranean Human rights Network (EMHRN), which joins 80 NGOs, and which presented its publication today in Brussels. “Since the first report in 2007,” explained Wahid Al Asmar, EMHRN vice-president, “we have only been able to ascertain that the freedom of association has taken steps backward in the Euro-Mediterranean region, with a few exceptions. The worsening of this situation is backed up by the facts, except in Lebanon, where progress needs to be institutionalised, and in Morocco, where unfortunately the progress made does not involve the organisations that are openly for Berber people or the Western Sahara. According to the report, the worst situation on the south shore is in Libya, the country with the most strict rules: in fact, in Libya groups that have ideas that are contrary to the revolution are banned. Examples of violent political repression are not lacking, with aggressions and intimidation. This is also the case in Tunisia in the months leading up to the October 2009 election, or in Syria, with the arrest in July of Mohanad Al-Hassani, the President of the Syrian Organization for Human rights (Sawasiah), which monitors the prison conditions in the country. Worrying human rights NGOs in the region are also announcements of modifications to laws in Algeria and Egypt, which are moving in an even more restrictive direction with respect to the current situation, which is already severe. In Jordan, new legislation is considered disappointing because it imposes to many limits on the right to associate: it does not only call for authorisation for associations to be created, but also for all possible activities, which is contrary to all international standards. A separate case, explained the report, is The Palestinian Territories, where, despite a modern legislative framework, political issues and security override public freedom. In Israel, NGOs are worried about an increase in attacks against the rights and civil liberties of Palestinians and Israelis, in particular by the war in Gaza in December of 2008. Moving further east, Turkey still must overcome problems with its minority populations, especially the Kurds, while in the EU, in general, the situation is widely considered positive. Today in Brussels another appeal will be made for EU institutions to establish a Euro-Mediterranean network human rights delegation, requested to “closely follow the evolution of laws in Mediterranean countries,” said the EMHRN vice-president, “so that they put the issue of intimidating and violating the rights of human rights defenders at the centre of bilateral and multilateral relations between the EU and Mediterranean countries.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: In 10 Years, 29,000 Children Without Families

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JANUARY 28 — Some 29,000 Algerian children have been left without a family over the last ten years. So said the minister of National Solidarity and the Family, Djamel Ould Abbes, to journalists on the sidelines of a session in Parliament. Out of the 29,000 children without a family or who were born out of wedlock, said Abbes, quoted by APS, some 21,000 have been put in the care of families in Algeria or Algerians abroad. He added that a further 3,000 children, most of whom have mental or physical handicaps, were placed into specialist centres. According to the minister, some 3,000 children are born out as a result of extra-marital affairs every year. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egyptian Christian Framed in Sexual Assault Case

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — The drive-by shooting of Coptic Christians by extremist Muslims after celebrating the Orthodox Christmas Eve midnight Mass in the southern town of Nagaa Hammadi on January 6, causing the killing of 6 and wounding of 9, (AINA 1-7-2010) was condemned by public opinion worldwide.

To contain the damage of tarnishing the “image” of Egypt and to minimize the repercussions of the massacre, government spin doctors tried to condition public opinion into believing and accepting the scenario set out by State Security that the killing was “criminal and individual” rather than a “sectarian” affair.

Egypt’s Interior Ministry said the Nag Hammadi attack was a retaliation for the sexual assault of a Muslim girl by the Christian man Girgis Baroumi Girgis in the town of Farshout last November. This alleged rape crime was used by security officials, politicians, and the media to justify attacks against Copts in Farshout last November and in Nag Hammadi .

Surprisingly, Prosecutor-general Adbel Meguid Mahmoud, also came out linking the killing to the rape.

Egyptian police arrested three suspects responsible for the Christmas Eve shootings, Mohamed el-Kamony, Korshy Aly and Hendawy Hassan, who are registered criminals. Habib el-Adly, Minister of Interior, said on January 24, in an interview on the Egyptian TV programme “City Talk” that el-Kamony is a hired killer, but “he got so upset about the rape and the videos of nude Muslim girls with Christian men, that it triggered the shooting urge in him.”

Mustafaal-Sayyed, professor of political science at Cairo, University believes that the theory of a revenge killing does not hold because the three men charged with the killings are not relatives of the raped girl. “Why would they choose to shoot at Copts on their Christmas eve?” he asked.

Renowned activist Fathi Farid told Coptic News in an aired interview on January 19 the authorities are trying to make a scapegoat out of Baroumi to justify the violations against the Copts in Egypt. “If they can prove that Girgis is guilty then they can say that what happened on Christmas Eve is a reaction to what he did.”

On November 18, 2009, the 21-year-old Girgis Baroumi Girgis, a poultry vendor from Kom al-Ahmar village, near Farshout, was accused by the 12-year-old Muslim girl Yusra Abdelwahab from the neighboring village of al-Shukeifi , of sexually assaulting her. Claims of the assault led to several days of unrest in the area caused by hundreds of Muslim protesters looting and burning Christian property. State Securiy also forced the eviction of 160 Christians from Baroumi’s village (AINA 11-22-2009, 11-23-2009).

Girgis has been detained since last November but not charged and the forensic report of the assault was never published, which some observers say means no evidence could be found against him.

At very short notice Girgis Baroumi’s trial began on January 17, at the Qena Criminal Court, nearly 600 kilometers (370 miles) south of Cairo. Shocked and crying incessantly during the whole session, Girgis kept on pleading “Sir, I need a lawyer.” He denied committing the crime. His Muslim defense lawyer had to withdraw at the very last minute, and no other lawyer agreed to defend him, when the presiding judge asked the lawyers present. The case had to be postponed until January 19 to find a lawyer.

As a result, the Egyptian Organization for Anti- Discrimination and Defense of Children’s Rights (EGHR) issued a statement that together with the American Coptic Friendship Association, it will be taking over the defense of Girgis Baroumi Girgis to counteract the “interference of State Security in the role of the judiciary and their efforts to influence it.” It also condemned the biased media and the intervention of some security heads to pressure any lawyer considering defending Baroumi.

Two of the EGHR members, Ashraf Edward and Saeed Abdelmassih, volunteered to defend Baroumi and attended the court session on January 19.

Ashraf Edward said they traveled from Cairo “under great secrecy for safety reasons and because they feared that State Security might delay them from appearing in court.”

“The Lawyers’ Syndicate in Qena refused to assign a lawyer, and Coptic lawyers are under great pressure and are terrorized by the State Security,” said Saeed Abdelmassih. “If Ashraf Edward had not volunteered to defend him, the situation would have been critical.”

The judge adjourned the trial until 17 February.

“The State Security is telling us lawyers that whatever your religion or inclinations are, you are not able to defend one defendant, to the extent that not one lawyer had the courage to attend, so we had to get a lawyer from Cairo,” commented Abdelmassih bitterly.

News media reported that a defense team of 25 lawyers, headed by Islamist lawyer Mohamed el Wahsh, have volunteered to defend the killer el-Kamony.

Talaat Sadat, MP and a vehement critic of the government said on the Cairo Today talk show that the allegedly raped Yousra was never a virgin, but was previously “used”. He was voicing rumors that Yusra has previously been raped by one of her relatives, and that is the reason behind the case remaining unresolved since November. Many activists believe that State Security manufactured evidence against Baroumi to make their case against him stick to justify their interpretation of the massacre of Nag Hammadi.

According to Abdelmassih forensics only examined the girl and said she was not virgin, but said nothing of when she had lost her virginity. They omitted examining Baroumi altogether. A difference existed between the police and the prosecution reports. In the preliminary police report the girl and her father said there was ‘an attempt’ on the part of Girgis to take her clothes off. “All this changed went it went to the prosecution; instead of the matter being ‘taking off clothes’ it changed to sexual intercourse.”

He said that what was more surprising was that the investigating officer validated the incident based on what a 12-year-old said, without even one witness.

Girgis Baroumi’s lawyers requested a forensic specialist to examine 12-year-old girl Yusra and conduct a new interview with the officer who filed the police report.

“We have Inconsistencies in statements, not one single evidence, and no lawyer was present during investigations of the prosecution, because lawyers were afraid to attend to defend a citizen,” said Abdelmassih.

Public opinion in Egypt became so conditioned that Baroumi is guilty before being tried, and the majority are calling for the death penalty to be applied in his case, said most of those interviewed.

EGHR called upon the Egyptian Lawyers’ Syndicate to form a committee to monitor the conduct of the investigations in the Baroumi case, as it did previously during the case of the Veil Martyr Marwa El-Sherbini.

“Girgis Baroumi is a victim of circumstances which has led him to stand trial before the court and the community at the same time,” said his defense attorney Ashraf Edward.

[Return to headlines]

Hamas Military Commander ‘Assassinated in Dubai’

A senior Hamas military commander has been assassinated by Israel in Dubai, the Palestinian Islamist group claims.

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, 50, a founder of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, “died a martyr on 20 January in suspicious circumstances”, a statement said.

Hamas gave no further details, but vowed to “retaliate for this Zionist crime at the appropriate moment”.

An Israeli government spokesman would not comment, in line with Israel’s usual policy on similar allegations.

The AFP news agency reports that the authorities in Dubai have identified several European passport holders as suspects.

Thousands of people attended Mr Mabhouh’s funeral at the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, on the outskirts of Damascus, on Friday.

His coffin was wrapped in a Hamas flag and a large portrait was placed at the entrance to the mosque with the words: “Your fingerprints are everywhere. We promise to continue in your path.”

‘Close to leader’

A Hamas political bureau member in Damascus, Izzat al-Rishq, told the BBC that Mr Mabhouh, who had been living in Syria since 1989, had been very close to its exiled political leader, Khaled Meshaal.

“Mabhouh died a martyr in Dubai on 20 January 2010 in suspicious circumstances that require an inquiry in co-operation with the United Arab Emirates authorities,” Hamas said in a statement.

“We in Hamas hold the Zionist enemy responsible for the criminal assassination of our brother, and we pledge to God and to the blood of the martyrs and to our people to continue his path of jihad and martyrdom,” it added.

Hamas has not given details of how he was killed, but Mr Mabhouh’s family said medical teams that examined him determined that he had died in his hotel room after receiving a massive electric shock to the head. They also found evidence that he had been strangled.

Blood samples sent to a French laboratory confirmed he was killed by electric shock, after which the body was sent to Damascus, they added.


Hamas said Mahmoud al-Mabhouh had been responsible for the abduction in 1989 of two Israeli soldiers, who were both later killed.

Sgt Avi Sasportas and Sgt Ilan Sa’adon were seized a few months apart as they hitchhiked from military bases to their homes during the first Palestinian Intifada.

Sgt Sasportas’s body was discovered a year later, close to where he was picked up as he went home to Ashdod. Sgt Sa’adon’s body was not recovered for seven years.

Mr Mabhouh also masterminded a number of other attacks, for which the Israeli authorities demolished his home in Gaza, Hamas said.

He spent several periods in Israeli custody. After his last release, “he spent his life being hounded by the Zionist occupier until he succeeded in leaving the Gaza Strip,” it said.

“Our brother had been a target for the occupier ever since his participation in the kidnapping operation against the two Zionist soldiers, and for his role and support for the resistance.”

History of assassinations

The Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades have carried out hundreds of attacks and suicide bombings targeting Israeli troops and civilians.

These include launching rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, the main reason the Israeli military gave for launching a 22-day offensive on Gaza in December 2008, which left about 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.

Hamas’s charter effectively calls for the destruction of Israel, although its leaders have more recently said they would consider a long-term ceasefire in exchange for a state on the land Israel occupied in 1967.

Israel has a long history of assassination operations targeting militants. Most famously, in 1987 in Tunisia, agents killed Abu Jihad, the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s military leader.

But in 1997, one mission went wrong, when two agents were arrested in Jordan after attempting to poison Mr Meshaal and Israel was forced to hand over an antidote by the US government.

More recently, Israel denied that it was behind the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, the military commander of the Lebanese Shia militant group, Hezbollah, in Damascus in 2008.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Human Rights: HRW Calls Situation in Algeria ‘Very Serious’

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JANUARY 28 — Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called the human rights situation in Algeria “very serious”, where for 18 years a state of emergency has been in force and harsh restrictions remain on civil society and the press. Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW chief for the Middle East and North Africa, said that “in Algeria political violence has decreased since 1999, when President Bouteflika took power. Though today Algerians enjoy greater physical security, they are instead less free to criticise and speak out against government policies.” “The authorities prohibit demonstrations and even seminars organised by human rights organisations,” on the basis of the state of emergency in place since 1992, according to the association’s 2010 Report published on its website. “The families of the thousands of Algerians ‘disappeared’ by those acting on the state’s behalf during the political conflict of the 1990s,” continued HRW, “have received little or no information on what has happened to their relatives.” Harshly criticised is also the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation drawn up on the request of President Bouteflika in 2006 in the attempt to leave the period of terrorism in the country behind. It is a law “which supplied a judicial framework to grant de facto impunity to those behind ‘disappearances’ and other atrocities committed in the 1990s” and made into a criminal act “criticism of the state over the way in which it handled the violence of the period”. Moreover, concluded the association, “like in the case of Morocco and Tunisia, journalists have risked jail sentences due to laws hindering freedom of expression and providing for penal sanctions for defamation.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Appeal Trial Today for One of the Two Swiss Nationals

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, JANUARY 28 — Max Goeldi, one of the two Swiss business men sentenced to 16 months in jail for “illegally residing” in Libya, has been summoned to appear before the Court of Appeals today, while on January 31 the tribunal will be examining the position of the other Swiss national sentenced alongside him, Rachid Hamdani, who appeared in the Court of Appeals on Sunday. In a statement to the press, the lawyer of the two men, Salah Zahaf, said that his clients had decided to go to court “because they had received guarantees from the Gaddafi Foundation” under Seif Al Islam, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son. The two Swiss nationals in Tripoli are also making use of German mediation. Diplomatic sources in Libya have confirmed that Max Goeldi will also be escorted to the court today by diplomats from the German embassy in Tripoli. The two, who sought refuge in the Swiss embassy, have been in Libya since July 19 and received their first sentence — to 16 months — on November 30. Goeldi and Hamdani were arrested in Libya after the arrest of Hannibal Gaddafi, one of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s sons, and his wife Aline in a Geneva hotel on July 15 after one of their maids accused them of maltreatment. The two were released shortly thereafter. Since then, relations between Tripoli and Bern have been strained despite the apology to the Libyan government on August 20 by the President of the Swiss Confederation Hans-Rudolf Merz.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Niqab is Not a Religious Obligation, Al Azhar Confirms

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 27 — Today the Islamic research council of Al Azhar confirmed that wearing the niqab is not obligatory and has nothing to do with the Islamic precepts for women’s dress, according to internal sources at the highest level of the Sunni academy at the end of a meeting of the council, which lasted for about two hours. The university pointed to a sentence of the Constitutional Court in 1996, which confirmed the ban on niqabs in schools by the Minister of Education, and stressed that Islam prescribes for women to preserve their decency. In 2004, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, said that the veil covering only the hair (hijab) should be considered a religious obligation for Muslim women, who still must adapt to the laws of the foreign country in which they live. The case of the niqab is different, since the same authority at Al Azhar said in October that it has nothing to do with religion and was banned in schools associated with the institution, but solely in the presence of only women. A ban that was suspended yesterday by the administrative court of Cairo, a sentence to which an appeal has already been announced. However, the appeal of the administrative court in Cairo already definitively overturned the niqab ban in universities issued by the Superior Education Ministry, also in the presence of men. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Dershowitz Critiques Goldstone Report

Just as Israel prepares to rebut a report condemning its military offensive in Gaza last winter, Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz is charging the authors of the Goldstone Report with basing their conclusions on biased evidence and flawed analyses.

In a 49-page critique, “The Case Against the Goldstone Report: A Study in Evidentiary Bias,” Dershowitz accuses the Goldstone Commission of employing different criteria in assessing evidence against Israel and Hamas.

“They skew it one way against Israel and another way against Hamas,” Dershowitz told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Amil Imani: The Islamic Republic of Torture, Rape & Murder

Rape in prison is a cruel invasion of the helpless victim. In addition to its physical torment and transmission of sexual diseases, rape reduces the victim to a subhuman status—an object for the use of others to be discarded when no longer desired. Most civilized countries sternly guard against rapes and sexual assaults in prison, although with less than complete success. Under the barbaric rule of the Mullahcracy in Iran, sexual assaults have become instruments of policy for extracting false confessions, satisfying the boundless sadisms and sexual perversities of the jailers, punishing the helpless victim and leaving him with the sense of dehumanization.

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani[Return to headlines]

Diana West: is Iraq the “New Iran”?

“The real danger in Iraq is Iran. It controls Iraq with a firm fist.” So said Iraqi parliamentarian Ayad Jamal Aldin to last month in London. “It was through (Grand Ayatollah Ali) al-Sistani that Iran was able to invade Iraq.”

“Could you please elaborate on that?” I asked Aldin this week in Washington, D.C., where the leader of the new anti-corruption Ahrar Party was making the rounds. This point — that post-Saddam, post-surge Iraq (initial thanks to top cleric and Iranian citizen al-Sistani) is effectively a satellite of Iran — goes against the victory-narrative of the policymakers and pundits who have urged the Obama administration to repeat mistakes the United States made in Iraq again in Afghanistan.

The answer (through an interpreter) was a chilling geopolitical lesson taught from the perspective of an Iraqi Shiite cleric from Najaf, who, from the beginning, as I reported in 2003, has called for the separation of religion and state in Iraq. An amalgam of apparent contradictions difficult to unravel in one interview — Aldin is considered pro-Western but would support the anti-Western objectives of the Arab League (including the boycott of pro-Western Israel); says “people need nightclubs” even as he believes alcohol consumption “undoubtedly leads one to Hell;” wears the black turban of those who claim descent from Muhammad and penny loafers — Aldin is nonetheless an insightful, implacable opponent of Iranian influence in Iraq, which, as he describes it, is in full and malevolent ascendance.

First things first: Aldin is grateful to the United States for removing Saddam Hussein. This was a boon, he says, not just for Iraq but for humanity. But due to the U.S. backing “the Iranian men,” the net American effect has been to create “a new Iran — Iraq — with its capital in Baghdad.”

For example, think back to the big Iraqi oil auction last year — a bust for U.S. oil companies. Aldin explains their being empty-handed with a question: “Is there any U.S. oil business in Iran? No.” He continues: “Iraq is the second Iran. The difference between the two is that the new Iran is supported and defended by the U.S. The old Iran is boycotted and sanctioned by the U.S.” But there’s “no meaning” to such measures because more than the notorious Iranian terror-bank Bank Melli operates in Iraq. A multitude of Iranian banking concerns, he says, operate freely in Iraq under Iraqi names.

Do they laugh at us over things like this? I asked. “No,” he replied. “People think the U.S. must be in some big conspiracy.” In other words, we just couldn’t be as dumb as we really are.

What about China and Russia, the big winners in the oil auction?…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Saudis to Regulate ‘Chaotic Fatwas’

Saudi authorities are planning to regulate the issuance of Islamic rulings by limiting the number of people allowed to formulate religious decrees.

The plan is currently being discussed by the Higher Council of Religious Scholars and could be implemented as early as next month.

“If the Saudi authorities regulate the fatwa industry, it will reduce the amount of extreme fatwas and it will send a positive message to those who are irresponsible and unaccountable with their fatwas,” Dr. Khalil Al-Khalil, a former Saudi member of parliament and an expert on Islamic trends, told The Media Line. “It will send them a message that they are not doing the right thing.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sharia’s Dominion

[Two books argue that repression, cruelty, and fear are central to Islam]

A God Who Hates: The Courageous Woman Who Inflamed the Muslim World Speaks Out Against the Evils of Islam, by Wafa Sultan (St. Martin’s, 256 pp., $24.99)

Cruel and Usual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law, by Nonie Darwish (Thomas Nelson, 288 pp., $24.99)

As American citizens and officials engage in a muddled public debate about how to deal with indicted Fort Hood murderer Malik Hasan and his ilk, they would do well to consult these two books, which examine the Islamic system in practice.”A God Who Hates” explores the nature of Islam, viewed through Wafa Sultan’s personal experiences growing up in Syria, working there as a doctor, and then immigrating to the United States, where she became a psychiatrist.

“Cruel and Usual Punishment” published early last year, is the second book by Nonie Darwish, the daughter of an Egyptian officer killed by the Israelis in the 1950s. Her first, “Now They Call Me Infidel”, offered extensive autobiographical detail; the more recent book is an in-depth probe of what she sees as key problematic aspects of Islam.

Both Sultan and Darwish document how traditional Islamic law, or sharia, underpins Islamic life. Darwish argues that under Islam’s golden period of conquest and imperial rule, sharia’s most important aspect was “total control of the large and diverse Muslim empire-everyone’s behavior, loyalty, mind and even soul.” The system was all-encompassing and punishments were strict, but the caliphs, or rulers, were exempt from penalty for theft, adultery, killing, or drinking; in addition, they alone could have an unlimited number of wives. Their subjects were not allowed to revolt against them unless the caliphs acted in an “un-Islamic” way. Indeed, the fate of the learned imams who had written the sharia law demonstrated the extent of the caliphs’ immunity: they all wound up imprisoned, punished, exiled, or poisoned.

[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghan Men Struggle With Sexual Identity, Study Finds

An unclassified study from a military research unit in southern Afghanistan details how homosexual behavior is unusually common among men in the large ethnic group known as Pashtuns — though they seem to be in complete denial about it.

As if U.S. troops and diplomats didn’t have enough to worry about in trying to understand Afghan culture, a new report suggests an entire region in the country is coping with a sexual identity crisis.

An unclassified study from a military research unit in southern Afghanistan details how homosexual behavior is unusually common among men in the large ethnic group known as Pashtuns — though they seem to be in complete denial about it.

The study, obtained by Fox News, found that Pashtun men commonly have sex with other men, admire other men physically, have sexual relationships with boys and shun women both socially and sexually — yet they completely reject the label of “homosexual.” The research was conducted as part of a longstanding effort to better understand Afghan culture and improve Western interaction with the local people.

The research unit, which was attached to a Marine battalion in southern Afghanistan, acknowledged that the behavior of some Afghan men has left Western forces “frequently confused.”

The report details the bizarre interactions a U.S. Army medic and her colleagues had with Afghan men in the southern province of Kandahar.

In one instance, a group of local male interpreters had contracted gonorrhea anally but refused to believe they could have contracted it sexually — “because they were not homosexuals.”

Apparently, according to the report, Pashtun men interpret the Islamic prohibition on homosexuality to mean they cannot “love” another man — but that doesn’t mean they can’t use men for “sexual gratification.”

The group of interpreters who had contracted gonorrhea joked in the camp that they actually got the disease by “mixing green and black tea.” But since they refused to heed the medics’ warnings, many of them re-contracted the disease after receiving treatment.

The U.S. army medic also told members of the research unit that she and her colleagues had to explain to a local man how to get his wife pregnant.

The report said: “When it was explained to him what was necessary, he reacted with disgust and asked, ‘How could one feel desire to be with a woman, who God has made unclean, when one could be with a man, who is clean? Surely this must be wrong.’“

The Pashtun populations are concentrated in the southern and eastern parts of the country. The Human Terrain Team that conducted the research is part of a military effort to learn more about local populations.

The report also detailed a disturbing practice in which older “men of status” keep young boys on hand for sexual relationships. One of the country’s favorite sayings, the report said, is “women are for children, boys are for pleasure.”

The report concluded that the widespread homosexual behavior stems from several factors, including the “severe segregation” of women in the society and the “prohibitive” cost of marriage.

Though U.S. troops are commonly taught in training for Afghanistan that the “effeminate characteristics” of Pashtun men are “normal” and not an indicator of homosexuality, the report said U.S. forces should not “dismiss” the unique version of homosexuality that is actually practiced in the region “out of desire to avoid western discomfort.”

Otherwise, the report said, Westerners could “risk failing to comprehend an essential social force underlying Pashtun culture.”

           — Hat tip: TT[Return to headlines]

Beijing Fetes 16th-Century Missionary

Exhibition explores life of Italy’s Matteo Ricci

(ANSA) — Ancona, January 28 — An exhibition opening in Beijing next month pays tribute to a 16th-century Italian mathematician and missionary who settled in China, officials from his native Marche region have announced. The exhibition will explore the extraordinary life of Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), a Jesuit priest and academic born in Macerata, who spent most of his adult years in China and eventually became a member of the court of Ming Emperor Wanli.

Speaking at a press conference presenting the exhibition, Marche Governor Gian Mario Spacca described it as “an extremely important cultural event”. “This exhibition will not only honour our illustrious ‘son’, it will also strengthen ties with China,” he said. The event’s curator, Filippo Mignini said the exhibition, marking 400 years since Ricci’s death, would open in Beijing on February 6, before moving on to Shanghai and later Nanjing. The show will feature around 200 pieces, including a core collection of 60 artefacts.

The remaining items will be tailored to highlight Ricci’s ties with the host city, with loans from leading Italian and Chinese institutes.

These additional works will include several Renaissance Italian masterpieces by stars such as Raphael and Titian, on display in China for the first time, as well as priceless documents and artworks from the Ming Dynasty. Ricci studied mathematics and astronomy for several years in Rome, where he entered the Jesuit order, before setting out for the Far East in 1578 at the age of 26. He spent four years in Goa on the west coast of India before travelling to China where he settled in the southernmost Guangdong Province and began studying Chinese.

It was during this period that the Jesuit priest produced his first global Great Map of Ten Thousand Countries, which revolutionized Chinese understanding of the rest of the world.

In 1589 he moved to Zhao Zhou and began sharing European mathematical ideas with Chinese scholars, winning renown for his extraordinary memory and knowledge of astronomy. The reputation of Li Madou — as he was known in China — spread, and in 1601 he was finally allowed into the Forbidden City of Beijing, where he worked until his death in 1610.

During his life, the Jesuit sought to bridge the gap between Chinese and Italian cultures more by discussion of ethical and philosophical questions than by focusing on religion.

Ricci’s work is today familiar to Chinese schoolchildren of all ages but he has only recently become a familiar name in Italy.

Despite his reputation in China, the Catholic Church condemned him for heresy 100 years after his death and he was only rehabilitated by Pope Pius XII in 1939.

His memory has largely been neglected since then but two successful exhibitions, coupled with a TV film, have sparked a revival of popular interest in his extraordinary life. The fourth centenary of Ricci’s death falls this year and several initiatives have been organized to mark the event. The largest of these is the travelling exhibition in China, but the Catholic Church is also planning to commemorate the anniversary.

The exhibition in Beijing, which runs until March 20, will be followed by stints in Shanghai from April 2 until May 23, and in Nanjing from June 4 until July 25.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Malaysia Charges 3 Muslims for Church Firebombing

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian government prosecutors have charged three Muslim men with allegedly attacking a church with a firebomb.

They are the first suspects to be taken to court in connection to a string of assaults on places of worship amid a dispute over whether non-Muslims can use the word “Allah” to refer to God.

Government lawyer Anselm Charles Fernandis says the three suspects pleaded innocent in a Kuala Lumpur district court Friday to starting a fire that partially gutted a Protestant church on Jan. 8.

The suspects, in their 20s, face a maximum prison sentence of up to 20 years if convicted. The court did not immediately schedule a trial date.

Eleven churches were attacked in the past three weeks, mainly involving firebombs that caused minor damage.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Malaysia Court Rejects Anwar Ibrahim Evidence Appeal

A Malaysian court has rejected a bid by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to be granted access to evidence against him in a pending sodomy trial.

Mr Anwar has accused the government of interfering in the case and trying to rush it through court.

The former deputy prime minister was charged with sodomy, a criminal offence in Malaysia, in 2008.

He denies the charge and says it is politically motivated, but faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted.

Mr Anwar spent six years in prison following a similar accusation in the late 1990s, but was freed after an appeal.

On Friday, the Federal Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that Mr Anwar could not have access to medical evidence held by prosecutors.

“The court ruled that the evidence that we were seeking did not fall within the ‘necessary and desirable’ category and turned down the appeal,” lawyer Sankara Nair told the AFP news agency.

‘Quick conviction’

Mr Anwar told AFP he was “shocked with the [government’s] impunity to go on with such a case despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary”.

He said he believed he could win the case if the court looks at the “facts and the law”.

But he said he believed Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak was “quite directly involved” in the legal process, which made him “not too confident of the system”.

Mr Anwar said the court “seems they want to rush” his trial and that their “political masters want a quick conviction”.

The trial is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, but Mr Sankara said he would ask for it to be postponed while an appeal seeking to have the case thrown out completely went through another court .

Mr Anwar was arrested by armed police in a dramatic raid in August 2008, after a 23-year-old man who used to work in his office said he had sex with him.

Mr Anwar says his accuser is lying and the evidence has been fabricated.

He claims that the charge is part of a government conspiracy to undermine his opposition alliance, following its big gains in the March 2008 elections.

Government officials deny any plot against him.

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

Pakistan: Zardari Sacrifices Goats to ‘Ward Off Evil’

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has a black goat slaughtered at his house almost every day to ward off “evil eyes” and protect him from “black magic”, it emerged yesterday.

A spokesman for the President told the Dawn newspaper the goats were slaughtered as an act of Sadaqah — meaning “voluntary charity” in Islam, whereby one gives out money or the meat of a slaughtered animal to the poor to win Allah’s blessing and stave off misfortune.

“It has been an old practice of Mr Zardari to offer Sadaqah. He has been doing this for a long time,” the spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, told the paper.

Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim country where many of the well-off offer Sadaqah. Though Muslim, many people also follow certain superstitious practices.

Hundreds of goats had been sacrificed at Mr Zardari’s house since he was sworn in in September 2008, it is reported.

The President is also believed to have introduced the neem tree at his official residence for its antiseptic qualities. The Dawn newspaper reported that the President’s detractors would see in his “new-found religiosity” a sign of nervousness in the face of growing woes. President Zardari, who rose to power after the assassination of his wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, in late 2007, faces a range of problems from Islamist militancy to a stagnant economy and political rivalry.

A Supreme Court ruling last month throwing out an amnesty for the President, several top aides and thousands of political activists triggered a political storm and expectation that Mr Zardari was on his way out.

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

Ten Aussies Killed in India, Families Claim

At least 10 Australians have been murdered or feared murdered in violent attacks in India since 1999, with claims that up to 200 westerners have been killed. In what is expected to further heighten tension between India and Australia, the families of dead Australians say the subcontinent nation is hypocritical in attacking Victorian authorities and are calling for an investigation by the Rudd Government.

They are also issuing their own travel warning to Australians planning to visit India, saying they are “taking their lives into their own hands”.

Melbourne disability pensioner Michael Osborne was found dead in a guest house near the city of Patna with his bank account empty and most of his belongings gone less than three weeks into a dream visit to India last June.

Indian police initially said the death was due to a drug overdose but when pushed for detail twice changed their story, saying he died from injuries sustained from a fall and finally that the death was caused by zinc phosphate poisoning.

Patna police told the Australian High Commission in New Delhi the death was not suspicious and that there were “no apparent external injuries to Michael’s body”.

But a post mortem report reveals the body had a catalogue of injuries, including brain haemorrhaging, an abdomen cavity “full of blood”, scratches and abrasions on his left arm, elbow, wrist and leg and right side of his chest and hip.

It said: “All abrasions caused by hand and blunt object.”

Osborne’s brother Laurie believes he was beaten to death and has not ruled out a racial motive. But Indian and Australian authorities appeared to have closed the book on the case, he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will not say how many Australians had been killed in India. But the Tourist Justice and Safety in India group, set up by families of murder victims, have listed 10.

The Indian media has recently painted Melbourne as a racist city and condemned a string of violent attacks against Indian students.

But Laurie Osborne said his brother’s death was the latest in a line of attacks against Australians being swept under the carpet by Indian authorities.

“We want to warn Australians going over to India that they are in danger,” he said.

“Especially if they are going by themselves. Indians jump up and down and say that Australians are attacking Indians but look at what they are doing to Australians.”

           — Hat tip: Winds of Jihad[Return to headlines]

Far East

Cats and Dogs to be Taken Off Menu in China

In what would be China’s first law against animal abuse, anyone caught eating cat or dog meat would face a fine of as much as 5,000 yuan (£450) and up to 15 days in jail. Organisations involved in the sale of either meat could be fined between 10,000 and 500,000 yuan. A draft law is expected to be sent to parliament, the National People’s Congress, in April, according to state media.

Dog meat — known euphemistically as “fragrant meat” — is an age-old delicacy, believed to have warming properties that make it particularly favoured as a winter dish. Consumption is most widespread in the northeast, where temperatures plunge in the winter. Practitioners of Chinese medicine say that dog meat is high in protein and fat, good for the kidneys, and boosts energy levels and male virility. Some parts of China have large numbers of dog farms, particularly Peixian county in southeastern Jiangsu province, home 2,000 years ago of an emperor known for his love of stewed dog with soft-shell turtle. The animals are also raised for their fur.

[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

China’s Anti-Piracy Role Off Somalia Expands

China has agreed to join an international naval operation to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia.

China has been focusing on protecting its own shipping in the area, but it will now join the naval forces of the US, Nato and the European Union.

This grouping, the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (Shade), protects a shipping corridor in the western Indian Ocean.

This is the area where pirate attacks are most frequent.

Members of the international naval task force say that although attacks there have increased, fewer have been successful.


The BBC’s United Nations correspondent Barbara Plett says officials believe having China on board will allow more ships to be diverted to the Somali Basin, a vast expanse of water in the western part of the Indian Ocean, where attacks are at an all time high.

The agreement also allows China to take on the rotating chairmanship of the naval task force that coordinates patrols.

China is believed to be interested in raising its participation in the anti-piracy drive partly because one of its ships was hijacked last October.

The De Xin Hai bulk carrier was reportedly freed in late December amid reports of a possible ransom payment.

Analysts say China is also eager to extend its naval reach beyond its shores.

Chinese media have reported the stepping up of China’s role in anti-piracy patrols as the moment when China takes on a “central” and “leadership” role in an important international operation.

Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper reported that China had been lobbying for the expanded role for months.

The newspaper editorialised that China would “show its worth as a global player”.

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


Fifth of Swedish Population Foreign

Latest figures from Statistics Sweden reveal that in the last 50 years the number of foreigners living in Sweden or those with two foreign-born parents has risen from four to nearly 20 percent.

A new report from Statistics Sweden (Statistiska Centralbyrån, SCB) reveals there are around 1.6 million foreigners currently residing in the country from a total population of 9.3 million.

Annika Klinterfeldt, SCB population analyst told The Local the numbers are not surprising.

“If we look at the trend over the last 50 years we can see growth in number of between 0.1-0.2 percent every year.

“Back in 1960, foreigners or those with two foreign-born parents made up four percent of the population. It’s been quite high for the last few years and we expect it to continue,” she added.

Those included in the figures are defined by having lived in Sweden for one year or more, although they do not have to be Swedish citizens.

Statistics Sweden does not differentiate between immigrants who have come to Sweden for asylum reasons and others who have moved here for love or work.

Finland has historically dominated the number of foreign settlers in Sweden and tops the table with 256,975 Finns residing across the border today.

Within Europe, Poland’s accession to the EU prompted a highly-publicised exodus from the country and a total of 78,522 Poles currently live in Sweden, the most represented country among the 27 EU nations.

There are 59,852 Germans who have adopted Sweden as home along with 22,416 from Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Included in the Asian category, but not subdivided in the yearly report, are 142,053 Iraqis, 75,175 Iranians, 44,415 Lebanese, 35,886 Syrians, 27,552 Thais, 21,322 Chinese, 20,111 Vietnamese, 18 534 Indians, 14,292 Afghans, 9,818 Filipinos, 10,831 Koreans (North and South), and 10,823 Pakistanis.

Africans make up 48,710 of the total, with South Americans accounting for 29,689.

North America is represented by 33,222 people, with 17,540 of those coming from the US.

Australia and New Zealand are combined in the Oceania category of the report, represented by 4,214 people who have presently swapped sunnier climes for the Swedish winter.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Italy: Gov’t Approves Plan Against Illegal Market Work

(ANSAmed) — REGGIO CALABRIA, JANUARY 28 — The Italian government, meeting in Reggio Calabria to adopt an extraordinary anti-mafia plan, also approved Minister Sacconi’s extraordinary plan against black market work in Calabria, Campania, Apulia and Sicily. A “blanket operation” that was made necessary after the incidents in Rosarno, the site of clashes between the local population and illegally employed clandestine immigrants. The plan involves the use of 550 inspectors who will carry out inspections on 20,000 companies, mainly in the agriculture and construction sectors. Overall, 10,000 agricultural businesses (2,000 in Calabria, 2,500 in Campania, 3,000 in Apulia and 2,500 in Sicily) will be inspected. The checks will focus on the use of seasonal labour, the practice of illegally hiring farm labourers through an agent at very low wages and fraud against the national welfare institute INPS through imaginary employment, a business mainly managed by organised crime groups. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Muslim Student Adviser: Death Penalty for ‘Gays’

Vanderbilt religious ‘staff’ says, ‘I go with what Islam teaches’

Vanderbilt University is distancing itself from a Muslim chaplain after he told a gathering of students homosexuality is punishable by death under Islam.

“I don’t have a choice as a Muslim to accept or reject teachings. I go with what Islam teaches,” said Awadh A. Binhazim, who is listed on the Vanderbilt website as “Adjunct Professor of Islam at the Divinity School” and an adviser to the Muslim Student Association. His comments came earlier this week at a diversity event for students.

He was asked directly, “Under Islamic law is it punishable by death if you are a homosexual?”

Binhazim said, “Yes. It is punishable by death.”


The questions, at a student event held by the Muslim Students Association and the Army ROTC, were asked by Devin Saucier, president of Vanderbilt’s chapter of Youth for Western Civilization.

He told WND it was a “30-minute, roses and butterflies overview of Islam.”

Saucier said in a blog he wondered about the “unholy alliance between Muslims and leftists — how could the latter, who fervently support multiculturalism, gay marriage, and gender equality, ally with the former, who support religious and cultural supremacy, traditional marriage, and the oppression of women?”

[Comments from JD: See URL for video.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Myth of Nazi Persecution of Gays

The authors tackle the politically-charged question of the homoerotic and homosexual nature of the Third Reich leadership. It is a serious scholarly work exposing a wealth of information on the following basic points:

1) While Hitler’s Mein Kampf degraded Jews, Marxists, Negroes, Chinese, Arabs, women, and Eastern Europeans, he had no negative remarks for homosexuality. Instead, Hitler chose actively homosexual men as influential Nazi party and youth leaders.

2) The top and central most Nazi personalities and groups (SA, SS) which constructed the Third Reich were predominantly macho-types of male homosexuals or bi-sexuals.

3) Rohm and the SA “brownshirt” leaders were all homosexuals, and were killed by Hitler (Night of the Long Knives) and Nazi laws were passed against homosexuality only after their own outrageous open street sex-orgy parties and pedophilia behavior was being roundly criticized in the German press, thereby threatening Hitler’s support base among heterosexuals. Policies of concealment thereafter prevailed.

4) Beyond the suppression of the SA, these laws were rarely enforced, and then only when politically helpful to the Nazi cause.

5) Only a few thousand authentically homosexual men (and no lesbians) were condemned to the death-camps by the Nazis. These were nearly always either political enemies of the Third Reich against whom such charges were a convenient excuse to dispose of them, or passive-receptive homosexual “femmes” — homosexual men of softer feminine qualities — and whom the macho leather-clad homosexuals always viewed (along with women) with terrible contempt.

6) The attacks against the Sex-Research Institute of the openly-homosexual and flamboyant pedophile Magnus Hirschfeld, was made to seize and burn his extensive files on the homosexual movement and personalities in Wiemar Germany, which included details on the homosexual and pedophile conduct of top Nazi officials.

7) The swaggering macho muscular nature of the SS and SA units, their overt pedophilia, sadist-masochistic sexual predelictions, their sadistc cruelty against heterosexuals, women, and other cultures not sharing their pathology, is detailed.


The authors also chastise modern homosexual activist groups, and homo-sympathetic historians, for widespread distortion of these facts, which are abused to create the false image of homosexuals as “victims” of the Third Reich, comparable to the genocidal attacks against Jews, Gypsies, or Slavs. Their role inside the Third Reich, as partial architects of the Final Solution and other reprehensible Nazi policies, is nearly always never mentioned. Out of this comes a brand of aggressive if not fascist “political correctness” which labels any criticism of organized homosexual or bi-sexual conduct — even as outrageously pathological as in the “gay” bath-houses, or as seen in things like the Fulsom Street Festival in San Francisco, or the various “Gay Pride” parades, or as advocated by criminal groups like NAMBLA — as “hate speech”, or even “hate crimes”.

[Return to headlines]


Bill Gates Makes World’s Biggest Ever Single Charitable Donation With £6.2bn for Vaccines for Children

Bill Gates has pledged £6.2billion to fund research into new vaccines for the world’s poorest countries.

The sum will be spent over 10 years and will aim to help more than eight million children.

It is thought the cash — from Gates and his wife’s charity The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — is the largest donation ever made by a charity.

It will aim to make sure that 90 per cent of youths are immunised against dangerous diseases such as diarrhea and pneumonia in poorer nations.

Calling upon governments and business to also contribute, billionaire Mr Gates said in a statement today: ‘We must make this the decade of vaccines.

‘Vaccines already save and improve millions of lives in developing countries. Innovation will make it possible to save more children than ever before.’

Gates said the commitment more than doubles the £2.8billion the foundation has given to vaccine research over the years.

The foundation said up to 7.6 million children under five could be saved through 2019 as a result of the donation.

It also estimates that an additional 1.1 million kids would be saved if a malaria vaccine can be introduced by 2014. A tuberculosis vaccine would prevent even more deaths.

‘Vaccines are a miracle,’ said Melinda Gates.’With just a few doses, they can prevent deadly diseases for a lifetime.’

The pledge is the biggest single donation to be made for one cause in one go.

Ten years ago the couple also pledged £6billion, to be split between health and education causes, with £3billion going on vaccines.

The world’s biggest philanthropist is financier Warren Buffett.

He has donated £18billion of his £30billion fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but that is to be paid in instalments and used for a variety of charity work.

Mr Buffett has given away 80 per cent of his net worth.

Mr Gates’ total donations now add up to £24billion, some 66 per cent of his £36billion fortune.

It comes as Mr Gates launched a scathing attack on Silvio Berlusconi, accusing the Italian Prime Minister of spending more on his thinning hair than he does on foreign aid.

Mr Gates hit out at Mr Berlusconi’s ‘stinginess’ and said the controversial politician was the main figure on his ‘list of shame’.

And, in a clear reference to Mr Berlusconi’s hair transplant, he told German daily Sueddeutche Zeitung that ‘rich people spend a lot more on personal problems like baldness than they do to combat malaria’.

Mr Gates’ attack came as Italians were scratching their heads over the mystery of Mr Berlusconi’s moving hairline.

Photographs taken recently of the 73-year-old prime minister seem to show him with a good head of hair one day but then visibly thinner a couple of days later.

A further two days on and his thatch has mysteriously reappeared.

The media tycoon had a hair transplant in 2004 — days before he was pictured with Tony and Cherie Blair when they holidayed at his Sardinian villa.

Much to the embarrassment of the Blairs, Mr Berlusconi appeared with them wearing a black and white bandanna to protect his scalp from the sun.

Yesterday Italian newspapers printed a series of photos showing Mr Berlusconi’s changing hairline. La Repubblica said his hair had ‘undergone an amazing mutation’.

It added that after appearing at a wedding ‘with his traditional head of hair’, two days later his hairline ‘appeared inexplicably higher and thinner. But have no fear: At a ceremony on Wednesday it was back to its luxuriant thick foliage.’

Last night Dr Piero Rosati, who performed Mr Berlusconi’s eight-hour hair transplant, said: ‘It’s possible that hair can fall out due to stress but more hair or less hair what is important is what he is doing politically.’

However Professor Franco Buttafaro, a specialist in plastic surgery, said the problem was down to a far simpler set of circumstances — Mr Berlusconi had forgotten to put his make up on.

Professor Buttafaro told Italian glossy magazine Novella 2000: ‘In two days he would not have lost his hair to stress — looking at the photos, what has happened is that one day he applied the make up correctly the next day he didn’t.’

Last night his spokesman refused to comment on the stories about his hair.

[Return to headlines]

Muslim Inventions That Shaped the Modern World

From coffee to cranks, items we couldn’t live without today are Muslim inventions

Modern hospitals and universities both began in 9th century North Africa

London, England (CNN) — Think of the origins of that staple of modern life, the cup of coffee, and Italy often springs to mind.

But in fact, Yemen is where the ubiquitous brew has its true origins.

Along with the first university, and even the toothbrush, it is among surprising Muslim inventions that have shaped the world we live in today.

The origins of these fundamental ideas and objects — the basis of everything from the bicycle to musical scales — are the focus of “1001 Inventions,” a book celebrating “the forgotten” history of 1,000 years of Muslim heritage.

“There’s a hole in our knowledge, we leap frog from the Renaissance to the Greeks,” professor Salim al-Hassani, Chairman of the Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation, and editor of the book told CNN.

“1001 Inventions” is now an exhibition at London’s Science Museum. Hassani hopes the exhibition will highlight the contributions of non-Western cultures — like the Muslim empire that once covered Spain and Portugal, Southern Italy and stretched as far as parts of China — to present day civilization.

1. Surgery

Around the year 1,000, the celebrated doctor Al Zahrawi published a 1,500 page illustrated encyclopedia of surgery that was used in Europe as a medical reference for the next 500 years. Among his many inventions, Zahrawi discovered the use of dissolving cat gut to stitch wounds — beforehand a second surgery had to be performed to remove sutures. He also reportedly performed the first caesarean operation and created the first pair of forceps.

2. Coffee

Now the Western world’s drink du jour, coffee was first brewed in Yemen around the 9th century. In its earliest days, coffee helped Sufis stay up during late nights of devotion. Later brought to Cairo by a group of students, the coffee buzz soon caught on around the empire. By the 13th century it reached Turkey, but not until the 16th century did the beans start boiling in Europe, brought to Italy by a Venetian trader.

3. Flying machine

“Abbas ibn Firnas was the first person to make a real attempt to construct a flying machine and fly,” said Hassani. In the 9th century he designed a winged apparatus, roughly resembling a bird costume. In his most famous trial near Cordoba in Spain, Firnas flew upward for a few moments, before falling to the ground and partially breaking his back. His designs would undoubtedly have been an inspiration for famed Italian artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci’s hundreds of years later, said Hassani.

4. University

In 859 a young princess named Fatima al-Firhi founded the first degree-granting university in Fez, Morocco. Her sister Miriam founded an adjacent mosque and together the complex became the al-Qarawiyyin Mosque and University. Still operating almost 1,200 years later, Hassani says he hopes the center will remind people that learning is at the core of the Islamic tradition and that the story of the al-Firhi sisters will inspire young Muslim women around the world today.

5. Algebra

The word algebra comes from the title of a Persian mathematician’s famous 9th century treatise “Kitab al-Jabr Wa l-Mugabala” which translates roughly as “The Book of Reasoning and Balancing.” Built on the roots of Greek and Hindu systems, the new algebraic order was a unifying system for rational numbers, irrational numbers and geometrical magnitudes. The same mathematician, Al-Khwarizmi, was also the first to introduce the concept of raising a number to a power.

6. Optics

“Many of the most important advances in the study of optics come from the Muslim world,” says Hassani. Around the year 1000 Ibn al-Haitham proved that humans see objects by light reflecting off of them and entering the eye, dismissing Euclid and Ptolemy’s theories that light was emitted from the eye itself. This great Muslim physicist also discovered the camera obscura phenomenon, which explains how the eye sees images upright due to the connection between the optic nerve and the brain.

7. Music

Muslim musicians have had a profound impact on Europe, dating back to Charlemagne tried to compete with the music of Baghdad and Cordoba, according to Hassani. Among many instruments that arrived in Europe through the Middle East are the lute and the rahab, an ancestor of the violin. Modern musical scales are also said to derive from the Arabic alphabet.

8. Toothbrush

According to Hassani, the Prophet Mohammed popularized the use of the first toothbrush in around 600. Using a twig from the Meswak tree, he cleaned his teeth and freshened his breath. Substances similar to Meswak are used in modern toothpaste.

9. The crank

Many of the basics of modern automatics were first put to use in the Muslim world, including the revolutionary crank-connecting rod system. By converting rotary motion to linear motion, the crank enables the lifting of heavy objects with relative ease. This technology, discovered by Al-Jazari in the 12th century, exploded across the globe, leading to everything from the bicycle to the internal combustion engine.

10. Hospitals

“Hospitals as we know them today, with wards and teaching centers, come from 9th century Egypt,” explained Hassani. The first such medical center was the Ahmad ibn Tulun Hospital, founded in 872 in Cairo. Tulun hospital provided free care for anyone who needed it — a policy based on the Muslim tradition of caring for all who are sick. From Cairo, such hospitals spread around the Muslim world.

For more information on muslim inventions go to: For more information about the exhibition at London’s Science Museum go to: science

           — Hat tip: GEC[Return to headlines]


Zenster said...

Hamas Military Commander ‘Assassinated in Dubai’.

His coffin was wrapped in a Hamas flag and a large portrait was placed at the entrance to the mosque with the words: “Your fingerprints are everywhere. We promise to continue in your path.”. [Emphasis added]

If that path is the same subterranean one that al-Mabhouh currently occupies, then let's all hope this is a promise they keep, for once.

A Hamas political bureau member in Damascus, Izzat al-Rishq, told the BBC that Mr Mabhouh, who had been living in Syria since 1989, had been very close to its exiled political leader, Khaled Meshaal.

Obviously, not quite close enough or Meshaal would be pushing up daisies right next to al-Mabhouh. Mosaad tends to be quite diligent in these matters and Meshaal tops more than a few Israeli dance cards.