Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/11/2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/11/2010President Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Merkel of Germany have taken action to shore up the euro and ease the pressure on Greece. Greece has introduced additional austerity measures, and the European stock markets as well as the value of the euro have stabilized for the moment. However, Greece seems headed for a general strike, with the announcement by the public sector employees’ union that they will join the trade union confederation in a strike on February 24.

In other news, some Danish members of the outlaw motorcycle club Bandidos indicate that they will abandon their club and join Hells Angels, due to the fact that some Bandidos chapters have been cooperating with immigrant gangs. This is very similar to what was reported last week about the same groups in Germany.

Thanks to 4symbols, AP, C. Cantoni, Findalis, Gaia, heroyalwhyness, ICLA, Insubria, JD, Lurker from Tulsa, REP, Sean O’Brian, Steen, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Can Obama Really “Create” Jobs?
Enter Cede & Co II; The Fed is Now Backstopping $25 Trillion in Dtcc Cleared Credit Default Swaps
France: Recession Also Affects Lingerie Market
Greece: Taxi Strike Today, Athens Stock Exchange OK
Greece: Sarkozy-Merkel Join Up to Help Athens
Greece Takes Cue From Italy in Introducing Tax Shield
Greece Could Bring Euroland to Its Knees
Obama Report: 95,000 Jobs to Come Each Month
Airport Body Scanners Violate Islamic Law, Muslims Say
Doublespeak: The Language of Deception, Part 1
Former President Clinton Hospitalized in New York City, Source Says
Seattle: KING5 Report Prompts County Exec. To Order Metro Security Policies Review
Victim’s Family Says ‘Thank You’ To Fort Hood Shooting Suspect
Al-Jazeera Invades Canada and Threatens America
Is Assaulting Jewish Students on Canadian Campuses Now Legitimate Criticism of Israel?
Europe and the EU
Denmark: Council of Elders Judges in Vollsmose
Denmark: Hospital Introduces Security Sluice
Denmark: Bandidos Join Hells Angels
European Swift Bank Data Ban Angers US
France: Imam Explains Why He Opposes Full Face Veils
France: Existential Crisis as Lévy Quotes Fictional Philosopher
French Burka Ban Minister Denies Planning to Convert to Marry Secret Muslim Lover
Islam — Europe: An Anti-Burqa Law to Renew Islam in Europe
Italy: Senior Official Arrested in G8 Corruption Probe
Spain: Restraining Order on Imam for Threats to Muslim Woman
Swiss Arms Exports Reach New Record
UK Somali Driver Prays in Bus, Scares Commuters
UK: ‘Every Hindu and Sikh Should be Praising the BNP’
UK: Cllr Ken Bamber’s ‘Irish Joke’ Proves Costly for Medway Council
UK: Government Whistleblower Withdraws Sacking Case
UK: Police to Pose as Burglars in the Middle of the Night in Bid to Cut Break-Ins
Vatican: Pope Rejects ‘Smear’ Claims Against Catholic Editor
Wilders’ Freedom Clones Spring Up
North Africa
Algeria: Newborn Trafficking Uncovered, Sold for 300 Euros
Algeria: Algiers’ Archbishop Asks for Revising Worship Law
Egypt: Oldest Monastery in the World Restored
Italian Collection of Cairo Int’l Book Fair Donated to Egypt
Tourism: Libya Also at Milan Fair, With Quality Offers
Israel and the Palestinians
Gaza: Israeli Air Strike Kills Hamas Militant
Israeli Soldier Stabbed in West Bank Dies
Knesset Approves Incentives for Golan Settlers
Middle East
Energy: Jordan Signs Nuclear Safety Agreement With EU
Iran’s ICBM Capability on Global Display (Part II)
Iran: Another Showdown at the Mullahs’ Corral
Iraq ‘Expels Blackwater Security Employees’
Italy: Time for Sanctions on Iran, Frattini
Italy: MP Deplores ‘Disturbing’ Threats Against AKI
Michael Ledeen: Another Showdown at the Mullahs’ Corral
More Women Recruited for Qaeda Terrorist Attacks
Nuclear: Turkey Goes on Talks With Russia on Power Plant
On and Off Screen, Drama in Turkish Foreign Relations
Saudi Arabia Defends Al-Qaeda Rehabilitation Scheme
Trade: Turkey May Lift Visa Requirements With Egypt, Minister
Yemen Announces Truce With Northern Rebels
South Asia
Bangladesh: Dhaka Unveils Ten-Year Modernisation Plan for Armed Forces
India: Another Victory for Strength Over Appeasement
Pakistan: Christians of Shanti Nagar Remember the Massacre of 1997
Far East
China: Schools “For Migrants” Demolished, Children Forced to Leave Beijing
Chinese See U.S. Debt as Weapon in Taiwan Dispute
Sub-Saharan Africa
Algeria Interested in South African Nuclear Technology
Kenya Wants Israel’s Help Against Jihadists
Somali Pirates Free Taiwanese Fishing Boat
Eight Suspected Illegal Immigrants Found Dead on Greek Island
Europe’s National Security System ‘Years Out of Date’
Italy: Maroni at Patrol Boat Delivery Ceremony to Libya
Italy: Maroni Launches Africa Campaign, Stop Departures
Italy: Ministers Reach Agreement on Immigration — Points System for Residence Permits
UK: Minister’s Norfolk Immigration Pledge
Using Immigration to Turn Britain Into a Nation of Labour Voters is So Shameful I Can Hardly Believe it
Culture Wars
‘Gay’ Judge Asked to Quit Prop. 8 Case
It’s Ba-ack! Health-Care Plan Redoubles ‘Marriage Penalty’
Look What They’re Erasing From U.S. History!
Obama Czar’s ‘Homo-Genda’ Proposed for U.S. Schools
Pelosi Aide: Health Care Summit a Trick, Strategy on Pro-Abortion Bill Decided

Financial Crisis

Can Obama Really “Create” Jobs?

To be sure, governments can “create” jobs — government jobs — taxpayer funded jobs — public sector jobs — jobs that are an increasing drain on the national treasury. And when the national treasury is already broke, and the national debt has already skyrocketed from $10 trillion to $14 trillion in one year, adding more government employees to the payroll for the sake of “creating jobs” from thin air is the worst possible answer to an otherwise simple problem.

When an economy expands, the demand for workers will often outpace the number of folks entering the job market. We’re talking real private sector jobs here, which means an increased tax base as well, and improved tax revenue to the treasury.

The number one threat to our free market economy is our federal government. Public sector jobs are a drain on the treasury — private sector jobs are a boon to the treasury. It’s simple economics…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Enter Cede & Co II; The Fed is Now Backstopping $25 Trillion in Dtcc Cleared Credit Default Swaps

And you thought the $23 trillion in backstops for the financial system was bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Earlier today, the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation, best known for its Cede & Co. partnership nominee which is the holder of virtually every single physical stock certificate in the known universe, and accounts for over $2 quadrillion in stock transactions per year, announced that “the Federal Reserve Board had approved its application to establish a DTCC subsidiary that is a member of the Federal Reserve System to operate the Trade Information Warehouse (Warehouse) for over the-counter (OTC) credit derivatives.” With this approval the DTCC is now the de facto legally accepted global repository for over-the-counter credit derivative transactions.. Simply said, the Federal Reserve is now the guarantor behind all CDS transactions that clear via DTCC, which would be pretty much all of them (sorry CME, you lose). The total bottom line in terms of gross notional? 2.3 million contracts with a gross notional value of $25.5 trillion. When the next AIG implodes, and the CDS market is once again facing annihilation in the face, who will be on the hook? You dear taxpayer, that’s who.

The new Fed-endorsed organization will settle CDS obligations in all currencies and process credit events. It will also include all OTC credit derivatives traded worldwide, and will be regulated by the Fed and the NY State Banking Department and will be overseen by other US and International regulators.

To be sure, the net notional CDS amount, which is what counterparties would be on the hook for in the case of an orderly unwind of the financial system, is materially lower than the gross total. Yet, as systemic unwinds are never orderly, gross tends to become net in those occasions when Lehman bonds go from par to 10 cents in the span of 24 hours. Should systemic risk flare up again (and this time Europe will be both shaken and stirred, thank you Mr. Hazard… Moral Hazard), and fiat-based market values quickly catch up with fair values (which in our ponzi economy can easily be calculated: they are all zero).

The actual organization that will soon be in need of a bailout, is the Warehouse Trust (there’s that word again) Company, which in turn will operate the DTCC’s Trade Information Warehouse, and will begin operations “once certain organizational conditions have been met, which are expected shortly.” Presumably, the TIW, which has been in operation for just over one year, is somehow supposed to inspire confidence that the DTCC has an idea of everything that goes on in the quadrillion + CDS Market. “The release of this information has been an important step forward in helping increase transparency in the marketplace. More detailed information on individual firm trading has been made available confidentially to regulators around the world with the consent of market participants.” Oh great, at least someone has information to the confidential information.

What all this implies is that basis spreads will likely compress very shortly, once counterparty risk becomes a thing of the past and all systemic risk in the biggest derivative market out there (ex IR swaps) is fully backstopped by the Federal Reserve. It will also guarantee the DTCC monopoly status when it comes to CDS trading as nobody will desire to transact and/or clear elsewhere.

We shudder to think if the Fed grants DTCC with exclusive status for IR and FX swaps as well, and the associated $600 trillion notional outstanding.

And from an insider, we know that the company will be funded and commence operations by March 1.

           — Hat tip: REP[Return to headlines]

France: Recession Also Affects Lingerie Market

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 9 — The French lingerie market also felt the effects of the recession. According to the most recent figures published by the French Institute of Fashion that were reported by the Italian Trade Commission in Paris, lingerie sales dropped in value by 4.5% in the first 8 months of 2009 compared to a steeper drop suffered in the same period (-5.7%) by the pret-a-porter market. For the first time in recent years the annual average expenditure allocated by French women to the purchase of lingerie dropped below the 100 euros threshold, dropping to 93 in 2009. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Taxi Strike Today, Athens Stock Exchange OK

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 11 — Greek taxi drivers striking today against the government’s tax measures, while on February 24 all workers will be on strike to protest salary cuts and pension reform decided on to deal with the crisis. Despite the protests, this morning the Athens stock exchange began the day with a clear rise while awaiting decisions on intervention to help out Greece which may be made today at the EU summit meeting, and taking its cue from Greek premier Giorgio Papandreou’s announcement that he was willing to take any and all necessary actions to help the country recover. After 24 days of protest, farmers have lifted road blocks but are still blocking the main border crossing with Bulgaria: stopping not only articulated lorries from getting across but also cars. The union of public sector employees Adedy and the communist Pame, which were on strike yesterday, have announced that they will be joining the February 24 strike called by the private sector trade union confederation GSEE, transforming the strike into a general one, as reported under both right-wing and left-wing news headlines such as “Strike a success, another strike on the way” and “All Greeks to take to the streets in protest on February 24”. According to Adedy, 85% of workers took part in yesterday’s strike.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Sarkozy-Merkel Join Up to Help Athens

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS — EU leaders, meeting today in Brussels in an extraordinary anti-crisis meeting, have been called upon to find an answer to the emergency which has brought Greece to its knees in order to prevent the situation from spreading to other Eurozone countries. Some countries — with France and Germany in the lead — are reported to be prepared to help Greece financially. However, not everyone agrees with such a move, since the Maastricht Treaty prohibits the bailing out of any member country of the Eurozone. In any case, it is almost certain that the EU-27 leaders will be sending a message to the markets to stem the speculation which last week shook European stock exchanges. Yesterday, on the eve of the summit meeting between EU heads of state and government, the seriousness of the situation was brought home both by the emergency teleconferencing Eurogroup meeting called by Jean-Claude Juncker, and by the ECB’s extraordinary board meeting in Frankfurt. And it will be Juncker himself, along with the ECB chairman Jean-Claude Trichet, to report on the situation at the leaders’ meeting. The leaders will then have the task of making political decisions to translate into concrete actions to be taken by the Eurogroup and Economic and Financial Affairs Council, which will meet in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday. Setting the standard as usual will likely be the France-Germany axis, with French president Nicholas Sarkozy and German chancellor Angela Merkel having announced that they will be giving a joint press conference as part of the summit in order to present “concrete proposals”. It is not yet clear whether the latter would consist in a true bailout plan for Greece, possibly to be implemented even in other emergency cases in the future. There have been discordant news on the subject, especially since there is still the problem of the ‘no bail out’ clause prohibiting the granting of financial aid to Eurozone countries. A way to get round the treaty could be that of bilateral loans agreed on with EU institutions, with both Berlin and Paris seeming to be in favour of such an option. Greek premier Giorgio Papandreou, received at the French presidential palace yesterday, reiterated that his government, despite growing social tensions within his country, is “prepared to adopt any and all necessary measures” to reduce the deficit by four points in 2010 from the current 12.7%, in order to comply with the commitment to bring it under 3% by 2012.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece Takes Cue From Italy in Introducing Tax Shield

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 10 — As part of its anti-crisis measures, the Greek government will be introducing something similar to the “tax shield” adopted in Italy to encourage those holding capital abroad to bring it back into the country. According to reports on an ad hoc government meeting held yesterday, the “shield” provides for the possibility to bring capital back into the country within the next six months by paying a 5% tax. As an alternative, keeping the capital abroad but reporting it to the tax authorities and paying an 8% tax within the next six months will also be an option. As is the case in Italy, during the “grace period” no checks will be made into those regularising their financial position, but afterwards the authorities will be taking action to gain access to information on the accounts held by Greek citizens abroad in local banks. Initially the idea of a tax amnesty had met with opposition due to “ethical reasons” within the Socialist party PASOK and in the government itself. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece Could Bring Euroland to Its Knees

The architects of economic union failed to recognise its Achilles’ heel, says Edmund Conway.

Pigs are dispensable; or, at least, so says the Ministry of Defence, which yesterday owned up to detonating more than 100 of the poor sow-and-sows in its bid to improve the lot of soldiers blasted by roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is an enlightened attitude that cannot be said to be shared by our European neighbours, who were last night on the brink of endorsing the biggest pig-rescue mission in history.

Of course, in this case, the PIGS in question are not animals but countries — or, to be more precise, Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain. In crisis talks in Brussels today, European leaders will discuss how to prevent Greece from imploding, and tipping its Mediterranean neighbours over the financial precipice. To the great horror of their more sensible Teutonic counterparts, these countries surfed on the tide of cheap credit provided by euro membership and generated a debt bubble so enormous that it threatens to take down their economies.

Investors are terrified that those at the sharpest end — in particular, the Greeks — will fail to honour their debts, and are demanding an ever-higher interest rate from them. If such a rate is imposed, Greece could soon, like every debt recidivist, find itself so hopelessly mired in interest payments that it will no longer hope to escape from its debt. It may already be there.

So far, so familiar. Greece is not the first and will not be the last country to face fiscal oblivion during the crisis. But what sets Greece and its porcine neighbours apart from, for instance, this sceptred, indebted isle, is that they are part of the euro. Should one of them default, the very act could bring the entire currency down, plunging the world economy’s most important continent into financial and economic chaos.

Moreover, none of the usual escape hatches for such crises is available in this case. Usually, the options would be, in order of increasing desperation: first, promise to cut the deficit as soon as possible; second, allow your currency to depreciate as fast as possible; third, if all else fails, call in the International Monetary Fund for a bail-out.

Greece has already laid out an impeccable austerity budget to slash its deficit, but, for all its sincerity, investors are loath to take it seriously, given tax- avoidance has long been a Greek national sport. As if to confirm its worst fears, the country was more or less shut down yesterday by a public sector strike. A general strike is in the diary for the end of this month. And this before even the nastiest spending cuts have come into force.

So what about an IMF bail-out? This is the option that would make the most economic sense, and has been pushed hard by the UK, the US and the IMF itself. But here’s where we leave logical economics behind and embark on what this really is — a political story.

Sensible as it is, an IMF bail-out is being resisted tooth and nail by Brussels, which understandably fears what that would imply: a clear signal that the euro project has failed, not to mention an opportunity for Washington to stick its nose into European economic management.

Which is more or less where we were last night. The European Commission is edging closer to a “solution” to the crisis. It may be done through the EC or, in slightly more ham-fisted fashion, by effectively passing a begging bowl round Germany, France and others. In time-honoured fashion, the discussions, which concern the fate of hundreds of millions of Europeans, are all going on behind closed doors.

The upshot is that, one way or another, the euro’s richer members will finance Greece for at least a few months — on the strict proviso that it carries out the austerity measures it promises.

Sounds like a muddle? Correct, but for blame one must look to the euro’s original architects, who made a concerted decision when creating the currency not to allow for eventualities like this. After all, to do so would have been to suggest that the project might fail. Quelle horreur!

But their refusal to see the economic logic — that in the end a currency union will fail unless there is some form of central economic government with fiscal powers — has left the European project facing its greatest test yet.

It was possible to sweep this uncomfortable truth underneath the carpet for the single currency’s first decade, but now the full scale of the Greek crisis has brought it back on to the agenda. And appropriate as it is that Greece finds itself the Achilles’ heel of the euro, it could easily have been one of a number of countries.

Even after the current mess is cleared up, the eurozone will find itself faced with an awkward question: does it admit that currency union was a mistake and dismantle it, or does it press on and create an effective European economic government to fill in the missing gap? To do nothing seems untenable.

Brussels, which of course has no reverse gear, is pushing for the latter. A few years ago, one would probably have assumed it would succeed. Today, the consensus behind ever-closer integration is disintegrating. The European project was forged in the post-war years when the public was willing to do anything to prevent a repeat of those atrocities. But the majority of Europeans were born well after the war. If Brussels expects to be able to push through closer economic integration over their heads, it may be in for a rude awakening. Even in Brussels, pigs can’t fly.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Obama Report: 95,000 Jobs to Come Each Month

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is likely to average 95,000 more jobs each month this year, while personal savings will remain high as credit remains tight, according to a White House report released Thursday.

The Council of Economic Advisers also trumpeted the $787 billion economic stimulus package, which it said has saved or created about 2 million jobs.

In a message to Congress, President Barack Obama pointed out that the economy he inherited was losing 700,000 jobs each month.

“I can report that over the past year, this work has begun. In the coming year, this work continues,” Obama said in a letter he sent to the Capitol attached to his economic update to lawmakers. “But to understand where we must go in the next year and beyond, it is important to remember where we began one year ago.”

Casting its first year as positive, the administration’s 462-page report served as a summary of its logic and a pitch for Obama’s future agenda.

Recognizing voters were likely to hold Obama to account for the economy, the White House team cast blame on their predecessors and unpopular Wall Street bankers.

“I think there’s just no way to understate how huge the economic challenges facing the country have been this past year,” said Christina Romer, head the Council of Economic Advisers. “So everything obviously from the financial crisis, the terrible recession, but the longer-run problems — the stagnating middle-class incomes, soaring health care costs, the failure to invest in education, innovation, clean energy — we certainly inherited an economy with a number of economic problems.”

It’s not clear whether the it-didn’t-break-on-my-watch message would resonate with voters. Republicans were quick to describe the document as propaganda masquerading as governing.

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


Airport Body Scanners Violate Islamic Law, Muslims Say

By Niraj Warikoo

Saying that body scanners violate Islamic law, Muslim-American groups are supporting a “fatwa” — a religious ruling — that forbids Muslims from going through the scanners at airports.

The Fiqh Council of North America — a body of Islamic scholars that includes some from Michigan — issued a fatwa this week that says going through the airport scanners would violate Islamic rules on modesty.

“It is a violation of clear Islamic teachings that men or women be seen naked by other men and women,” reads the fatwa issued Tuesday. “Islam highly emphasizes haya (modesty) and considers it part of faith. The Quran has commanded the believers, both men and women, to cover their private parts.”

The decision could complicate efforts to intensify screening of potential terrorists who are Muslim. After the Christmas Day bombing attempt in Detroit by a Muslim suspect from Nigeria, some have called for the use of body scanners at airports to find explosives and other dangerous materials carried by terrorists.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Doublespeak: The Language of Deception, Part 1

Liberalism is not what it started out to be. 20th century classical liberalism “stressed human rationality, individual property rights, natural rights, the need for constitutional limitations on government, and, especially, freedom of the individual from any kind of external restraint.” Liberals were usually thought of as kind, generous and compassionate.

In the 21st century liberalism has taken on a whole new meaning. Liberalism now holds that “the government should be responsible for providing the minimum conditions necessary for decent individual existence. In the early 20th cent. in Great Britain and France and later in the United States, the welfare state came into existence, and social reform became an accepted governmental role.”

Here’s a glimpse of what modern liberalism has wrought.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Former President Clinton Hospitalized in New York City, Source Says

Former President Bill Clinton was hospitalized Thursday in New York City, a Democratic source close to the family told Fox News.

Bill Clinton underwent surgery at a New York City hospital Thursday to get two stents implanted after he felt “discomfort in his chest,” a representative for the former president said.

Clinton counselor Douglas Band said in a written statement that Clinton is in “good spirits” after the operation at the Columbia Campus of New York Presbyterian Hospital. Band said Clinton underwent the procedure to place the stents in one of his coronary arteries following a visit to his cardiologist.

“President Clinton is in good spirits, and will continue to focus on the work of his Foundation and Haiti’s relief and long-term recovery efforts,” he said.

Clinton went through quadruple bypass surgery in 2004 to free four blocked arteries.

A hospital spokeswoman declined to comment. Calls to Clinton’s Harlem office were not immediately returned.

[Return to headlines]

Seattle: KING5 Report Prompts County Exec. To Order Metro Security Policies Review

SEATTLE — In the wake of a KING 5 Investigators report on a video-tape showing the brutal beating of a teenage girl in the Seattle bus tunnel as security guards look on, King County Executive Dow Constantine has ordered Metro Transit to review polices that restrict what unarmed Transit security guards can do when seeing criminal activity.

The KING 5 Investigators uncovered a disturbing video-tape captured on five different security cameras underneath downtown Seattle.

It shows the graphic beating of a teenage girl in Seattle’s Metro bus tunnel, while uniformed security guards simply look on.

The incident took place at around 7 p.m. on Jan. 28.

When the beating is over, you see on the tape that not one guard bends down to see if the victim is breathing or needs help.

The 15-year-old victim says she tried to get help from the guards before the attack.

“I knew I was in trouble,” she told investigators. She said she pleaded for help, but one guard “acted like he didn’t care.”

The guards are not trained police officers or Metro Transit employees. They’re contract workers from Olympic Security Services out of Tukwila. According to their contract, the guards are to “observe and report” problems, not to get involved. Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond says that policy is now out of date.

“You look at what’s happening to the victim and you say something got to be changed,” said Desmond. “That’s just not going to be acceptable. We’ve had that ‘observe and report’ for years in our contract and this incident clearly shows that we need to change that.”

Metro Transit has already launched a review to see what powers they should give the guards. They’re working with the King County Sheriff’s Office to figure out how best to change the protocols.

In his order following the KING 5 report, Constantine said in a press release, “Public Safety is our top priority. I am appalled by the sight of uniformed guards standing by while a person was kicked and beaten. I have ordered a full review of all operating policies that govern Metro’s contract with civilian security guards to determine what changes must be made.”

Metro Transit Police and King Co. Sheriff’s deputies worked around the clock to track down the suspects. School yearbooks, MySpace pages and Facebook helped lead them to those involved.

The mother of the alleged attacker tells KING 5 of her daughter that “She’s a good person, loving sister and daughter. She has a good heart but unfortunately things happen.”

But those who witnessed the attack say this THING should never have been allowed to happen.

“Really? You’ve got three male security guards there, a young girl that’s getting kicked in the head lying on the ground motionless, and they couldn’t do anything? It doesn’t seem like security,” said a witness.

In a late-day statement, Olympic Security said: “In the past, our guards have been very effective in deterring fights when only two people were involved, by verbal intercession or acting as a physical buffer. When a situation has escalated like the one depicted in the videotape, these passive approaches are not effective.”

Charges in this case were filed late Wednesday afternoon. The 15-year-old accused of doing the actual beating is charged with first-degree robbery, which is a combination charge of assault and robbery. The three male suspects face the same charge.

Police say the victim is going to be OK.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Victim’s Family Says ‘Thank You’ To Fort Hood Shooting Suspect

CLEAR LAKE, Texas — The family of a soldier injured during the shooting rampage at Fort Hood has an unusual message for the suspected gunman: “Thank you.”

“I kind of look at this as a blessing in disguise,” said Army Specialist Dayna Ferguson Roscoe at her home in Clear Lake.

The 21-year-old took three bullets on Nov. 5.

At the time of the shooting, her name was Dayna Ferguson. She added Roscoe to the end of it in January when she married fellow Army Spc. Randy Roscoe.

The name change is why she says getting shot in the arm, shoulder and leg was worth it.

“Looking at the bad of it isn’t going to change what’s going on,” she said.

Had it not been for the shooting, the two soldiers would not be married today.

Dayna Roscoe was set to be deployed to Iraq two days after the Nov. 5 tragedy at Fort Hood. The shooting left her too injured to go. She is now living with her parents in Clear Lake, where she was able to get married and spend the holidays with friends and family.

“I would like to personally thank, what’s the man’s name? Nidal, or whoever the shooter is,” said the injured soldier’s father, Jim Ferguson. “I would like to thank him for bringing all of this positivity into our life.”

But there have been some bumps along the way. Dayna Roscoe has gone through four surgeries. She has two more to go.

“I thought I was going to make a full recovery. Hopefully, I will. I just don’t know how long it’s going to take,” she said.

Dayna Roscoe knows a few things are certain. Wednesday, she goes in for a surgery that stems from an infection in her side. Eventually, her arm will have to be shortened.

She said she wants to get out of the U.S. Army and become a school teacher.

“I wasn’t meant to deploy, so something stopped it,” she said.

Dayna Roscoe and her family said they know they are lucky. While they are able to share their stories of joy and recovery, there are many families who are not.

Thirteen people died in the rampage at Fort Hood. Dozens more were injured.

Investigators say Maj. Nidal Hasan, a fellow soldier, was the gunman.

A hearing set for March 1 will determine whether there is enough evidence to court martial Hasan.

Hasan’s lawyer is trying to get that hearing postponed. John Galligan says the process is rushed, unreasonable and in violation of his client’s pre-trial rights. He has not had time to assemble his defense team.

“I believe senior members of the U.S. Army are anxious for him to be tried as soon as possible and anxious for him to be killed,” said attorney John P. Galligan in a telephone interview with 11 News.

Galligan said his client is at the Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio. He is paralyzed from the chest down. He expects that Hasan will be released from the hospital at the end of the month.

           — Hat tip: Findalis[Return to headlines]


Al-Jazeera Invades Canada and Threatens America

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has approved a request “to add Al-Jazeera English (AJE) to the list of television satellite services for distribution in Canada. Supporters of the Arab government-funded propaganda channel hope that acceptance in Canada will lead to more cable and satellite carriers in the U.S. picking up the incendiary network.”

A group called “Canadians for Al-Jazeera” organized public pressure on the CRTC to approve the entry of AJE into the Canadian media market. Although the group’s leader, Walied Khogali, is described in news reports as a Canadian, he identifies himself on his Facebook page as a fan of Barack and Michelle Obama, Students for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. He supports “the Red Movement” that mainly acts to protest Israeli policies and promotes the “I love Allah” T-shirt and the “Bush shoe thrower” from Iraq.


More serious and severe criticism has come from Judea Pearl, father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who has called Al-Jazeera “today’s greatest recruiter for terrorism.” His son’s murderer, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is now in Guantanamo but has been scheduled by the Obama Administration for a civilian trial in the U.S., boasted of his murder, saying that he “decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew, Daniel Pearl, in the city of Karachi, Pakistan. For those who would like to confirm, there are pictures of me on the Internet holding his head.”


Patrone noted that Ethnic Channels Group Ltd (ECGL) claimed that AJE and AJA “were distinct services and submitted that it would be inappropriate to consider AJA’s broadcast record in order to assess the request to add AJE to the list, even if they share a common owner.” The CRTC seemed to accept this dubious assertion.

In fact, an AIM special report found evidence that key Al-Jazeera English personnel had come from Al-Jazeera Arabic. The emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, is chairman of the boards of directors for both channels.

[Comments from JD: AJA = Al-Jazeera Arabic, AJE = Al-Jazeera English.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Is Assaulting Jewish Students on Canadian Campuses Now Legitimate Criticism of Israel?

In a country where multiculturalism has a reverent following and criticism of protected minorities has essentially been criminalized as “hate speech,” it is more than ironic that on some Canadian campuses radical students have taken it upon themselves to target one group, Jewish students, with a hatred that is nominally forbidden for any others.

And with a recent incident that took place at the beginning of February, York University in particular, has now revealed a troubling pattern of tolerating physical and emotional assaults by pro-Palestinian radicals against Jewish students and others who dare to demonstrate any support for Israel or question the tactics of Islamists in their efforts to destroy the Jewish state.

[Comments from JD: Article also details what happened at University of Toronto last year.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Denmark: Council of Elders Judges in Vollsmose

A Council of Elders on the Vollsmose Estate judges and mediates without the authorities’ knowledge.

A council of elder men seems to be the deciding factor on the Vollsmose Estate in Odense, where local people seek decisions on divorces, rivalries and debts.

“We can confirm that there is a Council of Elders. We have strong suspicions that they solve a number of criminal cases internally. But that is the culture here. It’s just difficult to prove when it all happens in secrecy. The Council has existed for several years,” says Vollsmose Local Police Leader Per Frank.

The Council of Elders has been accused of ignoring a suspected paedophile and not reporting him to the police. Instead, the council banished the suspect to Germany in 2008. He since returned to the area and was arrested on January 22, suspected of further abuse.

Unofficial council

The Council of Elders is not elected but a result of the social hierarchy in Vollsmose. Its power stems from the fact that it is made up of the area’s oldest and most respected inhabitants.

“The Council of Elders works unofficially. It functions as a mediator in gang conflicts, divorces, fights and the suchlike. It’s good when they can help the police, but when they involve themselves in criminal cases, that’s too much for me,” says Asmaa Abdol Hamid of the Unity List, who lives in the area, in an interview with

Police contact

Local Vollsmose police have also used the Council of Elders on several occasions — particularly in connection with dialogue-based initiatives.

“We know of the Council of Elders and use them in various cases. But mostly in connection with dialogue where we use them through the Local Council to get a message out or stem prejudice. Here, they have an important role, but it is a problem when they act as an internal court,” says Frank.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Hospital Introduces Security Sluice

Rigshospitalet has introduced visitor safety sluices.

The national hospital Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen has introduced security entrance sluices at its trauma centre in order to safeguard staff and patients against agitated and aggressive visitors, according to

The sluices, which will become functional this week have been produced using reinforced glass and have two doors. Staff will be able to study visitors on in-house cameras or directly through windows before allowing entry.

“As such we avoid physical contact with visitors. We can refuse entry to people with sinister motives and large groups of relatives who are agitated and aggressive. The sluices safeguard our personnel,” Centre Leader Resident Claus Falck Larsen tells

“It takes 71 blows of an axe to make a 40 cm hole in the glass,” says Bent Thygesen of Dansk Passage Sikring which has produced the sluice that can be activated by pressing a button.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Bandidos Join Hells Angels

76 Bandidos bikers in Berlin are said to be joining the Hells Angels, Danish bikers have done the same.

Berlin’s infamous Bandidos bikers have left their international organisation and are now seeking membership of their rival Hells Angels, according to the Danish National Investigation Centre (NEC) that has received information from its German counterparts.

According to the report on P1, it is the second time in recent months that the European Bandidos President Jim Tinndahn of Denmark has had to see members move to the Hells Angels.

Several weeks ago, six senior Bandidos members in Aalborg chose to switch and throw off their sombreros to don angels’ wings.

The German authorities say that the 76 Bandidos defectors have already been seen in public in Hells Angels attire with the local Hells Angels president and that although their membership has not yet been confirmed, the former Bandidos bikers have already removed all of the group’s symbols from their clubhouse in northern Berlin.

“I cannot definitively say how many bikers have left the Bandidos, but we are aware of the situation and following it closely both in Aalborg and Berlin,” says NEC chief Deputy Chief Superintendant Kim Kliver who declined to answer whether there was a connection between the cases in Aalborg and Berlin.


There have been internal conflicts between Bandidos factions in Northern Jutland for some time and although the precise reason for disagreements between the Bandidos factions remains unclear, there are suggestions that there have been major differences on the issue of cooperation with immigrant gangs.

“Our picture is that the young local Bandidos members would like to cooperate with immigrant gangs, while the older members reject the idea. The older members were voted down and that was probably the final straw in the decision to leave,” says Karsten Kristensen of the Aalborg Police, who leads a special biker monitoring group.

HA Luxembourg

In Denmark, the Hells Angels cannot immediately take in Bandidos members as a result of a 1997 no poaching rule under a peace pact that followed a biker war.

But according to DR Nyheder’s information, the Hells Angels is attempting to bypass the no poaching rule by enlisting former Bandidos members in Hells Angels Luxembourg, as the pact only refers to the Nordic region.

“Yes we have run into the same information that the six have been enrolled in Hells Angels Luxembourg in order to maintain the old peace pact,” says Kristensen.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

European Swift Bank Data Ban Angers US

The European Parliament has blocked a key agreement that allows the United States to monitor Europeans’ bank transactions — angering Washington.

The US called the decision a “setback for EU-US counter-terror co-operation”.

The vote was a rebuff to intensive US lobbying for EU help in counter-terrorism investigations.

EU governments had negotiated a nine-month deal which would have allowed the US to continue accessing the Swift money transfer system.

Top US officials — including Vice-President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner — had contacted MEPs in recent days to urge them to consider “the importance of this agreement to our mutual security”, the Associated Press news agency reported.

But Euro MPs said the deal provided insufficient privacy safeguards.

Lawmakers in Strasbourg voted 378-196 against the deal, with 31 abstentions.

Secret access

The US started accessing Swift data after the 11 September 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington.

But the fact that the US was secretly accessing such data did not come to light until 2006.

Last week the Greens’ home affairs expert, Jan Philipp Albrecht MEP, said that in backing the new deal the European Commission and EU governments had “not respected the fundamental criticism about the lack of sufficient protections with regard to privacy and the rule of law”.

The leader of the Socialist group, Martin Schulz MEP, said: “We want a new and better deal with proper safeguards for people’s privacy.”

Tracking the funding of terror groups globally has been a priority for Washington since the 2001 attacks.

Swift handles millions of transactions daily between banks and other financial institutions worldwide. It holds the data of some 8,000 banks and operates in 200 countries.

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

France: Imam Explains Why He Opposes Full Face Veils

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 10 — Ostracised by his followers for being against the full face veil, the imam of the mosque in Drancy in the suburbs of Paris, published on the mosque’s website a message that warns against racism and fundamentalism, which are, he says, the true problems of French Muslims. In an interview with Le Parisien in January, Imam Hassen Chalghoumi said that he was in favour of a law prohibiting Muslim women from wearing burqas (veils that cover the face with a sort of mesh covering the eyes in order to allow the women inside to see without being seen from the outside) or the niqab, which only leaves an open slit for the eyes. A few days later, his entourage reported an attack by a “fundamentalist terrorist group” in the mosque and death threats against the imam. In his message on the internet, the imam pointed out that the full face veil is not a religious obligation and can only put Islam in France in danger. The burqa, he added, must not conceal the two problems that cause French Muslims to suffer and that put our country, France, in jeopardy: racism and fundamentalism. The problem in his opinion is that in France no Muslim citizen can participate in voting on or creating laws, because there is not even one Muslim MP.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France: Existential Crisis as Lévy Quotes Fictional Philosopher

THERE’S NOTHING unusual about a new book by French celebrity philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy causing a media stir or provoking anguished debate in left-bank intellectual circles. But never has his work given rise to an existential question quite like this one.

In his latest title, Lévy launches a scathing attack on the 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant, calling him “raving mad” and a “fake”.

The book, De la guerre en philosophie (On War in Philosophy) , has been greeted with the customary rapture, and its ubiquitous author has been a fixture on television and in the press all week.

In framing his case, Lévy — BHL to the Parisian cognoscenti — drew on the writings of the little-known 20th century thinker Jean-Baptiste Botul — author of The Sex Life of Immanuel Kant , and a man Lévy has cited in lectures.

The problem? Botul never existed. He was invented by a journalist from the satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchainé 10 years ago as an elaborate joke. And since the hoax was revealed, BHL has become a laughing stock.

“As it turns out, it was a hoax,” admitted the author in a blog post after the blunder was spotted by a journalist from Le Nouvel Observateur .

The man who wrote in Botul’s name, literary journalist Frédéric Page’s, has made little attempt to keep it a secret.

Botul’s Wikipedia entry describes him as “a fictitious writer” whose seminal work on the sex life of the 18th century German philosopher was followed by a pamphlet titled La Métaphysique du Mou ( The Metaphysics of the Flabby ).

Lévy, a philosopher with a penchant for elaborate hair, open-necked shirts and pronouncements on every conceivable subject, evidently missed the joke.

In his new book, he cites a series of lectures Botul supposedly gave to “the neo-Kantians of Paraguay” after the war, in which he said that “their hero was an abstract fake, a pure spirit of pure appearance”.

Speaking after the error came to light, Lévy said he had always admired The Sex Life of Immanuel Kant and that its arguments were sound.

He conceded that it was “a truly brilliant and very believable hoax” by a journalist “who remains a good philosopher all the same”.

Doubtless enjoying the moment, Page’s said: “It has never been firmly established that Botul didn’t exist and it cannot therefore be ruled out that one day history will prove Bernard-Henri Lévy right.”

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

French Burka Ban Minister Denies Planning to Convert to Marry Secret Muslim Lover

Eric Besson, the country’s 51-year-old immigration minister, has admitted the relationship with Yasmine Tordjman, a Paris art student less than half his age.

But the hardline conservative threatened legal action when a website suggested the pair, who have set up home together, might marry, which under Islamic law means he would have to convert.

The revelation comes as Mr Besson — tipped as a future prime minister — spearheads a campaign against non-Christian religions and cultures swamping France.

He has called for Islamic head coverings such as the burka to be outlawed and wants potential immigrants to take French tests and swear allegiance to the Republic.

His policies apply particularly to those arriving from Muslim countries, who do not share the same values as France’s predominantly Roman Catholic population.

Miss Tordjman, who is in her early 20s, comes from a prominent family of Tunisian Muslims connected to the country’s former president, Habib Bourguiba.

Before Christmas, divorced father-of-three Mr Besson travelled to the North African country to meet her mother, prompting speculation he would marry in June.

But the Moroccan-born minister has released a statement stating that he ‘deplores having to deny a conversion to a religion which I otherwise respect, I am very attached to the secular character of our Republic’.

He said he was considering suing news website Bakchich Info, on which the claims about converting appeared.

Mr Besson has already had his reputation called into question.

Last year his ex-wife Sylvie Brunel, 49, claimed he was unfaithful for ‘five years before their marriage and 25 years afterwards’.

In a book, she said he had left her for ‘a woman as young as our eldest daughter’.

Miss Tordjman’s identity has only just been revealed.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Islam — Europe: An Anti-Burqa Law to Renew Islam in Europe

Wearing the all-enveloping outer garment is not a religious requirement, but a cultural tradition from Saudi Arabia. It is the symbol of an attack by extremist Islam on Europe, and this has generated contempt for a certain retrograde form of Islam. A law is needed against wearing full-face veil in public spaces, but what is even more needed is a broad dialogue between East and West that would allow Islam to be modernised and integrated into European culture, and thus have an opportunity to contribute to world civilisation.

Beirut (AsiaNews) — The practice of wearing the veil has spread across the Islamic world in recent years. Hundreds of articles have been written about it in the Arab-Muslim world. Among Muslims, the practice has been met by a number of reactions and points of view. In some cases, it has been totally or partially banned (especially the full-face version); in others, women have been encouraged to wear it, in some cases at all times. This shows that the Ummah’s is far from being unanimous (ijmâ’) over the “Islamic nature” of this type of garment, or about the attitudes towards it. In any event, the veil is an issue around the Muslim world. The full-faced veil is indeed a major problem.

The full-face veil scares

The burqa and the niqab raise fear . . . for good reason. They scare Muslims and non-Muslim alike. When this practice is associated with Islam, when it is made into one of its essential elements, this fear is not only about Muslims, but also about Islam itself. The term phobia in “Islamophobia” in fact stands for “fear”.

Indeed, many Westerners do “fear” Islam. The more Muslims try to advance their demands in the name of Islam, the more Islamophobia will grow. Westerners will ask why should are they so different and special that they would want to come to live in a social, cultural, political, economic, vestimentary and culinary milieu that is not theirs, one that existed long before their arrival.

The feeling that Islam pervades every aspects of daily life, that it demands a certain type of behaviour, has created a sense of “invasion”. And this raises fears. Many begin to wonder: If I give in on this issue, which one will be the next? Will there ever be an end? Some ask themselves whether Islam can ever be integrated in Europe”.[1]

Is the veil compulsory?

When the veil is discussed, many raise the issue of religious traditions and freedom. According to Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, the dean of Al-Azhar University, the most famous institution of higher learning in the Muslim world, the burqa and the niqab are not Islamic. Both are a sign of tribal affiliation. For this reason, he had the full-face veil banned from hundreds of buildings that come under al-Azhar’s jurisdiction. Elsewhere, the two articles of clothing have been banned on grounds that they belong to another culture (i.e. Arabia).

Gamal al-Banna, brother of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, wrote a book and signed several articles in which he argued that the Qur’an does not require Muslim women to wear the veil.

A’ïchah, Umm al-Mu’minin, is known to have reacted negatively when she saw one of her slave girls (amah) go out wearing a veil. She slapped her, saying: “How dare you? You are but a servant!” [2] In fact, the veil symbolised the dignity of upper-class women (especially the wives of the Prophet). Equally, it is hard to imagine a woman working in the fields with an all-enveloping outer piece of clothing, even more so, if it includes a full-face veil.

In Egypt on 16 November 2006, Culture Minister Faruq Hosni (later a candidate for the post of UNESCO director general) in a telephone interview complained about the growing acceptance of the veil. “There was a time,” he said, “when our mothers went to university and work without a veil. We grew up in that spirit. Why should we go back now?”

The stranglehold of the Muslim Brotherhood on parliament is such that the organisation called for his resignation . . ., which did not occur because Egypt’s First Lady, Suzanne Mubarak, intervened on his behalf. Often women are more courageous in our Arab countries . . . because they have nothing to lose.

Would banning the veil be against freedom?

Some say that a law banning the veil would be an attack on freedom. That is true, but there is a reason for it. Are not all laws attempts against freedom? Freedom has limits defined by common sense and shared values, which also have the right to be protected. Hence, in France (and elsewhere in Europe), walking naked in public spaces is banned (except in designated places). Hence, where is freedom then?

As Paul, who hailed from Tarsus, an important centre of Stoic philosophy, put it, “[Y]ou were called for freedom (eleutheria), brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh” (Gal, 5:13). By flesh, Paul meant passions and all that is opposed to the spirit.[3] In this sense, law frees us from bad dispositions.

Why a law?

The women who wear a full-face garment (niqab or burqa) do not do so out of respect for tradition. They are usually young Muslim women, born and bred in France (where the debate over the veil is the most heated), or French women who converted to Islam. If the two pieces of clothing were part of a tradition, no one could object to see women wear them. For example, many old women in Sicily wear black from head to toe, even when they carry heavy loads on their head. This might come as a surprise to some, but no one has criticised them because they respect a traditional practice of their country.

In France, the issue is very different. Women who wear the burqa or the niqab do so for ideological reasons, to challenge Western society, which they consider corrupt. Whether they are conscious of it or not, they are advancing a dangerous political project, which is dangerous not because it is political, but because it is not out in the open but is rather presented as something religious. The fact remains that the full-face veil is not required by either the Qur’an or the Sunnah.

The experience of other countries makes this even clearer; that of Egypt for instance, the largest country in the Arab. The ordinary headscarf was an oddity in 1975; now it is the rule. The full-face veil, which used to be rare in 1995, now is becoming commonplace![4] Following the fall of ideologies and in the absence of democracy, justice or equality, religion has become the only certainty in the Muslim world. Such a trend, observable across the Middle East and North Africa, shows that if we allow things to continue the way they are, covering the head can only become more widespread.

The reasons behind the full-face veil

In the West, the practice of covering comes as a cultural shock. It cannot be justified in the name of religion because nothing requires it. Tradition cannot be used as justification because those who wear it now are doing it for the first time, and the countries where they live are opposed to it. Why adopt it then?

At best, I think it is a defensive reaction to a certain laxity in Western morals and behaviour. Even though morality may be loose in the West, should people respond to one extreme with another? Or even do something shocking?

Modesty is the ideal for every person in his or her right mind. However, modesty does not require this kind of clothing. In fact, the notion of modesty varies across time and space, in the West as well as in the Arab and Muslim world. Modesty is a virtue that applies to all humans, men as well as women. If the full-face veil (or even just then ordinary veil) were the best way to practice modesty, or should it become the rule, why are men not wearing it? That is because it is not part of the tradition.

Collective or national customs define, here and now, how modesty is expressed. In France (and Europe), French (European) customs and rules decide what is right. Above all, clearly no religious obligation exists. The fact that even Muslims are far from any consensus with regards to this garment means that it is not compulsory for Muslims. By contrast, ALL MUSLIMS agree that the five daily prayers (and more generally the five pillars of Islam) are compulsory for every Muslim, even though many do not perform them. Undeniably, there is no agreement on the veil.

Impact on Western reactions

It is clear that the full-face veil is contrary to French customs and way of seeing things. It is especially in contradiction with the fundamental notion of gender equality and the idea that religious or philosophical beliefs should not be expressed too ostentatiously. Like all customs, these notions are not laid out in a law or included in the constitution, but are the result of a national consensus that accurately reflects an aspect of the France’s “national identity”, an issue that is much discussed at present.

Since the veil is viewed in many countries (most notably in France) as a symbol of cultural regression, the 2,000 French women (who might not even be French citizens but might simply be residents in the country) who want to wear the full-face veil are, in my opinion, hurting Islam, all Muslims and Arabs.

Unwittingly, they are creating an image of Islam that is reinforcing Western stereotypes in which Islam is seen as a religion that trailing behind the rest of humanity, one that will inevitably pull the West backward. Sadly, all expert opinions, by Arab scholars and others, have highlighted this backwardness, supported by data. Is it wise then to add some religious element every day to prove that Islam is the cause of our backwardness? For this reason alone, opposing the full-face veil is worthwhile.

What is the solution? Should the state legislate on the matter?

Who must “fight” the full-face veil? Should the state adopt a law? If the latter were the case, it would be very sad. On the one hand, we may ask whether it is necessary for a state to legislate in a matter that affects only 2,000 people out of a population 62,500,000 people (0.003 per cent). Our answer is in a Latin expression: De minimis non curat praetor (the government does not concern itself with trifles). On the other hand, if the law says nothing and Salafist pressures continue—something that is very likely because they are for a cause that seeks victory, one that will be followed by others—, then the issue will not be dealt with. Some short gap solutions might be found, with some general guidelines laid to give local communities or institutions the power to decide.

Unfortunately, the “de Creil” affair[5] of 18 September 1989 suggests that conflicts of this nature are not healed by the passage of time alone. The French government had to set up the Stasi Commission and pass a law (on the separation of state and religion and ostentatious religious symbols) on 15 March 2004 to reduce tensions. Yet, the letter that Ernest Chénière, headmaster at the Collège Gabriel Havez in Creil, wrote to the parents of Fatima (13) and Leila (14) Achahboun and those of Samira Saidani was reasonable for it said, “Our goal is to limit the excessive showing of all religious or cultural affiliation. Please, have them [the daughters] respect the secular character of our school.”

Can Muslims find a solution?

The most reasonable solution can only come from within. Muslims must solve the problem themselves. It would be great if we had a group of “sages” who could explain the actual nature of the issue, and go into the reasons that limited in past its appeal in most Muslim countries, whilst favouring its recent sudden appearance in the Muslim world as well as Europe.

Sadly, that is crux of the matter. A certain kind of solidarity based on clan or ancestral affiliation is preventing us from conducting self-criticism, especially of things that appears to be religious in nature. For some reason, we are paralysed. The overwhelming majority of Western Muslims are against the full-face veil. Yet no one has the courage to take the issue to the streets to demonstrate against it or put pressure on fellow Muslims, much less on imams.

We should explain publicly why such a garment is ethically contrary to French (and Western) culture and why it is deemed degrading to women. Islam must more than ever rethink itself. Practicing Muslims must help their co-religionists separate Islam from certain outdated cultural practices; they must also help them understand where the line runs between religion and politics within Islam . . . in other words, they must help them build a modern Islam, based on its beliefs, one that can make a spiritual contribution to world civilisation.


What is the way out? In spite of inevitable reactions among Muslims and some non-Muslims, a law would lay down limits of a ban, in schools and universities, government offices and in places people have to show their identity.

At the same time, Muslims must go through their own tanwîr (enlightenment) in order to create an enlightened Islam, undertake their own Aufklärung. This must be done using the internet (on sites like, in forums, in radio and TV discussions, in every media. Indeed, we should do this in conferences, round-tables and in mosques, emphasising the positive aspect of this goal, namely how to rethink Islam in today’s Europe.

For my part, as an Arab Christian, of Islamic and Christian culture, I am certain that Islam (like other religious traditions) has a cultural and spiritual role to play in world civilisation. We must identify what is best in Western and Islamic civilisations and what is less so. This process is best done together because confrontation serves no purpose, except to poison the atmosphere and increase tensions. As such, it will not be easy. It would nevertheless be beneficial to Islam and Christianity as well as to the Arab and the Western worlds.

For the indigenous population, the large number of Muslims in Europe is seen as a threat . . . . Sadly, it is so at present. Both sides are responsible for the situation, but the presence of so many Muslims can also be a source for reflection and balance for either tradition. Such work of understanding must be done jointly, in a cultural, ethical and spiritual dialogue that includes everyone (agnostics and non-believers as well, since ethics and spirituality are not a preserve of believers alone).

As a believer, I think that the presence of a large number of Muslims in Europe can be seen as something providential, an act of divine Providence (al-’inâyah al-ilâhiyyah) . .. . for them as well as for the Europeans because both can renew themselves in justice and equity, acknowledging each other as legitimately different and yet complementary. W-Allâhu samî’un ‘alîmun! (?????? ??????? ???????! ), Allah is Hearing, Knowing.[6]

[1] I am thinking about Prof Giovanni Sartori, a sociologist and political scientist who is well known in Italy and the United States who recently wrote an editorial article on the issue that was published in Italy’s Corriere delle Sera newspaper, on 20 December 2009.

[2] Quote from the Life of the Prophet (Sirah Nabawiyyah).

[3] Here, flesh refers to nafs in the Qur’an, as in the expression (???? ????????? ??????????? ?????????? . .. . most surely (man’s) self is wont to command (him to do) evil (Shura Yusuf, 12:53).

[4] All we need to do is compare photos taken at Cairo University in the 1970s with today’s reality to see how far the veil has come!

[5] In Creil, three female Muslim students were suspended for refusing to remove their veil in school.

[6] Qur’an, 2:224,256 ; 3:34,121; 9:98,103; 24:21,50.

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

Italy: Senior Official Arrested in G8 Corruption Probe

Rome, 10 Feb. (AKI) — Italian police arrested a senior government official on Wednesday in a corruption investigation into 327 million euros in contracts linked to the Group of Eight summit, which was to have been held on the island of Maddalena near Sardinia last year. Angelo Balducci, who heads a public works committee linked to the infrastructure ministry, is the target of the investigation into contracts on Maddalena before the G8 meeting was transferred to the quake stricken city of L’Aquila in July.

Investigators in the central city of Florence ordered Balducci’s arrest after intercepting conversations in a separate public works corruption investigation that raised suspicion over the Maddalena contracts.

Balducci’s committee is influential in deciding the allocation of public works’ contracts and is connected to the infrastructure ministry.

Nobody was available for comment at Balducci’s Rome office on Wednesday.

Police also arrested two other suspects in relation to the investigation.

With less than three months to go before the summit, prime minister Silvio Berlusconi abruptly moved the G8 meeting to L’Aquila as an act of solidarity with quake victims.

The project to transform a former military compound on Maddalena into a luxury vacation destination included a 75 million euro hotel — or 742,000 euros per room — and was left unfinished.

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

Spain: Restraining Order on Imam for Threats to Muslim Woman

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 9 — A judge in the court of the province of Tarragona has banned a radical imam in the Catalonian town of Cunit from coming within a certain distance of a moderate Muslim woman who accused the man of repeatedly threatening her for her ‘Western’ behaviour, reports El Pais today. The same restraining order was issued by the judge against another three individuals who are associated with the imam, who are accused of taking part in the threats against the woman. According to El Pais, 31-year-old Fatima Ghailan, of Moroccan origin, employed as a cultural mediator by the municipality of Cunit, was repeatedly threatened by the imam for not wearing a headscarf, for driving a car, for spending time with Spanish people who are not Muslims and for not respecting the period of fasting during Ramadan. The man reportedly organised a defamatory campaign against her in order to get her fired from her job with the municipality. According to the newspaper, the public prosecutor of Tarragona asked for a prison sentence of between two and five years for the imam and the other three individuals for “threats, intimidation and slander”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Swiss Arms Exports Reach New Record

Swiss arms exports bucked the country’s general export decline in 2009, rising by 0.8 per cent compared with the previous year.

Arms were exported to 74 countries and sales increased to SFr727.7 million ($683 million), according to figures released by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) on Wednesday.

In contrast, overall commodity exports dropped by 13.5 per cent compared with 2008.

Switzerland’s five top arms customers were Germany, Saudi Arabia, Denmark, Britain and Belgium. Most arms went to Europe (69 per cent) and Asia (25 per cent).

The biggest orders included the partial delivery of eight air defence systems and munitions to Saudi Arabia and armoured vehicles to Germany, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark and Spain. Various munitions and hand grenades were supplied to Britain.

Last November, voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposal by a coalition of peace groups and centre-left parties to ban weapons exports and other war materiel.

The government had warned approval would cost thousands of jobs and jeopardize the country’s defence capacity.

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

UK Somali Driver Prays in Bus, Scares Commuters

The London Transport Department and the Muslim community apologized on behalf of a Somali driver who scared passengers when he pulled over and prayed on board of the bus, according to press reports.

Passengers on bus number 24 in North London panicked when the driver of Somali origins pulled over without warning and started praying. Taking off his shoes and jacket then chanting in Arabic made the commuters on board think he was preparing for a terrorist attack, the Daily Mail reported Monday.

During his five-minute prayer, the passengers were locked inside the bus thinking it will blow up at any minute. A complaint was filed with Transport for London (TfL).

Transport for London apologized for the delay and stated that the bus company, London General, warned the driver not to repeat this behavior.

TfL expressed its respect for other religions, yet stressed that drivers are not allowed to pray while on duty.

“TfL and individual bus operating companies acknowledge and value the diversity of their staff,” TfL spokesman said. “As diverse employers, TfL and the bus operators provide suitable prayer and quiet rooms at garages and other key locations for staff who wish to practice their faith.”

Not typical

The driver’s behavior is not representative of Islam and is a bad example of Muslims, said Dr. Kamal al-Helbawy, founder of the Muslim Association of Britain and former spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West.

“Scholars gave Muslims the permission to perform the noon and afternoon prayers together when in the West since their timings are very close,” he told the London-based Asharq al-Awsat Wednesday. “Thus, his action is by no means justified.”

Helbawy added that what the driver did might seem to be typical behavior for a devout Muslim who is keen on performing his prayers on time but this is not the case.

“Muslims in the West have to bear in mind the environment surrounding them. The involvement of several Muslims in the West in terrorist activities would make people think that what he did was something of that sort.”

In addition to causing panic among the passengers on board the bus, Helbawy explained, the driver did not take into consideration the fact that all those people have to arrive at their destinations on time.

“The least he could have done after delaying them was to apologize and offer an explanation for his actions. He owed them that.”

According to passenger Gayle Griffiths, who filed the compliant with TfL, the driver did not address the people on board the bus at all and offered no explanation for what he was doing which caused even more panic, the Daily Mail reported.

“It even went through my mind that this might be some sort of terrorist attack with the bus blown up because I had heard that suicide bombers prayed before attacks,” she said.

Griffiths said she respects diversity and people’s right to practice their faith, yet she thinks the driver’s behavior was not appropriate.

“We live in a multi-cultural society but there is a time and a place for prayer and the middle of a journey with a busload of passengers is not it,” she explained.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Every Hindu and Sikh Should be Praising the BNP’

This weekend the British National Party will vote on letting non-Caucasians join. If the rules do change, Rajinder Singh, a Sikh, can’t wait to become a member

Rajinder Singh is flicking through the Pakistani channels on his Sky box from his sofa in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire. Dressed in a crimson turban, he sits a metre from the ­enormous screen, translating the odd phrase for my benefit. He’s trying to show me why he’s determined to join the British National Party — the only party he considers “brave” enough to “break out of the burkha called ­political correctness”.

Last year, the Equality and ­Human Rights Commission forced the BNP to change its constitution on the grounds that restricting membership to ­”indigenous Caucasians” broke the Race Relations Act. A new constitution is expected to be agreed at a party meeting this Sunday, and if it’s amended both Singh and the BNP think he would be ideal as the party’s first non-white ­recruit. Communications and campaigns ­officer Martin Wingfield has personally endorsed him on his blog, calling for the party to “adapt and survive and give the brave and loyal Rajinder Singh the honour of becoming the first ethnic minority member”.

Singh is a 78-year-old Sikh, a retired primary school teacher and a father of two, who left India for the UK in 1967. He says he’s been loyal to the BNP since he first heard BNP leader Nick Griffin on television in late 2001. “He used the word ‘Islam’. And I thought, ‘He’s brave, he has conviction,’“ Singh says. “I thought, ‘It’s amazing what you’ve said: I’ve always been thinking that, since my childhood.’“ He wrote Griffin letters of support and eventually provided him with a character reference at his 2005 trial for inciting racial hatred. Singh has voted for the BNP in every local and general election since discovering them. “I couldn’t keep away.”

It feels strange to hear these words from a man in a turban, but Singh ­admits he’s only wearing it for my ­benefit. He’s not a religious man and is clean shaven, but he wore a turban the first time he ever had “media exposure” — on BNPTV, the party’s online ­channel — and has decided to do so whenever speaking to the media because “the message carries more weight” coming from a turban-wearing Sikh.

His “message” is simple and ­depressingly familiar: he fears that Britain is becoming an Islamic republic, and Islam is dangerous. “Most of them behave very nicely, but suddenly when they get together in the mosque and ­listen to the preaching, they acquire a collective identity that is formidable. It’s the collective being that frightens me.”

Islamophobia is not uncommon among Hindu and Sikh immigrants, but Singh’s personal history makes his all the more acute. Born in West Punjab in 1931, he witnessed the violence of Indian partition firsthand. Millions of Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims were killed during partition, his father among them, murdered when Singh was only 15. He lays the blame squarely with Muslims. Why doesn’t he blame the British, the architects of partition? ­”Britain had a role to play,” he concedes, “but the violence sprang from the Koran. The Muslim answer to reasoned argument is knife, dagger and bomb.”

This thinking gives Singh an affinity with even the most diehard BNP ­members. He’s been to several party meetings and says he never feels awkward in their company. “They treat me normally,” he insists. “I feel at home.” I ask if he thinks many BNP members can tell the difference between Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims. “They might think of me as a Paki,” he replies. “I’ve had people shout ‘Paki Go Home!’ when I walk down the street. But that speaks much about the ‘Paki’ reputation — it’s a negative reaction to Pakistan.”

When it comes to BNP policy, Singh knows what he’ll be endorsing with his membership. He thinks voluntary ­repatriation in exchange for cash would be “something excellent, something supreme” because only those who are truly loyal to the UK would choose to stay here rather than take the money. When I ask about BNP plans to give “native Britons” preference in the job market, he says this has always been unofficially the case, and spelling it out in law won’t make any real difference to the lives of people such as him.

Aren’t the BNP racist, I ask? “Pre-amendment, yes,” he replies. “They are trying to soften up. Shouldn’t the nation welcome that? It’s a positive move if they get people like me, and if I’m sitting in a BNP meeting they won’t say ‘Throw all of them out’ because they’ll realise one of ‘them’ is among ‘us’.” But the BNP were forced to extend their membership beyond “indigenous Caucasians”, they didn’t choose to. Surely they still feel the same about non-whites? “Initially the child is forced to go to school, then it becomes his habit, and then he voluntarily goes when he sees the point of it,” says Singh.

Fellow Sikhs have shunned him, but Singh thinks they are misguided. “Every Hindu and Sikh comes from a country that was a victim of Islamic aggression,” he says. “Every Hindu and Sikh should be praising the BNP and thanking God that something has appeared that may guarantee that this country is not overwhelmed.”

The BNP are hungry for a more ­acceptable face, and they recognise Singh may be the perfect person to provide it: he’s an articulate man with a readily exploitable, deep-seated bitterness. It’s clear to me that they’ve used him whenever they’ve needed to appear legitimate — at Griffin’s trial, and now that they face legal action if they fail to change their constitution. “I may be being exploited,” Singh says, “but there’s a good underlying cause. They will be diluted.” Then he smiles. “All parties use people. If they don’t, they will fail.”

           — Hat tip: 4symbols[Return to headlines]

UK: Cllr Ken Bamber’s ‘Irish Joke’ Proves Costly for Medway Council

It must be one of the oldest jokes in history, and it took two years to get to the punchline.

It began in December 2007, when Cllr Ken Bamber (Con) told an ‘Irish’ joke during a break in a meeting to discuss an appeal against dismissal.

Union official Brian Kelly took offence at the use of the word “Paddy” and filed an official complaint.

Now agreement has finally been reached between the two and Medway Council has agreed to pay compensation to Mr Kelly, who was its full-time Unison official.

Details are being kept private, but it is thought the agreement was reached at the conciliation service, ACAS, after it was referred there by the Employment Tribunal.

The council’s standards committee, which is designed to maintain high standards in public office, discussed the matter in private.

Only those councillors on the committee have been given details of the agreement. One of the conditions bars either man from discussing the terms of the deal with anyone else.

Cllr Bamber was chairing the appeal hearing when the joke was told during a break in proceedings.

The Irish-born union representative said he considered “Paddy” was an offensive word and racist in intent.

Cllr Bamber scribbled a note saying he apologised, but it was alleged he would not sign it or say for what he was apologising.

Mr Kelly formally complained and the committee began investigating, but had to adjourn the case while it went before the employment tribunal and legal experts. Neither man was present to hear the committee discussions.

Mr Kelly, who left the council when his job was made redundant during the period of the investigation, was not contactable. He has received a discrimination payment from Cllr Bamber as well as the council’s payout.

The offending joke:

“A man walked into a Dublin bar and saw a friend sitting with an empy glass. ‘Paddy can I buy you another’, he asked, to which Paddy replied — ‘now what would I be wanting with another empty glass?’“

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

UK: Government Whistleblower Withdraws Sacking Case

A London-based Foreign Office whistleblower who leaked secret documents about the fight against terrorism has withdrawn his case against his former bosses at an employment tribunal.

Derek Pasquill, 51, declined to comment after the brief hearing in central London. His lawyer, Jude Bunting, said: “Following discussions with the other side, we have withdrawn the case. The other side are not seeking costs.”

Mr Pasquill passed confidential papers to the Observer newspaper and New Statesman magazine to raise concerns over what he saw as dangerous Government policy.

An Old Bailey judge dropped six charges against him that he breached the Official Secrets Act by making disclosures which were damaging to international relations. He was acquitted on January 9, 2008 after the court heard minutes of a Foreign Office discussion undermined the allegation that the leaks were damaging.

But the FCO continued disciplinary proceedings against him and he was eventually sacked on August 21, 2008 after a suspension from work totalling 31 months.

Mr Pasquill lodged a claim against the FCO, which was due to be heard on Monday until he withdrew it at the last minute, alleging he believed he was made a scapegoat, that he was dismissed for making leaks that were in the public interest, and that he was punished unlawfully by his employees. He was seeking compensation for loss of earnings and injury to feelings at the tribunal, which was scheduled to last five days. No details were released about the reasons for Mr Pasquill deciding not to go ahead with the case.

Mr Pasquill leaked several documents over a number of months in 2005 and 2006. He was unhappy with the UK’s engagement with what he saw as radical Islamic groups, as well as the FCO’s “extraordinary rendition”.

He received a letter from his employers in July 2007, alleging gross misconduct. It said that between August 2005 to January 2006 he “deliberately passed, without prior authorisation, many official documents, some of them classified, to a journalist”. He was accused of a breach of his duties of loyalty and confidentiality.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “The FCO strongly denies any allegations that Derek Pasquill was dismissed for making a public interest disclosure. His dismissal from the FCO was as a result of his gross breach of trust and wilful failure to raise his concerns under procedures available to him. He was dismissed under our internal misconduct procedure which is based on best practice.”

Mr Pasquill began working as a civil servant at the Home Office in 1984. He joined the Foreign Office two years later and served in diplomatic posts in Uganda, Lesotho and Abu Dhabi, before returning to London as a desk officer working on the department’s approach to “engaging with the Islamic world”.

           — Hat tip: ICLA[Return to headlines]

UK: Police to Pose as Burglars in the Middle of the Night in Bid to Cut Break-Ins

If you awoke in the dead of night and saw a suspicious character trespassing on your property trying your windows and doors you would assume it was a burglar and immediately call the police.

But residents may be in for a shock for the dark-clad figure trying your car door may in fact be a police officer.

Officers are posing as burglars to test the windows and doors of homes in a campaign to improve security.

And if they find an open door or window they will drag sleepy residents from their beds in order to inform them.

The move is part of a new initiative called Operation Golden which aims to slash burglary rates in Macclesfield in Cheshire.

Police say almost 40 per cent of all burglars gain access through and insecure window or door and have launched the operation to cut crime.

But last night the force was condemned by who said the move could cause alarm and increase the fear of crime, especially among the elderly.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Vatican: Pope Rejects ‘Smear’ Claims Against Catholic Editor

Vatican City, 9 Feb. (AKI) — The Vatican has issued a rare strongly-worded statement rebutting Italian media claims it was behind a smear campaign which led to the resignation of a Catholic newspaper editor last year. It called the allegations “false” and part of “a defamatory campaign against the Holy See, which even involves the Roman Pontiff.”

“The Holy Father Benedict XVI, who has been kept constantly informed, deplores these unjust and injurious attacks,” said a statement issued by the Secretariat of State, headed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

Dino Boffo (photo), a well-known figure in Italian Catholicism, stood down last September as editor of L’Avvenire newspaper.

Boffo’s departure came after Il Giornale, a daily owned by the brother of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, published an article by editor Vittorio Feltri claiming Boffo was gay and had been fined for harassing the wife of a man he was pursuing.

His resignation caused a deep rift between the Vatican and the government.

Boffo had published several editorials for L’Avvenire criticising the private life of plagued Berlusconi who was plagued with sexual allegations throughout 2009.

Feltri later admitted Il Giornale’s claims were based on bogus documents.

He apologised to Boffo, who was cited by Catholic daily Il Foglio as saying Feltri had told him he received the documents “from a very authoritative and institutional source at the Holy See”.

The Vatican statement said that some recent reports, especially in Italian media, had the “evident intention” of implicating the editor of the Vatican’s official newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Gian Maria Vian, in the Boffo resignation.

“Even going so far as to insinuate the responsibility of the Cardinal Secretary of State,” it added in a reference to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

“These news items and reconstructions have no basis whatsoever in fact,” the Vatican said on Tuesday.

Italian news reports, citing unnamed sources, alleged that Bertone employed Vian, who in turn tasked the head of Vatican security, Domenico Giani, to pass on the false documents to Feltri.

The Vatican described the reports as “false” and having “the intention of gratuitously and calumniously attributing to the editor of ‘Osservatore Romano’ an unmotivated, unreasonable and malicious action.”

The reports were “giving rise to a defamatory campaign against the Holy See, which even involves the Roman Pontiff,” it said.

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

Wilders’ Freedom Clones Spring Up

Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam party Partij voor de Vrijheid has spawned a number of local clones in the local elections, the AD reports on Thursday.

The PVV is only taking part in the March 3 local votes in Almere and the Hague. But several new parties are using the word free (vrij) or freedom in their name hoping to cash in on Wilders’ popularity, the paper says.

For example, in the small town of Spakenburg near Utrecht, the Spakenburgse Vrijheid Partij is campaigning ‘to keep Western culture’.


In Groningen, Matthijs Jansen, leader of the Partij Vrij Groningen says he plans to ‘sweep through the elite’ — using similar words to Wilders himself, the paper says.

The PVG also includes a seagull in its logo — like the PVV itself. ‘We are going for as many votes as possible,’ Jansen told the paper.

Wilders declined to comment on the clones.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Newborn Trafficking Uncovered, Sold for 300 Euros

(ANSAmed)- ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 10 — Fourteen people, accused of belonging to an organisation that specialises in the trafficking of newborn babies and prostitution, have been arrested in Mostaganem, in the west of Algeria. According to the investigations carried out by the gendarmerie, writes Algerian daily Liberté, the gang, active in the regions of Mostaganem, Relizane and Chlef, recruited teenagers from poor families to put them onto the prostitution market. If the young women got pregnant, their babies would then be sold at 30,000 dinars (around 300 euros). The last sale, reports the daily newspaper, dates back to the beginning of January, when a couple from Mostaganem bought a baby girl. An Algerian, resident abroad, had arranged with the organisation — even before the birth — to buy a baby boy. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Algeria: Algiers’ Archbishop Asks for Revising Worship Law

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 11 — The archbishop of Algiers, Mons. Ghaleb Bader, has asked that the law that regulates the exercise of religious worship other than Muslim in Algeria be revoked or at least revised. “Why not return to a situation of normality? Is it not time to revise this law, to annul it?” said Bader during a meeting on the freedom to worship, organised by the Algerian Ministry of Religion. The law of February 28, 2006, obliges “anyone who practices any religion that is not Islam to set up a religious association” and to ask for “permits for the celebration of ceremonies that must be held in authorised venues”. Anyone who “attempts to convert a Muslim to another religion, forcing them or using methods of seduction” risks from two to five years in prison and fines of up to 10,000 euros. The Christians of Algeria are scattered in different zones of the country where there is often no church. For this reason “it is necessary to not restrict the practice of worship in set venues,” explained Bader, quoted by the press, asking why “if Muslims welcome Christians who have converted to Islam, the same cannot be done by Christians”. For the minister of Religion, Bouabdallah Ghlamallah, the law “does not target any religion”, but it was simply created “to organise the sector”. “We are not pursuing Christians,” he said although returning to the issue of the proselytism that the Evangelical-Protestant communities are accused of. “We don’t want”, he added, “there to be religious minorities that become a pretext for foreign powers to enter into the internal affairs of the country”. Between 2007 and 2008, the protestant communities, and in particular the Evangelical ones, were at the centre of a real “witch hunt”. Numerous Algerians who had converted were tried and sentenced on accusations of proselytism. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Oldest Monastery in the World Restored

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 8 — Following eight years of work and with a cost of 14 million dollars, the restoration of the oldest Christian monastery in the world (much frequented by Egypt’s Coptic Christians) has been completed in Suez City, according to BBC website. The monastery is 1,600 years old and is dedicated to Saint Anthony. At the end of the III century, the saint withdrew into an isolated cave within the mountains along the Red Sea, and when he died his disciples decided to build a monastery in his honour. The restoration of the monastery was completed a month after the killing of Coptic Christians outside a church on the Orthodox Christmas Eve. In inaugurating the monastery, Head of Egypt’s Antiquities Department Zahi Hawass underlined that the works had been carried out by Muslims. “This event shows the world that we consider it important to restore the monuments of our past, whether they be Coptic, Jewish or Muslim,” said Hawass. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italian Collection of Cairo Int’l Book Fair Donated to Egypt

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 4 — The whole Italian collection exhibited in the Cairo International Books’ Fair — more than 2000 books — was donated by the Italian Ambassador in Egypt, Claudio Pacifico, to Hany Helal, Education and Scientific Research minister, who received it in the name of Egyptian Universities and Departments of Italian language. The donation represents a further sign of attention by the Italian Government towards the thousands of students of the Italian language in the Egyptian Universities, a note by the Italian Embassy says. The Egyptian students will be able to benefit from the books published by ministries, academies and institution and more than 70 publishing houses. At the ceremony some new developments in the bilateral collaboration between Italy and Egypt were also announced. As a follow-up to the second Italian Egyptian bilateral summit held in Sharm el Sheikh in 2009 and the visit of minister Hany Helal in Italy last december, the Italian Government has set up a fund that can be used to send to Egyptian Universities visiting professors in Italian Literature and Linguistics and visiting lecturers of Italian as a second language from Perugia University. The fund is also aimed to establish a scholarship program for Egyptian students and teachers of Italian Language who wish to spend an intensive training period in Italy, to establish joint University degrees in Italian Language, Literature and Linguistics, and to invite to Italy Egyptian Professors of Arabic language and Culture. In order to implement the program, the Rector of the University for Foreigners of Perugia visited leading Egyptian Universities. Other Universities especially in Upper Egypt are considered as beneficiary of this program. It is also expected that the Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research will provide matching funds. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tourism: Libya Also at Milan Fair, With Quality Offers

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, FEBRUARY 11 — There are 14 Libyan companies that will participate in the 30th edition of BIT, the International Tourism Fair in Milan, scheduled for February 18 — 21. The participation of Libyan companies, specifies the General Authority for Tourism and Handicrafts of Libya, is part of the framework of cooperation between Italy and Libya in order to relaunch tourism in the Mediterranean country that is famous for its archaeological sites and desert landscapes. This year, explains Hussein Krawa, head of the mission to Milan and director of the Department of administration and finance of the Libyan authority for tourism, for the first time, together with the agencies and tour operators, there will also be a representative from Libyan Airlines. Amongst the historic companies that will be present with their products and their offers are Dar Sahara, Libya Star, Sky, Gioiello and Magic Libya which this year is offering stays in extra luxury tents at the gates of Akakus, in the south of Libya. According to the director of the delegation, we are going to Milan to listen to the needs of the Italian public and to make ourselves known, with a tourism that focuses primarily on quality. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza: Israeli Air Strike Kills Hamas Militant

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, FEBRUARY 11 — A Hamas member was killed and at least two other were injured in an Israeli air strike today near Sahajeya in the Gaza Strip, in response to previous mortar shelling against Israeli territory. Reports were on Israeli online media sources, which quoted Palestinian medical staff. The strike came a few hours after the mortar rounds were shot, to which Israeli artillery deployed along the border responded by opening fire and injuring three Palestinian children. The militant killed in the air strike was most likely the same that the Ezzedin al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas’s armed wing) had given news of this morning, saying that the man had died in a “Jihad operation”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israeli Soldier Stabbed in West Bank Dies

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, FEBRUARY 10 — An Israeli soldier who was stabbed today by a Palestinian man while he was on a patrol, driving an all-terrain vehicle in the vicinity of the Jewish settlement of Tepuach (in the area Nablus, in the West Bank), died in the hospital. This was reported by the local press, citing medical sources, according to which, the victim was stabbed near the heart.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Knesset Approves Incentives for Golan Settlers

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, FEBRUARY 10 — The Knesset (Israel’s parliament) has approved a draft law on economic incentives for inhabitants of the 33 Jewish settlements on the Golan Heights, with 67 against 13 votes. The main opposition party, Kadima, was divided on the issue at the time of the vote. The leader of the party, Tzipi Livni, voted against the measure. She explained that this is not the best time to discuss a law regarding the disputed Golan Heights, considering the recent tensions between Israel and Syria. The party’s second in rank, former Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz, voted in favour together with Likud and Labour. The draft law was presented by a Kadima MP, Ely Aflalo, who has followed his own course independent from the party in the past weeks. Israel occupied the Golan Heights in 1967. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Energy: Jordan Signs Nuclear Safety Agreement With EU

(ANSAmed) AMMAN, February 8 — Jordan and the European Union have signed an agreement to develop a nuclear safety in a one million Euro project, an official said today. The deal, supported by the EU Delegation in Amman, will allow training of local staff ahead of major developments in the Kingdom’s peaceful nuclear power programme, an official statement from the Jordan Nuclear Regulatory Commission (JNRC) said today. Two European companies — Risk Audit, a grouping representing the France-based Institute for Radiological and Nuclear Safety (IRNS) and German Nuclear Security — will coordinate between Jordan and the EU on issues related to training and capacity building, JNRC Director General Jamal Sharaf said. He said experts from Europe will visit Jordan to provide expertise, training and guidance to local staff including preparing a regulatory framework. Jordan is planning to build its first nuclear reactor in the Red Sea city of Aqaba, a vital project for the kingdom, which has little natural resources and relies on imported fuel. Jordan has inked deals on nuclear cooperation with France, South Korea, China, Canada, Russia, the UK and Argentina and prepares for similar deals with Romania and the Czech Republic by the end of the year. Officials expressed confidence that the kingdom remains in course to construct two 1,000-megawatt Generation III reactors in the next 15 years, with the intention of building four reactors with the potential to produce over half of the Kingdom’s electricity needs. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iran’s ICBM Capability on Global Display (Part II)

While some media reports are inserting text into their reports saying that “the arrogance” refers to “Western powers,” the Iranian regime has always, consistently and singularly referred to the United States as “the arrogance.” Both stements reference and have set a specific date for a strike against the US. As you noted, this is the decree of the Ayatollah to stun the United States, but it was Mahmoud Ahamdi-Nejad who opened their anniversary celebations with his specific threat against America’s financial backbone.

I would also note that Ahmadi-Nedjad’s statement was made on the same day as DNI Blair, DIRCIA Panetta, DIRDIA Lt. Gen Burges and DIRFBI Mueller responded to the first question posed at Senate Select Committee’s on Intelligence meeting. The question pased by Sen. Diane Feinstein was : “Is a terrorist attack against the United States likely in the next 3 to 6 months?” The response from these chiefs of the United States Intelligence Community (USIC) was unamious: “Yes.” DNI Blair said such an attack was “certain” to occur.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Iran: Another Showdown at the Mullahs’ Corral

I believe that the Iranian regime has assembled the largest armed force in history to protect it from the Iranian people’s righteous indignation on Thursday the 11th. There will be hundreds of thousands of police, revolutionary guards, Basij, and people bused in from the countryside to Tehran.

Additionally, the regime is shutting down communications, especially in Tehran. Iranian Tweeters say internet is largely gone, and cell phones are not working. None of this is new, and in the past the dissidents have managed to beat the censors; it will be interesting to see if the mullahs’ trusted advisers (mostly Chinese) are more effective this time. They certainly have failed in China, and the Iranian authorities have demonstrated an almost supernatural ability to screw up their own plans.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Iraq ‘Expels Blackwater Security Employees’

Iraq has ordered 250 former and current staff of US security firm Blackwater to leave within a week, a minister says.

Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani told the Associated Press news agency that all “concerned parties” were notified of the order three days ago.

It comes after a US judge last December threw out manslaughter charges against five Blackwater guards over the 2007 killing of 17 Iraqis in Baghdad.

The incident stoked anti-American sentiment in Iraq.

The activities of foreign security firms in Iraq have been curbed since then.

US Vice-President Joe Biden has said the US government will appeal against the court ruling.

Mishandled evidence

“We want to turn the page. It was a painful experience, and we would like to go forward,” Mr Bolani said.

Seventeen Iraqis were killed in the shooting in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square in September 2007.

Iraq maintains the Blackwater guards fired without provocation. Blackwater said the firing followed an ambush on one of its convoys.

The US had rejected attempts for a trial in Iraq but charges in the US were thrown out when a judge ruled in December that the guards’ constitutional rights had been violated and that the justice department had mishandled evidence.

Last month, Mr Biden said during a visit to Iraq that the dismissal of the Blackwater charges was just that and “not an acquittal”.

Expressing “personal regret” over the incident, he said the US justice department would file its appeal against the court’s decision next week.

In 2007, Blackwater — now known as Xe Services — was the largest of the US State Department’s private security contractors working in Iraq.

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

Italy: Time for Sanctions on Iran, Frattini

International community’s credibility at stake, FM says

(ANSA) — Rome, February 10 — The time has come to impose tough, new sanctions on Iran now that it has moved forward with enriching uranium in defiance of the international community, Italian Foreign minister Franco Frattini said on Wednesday.

“I believe the international community today is faced with a test of credibility. If we do not move swiftly to find a consensus on a package of sanctions we will demonstrate our weakness,” he added.

“We want Iran to return to the negotiating table and for this to happen we must all be united. If we are divided, Iran will continue to enrich uranium,” Frattini said.

Iran on Tuesday announced it has begun enriching uranium to 20% purity for medical purposes but the West fears this is just a step towards developing a nuclear device, for which 90% purity is needed.

In a compromise, the international community has offered to allow Iran to have its uranium enriched to 20% abroad but Tehran has neither accepted nor rejected the offer.

Turning his attention to Tuesday’s attempted attack on the Italian embassy in Tehran by pro-government protestors, the foreign minister said that “what we saw was unheard of provocation and absolutely unacceptable actions”.

“Our embassy remains open. Obviously, we demand that the safety and security of our staff there is guaranteed. At present we have no concerns that it is not,” he added.

Iranian police Tuesday kept members of the Basiji militia from breaking into the Italian embassy as well as those of France, Germany and the Netherlands.

In regard to the European Union, the foreign minister observed that “Iran must understand that it can’t even think of trying to divide us because Europe stands united”.

“Fortunately, we asked for and obtained that the EU spoke with a single voice to condemn the (Tuesday’s) violence and provocation,” he added.

Looking ahead to Thursday’s celebrations in Iran marking the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution, to which Italy has decided not to send any representatives, Frattini voiced his concern that any anti-government protests may be brutally put down by police.

“We make our umpteenth appeal to Iranian authorities to avoid any recourse to violence against those who demonstrate peacefully,” Frattini said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: MP Deplores ‘Disturbing’ Threats Against AKI

Rome, 11 Feb. Roma, 11 feb. (Adnkronos) — A threat issued against Italian news agency Adnkronos International (AKI) by a group calling itself the Iranian Cyber Army has drawn criticism from centrist MP Roberto Rao.

“After the attack on the Italian embassy in Tehran and the insults hurled at our government and prime minister, it is disturbing that there have been threats,” Rao told the Italian lower house of parliament on Thursday.

He is an MP for the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats party (UDC) and a member of the parliamentary committee that oversees Italian state broadcaster RAI.

“There have also been attacks launched against independent news organisations operating in Iran which are trying to tell the world what is going on in that country,” Rao added.

The Iranian Cyber Army threatened to block websites which it claims are working to overthrow the Iranian government.

The group issued its threat in the Farsi language in an email message sent to Adnkronos International at its head office in Rome on Wednesday.

“The powerful Iranian Cyber Army is warning all Internet sites and activists involved in the ‘soft project’ intent on overthrowing the government,” the email statement said.

The same message was sent to the principal Iranian reformist website, ‘Rahesabz’.

Around 100 people, including members of pro-government Basiji militias, threw stones at the Italian embassy in Tehran on Tuesday and shouted “Death to Italy” and “Death to Berlusconi”, before police intervened.

Last week, conservative Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi called tougher sanctions against Iran over its controversial nuclear enrichment programme, which western powers suspect is aimed at producing atomic weapons.

Tensions have been high in Tehran since the disputed re-election of hardline Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June last year.

Dozens of opposition protesters have been killed, hundreds imprisoned and put on trial and 11 sentenced to death since in unrest that has swept the country.

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

Michael Ledeen: Another Showdown at the Mullahs’ Corral

I believe that the Iranian regime has assembled the largest armed force in history to protect it from the Iranian people’s righteous indignation on Thursday the 11th. There will be hundreds of thousands of police, revolutionary guards, Basij, and people bused in from the countryside to Tehran.

Additionally, the regime is shutting down communications, especially in Tehran. Iranian Tweeters say internet is largely gone, and cell phones are not working. None of this is new, and in the past the dissidents have managed to beat the censors; it will be interesting to see if the mullahs’ trusted advisers (mostly Chinese) are more effective this time. They certainly have failed in China, and the Iranian authorities have demonstrated an almost supernatural ability to screw up their own plans.

A case in point: the political center of the city is Azadi Square, and workers have been stringing loudspeakers (and probably cameras) all over the square and the approach routes, in order to drown out the chants of the demonstrators. So today they tested the system by broadcasting the national anthem. Except it was the shah’s anthem, not the Islamic Republic’s.

Was it sabotage, or that incredible knack of ruining even a simple dry run? Who knows? Whatever it was, it reinforces the regime’s popular image of a bunch of thugs who can only kill, maim and torture, but not build anything of value.

The regime is very nervous, as well it should be. They don’t trust anyone outside a very small circle of fanatical loyalists. The broadcasters at radio/tv headquarters scheduled to cover the festivities were all replaced on Tuesday. Activists, intellectuals, and relatives of opposition leaders have been thrown in jail. These measures have been in effect for some time now — Reporters Sans Frontières claims 400 journalists have left the country since June 2009 and 2000 journalists are jobless — but have not cowed the dissidents. We’ll soon see if that has changed.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the current phase of the Iranian revolution is that many of those arrested knew it was coming, had the opportunity to hide, but chose to go to jail. They viewed their arrest as a badge of honor, and (not to make light of the horrors of Iranian jails) perhaps even a good career move. They expect the regime to fall, and they are building up credits for the next government…

           — Hat tip: AP[Return to headlines]

More Women Recruited for Qaeda Terrorist Attacks

As al-Qaeda recruits more women for suicide bombings, the wife of a prominent operative in the terrorist organization says regrets joining the group as she lives alone in Yemen, according to press reports Wednesday.

The wife of Saeed al-Shehri’s, al-Qaeda’s second-in-command in the Arabian Peninsula, lives alone in a one-bedroom shelter away from her husband since they fled fromSaudi Arabia to Yemen where he is currently hiding from authorities, the London-based al-Hayat reported Wednesday.

Shehri, a Saudi former inmate of Guantanamo prison, is number 63 on Saudi’s list of most wanted 85 terrorists.

Sources claim that Shehri’s wife called her family and complained about the deplorable conditions in which she islives in her shelter in Yemen.

In the phone call, she expressed regret for joining al-Qaeda and for taking her children to live with her husband and other members of the organization.

Her latest statements showed a significant change of heart as she had earlier written two articles in Sada al-Malahim magazine, al-Qaeda’s mouthpiece in Yemen, where she expressed being content with her decision to join the group.

New recruits

Al-Qaeda has been recruiting women since May 12, 2003, said Bayyinah Melhem, a researcher at the Prince Naif Chair for Intellectual Security.

“Women generally enjoy a kind of amnesty in society that would enable them to take part in terrorist activities without being noticed,” she told the paper.

Melhem explained that what makes this possible is that women do not undergo the same kind of search and scrutiny men are subjected to.

“Terrorists take advantage of the way men and women are treated differently in our society.”

Not worthy of martydom

Despite the fact that women are now recruited in al-Qaeda, Melhem emphasized that they are still looked upon as inferior to men.

“They think that women do not deserve the honor of martyrdom and that is why they are not given suicide attack assignments.”

Women are mainly recruited to perform logistical duties, said Dr. Ali Khushaiban, an expert on Islamist groups.

“They play a major role in collecting donations and convincing mothers and wives into encouraging their sons and husbands to join the holy war,” Khushaiban told the paper.

Recruitment expanded

What is worrisome, Khushaiban added, is that al-Qaeda used to recruit only women related to male members of the organization, whereas now they target all women.

“They take advantage of women’s financial and personal struggles to recruit them. Targeting women from outside the group means a much larger number of them will join.”

However, Khushaiban added, women from the group are still important for its leaders. Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan encourages its members to bring along their families and married members are given more money than single ones.

“Wives in al-Qaeda camps are forced to obey their husbands and this makes it easier for them to recruit them to duties related to their terrorist operations.”

Husbands, Khushaiban explained, use religion to dominate their wives in two ways: first, they are told that obeying their husbands is part of obeying God and that if they don’t they will end up in hell and second, they told that their husbands are involved in a holy war against the enemies of Islam.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Nuclear: Turkey Goes on Talks With Russia on Power Plant

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 9 — Turkish and Russian working groups continued their talks on establishment of a nuclear power plant in Turkey, Anatolia news agency reports today quoting Turkey’s Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yildiz as saying. “Turkish and Russian working groups would meet again in Istanbul this month,” Yildiz told a televised interview adding that Turkey was planning to sign an intergovernmental agreement before the parliament’s summer recess. The minister said the construction of a nuclear power plant would last around seven years, and Turkey should have nuclear power plants at least in two regions till 2023. A Turkish- Russian consortium led by Russia’s Atomstroyexport had been the only bidder in a 2008 tender to build country’s first nuclear power plant. However, Turkey’s state-run electricity wholesaler TETAS canceled the tender in November 2009. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

On and Off Screen, Drama in Turkish Foreign Relations

An episode of a popular Turkish soap opera has sparked diplomatic conflict with Israel.

By Bram Vermeulen in Istanbul

Bahadir Özdener has never met the prime minister of Turkey. The screenwriter has never got a letter of gratitude from the governing AK party. Quite the opposite: the government has censored one of his scenarios. Özdener swears the Turkish powers that be have nothing to do with the TV series he is responsible for.

Nonetheless, Israel has shifted from being Turkey’s friend to being its enemy, both in the prime minister’s speeches and in the popular TV-series Kurtlar Vadesi or Valley of the Wolves. Perhaps the two drew on the same “popular sentiment”, Özdener ventures. He has been at the centre of attention since a single scene propelled the soap opera into the worldwide limelight a few days ago.

A recent episode featured a spy working for the Israeli secret service Mossad, who took a mother and her child hostage. The show’s hero, Turkish police officer Polat Alemdar, saved the day by freeing the mother from brutish hands with a single shot. Blood gushing from the Mossad officer’s wounds dripped downwards, soiling the Star of David. It was an intentional reference to last year’s Gaza war that caused a rift in the decades-old alliance between Turkey and Israel, the screenwriter confirmed in a recent interview.

A product of modern Turkey

Sitting in his office at the heart of the upscale Istanbul neighbourhood, Nisantasi, Bahadir Özdener is an obvious product of secular Turkey. He is dressed in a college sweater, flaunts a goatee and displays a distrustful and proud attitude towards the outside world. As a student, he says, he attended lectures given by the current minister of foreign affairs, Ahmet Davutoglu, who taught international relations at Marmara University in the 1990s. He ascribes to Davutoglu’s vision of a Turkey seeking closer ties with its neighbouring countries, from Armenia to Iran.

Özdener wants his message to be heard. “Israel has become deaf even to the voices of its friends,” he says. “Its friends in Turkish politics have one thing to say: ‘stop the crimes against humanity’.”

His message has indeed been heard. Israel dealt with the Turkish ambassador in a manner somewhat less than civil. The Israeli deputy minister of foreign affairs summoned the ambassador and made him wait outside his office like a schoolboy. When the door finally opened, the ambassador was offered a seat on an uncomfortable little bench that put him far below eye level from his Israeli hosts. Within a day, the Israeli government apologised to the Turkish government for the incident.

Of course, not just any old TV-series can create an international diplomatic incident. Valley of the Wolves holds significant sway over public opinion in Turkey and beyond. It draws an audience of 100 million viewers spread out over Turkey, the Caucasus, the Middle East and North Africa. It is watched by people as far apart as Macedonia and Western China.

Even football, a revered Turkish pastime, cannot entirely eclipse Valley of the Wolves. On major match nights, coffeehouses in Istanbul change channels at half-time to catch at least part of the latest episode. The second the match ends, every flatscreen in town is switched back to Kurtlar Vadesi.

“The series tells the truth,” one of its young viewers said. “It shows how the world really works.”

Based on a true story

Israel is not always portrayed as the bad guy. For years, the series mostly centred on the Turkish mob and its connections to politics. A Turkish court banned a series about terrorism in Turkey, arguing it would frighten viewers too much.

Valley of the Wolves is often based on true stories. It has done well in depicting Turkey’s rapidly changing role in world politics since it first aired in 2003, the same year the Turkish parliament voted to refuse American troops access to Iraq through Turkish territory. It was also the same year that the movie entitled Valley of the Wolves, Iraq was released. The motion picture’s plot is based on the true story of eleven members of the Turkish special forces who were captured by Americans and carried off with hoods drawn over their heads as if they were terrorists.

Israel objected heavily against the series that followed, when a number of episodes featured an Israeli doctor who ran a lucrative trade in organs belonging to unlucky Iraqis. Critical voices fell silent months later, when Israeli media proved this story, too, was based on facts. “We know Israel well,” the screenwriter laughs. “They lie. But we are not looking for a fight here. Israel is.”

Özdener is not afraid to accuse Israel of genocide. “Anyone who does not condemn Israel’s policies is a bad person. Everyone should be up in arms about this genocide. If more movies had been made about Nazism in the Second World War, Hitler would not have been able to kill as many people as he did. We now have a chance to make independent movies protesting the genocide of the Palestinian people, which means the Israeli people will never have to feel like Hitler.” The comparison between Hitler and Israel was no slip of the tongue. He took care to emphasise his words. “Don’t you see the similarities? Look at the consequences then,” he said

Meanwhile, the Turkish Jewish community is fearfully anticipating his next instalment in the Valley of the Wolves franchise, dubbed Palestine, about the Gaza war. The movie will be released in November. “In a country where most people are Muslims, many are hard pressed to differentiate between Israel and the Jews,” said Sylvio Ovadya, chairman of the Turkish Jewish Community. “An anti-Israel movie is easily seen as a movie criticising Jews,” he said. Screenwriter Özdener was unmoved by his argument. “Anti-Semitism is a European creation, not ours. And besides: Turkish Jews should be telling Israel to stop killing children.”

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

Saudi Arabia Defends Al-Qaeda Rehabilitation Scheme

Saudi Arabia says it will not give up a controversial rehabilitation programme for Islamist radicals heavily criticised in the US after former inmates set up an al-Qaeda cell in neighbouring Yemen.

One former Guantanamo Bay inmate who went through the programme, which features “positive thinking” classes, art therapy and video games, is now deputy leader of Al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, the cell behind the Christmas Day “underwear bombing” in an airliner over Detroit.

Four others from the same group of Guantanamo inmates handed over to the Saudis in November 2007 are among more than a dozen inmates who have returned to terrorism, including one who was shot dead while wearing a suicide vest under a burka last year.

But senior officials including an Interior Ministry general and the cleric and psychologists responsible for overseeing the programme’s “religious re-indoctrination” courses told The Daily Telegraph it had been an overall success.

“We are confident in our system,” said General Mansur al-Turki. “Part of that is the rehabilitation programme, and when we say that we are considering one thing — the results we are getting. We are not giving up because a few people decided to go back and share al-Qaeda activities.”

Until Saeed al-Shehri, Guantanamo inmate number 372, turned up on an al-Qaeda video last year pledging to “kill every Christian we find in our lands, and destroy Western interests”, the Saudi system was widely praised.

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

Trade: Turkey May Lift Visa Requirements With Egypt, Minister

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 11 — Turkish Culture & Tourism Minister Ertugrul Gunay said today that Turkey and Egypt should remove visa requirements, as reported by Anatolia news agency. “Thus a common destination can be created and we may increase interest of the world to the region,” Gunay said speaking at a joint news conference with Tourism Minister Zoheir Garana of Egypt, currently in Turkey as the honorary guest of the 14th East Mediterranean and Eurasia Tourism and Travel Fair (EMITT 2010). Gunay said relations between Turkey and Egypt on tourism were below the potential and should be boosted. “Turkey and Egypt are important countries of the Middle East and the world with respect to tourism,” Gunay said and expressed Turkey’s readiness for every kind of cooperation to raise number of tourists. Egyptian Tourism Minister said his country was continuously improving its services and quality of their facilities. Following Turkey’s recent diplomatic initiatives and its ‘zero problem with neighbors’ policy, number of countries lifting visa requirements on Turkey has risen to 55 after Syria, Libya, Lebanon and Jordan. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Yemen Announces Truce With Northern Rebels

The Yemeni authorities have announced a ceasefire with Shia rebels fighting government forces in the north.

The truce is to start at midnight local time (2100 GMT) and comes after days of negotiations between the government and rebels on how to end the conflict.

The government launched its latest offensive against the rebels, known as Houthis, last August.

Saudi Arabia has been drawn into the conflict, which has displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

News of the ceasefire was issued in a presidential decree which was read out on state television, according to the AFP news agency.

“We decided to stop military operations in the north-west from midnight,” the Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, declared.

There has been no immediate response from the rebels.

The Yemeni announcement comes after the rebels reportedly accepted several conditions, including a pledge not to attack Saudi Arabia, put forward by the government to end the hostilities.

Houthi rebels from the minority Shia Zaidi sect based in the north-western Saada district have been battling the government since 2004.

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

South Asia

Bangladesh: Dhaka Unveils Ten-Year Modernisation Plan for Armed Forces

The government plans to spend almost half a billion dollar to modernise its army, navy and air force. Segments of public opinion criticise the choice and want more money for health care and transport. Half of all Bangladeshis live below the poverty line.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — The Government of Bangladesh has unveiled a ten-year plan to upgrade the country’s armed forces (army, navy and air force), including new weapons system and armoured vehicles. Planning Minister Air vice Marshal (retd) AK Khandker, who is also in charge of the Defence Ministry, made the announcement yesterday in Dhaka. The modernisation programme comes with a price tag of 338 billion taka (almost US$ 490 million), this in one of the poorest countries in the world, where half of the population lives below the poverty line.

The minister said the money would buy tanks, armoured vehicles, and helicopters, as well as double domestic ordinance production. Barracks and weapons facilities will also be improved. Two maritime patrol aircraft will be purchased and five patrol crafts will be locally built at the shipyard in Khulna, the country’s third largest city.

The plan includes modernising the country’s air defence system with a new fighter squadron, air-to-air missiles, a surface-to-air missile system, air defence radar and two helicopters.

Bangladesh’s military modernisation is part of a broader development plan based on the expectation that by 2017 its economy will reach a 10 per cent annual growth.

At the same time, the government wants to tackle poverty and corruption.

However, the plan to invest so heavily in the military has come in for sharp criticism. In the 2008-09 fiscal year, defence spending ranked eighth in terms of spending at about 6.4 per cent, higher than Transport and Communications (6.1 per cent%), Health (5.9 per cent) and Public Order and Security (5.6 per cent).

Bangladesh has a population of 143 million. It is ranked 140th on the human development scale.

In 2007, it was estimated that only 3.2 Bangladeshi in a thousand had access to internet. Illiteracy stood at 59 per cent. In addition, the annual per capita revenue was around US$ 470.

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

India: Another Victory for Strength Over Appeasement

Earlier this week, Indian officials said that the greatest threat to the nation’s security was the Maoist insurgency. The Naxalite movement started in 1967, but only became a real insurgency during the past decade and a half. The name comes from the village where the movement started, Naxalbari in West Bengal. I slipped into Naxalbari last year to find, ironically enough, that the communist movement no longer exists there. Different Indian governments have tried various methods to fight or appease the Naxalites, but nothing dulled the terrorist threat—until now.

As reported in The Times of India earlier this week, the Naxalites have for the first time cried “Uncle.” Speaking through the banned Communist Party of India/Maoist (as distinguished from the non-insurgent Communist Party of India/Marxist, which still holds of power in three Indian states), the Naxalites said they were ready for peace talks with the government. They ask only that the government release several of their leaders that it has captured in the recent and ferocious counterattack on Maoists throughout India. As Mohua Chatterjee noted in the Times, “Though the ‘offer’ can be read as a bid to earn some respite from the ongoing crackdown, the bid for talks also marks a climbdown of sorts [for the communists]” Previously, the Naxalites have scoffed at the very notion of talks with the government and consistently vowed to press “the revolution.”

The Indian government, however, recently ended its traditional policies of tough talk with little commensurate action, and has engaged in a massive offensive against Naxalite leaders and forces. On the day of the Naxalites’ retreat, the government captured eight more of their leaders in the Northern state of Uttar Pradesh. One of them earned a PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi, long known as a hotbed of communism; where I recently became one of the first openly anti-Communist and anti-Islamist speakers. Significant student movements indicate that there is a growing current among the student body decidedly to the Right.

The Maoists’ General Secretary admitted that the radical movement may be losing intellectual support it once enjoyed, because of “the enemy’s onslaught.”


For its part, the government seems to have recognized that and has said that it will entertain talks only if the Maoists lay down their weapons and stop “all violent actions.” Assuming that this will not happen, sources told The Times of India that the government’s battle plan is “nothing short of a blitzkrieg.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Christians of Shanti Nagar Remember the Massacre of 1997

Hundreds of faithful of all denominations gathered to commemorate the victims of the clashes, born of false accusations of blasphemy. The government has never granted compensation to victims.

Shanti Nagar (AsiaNews) — Hundreds of Christians gathered in the church of the Salvation Army to celebrate the 14th anniversary of the bloody attack perpetrated against the community by Islamic fundamentalists. The small village of Punjab was decimated by the fundamentalists, who accused Christians of being “spies of the West”.

The interfaith prayer service was attended by the pastors of the Salvation Army along with those of the Assembly of God and the Church of Yahaw Nasi, local Protestant denominations. Pastor Hisqeel Sarosh, master of the house, opened the celebration by thanking the Lord for “having saved the lives of those present from violence against the innocent. “

On 6 February 1997, recalls one of those present, “thousands of Muslim fundamentalists attacked the village saying that we were blasphemers. They carried placards saying ‘Kill the Christians, blasphemers against the Koran and the Prophet’ and attacked us indiscriminately. “

During the clashes 785 houses and 4 churches were destroyed. Over 2,500 Christians were also forced to flee. The survivors asked the children attending the celebration of two days ago, “not to forget the past and what happened in the village.”

Immediately after the attacks, the locals had launched a hunger strike to demand the government withdraw the law on blasphemy, which, since its introduction, it is used incorrectly to target minorities particularly Christians and Ahmadis. Moreover, the Christians of Shanti Nagar have long been calling for compensation for the events of 1997. But Islamabad has never granted it.

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

Far East

China: Schools “For Migrants” Demolished, Children Forced to Leave Beijing

Beijing and other big cities want to demolish entire neighbourhoods, to rebuild them. But in doing so they demolish the economic schools for the children of migrants, barred from public schools. Many children may not be able to return to the big cities with their parents.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) — With the Lunar New Year, Beijing and other big cities want to demolish hundreds of “abusive” schools where millions of migrants children study. These children are likely to have no where to study and will have to remain in their rural villages, entrusted to grandparents and relatives, if the government continues to “ignore” their presence in large cities.

Yuying School in the village of Shangezhuang, Chaoyang District in Beijing, is home to about 400 pupils, children of migrants, at a cost about 1,200 Yuan a year each. Migrant workers can not take up residence in Beijing, so as not to lose it in their village, which is necessary for their right to housing and agricultural land. So their children are not entitled to public education in Beijing. In the capital, as in other large cities, hundreds of schools for migrants have arisen, which provide education at a sustainable cost. But almost all these schools are “illegal”, and have never been authorized public, even if they requested permits long ago.

Now Beijing wants to demolish the old settlements in the suburbs, a number of villages incorporated by the expansion of the city, and build modern suburbs.

Unofficial figures speak of about 300 similar schools in Beijing, of which only 70 are authorized. According to official statistics, about 150 million migrants have travelled to big eastern cities looking for work, leaving 58 million children at home entrusted to grandparents, relatives and neighbours. Only about 18 million children have been able to travel with their parents, or were born in cities of the east. But they are not registered as residents in Beijing and are not entitled to public education free of charge. Other areas such as Shanghai and Guangdong, are trying to integrate migrants and, among other things, allow their children access to public schools. Not so in Beijing, where the demolition order of entire neighbourhoods and dozens of schools for migrants arrived just two months after Yuan Guiren, the new Minister for Education, indicated he would wipe-out major disparities in access to ‘education, especially for the great city / country divide.

The human rights activist Liu Wenhua, director of Friends of New Citizens, told the South China Morning Post that the demolition of these suburbs in Beijing and elsewhere, is not targeting the migrant families. But nobody cares about their rights. Liu notes that the municipal government estimates that in Chaoyang district about 200 thousand residents will be displaced and have to be rehoused, but nearly a million migrants who are not residents were not considered.

Yang Yuying opened a school in Shujiu in September 2002 with an initial investment of 250 thousand Yuan. Most of the parents of its 400 students work in a nearby market for used items. He had already created a school for 800 children migrants, in 1989 in the Haidian district in Beijing. Then it was demolished to create the infrastructure for the Universiade 2001.

Yang says he’s bombarded with calls from parents of schoolchildren, who have finished the first semester in recent days and are wondering where they can take the second half. He says he is ready to begin again, to open a new school. But he can not do it if the government will give him any compensation and the government does not recognize payments to unauthorized schools.

Many of these children, back in the rural village for the new year, may not be able to return to Beijing without a school to go.

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

Chinese See U.S. Debt as Weapon in Taiwan Dispute

China’s military stepped up pressure on the United States on Monday by calling for a government sell-off of U.S. debt securities in retaliation for recent arms sales to Taiwan.

A group of senior Chinese military officers also said in state-controlled media interviews that Beijing’s leaders should boost defense spending and expand force deployments in the wake of the Pentagon’s announcement last month of a new $6.4 million arms package for the island state claimed by Beijing.

Senior officers from the Chinese National Defense University and Academy of Military Sciences made what some view as an economic warfare threat, something outlined in past military writings.

The comments by Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu and Maj. Gen. Luo Yuan and Senior Col. Ke Chunqiao appeared in the state-run Outlook Weekly magazine, part of the Xinhua News Agency, published in Beijing on Monday.

Gen. Luo warned that China could attack the U.S. “by oblique means and stealthy feints,” and he called for retaliation for the arms sale.

“For example, we could sanction them using economic means, such as dumping some U.S. government bonds,” Gen. Luo said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Algeria Interested in South African Nuclear Technology

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 9 — The Algerian Atomic Energy Commission (COMENA) has shown interest in technology in a South American pebble-bed modular reactor (PBMR). The PBMR, explains the Italian Trade Commission (ICE), is a gas-cooled fourth generation reactor that gets its name from the spherical shape of its fuel particles, which the company PBMR Ltd is developing in South Africa. COMENA President Mohammed Dardour, on a visit to PBMR Ltd, said that Algeria plans “to install nuclear power for the production of 1000 MW of electricity by 2022 and 2400 MW by 2027. Since this power is necessary for electricity generation and desalinisation, pebble-bed technology seems to be an extremely interesting option.” Although it is a major oil and gas producer, Algeria intends to diversify its energy production and its economy from hydrocarbons: currently oil and gas contribute to 30% of the GDP and account for 98% of export revenue. Also according to ICE, COMENA is interested in building nuclear plants the size of PBMR near villages in remote areas, which can be used both for energy production and desalinisation. Desalinisation is important both for costal and inland villages, where groundwater resources contain salt. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Kenya Wants Israel’s Help Against Jihadists

( Kenya wants Israel’s help in fighting Muslim jihadists.

The Minister for Public Security, Yitzchak Aharonovich, met his Kenyan counterpart Prof. George Saitoti in Jerusalem Thursday, and the two discussed their countries’ security and criminal problems.

Minister Saitoti told Aharonovich that Kenya is under threat from extremist Muslims. “The jihad is taking over Somalia and threatening to take over Kenya and all of Africa,” he said. “No one is more experienced than you in fighting internal terror. I request that you help us in this matter. In knowledge, in training.”

‘I promise to help’ Aharonovich told Saitoti about the influx of unwanted immigrants from Africa, and said that the Israeli government will vote Sunday on the construction of a fence on the southern border. “We realize that this is not an ideal solution but we have to do something about the matter. You know this from the Somali border,” he told his guest.

The Kenyan minister replied: “I promise that we will help you as regards the infiltrators. We have a lot of knowledge and we are successful in dealing with the phenomenon relatively well on the Somali border.”

Aharonovich and Saitoti also discussed Iran. “Not far from here, Ahmedinejad sits and threatens with extinction a nation that has already suffered a Holocaust in its lifetime. We must not bear such a situation and indeed we won’t,” the Israeli said. “As a nation friendly to you, I tell you that we shall not put up with the Iranian declarations about destroying Israel,” Saitoti replied.

Uganda Plan — now in Kenya Kenya’s population is mostly Christian and generally very friendly toward Israelis, whom they often refer to by the Biblical term “Israelites.” Unlike the western world, Kenya has no history of anti-Semitism, and the history of the Jewish people is known mostly from the stories of their greatness in the Bible, and from modern-day exploits such as the Six Day War in 1967 and the Entebbe raid in 1976, which was assisted by Kenya.

The Muslim part of Kenya’s population — about 10% — is concentrated in the coastal area, where Muslim ivory and slave traders settled centuries ago.

Zionist leader Theodore Herzl’s plan to settle Jews in Africa as a temporary refuge was intended for an area known as the Uasin Gishu Plateau. This fertile region was inside Uganda at the time but was later transferred to Kenya by the British colonial rulers.

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

Somali Pirates Free Taiwanese Fishing Boat

A Taiwanese tuna fishing boat held by Somali pirates for 10 months has been freed after the owner paid a ransom, a maritime agency said.

The Win Far 161, was hijacked in April last year near the Seychelles.

Ecoterra, a Kenya-based agency that monitors shipping in Somali waters, said three of the boat’s original crew of 30 had died during their captivity.

“The three died of malnutrition, disease and neglect over the course of the last month,” Ecoterra said.

The agency said the boat had been freed for a “relatively small ransom”.

The surviving crew are said to be 17 Filipinos, four Indonesians, four Chinese and two Taiwanese.

‘Mother ship’

Ecoterra said that the Win Far — a tuna long-liner — had been used as a “mother ship” from which to attack other vessels including the US-flagged Maersk Alabama.

Somali pirates still hold at least seven ships and more than 160 crew members.

Captives include British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler who were seized while sailing their yacht towards Tanzania from the Seychelles on 23 October.

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


Eight Suspected Illegal Immigrants Found Dead on Greek Island

Athens — The bodies of eight presumed illegal immigrants, among them a young girl, were found washed up on a beach on the Aegean island of Samos, according to reports Thursday. Officials said they assume the eight people, among them a woman and the body of an eight-year-old girl, tried to make the crossing from the coast of Turkey to Samos when their boat capsized in rough seas.

Another 12 immigrants which were travelling on the same boat were reportedly sighted by a Maltese-flagged vessel near Turkey.

Coast guard vessels and a helicopter conducted a search and rescue operation to save the 12 immigrants and were flying over the waters south of Samos, near the town of Pythagoriou, for signs of more survivors.

The Aegean Sea is a popular route for illegal immigrants trying to access the European Union.

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

Europe’s National Security System ‘Years Out of Date’

The technology underpinning a Europe-wide government database used for national security and border control is years out of date, with sweeping plans to overhaul the system in danger of being shelved if the delays continue.

Updates to the system, overseen by the European Commission (EC), have been stalled by technical setbacks, much to the frustration of the EU Parliament and Council.

The Schengen Information System (SIS) holds personal information on citizens from 27 countries in Europe, including name, date of birth, place of birth, physical characteristics and nationality. It is described by the EC as a “vital factor in the smooth running of the area of security, freedom and justice”.

Only five countries were originally participating in the SIS, but calls to update the underpinning technology for security and efficiency reasons have increased since 1996 when other countries began joining.

The EU has also discussed plans for the updated system to store more citizen data, and offer better integration with police institutions. Part of the vision is for it to be an effective tool in combating terrorism, especially since the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.

However, some human rights organisations, such as Statewatch (PDF), have argued that the expansion of the SIS and the extra data it will gather should be a matter for public debate.

The overhaul of the SIS has been a matter of discussion at EU level for over a decade, according to European documents, but the update to what is now known as SIS II appears to remain at the blueprint stage.

The EC said in a statement published three years ago: “The current SIS was designed to cope with 18 s tates. Its technology is clearly outdated and the new development possibilities should therefore be studied.

“Following the Council meeting on 28 and 29 May 2001 which confirmed that priority must be given to developing SIS II by 2006, the Commission agreed to be responsible for financing and developing the system.”

EU spokespeople and recent reports suggest that the delay is partly caused by the EC having difficulties securely transferring data to the new system.

A European Council spokesman said that the Council of Ministers would meet later this month and reassess the whole update process.

“Some member states have argued that, if no progress has been made, we should just forget the overhaul and instead moderate the present system,” he said.

A European Parliament spokesman with responsibility for the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee added that there is a lot of pressure on the EC to make the updates.

“The new system was meant to be in place by 2008, now the deadline is 2011. The next generation of SIS will be more secure and more consistent for the growing number of countries accessing it,” he said.

“What we have been having to do is adapt the initial system to all the countries that have started joining it.”

The EC was not immediately available to comment.

Commentators have raised concerns about how the number of terminals on the system, estimated at around 500,000, could leave it open to illegal access, and how this has actually occurred in the past in Belgium.

Plans are currently underway to establish a new EU agency that will manage the SIS, as well as the systems monitoring EU visa entry and illegal immigration. The SIS is currently managed in Strasbourg, but the plan is to move it to another country in Europe.

The central IT agency will be in charge of the SIS maintenance work and technical developments. It will also be responsible for ensuring a high quality of service for users, the security of the system and the level of data protection.

Use of the SIS in the UK and Ireland is currently limited to policing purposes, but the European Council spoke last June of further integrating the two countries into the system.

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

Italy: Maroni at Patrol Boat Delivery Ceremony to Libya

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 9 — Tomorrow in Gaeta Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, accompanied by Chief of Police Antonio Manganelli, and the Commander of the Financial Police, General Cosimo D’Arrigo, will participate in a delivery ceremony of another three patrol boats to Libyan officials. The boats will be used in mixed patrols to combat illegal immigration as part of the implementation of the cooperation agreement between Italy and Libya. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Maroni Launches Africa Campaign, Stop Departures

(ANSAmed) — ACCRA — The agreement with Libya drastically reduced the arrival of illegal immigrants to Sicily “from 30,000 in 2008 to 3,600 in 2009”. Now the focus is to completely eliminate their arrival by blocking the departure of these ‘journeys of hope’. This was the focal point of the launch of Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni’s ‘African campaign’: a tour to sub-Saharan Africa, where most illegal immigrants headed to Europe originate. His first stop was in Ghana and today he will visit Niger. In the future, he will head to Senegal and the other states in the area. A collaboration agreement to combat illegal immigration, as well as drug trafficking and terrorism, will be signed with all of these countries. Maroni said: “We want to become the reference point for African countries in Europe.” “We have,” continued the minister, “excellent bilateral agreements with the African countries of the Mediterranean region, from Morocco to Egypt. However, these are often transit countries for illegal immigrants who in reality originate in sub-Saharan African states. This is why now, while awaiting action from Europe, we want to extend security measures to that area not only regarding immigration, but also regarding the issues of drug trafficking and terrorism.” Regarding this topic, he added that “it is necessary to consider that Ghana has become an essential crossroads for drug trafficking towards Europe, with cocaine arriving from South America and heroine from Asia”. In his visit to Accra, the first ever by an Italian minister, Maroni is being accompanied by Italian Chief of Police Antonio Manganelli, who signed a technical agreement on combating illegal immigration. A political agreement on security was then signed by Maroni and his Ghanaian counterpart Cletus Awoka. The technical agreement, explained Manganelli, “involves the arrival of Ghanaian police officers to Italy to form mixed teams to identify and repatriate illegal immigrants from Ghana.” This accord, he added, “that we signed on to with other countries in the area, is a way to fight against terrorism, because Islamised countries know that the phenomenon of fanaticism and illegal immigration can represent a vehicle for the entrance of terrorists into Italy.” At this point, there are substantial numbers of Ghanaian immigrants in Italy. There are 30,000 legal immigrants, in addition to 12,000 minors. Maroni pointed out two widely reported events in the news involving Ghanaian citizens: the massacre in Castelvolturno, with the murder of 6 Africans (3 from Ghana) in October of 2008 and the clashes in Rosarno last month, which involved 240 citizens from the African country. “This is another reason,” said the minister, “that today’s agreements are important.” The two events were also reported in Accra. A local journalist asked Maroni if Ghanaian citizens are safe in Italy. “One-hundred percent,” was the minister’s reply. Maroni explained how “those who come to Italy legally are treated exactly as Italians, except for the right to vote”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Ministers Reach Agreement on Immigration — Points System for Residence Permits

Newcomers must learn Italian and send children to school or face deportation

ROME — Residence permits issued to new legal immigrants will be subject to a points system. Applicants will have to sign an “integration agreement” obliging them to fulfil a series of undertakings to accumulate the 30 points required to obtain the document. It will no longer be sufficient to comply with the Bossi-Fini law. After discussing the security law yesterday with welfare minister Maurizio Sacconi, the interior minister Roberto Maroni said that as a “natural consequence” applicants for permits will only obtain the document if they accumulate the 30 points required within two years. They will also have to demonstrate that they have taken an Italian language course, are familiar with the Italian constitution, have registered with the health service and send their children to school.

If the applicant commits a criminal offence, the points are annulled. Should applicants fail to accumulate 30 points in two years, they will have a further year to do so before they are deported. The Council of Ministers will discuss the decree very soon. Mr Maroni said: “It’s the security law that lays down specific targets in a two-year time frame. Immigration offices (SUI) will have the job of assessing each applicant. If the targets are reached, the residence permit will be issued. Otherwise, deportation will ensue”. According to the minister, the system will “ensure integration. ‘I tell you what to do to integrate into the community. If you comply, I give you a permit. If you don’t, it means you don’t want to integrate’. We will apply the system only for new two-year permits. However, we will not be charging immigrants for language courses. We will take care of everything so that standards are uniform in all provinces”.

Opposition politicians reacted strongly. Gianluca Bressa, the Democratic Party (PD) group leader on the Chamber of Deputies’ constitutional affairs committee, said that the points-based permit is a “scandalous social lottery, rigged from the outset” and that “Italy is the most xenophobic country in Europe”. But the PD’s immigration spokeswoman, Livia Turco, was even more critical of the “hoops to jump through which will hamper integration and encourage illegality”. Ms Turco maintained that “in a country like Italy, where it takes over a year to get a residence permit and language courses are organised by voluntary associations or the Church, you can’t act as if you were in Canada. If Maroni and Sacconi want to take a lead from Canada or other countries that have this system, they should solve the problems first”. Another voice in favour of strict cultural and other controls on those staying in Italy was that of the chief of police, Antonio Manganelli, who yesterday drew attention to “the direct relationship between some forms of criminality and illegal immigration. If we took time to look at the figures instead of waging ideological wars, it would be easier to understand what is going on”.

Controls and obligations are to be accompanied by rights and safeguards. Angelo Malandrino, the prefect of the interior ministry’s department of civil liberties and immigration, announced the closure of the identification and deportation centres (CIE) at Trapani and Lamezia Terme following complaints by Medici senza frontiere (Médecins Sans Frontières) that they were “inadequate”. “They will close before the end of the year. We are looking to find other locations”, said Mr Malandrino. At the proposal of foreign minister Franco Frattini and equal opportunities minister Mara Carfagna, the Council of Ministers has incorporated into the decree the Warsaw Convention, which makes the issue of residence permits to victims of people trafficking or slavery compulsory, and imposes a duty of assistance to them on the state. It also introduces an aggravating circumstance of forgery of documents, aimed at those who exploit immigrants, as was the case at Rosarno. Incorporation of the convention was signed by ministers Frattini and Carfagna. “This convention reinforces measures in favour of individuals”, said Ms Carfagna.

Mariolina Iossa

05 febbraio 2010

English translation by Giles Watson

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

UK: Minister’s Norfolk Immigration Pledge

More than a hundred community leaders met the government’s immigration minister yesterday to discuss issues affecting Norfolk.

The meeting at County Hall included council officials, police officers, voluntary groups and housing organisations. Immigration minister Phil Woolas answered questions on topics including measures to tackle illegal immigration and safeguard jobs.

Mr Woolas admitted that government had shied away from openly confronting the issue of immigration in recent years and said the event, one of a series taking place nationwide, provided an opportunity to directly question policy.

Speaking before the meeting, he told the EDP that in many areas, including Norfolk, migrant workers from Europe had begun to return to their home countries — something which could create employment opportunities for natives.

He said: “Unemployment in Poland, for example, is actually lower than in the UK and the Polish government is running a campaign to get workers to return home.

“When a country joins the EU you often see a rush of immigration but this pattern gradually reverses.

“In some cases we actually rely on migrant workers and, as they return, it creates opportunities for UK citizens. But this could also create a skills gap and we need to ensure that training programmes are in place to make sure we have people to fill those roles.”

His visit to Norfolk follows the death of Polish man Mariusz Fidos, 33, who froze to death in December while living in a tent at Barnham Common in Thetford — exposing the problem of hidden pockets of immigrants who disappear off the radar.

Mr Woolas said: “It has always been possible for people to hide from the authorities and to some extent that will never go away. But we have introduced electronic borders and are counting people coming in and leaving the country.

“This will make it easier for us to track people. By improving the way we record data, we can hopefully control the problem better.”

He added that the points system introduced in 2008 — which only allows workers from non-EU countries to enter the UK if there is a specific need for their skills — was beginning to pay dividends.

“There will always be sectors that rely on migrant workers, for example the NHS, as there is a skills and labour gap,” Mr Woolas said. “This system allows the flexibility to fill those gaps, without taking jobs away from British people.”

A spokesman for the UK Border Agency said: “Immigration is a topic at the forefront of the public’s mind and we do not want to shy away from it. That is why we organised events to allow those with an interest in immigration to talk to Mr Woolas directly.”

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

Using Immigration to Turn Britain Into a Nation of Labour Voters is So Shameful I Can Hardly Believe it

What will future historians consider to be New Labour’s greatest legacy? I don’t believe it will be economic collapse or ill-judged foreign adventures or even the apparent peace settlement in Northern Ireland, though all of these will have long-term effects.

My guess, bordering on conviction, is that the achievement for which the Government of 1997 to 2010 will be remembered above all is the unprecedentedly fast rate of immigration into this country.


The phrase ‘social objectives’ appears eight times in the document’s executive summary of a few hundred words, and in six instances was removed in a censored version published in 2001.

Anyone who reads the uncensored document — which has been released following a Freedom of Information request by the pressure group MigrationWatch — can hardly be in any doubt as to the importance of these ‘social objectives’.

It is a reasonable inference that these included transforming the social make-up of Britain in a way that would be favourable to New Labour.

Migrants, and to a slightly lesser extent their descendants, are much more likely to vote Labour than for any other party. It seems that one shameful motivation behind New Labour’s open-door immigration policy was to alter the social composition of this country so as to improve the chances of the party being reelected.

This confirms what Chris Mullin, the former Labour minister, wrote in his diaries. In January 2004, he lamented the failure of the Government to tackle immigration abuses such as ‘the rackets that surround arranged marriages’ before noting that ‘at least 20 Labour seats depend on Asian votes’.

Remember that in large parts of England Labour has long been losing ground. In 2005, the Tories actually won more votes in England than Labour. As the party’s traditional bases in Scotland and Wales begin to weaken, so it needs more people in England who will naturally vote for it. As they don’t exist, they must be found.

Even as I write these words I can scarcely believe them. That a political party should have put its narrow, selfish interests above those of the country on so enormously important a matter is deeply shocking. To me it is a thousand times more shocking than all the MPs’ expenses fiddles about which we have learned recently.


As the Government has begun to see its core vote crumbling, so minister after minister has declared that it is not, after all, racist to question the rate of immigration. This from a government which, as recently as the 2005 election, accused the Tories of racism for proposing modest curbs on immigrants.

Since when, unfortunately, David Cameron’s Conservatives have fallen almost entirely silent on the issue for fear of being branded racist in the liberal media just when they are trying to re-package themselves as an inclusive party.

In an admittedly much more minor way than Labour, the Tories are placing their own interests first.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Labour and the Tories could put electoral considerations to one side and do what is best for Britain?

Nothing can undo the mistakes of the past decade — but they must not be repeated over the next.

What has happened has fed a widespread disenchantment with politicians and the political process. Labour has been feathering its nest.

Historians will probably say that as a result of what has happened between 1997 and 2010 Britain became an appreciably different country. It might turn out to be a better one, though some price is to be paid in terms of social cohesion.

Whatever happens, it was a disgraceful episode. Societies should evolve. They do not ask to be re-engineered.

Never again should any political party be permitted to embark on a social transformation of this country to serve its own interests.

Britain does not belong to Labour, and it is to the party’s eternal shame that it has behaved as though it did.

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

Culture Wars

‘Gay’ Judge Asked to Quit Prop. 8 Case

Attorney challenges claim Walker’s lifestyle ‘nonissue’ in California court challenge

An activist attorney is challenging the claim that the reported homosexual lifestyle of the judge deciding the constitutionality of California’s limitation of marriage to one man and one woman is a “nonissue.”

The San Francisco Chronicle reported politicians and lawyers in the city who have dealt with 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Vaughn Walker confirmed Walker has never tried to promote or hide his orientation.

The newspaper said a state senator, Mark Leno, who has proposed several times the authorization of same-sex “marriage,” described the judge’s background as a nonissue.

Matt Barber, director of cultural affairs with Liberty Counsel, disagrees.

“This is no different than having an avid gun collector preside over a Second Amendment case,” he said today, “or a frequent user of medical marijuana deciding the legality of medical marijuana.”

“Even his fellow judges on the notoriously liberal 9th circuit have been forced to step in and overturn more than one of his inexplicable rulings relative to this case. Based on his demonstrated misbehavior, there’s no reason to believe anything will change,” Barber said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

It’s Ba-ack! Health-Care Plan Redoubles ‘Marriage Penalty’

Congressional proposals could penalize couples $10,000 for saying ‘I do’

Bills pending in Congress that would nationalize health care by setting up mandatory insurance purchases and fines for not complying could penalize married couples $10,000 annually and are a direct attack on marriage, families and the church because of their discriminatory provisions, according to a congressional candidate.

“This is as awful, I will say evil … this is as evil as it gets,” Allen Quist, who is running to unseat Democrat Tim Walz in Minnesota’s 1st congressional district, told WND.

Quist said the fine print of provisions still alive in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives deliberately create enormous pressure for couples to live together without marriage — or even get divorced — by charging married couples thousands of dollars more in premiums and fees.

“And it’s deliberate,” Quist added, “This is clearly not accidental.”

“This is the most insidious attack on our country we have ever seen,” Quist said earlier this week in an interview with David Barton of


The Heritage report warned, “The bill’s wedding tax is perpetual. … Some couples who remained married throughout their adult lives would face cumulative penalties of over $200,000 during the course of their marriage.

Robert Rector, the author of the analysis and a Senior Research Fellow in Domestic Policy Studies at the foundation, concluded, “On the other hand, the bill establishes cohabiters as a privileged special interest, quietly channeling tens of thousands of dollars to them in preferential government bonuses. Offering couples massive financial rewards on the condition they jettison their wedding vows, or decline to make them in the first place, is absurd social policy. But that would be the established policy of the U.S. government if Obamacare becomes law.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Look What They’re Erasing From U.S. History!

American heroes could get swapped for hip-hop culture in textbooks

According to Liberty Counsel, some of the suggestions that have come forward at various times include:

  • Removing references to Daniel Boone, General George Patton, Nathan Hale, Columbus Day and Christmas.
  • Including the cultural impact of hip-hop music, ACLU lawyer Clarence Darrow and the Hindu holiday of Diwali.
  • Replacing the term “American” with “global citizen” — stating that students need to be shaped “for responsible citizenship in a global society” without any mention of citizenship in American society.
  • Replacing expansionism and free enterprise with imperialism and capitalism.

Staver said one proposal suggests the name of Nathan Hale, a patriot of the American Revolutionary War, be removed and replaced with the name of a man who invented fireman helmets. He also said one proposal suggests removal of references to Independence Day.

“Those are no good anymore,” Staver told Mike Huckabee. “America is looked at, not as some country that gave liberty and freedom to others around the world, but as a global villain.”

He warns, one proposal suggests take the Declaration of Independence and literally erasing God from its Preamble.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Czar’s ‘Homo-Genda’ Proposed for U.S. Schools

Congressional legislation called ‘a sexual revolutionary’s dream’

A homosexual congressman from Colorado has proposed a law critics say would give controversial federal school safety czar Kevin Jennings — a longtime homosexual-rights advocate — almost unlimited authority to mandate indoctrination in public schools at taxpayer expense.

“It doesn’t get much more fascist than this! It’s a sexual revolutionary’s dream,” wrote Linda Harvey of Mission America.

Under the legislation by Democrat Rep. Jared Polis, Jennings “can create pro-homosexual programs and policies to their hearts’ delight,” Harvey wrote.


“The purpose of this bill is not what is being stated, but is quite simply to mandate in public schools one acceptable viewpoint on the issue of homosexuality, using purported violence or harassment as the rationale, and the power of the feds as the hammer,” Harvey said.

“The goal is to silence those who may warn about or object to student expression of homosexuality or gender confusion. Such warnings might literally save a child’s life.”

She said ultimately, if the law is adopted and the resulting rules are as expected, the only “safe” schools in the nation would be where “there is no dissent” about the promotion of homosexuality.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Pelosi Aide: Health Care Summit a Trick, Strategy on Pro-Abortion Bill Decided

President Barack Obama has proposed a bipartisan health care summit for later this month that Republican detractors bill as a publicity stunt designed to generate more support for the flailing pro-abortion health care bill. Now, an aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi essentially admitted that’s the case.

In comments reported by Congress Daily, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s top health care aide Wendell Primus admitted top Democrats have already decided on the strategy to pass the Senate’s government-run health care bill that funds abortions and has other pro-abortion problems.

Primus explained that the Senate will use the controversial reconciliation strategy that will have the House approve the Senate bill and both the House and Senate okaying changes to the bill that the Senate will sign off on by preventing Republicans from filibustering.

“The trick in all of this is that the president would have to sign the Senate bill first, then the reconciliation bill second, and the reconciliation bill would trump the Senate bill,” Primus said at the National Health Policy Conference hosted by Academy Health and Health Affairs.

“There’s a certain skill, there’s a trick, but I think we’ll get it done,” he said.

Conservative columnist Connie Hair noted Primus’ remarks and called the reconciliation strategy and the White House health care summit two big “rope-a-dope” plays that are “just another in a long charade of dog and pony shows.”

Hair says “the end game has already been decided behind closed doors by Democrats who have no intention of letting this opportunity for cradle to grave control over the American people slip away when it’s so close.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]