Thursday, February 04, 2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/4/2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/4/2010A sixteen-year-old Kurdish girl in Turkey was buried alive by her relatives because she damaged the honor of her family by making friends with boys. An autopsy discovered soil in her throat and lungs, proving that when she was buried, she was alive, undrugged, and conscious.

In other news, a court in the Netherlands has ruled that Iranian students must be allowed to take courses in nuclear technology. To exclude them would constitute discrimination.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Fjordman, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JD, JH, Joe, Lurker from Tulsa, Nilk, Sean O’Brian, Steen, TB, Wally Ballou, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Bankers Try to Fight Off Wave of Controls
Oklahoma Government Jobs Grow Even as Economy Shrinks
 
USA
‘Bolshevik Plot,’ Obama? Bingo!
Feds Investigate CAIR Terror Ties
Obama’s Totalitarian Plans for the Net
Scientist Convicted of Trying to Kill Americans Blames Israel
The “Lone Wolf” Terrorist: A Deceptive Description
The Jihadist Next Door
U.S. Must Rethink Policy of Deliberately Allowing Terrorists Into U.S. For Surveillance Purposes, Says Intelligence Vice Chairman
Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Soros
Yemeni Tankers OK’d in Harbor
 
Canada
Oh (No) Canada
 
Europe and the EU
“Ideology Counts for Nothing, When There is Human Suffering”
Burqa Becomes Focus of Tense Debate in Europe
Denmark: Mothers-Only School Meeting Attracts Outrage
EU Allies to Show Solidarity With Brown Before Election
EU: Institutions Looking for Future French Interpreters
France: Veiled Muslim Candidated by Extreme Left, Controversy
France: Cheeses, Sales of Camembert Fall, Mozzarella Up
Funding Cut for Places at Eurocrat College
Islamic Finance Comes to Ireland
Italy: Berlusconi Associate ‘Negotiated With the Mafia’
Italy: Mafia Boss ‘Had Family Vacations’ With Ex-Palermo Mayor
MEPs Threaten to Derail EU-US Data-Transfer Deal
Netherlands Must Admit Iranians to Nuclear Studies
Romania ‘To Host US Missile Shield’
Rugby: Italy Fired Up for Ireland
Turkey Wants Full Visa Immunity From EU, Not Ease in Requirements
UK: ‘Abhorrent Sexual Deviant’ GP Allowed to Work on After Downloading Child-Sex Stories
UK: Judges’ Watchdog Investigates Cherie Blair After She Spares ‘Devout’ Man From Jail
UK: Police ‘Cannot Attend Every 999 Call — and Most People Don’t Expect US To’, Claims Chief Constable
UK: Police Warn of Jihad Training for Children
 
North Africa
Algeria: 3.3 Million Hectares for Cereal Growing
Egypt: Book Criticising Gaddafi Confiscated
Terrorism: US Security Checks, Algeria for Reciprocal Measures
Tunisia: Little Interest in Books
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Berlusconi in Knesset: Israel Example of Democracy
Berlusconi in Israel: Excellent Relations, Several Accords
Gaza: Hamas Militiaman ‘Dies Whilst on a Mission’
Palestinian Prime Minister to Israeli Audience: You Make Concessions, We Don’t
 
Middle East
Any Threat Against Turkey is a Threat Against Iran, Motaki
Berlusconi Wants ‘Strong’ Iran Sanctions
Fr. Samir: Disappearance of Churches of the Middle East, A Tragedy for Christians and Muslims
Girl Buried Alive in Honour Killing in Turkey: Report
Gulf Countries: Too Many Foreigners, Fears Over Unemployment
Iran Raps Berlusconi ‘Interference’
Obama’s Strike Three: The Iranian Bomb
Saudi Arabia: Corruption and Religious Extremism Are Top Challenges
Teen Girl Buried Alive in Honor Killing in Turkey
Turkey: Fistfight in Parliament Over “Prophet” Comment
 
Russia
Russia Lifts Turkish Chicken Ban Amid Dispute With US
 
Caucasus
Putin Appears in Georgia’s Simpsons-Like Cartoon Show
 
South Asia
Turkmenistan: Now the Police Help Turkmen Imams to Persecute Christians
 
Far East
Hong Kong: Appeal Court Rejects Catholic Church’s Argument on School Freedom
‘Trojans’ Embedded in Memory Sticks?
 
Australia — Pacific
AC/DC’s Brian Johnson Bags Bono and Bob Geldof for Public Charity Work
 
Immigration
Blacklisted UK Colleges Take Border Agency to Court
Calabrian Mob in Immigration Scam
France: Sarkozy Against Illegal Networks
France: Citizenship Refused, Forced Wife to Wear Burqa
Guantanamo Detainees to Require Special Therapy
UK: Time to ‘Lance Boil’ of Resentment Over ‘Unfairness’ of Immigration, Says Labour’s Margaret Hodge
 
Culture Wars
UK: Christianity Being Squeezed Out in the Name of ‘Equality’, Archbishop of York Warns
 
General
Trace of Thought is Found in ‘Vegetative’ Patient

Financial Crisis

Bankers Try to Fight Off Wave of Controls

Protesters were handing out leaflets in the streets of Davos at the weekend. But their anger was not directed against world poverty, nuclear power or war; instead they were demanding that banks should put their derivatives business on to exchanges to make the financial system more transparent.

It is a potent reminder of how issues about financial stability dominated the agenda at the World Economic Forum last week. For most of the past decade, banks have used the WEF in Davos as a lavish opportunity to entertain clients. Last week they were fighting to fend off a wave of controls on sectors ranging from bonuses to proprietary trading and derivatives.

International supervisors, led by the Financial Stability Board and the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, are pondering how and when they should change the levels of capital and liquidity that banks will have to hold in future. Moreover, in recent weeks, politicians — Barack Obama, the US president, Alistair Darling, the UK chancellor, and Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president — have weighed in with measures, short-circuiting the more consultative regulatory response.

Whether the banks could claim victory for their lobbying at Davos remains unclear, partly because the financial industry is fighting on many fronts. One issue that dominated discussion at the WEF wasproprietary trading — and a putative move by the Obama administration to ban the activity at banks that take insured deposits.

Most bankers vociferously opposed the idea. Frédéric Oudéa, chairman and chief executive of Société Générale, said: “There is a process already under way in Basel. We need it to remain an orderly process in which regulators take the lead role and organise the dialogue with the banking industry. Otherwise there will be confusion, uncertainty and additional pressure on the financial system.”

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


Oklahoma Government Jobs Grow Even as Economy Shrinks

OKLAHOMA CITY — About 117,000 Oklahomans are currently unemployed. Another 50,000 are “under”-employed, meaning their hours have been cut or they’re working part-time.

In the past year, the private sector’s slashed more than 40,000 jobs in Oklahoma, and yet, at the same time, the public sector — government — has actually been growing.

The Oklahoma Impact Team discovered that while Oklahoma’s unemployment rate was soaring almost 50 percent and most employment sectors were shedding jobs, the state government added an estimated 4,400 net new jobs.

“Why?” asked one man when we showed him the numbers. The man recently lost his job.

Another man, aware that the state and other local governments are now talking about furloughs and layoffs, said, “It seems a little unfair.”

“That don’t make sense,” was the reaction of another person who learned the number of government jobs — federal, state and local — has been expanding at a time when government budgets have been shrinking.

In an effort to make sense of it, the Oklahoma Impact Team zeroed in on the largest number of these new jobs, which are classified as “local government.” According to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, there was a net gain of 1,000 local government positions in the Tulsa MSA (metropolitan statistical area) between December 2008 and December 2009, and also 1,000 in the Oklahoma City MSA during the same time frame.

The numbers are not exact but are based on a sample survey of employers. The surveys, however — even those from taxpayer-funded government employers — are confidential, making it difficult to pinpoint what and where the new jobs are.

The Oklahoma Impact Team made an assumption that with 1,000 new local government jobs in the Oklahoma City MSA, at least a few of those would be with the city of Oklahoma City, one of the larger government employers in this statistical area.

The assumption was correct, but only in part. The city did add 59 new positions over this year-long period, and Sheri Guyse, a new marketing coordinator for the city, is happy she got one of them.

“I do most of my work for the planning department,” Guyse said.

But it turns out that during the same period, Oklahoma City was also eliminating positions — 62 of them.

Kristy Yager, the city’s public information officer, said the result was a net loss.

“We actually lost three positions during that period,” Yager said.

And Oklahoma City, it turns out, was not the exception among large municipal and county employers: Oklahoma County reported a net loss of jobs from the fall of 2008 to the fall of 2009, as did the city of Tulsa.

“I am surprised,” said Lynn Gray, the chief economist for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, which published the job data.

The “government” classification covers a broad range of employment activity, Gray pointed out, and said, therefore, the growth could be coming from other areas.

“Perhaps it is coming from school districts or tribal employment or one of those other components,” he said.

Yes, teachers — all public school positions, in fact — are considered local government. And in the Oakdale school district, located within the Oklahoma City MSA, they did add 2.5 positions this school year.

Jill Willhoite got a part-time teaching position. She teaches one of three sixth grade classes, each with 20 students.

“If we tried to swish all those into two classes, it wouldn’t work out that well. So I’m glad they decided to add a new teacher,” Willhoite said.

Statewide, school personnel also increased from 2008 to 2009, but by only 56 total — a tenth of the rate at which student enrollment increased. That is why administrators like Oakdale superintendent Kim Lanier insist schools are not abusing taxpayer dollars.

“They have to be prudent in the use of public funds,” Lanier said. “We just have to be, we have to be beyond reproach in that area.”

Referring back to the recommendation of officials at OESC that left one other area of local government to check for significant growth: tribal employment.

Tribal jobs are also classified as “local government,” even when the jobs are not directly with the tribe but with a subsidiary business of the tribe.

The Cherokee Nation opened its Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee two years ago. In the last year, they added 10 new positions to the staff, including a new pediatric nurse. Carrie Casebolt got the job.

“I feel fortunate to be employed, at this point in time, anywhere,” Casebolt said.

Of course, tribal casinos, including the Cherokees’ new Hard Rock Hotel, have also been hiring. Cherokee Nation Entertainment added 235 new positions in the last year.

Still, it turns out, that’s just a small fraction of the 1,308 total new jobs the Cherokees created in Oklahoma during that time — job growth which may span all Cherokee businesses, but which has ultimately been fueled by successful casino operations.

“Of course we’ve had profits from gaming over the past years, and the effort is to diversify those dollars and create jobs, which we’ve been very successful at,” said Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO David Stewart.

So, it would seem taxpayers are footing the bill for this increase in “government” jobs, but they’re doing it, not through required IRS filings. but voluntarily, one nickel, one quarter, one dollar at a time.

And Stewart said that’s a win for the tribes, and also a win for the state.

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

USA

‘Bolshevik Plot,’ Obama? Bingo!

Late last week, radio and television commentator Glenn Beck touched on something at which I hinted in my last column — that rather than putting on the brakes in light of Scott Brown’s recent senatorial win and the summative occurrences leading up to same, the Obama administration would probably stomp on the gas. Beck’s assessment was based on instructions contained in “Rules for Radicals,” the Saul Alinsky tome that has been a holy text for President Obama’s variety of progressives; this protocol calls for fierce augmentation of goal-oriented actions when threatened or thwarted, rather than falling back and regrouping.

And it would appear that Beck — or perhaps Beck and I — were correct. As reported, early this week, Obama released his new $3.8 trillion budget plan, nearly half of which is deficit spending and which includes approximately $1.4 trillion in tax increases on businesses and “the wealthy.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Feds Investigate CAIR Terror Ties

Grand jury subpoena references law enabling president to address threats

A federal grand jury is investigating the Council on American-Islamic Relations for possible violation of laws that ban financial dealings with terrorist groups or countries under U.S. sanctions, according to a filing in the Muslim organization’s lawsuit against a co-author of the expose “Muslim Mafia” and his son.

A letter attached to the filing, signed by Lynn Haaland, assistant U.S. attorney for the National Security Section in Washington, referenced CAIR’s possible violations of 50 U.S.C. sections 1701-1706, which are part of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

[…]

Gaubatz said there are documents that reveal prominent Muslims under investigation by the FBI went to CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad and others for consultation. The documents show CAIR was aware that the Muslim leaders lied to the FBI about trips to Saudi Arabia.

Among the documents is a letter to Awad from a Muslim leader who told CAIR he had the right under Islam to commit violence against federal authorities. CAIR did not disclose the threat to the FBI, Gaubatz said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Obama’s Totalitarian Plans for the Net

Eager as he and his cronies are to control your life here at home, Obama is busily trying to give up control of key elements of Internet administration to foreign powers. If there’s one thing Democrats like more than government control of American citizens, its foreign control of American citizens. This desire has led Barack Hussein Obama to endanger not only the commerce and infrastructure of the United States, but the very lives of its citizens as well.

China, a nation actively engaged in espionage and hack attacks against the United States and American interests (the recent targeted attacks against Google, prompting the company to consider withdrawing from China altogether, was just a symptom of the larger problem), has been downgraded to a lesser security threat than it actually represents. This reclassification was done by the White House National Security Council — in other words, the Obama administration — over the strenuous objections of both the Director of National Intelligence and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The downgrade removes a hostile China, which is actively building its military, from the ranks of nations like Iran and North Korea, instead considering it only a passing, trifling issue, on par with Haitian earthquakes and border squabbles between Third World nations. China, of course, has lied about its actions, but Communist nations always respond to direct evidence of their evils by sticking their fingers in their ears and obstinately declaring that reality isn’t happening. China does this while claiming its human-rights abuses and censorship of the Internet are what’s best for its oppressed masses. Simultaneously, China is building its military with just one goal in mind, and that is opposing the United States. What’s more, they know that we know.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Scientist Convicted of Trying to Kill Americans Blames Israel

MIT-trained Pakistani scientist found guilty of assaulting American personnel in Afghanistan. Upon hearing verdict, she yells, ‘This verdict coming from Israel, not America.’ Also believed to be planning bomb attack in New York, Aafia Siddiqui claims she can single-handedly bring peace to Middle East.

[…]

During the two-week trial, FBI agents and US soldiers testified that when they went to interrogate Siddiqui at an Afghan police station, she snatched up an unattended assault rifle and shot at them while yelling, “Death to Americans.” She was wounded by return fire but recovered and was brought to the United States to face charges attempted murder, assault and gun charges.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


The “Lone Wolf” Terrorist: A Deceptive Description

If one considers the Christmas Day bomber Umar Abdulmutallab as a “lone wolf” terrorist, then remember that wolves are pack animals — predators — that excel at observational learning. While they might be “lone” in one given situation, a “lone wolf” inherently nonetheless adheres to a pack mentality. Like wolves, terrorists exist in various packs, some more feral and ultimately more dangerous than others. Like the Christmas Day airline bombing attempt, there will be more attempts driven by that very same pack mentality that so many are attempting to explain away as unrelated.

Instead of acknowledging the common traits that exist among the so-called “lone wolf” attackers, our current administration and the Department of Homeland Security is striving to downplay their common behavioral characteristics and the Islamic ideology behind them. The blame for this mentality is rooted in post-9/11 events by misplaced fears of backlash and bias against Muslims in North America. Although Obama and members of his administration are not the architects of this environment, they have certainly excelled this mindset by commission and omission. And through their efforts, they have succeeded in potentially creating the most dangerous terror environment within our own borders since 8:45 am ET on 11 September 2001.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


The Jihadist Next Door

By Michael Freund

The Super Bowl may be just days away, but that hasn’t stopped America’s Quarterback-in-Chief from fumbling the ball. In an interview with YouTube on Monday, US President Barack Obama was asked about his plans for America’s war on terror.

After wisely asserting that al-Qaida needs to be fought “on all fronts” and “in very concrete ways,” he then veered sharply off course, landing in a ditch alongside the road known as wishful thinking. Invoking what has become one of the central myths of American foreign policy, the president asserted that “we have to work with the overwhelming majority of Muslims who reject senseless violence of this sort.”

Ahh, if only that were true…

[Return to headlines]


U.S. Must Rethink Policy of Deliberately Allowing Terrorists Into U.S. For Surveillance Purposes, Says Intelligence Vice Chairman

(CNSNews.com) — The vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said Wednesday that the United States needs to rethink its existing policy of sometimes deliberately allowing people on the Terrorist Watchlist to board airliners and enter the country so they can be covertly tracked for intelligence-gathering purposes.

“Unfortunately, nowadays, if you want to watch somebody, you may be taking a risk that it’s another Abdulmutallab,” Sen. Kit Bond (R.-Mo.) told CNSNews.com, referring to the Al Qaeda terrorist who unsuccessfully tried to detonate an underwear bomb on Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day.

“I think we got to be a lot more careful who we let in to watch,” said Bond. “I would prefer—and if you put them on the No Fly list it tips them off that you know something about them—but, I think, for the safety of the United States we have to err on the side of keeping them out.”

Bond, who answered CNSNews.com’s question in a conference call with bloggers, said he believes recalibrating the policy of when people on the Terrorist Watchlist are allowed into the United States will require “a lot of thought and work,” but concluded: “I think we have to err on the side of keeping us safe from possible terrorist bombers or terrorist attackers.”

The federal government maintains an inverted pyramid of terrorist databases. At the top is the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment—or TIDE—which contains all information gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies about known or suspected terrorists. The TIDE includes about 500,000 names and is maintained by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which operates under the Director of National Intelligence.

One step down from the TIDE, is the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB)—commonly known as the Terrorist Watchlist. This list contains about 400,000 names, almost all of whom are foreign terrorists “exported” from the TIDE, although it also includes the names of a few domestic terrorists identified by the FBI. The TSDB is maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), which is overseen by the FBI.

The TSDB is an unclassified but sensitive list that was specifically created to allow agencies responsible for U.S. security to screen people for possible terrorism ties. It includes all people that the U.S. government knows or reasonably suspects are terrorists and has sufficient identifying information about to be able to successfully identify in processes like boarding an airplane.

The Selectee list and the No Fly list, which contain 14,000 and 4,000 names respectively, are subsets of the 400,000-name TSDB. Currently, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screens air passengers against the Selectee and No Fly lists, but not against the full TSDB. People on the No Fly list are not allowed to board planes, period. People on the Selectee list are pulled aside for additional screening, including pat-downs and searches of their belongings, but they are not barred from flying.

In compliance with a congressional mandate, TSA presented the House and Senate appropriations committees in December 2008 with a document certifying that TSA did not believe it would increase the risk to air travel to screen air passengers against only the No Fly and Selectee lists rather than the full TSDB. One explanation the TSA gave Congress for deciding not screening all air passengers against the full TSDB was that doing so might tip off some people who were under surveillance and thus compromise terrorist investigations.

“Another factor [in the decision not to screen all air passengers against the full Terrorist Watchlist],” the TSA said, “is that the TSDB includes records of persons who have been determined to not pose a threat to aviation or national security and are actively being monitored by law enforcement; overt scrutiny prior to boarding an aircraft could jeopardize the related terrorism investigation and would have a negative impact on overall security.”

In a January 20 hearing of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, NCTC Director Michael Leiter said he did not know exactly how many people on the Terrorist Watchlist entered the United States in 2009 but that it was probably a “very significant number.” He than added that “when people come to the country, if they are on the watch list, it is because we have generally made the choice that we want them here in the country for some reason or another.”

When asked by CNSNews.com about Leiter’s statement and the TSA’s explanation that one reason it did not screen air passengers against the full Terrorist Watchlist was because it did not want to alert people who were under surveillance, Bond said: “That’s the quandary they’re in. He put it straight. Unfortunately, nowadays, if you want to watch somebody, you may be taking a risk that it’s another Abdulmutallab. These people are—they are now targeting people they think can get into the United States with United States ties to bring them in. And I think we’ve got to be a lot more careful who we let in to watch. I would prefer—and if you put them on the No Fly list it tips them off that we know something about them—but, I think, for the safety of the United States we have to err on the side of keeping them out.”

CNSNews.com asked Bond if he supported the policy that sometimes allowed people on the Terrorist Watchlist to enter the country so they could be put under surveillance for intelligence-gathering purposes.

“I think you have to be very careful about who you let in,” said Bond. “And that is, that requires a lot of thought and work. I think we have to err on the side of keeping us safe from possible terrorist bombers or terrorist attackers. So that is a question. We are going to continue to work with the Intelligence Community and the other agencies … to try to get a reasonable solution. But letting everybody in to watch has been shown to be—I believe is no longer acceptable.”

Here is a partial transcript of the conference call with Sen. Bond:

Terry Jeffrey: Sen. Susan Collins said about a week ago in the Homeland Security Committee, when Mr. Leiter was testifying, that she thought that the entire TIDE database—the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment—ought to be used for screening people and that anybody that is on that list ought to have their U.S. visa suspended. Do you agree with her that anybody who currently is on the TIDE list ought to have their U.S. visa suspended?

Senate Intelligence Vice Chairman Kit Bond (R.-Mo.): The TIDE list is extremely broad. It requires—it’s information. But there should be a much tighter link up between those who are demonstrated to have the capability, intent and the ability and visas and the No Fly list. There are—there may be a lot of people on the TIDE list that are family members, relatives. I have a senior pastor in our church, who weighs less than a hundred pounds. He is 78 years old. He’s a good Scottsman named Robert Kerr (sp.). He got on the No Fly list. They got him off the No Fly list. They put him back on. The only thing I could say to him is apparently they have declared radical Presbyterians as a threat to our security. It disagreed with him.

Jeffrey: Senator, in that same hearing, Michael Leiter said, in response to a question from Sen. Carl Levin, that sometimes people who are on the TSDB—the Terrorist Watchlist—are allowed into the country because we choose to allow them into the country. When the Transportation Security Administration certified to the House and Senate appropriations committees that it was not going to screen against the full TSDB when people were boarding planes, one of the reasons they gave is because if they did that in some cases they would be alerting people who were under surveillance and perhaps jeopardize a terrorist investigation.

Bond: That’s the quandary they’re in. He put it straight. Unfortunately, nowadays, if you want to watch somebody, you may be taking a risk that it’s another Abdulmutallab. These people are—they are now targeting people they think can get into the United States with United States ties to bring them in. And I think we got to be a lot more careful who we let in to watch. I would prefer—and if you put them on the No Fly list it tips them off that you know something about them—but, I think, for the safety of the United States we have to err on the side of keeping them out. And hope that—

Jeffrey: So should we screen the entire TSDB? Or should they continue the practice that there is a No Fly list and Selectee list and that the rest of the people on the TSDB are not subjected to heightened scrutiny?

Bond: This is one of the ongoing discussions we’re going to have with them, because this is a tough, this is a tough challenge. And it’s really critical that we examine it, use the best intelligence we have, and make sure those we have reasonable grounds to believe might become suicide bombers not to let them back into the United States.

Jeffrey: Is it your view, senator, that it is an important and valuable policy of the United States to in fact sometimes let people on TSDB into the country so we can put them under surveillance and gather intelligence? Do you support that? Do you think that is a good policy?

Bond: I think you have to be very careful about who you let in. And that is, that requires a lot of thought and work. I think we have to err on the side of keeping us safe from possible terrorist bombers, or terrorist attackers. So that is a question. We are going to continue to work with the Intelligence Community and the other agencies [inaudible] to try to get a reasonable solution. But letting everybody in to watch has been shown to be—I believe is no longer acceptable.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Soros

“Democrats have a Nazi collaborator, literally—international financier George Soros—funding their phony grassroots organizations.” -Ann Coulter

In a 1998 interview with Steve Kroft, George Soros acknowledged forging documents and pretending to be Christian to save himself from the Nazis, for which he feels no guilt or sorrow. “I was fourteen,” Soros said. “My character was made then.” Regarding his participation in confiscating valuables from innocent Jews, and serving death camp warrants, Soros told Kroft, “It created no problem at all.” Soros has no sense that he shouldn’t be there; he felt he was a mere spectator. Soros rationalizes his behavior: “If I didn’t do it, someone else would.”

[…]

In 1979, Soros set up his misnamed foundation, the Open Society Institute (OSI). The OSI is the hub of the Shadow Party’s operation, doling out tens of millions every year to radical organizations to further the Soros agenda:

  • promoting the view that America is institutionally an oppressive nation
  • promoting the election of leftist political candidates throughout the United States
  • opposing virtually all post-9/11 national security measures enacted by U.S. government, particularly the Patriot Act
  • depicting American military actions as unjust, unwarranted, and immoral
  • promoting open borders, mass immigration, and a watering down of current immigration laws

[…]

Richard Poe explains how Soros was able to dragoon the entire democrat party:

“The Shadow Party is the real power driving the Democrat machine. It is a network of radicals dedicated to transforming our constitutional republic into a socialist hive. The leader of these radicals is … George Soros. He has essentially privatized the Democratic Party, bringing it under his personal control. The Shadow Party is the instrument through which he exerts that control… It works by siphoning off hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions that would have gone to the Democratic Party in normal times, and putting those contributions at the personal disposal of Mr. Soros. He then uses that money to buy influence and loyalty where he sees fit.

[…]

Soros also is working to throw out our Constitution and replace it with his own version:

“In April 2005, Soros’ Open Society Institute was the primary sponsor of a conference at Yale Law School, called, ‘The Constitution in 2020.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Yemeni Tankers OK’d in Harbor

Coast Guard vows to bolster security; Angry Menino sees risk of LNG terror

The Coast Guard said yesterday that it will allow tankers carrying liquefied natural gas from Yemen into Boston Harbor despite concerns about the cargo coming from a country that has been called a haven for terrorists.

The decision, which means LNG ships could begin arriving in Everett later this month, drew immediate condemnation from Mayor Thomas M. Menino, a longtime critic of allowing LNG shipments through the harbor. He accused the Coast Guard of putting profits ahead of people.

“This is all about helping a commercial enterprise,” Menino said in an interview. “I’m about helping protect people’s property and lives. They’re saying they will be as safe as any other LNG ship. I say they’ll be as unsafe as any other LNG ship.”

Opponents of the plan worry that terrorists could board the ships as stowaways and potentially ignite the flammable gas, though the company importing the LNG, Distrigas of Massachusetts, disputes the risk.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Canada

Oh (No) Canada

You’ve heard the mantra, chanted by everyone on the left, from Michael Moore to The New York Times: America’s profit-centric health-care system is dismally inferior to that of Canada’s purely pristine humanitarian-driven version.

Indeed, the central theme of Moore’s 2007 “documentary” film, “Sicko,” was that Canada — with its universal, government-run and taxpayer-funded “free” health care — is a medical paradise.

And a Times editorial last August glowingly declared: “Contrary to what one hears in political discourse, the bulk of the research comparing the United States and Canada found a higher quality of care in our northern neighbor.”

Well, tell that to Danny Williams, premier of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The popular 59-year-old politician has discovered that nothing is for free. He’s somewhere in the US today — prepping for heart surgery.

Seems the procedure he needs simply isn’t available in Newfoundland — at any price.

And, with his own health on the line, he prefers to put his trust in the “second-rate, profit-driven health-care behemoth” south of the St. Lawrence, rather than try a hospital in Canada.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

“Ideology Counts for Nothing, When There is Human Suffering”

Last Saturday, the book “Giorgio Perlasca, un italiano scomodo” (Giorgio Perlasca, an awkward Italian) was presented in Busto Arsizio, with the authors, Carlotta Zavattiero and Daniel Hallenstein, present. “Little was said of his work saving the Jews from the Nazis, because of the Cold War.”

In the foyer of the Teatro Sociale in Busto Arsizio, the presentation was given, yesterday, Saturday 30 January, of the book “Giorgio Perlasca, un Italiano scomodo”, published by Chiarelettere. The meeting with the journalists Carlotta Zavattiero and Daniel Hallenstein, who wrote the book, was chaired by Marisa Denna.

The story of Perlasca emerged on 30 April 1990, when an episode of Mixer, which spoke about him, was broadcast on the state television channel RAI Due.

Perlasca can be described as the Italian Schindler. In 1944, he was in Budapest on business; as he was being sought by the Nazis, he asked for, and obtained the Spanish nationality and passport. From that day on, he pretended to be the Spanish consul, and worked to save the lives of thousands of Jews, who were destined for the Nazi concentration camps. Here, below, are a number of questions the authors were asked, in order to highlight some key elements of the “Perlasca case”, and of the extremely long silence that, for decades, surrounded his actions.

How and when did you come to know about Perlasca?

(Hallenstein) “It was in 1991. I knew nothing about Perlasca. I spoke with the editor of the newspaper I was working for (The European), who sent me to him to do a report. Every Monday, there was a meeting to speak about possible articles. The people at the newspaper thought it strange that a fascist, pretending to be the Spanish Consul, had saved thousands of Jews.”

Why didn’t you write the book about him immediately?

(Hallenstein) “At that time, the film “Schindler’s List” by Spielberg was coming out. In addition, my British publishers couldn’t understand why a man that had joined the Fascist Party should save so many Jews.”

Why did his story remain unknown for so many years?

(Zavattiero) “It wasn’t the fault of the press. The first article about him was published on 12 June 1961, one whole page written by Giuseppe Cerato, in the newspaper “Il Resto del Carlino”. At the end of the 1970s, Furio Colombo, who was the correspondent of “La Stampa”, wrote two pages about him. The cause of the silence was entirely political, it was because of the Cold War. Ideological opposition led to a person like Perlasca (who was not a practising Catholic) inevitably to be reduced to silence.”

When did Perlasca’s work begin?

(Zavattiero) “For Giorgio Perlasca, the work of saving Jews began the day after he obtained his Spanish passport.”

Why did neither the left, nor the right speak about him?

(Zavattiero) “The left was influenced by the fact that he had formerly been a fascist. The right could not agree to have as a symbol a man that had rejected the Italian Social Republic and the 1938 race laws, and had remained with the King.”

Why did even the Vatican not speak about him?

(Hallenstein) “As Perlasca’s son, Franco, has said, because there has always been an element of anti-Semitism in the church. They didn’t want to acknowledge him, because the church itself hadn’t done much to save the Jews.”

What led him to save the lives of thousands of Jews?

(Hallenstein) “In 1938, he rejected the race laws. He couldn’t understand them because many of his childhood friends had been Jewish, as were many soldiers at whose side he had fought in war. Then, when he had the opportunity to save people, he did it.”

What is Perlasca’s message today?

(Hallenstein) “That ideology counts for nothing, when there is human suffering.”

Silvano De Prospo

Translated by Prof. Rolf Cookinfo@ssml.va.it

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


Burqa Becomes Focus of Tense Debate in Europe

As France moves closer to a partial ban on the burqa, a leading European lawmaker declared Wednesday that the full Muslim veil is a symbol of political Islam and has no place in Europe.

“The majority (of Europeans) don’t want the political Islam and the symbols of political Islam. And the burqa is part of the political Islam that the majority rejects,” Naser Khader, a Syrian-born Conservative member of the Danish Parliament, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

But he insisted that opposing political Islam is not the same as being “Islamophobic.”

“Wearing the burqa and niqab is oppressive of women. And many Muslims are against the burqa and niqab,” he said, referring to Islamic women’s clothing that covers from head to toe.

Khader said the majority of the estimated 20 million Muslims living in the European Union are well-integrated, law-abiding and loyal citizens.

“The burqa and niqab have no place in Western Europe”, he added.

Khader’s remarks reflected the increasingly tense debate in Europe about the role of Islam in the continent’s culture and society. A parliamentary commission in France is recommending that women should not be allowed to wear a full veil in public buildings and on public transportation, and the French government this week denied citizenship to a man who ordered his wife to wear the veil.

This debate is also playing out in countries such as Switzerland, where voters last year supported a ban on the construction of minarets on mosques, and in Denmark, where the cartoonist responsible for the 2005 controversial drawings of the Prophet Mohammad survived a New Year’s Day attack by a Somali man wielding an ax.

Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan told Amanpour that less than 2,000 women in France are wearing the headscarf and the niqab. He urged lawmakers and others not to escalate the anger to the point where discussion is no longer possible.

“By banning the burqa, banning the way people are dressing, we are against our own values,” Ramadan said. “In fact, we are nurturing fear, and we are not having a constructive debate. Islam is a European religion, and it’s part of society.”

His view was strongly challenged by former Dutch lawmaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has received death threats for her anti-Islamic views and who now lives in the United States.

“Islam is not a European religion,” she said. “What we are seeing in Europe is that there is conflict between the values of Europe and the values of Islam.”

She added, “We are having a discussion about basic human values that Europeans have resolved and Muslims have not.”

Ramadan struck back, saying Hirsi Ali should listen to what U.S. President Barack Obama was saying about Muslims to the Islamic world.

“He was also saying to the Americans, ‘Look Islam is an American religion.’ We have millions of Europeans who are abiding by the law, speaking the language of the country, and they are now loyal to their country — and they’re doing it (the clothing) as an act of faith.”

Hirsi Ali, though, referred to the failed Chirstmas Day attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner, saying Muslims are stuffing explosives into their underwear and taking flights to kill innocent people. She said jihad is a major concept in Islam that enables terrorists to say that God is telling them to kill.

She argued that Ramadan wanted to “tranquilize everyone into believing that Islam is a religion of peace.”

Ramadan vigorously rejected Hirsi Ali’s assertions. He said, “What we have today is a new visibility of Muslims, and that’s true.”

“Let us really look at the facts and figures. We have a tiny minority of women who are wearing the niqab and the burqa, and we have some extremist views that we have to condemn by saying it’s wrong to kill innocent people.”

He said no one can impose the wearing of the clothing, and women should be autonomous and free, adding that killing innocent people is simply not acceptable.

Khader told Amanpour, “We have a minority that is living in ghettos and parallel societies… and that’s the problem. The small groups are making the problem for the majority.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Denmark: Mothers-Only School Meeting Attracts Outrage

Politicians up in arms over school’s anti-bullying meeting that is aimed only at mothers of pupils

The decision taken by a Copenhagen school to ban fathers from a parental meeting out of respect for Muslim mothers has drawn deep divides between politicians and school leaders.

Holberg School in the city’s Bispebjerg district has scheduled a meeting for parents about the school’s anti-bullying policy this evening. But the meeting at the multi-cultural school is mothers only, and neither Danish nor immigrant fathers of pupils have been welcomed to attend.

The invitation from the school invites mothers to attend a ‘debate about bullying that includes mother talk, yummy food, coffee and cake’. They are also invited to bring their young children with them if needed, as babysitting will be provided.

School principal Søren Ellesøe told Berlingske Tidende newspaper that the school took the decision in order to reach out to a group of parents who usually don’t attend parent teacher meetings.

‘We have immigrant women parents in particular whose husbands believe that women should not take part in something if other men are present,’ he said.

A questionnaire on the school’s website undertaken by older students showed that a quarter of the school pupils come from a non-Danish ethnic background.

Chairman of the Danish Teachers’ Union, Anders Bondo Christensen, is backing the decision taken by the principal.

‘If it’s to ensure that students get a safe and good school day without bullying then I respect the decision,’ he said.

But politicians are up in arms, most notably Socialist People’s Party leader Villy Søvndal, who is outraged that the fathers’ equality is being ignored out of consideration for some ‘obdurate religious ideas’.

‘I’m simply shocked that a principal at a public school can take such a decision. It was likely undertaken with the best intentions, but it is deeply, deeply damaging,’ Søvndal said.

He is now putting pressure on the deputy mayor for the city council’s children and youth administration Anne Vang to intervene and ensure the meeting is cancelled if fathers are not allowed to attend.

Meanwhile the Danish People’s Party (DF) is going a step further and calling for the principal to be fired if the meeting goes ahead at 5.30pm without any fathers present.

‘We won’t allow immigrant men to set the agenda for how we hold meetings in our schools,’ said DF group chairman at the city council Carl Christian Ebbesen.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


EU Allies to Show Solidarity With Brown Before Election

Leaders’ visits designed to bolster PM’s image amid fears a Conservative government would pursue isolationism

European Union leaders are to give tacit support to Gordon Brown’s attempt to win re-election amid fears in Brussels that David Cameron would adopt isolationist and Eurosceptic policies as prime minister.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, and Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, are both expected to visit London before the general election for talks with the Prime Minister.

Although they will not intervene directly in the British election, their appearance alongside Mr Brown is bound to be seen as a sign of their displeasure with David Cameron. Traditionally, foreign leaders have been anxious to build bridges with a party enjoying a lead in opinion polls.

But Ms Merkel and Mr Sarkozy are dismayed by the Tory leader’s decision to pull his party’s MEPs out of the mainstream centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) group in the European Parliament, to which both their parties belong. Mr Cameron has now compounded the problem by ordering Tory councillors to quit the EPP group on the EU’s Committee of the Regions — even though they wanted to stay.

In addition to the high-profile visits, EU leaders will give the Prime Minister a central role at a special summit to discuss the economy in Brussels a week today. Mr Brown will open the discussion and the meeting is expected to endorse the key planks of his proposed “EU compact for jobs and growth” to lead Europe out of recession and create 15 million jobs.

British and French officials are finalising dates for Mr Sarkozy to visit London. Mr Brown will discuss a similar trip with Ms Merkel around the time of the EU summit. Both leaders have signalled that they are keen to come.

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


EU: Institutions Looking for Future French Interpreters

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 3 — Wanted: young french-speakers interested in a career in interpreting. This is the message launched by the interpreting services of the European institutions in an ad hoc campaign. The lack of an increase in the number of graduates in schools for interpreters and universities, in concomitance with a part of the staff nearing retirement means that there is a risk that the Commission, Parliament and European Court of Justice will be left with half of its current French-speaking interpreters in a matter of 10 years. For this reason, the awareness campaign to ensure the future use of French (and also of other languages) in the institutions, set off from Brussels, Paris and Luxembourg in September last year. This weeks appointment is at a stand at the Expolangues fair underway in Paris and two conferences on the interpreting profession are scheduled for Friday 5 and Saturday 6 February. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


France: Veiled Muslim Candidated by Extreme Left, Controversy

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 4 — The presence of a Muslim woman who wears the veil in an electoral list of the extreme left, the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA), for the regional elections in March has unleashed a storm of controversy in France. There are voices from the right and from the left against the candidature of Ilhan Moussaid in the Vaucluse region (south east). The socialists oppose the candidature in the name of man-woman equality, whereas the veil is a distinguishing mark. The secretary of the party, Martine Aubry, has already said that she would never have accepted a veiled woman in the party’s lists. Comments were also made by the governing right party, the UMP, who talks of provocation. NPA leader, Olivier Besancenot, has responded to the disputes by today denouncing the sickening and Islamaphobic climate that exists in France and which is becoming unbearable. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


France: Cheeses, Sales of Camembert Fall, Mozzarella Up

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 4 — French consumption of cheese remains stable, but it is changing its composition. According to data from the National Interprofessional Centre of the Dairy Economy, in 2009 sales of traditional camembert dropped 2.6%, whereas sales of mozzarella and Greek feta cheese went up by over 10%, representing more than 3% of the French cheese market. The amount of mozzarella produced by French companies and not imported has also increased: in 2007 (the last year for which broken up data exists) it reached 38,000 tonnes, more than double the amount in 2000. The French are the second largest consumers of cheese in Europe, with 24kg per head per year, behind the Greeks (27.3) and ahead of the Italians (20.9). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Funding Cut for Places at Eurocrat College

Britain is to slash funding for scholarships to the College of Europe, the training ground for Eurocrats, in a move that could leave fewer Britons in a position to influence policy-making in Brussels, according to critics.

The decision, part of a review of education spending, means that all but two of the 28 scholarships annually awarded to UK graduates will be discontinued.

The College of Europe is a renowned incubator for aspiring European officials, and many of its graduates have gone on to serve at the most senior levels of the European Union bureaucracy. Based in Bruges, it has for 60 years fed prospective civil servants an unabashedly federalist diet of courses for a post-graduate degree in political studies.

The funding cut was attacked as short-sighted by Nick Clegg, leader of the UK Liberal Democrats who graduated from the college and started his political career in Brussels.

“In the context of overall government spending of £600bn this is a minuscule saving. Yet it will create long-term costs by reducing the number of British graduates qualified to stand up for British interests in Europe,” he said. The scholarships are worth up to €20,000 ($32,000, £20,000) each.

British alumni include Jonathan Faull, the senior Commission official recently appointed to oversee the internal markets bureaucracy in Brussels, and said by some to be a UK counter-weight to Michel Barnier, the incoming French commissioner.

“Having a Jonathan Faull figure in the bureaucracy doesn’t mean British policy gets implemented but it does give you a better chance of getting your voice heard,” said one member of the “Bruges mafia”, as college alumni are known.

Britain’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills said the decision was partly taken on the grounds that funding the non-UK college could breach EU laws restricting the freedom of movement of European nationals.

“In addition, [the department] does not generally fund postgraduate study and is focusing on creating as many opportunities as possible for young people wanting to go to university for the first time,” a spokesman said.

Another factor may have been that British authorities do not discriminate on nationality grounds when awarding the scholarships, meaning any EU student residing in Britain and having completed their undergraduate studies in the UK is eligible. Currently, 18 British students are at the college, said a spokesman.

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


Islamic Finance Comes to Ireland

THE FINANCE Bill is expected to accommodate the principles of Sharia Law in a bid to attract business from the Islamic world.

The Minister for Finance will publish the Bill later today, and it is expected to include a number of sections designed to boost the Republic’s attractiveness to foreign investment.

Some provisions to be introduced tomorrow will be designed to ensure that Irish tax and financial law can accommodate the principles of Sharia Law, which stems from the teachings and principles of the Koran.

Sharia Law’s terms include a ban on charging interest and strict limits on insurance, as well as other restrictions on financial services and trading.

Banks and financial institutions have developed instruments that comply with the law, which include different forms of lease agreements, loans that allow the institutions to earn a margin on the debt and tradable, non-interest-bearing bonds, known as Sukuks.

Islamic equity funds are a growth industry and estimates of the worth of their assets run to €3.5 billion worldwide.

[Return to headlines]


Italy: Berlusconi Associate ‘Negotiated With the Mafia’

Palermo, 2 Feb. (AKI) — An Italian senator and close associate of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was involved in secret negotiations with the Sicilian mob after it murdered a top anti-mafia judge in 1992, according to the son of late mafia member and mayor of Palermo, Vito Cianciamino.

“After his arrest in December 1992, my father was sure the Carabinieri police had betrayed him and that he had been replaced by someone backed by (jailed mafia boss Bernardo) Provenzano,” Massimo Ciancimino told prosecutors on Tuesday.

“Years later, my father told me this person was Dell’Utri,” he said, referring to Marcello Dell’Utri, a senator for Berlusconi’s ruling conservative People of Freedom party and co-founder of its forerunner, the Forza Italia party.

“My father told me Marcello Dell’Utri had direct links with Bernardo Provenzano,” Ciancimino said.

Dell’Utri, a native of the Sicilian capital, Palermo, was in 2004 convicted of mafia association and given a nine-year jail term, but plea-bargained a much lighter sentence of 2 years and three months for tax fraud.

Ciancimino told prosecutors that his father felt he had been “dumped” after his arrest. Vito Ciancimino was the first Italian politician convicted for being a member of the mafia.

He died in 2002, a year after his failing health prompted authorities to commute his 13-year- sentence to house arrest.

Ciancimino said Provenzano communicated with his father via written notes which were hand-delivered to him in sealed envelopes by Provenzano’s aides.

Ciancimino senior kept copies of the messages known as ‘pizzini’ and the orignals are held by “an institute in Switzerland”, his son said.

Berlusconi’s lawyer Nicolo Ghedini has already said he will sue Ciancimino for “baseless and slanderous” claims he made on Monday that the Sicilian mafia invested heavily in the Milano2 suburb, built by Berlusconi’s property company in the 1970s.

All the funds invested in Milano2 were “more than transparent,” Ghedini said.

“This has been shown by scrupulous checks that have been carried out a number of times,” Ghedini added.

Ciancimino this week is testifying at an investigation into the 40 year efforts to capture Provenzano who was arrested in April, 2006.

Ciancimino said on Monday his father and Provenzano were so close they had taken vacations together.

He also claimed his father had ties to the Italian secret services from the 1960s until his death.

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


Italy: Mafia Boss ‘Had Family Vacations’ With Ex-Palermo Mayor

Palermo, 1 Feb.(AKI) — Former Palermo mayor Vito Ciancimino and jailed Italian mafia “boss of bosses” Bernardo Provenzano were so close that their families would vacation together, according to testimony given on Monday by Ciancimino’s son Massimo.

“Provenzano was a constant presence in my family from the time I was a small child,” he said. I remember that when I was seven or eight years old in the 70’s we’d spend vacations together,” Ciancimino told prosecutors in Palermo.

He was testifying in an investigation into the 40 year effort to capture Provenzano who was arrested in April, 2006.

Vito Ciancimino was the first Italian politician convicted for being a member of the mafia. As the head of Palermo’s public works, Ciancimino sold thousands of building permits to mafia frontmen, resulting in the destruction of much of the city’s Baroque buildings in favour of modern cement.

He stepped down as Palermo mayor in 1971, amid an investigation into embezzlement and ties to the mafia.

The younger Ciancimino in November gave testimony that Provenzano betrayed the previous head of the Sicilian mafia, Salvatore ‘Toto’ Riina by revealing his hiding place to police in 1993.

Informants claim that after Riina was captured and jailed for life, Provenzano succeeded him the Sicilian mafia’s “boss of bosses” until his arrest at a farmhouse near Corleone.

Vito Ciancimino died in 2002 in Rome — a year after his failing health prompted authorities to commute his 13 year sentence to house arrest.

His assets were estimated to be worth at least two million euros.

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


MEPs Threaten to Derail EU-US Data-Transfer Deal

Centre-left and liberal groups lead the fight against an accord that would give US officials access to European bank transfer records.

The European Parliament is threatening to reject next week an EU-US deal to share data about bank transfers, which is considered by the Americans to be a vital part of their counter-terrorism defences.

The Parliament’s centre-left and liberal groups are leading the fight against an accord that, for nine months in the first instance, would allow US Treasury officials access to European records of bank transfers via SWIFT, an international bank transfer consortium.

MEPs and Parliament officials said that the two political groups, the second and third biggest in the Parliament, would team up with the Greens/European Free Alliance and other smaller political groups to deal an embarrassing set-back to EU-US security ties.

The agreement, which was negotiated with the US by the EU’s Council of Ministers and the European Commission, took effect provisionally on 1 February. But, because of the powers that the Parliament has acquired under the Lisbon treaty, the deal needs the approval of MEPs. If MEPs vote against the deal, it will be void.

The deal formalises secretive arrangements that the US Treasury has had with SWIFT since 2001, allowing US investigators access to banking data, while talks continue on a permanent EU-US deal.

The Parliament’s civil liberties committee is today (4 February) expected to back a report drafted by Dutch Liberal MEP Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert that says the EU should ditch the deal and renegotiate a new accord with better privacy and data protection guarantees, officials said.

As of yesterday, the report was scheduled for debate by the full Parliament next week.

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


Netherlands Must Admit Iranians to Nuclear Studies

Students from Iran can take nuclear courses in the Netherlands after all. A judge in The Hague ruled yesterday that the government is not allowed to exclude them.

The judge ruled that the Iranians were discriminated against by the exclusion regulation. This regulation, introduced based on a UN resolution by Education Minister Ronald Plasterk and Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen, will now have to be scrapped.

A group of Iranian Dutch were opposing the sanction measure excluding students from Iran from certain Master’s courses and studies at certain locations, including the nuclear installations in Petten and Borssele. Verhagen had not yet commented on the verdict yesterday.

The measure was intended to prevent Iranian students from being able to collect information that could help with the making or spread of nuclear weapons. In the past, nuclear secrets came into the hands of a number of countries via an Iranian nuclear physicist who took them with him from Dutch uranium processing company Urenco.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Romania ‘To Host US Missile Shield’

Romania has agreed to host missile interceptors as part of a new US defence shield, its president says.

President Traian Basescu said the plan was approved by the supreme defence council. It still needs parliamentary approval.

US President Barack Obama last year scrapped a previous version of the shield, based in Poland and the Czech Republic, which had infuriated Russia.

He said the US would now concentrate on a smaller-scale version.

Mr Basescu said the system would “protect the whole of Romania’s territory”, but stressed that it “is not directed against Russia”.

Smaller system

The US has insisted that its defence shield was designed to protect its allies against attack from “rogue states” like Iran, and was not aimed at Russia.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, however, said the system would upset the strategic balance. They threatened to train nuclear warheads on Poland and the Czech Republic in response.

Mr Obama’s decision to abandon the original plan in September was greeted with enthusiasm in Russia, and came amid attempts to “reset” the relationship between Washington and Moscow.

The anti-ballistic missile shield favoured by former President George W Bush would be replaced by a reconfigured system designed to shoot down short- and medium-range missiles, Mr Obama announced.

He said intelligence suggested Iran was concentrating on shorter-range, not intercontinental, missiles.

The new system is built around ship-based SM-3 anti-missile missiles and on similar missiles to be stationed on land.

In October, US Vice-President Joseph Biden visited Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic seeking support for the new system.

Poland has already signed up.

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


Rugby: Italy Fired Up for Ireland

“We’ll play great game,’ says Canale

(ANSA) — Rome, February 4 — Italy is fired up for the daunting task of taking on Six Nations champions and Grand Slam winners Ireland in the tournament opener at Croke Park Saturday, Gonzalo Canale said Thursday.

“It won’t be a stroll in the park but we’re going to make a great game of it,” the Clermont centre told the press at Fiumicino Airport.

“We’re ready, physically and mentally,” said the Argentine-born Canale, one of the stand-outs in November’s 24-6 win over Samoa.

“Of course, psychologically, you know you’re taking on the reigning champs, but we’re in good shape, well prepared”.

Coach Nick Mallett on Thursday named the same team that beat Samoa, with Australian-born Craig Gower fit to start at fly half after recovering from a thigh injury.

Treviso hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini deputises as captain for the third time for injured No.8 Sergio Parisse while flanker Mauro Bergamasco gets his 80th cap, moving to third in the rankings behind Alessandro Troncon with 101 and Carlo Cecchinato with 83.

Ireland and Italy will meet for the 17th time with 13 previous wins for the Irish and three for Italy — but Italy’s all before it joined the Six Nations in 2000.

The Azzurri are looking to bounce back from their worst championship ever.

Mallett said the team “took many positives” out of last autumn’s hard-fought defeats to the Springboks and All Blacks.

But Ireland skipper Brian O’Driscoll warned Italy not to expect “less than 100%” from the Irish, saying the veteran team had refound a taste for glory after a low ebb at the 2007 World Cup.

“We touched the bottom at the World Cup in France but we’re sky-high now and we like a relish of winning,” said O’Driscoll, last year’s Man of the Tournament and also Heineken Cup winner with Leinster.

“We haven’t slaked our thirst and we want to stay at the top for as long as possible”.

“I think 2010 can be our year again,” said O’Driscoll.

Last year Ireland got its first Grand Slam in 61 years and also beat world champs South Africa in October. Here is the Italy team: Backs: 15 Luke McLean (Benetton Treviso), 14 Kaine Robertson (Montepaschi Viadana), 13 Gonzalo Canale (Clermont Auvergne), 12 Gonzalo Garcia (Benetton Treviso), 11 Mirco Bergamasco (Stade Francais), 10 Craig Gower (Bayonne), 9 Tito Tebaldi (Plusvalore Gran Parma) Forwards: 8 Alessandro Zanni (Benetton Treviso), 7 Mauro Bergamasco (Stade Francais), 6 Josh Sole (Montepaschi Viadana), 5 Quintin Geldenhuys (Montepaschi Viadana), 4 Carlo Antonio Del Fava (Montepaschi Viadana), 3 Martin Castrogiovanni (Leicester Tigers), 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (Benetton Treviso, captain), 1 Salvatore Perugini (Bayonne). Replacements: 16 Fabio Ongaro (Saracens), 17 Matias Aguero (Saracens), 18 Marco Bortolami (Gloucester), 19 Paul Derbyshire (Petrarca Padova), 20 Simon Picone (Benetton Treviso), 21 Riccardo Bocchino (Femi-CZ Rovigo), 22 Andrea Masi (Racing-Metro Parigi). Ireland: Backs: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O’Driscoll (captain), 12 Gordon D’Arcy, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Ronan O’Gara, 9 Tomas O’Leary.

Forwards: 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 David Wallace, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Paul O’Connell, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 John Hayes, 2 Jerry Flannery, 1 Cian Healy. Replacements: 16 Rory Best, 17 Tom Court, 18 Leo Cullen, 19 Sean O’Brien, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Paddy Wallace, 22 Keith Earls.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Turkey Wants Full Visa Immunity From EU, Not Ease in Requirements

Turkey has reiterated its call on the European Union for equal treatment on visa requirements, stressing that what EU membership candidate Turkey has been asking for is not any kind of moderation on the issue, but immunity.

“Various difficulties which our citizens encounter on the visa issue sparked our indignation. We do not want a different visa process, we want visa immunity. Turkey should have passed the requirement process a long time ago,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Burak Özügergin said on Wednesday in response to a question at a regular press briefing.

In December, following talks with EU officials, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey would soon take steps to meet the bloc’s conditions for visa-free travel — such as the introduction of biometric passports and the signing of an agreement on readmission of illegal immigrants — and warned that the EU would impose double standards if it still refuses to allow Turkish citizens to travel to member countries freely.

During talks with EU officials, Turkish officials asked them what should be done by the Turkish side to accelerate the process concerning visa immunity so that they could take the necessary steps, Özügergin explained. Turkey has been conducting coordinated efforts with EU officials to reach an agreement on the readmission of illegal immigrants, while the Foreign Ministry and Interior Ministry have also been jointly studying the issue of biometric passports in order to have these passports come into effect before the end of the year, he added.

Echoing Davutoglu’s warning in December, Özügergin said, “If there is still a problem when we finish these studies, then we will see this as a double standard,” while noting that the EU has, for a long time, shown unwillingness for sharing the burden on the issue of a readmission agreement. There has been a change in this situation recently, he noted, adding that a new round of talks on the readmission agreement would be held later this month.

“There is no excuse for why this right has not been granted to citizens of Turkey, a country negotiating membership. We do want to know what technical conditions must be met to freely be able to visit the Schengen region. … We can be ready in one to two months and believe that the EU will have no excuse after that. If the visa requirement is still in place despite all this, then we will consider this as an act of imposing double standards,” Davutoglu said at the time.

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


UK: ‘Abhorrent Sexual Deviant’ GP Allowed to Work on After Downloading Child-Sex Stories

A family doctor described as a ‘deviant’ for downloading child-sex stories has escaped being struck off.

Dr Nicholas Spicer, 55, read the paedophile fantasies on his home computer between 2003 and 2007 while working with children as a GP.

He was hauled before a General Medical Council disciplinary hearing, where he was described as ‘a sexual deviant with an interest in children’.

[…]

Child safety groups and even Spicer’s wife yesterday condemned the GMC’s decision not to strike him off the medical register.

Spicer’s disgusted wife Patricia has started divorce proceedings.

She said: ‘People and professionals that I have spoken to are mystified about the decision.

‘The GMC’s mission statement is “protecting doctors, protecting people”, but they are not living up to it.’

Spicer is unrepentant and claims his behaviour was down to a medical condition.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Judges’ Watchdog Investigates Cherie Blair After She Spares ‘Devout’ Man From Jail

Cherie Blair has been reported to a judges watchdog after she spared a violent thug from jail because he was ‘a religious man’.

The National Secular Society complained to the Judicial Complaints Office after Mrs Blair — a devout Roman Catholic — suspended a six month sentence on Shamso Miah for breaking a man’s jaw.

Miah , 25, broke another customer’s jaw during the violent ‘queue rage’ attack after a row erupted about who was next.

‘We think this is discriminatory and unjust and we wish to make a formal complaint about it,’ wrote Terry Sanderson, the president of the NSS.

The complaints office has acknowledged his letter and confirmed that it is going to investigate the case.

‘We feel it’s wrong that someone so high profile as Mrs Blair, and she is very high profile as a Catholic, should make such remarks in court,’ he said.

‘The man was incredibly violent and broke someone’s jaw for no apparent reason.

‘She said that he would have got a six month sentence but was suspending it because he was a religious man and would know he was doing wrong, which we feel implies that a non-religious person wouldn’t know it was wrong.

‘We strongly feel that this kind of consideration should not play any part in sentencing. The idea that someone who is religious gets a lighter sentence is outrageous.

‘The indications are that people are losing their religion very fast in this country, so it would disadvantage many people if they were treated more harshly in court than people who go to church.’

Last month Inner London Crown Court heard how Miah left prayers at his East Ham mosque to a bank when he became involved in an argument with Mohammed Furcan.

Furious Miah grabbed Mr Furcan before and punched him in the face.

The thug ran outside but Mr Furcan chased after him and demanded to know why he had been struck.

Miah punched him again — knocking him to the groundand breaking his jaw.

When he was arrested, the thug told police he had acted in self-defence.

But the bank’s CCTV footage showed he was the aggressor.

The unemployed first-time offender, from Redbridge, north-east London, pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Sentencing him, Mrs Blair — who practices law under her maiden name of Cherie Booth — said that violence on the streets had to be taken seriously.

She told him: ‘I am going to suspend this sentence for the period of two years based on the fact you are a religious person and have not been in trouble before.

‘You caused a mild fracture to the jaw of a member of the public standing in a queue at Lloyds Bank.

‘You are a religious man and you know this is not acceptable behaviour.’

Miah was sentenced to six months in jail, suspended for two years, and was ordered to carry out 200 hours of community service.

           — Hat tip: JH[Return to headlines]


UK: Police ‘Cannot Attend Every 999 Call — and Most People Don’t Expect US To’, Claims Chief Constable

A police chief criticised by a judge for failing to attend a 999 call said today police could not attend every emergency call — and most people did not expect them to.

Julie Spence, Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Police, said Judge Sean Enright’s complaint gave her a chance to ‘inject a note of realism’ into the perception of policing.

The judge last month said the police’s failure to respond to 18-year-old Sadegh Ghanbara’s call for help ‘smacked of indifference’.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Police Warn of Jihad Training for Children

Some young children in Britain are being indoctrinated to hate non-Muslims and champion a holy war, according to a new documentary.

“No child is ever too young to be started off on Jihad training,” states one document recovered by police from the North West’s Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) during raids.

CTU officers, interviewed by the BBC’s Inside Out team for a special programme, show the document and a film they recovered of two children aged about three and six playing with a pistol and Kalashnikov rifle.

The officers say the discoveries are evidence of attempts to radicalise youngsters. The footage, which police believe was filmed in Pakistan, was uncovered on the hard drive of a suspect’s computer — though investigators have not revealed when the material was seized.

The video shows a girl and young boy playing with guns, which police believe are real. “What do you do with the weapon?” asks a man’s voice. He answers his own question: “I want to kill the infidels.”

A senior CTU officer, who cannot be identified for security reasons, tells the programme makers: “We believe this was filmed abroad. We have no idea who the children are. We were shocked to find it at the house. We have no reason to believe this is faked. The guns are real.”

The officer said of another raid: “We found a series of flash cards and documents on how to raise Mujahid children. The cards were written in English — and instead of having M for Muhammad they had M for Mujahideen. They have the potential to indoctrinate. It just shows the mindset of some people and what we are up against.”

Police also found documents downloaded from an extremist website instructing parents to raise Mujahid children. The documents say: “The key is to start instilling these values in them while they are babies. Don’t wait until they are seven. No child is ever too young to be started off on Jihad training.”

David Thompson, Assistant Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, said the majority of the Muslim population supported the police’s counterterror operations in the region.

He told the BBC: “My view is that the majority of the community across the board see the threat that we’re dealing with and are hugely supportive.”

MP Kim Howells, chairman of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, said: “It’s a dreadful thing to see and I hope I never have to see it again actually. That’s as serious a piece of evidence of the kind of thing we are up against as I have ever set eyes on.”

Anjum Anwar MBE, who works for the church as a community dialogue development officer, said the film must not be used to implicate the rest of the Muslim world.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: 3.3 Million Hectares for Cereal Growing

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 3 — Last year, Algeria planted cereals on a total surface area of more than 3.3 million hectares, 100 thousand hectares more than in 2008. According to a report issued by the Ministry of agriculture and rural development, “the surface area of terrains that have been made fertile is also increasing, around 400 thousand hectares, 207% more than in the previous year”. “The current wide availability of seeds and fertiliser has made this development possible”, the document specifies. Moreover, the government has kept the minimum guaranteed price at 3500 dinars (35 euros) per quintal for soft wheat, 4500 dinars/ quintal for durum wheat and 2500 dinars for barley. In 2008 the country produced around 61.2 million quintals of cereals. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Egypt: Book Criticising Gaddafi Confiscated

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 4 — The Egyptian security services yesterday confiscated the novel “The leader shaves his hair off” by the Nubian writer, Idris Ali, because it is considered harmful to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s image. The news was reported by independent newspaper Al Masri El Yom. The publisher El Domeiri Ahmed, owner of publishing house Wàad, which published the novel, was arrested. “The leader shaves his hair off” evokes the social conditions of Libyan society in the 1970s. According to Idris Ali, who lived in Libya in that period, the book expresses the criticism of Gaddafi by the Libyan population and describes the effect of the Libyan leader’s ideas on the social life of the country. The confiscation of the novel by the security services has caused sharp criticism in Egyptian literary and intellectual circles. For Mohamed Salmawi, secretary general of the Union of the book and Arab intellectuals, it is an intervention that violates the law that states that confiscation must be preceded by a judges sentence and that it harshly damages Egypts image. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Terrorism: US Security Checks, Algeria for Reciprocal Measures

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 3 — Algeria might apply “reciprocal measures” against the United States and France, which have included its nationals on the list of “countries at risk” whose citizens are to be subjected to rigorous security checks in airports. “If necessary,” said Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni on the sidelines of the closing ceremony of the Senate’s autumn session,” we will apply reciprocal measures.” “We do not yet know the content of these dispositions,” he added, quoted by APS, specifying that “The Foreign Ministry is dealing with the matter.” The North African country has already sent a formal letter of protest to Washington, and called the new security measures brought in after the thwarted attack on Christmas Day “discriminatory”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Tunisia: Little Interest in Books

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 4 — In 2009, seven out of every ten Tunisians did not read a single book, and the majority of readers (+7.15%) were women, according to a survey commissioned by the weekly newspaper Al Horrya on a sample of 1,029 people as part of a national consultation on books and reading ordered by President Ben Ali. The data show that most readers are between the ages of 25 and 34, and that the annual pro capita spending on books is about 30 dinars (approximately 15.50 euros). The lack of interest in reading shown by Tunisians was blamed on little time (57%), no interest in reading as a daily activity (20.7%), a lack of interest in books (18%) and a preference for other activities (11%). As concerns where to read, the top choice is one’s own home, while very few (13.15%) say they go to libraries. Nonetheless, according to the survey 65% of Tunisians feel that reading is important. Discussion was held on the matter as part of the national conference on books and reading inaugurated by Culture and Heritage Protection Minister Abderraouf El Basti. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Berlusconi in Knesset: Israel Example of Democracy

(ANSAmed) — Jerusalem, 3 FEB — “You represent ideals which are universal, you are the greatest example of democracy and freedom in the Middle East if not the only one”, said Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi during his address in the Israeli parliament. On the prospects for peace in the Middle East, Berlusconi recalled how Rome “has always been in favor of a solution which foresees two states, a Jewish one and a Palestinian one, which exist side by side in peace and security”. Looking back to anti-Semitic ‘racial laws’ adopted under Fascism, Berlusconi said that thanks to the Liberation Italy “found the strength to repudiate the infamous racial laws which had shamed our country since 1938 and contradicted centuries of respect for all human being an their dignity”. Italian Premier also said that Israel was justified in launching its three-week offensive in Gaza, between the end of 2008 and start of 2009, in retaliation to missile launchings by the Hamas militant group. In his address, which was interrupted 12 times by standing ovations, the premier reiterated his ‘dream’ of seeing Israel join the European Union, even though it is not part of Europe. (ANSA).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Berlusconi in Israel: Excellent Relations, Several Accords

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 3 — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s visit to Israel has been a triumphant one: between statements of personal friendship with Israeli Premier Benyamin Netanyahu, the signing of bilateral accords and agreement on international issues, the Jerusalem talks have reaffirmed that relations with Israel are at the basis of Italy’s political, economical and social strategy in the Middle East. A huge delegation had made its way to Israel for an unprecedentedly large summit meeting between the two counties, bearing resemblance to an extended government with its over 200 in attendance — including 7 ministers. The bilateral talks which came to an end yesterday afternoon in an unprecedented plenary session have cemented the excellent relations in all areas, but most especially as concerns economic and trade issues. Eight accords — from ones on cultural and economic collaboration to the absorption of immigrants — were signed by Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, Public Works and Social Policies Minister Maurizio Sacconi, Economic Minister Claudio Scajola, Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo and Health Minister Ferruccio Fazio, as well as their respective counterparts. These accords — as Berlusconi underscored in the final press conference with Netanyahu — will give “much stimulus” to industrial and trade relations between the two countries, and are a confirmation of the government’s strategic decision to flank traditional diplomatic policy with economic diplomacy in order to reinforce bilateral relations. While the joint declaration for economic cooperation signed by Scajola with his counterparts Benyamin Ben Eliezer and Uzi Landau paves the way for truly wide-ranging agreements, on some specific dossiers the agreements can make the necessary difference or strengthen the directions already taken. The latter is the case of the cooperation on renewable energy and water management signed by Prestigiacomo and Industry, Trade and Crafts Minister Benyamin Ben Eliezer. “Italy and Israel,” said the Minister for the Environment,” have been working together since 2003 on environmental issues. Relations are well-established on such issues as water management, alternative and renewable energy sources, nanotechnologies, anti-desertification and desalination processes: relations which will become official with the two agreements signed today.” The meeting between Foreign Minister Frattini and his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman resulted in a Memorandum of Understanding for Israel’s participation in the Milan Expo 2015, in which Israel states that it is willing to take part with an Israel stand in the capital of Lombardy. This agreement is also crucial for the importance Italy attaches to the Expo. In the labour sector agreement have been signed to foster “the mobility of labour and those who work for trade relations between the two countries”. For the moment, as Sacconi noted, the mobility is at a “contained” level, but starting today is bound to grow. Also social security, education and training, the social integration of emigrants and healthcare collaboration are all issues addressed in the agreements signed. A “wide range”, as stated above — and in the case of relations between Italy and Israel, the expression is not just an expression but 100% appropriate.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Gaza: Hamas Militiaman ‘Dies Whilst on a Mission’

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, FEBRUARY 3 — A Hamas militiaman has died in the last few hours in Gaza. The news was reported on the website of Hamas armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. The brief statement reports simply that the man died while he was on a mission of jihad (holy war). Earlier there was an explosion in a building in the centre of Gaza due, according to Hamas, to a gas leak. An updated balance of the blast talks of one fatality and four people injured. For now it is not clear if there is any connection between the two episodes.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Palestinian Prime Minister to Israeli Audience: You Make Concessions, We Don’t

by Barry Rubin

Imagine this. You’re prime minister of a regime that isn’t yet a state. You are praised in the Western media as a great moderate man of peace. You represent a people who the U.S. president says is in an intolerable situation. You supposedly want a country of your own. Indeed you’ve announced you will get a state in two years, something conceivable only if your negotiating partner agrees. You’re dependent on contributions from Western democratic countries that want you to make a deal. Your rivals have seized almost half the land you want to rule and work tirelessly to overthrow your regime and very possibly to kill you personally.

But here comes a big opportunity.

You are invited by your negotiating partner to its most important meeting of the year. All the other side’s top leaders and opinionmakers are listening to you.

And that country’s second most powerful leader has just made a very conciliatory speech praising you personally, urging peace, offering concessions, and telling his own people they must be ready to give you a lot.

What do you do?

Make a warm conciliatory, confidence-building speech, showing by substantial offers that you, too, are willing to compromise; stretching out your hand in order to build friendship and ensure you get a country?

Hey, we’re talking about the Palestinians here! And as I say over and over again: anyone who thinks the Palestinian Authority (PA) is going to make peace hasn’t been paying attention to what they say and do.

So here is what PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told the audience at the Herzliya Conference, held at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), following Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s conciliatory speech:

—Israel must immediately start pulling out of the rest of the West Bank, without getting anything in return.

—It must immediately stop all construction on settlements, including apartments now being completed.

—Israel’s army should never enter PA-ruled areas. Even if the PA refuses to arrest those who have murdered Israelis or won’t stop planned attacks, Israel’s army must do nothing, despite the 1993 agreement between the two sides permitting this. Fayyad said this isn’t necessary because the PA is taking care of these matters. But this makes no sense: when Israel sees that to be true it never orders incursions in the first place.

—Israel should end its blockade of the Gaza Strip, even though the Hamas movement ruling there refuses to make a deal with the PA, openly announces its goal of destroying Israel, and smuggles in as many weapons as possible. Moreover, as soon as it feels secure again, Hamas will launch new attacks on Israel. Fayyad claimed, however, that if Israel did so, the PA could then build government institutions in the Gaza Strip, though it has no control whatsoever there.

—He openly stated that his goal was to mobilize international support and create such a strong state apparatus that the world would pressure Israel to end any presence in the West Bank or east Jerusalem, apparently without the Palestinian side giving anything.

—While Barak said that the “roughness” of the region made it harder to give the Palestinians everything they wanted (for example, the PA could be overthrown by Hamas; subverted by Iran and Syria; unwilling or unable to stop cross-border attacks), Fayyad responded that once Israel left all of the West Bank the region would become more stable and peaceful. That’s a rather questionable assertion.

It is true that he ended by saying:

“The Israeli people have a long history, they have pain, they have ambition, and like you, we Palestinians have our own history. Right now we are going through lots of pain and suffering. And we have one key aspiration, and that is once again to be able to live alongside you in peace, harmony and security.”

Yet he addressed none of the points in Israel’s own peace plan: an official end to the conflict if there is an agreement; resettlement of Palestinian refugees in Palestine; an end to incitement (which would be easy to do) to kill Israelis; limits on the militarization of a Palestinian state; or recognition of Israel as a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian Arab Muslim state (the PA constitution says that Islam is the country’s official religion).

This was not an extremist speech or one seeking conflict. Fayyad is probably the most moderate guy in the PA leadership. He was doing about the best he could. But that’s the point. He has no base of support, isn’t a member of Fatah, and doesn’t really represent Palestinian thinking. He is in office for one reason only: the Western donors demand it. Fayyad, and arguably the PA leadership as a whole, don’t want a new war with Israel. But Fatah will sponsor one if it thinks such a step is advantageous or needed to out-militant Hamas.

Equally, Fayyad couldn’t go any further than he did because he knows that his Fatah bosses, Palestinian constituents, and Hamas enemies would throw him out if he offered the slightest concession to Israel and demanded any less than everything they want.

We will see how much progress Fayyad makes over the next two years in building strong and stable institutions…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Any Threat Against Turkey is a Threat Against Iran, Motaki

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 3 — Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Motaki said on Wednesday that a threat against Turkey would amount to a threat against Iran and vice versa. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Motaki held a press conference after holding a meeting in Ankara, as Anatolia newsagency reports. Replying to a question, Motaki said Tehran’s research reactor would need fuel within a year. Foreign Minister Motaki said swapping low-enriched uranium with uranium enriched by 20 percent was a formula which could build confidence. Motaki said there was a great cooperation in several areas between Turkey and Iran, noting that the two countries had a common point of view regarding security issues in the region. He added that any threat to the security of Iran amounts to a threat to the security of Turkey. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Berlusconi Wants ‘Strong’ Iran Sanctions

Jerusalem, 2 Feb.(AKI) — Italy will vigorously support sanctions against Iran to keep the Middle Eastern country from developing nuclear arms and avoid armed intervention, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Tuesday during a visit to Israel.

“I’m hoping the international community knows how to set up strong sanctions with the power to persuade the Iranian government to give up its plan to build nuclear weapons,” Berlusconi said during a joint press conference in Jerusalem with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I hope we can avoid an armed clash.”

The United States and other western countries have called for sanctions against Iran for refusing uranium enrichment programme.

Netanyahu underlined the threat Iran posed to the region.

“Unfortunately Iran and Syria are still arming Hezbollah and Hamas,” Netanyahu said. He was referring to the radical Lebanese Shia group and the Gaza-ruling Palestinian Islamist group.

Earlier at an agreement signing ceremony Tuesday, Berlusconi said Israel’s security situation is under threat “because of a state that is developing the atomic bomb to use against somebody.”

Iran has claimed its programme is for peaceful purposes, denying western claims that the country is developing nuclear weapons.

During a visit to Europe in June, Netanyahu asked Italy to reduce its commercial links with Iran, a sworn enemy of Israel.

Netanyahu has said that Iran’s nuclear programme constitutes the biggest threat to Israel since the Jewish state’s founding in 1948.

Italy is Iran’s biggest European commercial partner with $6 billion in trade between the countries in 2008. Most of Italy’s bilateral trade with Iran is linked to investments made by the Italian oil company Eni for the exploration of oil and gas in the Middle Eastern country.

Berlusconi said his country is respecting existing agreements and that Eni won’t help develop the third phase of a natural gas field.

“Eni has said it won’t develop an important gas field,” Berlusconi said.

He didn’t specify if the company was yielding to political pressure. Eni declined to comment when contacted by Adnkronos International (AKI).

Berlusconi and other Italian ministers arrived in Jerusalem Monday for a three-day visit to discuss bilateral agreements.

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


Fr. Samir: Disappearance of Churches of the Middle East, A Tragedy for Christians and Muslims

The Synod of the Churches in the Middle East called by the pope for October 2010, will seek to highlight their difficult external situation and many internal problems. The biggest plague is emigration, which erases the mission of Christians. If Christians disappear from the Middle East, it will also create problems for Islam.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) — Benedict XVI has called synod of the churches in the Middle East for an October 2010. Preparation for this event requires understanding of the situation that surrounds this part of the world and the difficult problems that the churches there are suffering.

First there is widespread conflict. There is one that has lasted for decades, between Israel and Palestine, and associated with it, other situations of war that have arisen in other countries.

Then there is the political changes that have taken place in Iran since ‘79, which brought to the fore the Shiite movement. In many countries where it exists, it is becoming its self-awareness is growing, although this often takes on the form of confrontation.

A third factor is the rise of Islamic terrorism in the countries of the Middle East which is spreading throughout the world. Added to this the war in Iraq and its consequences. All of these political situations are somehow inter-connected.

Another important dimension is the growth of the Islamic fundamentalist movement. This has changed the very social structure of the region which has for decades seen the insistence of Islamic discourse in the media; schools are permeated with the teachings Islam, especially fundamentalist Islam; on the streets religious adverts are an increasing; the traditional external or extremist signs of this trend. In some countries the growth of fundamentalism has encouraged the adoption of sharia, or part of sharia. This has a strong influence on the lives of Christians, because they are forced to behave in a “more Islamic” way, often suffering social exclusion as a result.

Even in Palestine in the last decade the once prevalent secular trend has greatly diminished and the fundamentalist trend has increased. Religious freedom has declined everywhere, choking the Church’s mission.

Emigration

The easiest response for Christians to this situation tends to be one that is both equal and opposite: affirming the Christian identity with more stringency; a hardening of relations among themselves. This is evident in Egypt, but also in other situations.

Another way to react is to emigrate. Everyone, Christians and Muslims emigrate for socio-economic reasons, rarely for religious reasons. But the number of Christians who emigrate is far higher than that of Muslims and among the reasons why Christians leave those of cultural, and moral freedom are mounting. Emigration is facilitated by the fact that many Christians have relatives and friends abroad, the result of past migrations.

In the case of Egypt it is clear: Muslim migration has always been temporary, to the Gulf countries, people leave for a few years and then return. Instead Christians emigrate to North America or Europe or Australia, transplanting themselves in a comprehensive manner.

Emigration is not an entirely negative factor: it can also be opportunity for renewal. The Coptic community in the United States, for example, counts at least 700 thousand faithful. These were compared with American or Australian culture and sought to maintain the Coptic tradition — such as fasting, which is very intense and long — and respect for the clergy and for their Church. At the same time they have found other ways to celebrate, a greater closeness to the Holy Scriptures, Western theology. This has allowed for a true ecumenism and openness to other religious communities. And this is a positive contribution to their church.

Emigration has positive aspects also from an economic standpoint because it supports families and churches back home.

The presence of Islamic fundamentalism has positive aspects: it encourages Christians to live their faith in a more radical and intimate way, because there is an attack on their faith. Religious feeling is strengthened; at times, this religious sentiment in Christians and Muslims tends to fanaticism, but more often it arouses the desire for greater reflection, freedom and discovery.

The mission of the Christian minority

What makes matters worse is the fact numeric: Christians are a minority, they have neither numbers nor militias to claim a space. Their presence is neither supported in the region — because it is overwhelmingly Muslim — nor abroad because Europe and America are uninterested in the fate of Christians. When interest is aroused it is because the plight of Christians is linked to the economic and political situation.

We must take stock of these reasons in order to understand what future Christians have in the Middle East. And this is the purpose of the Synod: first comprehend the situation and then look for possible paths of action.

Many Christians are tempted to emigrate. This choice weakens those who remain: those leaving are generally the most capable in cultural and economic terms, and those who stay the weakest and the poorest. This is likely to provoke a vicious circle: the more people leave the more those who remain are oppressed. A similar thing happened in Turkey. Today there are more Syriac faithful in Saudi Arabia (migrants from India) than in Turkey and Syria combined. On a personal level, Christians a re highly adaptable to all situations. This means that in a one to two generations, Christians abroad become permanent residents and part of another Christian community.

But the question is: have Christians a specific mission in the Middle East?

If one thinks about the consequences for communities worldwide, it must be said that there is a risk of a great loss for world culture and the Universal Church: the end of the Churches of the East. Within a few decades a large part of the theological and intellectual heritage of the Churches of the East would be cancelled. And no book can replace it.

Severe loss

But it would be a great loss for the countries of the East. Christians are a different voice, a challenging one, diverse from Israel and the Muslims, with a specific culture that enriches this cultural area. It would also be a loss for society because Christians represent a tradition of freedom, of openness that is partly missing in the Islamic tradition, which is more closed in on itself.

This phenomenon has occurred many times in history: the Assyrian Christians who between the eighth century and the twelfth introduced Hellenistic thought in philosophy, medicine, science. And in 800 and 900, they also introduced European thought through their translations. They are a cultural bridge. And for the same Islamic world their disappearance would be a loss. In short, the emigration of Christians abroad and their disappearance from the East would be a loss for everyone, first and foremost for Muslims themselves.

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


Girl Buried Alive in Honour Killing in Turkey: Report

ANKARA — A 16-year-old girl was buried alive by relatives in southeast Turkey in a gruesome honour killing just because she reportedly befriended boys, the Anatolia news agency reported Thursday.

Acting on a tip-off, police discovered Medine Memi’s body in a sitting position with her hands tied, in a two-metre-deep hole in a chicken pen outside her house in Kahta town, Adiyaman province, 40 days after she went missing, the agency said.

A subsequent post mortem revealed that she had a significant amount of soil in her lungs and stomach, meaning that she was buried alive, foresic experts told the agency.

“The autopsy result is blood-curdling. According to our findings, the girl — who had no bruises on her body and no sign of narcotics or poison in her blood — was alive and fully conscious when she was buried,” one anonymous expert said.

Medine’s father and grandfather have been formally arrested and jailed pending trial over her killing, the agency said.

The father is reported to have said in his testimony that the family was unhappy she had male friends.

In honour killings, most prevalent in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast, a so-called family council names a member to murder a female relative considered to have sullied the family honour, usually by engaging in an extra-marital affair.

But the practice has gone so far as to kill rape victims or women who simply talked to strange men.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Gulf Countries: Too Many Foreigners, Fears Over Unemployment

(ANSA) — DUBAI, FEBRUARY 3 — They figure amongst the world’s richest countries, they manage 45% of the world’s crude oil reserves, they have a foreign workforce that exceeds 15 million, and yet, the oil-rich countries of the Gulf, must deal with a reality that risks turning into an emergency: the unemployment of its citizens, which is already estimated to be over 1 million. “The flow of foreign workers represents a threat to our existence”, the Labour minister of Bahrain, Majid Al Alawi, has declared in harsh tones during a conference on the regional labour market organised by the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) that is currently underway in Abu Dhabi.”Anyone who believes that they leave once their job is over is wrong. They come here to stay. They buy and sell on their own respective markets created on our soil but they do not employ Arabs”, declared the minister, pointing out how expats who temporarily entered countries such as the Maldives and Singapore actually went on to govern them. The total number of foreign workers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman — exceeds 15 million, and range from the 359,500 present in Bahrain to over 8 million in Saudi Arabia, with a percentage in relation to the local workforce that oscillates from 50% in Saudi Arabia to 90% in Qatar. In the Gulf countries 58% of the population is employed in the public sector. The current number of unemployed people is destined to double by the next decade unless drastic measures are adopted both in the job market and in the educational system of the Gulf monarchies. Part of the problem, experts have indicated, lies in fact in the divide that exists between university curricula and the actual demands of the labour market: on the eve of the end of the era of fossil fuels, the educational systems of the region must invest in technological innovations and renewable energies. To gradually rebalance the situation, introducing local Arabs professional competences also requires other re-directions, both technical and cultural, which must pass through the private sector: if on the one hand this has to open up more towards the request of local professionals and workers, these people, in turn, must show that they are willing to do without some of the securities and privileges guaranteed to the public sector in favour of the private sector. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Iran Raps Berlusconi ‘Interference’

Italian PM’s appeal in Israel ‘will complicate things’

(ANSA) — Tehran, February 3 — Iran on Wednesday responded sharply to an appeal from Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi for more international support for the Iranian opposition and tougher sanctions against Iran’s nuclear programme.

Berlusconi made his appeal in Jerusalem Tuesday after talks with Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he also branded Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as “someone who recalls evil figures from the past”.

In reply, the spokesman of the Iranian parliament’s foreign and national security committee, Kazem Jalali, accused the Italian premier of interfering in Iran’s domestic affairs and pandering to Israel.

Berlusconi’s statements, he said, “can’t help solve problems and will in fact make them more complicated”.

The Italian premier, he said, was guilty of “blatant interference in the internal affairs of an independent country”.

“We’re capable of solving our own problems. Statements like Berlusconi’s make things more complicated because this nation, every time it feels the presence of a foreign hand in any issue, rejects it”.

As for Berlusconi’s assertions about the dangers from Iran’s nuclear programme, Jalali said it was “part of Western propaganda to create a climate of ‘Iranophobia’ in the region in order to satisfy the Zionist regime”.

“The Islamic Republic (of Iran) does not represent a danger for the region of the international community,” he said.

Berlusconi repeated his charges against Iran Wednesday in a landmark address to the Knesset (Israeli parliament).

He said it was “unacceptable that atomic weapons be in possession of a state whose leader openly expresses his desire to destroy Israel and denies not only the Holocaust but also the legitimacy of the Jewish state”.

Meanwhile the international community was weighing an apparent overture from Ahmadinejad to swap enriched uranium for nuclear fuel.

The Iranian president said Iran would have “no problem” if most of its stock was held for several months before returning as fuel rods.

The United States said warily that if this was a new offer, it was “prepared to listen” while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Bonn would wait to assess “the actions that follow” Tehran’s stated willingness to have some if its uranium enriched abroad.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it had received no follow-up from Tehran in the wake of Ahmadinejad’s statement on Iranian TV Tuesday night.

An IAEA spokesman said the president’s words did not appear to amount to a binding commitment and did not cite a timeframe.

In Brussels, European Union Representative for Foreign Policy Catherine Ashton told AFP that it was not up to the EU to take steps on new sanctions.

“The next stage on Iran must go through the United Nations Security Council,” she said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Obama’s Strike Three: The Iranian Bomb

Three strikes and you’re out. Obama has blown two so far, and he’s got one chance left when it comes to national security. What will happen if in the next twelve months or so the suicide-preaching fanatics of Tehran explode a nuclear bomb, as they obviously are dead-set on doing? What will happen if Israel tries a preemptive strike? What if the Saudis, Egyptians, and Gulf States then imported a Sunni bomb from Pakistan?

All those countries are unstable and have sizable radical martyrdom groups trying to overthrow their regimes. If a nuclear Iran led a Shiite Axis with Syria, Lebanon, Hamas, and Hezbollah, a tectonic shift would bring radicals to power from Tehran to Lebanon, the worst alignment of America’s enemies since Stalin. That is a colossal challenge even to the most competent U.S. foreign policy team. Obama has shown no capacity to deal with national security crises so far. This may therefore be the most dangerous moment since Kennedy’s Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. If this White House can’t handle huge instability at the wellspring of the world’s oil supplies, then every other great power will try to muscle in, including Russia and China. That will be Strike Three.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Saudi Arabia: Corruption and Religious Extremism Are Top Challenges

A survey by a US pollster of about 1,000 respondents shows that Saudis are also concerned by the economic crisis. Younger Saudis are more optimistic and see the future favourably. There is little interest in democracy but moderate support for reforms.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Corruption, unemployment, inflation and religious extremism are the main issues that concern Saudis, this according to a survey on Saudi Arabia’s social and political situation carried out in November 2009 by the Princeton-based Pechter Middle East Polls, which polled a representative sample of 1,000 Saudis in the three major urban areas of Jeddah, Riyadh, and Dammam/al-Khobar. The findings also indicate moderate satisfaction with the quality of life in the kingdom but also concern over the economic crisis.

On economic issues, the survey showed that in November of last year, Saudis were divided over whether the country was moving in the right (54 per cent) or the wrong direction (39 per cent). The poll indicated however that Saudis were significantly more pessimistic about their individual situations: 40 per cent said their personal economic prospects had declined over the past year, compared with 36 per cent who said they had improved; 23 per cent saw no change. Looking ahead, only a quarter expected economic improvements over the next year, whilst on personal security, just under half of the respondents said they felt “more secure”.

Respondents 18-24 years old (a group that comprises nearly a quarter of the kingdom’s total adult population) were somewhat more positive about the country: 59 per cent of the younger group believed that Saudi Arabia was moving in the right direction, compared to 51 per cent for the over 55 group.

In Riyadh and Dammam/al-Khobar, solid majorities viewed the kingdom’s current course favourably, not so in Jeddah, where responses indicated more popular discontent.

Overall, a majority (63 per cent) of the respondents said that corruption is a serious issue in Saudi Arabia, followed by unemployment and inflation. In Jeddah, however, fewer than half (42 per cent) of the respondents saw corruption as a major problem, compared to large majorities in both Riyadh (74 per cent) and Dammam/al-Khobar (85 per cent).

Just over half (54 per cent) of respondents identified religious extremism as a serious problem, with one-quarter subscribing “strongly” to that view.

These responses should be considered in the context of another survey finding, which indicated that one-fifth of urban Saudis expressed some support for al-Qaeda.

Gender, however, provided an interesting demographic variation: 48 per cent of male respondents believe that religious extremism is a serious problem, but among women that figure rose to 59 per cent.

In an open-ended question about the nation’s top priorities, no respondent named elections or democracy.

Asked about their country’s Majlis al-Shura, the appointed national consultative council, 70 per cent said that they were aware of it, recognising in different degrees its role and functions.

Many respondents did voice support for domestic reform, hoping to see moderate steps taken towards change.

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


Teen Girl Buried Alive in Honor Killing in Turkey

A 16-year-old girl was buried alive by relatives in southeast Turkey in a gruesome honor killing just because she reportedly befriended boys, the Anatolia news agency reported Thursday.

Acting on a tip-off, police discovered Medine Memi’s body in a sitting position with her hands tied, in a two-meter-deep hole in a chicken pen outside her house in Kahta town, Adiyaman province, 40 days after she went missing, the agency said.

A subsequent post mortem revealed that she had a significant amount of soil in her lungs and stomach, meaning that she was buried alive, forensic experts told the agency.

“The autopsy result is blood-curdling. According to our findings, the girl, who had no bruises on her body and no sign of narcotics or poison in her blood, was alive and fully conscious when she was buried,” one anonymous expert said.

Medine’s father and grandfather have been formally arrested and jailed pending trial over her killing, the agency said.

The father is reported to have said in his testimony that the family was unhappy she had male friends.

In honor killings, most prevalent in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast, a so-called family council names a member to murder a female relative considered to have sullied the family honor, usually by engaging in an extra-marital affair.

But the practice has gone so far as to kill rape victims or women who simply talked to strange men.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Turkey: Fistfight in Parliament Over “Prophet” Comment

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 3 — A war of words centering on the Turkish prime minister’s wife turned into a full-fledged fistfight between the deputies of the ruling and opposition parties in Parliament on Tuesday. Fighting broke out Tuesday among the deputies of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and the Nationalist Movement Party, (or MHP, extreme right) when MHP deputy Osman Durmus sarcastically said, “How do you (the hospital) not let the wife of a prime minister Erdogan, who is a descendant of the Prophet, come into the hospital?” At the root of the fight were Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogans remarks in a televised interview Sunday that his wife had been denied entry to Gulhane Military Medical Academy, or GATA, a military hospital, earlier when she tried to visit actor Nejat Uygur because she was wearing a headscarf. Erdogan said his wife Emine had wanted to visit Uygur in the hospital, and Uygurs wife had said they would be honored by her visit. Uygur’s wife then informed the hospital officials of the visit, but hospital officials said GATA could not allow Erdogan’s wife to enter because she wore a headscarf. On the floor, Erdogan said, “First of all, our friends don’t know that the chain of prophecy ended with our last prophet (Mohammed).” “Nobody who attributes such an adjective to me can keep their place in our party,” he said. “You cannot insult my wife. This is crude and immoral.” Following the exchange of furious statements, AKP and MHP deputies attacked each other with their fists. AKP deputy Ali Koyuncu was rushed to hospital amid the tensions. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Russia

Russia Lifts Turkish Chicken Ban Amid Dispute With US

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 3 — Russia’s veterinary authority on Wednesday announced that it has lifted a ban on Turkish chicken imports that has been in force since October 2005, as daily Hurriyet reports. “Due to the stabilization of the avian flu situation in Turkey, the temporary ban dated October 19, 2005, on chicken imports from Turkey has been lifted from February 1”, Rosselkhoznadzor said on its Web site. The ban is still in force on imports of live chicken, eggs and chicken feed, the veterinary authority added. The relaxation comes after new rules took effect in Russia on January 1 banning the import of chicken treated with chlorinated water, a procedure commonly used by U.S. producers to disinfect chicken. The new rules have been criticized in the United States but Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin denied that they were politically motivated. The European Union has banned the import of U.S. chicken since the late 1990s because of the chlorinated water treatment, even though U.S. officials insist the procedure is safe. Russia is the top export market for U.S. poultry producers, who lobbied hard against the new rules. In 2009, Russia reduced its quota on imports of American chicken to 600,000 tons, less than half the figure for the previous year of 1.3 million tons. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Caucasus

Putin Appears in Georgia’s Simpsons-Like Cartoon Show

[See link for video]

A new cartoon series, modelled on the American show The Simpsons, is topping the television ratings charts in the former Soviet state of Georgia, weeks after it appeared on screens.

The Samsonadzes, which features a family of yellow, big-eyed characters, has already sparked controversy by including a scene with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Tom Esslemont reports from Georgia.

           — Hat tip: Wally Ballou[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Turkmenistan: Now the Police Help Turkmen Imams to Persecute Christians

Police raids, led by local imams, against the Christians who gather to pray. In a systematic way, the faithful are summoned by the agents that force them to “renounce”. But they complain that they have applied for state authorization to meet, without receiving any response.

Ashgabat (AsiaNews/F18) — The persecution of Protestants who come together and pray without the permission of the State continues in Turkmenistan. The agency Forum 18 denounces that now even local Islamic civic groups burst into Christian homes, confiscate Bibles and lead the faithful to the police station to “be heard”.

December 20 in the city of Dashoguz, Rovshen Allaberdiev chief mufti, imam of the region on led a police raid against the Path of Faith Baptist Christians gathered for Sunday prayer. The officers took photographs of those present and confiscated over 100 Bibles and other Christian books. All 22 faithful present were brought to the police station and interrogated for hours; some for fear signed an undertaking not to attend any more Christian meetings.

The authorities say it is forbidden to meet without the group being registered by the state, but some believers report that they applied for registration long ago but have received no answer, and ask only that they can meet and pray. January 28 in Gurbansoltan-eje, still in the area Dashoguz, police interrupted a birthday party in a private home, identified and questioned all those present and took the pastor Yuri Rozmetov and his mother, detaining them for hours.

F18 denounces that such actions are frequent: in the town of Mary, the secret police often summons the faithful of the Pentecostal church peace to the world interrogating them for hours, who have also applied for registration without obtaining it. They are often forced to sign statements recanting of Christianity.

In late January Pentecostal Pastor Ilmurad Nurliev from Mary was prevented from leaving the country. He was forced to disembark from the plane, because since 2007 he has been banned from going abroad, without any explanation.

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

Far East

Hong Kong: Appeal Court Rejects Catholic Church’s Argument on School Freedom

The diocese of Hong Kong expresses its “disappointment”. Methodists and Anglicans are ready to give up their schools. Christians fear government reform would eliminate their freedom and undermine the right of the Church to run its schools. On this issue, Benedict XVI had already indicated his closeness to the diocese.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) — The Hong Kong Appeal Court yesterday upheld the constitutionality of the government’s school management reform of 2004, which the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong said would remove its autonomy in running its schools. In a press release, the diocese expressed its disappointment over the ruling, and reasserted its commitment to running its schools based on the 1997 agreement.

The diocese of Hong Kong had appealed against the school reform, arguing that it violated the Basic law, which enshrined a basic policy of “50 years, no change” encapsulated in the Sino-British Joint Declaration before the handover.

For many Catholic but also Anglican and Methodist leaders, the school reform would change the nature of their schools by reducing the power of sponsoring bodies to set educational policies.

In 2002, the Hong Kong government had introduced a reform plan that would require publicly funded school to set up an incorporated management committee with members elected by parents, teachers, alumni as well as independent managers. The rest (60 per cent) would be named by sponsoring bodies.

The various Churches said that they were afraid that such a body would politicise school management, and that the government would end up choosing educational content, thus marginalising sponsoring bodies.

So far, only half of publicly funded 850 schools have accepted the government plan.

The diocese announced that it would look at the ruling and decide what to do accordingly.

The Methodist Church stated that it would rather give up its operating rights than set up committees. The Anglican Church said it would do the same.

Cardinal Zen has expressed a similar opinion in the past (see “Bishop Zen warns: Without freedom we will close our schools,” in asianews.it, 9 December 2005).

In 2004, the government offered extra funds to the schools that implemented the reform, an offer that is still standing until next 1 July.

Benedict XVI addressed the issue in the past. During the ad limina visit by Hong Kong and Macau bishops in 2008, the Holy Father stressed the importance of Hong Kong’s (300 or so) Catholic schools (see “Pope: I pray that the bishops of China may come to Rome,” in asianews.it, 27 June 2008). On that occasion, he said that they make an “important contribution to the intellectual, spiritual and moral formation of the new generations.” Consequently, he expressed his support to those involved because of the “new difficulties” they face.

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


‘Trojans’ Embedded in Memory Sticks?

Warning cites danger from electronic gifts

Along with warnings that Chinese intelligence agents have been recruiting prostitutes to use to entrap United Kingdom business leaders during the coming trade fair and electronic exhibition season, the government also is issuing an alert that those free memory sticks or even digital cameras being distributed could include spy software, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

“They will be providing gifts of the very latest cameras and memory sticks. We are satisfied that these contain electronic ‘trojan bugs’ which will provide the Chinese with remote access to businessmen’s computers,” said a new report prepared the Security Service Centre for Protection of National Infrastructure.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

AC/DC’s Brian Johnson Bags Bono and Bob Geldof for Public Charity Work

AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson has lashed out at charity work done by Bono and Bob Geldof, saying they should do it in private.

In his only Australian interview, the outspoken singer said he and his Grammy-winning band prefer to help in private with no press conferences.

“I do it myself, I don’t tell everybody I’m doing it,” Johnson said.

“I don’t tell everybody they should give money — they can’t afford it.

“When I was a working man I didn’t want to go to a concert for some bastard to talk down to me that I should be thinking of some kid in Africa.

“I’m sorry mate, do it yourself, spend some of your own money and get it done. It just makes me angry. I become all tyrannical.”

Do you agree with Johnson about Bono and Bob Geldof? Share your opinion below.

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Johnson said AC/DC’s aversion to playing at charity events goes back to turning down a slot at 1985’s Live Aid.

“Bob Geldof is a canny lad. He did what he thought was right at the time but it didn’t work,” he said. “The money didn’t go to poor people. It makes me mad when people try to use politics or charity for publicity.

“Do a charity gig, fair enough, but not on worldwide television.”

With the band’s Australian tour — their first since 2001 — starting in Melbourne next week, Johnson also shot down reports that he was contemplating retirement.

“Of course I don’t want to retire,” he said. “But I’m telling you if the body or the voice packs in there’s nothing I can do. Pride is what it is. You don’t want to let yourself, the band or the fans down. I’ll go on as long as I can.

“Thankfully the old tubes have held up. They’ve got a little bluesier, that just happens with life. I’m 62 now and I know it. And I’ve got another birthday coming, which is a bit of a bugger but what better way to get old?”

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Blacklisted UK Colleges Take Border Agency to Court

Exclusive Several UK colleges are taking the UK Border Agency to court after they were suspended from approving student visa applications.

Since that action, which hit 142 institutions, the Border Agency has gone further — it has suspended all applications from northern India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Colleges include both private and government-funded colleges.

Under the government’s points-based immigration system, properly accredited colleges were able to give a visa-sponsoring license — essentially a letter verifying that a student was enrolled, and had paid, for a course in the UK. The student could then take that offer letter to their local embassy or consulate to get a UK student visa. If they didn’t get a visa, the money would be refunded.

This is in the process of being moved onto an online system — the college part is already online and the Confirmation of Studies system will go live later this month. It is this move, some allege, which has led to the jump in applications in the last few weeks which led to the suspension of applications from India, Nepal and Bangladesh, and overwhelmed the system.

[Return to headlines]


Calabrian Mob in Immigration Scam

Interior minister hails ‘groundbreaking’ operation

(ANSA) — Reggio Calabria, February 3 — Italian police on Wednesday arrested 32 Italians and 35 Indian nationals in what officials said was a landmark operation against immigration scams run by the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate.

Among those arrested were several businessmen who gave the immigrants apparently legal job documents so they could get into Italy and join up with family members.

Also arrested were three employees at the provincial employment office in Reggio Calabria.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni hailed the operation as “groundbreaking” in showing for the first time how ‘Ndrangheta was running illegal immigrants into Italy.

“For the first time the direct involvement of ‘Ndrangheta families in favouring illegal immigration has been proven,” Maroni said at a policing conference in Monza.

“This is a worrying signal which shows how much money there is to be made from the business of illegal immigration”.

He said the operation showed the fight against illegal immigration was not only essential in fighting crime, as Premier Silvio Berlusconi recently stressed, but was also part of the war on organised crime.

Reggio Calabria Prosecutor Giuseppe Pignatone said the operation “shows ‘Ndrangheta’s capacity to exploit any opportunity for gain”.

He said the organisation “used a sophisticated mechanism which included Indian immigrants, corrupt officials, and businessmen in Reggio Calabria province”. According to police, the Indians resident in Italy contacted hundreds of people back home wanting to join their families and arranged their employment contracts through two ‘Ndrangheta clans.

The immigrants paid 10-18,000 euros a head and the organisation made more than six million euros, police said.

The 67 arrests were made across southern Italy, in Reggio Calabria, Potenza and Avellino, as well as the northern Italian cities of Milan, Brescia, Piacenza, Crema, Macerata and Siena, which boast large Indian communities.

Police said the operation, which was first put in motion in 2007 after a Calabrian farming entrepreneur was forced to sell several companies, had nothing to do with last month’s riots by migrant fruit pickers in the town of Rosarno where some say ‘Ndrangheta may have been involved.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


France: Sarkozy Against Illegal Networks

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 3 — The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, has said in Ajaccio, in Corsica, that he will not allow the development of new networks of illegal immigration in France and that the mafiosos that organise them will be punished. I will not allow a new network of immigration to develop in France, said Sarkozy during a visit to the island, where he spoke about the ugly incident of the Kurds from Syria who landed illegally on January 22 on a beach in Bonifacio, opposite Sardinia. Imagine the cynicism, the dishonesty, the human disdain that has to be had, said Sarkozy in Ajaccio, to bring 124 foreigners from another part of the world, to land them on a beach, with children and pregnant women. Whoever did this will be found and punished. The mafia must know that we will not allow them to do this. They have no hope of the getting document by using this sort of procedure. We accept these poor people with humanity, he added, we will look at their files, and anyone who is not a political refugee will be accompanied back to their own country.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


France: Citizenship Refused, Forced Wife to Wear Burqa

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 3 — French Immigration Minister Eric Besson has made a move even before the yet-to-be-approved law and decided to reject a request for citizenship submitted by a man who forced his French wife to wear the full Islamic veil. “Eric Besson confirms that he has today signed and sent to Prime Minister Francois Fillon a decree law in which he rejects a request for French citizenship made by a foreign national married to a French woman,” announced the Immigration Ministry in a statement, without releasing the name of the couple. According to the internet site of the weekly Le Nouvel Observateur, this decision shows how “in the government’s eyes the full veil and French nationality have become incompatible”. “During an inquiry and a previous interview,” stated Minister Besson himself,” it came out that the man forced his wife to wear a full veil, depriving her of the freedom to go out with her face uncovered and rejecting the principles of secularity and of equality between men and women.” The use of the full Islamic veil — a burqa (which covers the face) or niqab (which only leaves the eyes uncovered) — which in France concerns fewer than 2,000 Muslim women, has for several months been at the centre of debate in France. On January 26, an ad hoc parliamentary commission recommended that representatives state their views by way of a (non-binding) resolution against the use of full veils. The commission also urged Parliament to adopt legislative or regulatory measures for a ban on full veils in public places, such as hospitals, administrative offices or on public transport. According to Fillon, the government also intends to register and draft law to impose “the most extensive and effective ban possible on the full veil”. President Nicholas Sarkozy has repeatedly said that neither burqas nor niqabs are “welcome in France”, since they are “against the country’s values”. A recent survey showed that 57% of the French are in favour of a law banning full veils. In June 2008, France’s State Council rejected a request for French citizenship made by a Moroccan woman who wore a burqa, claiming that it tantamount to “a radical use of religion incompatible with the French community”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Guantanamo Detainees to Require Special Therapy

The three Guantanamo detainees that Switzerland has accepted to resettle will need special therapy to help them integrate after years in prison.

A Swiss Red Cross expert on torture tells swissinfo.ch that the men most likely will suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the treatment handed out at the United States prison camp in Guantanamo.

Brigitte Ambühl is in charge of medicine and therapy at the Red Cross outpatients clinic for victims of torture and war where the former inmates may undergo a first assessment.

The Swiss cabinet announced on Wednesday that it would admit two Uighur brothers from the Chinese province of Xinjiang into Switzerland on humanitarian grounds. Bahtiyar and Arkin Mahnut will receive a permit to live in canton Jura, in northwestern Switzerland.

An Uzbek was the first ex-detainee to arrive in Switzerland and was settled in the canton Geneva last month.

swissinfo.ch: What would people who have been housed in Guantanamo for several years need in terms of counselling and therapy?

Brigitte Ambühl: I think these people have been badly tortured and they have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, which means they have an overactive brain. They can’t sleep, they have nightmares. They have hyper irritation. And it is very important that these people know that these symptoms may be the result of torture. So they have the information and control it cognitively. They can understand: what happened to me goes with these symptoms.

The second step would be to know what their coping strategies are. Have they kept their sense of survival during torture or isolation? What are the physical symptoms?

They have a double problem because they aren’t going back to their families. They are going to an unknown world and will continue to be separated.

“ You first have to help them recognise that they are strong and have survived. “

Brigitte Ambühl

swissinfo.ch: So how do they survive when they arrive in a new place? How would you help?

B.A.: I think the first step is to get translation [help]. The second step is medical help, psychological help. You can’t solve traumatisation just by speaking about it. You first have to help them recognise that they are strong and have survived. We discuss it with the patient as a first step. We strengthen his autonomy. He isn’t only a victim. He is also a fighter. He has survived. He can be very proud. He is even stronger than me.

And then we just add our therapeutical coping strategies. We don’t know if they will benefit from imagining a safe place. Some people [try to] avoid talking about it. There is a huge variety of coping strategies.

[How well they integrate] depends on if they have family, friends or people from their country [of origin], and friendly surroundings. Swiss people should support them, help them and not be afraid of them.

swissinfo.ch: If a canton takes on former detainees, would they be responsible for their psychological care? What facilities are there in the cantons?

B.A.: In the cantons there is a normal psychiatry service, but they are not specialised in victims of torture and extreme traumatisation. We [the Red Cross] have four centres in Switzerland. I think they will be sent to one of them to get an assessment or for treatment.

swissinfo.ch: Surely people like this who have been wrongly detained, and in a very controversial place, must be feeling anger after being released.

B.A.: Normally if you are exposed to helplessness and you are not in control, you will have both feelings, feelings of helplessness and of anger. I think these people can control their emotions. But if not, if they have fantasies of aggression they should be treated because it is a very important part of the treatment that they gain control of their feelings.

But I would assume they would have more depressive feelings now rather than aggressive, and keep it inside. But that means they are at a higher level of tension and have more pain or other stress symptoms in the body. But you can treat it.

swissinfo.ch: How long would rehabilitation take?

B.A.: The length depends on the individual. But we start with 20 sessions for about half a year. Our experience is that in one or two years you can have a good rehabilitation. How far you can go depends on the individual capacities and of the relationship between former detainees and therapists.

You will know very soon how far you can go. If you see his condition has stabilised and he has developed coping strategies, then his prognosis is quite good.

swissinfo.ch: The lawyer representing the two Uighur detainees who have been accepted by canton Jura said Switzerland had a good record in helping rehabilitation of torture victims and they were well placed to come here. Why?

B.A.: We [the Red Cross] have done this for about 12 years now. We have learnt a lot from our patients over all these years, we are connected with other centres in Europe or other countries and we have specialised team members.

Here in Switzerland, they [detainees] have a variety of possibilities. They have good medical care, psychological care, they can have body therapy, very individually. I think that is very special. One thing that is very important is that they can talk in their mother tongue — that’s guaranteed in our centres.

swissinfo.ch: Is this care relatively new then?

B.A.: I think the whole field is quite new. In the past, psychiatrists did not really know that a lot of people were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. After 9/11 a lot of research was done in this field and I think every psychiatrist or psychologist needs to know about it.

But this combination [of symptoms among Guantanamo detainees] — long imprisonment, a lot of symptoms, extreme traumatisation, immigration — is a package and there’s only certain centres that can deal with it. It’s a bad package.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


UK: Time to ‘Lance Boil’ of Resentment Over ‘Unfairness’ of Immigration, Says Labour’s Margaret Hodge

Migrants would be forced to ‘earn’ the right to benefits and council housing over several years under explosive plans outlined today by a senior Labour minister.

Margaret Hodge warns British values of openness and tolerance are under threat because of an increasing sense of ‘unfairness’ over immigration.

The Culture Minister is calling for a new points system — based on length of residence or national insurance contributions — to determine that only migrants who have made a fair contribution to society get the same rights as local families.

Mrs Hodge, who is facing a General Election challenge from BNP leader Nick Griffin, told the Daily Mail it was time to ‘lance the boil’ of growing discontent over the wave of economic migrants entering Britain.

Labour strategists fear there are signs that the far-Right BNP will mount a ‘serious challenge’ in her Barking, East London seat.

One recent poll found that 65 per cent of voters believe foreign arrivals get favourable treatment over housing and benefits.

It also showed a third of voters support a core policy of the far-Right BNP, proposing that people from ethnic minorities should lose all state benefits, including NHS treatment, to pay for a ‘resettlement policy’ for those wishing to leave the country.

Migrants currently have the right to claim in-work benefits, such as tax credits, if they have a job. Those who have come from the EU must spend a year working in Britain, but can then claim the same level of state support as any citizen.

They are treated the same as UK citizens in respect of claims for income support, jobseeker’s allowance, housing benefit and council tax benefit.

There has been particular controversy in recent years over revelations that taxpayers are funding child benefit for as many as 50,000 children of migrant workers, even though the youngsters still live in their home countries.

Migrants qualify for the payments, even if they have left their children behind. British handouts are much higher than in other countries, particularly in Eastern Europe where the cost of living is much lower.

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

Culture Wars

UK: Christianity Being Squeezed Out in the Name of ‘Equality’, Archbishop of York Warns

Christianity is being wiped out from public life in the name of equality, the Archbishop of York said yesterday.

Dr John Sentamu accused politicians and others of trying to sideline religion by promoting their false idea of ‘tolerance’.

He cited Labour’s equality laws as an attack on the freedoms of churches.

Attempts to denigrate church schools and ban the mention of Christmas in favour of bland ‘Winterval’ celebrations were also part of a drive to censor Christianity, he said.

The Archbishop’s comments followed the Pope’s unprecedented attack on Harriet Harman’s Equality Bill earlier this week.

Benedict XVI called the proposed legislation ‘unjust’, saying it restricted religious freedom and violated ‘the natural law’ — in other words, Christian teaching.

Dr Sentamu said in a speech in Newcastle: ‘For all our judicial tolerance, Britain has become in many ways a less tolerant society today.

‘One of the main areas in which we see this is in the Government’s treatment of religion, which they now prefer to call “ faith communities”.

‘The Equality Bill which is going through the House of Lords had contained a clause which would have made it very difficult for a religious group to employ someone of the religion for a position within their organisation.

‘A church wishing to employ a youth worker would have been unable to advertise for Christians, and priests from other parts of the world would find it increasingly difficult to preach or work in churches here unless it could be demonstrated that there were no suitable local candidates.’

The Archbishop declared: ‘This is symptomatic of a trend which has intensified in Britain over the past 50 years in the name of tolerance. That is, an attempt to remove religion from public life.

‘And in the process, tolerance, which is supposed to be a tool to help us deal with difference and disagreement, has instead become a negative virtue, a means of diminishment and marginalisation.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

General

Trace of Thought is Found in ‘Vegetative’ Patient

He emerged from the car accident alive but alone, there and not there: a young man whose eyes opened yet whose brain seemed shut down. For five years he lay mute and immobile beneath a diagnosis — “vegetative state” — that all but ruled out the possibility of thought, much less recovery.

But in recent months at a clinic in Liège, Belgium, the patient, now 29, showed traces of brain activity in response to commands from doctors. Now, according to a new report, he has begun to communicate: in response to simple questions, like “Do you have any brothers?,” he showed distinct traces of activity on a brain imaging machine that represented either “yes” or “no.”

Experts said Wednesday that the finding could alter the way some severe head injuries were diagnosed — and could raise troubling ethical questions about whether to consult severely disabled patients on their care.

The new report, posted online by The New England Journal of Medicine, does not suggest that most apparently unresponsive patients can communicate or are likely to recover. The hidden ability displayed by the young accident victim is rare, the study suggested.

Nor does the finding apply to victims of severe oxygen depletion, like Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman who became unresponsive after her heart stopped and who was taken off life support in 2005 during an explosive controversy over patients’ rights.

Moreover, experts said the new test was not ready for wide use; serious technical challenges remain to be worked out.

Still, the experts agreed that the new study exposed the limits of the current bedside test for diagnosing mental state: checking whether patients’ eyes can track objects, and carefully looking for any signs — eye blinks, finger twitches — in response to questions or commands.

“I’m convinced as an observer that in these few cases, the M.R.I. technique, in these researchers’ hands, gives us a window into human consciousness that we have not had and that potentially adds to the clinical exam we currently use,” said Dr. James L. Bernat, a professor of neurology at Dartmouth Medical School.

In the new paper, researchers in Britain and Belgium studied 54 patients living in states of persistent unconsciousness. Of these, 23 had a diagnosis of “vegetative state,” meaning they were not able to signal any response to commands or questions. (The others were termed “minimally conscious,” meaning they were intermittently able to respond to commands by moving or blinking.)

In 2006, the same research group reported that one of the 23 “vegetative” patients showed on imaging tests that her brain was responding to commands. When doctors asked her to think of playing tennis, areas of her motor cortex leapt to life. When asked to think of being in her house, spatial areas in the brain became active.

In the current experiment, the researchers found that three other patients identified as vegetative showed similar responses. To open a channel of communication, they instructed one of them, the 29-year-old man, to associate thoughts about tennis with “yes” and thoughts about being in his house with “no.”

They then asked questions, repeating the procedure numerous times, switching the associations — tennis with yes, then with no — to make sure the patient was in fact making conscious choices. The researchers had previously tested the technique in healthy volunteers.

“We asked basic biographical questions, like ‘Is your father’s name Thomas?’ and ‘Have you ever been to the United States?’ “ said Adrian M. Owen, a neuroscientist at the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, England, who developed the method and was a co-author of the paper. “We then checked whether the answers were correct. They were.”

Dr. Owen’s co-authors were Martin M. Monti, Martin R. Coleman and John D. Pickard in Cambridge; and Audrey Vanhaudenhuyse, Dr. Mélanie Boly, Dr. Jean-Flory L. Tshibanda and Dr. Steven Laureys of the University of Liège, where the patient was treated.

Over all, only 5 of the 54 patients — four identified as vegetative and one as minimally conscious — showed any meaningful brain activity on the M.R.I. when prompted, perhaps because it was too feeble to be picked up, because the timing was wrong or because the activity simply was not there.

In those rare cases where brain activity is detectable, doctors might be able to ask immobilized patient if they are feeling pain, for example, and, through a series of yes-or-no questions, where.

A two-way channel to an immobilized, severely brain-injured person also opens up a world of ethical challenges.

“If you ask a patient whether he or she wants to live or die, and the answer is die, would you be convinced that that answer was sufficient?” said Dr. Joseph J. Fins, chief of the medical ethics division at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. “We don’t know that. We know they’re responding, but they may not understand the question. Their answer might be ‘Yes, but’ — and we haven’t given them the opportunity to say the ‘but.’

“We’ve opened up a communication channel with this technique, but in some ways it’s like a very bad cellphone connection.”

In an editorial accompanying the article, Dr. Allan H. Ropper, a neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, similarly warned against equating neural activity and identity.

“Physicians and society are not ready for ‘I have brain activation, therefore I am,’ “ Dr. Ropper wrote. “That would seriously put Descartes before the horse.”

           — Hat tip: Joe[Return to headlines]

2 comments:

Zenster said...

A sixteen-year-old Kurdish girl in Turkey was buried alive by her relatives because she damaged the honor of her family by making friends with boys. An autopsy discovered soil in her throat and lungs, proving that when she was buried, she was alive, undrugged, and conscious.

Remember, folks, this is Turkey the supposedly least-Islamized Muslim country ... the one that those people at the EU are so excited about opening their borders with.

Just when you think that Muslims cannot sink any lower, they always manage to lower the bar.

Burying your own child alive.

Once again, Islam dons a glaring neon sign as to its total incompatibility with civilized society.

randian said...

In other news, a court in the Netherlands has ruled that Iranian students must be allowed to take courses in nuclear technology.

That's beyond insane.