Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100223

»ACORN Dissolving? Don’t Bank on it!
»Christian School Teaches How to Lead a Mosque
»Don’t be Fooled. ACORN is Not Going Away.
»Floor Mat Troubles Won’t be Swept Under Rug
»New Climate Agency Head Tried to Suppress Data, Critics Charge
»Obama Assisting in Imposing Islamic Sharia Law, Prohibiting Criticism of Islam
»Toyota Executive Says Recall Might ‘Not Totally’ Solve Accelerator Problems
Europe and the EU
»How a Forgery—Not the Protocols—Shows US Why So Many Still Don’t Understand Antisemitism When They See (Or Produce) It
»Iceland’s Fight for Press Freedom
»Pope Says Body Scanners Defile Personal Integrity
»Spain: No to Retirement Reform, Unions Protest Against Zapatero
»Spain: Kurd Throws Shoe at Premier Erdogan, Arrested
»UK: Blackburn Terror Accused Filmed Themselves on Military Exercise
»UK: Labour Ends Early Release for Inmates: By Coincidence, The Election’s Just Weeks Away
»UK: NHS Manager Who Bragged ‘I Am Better Than a Man’ Jailed for 12 Months Over Lesbian Sex Attack
»UK: Revealed: Thug Who Killed Matalan Manager Was on Bail for Previous Knife Murder
»Wikileaks Editor: Why I’m Excited About Iceland’s Plans for Journalism
North Africa
»Egyptian State Security Accused of Torturing Christian Youth
»Egypt Restores Monastery Touting Religious Harmony
»Egypt: Device Planted in Cairo Synagogue, One Arrest
»Libya-Switzerland: Algiers Expresses Solidarity With Tripoli
Israel and the Palestinians
»Israel’s Last Chance of Survival
Middle East
»Tehran on Path to Our Destruction
»Turkey: Strasbourg Court, No Condemnation of Religious Groups
South Asia
»British Woman Who Converted to Islam Among Eight Killed by Suicide Bomber in Pakistan
»Kabul Bank’s Sherkhan Farnood Feeds Crony Capitalism in Afghanistan
»Somali Mother Can Claim Thousands in UK Benefits Because Her Children Attend British Schools, EU Judges Rule
»UK: Secret Labour Plan to Increase Immigration for Social Reasons Dismissed Public’s Opposition as ‘Racist’
»Va. Man Accused of Helping Smuggle Somalis Into U.S.
Culture Wars
»UK: Schools Must Teach Diversity Says Balls: New Rules for Faith Schools Are a ‘Terrific Muddle’


ACORN Dissolving? Don’t Bank on it!

‘A landfill is still a landfill even if you change the name’

The announced dissolution of ACORN, the community organization that employed President Obama and later was caught in a series of sting videos, is nothing more than window dressing, an attorney contends.

“A landfill is still a landfill even if you change the name,” Kelly Shackelford of Liberty Legal Institute told WND today shortly after Politico’s report that the national ACORN organization was dissolving.

Shackleford’s organization is representing Hannah Giles, one of the two undercover journalists who exposed the activities of a number of ACORN workers, some of whom subsequently were dismissed.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Christian School Teaches How to Lead a Mosque

Hartford Seminary, Islamic Institute launch graduate certificate

Muslims who want to become an imam in the U.S. can now train at an institution founded in the 18th century by members of the Congregationalist denomination to prepare pastors and other Christian ministers for service.

Hartford Seminary is launching a new “Graduate Certificate in Imam Education” program this spring, with help from the seminary’s Duncan Black MacDonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, the Fairfax Institute and the Fairfax Institute’s parent, the International Institute for Islamic Thought, or the IITT

The Hudson Institute’s Hillel Fradkin says he’s concerned about the move, because the IIIT is a front group of the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood, which spawned most of the leading terrorist groups, including al-Qaida and Hamas.

“If the Hartford Seminary program is being done through the IIIT, that is rather worrisome,” said Fradkin, senior fellow of the D.C.-based think tank’s Center for Islam, Democracy and the Future of the Muslim World.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Don’t be Fooled. ACORN is Not Going Away.

ACORN is attempting to perpetrate yet another spectacular fraud on the American people in order to keep tax dollars and foundation grants flowing into its coffers.

With the fallout from the hidden camera videos last fall, congressional funding of ACORN’s election fraud and racketeering business is no longer guaranteed, so ACORN is trying to pass off various state chapters as “new” groups.


Under indictment in Nevada for election law violations, ACORN feels it can do all this in the light of day because the Obama administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress have no interest in a real investigation of its criminal activities.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Floor Mat Troubles Won’t be Swept Under Rug

Toyota should be toast by now. In fact, the only difference between “Toyota” and “toast” should be that the word “toast” has the letter “s” in it and Toyota doesn’t.

But, of course, I have to use the phrase “should be” because Toyota is so well-connected in Washington, D.C., that it never can be clear if the Japanese car company will reap the just rewards for what it’s been sowing — a blatant disregard for safety, attempting to sweep that disregard for safety under the floor mat, and then actually blaming many of their problems on the floor mat.

According to the investigative reporting of the Associated Press, the addition of common sense to the issue of Toyota’s unprecedented volume of recalls in the past few months surely will have to overcome plenty of political obstacles. And we don’t even have to worry about the Alabama senators (Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions) who headed the “drop dead Detroit” team when the American automakers were getting raked over the coals for non-safety issues like financial problems and flying private jets. Sens. Sessions and Shelby have been remarkably silent this time around.

Anyway, here are some of the major political obstacles:

1. Top investigator in the massive safety-centered recalls is Toyota cheerleader Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who routinely credits himself with successfully lobbying Toyota to build a factory in his state in 1996. Rockefeller bragged in 2006 at the 10th anniversary celebration for the West Virginia plant, “By the time Toyota decided to make Buffalo [W.Va.] its new home, I felt like a full-fledged member of that site selection team.”

2. House investigative panel member Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., represents the district where the Japanese automaker’s U.S. subsidiary resides. Rep. Harman and her husband own over $100,000 in Toyota stock, according to their latest financial disclosure report. Sidney Harman is also the founder of Harman International Industries, which sells vehicle audio systems to Toyota. Rep. Harman also paid tribute to the late lead Toyota engineer David Hermance on the House floor after he died in a plane crash in 2006, referring to him as the “Father of the American Prius.” The American Prius? The one made by a Japanese company in Japan?

3. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who remarked at the 20th anniversary of the Toyota Kentucky plant in 2006 that, “Kentucky is still reaping the rewards of its 20-year partnership with Toyota, and we hope to continue to do so for years to come.” The Toyota Kentucky plant? The one that was constructed by Ohbayashi Corp. of Japan with Japanese steel? The one that received its financing by Mitsui Bank of Japan? The one that paved the way for a special trade zone so Japan could import parts duty-free? The one where we gave away 1,500 acres of free land to Toyota? The one where federal and state government grants totaled over $100 million?


According to Jeff Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University Japan, there is a Japanese proverb, “If it stinks, put a lid on it.” On Feb. 4, Japan’s transport minister Seiji Machara said Toyota denied problems existed and was not sufficiently sensitive enough to complaints. Still want to believe Toyota wasn’t hiding anything?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

New Climate Agency Head Tried to Suppress Data, Critics Charge

The scientist who has been put in charge of the Commerce Department’s new climate change office is coming under attack from both sides of the global warming debate over his handling of what they say is contradictory scientific data related to the subject.

Thomas Karl, 58, was appointed to oversee the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center, an ambitious new office that will collect climate change data and disseminate it to businesses and communities.


But Roger Pielke Sr., a climatologist affiliated with the University of Colorado who has crossed horns with Karl in the past, says his appointment was a mistake. He accused Karl of suppressing data he submitted for the IPCC’s most recent report on climate change and having a very narrow view of its causes.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Assisting in Imposing Islamic Sharia Law, Prohibiting Criticism of Islam

Barack Hussein Obama, catering to both Muslim and globalist agendas, is exposing his preference to Islamic and globalist agendas and placing yet another nail in America’s coffin by appointing Rashad HUSSAIN as special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. To understand the extreme significance of this appointment, it is vital for Americans to understand the composition and objectives of the OIC, its global influence and potential impact on the U.S., and also be fully aware of the background of Rashad HUSSAIN.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Toyota Executive Says Recall Might ‘Not Totally’ Solve Accelerator Problems

James E. Lentz III, the president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., told the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday that Toyota’s huge recall might “not totally” solve the problem of unintended sudden acceleration in some of its vehicles.

James E. Lentz III, the president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., told the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday that Toyota’s huge recall might “not totally” solve the problem of unintended sudden acceleration in some of its vehicles.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

How a Forgery—Not the Protocols—Shows US Why So Many Still Don’t Understand Antisemitism When They See (Or Produce) It

by Barry Rubin

You won’t see where I’m going with this at first but trust me and you’ll hear a good story with a very timely point. And if you have time read the two short appendices at the end which add to the fun.

Bertram Wolfe, an expert on Communism and the USSR who died in 1977, wrote an obscure little book in 1965 entitled, Strange Communists I Have Known, with fascinating personal profiles and anecdotes about his experiences.

In “The Strange Case of Litvinov’s Diary,” Wolfe recounts a marvelous little scholarly mystery. Shortly after the death of former Soviet Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov in 1951, a manuscript purporting to be his secret diary surfaced. A prestigious British publisher asked Professor E.H. Carr, the famous historian, to examine it for authenticity. Carr strongly endorsed it as genuine, even offering to write the preface about its historical importance.

A well-known American publisher gave Wolfe the same task. Wolfe found dozens of flaws showing the manuscript was an obvious forgery. Moreover, by comparing it to things written earlier by the former Soviet diplomat who supplied the manuscript, Wolfe even proved that this man was the forger. If you read the details you can see that Wolfe’s case is air-tight.

But what interests me (and you) most is Wolfe’s first reason for finding the manuscript phony:…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Iceland’s Fight for Press Freedom

New legislation that proposes turning the island into a protective ‘haven’ for media could allow investigative journalism to flourish

Back in November I attended a meeting in Reykjavik with the editors of WikiLeaks, hosted by an association called the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI). Under discussion was the presentation of a new parliamentary resolution that would amend laws to allow Iceland to grant a high level of protection for journalists, press sources and whistleblowers, and to combat “libel tourism” — a practice whereby anyone who wishes to bring libel charges, or gag a story, can simply travel to a place with attractive laws for their purposes and initiate proceedings there.

I thought the idea of creating this sort of haven in Iceland — a country struggling with the exposure of massive amounts of corruption, not to mention a severely restricted media sector — was both novel and intriguing. It also seemed perfectly viable; not to mention vitally important.

I had no idea, for instance, that even large, established newspapers routinely have gag orders placed on them and are required to water down or even pull stories. >From what I understand this is particularly true of the UK, since the legal framework is very supportive of that sort of activity.

The UK is also a popular place for libel tourism — indeed, Iceland’s Kaupthing bank successfully sued Denmark’s Ekstra Bladet in a London court a few years ago. Apparently, Bladet’s editor-in-chief fought hard to settle out of court with the bank, for fears of the staggering costs of fighting a libel case in England. Evidently the UK legislative framework makes it possible to initiate legal proceedings on the basis of a newspaper merely being sold in that country.

It is important to state that the aim of the proposed Icelandic legislation is not to allow people to publish freely all sorts of trash in Iceland and get away with it. The point is not to make Iceland a haven for tabloids, paedophiles or similar low-level activities. Anything that is illegal will still be illegal — the amendments will not change that. The idea is merely to create a framework wherein investigative journalism and free speech can flourish.

If this were to become a reality, any foreign paper or media outlet could set up an office — or even just a server — in Iceland, and publish from there. They would thereby be covered by the Icelandic law. This is similar to what WikiLeaks does — it has servers placed in strategic locations throughout the world, and publish or route its information through countries where the legal framework is auspicious for its purposes. Incidentally, WikiLeaks has had more than 100 lawsuits brought against it in the last three years, but has never lost a case.

Today the parliamentary resolution proposing these changes will be introduced in the Icelandic parliament. The bill is supported by all parties, except the Independence party (which seems to be involved in the greatest number of corruption cases emerging in Iceland these days — coincidence?).

To many of us the resolution seems like a very good idea, but it is early days yet, and uncertain how things will play out. The actual implementation of the bill would be complex as it affects a number of government ministries. Also, one wonders about the implications for the Icelandic judicial system, which already looks set to be overwhelmed with an onslaught of cases relating to the country’s bank collapse. Add to that a slew of cases relating to libel and press freedoms and it is easy to envision the Icelandic courts becoming positively, er, snowed under with work.

On the other hand, Iceland sure could use a boost in morale and transparency right now, what with the parliamentary-appointed “truth commission” set to release its fact-finding report on the bank collapse within the next three weeks. The report — dubbed the Black report — promises to be filled to the brim with descriptions of corruption, incompetence and misdeeds, and one wonders how well equipped the Icelandic media is to deal with the findings. After all, the state of the country’s media is in a shambles, with mass redundancies among journalists in the last few months and the country’s two major newspapers currently in the hands of some of the main players in the collapse. But that, as they say, is another story.

           — Hat tip: Egghead[Return to headlines]

Pope Says Body Scanners Defile Personal Integrity

By: Jim Meyers

Pope Benedict XVI has criticized the use of airport body scanners, saying that despite the threat of terrorism, “the primary asset to be safeguarded and treasured is the person, in his or her integrity.”

He told an audience from the aerospace industry at a weekend meeting at the Vatican: “Respecting these principles can seem particularly complex and difficult in the present context . . .

“The international terrorist threat has in its line of fire airports and aircraft to realize its destructive schemes.”

But he warned: “It is essential never to lose sight of respect for the primacy of the person.”

The Pontiff did not specifically mention body scanners, but “it was clear what he meant,” the Telegraph in Britain reported.

The use of scanners at airports has created controversy because the equipment makes people who pass through the scanners appear naked.

Scanners have been put into use at several British airports, and will be phased in at airports in Italy as well.

Airport officials assert that scanners would have prevented Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from boarding a plane in Britain with explosive material in his underwear on Christmas Day. But some critics say scanners are not entirely foolproof.

           — Hat tip: Egghead[Return to headlines]

Spain: No to Retirement Reform, Unions Protest Against Zapatero

(ANSAmed) — MADRID — The pensions’ reform announced by the Spanish government, with the raising of pensionable age from 65 to 67, is “an evident risk of social rift.” The secretaries general of the unions Unione General de Trabajadores (Ugt) and Comisiones Obreras (Ccoo), Candido Mendez e Ignacio Fernandez Toxo, have repeated the view today on radio Cadena Ser and RNE, just a few hours before the demonstrations against the Zapatero government’s proposal called for today afternoon in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, on the very day of the joint meeting, in the capital, between the government and the European Commission. A warning to the socialist government so that it “reconsiders” the proposal to raise the pensionable age, which they consider “not necessary and unfair”, above all because in Spain there is already the possibility to extend working life beyond 65 years in a voluntary and incentivised manner and, at the same time, the law authorises early retirement in the presence of particular requirements, which penalises pension benefits. “Social peace is everyone’s asset and responsibility,” observed Mendez. “We are not going to break it and we don’t want to do so in the future, but it will depend on the government’s proposals and positions,” he added. According to Toxo, “the government has acted unwisely, sending a signal of generalised alarm about the future of pensions and putting in question the Toledo Pact,” the non-permanent commission created by the government, unions and businesspeople in 1995. As regards the reform of the labour market, which the government is negotiating with the industrialists and unions, the two members of Ugt and Ccoo warned that “it will not create jobs in 2010”, which is the priority, in view of more than 4 million unemployed people.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Kurd Throws Shoe at Premier Erdogan, Arrested

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 23 — A man of Kurdish origins was arrested last night after throwing a shoe at Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyp Erdogan, while he was leaving the Seville municipal building. During his official visit to Spain, the Turkish Premier was in the Andalusian city to receive the 2009 ‘Nodo Entre Culturas’ award from the Seville Foundation. After the ceremony, according to eye witnesses quoted today by the Spanish press, Erdogan was on his way to his car when a man in the crowd outside the building launched a shoe, shouting “Kurdistan free”. The shoe did not hit Erdogan. The man was seized by the Premier’s personal bodyguards, arrested by the Spanish police and transferred to prison. He has a Syrian passport which had been withdrawn earlier and his expulsion from Spain had already been ordered, according to police sources. Today, the second day of the Turkish Premier’s official visit to Spain, Erdogan has planned a meeting with the President of the Andalusian regional council, José Antonio Grian. After that he will go to Cordoba for a private visit, before returning to Turkey. Erdogan’s visit to Spain coincides with an extensive police roundup of a network of alleged participants in a coup, carried out yesterday in several Turkish cities. Around 50 high officials were arrested in the operation, including 14 former Generals of the Armed Forces. They have been charged with participation in a complot to overthrow the moderate Islamic government of the Turkish Premier. Throwing a shoe at a person is seen as a major insult in Arab culture. By the end of 2008, Iraqi reported Muntazer al Zaidi launched a shoe at George Bush, to protest against the invasion in Iraq. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Blackburn Terror Accused Filmed Themselves on Military Exercise

A home-made film showing two would-be terrorists on military-style manoeuvres crawling across a public park in Blackburn in broad daylight has been played to a jury at Manchester Crown Court.

Abbas Iqbal, 24, his brother Ilyas, 23 and Muhammad Ali Ahmad, a white Muslim convert, were said to be “intoxicated by the evil of terrorism” and planning to carry out jihad, or holy war.

The trio, who styled themselves “The Blackburn Resistance”, were said to have studied guerrilla warfare, gathered a stockpile of weapons and a library of jihadist material. Although some of material was comical, the prosecution has suggested, their purpose was wholly serious.

Edward Brown, QC, for the prosecution, suggested that Abbas Iqbal filmed his brother and Ahmad, 26, in the style of typical al-Qaeda propaganda. Their aim was to distribute the material abroad.

The video apparently shows one of the duo carrying a rifle as they “leopard crawl” through Corporation Park, in the centre of the Lancashire town.

Mr Brown said the “promotional collage” for The Blackburn Resistance was among material which Abbas Iqbal had intended to radicalise others.

The video was introduced by a voice stating “They are fighting against oppression, they are The Blackburn Resistance”, before it showed two of the group crawling through woodland and across a path in the park.

In the background, someone chants: “I am the armour for those who believe in the unity of Allah. I am the fire against the aggressor.

“I am the machinegun against the one who starts fighting. I am the one whose sun is shining. Over my day and my pride.” Video clips of the trio holding and firing weapons while shouting Allah Akbar (God is Great) in a back yard were also found on the storage card, along with photographs of them in camouflaged clothing and carrying weapons.

The Iqbal family home in Blackburn, was later searched. Police discovered a camcorder video tape which showed Abbas Iqbal holding a young boy and raising a machete.

Playing the tape in court, Mr Brown told the jury: “It is plainly a joke and he obviously has no intention of hurting the boy.” The boy, aged about eight, is on camera in a room with two girls as Abbas Iqbal holds the weapon and, in Urdu, says: “This is what I am going to do to somebody. God willing, when I find a Kuffar (non-believer), this I show, I am going to take his head off.” Mr Brown said that the material was discovered in Abbas’ suitcase when he was arrested at Manchester airport in August 2008, en route to northern Europe with another alleged extremist, who cannot be identified for legal reasons.

Later Mr Ahmad told police that the video was “just a bit of fun”…

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

UK: Labour Ends Early Release for Inmates: By Coincidence, The Election’s Just Weeks Away

Labour was last night accused of a cynical election ploy after scrapping its controversial early release scheme for prisoners only weeks before polling day.

Jack Straw announced the ending of the scheme, which has resulted in nearly 80,000 offenders walking free 18 days before their sentence reaches its halfway point.

The policy was introduced to ease overcrowding, but the Justice Secretary said a rise in prison places meant it was now ‘safe’ to do away with it.

However, his department also slipped out separate plans to release more prisoners on bail and electronic tags.

The Conservatives seized on the announcement as evidence that Labour was electioneering and accused ministers of ‘rebranding’ the early release scheme under a different name.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: NHS Manager Who Bragged ‘I Am Better Than a Man’ Jailed for 12 Months Over Lesbian Sex Attack

An NHS manager who bragged: ‘I’m better than a man’ during a lesbian attack was jailed for a year yesterday.

Teresa Cottingham, 35, drunkenly floored another woman with a martial arts move in a hotel room before throttling her and forcing a sex act on her.

Cottingham, who has since married a man, had travelled up from Eastbourne to North London on January 26 last year to attend a conference.

After checking into the Premier Inn hotel in Euston she joined a group in a nearby pub where she became ‘almost senseless’ with alcohol, Blackfriars Crown Court heard.

The victim, who was known to her, escorted her back to the hotel in a taxi.

Adam Davis, prosecuting, said: ‘In the hotel room the defendant collapsed onto the bed. She started to get undressed. Ms Cottingham asked the victim to make a cup of tea.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Revealed: Thug Who Killed Matalan Manager Was on Bail for Previous Knife Murder

A teenager who took part in a robbery which left a shop manager dead was on bail for murder at the time of the killing, it has been revealed today.

Anthony Maina, 19, played a ‘critical role’ in a plan to steal £30,000 in takings from the store, just five months after he stabbed an A-level student to death for a mobile phone.

He had been arrested in connection with the killing of 17-year-old Rizwan Darbar in October 2007, but police had to bail him because there was not enough evidence to press charges.

By March of the following year he had been recruited as a look-out for the Matalan robbery in Hackney, east London, during which popular manager Jamie Simpson, 33, was stabbed to death.

Maina was finally charged with Rizwan’s murder in January last year and was convicted after a trial. He was jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum 14-year sentence in July.

The teenager was also charged with Mr Simpson’s murder in March last year.

Mr Simpson was knifed in the back and neck after bravely ‘refusing to yield’ when he was confronted on the shop floor by 17-year-old Kobina Essel.

He had only been working late that night after swapping shifts with a colleague.

The gang also included inside man Roy Williams, 31, a Matalan security guard and friend of Mr Simpson.

He allowed the three robbers in to the shop just before closing on March 22, 2008, to hide in a staff staircase at the shop in the Kingsland shopping centre, Hackney, before ending his shift.

Essel, now 19, has been convicted of murder.

Ringleader Simeon Jumah, 25, Maina, now 20, and Randy Osei-Owusu, 17, were convicted of manslaughter after the jury failed to agree on the murder charge.

Williams, recruiter Jamal Chambers, 18, and getaway driver Duane Owusu, 20, were cleared of both murder and manslaughter but convicted of conspiracy to rob.

Prosecutors today decided not to press for a retrial for Jumah, Maina and Osei-Owusu and asked for the murder charge to be left on file.

Judge Martin Stephens QC then lifted the court orders banning reporting of Maina’s background and the name of Osei-Owusu.

All seven men will be sentenced on March 22 this year.

During the trial, jurors heard Williams planned the robbery with his friend Jumah, a father-of-one and former school caretaker and Argos delivery driver.

With the help of Chambers, his girlfriend’s cousin, they recruited three young robbers and in a series of meetings at Jumah’s house Williams gave detailed plans of the shop floor, CCTV coverage and staff movements.

The gang picked the Easter weekend, hoping there would be bumper takings in the store’s cash office by closing time on Saturday.

The day before the robbery several of the gang members went on a recce of the shop before finalising the plans.

On Saturday evening, shortly before the store shut, CCTV cameras captured the three robbers slipping in to the shop, hooded and wearing dark clothing.

Williams who was patrolling the first floor allowed the robbers to get to the stairwell before telling colleagues the shop was clear of customers.

He left with a second guard as Mr Simpson cashed up.

The robbers hid in the staircase for almost an hour, their shadowy movements caught on camera, while Mr Simpson emptied all the tills on both floors.

As he exited the cash office shortly before 8pm, carrying only a set of keys, Essel left his hiding place and approached him on the shop floor.

The store’s cameras captured the six-second confrontation during which 19-stone Mr Simpson was stabbed three times in the back and neck and left for dead as the robbers fled empty handed through a fire escape.

Essel said Jumah had told him to bring his ‘ting’ for the robbery, so he armed himself with a 10in kitchen knife, which he later discarded and has never been found.

Mr Simpson, clutching his neck, tried to raise the alarm with shop assistants who were working nearby.

Staff desperately grabbed clothes and towels from shop rails and attempted to staunch the bleeding.

Police and ambulances arrived just after 8pm, shortly before a doctor in an air ambulance helicopter, but Mr Simpson’s life could not be saved.

The wound to his neck had cut through the jugular and the carotid artery.

Mr Simpson, originally from Derby, was only on duty having swapped his shift with colleague Rachel Ryan the day before.

Maina was arrested almost a year later after his prints were found in a vehicle used to car-jack the Ford Fiesta used for the gang’s getaway.

After extensive investigations in to mobile phone records and movements, CCTV and the use of cars, police were able to round up to Matalan gang members.

Hidden in a shed in Essel’s garden officers found his white hooded top and a JD sports bag that was spattered with Mr Simpson’s blood.

Following their arrests several of the gang claimed they were not aware that a knife was being carried or would be used.

Jumah, of East London; Williams, of North London; Owusu, of East London; Maina, of East London; Chambers, of East London; and Essel and Randy Osei-Owusu, from East London; all denied murder.

Williams, Chambers and Owusu also denied conspiracy to rob between December 1 2007 and March 23 2008, but were convicted.

Jumah, Essel, Maina and the teenager admitted the charge.

Jamie Simpsons parents, Lorna, 54, and Lambert, 57, wept as footage of what the prosecution called a ‘tragically one-sided encounter’ was shown in court.

Mrs Simpson later described the experience as ‘tremendously difficult’ — and said those responsible for her son’s death were ‘scum’.

Mrs Simpson described the killing of her son as a ‘sickening betrayal’.

Recalling the moment she was given the news, said: ‘It was like my world came to an end.’

She added: ‘He was my friend as well as my son. I couldn’t have asked for a better son. From when he was little he’s been my little buddy.’

The victim’s parents spoke of their belief that many young people had become desensitised to violence and saw life as like a ‘video game’.

Mr Simpson said: ‘Teenagers today play that much games, they look upon life as a joke. They expect when they kill someone they are going to get back up again.’

Claire Simpson, the victim’s 22-year-old sister, said in a statement that his death was like losing a ‘vital organ’.

She added: ‘What’s the point in living when there are people like this in this world that just don’t care what consequences their actions have, and behave in such a way that makes you question what kind of society is this?

‘Is there even a thread of common decency any more?’

Double killer Anthony Maina’s first victim was a popular and kind-hearted teenager whose death tore his family apart.

Maina stabbed 17-year-old Rizwan Darbar in the stomach during a mobile phone robbery in October 2007 in West Ham Park, east London.

The A-level student had been sitting in the flower garden of the park listening to music on the phone with two friends when he was attacked.

Maina was jailed for life with a minimum term of 14 years at the Old Bailey for the murder which Judge Timothy Pontius described as ‘an entirely needless and wholly unjustifiable tragedy’.

Rizwan’s brother Tausif Darbar said in a statement read in court: ‘My family’s world was turned upside down.’

Detective Inspector Simon Pickford said: ‘Rizwan was a young man with everything to live for.’

The court heard that Maina’s friend Kirkland Gayle had snatched a phone from a friend of the victim, then urged the knifeman to ‘poke’ Rizwan so he would not have to give it back.

Alan Kent QC, prosecuting, said he did so, ‘jabbing the knife at fast speed into the stomach area of Rizwan Darbar’.

Rizwan told his friends ‘I have just been duked’ as the attackers ran off.

Gayle was jailed for eight years after he was cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter and robbery.

Rizwan was preparing for A-levels when he was killed. He wanted to study accountancy and get a job in the City, and was a volunteer for events held in his area to promote the 2012 Olympics.

His brother said: ‘Rizwan was your average teenager — he loved his friends, football and music. He was extremely popular among both family and friends due to his great humorous personality.

‘He was kind-hearted, generous and gave everybody the time of day. He was very obedient and respected and loved his family and friends tremendously.

‘His death came as an immense shock as only a few hours earlier he was sitting at home with his family.

‘The news of his death brought pain which no one should never have to suffer. The screams and my parents’ faces that night still haunt me today.

‘The loss of Rizwan was more painful with the knowledge that someone had taken his precious, promising young life due to their selfish actions.

‘By their violent actions, they have torn our family apart.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks Editor: Why I’m Excited About Iceland’s Plans for Journalism

Iceland’s ‘Modern Media Initiative’ could turn it into something new in the world — a journalism haven

In my role as WikiLeaks editor, I’ve been involved in fighting off more than 100 legal attacks over the past three years. To do that, and keep our sources safe, we have had to spread assets, encrypt everything, and move telecommunications and people around the world to activate protective laws in different national jurisdictions.

We’ve become good at it, and never lost a case, or a source, but we can’t expect everyone to make such extraordinary efforts. Large newspapers, including the Guardian, are forced to remove or water down investigative stories rather than risk legal costs. Even internet-only publishers writing about corruption find themselves disconnected by their ISPs after legal threats. Should these publications not relent, they are hounded, like the Turks & Caicos Islands Journal, from one jurisdiction to other. There’s a new type of refugee — “publishers” — and a new type of internet business developing, “refugee hosting”. Malaysia Today is no longer published in Malaysia. Even the American Homeowners Association has moved its servers to Stockholm after relentless legal attacks in the United States.

That’s why I’m excited about what is happening in Iceland, which has started to see the world in a new way after its mini-revolution a year ago. Over the past two months I have been part of a team in Iceland advising parliamentarians on a cross-party proposal to turn it into an international “journalism haven” — a jurisdiction designed to attract organisations into publishing online from Iceland, by adopting the strongest press and source protection laws from around the world.

Because of the economic meltdown in the banking sector, which, per capita, was the largest of any western country, Icelanders believe that fundamental change is needed in order to prevent such events from taking place again. Those changes include not just better regulation of banks, but better media oversight of dirty deals between banks and politicians.

In fact, Iceland’s banks became fans of libel tourism. For instance, the largest, Kaupthing, succeeded in bringing a libel suit against a Danish tabloid, Ekstra Bladet, in London. A similar Danish article looking into the alleged Russian connections of Landsbanki, Iceland’s second-largest bank, and its online banking arm Icesave, was also attacked and removed from the online public record.

Then, on 31 July last year, WikiLeaks released Kaupthing’s confidential large loan book, which exposed â‚6bn of loans. Kaupthing threatened us and our source with a year in prison under Icelandic banking secrecy law. The leak was to become a major story, but five minutes before the national broadcaster, RÚV, could report it, the news desk was slapped with an injunction by Kaupthing. The first such Icelandic newsdesk injunction in living memory. Lost for words, RÚV filled the time with an image of WikiLeaks, outraging the public, who could all access a copy of the primary source document.

This is the backdrop which has led to the development of the “Icelandic Modern Media Initiative”, a proposal that binds the government to draft legislation to develop an attractive package of free speech and openness laws, including source protection, internal media communications protection, protection from libel tourism, immunity for intermediaries such as ISPs, and a tight statute of limitations on litigation. It is to be filed by tomorrow and has cross-party support, including from the governing coalition. Although the political environment in Iceland is still highly charged over the 6 March referendum about the Icesave dispute, it is expected to be voted through. Not surprisingly, the foreign press has developed an interest in the proposal. All over the world, the freedom to write about powerful groups is being smothered. Iceland could be the antidote to secrecy havens, rather it may become an island where openness is protected — a journalism haven. Sleet Street 2.0.

           — Hat tip: Egghead[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptian State Security Accused of Torturing Christian Youth

By Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — Egyptian State Security has been accused by lawyers, rights activists and victims’ families of torturing the Christian youths arrested in the aftermath of the Christmas Eve shootings of Copts on January 6, 2010.. The shooting in the southern town of Nag Hammadi resulted in the death of six and the injury of nine Christians (AINA 1-7-2010).

Two days after the shootings, nearly 100 Coptic teenagers as young as 15 were arrested randomly without warrants from the streets and their homes in Nag Hammadi and the neighboring villages (AINA 1-13-2010).

The arrests were intensified after Anba Kyrollos, Coptic Bishop of Nag Hammadi, heavily criticized the role of the security forces in the massacre, and the demonstrations that took place in Nag Hammadi by the angry Copts against the security forces. Gen. Mahmoud Gohar, Security Director Qena, explicitly threatened Copts and said that he will deal firmly and strongly with any protests.

The arrested youngsters were tortured and released without charges after nearly one week, except for 15 who were charged with “rioting and resisting the authorities” on January 24, and sent to detention camps; 13 went to the New Valley Camp, 700 km south of Cairo and 2 went to Alexandria. It is not known how they are being treated there. “When we visit them, there is always supervision,” said one relative.

Those that were released confirmed that they were beaten and subjected to electrocution. They were asked by security forces to falsely testify against Bishop Kyrollos that he incited them to make demonstrations.

Activist Wagih Yacoub of the Middle East Christian Association carried out interviews on February 19 with two Copts who were tortured. The young men were arrested randomly from the street and kept incarcerated 4-7 days before being released. They have now both left Nag Hammadi for fear of being re-arrested.

Bola (surname withheld), 18, said that he was picked up from the street at 6..30 on January 8, and taken to the police station. Next morning they were blindfolded, with their hands tied behind their back, and transferred to the State Security prison in Nag Hammadi. “We had to take our clothes off, and we were electrocuted with electrodes in our private parts for 8 hours..” He said “Electric shocks only stopped when we could take it no longer — only to be resumed again.”

Reziky (surname withheld), 17, said he was picked up by the police from the street and was taken the next morning blindfolded to State Security prison. He described how they underwent electric shocks by being made to take their clothes off, stand barefooted, and drenched with water. “They electrocuted us through our private parts,” he said. “We were threatened by security that if we disclosed what went on, we will be re-arrested..” A relative of Reziky told an investigator he believes that Reziky and the others Coptic boys were also sexually abused by the police.

Coptic News Bulletin conducted an aired interview with the brother of a 15-year-old teenager who was released. He wanted to remain anonymous for fear of revenge from State Security. “They tortured my brother, and the other Copts. They were flogged and electrocuted through their private parts.. The doctor said that none of them will be able to father any children or get married,” he said sobbing “He did not tell us exactly what happened. He is ashamed.” He said that the police wanted them to falsely accuse Bishop Kyrollos of inciting them to go out on demonstrations. The brother said that his brother is under medical treatment but is suffering psychologically and is afraid to venture out of his home.

In a balancing act, security forces also arrested Muslims as well, but they were not tortured, according to the brother. “When the police beat the Christians they tell them “your only problem is that you are Christian,” he said.

He added that he knew from his brother that those who were released had to sign on a blank paper beforehand, and they were threatened that should they divulge what went on inside prison, they will never see their families or daylight again. He also said that when human rights organizations came to see them, the Security forces sent them away and they were prevented from seeing anyone.

Dr. Naguib Gobraeel, President of the Egyptian Union for Human Rights (EUHRO), released a statement on February 17, volunteering to represent the young men who were subjected to torture in connection with the Nag Hammadi Massacre. “The Organization is aware that all those who were detained have been subjected to torture in sensitive parts of the their bodies that would make them completely lose their masculinity.” He explained that such crimes of torture have no statute of limitation. A hot-line number to the EUHRO was advertised.

Volunteer lawyers have complained that the affected families are afraid to sue the security forces for torturing their children. “Who is going to protect us from the vengeance of the security forces if we sue them?” said a relative of the 15-year old teenager Mina to Coptic News Bulletin. “We are poor and helpless people.”

As is the case in all sectarian incidents, State Security hold Christians in captivity to use them as “pawns” or “hostages” for twisting the Church’s arm into accepting their unfair settlement to secure the release of its children. The same tactic was used with the Nag Hammadi incident.

It was reported the families of the arrested youth appealed to Bishop Kyrollos for the release of their children, who were being tortured by the security forces in Nag Hammadi. A source near the Nag Hammadi Diocese, who wished to remain anonymous, said that Security officials in Nag Hammadi made a ‘deal’ with Bishop Kyrollos to release the incarcerated young men in exchange for his downplaying his accusation of the negligence of the State Security in the shooting incident. “Bishop Kyrollos was surprised to find detention warrants issued against 15 young men. He honored the agreement, but State Security did not,” said the source. “The Bishop was told by security officials to pursue normal channels secure their release, so he hired a team of lawyers from Cairo.” He believes that the 15 youngsters were purposely detained to be used again by the security officials to barter for something new from the Church.

Attorney Nabil Ghabrial, one of their legal team said that there is no proof for the charges of ‘riot and resistance to authorities’ brought against his 15 clients, as there were large numbers of bystanders, “so why are those in particular are accused?” An appeal was filed in Court on February 8 by the defense team challenging their arrest and detention.

Following the Nag Hammadi shootings, State security prevented human rights organizations from entering Nag Hammadi. However, Coptic advocacy groups were able to contact the families of the arrested young men and air their recorded interviews.

The majority of families interviewed found it difficult to talk about the torture their children underwent, especially the damage caused by electrocuting their private parts; they felt their children were humiliated as men.. Most of the released teens were undergoing medical treatment and many have been fitted with catheters in order to urinate. Families also complained that their children are living in fear, do not sleep at night and do not venture out in the street.

The mother of 20 years old Milad Nageh, who is presently in a detention camp, said that her son was picked up from the street and accused of rioting. “I saw him when he was here in Nag Hammadi, they electrically tortured him.” His mother said that they do not know his whereabouts, some told her he was in the New Valley and some said in Alexandria. “When human rights groups were here, the police officer did now allow them to speak to us; they just took the names and had to leave.”

Mother of 20-year-old Milad Badei said that he was dying in the New Valley camp as a result of the torture and the electric shocks he received in Nag Hammadi prison at the hands of State Security. “They said they would get him doctor to look after him, but I have no money to go and see him in the New Valley,” she told Coptic News Bulletin in an aired interview..

She recounted the family’s ordeal when they were attacked at home in Bahgoura on the evening of January 8. 2010. She said the Muslims broke into their home after cutting off the electricity supply. They were naked so that no one could get hold of them. “They were throwing gas at us to burn us and had knives. My sons Milad and Mina were hurling bricks at them as we had nothing else to defend ourselves with. We could hear the Muslims telling each other to drag the girls out.” She said. Her second son Mina, who is also wanted by security is presently hiding. “Is Milad committing a crime to hurl bricks at perpetrators to protect his family and save his unmarried sister from being raped?” asked the mother, sobbing.

On February 20, 2010, the courts dismissed the appeals filed against the detention. Lawyers and human rights organizations will demonstrate in protest in front of the Supreme Court in Cairo at noon on Wednesday, 24/2/2010 requesting the immediate release of the detainees. They will also present to the Attorney-General a note of protest against the arrests.

[Return to headlines]

Egypt Restores Monastery Touting Religious Harmony

Officials, visitors and journalists take a tour following a ceremony of the completion of the restoration works at the Monastery of St. Antony, Suez city, Egypt, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010. Egypt’s antiquities chief on Thursday unveiled the completion of an 8-year, $14.5 million restoration of the world’s oldest Christian monastery, touting it as a sign of Christian-Muslim coexistence. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Officials, visitors and journalists take a tour following a ceremony of the completion of the restoration works at the Monastery of St. Antony, Suez city, Egypt, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010. Egypt’s antiquities chief on Thursday unveiled the completion of an 8-year, $14.5 million restoration of the world’s oldest Christian monastery, touting it as a sign of Christian-Muslim coexistence. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Head of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities Zahi Hawass inspects the restored tower during a tour of the St. Anthony monastery complex, Suez city, Egypt, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010. Egypt’s antiquities chief on Thursday unveiled the completion of an 8-year, $14.5 million restoration of the world’s oldest Christian monastery, touting it as a sign of Christian-Muslim coexistence. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

A monk walks through a section of the renovated monks quarters, part of the completed restoration works at the Monastery of St. Antony, south the Red Sea of Suez city, Egypt Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010. Egypt’s antiquities chief Zahi Hawass on Thursday unveiled the completion of an 8-year, $14.5 million restoration of the world’s oldest Christian monastery, touting it as a sign of Christian-Muslim coexistence. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

A woman lights a candle at the restored church, part of the completed restoration works at the Monastery of St. Antony, south the Red Sea of Suez city, Egypt, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010. Egypt’s antiquities chief Zahi Hawass on Thursday unveiled the completion of an 8-year, $14.5 million restoration of the world’s oldest Christian monastery, touting it as a sign of Christian-Muslim coexistence. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

A woman takes a photo of the restored Icons at the church, part of the completed restoration works at the Monastery of St. Antony, south the Red Sea of Suez city, Egypt Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010. Egypt’s antiquities chief Zahi Hawass on Thursday unveiled the completion of an 8-year, $14.5 million restoration of the world’s oldest Christian monastery, touting it as a sign of Christian-Muslim coexistence.

           — Hat tip: Egghead[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Device Planted in Cairo Synagogue, One Arrest

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 23 — The alleged author of last Sunday’s attack in a synagogue located in the centre of Cairo has been arrested. The report was made by Egypt’s public television network Nile News. On Sunday a Molotov cocktail was launched against the door of the Shàar Hashamayin Jewish temple without generating any damage or casualties. The device, hidden in a backpack, was thrown from a hotel facing the synagogue, the largest in Egypt. A statement of the ministry of the Interior disseminated by Mena agency reported that the man is a 49-year-old tailor residing in the city’s working-class neighbourhood. He was arrested early this morning in Garden City, where the US embassy is located and where the man tried to ask for political asylum. The statement reported that the man was identified thanks to some personal belongings that were found in the room the attacker had booked on the fourth floor of the Panorama hotel. The man had thrown the backpack from one of the hotel’s reception windows before making an escape. The homemade device consisted of four containers containing sulphuric acid, cotton, matches and lighters. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya-Switzerland: Algiers Expresses Solidarity With Tripoli

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 23 — Algiers today expressed “its unconditional solidarity with Tripoli” and asked for “a solution to the dispute over the free movement of people who oppose Switzerland” to be found, said spokesperson for the Algerian Foreign Ministry. “Algeria is following developments in the controversy between the Arab Jamahirya Libya and Switzerland over the free movement of people” said a statement issued by the APS agency. It also calls for “a solution to this dispute based on respect for international law and the habits and customs of relations between sovereign States”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israel’s Last Chance of Survival

In the summer of 2011, it will have been 18 years since the Oslo Accords were signed by Shimon Peres, secretly and without the knowledge of the Israeli public whose rights to their own land were being signed away. The accord was based on meetings by left wing academics with terrorists that were illegal under Israeli law, signed covertly by a disgraced politician who had been an admirer of Marx and finally sealed with a public handshake between the world’s greatest terrorist and an Israeli Prime Minister suffering from such severe dementia that he had trouble recognizing the man beaming down on them both as the President of the United States, who 5 years later would be facing impeachment.

That handshake with Arafat took place on September 13th, 8 years minus 2 days, before terrorists would duplicate a feat that only Arafat’s own terrorists had previously accomplished, by simultaneously hijacking 4 aircraft. Even as the United States had begun pandering to Arafat, the rise of the next wave of terrorism was already underway with Bin Laden hard at work on the organization that would evolve into the Al Queda we know today. The Oslo Accords would play a crucial role in the rise of Islamist terrorism creating a vacuum into which the Muslim Brotherhood could step into with groups such as Hamas and Al Queda. And the Oslo Accords would also come to define Israel’s worst defeat since the accords it had signed with Rome over two thousand years ago.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Tehran on Path to Our Destruction

The international community is standing by as Iran goes nuclear

STAND by for some bad news. No, I mean really bad news. The world is not going to apply crippling sanctions to Iran. Even if it did, Iran would not be deterred from developing nuclear weapons. The only way that Iran can be significantly delayed in its pursuit of nuclear weapons is through an Israeli air strike on its nuclear facilities.

I think the chances of an Israeli attack are somewhat less than 50-50. Even with an air strike, the likelihood is you would delay rather than prevent Iran getting nuclear weapons. Don’t get me wrong, a delay is much better than no delay, but the balance of probabilities is that Iran will ultimately have a nuclear arsenal.

Even sanctions would only have an outside chance of working. But the world is not even going to try them. China, and to a lesser extent Russia, are going to make sure that doesn’t happen. This is a tragedy far beyond Copenhagen, but like Copenhagen it illustrates the complete breakdown of the multilateral system.

The US could strike Iran’s nuclear facilities far more effectively than Israel could, but to do so would be foreign to every instinct of the Obama administration.

It would also be hugely risky. But the risks of not acting are even greater. Nonetheless, the portents are strong that the Obama administration will dither.

More than 12 months ago, just after his inauguration, Obama said: “If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us.” Since then Obama has done everything an American president could possibly do to engage and entice Iran. He has made countless statements about the genius of Persian civilisation, the wonders of Islam as a religion, the sweetness of the Iranian people, the potential reasonableness of the Iranian government. And in response he has received contemptuous game playing from the Iranians. I come to my conclusion that Iran will ultimately get nuclear weapons with great reluctance, but it follows ineluctably from the facts. Consider the main players: Iran, the US, China, the UN, Russia, Israel. First Iran. There is really no doubt that Iran has a program designed to produce nuclear weapons.

Recently President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government announced that Iran had enriched uranium to 20 per cent and would build a slew of new nuclear fuel plants. This is a fundamental step along the road to nuclear weapons. It represents one of the critical technical hurdles.

A White House spokesman said Iran was bluffing about the level of its uranium enrichment. This is surely a unique case of Iran claiming its nuclear threat is greater than the White House claims. Believe who you will.

Iran has been determined to acquire nuclear weapons for a long time. It is, as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton describes it, something of a military dictatorship, with the Revolutionary Guard assuming more and more power. It is still also, however, a theocratic dictatorship. The purpose of the state is to serve theological ends.

Most Western analysts refuse to take Islamic religion seriously as a factor in geopolitics, assuming there must always be a rational national-interest explanation for any state’s behaviour.

The truth is that history is littered with states behaving irrationally and pursuing irrational ends, and doing so in often self-destructive ways. In Mao’s China tens of millions of people died in famines directly caused by state policy. North Korea has driven its people into starvation. Pol Pot not only committed genocide on his own people, he then attacked Vietnam so that it would destroy him. Saddam Hussein was such a canny, realist calculator of the odds that his regime ended up gone and he ended up dead.

It is intensely ahistorical to believe political regimes will always act according to Western conceptions of enlightened self-interest.

Iran believes the US is the Great Satan and Israel the little Satan. Its leadership came to power with intensely theocratic political programs. There is no evidence it has ever deviated from the idea of achieving nuclear weapons. There is some evidence that in 2003, scared by the American invasion of Iraq, it temporarily suspended the formal weaponisation part of the program.

The West has invested enormous hope in the democratic opposition inside Iran, and these heroic people deserve our support.

But Iran made huge nuclear weapons progress when the moderate Mohammad Khatami was its president. Achieving nuclear weapons is a widely shared goal across Iranian society.

Moreover, Iran is a robust dictatorship. It has slowly but ruthlessly, and with great brutality, ground down its domestic, democratic opposition, beating, imprisoning, raping, torturing and murdering them. It is not the least squeamish about killing its own people, always a reliable guide to the short-term survivability of a dictatorship.

And all this repression has cost it very little in terms of its international connections. It is in the midst of a diplomatic boom in

Africa and Latin America, and is ever closer with China.

Consider China. Beijing stands, in the long run, to suffer a great deal from the nuclear proliferation Iran will bring in its wake.

But China, contrary to the faux Kung Fu level of cultural understanding of most Western commentators, is showing itself to be a power that thinks very short term and very narrowly about its national interests, viz Copenhagen. It is Iran’s second biggest export market and has deep, deep economic integration with Iran.

One of its chief motives is to stymie, bleed and distress the US. It will do a dance of the seven veils with Washington over Iran sanctions. It may not finally veto them — it has only ever used the veto twice — but it will not enforce them or observe them itself. And by signalling its unwillingness to do this it makes it much less likely the Russians will either.

Consider the UN. The sanctions that apply to Iran are pathetically weak. The more powerful a country is, the less likely it is ever to suffer effective sanctions.

Consider the US. The key argument against George W. Bush’s intervention in Iraq is that it did not have UN approval. It is inconceivable Obama would get UN approval for a strike against Iran, so it is heroic, though not absolutely out of the question, to imagine him doing it. Instead the US is providing anti-missile defences to all the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, in the hope that this will balance their fear of Iran.

Israel just might strike, but my guess is the world will dither and wake up one brand new day to a Tehran that encompasses the possibility of the destruction of us all.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Strasbourg Court, No Condemnation of Religious Groups

(ANSAmed) — STRASBOURG, FEBRUARY 23 — To condemn members of a religious group on account of the way they dress in public is unjustified, says the European Court of Human Rights, which has today published its sentence with which it condemns Turkey for having violated the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion of 127 Turkish citizens who belong to a religious group called Aczimendi tarikaty, referring to events in 1996. The 127 men, who come from various parts of Turkey, met in Ankara to participate in a ceremony in the Mosque of Kocatepe, the largest in the city. To get to the mosque, they decided to walk the streets of the city in one group, wearing outfits that were supposed to remind people of those worn by the prophets. The outfit consists of a turban, the salvar (Turkish trousers with the crotch down to the knee), a tunic and a walking stick. Following various incidents that took place that day, the 127 were arrested. During the trial which saw them accused of violating anti-terrorism laws, the men appeared again dressed in accordance with the rules of the group. They were all sentenced for having worn these outfits in public. In their conviction, the judges in Strasbourg highlighted, first of all, that, given the importance of the principle of secularism for the Turkish democratic system, it can be accepted that the State interferes in the right to wear certain clothes because this follows the legitimate aim of safeguarding public safety, preventing disorder and protecting the rights and the freedom of others. However, the European Court judges point out, in this specific case the Turkish authorities could not show the need for interference and they limited themselves to say that it was in conformity with the law. Furthermore, the plaintiffs were punished for wearing these clothes in the street and not in institutional buildings, where the principle of religious neutrality can have precedent over the right to show one’s religion. Lastly, the judges underlined that the Turkish authorities were not able to prove that the plaintiffs dressed in this way constituted a danger to public order and that during their route to the mosque they carried out acts of proselytism, putting inappropriate pressure on passersby. The Court awarded the plaintiffs 10 euros each for moral damages and a total of 2,000 per legal fees. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

British Woman Who Converted to Islam Among Eight Killed by Suicide Bomber in Pakistan

A British woman was among at least eight people killed by a suicide bomber at a busy market in Pakistan yesterday.

Belinda Khan, 44, from Cardiff, was shopping with her husband when the explosion happened in the war-torn Swat Valley region. He survived the blast.

Mrs Khan — also known by her Muslim name Aamna — had travelled to Pakistan earlier this month to get married.

Her husband Saeed told the Guardian she was in a car when the bomb exploded. He rushed to her side to find her conscious, but silent.

‘She looked at me and we just saw each other for three or four seconds,’ he said. Then, the gas canister in the car blew up in a second explosion.

Saeed pulled his wife’s body from the car and rushed her to hospital but it was too late.

Saeed was Mrs Khan’s second husband. They had wanted to marry in the UK, but he was denied a visa. She flew to Pakistan on February 8, and they were married the next day, the Guardian reported.

Mrs Khan had converted to Islam in 2005, while she was married to her current husband’s brother, Yahya. He was killed by the Taliban in 2008 while she was in the UK.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: ‘We can confirm that a British national was killed in the attack in Swat Valley.

‘Next of kin have been informed and we are providing consular assistance.’

‘She came to have a second life with me,’ a broken-hearted Saeed was quoted as saying. ‘My family and I are missing her very much.’

The family buried Mrs Khan in a home in their village of Kuza Bandai after speaking with her brother in Cardiff.

Among the messages of sympathy on the grave was one which read: ‘We are proud of Belinda’.

Today another ex-husband of Mrs Khan told of his ‘shock and disbelief’ at her death.

Speaking from his home in Wales, Clive Gardiner, 46, said: ‘It is a hell of a shock — I didn’t even know she was out there.

‘I only sent her a text message a few days ago but I didn’t have a reply.

‘I just wanted to see how she was. Even though we divorced four years ago we still kept in contact and it was amicable between us.’

Mr Gardiner, of Barry, South Wales, said he and Mrs Khan, a former community care worker, were childhood sweethearts and had been married for 16 years.

They had no children.

Mrs Khan’s brother and other family members have been in touch with Mr Gardiner since his wife’s death.

Some 37 people were injured in the attack after the suicide bomber detonated his device at a road junction surrounded by shops and market stalls as vehicles carrying members of Pakistan’s security forces passed.

Television footage of the scene showed that the blast had ripped out shopfronts and blown out car windows.

everal cars were gutted, and a fire engine rushed to extinguish a blaze ignited by the explosion.

‘It was a suicide attack. Its target was security forces,’ Major Mishtaq Khan, the army spokesman in Swat, said.

Pakistani forces seized the Swat Valley back from local Taliban militants in the middle of last year.

But the area, close to the border with Afghanistan, has continued to be plagued by sporadic violence.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Kabul Bank’s Sherkhan Farnood Feeds Crony Capitalism in Afghanistan

KABUL — Afghanistan’s biggest private bank — founded by the Islamic nation’s only world-class poker player — celebrated its fifth year in business last summer with a lottery for depositors at Paris Palace, a Kabul wedding hall.

Prizes awarded by Kabul Bank included nine apartments in the Afghan capital and cash gifts totaling more than $1 million. The bank trumpeted the event as the biggest prize drawing of its kind in Central Asia.

Less publicly, Kabul Bank’s boss has been handing out far bigger prizes to his country’s U.S.-backed ruling elite: multimillion-dollar loans for the purchase of luxury villas in Dubai by members of President Hamid Karzai’s family, his government and his supporters.

The close ties between Kabul Bank and Karzai’s circle reflect a defining feature of the shaky post-Taliban order in which Washington has invested more than $40 billion and the lives of more than 900 U.S. service members: a crony capitalism that enriches politically connected insiders and dismays the Afghan populace.

“What I’m doing is not proper, not exactly what I should do. But this is Afghanistan,” Kabul Bank’s founder and chairman, Sherkhan Farnood, said in an interview when asked about the Dubai purchases and why, according to data from the Persian Gulf emirate’s Land Department, many of the villas have been registered in his name. “These people don’t want to reveal their names.”

Afghan laws prohibit hidden overseas lending and require strict accounting of all transactions. But those involved in the Dubai loans, including Kabul Bank’s owners, said the cozy flow of cash is not unusual or illegal in a deeply traditional system underpinned more by relationships than laws.

The curious role played by the bank and its unorthodox owners has not previously been reported and was documented by land registration data; public records; and interviews in Kabul, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Moscow…

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]


Somali Mother Can Claim Thousands in UK Benefits Because Her Children Attend British Schools, EU Judges Rule

A Somali mother-of-four is entitled to claim about £2,500 in benefits because two of her children are attending UK schools, EU judges ruled today.

Nimco Hassan Ibrahim was denied housing assistance because she and her estranged husband — a Danish national — failed to qualify for residency rights.

She appealed the decision by Harrow Council in north-west London, claiming that as her children’s ‘primary carer’ she should be allowed to stay on in Britain and qualify for state handouts.

Today the European Court of Justice directed the Britain’s Appeal Court to find in her favour.

It said that parents of children in school have the right of residence even where they cannot support themselves.

The ruling paves the way for Ms Ibrahim to claim thousands of pounds in rent, income support and council tax benefit each month.

Cllr Barry Macleod-Cullinane, Harrow Council’s portfolio holder for adults and housing, said: ‘We are very concerned with this outcome, as it appears to establish a major new legal precedent over benefit claims.

‘Harrow Council is studying the full implications of the ruling but it could well prove to be a floodgates judgment in that people who have not yet contributed to this country or who do not have the means to sustain themselves can now seek immediate help from state welfare services.

‘Rather than having a proper open and public debate about what our immigration policy should be, with that policy voted upon by our MPs in Parliament, we are now seeing a European Court determining British immigration policy.

‘This judgment would seem to make this policy of free movement impossible unless one greets new migrants at Heathrow with sizeable welfare handouts.’

Ms Ibrahim arrived in the UK in 2003 to join her husband, named in court as Mr Yusuf.

As a Danish national, he counted as a ‘migrant worker’ from another EU country, with UK residency rights. This also applied to his wife.

The couple have four children of Danish nationality, aged from one to nine.

The three eldest arrived in the United Kingdom with their mother and the fourth was born in the United Kingdom.

The two eldest have attended State schools since their arrival.

After working in the UK for five months, Mr Yusuf claimed incapacity benefit, and left the country after being declared fit for work in March 2004.

He then ‘ceased to satisfy the conditions for lawful residence’ in the UK, said the judgment.

Ms Ibrahim remained in the UK, separated from her husband, and, said the court, ‘was never self-sufficient, and depends entirely on social assistance’.

‘She does not have comprehensive sickness insurance cover and relies on the National Health Service,’ the judgment added.

Her application for housing assistance for herself and her children was rejected by the London Borough of Harrow on the ground that only people with a right of residence under EU law could apply.

At that time neither she nor her husband were considered resident in the UK.

Today’s judgment said: ‘A parent caring for the child of a migrant worker who is in education in the host Member State has a right of residence in that State.

‘That right is not conditional on the parent having sufficient resources not to become a burden on the social assistance system.’

EU rules say that members of the family of a migrant worker who is a national of one EU country and employed in another have residency rights with that worker, whatever their nationality — a right that continues even if the migrant worker no longer lives or works there.

The same judges also backed the case of Portuguese Maria Teixeira, divorced from her Portuguese husband, who was turned down for housing assistance on the grounds that she had no right of UK residence because she was not working and was not therefore self-sufficient.

She argued that she had residency rights because her daughter — the child of an EU national who had moved from one EU country to another — was continuing education in the UK.

The EU judges said the right of residence of the ‘primary carer’ parent normally ends when the child reaches 18, ‘unless the child continues to need the presence and care of that parent in order to be able to pursue and complete his or her education’.

It was up to the national court to assess whether that was actually the case.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Secret Labour Plan to Increase Immigration for Social Reasons Dismissed Public’s Opposition as ‘Racist’

Labour encouraged mass immigration even though it knew that voters opposed it, Whitehall documents confirmed yesterday.

The Government said the public disagreed with immigration because of ‘racism’ and ministers were told to try to alter public attitudes.

The thinking on immigration among Labour leaders was set down in 2000 in a document prepared for the Cabinet Office and the Home Office, but the key passages were suppressed before it was published.

The paper was finally disclosed under freedom of information rules yesterday. It showed that ministers were advised that only the ill-educated and those who had never met a migrant were opposed to immigration.

They were also told that large-scale immigration would bring increases in crime, but they concealed these concerns from the public.

Sections of the paper, which underpinned Labour policies that admitted between two and three million immigrants to Britain in less than a decade, have already been made public.

These have showed that Labour aimed to use immigration not only for economic reasons but also to change the social make-up of the country.

Fuller details released yesterday showed that Tony Blair’s ministers opened the doors to mass migration in knowledge of public opposition and with the view that those who disagreed with them were racists.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Va. Man Accused of Helping Smuggle Somalis Into U.S.

By: Freeman Klopott

Authorities are searching for 270 Somalis believed to have entered the U.S. illegally with the help of a Virginia man who admitted contacts with an Islamic terrorist group.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent said his agency had yet to locate any of the suspected illegal immigrants.

According to an affidavit filed in Alexandria’s federal court, Anthony Joseph Tracy told authorities that he came in contact with the Somali terrorist organization Al-Shabaab, which announced an alliance with al Qaeda earlier this year.

ICE Agent Thomas Eyre testified during a hearing that authorities are “concerned” about the 35-year-old’s dealings with the group.

In an e-mail, Tracy reportedly wrote, “i helped alot of somalis and most are good but there are some who are bad and i leave them to ALLAH,” the affidavit said.

He has been held without bail. Tracy’s attorney, Geremy Kamens, declined to comment for this story.

Eyre testified that authorities had not yet tracked down any of the Somalis whom Tracy allegedly helped travel to the U.S. The affidavit says Tracy’s e-mails, combined with information on Facebook, show that the Somalis have spread across the country and are living in New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Minnesota and Arizona.

Eyre indicated authorities are trying to find the Somalis and determine whether they’re associated with Al-Shabaab. An ICE spokeswoman said she could not comment on an ongoing investigation. The Somalis are believed to have entered the United States through the border with Mexico after making a circuitous trip from Kenya to Dubai to Moscow to Cuba to South America to Mexico and then the U.S., Eyre testified.

Vanessa Parra, a spokeswoman for Refugees International, estimated the trip could cost as much as $30,000. “It would be difficult for most Somalis to get that kind of money,” she said.

Tracy, who moved to Kenya in April from Winchester, is accused of helping the Somalis move to the United States by getting them travel visas to Cuba through contacts he had at the Cuban Embassy, court documents said. The visas were issued using fraudulent information Tracy allegedly provided his contacts. Authorities say Tracy knew that the U.S. was the Somalis’ intended final destination.

           — Hat tip: RRW[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: Schools Must Teach Diversity Says Balls: New Rules for Faith Schools Are a ‘Terrific Muddle’

Ed Balls came under fire last night after instructing faith schools to teach pupils about ‘equality and diversity’ in sex education lessons.

The Children’s Secretary told them they will be required in law to present children with a ‘range of views’ about abortion, contraception and homosexuality.

But opposition politicians branded his plans a ‘terrific muddle’ after he insisted faith schools would still be free to teach pupils that contraception and homosexuality were wrong.

[Return to headlines]


AliceNorthernLights said...

There is an italian blog called 'For a better islam and peace&friendship among people' (but don't get fooled by title, it's like Gates of Vienna) here the link
Author reads Gates of Vienna and translated some articles from here in italian.

Yf you want to include link