Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100307

Financial Crisis
»Bankers Urge Regulations to Streamline Work of Islamic Banks
»Brüderle: Germany Won’t Give ‘One Cent’ To Greece
»Organized Crime: The ‘Looting’ Of $11 Trillion From the U.S. Economy
»A Detention Bill You Ought to Read More Carefully
»Clash Over ‘Global Warming’ Ratcheted Up Another Degree
»Naked Snow Sculpture Covered Up After Neighbours Complain
»Obama Draws Fire for Appointing SEIU’s Stern to Deficit Panel
»Students Throw Cotton Balls, Are Arrested for Felony Hate Crime
»White House Adviser: ‘Heavier People’ Bad for Economy
Europe and the EU
»Abuse Scandal Hits Elite Progressive School
»Germany: Catholic Abuse Scandal Hits Famous Boys’ Choir
»Italy: Top EU Court Attacks Italy Over Naples Garbage
»Italy: Berlusconi ‘Furious’ About Election Bungle
»Italy: Two More Arrests in Public Works Graft Probe
»Minority: ‘Arberia Film Festival’ In Calabria
»Stop Wilders Committee Formed in the Netherlands by Dutch Citizens
»UK Muslim Leader: Islam Not a Religion of Peace
»UK: Bomb Disposal Expert Due to be Sent to Afghanistan is Quizzed After Car Explosion Leaves Pregnant Wife’s Legs Shredded
»UK: Bulger Killer Jon Venables Held Over Child Porn Claims
»UK: It’s Terror Check Chaos as Dozens Miss US Flights
»UK: MoD Probes ‘Inappropriate Term on Soldier’s Uniform
»UK: Peter Oborne: The Plot to Stop the Tories Ever Gaining Power…
»UK: The Horrors of Socialized Medicine Uncovered
»UK: The Social Worker Who Looked After Bulger Killer Until Release Gives a First Extraordinary Account of His ‘Kid Gloves’ Treatment Inside…
»UK: Unwanted Men, We Need You to Curb the Welfare Amazons
»UK: What a Daft Way to Stop Your Spaniel Eating the Milkman
»Vatican: Doubts Raised About ‘Miracle’ Linked to John Paul
»Serbia: Orthodox Church Shocked by Corruption Claims
»Serbia: Problem With Belgium Will be Settled
Mediterranean Union
»Beirut as Shelter for Arabs From Middle Ages, Abi Saab
Israel and the Palestinians
»Arch-Terrorist Abdullah Barghouti: Netanyahu to Blame for Schalit Deal Collapse.
»‘Hamas Losing Control Over Strip’
Middle East
»Iran Developing Massive Launch Site With Help of N.Korea
»Iran’s Ahmadinejad Calls Sept 11 “Big Fabrication”
»Iran: Brazil Resists US Pressure on Sanctions
»Iran: Italian Envoy Asked to Explain Spy Arrests
»‘Islamic Nations Will Back Iran Strike’
»Jonathan Spyer: What Does Assad Want?
»March 8: Arab World, Women Better Educated But Not Enough
»‘They Need to be Liberated From Their God’
»Turkey: PM Attacks US After Armenian ‘Genocide’ Vote
»Turkey: ‘Jewish Lobby Behind U.S. Armenia Genocide Vote’
South Asia
»British Father Found Stabbed to Death in Girlfriend’s Home in Malaysia After Splitting From Wife
»India: Muslim Women Can Move Forwards Wearing the Veil
»India: Memo to Saudis: Please Stop Terror
»Malaysia Magazine Sorry for Communion-Spitting Offence
»Pakistan: Islamabad, Jihad on the Internet: Terrorism Charges for Five U.S. Students
»Pakistan: Police Search for Kidnapped Boy
»Pakistan: Sources: U.S.-Born Al-Qaida Spokesman Caught
»Pakistan: Officers Say American-Born Al-Qaida Arrested
»Pakistan: U.S.-Born Al Qaeda Arrest News Incorrect
»Revealed: Bitter Family Split of Boy, 5, Kidnapped by Gunmen in Pakistan
Far East
»China ‘Must Reduce Rich-Poor Gap’ — Premier Wen
»Cyberwar Declared as China Hunts for the West’s Intelligence Secrets
»More Than 20:000 North Korean Refugees in South Korea
Australia — Pacific
»McDonald’s Rejects Push to Have More Halal-Serving Outlets
»Row Over Barbecue as Primary School Opts to Offer Halal Sausages
Sub-Saharan Africa
»“Scores Killed” In Nigeria Clashes
»Pirates Hijack Norwegian Tanker Off Madagascar
»EU: Cooperation With Libya and Turkey Urgent
»Italy: Mixed Marriages Triple in 10 Years
»Italy: Violence Erupts in a Rome Detention Center
»Netherlands: Immigrant Voters Again Important for PvdA in Local Elections
»Netherlands: Income Check on Foreign Brides Ruled Illegal
»Obama to Push Immigration Before Elections
»UK: British Taxpayers to Fork Out Millions More in Benefits for EU Migrants
Culture Wars
»Munich Hosts Homosexual Job Fair
»Netherlands: Church Bows to Gays Seeking Communion
»Spaniards Rally Against Abortion
»Teenage Boys Watching Hours of Internet Pornography Every Week Are Treating Their Girlfriends Like Sex Objects
»UK: After Tory Leader Reveals His List of Ethnic Candidates, Cameron’s Rainbow 1st Eleven
»UK: Clergy Could Face the Law Over Same-Sex Ceremonies
»Vote for Marriage? You’re on a Hit List
»The Guaranteed Failure of Catering to Muslim Perception

Financial Crisis

Bankers Urge Regulations to Streamline Work of Islamic Banks

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, MARCH 2 — Bankers from around the Middle East and north Africa met on Tuesday at the opening of the regions first forum on Islamic banking to discuss challenges facing this industry in light of the world economic crisis. The three day forum also brings together banking experts and central bank officials from around Europe to craft out a common understanding to the nature of Islamic banking investment. Governor of Jordans central bank Umaya Toukan called for integrating Islamic banking into the international banking industry. “I think it is very important that the Islamic banking industry be part of the global banking system. It cannot be isolated, therefore the accounting standards, regulatory structures or requirements, the capital adequacy requirements, all of these issues should be consistent with international standards,” said Touqan. Experts also called for coming up with certain regulations and standards to streamline work of Islamic banks. “The central bank of Jordan attaches great importance to the development of the Islamic Banking industry and we are participating actively in the committees and working groups on the drafting of standards on all aspects of Islamic finance. As the Islamic finance expands, the central bank will have to ensure that these new banks become fully integrated with the rest of the banking system, said Touqan during the opening session. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Brüderle: Germany Won’t Give ‘One Cent’ To Greece

German Economy Minister Rainer Brüderle on Friday said Berlin will “not give one cent” to help Greece out of its debt crisis, as Chancellor Angela Merkel prepared to meet Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou.

“Papandreou said that he didn’t want one cent — in any case the German government will not give one cent,” Brüderle said on the sidelines of a meeting with European Union industry commissioner Antonio Tajani.

The remarks came ahead of talks in Berlin later on Friday between Papandreou and Merkel amid rising tension between the two countries.

Brüderle was referring to comments by Papandreou in Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper published Friday.

“We are not asking for money,” Papandreou said. “We need support from the European Union and our partners to obtain credit on the markets at better conditions. If we do not receive this aid, we will not be able to enact the changes we foresee.”

Greece successfully raised an urgently needed €5.0 billion ($6.8 billion) with a bond issue on Thursday, but had to pay an interest rate significantly above 6.0 percent, or about twice the rate at which Germany can borrow.

Papandreou has made clear that he is looking for some form of expression of “solidarity” which would enable Greece to share some of the credibility attached to other eurozone governments, notably Germany, so that future bonds can be issued at a lower rate.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, is widely seen as the most likely candidate to help prevent what would be a disastrous Greek default but there is strong opposition in the country against such a move.

Greek politicians have bristled over insulting headlines in the German press and editorials denouncing the corruption there, although Papandreou himself has acknowledged the problem.

Media reports have suggested that for all the stern words, Germany is drawing up contingency plans behind the scenes including either bilateral aid, joint European action or help from the International Monetary Fund.

Merkel welcomed Greece’s announcement Wednesday of a package of austerity measures as “an important step” towards cutting its budget deficit and restoring trust in Athens and the euro.

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

Organized Crime: The ‘Looting’ Of $11 Trillion From the U.S. Economy

The following is based on a report by Cliff Kincaid for Accuracy in Media.

The New York Times is quoting a spokesman for George Soros as saying that the well-known hedge fund operator is guilty of no wrong-doing in connection with the financial upheaval currently affecting Greece and Europe as a whole.

But Zubi Diamond, author of the powerful new book, Wizards of Wall Street, says the agenda of Soros and other short sellers is clear. Their purpose, he says, is “to loot America and any foreign country which invested in America. Greece was one of them. Iceland was ravaged and annihilated.”


He warns that any asset class that is traded in the NYSE, CME, or EUREX exchanges is susceptible to manipulation by the members of Managed Funds Association and their strategic partners. “They have primed the market for manipulation,” he says.

In the case of Greece, Diamond says that the country “gathered all her nest eggs and brought it to the wolves’ den at Goldman Sachs,” a member of Managed Funds Association, “but Goldman Sachs then shorted the market while their clients were on the other side of the trade.”

Diamond says there would not have been a Greece debt crisis if all the safeguard regulations had not been removed. He blames Christopher Cox, who served as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), for laying the groundwork for this financial upheaval. “The removal of the uptick rule, and the circuit breakers and the introduction of mark to market accounting is what caused the economic collapse and the stock market crash,” he says. “Greece lost investment capital in the 2008 Wall Street collapse, which gave their country a balance sheet problem on top of the debt they already have. Their deficit ballooned. You know the rest. The EU is accusing Greece of not disclosing all their debt and investment risk exposure.”

Commenting on reports that federal authorities and the SEC will investigate Goldman Sachs for their involvement in the Greece debt crisis, Diamond says that “my prediction is that nothing will happen” because Goldman Sachs is a member of the powerful MFA.

“The Managed Fund Association is the government,” Diamond charges. “They bought the policy makers and regulators, and then took over our government.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


A Detention Bill You Ought to Read More Carefully

Why is the national security community treating the “Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010,” introduced by Sens. John McCain and Joseph Lieberman on Thursday as a standard proposal, as a simple response to the administration’s choices in the aftermath of the Christmas Day bombing attempt? A close reading of the bill suggests it would allow the U.S. military to detain U.S. citizens without trial indefinitely in the U.S. based on suspected activity. Read the bill here, and then read the summarized points after the jump.

According to the summary, the bill sets out a comprehensive policy for the detention, interrogation and trial of suspected enemy belligerents who are believed to have engaged in hostilities against the United States by requiring these individuals to be held in military custody, interrogated for their intelligence value and not provided with a Miranda warning.

[There is no distinction between U.S. persons—visa holders or citizens—and non-U.S. persons.]

[Return to headlines]

Clash Over ‘Global Warming’ Ratcheted Up Another Degree

Congressman wants funding stopped; scientists plan retaliation campaign

The clash over “global warming” has been ratcheted up another degree this week, with one member of Congress demanding U.S. taxpayer funding for the research be halted and scientists who have been accused of slipshod and deceptive work planning a campaign of retaliation against their critics.


The revelations were significant, because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency signed two findings Dec. 7 that concluded greenhouse gases in the atmosphere “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.” The EPA’s rulings could mean thousands of dollars in additional taxes for individual consumers.

Now, Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Joe Barton, R-Texas, is citing the doubts about the integrity of “climate change” science in a letter asking for an accounting of U.S. taxpayer support for the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC.

The U.S. since 1994 has given some $50 million to the panel, and contributions under Obama now have doubled.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Naked Snow Sculpture Covered Up After Neighbours Complain

A family in America was told by police to cover up their snow sculpture after neighbours complained that it was offensive.

Elisa Gonzalez and her family spent hours crafting a nude sculpture in the front garden of their home in Rahway, New Jersey.

Motorists stopped to take photos of their version of the celebrated Greek statue Venus de Milo, and several neighbours were complimentary.

But Rahway police sent an officer to their home after they received an anonymous complaint of “a naked snow woman”, and asked the family to cover her up.

When the officer arrived, Mrs Gonzalez said, he was apologetic and appreciative of the snowlady and her assets.

“He said, ‘It’s very good,’“ Mrs Gonzalez recalled.

Despite his appreciation, the officer then asked the family to dress the snowlady.

Mrs Gonzalez said: “She was curvaceous, bodacious and booty-licious. But she had a six-pack!

“I thought she looked more objectified and sexualised after you put the bikini on.”

Mrs Gonzalez’s daughter Maria Conneran, 21, said they had been made to cover up art.

She said: “Our snow lady looked like marble. It looked like a statue.

“Are you going to go to the Met and cover up all the statues?”

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Obama Draws Fire for Appointing SEIU’s Stern to Deficit Panel

President Obama’s decision to appoint his close political ally, union leader Andrew Stern, to the newly created National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform has set off a firestorm of criticism from business and conservative groups who charge he is a political radical who should be investigated for failure to register as a lobbyist.

The prestigious 18-member commission will study and recommend ways to whittle down the $12 trillion debt the federal government has amassed. Stern is one of six panelists Obama has named; the House of Representatives and the Senate will each appoint six others.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Students Throw Cotton Balls, Are Arrested for Felony Hate Crime

Two students at the University of Missouri-Columbia were suspended Wednesday after their arrests in a case of cotton balls thrown across the lawn of the campus black-culture center.

Campus police on Tuesday evening arrested the students, one of whom is from the St. Louis area, on suspicion of a felony hate crime. The two were released on bond, and charges were pending.

The incident happened early Friday at the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center, near the middle of campus. Nathan Stephens, the center’s coordinator, said students were offended because of the “symbolic violence” that harkened to days of slavery on cotton plantations.

[Comment: This would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Amerika is in trouble when people are getting arrested just for being stupid.]

[Return to headlines]

White House Adviser: ‘Heavier People’ Bad for Economy

Rahm Emanuel’s bioethicist brother suggests government intervene in eating habits

The U.S. economy would be in better shape if people weren’t so heavy, according to Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the older brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and a presidential health care adviser in his own right.

“I mean, we’re all focused on health care, diabetes and heart disease,” he said in a recent appearance on the New York Times “Freakonomics Radio” program. “But, there’s all sorts of things like the simple that, you know — heavier people — transportation is more, so there’s more spent on gasoline, more on jet fuel.”

The White House is aggressively pressing for passage of the Democrats’ trillion-dollar health-care reform plan while First Lady Michelle Obama has taken up the issue of childhood obesity.

[Comments from JD: This is already being implemented in the UK where we see social workers harassing parents if their child is deemed “overweight”.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Abuse Scandal Hits Elite Progressive School

Pupils at a progressive private boarding school in Hesse were regularly sexually abused, the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper reported Saturday. The news follows a series of revelations about Catholic schools in Germany.

Catholic abuse scandal hits famous boys’ choir — Society (5 Mar 10)

Minister accuses church of blocking child sex abuse investigation — National (23 Feb 10)

Top Catholic bishop apologises for child abuse scandal — National (22 Feb 10)

The Odenwaldschule school board admitted to the paper that teachers had abused wards at the school for years. School director Margarita Kaufmann told the newspaper, “As far as I am concerned, it is a fact that sexual abuse occurred here at least since 1971.”

According to accounts by former pupils, teachers at the school in Heppenheim woke them by stroking their genitals, forced them to perform oral sex, and were made into “sex slaves” for whole weekends.

Teachers also beat their wards, provided them with drugs and alcohol, and did not intervene when several pupils sexually abused a girl.

Allegations against Rector Gerold Becker, who ran the school from 1971 to 1985, were first made public around ten years ago. But investigations were suspended because of the amount of time that had passed. “It was a failure and a serious mistake, that the school did not investigate further then,” Kaufmann said.

Kaufmann, who has directed the school since 2007, said that she had recently been approached by pupils with concerns, and that she had then spoken to several former pupils. She believes that at least three former teachers were involved. The Frankfurter Rundschau believes that between 50 and 100 former students were victims of abuse.

The Odenwaldschule was established in 1910 with a holistic ethos of raising a child according to its own individual desires, rather than through discipline and drill. The 225 pupils currently attending (200 as boarders) live in so-called ‘families,’ with their class teacher as a kind of ‘family head’ who lives in an adjacent room. A boarder’s place at the school currently costs €2,220 a month.

Prominent alumni include Green party politician Daniel Cohn-Bendit, journalist and TV presenter Amelie Fried, entrepreneur Beate Uhse and the author Klaus Mann.

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

Germany: Catholic Abuse Scandal Hits Famous Boys’ Choir

The child sexual abuse scandal in Germany’s Catholic Church continued to spread on Friday as a spokesperson confirmed abuse at Regensburg’s cathedral school for their famous boys’ choir, the Domspatzen.

Victims of have come forward to report abuse at the institution, and the two men, who both died in 1984, will still be charged with their crimes, the diocese spokesperson said.

One suspect, who was a religion teacher and the institution’s assistant leader, was removed from service in 1958. The other man was reportedly censured in 1971.

“We want to investigate with transparency,” the spokesperson said.

The diocese said it planned to create a commission to study the school’s old files and archives between 1958 and 1973, when the abuse is thought to have occurred.

On Thursday Bavarian police also raided the Ettal monastery, which runs a Catholic boarding school, on suspicion of child pornography. According to daily Münchner Merkur, a monk there has admitted to uploading such material to the internet. The monastery also admitted to at least two cases of sexual abuse.

The scandal was revealed in late January when Berlin’s prestigious Canisius school announced that around 50 former students had claimed they were sexually abused by priests. Since then lawyers for victims have said more than 120 people across the country have come forward with allegations of abuse by up to 12 different priests and teachers at other Catholic institutions. So far 18 of 27 dioceses have been affected.

The country’s top Catholic bishop Robert Zollitsch, who issued a public apology in late February, is schedules to meet with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican in one week to discuss the scandal.

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

Italy: Top EU Court Attacks Italy Over Naples Garbage

Luxembourg, 4 March(AKI) — Europe’s top court has accused Italy of endangering people’s health by failing to effectively manage rubbish disposal in the southern city of Naples and the surrounding area two years ago. The European Union’s Court of Justice said Italy failed to adopt measures recommended by the EU in 2006.

“Italy has not adopted all the necessary waste management measures in the Campania region,” the Luxembourg-based court said in a statement.

In 2008 the European Union started legal action against Italy after rubbish went uncollected for months in Campania turning parts of the southern region into a sprawling garbage heap. The crisis started in late 2007 after landfills were closed.

About 55,000 tonnes of waste lined roads with up to 120,000 tonnes piled in public storage sites awaiting treatment, the court said, citing figures from the Italian government.

“In that way, the waste caused a nuisance through odours and damaged the countryside, thus harming the environment. Moreover, Italy itself admitted that the situation was dangerous for human health, which was exposed to certain risk,” the court said in a statement.

Court of Justice spokeswoman Estella Cigna said the ruling served as a warning which can prompt the European Commission, the EU’s ruling governing body, to put further pressure on Italy.

“There are different kinds of pressure that can be applied,” she told Adnkronos International (AKI) by telephone. “This may include withholding regional funds or fines.”

During the 2008 election campaign, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi blamed the rubbish crisis on inaction by his political opponents and he held his first cabinet meeting in Naples after being re-elected prime minister.

Berlusconi managed to clear the area of mountains of rubbish but garbage collection problems persist and are often blamed on local opposition to landfills and mafia control of some waste disposal companies and public services.

The Italian government must surmount these obstacles, the Court of Justice said.

“Neither the opposition mounted by the local inhabitants nor the failure to honour contractual obligations, nor yet the presence of criminal activity, constitutes a situation of ‘force majeure’ which could justify both the failure to fulfil obligations under the directive and the failure to have the requisite facilities up and running on time,” the statement said.

Italian authorities have accused the local mafia, or Camorra, of dumping huge amounts of industrial waste in the Campania region’s landfill sites and profiting from its control of the toxic waste industry.

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

Italy: Berlusconi ‘Furious’ About Election Bungle

Rome, 4 March (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is furious about an election bungle that has stopped candidates from his People of Freedom party (PdL) from standing in crucial regional elections at the end of March. Roberto Formigoni, the current governor of the northern region of Lombardy, was not included on a list of candidates after an official missed the deadline for registration.

A Milan appeals court on Wednesday rejected attempts by Berlusconi’s party to register Formigoni and his list of candidates for the elections to be held on 28-29 March.

At a dinner with senior party colleagues at his official Rome residence Palazzo Grazioli late on Wednesday, Berlusconi reportedly said he was “worried” about the reaction from the party’s political supporters.

But according to the Italian daily, La Repubblica, Berlusconi also expressed concern about continuing differences between him and Gianfranco Fini, key ally and speaker of the lower house of Parliament.

“The government is at risk of imploding in a year,” Berlusconi apparently said.

“I can no longer exist in a party in which everyone goes their own way. The government must be in a position to work. And I want to know immediately who is with me and who is against me.”

According to La Repubblica, Berlusconi told his colleagues he was tired of the internal strife afflicting the government.

“Whoever remains now must accept my leadership of the party,” he reportedly said. “The others can go.”

Berlusconi has spent the past few days at his Rome residence recording several election advertisements in which he invites voters to make a choice between the “right which gets things done and the left of defeatism”.

The party’s election blunder occurred when the PdL missed the deadline for submitting its list of candidates for the key region of Lazio, which includes Rome.

The error may enable the centre-left opposition to win one of Italy’s most crucial regions.

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

Italy: Two More Arrests in Public Works Graft Probe

Rome, 5 March (AKI) — Italian police have arrested two more suspects in an unfolding corruption scandal over public works contracts including those awarded for last year’s Group of Eight summit. Four suspects were previously arrested in the probe into the alleged kickbacks, including Italy’s former civil protection deputy, Angelo Balducci, who was this week at the centre of a Vatican gay sex scandal.

The latest two suspects in the public works corruption probe were named as Italian businessman Francesco Maria De Vito Piscicelli and Roman lawyer Guido Cerruti.

Piscicelli is in prison and Cerruti is under house arrrest, on the orders of magistrates in the central Italian city of Florence.

They are reportedly accused of corruption over construction contracts for the construction of a paramilitary police academy near Florence.

The Florence magistrates are probing alleged kickbacks related to 327 million euros worth of construction contracts for last July’s G8 summit as well as other public works projects.

The G8 was held in the central quake-struck region of Abruzzo after being abruptly moved there from Sardinia last April.

Rome businessman, Diego Anemone, a public works contractor in Tuscany, Fabio De Santis, and government official Mauro Della Giovampaola were also arrested last month in connection with the probe, as well as Balducci.

Balducci (centre left in photo) was arrested last month and has also resigned as head of the Italian government’s public works committee.

Phone taps in the possession of Florence magistrates also reportedly contain conversations between Balducci and a Nigerian singer in an elite Vatican choir, Ghinedu Ehiem, who allegedly ran a gay prostitution network.

The Vatican dismissed Ehiem earlier this week after left-leaning daily newspaper La Repubblica reported on Wednesday that he had procured young men, including trainee priests, for Balducci.

After his arrest , Balducci was removed from his Vatican post in The Gentlemen of His Holiness, the ceremonial ushers of the papal household, Italy’s national news agency ANSA reported on Thursday, citing Vatican sources.

Balducci was also a construction consultant to the Vatican.

His boss, Italy’s embattled civil protection chief Angelo Bertolaso, was one of dozens of people investigated in the sweeping corruption probe.

A well-respected figure, Bertolaso has kept his job, but the investigation has dealt a serious blow to his image as a popular hero who spearheaded rescue efforts during the Abruzzo earthquake.

Bertolaso has denied all wrongdoing, including allegations that he enjoyed “not only massages but sexual services” at the Salaria Sport Village, a health club in Rome, according to phone intercepts.

He has also denied that Anemone organised “megagalactic sex parties” for him.

Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi repeatedly rejected Bertolaso’s offers to resign.

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

Minority: ‘Arberia Film Festival’ In Calabria

(ANSAmed) — SAN DEMETRIO CORONE (COSENZA), MARCH 1 — The ‘Arberia Film Festival’, a festival for the Arbresh film culture, will take place in San Demetrio Corone on August 13 and 14 of this year. The goal of the festival is to make people aware of the issues like the protection and valorisation of the Albanian linguistic minority in Italy, their daily life and the discrimination, racism and violence against this group, as well as the inequality and the position of women and children. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Stop Wilders Committee Formed in the Netherlands by Dutch Citizens

Anyone who does not agree with the anti-Koran movie Fitna by Dutch right-wing parliamentarian Geert Wilders in the Netherlands can now indicate that by wearing an anti-Wilders T-Shirt reports the Dutch Telegraaf newspaper.

The organizers of this protest campaign are non-Muslims who have no sympathy for any type of extremism in the Dutch society and who feel that the road chosen by Wilders to express his personal feelings about Islam is not correct and will only lead to more violence. The organizers of the protest noted, “We want to provide an outlet for ordinary people who are upset about the Wilders movie. Wilders, because of his public privileged position is able to walk around as “an elephant in a China cabinet” on this issue, while the silent majority in the Netherlands, which does not agree with the airing of his movie, is forced, to stay silent.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

UK Muslim Leader: Islam Not a Religion of Peace

The Obama administration has released a review of its strategy in the war on terrorism. The report failed to even mention the word “Islam.”

CBN News traveled to London to talk with Anjem Choudary, a leading Muslim radical who says Islamic teachings are what shaped his pro-jihad message.

Although both George W. Bush and Barack Obama have declared that Islam is a religion of peace, Choudary begs to differ.

A Religion of Peace?

“You can’t say that Islam is a religion of peace,” Choudary told CBN News. “Because Islam does not mean peace. Islam means submission. So the Muslim is one who submits. There is a place for violence in Islam. There is a place for jihad in Islam.”

Choudary is the leader of Islam4UK, a group recently banned in Britain under the country’s counter-terrorism laws. He wants Islamic Sharia law to rule the United Kingdom and is working to make that dream a reality.

While Islamic radicals in the United States usually prefer to speak in more moderate tones while in public, masking their true agenda, Choudary has no such inhibitions.


Choudary says his group is merely following core Islamic teachings and that Islam is much more than a religion.

“This particular belief is more than just a religion,” he declared. “It is not just a spiritual belief. It is, in fact, an ideology which you believe in and you struggle for and you are willing even to die for, because you believe in that: That is your whole life.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Bomb Disposal Expert Due to be Sent to Afghanistan is Quizzed After Car Explosion Leaves Pregnant Wife’s Legs Shredded

The husband of a heavily pregnant woman seriously injured after her car exploded has been held today on suspicion of her attempted murder, sources said.

Nicholas Fabian, 32, was held after wife Victoria, also 32, suffered serious leg injuries in the blast in a communal car park in the village of Vigo, near Meopham, Kent, just after 1pm yesterday.

Police said she was the sole occupant of the car when it exploded. Her baby is believed to have been unharmed by the blast.

According to unconfirmed reports, Mr Fabian is an Army bomb disposal expert who was due to be posted to Afghanistan.

Initial reports said Mrs Fabian’s two sons, aged four and ten, were in the back of the car which exploded. But the two children were in a nearby car and escaped harm from the blast.

Residents described hearing a loud thud, feeling the ground shudder and seeing smoke rising from the communal car park where the woman’s vehicle was parked.

She was pulled from the blazing wreckage of her car by her husband and a neighbour.

Witnesses said she screamed ‘my baby’ as neighbours desperately tried to staunch the bleeding from her wounds with T-shirts and towels.

Her legs were said to have been ‘shredded’ by the blast.

Vincent Redman, 17, said the explosion almost blew his bedroom windows out.

He rushed to the scene where he saw the heavily pregnant woman screaming and covered in blood.

The teenager said that when helped drag the victim from the vehicle he saw a ‘gaping hole’ between the accelerator pedal and clutch of her Mazda 323 and the engine compartment.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Bulger Killer Jon Venables Held Over Child Porn Claims

Jon Venables, one of the killers of James Bulger, was recalled to custody over a claim about child pornography.

Ministers have refused to confirm allegations that he is in prison on suspicion of committing child-porn offences. It has also been claimed that probation officers were concerned that he had been disclosing his real name.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “We cannot confirm or deny anything with regard to this.”

The Government is standing firm over its refusal to comment on the reasons behind the decision to recall Venables, 27, to custody for fear of compromising an ongoing investigation into the alleged crime.

[Return to headlines]

UK: It’s Terror Check Chaos as Dozens Miss US Flights

Controversial anti-terrorist restrictions imposed on Britons travelling to the US have led to scores of people missing their flights since they were introduced six weeks ago.

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) requires all passengers without a visa to complete an online application form before they leave for America.

The form should be completed three days before travelling — but airlines flying to America, including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, report that some passengers are still turning up for flights without having filled one in.

A senior BA manager said: ‘Those who “forget” run the risk of not travelling. Staff may be able to help to complete it at the airport, but passengers run the risk of not getting the approval back from the US authorities before the departure.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: MoD Probes ‘Inappropriate Term on Soldier’s Uniform

The MoD has launched an investigation after a photograph of a soldier who had an offensive message written on his kit appeared in its official magazine.

The serviceman’s left kneepad has “Get some Paki” scrawled on it. His picture featured in Soldier magazine alongside a story about new rations for troops.

“An investigation is currently underway to identify the soldier,” said the MoD.

Last year, Prince Harry apologised for using offensive language to describe a Pakistani member of his army platoon.

‘Racist behaviour’

The picture was printed in January’s edition of Soldier, the magazine of the British army published for the UK armed forces by the Ministry of Defence.

Officials airbrushed the online version, but thousands have already been put on sale, with 70,000 sent to serving British troops — many in Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Defence said it was aware of a photograph and an “inappropriate remark” on a soldier’s uniform.

“The Army does not tolerate racist behaviour,” added the spokesman.

“All those who are found to fall short of the Army’s high standards or who are found to have committed an offence under the Armed Forces Act 2006 are dealt with administratively or through the discipline process.”

In January 2009, Prince Harry got in trouble after a video diary was published by a national newspaper in which the prince called one of his then Sandhurst colleagues a “Paki”.

He said he had used the term as a nickname about a friend and without any malice.

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

UK: Peter Oborne: The Plot to Stop the Tories Ever Gaining Power…

The past few weeks have been David Cameron’s worst since the summer of 2007, when Labour had a 20 per cent poll lead and Gordon Brown was on the verge of calling an early general election — which everyone thought he’d have won easily if he hadn’t bottled it.

The Tories’ lead in the polls, in double figures throughout most of last year, has halved since Christmas.

[Return to headlines]

UK: The Horrors of Socialized Medicine Uncovered

While many Americans complain about the cost of health care in the United States — and lawmakers in Washington, DC are seeking control of the medical industry — perhaps all concerned should first learn about the horrors of having access free or inexpensive health care that kills, causes suffering, and offers little in the way of health or care, according to the opponents of ObamaCare.

Syndicated radio talk show host and attorney Mark Levin reported that an investigation of a British health care facility revealed horrible conditions including hundreds of deaths and unsanitary conditions.

Levin, who served as chief of staff at the U.S. Justice Department during the Reagan Administration, stated on the Thursday night edition of his highly rated show that the British Secretary of Health Andy Burnham commissioned a probe of a medical facility. The probe revealed a shockingly high death rate at that hospital.

According to the report — which confirmed the earlier findings of a March 2009 probe — 400 to 1,200 patients died from 2005 to 2008 while at the medical center Mid-Staffordshire NHS.

The probe revealed that aside from the disturbing high rate of deaths in that health care facility, the investigators discovered neglect because the hospital cut corners in a bid to reach government targets. Britain possesses a socialized medical system that includes targeted cost savings at the expense of patients’ well-being.


“Don’t expect to read any of this report in U.S. newspapers or newsmagazines. At least not until ObamaCare becomes a reality,” said Baker.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: The Social Worker Who Looked After Bulger Killer Until Release Gives a First Extraordinary Account of His ‘Kid Gloves’ Treatment Inside…

The portrait he paints may surprise: It is of someone who managed to divorce himself from a crime which shocked the world, who emerged from his secure unit aged 18 as a ‘popular, likeable lad’ and, above all, singularly confident — chillingly so.

‘Of course I can’t be sure, no one can, but I can’t see Robert going the same way as Venables,’ he said. ‘He is just too smart, too calculating.’

What he has to say about Thompson’s comfortable existence inside and the way the ‘prison system danced in attendance around him’ will infuriate James’s mother Denise Fergus.

And he said he saw nothing in the way of remorse.

If Thompson ever cried while in detention, no one ever saw him do so. And when the subject of the toddler’s murder was raised by staff or other children, it was always met with the same shrugged response: ‘It was something that happened, and I don’t want to discuss it with you.’

Aged ten, Thompson arrived at the detention centre in the North of England the day after his arrest in February 1993, and remained there until his release in 2001.

The social worker, who would later chaperone the boy on trips to shopping centres and parks, recalled his first day.

‘Not surprisingly, he was monosyllabic and sullen when we were first introduced, like all the children when they first arrive,’ he said.

‘But then it became apparent that he was what we call a typical “care kid” — even though he hadn’t been in care. These children are cocky and streetwise, know the system and know their rights and what they can get away with.

‘He’d say things like, “I want a drink. Get me one now. You’ve got to get me one”.’ From the outset he was treated as a star prisoner — and played up to it.

‘There were frequent visits from Home Office officials who were always fussing over him, checking with him and the staff that he was all right.


What lay behind this, I think, was that no one wanted to upset him because they were afraid of what the consequences might be. The management wanted him there. A lot of the staff thought the people running the unit used Thompson’s presence to coerce the Home Office into improving facilities.

‘The place doubled in size in the time he was in there. They threw millions at it.’

By the time he reached 14, Thompson was going on regular outings to a nearby shopping centre. ‘Along with a female social worker, I was assigned to him as a chaperone.’


It was at the age of 16 that the most significant event during his eight years’ detention occurred: He acquired a girlfriend, a pretty redhead the same age who was a habitual thief.

‘They hit it off instantly and did nothing to disguise their attraction for each other,’ said the social worker.

‘Everyone knew they were a couple and newcomers to the unit who took a fancy to her were told to back off “Robert’s girl”. She knew exactly who Robert was, what he had done, but it didn’t put her off.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Unwanted Men, We Need You to Curb the Welfare Amazons

Are men surplus to requirements? The answer, after more than half a century of feminism and the welfare state, depends largely on class. Men from the employable and educated classes are still in strong demand among women. But much lower down the socioeconomic scale, among the least privileged, men have become — or have come to seem — entirely optional.

Already we have what the tabloid newspapers call an epidemic of single motherhood — young women who have chosen to have babies on welfare, without husbands or boyfriends. One in four mothers is single and more than half of these lone mothers have never lived with a man and survive on welfare.

As many of these women become grandmothers, a new pattern has emerged of three generations of mothers without a man in the house — lone granny, lone mum and fatherless children, all expecting the state to stand in for daddy, as of right. These women are not so much welfare queens as matriarchal dynasties of welfare Amazons.

[Return to headlines]

UK: What a Daft Way to Stop Your Spaniel Eating the Milkman

As we know, one man once got on one plane in a pair of exploding hiking boots and as a result everyone else in the entire world is now forced to strip naked at airports and hand over their toiletries to a man in a high-visibility jacket.

In other words, the behaviour of one man has skewed the concept of everyday life for everyone else. And we are seeing this all the time.

Last month a Birmingham couple pleaded guilty to starving their supposedly home-schooled daughter to death. Now, of course, there are calls for parents who choose to educate their children at home to be monitored on an hourly basis by people from the “care” industry, and possibly to have their toiletries confiscated.

Then we have calls to ban sexually provocative pop videos from the television until 9pm and put Loaded magazine on the top shelf. Will this prevent teenage boys from seeing girls’ breasts? Well, whoever thinks it will has plainly never heard of the internet.

We see the same sort of overreaction to paedophilia. Just because one man in your town likes to watch schoolgirls playing netball, you must apply for a licence if you wish to take a friend’s kids to school in the morning. And I now run the risk of having my camera impounded by the police if I take pictures of my children playing on the beach.

Likewise, if I decide to take a picture of St Paul’s Cathedral I will be hurled to the ground by anti-terrorist officers and possibly shot six times in the back of the head — just because one person in Bradford once made a speech about the infidel.

We seem to have lost sight of the fact that throughout history 90% of people have behaved quite normally 90% of the time. Agatha Christie, for instance, was home-schooled and at no point was she forced to eat breadcrumbs from her neighbour’s bird table.

Of course, at the extremes, you have 5% who are goodie-goodies and who become vicars, and 5% who build exploding hiking shoes and starve their children to death.

It’s this oddball 5% that is targeted by the tidal wave of legislation. But making it more difficult to teach your children at home will not stop kids being mistreated.

It just changes the pattern of everyday life for everyone else. This is what drives me mad.

We now think it’s normal behaviour to take off our clothes at an airport. But it isn’t. Nor is it normal to stand outside in the rain to have a cigarette or to do 30mph on a dual carriageway when it’s the middle of the night and everyone else is in bed. It’s stupid.

[Return to headlines]

Vatican: Doubts Raised About ‘Miracle’ Linked to John Paul

Vatican City, 5 March(AKI) — The canonisation of Pope John Paul II may be delayed after reports that a French nun has had a relapse of Parkinson’s disease, which was believed to have been cured due to the pope’s intervention. The Vatican documented Sister Marie Simon-Pierre’s recovery from the illness as evidence of a miracle — a requirement for the late Pope John Paul II’s elevation to sainthood.

The nun’s relapse could now mean that the Vatican will have to find further evidence of a miracle linked to John Paul for his canonisation to advance.

But the Vatican on Thursday rejected the suggestion following a report by Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita that Simon-Pierre had fallen ill with the same paralysing disease that affected the Polish pope.

“The news is without any foundation,” a Vatican source said on Thursday, according to the Italian daily, La Repubblica.

But the newspaper said that the Vatican medical commission charged with investigating Simon-Pierre’s case has asked a church official involved in the sainthood process to find another miracle.

Simon-Pierre, born in 1961, had reportedly been suffering from the degenerative disease since 2001, but has testified that she was cured in the night of 2 June 2005 after praying to John Paul II, whose final years were also marked by the degenerative disease of the nervous system.

“All I can tell you is that I was sick and now I am cured. It is for the church to say and to recognise whether it is a miracle,” she said during a 2007 news conference in the southern French city of Aix-en-Provence.

John Paul died in April 2005 after more than 26 years as pope.

At his funeral, admirers gathered in St. Peter’s Square chanting “santa subito,” or “saint now” encouraging his successor Benedict XVI to speed up the process towards canonisation.

Benedict has waived the five-year period normally required between the death and beatification of a candidate for sainthood.

There is speculation that John Paul II will be beatified on the fifth anniversary of his death. Beatification is the third of the four steps in the canonisation process and a person who is beatified is given the title “Blessed”.

At least two miracles are required under church rules to make someone a saint.

A further miracle related to John Paul was identified when a nine year-old Polish boy paralysed by kidney cancer was able to walk after praying at the pope’s tomb in 2006.

Stanislaw Dziwisz, John Paul’s former private secretary, who is now the archbishop of Krakow, has said there are many other miracles attributed to the late pontiff.

Some estimates suggest there are more than 200 miracles linked to John Paul.

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


Serbia: Orthodox Church Shocked by Corruption Claims

Belgrade, 5 March (AKI) — The Serbian Orthodox Church has been shocked by a corruption scandal which has led to the suspension of Kosovo bishop Artemije. But analysts said on Friday it also revealed political pressure and deep divisions in the church’s leadership.

The Church’s Holy Synod formed a five-man commission in February to check the financial operations of Artemije’s diocese in Kosovo, after claims of fraud and financial mismanagement.

The investigation turned violent when a fight broke out between monks supporting Artemije and those opposing him.

The investigation discovered many alleged irregularities, misappropriation of church funds and humanitarian aid, and Artemije’s secretary Simeon Vilovski fled to Greece.

Serbian police arrested Predrag Suboticki, who operated a church-linked construction firm, which was engaged in the reconstruction of monasteries destroyed in ethnic Albanian unrest in March 2004.

The investigation showed that Vilovski and Suboticki were buying apartments in Belgrade and property in Greece with church funds.

Serbian police minister Ivica Dacic said that at least 350,000 euros were handed out in cash from church funds to pay fictional construction bills.

The Holy Synod convened on 13 February, temporarily suspended Artemije from managing the Rasko-Prizrenska diocese in Kosovo, and appointed an official administrator.

Hundreds of monks and Kosovo Serbs demonstrated in Belgrade, protesting against what they called “political persecution” of bishop Artemije.

He is still a member of the Holy Sabor of Bishops (church parliament) and his fate will be decided at the Sabor convention in May.

But the scandal has seriously tarnished the image of the church, which has been the most trusted institution of some ten million Serbs around the world.

It also exposed a struggle between pro-western reformists and conservative opponents of ecumenism among the church leadership.

Artemije, 75, boycotted a visit by US vice-president Joseph Biden to Kosovo last year, saying he was the main architect of the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia, which pushed Serbian forces out of Kosovo, paving the way for independence.

Reformist bishop Irinej has denied the Holy Synod acted under political pressure in suspending Artemije.

“With an absolutely clear conscience, I can say that there was no political dimension to it,” Irinej told Belgrade TV.

But conservative bishop Filaret told Adnkronos International (AKI) “the great magician”, meaning president Tadic, did intervene.

“He had sent emissaries to each and every one of us, suggesting we should replace Artemije, because he was harmful to his foreign policy,” Filaret said.

He claimed Tadic was looking for an exit strategy to implicitly recognise Kosovo as a precondition for Serbia’s joining the European Union, saying Artemije was a “thorn in Tadic’s eye”.

Asked about corruption charges, Filaret said it was for judicial bodies to decide.

He said many bishops had accumulated wealth and didn’t live up to Christian ethics. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” he said quoting the Bible.

“But why only Artemije, and why at this unfortunate moment?” he asked.

A prominent Belgrade church analyst, Zivica Tucic, said there were “both elements, of corruption and politics” in Artemije’s case.

He pointed out, however, that the Holy Synod didn’t blame Artemije directly for the fraud, but for not controlling his closest associates.

“Artemije has been a problem for some time,” Tucic told AKI.

“His rigidity certainly hasn’t helped the ecumenical image of the church promoted by newly enthroned patriarch Irinej, or Tadic’s efforts to present a new ‘peaceful face’ of Serbia to the world,” Tucic said.

Meanwhile, Artemije has withdrawn from the public eye, saying he would do nothing that may hurt church unity.

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

Serbia: Problem With Belgium Will be Settled

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 5 — The problem of the constant stream of Serb and Macedonian citizens that have arrived in Belgium over the past few months claiming political asylum will be resolved. Speaking to journalists in Brussels following his meeting with the President of the European Commission, José Mauel Barroso, Serbia’s Prime Minister, Mirko Cvetcovic, said: “I have met the Belgian Prime Minister, Yves Leterme and I may say that the problem is going to be settled by common accord” He continued: “It would appear that somebody has organised a scam with a promise of a prize of 500 euros and hotel accommodation for those applying for asylum”. In Cvetcovic’s view, this is not a matter of “a bona fide application for political asylum, but a problem of an economic nature, tied to the underdeveloped conditions in the region between Serbia and Macedonia, where most of these asylum seekers are arriving from”. Among the measures to be implemented by Belgrade, ‘we shall announce that there is no chance of asylum being granted and that rumours have been spread telling untruths. Apart from dealing with the ‘tourist organisation’, the Serb government intends to start a campaign of information for its citizens, especially those in the South of the country. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Beirut as Shelter for Arabs From Middle Ages, Abi Saab

(ANSAmed) — NAPLES, MARCH 5 — “Beirut city of paradox”, which bears the “many stigmas of its history” caused by many “overlapping” realities or realities that “ignore each other”, which has survived many challenges, under the pretence of looking at the future”, “archaic and modern, fanatic and tolerant, barbaric and civilized, religious and laic, chaos and harmony, violence and sweetness”. Pierre Abi Saab, a Lebanese journalist of Al Akhbar, spoke today about the cultural life of his city, Beirut, at the forum on identity and internationalization which started today in Naples, the first act of the ‘Mediterranean Cities’ project where speakers present the cultural life of their cities. A city of “contradictions”, he continued, which adapts to catastrophes, “a unique source of spiritual wealth”, but also at the mercy of policies of real estate speculators, since “the Lebanese democracy is nothing more than a sharing out of rights and privileges to its lords”. From a distance “it looks like it has no problems”, also thanks to its prosperous nightlife, to the tourists, the part-time residents, the rising prices per square metre. But the threat of poverty is a real one, according to Ani Saab. The Lebanese are fighting against skyscrapers built with Gulf capital, and Beirut is nothing but “a cabaret of shelters for Arabs who flee the medieval inferno that continues to be in place on those parts”. This “excellently globalised city” has gone through a cultural revival after the civil war. “The children of a mix of desperation” are looking for new forms of culture. But which newspaper could publish an article like this, he was asked? “There are some” the journalist responded, “including mine, but there is still much work to be done, and we have to conquer our freedom”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Arch-Terrorist Abdullah Barghouti: Netanyahu to Blame for Schalit Deal Collapse.

‘If freed, I’ll still fight Israel’

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is putting spokes in the wheels of the prisoner exchange deal, Hamas official Abdullah Barghouti said at the Nazareth District Court Sunday.

Barghouti, who is serving 67 life sentences for murdering 66 Israelis and being an accomplice in the murder of others, is one of the prisoners Israel is refusing to release in an exchange deal that would bring IDF soldier Gilad Schalit back home. Schalit has been in Hamas captivity for almost four years.

Israel brought Barghouti to court to ask to extend the conditions of his solitary confinement.

Upon arrival, he confidently told reporters, “If there is a deal, I would be set free along with Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Sa’adat.” Marwan Barghouti and Sa’adat are other ‘high-value’ prisoners convicted of multiple counts of murder.

Barghouti also said, “After my release, I will continue to fight for Palestine, so long as the occupation continues.”

Asked whether Schalit was properly treated by his captors in the Gaza Strip, he said, “When we have a state we will also be able to conduct proper trials.”

“The will to fight has nothing to do with Jews themselves, it is only because the Jews conquered our land,” Barghouti continued.

Last week, during a discussion at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Netanyahu said one of the conditions Israel insists on regarding the prisoner exchange is that prisoners are not released to places from which they can easily return to terrorist activities.

Netanyahu noted how in two past prisoner exchange deals, some of the Palestinians released were involved in murdering more than one hundred Israelis.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

‘Hamas Losing Control Over Strip’

Ahmed Ja’abri, commander of Hamas’ armed wing, Izaddin al-Kassam, recently sent an urgent letter to Hamas leader in Damascus Khaled Masha’al, warning that the situation in the Gaza Strip was “deteriorating,” and that Hamas has started losing control over the territory, London-based Arab-language newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Saturday morning.

The letter was reportedly written in light of a series of assassinations and explosions near the offices of senior Izaddin a-Kassam commanders and of Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran Developing Massive Launch Site With Help of N.Korea

Iran is building a new rocket launch site with North Korean assistance, Israel Radio quoted IHS Jane’s as reporting overnight Friday.

The new launcher, constructed near an existing rocket base in the Semnan province east of Teheran, is visible in satellite imagery, according to the report.

The defense intelligence group said the appearance of the launcher suggests assistance from North Korea, and that it may be intended to launch the Simorgh, a long-range Iranian-made missile unveiled in early February and officially intended to be used as a space-launch vehicle (SLV). SLV’s can be converted to be used as long-range ballistic missiles for military purposes.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Iran’s Ahmadinejad Calls Sept 11 “Big Fabrication”

Ahmadinejad, who often rails against the West and Israel, made the comment in a meeting with Intelligence Ministry personnel.

It came amid escalating tension in the long-running dispute between Iran and the West over Tehran’s nuclear program, with the United States pushing for new U.N. sanctions against the major oil producer.

Ahmadinejad described the destruction of the twin towers in New York on September 11, 2001 as a “complicated intelligence scenario and act,” IRNA reported.

He added: “The September 11 incident was a big fabrication as a pretext for the campaign against terrorism and a prelude for staging an invasion against Afghanistan.” He did not elaborate.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Iran: Brazil Resists US Pressure on Sanctions

Brasilia, 4 March(AKI) — Brazil “will not bend” to pressure from the United States for greater sanctions against Iran, Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim said on Wednesday. He made his comments after a meeting with US secretary of state Hillary Clinton in the country’s capital, Brasilia.

“We believe it is necessary to be sure that all possibilities of negotiation have been tried,” Amorim said.

Both Brazil and the US have the same objective to eliminate nuclear weapons, he said.

“We will not simply bow down to an evolving consensus if we do not agree. We have to think by ourselves and with our values and principles,” he said.

The US is seeking support for renewed sanctions against Iran which it believes is enriching uranium to develop nuclear weapons.

Brazil is currently a member of the United Nations Security Council.

“We think with our own mind. We want a world without nuclear arms, certainly without proliferation,” Amorim said at a joint news conference with Clinton.

“It is not about simply bending to an opinion that may not be true.”

During her remarks, Clinton reiterated the case for new sanctions, saying that Iran is not likely to engage in negotiations over its nuclear programme until sanctions were imposed.

Clinton said that sanctions had to be passed first in order to persuade Iran to “negotiate in good faith”.

The measure would bolster existing sanctions and focus on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, which has extensive business interests in the country.

Any new sanctions are expected to focus on the banking, shipping and insurance sectors of the Iranian economy, broadening the scope of the sanctions in the three previous UN security resolutions.

The US aims to get Russian and Chinese support to negotiate the proposed sanctions draft.

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

Iran: Italian Envoy Asked to Explain Spy Arrests

Tehran, 5 March(AKI) — Italy’s ambassador to Tehran Alberto Brandanini has been summoned by the Iranian foreign ministry to explain the arrest of two Iranians accused of spying and involvement in an international arms smuggling ring.

The Italian foreign ministry on Friday confirmed that Brandanini had been called in after five Italians and two suspected Iranian spies were arrested in northern Italy on 3 March for allegedly trafficking weapons to Iran.

The Rome correspondent of the Iranian state television network IRIB, Hamid Massouminejad, and Ali Damirchilu were among those arrested on Wednesday.

Arrest warrants were issued for two other Iranians still at large who are suspected of involvement in the alleged arms trafficking ring, police said in Milan on Wednesday.

The investigation, dubbed Operation Sniper, was led by Milan prosecutor Armando Spataro, who probed the 2003 kidnapping and “extraordinary rendition “ of Abu Omar, a Muslim cleric accused of abetting terrorism by CIA agents in Milan.

The investigation led to the conviction of two former Italian secret agents and 23 CIA agents in absentia over the kidnapping.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said the arrests “indicate that another game is underway which aims at certain propagation [against Iran],” according to state-run English-language Iranian television Press TV.

Mehmanparast told Fars that the Italian envoy was asked by Tehran to explain the arrests of the two Iranians.

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

‘Islamic Nations Will Back Iran Strike’

An Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be quietly supported by a wide coalition of Islamic nations, including a number of extremist states, Deputy Minister of the Negev and Galilee Ayoub Kara said Saturday.

Kara, speaking at a Beersheba event, said that though none of them would admit to it publicly, Islamic nations had conveyed messages to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that they would back military action against Iran by Israel and the US.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Jonathan Spyer: What Does Assad Want?

In Damascus last week, the full array of leaders of the so-called ‘resistance bloc’ came together in a series of meetings. Presidents Ahmedinejad of Iran and Assad of Syria were there, alongside a beaming Khaled Meshal of Hamas and Hizballah General-Secretary Hassan Nasrallah. There were some lesser lights too to make up the numbers — including the PFLP-GC’s Ahmed Jibril, a fossil from the old alphabet soup of secular Palestinian groups.

The mood — replicated a few days later in Teheran — was one of jubilant defiance.

The reasons underlying Syria’s membership of the ‘resistance bloc’ remain fiercely debated in western policy discussion. It has long been the view of a powerful element in Washington — strongly echoed by many in the Israeli defense establishment — that Syria constitutes the ‘weakest link’ in the Iranian-led bloc.

Adherents to this view see the Syrian regime as concerned solely with power and its retention. Given, they say, that Syria’s ties to the Iran-led bloc are pragmatic rather than ideological, the policy trick to be performed is finding the right incentive to make Damascus re-calculate the costs and benefits of its position.

Once the appropriate incentive tips the balance, it is assumed, the regime in Damascus will coolly absent itself from the company of frothing ideologues on display in Damascus and Teheran last week, and will take up its position on the rival table — or at least at a point equidistant between them.

The specific incentive required to perform this trick varies depending on who you ask. In Israel, it is generally assumed that the recovery of the Golan Heights is the great prize. In this view, Syrian backing for Hizballah and for Palestinian terror groups is intended to keep up the pressure on Israel, in order to force it to concede the Golan.

In Washington, one may hear a number of other incentives discussed — the removal of the Syria Accountability Act, US aid and investment, and so on.

The logic of all these positions depends on the basic characterization of the Assad regime as ultimately motivated purely by Machiavellian power interests. This characterization remains received wisdom in Israeli and US policy circles to a far greater extent than the evidence for it warrants…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

March 8: Arab World, Women Better Educated But Not Enough

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 4 — Better informed and more involved in the economic affairs of their countries, but still the victims of inequality, and in some cases, completely without protection against violence: this is the snapshot given by a report compiled by the American organisation Freedom House into women’s rights in the diverse countries of the Arab world. In Yemen, Iraq and the Palestinian Occupied Territories Islamic extremism or backwardness — the result of ongoing endemic conflicts — forces women to suffer humiliating and discriminatory treatment, whereas in Kuwait, Algeria and Jordan the progress is more encouraging. The study, which was carried out during the last five years in 17 countries in north Africa and the Middle East, as well as the Palestinian Territories, gives as an example the decision by the Kuwaiti authorities to allow women the vote and to allow them to stand in legislative elections. The case of Algeria is also given as a positive example thanks to modifications to the Civil Code, which is now less discriminatory towards wives and mothers. Jordan is mentioned for its greater involvement of women in the management of economic-financial affairs in the private and public sectors of the Hashemite Kingdom. From Morocco to Iraq, there has been a general and gradual increase in the rate of literacy among the female population, even though in reality access to university education remains the exclusive domain of men. Violence against women, which is mostly carried out within the home, remains the most worrying aspect of the picture painted by Freedom House: in most of the countries analysed, crimes against women are not only tolerated by society — especially in rural areas — the perpetrators often go unpunished by the law. In this case, Jordan provides a negative example, over the light sentences which are regularly handed down to fathers and brothers who kill their daughters or sisters in the name of the defence of the family’s honour.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

‘They Need to be Liberated From Their God’

The ‘Son of Hamas’ author on his conversion to Christianity, spying for Israel, and shaming his family.

‘I absolutely know that in anybody’s eyes I was a traitor,” says Mosab Hassan Yousef. “To my family, to my nation, to my God. I crossed all the red lines in my society. I didn’t leave one that I didn’t cross.”

Now 32, Mosab is the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founder and leader of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Throughout the last decade, from the second Intifada to the current stalemate, he worked alongside his father in the West Bank. During that time the younger Mr. Yousef also secretly embraced Christianity. And as he reveals in his book “Son of Hamas,” out this week, he became one of the top spies for Israel’s internal security arm, the Shin Bet.

The news of this double conversion has sent ripples through the Middle East. One of Mr. Yousef’s handlers at the Shin Bet confirmed his account to the Israeli daily Haaretz. Hamas—already reeling from the assassination of a senior military chief in Dubai in January—calls his claims Zionist propaganda. From the Israeli prison he has occupied since 2005, Sheikh Yousef on Monday issued a statement that he and his family “have completely disowned the man who was our oldest son and who is called Mosab.”


As the son of a Muslim cleric, he says he had reached the conclusion that terrorism can’t be defeated without a new understanding of Islam. Here he echoes other defectors from Islam such as the former Dutch parliamentarian and writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Do you consider your father a fanatic? “He’s not a fanatic,” says Mr. Yousef. “He’s a very moderate, logical person. What matters is not whether my father is a fanatic or not, he’s doing the will of a fanatic God. It doesn’t matter if he’s a terrorist or a traditional Muslim. At the end of the day a traditional Muslim is doing the will of a fanatic, fundamentalist, terrorist God. I know this is harsh to say. Most governments avoid this subject. They don’t want to admit this is an ideological war.

“The problem is not in Muslims,” he continues. “The problem is with their God. They need to be liberated from their God. He is their biggest enemy. It has been 1,400 years they have been lied to.”

These are all dangerous words. Of the threats issued to his life by Islamists, he says, “That’s not the worst thing that can happen to you. I’m OK with it, I’m not afraid. . . . Palestinians have reason to kill me. Some Israelis may want to kill me. My goal is not to defeat my enemy. It is to win over my enemy.”

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

Turkey: PM Attacks US After Armenian ‘Genocide’ Vote

Ankara, 5 March (AKI) — Turkey has recalled its ambassador to Washington after a US congressional panel resolution which described as genocide the mass killings of Armenians during World War I. Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan immediately condemned the vote and said the resolution would damage the countries’ bilateral relations.

“We condemn this bill that denounces the Turkish nation for a crime that it has not committed,” the prime minister said in a statement.

Ambassador Namik Tan, who had only taken up his post in Washington recently, has been recalled to Ankara for consultations and Turkey is reportedly considering other action.

Turkey, a key American ally and fellow NATO member, had lobbied hard for the US Congress not to vote on the issue.

The Armenian government estimates up to 1.5 million Armenians died during World War I during the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire.

Turkey has consistently rejected allegations of genocide, claiming that both Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks died in the bloodshed.

It had mounted a vigorous lobbying campaign against the US resolution.

The resolution was narrowly approved — by 23 votes to 22 — by the US House of Representatives foreign affairs committee.

In 2007, a similar resolution passed the committee stage, but was shelved after pressure from the Bush administration.

Turkey and Armenia signed accords in October last year to establish diplomatic relations and open their shared border.

The move was greeted with protests in Armenia, where many people say Turkey did not fully address the 1915 killing of hundreds of thousands of Armenians.

Armenia wants Turkey to recognise the killings as an act of genocide, but successive Turkish governments have refused to do so.

The agreement called for a joint commission of independent historians to study the genocide issue.

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

Turkey: ‘Jewish Lobby Behind U.S. Armenia Genocide Vote’

Jewish lobbyists contrived a U.S. congressional vote that labeled the World War One-era massacre of Armenians by Turkish forces as genocide, a London-based Arabic-language newspaper claimed on Saturday.

Pro-Israel lobbyists had previously backed Turkey on the issue ? but changed tack in retaliation for Turkish condemnation of Israel’s policies in the Gaza Strip, the Al-Quds Al-Arabi daily said in an editorial, according to Israel Radio reports.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

South Asia

British Father Found Stabbed to Death in Girlfriend’s Home in Malaysia After Splitting From Wife

A British father was found stabbed to death at his girlfriend’s home in Malaysia yesterday — two years after moving to the country with his wife.

Andrew Murchie’s naked, blood-soaked body is said to have been discovered by his girlfriend, who was today being questioned by police over the 46-year-old’s death.

Police found a 6in knife lying beside Mr Murchie, who was stabbed in the neck, at the house in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

India: Muslim Women Can Move Forwards Wearing the Veil

A few days ago, Muslims in Karnataka took to the streets to protest the publication of an article against the Islamic veil by the ‘Kannada Prabha’ newspaper, ostensibly by well know writer Taslima Nasreen. Because of her liberal views on Islam, she has been living in exile for the past 16 years. The unrest left two people dead, and 50 injured; it also caused anger and fear among the State’s Hindu population. Asghar Ali Engineer, a Muslim and head of the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, tells Indians about the struggle Muslim women are engaged in for their rights. He accuses Indian newspapers of distorting reality, something that is preventing a real reform of Islam.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — A recent protest by thousands of Muslims in Shimoga and Hassan (Karnataka) has resulted in the death of two people, and the injury of another 50. Scores of cars were damaged and many stores were set on fire. The violence broke out when a local daily, the Kannada Prabha , published an article attributed to dissident Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen in which she says that Muhammad was opposed to veil. In fact, Nasreen has denied ever making such a claim, insisting that she has had no dealings with the newspaper.

In response to violence, the authorities imposed dusk-to-dawn curfew to prevent possible retaliation against local Hindus. However, police said the situation was still tense.

In Mangalore, someone yesterday someone threw a Molotov cocktail against the offices of Kannada Prabha. Two other newspapers also had their offices stoned.

Despite condemnation of the violence by local Islamic organisations, Hindus are very concerned. In India, Muslims number 137 million or 12.1 per cent of the population. In some states, like Karnataka, the local Muslim community tends to be very conservative culturally and is at odds with Hindu nationalism (which governs the State through the Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP). The situation has often led to misunderstandings, causing violence and mutual recriminations.

We reprint here an article by Asghar Ali Engineer, head of the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, titled ‘Muslim Women and Change’.

“Most people think Muslim women are oppressed, forced to wear the veil and confined to the four walls of their houses. This is mainly because every day they read in newspapers that the Taliban force women to wear the veil and burn down schools for girls. They see women always wrapped in black garments from head to toe. The controversy over the burqa in France has reinforced this image of Muslim women.

This image would be justified if all Muslim women adhered to this strict dress code, which evolved in the Middle Ages, and which some Muslim theologians keep on justifying even today. However, there is a big difference between what is argued on theological grounds and what is grounded in reality. I could be wrong, but I dare say that Muslim women have been defying theological codes for more than a century now. Now a century later, they have gone even further in their public achievements.

Whilst it is true that even today, some Muslim theologians are arguing over whether women are naqisul aql (intellectually inferior) or not, the reality is that many Muslim women have gone further than many Muslim men in a number of fields. In Saudi Arabia, where women are not even permitted to drive cars, a woman has become a licensed pilot and has been flying planes.

Now, we get news from Malaysia that Farah al-Habshi, an engineer by profession, has become deputy weapons and electrical officer on the KD Perak, a Malaysian naval warship. Today she is wearing the white and blue uniform of the Royal Malaysian Navy; interestingly, she is also wearing a hijab to cover her head, though not her face. She feels her hijab in no way comes in the way of performing her duties.

Malaysia is an Islamic country and orthodox ulama exercise a great deal of control over people’s lives. Recently, even the Government of Malaysia has had to back down when the ulama took a stand against Christians using the word Allah in their religious literature or press. In this country, Muslim women also face other problems at the hands of conservative ulama with respect to family laws for example. However, this is in the same country in which a woman was commissioned as a naval officer on combat duty. Even in India, women have not won the right to be on combat duty in the Navy, or fly fighter planes, or serve in combat units. They are not even allowed to be on warships, whereas Ms Farah al-Habshi has recently participated in the MILAN naval exercise along with other women.

Ms Farah is highly articulate and answered all the questions put to her by journalists. Her example is not unique; there are several more. Many Muslim women have excelled even in the field of theology, quite independently of traditional theologians. They have shown courage to challenge orthodox ulama.

One example is Amina Wudud, who teaches Islamic Studies in Washington, United States. She believes that women can lead mixed congregations in prayer. A few years ago, she actually led a Friday prayer and delivered the khutba (sermon) before a group of about 100 people, men and women, something quite unthinkable in the traditional Muslim world. It raised a storm of protests and even Yusuf Qardawi, an otherwise moderate theologian from Qatar, wrote an article, opposing a woman leading a mixed congregational prayer.

After a great struggle, some Kuwaiti women were elected to the Kuwaiti parliament, eventually fighting for the right to sit in the house without having to wear the hijab. They took their case to the Supreme Court of Kuwait and won. Many more examples can be cited of Muslim women daring authorities for their rights.

However, the media, which is interested in sensationalising issues, has refused to highlight the achievements of Muslim women. They continue to portray them as submissive to traditional authorities, meekly accepting their situation. This image of Muslim women has to change; reality, which is much more complex, has to be understood.

This is not to deny that Muslim women face difficult problems in many countries. Their liberation is not a foregone conclusion. However, it is also true that many of them are fighting and refusing to submit meekly. What gives us hope is their continued struggle and defiance of traditional authorities.

It should also be mentioned that many ulama and jurists also have realised that medieval Shari’ah formulations about women cannot be easily enforced anymore. Some of them, like Muhammad Abduh of Egypt, Maulavi Mumtaz Ali Khan of India and Maulana Umar Ahmed Usmani of Pakistan, have expressed serious reservations about traditional theological formulations on women.

The determined struggle by Muslim women will force many more theologians to revise their position and use the Qur’an, not medieval theology, as the basis for the views on women’s issues.

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

India: Memo to Saudis: Please Stop Terror

But request over Pakistani activities ignores Wahhabi work

India has made a quiet appeal to Saudi Arabian leaders for help in getting Pakistan to halt its sponsorship of anti-Indian terrorism — attacks originating from Pakistani territory, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

In a meeting last week, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made the appeal to the Saudis, whose limits on terrorism sponsorship appear to restrict only activities inside the Saudi kingdom.

[Comments from JD: This spineless appeal only emboldens the Whahhabists.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Malaysia Magazine Sorry for Communion-Spitting Offence

A Malaysian Muslim magazine has apologised after two of its journalists pretended to be Roman Catholics and took Holy Communion in a church.

Al-Islam said it had not intended to insult Christians with an article describing how the journalists received and later spat out communion wafers.

They were allegedly investigating reports that Muslims were illegally converting to Christianity.

Christians complained after charges against the reporters were dropped.

The Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, Murphy Pakiam, said the two men had desecrated the Church, and the lack of charges appeared to legitimise their behaviour.

“The journalists have displayed utmost disrespect for the Catholic community when they admit receiving and spitting out the Holy Communion,” he told a press conference.

He said the incident “does not augur well on inter-religious harmony and peace” in Malaysia.

It is the latest in a series of incidents raising religious tensions in the Muslim-majority country.


The monthly Malay-language al-Islam magazine indicated the men spat out the communion wafers because it took a photograph of them partially bitten.

“Al-Islam magazine apologises… because the article had unintentionally hurt the feelings of Christians, especially Catholics,” it said on its website Utusan Karya.

“It is also not the intention of al-Islam to insult the Christian religion nor to desecrate their house of worship.”

The government’s top lawyer, Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail, said the pair had not understood the significance of the wafer.

“The actions of the two reporters may have hurt the feelings of the people but I was satisfied that they did not intend to offend anyone. It was an act of sheer ignorance,” he said in a statement.

“Therefore in view of the circumstances at that particular time and in the interest of justice, peace and harmony, I decided not to press any charges against them.”

The journalists said they had found no evidence of the illegal conversion of Muslims.

Catholics believe the communion wafer is transformed into the body of Christ during the celebration of Mass.

While non-Catholics can attend Mass, the Church does not allow those who are not baptised to receive the communion wafer.

The BBC’s Jennifer Pak in Malaysia says that non-Muslims feel their right to practise religion freely has come under threat in a country dominated by Muslims.

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

Pakistan: Islamabad, Jihad on the Internet: Terrorism Charges for Five U.S. Students

The young people come from Virginia and are of Pakistani, Yemen, Egyptian and Eritrean origin. They are charged with “conspiracy with terrorist purposes”. If found guilty, they face life imprisonment. On March 10 the Sargodha court will rule on trial. Pakistani experts: The Internet is a quantum leap in the war of the fundamentalists.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — On 10 March next five young Americans appear in court, accused of “conspiracy with terrorist purposes.” The students, all in their twenties, come from Virginia and have been detained in prison in Sargodha, a city 190 km south-east of Islamabad since last December. According to the investigation files opened by the Pakistani police, they contacted militant groups via the Internet, in order to organize an attack.

Hassan Dastagir, the student’s lawyer, tells the Pakistani newspaper The Dawn that at present, a formal charge has not yet been issued of against them. However, the police have filed a detailed document to the court of Sargodha, and they are awaiting the verdict of the judiciary. The report speaks of “conspiracy with criminal purpose,” adds the lawyer, with the intention to move into neighbouring countries “to overthrow the government” in office and “raise money” to finance attacks.

The courts are expected to accept the formal accusation — and order the trial — on 10 March. Previously appearing before the magistrates, the young people said that they would provide medicines and financial aid to Muslim friends who live in Afghanistan. If convicted, Hassan Dastagir, warns they risk a life sentence.

The police believe that the group was headed across the border to join the Taliban guerrillas in the fight against the Kabul government and the coalition forces. They are American citizens, but of different origins, two Pakistanis, one Egyptian, one Yemeni and one Eritrean. The e-mails sent by young people, investigators reveal, show “contacts with Pakistani militants, who were intending to use them to plan attacks in Pakistan.”

The five defendants accuse the Pakistani police and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of torture. An accusation strongly denied by the authorities in Islamabad, which denies any mistreatment.

Ahmed Rashid, author of “Descent into Chaos” on Pakistani facts and expert on the Taliban, stressed that the story represents “an impressive development” in the strategy of the terrorists, who use modern technology to recruit new followers. Pervez Hoodhbhoy, professor of physics in Pakistan, pointed the finger at religious schools, the madrassas, some of which are “breeding grounds for extremism.” He has received death threats from fundamentalists, but will not be bowed and echoed: “The Internet has provided them with new ties to jihadist groups around the world”.

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

Pakistan: Police Search for Kidnapped Boy

Jhelum, 5 March (AKI) — Pakistani police conducted raids overnight in an urgent bid to find the five-year-old British boy who was kidnapped during a family holiday. Sahil Saeed was abducted from his grandmother’s house in Jehlum city, 100 kilometres south of the capital Islamabad on Thursday after thieves held the family at gunpoint.

Teams of police were working round the clock to find the boy as his father begged for his son’s release.

Robbers kidnapped Sahil Saeed from the home after stealing jewellery and cash. They are demanding a 120,000-dollar ransom.

They broke into the house as Sahil and his Pakistani father were preparing to get a taxi to the airport and fly home to Oldham in northwest England, relatives and officials said.

“God willing, we will recover the boy very soon,” police investigator Raja Tahir Bashir told the media. “We are doing whatever is possible.”

Bashir said several suspects were being questioned by police but he would not give any further details.

Raja Naqqash Saeed appealed for his son’s release, saying he feared he would not be able to communicate with his captors because he only speaks English.

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

Pakistan: Sources: U.S.-Born Al-Qaida Spokesman Caught

Gadahn, 31, reportedly held in Pakistan; $1 million reward on his head

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Adam Yahiye Gadahn, a U.S.-born spokesman for al-Qaida, has been captured in Pakistan, government sources said Sunday.

Gadahn was arrested in recent days, two officers who took part in the operation said. A senior government official also confirmed the arrest. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

An intelligence source confirmed the report to NBC News, adding that Gadahn was detained in Sohrab Goth, a suburb of Karachi, and was later moved to the capital Islamabad.

The arrest is a major victory in the U.S.-led battle against al-Qaida and will be taken as a sign that Pakistan is cooperating more fully with Washington. It follows the recent detentions of several Afghan Taliban commanders in Karachi.

Gadahn moved to Pakistan in 1998, according to the FBI, and is said to have attended an al-Qaida training camp six years later, serving as a translator and consultant for the group.

A U.S. court charged Gadahn with treason in 2006, making him the first American to face such a charge in more than 50 years. He could face the death penalty if convicted. He was also charged with two counts of providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Gadahn, 31, grew up on a goat farm in Riverside County, Calif., and converted to Islam at a mosque in nearby Orange County.

Gadahn has been wanted by the FBI since 2004. There is a $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest or conviction.

Gadahn video posted online

The report came as a videotaped recording by Gadahn was placed online.

In it, Gadahn called on Muslims serving in the U.S. armed forces to emulate the Army major charged with killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas

In the 25-minute video posted on militant Web sites, Gadahn described Maj. Nidal Hasan as a pioneer who should serve as a role model for other Muslims, especially those serving Western militaries.

“Brother Nidal is the ideal role model for every repentant Muslim in the armies of the unbelievers and apostate regimes,” he said.

Gadahn, also known as Azzam al-Amriki, was dressed in white robes and wearing a white turban as he called for attacks on what he described as “high-value targets.”

“You shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that military bases are the only high-value targets in America and the West. On the contrary, there are countless other strategic places, institutions and installations which, by striking, the Muslim can do major damage,” he said, an assault rifle leaning up against a wall next to him.

Hasan has been charged in the Nov. 5 shooting that killed 13 people at Fort Hood. The 39-year-old Army psychiatrist remains paralyzed from the chest down after being shot by two civilian members of Fort Hood’s police force.

“Nidal Hasan is a pioneer, a trailblazer and a role model who has opened a door, lit a path and shown the way forward for every Muslim who finds himself among the unbelievers,” Gadahn said.

Media cited as targetable

In the latest video, Gadahn said those planning attacks did not need to use only firearms like Hasan, but could use other weapons. “As the blessed operations of September 11th showed, a little imagination and planning and a limited budget can turn almost anything into a deadly, effective and convenient weapon.”

Gadahn said fighters should target mass transportation systems in the West and also wreak havoc “by killing or capturing people in government, industry and the media.”

He recommended finding ways to shake “consumer confidence and stifle spending” and noted that even unsuccessful attacks, such as the failed attempt to bomb a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day, can bring major cities to a halt.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Officers Say American-Born Al-Qaida Arrested

KARACHI, Pakistan — The American-born spokesman for al-Qaida has been arrested by Pakistani intelligence officers in the southern city of Karachi, two officers and a government official said Sunday, the same day Adam Gadahn appeared in a video calling for Muslim violence.

The arrest of Gadahn is a major victory in the U.S.-led battle against al-Qaida and will be taken as a sign that Pakistan is cooperating more fully with Washington. It follows the recent detentions of several Afghan Taliban commanders in Karachi.

Gadahn — who has often appeared in al-Qaida videos — was arrested in the sprawling southern metropolis in recent days, two officers who took part in the operation said. A senior government official also confirmed the arrest.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

Gadahn grew up on a goat farm in Riverside County, California, and converted to Islam at a mosque in nearby Orange County.

He moved to Pakistan in 1998, according to the FBI, and is said to have attended an al-Qaida training camp six years later, serving as a translator and consultant for the group. He has been wanted by the FBI since 2004, and there is a $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest or conviction.

The 31-year-old is known by various aliases including Yahya Majadin Adams and Azzam al-Amriki.

He has posted videos and messages calling for the destruction of the West and for strikes against targets in the United States. The most recent was posted Sunday, praising the U.S. Army major charged with killing 13 people in Fort Hood, Texas, as a role model for other Muslims.

A U.S. court charged Gadahn with treason in 2006, making him the first American to face such a charge in more than 50 years. He could face the death penalty if convicted. He was also charged with two counts of providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Gadahn has appeared in more than half a dozen al-Qaida videos. The video released Sunday appeared to have been made after the end of the year, but it was unclear exactly when.

Dawud Walid, the executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Southfield, Mich., condemned Gadahn’s call for violence, calling it a “desperate” attempt by Al-Qaida’s spokesman to provoke bloodshed within the U.S.

Walid, a Navy veteran, said Muslims have honorably served in the American military will be unimpressed by al-Qaida’s message aimed at their ranks.

“We thoroughly repudiate and condemn his statement and what we believe are his failed attempts to incite loyal American Muslims in the miltary,” he said.

Imad Hamad, the senior national adviser for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, based in Dearbon, Mich., condemned al-Qaida’s message and said it would have no impact on American Muslims.

“This a worthless rhetoric that is not going to have any effect on people’s and minds and hearts,” he said.

Al-Qaida has used Gadahn as its chief English-speaking spokesman, and he has called for the destruction of the West and for strikes against targets in the United States. In one video, he ceremoniously tore up his American passport. In another, he admitted his grandfather was Jewish, ridiculing him for his beliefs and calling for Palestinians to continue fighting Israel.

           — Hat tip: ESW[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: U.S.-Born Al Qaeda Arrest News Incorrect

Confusion Over Militant’s Identity Sparked Reports of Gadahn Arrest; Some Media Say It is Another U.S.-Born Terrorist

An “important Taliban militant” was arrested today in Pakistan. But that is where the confusion started.

Earlier it was reported by Pakistani media that intelligence agents had arrested Adam Gadahn, the American-born spokesman for al Qaeda, in an operation in the southern city of Karachi.

It was further reported by the Associated Press and Reuters that Gadahn had been arrested, sourcing security officials.

CBS News was told by sources in the Pakistan government that it was Gadahn, even after U.S. officials refused to confirm it was the California native for whom a $1 million reward has been posted.

Now, CBS News’ Farhan Bokhari in Islamabad writes that earlier reports the detained individual was Gadahn proved false. According to a Pakistan security official who spoke with CBS News on condition of anonymity, the arrested individual is in fact “a Taliban militant leader who is known as Abu Yahya.”

The official said evidence compiled from an interrogation of the suspect and information exchanged with U.S. officials verified the man’s identify.

The reassessment only added to the confusion surrounding the arrest of a man earlier described by other unnamed Pakistani security officials as Gadahn.

“In the light of our latest information, I can say, this is not looking like Gadahn. But it is still the arrest of an important Taliban militant,” said the Pakistani security official who spoke to CBS News late Sunday.

           — Hat tip: Paul Green[Return to headlines]

Revealed: Bitter Family Split of Boy, 5, Kidnapped by Gunmen in Pakistan

The parents of the five-year-old British boy kidnapped in Pakistan were involved in a bitter split shortly before their son was snatched by armed gunmen.

Raja Naqqash Saeed took his son Sahil out of school and flew with him to his family’s home in Pakistan, leaving his wife Akila and their two daughters behind in Oldham.

He took his wife’s passport with him so she could not follow them to Jhelum, said a senior police source in the city south of Islamabad.

Since Wednesday’s kidnapping, Mr Saeed has claimed he took Sahil to Pakistan to pay a surprise visit to the boy’s maternal grandmother, who has been unwell.

In reality, the source said, he left with Sahil after a ‘major falling out’ that threatened their marriage and may have been considering taking his son permanently to Jhelum.

The source said that although Mrs Saeed knew her husband was taking Sahil to Pakistan, it was not until they had left that she realised he had taken her passport too.

It was only when family elders in Jhelum intervened that they patched up their arranged marriage in emotional phone calls.

They had agreed to give their marriage another go when gunmen robbed the family’s compound and kidnapped Sahil as he and his father were about to leave for the airport to fly back to England.

Police initially placed Mr Saeed under surveillance when they discovered he had travelled to Pakistan with his wife’s passport, the source said, before ruling him out as a suspect.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Far East

China ‘Must Reduce Rich-Poor Gap’ — Premier Wen

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has said China must reverse its widening income gap between rich and poor.

He said benefits of a growing economy — expected to expand by 8% this year — should be distributed more fairly.

In a major speech at the start of China’s annual parliamentary session, the premier also said the economy needed restructuring.

He wants Chinese firms to improve their ability to innovate, producing high-tech and high-quality products.

The premier’s comments came in a wide-ranging speech delivered in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, where the largely ceremonial parliamentary session is being held.

In the keynote speech, Mr Wen reviewed the government’s work over the past 12 months and set out its policy goals for the coming year.

Registration reform

The speech touched on many issues, but on a number of occasions the premier spoke about the need to make China a fairer society.

“We will not only make the ‘pie’ of social wealth bigger by developing the economy, but also distribute it well,” Mr Wen told about 3,000 delegates, returning to a theme that he has often spoken about during his premiership.

“[We will] resolutely reverse the widening income gap,” he added later, in a speech that lasted more than two hours.

As part of that project, the premier said China would reform the household registration system that classifies people as either city or rural dwellers.

This controversial system means many migrant workers — farmers who travel to towns and cities to find better-paid work — are unable to get proper services.

“[We will] gradually ensure that they receive the same treatment as urban residents in areas such as pay, children’s education, healthcare, housing and social security,” he said.

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

Cyberwar Declared as China Hunts for the West’s Intelligence Secrets

Urgent warnings have been circulated throughout Nato and the European Union for secret intelligence material to be protected from a recent surge in cyberwar attacks originating in China.

The attacks have also hit government and military institutions in the United States, where analysts said that the West had no effective response and that EU systems were especially vulnerable because most cyber security efforts were left to member states.

Nato diplomatic sources told The Times: “Everyone has been made aware that the Chinese have become very active with cyber attacks and we’re now getting regular warnings from the office for internal security.” The sources said that the number of attacks had increased significantly during the past 12 months, with China among the most active players.

In the US, an official report released on Friday said that the number of attacks on Congress and other government agencies had risen exponentially in the past year to an estimated 1.6 billion every month.

The Chinese cyber-penetration of key offices in both Nato and the EU has led to restrictions in the normal flow of intelligence because there are concerns that secret intelligence reports might be vulnerable.

Sources at the Office for Cyber Security at the Cabinet Office in London, set up last year, said there were two forms of attack: those focusing on disrupting computer systems and others involving “fishing trips” for sensitive information. A special team has been set up at GCHQ, the government communications headquarters in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, to counter the growing cyber-threat affecting intelligence material. The team becomes operational this month.

British and American cyber defences are among the most sophisticated in the world, but “the EU is less competent”, James Lewis, of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said. “The porousness of the European institutions makes them a good target for penetration. They are of interest to the Chinese on issues from arms sales and nuclear non-proliferation to Tibet and energy.”

[Return to headlines]

More Than 20:000 North Korean Refugees in South Korea

by Joseph Yun Li-sun

According to South Korean authorities, North Koreans fleeing Kim Jong-il’s regime is greater every year. The Church is working for the integration of the ‘Saetomin”, the refugees who end up at the bottom of the social ladder.

Seoul (AsiaNews) — North Korean refugees in South Korea “are far from integrating. Their number, which has increased manifold from 947 in 1998 to 16,513 last year, keeps growing. It should reach 20,000 next year,” an official with Hanawon (United Korea), the government-run institution that helps defectors settle in South Korea, told AsiaNews.

According to the organisation, which operates in a highly sensitive area for the whole Korean Peninsula, 58.4 per cent of refugees still consider themselves North Koreans; only 6.3 per cent think of themselves as South Koreans. North Korea’s intense political indoctrination and problems associated with settling in a more modern and freer society like that of South Korea are the main causes.

The Catholic Church has addressed the issue. At the start of this year, it held three a three-day seminar on ‘Saetomin, agents of the Gospel’. Saetomin means ‘refugees, settlers’ in Korean and is the term South Koreans use for those who manage to get out of North Korea and settle in the South. Over time however, the word has become a derogatory term because of the exiles’ low level of integration.

For Prof Ko Kyeong-bin, a Catholic who teaches at the University of Seoul, “the distress of 20,000 Saetomin living here is of great concern. [. . .] they are only the mirror of the 20 million North Koreans who would come to us after the reunification of two Koreas. We have a long way to go before being ready to welcome them in the right way.”

The South Korean government agrees. Through Hanawon, it helps refugees with language, home care, housing, and jobs. However, for some NGOs “that is too little and misdirected.”

“If we want a united peninsula, we must follow a cultural path that recognises that we are brothers divided by a strip of land.”

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

Australia — Pacific

McDonald’s Rejects Push to Have More Halal-Serving Outlets

McDONALD’S has rejected a push to have more halal-serving outlets despite pressure on the fast-food giant.

A Victorian burger fan, Amin Assafiri, launched the Facebook campaign in frustration at having to drive from driving 8km north to the closest halal McDonald.

Mr Assafiri lives to the north of Melbourne, in Fawkner, with the nearest Hala McDonald’s in Roxburgh Park.

His “Make Fawkner McDonald’s halal!” Facebook page has attracted 341 members — not enough to sway the burger chain’s management.

“We can only accommodate the market so much,” McDonald’s spokeswoman Kristy Chong said. “It is a considerable cost to go halal.

“There are already three halal McDonald’s in Melbourne.”

Mr Assafiri said at least 1000 Muslims living in Fawkner made special trips to Victoria’s halal McDonald’s in Roxburgh Park and Brunswick East.

The third Victorian halal McDonald’s will open in a renovated Preston McDonald’s in June.

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

Row Over Barbecue as Primary School Opts to Offer Halal Sausages

A ROW over sausages has a school community sizzling amid competing claims of bigotry and animal cruelty.

What was supposed to be a welcome-back barbecue for students at Coburg West Primary School has turned into a debate over the Islamic halal method of preparing meat.

Members of the school’s Parents and Friends Association believed they were being inclusive when they ordered halal-only sausages for last month’s barbie.

But some parents thought it was political correctness gone mad to offer only halal meat.

Parent Diane Rees said yesterday that she was outraged when told by the PFA that “we have to buy halal because we have some Muslim children in the school”.

“I said to the principal, ‘I think you’re discriminating against the majority of the school and appeasing the minority by only serving halal,’ “ she said. “It’s not fair on my children that they can’t eat at the school.”

Ms Rees said she wasn’t anti-Muslim — her concern was over the way animals were killed under the halal method, which involves a knife cut to the jugular veins and carotid arteries in the neck.

“They take two long minutes to die and I think that’s bloody cruel,” she said.

But Australian Federation of Islamic Councils president Ikebal Patel said research showed that, done properly, halal was a quick and humane slaughter of animals.

“I think they are using the issue of some halal sausages at a barbecue, for God’s sake, to bring out their own xenophobic bigotry,” he said.

“It was very thoughtful of the parents and friends association to try to cater for Muslims. I think they (the critics) need to get real and get a life on this one.”

School principal David Kilmartin, who has been in the job for only a month, said halal-only barbecues were not school policy and the PFA had been told to provide a choice of meat in the future.

“I don’t think it was done with any malice. I’m assuming there would have been requests from Muslim families to have halal meat,” he said.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

“Scores Killed” In Nigeria Clashes

Scores of people were killed on Sunday after pastoralists attacked villagers close to the central Nigerian city of Jos, witnesses said.

More than 100 people were killed in clashes on Sunday between pastoralists and villagers near the central Nigerian city of Jos, witnesses said.

Villagers in Dogo Nahawa, just south of Jos, said Fulani pastoralists from the surrounding hills attacked at about 3 a.m. (0200 GMT), shooting into the air before slashing those who came out of their homes with machetes.

A Reuters witness who visited the village counted around 100 bodies piled in the open air. Pam Dantong, medical director of Plateau State Hospital in Jos, showed reporters 18 corpses that had been brought from the village, some of them charred.

Officials said other bodies had been taken to a second hospital in the state capital.

It was not immediately clear what triggered the violence.

Four days of sectarian clashes in January killed hundreds of people in Jos, the capital of Plateau state, which lies at the crossroads of Nigeria’s Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Pirates Hijack Norwegian Tanker Off Madagascar

Pirates have seized a tanker off Madagascar in the Indian Ocean and are sailing it towards the Somali coast, the ship’s Norwegian owners have said.

The UBT Ocean was carrying oil from the United Arab Emirates to Tanzania, Svenn Pedersen, of owners Brovigtank, told Reuters.

Piracy has made the seas off the Horn of Africa among the most dangerous in the world, despite naval patrols.

Attacks usually increase between March and May when the seas are calmer.

Mr Pedersen said the owners had received a call from the captain who said there were pirates on board the ship.

“Very quickly afterwards we lost all contact with the boat,” he told AFP news agency.

The UBT Ocean is registered in the Marshall Islands.

Its seizure comes two days after pirates captured a Saudi tanker and its crew in the Gulf of Aden and sailed it to the Somali town of Garacad.

An international naval force is patrolling the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean but has been unable to stop attacks on shipping from pirates based in Somalia.

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


EU: Cooperation With Libya and Turkey Urgent

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 26 — Faced with illegal immigration, the European Union stepped up the pace for greater cooperation with Libya and Turkey, according to reports on the conclusions reached by the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting underway in Brussels. In the final document, with the aim of establishing “short-term effective cooperation”, the 27 member states have urged the European Commission “to urgently look into drawing up an agenda on cooperation between Eu and Libya to include initiatives for maritime collaboration, border management (including the possibility of developing an integrated surveillance system), international protection, effective return and readmission of illegal immigrants, as well as issues relating to individual mobility.” The Council has made an appeal for a rapid conclusion to official talks between the EU and Turkey on readmission agreements, considering it an issue requiring urgency, and urged the European Commission, members states and Turkey to “further develop cooperation on immigration”. Member states then asked the Brussels executive, as part of the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance, to look into the possibility of supplying adequate financial means to improve Ankara’s capacity to tackle illegal immigration, including support for the application of an integrated management system along Turkey’s borders. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Mixed Marriages Triple in 10 Years

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 3 — Mixed marriages in Italy have tripled in the last 10 years, increasing from 3% of the total in 1998 to 10% in 2008, according to a study promoted by the national office for ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue of the Italian Episcopal Conference and headed by Barbara Ghiringhelli of the Ambrosian centre for documentation for religions (CADR). The study was presented today in Ancona at the conference of diocesan heads for ecumenism and dialogue. Conducted on a national scale (94 diocese were involved), the study showed that the 975 interdenominational, inter-religious and mixed marriages registered in 1999, increased to 1,557 in 2008. Inter-denominational marriages increased sharply (between different sects of Christianity), while inter-religious marriages remained more or less the same or slightly decreased. In 1999, interdenominational marriages totalled 553, while in 2008 they increased to 911.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Violence Erupts in a Rome Detention Center

ROME, Italy — The alarm went off at Rome’s detention center for undocumented migrants. Tunisian migrant Badis Barhumi, who had tried to escape, hurried back inside to hide. The chief police officer on duty found Barhumi among other migrants and beat him down with a baton.

“We yelled at him to stop,” said Mustafa, one eyewitness who denounced the violence to a local radio station, “but he kept going.”

The incident soon ignited a revolt. Migrants started grabbing blankets and mattresses and setting them on fire. Another migrant called GlobalPost with an account of the violence: “They are setting bottles on fire and throwing them at the police, like Molotov cocktails,” said Elkattani Abdelatif, a detainee from Morocco. “Police are on the roof, the building is smoking, it looks like guerrilla warfare.”

Rome’s Identification and Expulsion Center (CIE) Ponte Galeria, has confronted discontent before. It is the largest center for identification and repatriation of migrants in Italy. Guarded by soldiers and barbed wire, the concrete building hosts more than 350 men and women in separate compounds.

“This is something that happens every time they sense change and are afraid,” said Amos Dawodu of the Italian Red Cross, the former sanitary director at the facility. “That’s what they do to communicate when they want something.”

On the night of the February riot, the Italian Red Cross, which managed social service and healthcare at the Rome CIE, was handing over control to a new organization.

The Italian Red Cross acknowledged the revolt but said it didn’t witness the beating.

“If that were the case,” said Francesco Rocca, head of the Italian Red Cross, “that would make the Red Cross an accomplice.”

According to a 2010 report by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), identification centers throughout Italy are plagued by scarce hygiene, crowded quarters and inadequate care for chronic illnesses like diabetes, hypertension and HIV. When MSF visited Rome’s CIE in the summer of 2009, migrants had gone without toilet paper, soap or towels for two weeks.

“This is worse than a prison,” said Abdelatif, the detainee. “I’ve seen people breaking their hands or feet or eating batteries and razor blades just to go to the hospital. The other day a Romanian guy drank a bottle of detergent, just to get out.”

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

Netherlands: Immigrant Voters Again Important for PvdA in Local Elections

THE HAGUE, 05/03/10 — Immigrant voters have again provided important support for Labour (PvdA) in the local elections. Moroccans in particular voted for the party en masse, according to research by Amsterdam city council and the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies of the University of Amsterdam.

The PvdA remained the biggest party in Amsterdam by some way, partly due to 74 percent of Moroccans voting for the social democrats. Among Ghanaians, a big group in the Zuidoost district, the figure was even 88 percent. Among Surinamese and Antilleans, the PvdA ‘only’ won 53 percent, De Volkskrant reported yesterday. It gave no figures for Turks.

The PvdA was as always the biggest party in Amsterdam by a long way. But it did drop to 28.9 percent from 39.4 percent. The conservatives (VVD) won some ground (17.1 percent), as did the leftwing Greens (GroenLinks), to 15.2 percent, while the Socialist Party (SP) vote was halved to 7.4 percent. Centre-left D66 climbed to 14.8 percent from 4.1 percent in Amsterdam.

In 2006, the immigrant vote for PvdA was even higher at 80 percent, with only GroenLinks and SP picking up a few crumbs. This time around, D66 was also a competitor. The turnout in Amsterdam among immigrants was similar to four years earlier, ranging from 46 percent among Turks to 26 percent among Surinamese and Antilleans.

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

Netherlands: Income Check on Foreign Brides Ruled Illegal

Dutch immigration rules requiring men or women wishing to bring in a foreign partner must earn at least 120% of the official minimum wage have been ruled illegal by the European court of justice in Luxemburg.

The case had been brought by a Moroccan man who has lived in the Netherlands since 1970 and was refused permission to bring in his wife.

The couple met in 1972 but she only applied to join him in Holland in 2006. Permission was refused because the man is now unemployed and does not meet the income requirements.

The Dutch justice ministry said it is studying the ruling before it will comment.

For a similar case, click here

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

Obama to Push Immigration Before Elections

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that President Barack Obama is planning on pushing the immigration issue before the November elections. He met with his staff and two senators, Chuck Schumer and Lindsey Graham, the Times is reporting, in an attempt to map out a plan for running the legislation before representatives become too busy with the fall election.

Inside sources indicate that amnesty will be included in the deal. A strategy for “a path toward citizenship” for the estimated 10.8 million illegal aliens now in the country is reported to be one of the topics being considered.

“We’re very hopeful we can get a bill done. We have all the pieces in place. We just need a second Republican,” Schumer said in a statement. But he acknowledged that he is having a hard time finding people interested in jumping on board.

[Return to headlines]

UK: British Taxpayers to Fork Out Millions More in Benefits for EU Migrants

Taxpayers face paying millions of pounds in extra benefits to Eastern European immigrants because of changes to EU regulations.

For the past seven years, immigrants from eight countries due to become full members of the EU were banned from claiming benefits in the UK until they had worked here for 12 months.

But from April 2011, immigrants from Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic — where income levels are 40 per cent of the European average — will be allowed to claim Jobseekers’ Allowance and other benefits after just three months.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Munich Hosts Homosexual Job Fair

Europe’s first career fair for homosexuals comes to Munich this weekend. Moritz Honert from Der Tagesspiegel spoke with the founder of Milk 2010 about job prospects for gays and lesbians in Germany.

There are less dangerous places for coming out of the closet than Singapore.

Swede Anders Wikberg knew this when he lived in there for a year in 2003. Homosexuals in the country are threatened with a several-year prison sentence, but Wikberg finally had enough.

“I just didn’t want to lie anymore,” he says.

In hindsight, it was good decision. The openness not only strengthened his relationship to friends and family, but also helped his career. Before he’d often been afraid admitting he was gay would lead to trouble.

“Since I no longer have to constantly watch out for what I say, I can concentrate much better,” he says.

Today the 31-year-old lives in Munich. There he no longer fears a prison sentence like in Singapore, but still feels that the professional lives of gays and lesbians aren’t always made easy in Germany.

“Many firms consider themselves open, but it doesn’t appear so to me at all,” he says.

That’s why together with his business partner Stuart B. Cameron, Wikberg brought “Milk 2010” to life — which he says is Europe’s first career fair especially for homosexuals. The event takes place on Friday and Saturday in Munich for the first time.

Wikberg and Cameron borrowed the name from Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.

“He was an example,” Wikberg says. “Milk was the first US politician that was openly gay and still successful.”

The event is meant to be a networking platform. At the same time there will be speeches on topic such as, “Are we different? — Homosexual executives put to the test,” or “Outing at the workplace — curse or blessing?” Additionally there will be a presentation of an index that promotes firms that champion equal rights for homosexuals.

Eight companies plan to send representatives to Milk 2010, among them Google, SAP, Cisco, Ford, Volkswagen Financial Services and IBM.

“If we want to win the best workers for our company, then we can’t afford to shut anyone out,” says Uta Menges, who ensures employee diversity at IBM Deutschland.

She also points out that colourful mix within the company is extremely desirable, because it helps creativity.

Other companies make similar arguments, though they don’t make a secret of the fact that the commitment has a positive effect on their corporate image.

The job fair organisers also have frequently discussed what kind of image they are projecting. They accept that by putting the differences between gays and heteros into focus, they could torpedo their goal of equal rights.

“We simply believe that the demand for such an event persists,” Wikberg says.

The organisers expect up to 2,000 visitors in the first year. The hope it will become an annual event that could eventually expand to Berlin.

They’re also getting support from Germany’s Lesbian and Gay Federation (LSVD). Spokesperson Renate Rampf says that while the professional situation for homosexuals in Germany has improved, there’s still discrimination.

“When there’s a post to be filled, in Germany it’s still the case that heterosexuals with the same skills are favoured,” she says.

The Milk 2010 event runs March 5-6 in Munich.

This article was published with the kind permission of Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, where it originally appeared in German. Translation by The Local.

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

Netherlands: Church Bows to Gays Seeking Communion

Homosexuals can now attend communion in all parishes in the diocese of Den Bosch.

News — Snubbed, homosexuals head to mass en masse

This is the outcome of a meeting between the church council of the main Roman Catholic church in the Netherlands, St. John’s Cathedral in Den Bosch, priest Geertjan Van Rossum, Vera Bergkamp of the gay organisation COC and editor-in-chief of the gay peridocial Gaykrant.

“People should decide for themselves whether or not to attend communion whatever their sexuality and should do so with a clean conscience,” said a spokesperson for the diocese.

As a result, the openly gay Prince of the Carnival who was recently refused communion in the provincial town of Reusel should have received it. The church’s refusal to give him communion sparked protests at Roman Catholic church services up and down the Netherlands on Sunday.

During the protest, gay rights demonstrators dressed in pink and wearing wigs of the same colour walked out of the service at St. John’s after priest Geertjan van Rossum said “the correct experience of sexuality is part of the ten commandments”.

Gay organisations COC and the ‘Friends of Gaykrant’ are pleased with the “reconciliatory words” from the church council. Bergkamp said, “The discussion has been initiated. The church council has indicated it wants a long-term contact.”

The church council has called on demonstrators not to protest in church by wearing pink triangles or calling out slogans. The gay organisations have decided not to continue their Sunday mass protests. They hope their supporters will follow suit.

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

Spaniards Rally Against Abortion

Thousands of demonstrators have marched through Spanish cities to protest against a bill that will make it easier for women to seek an abortion.

In Madrid, families with young children carried banners, flags and balloons and chanted “No to abortion! Yes to life!”.

The bill, already passed by parliament, introduces abortion on demand up to 14 weeks into a pregnancy.

At present, a pregnancy can only be terminated in mainly Catholic Spain under specific circumstances.

The new bill is due to come into force in July.

It is the latest in a series of ethical issues which have pitted the Catholic right against the government, which has legalised gay marriage and made divorce easier.

“No woman can be sent to jail for terminating her pregnancy or threatened with that. That’s the difference,” Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said on Saturday.

Child’s rights

One of those protesting in Madrid on Sunday, Maruchi Barosa, said the demonstration was “in support of humanity”.

According to one of the organisers, Victor Gago, the demonstrators had blocked the capital’s central Sol square.

“We are demanding the right to life. The children are not guilty if their parents want or don’t want them. They should have thought about it before,” said Marta Puig, quoted by the AP news agency.

“It isn’t the mother who has the rights, it is the child,” said another demonstrator.

A similar protest in October drew tens of thousands of people onto the streets.

Spain’s existing law, dating from 1985, allows abortion in cases of rape and when there are signs of foetal abnormality.

Currently, Spanish women can also end a pregnancy if their physical or psychological health is at risk. In practice, the last category has been used to justify the vast majority of abortions — of which there were 112,000 in 2007.

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

Teenage Boys Watching Hours of Internet Pornography Every Week Are Treating Their Girlfriends Like Sex Objects

Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos has just published a government report into the sexualisation of children, and is certain that exposure to porn is having an adverse affect on the lives of today’s teenagers.

‘My research has left me extremely concerned,’ she says. ‘A recent survey showed that 54 per cent of boys found porn “really inspiring” in terms of sexual performance. This worries me, because of the nature of the material they are now watching.

‘This isn’t the type of pornography that was around when we were teenagers. What kids are seeing today is very often violent, and it has no intimacy, no respect, no kindness, no context of sex within a loving relationship.

‘It is very damaging to young people and to their relationships.’


Dr Michael Flood, a sociologist based at the Australian Research Centre for Sex Health and Society, is at the forefront of international research into how exposure to internet porn is influencing the behaviour of teenagers.

He has just completed a study examining the impact of porn on the young people who watch it.

‘Boys who watch explicit sexual material develop an increasing belief that all of their friends and peers must all be highly sexually active,’ he told me. This, he believes, is desensitising them and putting them under pressure to be doing the same.

‘When boys are repeatedly exposed to what I call nonmainstream-sexual behaviours, they may be more likely to accept and adopt them as well.

‘I am also very concerned that exposure to aggressive or violent pornography may be blurring the lines of consent.’

In other words, he believes boys who watch violent porn are more likely to behave violently.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: After Tory Leader Reveals His List of Ethnic Candidates, Cameron’s Rainbow 1st Eleven

In the latest development in his campaign to show how dramatically the Tories have changed, David Cameron has published the party’s first-ever official list of openly gay MPs.

The Conservatives say they have 20 openly gay candidates standing in the Election. Of those, 11 told party chiefs they were ‘happy’ to be named in the first authorised list of gay Conservative candidates.

It has led some to suggest jokingly that the Tories might change the party’s traditional blue colour to the rainbow flag of the gay movement.

Publication of the list followed a claim by Shadow Minister Nick Herbert that if the Tories win the forthcoming General Election there could be up to 15 openly gay Conservative MPs. That compares to three at present, including Mr Herbert.

The move follows similar increases in the number of Tory women and ethnic minority candidates. It has led to a backlash from some grassroots activists, who claim the changes have been forced on them by Mr Cameron. Others say it has made the Conservative Party look more modern.

In a speech authorised by Mr Cameron, Mr Herbert said the party had ended the domination of ‘male, white, professional, grey-suited and straight’ Tory MPs.


Mr Herbert said: ‘A successful political party ought to look like the country it seeks to govern. If we were truly representative, we would have 99 women, 16 black or ethnic minority and ten gay MPs.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Clergy Could Face the Law Over Same-Sex Ceremonies

Warning comes after amendment to allow churches to hold events

British lawmakers have tentatively approved a bill to allow churches to host same-sex marriages, prompting warnings that the measure would be one step from forcing clergy to perform the homosexual ceremonies.

Even the head of the nation’s top homosexual activist group, Ben Summeriskill of Stonewell, is concerned about the implications for churches, according to the Christian Institute.

“Right now, faiths shouldn’t be forced to hold civil partnerships, although in 10 or 20 years, that may change,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Vote for Marriage? You’re on a Hit List

Battle looms in Supreme Court over ‘gay’ activist harassment

A battle is set to begin in the U.S. Supreme Court, as backers of traditional marriage hope to fend off a law that would make their names and addresses public and, therefore, make them prime targets for homosexual activists intent on bullying them into silence.

The case calls into question whether voters have protected free speech and anonymity rights in signing petitions and ballot initiatives or whether states must release signatories’ names and addresses as a matter of public record.

With reported cases of bullying, organized boycotts and threats of violence against the signers of traditional marriage initiatives in several states already — and homosexual activists pledging to make lists of signatories public and searchable online — lawyers at the American Center for Law and Justice are concerned that voters may grow fearful of reprisal should they sign a petition seeking to restrict marriage to one man and one woman. That fear, the ACLJ is arguing in a brief filed this week before the Court, is exactly the kind of political and voter intimidation that the Constitution should protect against.

“The right to secret ballot safeguards citizens from the historic evil of voter intimidation,” the ACLJ brief argues. “Similarly, the right to anonymity in signing referendum petitions is no less essential in safeguarding signers from reprisal or intimidation.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


The Guaranteed Failure of Catering to Muslim Perception

“So long as widespread suspicion exists, and it does exist, amongst the Arab population, that the economic depression … is largely due to excessive Jewish immigration, and so long as some grounds exist upon which this suspicion may be plausibly represented to be well founded, there can be little hope of any improvement in the mutual relations of the two races. —” 1930 statement by the British government

What does this statement, following an inquiry into the 1929 Muslim attacks upon Jews in Mandatory Palestine, have to do with a recent disinvitation to speak at Britain’s Cambridge University for Israeli historian Benny Morris?

The statement marks the emergence of the Western phenomenon of making decisions on the basis of what Arabs and Muslims perceive, or are said to perceive, at the expense of the facts or the merits of the case.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


unaha-closp said...

A Jeremy Clarkson opinion piece really shouldn't have any place in a news feed.