Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100316

Financial Crisis
»A Constitutional Dollar
»China — United States: Wen Jiabao Rebuffs US on Yuan
»Euro Zone Needs to ‘Rethink’ IMF Role
»Iceland, The Mouse That Roared
»The Next Big Bailout is on the Way. Prepare to Get Reamed!
»5th State Exempts Guns. Is Washington Noticing?
»America: Break the Silence on Islam
»FCC Unveiling Sweeping National Broadband Plan
»Government of the Lie
»Hoaxes: Instead of Having His Nobel Prize Rescinded for Espousing Climate Fraud, The Prophet of Doom is Set to Receive an Honorary Doctorate of Laws and Humane Letters From the University of Tennessee for His Work.
»House May Try to Pass Senate Health-Care Bill Without Voting on it
»In Bizarre, Soviet-Style Move, White House Threatens to Veto Intelligence Budget Unless FBI’s Anthrax Frame Up is Accepted
»Not Again! Meet Obama’s New Controversial Pastor
»Obama’s “Oracle of Delphi”
»Obama Sides With RIAA, MPAA; Backs ACTA
»The Big Wind-Power Cover-Up
»The Jihadists Next Door
»UN Urges Canada to Take Action Against Discrimination
Europe and the EU
»Catholic Priest Abuse Claims Ireland
»Defamation Case Over Prophet Mohammed Cartoons ‘To be Held’ In Britain
»Denmark: Students Given Crisis Help After Knife Attack.
»Diana West: Dear Mayor of Monschau
»Dutch Companies Lobby: Wilders Dangerous
»Germany: Pope Remains Silent as Abuse Allegations Hit Close to Home
»Germany: Catholic Groups Chastise Pope’s Silence on Sex Abuse Scandal
»German Arms Exports Double in Five Years
»Germany: Dutch Populist Wilders ‘Unwelcome’ In Eifel Town
»Hirsi Ali: Wilders a Boon for Netherlands
»Ian McEwan: Criticising Islam is Not Racist
»Ireland: Two Charged in Waterford Inquiry
»Italy: Police Close on Mafia No.1
»Italy: Berlusconi Asks if Probed
»Italy: Berlusconi’s Declared Income Jumps
»Italy: Feb Year-on-Year Inflation Rate Confirmed at +1.2%
»Italy: Books: The Difficult Love Between Muslims and Non-Believers
»UK Courts May Hear Mohammed Case
»UK: Cameron Booed by Next Gen Leftists
»UK: Company Boss Compares British Troops to Child Molesters in Rant at Job Agency
»UK: Delegation in London Bid to Ban EDL Rally
»UK: Jake the Hero: Judge Praises Rottweiler Who Stopped Illegal Immigrant From Raping Woman in Park
North Africa
»Egypt: Opposition, Institute Parliamentary System
»Libya: Favourable Visa Treatment for Italy, Koussa to Frattini
»Libya Plays Oil Card in Swiss Dispute
»Libya: ‘Terminally Ill’ Lockerbie Bomber Could Live for Another Five Years
»Morocco: Meeting on Jewish Migration From 16th Century
»Muslim Leader Condemns Violence Against Christians in Egypt
Israel and the Palestinians
»Barry Rubin: Explaining the U.S.-Israel Crisis
»Cast Lead: Hamas Used Kids as Human Shields, Israel
»Day of Rage: High Alert in Jerusalem, Incidents
»Hamas Used Children as Human Shields, Says Report
»Stakelbeck: Interview With Israeli Minister Yuli Edelstein
Middle East
»Dallas-Based Wilson Associates to Design Interiors for 19 Hotels in Makkah, Saudi Arabia
»Dubai: Industrial, Commercial Properties to be Freehold
»Lebanon: One Vehicle Per 3 Citizens and Cars Outdated
»Losing Faith in the Messiah
»Turkey: Per Capita Spending on Medicine $140, Survey
»Turkey: Ban on Travelling Abroad for Artificial Insemination
»Why Iran Smiles on Jerusalem Clashes
South Asia
»Indonesia: Aceh, Islamic Terrorist Killed in Police Raid
Far East
»Critical History of Vietnam — And Beyond
»Intel Briefs: China Could Program U.S. Collapse
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Divide Nigeria in Two, Says Muammar Gaddafi
»Somali Pirates Free Chemical Tanker and N Korea Crew
»Terrorism Conference of Sahel-Sahara Countries in Algiers
Latin America
»Venezuela’s Chavez Calls for Internet Controls
»Ireland: Muslim Resident Speaks Out on Behalf of Immigrants
»Lord Pearson: Let US Debate the Real Issues in the Election Campaign
»Mexico Drug War: A Cancer Spreading to U.S.
»Stop Evicting Illegal Families, Holland Told
»Turkey Presses for Visa Exemption in First Talks With Füle

Financial Crisis

A Constitutional Dollar

Are you aware that a Federal Reserve dollar bill is not a constitutional dollar? Perhaps you are, but if so, do you know what a constitutional dollar literally is? Is it gold? Is it silver? Is it both? What is actually meant by a metal standard? Can the United States or any country be on two standards at the same time? Can two metals circulate as coin if there is but one standard? Or does one metal have to drive the other out of circulation? How and why does Gresham’s law work when a country uses metal coin for money? In what ways are certain statements of Gresham’s law misleading?

Sooner or later, if and when the power of the Federal Reserve over money is revoked in a constitutional manner, and if and when constitutional coin comes back into use, these questions will need to be asked, answered, and understood. That is what this article does in a compact fashion.

In his meticulously researched two-volume work, Pieces of Eight, constitutional lawyer Edwin Vieira Jr. shows beyond any doubt that the constitutional dollar in the United States is an “historically determinate, fixed weight of fine silver.” The Coinage Act of 1792 is but one source among many that makes this evident, reading,

“the money of account of the United States shall be expressed in dollars or units … of the value [mass or weight] of a Spanish milled dollar as the same is now current, and to contain three hundred and seventy-one grains and four sixteenth parts of a grain of pure … silver.

The United States has a legal and constitutional silver standard, although we would not know it today, since the government has illegally and unconstitutionally removed silver as currency and replaced it with the Federal Reserve notes that we know as dollar bills. The term “dollar bills” obscures the actual and tangible meaning of “dollar” as a specific weight of silver.

The United States has historically minted gold coins as well as silver coins, as the constitution instructed. It regulated their “value,” the weight of gold they contained, in order to bring the meaning of a gold dollar into conformity with the silver standard coin, which contains 371.25 grains of pure silver. This too was constitutionally mandated. The government did the same for foreign coins up until 1857.

The United States never was or could be constitutionally on a dual standard or a gold standard. It circulated silver and gold coins as media of exchange by adjusting the content of the gold dollar to a silver-standard dollar. For example, the Coinage Act of 1792 authorizes “Eagles — each to be of the value of ten dollars or units [i.e., of ten silver dollars], and to contain two hundred and forty-seven grains, and four eighths of a grain of pure … gold.” Since the dollar contained 371.25 grains of silver, this brought into legal equivalence 3712.5 grains of silver and 247.5 grains of gold. The ratio was 1:15.

In the Coinage Act of 1834, Congress adjusted the gold eagle: “Each eagle shall contain two-hundred and thirty-two grains of pure gold.” This brought into legal equivalence 3712.5 grains of silver and 232 grains of gold. The ratio was 1:16. The reason for the change was that gold had appreciated in market value relative to silver.

Old coins could be brought in and reminted for free (after waiting 40 days.) If old coins were not reminted, they were to be accepted as payments “at the rate of ninety-four and eight-tenths of a cent per pennyweight.” The weights of the earlier and later eagles were influenced by a change in the standard gold alloy. The rate of 94.8 cents per pennyweight took that change as well as the alteration in the pure gold content into account, so that payments made in either the old or the new coins became very nearly equivalent in terms of the amounts of pure gold being paid.

With this as an introduction, let us go on to an explanation of Gresham’s law and the reason why Congress was constitutionally mandated to make such adjustments in the weight of gold in the gold-dollar coin.

[Return to headlines]

China — United States: Wen Jiabao Rebuffs US on Yuan

China’s premier rejects US criticism on yuan revaluation during the press conference that marks the end of the annual National People’s Congress. Meanwhile, inflation and crisis continue to affect the mainland.

Beijing (AsiaNews) — China’s Premier Wen Jiabao said his country would keep the yuan “basically stable” despite US pressures for revaluation. “I don’t think the renminbi is undervalued,” he said at a press conference at the end of the National People’s Congress (NPC). “We oppose countries pointing fingers at each other and even forcing a country to appreciate its currency,” he added.

The premier’s remarks reiterated China’s position on the yuan. Beijing will keep the current exchange rate, a slap in the face of the United States, which has sought to have the yuan revalued. Last week, Washington had implicitly blamed China for the persisting global financial crisis in order to favour its exports.

For some analysts, China’s national interest and the US resolve to manage its crisis are shaping the yuan debate. There are some suggestions that Beijing is considering whether to revalue the yuan or not by 10 per cent. According to some estimates, China’s foreign reserves now stand at US$ 3 trillion. Appreciating the yuan by 10 per cent would represent a nominal loss of US$ 300 billion. However, if demands by US economists were heeded, and the yuan was revalued by 40 per cent, those same reserves would be cut by US$ 1.2 trillion.

For China, revaluing its currency would negatively affect overall exports and employment levels in export-oriented industries. According to Chinese government figures, a 1 per cent increase in the value of the yuan would cut exports as well as jobs by 1 per cent. For this reason, the Zhongnanhai (China’s government compound) said it cannot do more.

“This is a sign that there will be no one-off revaluation in coming months,” said Lu Ting, an economist at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch in Hong Kong. “China’s top policy makers do have their own currency reform plans but coercion from other countries will do disservice to this cause.”

Moreover, Chinese leaders are afraid that a stronger yuan will mean more than a lost in the value of China’s reserves in US dollars, that it will lead to higher inflation, a problem they have had to cope with over the past two years.

In his opening speech to the NPC, Wen said that China’s GDP had to grow by 8 per cent this year whilst holding inflation at 3 per cent. Traditionally, 8 per cent is the benchmark used to forecast stability in the job market and maintain social stability. Since fourth quarter growth in 2009 stood at 10.7 percent, the 8 per cent goal in 2010 seems to be within China’s reach.

However, last year’s growth was largely spurred by a 4 trillion yuan stimulus package, which in turn triggered speculation in real estate, and stocked inflation. In China’s top 90 cities, the consumer price index rose 9.5 last year. If, on the long run, nothing changes, social unrest could follow, and revive the authorities’ worst fears.

At the end of his conference, Wen was put on the defensive when a foreign reporter asked him about US-based Google’s threat to pull the plug on its Chinese operation over Chinese censorship and the detention of Rio Tinto five executives.

“China will unswervingly pursue the policy of opening up to the outside world,” Wen said. “Foreign businesses are welcome to come to China to set up businesses according to the law.”

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

Euro Zone Needs to ‘Rethink’ IMF Role

Tremonti says area gets less than it puts in

(ANSA) — Brussels, March 16 — The euro zone needs to ‘rethink’ its position and role in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) given that it is giving to it more than it is receiving, Italian Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti said on Tuesday.

“Does it seem normal that while the area has a common problem, Greece, we are all split up within the IMF? And while the bloc is one of the leading shareholders in the IMF, we can’t use its resources?” Tremonti asked on the sidelines of a meeting of EU economy and finance (ECOFIN) ministers.

“Something is not right, there is too great a difference between what we put in and what we get out. Perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea for us to just hold on to some of the contributions we give to the IMF,” he added.

Tremonti was referring to the funds European central banks give the IMF and the so-called special drawing rights.

“Whatever Europe decides will be fine with us, in the hope it will be the right choice,” Tremonti said.

In response to Greece’s financial problems, Germany last week suggested the euro zone create its own European Monetary Fund (EMF) with powers similar to tose of the IMF in order to help out members in the future.

Tremonti at the time recalled how a similar proposal, for a bailout fund for the banking sector, was rejected by the EU in October 2008 and said “perhaps the time has come to reconsider the idea”.

The EMF idea won the support of the European Commission but observers noted that such a plan would have significant legal and political hurdles and entail the approval of a new treaty. The 16-nation euro zone is made up of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

During the ECOFIN meeting, Tremonti said that in regard to a possible bailout plan for Greece, Italy “wants a full understanding of all the options and in order to choose the best one. Our preference is for the most European and coordinated solution possible”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iceland, The Mouse That Roared

I thought I heard something the other night. It was a distant sound, a low rumbling, a roar from some far off beast that had finally pronounced its presence. It woke me for a second, but it was so distant I felt no threat and simply rolled over and went back to sleep. The next morning I learned that Iceland was taking a stand. It was refusing to pay its British and Dutch debts. It is claiming the debts are a result of fraud, and it’s right. They have made the offer to pay some years from now, if they can afford it at that time, and only as a percentage of their GDP. This offer has been, of course, declined by Iceland’s creditor banks as they demand payment in the form of real assets.

The Icelanders have grown a pair, so to speak. They are doing something I wish Americans would have done, or will do in the future. They are standing up to the privately owned banks that seem to think they are above the law, that they can change the rules at their whim, and that they alone know what’s best for the world, which of course happens to empower them and help their profits. I may not agree with all the politics of Iceland. It might not be the bastion of freedom one looking to get away from intrusive government might run to, but I do admire their stance against the banksters.

Let’s examine the situation a little closer. The Icelanders claim that private banks owe the money to other private banks, not taxpayers. The people who own the private banks should be responsible for paying back the creditor banks, not the people of Iceland. I agree wholeheartedly with that assessment. Furthermore, I would take it a step further and make the assertion that any government official voting for any public borrowing that requires payment of public funds for interest be held responsible, or their family be held responsible, should the loans go into default. In other words, these public officials should not be allowed to maintain their fortunes while the common folk are expected to pay for the mistakes they made. Perhaps that would help stop the corruption.

It seems that Iceland was fooled into the same ponzi scheme the rest of the world finds itself in. This all revolves around the fact that money in and of itself has no intrinsic value. It is just paper, for the most part, and in the modern world it is just data floating around in cyberspace. Even metal coins are made from cheap and common metals anymore. The fiat system devised by the central banks are designed to collapse at some point, and it’s designed to collapse in such a way that the very few, very rich, very powerful end up with all the marbles. It’s not enough to them, it seems, to be at the top of the heap, they have to be so high up and keep the common folk down so low as to be untouchable.

[Return to headlines]

The Next Big Bailout is on the Way. Prepare to Get Reamed!

Housing is on the rocks and prices are headed lower. That’s not the consensus view, but it’s a reasonably safe assumption. Master illusionist Ben Bernanke managed to engineer a modest 7-month uptick in sales, but the fairydust will wear off later this month when the Fed stops purchasing mortgage-backed securities and long-term interest rates begin to creep higher. The objective of Bernanke’s $1.25 trillion program, which is called quantitative easing, was to transfer the banks “unsellable” MBS onto the Fed’s balance sheet. Having achieved that goal, Bernanke will now have to unload those same toxic assets onto Freddie and Fannie. (as soon as the public is no longer paying attention)

Bernanke’s cash giveaway has helped to buoy stock prices and stabilize housing, but market fundamentals are still weak. There’s just too much inventory and too few buyers. Now that the Fed is withdrawing its support, matters will only get worse.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped the folks at Bloomberg from cheerleading the nascent housing turnaround. Here’s a clip from Monday’s column:

“The U.S. housing market is poised to withstand the removal of government and Federal Reserve stimulus programs and rebound later in the year, contributing to annual economic growth for the first time since 2006. Increases in jobs, credit and affordable homes will help offset the end of the Fed’s purchases of mortgage-backed securities this month and the expiration of a federal homebuyer tax credit in April. Sales will rise about 6 percent this year, and housing will account for 0.25 percentage point of the 3.6 percent growth, according to forecasts by Dean Maki, chief U.S. economist for Barclays Capital in New York…”The underlying trend is turning positive,” said Bruce Kasman, chief economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York.”

Just for the record; there has been no “increases in jobs”. It’s baloney. Unemployment is flat at 9.7 percent with underemployment checking-in at 16.8 percent. There’s no chance of housing rebound until payrolls increase. Jobless people don’t buy houses.

According to the Times the banks hold $400 billion in second lien mortgages. But —as Mike Konczal points out—the stress tests projected maximum losses at just “$68 billion. In other words, Geithner rigged the tests so the banks would pass. Now the banks want it both ways: They want people to think that they are solvent enough to pass a basic stress test, but they want to be given another huge chunk of public money to cover their second liens. They want it all, and Geithner’s trying to give it to them.

And don’t believe the gibberish from Treasury that “they have no plan for mortgage principal reductions”. According to the Times:

“Treasury continues to tell investors that any day now they will be out with a final program and they will be signed up”….”The party line continues to be they are a week away, two weeks away,” the hedge fund source said. “

So, it’s not a question of “if” there will be another bank bailout, but “how big” that bailout will be. The banks clearly expect the taxpayer to foot the entire bill regardless of who was responsible for the losses.

So, let’s summarize:

1—Bank bailout #1—$700 billion TARP which allowed the banks to continue operations after the repo and secondary markets froze-over from the putrid loans the banks were peddling.

2—Bank bailout #2—$1.25 trillion Quantitative Easing program which transferred banks toxic assets onto Fed’s balance sheet (soon to be dumped on Fannie and Freddie) while rewarding the perpetrators of the biggest financial crackup in history.

3—Bank bailout #3—$1 trillion to cover all mortgage cramdowns, second liens, as well as any future liabilities including gym fees, energy drinks, double-tall nonfat mocha’s, parking meters etc. ad infinitum.

And as far as the banks taking “haircuts”? Forget about it! Banks don’t take “haircuts”. It looks bad on their quarterly reports and cuts into their bonuses. Taxpayers take haircuts, not banksters. Besides, that’s what Geithner gets paid for—to make sure bigshot tycoons don’t have to pay for their mistakes or bother with the niggling details of fleecing the little people.

The next big bailout is on the way. Prepare to get reamed!

[Return to headlines]


5th State Exempts Guns. Is Washington Noticing?

‘I think they’re going to let it ride, hoping some judge throws out case’

A fifth state — South Dakota — has decided that guns made, sold and used within its borders no longer are subject to the whims of the federal government through its rule-making arm in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and two supporters of the growing groundswell say they hope Washington soon will be taking note.

South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds has signed into law his state’s version of a Firearms Freedom Act that first was launched in Montana. It already is law there, in Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming, which took the unusual step of specifying criminal penalties — including both fines and jail time — for federal agents attempting to enforce a federal law on a “personal firearm” in the Cowboy State.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

America: Break the Silence on Islam

by Amil Imani

The American people must hear the truth about Islam continually until they are completely aware of its dangers.. Sadly, our Churches dare not speak up for fear of being accused of intolerance toward another religion. Our academia, the university professors, left or right, dare not, because, most likely, they would lose their salaries. Our politicians dare not because they are master practitioners of euphemism, hedging, doubletalk, and outright deception, and they need your votes as well as your money. Our editors dare not because they would lose subscribers. Businessmen dare not because they might lose customers and clientele. Even ordinary clerks dare not because they might be discharged. So I thought I would tell you.

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani[Return to headlines]

FCC Unveiling Sweeping National Broadband Plan

WASHINGTON (AP) — More corners of the country would have high-speed Internet access and existing connections would become much faster under a sweeping proposal to overhaul U.S. broadband policy that is being unveiled Tuesday.

The plan from the Federal Communications Commission is meant to guide the government’s strategy on broadband for the next decade and beyond. It reflects the Obama administration’s concern that the nation that invented the Internet is in danger of falling behind the development of online applications in other countries that have faster broadband speeds at lower prices.

Yet it’s not certain the FCC can find the corporate support and legal clearance to carry out the entire plan.

Already, broadcasters oppose one key proposal, which calls for reclaiming some airwaves from TV stations and auctioning those frequencies to companies that deliver wireless Internet access. The FCC also wants to rewrite complicated telecommunications rules in order to pay for broadband using a federal program that now mainly subsidizes telephone service in poor and rural areas. Congress and federal regulators already have been trying to modernize that program for years.

Funding could be a question as well. The FCC does not estimate the total cost of the plan. It insists that its proposals could be paid for by auctioning off slices of the airwaves. But the agency will have to persuade Congress that as much as $20 billion from the airwave auctions be set aside for broadband plans and not get routed to other purposes.

That would come on top of the $7.2 billion for broadband included in the 2009 stimulus bill. The Commerce and Agriculture departments are handing out that money now.

Last year’s stimulus bill also required the FCC to come up with the broadband plan, which is being delivered to Congress on Tuesday. The plan argues that high-speed Internet access is no longer just a luxury but is critical for economic development, education, health care and other aspects of daily life.

“Broadband is an infrastructure challenge that’s very akin to what we’ve faced in the past with telephones and electricity,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in an interview. Genachowski has made the broadband plan his top priority, and his legacy at the commission will be linked to the plan’s success or failure.

The proposal sets a goal of connecting 100 million U.S. households to broadband connections of 100 megabits per second — at least 20 times faster than most home connections now — by 2020. Although existing connections are often fast enough to let people watch TV shows or movies on computers, faster connections would open new kinds of services, such as fast-loading, high-definition videos ideal for viewing on big-screen TVs. The FCC also says faster broadband would enable doctors to monitor patients over the Internet and broaden the opportunities for students to take classes online.

The plan also calls for every American community to have at least one “anchor” institution, such as a school, library or hospital, that has ultra-high-speed Internet access. The FCC defines that as at least a gigabit per second, 10 times faster than the 100 megabits per second envisioned for home connections.

In addition, the plan is designed to encourage more people to subscribe to broadband…

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

Government of the Lie

People caught up with evil are, first and foremost, liars, concluded celebrated psychiatrist M. Scott Peck in his book “People of the Lie,” “deceiving others as they also build layer upon layer of self-deception.”

Today, Americans trying to make sense of the unprecedented madness unfolding in Washington, D.C., are becoming increasingly aware that what they’re looking at, in essence, is “Government of the Lie.”

I illustrated this graphically in a recent viral column on Obamacare called “Barack Obama and the date-rape of America.”

The current administration — with Obama leading the most radically left-wing, and yes I’m not afraid to say it, Marxist, governing coalition (along with Congress) in American history — specializes in the most dangerous and transformative lie of all, the “Big Lie.”

Everyone, of course, loves to throw around the term “Big Lie” these days — regularly accusing their opponents of engaging in the practice — without having any idea what a “Big Lie” really is.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Hoaxes: Instead of Having His Nobel Prize Rescinded for Espousing Climate Fraud, The Prophet of Doom is Set to Receive an Honorary Doctorate of Laws and Humane Letters From the University of Tennessee for His Work.

‘Vice President Gore’s career has been marked by visionary leadership, and his work has quite literally changed our planet for the better,” UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek said in a prepared statement.

We are not making this up, though we will not dispute Gore’s having had visions.

He has warned us of sea levels rising so high and so fast that we should see boats moored on the top of the Washington Monument. Polar bears would drown en masse for lack of ice at the same time snow measured in feet blanketed large parts of the country.

We used to call it weather. He called it climate change and made a fortune doing so.

Revelations that the Fourth Assessment Report produced by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was based on anecdotes, student dissertations and non-peer-reviewed articles in foreign magazines have not dissuaded him.

Everybody makes mistakes, Gore says. And channeling Dan Rather’s explanation of his bogus claims about President Bush’s National Guard service, he says the evidence may be forged but the story is still true.

Confronted with the inconvenient truths such as CRU director Phil Jones admitting there has been no warming trend for at least the last 15 years, Gore monotones: “What is important is that the overwhelming consensus on global warming remains unchanged.” He doesn’t need no stinking facts.

Well, the seas are not about to swallow us anytime soon, the Himalayan glaciers will not vanish before dinnertime, and the only thing the polar bears have to worry about is overpopulation. We have documented his falsehoods and those of the IPCC and the researchers at Britain’s Climatic Research Unit. We have also pointed the money they have made off their climate scams.

According to the Guardian, a British newspaper, Gore has investments in one company that has received more than half a billion dollars in subsidies from the Department of Energy. Financial disclosure documents released before the 2000 election put the Gore family’s net worth at $1 million to $2 million.

A mere nine years later, estimates are that he is now worth about $100 million. He could become the world’s first carbon billionaire.

Gore has not changed the planet for the better. He has pushed policies that have stunted economic growth and increased joblessness, poverty and hunger around the world. He’s a climate charlatan, the Elmer Gantry of global warming, and it matters not if his latest undeserved award is printed on recycled paper.

[Return to headlines]

House May Try to Pass Senate Health-Care Bill Without Voting on it

After laying the groundwork for a decisive vote this week on the Senate’s health-care bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested Monday that she might attempt to pass the measure without having members vote on it.

Instead, Pelosi (D-Calif.) would rely on a procedural sleight of hand: The House would vote on a more popular package of fixes to the Senate bill; under the House rule for that vote, passage would signify that lawmakers “deem” the health-care bill to be passed.

The tactic — known as a “self-executing rule” or a “deem and pass” — has been commonly used, although never to pass legislation as momentous as the $875 billion health-care bill. It is one of three options that Pelosi said she is considering for a late-week House vote, but she added that she prefers it because it would politically protect lawmakers who are reluctant to publicly support the measure.

“It’s more insider and process-oriented than most people want to know,” the speaker said in a roundtable discussion with bloggers Monday. “But I like it,” she said, “because people don’t have to vote on the Senate bill.”

Republicans quickly condemned the strategy, framing it as an effort to avoid responsibility for passing the legislation, and some suggested that Pelosi’s plan would be unconstitutional.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

In Bizarre, Soviet-Style Move, White House Threatens to Veto Intelligence Budget Unless FBI’s Anthrax Frame Up is Accepted

In a bizarre, Soviet-style move, the White House has threatened to veto the intelligence budget unless everyone accepts the FBI frame up of Dr. Bruce Ivins.

As Bloomberg writes:

President Barack Obama probably would veto legislation authorizing the next budget for U.S. intelligence agencies if it calls for a new investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks, an administration official said.

A proposed probe by the intelligence agencies’ inspector general “would undermine public confidence” in an FBI probe of the attacks “and unfairly cast doubt on its conclusions,” Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence committees.

Given that an FBI investigation into a specific crime has nothing to do with the budget or any of OMB’s other core responsibilities, it seems that Orszag simply drew the short straw for this little assignment.

As I wrote Thursday:

The FBI says that the anthrax case is closed, and that they have proved that Dr. Bruce Ivins did it.

But Congress is not convinced.

On March 3, 2010, Representative Holt called for a new investigation:

Last week, [Congressman Holt] succeeded in including language in the 2010 Intelligence Authorization Bill that would require the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community to examine the possibility of a foreign connection to the 2001 anthrax attacks.

“The American people need credible answers to all of these and many other questions. Only a comprehensive investigation—either by the Congress, or through the independent commission I’ve proposed in the Anthrax Attacks Investigation Act (H.R. 1248)—can give us those answers,” Holt said in a letter to the Chairmen of the House Committees on Homeland Security, Judiciary, Intelligence, and Oversight and Government Reform.

[Return to headlines]

Not Again! Meet Obama’s New Controversial Pastor

Champion of communism, socialism called U.S. ‘destroyer of human life’

Rev. Jim Wallis, a member of President Obama’s “faith council” who is described as a spiritual adviser to the president, is a socialist activist who has championed communist causes and previously labeled the U.S. “the great captor and destroyer of human life.”

Wallis was in the news last week urging Christians to stop watching Fox News host Glenn Beck’s program for Beck’s remarks against churches that preach “social justice.”

The Associated Baptist Press described Wallis as a “politically progressive evangelical and longtime advocate for the poor.” The Huffington Post identified Wallis as a “Christian author and social justice advocate.”

Wallis, however, is a long time socialist advocate and founder of a far-left magazine, Sojourners, that has championed communist causes.


In his 1976 book, “Agenda for Biblical People,” Wallis called the U.S. “the great power, the great seducer, the great captor and destroyer of human life, the great master of humanity and history in its totalitarian claims and designs.”

Wallis continues to openly support socialism. Along with socialist activist West, Wallis in 1995 founded Call to Renewal, a coalition of religious groups demanding the spread of U.S. wealth to promote “social justice.”

As a guest on MSNBC last week, Wallis stated “social justice” is at the heart of the Bible.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama’s “Oracle of Delphi”

Resisting The Delphi Technique = Resisting Brainwashing and Group Think

Who says you can’t learn something from your older sister? My eclectically brilliant, older sister often sends thought provoking gems of brain food. The latest was an article describing “The Delphi Technique.” What is it?

The Delphi Technique was originally a management technique, a format for facilitating discussions from experts in far flung locations when physical meetings are not feasible. I was familiar with this technique and experienced a legitimately applied variation of this format in various settings within my military career.

Today, with certain modification, this technique has been adapted for use by community activists, mass organizers, rabble rousers, or unscrupulous politicians. Knowledge and manipulation of group dynamics to attain political goals is a favorite application of The Delphi Technique As the article points out, this method is very adaptable for crowd and assembly management.So how does it work?

Perhaps the Health Care Town Hall Meetings offers a case study. The Town Halls are/were ostensibly offered to solicit input from voters regarding the sweeping proposals for “reform” of Health Care. Yet this is hardly what we have seen or experienced. Organizers of these events knew, going in, that there was a lot of resistance to these society transforming proposals. I believe that the Health Care Proponents intended to use this modified Delphi Technique to push all resistance to these changes aside as illegitimate obstructionism. Here’s an excerpt from the article that describes the basic process:

“The change agent or facilitator goes through the motions of acting as an organizer, getting each person in the target group to elicit expression of their concerns about a program, project, or policy in question. The facilitator listens attentively, forms “task forces,” “urges everyone to make lists,” and so on. While s/he is doing this, the facilitator learns something about each member of the target group. S/He identifies the “leaders,” the “loud mouths,” as well as those who frequently turn sides during the argument — the “weak or noncommittal”.

Suddenly, the amiable facilitator becomes “devil’s advocate.” S/He dons his professional agitator hat. Using the “divide and conquer” technique, s/he manipulates one group opinion against the other. This is accomplished by manipulating those who are out of step to appear “ridiculous, unknowledgeable, inarticulate, or dogmatic.” S/He wants certain members of the group to become angry, thereby forcing tensions to accelerate. The facilitator is well trained in psychological manipulation. S/He is able to predict the reactions of each group member. Individuals in opposition to the policy or program will be shut out of the group.

The method works. It is very effective with parents, teachers, school children, and any community group. The “targets” rarely, if ever, know that they are being manipulated. Or, if they suspect this is happening, do not know how to end the process.

Does anyone smell a rat here? Have any of you experienced something akin to this?

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Obama Sides With RIAA, MPAA; Backs ACTA

And thus, our true colours reveal. Since Obama was the young newcomer, technically savvy, many of us were hoping that he might support patent and/or copyright reform. In case our story earlier on this subject didn’t already tip you off, this certainly will: Obama has sided squarely with the RIAA/MPAA lobby, and backs ACTA. No copyright and/or patent reform for you, American citizens!

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The Big Wind-Power Cover-Up

Spain exposed the boondoggle of wind power in 2009, discrediting an idea touted by the Obama administration. In response, U.S. officials banded with trade lobbyists to hide the facts. It was a cold day at the Energy Department when researchers at King Juan Carlos University in Spain released a study showing that every “green job” created by the wind industry killed off 4.27 other jobs elsewhere in the Spanish economy.

Research director Gabriel Calzada Alvarez didn’t object to wind power itself, but found that when a government artificially props up this industry with subsidies, higher electrical costs (31%), tax hikes (5%) and government debt follow. Fact is, these subsidies have the same “Cuisinart” effect on jobs as wind-generating propeller blades have on birds. Every green job costs $800,000 to create and 90% of them are temporary, he found.

Alvarez made no bones about the lessons of Spain for the Obama administration, which has big plans for “green jobs.” His report warned of “considerable employment consequences” from “self-inflicted economic wounds.” It forecast that the U.S. could lose 6.6 million jobs if it followed Spain, and it “should certainly expect its results to follow such a tendency.”

A few months later, Danish researchers at the Center for Politiske Studier came to the same conclusion about subsidized wind power from their own country’s experience.

“It is fair to assess that no wind energy to speak of would exist if it had to compete on market terms,” their report said.

Straightforward experience, facts and the logical conclusions about policy failure in Europe should be de rigueur in science, and the reports coming from nations with long experience in wind power ought to be taken seriously.

But they had no place in the Obama administration, which had declared a “green jobs” agenda with $2.3 billion in tax credits to create 17,000 “high-quality green jobs.”

“Building a robust clean energy sector is how we will create the jobs of the future,” said President Obama.

So at the release of the reports — as well as publication of a critical column by the Washington Post’s George Will — bureaucrats at the Energy Department went into defensive mode. Instead of doing like John Maynard Keynes (who changed his conclusions when the facts changed), they “huddled” with left-wing activists and trade lobbyists to hide the facts and smear the truth-tellers from Europe. They cooked up their own “memo” to discredit the foreign academics, effectively making the Energy Department a taxpayer-subsidized arm of green activists.

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The Jihadists Next Door

Security: The arrests of three new homegrown terrorists, including two “Jihad Janes” and an al-Qaida suspect who infiltrated nuclear plants, confirm a rise in homegrown jihadist activity.

Sharif Mobley is one of the latest jihadists next door. Before he was rounded up in a sweep of suspected al-Qaida terrorists in Yemen, Mobley worked at five nuclear plants in New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania. He shot two guards, killing one, before his capture.

Mobley grew up in New Jersey before converting to Islam. His militancy shocked an old high school friend, who ran into him after returning from an Army tour in Iraq. Mobley told him: “Get the hell away from me, you Muslim killer!”

Then there’s Colleen LaRose, aka Jihad Jane, who was arrested in Philadelphia for allegedly plotting to kill a Swedish cartoonist who’d “offended” Muslims. Jamie Paulin-Ramirez of Denver was also arrested in connection with the assassination plot.

All three suspects are U.S. citizens from different parts of the country. One is black, one white and one formerly married to a Hispanic immigrant. Two, shockingly, are women. While each suspect has a different background, all three are Muslim converts radicalized over the Internet — a dangerous trend.

American converts are al-Qaida’s prime recruits right now, because they have a better chance of slipping through security checkpoints.

Many such as Mobley are flocking to Yemen, where another American turncoat, Anwar Awlaki, recruits Westerners via the Web. Awlaki allegedly recruited the crotch bomber from London, then trained him for his suicide mission in Yemen. He also advised the Fort Hood terrorist online.

LaRose is said to have recruited others online to kill the cartoonist. Her accomplice Paulin-Ramirez married an Algerian whom she met online. A straight-A nursing student, the 31-year-old mother of one spent much of her time surfing jihadist Web sites. Both women said they’d be willing to blow themselves up for Islam.

While the essential ingredient in these cases is militant Islam, we have to wonder if the left isn’t making otherwise normal Americans vulnerable to such treasonous seductions. After all, the hate-America lobby — led by the American Civil Liberties Union and often cheered by the media — has comforted even the most guilty in the war on terror, including the 9/11 mastermind and other Gitmo detainees.

Take Omar Hammami. A smart American college kid who grew up Baptist in the Alabama suburbs, he’s now an al-Qaida field commander in Somalia wanted by the FBI.

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UN Urges Canada to Take Action Against Discrimination

Montreal is one of several cities where ethnic Canadians are facing rampant discrimination in policing, education and labour, says a wide-ranging report issued by the United Nations.

The document follows a visit to Montreal and other Canadian cities by Gay McDougall, the UN’s Independent Expert on minority issues.

Among the communities she visited last October was Montreal North, which was still tense more than a year after the police shooting death of teenager Fredy Villanueva that triggered widespread riots.

She said many people expressed concerns about Quebec’s system of police investigating each other when civilians are hurt or killed during police operations.

“Montreal North residents claim that investigations of police misconduct have not been independent,” she wrote.

Community members told the UN envoy that they want an independent civilian body to probe any allegations of police misconduct. McDougall agreed.

“It is essential…that mechanisms of civilian oversight are strengthened where they exist or established where they do not.”


McDougall’s report also raised concerns about racial profiling, echoing observations in a report issued earlier this week by the Quebec Human Rights Commission.

The UN report heard from people who described racial profiling as systemic.


Montreal police had a chance to defend their practices during a meeting with the envoy.

Her report said police provided information on their zero-tolerance policy towards racial profiling.

“They pointed to specialist expert committees established with advisory roles, including on racial profiling and with respect to specific communities,” said the report.

“They rejected claims of excessive force and impunity.”

A civilian police ethics commissioner and outside police forces oversee officer conduct across the province.

But McDougall wrote that “police representatives acknowledged that the process currently fails to have the confidence of the community,” adding that government officials are trying to improve the system.


McDougall also visited Toronto and Vancouver, where she noted similar concerns by ethnic communities. She issued a number of recommendations:

  • Cracking down on racial profiling in all areas of society:
  • Ensuring that ethnic groups have access to jobs while penalizing employers that practice racial discrimination:
  • Making sure that provinces enforce existing employment equity laws:
  • Ensuring that governments recruit, retain and promote minorities to senior posts:
  • Gathering more detailed demographic data on Canadians to get a better picture of ethnic communities:
  • Increasing political participation of minorities
  • Ensuring that anti-terrorism measures don’t violate human rights
  • Granting better access to legal aid and human rights agencies.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Catholic Priest Abuse Claims Ireland

While Ireland struggles with child abuse by Catholic priests and nuns, the question is: how could this continue for so long?

By Hieke Jippes

Father James McNamee was a very popular priest. A charismatic man around whom children swarmed like bees round honey. But he loved to bathe naked with the boys of Stella Maris football club and, later, in his private swimming pool, with a select group of altar boys. All the children in the poor Crumlin Road area of Dublin knew they should avoid him, but the church turned a blind eye.

Father Edmondus, a priest at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, systematically abused girl patients between the ages of 8 and 11 until in 1960 he sent photos of girls’ genitalia to be developed in England. The photolab alerted the church. Father Edmondus told his bishop that coming from a family of all boys he had been curious about girls and that the photos had not led to “me suffering a physical disturbance in myself”. The bishop accepted his explanation. Father Edmondus continued abusing young girls for another thirty years with the church’s knowledge. The church judged it “a bit harsh” to remove him from several posts.

There are thousands of such examples in three thick reports about child abuse by priests and nuns dating back to the 1950s and continuing until at least 2004.

Church and state entangled

Ireland is the most Roman Catholic country in north-western Europe. The church has its tentacles in all aspects of political and social life. But now the Irish people are disgusted with the church and what has been done in its name. It’s not so much the cruelty of the nuns running children’s homes or the abuse of young boys by priests. It’s more that the church knew of this “tsunami of abuse” and did nothing other than protect its own reputation and power.

Canon law has stated since the middle ages that interfering with a minor sexually is a mortal sin, but for decennia the church has been ignoring its own laws and doing its utmost to shut out Irish criminal law. The archbishop of Dublin defended the church’s position by saying that since the late 1990s it had been on a “steep learning curve”. But the recent Murphy commission points to the fact that as far back as 1987 the church took out an insurance policy to cover any claims from abuse victims. The church hierarchy is therefore “in denial, arrogant, secretive, incompetent, ignorant, power hungry and underhand”.

From cradle to grave

Why is the Catholic church so much more powerful in Ireland than in, say, the Netherlands? Before it joined the European Union, Ireland was isolated from the rest of western Europe with most of the population living in poverty. In addition, Ireland was under protestant British rule until 1923 with the Church offering safe haven for centuries, providing education, care for the elderly and sick, and offering a better life after death.

Just as in the Dutch provinces Brabant and Limburg, every family, where possible, sent one son to the seminary for an education. It was an honour for the family and meant one mouth less to feed. It was either that or emigrate to America.

Until Ireland joined the European Union and the economy boomed, the Catholic church remained a closed institution. The lack of accountability and the Church’s interwovenness with politics led to disastrous results. “It was precisely because of the church’s status,” says the Murphy commission report, “that the state dare not take action.”

Church attendance had already begun to drop in Ireland before 1992, the year the first abused altar boys found the courage to talk to the media. The result of the commotion around the abuse claims and the way in which the church protected its priests is not yet clear.

Four bishops have already left. A fifth states “personally I have done nothing wrong” and remains in position for the time being. The church’s present policy is to call in the police the moment there is suspicion of abuse. In some cases, compensation has been paid, partly from the insurance policy of 1987, partly by the abusers themselves. This week Pope Benedict will react to the abuse in a letter to the Irish Catholic population. It will act as guidance for how the scandal will be treated elsewhere.

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

Defamation Case Over Prophet Mohammed Cartoons ‘To be Held’ In Britain

A Saudi Arabian lawyer has threatened to use British courts to overturn a Danish free speech ruling by bringing a defamation case over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that depicted Islam’s founder as a terrorist.

Faisal Yamani, a Jeddah based lawyer, is planning to take a case to London’s libel courts on behalf of over 90,000 descendants of Muhammad who have claimed that the drawings have defamed them and the Islamic faith.

Cartoon caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad were published in Danish newspapers in 2006 triggering violent protests across the Muslim world and riots which claimed the lives of over 50 people.

According to Danish press reports, the case can be heard in the Britain because the images, including a caricature of Muhammad with a bomb shaped turban, have been freely accessible via the internet.

Danish politicians and publishers are furious that European Union rules reward “libel tourism” by enforcing British defamation rulings across Europe.

Ebbe Dal, managing director of Danske Dagblades Forening, the Danish national newspaper association, is concerned that Britain’s tough libel laws could be used to restrict free speech in liberal countries such as Denmark.

“The Danish courts have decided that the case is not actionable and that we are allowed to print the drawings in Danish newspapers and websites,” he said.

“It would be very odd if a civilised country like Britain could go against that. If this succeeded we would have to pay a lot of money to Saudi Arabians misusing the British courts to make it difficult for freedom of speech.”

Mr Yamani demanded last year that 11 Danish newspapers remove all cartoon images of Muhammad from their websites and issue front page apologies along with promises that the images would never be printed again.

Only one newspaper, Politiken, agreed to the demand leading to the new threat of an expensive British court action backed by wealthy Saudi Muslims.

Lars Barfoed, the Danish justice minister, has complained to the European Commission that EU rules forcing Denmark to enact British court rulings would damage freedom of expression.

“It’s fundamentally reasonable that judgments in the EU can often be exercised across borders. But it would be taking it to the extreme if a UK court could rule against the Danish media and then require compensation and court costs to be paid,” he said.

EU officials have acknowledged that libel judgements in the British courts have become a major issue since “Rome II” rules on mutual recognition of European court rulings entered into force last year.

“We are well aware that there is a problem with libel and defamation tourism involving Britain, where judges can be sympathetic and damages awards are high. There will be a review next year,” said an official.

A British Ministry of Justice working group on libel law is expected to publish a report calling for reform later this month.

“The government is concerned about any potential chilling effect that our libel laws are having on freedom of speech,” said a spokesman.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Students Given Crisis Help After Knife Attack.

Two young men were stabbed today at Herlev Gymnasium near Copenhagen in what police say may have been a dispute between different neighbourhoods.

The two injured young men, who were stabbed in front of fellow students, are not in danger of their lives, according to the police.

Crisis aid has been called to help those students who witnessed the attack at the entrance to the school.

“There are about five students who witnessed the attack in one way or another and we are getting psychologists for them,” Headmaster Jan Vistisen tells Ritzau.

The deputy headmaster became aware that something was amiss when he saw students congregating at the entrance and was able to quickly determine that two students had been stabbed.

According to the reports, the two had been discussing with others in an argument that ended with a knife being drawn.

The two students who were stabbed did not want to wait for an ambulance and were driven to nearby Herlev hospital by other students.

Police are looking for two men in connection with the attack. One is described as a foreign man with a shaved head wearing military style trousers. Police do not yet have a description of the other man.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Diana West: Dear Mayor of Monschau

Dear Mayor Margareta Ritter (,

I have had the pleasure of visiting your exquisitely beautiful German town, the second member of my family to do so. The first was my dad, who, as a member of the 102nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron in Gen. Bradley’s Army, had, with time out to recuperate from wounds incurred at the Battle of St Lo, fought across nothern Europe from D-Day plus 2 until reaching Monschau by the end of 1944.

I only bring this up because I read this morning that you have declared Geert Wilders, who recently weekended in your town, “not welcome” in Monschau. “People who, just like Mr Wilders, encumber the Dutch integration debate with right-wing populism and who want to ban the Qur’an, comparing it to Mein Kampf, are not welcome in Monschau,” you are quoted as having said.

I protest. First of all, it is not “right-wing populism” with which Wilders “encumbers” the integration debate. It is with facts about sharia (Islamic law), a totalitarian and supremacist legal and religious system. He takes these facts to the public arena, a place where fears of Islamic retribution have to date silenced this essential, civilizational conversation. Another fact he brings, however discomforting to multicultists such as you appear to be, is the similarity between Mein Kampf and the Koran. You may declare Wilders — and all of his thousands of Dutch supporters — persona non grata in Monschau; that won’t make sharia or those Koran-Kampf similarities go away.

But maybe you don’t care. Maybe you have now found a new totalitarianism to submit to. But I protest your decision to make Monschau off limits to Wilders, a defender of liberty against totalitarianism — the same liberty my dad was in and around Monschau to defend long ago against a similarly supremacist totalitarianism. I have a strong hunch he would say that, so long as you are in office, liberation wasn’t worth the effort.


Diana West, USA

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Dutch Companies Lobby: Wilders Dangerous

AMSTERDAM, 16/03/10 — Bernard Wientjes considers that Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders is “tremendously damaging” the Netherlands, says the chairman of employers organisation VNO-NCW in De Volkskrant newspaper.

Wientjes sees Wilders as a danger. “Yes, really. Not only for companies, but for the whole of the Netherlands. Because three-quarters of what we earn comes from abroad. That is where our prosperity and our good social provisions comes from.”

Nonetheless, VNO-NCW will do business with whatever cabinet emerges, even if the PVV is in it. “That is democracy. Lobbying is our business. But a cabinet with Wilders or the PVV, the Netherlands will not go along with this, will it?” says the captain of industry.

According to Wientjes, something has gone “terribly wrong” with integration in recent years. “Wilders’ movement has sprung from this mistake.” But the way he conveys his message is disastrous, according to Wientjes.

“Look at the way he presented himself recently in London as future premier of the Netherlands and then called Turkish premier Erdogan names. This is unheard of. The British press was deeply shocked by this performance, which went out all over the world.”

Wilders said last week in London that Erdogan was a “total freak.” He also repeated his view, already known in the Netherlands, that the Prophet Mohammed was a paedophile because he married a 9 year old child.

Wilders is unimpressed. “Enormous numbers of citizens and business people find the PVV and our solutions sympathetic and necessary. Wientjes and his semi-civil servants group cannot do anything about that.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Germany: Pope Remains Silent as Abuse Allegations Hit Close to Home

Allegations of sexual abuse in the German Catholic Church continue to surface. Questions have been raised about what Pope Benedict XVI may have known about specific incidents of abuse and his brother, Georg Ratzinger, is also under fire. The pope, however, has so far remained silent.

Georg Ratzinger came clean about his transgressions. Indeed, it seemed to be the end of the matter — one which placed him squarely in the center of Germany’s ever expanding Church abuse scandal.

“In the beginning, I slapped (the boys) in the face on a number of occasions,” said Ratzinger, who, for decades, was the director of the Regensburger Domspatzen, one of the most renowned boys’ choirs in Germany. But he stopped the practice back in 1980, he says, because the state had banned corporal punishment. He says that he “strictly” observed the new law.

Former choirboys tell a different story. They still shudder when they recall the reverend’s severity — and his tendency toward violence, even in later years.

“Ratzinger was extremely choleric and quick-tempered during choir practice,” says Thomas Mayer, who was a student at the choir boarding school from 1988 to 1992. “On a number of occasions, I saw him get so angry that he threw a chair into our group of singers.” Once Ratzinger flew into such a rage during choir practice “that even his false teeth fell out,” says Mayer.

Ratzinger, 86, now lives in a monastery and has declined to comment further. Clarification of the matter has now been left to his younger brother: Pope Benedict XVI.

Last Friday, Benedict XVI met in the Vatican with the Chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, Robert Zollitsch, to talk about violence and sexual abuse carried out by Catholic priests in his native Germany. Just like his older brother, the pope would like the world to believe that the Church has changed its ways. Benedict XVI and Zollitsch vowed to shed light on cases of abuse and assist the victims.

How Sincere?

But shortly after Zollitsch left for Germany, the pope found himself haunted by his own past as the Archbishop of Munich and Freising. His former archdiocese admitted to the center-left German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung that a pedophile priest had been reinstated to a Catholic parish in Munich during Ratzinger’s tenure.

What does the pope know from personal experience about the abuse problem? And how sincere is his promise to finally clear up the allegations of abuse?

Hardly anyone in the inner circle of the Vatican is better informed on Catholic sex scandals than His Holiness the Pope. Joseph Ratzinger was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formally known as the Inquisition. Reported cases of abuse automatically landed on his desk. Since 2001, as the Church’s most powerful cardinal, and subsequently as the pope, Ratzinger has spearheaded the Vatican’s ongoing efforts to shed light on this troublesome issue.

Nevertheless, sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has continued to regularly generate headlines. First, there were the waves of scandals in the US and Ireland. Now, hardly a day goes by in Germany without a new story on further allegations of abuse.

By the end of last week, some 200 presumed victims had contacted Ursula Raue, a Berlin attorney engaged by the Jesuits to handle abuse cases — and complaints are pouring in from all areas of the Church. Some 150 people have come forward with stories of abuse at the monastery school in Ettal, and roughly 15 former choirboys have grievances relating to the Regensburger Domspatzen.

Complex Nature of the Problem

On top of this, there have been reports from other areas of society. Cases have surfaced virtually everywhere: in the Protestant Church, in secular boarding schools like Odenwaldschule and in children’s homes in the former East Germany. The numbers are still a far cry from those linked to the Catholic Church, but they do reveal the complex nature of the problem.

It is a scandal the likes of which German society has not seen for years, and it will likely be months before it fades. Nonetheless, it is being inadequately addressed — often to a shocking degree.

This is true of the Catholic Church, which continues to damage itself as it hesitates between calls to clear up cases of abuse and the urge to hush things up. But it is also true of the state, as members of the government either let things take their course or drone on about the latest toothless initiative.

Should there be roundtable talks reserved only for members of the Catholic Church, or should they be open to a wide range of social groups? This question alone kept German ministers Kristina Schröder (family affairs), Annette Schavan (education and research) and Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (justice) squabbling for days — while Chancellor Angela Merkel stayed clear of the fray. A “broad and intensive debate” is required as a preliminary step, said Merkel’s spokesman.

At the same time, the German school system has been severely shaken. Former students at the secular Odenwaldschule in Hesse describe systematic abuse that continued until at least the 1990s. Eight former teachers, one of whom taught there until 2003, are the subject of serious allegations made by nearly three dozen former students.

Laid Him on the Bed

One former student says that he was only allowed to call his parents twice a week — and to do this, he had to use the phone in Gerold Becker’s bedroom. Becker was the school principal from 1971 to 1985. When the student was sad about the end of his telephone call, he says that Becker laid him on the bed, undressed him, touched the boy’s crotch, and then masturbated.

Another former student told of his fear of being the last one in the shower room with Becker after gym class. Yet another said that he was forced to engage in oral sex. “There was no way of avoiding them,” says Gerhard Roese, 48, who now lives in the German city of Darmstadt. He says that he was repeatedly forced to stimulate his music teacher’s genitalia with his hand. Distraught over the incidents, the boy confided in the school principal, but he only “smirked, hemmed and hawed, and said something about the Greeks,” says Roese.

Becker refuses to comment on the allegations. But questions have also been aimed at Hartmut von Hentig, 84, the doyen of Germany’s progressive education movement — and Becker’s long-time companion. Von Hentig has been pursued by journalists for days, he says. SPIEGEL was only able to submit questions to him in written form — and he faxed back his answers.

In his response, von Hentig warned against false allegations and underscored that so far, “statements have only been collected, they have not yet been verified.” He himself visited the boarding school on a number of occasions. Did he not find cause for suspicion?

“No,” he replied. When he stayed overnight at Odenwaldschule, he “usually” slept in the official guest room. “The only time I actually saw Gerold Becker interact with the boys and girls at the school was when we all took our meals together in the dining hall or when we walked across the school grounds, and they jumped up to him and he fended them off in a friendly manner: ‘You can see that I have a guest.’“

Part 2: Did the Pope Really Not Know?

Von Hentig doesn’t blame himself for not having noticed anything. “I of course observed constantly and very carefully: filled with envy of this man who managed to relate so well to children, to explain things to them, to divert their attention or patiently coax them in order to keep them from getting into some kind of mischief. Filled with envy of ‘his’ wonderful school.”

Why do those in positions of authority, including supervisors and witnesses, tend to have such difficulty getting to the bottom of these allegations, as is the case with von Hentig? Why are the state and the Church so helpless when it comes to the abuse of minors?

The Irish have demonstrated that it is possible to break through the wall of silence. For years, Yvonne Murphy, a judge acting at the behest of the government, headed an independent commission investigating how the Irish Roman Catholic Church handled complaints of clerical child sexual abuse.

Her report, released last November, concluded that “the vast majority (of priests) simply chose to turn a blind eye” to abuse.

‘No Concern for the Abused Child’

The commission also found that the Church failed to act internally and ignored its own rules relating to priests suspected of abusing children. “For many years offenders were neither persecuted nor made accountable within the Church,” the report says, citing an “obsessive concern with secrecy” and concluding that “there was little or no concern for the welfare of the abused child.”

In Germany, federal and state governments would still rather leave it up to the bishops to clear up the allegations, despite the fact that these patriarchs of the Church have not indicated that they are genuinely capable of tackling the issue. Many Catholic leaders see incidents of abuse as unfortunate isolated episodes — and not as a systemic problem.

Such an attitude disregards the fact that this has been a problem for the clergy right from the start — and throughout 2,000 years of church history. “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea,” it is written in the Gospel of Matthew. In his Epistles to the Corinthians, even Paul inveighed against “boy prostitutes” and “pederasts.”

Throughout the centuries, popes have threatened priests with punishment should they sexually abuse children. Such members of the clergy “shall be released from the priesthood or locked away to do penance in monasteries,” wrote Pope Alexander III (1159 to 1181). They should be “punished according to Church or state laws,” threatened Pope Leo X (1513 to 1521).

Despite these condemnations, Germany’s bishops today still tend to turn a blind eye to “pederasts” in the clergy.

A Number of Hurdles

To the German Catholic Church’s credit, however, Archbishop Zollitsch recently appointed the Bishop of Trier, Stephan Ackermann, to look into abuse cases. Ackermann promptly received a flood of phone calls, letters and e-mails from alleged victims. Still, he faces hurdles before he can begin his work. The German Bishops’ Conference first has to decide where his office will be — in Trier or Bonn? How many staff members is he allowed to have? What kind of equipment? How large will his budget be?

Fundamentalist bishops like Gerhard Ludwig Müller from Regensburg would rather adopt a more confrontational approach. Müller accuses SPIEGEL of “abusing the freedom of the press” in its reports on the Church, and he says that the magazine “is guilty of violating the human dignity of all Catholic priests and members of the order.” He compares today’s “anti-Catholic media campaigns against celibacy and Catholic sexual morals” to the “infamous speech by the master of sedition held in Berlin’s Deutschlandhalle in 1937” — a reference to Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels’ attack on the Church. For Müller, in other words, critical reporting on the issue is far worse than the beating, rape and humiliation of children.

Meanwhile, new reports of horrendous abuse continue to pour in from his diocese — primarily from the Regensburger Domspatzen.

From 1953 to 1992, Monsignor Hans Meier ruled with an iron fist over generations of choirboys who were under his tutelage in the Etterzhausen boarding school, a preparatory school for younger pupils from which the choir draws its recruits.

Religious services were held three times a day. Afterwards, in rows of two, the young boys would march from the church to the dining hall. When mail was distributed, the boys were forced to stand lined up in rank and file, and they often received severe beatings.

‘Nothing that Merited My Attention’

Christian Wilbrand began attending the school at the age of nine in 1966. He recalls:

The idea was to shatter the personalities of us children. Brutality and our own fear were pervasive. Tortures included beatings with willow branches on the fingertips or the backside, punches to the head, pulling pupils up by their hair and hitting them with books. It didn’t take long to beat the childhood right out of us; I often felt like I was on the verge of dying. Once my homeroom teacher hurled me with such force against the blackboard that I lost consciousness. Etterzhausen was a planet of horrors.

Is it conceivable that Georg Ratzinger knew nothing about this? As director of the cathedral choir, he took in the children from the fifth grade up, who then lived in his boarding school in Regensburg. He says: “When we were on concert tours, pupils would tell me about what life had been like for them at Etterzhausen. But their stories didn’t strike me as anything that merited my official attention.”

In 1971, when Ratzinger had already been the choir director for seven years, a local priest was sentenced to 11 months in prison for sexual abuse. The man in question was both the institution’s music prefect and the head of the boarding school. Georg Ratzinger had an apartment in the building that housed the Domspatzen, and his brother Joseph often visited him there. Did they never hear anything about this case?

Former choirboy Mayer, who accompanied a large number of concert tours, says that he also witnessed widespread sexual and physical violence until he left the boarding school in 1992. He says that he himself was raped by older fellow students. Mayer also claims that anal sex took place between students on a number of occasions in a prefect’s apartment, right next to the rooms used by the senior classes. “They simply passed on the pressure of a totalitarian system,” he says.

Allegedly Knew Nothing

The Regensburg Diocese has refused to comment on any of the allegations — and Georg Ratzinger is now remaining silent as well.

And what of Benedict XVI? Publicly he has not uttered a single word about the allegations against his brother.

Indeed, he has still refrained from commenting on the cases dating back to his tenure as Archbishop of Munich. The priest Peter H. first came to the attention of the diocese in Essen after he forced an 11-year-old boy to engage in oral sex. He was sent to Munich for therapy. In 1980, as a member of the Diocese Council, Joseph Ratzinger was involved in a decision to grant Peter H. accommodations in a parsonage.

Shortly thereafter, the man was again involved in pastoral duties, with no restrictions whatsoever. In 1986, a court in Ebersberg gave H. an 18-month suspended prison sentence because he had once again sexually abused a minor, this time in the Bavarian town of Grafing.

H. was nevertheless reinstated and he held holiday services with children from the Heart of Jesus Daycare Center in Garching, and had numerous contacts with minors.

Just last Friday, he was scheduled to attend the ITB Berlin tourism trade show and take part in a panel discussion on “pilgrims’ paths, village churches and monastery vacations.” H. canceled at the last minute.

“Reassigning H. to pastoral ministry was a serious mistake. I take full responsibility,” says former Munich Vicar-General Gerhard Gruber.

The pope allegedly knew nothing about the entire case.

By Matthias Bartsch, Frank Hornig, Conny Neumann, Markus Verbeet and Peter Wensierski

Translated from the German by Paul Cohen

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

Germany: Catholic Groups Chastise Pope’s Silence on Sex Abuse Scandal

German Catholic groups on Monday criticised the pope’s silence over a snowballing child sex abuse scandal rocking his native country’s Church.

The scandal “affects people, whether they are religious or not,” said Dirk Tänzler, head of the Federation of German Catholic Youth (BDKJ), in the Berliner Zeitung daily. “The Holy Father should make a statement about this.”

He added that the German Catholic Church, which has been hit by allegations of child sex abuse dating back decades on an almost daily basis in recent weeks, was in the midst of one of its “biggest identity crises since 1945.”

Christian Weisner from the German chapter of reform movement We Are Church said meanwhile that the pope “has not yet realised the full extent of the unease” caused by the scandal.

The recent statement from the Vatican alleging a campaign to target the pope “is the worst possible communication strategy thinkable,” Weisner told the Munich regional daily TZ.

“Many Catholics who are faithful to the Church regret the fact that Benedict XVI has failed to express a single word of sympathy,” Weisner added.

The Catholic Church has been engulfed in a scandal since January when a Jesuit-run school in Berlin admitted systematic sexual abuse of pupils by two priests in the 1970s and 1980s.

Since then, there have been allegations at almost two-thirds of the country’s 27 dioceses as more victims come forward.

With the Catholic Church also hit by similar scandals in other countries, Benedict has spoken out several times since the start of his papacy in 2005 on the issue.

In February, he described child abuse as a “heinous crime” and a “grave sin.” But he has yet to comment directly on the scandal rocking his home country, critics say.

One of the implicated Catholic institutions is a boarding school attached to Regensburg cathedral’s choir, called the Domspatzen, or “Cathedral Sparrows.” The pope’s elder brother, Georg Ratzinger, who ran the choir for 30 years, has denied all knowledge of sexual abuse there.

On Friday the dioceses of Munich and Freising said that the pope, when he was archbishop there, had approved giving a priest suspected of sexual abuse Church housing in the diocese for “therapy” in 1980.

Two years later, by which time the pope had been transferred to the Vatican, the priest was given pastoral duties in the town of Grafing. He committed sexual abuse and was given a suspended jail sentence in 1986.

On Friday the man who was vicar-general at the time assumed “all responsibility” for the “bad mistake.” The priest in question is reportedly still employed by the Church in Bad Tölz, where there was an uproar among his church’s congregation during Sunday’s mass when a man stood to demand the church stop trying to distract from the issue, daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Monday.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi went on the offensive on Saturday.

“It is clearly evident that in the past few days there are some who have sought — with a dogged focus on Regensburg and Munich — elements to personally implicate the Holy Father in questions of abuse,” he said.

“It is clear that these efforts have failed,” he said on Radio Vatican.

“The Church’s credibility has been badly shaken,” said Wolfgang Thierse, deputy speaker of the German parliament and a board member of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK).

“The Church should be more honest and more severe with itself, and that goes for the pope too,” he said on public television channel ZDF.

Senior Church figures in Germany meanwhile called for a review of priestly celibacy, a tradition Benedict defended on Friday as a “sign of full devotion” and of an “entire commitment to the Lord.”

The Church “should reflect on whether there are … conditions that favour abuse,” the ZdK head Alois Glück told daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, citing loosening celibacy regulations as “one way” to achieve this.

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

German Arms Exports Double in Five Years

Germany has doubled its arms exports over the last five years, making it the world’s third largest weapons dealer after the United States and Russia, according to a new study released on Monday.

Sales of mainly submarines and armoured vehicles helped Germany capture 11 percent of the global arms market, compared to 30 percent and 23 percent for the United States and Russia, the study from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said.

Warships made up 44 percent of all arms exports, while armoured vehicles accounted for 27 percent. The study included the sale of used military wares and goods given away to allies.

Germany’s most important customers included Turkey, Greece and South Africa.

Fourteen percent of Germany’s arms exports went to Turkey, while Greece bought 13 percent and South Africa imported 12 percent — but SIPRI did not place a price tag on the goods.

The growth is part of a worldwide increase of 22 percent in weapons sales in the last five years, particularly in the trade of extremely expensive fighter planes. SIPRI warned of an arms race in tense regions like the Middle East, North Africa, South America and South Asia.

Meanwhile Greece has become one of the world’s top-five importers despite being on the verge of bankruptcy.

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

Germany: Dutch Populist Wilders ‘Unwelcome’ In Eifel Town

The Dutch anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders has been told he is “not welcome” in the western German town of Monschau after he spent the weekend in the Eifel region.

The parliamentarian and leader of the far-right Party for Freedom, along with several armed bodyguards, stayed from Saturday afternoon until Sunday morning in the town, according to police in the city of Aachen.

Wilders, who promotes a strongly anti-immigration and anti-Muslim platform, has called for the Koran to be banned in the Netherlands, among other incendiary positions. His party recently performed strongly in council elections.

Monschau Mayor Margareta Ritter said she was concerned that Wilders’ presence had tainted her town with the suspicion that it was sympathetic to his views. As a result, Monschau had unfairly been connected with extremism in the European press.

“Of course I care very much if such persons feel comfortable here,” she said. “Anyone who pollutes the integration debate in the Netherlands with poisonous right-wing populism as Wilders has, is not welcome in Monschau. I wanted to distinguish Monschau from that.”

But she was not in favour of a legal bar against Wilders’ coming to the area and if he wanted to return, he could, she said. The populist politician was briefly barred from entering Britain in 2009 for his unsavoury views.

Wilders presence in Monschau only became public knowledge because he suffered a dizzy spell there.

Whether Wilders was merely holidaying in Monschau or had been meeting with like-minded people, Ritter was unable to say.

Police were in contact with Wilders’ bodyguards drove past his hotel several times to check there was no trouble, according to a police statement. The outspoken opponent of Islam has received death threats from Muslim militants and therefore has his own, round-the-clock bodyguards.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Hirsi Ali: Wilders a Boon for Netherlands

AMSTERDAM, 16/03/10 — Geert Wilders is no racist and also no fascist. He is a boon for the Netherlands, Ayaan Hirsi Ali believes.

Hirsi Ali, who works at the American Enterprise Institute, says she is often asked in the US whether Wilders is a racist or a fascist. In an opinion piece in NRC Handelsblad, she writes that he is neither, though his solutions are “unfeasible in practice.”

“He is good for the Netherlands, because people who are angry about the systematically wrong approach by the established parties to questions such as immigration and Islam can funnel their anger by voting for him, instead of rebelling or, worse still, entering into a violent confrontation with radical Islamic groupings.”

Wilders’ popularity is the result of the “persistent and vicious campaign of the elite to demonise any one who questions Islam as a worrying source of departure from Dutch values by many Islamic minorities.” It would be better for the three classic power parties, Labour (PvdA), Christian democrats (CDA) and conservatives (VVD), to demand of Muslims that they give up “values based on the Islamic or tribal code of their country of origin,” according to Hirsi Ali.

Hirsi Ali, who came to the Netherlands a young Somali woman seeking asylum, was a darling of the media when she became active for the PvdA. When she discovered that the left wing did not want to discuss integration, she switched to the VVD, where her Islam criticism was however also quickly no longer tolerated. In 2006, she exchanged the Netherlands for the US, where she is widely seen as a courageous intellectual.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Ian McEwan: Criticising Islam is Not Racist

Ian McEwan has insisted that criticising Islam is not racist and blamed left-leaning thinkers for “closing down the debate”.

The Booker Prize winner said those who claimed judging Muslims was “de facto” racism were playing a “poisonous argument”.

McEwan, 61, the best-selling author of novels including Amsterdam, Atonement and Saturday, thought many in the left wrongly took this position because they had an anti-Americanism shared with Islamists.

In an interview with today’s Telegraph Magazine, McEwan said: “Chunks of left-of-centre opinion have tried to close down the debate by saying that if you were to criticise Islam as a thought system you are a de facto racist. That is a poisonous argument.

“They do it on the basis that they see an ally in their particular forms of anti-Americanism,” he said.

“So these radical Muslims are the shock-troops for the armchair Left who don’t want to examine too closely the rest of the package — the homophobia, the misogyny and so on.”

McEwan first entered the fray in 2007 to defend his friend Martin Amis against charges of racism.

Amis had been accused of Islamophobia after writing an essay criticising the “extreme incuriosity of Islamic culture”; arguing that Islam had “proved responsive” to the influence of Hitler and Stalin; and labelling Islamism a “cult of death”.

The essay itself attracted little attention, but in a subsequent interview Amis made the incendiary comment: “The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.”

Muslims would have to undergo “discriminatory stuff” like stopping them from travelling, he said.

Prof Terry Eagleton, the Marxist literary critic, subsequently compared him to a British National Party “thug”.

Amis maintained throughout that he was not Islamophobic, but detested Islamism, the religion’s fundamentalist branch.

He later said that he had only been “conversationally describing an urge” in his comments about discriminatory measures for Muslims, “an urge that soon wore off”.

“I hereby declare that ‘harassing the Muslim community in Britain’ would be neither moral nor efficacious,” he added.

However, Ronan Bennett, who wrote the screenplay to the film The Hamburg Cell, later deplored Amis for making “an odious an outburst of racist sentiment as any public figure has made in this country for a very long time”.

At that point McEwan got involved, writing a letter in defence of Amis. He was himself then decried as a member of the “clash-of-civilisations literary brigade”.

McEwan said he consequently became the victim of hate messages on jihadist websites.

In today’s interview McEwan stressed that his political views were “incredibly unexciting”, being “just left of centre”.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Ireland: Two Charged in Waterford Inquiry

Two men have been brought before a special sitting of Waterford District Court last night.

44-year-old Ali Charaf Damache, originally from Algeria, was charged with sending a menacing telephone message, while 33-year-old Abdul-Salam Mansour Al-Jehani, originally from Libya, was charged with an immigration offence.

Both men have been remanded in custody to appear in court again on Friday.

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

Italy: Police Close on Mafia No.1

‘Scorched earth’ around Cosa Nostra chief Messina Denaro

(ANSA) — Trapani, March 15 — Nineteen Mafia suspects were arrested Monday in an operation police said had helped them close the net on fugitive Cosa Nostra No.1 Matteo Messina Denaro.

“This is a very heavy blow to the Sicilian Mafia,” said Justice Minister Angelino Alfano. The arrests were made near the western Sicilian city of Trapani where Messina Denaro, 47, built up his power base before beating Palermo chieftains to become Mob kingpin after ‘boss of bosses’ Bernardo Provenzano was caught in 2006.

The operation, stage two of a “scorched earth” sweep that began in June with the arrest of 13 people, tracked couriers to affiliates and front companies much further afield.

Some 40 raids were carried out in Trapani, Palermo, Caltanissetta, Turin, Como, Milan, Imperia, Lucca and Siena.

“The operation is not only important because of the number of arrests and raids but, above all, because much of the network of accomplices and backers set up by Messina Denaro to keep him hidden and enable him to give orders has been taken apart,” Alfano said.

Police said they had broken up the boss’s communication system which used the same type of coded and hand-delivered notes, called ‘pizzini’, invented by Provenzano to evade surveillance.

“We have uncovered and broken up the ‘postal service’ used by Messina Denaro to give his orders,” special police unit (SCO) officer Vincenzo Nicoli’ told Sky TV news.

“The boss used a close-knit network formed by his most trusted men and members of his family,” Nicoli’ said.

One of those arrested was Messina Denaro’s older brother, Salvatore.

“The circle is closing around the No.1 fugitive,” said Interior Minister Roberto Maroni.

“This operation, Golem II, is a decisive step because we have scorched the earth around the boss of bosses,” he said.

“I’m optimistic that we’ll catch him too as soon as we can”.

Police said that, like a US-Italian operation that last week caught 27 suspects in Palermo, New York and Miami, Monday’s operation also showed that, following a recent wave of arrests of high-ranking members, “Cosa Nostra is turning to its ‘historic” bosses”.

Several companies in the food, catering and distribution sectors were seized as suspected fronts for the boss.

Messina Denaro has been hit hard over the last year by the seizure of some 1.4 billion euros from two construction magnates and a supermarket king, all operating in western Sicily, believed to be among his chief bankrollers and money launderers.

Palermo Chief Prosecutor Francesco Messineo said recent operation were “part of a strategy of capturing Messina Denaro by drying up the water he swims in”.

The government recently launched a new anti-mafia plan centred on asset seizures and opened a centralised confiscation agency in Reggio Calabria.


Justice Minister Angelino Alfano said Messina Denaro “is the only member of the ‘massacre’ mafia left at large,” referring to bombing campaigns in Sicily, Rome, Florence and Milan in 1992-93 that killed 20 people including the anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

In two days in December police arrested Cosa Nostra No. 2 Gianni Nicchi, 28 and another boss among Italy’s 30 most-wanted criminals, 74-year-old drug lord Gaetano Fidanzati.

Police captured 17 of the men on the list last year. Last June, in Golem 1, 13 people suspected of helping Messina Denaro elude capture were arrested in the provinces of Trapani, Palermo, Rome and Piacenza.

Some 40 inmates in 15 jails were also searched after evidence they had been sending messages to the Cosa Nostra head.

Messina Denaro, who has been on the run since 1993, is believed to be expanding his criminal empire abroad and police have found evidence of trips to Austria, Greece, Spain and Tunisia.

In Golem 1 police found evidence he travelled under fake ID papers supplied by the Rome-based head of a showbiz security firm, Domenico Nardo.

After Provenzano’s arrest, Palermo boss Salvatore Lo Piccolo appeared to be vying with Messina Denaro for control of Cosa Nostra but his capture in November 2007 left the scene clear for the Trapani boss to take command.

Messina Denaro, who is reportedly idolised by Cosa Nostra younger troops because of his charisma and ruthlessness, has managed to become one of the world’s top drug dealers despite being on the run for 16 years, the FBI says.

Notes found in Provenzano’s farm hideout outside Corleone in April 2006 showed that the Trapani boss had been in constant touch with the elderly boss.

The young boss sent more messages than any other Mafia leader to the sheepfarm outside Corleone where Provenzano, 77, was smoked out after 43 years in hiding.

Denaro, nicknamed ‘Diabolik’ after the cult Italian comic criminal, sealed a reputation for brutality by murdering a rival Trapani boss and strangling his three-months pregnant girlfriend.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Asks if Probed

Inspectors sent to ‘RAI pressure’ probe city

(ANSA) — Rome, March 15 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Monday asked prosecutors to confirm press reports that he is under investigation for allegedly trying to muzzle criticism on talk shows produced by state broadcaster RAI.

So far, lawyers for the premier said, he had received no formal notification from the prosecutors in the Puglian city of Trani.

According to legal experts, however, the prosecutors are not in fact obliged to say if anyone is actually under investigation.

They may have decided to keep the names secret until the probe reaches a later stage, the experts said, citing an article in Italy’s penal code. Italian newspapers published wiretaps over the weekend in which Berlusconi is allegedly heard to ask a member of Italy’s broadcasting watchdog Agcom, Giancarlo Innocenzi, for help in stopping criticism from purportedly hostile talk shows such as Annozero, an investigative talk show which has gone farther than any in discussing the premier’s legal woes and his private life.

The investigation stems from a completely separate one opened late last year into suspiciously high charges on American Express cards, for which the Trani prosecutors obtained authorisation to tap phone conversations.

Innocenzi was called in for questioning, as a potential witness, in the original probe on December 17 and was also asked whether he had been pressured by Berlusconi on the talk shows.

He reportedly denied this.

Italian Justice Minister Angelino Alfano has sent ministerial inspectors to Trani to establish whether the prosecutors overstepped the boundaries of their investigation.

On Monday he claimed “the rules on wiretaps have been broken…in an “unconstitutional way” under existing norms “and not even under the stricter rules we are trying to introduce”.

Alfano also said the inspectors would be asking prosecutors to “make an effort to find out who is responsible for leaking these wiretaps to the media”.

But the justice minister stressed that the inspectors “must not, cannot and will not interfere with the investigation, which must go on”.

Berlusconi’s lead lawyer and a member of his People of Freedom party, Niccolo’ Ghedini, told reporters that the wiretaps contained no “criminally relevant” information.

Trani Chief Prosecutor Carlo Maria Capristo said he was “serene” ahead of the inspections, expected to begin on Tuesday.

A member of the judiciary’s self-governing body who was allegedly asked for legal advice in muzzling Annozero, Cosimo Ferri, also said he was “extremely serene” ahead of a hearing Tuesday of the body, the Supreme Council of Magistrates.

Among the 18 phone calls which Italian daily Corriere della Sera said Berlusconi made on the issue were several to Augusto Minzolini, the recently appointed head of RAI’s flagship news programme TG1.

Minzolini, who is not under investigation, also said Monday he was not worried about the probe.

The former print journalist, who was reportedly handpicked by Berlusconi for the TG1 job, has courted controversy in recent months, and even sparked protests from TG’s internal unions, for a string of ‘editorials’ in favour of the premier and against the centre-left opposition.

One of these slammed coverage of the premier’s private life as “muckraking” while another pooh-poohed an opposition-led demonstration for freedom of information.

Minzolini has also been accused of hushing up stories against the premier.

On one occasion, TG1 reported that the premier’s tax lawyer David Mills had been “acquitted” instead of saying that he had escape punishment for a bribe because of the statute of limitations.

Minzolini said Monday he had admitted this “mistake” and claimed he was the victim of “a campaign, indeed even intimidation, that has been going on for months”.

But he said he was “an independent and autonomous” journalist who stood by the editorial comment he had made.

Minzolini’s case is set to be examined this week by RAI’s parliamentary watchdog.

Meanwhile RAI’s board on Monday voted by five to four to confirm a suspension of RAI’s political talk shows ahead of March 28-29 regional elections, decided by Agcom two weeks ago under equal-time norms — but to ask RAI’s parliamentary watchdog for instruction on the matter.

A regional court (TAR) in Lazio on Friday overturned the Agcom ruling for private TV after an appeal by Italy’s fourth private terrestrial channel, La 7, and satellite channel Sky.

So far Berlusconi’s three-channel Mediaset network, which commands the vast majority of the private TV audience, has not responded to the TAR ruling.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi’s Declared Income Jumps

Rome, 15 March (AKI)- Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s income jumped almost 60 percent in 2009, the year the country showed showed signs of emerging from the worst recession in almost seven decades, according to declarations made to the Italian parliament published Monday.

Berlusconi, Italy’s third-richest man, according to Forbes Magazine’s recently published list of the world’s billionaires, had taxable income totaling about 23 million euros in 2009, up from around 14.5 million euros in 2008.

The prime minister’s wealth increased after Europe’s fourth largest economy improved after contracting in 2008, when the worst global recession since World War II caused global stock markets, housing values and other measures of national and personal wealth to plunge.

Berlusconi declared an income of 139 million euros in 2007, according to declarations published by the parliament.

Berlusconi, whose Mediaset media empire owns Italy’s top three private television channels, was worth more than 6.5 billion euros last year, according to the declarations.

Among the properties in Berlusconi’s declaration are five apartments and two parking spots in the northern city of Milan.

Berlusconi’s other residences include a Milan mansion, a Lake Como estate in northern Italy and a mansion on the island of Sardinia.

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

Italy: Feb Year-on-Year Inflation Rate Confirmed at +1.2%

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 16 — National statistics bureau Istat on Tuesday confirmed that Italy’s year-on-year inflation rate in February dipped slightly last month, falling to 1.2% from 1.3% the previous month. Istat also confirmed that the variation in the cost of living index from January to February was +0.1%. The European Union Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) — developed to facilitate inflation comparisons between member states — was unchanged from January to February and climbed by 1.1% over February 2009, Istat said. From January to February the most significant price increases were for home utilities (+0.3%), communications (+0.7%) and the sector for recreation, entertainment and culture (+0.3%). The biggest year-on-year price increases last month were recorded for transport (+3.5%), alcoholic beverages and tobacco products (+3.3%), miscellaneous goods and services (+3%) and education (+2.5%), while home utility prices fell by 1.4%, Istat said. Among individual goods and services, year-on-year tobacco prices jumped 3.8% and beer prices climbed 2.7%, while fruit prices fell 3%. Domestic drinking water prices in February soared 1.4% for the month and 7.1% for the year, while garbage collection costs were up 0.2% from January and 6.5% from February 2009. Unleaded gasoline prices rose 0.5% from January and were 15.7% higher than in February of last year, while diesel fuel prices fell 0.9% for the month and 0.5% for the year. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Books: The Difficult Love Between Muslims and Non-Believers

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, MARCH 16 — His name is Martino and he’s an Italian layman. Her name is Noor and she’s an Egyptian Muslim. Love blossoms between the two in New York and continues in Cairo, where their relationship is however tested by the cultural differences and by the numerous obstacles put in place by her family and yet more: nosy taxi drivers, bigoted imams, invasive porters, all the figures of a society that in every way opposes love that is not “Islamically correct”. This is the main theme of the book ‘When Muslim girls prefer non-believers’ presented in Milan by the author, Martino Pillitteri. Through its 250 odd pages his sentimental adventures become an opportunity to expand his view of Egyptian society from a standpoint of two years spent in Cairo. Often resorting to irony and making his own lay western view of “proud of being so” clear, Pillitteri takes snapshots of daily life in Cairo, but he also reflects for example on the growing spread of an intransigent way of living religion (for the Coptic Christians too), on social phenomena such as Arab feminism or on tradition like the impact of pop music on young people. The book reveals a knowledge that is by no means superficial and a liking of many aspects of the contemporary Islamic world (Pillitteri has amongst other things coordinated the monthly publication dedicated to second generation Muslim immigrants, Yalla Italia, since 2007). Without ever relinquishing open criticism, beyond what is politically correct, of aspects considered negative but with the conviction, expressed by the author in the closing pages, that “without conflict society is dead and, in this sense, Egyptian society is bursting with health.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK Courts May Hear Mohammed Case

Justice minister calls it unacceptable that proposed lawsuit against Danish newspapers could be heard in British court system

Because EU member states generally recognise the authority of each other’s legal systems, Denmark may be forced to pay damages through the British courts if plaintiffs win their lawsuit over the printing of the Mohammed cartoons.

Saudi lawyer Faisal Yamani has taken the case to court in London — claiming to have done so on behalf of some 95,000 descendants of the prophet Mohammed — saying the drawings amount to defamation against them and the Islamic faith.

In August last year, Yamani requested that 11 Danish newspapers remove all the relevant images from their websites and issue apologies along with promises that the images would never be printed again.

Politiken was the only newspaper to agree to the demand, having acquiesced last month.

But justice minister Lars Barfoed has now asked the European Commission to step in to stop the case from being heard in the UK. Barfoed said that while he respected the legal cooperation among EU member states, the proposed lawsuit amounts to a restriction on the freedom of expression.

‘It’s fundamentally reasonable that judgments in the EU can often be exercised across borders,’ Barfoed told Berlingske Tidende newspaper. ‘But it would be taking it to the extreme if a UK court could rule against the Danish media and then require compensation and court costs to be paid.’

According to Berlingske Tidende, the Mohammad case can be heard in the British courts because the images have been freely accessible via the internet.

Barfoed said he initially plans to have the European Commission examine whether the special rule requiring EU countries to recognise each other’s civil and commercial court rulings can be changed.

But Professor Marlene Wind, EU law expert at the University of Copenhagen, believes that will be extremely difficult.

‘The government should instead work to build a broad alliance that could convince the British government that its tort laws should be amended,’ said Wind.

National newspaper association Danske Dagblades Forening said that it believed if the case goes to court in the UK it would be a long and expensive one for the organisation and its members.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

UK: Cameron Booed by Next Gen Leftists

And he looked remarkably relaxed for a man who, just hours before, had been jeered and heckled during a visit to a sixth-form college.

He faced a hostile audience of around 100 students and job seekers at Lewisham College in the south-east of the capital and was booed as he tried to speak.

He was forced to defend his party’s policies and pledges as they grilled him about how he would improve the economy if he was voted in to power at the next election.

He told the group: ‘I want you to know that if I become prime minister, I will do everything I can to make sure we get this economy moving and to make sure there are good jobs for you to go to and make sure there are apprenticeships you can take part in, and to make sure the economy of this country starts moving again.’

He dismissed Labour arguments about experience, saying: ‘I think we need a new hand on the tiller. We need some energy and some enthusiasm to get things changed.’

But his upbeat message failed to win over members of the audience.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Company Boss Compares British Troops to Child Molesters in Rant at Job Agency

A company boss has compared British soldiers to paedophiles and drug dealers after refusing a request by a recruitment service to provide jobs for former troops.

Karl Winn, 60, said he would rather ‘recruit ex-drug dealers, convicts and child molesters’ than employ former servicemen or women.

His comments came after he was contacted by Forces Recruitment Services and asked if he would consider taking on ex-soldiers at his net design company Webeurope.

Mr Winn, of Taunton, Somerset, wrote back: ‘Personally, I’d rather recruit ex-drug dealers, convicts and even child molesters rather than consider anybody who has been in the pay of the British Government.’

‘Anybody who has been in the pay of such a military force, and by their silence and complicity has condoned such illegal and immoral actions while accepting a monthly bloodstained pay-packet , certainly won’t be considered for employment by us.’

‘The reality for the families of their victims is that there will never be any justice, and there never will be any closure, for the loss of a son, a husband, a child, or a family member who has fallen victim to British Military personnel who are going beyond ‘just doing their job’.

‘Please remove us from your email list. Regards, Karl.’

Despite initially blaming a disgruntled ex-worker who he claimed had hacked into his emails, Mr Winn later admitted to The Sun that he had written them — and stood by his comments.

He admitted they may have been ‘a bit over the top’ but then said: ‘I don’t regret saying it at all.’

‘Even if it costs me money I’ll still stand up for what I believe in,’ he said.

‘If you have a paedophile, at least he goes to court and is seen to be accountable for what he’s done. That’s why I made a reference.’

Mr Winn’s staff were later seen removing corporate signs from outside his office, which employs 16 people.

FRS managing director Graham Brown said he was ‘staggered’ by Mr Winn’s attitude, which he said ‘simply beggared belief.’

‘I wonder if the Royal Marine detachment based in Taunton would share your belief,’ he told Mr Winn in an email.

Sam McEwan, who works for a leading ex-troop recruitment firm, said: ‘A lot of people in the business have seen this email and are enraged by it.

‘Our servicemen and women continue to lose their lives so that we are free to express our beliefs.’

Winn later released a statement attempting to justify his comments.

‘Ex-paedophiles and drug addicts who have been charged and paid the price for their actions deserve a chance to get on with their lives. In my opinion, military personnel who have got away with murder do not.’

‘The reality from the north of Ireland, to Afghanistan and Iraq, is that the perpetrators of such atrocities will always be free to get on with their lives, safe in the knowledge that the policy of the British Government is to ensure their protection from prosecution.’

‘I will therefore continue with my blanket ban on employing ex-military personnel. I understand this will affect innocent as well as guilty people.’

[Return to headlines]

UK: Delegation in London Bid to Ban EDL Rally

A cross-party delegation will today meet a top Home Office official as part of a bid to get Saturday’s planned English Defence League rally banned.

Bolton Council deputy leader Cllr Linda Thomas, Conservative group leader Cllr John Walsh and Lib Dem leader Cllr Roger Hayes have travelled to London to meet with Police Minister Alan Campbell.

They will put the borough’s case to him and he will report to Home Secretary Alan Johnson, who is the only person with the power to ban the rally.

Mr Johnson met with council leader Cllr Cliff Morris and chief executive Sean Harriss last Thursday in Salford and has promised to respond to their request after today’s meeting.

Mr Harriss said: “We are expecting a decision later this week, but we are continuing to plan for the rally taking place.”

Bolton Council and Greater Manchester Police have made it clear they want the event banned because of the threat of disorder, not because they want to prevent free speech.

           — Hat tip: ICLA[Return to headlines]

UK: Jake the Hero: Judge Praises Rottweiler Who Stopped Illegal Immigrant From Raping Woman in Park

A judge has praised a hero dog after he chased off a sex attacker who indecently assaulted a woman in a park.

Two-year-old Rottweiler Jake was on his usual evening walk with owner Liz Maxted-Bluck, 49, when he heard screaming from a dense woodland and ran to investigate.

He found Esmahil Adhami, 18, molesting a woman he had dragged into the undergrowth.

The fearless hound lunged at the illegal immigrant and chased him away — and then circled the sobbing victim ‘like a guard dog’ until the police arrived.

[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Opposition, Institute Parliamentary System

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, MARCH 15 — Egypt’s main opposition parties today asked President Hosni Mubarak to leave the presidency of the National Democratic Party (NDP, in government) and to replace the current presidential system by a parliamentary system. After a three-day assembly, the main opposition parties — WAFD, the Democratic Front, Tagamoo and the Nasserian party — proposed constitutional amendments to modify the electoral system. The system currently poses no limits to the number of mandates of the President, and makes it practically impossible for independent candidates to run. Mubarak has led Egypt since 1981 without interruption. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Favourable Visa Treatment for Italy, Koussa to Frattini

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, MARCH 16 — Italy will have a “favourable treatment” in anticipation of finding a European solution to the visa block imposed by Libya as a result of the black list of 186 ‘unwelcome’ Libyan citizens published by Switzerland in the diplomatic crisis between Tripoli and Bern. So said the Libyan Foreign Minister, Moussa Koussa, during a meeting with his Italian counterpart, Franco Frattini. Before meeting with Koussa, Frattini had a long meeting with PM Al Mahmoudi to whom he expressed his regret regarding the Swiss’ determination not to accept mediation that could solve the crisis with Libya, “not even,” said Frattini, “what was presented just four days ago by the Spanish Foreign Minister, Moratinos.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya Plays Oil Card in Swiss Dispute

Libya’s top energy official has hinted supplies of Libyan oil to Europe could be affected in the current diplomatic row initiated by a dispute with Switzerland.

Shokri Ghanem, the head of Libya’s state energy firm NOC and the country’s Opec representative, told the Reuters news agency that leading European energy companies have interests in the North African country.

Libya has stopped issuing entry visas to citizens of most European countries in retaliation for Switzerland barring entry to senior Libyans including leader Muammar Gaddafi and members of his family.

“[Europe] should also think of these interests and investments in energy because good relations with Libya would help European companies run their businesses in Libya easily,” he said.

Italy has been the European nation most vociferous in calling on Switzerland to resolve the dispute by dropping its visa restrictions.

On Monday, the Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini, said if the Swiss-Libyan dispute was not resolved by April 5, Italy would present a proposal to allow high-ranking Libyans to travel freely in Europe despite Switzerland’s blacklist.

Frattini made the statement after a meeting in the Libyan capital with government officials there.

He said the proposal — supported by Spain, Portugal and Malta — would be presented to the European Union foreign ministers on March 22.

The long-running Libyan-Swiss spat began in July 2008 when police in Geneva arrested one of Gaddafi’s sons at a luxury lakeside hotel.

The charges, of mistreating two domestic employees, were later dropped but the arrest of Hannibal Gaddafi angered Libya, which halted oil exports to Switzerland and withdrew deposits from Swiss banks in protest.

It also detained two Swiss nationals, one of whom — Max Göldi — is currently serving a four-month prison sentence on visa violation charges.

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

Libya: ‘Terminally Ill’ Lockerbie Bomber Could Live for Another Five Years

THE Lockerbie bomber was at the centre of a fresh row last night after it emerged he is taking a cancer-busting drug that could keep him alive for FIVE more years.

Terminally ill Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was prescribed chemotherapy treatment Taxotere after returning to Libya.

But yesterday reports claimed Megrahi wasn’t given the drug while he was in Greenock prison — amid claims he could have been kept behind bars if he had taken the medication.

Last night Tory justice spokesman Bill Aitken demanded answers from Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

He said: “Was the existence of a drug which is reportedly now extending the life of the Lockerbie bomber included in any of the reports Kenny MacAskill read before making the decision to release him?

“Alex Salmond’s government is still refusing to publish the independent advice upon which they based their decision.”

Megrahi — sentenced to life for the 1988 jet bombing that killed 270 people — was freed on compassionate grounds seven months ago and returned home to Libya.

Yesterday it emerged the prostate cancer sufferer’s condition has now stabilised.

A source close to the 57-year-old said: “After his treatments, he can be unwell for two or three days but then enjoys a period when he’s quite well.”

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

Morocco: Meeting on Jewish Migration From 16th Century

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, MARCH 16 — Jewish migration from the sixteenth century to present day will be the theme of an international meeting “Migration, identity and modernity in the Maghreb” which will take place in Essaouira (in the south of Morocco) from today to March 20. The meeting, organised by the Council of the Overseas Moroccan Community and by the Jacques Berque centre for Social Sciences Studies in Morocco, aims to frame the history of the migrations of all parts of societies of the Maghreb which must also not be stripped of the memory of the Jewish community. The programme features exhibitions of photographs and portraits of the Moroccan Jews of Casablanca in the 1960s, an exhibition on the French-Tunisian writer Albert Memmi, honorary president of the meeting, and a series of displays of a history of cultural history of the Maghrebis of France. With 265,000 people, the Jewish community of Morocco used to be the largest in north Africa and the Middle East. Now there are just a few thousand remaining. Most of them left the country between 1948, the year of the creation of the State of Israel, and 1967 when the six-day War took place.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Muslim Leader Condemns Violence Against Christians in Egypt

Asghar Ali Engineer points the finger at “some imams” who foment hatred and sectarian divisions. Analyzing the Koran and the life of Muhammad, he emphasizes the defence of human life and respect for minorities. He adds: Muslims must reflect “on their failures,” and return to “values enshrined in the Koran.”

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — “I condemn the attacks against Christians in Egypt in the strongest possible manner”. Asghar Ali Engineer, a Muslim Indian and head of the Centre for Studies on Society and Secularism in Mumbai, uses no uncertain terms to condemn the violence against the Coptic community in Egypt. “Human life is sacred — he explains to AsiaNews — and no one can claim the right to attack another human being for any reason. This is unacceptable. “

On 12 March at Mersa Matrouh in the north-west of Egypt, a crowd of 3 thousand fanatics amassed against the Coptic faithful gathered in prayer. The fundamentalist’s violence, egged on by the local imam, was sparked by the rumour that Christians have begun to build a new church, even though — in reality — it is a hospice. At the end of the fighting (see photo), which caused 25 injuries, the police arrested about thirty persons, Christians and Muslims.

In the case of the assault that took place in Egypt, as on many other occasions, the local imam stirred spirits, by launching tirades against Christians and invoking “holy war”. “In this world there are religious leaders of all types — highlights Asghar Ali Enginneer — from fundamentalists who incite hatred against minorities, to the imams who have a more liberal view.” However, adds the Muslim leader, anyone who warms the hearts of the crowd and incites interfaith hatred “is to be condemned in the strongest terms.”

The Indian scholar states that “Muslims refer to the prophet Mohammed as ‘Muhsin-e-Insaniyyat’ as a benefactor of mankind, but they rarely ask themselves what this characteristic really means”. He explains: “Muhammad had at heart a sense of justice, a concept dear to all of Islam so that it is” one of the names of Allah (Adil): justice for the weaker fringes of society was of vital importance”. Allah, according to the Koran, sits beside the weak and it is precisely “the weakest (mustad’ifin) to lead the world, while the powerful and the arrogant (mustakbirun) are destined to fail.”

Analyzing the sacred text of Islam, Asghar Ali Engineer adds that “the Koran declares that it is up to each individual to meet his obligations. A revolutionary statement in those days — he comments — in which the tribal community was everything and the individual had no role in society”. He also clarified that “the Koran outlined reward or punishment based on conduct of the individual, not the tribe. This frees the individual from the constraints dictated by the customs and superstitions of nature … The tribal community is important, but not to the point of sacrificing the individual. Along with the Koran, Mohammed also gave the human “rights and dignity,” joined with a “sense of responsibility.” “Human dignity — said the Muslim scholar — is not just a religion, a tribe, ethnic group, but also all the sons of Adam (karramna bani Adam). This is also a revolutionary declaration regarding human rights at least 1400 years before the United Nations Charter. And then, the prophet said that all creation is part of the family of Allah. “

Asghar Ali Engineer concludes the discussion emphasizing discord between the “spoken praise” of Muhammad and “the behaviours that go in the opposite direction.” Many faithful, do not live a “simple life” as that of the prophet, do not respect human rights and dignity, do not protect justice, and do not hold human life in high regard as “sacred because it comes from Allah.” “Muslims — he ends — must reflect seriously on their failures and return to the values enshrined in the Koran.”

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Barry Rubin: Explaining the U.S.-Israel Crisis

It is important to understand that the current controversy over construction in east Jerusalem is neither a public relations’ problem nor a bilateral policy dispute. It arises because of things having nothing directly to do with this specific point.

What are the real issues involved:

1. The U.S. and most European governments are determined not to criticize the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) sabotage of the peace process. The facts are clear: The PA rejects negotiations for fourteen months. No reaction. The PA makes President Barack Obama look foolish by destroying his September 2009 initiative saying there would be talks within two months. The PA broke its promise to Obama not to sponsor the Goldstone report. In the end, the PA still won’t talk directly. Yet during fourteen months in office the Obama administration has not criticized the PA once. The point is clear: The U.S. government will never criticize the PA no matter what it does. (We’ll talk about why this is so in a moment.)

2. Same thing regarding Syria. Dictator Bashar al-Assad supports terrorists who kill the United States in Iraq; kills Lebanese politicians; openly laughs at U.S. policy; and invites Iran’s president immediately after a major U.S. concession. Yet the Obama Administration makes no criticism and in fact offers more concessions.

3. The United States will criticize Iran but will not take a tough and vigorous stand against it. Now it is mid-March and no higher sanctions. Indeed, the administration’s sanctions’ campaign is falling apart.

4. On whom can the Administration’s failures be blamed? Answer: Israel…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Cast Lead: Hamas Used Kids as Human Shields, Israel

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, MARCH 15 — A report issued these days by an Israeli study centre accuses Hamas, the Palestinian fundamentalist movement that is in charge in the Gaza Strip, of using human shields — including children — to protect weapons and installations of war during the military offensive Cast Lead, more than a year ago. The document, 500 pages long, is Israel’s answer to the report drafted a few months ago by the South African magistrate Richard Goldstone for the UN. In this report, Israel is accused of war crimes. The new report was written by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (Malam), a small institute led by Col. (reserve) Reuven Erlich, a former Military Intelligence officer who works closely with the Israeli armed forces. On its first pages, summarised on the website of the Jerusalem Post, official Israeli sources call the Goldstone report “one-sided, biased, selective and deceptive”. The Malam report focuses on the crimes committed by Hamas which the UN commission allegedly ignored or underestimated. Malam accuses Hamas of hiding weapons, Qassam launchers and command centres during operation Cast Lead “in 100 mosques and hospitals”. These stores were protected, according to the report, by human shields, children in particular. That way, Erlich comments, “Hamas is the one responsible for the civilian deaths during the operation”. The Israeli military operation ended with a death toll of around 1,400 Palestinians, including many women and children. To support this reconstruction, the information centre also quotes a note, written in Arabic and found in a home in the Gaza Strip: “We are your brothers, fighters in this holy war, and we used your home and some of your possessions. We are sorry”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Day of Rage: High Alert in Jerusalem, Incidents

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, MARCH 16 — The Israeli police and the emergency services have announced a high alert today in Jerusalem after the decision by Islamic organisations to launch a ‘Day of Rage’ today against Jewish settlement plans in East Jerusalem. Over 2,500 Israeli police agents have been deployed in East Jerusalem in an anti-riot formation in order to deal with the mass demonstration. Several hotbeds of protest have been reported in the zone during the morning. The Israeli police have so far stopped a dozen or so demonstrators. Sporadic incidents have been reported near the Old City (in the Wadi Joz quarter), in the northern suburb (in the Issawie quarter and in the Shuafat refugee camp) and in the quarter of Ras el-Amud, south east of the Temple Mount. Calm however reigns at the Temple Mount and also in the nearby Jewish quarter of the Old City, where the “Hurva” synagogue was opened with a solemn ceremony yesterday. It was in fact following the opening of this splendid synagogue that topographically rises above the Temple Mount that the ‘Day of Rage’ was announced, as explained by a leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Kamal Khatib. He said that there is the fear that this event could herald a Jewish attempt to create a permanent presence at the Temple Mount. As a result, the Islamic Movement in Israel has organised convoys to bring groups of Islamic followers to the Temple Mount. But it seems that several buses travelling to Jerusalem were stopped in Galilee by the Israeli police and forced to go back. The crossings between Jerusalem and the West Bank remain closed again today, for precautionary reasons.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Hamas Used Children as Human Shields, Says Report

Gaza City, 15 March (AKI) — The militant Islamist group Hamas used Palestinian children as human shields during last year’s Gaza war, according to a report published on Monday. According to Israeli media reports, the 500-page report released by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center said that fighters aligned with Gaza’s ruling Hamas used children to mask their escape from combat zones.

The report is believed to be aimed at highlighting the “failings” of the United Nation’s Goldstone report into Israel’s three week Gaza offensive last year, which accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes.

Both the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service, which declined to testify in the Goldstone inquiry, provided evidence for the study.

It also used material from the interrogation of Hamas militants and information from the Hamas-run media, as well documents seized by Israel during the offensive.

According to Israeli media reports, the report also claimed that most of the 1,166 Palestinians killed during Operation Cast Lead were Hamas fighters.

“At least 60 percent of the casualties were terrorist operatives actively engaged in the fighting,” the report said.

The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center or Malam is a small research group led by Reuven Erlich, a former military intelligence officer who works closely with the army.

The IDF and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) cooperated with the report’s authors and declassified hundreds of photographs, videos, prisoner interrogations.

Work on the Malam report began immediately after former judge Richard Goldstone issued his damning report of Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip in September.

The Goldstone report accused Israel and Palestinians of war crimes and there is ongoing speculation that Israeli officials could face charges in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Judge Richard Goldstone, who led the inquiry, said he found evidence of Israeli war crimes in the assault, which is estimated to have killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, even though Israel puts the figure at 1,166.

Israel, which refused to co-operate with the UN research team dismissed the report as “one-sided”.

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

Stakelbeck: Interview With Israeli Minister Yuli Edelstein

I recently sat down with Israel’s Minister for Public Diplomacy, Yuli Edelstein, for a wide ranging interview.

Edelstein is playing a key role in helping the Netanyahu government fight back against Israel’s detractors.

It is an important position that Edelstein is uniquely equipped for: he spent three years in a Soviet prison camp in Siberia for the “crime” of teaching Hebrew language and culture to Soviet Jews.

You can watch the piece at the link above.

[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Dallas-Based Wilson Associates to Design Interiors for 19 Hotels in Makkah, Saudi Arabia

Dallas-based Wilson Associates has been selected to design the interiors of 19 hotels going up simultaneously in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad and the religion he founded.

The hotels are part of a massive redevelopment of eight square miles of Makkah, also known as Mecca, center of the Islamic world. More than 65,000 pilgrims visit the Grand Central Mosque every day.

The project is the life work of H.E. Sheikh Abdul Rahman Fakieh, chairman of the Jabal Omar Development Co., which is spending billions of dollars to revitalize the holiest of cities to Muslims.

Wilson Associates will design more than 10,500 rooms in 25 towers — ranging from 20 to 48 stories — all with views of Makkah and surrounding holy sites. There will be 17 grand lobbies and 40 food and beverage outlets.

The contract’s dollar amount was not revealed.

The project is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2011.

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

Dubai: Industrial, Commercial Properties to be Freehold

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, MARCH 16 — UAE nationals will now be able to own industrial and commercial properties, granted by Dubai’s government, with full freehold legal status and get title deeds registered through the Dubai Land Department. So reports today Gulf news online. Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, in his capacity as Ruler of Dubai, on Monday issued a decree regulating ownership of industrial and commercial plots granted to UAE nationals. The decree allows every citizen who has been granted an industrial or commercial plot to apply to the Land and Properties Department to obtain a title deed with freehold status for the plot by registering it under his name. The decree also allows ownership of industrial or commercial land which previously changed hands but was not registered with the department. The move comes in line with the procedures to activate property and commercial sectors which are vital to Dubai’s economy. As per the decree the UAE nationals will be able to freely own these properties and act on them legally. These lands were earlier restricted to some extent by government regulations. The Dubai government had granted thousands of plots to UAE nationals for commercial use. Emirati owners will have to pay 30 per cent of the value of the property to the Land Department as an ownership transfer and registration fee. The 30 per cent value of the land will be determined by the department on the date of transfer of ownership. (ANSAmed).

2010-03-16 11:25

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: One Vehicle Per 3 Citizens and Cars Outdated

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 16 — The number of private cars in circulation reached 1,324,005 units in 2009 in Lebanon, whilst the resident population was around 4 million. One vehicle for every three citizens, points out the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) office in Beirut in a note, for a total of cars that represents 80.4% of the total vehicles circulating in the country. According to a recent study, continues the note, the main car makes present on the Lebanese market are Mercedes Benz (18.9%), BMW (9.2%), Toyota (8.3%), Honda (7.5%), Renault (6.9%), Nissan (4.8%) and Peugeot (4.4%). In the classification of the top twenty makes, Fiat is in 13th place with 35,311 units (2.2% of the total) after Opel, Volvo, Yamaha, and ahead of Suzuki, Mitsubishi, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Mazda, Jeep and Kia. In essence, underlines the research, 76.5% of the total number of cars in circulation in Lebanon is more than 10 years old and only 3.7% are three years old or less, which means that the cars circulating in Lebanon are old and expensive from a point of view of maintenance. (ANSAmed).

2010-03-16 12:02

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Losing Faith in the Messiah

Obama Unites Israelis and Arabs in Disappointment

Hopes were high in the Middle East when US President Barack Obama took office last year. But instead of progress toward peace, he has shown indecision and hesitancy. With many in the region united against Iran, he is in danger of letting a golden opportunity slip through his fingers.

US President Barack Obama glided off the stage to thunderous applause. He had just given a speech that commentators around the world, particularly those in the Muslim world, would characterize within minutes as “historic.” “The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable,” he said, and promised to “personally pursue” the establishment of a Palestinian state. Then the president left the great hall of Cairo University and entered a smaller room, where seven journalists had gathered: five Muslims, a Christian and a Jew. Speaking to the men and women from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Israel and Malaysia, Obama demonstratively praised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “A very intelligent man, who’s easy to talk to. He has a real sense of history. I believe that Netanyahu has recognized the strategic necessity of achieving peace in the Middle East.”

As the Israeli reporter, Nachum Barnea, recalls, Obama was “like a teacher, full of knowledge and persuasiveness.”

Eight months later, the president was forced to admit that he had not even come close to reaching the goal he had set for himself. “We overestimated our ability to persuade [both sides] to [negotiate],” he told Time reporter Joe Klein in the White House Oval Office in January. “If we had anticipated some of these political problems on both sides earlier, we might not have raised expectations as high.” It was an astonishing admission.

Never before had a US president enjoyed such trust in the Middle East — and gambled it away in such a short time. Obama has vacillated to an extent that has confused friend and foe alike, even baffling veteran observers of the region.

At first, he called for a complete freeze on Israeli settlements, including in East Jerusalem, an area claimed by the Palestinians. This position applied for a few months, to the delight of the Palestinians and the unease of right-wing conservatives in the Israeli government.

But when Netanyahu refused to comply, Obama took a step back last September, by calling upon the Israelis to exercise “restraint” in building settlements. He forced Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who, after eight years of policies under former US President George W. Bush, had just become accustomed to an Arab-friendly White House, to shake hands with Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu. Soon afterwards, Netanyahu announced a 10-month halt on settlement construction, but it did not include annexed East Jerusalem and various projects in the West Bank. To the Palestinians’ chagrin, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Netanyahu’s decision as an exemplary step.

Finally, last Tuesday, US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Jerusalem, where he assured his hosts of Washington’s “absolute, total, unvarnished commitment to Israel’s security” — only to discover, hours later, that the Israeli interior ministry had just approved the construction of 1,600 housing units for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem. Biden was so angry that he showed up an hour-and-a-half late for a dinner with Netanyahu and his wife. “I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem,” he said afterwards. “It is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now.”

It was undoubtedly a brazen insult to Israel’s powerful ally. Nevertheless, sympathy with the Americans has been muted. “Mr. Obama has himself to blame,” the Financial Times remarked drily.

Back to the drawing board, in other words. The “indirect talks” that Obama’s Middle East envoy George Mitchell wants to get up and running again are the same point at which a Middle East peace process began in Madrid 19 years ago, a process that has failed to produce a Palestinian state to this day.

Biden has plenty of experience in the Middle East. But his experience shows that — even after six Israeli prime ministers — Secretary of State James Baker’s 1991 complaint still holds true today: “Nothing has made my job of trying to find Arab and Palestinian partners for Israel more difficult than being greeted by a new settlement every time I arrive.”

The applause for Obama’s Cairo speech died away in the vast expanses of the Arabian Desert long ago. “He says all the right things, but implementation is exactly the way it has always been,” says Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.

Obama’s failure in the Middle East is but one example of his weakness, though a particularly drastic and vivid one. The president, widely celebrated when he took office, cannot claim to have achieved sweeping successes in any area. When he began his term more than a year ago, he came across as an ambitious developer who had every intention of completing multiple projects at once. But after a year, none of those projects has even progressed beyond the early construction phase. And in some cases, the sites are nothing but deep excavations.

On his first day in office, Obama promised to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. But it is still in operation today, and Obama doesn’t know where to put the prisoners.

He also hasn’t managed to come to grips with the gamblers on Wall Street who helped trigger the financial crisis. When his advisor Paul Volcker sought to prohibit major banks from engaging in at least the riskiest practices, the Wall Street lobby fired back immediately.

From health reform to climate change, Obama has not yet managed any significant breakthroughs. When the US Capitol was engulfed in a blizzard in early February, the family of Republican Senator James Inhofe built an igloo outside and placed a cardboard sign in front of it that read: “Al Gore’s New Home,” and “Honk if you [heart] Global Warming.”

Obama’s critics are now equally disrespectful in their discussions of his foreign policy.

He set out to negotiate with Iran. He courted the regime, sent the Iranians a greeting to mark the Persian New Year, and even sent a letter to revolutionary leader Ali Khamenei. But the end-of-the-year deadline he had loudly proclaimed passed without incident, and yet Iran’s uranium centrifuges in Natanz and Qom are still up and running.

Although Iraq held an election two Sundays ago, the results are so ambiguous, and the situation is so unclear, that Ray Odierno, the commanding general of US forces in Iraq, is thinking about delaying the withdrawal of his troops — which would represent yet another breach of Obama’s campaign promises.

Obama has turned his attention to Afghanistan, sending an additional 30,000 troops to the country. But even that measure was announced and then withdrawn in the same speech. The troops were deployed in 2009, but their withdrawal is set to begin by mid-2011. By announcing his plans for the deployment and withdrawal of the troops at the same time, Obama didn’t exactly create the impression of supreme decisiveness among America’s enemies in Afghanistan.

Despite having promised, in his inaugural speech, that he would not sacrifice principles for security, this is precisely what his opponents say Obama is doing today. He is making compromises, which has upset even his supporters. He hasn’t brought himself to back the protest movement in Iran, he has voiced only timid support for human rights in China, and he did not agree to meet with the Dalai Lama until after a second request had been made. In Saudi Arabia, he bows down before King Abdullah instead of championing democracy and women’s rights. And in Africa, he looked on as a State Department backtracked after having referred to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s criticism of a Swiss vote to ban the construction of minarets as “lots of words …. not necessarily a lot of sense.”

Obama can hardly count on gaining the support of allies, partly because he doesn’t pay much attention to them. The American president doesn’t have a single strong ally among European heads of state. “The president is said to be reluctant to take time to build relationships with foreign leaders,” writes the Washington Post.

This approach has its consequences. When Obama was campaigning for his vision of a nuclear-free world, French President Nicolas Sarkozy put him in his place before the United Nations Security Council. “We live in a real world,” the Frenchman said derisively, “not a virtual world.”

In the Middle East, the irresolute Obama is missing an opportunity to bring about peace that he — and probably a number of his successors — will not be offered in its current form anytime soon. Never before in Israeli history have Jews and Arabs been as united as they are today, in the face of the Iranian nuclear threat. Indeed, the Saudi Arabian foreign minister has spoken openly of the need for a military strike against Iran.

SPIEGEL has learned that Western intelligence services believe that the Saudis would even provide the Israelis with access to their airspace for such a strike. This stands in contrast to the Americans, who — with good reason — are unwilling to allow them to fly over Iraq.

In the face of the pressure from Iran, Arab regimes are more willing to compromise than they have been in a long time. Before Biden’s visit, they unanimously called upon the Palestinians to enter into a new round of negotiations with Israel. Today, many Arab leaders support peace in the Middle East, their earlier positions on the issue notwithstanding.

The Arab states are no longer the ones who benefit from the Middle East conflict. Instead, it is the Iranian leadership, whose ruthless rhetoric and nuclear program has the Arabs just as nervous as the Israelis.

Nevertheless, Obama continues to stand alone on the world stage, seemingly without a goal and oceans removed from achieving a solution to the toxic Middle East conflict. US historian Walter Russell Mead recently wrote of Obama in the journal Foreign Relations that “the conflicting impulses influencing how this young leader thinks about the world threaten to tear his presidency apart — and, in the worst scenario, turn him into a new Jimmy Carter.”

Such words could be a death sentence in US politics. Carter is seen as a likeable failure, a president no one took seriously.

But in the Middle East, of all places, Carter is still ahead of Obama. He managed to bring the Israelis and Egyptians to one table and, in 1979, celebrated the signing of the Camp David Peace Accords. As a result, Israel withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula, which it had occupied since 1967, and evacuated its settlements there.

Obama’s chances of achieving a similar success between the Israelis and Palestinians today are far from promising. The Palestinians no longer trust him, and the Israelis don’t take him seriously, as Prime Minister Netanyahu’s “apology” to Vice President Biden demonstrated last week. Netanyahu said that he regretted the “unfortunate timing” of the settlement announcement. Netanyahu’s spokesman claimed that the premier had not known about the settlement plans — one of the biggest construction projects in Jerusalem.

It isn’t as if the US government had no leverage to convince Israel to at least make minor changes to its settlement policy. The Jewish state receives about $2.5 billion (€1.8 billion) in annual military aid alone from Washington. Some of Obama’s predecessors had no qualms about threatening Israel with cuts in aid. President Gerald Ford did it in 1975, because he felt that the Israelis were too inflexible in negotiations with Egypt. President George H.W. Bush held back $10 billion in US government loan guarantees until Israel agreed to participate in the planned Madrid peace conference. Even his son, President George W. Bush, froze some of the loan guarantees in 2003, when Israel began building a “security fence” that penetrated deeply into Palestinian territory.

Obama, on the other hand, has shied away from setting tough conditions for Israel. Many of his critics blame that stance on his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, 50.

In Washington, every Democrat who would like to but doesn’t dare to criticize the president is turning against Emanuel. They see him as a dark Rasputin exerting his virtually hypnotic control over Obama.

In Arab countries, many believe Emanuel is an Israel agent, and they cite his background as proof. The son of a Zionist underground fighter, he served in the Israeli army as a civilian volunteer, despite being an American citizen.

Obama’s many mistakes in the Middle East are reflected in the low opinion of Emanuel held among Prime Minister Netanyahu’s staff members, who see him as a despicable figure. In their view, it was Emanuel who incited Obama against Israel and was responsible for Jerusalem’s and Washington’s troubles with the settlements.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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

Turkey: Per Capita Spending on Medicine $140, Survey

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 16 — Contrary to popular belief, per capita pharmaceutical consumption in Turkey is relatively low, amounting to only $140, well below the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average, Today’s Zaman reports quoting the findings of a recent study. According to Deloitte’s report ‘The Pharmaceutical Industry in Turkey and the World: Growth Prospects,’ the money spent on drugs accounts for nearly one-third of the total health expenditure in Turkey. The country’s per capita pharmaceutical consumption is $140, according to the report, while this figure is $680 in the US, $378 in France, $301 in Germany and $257 in the UK. According to Guler Hulya Yilmaz, the head of Deloitte Turkey’s Health and Drug Industry division, per capita spending on pharmaceuticals is expected to rise in Turkey in the future in line with an aging population. The Turkish pharmaceutical industry is ranked among the world’s top 15 markets, the report stated. Currently, 300 firms operate in the Turkish pharmaceutical sector, with 53 of them having their own production facilities, according to the report, while the pharmaceutical market comprises 23,000 pharmacies along with approximately 500 pharmaceutical warehouses. The market for prescription drugs was estimated to have grown nearly twofold between 2003 and 2008, increasing from Tturkish Liras 6.2 billion (2.95 billion euro) to Turkish Liras 12.1 billion (5.77 billion euro). (ANSAmed).

2010-03-16 11:30

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Ban on Travelling Abroad for Artificial Insemination

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 16 — From now on, Turkish women who go abroad to get pregnant by artificial insemination will be liable to three and a half years in prison. The news was reported by Hurriyet announcing the coming into force on March 6 of a new law which extends the law that is already in place on national territory to the overseas arena. Sperm and egg donation in Turkey had already been prohibited and now women will be banned from receiving fertility treatment abroad with the amendment that has just come into force which intends to “protect the extraction of the country”, declared to the newspaper by Irfan Sencan, director of the health services department at the Ministry of Health. “The law was amended,” explained Sencan, “in order to protect the descent, to ensure that the newborn’s mother and father are known. It has nothing to do with race.” But several sociologists, doctors and legal experts object that it will be somewhat difficult for the Turkish authorities to make sure the ban is respected.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Why Iran Smiles on Jerusalem Clashes

The Jerusalem clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians that injured more than 100 today, together with an unfolding crisis between the US and Israel, give beleaguered Iran an opportunity to boost its clout.

Iran is closely watching the unfolding crisis between Israel and the United States over Israeli settlements — and Jerusalem clashes with Palestinians that injured more than 100 today — for ways to rejuvenate its diminished influence in the Middle East.

Public division between the US and its closest ally Israel — two arch-foes of Iran that have made curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions a top priority — are a gift to the Islamic Republic, analysts say, as it tries to fend off US and Israeli efforts to forge a coalition against it. Hard-line officials will use it as a further example of the US as a lapsed superpower — a point they frequently affirm.

Iran has seen its reputation tarnished across much of the Middle East by weeks of violent street clashes after the June 2009 presidential election, which many Iranians believe was rigged.

“The Iranians are going to see an opportunity to improve their position in the region, to capitalize on Israel’s reduced standing vis-à-vis the US, to reduce the chances of an anti-Iran coalition being formed,” says Meir Javedanfar, an Israel-based Iran analyst.

“If the situation drags on — and especially if Israel continues to defy the United States — I think the Iranians will definitely take advantage, and will try to make an agreement, especially with the Persian Gulf countries,” not to gang up against Iran, says Mr. Javedanfar, coauthor of The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran. “They would be able to say to them: ‘Look, the Americans are not even able to convince their friends to do what they want. They’re going to have much less chance to stand up to their enemies such as Iran.”

Why Israel helps Iran keep its ‘revolutionary’ status Demonizing the US and Israel — sometimes referred to in Iran’s ideological parlance as the “Great Satan” and “Little Satan” — has been a pillar of the regime since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

After more than 31 years, chants of “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” and flag burning remain routine at pro-regime rallies. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad often claims that Israel’s oppressive policies against Palestinians will cause the destruction of the Jewish state.

Such a result — were it ever to happen — would relieve Iran of a constant thorn in its side, but also deprive it of one of the perennial enemies it has used to maintain its “revolutionary” status.

[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Aceh, Islamic Terrorist Killed in Police Raid

Enceng Kurnia topped the list of Indonesia’s most wanted. He was mentor to Imam Samudra, one of the Bali bombers, and has been linked to an extremist involved in the 2004 Australian Embassy attack in Jakarta. Ten terrorists have died so far in the latest anti-terror unit operation. Indonesian authorities beef up securities measures ahead of Barack Obama’s official visit.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Indonesian authorities have released the names of the top terrorists who died in a gun battle with police last Friday in Aceh province. They are Enceng Kurnia, also-known-as Jaia or Umar, and Pura Sudarma. This brings the death toll from the operation carried out by the anti-terror unit to ten. During the operation, police intercepted a van carrying the terrorists as they were leaving one “war zone” for Medan, North Sumatra province.

Enceng Kurnia was not any terrorist. He was closely linked to Rios, a terrorist involved in the attack against the Australian Embassy on 9 September 2004. Trained first in Afghanistan, then Mindanao (southern Philippines), he played mentor to Imam Samudra, one of the Bali bombers, according to police. The attack in Bali in 2002 killed more than 200 people.

Police spokesman Edward Aritonang denied claims Jaia was affiliated with Jemaah Islamiyah, a terror group to which Imam Samudra belonged. Instead, it is more likely he was tied to the Indonesian Islamic State, a new group set up following the break-up of Darul Islam.

Meanwhile, the authorities are getting closer to mopping a number of Islamic terror cells, especially in Aceh province—a strategic spot for Islamist training—, and in sensitive spots in the capital.

The Indonesian cabinet has added an additional 4,000 special army troops to boost security a few days before US President Barack Obama makes an official visit to the country.

Originally set for 22 March, the visit will start on 25 March because the US leader is being retained at home pending the approval of his health care bill, currently before Congress.

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

Far East

Critical History of Vietnam — And Beyond

Former President Richard Nixon’s observations about the conflict in Southeast Asia, delivered long after his departure from office, are arguably among the most insightful ever made: “No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now.”

Jeremiah Denton, U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1946, was the 13th American aviator, of the many hundreds who would follow, shot down and captured by the communist North Vietnamese during that very long war. Then 41 years old, happily married and the father of seven children, Commander Denton, who was the skipper of Attack Squadron 75 based aboard the USS Independence, had been leading a 28-plane Alpha Strike against the heavily defended Thanh Hoa Bridge near Hanoi when the A-6 all-weather bomber he and navigator Bill Tschudy were flying was hit on July 18, 1965. They would spend the next 2,766 days, nearly eight years, as prisoners of war.

By virtue of his rank — for a time he was the senior American POW held by the communists — and the nature of his character, Denton would be singled out by his captors for particularly brutal treatment. In those unending years of his imprisonment, nearly twice as long as America’s involvement in World War II, he would be one of five men to endure and somehow survive a total of four years in isolation and solitary confinement. From this unusual perch Denton and his mates were able to witness, observe and develop a perspective of the war experienced by few others.


Denton reveals critical first-person history of Operation Linebacker II, or what is more often remembered as the Christmas bombing campaign of 1972, which is, unfortunately, found in few other places. From personal discussions with senior communist leadership, who by that late in the war were communicating almost regularly with senior American POWs just prior to their release, Denton and the others were shocked by their 180-degree change in attitude. With the near-full measure of American airpower finally used against them during that one 12-day period, the Communists were eager to negotiate on almost any terms. (U.S. airpower was still restricted in its targeting — for instance, the intricate system of dikes and dams of the Red River delta were never targeted, judged by the Americans to have placed civilians in too much danger had they been struck.)

According to the North Vietnamese political and military leaders Denton and the other senior American POWs had discussions with, the war was virtually won — by us — and all that remained to be handled were the details. That message never made its way to the American public. It was certainly missed by our political leadership who lacked the skill or the will to exploit that rapidly gained advantage. That egregious strategic misstep was perhaps the single biggest mistake of the war. Our South Vietnamese allies paid an extremely heavy, incomprehensible price in blood, suffering and loss of freedom for that perfidious seeming blunder.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Intel Briefs: China Could Program U.S. Collapse

The ultimate mole? ‘Back door’ functions in microprocessors

Semiconductors used in U.S. weapons systems that come from China and other countries could be pre-programmed for failure, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

In an exclusive interview with G2 Bulletin, a high-level Pentagon technical expert who asked to remain anonymous warned that such tampering is virtually undetectable. His revelation underscores a growing concern in the U.S. military that with the dwindling manufacture of domestic chips and electronics combined with the burgeoning growth of supplies — especially from China — there is virtually no way to trace the source of any electronic tampering.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Divide Nigeria in Two, Says Muammar Gaddafi

Nigeria should be divided into two nations to avoid further bloodshed between Muslims and Christians, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has said.

In a speech to students, he praised the example of India and Pakistan, where he said partition saved many lives.

Splitting Nigeria “would stop the bloodshed and burning of places of worship,” state news agency Jana quoted him as saying.

A senior Nigerian diplomat said he was not taking the suggestion seriously.

Hundreds of people have died in communal violence in villages around the central Nigerian city of Jos this year.

The BBC’s Rana Jawad in Tripoli says Col Gaddafi’s suggestion is unsurprising given his past form.

Last year, he called for Switzerland to be abolished and for its land to be divided between Italy, Germany and France.


Nigeria is roughly split between its largely Muslim north, and a Christian-dominated south.

Col Gaddafi, until recently head of the African Union, characterised the Jos violence as a “deep conflict of religious nature” caused by the federal state, “which was made and imposed by the British in spite of the people’s resistance to it”.

He described the partition of India as a “historic, radical solution” which saved the lives of “millions of Hindus and Muslims”.

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

Somali Pirates Free Chemical Tanker and N Korea Crew

Somali pirates have released a chemical tanker and its 28 North Korean crew, maritime officials say.

The Singapore-operated MV Theresa VIII was seized in November in the south Somali Basin north of the Seychelles.

Andrew Mwangura, of the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme, said a ransom of about $3.5m (£2.3m) had been paid, Reuters news agency reported.

Pirates have made the sea lanes off the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden among the most dangerous in the world.

“It was freed today. The crew is safe. All the gunmen have disembarked,” said Mr Mwangura.

Cdr John Harbour, of the EU Naval Force which patrols the region, said the tanker had not asked for assistance after it was released but warships were monitoring the situation.

He confirmed a ransom had been paid.

The MV Theresa VIII had been heading for Mombasa, Kenya, when it was hijacked.

International naval patrols have failed to stop attacks on shipping, although the French navy said it captured 35 suspected pirates off Somalia’s coast earlier this month.

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

Terrorism Conference of Sahel-Sahara Countries in Algiers

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, MARCH 15 — The fresh upsurge of terrorism will be at the centre of a conference of countries in the Sahel-Sahara region that takes place tomorrow in Algiers. So announced the Foreign Ministry quoted by press agency APS. The agency specified that the Foreign Ministers of Chad, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso will attend the meeting. According to the Ministry the situation will be assessed “after the upsurge of terrorism, its connections with international crime and all kinds of trafficking, and its impact on peace, security and stability in the region”. The participating countries, the statement continues, will examine the bilateral and regional measures that must be taken against this problem, as well as the means to relaunch economic development in the region. The Sahel region has seen an increase of activities of fundamentalist groups, which claim to be part of al Qaeda for the Islamic Maghreb, in the past years. These groups have claimed responsibility for several kidnappings of foreigners in the past months. Four Europeans, two Italians and two Spaniards, are still in their hands, possibly in the north of Mali. Alicia Gamez, a woman who was part of the original group of five hostages, was released on March 10. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Venezuela’s Chavez Calls for Internet Controls

(Reuters) — Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, who is criticized by media freedom groups, called on Saturday for regulation of the Internet and singled out a website that he said falsely reported the murder of one of his ministers.

“The Internet cannot be something open where anything is said and done. Every country has to apply its own rules and norms,” Chavez said. He cited German Chancellor Angel Merkel as having expressed a similar sentiment recently.

Chavez is angry with Venezuelan political opinion and gossip website Noticierodigital, which he said had falsely written that Diosdado Cabello, a senior minister and close aide, had been assassinated. The president said the story remained on the site for two days.

“We have to act. We are going to ask the attorney general for help, because this is a crime. I have information that this page periodically publishes stories calling for a coup d’etat. That cannot be permitted.”

Social networking web sites like Twitter and Facebook are very popular among Venezuela’s opposition movements to organize protests against the government. Chavez has complained that people use such sites to spread unfounded rumors.

Many opponents fear Chavez plans to emulate the government oversight of the Web used by allies Cuba, China and Iran, but the socialist leader has not given any sign that he is planning such a move.

In 2007 Chavez refused to renew the license for television station RCTV, which is now battling to survive as a cable-only operator.

The government has also put pressure on opposition TV network Globovision to soften its editorial line and last year closed dozens of radio stations for administrative breaches.

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


Ireland: Muslim Resident Speaks Out on Behalf of Immigrants

A former candidate in Waterford at the Local Government elections Sheikh M. Ahmed has issued a statement on the arrest of seven people in the Waterford area for questioning over the alleged threat to kill a Swedish cartoonist. He resides in the Dunmore Road area of Waterford and is studying law in Waterford Institute of Technology.

“A Muslim can’t be a terrorist and a terrorist can’t be a Muslim”, he said on behalf of the minority communities of Waterford and Ireland. In his statement Mr. Sheikh Ahmed said that it is not the time to conclude whether the arrested persons are guilty or not but if they become guilty through trial after fair investigation then we could conclude the matter. He mentioned that it is mandatory for a Muslim to obey the law of the land where they live.

He also mentioned Islam means peace and the person who is surrendered to Almighty Creator he is Muslim, so there is no relation between terrorism and Islam. But a conspiracy is continuing all over the world from some vested corners to destroy the image of Real Islam. Some people were brainwashed and planted all over the world to do such activities which finally destroy the normal lives and image of Muslims in western world.

Specifically Sheikh Ahmed mentioned the long lasting friendly relations between the Muslim world and Ireland and said that to destroy the relation intentionally some vested quarter have taken some steps, “it is just one of them. Muslim world and Ireland need each other for their bilateral interests”.

Sheikh Ahmed urged the government to find those immigrants to integrate and involve themselves in the social activities to develop the society in Ireland where their children would live.

Sheikh Ahmed also requested the European peace loving people not to take any advantage to misuse the freedom of press and freedom of expression to provoke anybody to destroy the harmony of the communities. He is not willing to conclude anything before a fair investigation on the matter which is possible by Irish detectives. He believes that a terrorist should be punished whatever his identity be it Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu that does not matter.

He hoped that Irish citizens are smart enough to judge the situation and there will be no tension arising within the communities for any alleged illegal activities. “The peace loving Muslim residents are always thinking that they are the part of the progress of EU and they want to continue with that belief”.

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

Lord Pearson: Let US Debate the Real Issues in the Election Campaign

INDULGE me for a moment. Imagine an election campaign that actually talked about the things that really concern the British people rather than what the wives of the party leaders think about their husbands. What are the issues that should be tackled? What should the election be about?

I ask because this election will not be about the issues that really concern us: mass immigration, massive waste in the public services, crime, the European Union and our very democracy. These things will be avoided like the plague.

Why is this? Why is there no straight talking from those who fill our TV screens?

The simple reason is that the power over these and so many other issues no longer resides in Westminster, it has moved to Brussels. The promises of the establishment political parties melt away like the grin on the Cheshire cat once this stark reality shines upon them.

That’s why they won’t talk about immigration. The fact that 5,000 people a week are moving to this country to live, a city the size of Southampton every year. Last week all three establishment parties sang in harmony: Turkey must join the European Union, they said. You heard that right, not content with throwing our doors open to all European countries with the result that millions have moved here they want Turkey to join as well.

D avid Miliband, William Hague and the Lib Dems are all backing Turkish membership. Oh how pleased they are to be able to agree with each other. “Remarkable,” they said and of course they are right. It is remarkable that they all want to give 70million Turks the right to move to the UK. Madness might be another word, or more like arrogance in the face of the wishes of the British public.

We should be discussing our public finances. The political class has brought our country to its knees. We look in pity at the Greeks humming and hawing about whether to apply to the IMF to bail them out. In Greece they are freezing public- sector wages (including for the highest paid politicians and the like), cutting social security spending by 10 per cent, closing down bulging aspects of the state and yet still the markets look with a wary eye.

Britain’s deficit is similar but nobody is facing up to it. There is no mention of the £45million a day going to Brussels in cash, part of the £120billion a year cost of our EU membership, according to the Taxpayers’ Alliance. No talk of a public- sector wage freeze across the board. Cosmetic gestures targeting the top 10 per cent just will not do.

The public sector has been deliberately expanded at the expense of the productive private sector. Public-sector pensions now cost each of us £516 a year while most private- sector workers struggle by without proper retirement provision. This iniquity will grow as time moves on and trouble will out.

The rise of the undemocratic quango industry must also be stopped. If ministers believe that a service should be provided it should be provided by the ministry. It would then be accountable and easily cut when no longer required.

Jobs and wealth creation should be on the agenda. Every body knows most jobs in the private sector are created by small firms yet nobody is setting entrepreneurs free from the oceans of red tape which drown them. Instead we get more and deeper problems with forms, bureaucracy and cost. Our post offices close, our waste is not collected. We get equality laws that drive firms SDHpaway from employing women and lifestyle laws that penalise legal behaviour and destroy our pub culture.

W e should be talking about the rise of political Islam. The attempted takeover of Tower Hamlets in East London by a radical Muslim organisation should be a wake-up to us all.

In a few years this country will be suffering from serious power shortages. Yet there are no plans to address this as the Establishment refuses to see reality, blinded by impossible dreams of carbon neutrality and the relentless swishing of 10,000 pointless windmills.

We should be discussing the horrifying rise in violent crime and why our legal system puts the rights of the criminal ahead of the wishes of the decent majority. Above all we should be talking about a serious devolution of power to the people and away from the political class with binding national and local referendums to make politicians do what real people want. The Swiss have been doing this for years and it is surely an idea whose time has come.

We do not talk about these things and more for one very simple reason: our political class is unanimous in its subservience to “Europe”. Immigration? The EU controls our borders. Job creation? Business regulations are created in Brussels. The looming energy crisis? Environmental policy is dictated by Eurocrats. Why can’t we treat criminals as criminals and ­protect our people? Because of European Human Rights legislation.

So why on earth are we not talking honestly about the very simple, very central argument in all this: our relationship with Europe?

This election should be about who governs Britain. Should it be politicians elected by the people of Britain? Politicians whom we can fire if they do not perform or prove themselves corrupt and dishonest? Or should it be run by ranks of foreign bureaucrats, unelected, unaccountable and immovable? Why shouldn’t it be the people themselves who have the power to govern? To ask the question is to answer it. To answer it is to vote UKIP.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Mexico Drug War: A Cancer Spreading to U.S.

Thought brutal gangs only on south side of border? Think again!

“There is evidence that Mexican cartels are also increasing their relationships with prison and street gangs in the United States in order to facilitate drug trafficking within the United States as well as wholesale and retail distribution of the drugs,” CRS reported.

In addition to drug trafficking, the Mexican cartels have been tied to incidents of human trafficking, auto theft and kidnapping. An estimated 18,000 people have been killed in Mexico’s drug violence in the last three years.

The fresh surge of bloodshed comes on the heels of President Obama’s reiteration of his “unwavering” commitment to comprehensive immigration reform in recent days.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Stop Evicting Illegal Families, Holland Told

The Netherlands is continuing to break EU conventions by leaving families with children whose requests for asylum have been rejected to fend for themselves on the streets, the Volkskrant reports on Monday.

At the end of last month, the European Committee on Social Rights said the Netherlands must stop evicting families with young children from asylum seekers centres because this conflicted with the European social charter and other human rights legislation.

The charter guarantees the rights of children to protection and a roof over their heads, whatever their legal status. The complaint against the Netherlands was brought by the Defence for Children lobby group in 2008.

The Volkskrant says several hundred families with children are evicted from refugee centres every year.

However, the Netherlands is not planning to amend its rules until it has discussed the issue with the Council of Europe, but that meeting will not take place for several months, the paper says.

Defence for Children lawyer Carla van Os told the paper the Netherlands is dragging its feet unnecessarily. ‘The conclusion is very clear. You cannot dump children on the street. The ruling is binding and the rest of the Council of Europe has nothing to say about the matter,’ Van Os said.

The justice ministry says it cannot change the current situation immediately for ‘procedural reasons’, and lawyers are now working to establish jurisprudence, the paper says.

For example, lawyer Pim Fischer is currently dealing with two families left on Emmen station and told to find their way home.

Junior justice minister Nebahat Albayrak has also ordered local councils to close their emergency accommodation for failed asylum seeker families.

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

Turkey Presses for Visa Exemption in First Talks With Füle

Stefan Füle Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoðlu has reiterated his government’s demand that the European Union lift visa requirements for Turkish nationals traveling to EU member countries, saying agreements signed by the EU and Turkey necessitate that Turks be exempted from visas.

Davutoðlu’s comments came at a joint press conference with Stefan Füle, the EU’s new commissioner for enlargement and neighborhood policy. This is the first visit Füle, who formally took over his post in February, has paid to Turkey, a candidate to join the 27-nation bloc since 1999. He had talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan and Egemen BaðýÅŸ, Turkey’s chief negotiator for EU talks. Davutoðlu said there were legal commitments that the EU had made to Turkey for visa exemption under a series of past agreements.

Ankara is now negotiating an agreement allowing the readmission of illegal immigrants crossing Turkey to reach EU countries and working on final preparations to issue biometric passports to Turkish nationals, an EU requirement for visa-free travel. The government has stepped up its calls on the EU to lift visa requirements for Turks after the EU offered free travel to nationals of three Balkan countries — Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro — in December. Last year, the European Court of Justice also issued a ruling paving the way for Turkish businesspeople providing services in EU member states to enter the EU without having to obtain visas first under a 1973 deal called the Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement.

“The Ankara Agreement, the Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement and the Customs Union agreement all necessitate that Turkey be given visa-free travel rights even before the Western Balkan countries. I have shared our political determination with Mr. Füle,” said Davutoðlu.

Turkey has been negotiating with the EU for accession since 2005 and is part of a customs union agreement with the EU. But it is not a part of the Schengen scheme that allows free movement across borders.

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