Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100525

Financial Crisis
»France: Government Ready to Raise Pension Age
»Greece: Protests at Start of Administrative Reform
»Italy: Budget Proposals Draw Mixed Reactions
»Spain: Adjustment to Ban on Councils Requesting Loans
»Spain: Crisis Accelerates Merger of Four Savings Banks
»Think America ‘Protected’ Against EU Crisis?
»9/11 Health Bill Passes Key House Panel
»Battle Involving Local FBI’s Terrorism Group Gets Heated
»Downtown Community Raises Voice Over Ground Zero Mosque
»FBI Witness Murdered Who Had Access to Obama/Soetoro Passport Records
»Obama Gets an Earful in Clash With GOP Senators
»Praying for a Moderate Terrorist
»President George Washington Structured the Militia System to Prevent Treason and Tyranny by Public Officials!
»Stocks Erase Losses Late in the Day, Finishing Nearly Unchanged
»Tattooed Lip Leads Police to Assault Suspect
»Growing Foreign-Born Population to Forge ‘New Canada’
Europe and the EU
»Briton Sets Lawnmower Racing Record
»Germany: Ministry Slams Defective Tiger Attack Helicopter
»Italy: Growing Number of Workers Face Poverty
»Italy: Porn Star Arrested for Stage Sex Show
»Italy: Wiretap Bill to Hit Senate Floor May 31
»Italy to Have ‘Good Samaritan’ Organ Donors
»‘Sex Abuse Not Denting Italian Faith’
»Sweden: US Must Close Foreign Bases: Opposition
»Sweden: Princess and Her Personal Trainer Opt for ‘Sexist’ Wedding
»UK: Chatham Pub’s Call to Muslim Prayer
»What’s Actually in the U.S. Sanctions on Iran Proposal? Strengths and Weaknesses
»Serbia: Salaries, Pensions to Remain Frozen
»Serbia: Average Salary in April Totalled 343 Euros
Mediterranean Union
»Tunisia: EU Project Promotes Access for Women
Israel and the Palestinians
»Gaza: Explosion Near Border, No Victims
»Palestinians Against Sephora, Sells Territory Products
Middle East
»Arab World: More Facebook Profiles Than Newspaper Copies
»Caroline Glick: Reclaiming Our Language From the Left
»Iran: Brother of ‘Islamist Militant’ Executed
»Lebanon: Obama Tells Hariri, Transferring Arms Would be Threat
»The Middle East in May 2010: An Assessment
»Turkey: Press, 3,000 Children in the Ranks of PKK
»Is Russia Radicalizing Its Muslims?
South Asia
»Afghanistan: US Troop Numbers Surpass Iraq
»Pak SC Allows 26/11 Plotter to Walk Free
»Pakistan Appeases Those it Should be Fighting
»US Sidesteps Local Authorities to Conduct Own Security Sweep of Lahore Airport
Far East
»Time for Real Action Against North Korea
Sub-Saharan Africa
»‘Pirates’ Claim They Just Fishing for Sharks… With Rocket Launchers
»Miami Company Creates “Gringo Masks” For Illegals
»Obama’s Pro-Terror Policies and Arizona
»Spain: Boat Carrying 44 Migrants Rescued
»Religion From an Evolutionary Perspective

Financial Crisis

France: Government Ready to Raise Pension Age

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MAY 25 — Leaks reporting that the French government has decided to raise the pension age as part of the reform of the social security system have been confirmed. The news reported by France Presse, quoting “a source close to the operation”, does not however specify what the new threshold age (which is currently 60) will be. In addition, added the source, the idea of “raising contributions for civil servants” is said to be “truly on the table.” Many French newspapers, including Paris’ Le Monde and the financial paper Les Echos, reported at the weekend on the government’s decision, which is said to have been taken as part of the negotiations underway with the unions. The news was however denied by the presidency of the Republic and by the Labour Ministry.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Protests at Start of Administrative Reform

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MAY 25 — There have been demonstrations in Athens this morning against the reform of the regional administration, which today begins its parliamentary passage, by the citizens from Crete and Amfiklia, in central Greece. The protest regards above all the elimination of 76 prefectures (provinces), substituted by 13 wider regional administrative bodies, and the subsequent amalgamation of town councils that will serve to redesign and streamline the bureaucratic structure of the country. After demonstrating outside the Interior Ministry and trying to reach the guarded residence of Premier George Papandreou yesterday, residents of Amfiklia and Crete blocked road and rail links between Athens and Thessaloniki in protest. Several other towns have mobilised against the so-called ‘Kallikrates’ reform (named after the architect of the Parthenon and a long wall that linked Athens and Piraeus). They are doing so as they are set to lose their status as provincial capital or be joined to others with the passing of the reform.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Budget Proposals Draw Mixed Reactions

Tremonti shows measures to local govt reps, unions and employers

(ANSA) — Rome, May 25 — A 2011-2012 budget proposal set to be examined by the cabinet later on Thursday drew mixed reactions from regional and local government representatives, unions and employers who were given a preview of the measures by Italy’s economy minister.

Giulio Tremonti illustrated the guidelines of his draft budget first to regional and local government representatives in the morning, and later to leading trade unions and the industrial employers association Confindustria.

The two-year budget aims at raising 24 billion euros, 12 billion euros each year, through spending cuts and increased revenue in order to reduce Italy’s massive public debt and bring the deficit below 3% of GDP.

“This is not a normal budget and we need to manage it together. The situation is unprecedented and we all need to understand this,” Tremonti was quoted as saying at the morning meeting.

The minister reportedly explained that the situation was unprecedented because in order to stabilise the euro area the European Union was considering blocking EU funds for those countries which had excessive deficits. Similar action is being taken in other European Union countries to stabilise markets in the wake of the fiscal crisis in Greece which undermined confidence in the EU and its single currency.

Among the proposals advanced by Tremonti are a three-year wage freeze for all state employees; cutting ministry budgets, but not across-the-board; cracking down on fraud in claiming disability pensions; increasing tax evasion checks; and a major effort to get unregistered real estate assets recorded on tax rolls, but without applying any pardon.

According to Tremonti, the budget will seek to curb spending while at the same time try to boost growth. Coming out of the morning meeting, Tuscany’s Governor Vasco Errani, who is chairman of the Regions conference, said the budget measures were “unbearable” for the effects they will have on regional finances and added “we need to make clear that the budget cannot be one which stifles growth”. Turin Mayor Sergio Chiamparino, head of the national mayors association, confirmed that there was no discussion on a possible pardon for undeclared real estate assets, “which we oppose” and said that the central government would provide local governments with lists of these assets.

“Once again the lion’s share of sacrifices are being asked of workers in the public and private sectors. These measures offer no support for employment nor investments and thus do not correspond to the principle of equity,” the head of Italy’s biggest trade union, CGIL, said after the afternoon meeting.

“People who earn 1,500 euros a month are going to make sacrifices while those making one million euros will not be touched,” Guglielmo Epifani observed “We do not call into question the need for a corrective measure, well aware that other countries are doing the same.

However, we cannot help but point out how up until now this government said the situation was under control and now it is confirmed that this was not true,” he added.

According to Confindustria Chairman Emma Marcegaglia, “if this budget moves in the direction of cutting public spending and boosting productivity then it will be good for the country”.

She added that while stepping up the fight against tax evasion was a move in the right direction, “real cuts” were also needed to the cost of maintaining Italy’s government and political system.

“We all have to make sacrifices and if the nation is asked to make sacrifices it would be right that sacrifices also be made by those asking for them,” Marcegaglia said.

Criticism of the three-year freeze on public contract was voiced by unions representing law enforcement and magistrates.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Adjustment to Ban on Councils Requesting Loans

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 25 — Due to protests by town councils caused by the ban on requesting loans until 2012, which came into force yesterday with the publication of the anti-deficit legislative decree in the Official Bulletin, the Spanish government has today adjusted the timing of the effectiveness of the measure, which will enter into force on January 1, 2011. The ban caused protests by mayors, due to the impact that it risks causing on works in progress, but also for the payment of services and the salaries of employees of local administration. The news of the adjustment came just after the meeting called by the president of the Federation of Municipalities and Provinces, Pedro Castro, to discuss the measure, which falls into the plan for an additional cut of 15 billion euros of the public deficit by 2012, which had not been announced by the government before publication in the Official Bulletin. For her part, in statements to the press in Brussels, quoted by Europa Press, Economy Minister Elena Salgado downplayed the about-turn by the government, describing the change of date for the ban’s entry into force as “an error of no importance.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Crisis Accelerates Merger of Four Savings Banks

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 25 — In Spain, the process for a financial restructuring to reform the savings and loans banking sector, the most hit by insolvency and exposure to construction and real estate credits, is accelerating. But tensions in the financial sector, after the compulsory administration of Cajasur, today negatively affected the Madrid Ibex 35 market index, which opened with average losses of 3.13, especially dropping in bank shares, and settled mid-day at over 4%. Yesterday, an accord was announced for the fusion of four savings banks and four autonomous communities, Caja Mediterraneo (Cam) of Valencia, Cajastur of the Asturias, Caja Cantabria and Caja Extremadura, to set up the fifth Spanish financial institute by volume of assets, behind Santander and BBVA, La Caixa and Caja Madrid. The operation, announced today in the Spanish media, will follow the “cold fusion” model, consisting in the creation of an Institutional Safeguard System (SIP), brought about by means of a Madrid-based bank. In principle, this type of fusion does not require the integration of the boards of administration, of corporate social responsibility or of networks of the various savings banks branches. Each of the four financial institutes would keep own legal personality, governing bodies, independent corporate social responsibility, but would pool risk policies, treasury, credit rating, internal control and regulatory requirements. Only the branches of the four savings banks would join in the new institute’s single brand resulting from the fusion in the regions where the banks are not individually present, that is in Madrid, Catalonia and Andalusia. According to informed sources, the new bank, third by size in Spain, will require the aid of the ordered bank restructuring Fund (FROB) for an amount which could be in excess of 1.5 billion euros. For the moment, the accord is contained in a protocol presented to the Bank of Spain, which tomorrow will have to be ratified by the boards of the four savings banks. The new group will also include Caja Castilla-La Mancha, which Cajastur has purchased and which will keep its trade brand, CCM. In the new financial institute, CAM and the Asturias savings bank will have a 40% capital quota, Caja Extremadura 11% and Caja Cantabria 9%. The institutes will commit 100% of their resources to the new group, with a network of 2,300 windows, 14,000 employees and 135 billion assets. By this fusion, the four financial institutes aim to strengthen their solvency, adapting to Basle III standards, which will require greater quality capital. If the operation is concluded, the business volume of the new group will be around 177 billion euros, with own resources of over 10 billion and a share holding of 4 billion. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Think America ‘Protected’ Against EU Crisis?

‘Wealth’ authors tell skeptics to ‘read the numbers’

Alarm bells are going off over the developing economic crisis in the European Union and the growing concern it will hit the United States despite assurances from the White House that the economy is rebounding and there’s little danger of a rebound across the Atlantic.

The authors of the new book “Killing Wealth, Freeing Wealth: How to Save America’s Economy and Your Own” say the idea that America’s economic “recovery” is on course isn’t within the bounds of reality.

“Don’t believe a word of it. The liquidity crisis (a shortage of cash) is headed across the pond for America. Don’t believe me. Look at the numbers. The crisis is already here,” said author Floyd Brown.

In an interview with WND, Brown explained, “If corporations cannot get cash, they cut back. When they cut back unemployment increases. When unemployment increases cars, boats and homes don’t sell. Cars, homes and boats sold last year are repossessed and foreclosed. The acceleration of the crisis has been undeniable. Companies have only been able to sell $47 billion of debt so far in May, this compares to $183 billion in April. This is the weakest month since December 1999.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


9/11 Health Bill Passes Key House Panel

A key panel in the House of Representatives voted Tuesday night to pass the September 11th Health and Compensation Act.

The Energy and Commerce Committee took up the bill, which would provide health care and compensation for first responders with an illness that can be linked to the 9/11 attacks.

Mayor Bloomberg praised the panel’s action.

“Today’s approval of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act by the House Energy and Commerce Committee is an important step towards ensuring that the appropriate resources are available to take care of those who need it most,” said Bloomberg. “The attacks of September 11th were an attack on this nation, and it’s only fitting that we as a nation take care of those who survived the attacks, and those who risked their lives to save others. “

The bill would take steps to give those eligible for medical treatment the opportunity to do so without sharing the cost, re-open the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund for those who didn’t file or become ill after the original deadline and would also establish an emergency council responsible for coordinating the care and compensation of victims.

The legislation is named after James Zadroga, an NYPD detective and first responder who spent more than 400 hours working at the World Trade Center Site. He fell ill, and his death in 2006 was linked to his work there.

In the weeks following the Sept. 11 attacks, the EPA told people working and living near the 9/11 site that the air was safe to breathe.

The city and federal government were slow to acknowledge the link between toxins at the Ground Zero site and illnesses suffered by first responders.

“The Zadroga Act just cleared its toughest hurdle so far, to the relief of thousands of Americans who lost their health because of 9/11 and desperately need help,” said New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Battle Involving Local FBI’s Terrorism Group Gets Heated

A Senate committee has subpoenaed San Diego FBI agents in its investigation of whether the government mishandled information about the alleged Fort Hood shooter prior to the deadly November attack, but the Justice Department’s defiance has prompted the committee to issue new threats.

In a sharply worded letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Defense Secretary Robert Gates yesterday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee slammed the departments for stonewalling and threatened to find the top officials in contempt of Congress if they don’t comply with subpoenas by June 2.

The committee is trying to evaluate, among other things, the FBI’s actions when it intercepted e-mails indicating that Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, accused of murdering 13 military colleagues in a shooting rampage at the Texas military base, was communicating with former San Diego Muslim leader Anwar al-Awlaki, now a target for CIA assassination.

“Without the direct testimony of these agents, the committee cannot discharge its investigation’s primary task: ascertaining what the U.S. government knew and what actions it took concerning Major Hasan before the attack,” said the letter, signed by committee chairman, Sen. Joe Lieberman and ranking member Sen. Susan Collins.

The San Diego FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force had obtained numerous e-mails between Hasan and Awlaki, once a charismatic leader of a local mosque and spiritual advisor to San Diego-based Sept. 11 hijackers.

Awlaki, an American citizen, was first thought to be a peace-promoting moderate, but has since left the country and become so radical he recently called on Muslims to murder American civilians, and the White House in April approved Awlaki for a CIA list of targets for assassination. He is also said to have inspired the suspect charged with the recent failed Times Square bombing, Faisal Shahzad.

Two local federal law enforcement sources have said the San Diego FBI warned counterparts in Washington, D.C., about the communications between the two men before the shooting, but their concerns were not heeded.

So far, the FBI has refused to make the agents available for interviews, but it has turned over to the committee classified e-mails between Hasan and Awlaki, as well as exchanges within the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces in San Diego and Washington, D.C., and headquarters, about the Hasan-Awlaki liaison, according to correspondence posted on the committee’s website. A committee spokesman declined to discuss the nature of the e-mails.

In letters responding to the committee, top attorneys for the Justice Department and the Pentagon said they had already turned over about 1,000 pages of documents and briefed committee staffers. They have said that offering up agents for interviews would jeopardize Hasan’s criminal prosecution.

The committee has argued that it’s not investigating the criminal aspect of the case, but whether the government dropped the ball before the crime happened, and if so, how that can be prevented in the future.

FBI officials in San Diego and Washington declined to comment on the subpoenas or the latest letter. A Justice Department spokeswoman couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The Senate committee has interviewed at least one San Diego-based federal agent, Ray Fournier, who was a member of the local Joint Terrorism Task Force during the investigation of the Sept. 11, 2001, and who investigated and tried to build a passport fraud case against Awlaki.

He said the committee interviewed him last month for about 20 minutes, focusing mostly on what he knew about the relationship between the San Diego and Washington, D.C. task forces.

“It was clear that they’re trying to figure out why they’re being stonewalled by various government agencies on these e-mails about Awlaki’s interaction with Maj. Nadal Hassan,” said Fournier, formerly an agent with the State Department.

Committee staff members asked Fournier if the terrorism task forces in San Diego and Washington were “in sync.” “I’ve got to answer no to that,” Fournier said. “FBI headquarters does whatever the hell they want to do, and they don’t necessarily communicate well out in the field. The Anwar Awlaki story pinpoints this.”

Fournier explained that in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, he and fellow San Diego agents were desperately trying to build a passport fraud case against Awlaki — anything to get him into custody, because they believed he was a serious threat. Awlaki was indicted, but headquarters was not on board.

Charges were filed and an arrest warrant was issued for Awlaki, whose name has also been spelled “al-Aulaqi,” on June 17, 2002, by a magistrate judge in Denver, for felony passport fraud. But three months later, prosecutors decided they didn’t have enough evidence to support a conviction and went to the judge and had the warrant rescinded.

At the same time, Fournier said, Washington was apparently working at cross purposes, trying to get an arrest warrant thrown out so they could either recruit Awlaki as an informant, or let him go free and follow him around and see what he did.

FBI headquarters disputed that characterization today. “The passport fraud didn’t go forward because prosecutors within the jurisdiction decided there was not enough to sustain a prosecution — pure and simple,” said FBI spokesman Jason Pack. He declined further comment.

Fournier has not been part of the San Diego task force for several years and was not privy to information about communications between Hasan and Awlaki.

The San Diego agents had been monitoring Awlaki since he came to their attention after the terrorist attacks. In the Fort Hood matter, the agents had tracked the communication between the two from December 2008 to the middle of this year, federal sources said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Downtown Community Raises Voice Over Ground Zero Mosque

Community Board Hears Proposal and Reaction

If all goes as planned, a 152-year-old building at 45 Park Place in Tribeca will be torn down to build a fifteen-story Islamic Center and mosque within three years.

But first, they have to get past the local critics.

The hearing tonight by Community Board One, produced strong emotions.

As Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf spoke, praising the prospect of a Muslim religious center at the site, he was shouted down and loudly booed by the audience.

Abdul Rauf said “The Cordoba center and it’s programs will be modeled after the 92nd Street Y,” and claimed that the Jewish Community Center and prominent Manhattan Rabbi Arthur Schneier backed the development.

When Abdul Rauf’s wife, Daisy Khan who also runs the American Society of Muslim Advancement, said, “I cried when I watched the towers fall,” she was also met with loud boos and heckling.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is also among those supporting the project saying “the possibility to have an interfaith center where people of different backgrounds come together..modeled after the 92nd Street Y…is a discussion worth having.”

Some residents of Lower Manhattan, including Kay Tyson Perez, acknowledge, “they have the right to build it where ever they want. It’s a free country.”

But others are disappointed with the choice of a location for the mosque, which would serve a growing Muslim community in lower Manhattan. Workers near the proposed center, which would be called “Cordoba House”, have vivid memories of 9/11 more than eight years later.

George Aufiero of Huntington told us “it’s not that it had anything to do with the Muslims. It was terrorists. But it’s a little hard to digest sometimes.”

And Caroline Osbourne of Staten Island said “it’s not that I don’t like it. It’s just that it reminds me of what happened.”

Michael Burke who is against the plan said, “for the record, I have a Hispanic wife and a black son, I am not a bigot!”

Lee Hanson from Easton, CT also spoke at the hearing — his son, Peter, daughter-in-law Sue Kim, and grand daughter Christine Lee were aboard United 175, which crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

Lee was met with loud applause when he said “I am not against the mosque because I am a bigot. I am against it because it is in poor taste.”

There’s also a page on Facebook listing tens of thousands of opponents, including many who do not live in New York.

But Jean Grillo, Tribeca resident, niece who was rescued from South Tower, said “I say bring it on. What a wonderful opportunity to teach tolerance.”

The Cordoba Initiative is putting together the project, which is expected to cost about $100 million dollars. They are making a presentation before Community Board One even though the board has no authority over the project. The group purchased the building at 45 Park Place in 2009.

But there could be a snag in plans for demolition. Back in the 1980’s, there was a proposal to designate the building a landmark. No formal decision was ever made.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission has been reviewing former proposed sites, and scheduling new hearings. The Commission plans to hold another public hearing about 45 Park Place “in early summer”.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

FBI Witness Murdered Who Had Access to Obama/Soetoro Passport Records

Another day, another creepy murder related in some way to Barack Obama. There is something about this guy that leads to unusual murders wherever his name arises.

The most recent unusual death involves the fatal shooting of a key witness in the passport file fraud investigation. If you recall, during the campaign it was discovered that Obama, Hillary and McCain’s passport files had been breached.

It was Obama’s that was reported first with the implication that Hillary had something to do with it. Then, sort of as an afterthought, it was reported that both Hillary’s and McCain’s files were also violated.

There has been some speculation that Hillary’s and McCain’s files were violated as a cover-up for the real focus of the breach, which was Obama’s passport file. Some people wonder what was removed from his file and if it was part of an effort to make sure no one found out about Obama’s shady past. Like, when did he actually first get a US passport? What is on that passport? Like maybe his real name? His place of birth? His parentage? (If you think I exaggerate the importance of the birth certificate and other biological information, it has just been reported that Obama’s lawyer, Robert Bauer, was paid $688,000 this year to make sure no one sees any of it).

Anyway, the story is reported in the Washington Times:

“A key witness in a federal probe into passport information stolen from the State Department was fatally shot in front of a District church, the Metropolitan Police Department said yesterday.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Gets an Earful in Clash With GOP Senators

WASHINGTON (AP) — If President Barack Obama thought having a private lunch with Republican senators would ease partisan tensions in Congress, he grabbed the wrong recipe.

The president walked into a remarkably contentious 80-minute session Tuesday in which GOP senators accused him of duplicity, audacity and unbending partisanship. Lawmakers said the testy exchange left legislative logjams intact, and one GOP leader said nothing is likely to change before the November elections.

Obama’s sharpest accuser was Bob Corker of Tennessee, a first-term senator who feels the administration undermined his efforts to craft a bipartisan financial regulation bill.

“I told him I thought there was a degree of audacity in him even showing up today after what happened with financial regulation,” Corker told reporters. “I just wanted him to tell me how, when he wakes up in the morning, comes over to a luncheon like ours today, how does he reconcile that duplicity?”

Four people who were in the room said Obama bristled and defended his administration’s handling of negotiations. On the way out, Corker said, Obama approached him and both men repeated their main points.

“I told him there was a tremendous disconnect from his words and the actions of his administration,” Corker said.

White House spokesman Bill Burton, who attended the session in the Capitol, said the exchange “was actually pretty civil.”

The senators applauded Obama, who had requested the luncheon, when he entered and left the room. Obama told reporters as he departed, “It was a good, frank discussion about a whole range of issues.”

Some Republicans were less kind.

“He needs to take a Valium before he comes in and talks to Republicans,” Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., told reporters. “He’s pretty thin-skinned.”

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said he addressed Obama, “trying to demand overdue action” on the giant oil spill damaging Gulf coast states. He said got “no specific response” except Obama’s pledge to have an authoritative White House official call him within hours.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Obama’s 2008 presidential opponent, said he pressed the president on immigration issues. McCain said he told Obama “we need to secure the border first” before taking other steps. “The president didn’t agree,” he said.

McCain said he defended his state’s pending immigration law, which Obama says could lead to discrimination. It directs police, when questioning people about possible law violations, to ask about their immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” they’re in the country illegally.

At the luncheon, McCain said, “I pointed out that members of his administration who have not read the law have mischaracterized the law—a very egregious act on their part.”

Burton said Obama told McCain that he has read the Arizona law himself, and his concerns remain.

After the luncheon, no one suggested the two parties were even a smidgen closer to resolving differences over energy, immigration and other issues that Obama has said he wants to act on this year.

“We simply have a large difference of opinion that’s not likely to be settled until November about taxes, spending and the debt,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

Senators said the November elections—all 435 House seats, 36 Senate seats and another three dozen governors’ seats are up for grabs—were not overtly mentioned. But they were an unmistakable backdrop.

Republicans hope for big gains, maybe even control of the House. They are banking on voter resentment of Obama initiatives such as the new health care law, and many see little point in cooperating with Obama and Democratic lawmakers at this point.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., complained to Obama about the partisan genesis of the health care law, enacted without a single Republican vote in Congress. Administration aides repeatedly have said GOP input was welcome, but none within reason turned up.

It’s hard to know if Obama genuinely thought his luncheon visit would melt some of the partisan iciness. Several Republican senators and aides in the room said he seemed to be going through the motions, not making real efforts at consensus.

“What’s really important is not so much the symbolism of bipartisanship as it is the action of bipartisanship,” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told reporters later.

Citing the scant or zero Republican support for the health care law, financial regulation bill and last year’s financial stimulus, Thune said, “What we haven’t seen is sort of the matchup between the rhetoric and the actions to follow through.”

As the Senate wrapped up its business Tuesday, Obama was flying to California to headline a fundraiser for Sen. Barbara Boxer, one of Congress’ most liberal members and a top GOP target this fall.

           — Hat tip: REP[Return to headlines]

Praying for a Moderate Terrorist

The Obama Administration may have abandoned the space program and the search for life on other planets, but it is determinedly searching for moderate Islamic terrorists all across this planet. So far it has tried to identify “Moderate Taliban” (these would be Taliban who only chop off your feet, not your head) and “Moderate Hizbullah” (who only support bombing Ashkelon but not Haifa). It has yet to get around to trying to locate any “Moderate Al Queda”, but we have to assume that’s next on their shopping list.

If the same people running foreign policy in the US and Europe had been in charge in 1941, when Rudolf Hess, the third in the line of succession after Hitler and Goring, flew to the UK with a peace offer—Hess would have been wined and dined, and the Allies would have prematurely aborted the war in joy at having finally discovered a “Moderate Nazi.” Instead Churchill churlishly had Hess thrown into the Tower of London, where he stayed until Germany was defeated and he could be put on trial at Nuremberg.

Of course if we overlay the present on the past, it’s easy enough to imagine the ACLU rushing to offer pro bono legal counsel to Rudolf Hess, the New York Times running a series of stories planted by PR companies working for Nazi Germany detailing his plight in the Tower, and demanding that he be given his day in court, and George Clooney making a movie in which he plays Hess’ lawyer. Of course all this actually did happen. Except Hess was named Hamdan, and he was Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard and chauffeur. And yes George Clooney will play his lawyer.

The difference is that by 1941 there were a shortage of people who still had a weakness for Nazis. Years of brutal war had changed that. And today there is still no shortage of those in the media, Hollywood and of course holding down the polished wooden desks at the State Department and the Foreign Office who have a weakness for Islamic terrorists. And that “weakness” is a prerequisite for the pursuit of the moderate Islamic terrorist.

To understand why that’s so, let’s examine the logic behind the Great Moderate Terrorist Caper. What is a moderate Islamic terrorist? Boiled down to basics, it’s a terrorist who’s willing to sit down and negotiate with us. Which means that the only difference between an “Extremist” and a “Moderate” is that the extremist wants to cut our head off without talking to us, while the moderate wants to tell us exactly why he wants to cut our head off, and how many heads we can give him to satisfy his bloodlust.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

President George Washington Structured the Militia System to Prevent Treason and Tyranny by Public Officials!

By 1790 Washington began work on his “Plan No. 2 for the Organization of the Militia.” By now he was more able to see the weaknesses in the Constitution. He openly discussed the threat of tyranny emanating from within the government. By then, Patrick Henry’s wisdom was spread throughout the 13 original states, and it was inculcated as the basis for the policies and functions of the militia. Henry perpetuated the people’s liberty. He sustained the ultimate authority of the people. Washington well under- stood the need to safeguard the nation from its foreign enemies. In his “Plan No. 2 for the Organization of the Militia” he undertook to warn about the dangers of domestic enemies: tyranny in government.

Washington himself took the farmers out for practice, and he utilized the knowledge and experiences of his generals and other valuable officers in the War for Independence by having them instruct and train the citizens (the whole people) in the techniques of soldiering, and the maintenance of an ‘energetic national militia’.

His “Plan No. 2 for the Organization of the Militia” was communicated to the Senate, on the 21st of January 1790. This lengthy Plan was permeated with the proposition that it is the direct duty and responsibility of the people themselves to guard against tyranny from within government.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Stocks Erase Losses Late in the Day, Finishing Nearly Unchanged

Shares on Wall Street recouped almost all of their earlier losses to end the day flat. At one point, indexes were down more than 2 percent.

At the close, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 22.82 points, or 0.23 percent; the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index actually turned positive, gaining less than a point, while the Nasdaq declined 2.6 points or 0.12 percent.

[Return to headlines]

Tattooed Lip Leads Police to Assault Suspect

For one suspect, the evidence is allegedly written on his face.

In the case of Anthony Brandon Gonzales, it’s tattooed on his upper lip, according to an affidavit.

Gonzales, 20, was arrested Thursday in connection to an April home invasion of a local Elvis impersonator.

What led to Gonzales’ arrest were witness statements that one of the suspects had “East Side” tattooed on his upper lip, an affidavit by Pueblo police Detective Cody Wager said.

The affidavit said Gonzales, a known gang member, is the only person police know who has that tattoo. Jail records show Gonzales also has a “13” tattooed on his face in the shape of a goatee.

“With ‘East Side’ tattooed on his upper lip, it’s hard to miss him,” said Sgt. Eric Bravo.

Reportedly armed with a knife and sword, Gonzales and another masked suspect assaulted and robbed Robert Segura, aka Michael Segura, in his Mesa Junction home in the early morning hours of April 19.

Segura was the victim of a second home invasion on April 24 but the affidavit did not list Gonzales as a suspect in that incident.

In the first invasion, a witness was able to see under one of the suspect’s masks and noticed the “East Side” tattoo, the affidavit said.

Gonzales was arrested April 26 on separate warrants for contempt of court for possession of a controlled substance and possession of a weapon by a previous offender, according to jail records.

Gonzales still was incarcerated at Pueblo County jail when he was rearrested on a warrant for first-degree burglary Thursday for his suspected involvement in the break-in.

Segura, 51, who is popularly known as “Lil Elvis,” was treated and released from a local hospital for injuries he sustained in both attacks.

Gonzales, no address specified, was being held in jail in lieu of $95,000 bail.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Growing Foreign-Born Population to Forge ‘New Canada’

By 2031, at least one in four people in this country will have been born elsewhere, new population projections from Statistics Canada suggest, and just half the working-age population will belong to families that have lived in Canada for at least three generations.

There is a “new Canada” just over the horizon — home to a diversity of skin tones, birth countries, languages and religious faiths unprecedented in the nation’s history.

By 2031, at least one in four people in this country will have been born elsewhere, new population projections from Statistics Canada suggest, and just half the working-age population will belong to families that have lived in Canada for at least three generations.

“You look at the statistics and you can see it: who’s the bulk of the new population, who’s going to be our future,” says Henry Yu, an associate history professor at the University of British Columbia. “This is the strongest indication yet — obviously, it’s been developing for decades — that there is a new Canada.”

The federal agency says the foreign-born population in that new Canada is expected to grow four times faster than those who are Canadian-born over the next 20 years, which is projected to create the most diverse population since Confederation.

With the vast majority of newcomers settling in large cities, the country’s future and prosperity lie in its urban areas, says Yu.

And the “new Canada” is a Pacific Canada, he says, with its strongest ties and biggest portion of newcomers not coming from the European countries of old, but from our Asian and Latin American neighbours with whom we share a Pacific coast, and with Caribbean nations.

It’s expected that almost one in three newcomers will follow a non-Christian religion two decades from now, Statistics Canada says, and more than three-quarters will have a mother tongue that’s neither French nor English. But rather than embracing this linguistic diversity and the edge it offers in a competitive global economy, Canada has been “very pointedly obliterating the language skills of the children of immigrants,” Yu says.

They learn one of the country’s two official languages relatively easily as children, he says, but then they’re effectively rendered monolingual by years of English- or French-only schooling and the encouragement to leave their mother tongue behind.

“We have an incredible global human capital from this new Canada,” Yu says. “We need to think of ways to build upon it rather than being scared and saying, ‘Oh my God, we need to make them all into carbon copies of English migrants who came 200 years ago.”

Richard Day, a professor of sociology and global development studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., objects to using the “basically racist” term “visible minorities” to label a diverse group of people who are on the verge of becoming the majority in Toronto and Vancouver. It’s as though there’s a white, Christian “unmentioned normal person” that such diversity is being compared to, he says, but one that simply no longer reflects the face of Canada.

“If it were to go beyond the restaurant, to go beyond ‘Oh, nice spices you put on your food!’ — if it were to go to the level of values and how we treat each other and take on some of the really pro-community aspects of other cultures — that would be cool and I think it’s going to happen,” Day says.

Islam will be the fastest-growing religion in the next two decades, Statistics Canada says, with its numbers expected to triple and encompass about seven per cent of the Canadian population by 2031.

Other non-Christian religions such as Judaism, Buddhism and Sikhism will double their numbers, while the proportion following Christian religions is expected to slip from about 75 per cent of Canada’s population to 65 per cent, with the proportion reporting no religion will rise to 21 per cent from 17 per cent.

There’s still too much that goes unsaid when it comes to racial and cultural tensions in Canada, says Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress.

Reports tiptoe around the large and growing Muslim population, accompanied by a misinformed anxiety rather than a push to ensure Muslims are successfully integrated into Canadian society, he says.

And, Tarek adds, there’s no acknowledgment of the prejudice that exists between different visible minority populations.

“People want honesty, they are thirsting for frank language,” he says. “We need to abandon the notion of political correctness and abandon the fear of speaking.”

The Baitunnur Mosque in Calgary — one of the largest in North America — will be on the forefront of Canada’s growing Muslim population in the years to come.

Sultan Mahmood, an executive member of the mosque, says it’s a central tenet of his Ahmadiyya denomination of Islam that Muslims connect with and serve their community — meaning their doors are always open to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Mahmood points to the example of an artists’ group that has been using the brand-new mosque’s facilities while waiting for their own to be built, adding that other community groups drop in to use the gym and they regularly host inter-faith conferences throughout Alberta.

At the end of the day, Mahmood returns home to engage in a time-honoured ritual that knows no national boundaries: gossiping with the neighbours and sharing food in the yard.

“This is enriching our society,” says Mahmood, who moved to Calgary from Pakistan in 1992. “We’re getting good people and all the good things from all over the world, and I think this diversity has made Canada one of the best countries in the world, and I think Canada will remain one of the best countries in the world because of this diversity.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Briton Sets Lawnmower Racing Record

[And now for something completely different … — Z]

A Briton set a new lawnmower land speed record today, reaching a speed of just over 86 miles per hour.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

Germany: Ministry Slams Defective Tiger Attack Helicopter

The German Defence Ministry on Tuesday slammed “serious defects” in the Tiger attack helicopter that were keeping them from being deployment in combat operations in Afghanistan.

Germany has ordered 80 of the helicopters from Eurocopter, a subsidiary of the France-based European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), but a ministry spokesman said the aircraft was marred by technical bugs.

“There are serious defects, particularly with its wiring,” rendering the Tigers unready for combat, the spokesman told AFP.

Of the 80 Tiger helicopters Germany ordered in 1999, 67 were to have been delivered by the end of 2009. Eleven Tiger helicopters have been delivered but “not the expected version,” the spokesman said.

He said the first combat-ready helicopters were not expected before 2012 and called the delays a blow for the military which “urgently” needs the aircraft in Afghanistan, where Germany has deployed about 4,300 troops.

Eurocopter said in a statement that it was working on the defects.

“Corrective measures related to Tiger’s wiring problems have been developed, agreed by the customer and are being implemented,” it said. “The first two helicopters will be handed over to the German official services in June and July for intensive tests.”

The German government has said it aims to begin withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan next year.

Another EADS plane, the Airbus A400M military transport plane, has also faced major delays amid cost overruns estimated at €5.2 billion ($6.3 billion).

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

Italy: Growing Number of Workers Face Poverty

Rome, 24 May (AKI) — Almost 14 million workers — over half the Italian workforce — take home less than 1,300 euros a month, according to a report released on Monday. The 2010 Report on Global Rights was produced by a coalition including Italy’s oldest trade union body, Cgil, which represents six million workers and environmental groups including Legambiente.

The report found that 13.6 million workers earned a net salary under 1,300 euros. Of these, 6.9 million people — of whom 60 percent are women — earn less than 1,000 euros a month.

Italy’s retired workers earn even less — 7.5 million people earn less than 1,000 euros per month, according to the report.

The report, presented at the Cgil headquarters in Rome on Monday, said a growing number of workers were at risk of poverty.

In 2009 it said 10 percent of Italian workers were living under the poverty line — worse than the European Union average of 8 percent.

The report said the rate had worsened from 8.6 percent in 2007.

About 23 million people are employed in Italy, according to state statistics agency, Istat.

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

Italy: Porn Star Arrested for Stage Sex Show

Perugia, 24 May (AKI) — An Hungarian porn star has been arrested in central Italy after being accused of performing pornography with minors and other obscene acts on stage. Brigitta Kocsis, a 27-year-old blonde, performs under the stage name of Brigitta Bulgari.

Paramilitary Carabinieri police from Gubbio arrested Kocsis at a club outside the northern city of Treviso in relation to a stage act she performed at a nightclub in Fossato di Vico in the province of Perugia in February.

Investigators have accused the porn star of performing obscene acts including stripping nude and masturbating in a public place, in the presence of minors, some of whom were believed to be under the age of 16.

According to the Italian daily, Corriere della Sera, some of the youths are also reported to have touched her during her performance.

Perugia prosecutors issued arrest warrants and police arrested Kocsis in Montebelluna, 60 kilometres north of Venice, and she is being held in a local prison in Belluno.

Police were alerted to the act after photographs and comments were uploaded by several users on the Internet sharing site, Facebook, by several youths reportedly aged 16 and 18.

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

Italy: Wiretap Bill to Hit Senate Floor May 31

Ex-president Scalfaro claims measure ‘clearly unconstitutional’

(ANSA) — Rome, May 25 — A controversial government bill banning pretrial reporting and restricting the use of police wiretaps will reach the floor of the Senate on May 31, political sources said Tuesday after the measure came out of an all-night Senate commission session.

The bill, which is strongly opposed by the centre-left opposition and Italian media outlets, introduces stiff fines for editors and journalists who report probes before they reach the trial stage.

Journalists would also face a nominal month in jail.

The government says the bill is aimed at stopping the publication of leaked wiretaps which prejudice cases and smear people who are either eventually cleared or have nothing to do with the probes.

But the Italian journalists guild, which is expected to call a nationwide strike next week and has said it will appeal to the European Commission if the bill becomes law, says the measure will undermine freedom of information.

It also argues that many of the scandals that have shaken Italy since the 1990s, most recently a public work grafts case that led to the resignation of industry minister Claudio Scajola, would not have emerged if what it calls the ‘gag’ had been in place.

On Tuesday former Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro voiced confidence that if passed, the bill would be struck down by the Constitutional Court.

Scalfaro, who had several run-ins with Premier Silvio Berlusconi during his tenure in the 1990s, said the bill in its present form was “clearly unconstitutional” because it allegedly breaches Article 21 of the Italian Constitution which guarantees freedom of information.

Berlusconi’s centre-right government says the measure will bring Italy into line with other European countries where pretrial reporting is more strictly regulated and wiretaps less easy to obtain.

The government has also stressed the move will not affect serious crimes such as mafia and terrorism.

But some anti-mafia prosecutors have come out against the bill, saying that some of their probes stem from minor wrongdoing for which wiretaps would now allegedly be banned.

The bill sets a maximum time limit of 75 days for wiretapping and also raises the standard of evidence needed to warrant a wiretap.

In the face of the opposition from the journalists and prosecutors, there have been reported signals from the government that it may be ready to soften the bill as it passes through the Senate and later, for final approval, during its second reading in the House.

But the largest opposition group, the Democratic Party (PD), on Tuesday said it was “sure” the government would try to ram through the legislation using confidence votes. PD leader Pier Luigi Bersani said the measure was “inconceivable in any other Western democracy”.

The chairman of public broadcaster RAI, Paolo Garimberti, said the issue should be solved by self-regulation.

“The best countries are those that don’t have laws on the press…and the wiretap bill is one of those cases in which I would have preferred no law”.

“The press must remain free. I think there is something rotten in countries where there are too many laws “restricting the press)”. Italian bishops also weighed into the debate.

Msgr Mariano Crociata, secretary-general of the influential Italian Bishops Conference, told journalists that “all the issues at stake” should be safeguarded in a “balanced way”.

He said privacy safeguards and the ability of prosecutors to investigate should be balanced with freedom of information.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy to Have ‘Good Samaritan’ Organ Donors

Important health body gives green light

(ANSA) — Rome, May 25 — Italy will soon have ‘Good Samaritan’ organ donations, health minister Ferruccio Fazio said on Tuesday after an important health body gave them the green light.

The practice, in which live unrelated strangers donate an organ they can live without, such as a kidney, without any money changing hands, already takes place in the United States and a handful of other countries, although the number of cases is small. There is nothing in Italian law that explicitly forbids it.

But the government wanted to consult some expert bodies before giving approval, after three people volunteered to be ‘Samaritan’ donors earlier this year.

The National Bioethics Committee (CNB) gave its blessing in April and the door is open now that the National Health Council (CSS) has also backed the practice.

“The first 10 cases of ‘Samaritan’ donations will have to be part of a national programme run by the National Transplant Centre,” Fazio told reporters.

He added that the CSS had said a series of conditions should be met in each case before proceeding, in addition to the standard physical checks. “It is recommended that a psychological and psychiatric assessment be undertaken, that privacy is respected and that no contact takes place between donor and recipient,” Fazio explained.

These assessments should be carried out by bodies that are independent from the clinic or hospital performing the transplant, he said.

Ignazio Marino, a senator with the opposition Democratic Party and a prominent transplant surgeon, was sceptical about how useful the move will be.

“I’m not convinced it’s right to subject a person not linked emotionally to the risk of surgery,” Marino said.

“I wouldn’t ban it but it doesn’t convince me, neither ethically, nor as a solution to the dramatically long waiting lists, above all in the case of kidney transplants.

“The crux is to encourage donations from living people bound by love or affection”. photo: Italian health minister Ferruccio Fazio.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

‘Sex Abuse Not Denting Italian Faith’

100 cases in last decade says top bishop

(ANSA) — Vatican City, May 25 — The paedophile priest scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church have not sparked disaffection among the Italian faithful, Italy’s second most senior bishop said Tuesday.

“I have had no reports of a fall-off in people signing up for Catholic schools,” said Msgr Mariano Crociata, secretary-general of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI).

Speaking at a CEI assembly, Crociata said the unchanged regard for the Church had been proven by a mass rally to support Pope Benedict XVI in St Peter’s Square on May 16.

Crociata admitted that Italian Catholics were “horrified” like their counterparts around the world by the paedophile scandals but also saw the scandals “as an opportunity for the Church to make a leap in quality”.

In other remarks, Crociata said he saw “no need” for the Italian Church to imitate the German Church and set up a special commission to look into sex abuse cases.

He said new Vatican guidelines and a revamped approach contained in Benedict’s Easter letter to Irish Catholics were enough to handle cases.

According to Crociata, there have been “about 100” cases of clerical sex abuse dealt with by Church trials in the past decade.

“But even one case is always too much,” he said.

He said the Church was offering all possible cooperation with civic authorities and the police.

Crociata was speaking a day after his superior, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, told the CEI gathering that the Church would do all it could to restore public trust across the Catholic world.

He said there had been no deliberate attempt to underestimate the impact of abuse but said the Church’s failure to acknowledge “the profound personal damage” to victims had nevertheless had this effect.

He said the Church must do everything possible to restore faith in the institution and its representatives.

“The Church has learned and is learning not to be scared of the truth, even when it is painful or hateful, and not to silence it or cover it up,” said Bagnasco.

Child sex abuse scandals have hit the Catholic Church in the United States, Australia, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Germany and Italy.

Critics have accused Pope Benedict XVI of failing to take proper action when he was head of the doctrinal office that deals with paedophilia cases.

The Vatican has said Benedict, on the contrary, made it easier to punish offenders as well as preventing paedophiles from becoming priests.

The pontiff has met with victims of paedophile priests in the US, Australia and, most recently, Malta where he is said to have wept as he prayed with them.

At Easter he sent a pastoral letter to Ireland expressing his “shame” over decades of abuse and cover-ups there.

The Vatican recently published the guidelines it has been using since 2003, stressing all cases are reported to the police as soon as possible.

It has also said that Benedict will be able to defrock paedophiles immediately.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden: US Must Close Foreign Bases: Opposition

Sweden will demand that the United States closes all foreign military bases if the Red-Green opposition wins power.

The policy is contained is a joint document from the alliance of the Social Democratic, Green and Left parties. It states:

“A Red-Green government will demand that the USA decommissions its nuclear weapons and military bases outside the country’s borders.”

The policy document only mentions US bases, and does not call for Russia or EU allies France and Britain close bases outside their territory.

The document does not mention what means Sweden might use to persuade the world’s most powerful country to give up its facilities abroad.

Security analyst Fredrik Lindvall of the FOI defence research institute said any move by the Americans to close foreign bases would be destabilising in the Middle East and East Asia.

“It would undeniably bring to the fore the need for countries like South Korea, Japan and Taiwan to have their own nuclear weapons. The need for offensive weapons would also become greater in the Middle East,” he said.

The current government condemned the opposition policy. Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said he was astonished that the Social Democrats had agreed to the passages about US bases, saying that it indicated that the Left Party was devising the opposition’s policies:

“It confirms that [Left Party foreign affairs spokesman] Hans Linde is holding the pen, but [Social Democrat counterpart] Urban Ahlin feels bound by this as well. It would lead to huge problems; it’s pure anti-Americanism,” Bildt said.

“We would get problems both in relation to the United States and to countries that want the US’s help. The diplomatic service would have to devote significant amounts of time to limiting the damage of an anti-American foreign policy.”

Urban Ahlin downplayed the significance of the passages:

“We demand this of all great powers. We don’t write it about Russia, because there we have greater problems with human rights and press freedom than in the US. He agreed that a unilateral withdrawal would destabilize parts of the world:

“Yes, of course it would. But we aren’t demanding that. This applies to all great powers. But it’s possible that we could have been clearer here,” he said.

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

Sweden: Princess and Her Personal Trainer Opt for ‘Sexist’ Wedding

The Crown Princess of Sweden has upset church leaders by announcing she wants to be given away by her father when she marries next month.

Swedes consider the practice sexist. Traditionally, the bride and groom walk down the aisle together.

However, Crown Princess Victoria wishes to walk to the altar at Stockholm Cathedral on the arm of her father, King Carl XVI Gustaf, at her wedding to Daniel Westling, a commoner.

The head of the Swedish church, Archbishop Anders Wejryd, has taken the unusual step of issuing a public statement expressing his disapproval at the adoption of such an Anglo-Saxon practice.

“Being given away is a new phenomenon which occasionally occurs in the Church of Sweden,” he said.

“I usually advise against it, as our marriage ceremony is so clear on the subject of the spouses’ equality.”

One in 10 Swedish brides is now given away, but the Church fears that such a high profile royal wedding — the first in 34 years — will spark a trend in a country that takes equality of the sexes seriously. Annika Borg, a priest and theologian, said brides were being influenced by the fairy-tale weddings in Hollywood films.

“It’s unfortunate that Sweden’s future head of state has chosen to follow a practice that is not Swedish tradition,” she said.

“The idea of the couple entering the church together symbolises that the man and the woman are entering the marriage of their own free will.

“In the future it is going to be very hard for us to resist requests from brides who want to be given away.”

There is a royal precedent. The king’s sister Princess Margaretha was given away by her grandfather, Gustav VI Adolf, when she married the Englishman John Ambler in Stockholm in 1964.

The Royal Court said Princess Victoria’s decision was symbolic.

“This has a bigger dimension,” said a spokesman Nina Eldh.

“This isn’t a father giving away his daughter to another man.

“The symbolism is that the king is leading the heir to the nation’s throne to the altar — and to the man who has been accepted.”

Princess Victoria is the heir-apparent to the throne, after Sweden changed its Act of Succession in 1980 to introduce equal primogeniture.

In other ways too, this will be a very modern royal marriage.

Mr Westling is a personal fitness trainer and gym owner who met Princess Victoria in 2002 when she hired him to supervise her workouts.

He moved into an apartment in the royal palace two years ago.

The wedding will take place on June 19, the same date on which Princess Victoria’s parents married in 1976.

Mr Westling will then go by the title of Prince Daniel, Duke of Vastergotland. Dick Harrison, an expert in Swedish history from Lund University, said the royal family had moved with the times.

“By far the most common practice in Sweden is that the couple walk to the altar together,” said Mr Harrison.

“But if you are looking at royal tradition, the normal situation would be for her to have married a foreign prince — and in previous centuries that would have meant two marriages in two different countries.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Chatham Pub’s Call to Muslim Prayer

A former pub’s boozy past might have to be swiftly forgotten after an application to convert it into a Muslim community centre was submitted to the council.

Consultation started on May 10 after an application was submitted to Medway council to convert the Rifleman pub, in Thorold Road, Chatham into a no-alcohol centre for both Muslims and community groups.

The council sent letters to 15 homes on May 14 and has so far received one objection.

It is unclear what the objection is.

Peter Hare, who has lived in Thorold Road for about 25 years, said he had sent his feedback form back this week and also objected to the plans.

He has concerns about parking in the area.

He said: “We think it could be difficult for parking here if it is accepted. It has been quite easy to park out here recently but we think it could be a problem.

“There is a mosque along the end of the road and on Fridays it can be very difficult to park around there.

“We are also a bit worried about the noise it could cause.”

The Rifleman pub closed about 18 months ago and has been derelict since.

The application also seeks permission for a one storey extension for a kitchen at the back of the property.

According to the application the building would ‘provide a social meeting centre for local Muslims’ but will also be open to local non-Muslim residents for social events.

A drop in group would be provided for the elderly and women’s social activities while the centre would also provide welfare and assistance for bereaved families.

The only restriction on groups or clubs using the centre would be that no alcohol would be permitted on site.

The proposal adds that the centre would be used to ‘provide an environment to create a better understanding of Muslims in the wider context of a multi culture and religions background in the community’.

The agent for the application, John Alford Chartered Architects, based in Cooling, were unavailable for comment.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

What’s Actually in the U.S. Sanctions on Iran Proposal? Strengths and Weaknesses

by Barry Rubin

Note: A different version of this article is published on Pajamas Media. Please also credit them in reprinting and linking.

The new sanctions proposed by the U.S. government, and reportedly accepted by the other permanent members of the UN Security Council-Britain, China, France, and Russia-will make it harder for Iran to get arms and slightly more difficult for it to get foreign investment. It is a step forward, a good thing, but a step too small and too slow.

At this stage of the process, U.S. efforts hardly match Iran’s determination to obtain nuclear weapons. Many will argue that this is the best outcome the Obama Administration could get with its approach. Perhaps true, but this shows the strategy is a problem.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says these are the “toughest sanctions to date.” But they are significantly weaker than what has been discussed earlier even by the U.S. government, far weaker than what Congress proposes. And the draft proposal may be watered down even further to win support in the UN Security Council vote.

Briefly, while we all know that sanctions—at least these sanctions—will not stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons that doesn’t mean that a sanctions’ effort is useless. There are many other purposes they could serve:…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]


Serbia: Salaries, Pensions to Remain Frozen

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MAY 25 — Serbia will keep public sector salaries and pensions frozen at the same level this year, writes Belgrade daily Blic today. Instead of giving those paid from the state budget a raise, the government will opt for allowing two bonus payments worth RSD5,000 (some EUR50) each, in October, and again in December, according to the article. The newspaper writes that this will be the likely outcome of the ongoing negotiations held between Serbian government officials and a visiting IMF delegation. Serbia has a stand-by arrangement worth a total of EUR2.9 billion with this international financial organization. When the IMF and the Serbian government negotiate the next revision of the deal in August, the issue of public sector salaries and pensions will come up again, writes the daily. Tax system reforms have only been mentioned in passing this time, the article claims, while the subject will be revisited in the summer. This means that there will be no change to the VAT level, at least not until next year. However, according to the newspaper, it remains to be seem whether the RSD5,000 (some EUR50) bonuses will be distributed to all public sector employees, or only those with lowest income. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Serbia: Average Salary in April Totalled 343 Euros

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MAY 25 — The average tax and contributions deducted salaries and wages paid in April 2010 in Serbia totalled RSD 34,952 (around 343 euros), and this is a 3.6% increase in real terms compared to March 2010, the Statistical Office of Serbia released in a statement, reports Tanjug news agency. The average salaries and wages paid in April 2010 amounted to RSD48,525 (around 475 euros), which is a 3.8% increase in real terms compared to the average salaries and wages paid in March 2010. The average tax and contributions deducted salaries and wages paid in Serbia in April 2010, compared to April 2009, have increased by 3.1% in real terms.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Tunisia: EU Project Promotes Access for Women

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAY 25 — First steps for the Eu funded ‘Gospel’ project, which look at ways to give access to sport and recreation to women and young people in the tunisian coastal city of Mahdia and in the armenian capital Yerevan. After the evaluation mission of experts from Marseille and Hamburg in Yerevan, now a similar mission will take place in Mahdia, where 57% of the population is under 25 and where women do not have equal access to leisure facilities and opportunities. Yerevan has a number of football clubs and is also famous for its chess players; Mahdia is strong in handball. Many of the sports and recreational facilities are not enough to satisfy the needs of the population, especially socially disadvantaged. The project, under the Ciudad programme financed by the european neighborhood partnership instrument (Enpi), is promoting exchanging of best practices among cities in the area of management of sport and leisure, assist in establishing sites, explore models of financing exploitation and give access to women and young people. Leading town is Marseille (France), which is working with the partners of Hamburg (Germany), Split (Croatia), Mahdia (Tunisia) and Yerevan (Armenia), with over 500.000 euros funding. One pilot project in Mahdia will be undertaken, for the renovation of a site into a place for outdoors, sport and leisure. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza: Explosion Near Border, No Victims

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, MAY 25 — A violent explosion has occurred today in the extreme north of the Gaza Strip and several dozens of metres from the border with Israel and the nearby Jewish village of Netiv ha-Assarà. There are no reports of any victims. According to initial information, it was an explosion of a tank filled with explosives. Another incident took place on Friday in the same area when two militiamen of the Islamic Jihad managed to cross the border fences. The two men were intercepted by a military patrol and killed when they were a short distance from an Israel village in the Neghev, where they were allegedly intending to carry out an attack.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Palestinians Against Sephora, Sells Territory Products

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MAY 25 — The Capjpo-Europalestine association has lodged a complaint to the court of Nanterre against the cosmetics group Sephora, in order to ban the sale in its outlets and on its websites of products made in the occupied West Bank. This particularly concerns the Israeli brand Ahava, which the association says is “produced in an illegal settlement situated on the shores of the Dead Sea, in occupied Palestinian Territories, specifically the Mizpe Shalem settlement created in 1977. Ahava products are therefore obtained thanks to colonisation and allow this phenomenon to continue,” says the document presented by Capjpo in which it is underlined that Israeli colonisation constitutes “a war crime”. The association is pressing for the cancellation of the contract that allows Sephora, which since 1997 has become to the world leader in luxury goods, LVMH, to distribute and sell Ahava products. It is also requesting several thousand euros worth of damages and interests. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Arab World: More Facebook Profiles Than Newspaper Copies

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, MAY 25 — There are more people signed up to Facebook than there are copies of printed newspapers, according to a report entitled ‘Middle East and Africa Facebook Demography’, which states that there are 15 million users of the social networking site in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, and a circulation of only 14 million newspapers in Arab, English and French. Last year alone, following Facebook’s decision to offer an Arab language interface in March 2009, the number of people signed up rose by three and a half million. Figures in the report suggest that 70% of profiles are concentrated in 5 MENA countries: Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Egypt and Saudi Arabia, however, have recorded the highest rate of growth, with a total of 2.2 million new users, 1.1 million in each country. The demographic outline traced by ‘Middle East and Africa Facebook Demography’ also highlights the fact that the figures mainly concern men. Indeed, only 37% of the social network site’s users are female (against 56% in the United States), with the exception of Lebanon, which has a 45% share of female profiles. The oldest user population is in the UAE, where 65% of users are over the age of 25, while the youngest user group is in Jordan, where over 70% are below 25. Partly as a result of its own demographic profile, Egypt has the largest Facebook population, with 7.7 million profiles, which represents half of the figure for the entire region, and has a yearly growth rate of over 100%. The most commonly used language, however, is English, which has been adopted by 50% of users in the MENA region. French makes up only 25%, despite 98% coverage in North African countries, while the region’s mother tongue, Arabic, is the language chosen by only 23% of users. The circulation of Internet and connected services in MENA countries has already shown trends of exponential growth in recent years. The number of on-line users has risen from 16 million in 2004 to 56 million in 2010, an increase of 228%. In 2009, the region was given a further boost, with Yahoo!’s purchase of, an agreement that paved the way for content and search engines in Arabic. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Caroline Glick: Reclaiming Our Language From the Left

Courtesy of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Thursday Israel will again be the target of a jihadist-leftist propaganda assault. A flotilla of nine ships which set sail for Gaza from Cyprus earlier this week is scheduled to arrive at our doorstep.

The expressed aim of the flotilla’s organizers is to unlawfully provide aid and comfort to Hamas — an illegal terrorist organization. Since it seized power in Gaza three years ago, Hamas, which is openly committed to the genocide of world Jewry and the physical eradication of Israel, has transformed the Gaza Strip into a hub of the global jihad. It has been illegally holding hostage Gilad Schalit incognito for four years. And it is continuously engaged in a massive, Iranian-financed arms buildup ahead of its next assault.

Beyond providing aid to Hamas, the declared aim of the “Free Gaza” movement is to coerce Israel into providing Hamas with an outlet to the sea. This too is in contravention of international law which expressly prohibits states and non-state actors from providing any support to terrorist organizations.

[Return to headlines]

Iran: Brother of ‘Islamist Militant’ Executed

Tehran, 24 May (AKI) — Iran executed Abdolhamid Rigi, brother of alleged leader of the Sunni Islamist Jundullah terrorist group leader Abdolmalek Rigi in Zahedan prison in southeast Sistan-Baluchestan province on Monday.

Iranian state media cited the Zahedan prosecutor’s office in reports confirming Abdolhamid Rigi had been executed.

He was convicted of carrying out terrorist acts, including armed robberies, abductions, armed struggle in several Iranian cities, and weapons smuggling.

He was also convicted of being ‘mohareb’, which means an enemy of God, a crime punishable by death in Iran.

Abdolhamid Rigi was allegedly a member of the Sunni Islamist group, Jundullah.

He was hanged at Zahedan prison after the Supreme Court upheld his death sentence.

Abdolmalek Rigi was the leader of Jundallah militant organization based in southwest Iran until his capture in February 2010. Iran alleges it has links to Al-Qaeda and has carried out several terror attacks.

A second man was hanged in Ahvaz prison in western Iran on Monday after he was convicted of drug trafficking offences.

According to state information agency, Isna, the man, identified only as S.R. had been arrested with 675 grammes of heroin.

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

Lebanon: Obama Tells Hariri, Transferring Arms Would be Threat

(ANSAmed) — WASHINGTON, MAY 25 — Receiving Lebanese President Saad Hariri in Washington yesterday, US President Barack Obama underlined that any transfer of arms to Lebanon would be a “threat” in violation of UN Resolutions. The news was released by the White House. Last month Israel accused Syria of supplying Lebanese Shia Hezbollah guerrillas with Scud missiles.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Middle East in May 2010: An Assessment

by Barry Rubin

Why am I writing so much about U.S. policy and less about developments within the region itself lately? Because in a real sense not that much is happening right now in the region. A colleague remarked to me today that the world’s political weather is set by the U.S. president. This seems very true right now.

Recently, there was a bit of a war scare regarding the Israel-Lebanon border. Yet there was never any chance of a shooting conflict. Syria and Hizballah don’t want one at present. They are too busy taking over Lebanon and are holding their fire for the possibility in future of an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

There’s also a lot of noise about Israel-Palestinian Authority indirect negotiations. But nothing is happening or going to happen there either. The closer you get to the two sides—and the further from the discussion in the Western media and capitals—the more obvious is that reality…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Press, 3,000 Children in the Ranks of PKK

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 25 — In defiance of all the international agreements that expressly prohibit the use of minors in combat, the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), which is outlawed in Turkey as it is a separatist movement, is training some 3,000 children aged between 8 and 16 (300 of whom are girls) to use weapons in the struggle against the Turkish army. The claim — which is reported today by the lay daily Vatan and the pro-Government paper Sabah — comes from the prestigious Danish daily newspaper “Berlingske Tidende”, which has published photos of children in the PKK military training camp on Mount Qandil, on the border with Iraq, and has urged UNICEF to “save these children from the hands of the PKK”. The accusations by the Danish paper are corroborated by the Iranian former director of ROJ TV (a supporter of the PKK), Mounucher Zonoozi, who stated that “I have seen 8- and 9-year-old children in the (Kurdish separatist) organisation. The youngest have lessons on political indoctrination, whilst the teenagers train to use weapons and learn about the history of the Kurdish people, the PKK and the head of the organisation, Abdullah Ocalan. Most of the children come from Iran and Europe and all of them have families.” For his part, the UNICEF representative in Denmark, Steen Aderse, said that “we have begun an investigation into the matter. The use of children as militants goes against all international pacts.”(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Is Russia Radicalizing Its Muslims?

The Russian Supreme Court on Tuesday hears an appeal of 12 Muslims from the republic of Tatarstan imprisoned on charges of attempting to overthrow the local government. Russian human rights activists say the case represents an assault on freedom of religion that has the unintended effect of radicalizing Muslims in the Russian Federation.

Farkhat Faizulin is one of 12 Muslims in Tatarstan imprisoned for attempting a violent overthrow of the republic’s government. He was also accused of membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organization that seeks to unite all Muslim countries.

Prosecutors presented no evidence of guns or explosives at the defendants’ 2007 trial. Instead, they pointed to confiscated Islamic literature, including that of Hizb ut-Tahrir. Human-rights activists say prosecutors extrapolated violent intent from possession of that organization’s literature. The defendants deny all charges.

Faizulin’s wife, Gulnara Faizulina, told VOA the Supreme Court appeal revolves around procedural matters.

Faizulina says defendants were denied a jury trial and defense motions, witnesses were kept secret and defendants could not properly cross-examine them.

Speaking at a Moscow news conference, the director of Russia’s Human Rights Institute, Valentin Gefter, said the issue at stake in the appeal is not the state’s war against terrorism, but rather against independent ideas.

Gefter says the struggle in Russia in this specific instance and in the Caucasus is not against ideas or people who may even have radical ideas — certainly not violent ones, but rather it is a struggle against all those who may presumably think differently from local and federal authorities.

Alexei Malashenko, Islamic expert at the Carnegie Moscow Center, says there is no understanding or consistency in Russia as to what constitutes radical Islam. He notes that theological disputes that are common to all religions. He also cites cases when Russian civil authorities get involved in matters of faith.

Malashenko says one needs to think for a second that a judge — a civil authority — can provide instruction about proper or improper religious ritual. Malashenko calls that nonsense, adding that a small-town mayor on the eve of some tragic events in [the Caucasus republic of] Kabardino-Balkaria posted a schedule when people may or may not attend services in a mosque.

Elena Ryabinina of the Human Rights Institute says the state’s anti-terrorism operations are creating a large number of innocent victims who are convinced they cannot defend themselves through legal means.

Ryabinina says the more groups fall under the steamroller of repression, the greater the critical mass that emerges. She says although the groups are completely different, they are united by two very powerful factors — a common faith and common trouble stemming from the repressive campaign.

Valentin Gefter says civil interference in matters of religion is turning Islam into a hero among ordinary people. He notes a ruthless campaign against Islamic extremism in Chechnya has been accompanied by orders of what female college students should wear in class. Gefter says that encourages resentment.

Gefter adds that Russian security agencies last year pressured the Russian parliament and President Dmitri Medvedev into eliminating the country’s budding jury system in terrorism cases.

The human-rights activist says this has offered the possibility of not only manipulating, pressuring and perpetrating all kinds of outrages during an investigation, but also to get courts to deliver verdicts desired [by authorities].

Alexei Malashenko says there are no exact numbers on how many people are being radicalized by state’s war on terror. As he puts it, there are as many Islamic extremists as the authorities need to have at any given time — sometimes they need a lot, sometimes only a few. He notes that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has said there are no more than 500 rebels remaining in his republic. He later told his security forces virtually every Chechen family has a rebel, which would put the number in the many thousands.

Gulnara Faizulina says she does not expect the Russian Supreme Court to rule favorably in her husband’s case. A decision should take about three weeks. He has already served three-and-one-half years of a four-and-one-half year term. He could have served a maximum of 20. She notes all of the defendants got less than the minimum 10-year sentence, which she sees as indirect acknowledgment by authorities that they could not prove their case.

If necessary, the defendants plan a further appeal at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: US Troop Numbers Surpass Iraq

Washington, 25 May (AKI) — The Pentagon has announced that more US forces are now serving in Afghanistan than in Iraq for the first time since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. The Pentagon said on Monday that 94,000 troops had been deployed in Afghanistan compared to 92,000 soldiers in Iraq.

The numbers are expected to rise to about 98,000 in Afghanistan by mid-year, as the US lifts its commitment to defeat a resurgent Taliban.

At the height of the Iraq war in 2006 and 2007, the US had between 130,000 and 172,000 forces fighting there.

The US is now reducing its presence in Iraq, following an agreement with the Iraqi government.

Troop numbers are expected to fall to 50,000 by September 2010, with all American soldiers removed by the end of the 2011.

Obama said the 98,000 troops in Afghanistan is not a rigid number, and he has pledged to start bringing American troops home in July 2011.

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

Pak SC Allows 26/11 Plotter to Walk Free

ISLAMABAD: In a verdict that has angered New Delhi, Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a lower court decision to release Jamaat-ud-Daawa chief and 26/11 mastermind, Hafiz Saeed, saying the government had failed to marshal sufficient evidence against him.

“The appeals are dismissed,” Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk, head of a three-member bench, said. Pakistan’s federal government and Punjab provincial government had petitioned the court to overturn Lahore High Court’s decision to release Saeed in June 2009 on grounds of insufficient evidence. Defence lawyer, A K Dogar, said the prosecution failed to prove its case.

Hafiz has openly urged jihad

Islamabad: The Mumbai terror carnage mastermind Hafiz Saeed will walk free, Pakistan’s apex court ruled on Tuesday. “We cannot usurp the right of freedom of a person on mere assumption,” said defence lawyer A K Dogar, quoting the court order.

Prosecutor Saeed Yousuf said authorities didn’t give his team enough material to make a better case against Saeed. “We tried our level best on the basis of the documents available.” New Delhi was incensed by the move and saw it as part of the pattern of denial followed by Islamabad on the 26/11 attack. “We regard Hafiz Saeed as one of the masterminds of the Mumbai attacks and he has openly urged jihad against India,” foreign secretary Nirupama Rao said.

The terror outfit, that operates openly despite Indian protests, was overjoyed. “The decision has sent a clear message that JuD and its chief have nothing to do with terrorism,” said JuD spokesman Yahya Mujahid. He said the decision lifted the stigma from JuD.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Pakistan Appeases Those it Should be Fighting

by Shiraz Maher

One of Pakistan’s best known TV personalities has recently been embroiled in a major national scandal involving the Pakistani Taliban and a kidnapped British journalist. My piece on this for Hudson NY is reproduced below.


Last month a British journalist, Asad Qureshi, was kidnapped in Waziristan after being promised an interview with Hakimullah Mehsud, leader of Pakistani Taliban, as they have come to be known, or Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — a group rapidly gaining notoriety in the West after its leader claimed responsibility for the failed car bomb attack earlier this month in Times Square.

Qureshi’s decision to pursue Mehsud into the lawless tribal province might seem foolhardy, but he was accompanied by two fixers who seemed able guarantee his safety — Colonel Imam and Khalid Khwaja, both former members of Pakistan’s shadowy intelligence agency, known as the ISI. Not only were they were unable to protect Qureshi, they ended up abducted as well.

Their disappearance has been heavily covered by the Pakistani media: the fact that TTP fighters would kidnap members of the ISI — an institution which has traditionally turned a blind eye to some of their worst excesses — signalled a marked deterioration in relations between Islamist militants and the Pakistani state.

Both Colonel Imam and Khwaja are known to have had strong ties with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. During the 1980s and 1990s, when the ISI was heavily involved with both groups, Imam and Khwaja repeatedly met with Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar in Afghanistan.

The reason behind the deteriorating relationship between powerful institutions such as the ISI and the Taliban can be explained by the Red Mosque siege: In 2007, the Army attacked this mosque which sits in the heart of Islamabad, just yards from parliament and, ironically, the central headquarters of the ISI. The mosque’s firebrand leaders — two brothers called Abdul Aziz Gazi and Abdul Rashid Gazi — had baited the government for months. Their students were demanding the imposition of Shariah law and increasingly had begun taking the law into their own hands.

Having built a head of steam, members of the Red Mosque stormed music and DVD stores across Islamabad and destroyed their stock. Later, they kidnapped local and foreign women for alleged prostitution and lashed them inside the mosque’s grounds. A draconian response followed when the Army eventually dispatched its elite 111 Brigade to overcome the Gazi brothers and their supporters.

The ferocity of the fighting has left an indelible mark on the national psyche. Tanks and helicopter gunships pummelled a hardcore of supporters who fortified themselves inside the mosque. In total, the siege lasted for ten days and claimed hundreds of lives.

A ferocious wave of jihadist attacks followed. Suicide bombers targeted ISI buildings and other sensitive sites in Islamabad and Lahore. Ordinary Pakistanis are paying are heavy price. The surge in terrorism has already changed everyday life beyond recognition. For example, frequent roadblocks with heavily armed guards and resulting traffic jams are now an integral part of any journey.

After holding the trio captive for several weeks Colonel Imam and Asad Qureshi were released without harm; Khwaja, however, was fatally shot. His body was eventually recovered from a river in Waziristan by a council of local elders, known as a jirga, who repatriated the corpse to Islamabad for burial.

Pinned to Khwaja’s body was a note warning that a similar fate awaited other “American spies.” The note also made reference to Khwaja’s supposed betrayal of the Gazi brothers during the Red Mosque siege.

The story took a dramatic turn revently, when leaked recordings of an intercepted phone call surfaced on the internet. The call features a conversation between a TTP fighter based in Lahore and Hamid Mir, one of Pakistan’s best known journalists and TV anchors, who made his name interviewing Osama bin Laden several times in the 1990s, and who later said the recording had been doctored

In the recordingm the TTP fighter explains that he will be see Hakimullah Mehsud in the next few days and asks for information about Colonel Imam and Khalid Khwaja. Mir responds by saying that he suspects Khwaja is working for the CIA and may also have links with Israel. He also casts doubts over Khwaja’s Islamic beliefs, suggesting that he might belong to a persecuted sect in Pakistan whose members are widely regarded as heretical…

           — Hat tip: TM[Return to headlines]

US Sidesteps Local Authorities to Conduct Own Security Sweep of Lahore Airport

US security personnel are reportedly conducting a security sweep of Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport despite the presence of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), and the Airport Security Force (ASF).

The security checks have left several airport officials fuming, who claim the move “does not make any sense”, and it “demeans” the local security personnel.

Meanwhile, a Pakistan International Airline (PIA) spokesperson said that the ongoing security check was a “routine matter”, but denied that it had anything to do with PIA flight operations to the US.

“US Homeland Security personnel have been conducting such scans at our airports in the past as well… after every such check, the US personnel issue new security guidelines for local airport security officials, who meet those standards and invite them for another check,” The Daily Times quoted the PIA spokesperson, as saying.

Interestingly, a CAA spokesperson denied that any such operation was being carried out. (ANI)

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Far East

Time for Real Action Against North Korea

Looking to the United Nations for a response to North Korea’s latest act of aggression is fruitless

Tensions are rising in the Korean Peninsula, following confirmation by international investigators that North Korea torpedoed a South Korean ship in March, killing 46 sailors which were South Korea’s worst military fatalities since the Korean War ended in 1953.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak vowed to cut off nearly all trade with North Korea and to deny North Korean merchant ships permission to use South Korean sea lanes. South Korea also plans to broadcast propaganda messages into the North and to drop leaflets by air.

The United States is planning joint military exercises with South Korea in a show of resolve.

China does not want to do anything that might further inflame the situation, while its friends in North Korea are talking about going to war.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

‘Pirates’ Claim They Just Fishing for Sharks… With Rocket Launchers

[And the AK-47s were only for duck hunting. — Z]

Five Somali men have protested that they were shark fisherman not pirates despite being intercepted off Somalia’s coast after attacking a Dutch vessel with rocket launchers and assault rifles.

Europe’s first modern trial for the 17th century crime of “sea robbery” has opened in Rotterdam amid protestations of innocence from the accused.

The men, facing jail terms of nine to 12 years, are accused of attacking and attempting to hijack the Samanyolu, a Dutch Antilles-flagged ship, while it was sailing in the Gulf of Aden in January 2009.

The ship’s Turkish crew beat off the attack by firing signal flares at the Somali boat, destroying it. Danish marines then rescued and arrested the Somalis before handing them over to Dutch authorities.

Farah Ahmed Yusuf, 25, accused the cargo ship of attacking the Somalis after engine failure had forced them to abandon their shark fishing expedition and seek help.

“The intention was to fish,” he said.

“As we came closer, we put our hands in the air. While we had our hands in the air, they shot at us. They attacked us.”

Another accused man, Sayid Ali Garaar, 39, said: “We were not pirates, we were fishermen. There were no weapons.”

The Samanyulo’s crew, expected to give evidence later in the week, have accused the suspected pirates of shooting at their vessel with automatic weapons and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

The trial is expected to last five days and judgement is to be handed down on June 16. According to the London-based International Maritime Bureau, which monitors maritime crime, pirates attempted 215 attacks on merchant ships off the Somali coast in 2009.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]


Miami Company Creates “Gringo Masks” For Illegals

Miami ad group making a statement with Gringo Masks

If you are looking for a way to beat Arizona’s new immigration law, look no further than Miami’s new Gringo Masks.

The new product, brainchild of Miami advertising agency Zubi Advertising, guarantees the cops won’t be stopping you or your loved ones after you put your best white face forward.

The product is simple. Choose from a cut out of a blue-eyed, sandy hair-colored white guy or a green-eyed, blond haired white woman.

Cut the face to fit yours. Poke out the eyes. And presto! You don’t look like a “suspicious, potentially illegal” alien. Rubber band or green card not included.

The Gringo Mask was not created for profit, says Zubi execs, but for purpose. It’s one of the nation’s leading Hispanic advertising agency’s ways of showing it disapproves of Arizona’s new law.

“When we first heard of the law in Arizona and the effects it could have in terms of racial profiling, we discussed at the agency what we could do about it, since we have access to media,” co-owner Michelle Zubizarreta told the Sun-Sentinel. “How can we address the issue, but do so in a creative way while at the same time delivering a message?”

Now we could see how some might find the mask offensive — kind of along the lines of the infamous “Illegal alien with green card” Halloween costume of last year.

But Zubizarreta and her brother, Joe, said with traditional protests like marches and boycotts already in full swing, the Gringo Mask was another direct way of getting the message across.

“The spirit in which we conceived Gringo Mask,” Zubizarreta said, “was not to offend anyone. We wanted to start a dialogue.”

The Gringo Mask, along with instructions in Spanish and English, can be found at

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Pro-Terror Policies and Arizona

Obama’s idea of “reform” is essentially to erase the borders altogether

Before anyone in the Obama administration, including his chief law enforcement agent DOJ head Eric Holder bothered to read the new Arizona border enforcement law, Democrats were out in force condemning the state of Arizona for taking local enforcement of federal immigration laws seriously.

In case after case, we can see the Obama administration’s pro-terror policies here and abroad — from forcing U.S. soldiers to mirandize known enemy combatants on foreign fields of battle — to their insistence upon national tolerance for a so-called “religion of peace,” and their ongoing redefining of “terrorist” to include only American citizens who still believe in their Constitution.

But their most deadly pro-terror policy is their assault on U.S. Immigration Laws and the people and states who want them enforced immediately.

This is because it isn’t just decent Mexican families flooding across our southern border in search of an honest day’s work.

As was reported by Atlanta’s WSBTV News over the weekend, what most thinking Americans already knew to be the case has now been confirmed. Terrorists from around the globe are exploiting the wide open southern border as their easy entry point into the United States, the Great Infidel.


As Obama’s and Democrats’ popularity numbers plummet with “legal” U.S. voters, they MUST HAVE new U.S. voters to remain in power. Those voters are up for grabs in the Illegals for Amnesty crowd, the Muslim community and Puerto Rico. Democrats plan to put a saddle on every back and a bit in every mouth.

  • Tolerate the most violent religion on earth — (we are no longer a Christian nation)
  • Open the borders and ignore illegal migration — (undocumented Americans)
  • Give Puerto Rico statehood — (non-Americans with American voting rights)

All three of these initiatives are politically driven. They are all an effort to register millions of new Democrat voters, aka, government dependents. Obama & Co. do NOT care about the cost to American security or taxpayers.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Spain: Boat Carrying 44 Migrants Rescued

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 25 — A boat carrying 44 migrants from the sub-Sahara was intercepted last night by the Sea Rescue service and the Civil Guard some 22 miles off the coast of Motril (Granada), in Andalusia. Sources from the Red Cross inform that the migrants were rescued and transferred to the Civil Guard’s Rio Genil patrol boat and taken to the port of Granada, where they were given medical assistance by Red Cross volunteers. According to sources from the integrated border service, the boat left from the Moroccan city of Nador. The migrants, who are in good health, were transferred to a temporary reception centre where they will await repatriation.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Religion From an Evolutionary Perspective

You also study religion from an evolutionary perspective. Why would religion be adaptive for humans?

The empirical evidence points to substantial group-level benefits for most enduring religions. Benefits include defining the group, coordinating action to achieve shared goals and developing elaborate mechanisms to prevent cheating. The same evolutionary processes that cause individual organisms and social insect colonies to function as adaptive units also cause religious groups to function as adaptive units. Religious believers frequently compare their communities to a single body or a beehive. This is not just a poetic metaphor but turns out to be correct from an evolutionary perspective.

I piss off atheists more than any other category, and I am an atheist. One of the things that infuriates me about the newest crop of angry atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, is their denial of the beneficial aspects of religion. Their beef is not just that there is no evidence for God. They also insist that religion “poisons everything”, as Christopher Hitchens subtitled his book. They are ignoring the scientific theory and evidence for the “secular utility” of religion, as ?ile Durkheim put it, even though they wrap themselves in the mantle of science and rationality. Someone needs to call them out on that, and that person is me.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]