Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100617

Financial Crisis
»Bank of England to Cap Mortgages
»Greece: Not Even Ouzo Spared by Austerity
»Greece: Communist Union Calls New Strike
»Spain: Solbes Doubts That Job Market Reform is Sufficient
»Zapatero Defends Spanish Economy at EU Summit
»Arrogance and the National Security Strategy
»As Apple Pie; America’s Mosques
»Beware of Jihad, Ex-Prosecutor Says
»BP Aware of Cracks in Oil Well Two Months Before Explosion
»Casualty of War: US Army Dumps Velcro for Buttons
»Disgruntled Obama-Loving Killer Prof is Charged With Gunning Down Her Brother in 1986
»Engulfing the Internet
»Imam Pleads Guilty to Molestation at Tampa Mosque
»Imam Accused of Molestation to be Deported
»Murfreesboro Mosque Plan Ignites Backlash
»Pastor’s Change of Heart May Not Kill Midland Beach Mosque Plan
»Pastor of Midland Beach Church Withdraws Support of Mosque Plan
»San Francisco Introduces Bill Condemning Israel for Hamas Flotilla Attack
»Slouching Towards Jihad
»Southwest Finds Shipment of Heads on a Plane
»Staten Island Church Reconsiders Deal to Sell Vacant Convent for Use as a Mosque
»What’s the ‘Overton Window’ And Why Should You Care?
»Will Obama be the ‘Jimmy Carter of the 21st Century’?
Europe and the EU
»Financial Scandals: The Hidden Wealth of the Catholic Church
»France: Govt and Muslims Against Racism
»Germany: Mixa Wants His Case Reviewed by Vatican
»How Gadaffi Blackmails Europe
»Italy: Defence Giant Rejects Bribe Claims
»Rumours of Pope’s ‘Secret Meal’
»SFr1.5 Million Paid for Swiss Hostage Release
»The Great Wind Farm Disaster
»Through the Language Glass: How Words Colour Your World
»UK: A Quarter of British Children Have Been Victims of Crime, Study Reveals
»UK: Brave Cancer Victim Clung to Life to See Brutal Attacker Who Battered Her Jailed… And Died Six Days Later
»UK: Birmingham Stops Camera Surveillance in Muslim Areas
»UK: I Admit it: I Was Wrong to Have Supported Barack Obama
»UK: Man With Agonising Skin Condition Leapt to His Death After Motorists Yelled ‘Jump’
»UK: Royal Marine and His Father Stabbed ‘Protecting Sister From Gang Attack’
North Africa
»Egypt: Personal Freedom? An Alien Concept in Egyptian Society
»Morocco: Tangier and Free Zones, The Numbers of Success
»World Cup: Liberation’s Editor Apologises to Algeria
Israel and the Palestinians
»Interview: ‘We’ll be Back — With Bigger Flotillas’
»Israeli Supermarkets Boycott Turkish Products
»Tens of Thousands of Fundamentalist Jews Protest
»The Noose Around Israel’s Neck
Middle East
»Bahrain: Italian Rizzani in Consortium for ‘Manama Passage’
»Obama’s Policies Hardening Allies Against U.S.
»Turkey Welcomes EU Parliament Resolution Condemning Israel
»Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria Eye Deeper Cooperation
South Asia
»‘Kyrgyzstan is on the Brink of Collapse’
Sub-Saharan Africa
»UK: Three Kenyan Politicians Arrested Over ‘Hate Speech’
»Why Felipe Calderon Hates Arizona’s Anti-Illegal Immigration Law
Culture Wars
»Changing Attitudes to Homosexuality in Poland
»‘Gay’ Judge Decides Future of Homosexual ‘Marriage’
»UN Petitioned Over West’s “Islamophobia”
»Western Liberals Are to Blame for Dismantling Universal Human Rights

Financial Crisis

Bank of England to Cap Mortgages

House buyers could be refused mortgages under new Bank of England powers to be unveiled by George Osborne.

The Chancellor will announce that he will hand a host of new controls to the Bank to prevent another financial crisis.

The powers will mean that, for the first time in the modern era, the Bank could impose restrictions on the amount banks can lend.

The reforms, to be sketched out in the Chancellor’s first Mansion House speech in the City of London, represent a revolution for the City, since in the past banks have always had freedom to decide to whom they can lend.

The Bank and its Governor, Mervyn King, would be able to prevent banks from lending too much, or to over-extended customers, if they judge that this would destabilise the economy.

The precise details of the controls the Bank is to be given will be detailed fully at a later date.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Greece: Not Even Ouzo Spared by Austerity

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JUNE 17 — Not even Greece’s most popular alcoholic drink, Ouzo has been spared by the economic crisis in the country. A 30% drop in consumption has been reported by the federation of distillers (SEAOP), which points out that over 2,000 people work in the industry and another 100,000 indirectly contribute to its activity. The collapse in consumption has been put down to repeated rises in duty on alcohol, as part of plans to tackle the financial crisis. SEAOP says that duty has more than doubled since 2009. Ouzo, a strong distillate made from grapes and enriched with aniseed and other herbs, represents almost 70% of exports of Greek drinks. The main destination is Germany, which has doubled its consumption in the last few years, taking it up to 17.3 million litres per year. “The new taxes have turned a healthy export into a sector full of problems,” said Nikos Kaloyannis, chairman of SEAOP, in a press conference. He added that the fall in consumption means that predicted government income will be lower than expected.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Communist Union Calls New Strike

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JUNE 17 — The communist union PAME has called another strike on June 23 against the pension reform, whilst other unions are preparing for a general strike, the date of which has however not yet been fixed. The PAME union has called for a demonstration today and announced a strike for next week against the pension reform, which provides for freezes, reductions and the raising of retirement age and which is currently being negotiated by the government with a EU-IMF delegation, before being presented in Parliament by the end of the month. The other two large-scale confederations, GSE (private sector) and ADEDY (civil servants) demonstrated yesterday and announced a general strike — the fifth since the start of the crisis — when the pension reform reaches Parliament.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Solbes Doubts That Job Market Reform is Sufficient

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JUNE 17 — Former Economy and Finance Minister Pedro Solbes doubts that the job market reforms approved yesterday by the Spanish government “are sufficient” and does not consider the idea of postponing the reforms for several months to be a good idea, referring to the intentions of the government to convert the reform into a bill. While speaking today at a public event, Solbes, cited by the online edition of El Economista, while speaking about labour reform, said that “there are satisfying elements that are a step in the right direction, but there are still doubts on whether or not it will be sufficient”. He also said that it is “inevitable” that the reform must be passed as soon as possible. According to the former minister, any reform to the job market must strive to prevent costs of sacking workers from being a “deterrent” to downsize and to allow for collective agreements “to not be an obstacle” to restructure businesses. The reform approved yesterday by the Spanish government, “improves the current situation, but does not conceptually change things,” in Solbes’ view. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Zapatero Defends Spanish Economy at EU Summit

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JUNE 17 — At the request of the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, at the EU summit Premier José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero will today present the balance sheet of the six-month Spanish presidency of the EU, together with the definition of the new European economic strategy for the period 2010-2020. According to government sources, the 27 heads of state and government are set to fix the priorities and the economic reforms negotiated during the six-month period. In his letter of invitation, released today, Van Rompuy underlines that Zapatero will open the debate on the economy and he will report on “the results achieved during the Spanish presidency in the development of the Europe 2020 strategy since the meeting in March.” The Spanish Premier intends to take advantage of the bilateral meeting to convey to European partners a message of confidence in the Spanish economy, after rumours in recent days of an alleged European rescue plan, repeatedly denied by the government and by the EU.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Arrogance and the National Security Strategy

It seems I have been writing a lot about the internationalists and the New World Order since our new administration has taken office. Now with the release of the May, 2010 National Security Strategy I find I am going to be doing it again. The one thing we can say about our current administration — they sure provide us with a lot to write about.


No longer are politicians hiding behind veiled language, secret memos concerning an emerging New World Order; Mr. Obama states “Finally, our efforts to shape an international order that promotes a just peace must facilitate cooperation capable of addressing the problems of our time. This international order will support our interests, but it is also an end that we seek in its own right. New challenges hold out the prospect of opportunity, but only if the international community breaks down the old habits of suspicion to build upon common interests.” Let there no longer be any doubt in the minds of American’s that this president’s goal is a New World Order and that that goal is “an end we seek in its own right.”


Nearly every page of this document calls for an international/global order or lays out the things necessary to achieve such. As a student of the Constitution, the founders and their writings I am led to believe those that built this nation would find the current concepts of this administration abhorrent. Individual self government and liberty has given way to not only more oppressive government but a government with an eye toward global governance in that same vein.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

As Apple Pie; America’s Mosques

It was just over a year ago when the small Borough of Rockaway, New Jersey was the scene of a much heated and polarized debate whether to allow an Islamic center occupy a vacant office building. Pundits from all sides collided to demonstrate the benefits or the harm caused to the quality of life and America’s basic values should the town allow the mosque plans to proceed. Thankfully, the mosque is now a legally functioning institution-and none of the opponents’ fears have materialized.

Opposition to building mosques in the US seems to be a growing industry. Their Islamophobic devotees while small in number enjoy a growing political and monetary support from right wing elected and public officials and extremist organizations. Their spewing of insidiously filled behavior is a constant reminder that some Americans are willing to forsake the constitutional right of fellow citizens to practice their chosen faith in a place and in the manner of their choosing.

I wonder if the anti-mosque folks find it objectionable if say for example a church was to be built directly from across the Oklahoma Federal Building which was so savagely destroyed in a 1995 bomb by Christian Timothy McVeigh. Is it acceptable for non-Christians to accuse the church of being insensitive, of attempting to make a political statement or declaring its supremacy over other faiths? Will all of Christendom have to atone from the acts of one of its faithful?

In New Jersey, there are several mosques being planned to meet the growing needs of the community and all are faced with seemingly organized and nationally inspired and funded campaign that views such a development as an existential threat to America’s values. A most notable anti-mosque movement has targeted plans for a mosque in New York City, two blocks from the now demolished World Trade Center. The same thread of perceived threats or misconceptions permeate the doubly hypocritical activities of those who view with much disdain the so-called “insensitivity” of Muslims wishing to make a political statement by their insistence on being so close to Ground Zero. Opponents want us to believe that it is Osama Bin Laden who is building the mosque and that he is readying to raise his flag over its peaks!

There is everything wrong and hypocritical with the rhetoric of the opponents of mosque building in the US.

American Muslims cannot be blamed for the acts or utterances of Muslims living or operating in foreign countries. It seems that Muslim-haters lack a clear understanding of the world map. Why is it when a Muslim blows up school or a mosque in Karachi, Muslims in NJ are somehow held liable for such a crime? We are expected to denounce and condemn such behavior and explain how our faith advocates peaceful coexistence.

Let it be known that, compared to population ranking in the US, more innocent Muslims were the victims of 911 than Christians and Jews combined. Over a hundred Arabs and Muslims were forsaken by the terrorists who blew up the WTC in 2001. Worldwide, more Muslims have been the direct victims of terrorism than any other religious or ethnic group. The great majority of Muslims are with you, fellow Christian and Jew, in the forefront to delegitimize, isolate and defeat the curse of terrorism. Avail yourself to visiting our homes, places of business or worship. You might, just might, see a fellow human being with the same hopes and travails; raising their children to become future leaders or worrying about their property tax.

Conversely, why is it when a Christian or Jew kills, any the past is full of example of such atrocities, few demand that Christians or Jews rise up to condemn such attacks or risk becoming easy targets of bigoted and slanderous treatment.

Yes, and admittedly, Muslims are not all peaceful and loving citizens of this world. But, American Muslims are your fellow taxpaying citizens, patriotic, productive, family-committed and law-abiding just as the majority who call this land their home. Thank God, our US constitution, entitles them to the same rights you take for granted such as freedom of religion and the unhindered pursuit of liberty and justice. Objecting to building a mosque whether in Rockaway or in the heart of Manhattan is nothing short of unmasked bigotry, unabashed discrimination against fellow citizens. Religious intolerance is the extremist form of un-Americanism.

Math and the law, however, have been on the side American Muslim citizens. Except for very random cases, every plan to build a mosque has reached fruition even after sustaining unabashedly selfish opposition by a small, but loud, socially and politically xenophobic.

For those deeply engulfed in intellectual and moral duplicity about the inevitability of a more inclusive cultural and spiritual American mosaic, your siege mentality will assure only your eventual eclipse from even the periphery of America’s discourse. America is undergoing a transformative period best expressed by the call to expand the limiting Judeo-Christian tradition with the more inclusive Abrahamic tradition because such an attribute aptly- and completely-encompasses both the essence and hopes of our beloved country.

Islam and its adherents (slaves, and freemen) have been a part of America’s past for over 400 years. Islam is as American as apple pie. It will still be there till the end of time. Islam and the 7-10 millions who call it their faith, are not simply about to wither away simply because mosques are detested or disallowed. Muslims pray anywhere and everywhere and if they chose an appropriate place in which to connect with God, no one has the right, political, moral or legal to prevent them from their choosing.

It is a known fact that in areas where a new mosque is built, real-estate values increase, business blossoms, crime decreases and neighbors, once aloof and estranged, suddenly become the best of friends. Contrary to all misplaced allegations, the Rockaway mosque has proved to be a center of interfaith gatherings not a feared traffic jam, an inviting place for volunteered activism such as blood drives and soup kitchens and not a haven for criminals or outcasts.

I was in the forefront for building the mosque in Rockaway and the Daily Record has chronicled my views. I am also an ardent supporter of the lower Manhattan mosque-just as I would stand for a proposed church or synagogue. One of the most gratifying if not most spiritually and morally satisfying expression of interfaith brotherhood has been the support received from fellow citizens of the Christian and Jewish faiths. To some, of course, history is but a bitter reminder of shameful incidents when African-American churches in the 1950’s were burnt or in the 1800’s when Catholic churches were ravaged or throughout the last century, synagogues or Jewish symbols desecrated or vandalized. To many, it has been a question of their moral compass commanding them to not let a besieged and cocooned community be the scapegoat of xenophobic extremism.

These are the true heroes who see in a pluralistic and tolerant America a crowning and a precious inheritance for all of its citizens.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Beware of Jihad, Ex-Prosecutor Says

Book outlines Islamist intentions to Muslimize the West

Andrew C. McCarthy, a decorated former federal prosecutor who won convictions in the 1995 World Trade Center bombings, has issued a warning to America: Beware of the Islamist intent to Muslimize the Western world through jihad.

Mr. McCarthy says he wants to alert the public about the Islamist challenge to Americans’ freedom in his book “The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.” The book was released last month.

“While Islamists carefully execute their plans to impose Allah’s law, which directly contradicts the bedrock principles of American society, President Obama and the Left are not only asleep at the wheel, but complicit in the effort. Simply put, the prognosis for liberty could not be more dire,” he writes.

The alliance between Mr. Obama’s hard-left followers and radical political Islam, also known as Islamism, has its roots in a relationship that has been around since at least the last century, Mr. McCarthy said.

He said that people are now afraid to say anything negative against Muslims or Muslim groups because they think they would be perceived as racist.

A contributing editor at the National Review and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, Mr. McCarthy, 51, is no stranger when it comes to dealing with the threat of Islamist terror. He was the lead prosecutor in the trial of “Blind Sheik” Omar Abdel-Rahman and 10 other Muslim terrorists who were convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

He served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York for 18 years. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he supervised the Justice Department’s command post near ground zero, and in 2004 he worked at the Pentagon as a special assistant to the deputy secretary of defense. Mr. McCarthy also received several commendations, including the Justice Department’s highest honors.

Mr. McCarthy said that his goal in writing “The Grand Jihad” is to help Americans see that while the ideology of those on the hard left and those of the Islamist party do not overlap, they conveniently align on several important issues. Both Islamism and the hard left are centered on authoritarian and totalitarian ideologies, Mr. McCarthy said, which is, each party wants to impose regulation on its people.

Even more important to the current threat is their rejection of capitalism as a corrupt and corrupting system, Mr. McCarthy said. Because of this, they share a common enemy and find an anti-America alliance convenient.

“They both need to eradicate the freedom culture [of America],” he said.

This shared need has meant a growing support for Islam among the hard left in the U.S., Mr. McCarthy said.

Working with Islamists, Mr. McCarthy said, are two kinds of people: progressivists, who fear that acknowledging the link between Islamist doctrine and terrorism will start a war, and the hard left, which finds a strategic advantage in denying the real threat and attributing the root cause of terrorism to those policies and political parties it dislikes.

Mr. McCarthy said the truth of Islamist doctrine will not start the war that progressivists fear, but is necessary in the fight against the spread of jihad in the U.S.

“I think people like me need to do a better job of convincing people the sky won’t fall” if we state the truth, he said. Jihad properly defined, he said, is “always and everywhere the mission to implement and defend Shariah,” which is necessary groundwork for Islamization.

Mr. McCarthy isn’t alone in his thinking.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born former Muslim who has publicly denounced Islam as a dangerous ideology, stated a similar message in her book “Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations.” In it, she writes about her experience with Islam and why she thinks it is a dangerous system that must be fought with strong competing ideas.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

BP Aware of Cracks in Oil Well Two Months Before Explosion

BP was aware of cracks appearing in the Macondo well as far back as February, right around the time Goldman Sachs and BP Chairman Tony Hayward were busy dumping their stocks in the company on the eve of the explosion that led to the oil spill, according to information uncovered by congressional investigators.

The Mining and Mineral Services agency released documents to Bloomberg indicating that BP “was trying to seal cracks in the well about 40 miles (64 kilometers) off the Louisiana coast,” according to the report.

The fissures, which BP began to attempt to fix on February 13, could have played a role in the disaster, though this is a question still being explored by investigators. Improperly sealed, the cracks cause explosive natural gas to rush up the shaft.

[Return to headlines]

Casualty of War: US Army Dumps Velcro for Buttons

The US army has decided to ditch Velcro from its uniforms in Afghanistan, opting to use buttons to keep pockets closed instead.

The space-age fabric became a casualty of war because it got easily clogged with dirt and sand in the Afghan desert, rendering it useless. An army spokesman told USA Today that soldiers had complained that Velcro no longer suited their needs.

The army will begin issuing new trousers, fitted with buttons, to soldiers heading to Afghanistan in August. “When concerns surfaced in surveys that the hook-and-pile tape was not holding under the weight of full pocket loads, the Army evaluated several solutions,” Debi Dawson said. Velcro has been part of the latest Army combat uniform since it was introduced in 2004.

Soldiers had been advised to use a small weapons cleaning brush to dislodge dust and dirt in the Velcro, but the process was time consuming. Sgt. Kenny Hatten, writing on an army website, said: “Get rid of the pocket flap Velcro and give us back our buttons,” Hatten wrote. “Buttons are silent, easy to replace in the field, work just fine in the mud, do not clog up with dirt and do not fray and disintegrate with repeated laundering.”

A survey of soldiers found that 60 per cent preferred buttons and just 11 per cent wanted to keep Velcro.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Disgruntled Obama-Loving Killer Prof is Charged With Gunning Down Her Brother in 1986

A biology professor charged with killing three of her colleagues at an Alabama university has been indicted in the 1986 shooting death of her brother in Massachusetts, prosecutors announced Wednesday.

Authorities had originally ruled that the shooting of Amy Bishop’s brother was an accident, but they reopened the case after Bishop was charged in February with gunning down six of her colleagues at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, killing three.


Amy Bishop shot and killed Gopi K. Podila, Maria Ragland Davis and Adriel Johnson, all professors in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alabama’s Huntsville campus, [on a] Friday after a meeting on tenure. Bishop, a socialist, also shot and killed her 18 year-old brother during an argument in 1986 at point blank range. She shot at him 3 times then robbed an auto shop with a shotgun. Police released Bishop in 1986 after they received a call from district attorney William Delahunt, now Rep. William Delahunt.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Engulfing the Internet

Washington Prowler

Despite opposition by a House of Representatives majority and a bipartisan group of Senators, the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday is expected to proceed with plans to impose federal government regulation of the Internet, which would essentially treat broadband networks — and the companies that invested more than $200 billion in private capital to deploy them — as utilities.

The commission’s chairman, Julius Genachowski, and his staff have insisted that imposing federal regulations originally written in the 1930s for the telephone is the only way the Obama Administration can gain the “kind of oversight and control that we need,” says an FCC staffer with ties to another Democrat commissioner. “Look at the Gulf oil spill, that’s what happens when we let corporations just do their own thing without any accountability. We can’t allow that to happen with the Internet. We won’t allow it.”

The vote to continue the review and comment process at the FCC is expected to be a party-line vote, with the two Republican commissioners voting against the proposed regulatory scheme.

Under the Obama Administration’s plan, the FCC would be able to enforce so-called “net neutrality” rules, allowing the federal government to set how broadband and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) manage the networks. By bringing broadband and the Internet under FCC regulatory oversight, the FCC would also be able to impose policies related to speech or online business models.

“The American public really has no idea how devastating these policies are going to have on free speech and the Internet,” says a Republican Senate staffer. “If they are able to impose these regulations, they would be able to impose a host of different regulations that would limit free speech online and essentially give the left the upper hand. First the auto industry, then health care and the financial services industry, now this.”

           — Hat tip: DS[Return to headlines]

Imam Pleads Guilty to Molestation at Tampa Mosque

An imam pleaded guilty to molesting a teenage boy at a Gulf coast mosque.

A judge put Yasser Mohamed Shahade on probation for 10 years and designated him a sexual offender Thursday. He will be deported to Egypt.

He faced 15 years in prison if convicted of the initial charge, sexual battery on a minor. His attorney confirmed that he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of lewd and lascivious molestation.

He was arrested in May 2009 after a boy who stayed overnight at the Masjid Omar Al Mukhtar mosque said he had been assaulted.

Shahade’s attorney Charles Traina says his client entered the plea in his best interest to the reduced charge and anticipates being deported back to his home country of Egypt.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Imam Accused of Molestation to be Deported

TAMPA — A Muslim imam accused of molesting a boy at a Tampa mosque pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, and will be deported.

Yasser Mohamed Shahade, 35, pleaded guilty to lewd and lascivious molestation.

He was initially charged with sexual battery on a 13-year-old boy.

Prosecutors said the incident took place last year during an overnight stay at the mosque. At the time, police released few details about the boy’s condition. They said the boy’s family called the police after the boy spent the night at the mosque.

Thursday, the judge sentenced Shahade to ten years of probation, and labeled him a sex offender.

Shahade is in the United States on a visa, and is now set to be deported back to Egypt.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Murfreesboro Mosque Plan Ignites Backlash

Rutherford residents fight approval by planning commission

MURFREESBORO -For the second time in two months, a Middle Tennessee mosque is facing opposition from residents who don’t want the religious house constructed in an area zoned for it.

With a growing Muslim community in Rutherford County, the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro wants to build on Veals Road. The project done in phases could take years to finish: a 52,000-square-foot mosque, with a community center and athletic fields.

Tonight, residents will appear in front of the board of commissioners to express their frustration with the Rutherford County Planning Commission’s May 24 approval of the site plan. The meeting is slated for 6 p.m. at 1 South Public Square, Suite 200.

“I believe this has been approved and run through without public notice,” resident Kevin Fisher said. “Why have a mosque nine times the size of Nashville’s in the middle of a farming, residential community?”

Last month, plans for a separate mosque in Brentwood were soundly defeated when residents who were against rezoning the land mounted a campaign that raised suspicions about the mosque and its leaders. Opponents encouraged residents to write letters to the city commission, and stirred more controversy by questioning links to terrorist groups.

Fisher and other opponents say prejudice is not at the root of their opposition in Rutherford County.

“I’m African-American,” he said. “It’s not an issue of diversity, race or religious freedom. I would say the same thing if it was a Christian church.”

The Muslim community is confused over the opposition. They have been good neighbors and residents in Rutherford County, they said. Shortly after the devastating 2009 tornado, Muslim families delivered 2,500 meals to those affected. They volunteered to help the community. They invited Christian and Jews alike to take part on their holidays.

When they announced their plans to build their dream facility, they also invited residents. They didn’t expect a backlash.

Now they are answering to rumors of polygamy, Islamic doctrine and whether they will adhere to the U.S. Constitution, said Essam Fathy, a physical therapist who has lived in Murfreesboro since the 1980s.

“We have nothing to hide,” Fathy said. “We do not have a hidden agenda. We’re not affiliated with anyone. Where is the tolerance?”

Muslims need room

Fathy said the Muslim community, with 250 families, has outgrown its digs at 862 Middle Tennessee Blvd.

It’s not uncommon for houses of worship to face opposition. Some opponents use traffic, zoning and any legal loophole as a smoke screen for their prejudices, said Eric Rassbach, director of litigation for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group. “No one really comes out to speak against people, using traffic, which is malleable, to manipulate to the detriment of those applying for the property,” he said.

Delbert Ketner, a retired resident who opposes the mosque, questions the goals of those who practice Islam.

“If their goal is to advance Islam, advance their culture, then there is no real affection for our Constitution and the precepts we were founded on,” Ketner said, adding that Rutherford County also opposed a Bible theme park.

Imam Ossama Bahloul wants to dispel any worries, and said any disagreements should be worked out. He had to answer tough questions from his own as well. A child asked, “Why do they hate us?”

“I said it’s just a misunderstanding, miscommunication,” Bahloul said. “I told him to love the people because one day they can love you, too.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Pastor’s Change of Heart May Not Kill Midland Beach Mosque Plan

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The controversial sale of a former Midland Beach convent to the Muslim American Society for use as a community center and mosque was dealt a blow today when the pastor who signed the contract announced he’s had a change of heart and doesn’t believe the sale would be in the best interests of the parish.

St. Margaret Mary R.C. Church Pastor Rev. Keith Fennessy sent a letter to Archbishop Timothy Dolan, announcing that, “after careful reflection,” he has changed his position, withdrawn his support for the convent sale, and asked the Archdiocese to stop the deal from going forward.

The contents of the letter were conveyed to the parish trustees and a MAS attorney today, according to Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling.

“I have concluded that the contemplated sale would not serve the needs of the parish,” Father Fennessy wrote. “As a result, as Pastor of Saint Margaret Mary Parish, I wish to formally withdraw my support for the sale, and request that it not take place.”

Zwilling said he believes that in his role as pastor, and a church trustee, Father Fennessy’s change of mind is “significant to everyone involved,” but “he does not have the ability to simply veto and say the deal is off,” Zwilling said. The sale is not final until requisite approvals are met, including an OK from the parish’s trustees, of whom Father Fennessy is one. Approval would also be needed from the state Supreme Court, Zwilling said.

“The contract was signed, and this does not cancel that,” Zwilling said. “The next step is to see what the response is from the MAS, and I can’t predict that.”

“It is our hope that there can be a way the parish and the MAS can meet and reach an amicable solution,” Zwilling said.

“Father Fennessy has taken some time to reconsider the planned sale, and has considered the impact it will have on his parish and parishioners,” Zwilling said. Though Father Fennessy offered his resignation at the height of the controversy, he is still pastor, and it is unknown when or if a new pastor will be appointed by the Archbishop, Zwilling said.

Indicative of the poor communication between both sides throughout the ordeal, when reached by the Advance for comment on Father Fennessy’s change of heart, MAS member Mohamed Sadeia said he had not yet heard about the change, though Zwilling’s statement was posted on the Archdiocese website. Sadeia said he would withhold comment until MAS had discussed the matter.

The Archdiocese “just handled it wrong from the start,” said Midland Beach Civic Association President Yasmin Ammirato, who said she believes Father Fennessy’s change of heart was an attempt to “save face.”

“I guess they didn’t think that the community would come out the way that it did,” she said of the church.

Word about the sale was painful to residents, she said, because the neighborhood wasn’t told until the contract was signed, and parishioners who have supported the church for years felt blindsided.

The vacant convent building, which once housed 10 nuns, was built with donations from the parish community. The parents and grandparents of residents in the neighborhood took out loans and made monthly payments to help support the construction, Ms. Ammirato said.

“The blood and guts of the community built that building. At least they should have been sensitive enough to speak to the community, and they didn’t… That’s why people were so hurt and angry.”

Should MAS not go ahead with the mosque plan, some community members hope a builder will put up several homes instead, Ms. Ammirato said.

“We wouldn’t want to see it sit there vacant for the rest of our lives,” she said, but any proposed community facilities would be too much for the neighborhood’s narrow streets and limited parking.

At its best, the fallout from the controversial sale showed the community’s resolve, as neighbors pulled together to ask questions about MAS, its background, and its intentions for the property, and wrote countless letters and emails to the Archdiocese in opposition to the plan. At its worst, it exposed bias, cultural misunderstandings, and that the wounds of 9/11 are still very deeply felt nearly a decade later.

“It’s put a microscope on much deeper and complex issues,” said City Councilman James Oddo (R-Mid-Island/Brooklyn).

“If this issue is resolved, and I’m not sure if it is… it’s highlighted probably a much bigger problem than one specific convent in one specific community,” Oddo said. “That one’s not as easily resolved, and that runs deep, and it’s something that we’re all going to have to work on going forward.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Pastor of Midland Beach Church Withdraws Support of Mosque Plan

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The embattled pastor of the Midland Beach church considering the sale of a former convent to the Muslim American Society has withdrawn his support, and asked Archbishop Timothy Dolan to stop the sale from going forward.

In a letter to Archbishop Dolan, St. Margaret Mary R.C. Church Pastor Rev. Keith Fennessy wrote “I have concluded that the contemplated sale would not serve the needs of the parish. As a result, as Pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish, I wish to formally withdraw my support for the sale, and request that it not take place.”

Father Fennessy had signed a contract to sell the property to the MAS, which proposed opening a mosque in the old convent building.

Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said in light of Father Fennessy’s letter, it is hoped that “an amicable solution” can be found between the parish and the MAS.

Further information will be posted as it becomes available.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

San Francisco Introduces Bill Condemning Israel for Hamas Flotilla Attack

Tensions soared at City Hall on Tuesday over a nonbinding resolution calling for the condemnation of the Israeli military’s deadly raid on a flotilla headed for Gaza.

At least nine people were killed by Israeli naval commandos during the May 31 raid on ships carrying aid for the isolated Gaza region, which is under an Israeli blockade.

The legislation, sponsored by Supervisors John Avalos and Sophie Maxwell, has more than two dozen “whereas” clauses.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Slouching Towards Jihad

In Federalist #2, Founder John Jay addressed the dangers of foreign force and influence. In the course of the essay, he celebrated, “With equal pleasure I have as often taken notice that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people — a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs.” Jay understood that perhaps America’s greatest protection against the threat of foreign manipulation was our overriding sense of unity as a people.

That’s why Jay and the other Founders insisted that immigrants be willing to embrace and adopt our values and principles. George Washington wrote, “By an intermixture with our people, they, or their descendents, get assimilated to our customs, measures, laws: in a word soon become one people.”

Unfortunately, in the name of political correctness, we are trampling this very notion of unity in deference to the sacred cow of “diversity.” No clearer can this tragic reality be witnessed than in our developing societal embrace of Islam.

Unlike other religions, Islam is simultaneously a religious and a political order. It seeks a state-imposed caliphate…a theocratic regime that orders allegiance to Islamic law. Those are the expectations of anyone who follows the Koran.

When Dr. Daniel Shayesteh (the former co-founder of the Islamic terror group Hezbollah) appeared on my radio program, I asked him whether true adherents to Islam could peacefully assimilate into American culture and embrace constitutional law and order. He responded, “It is impossible for a person who follows Mohammed and says, ‘I am a Muslim’ and follows the instruction of the Koran to align himself with other laws and cultural values. That’s impossible, because everything other than Islamic culture and principle is evil.”

That chilling admission should set off warning bells. Yet, despite this plainly stated position, Americans continue to suffer the foolishness of political correctness that tells us we should celebrate the growth of Islam here in America. Let me ask a hypothetical question: would you vote for someone who ran on the platform of obliterating U.S. sovereignty, discarding the U.S. Constitution, subjugating women, and executing homosexuals and all non-adherents to an established national religion?

Of course not. Then why do we consider it a feather in our cap as a people, and hail our virtuous diversity when practicing Muslims are elected to office? Because either professing Muslims like Andre Carson (D-IN) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) — both of whom serve in Congress — believe in those aforementioned principles, or they are not true adherents to Islam.

Don’t believe me? Omar Ahmed, chairman of the supposedly moderate Council on American-Islamic Relations, reportedly told a group of California Muslims in 1998, “Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran…should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on earth.”

I know that addressing all this makes many people so uncomfortable that they choose not to pay attention. Perhaps that stems from our fear of violence if we do (see Comedy Central’s recent capitulation to “Revolution Muslim”). But more likely it comes from our mounting cultural indoctrination in political correctness — the same garbage that infected Europe decades ago. What have been its fruits there? Entire regions of many modern European countries are now completely under the authority of local Muslim leaders who ignore national laws and impose their own Sharia law instead.

And here? The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently taken the side of Muslims who seek to uphold their cultural practice of female genital mutilation. Islam holds that women should not receive the same sexual pleasure that men do, and therefore many Muslims in the United States send their young daughters overseas to have those sensitive areas removed. Rather than stand against this barbaric act, the AAP has begun advocating for the U.S. to change its laws to allow this practice to occur here legally. We must be open-minded, you know.

And though the construction of Islamic mosques have historically been to signify dominance over conquered foes, the New York community board and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg are okaying plans to construct not one, but two mosques at the site of the World Trade Center attacks. Another triumph for diversity! (See related story)

This is a matter of self-preservation. The more we loosen our grip on our Founders’ insistence on assimilation and unity for those who make America their home, the quicker we hasten our march towards cultural oblivion…or the jihadists’ paradise.

“The mainstream Americans, especially on the liberal side of things, seemed to think [jihad] is a problem Europeans have, this is not a problem that we [Americans] have,” Ms. Hirsi Ali said in a June 2 speech at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. “I noticed a naivete that I had seen in Europe years ago in America about the presence of radical Islam.”

The West is reluctant to embrace anything that might make it appear to reject Islam, Mr. McCarthy said. He said the uneasy desire not to offend Muslims is a clear symptom of the problem.

Mr. McCarthy said he sees moderate Islam as another possible contending force, put forth by those who claim Islam is a peaceful religion and that the violence comes from radical Islamist factions. He said he hopes the moderates can contend with their radical counterparts, but that Islamists have made a case rooted in the Koran for their position.

“The moderates are not going to win until they can come up with a cogent, compelling, rooted-in-the-scriptures moderate Islam,” Mr. McCarthy said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Southwest Finds Shipment of Heads on a Plane

Southwest Airlines employee finds human heads on their way to Fort Worth

A Southwest Airlines employee called police after finding human heads in a package set to be transported to a Fort Worth medical research company, the airline said.

“It wasn’t labeled or packaged properly,” said Ashley Rogers, a Southwest spokeswoman. “They called the local authorities.”

The incident happened in Little Rock, Ark., last Wednesday, she said.

Little Rock police turned the package over to the county coroner, who questions where they came from and if they were properly obtained.

“We’ve come to the conclusion that there is a black market out there for human body parts for research or for whatever reason,” said Pulaski County coroner Garland Camper. “We just want to make sure these specimens here aren’t a part of that black market and underground trade.”

The heads were being transported to the Fort Worth office of Medtronic, a leading medical research and technology company based in Minnesota.

Medtronic spokesman Brian Henry said it is common to ship body parts for medical education and research, but he said it is rare for a shipment to be seized.

“We expect our suppliers to follow proper procedures,” he said.

Camper described the items as 40 to 60 human heads.

But Henry said they were “four full cranial specimens and 40 pairs of temporal bone ear blocks.”

He identified the supplier as JLS Consulting of Wynne, Ark.

JLS’s business license was revoked in December, according to the Arkansas Secretary of State’s online database.

Company founder Janice Hepler did not return phone calls Wednesday. Her voice mail indicated it was full and no longer accepting messages.

But in an earlier interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, she blamed the problem on the private courier she had hired to transport the body parts.

“Nothing is wrong,” the newspaper quoted her as saying. “We’re providing the documentation.”

But the coroner said the paperwork has “discrepancies.”

Federal law generally prohibits the sale of human body parts, although suppliers can be reimbursed for expenses in cases of legitimate medical education or research.

“It is a lucrative business. There is money to be made,” Camper said. “We’re hoping that this isn’t the case.”

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Staten Island Church Reconsiders Deal to Sell Vacant Convent for Use as a Mosque

A plan to sell a Roman Catholic convent on Staten Island to a Muslim group for use as a mosque is faltering in the face of community opposition.

In a letter sent on Thursday to Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, the Rev. Keith Fennessy, the pastor of St. Margaret Mary Church, which owns the convent in the Midland Beach neighborhood, said he had given the deal a second look and “concluded that the contemplated sale would not serve the needs of the parish.”

Many members of the parish joined other community residents last week in loudly expressing disapproval of the sale at a heated public meeting that drew about 400 people. Many of them expressed distrust of Muslims and fears that the mosque would harbor terrorists.

Though Father Fennessy signed a contract last month to sell the vacant convent to the Muslim American Society for $750,000, he wrote in his letter, “I wish to formally withdraw my support for the sale and request that it not take place.”

The sale of any parish property must be approved by that parish’s board of trustees, which includes the pastor, two lay members of his congregation, the archdiocese’s vicar general and the archbishop.

Joseph Zwilling, the spokesman for the New York Archdiocese, said that Archbishop Dolan had taken no position on the proposed sale beyond what he wrote last week on his blog. In that post, the archbishop referred to the vehement opposition to the proposed mosque and one planned near ground zero.

“Legitimate and understandable concerns about these two endeavors have arisen, and it is good these are being aired and discussed,” he wrote, adding, “It is acceptable to ask questions about security, safety, the background and history of the groups hoping to build and buy.”

“What is not acceptable,” he concluded, “is to prejudge any group, or to let fear and bias trump the towering American (and for us Catholics, the religious) virtues of hospitality, welcome, and religious freedom.”

The Muslim American Society, a Washington-based nonprofit group that helps plant new mosques in communities throughout the country, planned to use the convent only on Fridays, as a prayer hall and a community center.

Ayman Hammous, president of the society’s Staten Island branch, said he was disappointed by the pastor’s change of heart.

“But at this point, as far as I am concerned, we still have a deal,” he said. “We are not backing off.”

Mahdi Bray, the society’s national executive director, blamed the setback more on the “meddling” of what he called anti-Muslim Web sites than on opposition of the church or its members.

“There is a lot of hostility being whipped up,” he said, referring to sites that have published unsubstantiated claims of the society’s ties to terrorism.

“But we are optimistic that the majority of Catholics uphold the rights of everyone to worship in this country,” he said.

Yasmin Ammirato, president of the Midland Beach Civic Association, which organized last week’s meeting and was officially neutral, said she was relieved that the sale now seemed to have been blocked.

Though she never agreed with opponents who said that the Muslim American Society had ties to terrorist organizations — claims never made by government authorities — she said she was worried about how the mosque would affect parking in the neighborhood on Fridays. “It would have been a nightmare.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

What’s the ‘Overton Window’ And Why Should You Care?

If you aren’t the least bit concerned about the health of America’s freedoms, you are either a) in a multiyear-long drug induced coma, B) Sean Penn, or C) dead. And you’ve definitely never heard of Overton’s Window.

The Overton Window is a political theory developed by the late Joseph Overton, a brilliant public policy strategist and ardent free-marketer. Overton observed that “when public policies in a given area (education, health care) are arranged from freest to least free, only a relatively narrow window of options will be considered politically acceptable.”

The theory says the window will gradually move over time based on a variety of factors, including truth, facts, arguments, big events and misinformation, to name a few.

The window of what’s becoming “acceptable” debate in America today has changed quite a bit from even just a few decades ago. In March 1950, Newsweek declared “socialism is on its last legs,” and it was right. When your favorite political model routinely ends in societal collapse, it tends to dampen the mood. Fast forward through nearly six decades of socialists chipping away at capitalism, and in February 2009 Newsweek proudly declared “we’re all socialists now.”

How’d we get here? Let’s take a look at the theory in practice.

When Teddy Roosevelt first attempted to pass a bill on national health insurance, the American Medical Association ridiculed the attempt to “evolve a plan of socialized medicine” and even called supporters of the bill “un-American.” President Harry Truman’s administration was called “followers of the Moscow party line” for trying to pass similar legislation. In March 2010, of course, President Barack Obama signed pretty much the exact same bill into law.

Could you have imagined our government doing this five years ago? How about two years ago? Our government is growing by the minute, and it’s about to repeat the mistakes of the past — but don’t worry, there’s good news. (Yes, Mr. Doom has good news.)

While the president has the media on his side, he clearly does not have the will of the people — 58 percent of the country want to repeal the health care bill; 60 percent of Americans are in favor of the Arizona immigration law that his administration calls hateful.

If Obama continues to push, he’ll experience what’s called Overton’s revenge. It happened during America’s banning of alcohol through prohibition in the 1920s. People like to drink, and they especially liked to drink during the Great Depression. Prohibition was finally overturned in 1933. Government overshot the window, and the people responded.

Did Obama overshoot the Overton Window with health care? With cap and trade? With bailouts? Only time will tell.

While you’re waiting for that answer, let me leave you with this: The Overton Window model also says that when society unites behind sound principles, its political servants will, too.

Part of the reason I wrote the fiction thriller “The Overton Window” is because I believe I know how this story we are currently living ends.

Yeah, our government may be getting bigger and more powerful by the second — but I know who Americans are at heart, and they are not big government people. Americans would rather learn from our failures than get a bailout. We don’t need participation trophies. We can handle the red pen on our kids’ papers. We’re good, decent and charitable — without being forced to give. We don’t need handouts. We just need politicians to get the heck out of the way.

It’s time to show the big government Europe wannabes what it means to be American — and move that window back where it belongs.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

Will Obama be the ‘Jimmy Carter of the 21st Century’?

Can US President Barack Obama lead America away from fossil fuel dependency? German commentators don’t think so. Some say he is in danger of turning into an idealistic, one-term president like Jimmy Carter.

US President Barack Obama’s address from the Oval Office on Tuesday was supposed to be a moment of leadership during the worst environmental disaster in American history. But critics from across the political spectrum wondered afterwards whether he’d shown leadership at all. The geyser of oil in the Gulf of Mexico seems, technologically, to lie beyond anything either BP or the US government was prepared for, and Obama failed to mention any specific new ideas.

“The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean-energy future is now,” he declared, without offering policy details. Of course, it wasn’t a policy speech. But the fact that Obama failed to outline a clear path toward this clean-energy future seems to have disappointed a lot of people. “He didn’t boldly push an agenda,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina, to Politico, the Washington-based news website. “I think a lot of people took that to mean lukewarm support for anything big.”

One immediate result of White House talks with the American arm of BP, though, was a series of concessions on Wednesday. BP Plc agreed to set aside $20 billion (€16.1 billion) in escrow to cover damage claims by shrimpers, restauranteurs and other Gulf-Coast residents hurt by the spill. The energy giant also said it would suspend shareholder dividends until 2011, when it expects to have a clearer notion of the catastrophe’s costs. Another $100 million (€80.8 million) will be set aside for compensation to BP workers hurt by the spill.

These gestures from the energy giant are the most tangible form of good news local residents have heard in the two months since the spill began. German commentators on Thursday think BP’s concessions are genuine as well as worthwhile — but they warn that Obama will need to paddle harder to realize the shining future he promised in his speech on Tuesday.

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“Obama wants to lead the US out of its dependence on oil. Absolutely right. In fact it’s the very thing people have been wanting to hear from Obama for weeks.”

“But how cautious he seems, and how vague his suggestions. In 1961 President Kennedy declared a national mission to place a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Obama has chosen not to name concrete goals. No numbers, no time frame. He doesn’t dare mention how things will have to change to favor the climate. Professor Obama waits for new ideas and looks forward to a public debate. He doesn’t dare push the Senate to settle on a climate-change bill. This president won’t lead America out of a crisis this way — and he certainly won’t usher in a new era.”

The left-leaning daily Die Tageszeitung argues:

“International markets have started to take environmental problems seriously. BP stock has fallen by almost 50 percent since the start of the oil catastrophe. Ratings agencies have downgraded its creditworthiness to near-junk status. And banks have stopped sealing long-term contracts with BP.”

“This situation is new. When oil companies in the past soiled the Niger Delta or the Amazon, markets tended to reward them — because corporations that skimped on security also increased their profits, to the detriment of the environment and the public interest. Now the costs of environmental damage have started to weigh on the balance sheet, with consequences extending to the possible bankruptcy of a multinational.”

“This new environmental sensibility has been possible not through a sudden display of reason on the markets, but through political decision-making. President Barack Obama made it clear (in early June) that BP won’t be exempt from criminal investigation. He’s also maintained a moratorium on new oil exploration on the deep-ocean floor, and looks determined to end corruption in federal oil agencies.”

The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

“The oil company could be prosecuted by shareholders for paying billions upon billions into a fund for damages without being legally required to do so … It’s therefore a good thing that the US government has not asked for a blank check to cover damages. With the high sum (of $20 billion), the government can now offer quick and unbureaucratic First Aid (to people living near the Gulf).”

“But the firm can’t just run free now that an arbitrary sum has been set. What the final cost for damages might be, and which mistakes were made by whom, have yet to be determined. Civil and criminal complaints against BP have to remain an open possibility. This fund is just a first step toward stopping the holes that the oil catastrophe has ripped in the finances of many affected people.”

The conservative daily Die Welt writes:

“When Obama surprised people by lifting his opposition to offshore drilling, just before the current oil crisis, he meant it as one part of a package deal: Citizens who worried primarily about high fuel prices were meant to be placated by expanded domestic oil production — as a gambit to win more acceptance for the core of his new-energy agenda. This strategy is marked by a typical American pragmatism, unlike Europe’s forces of climate protection. The emphasis rests on incentives to save energy, on building more nuclear-energy plants and on developing new ideas in renewable energy.”

“This is the right way to make America independent of problematic nations. Going forward, the mix will also have to include exploitation of (America’s) domestic energy resources, even if it also means heavier regulation to avoid a new disaster. But if this oil shock accelerates America’s shift to new energies, and moves the West away from a dangerous dependency on fossil fuels, then the catastrophe will have at least one positive outcome.”

The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung writes:

“If Barack Obama isn’t careful, he will become the Jimmy Carter of the 21st century.”

“In his speech, Obama tried to make a virtue of an emergency. He said a shift to new energy sources was now a ‘national mission.’ Just as the nation once mobilized its powers for World War II, now it needs to conquer its devilish dependence on fossil fuels … If Obama wins this debate, and achieves a true shift in energy dependence, then his name will perhaps be mentioned again in the same breath with great American presidents.”

“Politically, though, it’s fraught with risk. His opponents have already charged Obama with using the Gulf catastrophe to advance his climate agenda in Congress. Republicans rely on the tendency of Americans to prefer cheap fuel and big cars with a certain level of power. Over 30 years ago, after all, another president called for smarter American energy policies in a televised speech from the Oval Office. He wanted to know, ‘Why have we not been able to get together as a nation to resolve our serious energy problem?’ That president’s name was Jimmy Carter.”

— Michael Scott Moore

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

Europe and the EU

Financial Scandals: The Hidden Wealth of the Catholic Church

The Catholic Church in Germany, already struggling to cope with the sex abuse scandal, has been hit by revelations of theft, opaque accounting and extravagance. While the grassroots faithful are being forced to make cutbacks, some bishops enjoy the trappings of the church’s considerable hidden wealth.

Shortly before Pentecost, Pastor S. received an unexpected early morning visit, not from the Holy Ghost, but from the police.

For the authorities, the words of the Gospel of Luke came true on that morning: He who seeks finds. More than €131,000 ($158,000) were hidden in various places in the rooms of the Catholic priest, tucked in between his laundry or attached to the bottom of drawers. The reverend was arrested on the spot. After several weeks in custody, Hans S., 76, is now back at the monastery, waiting for his trial.

And lo and behold, the proliferation of cash may have been even more miraculous than initially assumed. The public prosecutor’s office in the southern city of Würzburg now estimates that S. may have embezzled up to €1.5 million from collections and other church funds. The members of his flock in a wine-growing village in the northern Bavarian region of Franconia are stunned. They had blindly trusted their shepherd, who always seemed so humble and modest.

The Catholic Church is currently being shaken by a number of financial scandals, not only in Franconia but also in Augsburg, another Bavarian city, where Bishop Walter Mixa’s dip into funds from a foundation that runs children’s homes recently made headlines.

More than €40 million have gone missing in the Diocese of Magdeburg in eastern Germany, €5 million have disappeared in Limburg near Frankfurt, and it was recently discovered that a senior priest in the Diocese of Münster had 30 secret bank accounts. And while parishes throughout Germany are cutting jobs and funds for community work, many bishops are still living on the high horse. A brand-new residence? An ostentatious home for their retirement? Restoration of a Marian column to the tune of €120,000? None of these expenditures presents a problem to high-ranking church officials from Trier in the west to Passau in the southeastern corner of Bavaria, whose coffers are brimming with cash.

In many places, this blatant disparity, along with reports of mismanagement, misappropriation and pomposity have prompted the faithful to challenge church officials. They are accusing many bishops of just covering up the problem, as they did in the sex abuse scandal. They are determined not to allow anyone to see behind the curtain into their parallel world of bulging bank accounts and hidden assets, which, in some cases, have buttressed their power for centuries. The only aspect of church finances that is public is the diocesan budget, which derives its funding from the church tax — but the church’s true assets remain in the shadows.

Growing Questions About Church Funding

Now all of this wealth is becoming a political issue, however. The unemployed, recipients of housing assistance, families, communities, businesses, the military — in the coming years, the federal government plans to deprive them all of billions of euros. But the church, of all things, is being spared, and hardly anyone questions the generous support it receives from the government.

Financially speaking, Germany’s dioceses are in excellent shape. “The Catholic Church claims that it’s poor, but the truth is that it hides its wealth,” says Carsten Frerk, a Berlin political scientist who, after years of research, is publishing “Violettbuch Kirchenfinanzen” (The Violet Book of Church Finances) this fall. Frerk estimates the cash assets of the church’s legal entities at about €50 billion. The Catholics, who are not releasing their own figures, accuse Frerk of being a prejudiced, atheistic critic of the church.

The assets, accumulated over the centuries, are invested in many areas, including real estate, church-owned banks, academies, breweries, vineyards, media companies and hospitals. The church also derives income from stock holdings, foundations and bequests. As a rule, all of this money flows into the accounts of the so-called bishop’s see. Only a bishop and his closest associates are familiar with this shadow budget, which tax authorities are not required to review. The public budgets of dioceses consist of far less than their total finances.

This complicated web is handled with such secrecy that not even the financial department heads of all dioceses openly discuss their finances with one another. Seemingly baroque structures make these finances even more difficult to fathom. Depending on the diocese, the administrators of the church’s funds can be members of a church tax council, a diocesan tax panel, a financial board or an administrative board. Sometimes assets are also spun off into foundations.

Of Germany’s 27 Catholic dioceses, 25 refused to provide information in response to a SPIEGEL survey, noting that this information “is not made public.” Only two dioceses, Magdeburg and the Archdiocese of Berlin, which was on the verge of bankruptcy a few years ago, were somewhat more accommodating, probably because they have so few assets to hide in the first place.

Secret Assets

The vicar general of a well-heeled diocese, on the other hand, said: “Yes, the assets in the bishop’s see are secret. But perhaps it would be better if you wrote: confidential.” When asked to explain this secretiveness, a spokeswoman of the Diocese of Limburg responded: “That’s just the way it is.” Finally, a representative of the German Bishops’ Conference said: “I don’t want to talk to you about this.”…

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

France: Govt and Muslims Against Racism

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JUNE 17 — An agreement “to do a better job of monitoring” racist or hostile acts against Muslims in France was signed today by the Ministry of the Interior and the group that represents Muslims in France, the French Council of the Muslim Faith. Minister Brice Hortefeux and Council President Mohammed Moussaoui plan to implement a system in which there will be detailed monitoring of any hostile acts perpetrated against Muslims similar to what the state has done for the Jewish community. In 2009, 314 acts against Muslims (a group that amounts to between 5 and 6 million in total in France) were reviewed, while there were 1,026 episodes of racial violence, a number that includes 806 threats, said the minister after signing the agreement. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Germany: Mixa Wants His Case Reviewed by Vatican

Controversial former Augsburg bishop Walter Mixa, who resigned over allegations of child abuse and misusing Catholic Church funds, said Wednesday he was forced out and plans to have his case investigated by the Vatican.

Taking his case to Rome is a “very good idea which I am considering and weighing very well,” the 69-year-old told daily Die Welt.

Should he do so, he would appeal to Church laws which make certain actions invalid if they occurred due to outside pressure, something Mixa said he suffered. The pressure to resign was “like purgatory,” he told the paper.

Mixa accused the head of Bavaria’s Catholic bishops, Archbishop Reinhard Marx, as well as the country’s top Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of rushing to the Pope with a “so-called abuse case based on what amounts to no more than eight handwritten sentences on a highly dubious scribbled note.”

Instead the two should have been “more brotherly,” Mixa said.

Despite his resignation in April following accusations that he beat children at a Catholic orphanage in the 1970s and 1980s and later misused Church money, Mixa made headlines again this week by returning to his quarters at the bishop’s palace in Augsburg because apparently had nowhere else to stay.

The move is reportedly causing a stir among Church officials, who view it as an act of defiance, a high-ranking diocese figure told local paper Augsburger Zeitung on Monday. As a retired bishop he no longer has the right to occupy his old apartment and must first apply for permission from the diocese administrator. It remains unclear whether he has done this, the paper said.

Mixa said he plans to speak personally with Pope Benedict XVI in July, he told Die Welt.

“He invited me for a conversation,” he said. “Above all I want to discuss how the situation should further develop.”

Mixa also said he plans to continue working as a priest.

Meanwhile the lay group Wir sind Kirche said that while the wish was understandable, it was unthinkable in Mixa’s former diocese. Spokesperson Christian Weisner told news agency DPA that Mixa should not to become a liability for the entire German Church.

His behaviour gives the impression that the former bishop is taking bad advice, he said, adding that he should remember that his diocese is more important than his personal ambitions.

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

How Gadaffi Blackmails Europe

Libya, the nerve centre of migration towards southern Europe, blows hot and cold with Europe. Now that Europeans are asking for his help in curbing immigration, the Libyan leader is dictating his terms and, as Rue89 puts it, “toying with their nerves”.

Eric L’Helgoualc’h

On 9 June the representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) were expelled from Libya for engaging in “illegal activities”. At the same time, however, a new round of negotiations got under way with a view to establishing a partnership between Libya and the European Union. It is hard to believe that was a coincidence: for several years, Europe has been counting on Tripoli’s help in checking migratory flows to countries along the Mediterranean. And Gaddafi has already shown he will not hesitate to raise the stakes.

Libya, a hub of migration across the Mediterranean

Libya is nowadays the main point of transit for tens of thousands of Africans who dream of making it to Europe. According to estimates by local authorities, there are currently between one and two million foreigners sojourning on Libyan soil. A great many of them have come in the hope of crossing the Mediterranean to Italy. In 2008, most of the 37,000 immigrants who reached the southern tip of the peninsula in makeshift boats had set off from Libyan shores.

To put an end to this phenomenon, which his allies from the Northern League call an invasion, Silvio Berlusconi concluded a “treaty of friendship” with Muammar Gaddafi, part of which is aimed at combating migration. When the treaty took effect in the spring of 2009, some 850 immigrants were turned away and sent back to Libya, in violation of international law: the Geneva Convention prohibits returning potential refugees to a country where their lives might be at risk.

According to eye-witness accounts gathered by Human Rights Watch, migrants sent back to Libya are generally thrown in prison — if not repatriated to their country of origin, where a fate even less desirable awaits those who tried to escape from persecution. Ignoring accusations levelled by international associations and organisations, the Italian government points to the effectiveness of this collaboration with the Libyan authorities: by the end of 2009, the number of illegal arrivals in Sicily and Lampedusa had plunged by nearly 90%.

EU-Libyan treaty in limbo over refugee issue

Far from condemning this practice, the other EU member countries — first and foremost, France — took advantage of the Italian initiative to seek the rapid conclusion of a partnership deal with Libya to handle the migration issue.

The seventh round of talks, which began on 8 June, between the European Commission and Libyan diplomats, partly revolves around this burning question.

Last summer, the EU was planning to set up “reception centres” in Libya where refugees could apply for asylum without having to risk the perilous crossing. At the time, EU asylum and immigration commissioner Jacques Barrot actually flew down to assess the prospects for such an arrangement first hand.

But the High Commissioner for Refugees, who was also on the spot, expressed serious reservations in view of the “appalling conditions for reception” in Libya. And with good reason: the country has not signed the Geneva Convention governing international refugee law. For Cecila Malmström, who succeeded Barrot this February, no agreement on migration can be concluded until it signs the convention.

Against this backdrop, the decision to close the UNHCR office and expel its 26 employees seems a hard blow for the Europeans — but also for the 9,000-odd refugees who were in its charge. According to one Western diplomat, Libya made that move to check the influx of refugees into the country.

But Gaddafi knows perfectly well that Europe needs an agreement whose migration provisions are formally in line with refugee law in order to be acceptable. So closing the UNHCR office looks like a bluff designed to put pressure on the European negotiators.

Gaddafi demands €5bn p.a.

Ever since he caught on to the Europeans’ heightened sensitivity to the illegal immigration issue, Gaddafi has relished toying with their nerves. Countries like Italy that are directly exposed are now bending over backwards to appease the dictator for fear that he will reopen the “floodgates” of migration.

The latest case in point was the spat between Switzerland and Libya over the arbitrary imprisonment of a Swiss national — who was finally released on 10 June after four months’ detention. This rather preposterous dispute was triggered by the arrest of the dictator’s son by the Swiss police, and came to a head this February when Libya moved to stop issuing visas to European visitors. Italy sided with Gaddafi, accusing Bern of “taking the Schengen Area countries hostage”.

Tripoli’s object is plain: if Europe wants to get Libya to cooperate, it will have to pay the price. Libya is demanding that the EU finance the securing of its own borders with Niger and Chad. The Commission is willing to put €20 million on the table: Gaddafi wants €5 billion.

Until fairly recently, Muammar Gaddafi still ranked high on Western countries’ blacklists of wanted terrorists. Now he is in the Europeans’ good graces — and is turning into an increasingly adept blackmailer. Though he may have become a putatively “respectable” partner, the man remains a fearsome figure.

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

Italy: Defence Giant Rejects Bribe Claims

Rome, 28 May (AKI) — Finmeccanica, Italy’s largest defence and aerospace company, has denied allegations it used foreign bank accounts to bribe officials in order to win contracts worth billions of euros. Rome prosecutors have launched a probe into a number of offshore bank accounts in tax havens such as Hong Kong, Singapore as well as Europe, Italian daily Corriere della Sera said on Friday.

The company immediately rejected the allegations.

“Finmeccanica categorically declares that it is involved in the establishment of hidden accounts,” the company said on Friday.

The Rome-based company said that it received “no notice of legal proceedings related to the purported investigations.”

The probe was established earlier this year after investigators allegedly heard conversations regarding Finmeccanica is a separate case involving Italian Internet company Fastweb and Telecom Italia’s Sparkle unit.

At the end of April, police searched Finmeccanica’s headquarters and seized a number of documents.

The investigation also involves Finmeccanica unit Selex Galileo business.

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

Rumours of Pope’s ‘Secret Meal’

Vatican denies claims of Benedict’s ‘restaurant outing’

(ANSA) — Vatican City, June 16 — Media speculation over whether Pope Benedict XVI snuck out of the Vatican for a late evening snack at a local restaurant this week continued on Wednesday. The rumour was started by a gossip columnist on Tuesday, who claimed the pontiff had been spotted dining on fish the previous night at a restaurant some 200 metres outside the Vatican walls. The alleged visit took place as Italy played its first World Cup soccer match against Paraguay, leading the columnist to suggest the pope had timed his unofficial outing to take advantage of Rome’s empty streets and escape undetected. The restaurant, Al Passetto di Borgo, was one of Benedict’s favourite dining spots before his ascent to the papacy, claimed the columnist in the centre-right daily Il Foglio. Well-placed sources inside the Vatican denied the suggestion, telling ANSA it was “entirely untrue”. But another daily on Wednesday reported that a waiter at the restaurant had strongly hinted that Benedict had indeed dined there Monday night, when the establishment is normally closed. The restaurant’s owner then weighed in, insisting the claims were not true, while Vatican sources suggested the allegations were just gossip, perhaps fuelled by visits in the past. Benedict XVI, in his former incarnation as Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, lived in a flat near the Vatican and was apparently a regular client at several local restaurants. He often visited Al Passetto di Borgo with other members of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the office he headed before becoming pope.

However, rather than eating sole, as suggested by the columnist, he apparently had a weakness for German dishes and the restaurant’s spaghetti alla carbonara, the owner said. Vatican sources stressed there were no rules preventing the pope embarking on outings of the kind but said he simply had not done so since taking office. They said Benedict was much more reserved than his predecessor John Paul II, whose love of nature regularly led him to “escape” the Vatican for walks in the countryside around Rome.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

SFr1.5 Million Paid for Swiss Hostage Release

Switzerland has paid SFr1.5 million ($1.33 million) to a German bank account for the release of Swiss hostage Max Göldi.

The Swiss businessman, who had been caught in the middle of a row between Switzerland and Libya, arrived in Switzerland on Monday morning after being detained for almost two years in Libya.

The Swiss foreign ministry on Wednesday evening confirmed a Swiss radio report and said the money would be transferred to Tripoli if the person responsible for publishing in a Geneva newspaper police photos of Hannibal Gaddafi, the son of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, is not found and brought to justice.

No compensation has yet been paid to the Gaddafi family, said foreign ministry spokesman Lars Knuchel in a statement, denying earlier reports from Tripoli.

Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa said on Sunday that the Swiss justice authorities had decided that the family should receive nearly €1.5 million (SFr2 million) in compensation and that this had already been paid.

Knuchel’s statement said that to free Göldi “trust-building measures were necessary” and that both sides had agreed SFr1.5 million was a befitting amount.

On Thursday canton Geneva ruled out making any contribution to the SFr1.5 miilion payment.

The president of the cantonal government said he didn’t see why Geneva should compensate Hannibal.

“We will not contribute to this strange payment,” Francois Longchamp told Le Temps newspaper.

The brief detention in July 2008 of Hannibal and his wife, on suspicion of mistreating two of their servants, triggered the Swiss-Libyan crisis which included the four-month imprisonment of Göldi.

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

The Great Wind Farm Disaster

Here’s further cause for gloom from the excellent German blogger P Gosselin, whose reports on what’s happening in Germany gives us an idea of the disasters coming our way soon.

Originally estimated to cost €189 million, the Alpha Ventus park has been plagued by cost overruns and delays. In late summer and autumn of 2008, bad weather made installation of the first 6 turbines impossible. Then the equipment to install the monster turbines was not available. Next there were major problems with the transformer facilities.

A few weeks ago the temperature of the bearings in the turbine made by Areva Multibrid was too high and thus they had to be taken out of operation. Now the turbines have to be removed from their 500+ ft. high towers and the bearings have to be replaced. Repair works will take weeks and extend into late summer. It’s still unclear if the other four of the Multibrid turbines have a problem. The remaining 6 turbines are made by Repower and are reported to be running smoothly. There are no reports on how high the costs for the troublesome dismantling and repair works will run.

And if that weren’t bad enough, the construction works on the massive Bard Offshore 1 commercial windparks have been delayed as a 300-foot foundation column crashed onto the construction ship Wind Lift 1 three weeks ago. Now other turbines have to be thoroughly inspected. The Bard project foresees the installation of 320 five-megawatt class turbines over the coming years. The cost for the first 80 Bard turbines alone is climbing far beyond original estimates. First they were estimated to cost over €500 million. Now it’s estimated costs will exceed a billion euros. German online newspaper projects the costs will even reach €1.2 billion.

The promoters of the offshore projects cannot say they weren’t warned of the risks of installing windparks in the North Sea’s harsh conditions. The Nysted offshore windpark and Horns Rev park in Denmark are examples, and have struggled with big problems. For example in 2007 a transformer malfunction occurred at Nysted just 4 years after being commissioned, causing a months-long shutdown. At the Horns Rev windpark there were problems with the turbines only 2 years after they had gone into operation. World leading turbine manufacturer Vestas had to remove all 80 turbines, haul them onshore and perform extensive repairs. Luckily these turbines were only of the smaller 2 to 2.3-MW class, and so much easier to do repair works. Repairs and maintenance on the 5-MW monsters will be much tougher and expensive.

But as long as windpark companies continue to have the full backing of wasteful governments, costs won’t matter.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Through the Language Glass: How Words Colour Your World

by Guy Deutscher

Did Ancient Greeks really lack a sense of colour, asks Alex Bellos

This tale begins with a Liberal leader and his innovative exploration of the colour blue. Not Nick Clegg and the Tories, but William Gladstone and his concern about Homer’s use of colour in The Iliad and The Odyssey. Gladstone was the first prominent intellectual to notice something awry with the Greek poet’s sense of colour. Homer never described the sky as blue. In fact, Homer barely used colour terms at all and when he did they were just peculiar. The sea was “wine-looking”. Oxen were also “wine-looking”. And, to Gladstone, the sea and oxen were never of the same colour. His explanation was that the Ancient Greeks had not developed a colour sense, and instead saw the world in terms of black and white with only a dash of red.

Guy Deutscher’s interest in the Homeric eye is less about evolution or optics than it is linguistic. Can we see something for which we have no word? Yes. The Greeks were able to distinguish shades of blue just as vividly as we can now, despite lacking a specific vocabulary for them. Yet, writes Deutscher, even though Gladstone was wrong about the Greeks’ sense of perception, his hunch about the emergence of colour words was “so sharp and far-sighted that much of what he wrote . . . can hardly be bettered today”.

It turned out that it wasn’t just the Ancient Greeks who never said the sky was blue. None of the ancient languages had a proper word for blue. What we now call blue was once subsumed by older words for black or for green. (In fact, this is why in Japan green lights are actually a bluer shade of green than in the rest of the world. The word used for the green of traffic lights is ao, which used to mean “green and blue” but now means blue. Rather than change the word, they changed the colour.)

Deutscher has a lot of fun relating the discovery that colour words emerge in all languages in a predictable order. Black and white come first, then red, then yellow, then green and finally blue. (Although sometimes green is before yellow.) Red is probably first because it is the colour of blood and of the easiest dyes to make in the wild. Green and yellow are the colours of vegetation. And blue is last because — with the exception of the sky — few naturally occurring things are blue and blue dyes are very difficult to make.

It takes Deutscher half his book to tell the story of blue, and fascinating and well written though it is, the discussion is a diversion from the point he really wants to make, which is that language can affect how we perceive the world. Is it possible that two people may think about the world differently purely by dint of the language they speak? Deutscher believes that this is the case, and he provides three examples: Guugu Yimithirr is an indigenous Australian language — it gave us the word kangaroo — that does not have words for “left” and “right”. Instead, all directions are given in terms of where the speaker is standing in relation to the points of the compass. Experiments have shown that Guugu Yimithirr speakers have “perfect-pitch for directions”: regardless of visibility conditions, or whether they are stationary or moving, they know where north is. This is the most striking example, says Deutscher, of how speech habits can have “far-reaching consequences beyond speaking, as they affect orientation skills and even patterns of memory”.

Secondly, he argues that gender systems can “exert a powerful hold on speakers’ associations”. Spanish and German speakers were asked to memorise, in English, two dozen objects by associating a person’s name with that object. Results showed that they were better at remembering the object when the name tallied with the gender of the word in their mother tongue. So a Spaniard found it easier to remember an apple if it was named Patricia (la manzana is feminine), and a German if the apple was Patrick (der Apfel is masculine). The third example returns to the blues. Russian has a word for light blue — goluboy — and a word for dark blue — siniy. In some tests Russian speakers were faster at distinguishing certain shades of blue than English speakers. Deutscher’s conclusion is that “speakers of different languages may perceive colours slightly differently after all”.

Of these three examples, only the first felt significant. The ability to know which way is north at all times, even in the dark, is an extraordinary skill that has useful applications. The other two examples showed, if anything, that language barely has an effect on perception since the experiments seemed overly contrived and the results slight.

In his introduction, Deutscher writes that most respectable psychologists and linguists think that the influence our mother tongue has on the way we think is negligible, or trivial. His book is an attempt to show that they are wrong. But apart from the Guugu Yimithirr, whose way of life is so different from ours anyway, Deutscher hasn’t really convinced me that language does have much of an effect on perception, at least not in any unexpected or, as he claims, “striking” ways. Still, his scholarly and eloquent prose made the book an enjoyable read and I learnt lots of great anecdotes along the way.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: A Quarter of British Children Have Been Victims of Crime, Study Reveals

Almost one in four children aged 10 to 15 has been a victim of crime in the past year, it was revealed today.

A total of 2,153,000 crimes of theft and violence took place against under 16s in 2009, the Home Office said.

A pilot extension of the British Crime Survey to include younger people found 24 per cent were victims of crime.

The snapshot findings unveil the potential extent of crime against young people for the first time.

A report found children are more at risk of personal crimes, such as robbery, assault and theft, than adults.

But they are far less likely to report their experiences, with just over one in 10 (11 per cent) going to police, compared with 37 per cent of adults.

Researchers said if all the crimes were added to annual figures, the total level of crime in England and Wales would soar by more than a fifth (22 per cent).

But they warned the figures may overstate the level of crime among young people because many incidents may not be classified as crimes by ordinary people.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Brave Cancer Victim Clung to Life to See Brutal Attacker Who Battered Her Jailed… And Died Six Days Later


A brave grandmother suffering from terminal cancer vowed to stay alive long enough to see a thug who brutally attacked her with an iron bar brought to justice.

Mair Corbett, 78, was determined to cling on to life to see violent neighbour Damien Lightwood, 28, jailed for the assault.

The widow passed away peacefully at home just six days later, safe in the knowledge that the drug addict had been sentenced to 10 years.

Mair’s grandaughter, Shirley Jones, 30, said: ‘My grandma clung to life because she wanted to die in peace.

‘She didn’t want to die before she knew what sentence her attacker had been given.

‘As he was led away, she held my hand and said: “It won’t be long love”.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Birmingham Stops Camera Surveillance in Muslim Areas

Project halted after Guardian exposed use of 200-plus cameras in predominantly Muslim areas for counterterrorism

A project to spy on two Muslim areas in Birmingham using more than 200 CCTV cameras has been dramatically halted after an investigation by the Guardian revealed it was a counterterrorism initiative.

Bags are being placed over the cameras, recently installed in the neighbourhoods of Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook, to reassure the community their movements are not being monitored while a “full and in-depth consultation” takes place.

In a joint statement last night, West Midlands police and Birmingham city council announced the cameras would not be turned on. They apologised for not being “more explicit” about the funding arrangements of the project, which stipulated they should be used to combat terrorism, a mistake they conceded may have “undermined public confidence”.

But officials insisted the £3m project would go ahead following a retrospective public consultation, arguing the cameras would help reduce crime.

Under the initiative, Project Champion, two suburbs were to be monitored by a network of 169 automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras — three times more than in the entire city centre. The cameras, which include covert cameras secretly installed in the street, form “rings of steel”, meaning residents cannot enter or leave the areas without their cars being tracked. Data was to be stored for two years.

There was no formal consultation over the scheme, which includes an additional 49 CCTV cameras. The few local councillors who were briefed about the cameras appearing in their constituencies said they were “misled” into believing they were designed to tackle antisocial behaviour, drug dealing and vehicle crime.

There were angry public meetings in the city last week, after the Guardian disclosed the cameras were paid for by the Terrorism and Allied Matters (Tam) fund, administered by the Association of Chief Police Officers. Its grants are for projects that “deter or prevent terrorism or help to prosecute those responsible”.

Senior officials involved in the Safer Birmingham Partnership (SBP), a partnership between the police and council tasked with overseeing the project, were unaware of the counterterrorism link until just two months ago.

The partnership said in a statement: “We completely accept that earlier consultation with councillors from Sparkbrook and Washwood Heath — the main focus of the project — should also have included elected representatives from all other areas affected.

“We also accept that we should have been more explicit about the role of the counterterrorism unit in the initial project management of Champion.

“Although the counterterrorism unit was responsible for identifying and securing central government funds, and have overseen the technical aspects of the installation, the camera sites were chosen on the basis of general crime data — not just counterterrorism intelligence.

“Day to day management of the network was always intended to become the responsibility of local police. We apologise for these mistakes, which regrettably may have undermined public confidence in the police and the council.”

Testing of cameras had already begun, and officials had planned to go live in early August.

However, the plans were placed in jeopardy after a public outcry over the scheme. Human rights lawyers have pledged to seek a judicial review of the scheme.

Parliament has been asked to denounce Project Champion as a “grave infringement of civil liberties” in an early day motion tabled this week by the Labour MP for Birmingham’s Hall Green constituency, Roger Godsiff.

Police sources said the initiative was the first of its kind in the UK that sought to monitor a population seen as being “at risk” of extremism.

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske[Return to headlines]

UK: I Admit it: I Was Wrong to Have Supported Barack Obama

(Daniel Hannan is a writer and journalist, and has been Conservative MEP for South East England since 1999. He speaks French and Spanish and loves Europe, but believes that the EU is making its constituent nations poorer, less democratic and less free. He is the winner of the Bastiat Award for online journalism.)

…the [US] federal government is 30 per cent larger than it was two years ago.

This is not entirely Obama’s fault, of course. The credit crunch occurred during the dying days of the Bush administration, and it was the 43rd president who began the baleful policy of bail-outs and pork-barrel stimulus packages. But it was Obama who massively extended that policy against united Republican opposition. It was he who chose, in defiance of public opinion, to establish a state-run healthcare system. It was he who presumed to tell private sector employees what they could earn, he who adopted the asinine cap-and-trade rules, and he who re-federalised social security, thereby reversing the single most beneficial reform of the Clinton years.

These errors are not random. They amount to a comprehensive strategy of Europeanisation: Euro-carbon taxes, Euro-disarmament, Euro-healthcare, Euro-welfare, Euro-spending levels, Euro-tax levels and, inevitably, Euro-unemployment levels. Any American reader who wants to know where Obamification will lead should spend a week with me in the European Parliament. I’m working in your future and, believe me, you won’t like it.

Unsurprisingly, given his enthusiasm for corporatism at home, Obama is an unqualified supporter of the EU. “In my view there’s no Old Europe or New Europe,” he announced at his very first overseas summit, silkily repudiating Donald Rumsfelt’s distinction. “There is a united Europe. I believe in a strong Europe, and a strong European Union, and my administration is committed to doing everything we can to support you.”

His fondness for the EU is matched by his disdain for the United Kingdom.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Man With Agonising Skin Condition Leapt to His Death After Motorists Yelled ‘Jump’

[Comments from JD: WARNING: Disturbing Content]

A suicidal man who suffered from an agonising skin condition leapt to his death from a bridge after motorists shouted ‘jump’, an inquest heard.

Paul Cowling, 59, told officers he wanted to kill himself because of the horrendous skin condition which he claimed health services refused to treat.

For seven hours emergency services spoke to him as he clung to the edge of Avonmouth Bridge, Bristol, on bank holiday weekend last August.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Royal Marine and His Father Stabbed ‘Protecting Sister From Gang Attack’

A Royal Marine and his father were stabbed on their doorstep as they tried to stop a gang attacking a female family member.

Matthew Stevenson-Webber, 24, was knifed in the back on Tuesday night in Mitcham, south London, as he protected his sister from the attack.

His father, Craig Joseph-Webber, 45, was stabbed in the head.

He is said to be in a critical condition in hospital, while Stevenson-Webber is said to be stable.

The marine is believed to have heard his sister screaming outside their home and raced with his father to her rescue.

They were then attacked by a knife-wielding gang.

A 17-year-old from Birmingham has been charged and is due to appear at Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court today.

The youth, who cannot be named, is charged with causing grievous bodily harm and possessing an offensive weapon.

A third man, aged, 30 was stabbed in the shoulder and is also stable in hospital.

Four other teenagers, aged between 17 and 19, were questioned over the attack have been bailed.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Personal Freedom? An Alien Concept in Egyptian Society

The subordination of individual liberties to ‘the common good’ has turned Egypt into a nation of scolds and hypocrites

Alexandria’s beautiful Corniche by the Mediterranean is one of the most romantic places for a young couple in love to take a stroll. However, there is a sinister side to this picturesque scene that few talk about. At any given time, the coast is crawling with the policemen and plainclothes thugs of the morality police, searching for (unmarried) couples cuddling in a secluded area to terrify and blackmail.

Their dirty tactics are well known, yet few see anything wrong with them. No one sees this as a violation of these couples’ individual liberties, since they deserve what happens to them, and more, for behaving in such an immoral fashion. Even more distressing is that the couples themselves believe they are doing something wrong and accept being judged by society as a natural consequence. They don’t feel that their personal freedom has been trampled upon by the police. It would be more accurate to say that the concept of personal freedom is unknown to them.

Sadly, much of Egyptian society operates this way. The entire concept of having the “personal freedom” to do what you wish, provided you don’t harm others, is nonexistent. Even those who claim to be proponents of individual liberty misunderstand the concept. It’s about time that a debate on individual liberties started, for we live in a society where social repression and hypocrisy have risen to sickening levels.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Morocco: Tangier and Free Zones, The Numbers of Success

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, JUNE 17 — Ten years on from the creation of its free-trade zones, Tangier can draw some very flattering conclusions. Five hubs are stretched out over thousands of hectares: Tangiers Med, Tangiers Free Zone (TZF), Meloussa 1, Meloussa 2 and the offshore hub still being built in Tetouan. There are 522 foreign companies operating in the TFZ, with 45,000 employees and they are growing at a rate of four a month. The main condition for production in the TFZ is that over 85% of goods are exported. In exchange, Morocco offers the total exemption from VAT and 15 years worth of exemption from local tax. On top of this, all dividends can be taken home without taxes, there is no tax on the company for five years, with 8.75% every 20 years (Moroccan companies pay 30%) starting from the sixth year. The textile industry is growing in significance and the sector’s associations are asking for a specialised free-trade zone to be created. There are 300 companies in the region, employing 60,000 staff, a third of sector employees ion the whole of Morocco, with exports reaching 588 million euros, a share of 22% of total exports. Between 2005 and 2009, investments in the region increased massively, rising from 806 million to 3.9 billion, with the figure expected to reach 10.8 billion euros by 2012. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

World Cup: Liberation’s Editor Apologises to Algeria

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JUNE 17 — The editor in chief of the French daily Liberation has officially apologised to Algeria and the Algerian supporters, after an article in this Monday’s edition on the defeat of the “Fennecs” by Slovenia, in which the players were mocked. A “rate” article, a real mistake, admitted Laurent Joffrin to the microphones of France-Info, adding that the article has “hurt the Algerians, through a crescendo of poor humour; we have made a mistake. Humour is good but nobody should be hurt”. In fact the article “Heavy defeat for Algeria” is not very tasteful. It gives a note to all players and uses gratuitous adjectives, which have nothing to do with the game of football and which have provoked protests from the Algerian press and on some websites. Some examples: “If a leader must set an example, then Ziani should start by avoiding this nauseating haircut (shaved around, brown at the roots, yellow on top) and he should wear real shorts instead of ‘pantacourt’, and only after that the former Marseille player can start thinking of playing”. The goalkeeper Chaouchi “also does strange things with his hair and has margarine on his gloves”. Regarding Bougherra, according to the reporter, “he has breasts, a belly and looks good, in short the perfect target of a bouncer at a nightclub”. Coach Rabah Saadane, with his “coat, cap and moustache, looks like a peasant”. Zinedine Zidane, the idol of the bleues, has not commented the issue yet. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Interview: ‘We’ll be Back — With Bigger Flotillas’

By Mel Frykberg

RAMALLAH — In an exclusive interview with Inter Press Service, Huwaida Arraf, the chairwoman of the Free Gaza (FG) movement that tried to break Israel’s blockade on Gaza, explains what happened on the night of May 31 when Israeli commandos raided the FG humanitarian flotilla, shooting nine people dead and injuring dozens more.

Controversy surrounds the events following the deadly commando raid with survivors from among the 700 activists on board the flotilla giving a very different version of events from that of the Israeli government.

Inter Press Service: Critics have accused FG of deliberately provoking a confrontation with the Israelis and argued that the attempt to break the siege was political and not just a humanitarian relief operation.

Huwaida Arraf: They are correct to say that FG’s aim was more than just bringing humanitarian relief. We are deeply disturbed by Israel’s deliberate and calculated creation of a humanitarian crisis in the coastal territory and we intended to draw international attention to this.

We are not interested in simply perpetuating the siege and the humanitarian crisis by bringing in aid alone. Gazans are not interested in being aid dependent either. Eighty percent of Gaza’s population is dependent on food aid. This is not the result of a natural disaster but a deliberate and cruel Israeli policy. We are concerned that the human rights of Gazans be respected and they are allowed to live a normal life as human beings.

IPS: Did the activists provoke the Israeli commandos into using deadly force?

HA: This is nonsense. We went out of our way to inform the Israelis that we were an unarmed civilian boat delivering aid, that we presented no threat to them and there was no need to board our vessels. We explained repeatedly who we were and what our mission was. Our boats were checked by different security at the various ports of departure and we also hired independent security personnel to verify that we were arms-free…

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

Israeli Supermarkets Boycott Turkish Products

As the rift between Turkey and Israel widens in the aftermath of the deadly Israeli assault that killed eight Turks and one Turkish American, several supermarket chains in Israel decide to boycott Turkish goods. The ‘Mega’ and ‘Rami Levy’ supermarkets announce they will stop using Turkish products in goods that bear their own private label

Several local supermarket chains in Israel have decided to boycott Turkish goods.

Several local supermarket chains in Israel have decided to boycott Turkish goods due to the growing rift between the two countries. The Blue Square firm, which operates the “Mega” supermarket chain in Israel, and Rami Levy, who owns an eponymous chain of stores, have decided to look elsewhere for pasta and flour products among others, reported Israel daily Haaretz on Monday.

The boycott comes after Israeli forces attacked a Turkish aid flotilla headed for the Gaza Strip, killing eight Turkish activists, another who was a U.S. citizen of Turkish decent and injuring dozens on May 31. Tens of thousands of Turkish citizens took to the streets to protest Israel, and government officials, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have accused Israel of state-sponsored terrorism.

“For reasons of ideology and conscience, it would be unacceptable for us to do anything when the Turkish people behave this way. This is the minimum that we can do,” Rami Levy was quoted by Haaretz.

May cost nearly $100 million

The decision to boycott Turkish goods is predicted to cost Turkish companies $93 million in sales, according to a report by Channel 10 news in Israel.

“When I see Turkey’s behavior toward Israel this makes me oppose them. I want to give them a taste of their own medicine,” Levy was quoted as saying by Arutz Sheva news.

Supersol, currently the largest retail chain in Israel, said on Sunday that it is also evaluating its relationship with Turkish firms.

Blue Square said its business relationships with Turkish companies have been suffering for over a month. Both Blue Square and Rami Levy have said they would stop using Turkish products in goods they sell that bear their own private label.

“The Mega chain is heeding the voice of the public and has decided to stop importing pasta and flour products from Turkey under its own label and will seek alternative sources for its products,” Blue Square announced.

However some Turkish products that are under their own brand name will remain on the shelves. This has drawn criticism from other supermarket chains.

“Rami Levy has many products on his shelves that are made in Turkey, under different brands. If he really is boycotting Turkish items, he should not only remove products from Turkey under his private label,” Rafi Sheffer, the chief executive of Brand For You, a competitor of Levy, told Haaretz.

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

Tens of Thousands of Fundamentalist Jews Protest

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JUNE 17 — Tens of thousands of ultra-orthodox Jews demonstrate today in Israel in two separate protests — in Jerusalem and in Bnei-Brak, near Tel Aviv — against a recent verdict of the Supreme Court and against the taxes that are imposed, according to them, by the secular State bodies. The demonstrations, among the most important in the conflict between faith and secularity in Israel, took place amid serious tensions and a massive use of police forces. The ultra-orthodox protest against the verdict in which the forced separation of Askhenazi Jewish students (the more radical orthodox branch) and Sephardi Jews at a school in the Jewish Immanuel settlement in the West Bank (Palestinian Territories) is declared illegal. Members of this community have already declared that they will not accept this verdict, because it goes against the precepts of their rabbis and their traditions. They have made it clear that they are ready to go to prison, against the background of the two solidarity protests. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Noose Around Israel’s Neck

Israel is being hanged on a public gallows erected on the grounds of the United Nations with yards of rope gleefully supplied by the Muslim world. But the hangmen are mostly Westerners who still think that the Muslim lynch mob at their doorstep can be pacified with the death of a single victim.

There are three things you can do when you are about to be hanged. You can walk proudly, recite a glorious line or two to embed your martyrdom in historical memory, and then allow yourself to be hanged. Jews have an extensive body of experience with that brand of martyrdom.


For seventeen years Israel has been walking toward the gallows. Its leaders have led it there by the nose ring of international assurances. Its people have been led there by refusing to see what is waiting ahead for them, even while the blood was being cleaned off the streets. Every attempt to reach a peaceful solution, every concession and show of good faith, has only tightened the bonds around its hands and the noose around its neck.

That is because every concession Israel has made, has further restricted not only its ability to defend itself, but even its ability to do basic things such as build residential housing in the capital of its own nation. Every gesture and agreement Israel has signed has bound it to ever more restrictive terms. And none of them have brought any peace. All they have ever done is set the bar higher for the next round of concessions demanded by the enemy and its aiders and abettors in the next phase of negotiations.

This is not a peace process, and it has never been one. It is a public lynching. It is the lynching of a country whose only real crime is that its existence offends the religious fanaticism and prejudices of a billion Muslims, who control much of the world’s oil, and whose followers are willing to riot and kill in the streets of nearly every major city in the world at the slightest offense.


The world will always condemn Israel regardless of its intentions. But like any form of namecalling, those condemnations only gain power when Israel allows its actions to be dictated by them. Israel is not condemned because of what Israel does. It is condemned because of a diseased pattern of Islamic bigotry, left wing radicalism and international dhimmism converging in one place. This is a pattern of hate that cannot be undone. It can only be ignored.

When you listen to the threats and taunts of those who hate you, you give them power over yourself. If you try to accommodate your behavior to gain their favor, their outpouring of hate for you will only grow. For it is not your behavior they hate, it is you. By showing weakness, you invite attack. By giving your enemies power over you, all that you accomplish is to drive them into a feeding frenzy at your vulnerability. If you go on this way, you will either be a slave or a corpse. A slave if they have any use for you alive. A corpse if they don’t. Either way you have put your head into the noose they made for you.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Bahrain: Italian Rizzani in Consortium for ‘Manama Passage’

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 17 — The Italian group Rizzani de Eccher, together with the Belgian company Besix and the Bahraini Haji Hassan Group, are to build the ‘North Manama Passage’ in Bahrain. The project involves the construction of two parallel viaducts of 2.4 kilometres each, one in each direction. The building of two large intersections at staggered levels to connect the viaducts to the road network is also planned. The project will allow the capital Manama to be linked to Bahrain Bay, a development area full of offices and residential property. The works will last three years and will employ around 600 workers. The contract has a total value of 211 million euros. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Policies Hardening Allies Against U.S.

‘Only if you’re tough with America’ will the White House pay you

NEW YORK — The governments of Egypt and Jordan are considering hardening their positions against the U.S., believing the Obama administration awards concessions to anti-Western regimes, according to Middle East officials.

A Jordanian intelligence official told WND in a telephone interview his country and Egypt have been dismayed at the lengths to which the Obama administration has gone to “appease” Syria and to engage Iran and Turkey.

“No matter what the Syrians do, how they declare all the time they are allied with Iran, the U.S. is trying harder and harder to attract Syria and offer them more,” said the Jordanian official.


The Jordanian official claimed the Obama administration “sold out the Christians and Druze in Lebanon, sold out the Kurds in Iraq and abandoned the Hariri probe.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Turkey Welcomes EU Parliament Resolution Condemning Israel

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 17 — A senior official of the Turkish government welcomed European Parliament’s resolution that passed today and condemned Israel over its raid on Gaza-bound aid flotilla, saying, “it is a decision of wisdom, common sense and conscience.” Turkish State Minister & Chief EU Negotiator Egemen Bagis said that it was highly important that the parliament described the attack as “a breach of international law” and asked for a “prompt and impartial international inquiry” into the raid, as Anatolia news agency reports. Earlier in the day, the European Parliament debated and voted a resolution which condemns Israel over its raid on the flotilla heading for Gaza and calls for an immediate end to blockade on that territory. The resolution condemns Israel for its military operation on Gaza-bound flotilla carrying humanitarian aid. Israeli commandos shot dead eight Turks and an American of Turkish origin on board Turkish ship Mavi Marmara on May 31. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria Eye Deeper Cooperation

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 17 — Gross domestic product figures at purchasing power parity of Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria are expected to total 1.13 trillion US dollars in 2010 according to IMF estimates as the four countries have pledge to intensify cooperation in trade and commerce. The four countries, as Anatolia news agency reports, signed last week a declaration on the sidelines of a Turkish-Arab business forum meeting in Istanbul, expressing determination to boost their strategic partnership with an eye to achieve economic integration. The declaration vows to establish a high level cooperation council and to set up a free trade and free movement zone. According to IMF data, Turkey is the biggest in economic terms among the four countries with an expected GDP of 932.2 billion USD for 2010, and the estimations put the country to stand as the 16th largest economy in the world. Syria follows Turkey as the 66th biggest economy with an estimated GDP of 105.2 billion USD, as Lebanon and Jordan would have estimated GDP of 58.5 billion USD and 35.2 billion USD, respectively, in 2010. According to figures of the TurkStat, Turkey’s statistics authority, Turkey runs trade surplus against the other three countries. The trade volume between Turkey and Syria in 2009 was 1.75 billion USD as Turkish exports to Syria totalled 1.42 billion USD. The trade volume between Turkey and Lebanon last year was 795.25 million USD with Turkish exports to the country was around 686.54 million USD. The trade volume between Turkey and Jordan in 2009 was 476.28 million USD as Turkish exports to Jordan totalled 455.92 million USD. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

‘Kyrgyzstan is on the Brink of Collapse’

With hundreds dead and tens of thousands of refugees, ethnic violence has brought chaos to Kyrgyzstan. Central Asia policy expert Andrea Schmitz told SPIEGEL ONLINE about the history behind the attacks on the Uzbek minority and the wobbly transitional government.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The news from Kyrgyzstan is deeply disturbing. Officially, 170 people have been killed during the angry unrest over the last week and other sources put the death toll above 700. What is the current situation?

Schmitz: Official figures probably understate the number of dead, which is likely to be considerably higher. I do not have the exact numbers. The situation at present is so chaotic no one can reliably count the dead.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Reports say almost all the dead belong to the Uzbek minority.

Schmitz: That appears to be correct. However, it’s also said that those behind the unrest have tried to turn Kyrgyz and Uzbeks against each other. But the violence has clearly focused on the Uzbek minority.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

UK: Three Kenyan Politicians Arrested Over ‘Hate Speech’

Three top Kenyan politicians have been arrested for a hate speech they allegedly made during rallies against a draft constitution, days after a separate rally turned deadly when grenade attacks killed six people.

Authorities arrested an assistant government minister and two members of parliament who police say made hate speech as they campaigned separately against the draft constitution in rallies across the country.

Assistant Minister for Roads Wilfred Michage and lawmakers Fred Kapondi and Joshua Kutuny were arrested Tuesday morning. Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere said the three may be charged in court Wednesday.

Commissioner Iteere did not say what the men said or at which rallies they made the comments. The National Cohesion and Integration Commission, which gave their names to police, told local media they started their investigations last week, before Sunday’s blast.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Why Felipe Calderon Hates Arizona’s Anti-Illegal Immigration Law

$50 billion per year in illegal drug smuggling

Having spent a fair bit of time in Mexico in the past, I am surprised that the Mexican government would show so much concern for the rights of its citizens abroad. Given that the Mexican government in general does not appear to be overly concerned about anyone’s rights, it’s curious that Mexican politicians would be crying crocodile tears about Mexicans living in the US. Or could it be that there is another reason? How about $50 billion per year in illegal drug smuggling?

That’s what currently passes across the border between the US and Mexico every single year and of late evidence has come to light that this is being done with the express approval of the Mexican government.


The recent trial in El Paso of one of the Sinaloa cartel’s top capos revealed that both the Mexican army as well as the Mexican police were actually assisting the Sinaloa cartel in its efforts to defeat the Juarez cartel. In testimony given by Jesus Manuel Fierro-Mendez, a former Mexican police captain sentenced to 27 years in prison in 2008, he told the court that he took control of a unit of the Mexican army in order to defeat the Juarez cartel so that the Sinaloa cartel could take complete control. Fierro-Mendez explained that by reducing the number of cartels in Mexico it would enable the Mexican government to eliminate them once and for all.

But a recent joint investigation by American and Canadian journalists has determined that there are elements within the Mexican government that have absolutely no intention of stopping the cartels. And with $50 billion in annual revenue at stake it’s a small wonder.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Changing Attitudes to Homosexuality in Poland

Die Tageszeitung 11.06.2010

Pawel Leszkowicz, curator of “Ars Homo Erotica” a large exhibition in the Warsaw Museum, talks about the Polish attitude to homosexuality, homo eroticism in antiquity and the hate mail he has recieved: “Much has changed in Poland in the last ten years. In 2000, when I and thirty gay and lesbian couples were photographed holding hands we were all, my partner and myself included, hit with a wave of hatred. We were genuinely scared. People hurled stones at the Good As You paraders. In Krakow, people even threw acid at them. But now, a decade later, things have changed. I do not intend the exhibition as a provocation. And I don’t think that Polish society today will regard it as such.”

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

‘Gay’ Judge Decides Future of Homosexual ‘Marriage’

Ruling may impact matrimony laws in as many as 45 other states

SACRAMENTO — A San Francisco district court judge who is reportedly homosexual will decide soon whether to overturn the will of California voters and strike down Proposition 8 — the state’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman — in a landmark trial that many say is likely headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Attorneys for both sides presented closing arguments today in the trial Perry v. Schwarzenegger, a lawsuit seeking to declare the proposition violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.


While Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democrat Attorney General Jerry Brown are listed as defendants in the lawsuit, both have opposed Proposition 8 and refused to defend it in court — forcing the private attorneys to defend the law.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UN Petitioned Over West’s “Islamophobia”

GENEVA — Muslim states said on Wednesday that what they call “islamophobia”“is sweeping the West and its media and demanded that the United Nations take tougher action against it. Delegates from Islamic countries, including Pakistan and Egypt, told the United Nations Human Rights Council that treatment of Muslims in Western countries amounted to racism and discrimination and must be fought.

“People of Arab origin face new forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance and experience discrimination and marginalization,” an Egyptian delegate said, according to a U.N. summary.

And Pakistan, speaking for the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the council’s special investigator into religious freedom should look into such racism “especially in Western societies”.

Acting for the OIC, Pakistan has tabled a resolution at the council instructing its special investigator on religious freedom “to work closely with mass media organizations to ensure that they create and promote an atmosphere of respect and tolerance for religious and cultural diversity”.

The OIC — and its allies in the 47-nation council including Russia, China and Cuba — dub criticism of Muslim practices and linking of terrorism waged under the proclaimed banner of Islamism as “islamophobia”“that pillories all Muslims.

Bound to Pass

Diplomats say the resolution, which also tells the investigator to make recommendations to the Human Rights Council on how its strictures might be implemented, is bound to pass given the majority the OIC and its allies have in the body (…)

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske[Return to headlines]

Western Liberals Are to Blame for Dismantling Universal Human Rights

Perlentaucher 09.06.2010

The idea of universal human rights has become ever more obsolete writes Caroline Fourest for Perlentaucher, and, ironically, Western liberals have been a key force in its dismantling. “At the United Nations, the states cite ‘national circumstances’ as grounds for making exceptions to the application of the universal declaration of human rights. In the name of anti-imperialism left-wing activists denigrate universalism as neo-colonialism.”

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