Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100725

Financial Crisis
»The Middle Class in America is Radically Shrinking. Here Are the Stats to Prove it
»America’s Ruling Class
»Ex-Congressman: President a ‘Threat, ‘ Must be Impeached
»Mexican Drug Mafia Invades Texas
»Midland Beach Mosque Voted Down by Church’s Board of Trustees
»White House Backed Release of Lockerbie Bomber Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi
Europe and the EU
»Britain Plans to Decentralize Health Care
»Britain to Get New FBI-Style Police Force to Tackle Organised Crime
»British Girls Undergo Horror of Genital Mutilation Despite Tough Laws
»Germany: Schavan Says School Islam Lessons Improve Integration
»Germany: Love Parade Cancelled for Good After Deadly Stampede
»Italy: Barilla Plans to Spend €400mln to Boost American Sales
»Italy: The Mob Owns ‘One-Fifth’ Of Rome and Milan Restaurants
»Netherlands: CDA Agrees to Talks About Talks on a Right-Wing Government
»Spanish Mayor Closes ‘Too Popular’ Mosque
»UK: Burka-Ban MP Faces Court Threat From Human Rights Group
»UK: Council’s £400k Taxi Bill to Take Teenagers Through the Ganglands
»UK: European Police to Spy on Britons: Now Ministers Hand Over Big Brother Powers to Foreign Officers
»UK: Islamic Extremist Chosen to Head Police-Muslim Forum
»UK: Nurses Who Think It’s Not Their Job to Care: NHS Forced to Remind Staff to Feed Patients
»UK: Tory MP Warned Over Requests to Remove Face Veils
»UK: Two Girls, Six, ‘Found at Paedophile’s Flat by Friends and Family Before Police Swoop’
»UK: Work Experience at the Foreign Office? Not if You’re a Middle Class White Male
»‘Belgrade Must Rethink Its Destructive Kosovo Policy’
Israel and the Palestinians
»Hamas Slams UN for Denouncing Flotillas
»The Terrorist Whose Daughter Was Cured
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Taliban Planing ‘Anti-Warlord’ Campaign
»Afghanistan: Taliban Captures 2 Americans Near Kabul
»Afghan War Version of Pentagon Papers Released
»Pakistan: Calls for Christian Minister Bhatti to Resign
»Secret Archive Gives Grim View of Afghan War
Far East
»China: Uyghur Journalist Gets 15 Years in Prison for Criticising Police and Military
»Discovered: The Biggest Rat That Ever Lived
»Index of Corruption in China is Having a Mistress and Not the Use of Public Funds
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Kenya: Obama Told U.S. Envoy to Back Draft
»Now ‘Cannibal’ Dictator Who Set Simon Mann Free Bids to Join Commonwealth
»UK: Student Visas Surge Under ‘Shambolic’ Points System
Culture Wars
»Italy: Pope’s Diocese Urges Gay Priests to ‘Come Out’
»Liberal Journalists Suggest Government Shut Down Fox News
»Racism and the Never-Ending Storm

Financial Crisis

The Middle Class in America is Radically Shrinking. Here Are the Stats to Prove it

The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer at a staggering rate. Once upon a time, the United States had the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world, but now that is changing at a blinding pace.

So why are we witnessing such fundamental changes? Well, the globalism and “free trade” that our politicians and business leaders insisted would be so good for us have had some rather nasty side effects. It turns out that they didn’t tell us that the “global economy” would mean that middle class American workers would eventually have to directly compete for jobs with people on the other side of the world where there is no minimum wage and very few regulations. The big global corporations have greatly benefited by exploiting third world labor pools over the last several decades, but middle class American workers have increasingly found things to be very tough.

Here are the statistics to prove it:

  • 83 percent of all U.S. stocks are in the hands of 1 percent of the people.
  • A staggering 43 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement.
  • 24 percent of American workers say that they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year.
  • Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009
  • For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together.
  • In 1950, the ratio of the average executive’s paycheck to the average worker’s paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to one.
  • In the United States, the average federal worker now earns 60% MORE than the average worker in the private sector.
  • The top 1 percent of U.S. households own nearly twice as much of America’s corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago.
  • In America today, the average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks.
  • More than 40 percent of Americans who actually are employed are now working in service jobs, which are often very low paying.
  • For the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011…


There are now about six unemployed Americans for every new job opening in the United States, and the number of “chronically unemployed” is absolutely soaring. There simply are not nearly enough jobs for everyone.

Many of those who are able to get jobs are finding that they are making less money than they used to. In fact, an increasingly large percentage of Americans are working at low wage retail and service jobs.

But you can’t raise a family on what you make flipping burgers at McDonald’s or on what you bring in from greeting customers down at the local Wal-Mart.

The truth is that the middle class in America is dying — and once it is gone it will be incredibly difficult to rebuild.

[Return to headlines]


America’s Ruling Class

The ruling class’s appetite for deference, power, and perks grows. The country class disrespects its rulers, wants to curtail their power and reduce their perks. The ruling class wears on its sleeve the view that the rest of Americans are racist, greedy, and above all stupid. The country class is ever more convinced that our rulers are corrupt, malevolent, and inept. The rulers want the ruled to shut up and obey. The ruled want self-governance. The clash between the two is about which side’s vision of itself and of the other is right and which is wrong. Because each side — especially the ruling class — embodies its views on the issues, concessions by one side to another on any issue tend to discredit that side’s view of itself. One side or the other will prevail. The clash is as sure and momentous as its outcome is unpredictable.

In this clash, the ruling class holds most of the cards: because it has established itself as the fount of authority, its primacy is based on habits of deference. Breaking them, establishing other founts of authority, other ways of doing things, would involve far more than electoral politics. Though the country class had long argued along with Edmund Burke against making revolutionary changes, it faces the uncomfortable question common to all who have had revolutionary changes imposed on them: are we now to accept what was done to us just because it was done? Sweeping away a half century’s accretions of bad habits — taking care to preserve the good among them — is hard enough. Establishing, even reestablishing, a set of better institutions and habits is much harder, especially as the country class wholly lacks organization. By contrast, the ruling class holds strong defensive positions and is well represented by the Democratic Party. But a two to one numerical disadvantage augurs defeat, while victory would leave it in control of a people whose confidence it cannot regain.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Ex-Congressman: President a ‘Threat, ‘ Must be Impeached

‘We have man in White House who brazenly disregards his oath of office’

A former congressman and GOP presidential candidate says for current members of the House and Senate to uphold their oath of office that includes the defense of the United States against enemies “foreign and domestic,” they need to be filing impeachment charges against Barack Obama.

Former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., joined what has become a growing surge of those recommending the ultimate solution for a president they believe not only has disagreeable policies, but is participating in actions that damage the nation.

Tancredo wrote in a opinion piece in the Washington Times that, “Mr. Obama’s refusal to live up to his own oath of office — which includes the duty to defend the United States against foreign invasion — requires senators and representatives to live up to their oaths. Members of Congress must defend our nation against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Today, that means bringing impeachment charges against Mr. Obama.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Mexican Drug Mafia Invades Texas

The United States is under attack by narco terrorists invading from the failed state of Mexico and Obama and the federal government are doing nothing about it.

In June, the Mexican drug mafia forced the closure of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona. Authorities in Arizona admit that criminals now control a drug and human smuggling corridor that stretches from the border into metro Phoenix. Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu explained in June that the Mexican Mafia controls three counties in his state.

Now drug smugglers are repeating the pattern in Texas.

On Saturday, the Cypress Times, an online newspaper in Cypress, Texas, reported that the murderous Los Zetas has crossed into the United States and taken over at least two ranches in the Laredo, Texas area. The owners of the farms have evacuated and were not harmed.

“I can personally vouch that this info came in late last night from a reliable police source inside the Laredo PD,” Jeff Schwilk, founder of the San Diego Minutemen, told the online newspaper. “There is currently a standoff between the unknown size Zeta forces and U.S. Border Patrol and local law enforcement on two ranches on our side of the Rio Grande.”

Kimberly Dvorak, writing for the Albuquerque Examiner, reports that two sources inside the Laredo Police Department have confirmed the incident. “We consider this an act of war,” said one police officer on the ground near the scene. There is a news blackout of this incident at this time and the sources inside Laredo PD spoke on the condition of anonymity, writes Dvorak.

The DBKP blog contacted the the Laredo Police Department on Saturday. “We have been advised to say nothing. The Webb County Sheriff is taking the lead on this and they’re advising that they can’t confirm anything either,” a spokesperson told the blog.

[Return to headlines]

Midland Beach Mosque Voted Down by Church’s Board of Trustees

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The board of trustees for St. Margaret Mary’s R.C. Church has rejected a controversial proposal to sell its former convent to a group that would convert it to a mosque.

After nearly two months of emotionally-charged rallies and heated exchanges between members of the Muslim community and Midland Beach residents, the board said it has decided to side with the church’s pastor, the Rev. Keith Fennessy, who withdrew his support for the sale about a month ago.

“The trustees of the parish have met, as legally required under New York State law, and voted to ratify the pastor’s decision,” said Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York. “The Muslim American Society has been informed that the sale of the convent will not take place. The Archdiocese of New York has enjoyed a good relationship with the Islamic community in the past, and looks forward to continued dialogue, friendship, and understanding in the future. It is also our prayer that unity will now return to the parish and to the Midland Beach community.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

White House Backed Release of Lockerbie Bomber Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi

Correspondence obtained by The Sunday Times reveals the Obama administration considered compassionate release more palatable than locking up Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in a Libyan prison.

The intervention, which has angered US relatives of those who died in the attack, was made by Richard LeBaron, deputy head of the US embassy in London, a week before Megrahi was freed in August last year on grounds that he had terminal cancer.

The document, acquired by a well-placed US source, threatens to undermine US President Barack Obama’s claim last week that all Americans were “surprised, disappointed and angry” to learn of Megrahi’s release.


The US has tried to keep the letter secret, refusing to give permission to the Scottish authorities to publish it on the grounds it would prevent future “frank and open communications” with other governments…

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Britain Plans to Decentralize Health Care

Even as the new coalition government said it would make enormous cuts in the public sector, it initially promised to leave health care alone. But in one of its most surprising moves so far, it has done the opposite, proposing what would be the most radical reorganization of the National Health Service, as the system is called, since its inception in 1948.

Practical details of the plan are still sketchy. But its aim is clear: to shift control of England’s $160 billion annual health budget from a centralized bureaucracy to doctors at the local level. Under the plan, $100 billion to $125 billion a year would be meted out to general practitioners, who would use the money to buy services from hospitals and other health care providers.

The plan would also shrink the bureaucratic apparatus, in keeping with the government’s goal to effect $30 billion in “efficiency savings” in the health budget by 2014 and to reduce administrative costs by 45 percent. Tens of thousands of jobs would be lost because layers of bureaucracy would be abolished.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Britain to Get New FBI-Style Police Force to Tackle Organised Crime

The Government has drawn up plans to introduce a new FBI-style police force to tackle the rising threat of organised crime gangs and beef up border security.

Home Secretary Theresa May is expected to unveil details of the National Crime Agency (NCA) tomorrow.

The NCA will replace the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), which Labour launched in a blaze of publicity in 2006. Soca has been criticised for failing to recover the proceeds of organised crime.

Damning figures last year revealing that it clawed back only £78 million over its first three years, despite the agency costing the public £1.2 billion.

Soca employed a chairman, a director-general, ten directors and 30 deputy directors.

Under the plans, the NCA will be tasked with pursuing serious criminals, including people-traffickers and drug-smugglers.

The proposals are set out in a restricted document obtained by this newspaper entitled Policing In The 21st Century.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

British Girls Undergo Horror of Genital Mutilation Despite Tough Laws

Female circumcision will be inflicted on up to 2,000 British schoolgirls during the summer holidays — leaving brutal physical and emotional scars. Yet there have been no prosecutions against the practice

Like any 12-year-old, Jamelia was excited at the prospect of a plane journey and a long summer holiday in the sun. An avid reader, she had filled her suitcases with books and was reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when her mother came for her. “She said, ‘You know it’s going to be today?’ I didn’t know exactly what it would entail but I knew something was going to be cut. I was made to believe it was genuinely part of our religion.”

She went on: “I came to the living room and there were loads of women. I later found out it was to hold me down, they bring lots of women to hold the girl down. I thought I was going to be brave so I didn’t really need that. I just lay down and I remember looking at the ceiling and staring at the fan.

“I don’t remember screaming, I remember the ridiculous amount of pain, I remember the blood everywhere, one of the maids, I actually saw her pick up the bit of flesh that they cut away ‘cause she was mopping up the blood. There was blood everywhere.”

Some 500 to 2,000 British schoolgirls will be genitally mutilated over the summer holidays. Some will be taken abroad, others will be “cut” or circumcised and sewn closed here in the UK by women already living here or who are flown in and brought to “cutting parties” for a few girls at a time in a cost-saving exercise.

Then the girls will return to their schools and try to get on with their lives, scarred mentally and physically by female genital mutilation (FGM), a practice that serves as a social and cultural bonding exercise and, among those who are stitched up, to ensure that chastity can be proved to a future husband.

Even girls who suffer less extreme forms of FGM are unlikely to be promiscuous. One study among Egyptian women found 50% of women who had undergone FGM “endured” rather than enjoyed sex.

Cleanliness, neatness of appearance and the increased sexual pleasure for the man are all motivations for the practice. But the desire to conform to tradition is the most powerful motive. The rite of passage, condemned by many Islamic scholars, predates both the Koran and the Bible and possibly even Judaism, appearing in the 2nd century BC.

Although unable to give consent, many girls are compliant when they have the prodecure carried out, believing they will be outcasts if they are not cut. The mothers believe they are doing the best for their daughters. Few have any idea of the lifetime of hurt it can involve or the medical implications.

Jamelia, now 20, who says her whole personality changed afterwards.”I felt a lot older. It was odd because nobody says this is a secret, keep your mouth shut but that’s the message you get loud and clear.” She stopped the sports and swimming she used to love and became “strangely disconnected with her own body”. Other girls have died, of shock or blood loss; some have picked up infections from dirty tools. Jamelia’s mother paid extra for the woman to use a clean razor. It is thought that in the UK there are one or two doctors who can be bribed by the very rich to to carry out FGM using anaesthetic and sterilised instruments.

Comfort Momoh works at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London, in one of the 16 clinics up and down the country who deal with FGM and its health repercusssions. Women who have had much of their external genitalia sliced off and their vaginas stitched closed, but for a tiny hole, also come to be cut open in order to give birth.

There are four types of female circumcision identified by the World Health Organisation, ranging from partial to total removal of the external female genitalia. Some 140 million women worldwide have been subjected to FGM and an estimated further two million are at risk every year. Most live in 28 African countries while others are in Yemen, Kurdistan, the US, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Canada.

The UK Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985 makes it an offence to carry out FGM or to aid, abet or procure the service of another person. The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, makes it against the law for FGM to be performed anywhere in the world on UK permanent residents of any age and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment. To date, no prosecutions have been made under UK legislation.

“Obviously in summer we get really anxious. All activists and professionals working around FGM get anxious because this is the time that families take their children back home. This is the time when all the professionals need to be really alert,” said Momoh.

“There is no hard evidence in figures about what is happening in the UK because it’s a hush-hush thing. It’s only now that a few people are beginning to talk about it, which is good because change will only come from within and the numbers coming forward are rising. But there is a lot of family pressure. When I first started in 1997 we had two clinics in the country, now we have 16.”

One woman told the Observer how a midwife examining her had raced retching and crying from the room. She had no idea she was “abnormal” before that happened. There is a clear need for women who have suffered FGM to be able to visit health professionals who understand what has happened to them. Momoh said that for those who wanted it, some surgical reversal work could sometimes be done on women with the most severe FGM procedure, Type III. For those with other types, counselling and support is all that can offered.

“Periods are agony — you get a lot of women who are determined to have reversals while they are having their period but then when the pain has stopped they lose their nerve again,” said Leyla Hussein, 29, who has had to have years of counselling to cope with her own anger and distress at what was done to her as a child. It has helped her forgive her own mother’s complicity in the mutilation she endured, though the older woman could not understand why Hussein would not have her own child, now aged seven, cut. But Hussein has vowed that she will be the last generation of women in her family to suffer.

“It was my husband who said on our honeymoon, ‘We are not going to do this thing to any child of ours.’ I was quite shocked, I hadn’t questioned it. But I now realise a lot of men are not in favour of FGM, not when you tell them the woman is not going to enjoy herself.”

Hussein is among a slowly but steadily growing band of women who have reacted against what happened to them with courage and a determination to stamp out FGM. Hussein has run support and discussion groups for affected women and for men, and formerly worked at the African Well Women’s Centre in Leyton, east London.

“I can really relate to some of the women who are very angry, but how do you blame your mother, who loves you yet planned this for you? There is a lot of anger and resentment. Many women blame themselves and of course there are flashbacks to deal with. I had blackouts — anytime I had to have a smear test, I would pass out because lying in that position brought it back to me, but the nurse is used to me now and allows a little more time with the appointment.”

“The new generation, born and raised here in Britain, they are used to expressing their views and it will be a lot harder to shut them up. Last month was the first ever march against FGM [in Bristol where 15 to 16 mothers protested] and that is a sign of something new.”

Asha-Kin Duale is a community partnership adviser in Camden, London. She talks to schools and to families about safeguarding children. “Culture has positive and negative issues for every immigrant community. We value some traditions, and most are largely good.

“FGM is not confined to African countries. It has no basis in Christianity, it has no basis in Islam; none of Muhammad’s daughters had it done. For some parents it is enough to let them know that and they will drop it completely. Everyone needs to understand that every child, no matter what the background or creed, is protected by this law in this land.”

She said there needed to be an understanding of why FGM took place, although that was not the same as accepting that the practice had a cultural justification.

“FGM has a social function and until this is understood by social services and other bodies they will never stop it. It is a power negotiation mechanism, that women use to ensure respect from men. It prevents rape of daughters and is a social tool to allow women to regain some power in patriarchal societies. With girls living in the UK there is no need to gain the power — it has to be understood that girls can be good girls without FGM.”

For Jason Morgan, a detective constable in the Met’s FGM unit, Project Azure, the solution lies with those girls themselves: “Empowering youth, giving them the information, is the way forward. They are coming from predominantly caring and loving families, who genuinely believe this is the right thing to do. Many are under a great deal of pressure from the extended families.

“Sometimes it might be as simple as delivering the message of what the legal position is; sometimes we even give them an official letter, a document that they can show to the extended family that states quite firmly what will happen if the procedure goes ahead. The focus has to be on prevention.”

Project Azure made 38 interventions in 2008, 59 in 2009 and 25 so far this year. For Morgan those statistics are just as important as getting a conviction. “We know it happens here although we have no official statistics, but we have seen very successful partnerships and we don’t want to alienate communities through heavy-handed tactics.

“While a prosecution would send out a very clear message to practising communities, really it is very difficult and you would be relying on medical evidence, and in turn that would all hinge or whether the child consents to an examination.”

But Naana Otoo-Oyortey is not so content with the softly-softly approach: “We have anecdotal evidence that it is being done here. So someone is not doing their job: it’s an indication that the government has been failing to protect children. The commitment is hollow.”

Head of the leading anti-FGM charity Forward UK, Otoo-Oyortey said people value the FGM tradition as something which holds a community together and gives it structure. “It’s seen as a party, a cutting party because it’s a celebration — people expect it as a way of welcoming a girl. A lot of women will mention to us that there have been no prosecutions here so why do we worry about the law? At the end of the day who will know?

“And we cannot just blame the women as the men are silently supporting it by paying for it. The new government’s lack of a position on FGM is very worrying. We don’t know what they will do, but we do know that the summer holidays are here again and we will be left to pick up the pieces in a few weeks’ time.”

And for those who will be “cut” this summer, the effects will be lifelong. Miriam was six when she had her cutting party at her home in Somalia, two years before war arrived to force her family out.

When she was 12, doctors were horrified to find that what they thought was a cyst in her body was actually several years of period blood that had been blocked from leaving her body. Unable to have children, she now lives and works in England and worries about other girls. “I’d seen so many people circumcised, all my neighbours, so I knew one day it was going to happen to me. We knew what was happening,” Miriam said.

“The little girls who were born in Europe have no clue. They will be traumatised a lot more. The only thing they know is that they are going away — that’s what they say, ‘We’re going on a holiday’.

“Then her life and her head are going to be messed up. It’s amazing how many people are in mental health care because of their culture. Don’t get me wrong, I have religion and culture and I love where I’m from and I love what I stand for. But culture should not be about torture.

“Why would anyone want to go and cut up a seven- or eight-year-old child? People need to wake up — you are hurting your child, you are hurting your daughter, you’re not going to have a grandchild, so wake up.”

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Germany: Schavan Says School Islam Lessons Improve Integration

Education Minister Annette Schavan has defended the controversial policy of introducing lessons about Islam into German school classes, saying they aided integration.

She said learning lessons about Islam had been very constructive in schools, leading to better understanding between Muslim and non-Muslim students.

“Of course I know about the fears of many Germans in connection with this topic,” she told Focus magazine. “But I see it as experienced religious freedom, as a dialogue between Christianity and Islam.”

She said there was no way such lessons were about installing Koran schools, or offering a platform to radical Islamists.

“No, we want to use this to bring Islam out of the back yard and make it transparent,” she said.

Schavan first introduced Islam lessons in Baden-Württemberg when she was culture minister. “My experience was very positive,” she said. “The acceptance of Muslims by Germans clearly increased. This was also to do with the fact that the lessons were held in German and no secret was made about it.

She also supported the idea of university courses in Islamic studies.

“We will soon be educating Imams at German universities, who will then work in Mosques as preachers. We need people to reconcilers there who have learned about their religion scientifically and thus also critically,” she said.

She expected that Mosque communities in Germany understand themselves as part of German society. “So, no isolation, rather the greatest possible level of transparency. Only in this way can prejudices be reduced.”

Yet Schavan was critical of burkas, saying they made integration much more difficult. “Is the burka an expression of self-determination or rather much more the expression of a fundamentalist attitude? I find clothes should not make a person impossible to recognise. Fear and uncertainty comes from such things,” she said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Love Parade Cancelled for Good After Deadly Stampede

Organisers of Germany’s Love Parade say the dance music festival will never be held again, after 19 people were killed in a stampede over the weekend.

An Australian woman was among those killed in the stampede, while more than 300 party-goers were injured, after crowds panicked in an access tunnel in the town of Duisburg, western Germany.

Questions are being asked as to why a venue with a single entry point was chosen to host an event that attracted more than a million dance music fans.

Police and organisers have begun to investigate how the event, which is supposed to promote peace, ended so disastrously.

Witnesses said panic spread after police tried to turn back fans against the flow of thousands streaming into the festival area through a disused railway tunnel.

People tried to climb walls to get out of harm’s way, but many were crushed by surging crowds desperate to get out of the tunnel to safety.

At the tunnel exit, desperate people escaped any way they could. Amongst them was Sahil Bhate.

“I got through and then there was a serious rampage behind me,” he said.

“I just had to make a break for it and eventually I found a collapsed bank which people were just running up … I was getting pushed forward and if I hadn’t moved, I would have still been crushed.

“I mean, people next to me, I could see them on the floor lying down and they had trample marks on their face and nobody was helping them because nobody could reach them.”

Amy Chapman was also caught up in the chaos. She had been worried even before she got into the long tunnel and had to climb out at the other end.

“They helped us climb up the banks and they tried to get us out of the chaos but the police just seemed to stand there and themselves didn’t really know what was going on,” she said.

“It’s stupid to think that so many millions of people can go in and out of one street and that it would be orderly.

“As we were trying to get in at around two o’clock, everyone was pushing and shoving and you couldn’t really breathe and that was outside in the fresh air. I can’t imagine how it was in the tunnel.”

The festival has been running for more than 20 years, and was first held just before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Parade organiser Rainer Schaller expressed his deep sympathy for the victims and their families as he announced that the 21-year-old parade was coming to an end.

“The Love Parade has always been a cheerful and peaceful event but will be overshadowed in the future by the events of yesterday,” he said.

Duisburg’s mayor has appealed for people to wait for the result of a police inquiry before blaming anyone.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Italy: Barilla Plans to Spend €400mln to Boost American Sales

London, 23 July (AKI/Bloomberg) — Barilla, the world’s biggest pasta maker, plans to invest 400 million euros to develop new types of pasta and boost sales in North America.

“We’re working on product innovation to make different kinds of pasta that will be a very good source of energy,” Vice Chairman Paolo Barilla said in an interview recorded with Bloomberg TV.

The investments, to be spread out over the next three years, will help boost the company’s position in the US and Canadian markets, Barilla said. The Italian company’s U.S. pasta sales rose by almost 12 percent to $500 million (387 million) last year, when Barilla had a 28 percent market share.

Barilla currently has no plans to enter the Chinese market, the chairman said.

The family-owned pasta maker, which said in May that it was evaluating offers for its Kamps GmbH network of bakery shops, wants to remain in the bakery business, as it fits with Barilla’s other operations, the chairman said. In addition to Germany, Barilla has bakery operations in countries including Italy and France.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization rose 19 percent last year to 527 million euros after businesses in the US started to generate a profit. Sales slipped almost 7 percent to 4.2 billion euros after the sale of the Spanish La Bella Easo baked-goods unit.

Barilla said he wants the company to remain a family business.

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

Italy: The Mob Owns ‘One-Fifth’ Of Rome and Milan Restaurants

Rome, 23 July (AKI) — About one about of every five restaurants in Rome and Milan are mafia owned, according to an investigative report published Friday Italian newspaper La Repubblica. Throughout Italy, organised criminals own more than 5,000 restaurants, with 16,000 employees and annual sales of 1 billion euros.

Restaurants are largely cash businesses, making the sector highly attractive for bosses to launder money from other operations like drug trafficking.

“Around 15 per cent of the whole sector,” has has come under the grip of the mafia in some way, said Enzo Ciconte, ex-head of a anti-crime group, L’Osservatorio sulla Legalitata’, or Legality Observer, in the report.

Mob restaurant infiltration came to public attention last year when police seized Cafè de Paris — famous for its appearance in Italian movie director Federico Fellini’s classic film La Dolce Vita — among some 200 million euros in assets in an operation against the Calabrian mafia, the Ndrangheta.

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

Netherlands: CDA Agrees to Talks About Talks on a Right-Wing Government

The Christian Democrats have agreed to enter talks about talks on forming a right-wing government with the free market Liberals and anti-Islam PVV.

The party’s 20 MPs met on Saturday and gave their unanimous go ahead to party leader Maxime Verhagen to take part in informal talks with the VVD and PVV.

On Friday, new cabinet negotiator Ruud Lubbers called on the three parties to meet informally to look at the options. Earlier, the CDA refused to join because of the PVV’s extreme stance on Islam.


‘We have decided to fall in with negotiator Lubber’s request,’ Verhagen said after the meeting. ‘But we will not budge from our principles. Freedom of religion is for everyone…’ he said.

PVV leader Geert Wilders wants the introduction of a tax on Muslim headscarves, a ban on the Koran and ethnic registration. He currently faces charges of inciting religious and ethnic hatred.

The exploratory talks between the three leaders will take place without Lubbers, to emphasis the informality. No date and time as yet been set.


Verhagen and Liberal leader Mark Rutte had dinner together on Friday night.

If the three parties go on to form a new government, it would control just 76 of the 150 seats in parliament and have no majority in the upper house, or senate.

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

Spanish Mayor Closes ‘Too Popular’ Mosque

A Spanish mayor has told Muslim worshippers to “pray at home” and closed the town’s mosque because it was too popular.

Angel Ros, the socialist mayor of Lleida, in the northeastern region of Catalonia, complained that the mosque was too full and closed it on Wednesday until further notice.

The building, a former garage used to service trucks, was often filled with crowds exceeding a thousand people, the council said, when the authorised limit for the venue is 240.

A new mosque is under construction on the outskirts of the town but work had been stalled because of a lack of financing during the economic crisis.

“The municipality has no obligation to provide places of worship,” Mr Ros said in response to complaints from the town’s Muslim population over the closure. “Those that wish can pray at home, as I do,” he added.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Burka-Ban MP Faces Court Threat From Human Rights Group

A Tory MP has been warned he could face legal action if he follows through on a threat to refuse to meet constituents wearing burkas.

Lawyers for human rights organisation Liberty have written to Philip Hollobone insisting that the Equality Act obliges him to avoid discrimination.

The missive warns that the campaigning group ‘will be happy to represent any of your constituents that you refuse to meet because they are veiled’.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Council’s £400k Taxi Bill to Take Teenagers Through the Ganglands

Gang violence in cities has reached such high levels that councils are ferrying teenagers around in taxis — because they are too scared to walk through dangerous areas.

One inner London authority spent nearly £400,000 of taxpayers’ money last year putting youths into cabs because of fears for their safety.

The local council in Hackney, which has one of the highest rates of shootings and stabbings in the country, ran up a total bill of £440,000. Of this, 88 per cent — an average of £1,060 per day — was accounted for by ‘vulnerable children’.

Finn Greig, a former social worker in the borough, said the high bill reflected the large number of children aged between 13 and 19 who were given taxis because they were too scared to walk between the ‘territories’ used by gangs.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: European Police to Spy on Britons: Now Ministers Hand Over Big Brother Powers to Foreign Officers

Ministers are ready to hand sweeping Big Brother powers to EU states so they can spy on British citizens.

Foreign police will be able to travel to the UK and take part in the arrest of Britons.

They will be able to place them under surveillance, bug telephone conversations, monitor bank accounts and demand fingerprints, DNA or blood samples.

Anyone who refuses to comply with a formal request for co-operation by a foreign-based force is likely to be arrested by UK officers.

The move will spark a damaging row with backbench Tory MPs opposed to giving such draconian powers to Brussels.

The Tories were opposed to the directive in opposition, saying it showed a ‘relish for surveillance and disdain for civil liberties’.

But ministers have made a dramatic U-turn since joining the pro-EU Lib Dems in government, and the wide-ranging powers are due to be approved later this week.

According to the campaign group Fair Trials International, under the new rules it would be possible, for example, for Spanish police investigating a murder in a nightclub to demand the ID of every British citizen who flew to the country in the month the offence took place.

They could also force the UK to search its DNA database — which contains nearly one million innocent people — and send samples belonging to anybody who was in Spain at the time.

This could leave an entirely innocent person facing an agonising battle to establish his or her innocence.

Last night Tory MP Dominic Raab, who has campaigned against the power grab, said: ‘This sweeping directive would put serious operational strains on hard-pressed UK police forces.

‘There are scant safeguards to protect the personal information of law-abiding British citizens. These serious issues should be properly debated in Parliament before the UK decides to opt in.’

The new powers are known as the European Investigation Order (EIO), which is intended as a partner to the highly controversial European Arrest Warrant (EAW).

One of the major concerns about the EAW, to which Britain is signed up, is that it has been used to investigate the most minor misdemeanours, such as the ‘theft of a dessert’ in a Polish restaurant.

Now member states want to make it easier to gather evidence on another’s soil. The proposal requires an ‘opt in’, which means Britain could sit back and play no part in the new regime.

But Whitehall insiders say ministers have been persuaded it has many benefits. In particular, police say they will gain from the fact that the arrangements will be reciprocal, making it easier for them to track suspects overseas.

However the powers in the directive are available to prosecutors only. Britons under suspicion will not have any right to demand information from overseas police which could prove their innocence.

The countries demanding the new powers include ex-Eastern Bloc states Bulgaria, Estonia and Slovenia, as well as Belgium, Spain, Luxembourg and Austria.

Other nations, including Denmark, are believed to be ready to say no.

Fair Trials International has been leading demands for Britain to stay out of the EIO.

The group fears miscarriages of justice and civil liberties abuses and is also concerned about UK police being obliged to investigate matters which are not even crimes here, such as the Portuguese offence of criminal defamation.

Whitehall officials say UK police would be allowed to refuse these requests. It is the first time the coalition has had to consider a controversial EU directive.

The fact that ministers are actively opting in will cause great concern on the Tory benches. MPs point out that since the signing of the Lisbon Treaty, justice and Home Office matters are among the few areas over which we retain control of our own affairs.

Last night a Home Office spokesman said: ‘The Government is considering whether or not we should opt in to the European Investigation Order.

‘As we pledged in the coalition document, the Government will approach legislation in the area of criminal justice on a case-by-case basis, with a view to maximising our country’s security, protecting civil liberties and preserving the integrity of our criminal justice system.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Islamic Extremist Chosen to Head Police-Muslim Forum

An Islamic extremist, who has described al-Qaeda as a “myth” and justified the killing of British troops in Iraq, has been chosen to head the Muslim Safety Forum (MSF), which is recognised by London’s Metropolitan Police as “the principal body in relation to Muslim community safety and security”.

Azad Ali was the founding chair of the MSF in 2006, but left that job in 2008 and resigned entirely from the group last year after publicity over his extremist comments.

Last week, he was quietly reappointed as its chairman.

Mr Ali is a senior official of the fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), which works, in its own words, to create an Islamic state under sharia law in Europe.

The IFE and the MSF share the same offices.

He has previously praised a key mentor of Osama bin Laden.

Ali’s comments about terrorism were made on his official blog on the IFE website.

Patrick Mercer, a Conservative MP and counter-terrorism expert, said: “It beats me why the police should want to take the advice of this man. They should have nothing to do with him. I know for a fact that there are just as knowledgeable members of the Muslim community who do not share his subversive views.” (ANI)

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

UK: Nurses Who Think It’s Not Their Job to Care: NHS Forced to Remind Staff to Feed Patients

Nurses are having to be reminded that it is part of their job to feed frail patients and check if they have bedsores.

Millions of patients suffer pressure ulcers, hip fractures following falls or malnutrition during their stay in hospital, a report by Health Service bosses said.

But it added that most of these cases could be avoided.

The report, which has been sent to hospitals to remind staff of their duties, includes guidance on how to improve standards of care — which amazingly includes such obvious steps as keeping patients well-nourished.

It shows that 70 per cent of patients with malnutrition are never identified by nurses, 10 per cent suffer bedsores and there are more than 200,000 falls a year on NHS property.

Nurses and midwives have a ‘moral’ duty to help save the NHS money by treating patients better, they are told.

There have been complaints for years about nurses not bothering to help frail and elderly people eat their meals, often placing food out of their reach and throwing it away uneaten.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Tory MP Warned Over Requests to Remove Face Veils

A Conservative MP has been warned he could face legal action if he refuses to meet constituents who wear burkas or niqabs, which hide their faces.

Lawyers for pressure group Liberty have written to Philip Hollobone stating the Equality Act obliges him to avoid discrimination.

The Kettering MP said he needed to meet voters face-to-face.

He added he would invite those who did not remove their veil to communicate in a different way, such as by letter.

Mr Hollobone was unavailable for comment when the BBC attempted to contact him.

He is trying to bring in a Private Member’s Bill to ban women wearing the burka or niqab in public.

A similar bill was overwhelmingly approved by France’s lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, on 13 July, but it must now be ratified by the upper house, the Senate, in September before it can become law.

Mr Hollobone’s comments have been criticised by Muslim groups, and the idea of a ban has been dismissed by government ministers as “un-British” and unhelpful to women.

Immigration minister Damian Green has said banning the full Islamic veil in public would be “at odds with the UK’s tolerant society”.

Liberty has now offered to represent any woman wishing to make a legal challenge against Mr Hollobone if she is refused a meeting with him because of her veil.

In its letter to Mr Hollobone, Liberty said it “will be happy to represent any of your constituents that you refuse to meet because they are veiled”.

Corinna Ferguson, a legal officer at Liberty, added: “There are a lot of women who wear face veils who feel that it is to do with their religion.

“Of course there are going to be arguments about whether or not it is strictly required by the tenets of Islam, but if individuals feel that it’s an important part of their religion then interferences with that must only take place where it’s strictly necessary.”

She added: “And I think there’s a broader point here; in other European countries they might take a different view, but in Britain generally we don’t punish people for the way that they dress.”


Mr Hollobone is not the first UK MP to criticise the wearing of burkas or niqabs.

Labour’s former cabinet minister Jack Straw, the MP for Blackburn, said in 2006 that face veils were a “visible statement of separation and of difference” and suggested they could make community relations harder.

He also said he asked Muslim women to reveal their faces in his constituency surgeries because he thought the veils got in the way of effective communication, but stopped short of saying he would refuse to talk to them if they chose not to.

While the French bill to ban the wearing of burkas and niqabs is continuing to make its way through France’s parliament, other European countries including Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium have debated regulating the use of face-covering garments.

           — Hat tip: 4symbols[Return to headlines]

UK: Two Girls, Six, ‘Found at Paedophile’s Flat by Friends and Family Before Police Swoop’

Two missing six-year-old girls have been found in the home of a suspected paedophile after a frantic search by friends and family.

The children were tracked down to the flat of Bradley McCloud.

Police arrested the 56-year-old at his home in Kennington, South London, and charged him with abducting both girls and possessing indecent images.

Officers from Scotland Yard’s Serious Crime Directorate are investigating whether the case is linked to a paedophile ring operating here and abroad.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Work Experience at the Foreign Office? Not if You’re a Middle Class White Male

William Hague was last night plunged into a row over new Foreign Office rules which ban white males from gaining work experience at his department.

The Foreign Secretary was challenged to explain why his official work placement schemes specifically ban white, middle-class males from applying for the £367-a-week positions.

Under the tightly-drawn rules, only women, people from ethnic minorities and the disabled are entitled to apply for a chance to work at one of the great offices of state.

The placements give students a head start in the battle to win coveted jobs in the diplomatic service and possibly rise through the ranks to become an ambassador.Only one category of non-minority male applicants stand a chance — those whose families are poor enough to entitle them to qualify for a full student maintenance grant.

The bizarre ‘middle-class male’ ban came to light after Tory MP Dominic Raab was contacted by an irate constituent who tried to obtain work experience at the department.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


‘Belgrade Must Rethink Its Destructive Kosovo Policy’

Thursday’s ruling by the International Court of Justice offered surprising clarity: Kosovo did not break international law when it declared indepedence in 2008. German commentators acknowledge that this is a blow for Serbia, but many see an opportunity for Belgrade to reassess its stance towards Pristina.

The ruling by the International Court of Justice on Thursday didn’t go Serbia’s way. By stating that Kosovo’s unilateral secession in 2008 did not violate international law, the United Nations body has likely cleared the way for even more countries to recognize Europe’s newest state.

While the decision by the court, based in The Hague, is non-binding, it effectively destroyed Belgrade’s efforts to strangle Kosovo’s nationhood at birth. The government in Serbia had sought an opinion on Pristina’s 2008 declaration of independence from the ICJ.

Meanwhile, separatist movements across the globe may take courage from a ruling which seemed to give self-determination as much weight as territorial integrity.

“The court considers that general international law contains no applicable prohibition of declarations of independence,” Judge Hisashi Owada, president of the ICJ, said on Thursday when delivering the non-binding advisory opinion.

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci hailed the decision as a “historic victory,” and Foreign Minister Skender Hyseni, standing outside the court, said: “My message to the government of Serbia is ‘come and talk to us.’“

The response from the Serbs, however, was not conciliatory. Serb Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic told reporters: “We will never recognize the unilateral declaration of Kosovo’s independence.” Serbian hardline nationalists claimed the defeat at The Hague represented a failure of the moderate government in Belgrade’s policy.

EU Urges Serbia and Kosovo to Patch Up Relations

Meanwhile, the European Union urged Serbia and Kosovo to improve their relations in order to increase their chances of EU membership down the road. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said that the bloc was ready to help both sides to hold a dialogue “to promote cooperation, achieve progress on the path to Europe and improve the lives of the people.”

Serbs consider Kosovo to be the cradle of medieval Serbian religion and culture. Belgrade lost control of the province in 1999. After Serbian troops under then leader Slobodan Milosevic caused mass displacement in Kosovo during a bloody war between Serb forces and Albanian separatists, NATO began a massive bombing campaign. After the fighting ceased, Kosovo was then administered by the international community until independence was declared in 2008. The province is 90 percent Albanian, but enclaves of Serbs who refuse to recognize the government in Pristina remain.

On Thursday, the NATO-led peacekeeping force, known as KFOR, increased its presence in the Serb-controlled parts of Kosovo, particularly Mitrovica. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the force would “continue to implement its mandate to maintain a safe and secure environment in an impartial manner throughout Kosovo.”

On Friday, German commentators assess the implications of the ruling and many argue that Serbia should see it as an opportunity to take a more pragmatic approach towards Kosovo…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Hamas Slams UN for Denouncing Flotillas

Hamas harshly criticized the UN on Saturday for an announcement made Friday which denounced the use of flotillas to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, Al Jazeera reported.

On Friday, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky responded to reports that a flotilla of two Lebanese ships was set to sail for Gaza, stating that those who wish to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza should do so by land and not attempt to break Israel’s sea blockade of the territory. Hamas called these statements tantamount to “collaboration with the Israeli occupier.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Terrorist Whose Daughter Was Cured

by Barry Rubin

This is a remarkable story in human terms but there is an extremely important point for understanding the Middle East embedded in it as well.

On June 14, Palestinian terrorists opened fire on a police car travelling on a road, en route from Beersheba to Jerusalem. One policeman, Yeheshua Sofer was killed. Two others were wounded. Sofer was due to be married in three months. It took a month but members of the cell were finally captured. They spoke quite freely about this attack and others they had planned for killing Israelis.

During the interrogation, one of the leaders remarked that only two weeks earlier his six-year-old daughter had been given a free operation in Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem to remove a tumor from her eye. The operation had been paid for by an Israeli organization.

Reading this, I recall a number of similar past instances. In one famous case, the Palestinian who later attacked Israel had been saved from injuries inflicted by another Palestinian in a quarrel. There have also been examples of terrorists playing on the sympathy of Israelis claiming they needed medical attention—especially in one bloody attack on the Gaza-Israel border—not to mention the use of women and children to smuggle weapons or even to carry out suicide attacks.

The Western reader—if he doesn’t go in for some elaborate theory in which somehow Israel is still to blame—might see this and other such cases as examples of human ingratitude, the kind of thing often found in private life. There is also a psychiatric explanation: the person involved is in some way deranged, causing him to behave in an “illogical” manner.

Yet beyond irony and insanity, both falling short of the needed explanation, this kind of situation is important because it challenges the common Western theme of kindness and concession as inevitably leading to moderation and peace. There is another misleading flip side of this view, too: the concept that what seems like inexplicable violence or “fanaticism” is a direct response to ill treatment.

Thus, for those locked into the kindness breeds kindness model (which often does work in personal life), terrorists must be shown to be suffering from poverty or personal suffering (even though statistics show this to be untrue) or understandable outrage at bad treatment (ignoring the possibility of their engaging in alternative behavior, like making a compromise peace or building a democratic society).

Yet the main missing explanation explaining such behavior is ideology and world view…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Taliban Planing ‘Anti-Warlord’ Campaign

Kabul, 23 July(AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — Taliban militants are planning a campaign in eastern Afghanistan to target warlords who are paid “protection” money to allow NATO supplies to pass through their areas, according to tribal sources. Militants distributed pamphlets threatening violence for any cooperation in aiding foreign forces’ supply routes. Militants also told Afghanistan soldiers to stay put in their military compounds.

“We warn the Afghans who facilitate the supplies to the NATO forces and the Afghan national army that from now on such activities would not tolerated and whosoever is found engaged in such activities shall face the music,” said Pushtu language pamphlets distributed in the Paktia and Paktika provinces in Afghanistan’s east on Thursday.

“We also warn the Afghan National Army to sit tight in their posts otherwise, they would be targeted.”

In Paktia money is paid to warlord Badshah Khan Zadran whose militia provides armed protection to the NATO supplies coming from Kabul to NATO bases in area. Zakeem Khan, a warlord in Paktika province, who is paid to provide a similar service.

Safe-passage payments to warlords, and even the Taliban, have come underfire. Reports said that the money has encouraged corruption and even pays for arms that will be used against NATO and Afghan forces.

A mix of tribal dynamics and local politics have kept fighting between Afghan and Taliban forces in some provinces in the country’s east at bay.

Now the Taliban are regrouping in the Khost, Paktia and Paktika provinces and are carrying out attacks on NATO. To keep their momentum from breaking, the Taliban are demanding warlords’ loyalty, or subservience.

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

Afghanistan: Taliban Captures 2 Americans Near Kabul

KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban militants captured two American service members who were driving a civilian vehicle in a particularly dangerous region of Logar Province south of Kabul on Friday, according to officials and local residents.

The capture prompted a wide manhunt by the American military, including searches by military helicopters and radio broadcasts of a $20,000 reward for information leading to the Americans’ return.

Local officials in Logar began receiving unconfirmed reports late Saturday afternoon that one of the two Americans may have been killed, and that the other one was still alive, said Din Mohammed Darwish, the spokesman for the Logar provincial governor. A NATO official said he did not know whether that was true.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Afghan War Version of Pentagon Papers Released

WikiLeaks has released a document set called the Afghan War Diary (AWD), an extraordinary compendium of over 91,000 reports covering the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2010. The reports, while written by soldiers and intelligence officers mainly describing lethal military actions involving the United States military, also include intelligence information, reports of meetings with political figures, and related detail. […]

[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Calls for Christian Minister Bhatti to Resign

Minister condemned last Monday’s murder of two Christian brothers. Islamic cleric says killing someone accused of blasphemy is justified, demands Bhatti resign because he criticised the misuse of the blasphemy law. Meanwhile, police is investigating the double murder and might have a first name.

Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Muslim groups insist that the murder of two Christian brothers, Emmanuel and Sajid Rashid, gunned down in Faisalabad last Monday after they were accused of blasphemy, was justified. They also want Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, to resign because he condemned the murder. Meanwhile, police are investigating the crime and might have identified one of the perpetrators.

In a statement that appeared in the Urdu daily Jasarat, Islamic cleric Allama Ahmed Mian Hammadi said, “It is not a cruelty to kill blasphemers; rather blasphemy itself is such an enormous brutality that the one who commits it does not have the right to live in this world. There is no pardon for the blasphemer.”

The two Christian brothers were arrested after being charged with blasphemy, but their trial appeared to be moving towards acquittal for lack of evidence. Nevertheless, handcuffed and without a chance to defend themselves or escape, they were shot dead by masked gunmen just outside of the courthouse.

Bhatti condemned the murder, saying the charges were false, fabricated by someone who had a grudge against the brothers. He said that no one has the right to take the law in their own hands, and that the blasphemy law should be changed to prevent abuses.

For Hammadi, Bhatti ought to resign for saying that the murder was due to an abuse of the blasphemy. In fact, in the cleric’s opinion, the incident was due to the non-implementation of the blasphemy law. “The two brothers were killed after Muslims became angry.”

On top of that, Hammadi said that if Bhatti committed blasphemy [for condemning the murder and criticising the abuse of the blasphemy law] he should be beheaded” as well. The Christians who protested in the streets and allegedly threw stones at Muslim houses after the double murder should also be arrested.

On Thursday, the chief justice of Lahore High Court in Punjab, Khwaja Mohammad Sharif, ordered an investigation into the brothers’ murder, in response to a request by the Government of Punjab.

Media have criticised Faisalabad Regional Police Officer Aftab Ahmad Cheema for the inadequate protection provided to the accused, despite threats.

Police sources indicate that a man called Rana Maqsood, a Muslim, was arrested in connection with the case.

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

Secret Archive Gives Grim View of Afghan War

A six-year archive of classified military documents to be made public on Sunday offers an unvarnished, ground-level picture of the war in Afghanistan that is in many respects more grim than the official portrayal.

The secret documents, to be released by an organization called WikiLeaks, are a daily diary of an American-led force often starved for resources and attention as it struggled against an insurgency that grew larger, better coordinated and more deadly each year.

[Return to headlines]

Far East

China: Uyghur Journalist Gets 15 Years in Prison for Criticising Police and Military

For a court in Urumqi, Hailaite Niyazi endangered state security when in an interview he blamed police for interethnic clashes in July 2009. His one-day trial occurred without the presence of a defence lawyer. “This is an extremely harsh and unjust action on the part of the Chinese court, and a clear violation of rights guaranteed by the Chinese constitution,” said the international director of a human rights group.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Yesterday, a court in Urumqi (Xinjiang) sentenced Hailaite Niyazi, an ethnic Uyghur journalist, to 15 years in prison for endangering state security, Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), a Hong Kong-based human rights association, reported.

Niyazi has been held since 1 October 2009 after he gave an interview to a Hong Kong weekly in which he blamed Chinese police and military for clashes between ethnic Uyghurs and Han Chinese in July 2009. His trial lasted a day, reportedly without a defence lawyer present.

“The idea that Niyazi’s interview somehow ‘endangered’ state security and warranted 15 years in prison is incomprehensible,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’s International Director. “This is an extremely harsh and unjust action on the part of the Chinese court, and a clear violation of rights guaranteed by the Chinese constitution.”

The predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang is one of China’s most troublesome areas. Indigenous Muslim Uyghurs complain that the central government is engaged in a virtual policy of colonisation at their expense, openly discriminating against them in favour of ethnic Han Chinese who benefit from government economic and social policies.

The situation boiled over in July 2009 when violent clashes broke out between the two groups in the regional capital of Urumqi, with more than 200 dead and 1,700 injured.

Even now, the total number of people arrested or detained remains unknown. According to the Uyghur resistance, the number runs in the tens of thousands.

When the first anniversary came on 5 July, Chinese authorities placed the capital under a tight security blanket. This included putting in place more than 40,000 cameras in public buses, stations, 4,000 roads, 270 schools and 100 supermarkets.

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

Discovered: The Biggest Rat That Ever Lived

Watch out Heathcliff, there’s a rat out there bigger than you. Or at least there was. Just a couple thousand years ago, the world’s largest rat, weighing more than the average house cat, scuttled about what is now East Timor of Southeast Asia.

The skeletal remains of the robust rodent were found in a cave, researchers announced today. The excavations also turned up 13 other species of rodents, 11 of which are new to science, with eight of the rats estimated to have weighed more than 2 pounds (1 kg).

When alive, the giant of the bunch weighed some 13.2 pounds (6 kilograms). For comparison, a house rat weighs on average 5 ounces (150 grams). Today’s heftiest rats weigh around 4.4 pounds (2 kg) and live in rain forests in the Philippines and New Guinea.

Carbon dating suggests the animal lived up until 1,000 to 2,000 years ago, along with most of the other Timorese rodents found during the excavations. Only one of the smaller species found is known to survive on Timor today, the researchers say.

“People have lived on the island of Timor for over 40,000 years and hunted and ate rats throughout this period, yet extinctions did not occur until quite recently,” said study researcher Ken Aplin of CSIRO, adding that the arrival of humans to an area doesn’t necessarily have to equate with extinctions. (CSIRO is the national government body for scientific research in Australia.)

“Large-scale clearing of forest for agriculture probably caused the extinctions, and this may have only been possible following the introduction of metal tools,” Aplin said.

East Indonesia is a hotspot for rat evolution, Aplin said. In fact, each of the islands of eastern Indonesia evolved it own unique rat species. Aplin also has found six new rat species in a cave on the island of Flores.

Though most of Timor today is arid, it was once covered by lush rain forests. Even so, Aplin doesn’t rule out finding other “new” creatures today.

“Although less than 15 percent of Timor’s original forest cover remains, parts of the island are still heavily forested, so who knows what might be out there?” Aplin said.

Aplin and Kris Helgen of the Smithsonian Institution detail their findings this week in the Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Index of Corruption in China is Having a Mistress and Not the Use of Public Funds

Beijing sets new standards of personal morality to curb rampant corruption. Those who do not have good relations with their wives, children and neighbourhood preclude themselves from a career. He Bing, professor: “It would better monitor the use of public funds and tax returns”.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) — For a career in the district of Shuyang, Jiangsu Province, government officials must be on good terms with parents, children, neighbourhood and must not cheat on their wives.

These new standards of morality imposed by the Communist Party of China (CPC) on 96 members of local government and officials of the CPC, Shuyang District. Their personal morality is established through interviews, home visits and investigations by the police. Signs of “moral corruption” will be reported as points of demerit in biennial assessments of their performance, compromising their career.

According to the CPC Central Commission for Disciplinary Control statistics, in 95% of major corruption cases, offenders have extramarital affairs. “These rules are needed,” said Tian Xianfeng, Shuyang police chief. ‘If we find signs of corruption in routine checks, we can intervene and solve them earlier. “

However, not everyone agrees. According to He Bing, a professor of law and political science at the University of China, the new rules are unnecessary, “ how can love affairs be disclosed in a routine check? There is a strong risk of privacy violations. To fight corruption greater efforts are needed to verify the use of public funds and put strict requirements for submitting tax returns”.

Tian Xiangbo, a member of the Research Centre for a transparent government of Hunan University, believes the new measure is right: “ The limits of officials’ privacy should not be the same as that of ordinary people. Officials are obliged to disclose some of their personal affairs for the sake of the public interest “ Even Xiangbo, however, advances doubts that a successful marriage is a good indicator of professional competence.

On 11 July, the General Office of CPC Central Committee has called on all Chinese officials to give information about their marriage relationship and the property owned by the whole family. According to an interview published by Xinhua with an anti-corruption official who preferred anonymity, the party has not clarified what information should be detailed.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Kenya: Obama Told U.S. Envoy to Back Draft

Nairobi — President Barack Obama instructed his ambassador Michael Ranneberger to support the referendum process so that the proposed constitution is passed on August 4.

Obama wants the new constitution passed because it is one of the key reforms under the Agenda Four package that the coalition government agreed to implement when it came to power. Other key reforms were land reform, the creation of a new electoral commission, the establishment of new electoral boundaries and the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission.

“What I have been saying has been sanctioned by President Obama,” said Ranneberger told the Star yesterday on the phone.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Now ‘Cannibal’ Dictator Who Set Simon Mann Free Bids to Join Commonwealth

The Central African dictator who freed Simon Mann, the Old Etonian mastermind of the ‘Dogs of War’ coup, will use his dramatic gesture as a key bargaining tool as he seeks admission to the Commonwealth.

Equatorial Guinea’s president, Teodoro Obiang, will submit evidence of his ‘civilised’ treatment of the mercenary to the organisation in an attempt to prove that his state meets its membership criteria, which includes respect for human rights.

Mann was arrested in 2004 after he and his co-conspirators, who allegedly included Sir Mark Thatcher, hatched a scheme to assassinate Obiang and seize control of his country’s vast oil reserves in a plot reminiscent of the Frederick Forsyth novel, The Dogs Of War.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Student Visas Surge Under ‘Shambolic’ Points System

Holes in Labour’s disastrous points-based immigration system led to huge increases in the numbers of student visas handed out, startling figures revealed last night.

The system was heralded as a crackdown on the number of migrants allowed into the UK, but the number of visas issued to some countries increased more than six-fold.

Less than a year after it was brought in, ministers were forced to suspend applications from several countries, including Bangladesh and Nepal, because they were being used by economic migrants posing as students.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the MigrationWatch UK think-tank, said the revelations showed the points based system was ‘a shambles’.

The scale of the problems affecting the points system was never revealed in full before the General Election.

However, figures released by the UK Border Agency under the Freedom of Information Act showed that the number of visas issued in Bangladesh increased by 745 per cent — rising from 448 in January 2009 to 3,339 in January of the following year.

There was also evidence loopholes were being deliberately exploited — as applications shot up from 919 to 4,829 over the same period.

Over ten months the total number of visas handed out to Bangladeshis rose six-fold from 3,380 to 21,226.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Italy: Pope’s Diocese Urges Gay Priests to ‘Come Out’

Rome, 23 July (AKI) — The Vicar of Rome on Friday urged closeted homosexual priests to “come out “ and renounce the cloth. The Vicar of Rome was responding to an article in Italian weekly Panaroma which claims to have documented the homosexual lives of priests in Rome.

The article said many priests are leading double lives.

“We don’t wish them harm but we can’t accept that their behaviour slings mud on the honour of others,” the statement said

The Vicar of Rome is the office that governs the Rome diocese in the name of the pope.

“No one is forcing them to stay in the priesthood to exploit the benefits,” said the statement. “If they are coherent, they should come out into the open.”

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

Liberal Journalists Suggest Government Shut Down Fox News

If you were in the presence of a man having a heart attack, how would you respond? As he clutched his chest in desperation and pain, would you call 911? Would you try to save him from dying? Of course you would.

But if that man was Rush Limbaugh, and you were Sarah Spitz, a producer for National Public Radio (update: Spitz was a producer for NPR affiliate KCRW for the show Left, Right & Center), that isn’t what you’d do at all.

In a post to the list-serv Journolist, an online meeting place for liberal journalists, Spitz wrote that she would “Laugh loudly like a maniac and watch his eyes bug out” as Limbaugh writhed in torment.

In boasting that she would gleefully watch a man die in front of her eyes, Spitz seemed to shock even herself. “I never knew I had this much hate in me,” she wrote. “But he deserves it.”

Spitz’s hatred for Limbaugh seems intemperate, even imbalanced. On Journolist, where conservatives are regarded not as opponents but as enemies, it barely raised an eyebrow.

In the summer of 2009, agitated citizens from across the country flocked to town hall meetings to berate lawmakers who had declared support for President Obama’s health care bill. For most people, the protests seemed like an exercise in participatory democracy, rowdy as some of them became.

On Journolist, the question was whether the protestors were garden-variety fascists or actual Nazis.

“You know, at the risk of violating Godwin’s law, is anyone starting to see parallels here between the teabaggers and their tactics and the rise of the Brownshirts?” asked Bloomberg’s Ryan Donmoyer. “Esp. Now that it’s getting violent? Reminds me of the Beer Hall fracases of the 1920s.”


Hat Tip:Beltway Blips

[Return to headlines]

Racism and the Never-Ending Storm

Actually, it’s not so surprising that more folks aren’t aware of the depraved nature of the Far Left They are extremely clever, in a reptilian way, and have been very successful at hiding their screwups, or (and this is one of their favorite ploys) blaming them on conservatives.

I think of the Far Left as being like an ever-present, never-ending storm. Wherever they go, they bring strum und drang; wrack and ruin. A “hard rain” indeed. (Video 1) and (Video 2)

There are so many areas of life, culture, and society, that the Marxist/Fascists have damaged or ruined, that it’s hard to know where to begin. Because the issue of race has been in the news lately, why don’t we start there. Klu Klux Klan was revived, and given its virulent racism by the left-wing

Would it surprise you to learn that the Klu Klux Klan was revived, and given its virulent racism by the left-wing? Are you aware that Progressive icon, Margaret Sanger, was a closet racist, and that the Planned Parenthood organization that she started, was conceived of as a vehicle for racial genocide against blacks?

Seeing as how the Left is so fond of calling conservatives racists, let’s take a look at those two topics, and a few others. We’ll see who has been chiefly responsible for keeping blacks “on the plantation.” You might be surprised at what we find.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]