Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100806

Financial Crisis
»Retailers Try to Interpret Shoppers’ Mixed Signals From July
»Al-Qaida Warns Muslims: Time to Get Out of U.S.
»Judge: No Reunion Between Ohio Convert and Parents
»New Al Qaeda Leader Lived 15 Years in U.S
»Terrorism Under the Guise of a University?
»The Grinch Who Stole Conservatism
Europe and the EU
»Czech Politicians Mourn Anti-Communist Fighter
»Death to Belgium!
»Italy: Berlusconi Withdraws Confidence in Fini
»Passport Loophole Allows 5 Million to Come to UK
»Romanian President Praises Countrymen for Doing British Jobs in Attack on ‘Lazy Westerners’
»Spain: Government Funds 2.2 Mln to Open Mass Graves
»UK: ‘Innocent’ Student Extradited to Greek Prison Hell Under EU Arrest Warrant
»UK: Besmirching of a Giant: How Meryl Streep’s ‘Maggie’ Plumbs New Depths by Portraying Her as Destroyed by Dementia and Guilt About Her Record
»UK: Our Dangerous Dalliance With Radical Islam
»UK: Police Officer Accidentally Shot Schoolgirl, 14, With a Taser After Missing Intended Target
»UK: Police Officers ‘Smashed OAP [Old Age Pensioner] Driver’s Window and Dragged Him Out of Car’ After He Was Stopped for Not Wearing Seatbelt
»UK: Passport Giveaway Opens UK Back Door: 2m More Hungarians Will Have Right to Work Here
»UK: Shamed Police Chief Ali Dizaei Sues Over Brawl With ‘Racist’ Cellmate
»Xenophobia: Casting Out the UN-French
»Croatia and Serbia Celebrate and Mourn a Rebellion
North Africa
»Egypt: Conversion Wars
Israel and the Palestinians
»Cinema Jenin (Wikipedia)
»Cinema Reopened in West Bank Town After 23 Years
»Film Festival Opens in Once-Violent West Bank Town
»Former West Bank Militant Stronghold Gets Cinema
»From Intifada Hub to Model Palestinian City: How Jenin Turned Around
»Gaza: Islamic Jihad and Hamas ‘Exchange Fire’
»Ireland: Mayor Defends Midleton After Facebook Page Links Town to Anti-Semitism
»Israeli Army Fears Kidnapping of Settlers by Hamas
»Palestinian Cinema Opens After 23 Years
»US Cuts Funding for Israeli Defense Systems
»West Bank Culture Boost as Cinema Jenin Rolls Out Red Carpet
Middle East
»Big Love Surfaces in Turkish PM’s Inner Circle
»Caroline Glick: Israel’s Made-in-America Enemies
»Iran: New Holocaust-Denial Cartoon Goes Online
»Lebanon: General Confesses, I Served Israel for 30 Years
South Asia
»Afghanistan: US Tries Lessons of Baghdad in Kandahar
»Afghanistan War: Petraeus Tightens Rules of Engagement
»Cameron’s Pakistan Apology Tour: Prime Minister and Home Secretary Plan Visits to Calm Diplomatic Storm
»Diana West: Eyeless in A-Stan
»Obama Sends Muslim Envoy to India to Bridge Cultural Gap Between the US and Islam
»Pakistan: Floods “Helping the Taliban”
»Pakistan: ‘Shoot-to-Kill Orders’ Given for Karachi Violence
»Two Italian Soldiers Die in Afghanistan
Far East
»Beijing Defends Its Commercial Relations With Tehran
»Chinese Missile Could Shift Pacific Power Balance
Australia — Pacific
»Australia: Islam is an Ideology, Not a Race
»NZ: Man Arrested for Wife Beating Blames Traditional Turkish Dance
»ICE’s Mission Melt: Agents Vote ‘No Confidence’ In Leadership
»Global Warming: Our Mistake, Never Mind

Financial Crisis

Retailers Try to Interpret Shoppers’ Mixed Signals From July

Depending on who you believe, July’s mixed results from major U.S. chain stores could mean that Americans just weren’t yet ready to get serious about back-to-school shopping.

Or they could mean that consumer spending, which picked up in the first half of the year, won’t be matched in the second half.

Analysts do agree that uneven July chain store sales reflect tough price competition and diverging spending trends among upper- and lower-income shoppers.

J.C. Penney Co. missed its July sales forecast. The Plano-based department store chain said Thursday that sales started out strong over the Fourth of July weekend but softened as the month progressed.

“Results continue to show that consumers are very nervous, not necessarily scared, but nervous about whether we are really in a recovery,” said Dean Tarpley, head of the retail industry practice at turnaround management firm Alvarez & Marsal based in Dallas.

That’s not to say Americans aren’t planning to shop for back-to-school. After all, children grow out of clothes and shoes, schools issue supply lists, and backpacks wear out.

“But consumers are pretty smart and know that bargains are coming,” Tarpley said. “Most are waiting until well into August before they start doing their serious shopping.”

Divergent plans

Retail sales growth appears to be leveling off at a modest pace, and intentions between upper- and lower-income shoppers are diverging, said Frank Badillo, senior economist at Kantar Retail.

The research firm’s ongoing shopper spending intentions survey showed that spending plans by upper-income households stabilized in July after sagging in June in the wake of stock market declines.

Dallas-based Neiman Marcus Inc. reported a 12.3 percent increase in comparable July sales on the strength of women’s apparel, designer handbags, shoes and jewelry and a big increase in its Internet business.

However, intentions for middle- and lower-income shoppers deteriorated in July.

Tax-free shopping days in about a dozen states in August, including Texas, shift some spending.

Chain store sales increased 2.8 percent in July from a year ago, below the 3 percent to 4 percent forecast, according to an index of 31 chains compiled by the International Council of Shopping Centers.

The largest U.S. retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., doesn’t report monthly sales.

Target Corp. posted a 2 percent increase in July same-store sales. Apparel sales were strong, but sales of discretionary electronics, video games, music and movies were soft, said CEO Gregg Steinhafel.

Transitional month

July is the end of the fiscal second quarter for most retailers. It serves as both a summer clearance month and a fall merchandise-stocking month.

Amy Noblin, an analyst at Weeden & Co., said she views July as a transitional month, not a predictor of back-to-school sales.

“The bulk of the business last year was done in late August and early September,” Noblin said. “We look for promotional posturing to remain intense in August as companies shift to offense in light of volatile consumer patterns. We think this in part contributed to weaker results from off-price in July.”

Consumers responding to NPD Group Inc. surveys say they are putting off back-to-school shopping, said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst. “More people ‘buying now and wearing now’ is part of the lingering impact of the recession.”

Some consumer fear is reflected in the U.S. household savings rate, which jumped to its highest level in a year in June to 6.4 percent of disposable personal income, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

It’s evidence that “fewer dollars [are] being spent at the nation’s malls, outlets, grocers, and movie theaters,” said Brian Sozzi, equity research analyst at Wall Street Strategies Inc. After spending somewhat freely in the first half, consumers have paused, he said.

Penney was expected to post a 3.4 percent same-store sales increase in July, but instead reported a 0.6 percent decline. The operator of 1,107 department stores said its second-quarter profit will be below analyst expectations.

Shares were down about 8 percent to close at $22.12 Thursday. Penney’s stock price has declined 28 percent over the past 12 months and hit new 52-week lows in recent months.

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


Al-Qaida Warns Muslims: Time to Get Out of U.S.

Afghan terror commander hints at big attack on N.Y., Washington

The new al-Qaida field commander in Afghanistan is calling for Muslims to leave the U.S. — particularly Washington and New York — in anticipation of a major terror attack to rival Sept. 11, according to an interview by a Pakistani journalist.

Abu Dawood told Hamid Mir, a reporter who has covered al-Qaida and met with Osama bin Laden, the attack is being coordinated by Adnan el-Shukrijumah and suggests it may involve some form of weapon of mass destruction smuggled across the Mexican border.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Judge: No Reunion Between Ohio Convert and Parents

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A juvenile court judge in Columbus, Ohio, has granted a runaway Christian convert’s request to declare reunion with her Muslim parents impossible, paving the way for the girl to fight deportation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

New Al Qaeda Leader Lived 15 Years in U.S

A suspected al Qaeda operative who lived for more than 15 years in the U.S. has become chief of the terror network’s global operations, the FBI says, marking the first time a leader so intimately familiar with American society has been placed in charge of planning attacks.

Adnan Shukrijumah, 35, has taken over a position once held by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was captured in 2003, Miami-based FBI counterterrorism agent Brian LeBlanc told the Associated Press in an exclusive interview. That puts him in regular contact with al Qaeda’s senior leadership, including Osama bin Laden, Mr. LeBlanc said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Terrorism Under the Guise of a University?

A university in the United States has recently been the subject of Internet blogs due to the disturbing information it provides on its website.

As reported on Pamela Geller’s blog “Atlas Shrugs” on Sunday, the San Antonio, Texas chapter of the Muslim American Society also runs a university called the Islamic American University, which is one if its main projects. Yet an examination of the university’s website has uncovered the following definition of its goals: “The Islamic American University is an institution for education, training, Da’wa and studies in the fields of Islamic Shari’a, its fundamentals, linguistics, and sciences.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Grinch Who Stole Conservatism

The GOP is frantically searching for the person who will lead them to the Promised Land (translate: White House) in 2012.


That brings me to one of the people that the talking heads at Fox News and other GOP propaganda centers are routinely discussing as their 2012 Presidential hopeful: former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.


Newt’s track record is there for anyone to see. So, why does Fox News continue to promote him as a leader of smaller government or constitutionalism? Does Fox News even have a clue as to what limited government really means? Apparently not.

Remember, Newt Gingrich is a long-standing member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which is a notorious proponent of globalism and archenemy of national independence, State sovereignty, and limited government. Does anyone at Fox News recall what Admiral Chester Ward said about the CFR? (Plus, how many of the Big Shots at Fox News are themselves members of the CFR?)

Accordingly, as a loyal CFR elitist, Gingrich has supported Big Government programs and policies all of his political life. Gingrich is also an ardent disciple of Alvin Toffler, who is the guru of “The Third Wave” politics. That’s why Gingrich refers to himself as a “conservative futurist.”

Webster’s (1992) Dictionary defines “Futurism” as: “Study of, and interest in, forecasting or anticipating the future, or theorizing on how to IMPOSE CONTROLS ON EVENTS.” (Emphasis added.)

Steve Farrell rightly notes that “futurism is a head-in-the-clouds political philosophy, complete with theories and forecasts, which envisions the use of force to insure that those theories and forecasts come to pass.” Farrell summarizes “conservative futurism” as “communism with economic vision.”


Gingrich supported spending $30 billion for the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 that shackled gun owners with new restrictions, federalized a number of crimes, and handed the feds police powers that the Constitution reserves to the states. (I guess the NRA forgot all about that, too.)

Gingrich voted to give billions of dollars to United Nations “peacekeeping” operations; he supported the National Endowment for the Arts; he supports giving illegal aliens amnesty; and he has continually supported increased federal spending and higher taxes.

Campaign for Liberty has an excellent exposé on Newt Gingrich that I encourage everyone to read. See it here.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Czech Politicians Mourn Anti-Communist Fighter

PRAGUE — Top Czech politicians on Wednesday attended the funeral of controversial anti-communist fighter Milan Paumer despite strong criticism from the Communist Party, which brands him a murderer.

Prime Minister Petr Necas, Foreign Minister Karel Scharzenberg and Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra, together with other government members and the speakers of both houses, attended Paumer’s funeral in the town of Podebrady, 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of Prague.

Paumer died July 22 in Prague at age 79.

In a brief speech to hundreds at a farewell ceremony, Necas said Paumer was a brave man who was fighting to “free our country from a totalitarian dictatorship.”

The Czechs are divided over Paumer. While some consider him an anti-communist hero, for others he is a murderer.

The former Czechoslovakia was ruled by the Communists from 1948 until the Velvet Revolution of 1989.

Paumer and brothers Ctirad and Josef Masin were part of a resistance cell that was active for several years, focusing on acts of sabotage aimed at harming the communist regime. They killed two policemen while trying to capture arms in a police station, and a cashier during a robbery to raise funds for their operations.

In 1953 they fled to the West, killing three police officers in East Germany during the epic escape as tens of thousands of police searched for them. Two other members of the cell were captured, sentenced to death and executed.

The three later settled in the United States and served in the U.S. army.

Communist Party spokeswoman Vera Karasova said Necas’ attendance at the funeral was “weird and insensitive.”

“I’d like to know what the relatives of those they murdered have to say about that,” she said.

Czech media reported that dozens of posters were put up in Podebrady, with Paumer’s photograph and the words “A murderer remains a murderer.”

Paumer returned to his homeland in 2001, but the Masin brothers have refused to come home and did not attend his funeral. They claim the country is not free yet because the Communists still have lawmakers in Parliament.

Although Parliament’s upper house, the Senate, repeatedly proposed that Paumer be awarded a state decoration for his fight against communism, he never received one.

Following the funeral, Necas said his government will propose legislation to honor those who were fighting against communism.

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

Death to Belgium!

I mean, what has it done for the Flemish or the Walloons lately?

By Morgan Meis

A war has been brewing in Europe and no one seems to care. Admittedly, the hostilities have been mild so far: hurt feelings, insults, diplomatic wrangling. Yves Leterme (a Flemish politician) questioned whether people in the French-speaking part of Belgium have the “intellectual capacity” to learn Dutch. Belgium, Leterme suspects, holds together as a nation only because of three things: “king, national football team and certain beers.” Not even all the beers.

Belgium is not the most obvious candidate for a unified state. It is, and arguably always has been, deeply and fundamentally divided between the French-speaking southern half of the country (Wallonia) and the Dutch-speaking northern half of the country (Flanders). The separation runs back to the Frankish invasions of the area back around the fifth century, which is a pretty longstanding divide even by European standards. Speaking of that era, Belgian historian Emile Cammearts wrote:

The Franks settled in the north, the Romanized Celts or “Walas” occupied the south. The first are the ancestors of the Flemings of today, the second of the Walloons, and the limit of languages between the two sections of the population has remained the same. It runs today where it ran 14 centuries ago, from the south of Ypres to Brussels and Maestricht, dividing Belgium almost evenly into two populations belonging to two separate races and speaking two different languages.

I can personally attest to the lack of Belgian national sympathies among many Belgians. The Belgian National Holiday on July 21 just passed by with little fanfare in Antwerp, where I have been living. It seemed largely an excuse to take a day off. This is in contrast to the holiday of Flemish pride on July 11, which was greeted with rock-and-roll performances in the city’s main square and general merriment in the streets. The holiday celebrates a 1302 battle, the Battle of the Golden Spurs, in which a bunch of proto-Belgian Flemish militiamen lured a group of French knights into a swamp and cut them to pieces. They kept the golden spurs of the French as trophies. The French knights were there in the first place because the citizens of Bruges had summarily executed everyone in the city who spoke French.

It does not help that the political unity of Belgium has ever been a slapdash affair. Stuck between French and Germanic empires (and a few others besides), the Belgians had a hard time of it throughout most of the last two millennia. The Belgian Revolution of 1830 led, finally, to the establishment of an independent Belgium dominated neither by the Dutch to the North nor the French to the South. It was basically a buffer state. But that did nothing to address the internal divisions. Belgium was little more than an alliance of French speakers who weren’t French and Dutch speakers who weren’t Dutch. Separatist parties on both the Walloon and Flemish sides have existed ever since.

It can be difficult, in Belgium, to find anyone who simply identifies as Belgian without immediately qualifying that Belgianness with other linguistic or geographical markers. That’s not to say people do not try. I’ve spoken to many people in both the North and the South who want to believe in Belgium. They are understandably annoyed with the rhetoric of division and the finger pointing that goes back and forth between Flemish and Wallonian Belgium. But asked to define that greater Belgian identity, they are often at a loss. They end up retreating back to language, region, city.

In Flanders alone one can detect the barely concealed contempt of a Gentenaar (resident of Ghent) when speaking about the daily behavior of an Antwerpenaar (resident of Antwerp) just a few miles to the east. Don’t even get the Bruggenaars (from Bruges) started on the Gentenaars and the Antwerpenaars. Belgium, in short, is a seething cauldron of division and resentment masquerading as a pleasant and polite society in Northern Europe. After the Flemish Nationalist party (N-VA) made a big showing in recent elections, Lieven de Winter, professor of politics at the Université Catholique de Louvain, has been quoted as saying, “We are close to the abyss.” Is all hell about to break loose in Belgium? And if Belgium cannot hold it together, what hope is there for the rest of us?…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Withdraws Confidence in Fini

Political censure for co-founder of People of Freedom (PDL) and his supporters Premier denies government at risk

ROME — It looks very much like a split. All that’s missing is Gianfranco Fini’s expulsion or referral to the PDL’s disciplinary committee but the break-up of the party’s two founders became final with the statement released by the PDL president’s office, which refers three parliamentarians, Italo Bocchino, Carmelo Briguglio and Fabio Granata, to the party’s disciplinary committee. There were 33 votes in favour and three against from Fini supporters Anrea Ronchi, Adolfo Urso and Pasquale Viespoli.

NO WAY BACK — “We no longer have confidence in the guarantor role of the leader of the Chamber of Deputies. Never before has the third-highest office of state taken on a political role” making “outright opposition, criticisms along the lines of the Left and with a territory-based organisational structure. We all agreed that the PDL could not pay the excessive price of appearing to be a divided party”, said Silvio Berlusconi at the media briefing that followed in the PDL president’s office. “Dissent was expressed by Fini and his associates with regard to the government, the majority and the prime minister. I never responded, in fact I denied the words that were attributed to me. Our behaviour has been responsible, in view of the times of crisis we are going though”, Mr Berlusconi went on. “We strove in every way to mend the rift with Fini, but it was not to be. I am no longer willing to accept dissent, a party within the party”.

GUARANTOR’S ROLE — The statement approved by a majority says the “the only short period during which Fini laid claim in practice to impartiality was during the campaign for the regional elections, in order to justify his failure to support the PDL’s candidates”. The statement continues: “What is at issue here is not the possibility of expressing dissent in a democratic party, a possibility that has never been restricted in the slightest or rendered impossible”, however “Fini’s positions have manifested themselves not as legitimate dissent but in the form of incessant nit-picking and objections to the government’s programme, as destructive criticism of decisions taken by the party”.

VIESPOLI “POLITICAL MISTAKE” — “The document approved by the PDL president’s office is a political mistake”, said Pasquale Viespoli, who said youth minister Giorgia Meloni had proposed postponing the vote on the document, a proposal that was rejected.

THE FUTURE — Mr Berlusconi was asked whether the PDL majority would be tabling a motion of no-confidence in Mr Fini in the Chamber of Deputies. The PDL leader replied: “Let members of parliament be the ones to take initiatives on that”.

“GOVERNMENT SOLID” — Whatever the case, the government is not at risk, according to Mr Berlusconi. “The majority is solid, the government is not at risk”. A decision on whether Mr Fini’s supporters should stay in the government will be taken by the executive but, the prime minister added, “I have no difficulty in continuing to collaborate with valid members of the government”.

COURT ACTION — The expulsion option was dropped when it became clear that Mr Fini would take action in the civil courts on the basis of article 700 of the civil procedure code, an option the leader of the Chamber of Deputies mentioned to some of his collaborators. Such a move would have put the PDL in the hands of the magistracy and the former AN leader would have been able to ask the presiding magistrates for the immediate reinstatement of suspended party members. A PDL source in parliament commented: “He would have had a very good chance of success”. Court action of this kind would have had a devastating impact on the party. “An appeal would further tarnish the party’s image”, said a Berlusconi supporter in the Chamber of Deputies.

TRUCE TURNED DOWN — The decision by the PDL president’s office came at the end of a sleepless, tension-filled Wednesday night and a face-to-face session, at which Il Foglio’s editor Giuliano Ferrara was also present, during which Mr Berlusconi explained that Mr Fini’s offer of a truce (“let’s start again from scratch and honour our pledge to the Italians”, proposed in an interview in Il Foglio) had come too late.

FINI SUPPORTERS ORGANISE — Mr Fini’s supporters have not been idle. They are organising independent groups in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, and they have the numbers to do so in both chambers. An official announcement of the split is likely to be made today (Friday).

English translation by Giles Watson


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

Passport Loophole Allows 5 Million to Come to UK

Five million new EU citizens could come to Britain thanks to a passport loophole, it has been claimed

AS many as five million new EU citizens could soon be created with full rights to come to Britain — thanks to a passport loophole being operated by three member states, it was claimed yesterday. Passport giveaways by Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary to people who live outside their borders but have ethnic links will dramatically swell Europe’s population.

The new EU citizens could include people from some of the Continent’s poorest regions. Gaining passports gives them the right to travel, work and settle in the EU countries, including Britain.

“The EU has an extremely leaky border,” Conservative MP Philip Hollobone warned.

“Not only is it being breached on a daily basis by illegal immigrants but we now have a potential wave of legal immigration from outside the EU into EU countries.” He added:

“Once they have crossed the EU border, Britain is a destination of choice.”

Hungary, whose citizens have full rights to work in Britain, has been forecast to grant as many as 500,000 passports to ethnic Hungarians living outside its borders, including in Ukraine and Serbia, from January next year.

Romania and Bulgaria, which joined the EU in 2007, are already handing out passports to groups of minorities outside their borders.

No firm figures are available for the total number of people who could apply for passports or who could decide to travel as far as countries such as the UK. But research puts the potential number who stand to benefit at around 4.7 million.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Romanian President Praises Countrymen for Doing British Jobs in Attack on ‘Lazy Westerners’

The president of Romania has publicly thanked the tens of thousands of his countrymen who do jobs in Britain instead of claiming benefits back home.

In an extraordinary TV broadcast, Traian Basescu paid tribute to the two million Romanians who live and work abroad instead of claiming benefits at home.

‘Imagine if the two million Romanians working in Britain, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, came to ask for unemployment benefits in Romania,’ he said.

‘So to these people we have to thank them for what they are doing for Romania.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Spain: Government Funds 2.2 Mln to Open Mass Graves

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, AUGUST 5 — The government has funded 5.78 million euros for 189 project that are linked to historic memory, including 28 projects that regard the opening of mass graves which will receive 2.2 million, after the 1.1 million allocated in 2009. The daily Public reports today that the government will not take the initiative to exhume the more than 100,000 victims of the Civil War which are estimated to be still buried in mass graves. The associations for the recovery of historic memory have repeatedly asked for these victims to be exhumed. These associations, with the help of volunteers, will have to look for the people who are still missing, on request of their relatives or descendents. The allocated funds had been asked for in an amendment to the Financial Act in an agreement between the socialist government and Isquierda Unida. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Innocent’ Student Extradited to Greek Prison Hell Under EU Arrest Warrant

A student and four of his friends are facing years in a Greek prison after a holiday turned into a nightmare.

Ben Herdman, 20, was due to start his final year studying business at Brighton University soon. Instead he and his friends were extradited this week, accused of attacking a man outside a nightclub in Crete two years ago and leaving him in a coma.

They were flown to Athens yesterday. Lawyers for the five claim the case against them is ‘ridiculously weak’, but they were powerless to prevent the extradition as the Greek authorities used the controversial European Arrest Warrant to force them to stand trial.

They are likely to spend up to 18 months in a squalid Greek prison until their case is heard, and face ten-year sentences if found guilty.

Last night the mother of one of the young men warned: ‘Parents, be very afraid — this summer it could be your sons wrongly accused yet you’ll be powerless to stop their extradition and immediate detention.’

Mr Herdman — whose Brighton University tutors describe him as ‘an exceptional student’ with a ‘charming and engaging personality’ — claims he was more than 100 yards away when the attack happened in Malia in June 2008.


His mother Vanessa said: ‘How many more young innocent British lads like George will be banged up across Europe before the Government shows some mettle and gets to grips with the failings of the European Arrest Warrant?

‘Parents, be very afraid — this summer it could be your sons wrongly accused yet you’ll be powerless to stop their extradition and immediate detention.

‘When did this country become so feeble in failing to stand up for the rights of its own?’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Besmirching of a Giant: How Meryl Streep’s ‘Maggie’ Plumbs New Depths by Portraying Her as Destroyed by Dementia and Guilt About Her Record

The cameras have not even started rolling on a new film being made about Margaret Thatcher’s life in which she is expected to be played by Meryl Streep, but already the project has been tainted by controversy over the negative way it intends to portray the former Prime Minister.

On first hearing about the production last month, a member of Lady Thatcher’s family, who wishes to remain anonymous, said they were ‘appalled’ to learn that she will be depicted as a dementia sufferer looking back on her career with regret.

Describing the film as a ‘Left-wing fantasy’ designed to cast doubt on her political legacy, her relatives and supporters are once again having to accept that, where the world’s best-known female politician of the 20th century is concerned, art rarely reflects life.

But just how distasteful this film, provisionally titled The Iron Lady, is became clear after I secured access to the closely-guarded script, written by playwright Abi Morgan and seen by only a handful of people in the film industry.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Our Dangerous Dalliance With Radical Islam

Whitehall’s support only puts us at greater risk from the religious revolutionaries, says Andrew Gilligan.

Over the past 10 days, like a submarine just below the surface, the outline has become visible of a massive Whitehall row, the outcome of which could be almost as important to our country as fixing the deficit. The argument is about the influence that Islamism should have in the British state. Islamism should never, by the way, be confused with Islam. Islam is a religion, practised by millions of British citizens who have never sought to overthrow anything in their lives. Islamism is a revolutionary political doctrine, supported by a small minority of Muslims, whose aim is to overthrow secular democratic government and replace it with Islamic government.

In the words of Syed Mawdudi, its founder: “Wherever you are, in whichever country you live, you must strive to change the wrong basis of government, and seize all powers to rule and make laws from those who do not fear God.” Our new ministers appear to be moving towards a clear and obvious policy, of no official support for Islamism. But they face surprising resistance from the people supposed to carry out their wishes: the Civil Service.

There are, in Whitehall, a number of senior officials and paid ministerial advisers who are sympathisers of Islamism. One of them, Mohammed Abdul Aziz, is an honorary trustee of one of Britain’s most important Islamist-controlled institutions, the East London Mosque. Mr Aziz wrote a paper — leaked to this newspaper — saying that the new administration should build closer ties with the East London Mosque. He recommended that ministers should consider appearing in public with Islamist organisations which promote “a message of divisiveness, expressing intolerance towards other communities in the UK”. He said that officials should even deal privately with some organisations which may support “violent extremism in Britain”.

Another leaked paper claimed that extreme Islamist groups such as al-Muhajiroun were not gateways to terrorism, but a “safety valve” for potential terrorists. Last week, a Home Office civil servant, Sabin Khan, was suspended after allegedly criticising the Home Secretary, Theresa May, for her “huge error of judgment” in banning an Islamist preacher, Zakir Naik. Miss Khan’s boss, Charles Farr, was allegedly “gutted and mortified” by the ban, too.

There is no suggestion that these officials are themselves revolutionaries, or that they support violence or terrorism. They believe that reaching out to non-violent Islamists reduces the security threat, and promotes broader community cohesion. This belief is fundamentally naïve and wrong. At least 19 convicted British terrorists have links with al-Muhajiroun. Zakir Naik has said that “every Muslim should be a terrorist”. The East London Mosque, though publicly condemning terrorism, has repeatedly hosted talks by Anwar al-Awlaki, a spiritual leader of al-Qaeda — the most recent of which was advertised with a poster showing New York under bombardment.

Islamism’s greater threat, though, is to community relations. Tomorrow, the East London Mosque is hosting Abdurraheem Green, who has stated that “democracy is antithetical to Islam”. Even non-violent Islamists such as Green, the large majority, teach their followers to suspect, to reject or sometimes to despise the culture of this country — and to hold themselves apart from it. We, the taxpayers, are paying, as I write, for a number of Islamist schools in which a new generation is being raised to be much more radical than its parents. In this case, it is not just wrong in principle for representatives of liberal democracy to treat with those who would destroy it, it is wrong tactically. Revolutionaries cannot be tamed by meetings with ministers, posts on committees or taxpayers’ cash.. They can only be strengthened. Britain’s Islamist groups are largely self-appointed and represent almost no one. Their principal importance is that which has been gifted to them by the British Government.

Fresh from its misjudgments over Iraq, our security establishment has got relations with domestic Islam about as wrong as it could possibly get. We have been harsh where we should have been liberal — on control orders, on detention without charge, on blanket stop-and-search: all measures which alienated middle-ground Muslims, without much anti-terror effect. And we have been liberal where we should have been harsh, tolerating hate preachers and anointing fringe minority radicals as authentic, mainstream voices. That is part of the reason why Britain faces the biggest Islamist threat of any Western country. That is part of the reason why ours is the only Western nation to have come under suicide attack from its own citizens.

The pity of it is that there is a highly successful model for quarantining extremism, sealing it off from respectable society. No civil servant would dream of talking to the BNP, or protesting if one of its speakers was denied an entry visa, or treating it as a legitimate representative of white people. Nobody would even think of funding, say, BNP schools. At the recent elections, the racists were routed. Islamism is the Muslim equivalent of the BNP. Like them, it shouldn’t be banned, or persecuted — just utterly shunned.

Thank God our politicians seem to understand this. And if their officials don’t get it, they should just get out.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Officer Accidentally Shot Schoolgirl, 14, With a Taser After Missing Intended Target

Police have apologised after accidentally shooting a 14-year-old girl with a Taser.

Officers investigating complaints of anti-social behaviour fired the Taser after attempting to arrest a man who had become aggressive towards them.

But the Taser missed the intended target and hit schoolgirl Jodie Gallagher, who was standing nearby, sending a huge electric shock through her.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Officers ‘Smashed OAP [Old Age Pensioner] Driver’s Window and Dragged Him Out of Car’ After He Was Stopped for Not Wearing Seatbelt

For the apprehension of a disabled pensioner, it seemed a little excessive.

A police officer jumped on the bonnet of retired businessman Robert Whatley’s car and kicked the windscreen while another hit the window with his baton 15 times until it smashed.

They then dragged the 70-year-old, who has a heart condition and recently recovered from a stroke, from his £60,000 Range Rover.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Passport Giveaway Opens UK Back Door: 2m More Hungarians Will Have Right to Work Here

Hungary is set to hand passports to millions of people living outside the EU — raising the prospect of a new wave of immigration into Britain.

From next year, Hungary’s leaders will begin a huge passport giveaway to minority groups who have historic or ethnic ties to the East European country but live elsewhere.

Most of the beneficiaries live in impoverished countries on the fringes of Europe. Once they are given a passport, they will be entitled to full access to the rest of the EU — including Britain.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Shamed Police Chief Ali Dizaei Sues Over Brawl With ‘Racist’ Cellmate

Disgraced police chief Ali Dizaei plans to sue the prison service for failing to protect him from a brawl in which he allegedly attacked another cellmate.

The corrupt former Metropolitan Police commander is demanding damages from prison authorities — even though he is being investigated by police for allegedly assaulting another inmate.

The 47-year-old, who is serving a four-year sentence for misconduct in a public office and perverting the course of justice, is accused of lashing out after a family photograph in his cell was apparently defaced by a cellmate.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Xenophobia: Casting Out the UN-French

France has no equivalent to the 14th Amendment, but the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who likes to be known as Sarko the American, also is fanning dangerous anti-immigrant passions for short-term political gain.

Last week, he proposed stripping foreign-born French citizens of their citizenship if they are convicted of threatening the life of a police officer or other serious crimes. Lest any voter miss the point that such a law would be particularly aimed at Muslim immigrants, Mr. Sarkozy’s interior minister, in charge of the police force, helpfully added polygamy and female circumcision to the list of offenses that could bring loss of citizenship.

Days earlier, Mr. Sarkozy promised to destroy the camps of the Roma and send them back to where they came from, mainly Romania and Bulgaria. Both countries are members of the European Union. Hundreds of thousands of their residents, in France legally, now risk being swept up and expelled in police raids.


Now, with his political fortunes at a new low and the National Front resurgent under younger leadership, he has gone further, worrying traditional conservatives who still believe in the rights of man and the equality of all French citizens. They are right to be concerned, and he is recklessly wrong to ignore their cautionary advice.

           — Hat tip: SF[Return to headlines]


Croatia and Serbia Celebrate and Mourn a Rebellion

Zagreb, 4 Aug. (AKI) — Croatia marked the 15th anniversary of the military operation “Storm” on Wednesday, which ended a Serbian rebellion in August 1995, while Serbs commemorated their victims and mass exodus from Croatia.

“We remember with pride the most brilliant victory of the Croatian army over the policy of aggression and occupation,” Croatian prime minister Jadranka Kosor said. Croatia has meanwhile become a member of NATO and was on the doorsteps of joining the European Union, she pointed out.

Some 130,000 Croatian soldiers took part in the operation which defeated the self-proclaimed Republic of Srpska Krajina, created by minority rebel Serbs after the disintegration of Yugoslavia in 1991.

According to Serbian sources, some 250,000 Serbs had fled Croatia and close to two thousands people were killed or listed as missing, including 522 women and 12 children.

“No one can deny that crimes were committed after the operation “Storm”, including the steps to prevent the return of Serbs,” Peter Galbraith, former United States ambassador to Zagreb, told Croatian television.

The UN war crimes tribunal (ICTY) has indicted three Croatian generals, Ante Gotovina, Mladen Markac and Ivan Cermak for crimes allegedly committed in the operation “Storm”.

Meanwhile, Serbs were holding religious rites in Belgrade St. Mark Church on Wednesday, commemorating the victims of the 1995 operation. President Boris Tadic and high-ranking government officials were present.

Relations between the two neighbouring Balkan states have improved, but the stumbling block remains a slow return of refugees. Croatian president Ivo Josipovic said he regretted the victims of the operation “Storm”, but added that the operation itself was legitimate.

Serbian refugee organization “Veritas” has said that only between sixty and eighty thousand Serbs have returned to Croatia in the past fifteen years. It blamed Croatia’s “discriminatory laws” and problems with reclaiming the lost property for the slow return.

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

North Africa

Egypt: Conversion Wars

Crossing Continents encounters converts in Egypt who live in constant fear. We meet ‘Mariam’, a convert to Christianity who is secretly married to a Christian and who lives in hiding as her family have threatened to kill her. She is now pregnant, and says that she will never be allowed to officially marry her husband and that her child will have to be raised without official papers.

But there is also a group of Christian TV channels, mostly based in the USA and run by converts, who are targeting the region’s Muslims. The programme gains rare access to one of these channels, where they discover converts using shocking language to attack Islam. The largest of these channels, called Al-Hayat, claims to have millions of viewers in the Arab World. Its most prominent preacher, Father Zakaria Boutros, is famous for his incendiary attacks on Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. Father Boutros lives in hiding after receiving numerous death threats. He has inspired a new generation of preachers who are deliberately attacking Islam as a method to convert Muslims to Christianity. His brand of ‘shock’ preaching has spread across the airwaves and the internet.

We track down the Al-Hayat channel to the USA, and find that it is a ‘vital partner’ of one the USA’s most prominent TV evangelists. Joyce Meyer Ministries (JMM) receives tens of millions of dollars a year in donations, and much of it is spent on ‘Christian outreach.’ While JMM deny any editorial control over the station, the BBC finds they helped to launch it and they buy airtime. A spokesman for JMM eventually sends an email saying that Father Boutros will no longer be hosting a show on Al Hayat.

The programme is written and reported by Omar Abdel-Razak of the BBC Arabic Service and narrated by Hugh Levinson.

           — Hat tip: Henrik[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Cinema Jenin (Wikipedia)

Cinema Jenin is an international effort working to reopen a cinema in the Palestinian city of Jenin, located in the West Bank. Closed since the outbreak of the First Intifada, Cinema Jenin is being rehabilitated to encourage a culture of cinema-going for the inhabitants of Jenin and its refugee camp by showing films of various genres, including fiction films, documentaries, comedies, children’s films, Arabic classics and contemporary movies. The building which will house Cinema Jenin is located in the heart of the city, next to the old church, the market (suq) and the main transportation routes. The old cinema has 250 seats on the first floor and another 200 on a balcony. Local professionals and youth from the refugee camp are working to restore the chairs, paint the walls, renew the toilets, repair the roof, and fix the air conditioning and the electrical system. The cinema projection, the light and the sound systems will be installed and supervised by two German production companies, guaranteeing high quality digital cinematic standards…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Cinema Reopened in West Bank Town After 23 Years

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) reopened on Thursday a cinema house in the West Bank city of Jenin. The cinema, funded by Germany, was reopened after 23 years of closure with a film festival that will show documentaries on the Palestinian cause. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and the well-known German film-maker Marcus Vetter attended the opening ceremony.

“This event reveals the strong desire of the Palestinian people to live,” Fayyad said in a speech during the ceremony. “We will struggle to build our institutions of our future Palestinian state. “ He also said that the opening of the cinema proves that the time of disorder that was about to undermine the national Palestinian project has ended once and forever. The PNA started recently a campaign to reopen cultural centers, theaters and cinemas that were shut down during the first uprising which kicked off in 1987.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Film Festival Opens in Once-Violent West Bank Town

JENIN, Palestinian Territories — A film festival opened on Thursday in a newly restored cinema in Jenin, a West Bank town battered by some of the worst violence of the 2000 Palestinian uprising.

The festival is the brainchild of German filmmaker Marcus Vetter and Ismael Khatib, a Palestinian man who donated his 11-year-old son’s organs to save Israeli children after the boy was shot dead by an Israeli soldier in 2005.

The two men previously collaborated on “Heart of Jenin,” a documentary film about Khatib’s decision to donate the organs as a gesture of peace during a devastating uprising that claimed thousands of lives. “My son was shot in the street because there was no place to go,” Khatib told AFP at the opening of the cinema. “I wanted there to be a place where young people could go, a safe place, a normal place.” In 2002 Jenin was the site of the fiercest battle of the uprising, when Israeli soldiers, backed by massive armoured bulldozers, went house-to-house, battling Palestinian militants holed up in the narrow alleys. Fifty-four Palestinians and 23 Israeli soldiers were killed in the fighting.

In recent years the town has experienced a rebirth of sorts as Palestinian security forces have imposed law and order and Israel has lifted some of the hundreds of checkpoints and roadblocks it maintains across the West Bank. The new cinema is one of the first to open in the territory since the outbreak of the first intifada or uprising in 1987, when cinemas shut down as part of a general strike against the Israeli occupation. The cinema was originally built in 1957, and in its restored form can seat 335 people inside and another 700 at an open-air screen outside. Last summer a movie theatre opened in the West Bank town of Nablus, also a former militant stronghold that sent scores of suicide bombers into Israeli cities at the height of the uprising. Vetter hopes the new cinema will be the first step in the development of a local film industry, where Palestinians can study all aspects of moviemaking and document their experience of the occupation. “Imagine if the Palestinians could give something to others,” he told AFP. “Right now they are often only receiving. What makes you proud, what makes you strong, what helps you to overcome your own suffering is when you can help other people to develop as well.”

The three-day festival will show several documentaries about the conflict, including “To Shoot an Elephant” (2009) about the January 2009 Gaza War and “Arna’s Children” (2003), which follows a group of Palestinians from their childhood as actors in a theatre troupe in the Jenin refugee camp into the devastating early years of the uprising. The idea for the cinema is loosely modelled on the troupe, which was originally established in the 1990s by a Jewish woman, Arna Mer Khamis, and then resurrected as the Freedom Theatre as the uprising wound down. Zakaria Zubaidi, 33, one of the children depicted in the film who emerged as a senior militant commander during the battle for Jenin before laying down his arms in an amnesty agreement in 2005, attended the opening.

Like other Palestinians, he insisted that the opening of the cinema and the return to a more normal life in the town should not be seen as an indication that the occupation or the conflict with Israel has ended. “The political position of any institution has to be clear — that we reject the occupation, recognition of Israel and the two-state solution,” he said. “I don’t have any problem with the Jewish people. I would give my own heart to save a Jew. But if he is going to continue occupying us I will tear out his heart and his father’s heart as well.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Former West Bank Militant Stronghold Gets Cinema

A grieving Palestinian father’s decision to donate his 12-year-old son’s organs to Jewish and Arab children has brought an unexpected blessing to this former militant stronghold — a new state-of-the-art cinema. Five years after Ismail Khatib’s son Ahmed was shot dead by Israeli soldiers who mistook his toy gun for a real weapon, a movie theatre opened in Jenin on Thursday, a project conceived by a German filmmaker who made a documentary about the Khatibs. During work on “Heart of Jenin,” the story of the donation of Ahmed’s organs, filmmaker Marcus Vetter spotted the local movie house, closed in the late 1980s, and decided to refurbish it. Two years later, “Cinema Jenin” is back, bigger and better.

It was built by dozens of Palestinian and foreign volunteers and funded by about $650,000, most from the German and Palestinian governments and Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters. The complex includes a 350-seat movie house, an outdoor cinema in the adjacent garden, a cafe, a guest house, a film library and a dubbing studio. Waters sent a video greeting for the opening while human rights activist Bianca Jagger was in town to attend. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad cut the ribbon to open the cinema.

Jagger, the ex-wife of Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger, said she visited Jenin in 2002, at the height of Israeli-Palestinian violence and was “shocked” by the destruction at the time. “It is for me a pleasure to see that there’s now reason for hope, for a future for Palestinians here,” Jagger said at a press conference ahead of the opening. “Heart of Jenin,” which won the 2010 German Film Prize for best documentary and has been nominated for an Emmy, was the first film shown in the cinema on Thursday. Ismail Khatib, 46, said the local showing of the movie commemorating his son is an emotional occasion. “It shows that Ahmed is still living among the children, and that our sacrifice has not gone in vain,” said Khatib, who has five surviving children.

Movie houses are rare in the West Bank, and the cinema marks another milestone in the transformation of Jenin from a hub for Palestinian gunmen to a bustling town of 40,000 with a growing economy. Unemployment remains high at 27 per cent, but has plunged from some 45 per cent last year after Israel opened a crossing that allows Israeli Arabs to come shop in Jenin, said Nasser Atyani, director of the Jenin Chamber of Commerce.

Jenin was one of the first West Bank towns to bounce back from the devastation of the second Palestinian uprising, which erupted in 2000 and prompted Israel to keep much of the West Bank under lockdown to prevent suicide bombings and shooting attacks. During the uprising, militants in Jenin and the nearby refugee camp of the same name frequently clashed with Israeli troops, including a weeklong 2002 battle that left 53 Palestinians and 23 Israeli soldiers dead. In recent years, Palestinian security forces gradually got gunmen off the streets, encouraging businesses to reopen, including a small shopping mall.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

From Intifada Hub to Model Palestinian City: How Jenin Turned Around

Once the heart of the intifada, Jenin is today lauded as a model of cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces. Israeli Jews may soon be allowed to shop here again, bringing $3 million per weekend.

n a dramatic turnaround, the Palestinian city that served as the heart of the second intifada now boasts a new shopping mall. A return of Israeli Jewish shoppers after nearly a decade appears imminent and — as of today — the city boasts its first cinema. Jenin served as the launching ground for more bombing attacks than any other Palestinian city during the intifada, or uprising, that began in 2000. And it became synonymous for many with Israel’s disproportionate use of force after the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) razed its hardscrabble refugee neighborhood during a controversial counteroffensive eight years ago.

But today, both Israelis and Palestinians see Jenin as a model of cooperation between their respective security forces, which is paving the way for progress in the stalled peace talks and is building up the kind of self-government that Palestinian leaders see as a prerequisite to an eventual state of their own. “There’s real cooperation on a daily basis, from the command level to the field level. And there’s cooperation in the field of counter terrorism intelligence” says Gershon Baskin, codirector of the Israel Palestinian Center for Research and Information. “The logic is that Palestinians need to provide security for Palestinians” rather than for Israelis. Israel’s top general for the West Bank and the head of Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence service last month toured shops in Jenin’s new mall. And now Israeli security officials are mulling lifting a security ban on Jews entering West Bank cities, a move that could boost business through an influx of Israeli shoppers.

US-supervised training to combat terrorism

Amid the upheaval early in the last decade, the town was ruled by militant gangs who stepped into a vacuum of rule left by a weak Palestinian Authority. But now Palestinian security services throughout the West Bank are winning praise from Israel after US-supervised training in Jordan helped improve antiterrorism and anticrime activities. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has said that reestablishing the authority of the Palestinian government on the ground is a prerequisite for a political agreement. Not since Israel and Palestinians carried out joint patrols in the 1990s has there been such joint collaboration. “Coordination is better … there is an improvement,” says Palestinian Gen. Radi Assidi, who refers to Israeli army officers responsible for the Jenin region as “my counterparts.”

Cooperation proceeding gradually

That said, the cooperation is proceeding gradually and both sides realize the renewed relationship is fraught with potential pitfalls. The joint patrols have not been reinstated. And old disputes persist: the Palestinian security chiefs want the Israeli military to stay out of their cities altogether so as not to embarrass them in front of their public. Israel says they’re not ready to take full control. But Israeli commanders have sought to lower troops’ profile when they enter Palestinian towns to pursue militants. The number of incursions into the city has declined by 90 percent.

A senior Israeli military officer responsible for the region of Jenin acknowledged that the relationship is delicate, and said Israel’s security establishment is proceeding “with eyes wide open.”

“But it’s not as fragile as the relationship between the politicians,” he said, referring to General Assidi by the nickname Abu Tarek, a sign of friendship. “On the ground level, things are clearer because we are professionals.”

An extra $3 million in revenue every weekend?

The Israeli general said one reason that Jenin is a success story is that during the years of the intifada, the army either arrested or killed most of the militants in the city. Other gunmen signed on to a program to get amnesty from Israel in return for a promise to turn in their weapons. That’s helped the army lift movement restrictions and encourage Israeli Arabs to visit — some 40,000 every month. According to Israeli civil administration figures on the Jenin economy, unemployment has decreased by 20 to 25 percent. The idea to allow Israelis back into Palestinian cities would reverse a nine-year-old policy that made it illegal to enter after several Israelis were killed in cities like Ramallah at the beginning of the intifada. General Assidi said it could mean an extra $3 million in income every weekend. Jenin shopkeepers say they don’t mind visits by Israeli security officials as long as they are for peaceful purposes. “As people, we welcome them. As an army, we do not,” says Faadi Khalaf, a convenience store shopkeeper who keeps a postcard-size picture of a Palesitnian militant relative next to the cash register. “The people do not care for the chaos. The people were never consulted about the uprising.”

‘They killed our children — how can we allow them to return?’

Outside Jenin, cooperation gets a more negative reception. An editorial in the London-based Al Quds Al Arabi expressed dismay at the visit of the security officers. “The visit of [Shin Bet director] Yuval Diskin constitutes a great insult to every Palestinian person. How can a national movement become a tool of the Israeli occupation?” In the refugee camp which Israel flattened in 2002, there was more ambivalence about the return of Israeli Jewish civilians. “If Israeli Jews come here we will have a third intifada,” says Mrs. Takwah, a mother who declined to give her first name. “They killed our children, so how can we allow them to come in our town again?” The refugee neigbhorhood has been rebuilt. Shopkeeper Ahmed Abu Heiijeh said that while he would welcome Israeli Jews, he doubts the government will ever allow it. “I know they won’t come.”

Who’s a terrorist?

Reflecting Al Quds’ concerns, Assidi insists that the relationship with Israel is still very one-sided. The Palestinian security forces must still request permission from Israel to move troops outside the cities to rural villages and that undermines their credibility. “Leave the Palestinians to perform their security duties alone,” says the Palestinian general. “If there are terrorists like Hamas or Islamic Jihad that must be controlled, I say let us deal with it.” The Israeli military officer says he understands Assidi’s position, but in his view the Palestinian security services are still not capable of fighting militants on their own. Thus, if the Israeli army stayed out of the cities it would risk the growth of a new militant infrastructure. In addition to lacking the necessary training, the Palestinian security forces’ concept of who’s a “terrorist” is lacking, he adds. “I don’t think the Palestinians today will fight terror in the same way that we fight terror,” says the officer. “Will they go into a refugee camp despite the political risks?” But on the question of whether Jews would eventually be allowed back into Palestinian cities, the officer was upbeat. “I think it’s going to happen. Maybe not in the next six months, but afterward.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Gaza: Islamic Jihad and Hamas ‘Exchange Fire’

Gaza City, 6 Aug. (AKI) — Thee people were wounded Friday in Gaza during a gunfight between members of the Islamic Jihad and Hamas, according to London-based Arab newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi.

Citing comments from an armed member of the Islamic Jihad, the report said fighting broke out after a verbal exchange turned violent on Thursday.

“Immediately after the argument some men from Hamas followed and savagely beat a member of our group. After consulting other people from Hamas, he was released we were surprised members of the al-Qassa, brigade started firing their weapons,” the Islamic Jihad member said.

The fighting took place in a western district of Gaza City.

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

Ireland: Mayor Defends Midleton After Facebook Page Links Town to Anti-Semitism

The Mayor of Midleton has defended the east Cork town in the wake of a Facebook page linking it to anti-Semitic sentiment.

The page, titled “the Invasion of Jews in Midleton”, was created after the arrival of a number of Orthodox Satmar Jews in the town for a two-week holiday.

The existence of the page and comments posted on it were noted in the Jerusalem Post , among other Jewish newspapers worldwide, before the page was removed from the online social networking site.

The page attracted more than 380 “Likes” from members of the social networking site before it was taken down amid accusations of anti-Semitism from Jewish community representatives.

Mayor of Midleton Niall O’Neill said the comments posted on the page were in no way representative of the local people.

“Facebook is a forum for discussion for individuals to post individual opinions; it is no more and no less than that. The people of Midleton would certainly not be considered a community that would not extend a warm welcome to people of all shades, colours and creeds,” he said.

Mr O’Neill said at no point during his lifetime had any visitors to the town been treated with anything other than courteous hospitality. He added: “There’s been no case in point where there have been issues with any people, from any background, coming to the town.”

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Israeli Army Fears Kidnapping of Settlers by Hamas

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, AUGUST 6 — An alert has been issued in recent days by Israeli military chiefs regarding the risk of operations for the kidnapping of settlers in the Jewish settlements of the West Bank by Hamas commandos. The news was reported today by the website of the daily newspaper Haaretz, quoting General Nitzan Alon, commander of the division of the Israeli forces stationed in the occupied Palestinian territories. According to Haaretz, Alon issued the warning with regard to the council of Yesha (the representative organisation of settlers). According to intelligence data, specific orders for the start of a strategy of kidnappings actually came from Damascus, from the political leadership of Hamas in exile, and was directed at groups of militants hiding in the West Bank. “The threat is significant,” stated Alon, letting it be understood that the aim appears to be that of keeping Israel in check: as has happened in the case of Corporal Ghilad Shalit, captured four years ago and still a prisoner of Hamas. According to leaks reported by Haaretz, the politburo of Hamas in Damascus — led by Khaled Meshaal — is behind the recent launching of rockets on Israel and Jordan from Egyptian Sinai and attributed by the authorities in Cairo to unspecified “Palestinian groups”. An initiative in which, the newspaper speculates, the local heads of the “de facto government” of Hamas which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007 might not be involved. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Palestinian Cinema Opens After 23 Years

The only cinema in the Palestinian city of Jenin has reopened after 23 years with a film festival that will show documentaries on the region’s resistance against Israel. The three-day festival is a collaborated effort by German filmmaker Marcus Vetter and Palestinian Ismael Khatib. Khatib’s 11-year-old son was shot dead by an Israeli soldier in 2005. After the incident, and as a gesture of peace, the mournful father decided to donate his son’s organ to save Israeli children. “My son was shot in the street because there was no place to go,” AFP quoted Khatib as saying at the opening of the cinema. I wanted there to be a place where young people could go, a safe place, a normal place,” Khatib added.

The cinema, which is one of the first to open in the West Bank, was closed in a general strike against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. The closure of the movie house took place at the same time as the Palestinians’ first intifada in 1987. Later in 2002, fierce battles took place in Jenin, when Israeli soldiers backed by massive armored bulldozers went house to house and fought Palestinians in the narrow alleys of the city. The festival aims to show documentaries such as “To Shoot an Elephant“ (2009) by Alberto Arce and Mohammad Rujailah, which tells the story of the January 2009 Gaza War and “Arna’s Children“ (2003) by Danniel Danniel and Juliano Mer.

The cinema was originally built in 1957, and after restoration it is now able to seat 335 people inside and another 700 in front of an open-air screen outside.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

US Cuts Funding for Israeli Defense Systems

The United States has cut funding for Israel’s defense systems, even though a one-time grant appears to have raised the aid allocation.

The 2011 budget approved by Congress for the Arrow 3 program totaled $108.8 million. This included a White House request for $50.8 million, combined with another $58 million tacked on by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

Last year’s allocation was considerably higher, the Globes business news service points out.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

West Bank Culture Boost as Cinema Jenin Rolls Out Red Carpet

by Harriet Sherwood

Palestinian movie house restored and reopened 23 years after first intifada

The red carpet had seen better days. Faded, threadbare and dotted with stains and cigarette burns, it would not have graced a Hollywood premiere. But this was Jenin, one of the most troubled cities in the West Bank over recent decades and a long way from Tinseltown. And, for once, there was something to celebrate.The occasion was the opening of Cinema Jenin, an ambitious project to provide a centre of culture and entertainment in a place more accustomed to the farewell videos of suicide bombers than the latest action movie or romcom.

For two years a team of local Palestinians and international volunteers has laboured to build a new cinema from the dilapidated shell of the old movie house, which shut its doors 23 years ago during the first intifada. Now its smart minimalist interior has got more than 300 original cinema seats, restored by local craftsmen. A state-of-the-art sound system has been donated by Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters. Its new roof, electrical system, 3D projection system, film school, digital library, open-air screen and cafe was paid for, in part, by the German government. And the new cinema runs on solar power.

The $1m restoration was largely driven by the German film-maker Marcus Vetter, whose award-winning documentary, Heart of Jenin, tonight marks the opening of a three-day film festival .

Vetter’s film tells the story of Ahmed Khatib, a 12-year-old Jenin boy shot dead in 2005 by Israeli soldiers who mistook his toy gun for a real weapon. The boy’s parents decided to donate his organs to Muslim and Jewish children. His mother, Abla Khatib, said at the time: “To give away his organs was a different kind of resistance. Violence against violence is worthless … maybe the Israelis will think of us differently. Maybe just one Israeli will decide not to shoot.”

Inspired by the story, Vetter went to Jenin to make his film, but realised there was nowhere in the city it could be screened. He saw the cinema’s restoration as a way of challenging the negative image of Jenin, as well bringing a creative space to a city in which the daily grind of living under occupation had virtually erased cultural activity. Ismael Khatib, Ahmed’s father, an enthusiastic backer of the project, was at the opening. “Cinema Jenin provides a safe place where Ahmed’s friends can learn and have fun,” he said.

Samah Gadban, a 17-year-old from Al Beqaha in Israel who received Ahmed’s heart, was on the red carpet to show, she said, “her strong connection” with Jenin. “It’s a token of appreciation from our family to come here to the heart of Jenin to celebrate the opening of the cinema,” her mother added. Much of the city was reduced to rubble in a sustained Israeli military incursion in 2002, in which 53 Palestinians and more than 20 Israeli soldiers were killed. The IDF was intent on rooting out militants, who provided almost half of all Palestinian suicide bombers in the second intifada, from Jenin’s labyrinthine refugee camp.

The old cinema had closed long before, partly because of disapproval among residents of its pornographic movie screenings. Conscious of this history Vetter has pledged to “choose the right films for this audience”. Acknowledging that the cinema restoration had not won universal support in the socially conservative city, the management said it was also planning family and women-only screenings. Awad Shaker, 30, a Jenin taxi driver, who had never been inside a cinema, said he would go as long as the films were “good” rather than “bad”, meaning morally acceptable. “Foreign movies are morally not good,” he said. But his hopes focused on a possible boost to business. “If the cinema generates more work for us, this is good,” he said. Iman Yasen, 22, was looking forward to seeing her first film in a Palestinian cinema, hoping for action, romance and horror.

The human rights activist Bianca Jagger, who attended the cinema’s launch, said the project represented hope for the Palestinians. “It’s a pleasure to see the people of Jenin having access to culture, to have what the rest of us outside Palestine have.”

[JP note: For a post criticising Harriet Sherwood’s biased journalism see cifwatch here ]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Big Love Surfaces in Turkish PM’s Inner Circle

The government is facing a firestorm of criticism over a recently appointed adviser to the prime minister who many say has taken the ruling party’s “family values” rhetoric to an unacceptable extreme. He has three wives.

Ankara’s version of the American television show “Big Love,” which features a polygamous Mormon man juggling multiple households, was brought to Parliament’s attention in May by an opposition deputy who questioned the appointment. The story apparently went largely unnoticed by the media until this week, when it was picked up by daily Radikal and daily Birgün, among other news outlets.

In June, the government confirmed that Ali Yüksel, a man who has married three women in religious ceremonies and considers himself a “Sheikh al-Islam,” a title of superior authority in religious issues, is employed as an adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“These kinds of religious marriages or other connections with more than one woman are not perceived as a problem in the Justice and Development Party [AKP]. The ruling government legitimates polygamy within its community,” sociologist Yildiz Ecevit told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Thursday in remarks critical of the appointment.

Yüksel’s polygamous lifestyle became a topic of public interest in 2004, when he was quoted in an interview for Fehmi Çalmuk’s book “Merak Edilen Kizlar” (Girls who Draw Attention) as saying he had three wives and intended to marry a fourth.

Some interpretations of Islam hold that the religion allows a man to marry up to four wives as long as he can provide for all of them and he treats them equally.

“We know that some AKP deputies are already polygamous. This contradicts efforts to achieve equality between men and women. This practice challenges women’s rights,” Ecevit said. “They don’t call it adultery. They justify polygamy with Islam.”

In 2004, the AKP considered inserting an article banning adultery in the criminal code being revised for compatibility with the Copenhagen Criteria, but pulled back after receiving criticism from the European Union.

Key AKP officials have expressed a variety of conservative stances about marriage and family, with Erdogan urging all Turkish couples to have at least three children and State Minister responsibly for women and family affairs Selma Aliye Kavaf expressing vocal disapproval of kissing scenes in Turkish soap operas.

Lawyer Yasemin Öz from the AMARGI Woman Academy pointed out that although bigamy is banned in Turkey, there is no punitive sanction for those with multiple spouses. She said engaging in polygamy through religious marriages is inappropriate and should not be allowed to become a precedent since those marriages usurp women’s rights.

“There should be sanctions. For instance, there could be arrangements in the law for civil servants bringing disciplinary action in those cases. Or there could be arrangements in the criminal code,” Öz said.

Polygamy was officially criminalized in Turkey in 1926, although it is still practiced in parts of the country.

Mayor Halil Bakirci of the Black Sea province of Rize, who was elected from the AKP, recently drew flack for suggesting polygamous marriages with Kurdish women from eastern Anatolia as a way to “solve” the Kurdish issue without resorting to military means. He has apologized for the comments, which he said were misconstrued, and the ruling party has launched an investigation.

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

Caroline Glick: Israel’s Made-in-America Enemies

It wasn’t a US Army sniper who killed IDF Lt.- Col. Dov Harari and seriously wounded Capt. Ezra Lakia on Tuesday. But the Lebanese Armed Forces sniper who shot them owes a great deal to the generous support the LAF has received from America.

For the past five years, the LAF has been the second largest recipient of US military assistance per capita after Israel. A State Department press release from late 2008 noted that between 2006 and 2008, the LAF received 10 million rounds of ammunition, Humvees, spare parts for attack helicopters, vehicles for its Internal Security Forces “and the same frontline weapons that US military troops are currently using, including assault rifles, automatic grenade launchers, advanced sniper systems, anti-tank weapons and the most modern urban warfare bunker weapons.”

Since 2006, the US has provided Lebanon some $500 million in military assistance. And there is no end in sight. After President Barack Obama’s meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in June, the White House proclaimed Obama’s “determination to continue US efforts to support and strengthen Lebanese institutions such as the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Internal Security Forces.”…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Iran: New Holocaust-Denial Cartoon Goes Online

Tehran, 5 Aug. (AKI) — An Iranian website depicting the Holocaust as an Israeli fabrication has gone online. The version of the slaughter of six million Jews by their Nazi persecutors during World War II is called “the great lie” by the site, which recounts its version of events in cartoon form.

The site is sponsored by the Khakriz Cultural Institute, and is “dedicated to those killed under the pretext of the Holocaust.”

Displaying images of bearded large-nosed figures, the site aims to denounce the Holocaust as a “lie with which the Palestine occupier Zionists have justified their occupying of Palestine and lots of other crimes for years.” In one image, A Jew is tied to a chair on a movie set as a canister of Zyklone-B is dropped through the roof of the gas chamber.

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called the Holocaust an exaggeration and has threatened Israel with destruction.

The country in 2006 hosted an international conference on Holocaust denial.

The cartoon — based on on a book of cartoons published in 2008 — seeks to debunk the Holocaust by giving examples of what it says are false facts and figures about the killing. The Nazis wanted to kill six million Jews but Europe had only 5.4 million so Hitler placed advertisements inviting more to the continent, Jews have always been kind people so they did’t put up a fight.

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

Lebanon: General Confesses, I Served Israel for 30 Years

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, AUGUST 6 — The scandal following the arrest of General Fayez Karam risks causing a new political split in Lebanon. Karam was head of the Christian party allied with the pro-Iranian Hezbollah and has confessed to being guilty of working as a spy for Israel for 30 years. The pan-Arab daily Asharq al Awsat reports this morning that Karam, 62, a retired general and close collaborator of Michel Aoun (leader of the Free Patriotic Movement which has been allied with the Shia movement since 2005), has confessed to “having worked as a spy for Israel since the 1980s, when he had the rank of commander.” Local observers state that the arrest of Karam and his full confession will further weaken Aoun’s party and will expose him to harsh criticism also from his ally Hezbollah, which bases its legitimacy on the struggle with Israel. As reported by Beirut dailies today, Karam, who in the 1990s had filled the sensitive offices of head of the counterespionage group of the army and of antiterrorism, was arrested in recent days at Beirut airport before he managed to escape abroad. Commenting on the arrest of his close collaborator and friend, Michel Aoun, who five years ago signed an alliance with Hezbollah which actually broke the Lebanese Christian front that was hostile to the influence of the Syrian-Iranian axis, said “to err is human and even Jesus Christ was betrayed by one of his apostles.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: US Tries Lessons of Baghdad in Kandahar

Kandahar, 3 Aug. (AKI/Washington Post) — Tall concrete blast walls, like those that surround the Green Zone, are seemingly everywhere. Checkpoints supervised by US soldiers have been erected on all major roads leading into the city. Residents are being urged to apply for new identification cards that require them to have their retinas scanned and their fingerprints recorded.

As US and NATO commanders mount a major effort to counter the Taliban’s influence in Kandahar, they are turning to population-control tactics employed in the Iraqi capital during the 2007 troop surge to separate warring Sunnis and Shiites. They are betting that such measures can help separate insurgents here from the rest of the population, an essential first step in the US-led campaign to improve security in and around Afghanistan’s second-largest city.

“If you don’t have control of the population, you can’t secure the population,” said Brig. Gen. Frederick Hodges, director of operations for the NATO regional command in southern Afghanistan.

In Baghdad, the use of checkpoints, identification cards and walled-off communities helped to reduce violence because there were two feuding factions, riven by sect. Because the city had been carved into a collection of separate Sunni and Shiite neighbourhoods, US forces were able to place themselves along the borders. Both sides tolerated the tactics to a degree because they came to believe US troops would protect them from their rivals.

The conflict in Kandahar is far murkier. There are no differences in religion or ethnicity: Nearly everyone here is a Sunni Pashtun. There are divisions among tribes and clans, but they are not a reliable indicator of support for the Taliban. And many residents regard US forces as the cause of the growing instability, rather than the solution to it.

Military officials hope the measures will nonetheless make it more difficult for the Taliban to transport munitions into the city and to attack key government buildings. The use of biometric scans will allow soldiers at checkpoints to apprehend anyone whose fingerprints are in a database of suspected insurgents.

“Just because Afghanistan is different from Iraq, it doesn’t mean you can’t use techniques that worked well there,” Hodges said.

Another tactic employed in Iraq and soon to be copied in Kandahar involves major outlays from a discretionary fund that commanders can use to pay for quick-turnaround reconstruction projects. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the former top commander in Iraq who recently took charge of the US and NATO mission in Afghanistan, called such money “a weapon system.”

Defense secretary Robert M. Gates recently approved a proposal from Petraeus to spend $227 million from the fund — the largest-ever single expenditure — to pay for new generators and millions of gallons of diesel to increase the electricity supply in Kandahar. Petraeus and other top military officers in Afghanistan have supported the costly effort because they think the provision of more power will lead residents to view their government more favourably, which is a key element of the counterinsurgency campaign.

But some US civilian officials in the country question whether the increase in power, which will be directed toward businesses, will win over residents. The officials maintain that the United States will have to keep shelling out millions of dollars a month for diesel or risk further wrath from Kandaharis because a hoped-for hydroelectric project intended to replace the generators will take years to complete.

Green Zone revisited?

Contractors working for the NATO regional command already have installed 7,000 concrete slabs — each eight feet wide — around the governor’s palace and the mayor’s office, along major roads and in front of police stations. Demand for the walls are so high that several manufacturing sites have sprung up on the highway heading toward the airport.

Although military officials say their informal surveys of residents show significant support for walls and checkpoints, local leaders have expressed unease. Kandahar’s governor, Tooryalai Wesa, told Hodges that he does not want parts of the city to turn into an Iraq-like Green Zone.

Although municipal workers have registered about 20,000 residents into the biometric database and provided them with plastic identification cards, Afghan president Hamid Karzai put the registration on hold last week because of concerns over privacy rights, military officials said.

There are other grievances. Residents near checkpoints say electronic jamming equipment used by soldiers to prevent remote-controlled bombs interferes with their mobile phones. Shopkeepers say they are losing business.

“Since they put the cement walls up, security is better, but nobody is coming to our shops,” an elderly man named Rafiullah told Hodges as he visited his small stall filled with sundries next to a checkpoint on the western border.

Hodges promised to “figure out a solution.” But removing any of them involves a trade-off in protection for the forces in the city. Last month, three US soldiers and four Afghan interpreters were killed when two suicide bombers stormed a police headquarters building that had not yet been fully encircled with concrete walls.

Hodges said the checkpoints have forced insurgents to find alternate routes into the city, either through the desert or on dirt paths, which limit what they can transport and how quickly they can move. “Will we stop everyone? No,” he said. “But it is having an effect. The enemy is having to change their movements.”

The Taliban are also seeking to place new obstacles for US and Afghan forces. In the Arghandab district north of Kandahar, where US soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division are seeking to clear out pockets of Taliban fighters, the insurgents have seeded pomegranate groves and vineyards with homemade anti-personnel mines; several soldiers have been maimed by them over the past two weeks. Commanders are wrestling with the option of razing some fields to remove the bombs, which would eliminate many farmers’ livelihoods, or assume more risk by leaving the crops untouched.

“Counterinsurgency doctrine says you don’t turn the population against you,” a US officer in the area said. “But at how much of a cost does that make sense?”

Perhaps the most important reason population control worked to the extent it did in Baghdad was because each side believed the other posed an existential threat, and both turned to the United States for security. In many parts of southern and eastern Afghanistan, the population has yet to seek protection.

Many Kandaharis regard the Taliban as wayward brothers and cousins — fellow Pashtuns with whom they can negotiate and one day reconcile. They also worry about siding with their government because they fear Taliban retribution, both now and when US troop reductions begin next summer.

But the US counterinsurgency strategy depends on persuading Pashtuns to get off the fence and cast their lot with their government. The US military and civilian agencies are trying to help the government win over the public by delivering services to the population that the Taliban does not offer, including education, health care, agricultural assistance and justice based on the rule of law.

That requires capable civil servants willing to work in an unstable environment — and that’s where the strategy is hitting its most significant roadblock.

A recent effort by Karzai’s local-governance directorate to fill 300 civil service jobs in Kandahar and the surrounding district turned up four qualified applicants, even after the agency dropped its application standards to remove a high school diploma, according to several US officials.

The main impediment is security. Afghans don’t want to work for their government or US development contractors in such an unsafe environment. But if the government and contractors cannot employ qualified workers, the government cannot deliver services and will be unable to win the population’s allegiance, a prerequisite for improved security.

To crack that loop, US officials are exploring ways to protect Afghans working for the government. One plan under consideration would involve transforming the Kandahar Hotel into a secure dormitory surrounded by concrete walls, for civil servants. Development contractors working for USAID are building compounds with secret entrances to minimize the chances that insurgents spot staff members.

Getting government officials in place is no guarantee of success. Kandahar’s governor and mayor are regarded as ineffective administrators, but US and Canadian advisers are trying to transform them into more competent leaders.

In the Panjwai district to the west of Kandahar, US officials say, the district governor and the police chief recently got into a fight. The chief hit the governor with a teakettle and the governor smashed a teacup on the chief’s head, the confrontation culminating in a shootout between their guards.

In Arghandab, US military and civilian officials spent a year working closely with — and praising — the district governor, Abdul Jabar. When he was killed in a car bombing in Kandahar this summer, the officials blamed the Taliban.

But some of those same officials concluded that the governor was skimming US funds for reconstruction projects in his district. His killing, they think, was the result of anger by fellow residents over his not distributing the spoils, not a Taliban assassination.

“It was a mob hit,” said one US official familiar with the situation. “We saw him as a white knight, but we were getting played the whole time.”

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

Afghanistan War: Petraeus Tightens Rules of Engagement

In his first tactical directive since assuming command of international forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus doubled down on the orders imposed by his predecessor that put a premium on protecting civilians first to win their support. For months those rules of engagement, formulated by General Stanley McChrystal, have led to rank-and-file grumblings by U.S. soldiers. The servicemen say that the strict rules put them in greater danger, even as they aim to avoid civilian casualties. The grumbling is unlikely to diminish with the new directives that Petraeus issued on Wednesday.

The renewed call for a disciplined use of force — plus added restrictions — were not what most troops were hoping for.

           — Hat tip: Andy Bostom[Return to headlines]

Cameron’s Pakistan Apology Tour: Prime Minister and Home Secretary Plan Visits to Calm Diplomatic Storm

David Cameron is to visit Pakistan next year in a bid to calm the diplomatic ‘storms’ over his claim that the country is ‘exporting terror’.

The Prime Minister agreed to the move following talks at Chequers today with Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari.

In what some observers saw as an apology, he also went out of his way to highlight the ‘sacrifices’ made by Pakistan’s army, security services and public in the fight against terrorism.


Mr Cameron described the bond between the two countries as ‘unbreakable’. He said the two leaders had agreed a new ‘strategic partnership’ including areas like trade, education and counter-terrorism.

He added: ‘We want to work together to combat terrorism. Whether it is keeping troops safe in Afghanistan or keeping people safe on the streets of Britain, that is a real priority for my Government, and somewhere where, with Pakistan, we are going to work together in this enhanced strategic partnership.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Diana West: Eyeless in A-Stan

“Live our values,” Gen. David Petraeus wrote recently to troops in Afghanistan. “This is what distinguishes us from our enemies.”

Unfortunately, this is also what distinguishes us from many of our “friends.” This culture-chasm is what makes the infidel struggle for hearts and minds across Islamic lands so recklessly, wastefully futile, something I was once again reminded of on reading Time magazine’s cover story featuring 18-year-old Aisha. Aisha is a lovely Afghan girl whose husband and brother-in-law, on instructions from a local judge and Taliban commander, sliced off her ears and nose and left her dying to set an example for other wives thinking of running away from abusive in-laws. Only her discovery by U.S. troops saved Aisha’s life.

But where was Aisha’s father? Where was her family? Where were her town’s elders? Where was Hamid Karzai? Turns out her family did nothing to protect her from the Taliban, Time writes. Why? The magazine describes a mixture of fear and shame that I hope still strikes the average American family as so foreign as extra-terrestrials. Time further explains: “A girl who runs away is automatically considered a prostitute … and families that allow them back home would be subject to widespread ridicule.” When Aisha’s father enticed her home with promises of a new husband, the girl refused because she was fearful that her family would sell her into slavery, or murder her.

Similar scenarios play out beyond the wilds of the Taliban zone wherever Sharia culture flowers, an expanding zone that now includes urban centers of the Western world — from Berlin to London to Atlanta to Calgary — where previously unimagined assaults on women and girls are taking place almost exclusively from within Islamic communities. This gruesome fact renders Time’s cover line — “What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan” — absurdly provincial in scope. That is, it’s not only in Afghanistan where Islamic men have dominion over Islamic women. It is wherever Islamic law, de facto or de jure, empowers them.

It is into this brutish society that American and NATO troops have again been ordered to mix, this time by Gen. Petraeus who believes, as a Pentagon release put it, “meeting and understanding the people is the main mission for military forces.” Calling for more interaction with “the people,” Petraeus told his forces:…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Obama Sends Muslim Envoy to India to Bridge Cultural Gap Between the US and Islam

Rashad Hussain, an American Muslim of Indian origin, is set to meet Muslim leaders and academics. His tour will take him to a number of Indian cities to improve relations between the United States and Islam. Indian Muslim peace activist Syed Ali Mutjaba is in favour of the visit, a legitimate attempt to improve the image of the US among Muslims.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) — Rashad Hussain, US special envoy to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, is currently on a tour of India to discuss with Muslim leaders and academics initiatives by the Obama Administration on education, global health, entrepreneurship and extremism.

Son of Indian immigrants, Mr Hussain will visit a number of Indian cities, including Mumbai and New Delhi, to find ways to bridge the gap between the United States and the Muslim world.

AsiaNews has met Syed Ali Mutjaba, an Indian Muslim writer and peace activist, to discuss the visit. Mr Mutjaba is also the founder of the South Asia Contact Group.

What need is there to engage Indian Muslims at this point in time?

India is home to the second largest Muslim population in the world. In its effort to engage the entire Islamic world, the United States sees India as an important cog in the Islamic wheel, even though the voices of Indian Muslims may not matter globally. As far as timing is concerned, the United States is contemplating pulling out its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. After it entered Iraq and subsequently Afghanistan, it saw its image suffer a huge loss in the entire Muslim world.

With the increasing radicalisation of certain groups within Islam, will this visit have any positive outcome?

It is true that US policies in recent times have contributed to the radicalisation of certain Islamic groups worldwide, even though in India, such policies have hardly had any negative impact on any substantial segment of the Muslim community. The visit by the US envoy is designed to restore the dented image of the US in the global Muslim community. It may not have any positive outcome, but it may sends signals that the current US administration is making efforts to address Muslim sensibilities.

In your opinion, what gives the US the right to see itself as the custodian of peaceful dialogue, to the extent that it should send an envoy to India?

One has to accept the stark reality that the US is the lone superpower on earth. It has given itself the mandate to correct what is wrong in the world. It has come to realise that large parts of the Islamic population has a bad opinion of the US, so it has thought to start a peaceful dialogue to iron out the differences. This is a huge change in US thinking. There is nothing wrong with a US envoy coming to India. In fact, this has to be seen in positive terms, because within the Indian debate, Muslim voices are marginalised or totally blacked out. By sending its envoy to India, the United States has raised the visibility of Indian Muslims, showing that globally their support matters. This will create a positive impression about Muslims in India.

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

Pakistan: Floods “Helping the Taliban”

According Islamabad anti-terrorism, the disastrous floods in the north have been of unexpected help to the fundamentalists who have a higher speed of movement and can strike with more force now that the soldiers are committed in aid relief operations.

Islamabad (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The worst floods in Pakistan’s history (more than 1,100 victims have been discovered and 27 thousand people in danger) could become a unique opportunity for Islamic extremists in the area. Anti-terrorist operations have been suspended by the government in Islamabad, providing a rare window of opportunity for paramilitary militias close to the Taliban and al Qaeda to regroup.

The government has allocated over 30 thousand soldiers to relief operations in the affected area (north-western provinces of Punjab and the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa). At the same time, Mullah Fazlullah, leader of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (local Taliban) announced that his men are returning to the area.

The problem lies in security of moevement. According to an anti-terrorism official in fact, “the infrastructure of the area of Swat and Malakand have been hit hard. It may take even a year to restore it. The bridges have all collapsed, and it is very difficult for the troops to get around: for extremists this problem does not arise. “

NATO troops also face several problems: supplies to Afghanistan, passing just to the north of Pakistan, will be slowed down significantly. Another unexpected aid to the Taliban, who last month killed 63 American soldiers: the worst result since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

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

Pakistan: ‘Shoot-to-Kill Orders’ Given for Karachi Violence

Karachi, 6 Aug. (AKI) — Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik on Thursday gave shoot-to-kill orders to police as the death toll from a wave of violence in Karachi climbed to 87.

Geo Television reported that the military may be called in to bring calm to Pakistani’s business capital sparked by the 2 Aug. killing of Raza Haider, a local politician.

Notwithstanding the Thursday’s killing of four people, as well as widespread vandalism, possible military intervention is bringing calm back to Karachi, Geo reported.

Using the military to keep the peace in the port city would divert forces from fighting Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants where they are concentrated in the northwest area that borders Afghanistan.

The Pakistani military is also being used in relief efforts from severe flooding from torrential rain that has killed more than 1,500 people and affected 4 million people.

Karachi is often the centre of tension between members of opposing political groups. Haider’s Muttahida Qaumi Movement party — the ruling coalition backing President Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party — was quick to accuse rival Awami National Party (ANP) for the politician’s death. ANP denied the accusation.

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

Two Italian Soldiers Die in Afghanistan

Bomb disposal experts perished when improvised explosive device (IED) blew up. Prime minister’s grief

MILAN — Two Italian soldiers, Warrant Officer Mauro Gigli and Corporal Pierdavide De Cillis, have been killed in Afghanistan. Captain Federica Luciani of the Piacenza-based second regiment of engineers, suffered minor abrasions in the same explosion and an Afghan civilian was also slightly injured. News of the incident was announced in Italy by Vannino Chiti, deputising for the leader of the Senate. A minute’s silence was observed at once in the Senate chamber at Palazzo Madama. On Thursday, the government will address parliament when the minister of defence, Ignazio La Russa, will report on the incident and on the conditions in which Italian troops are operating. The prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who was informed about the incident shortly before he opened the ambassadors’ conference at the foreign ministry, said he was “saddened” by news of more Italian victims.

THE INCIDENT — The explosion took place about ten kilometres north of Herat. According to army sources, the two soldiers were bomb disposal experts from the corps of engineers. They were part of an IEDD (Improvised Explosive Device Disposal) team and were defusing a device when the explosion took place, at around 8 pm local time. The rudimentary bomb had been reported by Afghan police officers, the report was verified and the two disposal experts set about defusing the device. While they were inspecting the area for other IEDs, there was a powerful explosion in which they were killed. The last attack to result in the death of Italian troops, which was in May, also took place near Herat, where the headquarters of the Italian contingent is located.

THE TWO VICTIMS — The two sappers who died were Warrant Officer Mauro Gigli, born on 3 April 1969 in Sassari and serving with the Turin-based 32nd regiment of engineers (Brigata Alpina Taurinense), and Corporal Pierdavide De Cillis, born on 25 February 1977 at Bisceglie in the province of Bari, who belonged to the 21st regiment of engineers based at Caserta. An army spokesperson said: “The two soldiers were part of the engineers’ task force serving with the Italian contingent in Afghanistan and had completed several missions abroad, during which they had carried out many operations to defuse explosive devices. For today’s operation, the two had been assigned to a unit comprising 36 troops in eight Lince armoured vehicles, one an ambulance version. As a consequence of the explosion, Captain Federica Luciani of the second regiment of engineers based at Piacenza suffered minor abrasions and an Afghan civilian was also slightly wounded”.

“WORDS HAVE NO MEANING” — Silvio Berlusconi said that when news as dramatic as this arrives, “you ask yourself whether it is worthwhile”, only to add that it is precisely in situations like this that “you have to reinforce the idea that it is worthwhile”. He added: “Words have no meaning”. They cannot “ease the pain. There is only the fact of admiring those who make the personal choice to take part in a mission. A soldier’s career is exposed to certain risks. Those who have gone to Afghanistan made a personal choice”, said the prime minister. For Silvio Berlusconi, news like this “causes grief but we are doing the right thing”.

DEMOCRATIC PARTY (PD) SAYS “SAFETY ISSUE UNAVOIDABLE” — Opposition groups also expressed condolences and solidarity for the families of the victims but the PD called on the government to face up to the issue of safeguarding Italian troops. “The incident means that the safety of our troops in Afghanistan is an issue that can no longer be avoided”, said Erminio Quartiani from the PD’s presidency office in the Chamber of Deputies. “We call on the government to report to the Chamber on the conditions in which our contingent is operating”. For Italy of Values (IDV), Antonio Di Pietro said: “Today is a day of mourning for the whole of Italy. Point-scoring over our presence in Afghanistan would be mere opportunism”. Mr Di Pietro did, however, announce, that “in due course, we will be reaffirming the reasons why the IDV is opposed to a mission that has revealed itself to be a failure, as is shown by the files published on Wikileaks”. For the president of the Greens, Angelo Bonelli, “Afghanistan cannot become Italy’s Vietnam. We are now facing a war without end that leads only to the painful loss of human life among Italian troops and civilians.”

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Far East

Beijing Defends Its Commercial Relations With Tehran

The Iranian oil minister, Massoud Mir-Kazemi, arrived today in Beijing to strengthen joint investments in oil and gas. China has already invested 40 billion dollars. Criticism of U.S. Beijing’s politics does not respect international sanctions.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) — On the same day the Iranian oil minister, Massoud Mir-Kazemi arrived in Beijing to promote bilateral cooperation, the media published a statement of the country’s Foreign Ministry spokesman in Beijing, in defence of the nation’s trade relations with Iran.

Massoud Mir-Kazemi has held meetings with members of the Chinese government to enhance cooperation on energy, with projects and investment. China is now the largest trading partner, receiving in exchange oil for its economy. According to the Iranian Ministry, China has already invested 40 billion U.S. dollars in oil and gas in Iran.

But these friendly trade relations are being strongly criticised by other countries, lest they conceal aid to Iranian’s nuclear program. Last June the UN Security Council launched a fourth block of sanctions against Iran to curb its nuclear program which, according to Western countries and Israel, wants to build a nuclear arsenal.

On 2 August, Robert Einhorn, of the U.S. State Department criticized China, asking Beijing to follow through on the sanctions that the international community has established. “We want China to be a responsible stakeholder in the international system,” Einhorn said. “That means co-operating with the UN Security Council resolutions and it means not backfilling or not taking advantage of responsible self-restraint of other countries”.

China’s economic and foreign policy to countries affected by sanctions or judged “pariahs” by the international community (see Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Guinea, etc …) has often been branded as “immoral”. Beijing is often the only or principal trading partner.

Jiang Yu, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, confirmed today that “China’s trade with Iran is a normal trade, which does not harm the interests of other nations and the international community.”

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

Chinese Missile Could Shift Pacific Power Balance

U.S. naval planners are scrambling to deal with what analysts say is a game-changing weapon being developed by China: an unprecedented carrier-killing missile called the Dong Feng 21D that could be launched from land with enough accuracy to penetrate the defenses of even the most advanced moving aircraft carrier at a distance of more than 900 miles.

Analysts say final testing of the missile could come as soon as the end of this year, though questions remain about how fast China will be able to perfect its accuracy to the level needed to threaten a moving carrier at sea.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australia: Islam is an Ideology, Not a Race

by Andrew Bolt

A very sane decision by the Equal Opportunity Division of the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal:

53 First, vilification of Muslims does not fall within section 20C(1), because Muslims are not a ‘race’ as defined in section 4 of the Act. The reason, as the Tribunal said in Khan [i.e., Khan v Commissioner, Department of Corrective Services & anor [2002] NSWADT 131] at [18], is that Muslims ‘do not share common racial, national or ethnic origins’ and are therefore not an ethno-religious group such as the definition embraces. In so ruling, we follow the decisions, commencing with Khan, that are listed above at [44]. We are unaware of any recent authority to the contrary. It follows that any statements broadcast by the Respondents that generated negative feelings towards Muslims generally, or any group of Muslims, on the ground of their being Muslims could not amount to unlawful racial vilification.

           — Hat tip: Winds of Jihad[Return to headlines]

NZ: Man Arrested for Wife Beating Blames Traditional Turkish Dance

A Turkish migrant arrested in New Zealand for allegedly beating his wife says police failed to understand that the couple were simply engaging in a lively traditional dance.

When Allaetin Can, a kebab shop owner, appeared in court on Thursday, a judge adjourned the case and ordered police to watch a DVD of dancers performing the “kolbasti” then decide whether to drop the charge against him.

Officers were called after a passer-by reported seeing Mr Can hitting, kicking, and strangling his wife Elmas during a fracas in a car park outside their shop.

After Mr Can had entered a plea of not guilty to the charge of “male assaults female”, defence counsel Greg Vosseler produced the DVD in evidence.

Outside the court, in the small North Island town of Hawera, Mr Can said later that he, his wife and their two teenage children had been celebrating an exceptionally profitable lunchtime shift in their High Street kebab shop.

Leaping around, their celebrations spilled out from the kitchen into the car park.

The frenetic dance, which originated in the 1930s, involves simulated fighting, with much arm throwing, slapping and wrestling moves that include headlocks.

“We are always dancing,” Mr Can said.

“I’m happy to dance with my wife and my family. What’s wrong with that?”

“My wife was nervous and confused when police came,” he told the Taranaki Daily News.

“Her English no good. If English was good, no case.”

Kolbasti was born in the Black Sea port of Trabzon, in the northeast of Turkey, and has gained popularity across the country in the decades since.

The dance is said to have been devised by the city’s drunks, who were regularly rounded up by nightly police patrols, and the lyrics include the words: “They came, they caught us, they beat us.”

Popular at weddings, when large numbers of people join in and dance until the fast-paced music stops, it is also a favourite of young men who like to show off in front of girls.

The name kolbasti translates as “caught red-handed by the police”.

Mrs Can saw the irony.

“My husband is a good man,” she said in her broken English.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


ICE’s Mission Melt: Agents Vote ‘No Confidence’ In Leadership

By Janice Kephart

In an unprecedented move within the Department of Homeland Security, the detention and removal officers and agents responsible for and sworn to enforcing our nation’s immigration laws issued an exhaustive, scathing letter simply titled “VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE IN ICE DIRECTOR JOHN MORTON AND ODPP ASSISTANT DIRECTOR PHYLLIS COVEN” on June 11, 2010. The letter, acquired through sources, provides a litany of examples of how ICE’s mission is being skewed towards supporting an unflinching goal of amnesty by refusing to allow agents to do their job; allowing criminal aliens to roam free; depleting resources for key enforcement initiatives that preceded this administration; and misrepresenting facts and programs, demeaning the extent of the criminal alien problem and geared to support amnesty.

The letter, authored by ICE Union President Chris Crane, begins as follows, noting that all ICE union representatives have signed on to a unanimous “Vote of No Confidence” in ICE leadership:…

[Return to headlines]


Global Warming: Our Mistake, Never Mind

In a remarkable monograph, Roy W. Spencer presents hard evidence that 75% of the observed warming since the start of the 20th century is due to natural processes. He offers a detailed model describing how one of these processes, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), operates in the real world. Most importantly, he demonstrates that anthropomorphic global warming (AGW) is a minor contributor to a global climate largely insensitive to man-made CO2.

Thanks to this highly skilled climatologist and his, The Great Global Warming Blunder: How Mother Nature Fooled The World’s Top Climate Scientists, we can now taunt the often corrupt and overtly political planetary high priests with this: PDO means AGW is DOA.

Written in a style that should be attractive to both warming newcomers and scientists from other fields, the volume’s appearance is not a welcome event for the world’s strident purveyors of global warming orthodoxy. For in the gentlest language possible Spencer is telling the AGW clingers that they are scientifically incompetent lemmings.


At the end of his careful analysis, a simple picture emerges. The PDO is a long-lived ocean-to-atmosphere heat transfer process (similar to the more well-known El Niño and La Niña) but of much longer duration. Cloud cover decreases significantly during the positive PDO phase allowing more sunlight to reach the earth’s surface. In the ocean, this extra energy is stored as heat. In its negative phase the PDO acts in reverse and cools the atmosphere. And all of this occurs in roughly 30-year cycles. While this mechanism is operating, mankind is leaking a vanishing small amount of CO2 into the atmosphere. Big deal.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]