Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100807

Financial Crisis
»Netherlands: JSF Fighter Jet Order Now Unlikely
»No-Money-Down Home Loans… Say it Ain’t So
»Groups Challenge Order to Kill Awlaki
»Pat Buchanan: The Mosque at Ground Zero
»Target Still Taking Heat for Political Donation
»The Mosque at Ground Zero: Who is Behind it?
»This Isn’t the America I Love
Europe and the EU
»Czech Republic: US Ambassador to Back Westinghouse’s Bid in Temelín
»France: Population Approves of Sarkozy’s Tighter Security
»Italy: Premier Plans Showdown With Speaker’s Group
»Ramadan: Tunisians Returning Early to Europe
»Special Investigation: How Predatory Gangs Force Middle-Class Girls Into the Sex Trade
»UK: English Defence League Targets Bradford March as the ‘Big One’
»UK: Hundreds Expected at UK Muslim Anti-Terrorism Camp
»UK: Muslim Group Minhaj Ul-Quran Runs ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Camp
»UK: Muslims Satge Anti-Terror Summer Camp
»UK: Philip Larkin’s Jazz Box Set Will be Pure Poetry
»Wikileaks Not Shielded by Swedish Law: Experts
North Africa
»Tunisia: 1.3 Bln and 2,200 Jobs From Emigrant Remittances
Israel and the Palestinians
»Gaza Aid Flotilla to Set Sail From Lebanon With All-Women Crew
Middle East
»Facial Hair in Turkish Politics: A Tale of Moustaches and Men
»Iran Arms Itself With Cutting Edge, Long-Range Missiles
»Iran’s Ahmadinejad Calls for TV Debate With Obama
»Remains of Explosives Found on Hull of Damaged Japanese Supertanker
»Survey: Half of Arab Students Favour Censorship
South Asia
»Aftermath of an Afghanistan Tragedy
»Pakistan: The Taliban’s New Target
»Scottish Government Funding for Pakistan Aid Effort
»Six German Doctors Killed in Afghanistan
Culture Wars
»Beware of “Whole Child Education”

Financial Crisis

Netherlands: JSF Fighter Jet Order Now Unlikely

VVD leader and likely new prime minister Mark Rutte is opposed to the purchase of a number of JSF fighter jets in the next cabinet period, the Volkskrant reports on Friday, quoting sources in The Hague.

The sources say Rutte is in favour of buying a second test aircraft in order to guarantee the participation of Dutch firms in the development and production process. Rutte made the comments during talks on forming a coalition with the Labour party, which failed last month, the paper says.

The current caretaker government delayed taking a decision on the purchase of dozens of JSF aircraft until 2012 because of opposition from Labour, which was part of the coalition.

The paper says Rutte is well aware that ordering JSF aircraft at a cost of €6bn would be very sensitive at a time of cuts in education, healthcare and social security spending. He is committed to finding austerity measures to generate €18bn in savings between now and 2015.

The PVV is also opposed to spending money on the JSF and the CDA is only committed to buying a second test aircraft. The VVD hopes to form a new government with the CDA and PVV.

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

No-Money-Down Home Loans… Say it Ain’t So

Apparently, while we weren’t looking, Bam and the boys thought it would be a good idea to start giving away homes again, and when I say giving them away I mean giving them away, as in no money out of your pocket.

Fannie Mae has established a new program called “Affordable Advantage.” It already has been implemented in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and Idaho with several more to come.

After doing some digging, I found out some choice bits of information about the program from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA).

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Groups Challenge Order to Kill Awlaki

Two civil rights groups filed a court challenge Tuesday saying the U.S. government illegally placed Yemeni-American Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki on a hit list and froze his assets.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights said in their petition that they are not even allowed to represent Awlaki because he has been named a “specially designated global terrorist” by the U.S. Treasury Department.


The two organizations said they were retained in early July by Nasser al-Awlaki, the cleric’s father, to bring a lawsuit over the alleged kill order from the CIA and the Defense Department.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Pat Buchanan: The Mosque at Ground Zero

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has just demonstrated that you can become a billionaire in America many times over, while being clueless about the country you live in.

To Bloomberg, if you oppose a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero, you are indulging in religious bigotry and do not understand the Constitution. Here is the mayor explaining how the heroes of 9/11 died so that mosques might be built anywhere in New York City.

“On Sept. 11th, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, no one asked, “What god do you pray to? What beliefs do you hold?’ We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor those lives by defending those rights, and the freedoms those terrorists attacked.”

The mayor appears to have plagiarized JFK’s speech to the Houston ministers, where Kennedy defended a Catholic’s right to run for president by invoking the heroic death of his brother Joe over the Channel.

But the issue here is not religious tolerance. There are a hundred mosques in New York City.

The issue here is the appalling insensitivity, if not calculated insult, of erecting a mosque two blocks from a World Trade Center where 3,000 Americans were massacred by Islamic fanatics whose Muslim religion was integral to their identity and mission.

It is no more religious bigotry to oppose the Ground Zero Mosque than it would have been religious bigotry to oppose building a Shinto shrine in 1950 on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, next to the Arizona.

To Americans, the land on which the twin towers stood is hallowed ground, a burial site made scared by the suffering and deaths of all who perished in the horrifying minutes those towers burned and fell.

There are many such sites in America. Lexington, Concord Bridge, Bunker Hill, Yorktown, the Alamo, Manassas — where the first battle of the War Between the States was fought — Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Vicksburg, Gettysburg.

When developers tried to build a mall next to the Manassas battlefield, many who had kinfolk who fought and died in that war blocked it, including Jody Powell, Jimmy Carter’s press secretary.

They did not fight development because they opposed private enterprise, any more than those who blocked the licensing of a casino beside Gettysburg battlefield did so because they dislike gambling.

What is the purpose of this mosque and Islamic center, the name of which, Cordoba House, is taken from a city that became the Moorish capital after Catholic Spain was conquered and came under Islamic rule for eight centuries before the Reconquista of 1492?

How would Muslims in the Middle East react to the building of a Crusader House in the Holy Land, funded by the Vatican and built around a chapel dedicated to Pope Urban II?

Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is fronting for the project, says its purpose is healing, reconciliation, harmony. Taking him at his word, why would Imam Feisal ferociously persist when the mosque was clearly enraging the families of the fallen of 9/11 and dividing, not uniting, New York and the country.

Nor has Imam Feisal been transparent about where he will come up with the $100 million for Cordoba House, or who is behind this, or what is the need for a 13-story mosque and community center so near where the twin towers stood.

As Claudia Rosett of Forbes has learned, Imam Feisal has been running the Cordoba Initiative, a charitable foundation whose total contributions over the five years ending in 2008 came to $100,000.

Yet he plans a 13-story mosque and community center that will, he says, employ 150 full-time and 500 part-time workers.

Mayor Bloomberg’s statement also reflects a naivete about why bin Laden and al-Qaida sent those terrorists to wound our country and kill as many of us as they could in the most dramatic way they could.

Al-Qaida did not attack us because we have a free press and freedom of assembly. They sent terrorists to smash and burn the symbols of U.S. power — the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the Capitol — because they hate our policies and, above all, our presence in the Dar al-Islam, the House of Islam. They wish to purify their region of the infidel, establish a caliphate and live under sharia.

To them, we are the new Crusaders, the new Romans, and by wounding and enraging us, they sucked us into a war on their terrain.

And those firemen, police and rescue workers did not run into those burning buildings to defend constitutional rights, but, acting out of bravery and love, to save their fellow men.

And as our God, the one true God, said, “Greater love than this hath no man, than that he lay down his life for his friend.”

Tell them to put their mosque somewhere else, Mike.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Target Still Taking Heat for Political Donation

A liberal lobbying group is continuing to stoke the political firestorm that has engulfed Target Corp. over its political donations. representatives gave company officials an online petition containing 260,000 signatures of people who say they won’t shop at Target “until it stops trying to buy elections.”

Representatives of the organization presented the petitions at noon Friday at Target’s downtown Minneapolis headquarters, accompanied by protesters.

Protests also were planned outside other stores of the nation’s second-largest discounter.

MoveOn’s action comes a day after Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel apologized to employees for the $150,000 the company donated to MN Forward, a pro-business group backing Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.

Emmer’s stance against same-sex marriage galvanized opposition from liberal and gay rights groups.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Mosque at Ground Zero: Who is Behind it?

by Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

The Imam behind the controversial mosque at Ground Zero dreams of Islamizing United States, as exposed in his book, which has two titles: one in English,m and one in Arabic

In the U.S., his book is called, ‘What’s Right with America Is What’s right with Islam.”

The same book, published in Arabic, bears the title, “The Call from the WTC Rubble: Islamic Da’wah Proseletismfrom the Heart of America Post-9/11.”

Here we get exactly the Imam, who is assigned to “spread Islam right from the WTC rubble.”

Now, let us have some glimpse over the funders and backers of this mosque project. According to information, a scholar and charity head appointed to President Obama’s White House Fellowships Commission is closely tied to the Muslim leaders behind this proposed controversial Islamic cultural center to be built near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks. The White House fellow, Vartan Gregorian, is president of Carnegie Corp. of New York.

Gregorian also serves on the board of the Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum. The museum is reportedly working with the American Society for Muslim Advancement, whose leaders are behind the mosque, to ensure the future museum will represent the voices of American Muslims.

“[The Sept. 11 museum will represent the] voices of American Muslims in particular, and it will honor members of other communities who came together in support and collaboration with the Muslim community on September 11 and its aftermath,” stated Daisy Khan, wife of the founder of the society and chairman of the of the Cordoba Initiative, Imam Faidal AbdulRauf Khan, and executive director of the society.

The future Sept. 11 museum’s oral historian, Jenny Pachucki, is collaborating with the society to ensure the perspective of American Muslims is woven into the overall experience of the museum, according to the museum’s blog.

Daisy Khan’s husband, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is the founder of the society as well as chairman of Cordoba Initiative.

With Gregorian at its helm, Carnegie Corp. is at the top of the list of society supporters on the Islamic group’s website. Carnegie is also listed as a funder of both of the society’s partner organizations, Search for Common Ground and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. Gregorian was a participant in the U.N. body’s first forum, as was Rauf.

Rauf is vice chairman on the board of the Interfaith Center of New York, which honored Gregorian at an awards dinner in 2008.

Gregorian, born in Tabriz, Iran, served for eight years as a president of the New York Public Library and was also president of Brown University. He is the author of “Islam: A Mosaic, Not a Monolith.”

According to a book review by the Middle East Forum, Gregorian’s book “establishes the Islamist goal of world domination.”

A chapter of the book, “Islamism: Liberation Politics,” quotes Ayatollah Khomeini: “Islam does not conquer. Islam wants all countries to become Muslim, of themselves.”

Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, is quoted stating it “is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its laws on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet.”

Gregorian himself recommends for Muslims a system he calls “theo-democracy,” which he defines as “a divine democratic government” that, according to the book review, “would have a limited popular sovereignty under the suzerainty of Allah.”

Recently, World Net Daily reported that Rauf refused during a live radio interview to condemn violent jihad groups as terrorists. Rauf also repeatedly refused on-air to affirm the U.S. designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization or call the Muslim Brotherhood extremists.

The Brotherhood openly seeks to spread Islam around the world, while Hamas is committed to Israel’s destruction and is responsible for scores of suicide bombings, shootings and rocket attacks aimed at Jewish civilian population centers.

During that interview, Rauf was also asked who he believes was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.

“There’s no doubt,” stated Rauf. “The general perception all over the world was it was created by people who were sympathetic to Osama bin Laden. Whether they were part of the killer group or not, these are details that need to be left to the law-enforcement experts.”

Rauf has been on record several times as blaming U.S. policies for the Sept. 11 attacks. He has been quoted refusing to admit Muslims carried out the attacks…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

This Isn’t the America I Love

by Mehdi Hassan

I remember vividly my first visit to Ground Zero. It was August 2002 and flags, wreaths, cards and floral bouquets still adorned the streets around the 16-acre hole in the ground. One particular image lingers: a navy blue T-shirt, emblazoned with the logo of the New York City Fire Department, on which a mourner had written: “We will never forget the brave firefighters who were killed by terrorists on September 11”. Someone had crossed out the word “terrorists” and replaced it with “Muslims”. As a Muslim, I could only despair at the repugnant notion that all Muslims, and indeed Islam itself, shared responsibility for 9/11. But time, I reassured myself, would be a great healer.

I was wrong. Fast forward to the present: August 2010. A $100m proposal to build a facility for Muslims in lower Manhattan, called Cordoba House, has become the focus of an intense controversy. Outraged rightwing protesters have spent several months trying to block the construction of what they call the Ground Zero mosque, claiming it is an “insult” to the victims and a “victory” for the terrorists.

Ignorance and bigotry abounds. Cordoba House is not a mosque but a cultural centre, which will include a prayer area, sports facilities, theatre and restaurant. The aim of the project is to promote “integration, tolerance of difference and community cohesion … a place where individuals, regardless of their backgrounds, will find a centre of learning, art and culture”. Nor is it being built at Ground Zero. The proposed site is two blocks to the north.

Neither of these inconvenient facts, however, have stopped a slew of high-profile Republicans falling over one another to denounce the project. The former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, in her now-notorious tweet, urged “peaceful Muslims” to “refudiate” the proposed “mosque”, because it “stabs hearts”. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani said the project was a “desecration” and the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, declared that “there should be no mosque near Ground Zero so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia”.

The craven silence of leading Democrats is equally unforgivable. President Obama, accused by some opponents of being a “secret Muslim”, has yet to utter a single word in support of the project. Meanwhile, across the US, intolerance of Islam and Muslims is growing. In recent weeks, there have been public protests against new mosques in Temecula, California, and in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. A church in Gainesville, Florida, has plans for a “Burn a Qur’an day”.

Unlike many Muslims, I have always been an Americanophile. I know the majority of Americans are decent people, committed to freedom and tolerance. Don’t believe me? The mayor of Gainesville has condemned the idea of a “Qur’an-burning” day. In Temecula, the number of locals who turned out to support a new local mosque outnumbered protestors by four to one. In New York, a poll revealed that more Manhattanites were in favour of the “Ground Zero mosque” than were against it, including businessman Charles Wolf, who lost his wife in the attack on the twin towers.

And on Tuesday, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg made an impassioned speech to his fellow Republicans in which he argued that Muslims “are as much a part of our city and our country as the people of any faith”, adding: “To cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists”. The mosque row has become a struggle for the soul of the United States, the nation where freedom and democracy is supposed to reign supreme. As both a Muslim, and a friend of America, I hope and pray that the decency of Bloomberg and Wolf triumphs over the bigotry of Palin and Gingrich

[JP note: A kaffarophobe lectures Americans about Islamophobia. This is what Mr Hasan has said about the kaffar in what became known as Cattlegate:

“The kaffar, the disbelievers, the atheists who remain deaf and stubborn to the teachings of Islam, the rational message of the Quran; they are described in the Quran as, quote, “a people of no intelligence”, Allah describes them as; not of no morality, not as people of no belief — people of “no intelligence” — because they’re incapable of the intellectual effort it requires to shake off those blind prejudices, to shake off those easy assumptions about this world, about the existence of God. In this respect, the Quran describes the atheists as “cattle”, as cattle of those who grow the crops and do not stop and wonder about this world.”

see here ]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Czech Republic: US Ambassador to Back Westinghouse’s Bid in Temelín

Washington, Aug 5 (CTK) — Norman Eisen, who may become new U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, wants to support U.S. Westinghouse in its bid to complete the nuclear power plant in Temelin, south Bohemia, Eisen told a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, dealing with his nomination, Thursday.

Eisen said he considered the issue of energy security one of the vital issues of Czech-U.S. relations.

The White House announced in late July that U.S. President Barack Obama had proposed Eisen for ambassador to Prague.

Eisen said that if he were confirmed, he would strongly support Westinghouse’s offer in the tender for the Temelin nuclear plant.

Westinghouse is a U.S. company now owned by Japanese Toshiba.

It competes for the bid with a consortium including the Russian Atomstroyexport, and the French company Areva.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal that appeared at the weekend, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg warned of the Czech Republic’s energy dependence on Russia.

“I don’t think it’s good if in anything you are dependent too much on one country,” Schwarzenberg said.

“There is a certain dependency [on Russia]”, he said.

“I’d like to have close cooperation with the United States, but in tenders I prefer a good price and good quality,” Schwarzenberg said, adding that the U.S. is a great ally. “But this is business,” he said.

Westinghouse will take part in the tender to build two new units as part of the planned expansion of the Temelin plant.

The winner of the tender should be known in spring 2012. The national power company CEZ would like to put the new units into operation by 2020.

The order’s value exceeds 500 billion crowns.

Eisen said in the U.S. Senate Thursday the Czech Republic and the USA were united by the belief in shared values such as democracy and market economy that survived the Nazi and Communist regimes.

He stressed that the Czech Republic had deployed its troops in Afghan and Kosovo missions.

Eisen said the Czech Republic was an energetic democracy with a flourishing economy.

Speaking about his relationship to the Czech Republic, Eisen said his mother originated from former Czechoslovakia.

He said she had told him about the most beatiful city in the world, the golden Prague, as well as Czechoslovakia’s first President Tomas Garrigue Masaryk (ni office 1918-35).

Eisen said his mother had sung lullabies in Czech to him, but also mentioned some dark chapters of Czech history such as the Nazi invasion and her Holocaust survival.

Along with Eisen’s father, who originated from Poland, she moved to the USA after the war.

The post of U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic has been vacant since January 2009.

The previous ambassador, Republican Richard Graber, a close aide to Obama’s predecessor George Bush, left the post after the new administration of Obama assumed office.

Eisen, a lawyer by profession living in Washington, works as Obama’s adviser for ethics and the government reform at present. He accompanied Obama during his visit to Prague in April.

According to the White House, Eisen dealt with the regulation of lobbyists, the finance reform and bill on funding election campaigns. He also participated in the work on the new code of conduct for White House employees.

Previously, Eisen had been a partner in the Washington-based lawyer’s firm Zuckerman Spaeder for 17 years.

He is also a co-founder of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) non-profit organisation in Washington that is mainly targetting the government in terms of ethics and accountability.

Eisen graduated from two prestigious U.S. schools — Brown University and Harvard where he met Obama.

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

France: Population Approves of Sarkozy’s Tighter Security

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, AUGUST 6 — The majority of French citizens agree with the hard line being taken by President Nicolas Sarkozy to strengthen security in the country and to tackle crime, starting with crimes committed by immigrants.

According to a survey published by daily newspaper Le Figaro, 89% were in favour of electronic tagging for multiple offenders even after they have served their time in prison. 80% approved of depriving of foreign born French citizens of their citizenship if they are found guilty of polygamy.

But there was also approval for the introduction of a 30-year sentence for anyone who has killed a police officer of gendarme.

The survey by the IFOP institute also found that 70% supported the President in pushing for the confiscation of citizenship for “foreign-born” criminals who murder a public official.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Premier Plans Showdown With Speaker’s Group

Berlusconi wants to see if rebel MPs still support government

(ANSA) — Rome, August 6 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi plans to force a group of breakaway MPs from his People of Freedom (PdL) party to show if they still support his government when parliament reconvenes in September, and resign if they don’t, PdL House Whip Fabrizio Cicchitto said on Friday.

The government is “sailing without a compass” following Berlusconi’s break last week with PdL co-founder, House Speaker Gianfranco Fini, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said earlier this week.

Fini and his 43 supporters have formed their own ‘Future and Freedom’ (FLI) groups in the House and Senate and abstained in a key no confidence vote against a government member this week, saving Berlusconi but proving they now have the power to topple him.

Cicchitto said Berlusconi would present a platform containing a “few points” when parliament opens after the August break and see whether he still had “a majority which will renew its confidence in the government”.

If not, “at that point, there can be no alternative to elections,” said Cicchitto.

However, if Berlusconi’s government does fall President Giorgio Napolitano would be obliged by the Constitution to consult all the political players and decide whether a replacement can be found before calling early elections.

Cicchitto did not specify what the “few points” in the platform were but Milan’s Corriere della Sera daily speculated that the premier would “seek confidence on four points”, listing them as reforming the justice system, taxes, federalism and measures to boost the impoverished southern economy.

Meanwhile, a key breakaway MP said FLI would continue to support the government and would not seek an alliance with the centre-left opposition.

FLI House Whip Italo Bocchino told Turin’s La Stampa daily the rebel faction “would never” vote against the government on a no confidence vote and hoped to negotiate with the PdL and its ally the Northern League to keep the majority afloat.

The country should not head to early elections and this will happen only if Berlusconi decides to force his hand, Bocchino added.

Furthermore, he said that if elections are held, FLI has no intention of seeking an alliance with the centre left or form a so-called ‘third way’ coalition with opposition centrist parties UDC, led by ex Berlusconi ally Pierferdinando Casini, and API, headed by former Rome mayor Francesco Rutelli. Berlusconi, whose tempestuous relations with Fini came to head in a public shouting match in May, threw the Speaker out of the party last Thursday.

Fini and his supporters promptly created their own parliamentary faction.

FLI groups have been set up within the centre-right camp but if 27 of its 34 House members were to vote against the government, it would go under.

The group’s 10 senators are not enough to bring the government down in the Senate should they vote against it. Government Simplification Minister Roberto Calderoli, a Northern League heavyweight, said he would see Fini to discuss his intentions on the government’s plans to devolve greater fiscal powers to Italy’s 20 regions.

Fiscal federalism is the League’s pet issue but as Fini has repeatedly called for caution on how it should be enacted, the issue would be a litmus test for the government’s survival.

“I’ll show him the decrees on fiscal federalism. That’s where we’ll see if this government can keep going or if we have to return to the polls,” Calderoli told Corriere della Sera.

The minister said every effort should be made to patch things up because calling elections three years before the end of the legislature “over rifts in a party …would be a serious responsibility as well as an incomprehensible one” for voters.

But centre-left opposition leader Pier Luigi Bersani said it was time for Berlusconi to go.

The leader of Democratic Party (PD) told Rome daily La Repubblica the country must “get rid of Berlusconi” because “democracy is at stake”.

The crisis sparked by Fini’s ouster is an opportunity to ensure Berlusconi’s exit after 16 years in the political arena, he added.

Bersani said his party was ready to face elections but would prefer to keep the legislature alive by finding an alternative government to approve changes to the current electoral law which the centre-left says was tailored by a previous Berlusconi government to suit his own party and coalition.

The PD would consider a caretaker government headed by Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti because “anything which goes in the direction of change would be welcomed,” he added.

Reacting to Bersani’s call, Justice Minister Angelino Alfano said it was “unacceptable and of unprecedented violence”.

Alfano said the PD is afraid of facing the electorate and hopes “to change the political situation determined by free elections” with “backroom power play”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Ramadan: Tunisians Returning Early to Europe

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, AUGUST 6 — Many Tunisians emigrants, like many other North African Muslims, are returning early to Europe — and to France in particular — before Ramadan, the sacred month of fasting, which begins on August 10 or 11. According to French travel agents, quoted by Kapitalis, the information site dedicated to Tunisia and Arab North Africa, the early return is due to three reasons: the cooler climate in France and in Europe in general; the increase in prices during the fasting period and, for some, the “the burden of traditional customs” which are difficult to avoid in a Muslim country. As for the managing director of the airline company Aigle Azur, the peak in departures for the carrier toward Europe is predicted between August 8 and 10. Unusual, too, is the number of early departures that will be registered August 7 and 8 on the ships of Societa’ Marittima Corsica Mediterranea (Sncm) which covers the routes for Tunisia and Algeria.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Special Investigation: How Predatory Gangs Force Middle-Class Girls Into the Sex Trade

At 13, Emma still played with dolls and loved nothing more than walking with her pet spaniel, Mollie, through the fields next to her home on the outskirts of Leeds.

Her blonde hair was cut in a little girl’s bob and she had never kissed a boy.

The highlight of her week was Saturday, when she would meet friends at the local shopping centre while her middle-class parents, Jack and Carol, went to Tesco.

Yet by her 14th birthday, that innocent childhood was over.

Emma had been raped and sexually abused in the most grotesque manner by 54 men from all over Britain.

‘It feels as if one minute I was playing with dolls, the next I was a sex slave,’ she told me this week.

‘I was wearing my favourite candy-striped ankle socks when I was first raped. Afterwards, my white coat was covered in blood.’

Emma remembers every detail. Two of those ‘friends’ in the shopping mall were teenage boys, Niv and Jay, who were being used by a criminal gang to lure naive local girls into an underage sex ring.

They introduced Emma to older relatives, in their 20s and 30s, who said they wanted to be her friends, too. They plied her with vodka, cigarettes and cannabis spliffs.

‘I thought I was having a great time. I had no idea the men were part of a gang,’ she says now.

‘They were more exciting than my school friends. I began to meet them every day after school before catching the bus home.’

With rap music blaring, the men drove her around Leeds in a expensive cars, including a Bentley with personalised number plates. They bought her cheeseburgers at McDonald’s and gave her a new mobile phone.

One, 24-year-old, Tarik, took a particular interest in her. He was the gang’s ring leader — and one day he imposed his authority on her in the most brutal fashion.

He led Emma to a patch of wasteland near the bus station and raped her.

The whole episode was watched by a group from the gang who, laughing, recorded the attack on their mobile phone cameras.

Afterwards, Emma was left to pick herself up, try to wash the blood off her clothes in the nearby public lavatory, and catch the early evening bus home.

Almost equally wicked were the threats that went with the rape.

Emma, who is now 21 and virtually living in hiding in the North of England, recalls: ‘It was like joining a cult.

‘They threatened to firebomb my home with my parents inside if I told anyone what they’d done, shoot me with a pistol, rape my mother and kill my older brother if I told anyone.

‘In my child’s mind, I wanted to believe Tarik had feelings for me. But he was just a pimp, and soon he was making money out of me by selling me to other men — I don’t know how much for.’

‘He would give me presents, vodka and cigarettes. But soon I was paying him back by having to do what I had to do with man after man, in empty flats, in parks and down alleyways.’

‘In my child’s mind I believed he had feelings for me.’ If Emma’s story were a one-off it would be distressing enough, but the reality is that it is not.

Many schoolgirls — some aged just eight — all over the north of England are falling prey to gangs who groom them to be lucrative sex slaves.

It is an organised crime which police say reaps four times more money for these gangs than dealing in drugs.

This week, a privately educated schoolgirl forced into sex slavery at 14 gave evidence in court against nine men, who were jailed for her ‘sustained sexual abuse’ over many months.

She was picked up in 2008 by Asad Hassan, 27, while walking through Rochdale, a former cotton-mill town in Greater Manchester.

He took her to a nightclub and gave her vodka before his friends, Mohammed Basharat, 27, and Mohammed Atif, 28, drove her to a private house and all three had sex with her.

The daughter of a professional couple, she was then passed around from man to man, as Superintendent Paul Savill, of Greater Manchester Police explained after the case.

‘The level of abuse was beyond belief. She was a commodity, beaten, threatened and sexually exploited.’

As with Emma, the experience of this girl has a very uncomfortable racial element to it, which is often not spoken about.

In both cases, they were white girls and the gang members were Asian.

Emma says: ‘Most of the men running the sex slave gangs in the north of England are Asians of Pakistani origin. But very few of the authorities will admit this.’

Is she right to say so? If she is, why are so few people in officialdom willing to discuss the issue?

At this point, two things should be stressed. First, that the great majority of Asian men are law-abiding decent citizens, who often possess stronger family values than their white counterparts.

Second, that rape and paedophilia are universal problems that have nothing to do with race and ethnicity.

But it’s also true that, during this investigation, I encountered a reluctance to comment on the racial element of these dreadful crimes.

One charity — Risky Business, operating in Rotherham — refused to answer any questions on the racial make-up of the gangs, although, with the help of Emma herself, it counsels scores of white girls who have been sexually exploited by Asians.

At another charity, Coalition for the Removal of Pimping, based in Leeds, the chief executive Gillian Gibbons said: ‘This is a crime committed by men. We are trying to work in their communities to change their attitudes to women. I cannot comment on the race of the criminals involved.’

So it has been left to the mothers of the victims, former local MP Ann Cryer and some Asian youth workers to highlight the problem.

The mothers say that political correctness and a fear of being branded racist is at the heart of the taboo.

One mother from Yorkshire, whose 13-year-old girl was lured into sex slavery, told me: ‘Almost every man found guilty of grooming under-age girls in this part of Britain is Asian, and everyone knows that.’

‘I think the police are over cautious about this issue because they fear being branded racist. That is wrong. These are criminals that should be treated as criminals whatever their race.’ It was Ann Cryer who provoked a storm when she blamed traditional Asian culture for these kinds of attacks.

Seven years ago, she said: ‘It’s a fact that all the victims of these terrible crimes are white girls, and all the alleged perpetrators are Asian men.

That is significant and needs to be addressed.

She later added: ‘The family and cultural norms of their community means the Asian men are expected to marry a first cousin or another relative. Therefore, until the marriage is arranged, they look for sex.

‘There is also a problem with the view Asian men have about white girls. It is generally fairly low.’

Mohammed Shafiq, director of the Lancashire-based Ramadhan Foundation,

a charity working for peaceful harmony between different ethnic communities, has gone further.

He says: ‘I think the police are over cautious about this issue because they fear being branded racist. That they fear being branded racist. That is wrong. These are criminals that should be treated as criminals whatever their race.’

Meanwhile, another Asian youth worker — himself a reformed former pimp — told the Mail that while the gangs’ main aim was to make money there were also cultural issues at play.

‘Asian men in these gangs believe white girls have low morals compared with Muslim girls. They believe they wear what they describe as slags’ clothing showing their bodies, and deserve what they get.’

Scotland Yard estimates that 5,000 British-born children are today under the control of sex-slave gangs across the UK. At least ten towns on both sides of the Pennines face the problem.

In Blackburn alone, 385 young girls have been offered protection after being sexually exploited by men in the past two years.

There have been 63 charges against men suspected of giving them drugs, alcohol and presents in return for sex.

Across Lancashire, 201 men, a quarter of them Asian and the rest white, have been investigated for the sexual exploitation and the abduction of 370 children this year alone.

Sheila Taylor, chairwoman of the National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Children and Young People, is unsurprised by the huge tally of child victims.

‘The figures in Blackburn will be much the same as any other town of a similar size,’ she says emphatically.

As a victim, Emma knows from advising the girls in Yorkshire that their age is getting younger.

‘A few years ago, the girls were 15 or 16. I was just 13. Now there are plenty of ten-year-olds. The gangs want virgins and girls who are free of sexual diseases. Most of the men buying sex with the girls have Muslim wives, and they don’t want to risk infection. The younger you look, the more saleable you are.’

This week, Emma met three 14- year-olds at the charity Risky Business who are still trying to escape from the clutches of gangs of Asian men.

She told them: ‘I know the pattern. I bet you get men phoning you from London, Manchester or Birmingham who somehow know your mobile number.

‘They ask to meet for sex, and you are afraid to say no, because the gang who controls you has threatened to hurt you or your family.

All three girls nodded. Emma’s parents discovered the truth about her own ordeal just a week before her 14th birthday, in the spring of 2003.

Her mother and father, who owned a grocery business, were working when neighbours on the smart estate where the family lived rang to say two Asian men were hovering outside the house looking for Emma. When they rushed home, the men had gone.

‘But the mobile phone calls and messages from the gang never stopped. One from Tarik to Emma said simply: ‘U R 4 IT’. They asked their daughter to explain, and Emma admitted she had been raped (in fact she had been assaulted by Tarik once a week for months, and by many more men besides).

They called the police who started an investigation.

‘When the gang found out, they threatened the family who eventually decided to drop the charges because they feared for their lives.

A frightened Emma told her parents: ‘These men are more powerful than God.’

For a couple of months, Emma was kept in relative safety at home, only allowed to visit friends if her mother drove her to their houses.

‘But the mobile phone calls and messages from the gang never stopped. One from Tarik to Emma said simply: ‘U R 4 IT’.

Another message said: ‘Open your mouth and you will get a bullet in it.’

If Emma’s mother answered her mobile, a man would say:

‘Put Emma on the phone, love. Just do it or else.’

There were hundreds of calls, even after the family changed her SIM card.

In the end, the pressure became too much and the family decided they had to move away to protect Emma.

They settled in another part of Yorkshire, and Emma received counselling to help her recover.

Today, she has dyed her blonde hair a dark shade, and her family keep their new address a secret from all but their closest relatives.

Emma has written a book about her experiences, called The End Of My World, and uses a pseudonym.

She is still scared that the gang could find her.

Emma managed to rebuild her life to some degree through a longstanding relationship with a young man — who happened to be Asian — though it has now come to an end.

Only recently, she visited Leeds on a day trip. She was having a coffee in a bar, when the gang’s leader Tarik — her former tormentor — walked through the door but didn’t recognise her, because she was quite a bit older.

‘I know he wouldn’t be interested in me any more,’ she says quietly.

‘He was looking for girls who are still children to groom as sex slaves. Younger ones, who the punters will pay the highest price for.’

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: English Defence League Targets Bradford March as the ‘Big One’

Locals fear planned protest by EDL could destroy years of hard work healing divisions resulting from 2001 race riots

Qummar Zaman is sharing a joke with one of his customers outside the Mangla mini-supermarket when his expression suddenly changes. The 32-year-old, who has run the business on Bradford’s Oak Lane since the late 1990s, lowers his voice and speaks with a quiet urgency. “We definitely don’t want them in Bradford. We have been working hard in the past 10 years to get this community back to where it should be and we don’t want all that spoiled by people who are coming just to cause trouble, to try to divide people.”

The cause of his concern is the far-right English Defence League and its plan to target the racially mixed city this month in a demonstration the group’s activists have called “the big one”. It is causing grave alarm in Bradford, which was hit by riots in 2001 after the National Front staged a protest in the city. The disturbances caused more than £20m in damage, saw 300 police officers injured and left long-term scars on the city’s community relations.

Marsha Singh, the MP for Bradford West, who witnessed the 2001 riots, has no doubt about what could be at stake for the constituents he has represented since 1997 if the far-right demonstration goes ahead. “All it will need in Bradford if this EDL rally takes place is one spark, because I know a lot of young people will see this as an invasion and then it will only take one spark to repel the invaders,” he said in his first floor office a few hundred yards from Bradford city centre. Zaman agreed: “We have seen what this kind of thing can do here. And as a city and as a local community we can’t afford that happening again.”

The EDL started in Luton last year and has become the most significant far-right street movement in the UK since the National Front in the 1970s. It claims to be a peaceful, non-racist organisation opposed only to “militant Islam”. But many of its demonstrations have ended in confrontations with the police after some supporters became involved in violence as well as racist and Islamophobic chanting.

The group has held demonstrations across the country but its plan to get thousands of activists to Bradford is its most provocative yet. Anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000 EDL supporters are expected to descend on the city on the final weekend of this month and there are fears of widespread unrest. Bradford, however, is not taking the threat lying down. In the past six weeks a broad-based campaign has sprung up to put pressure on the home secretary, Theresa May, to ban the rally amid violent confrontations with opponents of the group. More than 7,000 people have signed a petition and everybody from the city’s university vice-chancellor to business leaders, trade unions, Bradford City Football Club and the local paper have signed up.

Paul Meszaros, a co-ordinator of the Bradford Together campaign, said: “When it became clear that the EDL were determined to march in Bradford we realised we needed to build a campaign that not only achieved a ban … but a campaign where all sections of the Bradfordian community come together so that a real clear message could be built and an organic resistance to the ideas of the EDL could emerge.” Meszaros, the Yorkshire organiser for the anti-racist group Hope not Hate, says the response had been amazing. “That has been the really heartwarming aspect to all this. When you start a campaign you have no idea how people are going to react, but it quickly became apparent that most people in Bradford are right behind what we are doing.”

He and others face an uphill task. Towns and cities across the country have tried to stop EDL demonstrations in the past, so far without success. But Bradford council leader Ian Greenwood argues that the group poses a real threat to his city. “My view is if people are peddling hate you ought to be able to stop large groups of them coming together in a particular community to try and foment trouble. I do not believe that it is about their rights,” he said, sitting behind his desk in the town hall. Greenwood added that council lawyers are studying race relations legislation to see if it can be used to ban the demonstration. “What we have is a group of people who want to come to Bradford to foment trouble in our community,” he said. “They are not Bradfordians and they do not have any stake in our future.”

Some opponents of the EDL have argued that the group should be allowed to hold its event, and that the right to protest is fundamental. But this is not a view that appears popular on Bradford’s streets. Richard Dunbar, who lives in the predominantly white working-class area of Buttershaw, said people wanted to focus on the good things in the city — its world heritage site and vibrant cultural scene. There was no support for the rally, he said. “Freedom and responsibilty are very closely linked. The EDL are coming here to cause division and conflict in Bradford: how is that about freedom? It’s about being divisive and stopping people being who they are. The EDL is coming here to cause trouble and Bradford does not need it.”

In the quiet surroundings of Lister Park, Ray Charles is watching a bowling match. Like many in the city the 63-year-old remembers the fallout from the 2001 riots. “We don’t want anybody coming here who might cause trouble after we experienced the riots some years ago,” he said. “We don’t want anything like that happening again.”

Campaigners are now waiting for the results of a risk assessment by West Yorkshire police to see if it will join the call for a ban. The force would then put its case to the home secretary.Meszaros said: “It’s nine years since the last riots, which had a devastating effect on this city. The scars in the way that Bradfordians view one another take a long time to heal. We can not possibly afford a repeat of that.”

[JP note: It is hypocritical in the extreme for the Guardian to write articles such as this one when it has worked so hard to allow extreme Islam to flourish in the UK.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Hundreds Expected at UK Muslim Anti-Terrorism Camp

Over a thousand young Muslims are due to attend a camp in Britain to discuss terrorism this weekend, but rather than encouraging militancy the organisers’ mission is to destroy the arguments of extremists. The three-day “al-Hidayah” camp, which gets underway at the University of Warwick in central England on Saturday, is billed as the first event of its kind in Britain specifically aimed at targeting terrorism.

“I feel it is my duty to save the younger generation from radicalisation and wave of terroristic recruitment in the west,” said Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, head of the global Minhaj ul-Quran religious and educational organisation which is hosting the camp and hopes to attract some 1,300 attendees.. We need to prepare them mentally and academically, intellectually and spiritually, against extremist tendencies and terrorist attitudes.”

Qadri, a prominent Islamic scholar figure who has promoted peace and inter-faith dialogue for 30 years, made news in March when he issued a 600-page fatwa denouncing terrorists and suicide bombers to be unbelievers.The Pakistan-born Qadri, who has written about 400 books and is a scholar of Sufism, a long tradition within Islam that focuses on peace, tolerance and moderation, said his edict went further than any previous denunciation.

He has widespread global support, with millions of followers in Pakistan, but told Reuters earlier this year he was worried about the radicalisation of young British Muslims.

Britain has about 1.7 million Muslims, mainly of Pakistani descent, and the security services say that nearly all major terrorism plots since 2001, including the 2005 London bombings which killed 52 people, were linked to Pakistan. While al-Hidayah is an annual peace conference, organisers say this year it will much more aggressively focus on tackling extremism.

“This is the first anti-terror camp of its kind Britain has witnessed and I believe this will change the concepts of many Muslim youth who will learn directly from the scholar who issued the Fatwa on Terrorism,” said Minhaj ul-Quran spokesman Shahid Mursaeleen. “It will be a severe blow to extremist groups in the UK.”

The Quilliam Foundation, which describes itself as a counter-terrorism think tank, said the conference was important. “This event will give young Muslims the confidence and the theological tools to go back to their own communities across the UK and root out the virus of extremism and intolerance,” a spokesman said.

[JP note: That the Quilliam Foundation is supporting this event provides further evidence to support claims that this is yet another fake organisation — preaching moderation yet advancing the stealth jihad.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslim Group Minhaj Ul-Quran Runs ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Camp

A Muslim group is holding what it calls the UK’s first summer camp against terrorism. The three-day event in Coventry is expected to see more than 1,000 young Muslims at sessions teaching religious arguments to use against extremists. The event has been organised by the Minhaj ul-Quran to promote a fatwa, or religious ruling, against terrorism by its leader Dr Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri. Dr Qadri launched the fatwa in London in March.

‘Spiritual war’

The populist Pakistani cleric’s 600-page theological study is billed by his followers as the most comprehensive and clear denunciation of the arguments deployed by jihadists to justify violence including suicide bombings and the targeting of civilians. The summer camp at Warwick University, which begins on Saturday, will concentrate on this document and will include debates and talks. Participants will be asked to join “a spiritual war” against al-Qaeda’s recruiters.

Minhaj ul-Quran, the international organisation set up by the cleric, argues that many traditional Muslim organisations have been too timid in taking on jihadist ideology, unintentionally leaving youngsters bewildered and susceptible to brainwashing. The organisation, which is expanding in the UK, argues that there has to be a more public stand against extremism, underpinned by a sound understanding of what Islam says about violence.


Speaking ahead of the event’s launch, the cleric said: “I have announced an intellectual and spiritual war against extremism and terrorism. I believe this is the time for moderate Islamic scholars who believe in peace to stand up.” “I feel it is my duty to save the younger generation from radicalisation and wave of terroristic recruitment in the West.”

Dr Qadri, now based in Canada, is not the first preacher to speak out against terrorism — but his followers hope his fatwa will become the most influential document in circulation.

The UK’s largest umbrella body, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), has repeatedly called together scholars and preachers to denounce extremism. But critics say that some of the MCB’s leaders have no moral authority to preach to youngsters because they have been equivocal about violence in the Middle East.

[JP note: You wouldn’t realise from this BBC report that there are vociferous and widespread critics of the Muslim Council of Britain who reject their brand of poisonous ideology, not their equivocation about violence in the Middle East. I also have doubts about Minhaj ul-Quran which appears to be another fake organisation intent on further radicalising Muslim youngsters under the pretense of denouncing terrorism. Stealth jihad in other words.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslims Satge Anti-Terror Summer Camp

A Muslim conference billed as the UK’s first summer camp against terrorism started. The three-day event in Coventry is expected to attract around 1,300 young Muslims for sessions teaching religious arguments against extremists. The event has been organised by the Minhaj ul-Quran organisation whose leader, Dr Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, has launched a fatwa, or religious ruling, against terrorism. Participants will be asked to join “a spiritual war” against recruiters for the al Qaida terror network.

Dr Qadri’s fatwa, which he launched in March, is described as a “resolute theological position, based on Islam’s primary sources, on the necessity of eliminating terrorism”.

The summer camp at Warwick University focuses on the document and includes a series of debates and talks. Speaking ahead of the event’s launch, the cleric said: “I have announced an intellectual and spiritual war against extremism and terrorism. I believe this is the time for moderate Islamic scholars who believe in peace to stand up.

“I feel it is my duty to save the younger generation from radicalisation and wave of terroristic recruitment in the West.” Minhaj ul-Quran is a Pakistan-based international organisation set up by Dr Qadri, who is now based in Canada.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Philip Larkin’s Jazz Box Set Will be Pure Poetry

For the past few days I have been revisiting the excitement of my childhood, when I awaited the arrival of each new single by the Beatles with an almost unbearable sense of expectation. The new release that has had me pacing in the hall in anticipation of the postman’s arrival with a parcel from Amazon is a new four-CD box set called Larkin’s Jazz (Proper Records) that has been compiled to mark the 25th anniversary of the great poet’s death.

For a decade between 1961 and 1971, Larkin was the jazz reviewer of this newspaper and as Ivan Hewett reported in the Saturday Review section a few weeks ago, he was an exceptionally fine, funny and contentious critic. Like many of us, Larkin loved best the music he grew up with — in his case Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, the classic swing bands and the small groups led by Eddie Condon — and loathed the arrival of bebop and the further flights of modernism that followed. I had much the same feeling of disbelief and fury that Larkin experienced as he first encountered the likes of John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman when I got my first earful of rap 20 years ago, and nothing I have heard since has persuaded me to take it to my heart.

Larkin expanded his thoughts and feelings about jazz to write a brilliant demolition of the fatuities of modernism, in painting and literature as well as music, in his introduction to his collected Telegraph pieces, All What Jazz (Faber, £14.99). The volume is a fine companion to the new CD collection that contains so much of the music Larkin wrote about so eloquently.

Personally, I think Larkin missed out on a great deal in his total aversion to the shock of the new, from the classic Blue Note recordings in jazz, to the paintings of Mark Rothko, which move me as much as anything in art. But his stern strictures about self-indulgence and work that has lost touch with its audience are a tonic in these days of glib, anything-goes culture, while his choice of music in this brilliantly annotated box set is an utter joy. The music ranges widely, with particularly choice cuts from Duke Ellington, Sidney Bechet, Fats Waller, Count Basie and his great singer Jimmy Rushing whose voice, in Larkin’s delightful description, “pours down like sunshine”. Many less familiar artists are featured too.

Larkin once said he could live a week without poetry but not a day without jazz. Listening to the music he revered, one readily understands why.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks Not Shielded by Swedish Law: Experts

Swedish legal experts have revealed that the website WikiLeaks may not be covered by Swedish whistleblower protection laws despite having its servers located just outside Stockholm.

Rules on source protection are written into the Swedish constitution and effectively block individuals and government agencies from attempting to uncover journalists’ sources. Revealing the identity if sources who wish to remain anonymous is a punishable offence.

But the law only apply to websites or publications that possess a special publishing licence (utgivningsbevis) granting them constitutional protection, and WikiLeaks has not acquired the requisite paperwork, local newspaper Sydsvenskan reports [article in English].

“To my mind, it is too simple to claim that all Wikileaks sources are totally protected in Sweden,” deputy Chancellor of Justice Håkan Rustand told the newspaper.

Author and journalist, Anders R Olsson, who specializes in Swedish freedom of expression issues, said he found it strange that WikiLeaks did not appear fully aware of the legal situation.

He also noted that the Swedish authorities could find ways to circumvent source protection law in extreme cases, even if a publisher possessed the relevant licence.

“In the case of top secret information that is of great importance to the military, police and prosecutors have a duty to try to find the leak and prosecute the source,” he told Sydsvenskan.

Swedish internet company PRQ said on Friday it had been helping whistleblower website WikiLeaks since 2008 by hosting its servers at a secret basement location in a Stockholm suburb.

WikiLeaks “contacted us through a third party in Sweden a few years ago and

… their traffic goes through us,” Mikael Viborg, the 27-year-old head of the PRQ Internet hosting company, told AFP.

He said the company’s server hall housed several hundred servers and was located “somewhere in Solna,” some five kilometres (three miles) from Stockholm’s centre.

WikiLeaks had purchased a so-called tunnel service, he said, meaning “the material itself is somewhere else but is sent through our machines so for someone downloading the material, it looks like it is coming from us.”

He stressed however that “we have no control over what WikiLeaks publishes.

We don’t have any contact with them … We have never talked with (WikiLeaks founder) Julian Assange and they never ask us before they publish something.”

Viborg showed the entrance of PRQ’s server hall to Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, but refused to let the paper look inside and insisted the exact location not be revealed.

The company counts up to 600 customers, ranging from private individuals to international corporations, he told AFP, acknowledging that “some of the material sent out through our server hall is controversial and we want to avoid sabotage.”

Viborg, who has a Swedish law degree and has served as a legal advisor to popular filesharing website The Pirate Bay, said PRQ had yet to be contacted by Swedish or US authorities about WikiLeaks’ activities.

“I’m a bit worried about that happening, but I don’t expect it,” he said.

WikiLeaks, which was founded in December 2006 and styles itself “the first intelligence agency of the people,” published some 70,000 classified documents on the US-led war in Afghanistan in late July.

The files contained a string of damaging claims, including allegations that Pakistani spies met directly with the Taliban and that deaths of innocent civilians at the hands of international forces were covered up.

The documents also included the names of some Afghan informants, prompting claims that the leaks have endangered lives.

WikiLeaks has already acknowledged that it posts material though servers based in Sweden and Belgium.

The Pentagon on Thursday urged WikiLeaks to “do the right thing,” and return the leaked US military documents and stop any future public releases.

           — Hat tip: Freedom Fighter[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Tunisia: 1.3 Bln and 2,200 Jobs From Emigrant Remittances

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, AUGUST 6 — Last year the money remittances by Tunisians living abroad amounted to 2,652 million Tunisian dinars (around 1,370 million euros), with an average yearly increase of 13.1%.

According to the website African Manager, part of this amount was used to carry out 836 investment projects in 2009, which totalled 37.4 million Tunisian dinars (around 18 million euros).

A total of 11.4 million dinars (around 5.9 million euros) were invested in 117 agricultural projects; the industrial sector, with 101 projects, attracted investments for a total of 7.2 million Tunisian dinars (around 3.7 million euros) and the services sector, with 618 projects, attracted 18.8 million Tunisian dinars (around 9.7 million euros). The projects have led to the creation of 2,224 new jobs. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza Aid Flotilla to Set Sail From Lebanon With All-Women Crew

Arabic singer joins crew of nuns, doctors, lawyers and journalists for humanitarian mission despite Israeli warning

A ship bearing aid for Gaza is preparing to leave Tripoli in Lebanon this weekend in the latest attempt to defy the Israeli blockade — with only women on board. The Saint Mariam, or Virgin Mary, has a multi-faith international passenger list, including the Lebanese singer May Hariri and a group of nuns from the US. “They are nuns, doctors, lawyers, journalists, Christians and Muslims,” said Mona, one of the participants who, along with the other women, has adopted the ship’s name, Mariam.

The Mariam and its sister ship, Naji Alali, had hoped to set off several weeks ago but faced several delays after Israel launched a diplomatic mission to pressure Lebanon to stop the mission. The co-ordinator of the voyage, Samar al-Haj, told the Guardian this week the Lebanese government had given permission for the boats to leave for Cyprus, the first leg of the journey, this weekend.

Israel says it is concerned a flotilla from Lebanon, with whom it has ongoing hostility, will smuggle weapons to Gaza. Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gabriela Shalev, has warned that Israel reserves the right to use “necessary measures” in line with international law to stop the ship. But al-Haj says the mission is purely humanitarian. “Our goal is to arrive in Gaza,” she said. “It is the responsibility of the government to deal with the politics. We are not political.” She said that once news of the flotilla was out organisers were inundated with requests to join the voyage, with more than 400 from the US alone. At least 10 Americans will be on board.

The boat has been stocked with medical instruments and medicines to take to the Palestinians. In preparation for the voyage the participants gathered at a hotel in Beirut to discuss their plans. The logistics are many: minimal grooming, strict food rationing, and limited water supply. “There will be no showers, no skirts and no makeup,” al-Haj told the group.

The participants are aware of the dangers, having followed the fate of another flotilla carrying aid for Gaza that was attacked by Israel in May. Israeli forces landed on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish vessel, killing nine activists on board. Al-Haj reminded the women to be prepared for a confrontation.

“Have blood tests in case we come under attack from Israel and you need a blood transfusion,” she said. She added that organisers were going out of their way not to provoke Israel.

“We will not even bring cooking knives,” she said. Serena Shim, who is heavily pregnant, decided to join the voyage because of her belief that the blockade is unjust. “These people need aid,” she said. Asked how they would react to an Israeli military assault, one activist, Tania al Kayyalisaid: “We are not planning to fight or attack — but we will not leave the St Mariam.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Facial Hair in Turkish Politics: A Tale of Moustaches and Men

Facial hair has taken on a political meaning in Turkey with Turkish men expressing their political stance by shaping their facial hair in several ways.

Of all the debates swirling around the government plan to spend specially trained soldiers to patrol the border region, one is perhaps the most bewildering to outsiders: What kind of mustaches will these troops have?

Facial hair is not just about fashion in Turkey, where a large, thick walrus-style mustache can mark a man as a leftist and a neatly trimmed almond-shaped one can mark him a conservative.

According to sociologist Hüsamettin Arslan, whisker politics in Turkey really got its start during the second period of the Tanzimat, the Ottoman Empire’s modernization movement in the 1800s.

“When the Turks had close relations with the Germans, the intellectuals of that era had their style of mustaches; [Turkish Republic founder Mustafa Kemal] Atatürk had one of those mustaches too, what we call the ‘Wilhelm’ type,” Arslan said, explaining that German Emperor Wilhelm II popularized the style — a mustache with its two ends extending up into the air — during a visit to Istanbul.

The mustache issue most recently became a source of debate July 16, when Hüseyin Çelik, deputy leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, brought the topic up during a discussion about the cadre of professional soldiers being formed to patrol the country’s borders in the Southeast. In a television interview, Çelik referred to an anti-terror unit employed in southeastern Turkey in the 1990s and accused of many human-rights violations as an example of what the new forces would not be like.

“There were people who were so wrong in the Special Operations Teams. There were men whose mustaches were hanging down with the typical MHP [Nationalist Movement Party] militant look, driving around in private cars with long-barreled weapons,” Çelik said.

“The wrong acts of those people had a great negative effect on the people of the area and pushed many of them to the side of the PKK,” he added, referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

The “MHP mustache,” called “ülkücü” in Turkish and typically worn by nationalists, is characterized by its two ends extending downwards like the two sides of a horseshoe.

Çelik’s remarks angered MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, who responded the next day, calling the AKP deputy leader an “enemy of Turkishness” and accusing Çelik of knowing nothing about the “holy struggle” the special teams were engaged in for years in southeastern Turkey.

“He is saying they are from the MHP because their mustaches were hanging downward,” Bahçeli said. “What will we do now? They [the AKP] are founding a private army. Will this be an army of people with ‘badem’ mustaches?”

Some conservative men in Turkey favor the “badem” (almond) style, a small and neatly trimmed mustache. Though they may all seem the same to the untrained eye, the “badem” has many variations that distinguish members of different communities.

According to a source that preferred to remain anonymous, there are two main subcategories of “badem” mustaches. “The Süleymancilar community has ‘full badem’ mustaches, extending from the sides of the lip upwards,” the source told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. “The Nurcular community’s mustaches are trimmed to show the upper lip, though that may change due to social status.”

Members of the religious Gülen community, meanwhile, are generally clean-shaved, especially the youth, the source added.

Turkey, of course, is not the only place where facial hair has taken on a political meaning. In many Muslim countries and communities, a full beard is seen as a symbol of piety. Radical Islamist groups, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan and Hizbul Islam in Somalia, have ordered men to grow their beards and trim their mustaches in keeping with strict Shariah mandates. Iran, by contrast, generally prefers clean-shaven styles, but included a neatly trimmed goatee on a recently released list of approved grooming styles for men.

When asked if ideological expression through mustaches was more popular in Turkey in previous decades than it is today, journalist Ertugrul Kürkçü from Bianet replied: “I would not be the best person to answer that because I was always in prison when those [political trends] were experienced the most. They do not ask you how would you like your mustache in prison. They are shaved off during times of military rule anyway.”

According to Kürkçü, this type of ideological fashion marker was always more popular among the youth than throughout the entire society. “Parkas were worn [by leftists] in the 1970s, but it was the university students who wore them; it was not like all leftists wore parkas,” he said. Kürkçü now wears a full beard, as he did before his 15 years in prison. He said he let it grow in his younger days as a way of “resisting the norm” but does not attach a political meaning today to the hair on his face.

Sociologist Arslan offered another example from history: the small “toothbrush” mustache, sometimes referred to as the “Hitler mustache.” When he was little, he said, his grandfather used to have one, as did many other Turks, including the country’s second president, Ismet Inönü, and former prime ministers Sükrü Saraçoglu and Ali Fethi Okyar. It was not until later that the shaping of politicians’ facial hair became more about ideology than fashion, he said.

According to Arslan, the nationalist “ülkücü” style derives from the assumption that the rulers of old Turkic countries had those types of mustaches; they are also said to be shaped like the crescent in the Turkish flag. “The leftist mustaches are ideological too,” he said. “They tried to make them look like those of the socialist world leaders or the Russian revolutionaries.”

Large, thick “walrus-style” mustaches without extending ends were the definitive mark of leftists in the 1970s, though fashions have changed for that group. Today the goatee (keçisakali) is considered somewhat “leftist,” or at least “intellectual,” in some circles, though Arslan disagreed with that assessment. “The goatee is a Masonic way of growing a beard and, let’s say, a liberal or a leftist can also be a Mason,” he said.

Arslan himself does not have a mustache. He said he shaved his off when taking the exam to become an associate professor since people told him a mustache does not suit someone with that job. He said he used to think his facial hair had a political meaning but today finds such an approach superficial.

“People may have a ‘walrus’ mustache and be right wing,” he said. “Or if a leftist man’s mustache does not grow well, he can have a ‘badem’ mustache and still be a leftist.”

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

Iran Arms Itself With Cutting Edge, Long-Range Missiles

Advanced Russian technology can engage multiple targets

Iran has received four S-300 Russian long range surface-to-air missile systems even though Moscow decided not to implement a contract it had with Tehran to deliver them because of the new United Nations sanctions against the volatile state, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

The S-300 systems come from Belarus and one other unidentified country, according to Iran’s Fars news agency, which is associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC. However, the government itself has not confirmed the delivery and Belarus officially denies supplying the systems.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Iran’s Ahmadinejad Calls for TV Debate With Obama

By Robin Pomeroy

TEHRAN (Reuters) — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday to face him in a televised one-on-one debate to see who has the best solutions for the world’s problems.

The provocative proposal comes as Iran deals with a new wave of international sanctions — driven by Washington — aimed at putting pressure on the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program.

“Toward the end of summer we will hopefully be there for the (U.N.) General Assembly and I will be ready for one-on-one talks with Mr. Obama, in front of the media of course,” Ahmadinejad told a conference of Iranian expatriates in Tehran.

“We will offer our solutions for world issues to see whose solutions are better.”

Ahmadinejad suggested such a debate last September, which was not taken up by Washington. He said Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, had declined similar invitations because he was “scared”.

Iran, the world’s fifth-largest oil producer, says its nuclear program is a peaceful bid to produce electricity.

But its uranium enrichment activities, a process which can have both civilian and military uses, has fed fears in some countries that it is trying to build a nuclear weapon.

In his speech, the president mocked the sanctions and the potential for a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, an option that the United States and Israel say they do not rule out.

“Who do you think is going to attack us? The Israeli regime? … We don’t consider the regime in our equations, let alone attacking us,” he said.

“They say we’ll issue sanctions? Okay, do it. How many resolutions have you issued so far? Four? Make it 4,000,” he said to loud applause from the conference.

Both Iran and the United States have indicated willingness to return to nuclear talks which stalled last October, leading to the new sanctions.

Amid the anti-American rhetoric in which he said U.S. policy was based on colonialism and the “law of the jungle”, Ahmadinejad said he was ready for talks “based on justice and respect”.

“We are ready to hold talks at the highest level,” he said. “We have always favored talks, Iranians have never, ever favored war.”

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani[Return to headlines]

Remains of Explosives Found on Hull of Damaged Japanese Supertanker

Investigators probing an explosion on a Japanese supertanker near the Strait of Hormuz have found the remains of homemade explosives on board.

The crew of the 1092ft-long M.Star reported an explosion shortly after midnight last Wednesday which injured one sailor, but failed to cause an oil spill or disrupt shipping in the strategic waterway.

Specialist teams have now confirmed that the tanker had been the subject of a terrorist attack. Obscure militant group Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which has links with al Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for the blast.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Survey: Half of Arab Students Favour Censorship

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 6 — Around 50% of Arab students surveyed were in favour of stricter censorship of the Internet.

So reads the finding of a survey by the American University of Beirut, that comes at a time when some Middle-East countries are threatening to block certain sites on BlackBerry smartphones.

Taking in more than 2,700 university and high-school students in Lebanon, Jordan and the Arab Emirates, the study, which features in a report in business weekly Arabian Business, shows that around 40% of students are in favour of increased levels of censorship of the Web. Added to these, are 8% who believe that access to web content should be “completely limited or banned”.

Despite the support shown for censorship by the survey, students have Western habits when it comes to illegally downloading music, games and films. Four out of five interviewees in fact admitted to never having paid for online content despite having downloaded at least one. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Aftermath of an Afghanistan Tragedy

Germany to Pay $500,000 for Civilian Bombing Victims

By Matthias Gebauer

A photographic exhibition by the journalist Christoph Reuter tells the stories of the victims of the Kunduz bombing. Now their families are to receive compensation.

After months of negotiations, the German military has announced it will pay $5,000 each to the families of over 100 civilian victims of a German-ordered airstrike in Afghanistan. The Bundeswehr is not admitting any guilt however, and the victims’ lawyers warn that they may take legal action.

Almost a year after the devastating bombing of two tanker trucks hijacked by the Taliban near Kunduz in northern Afghanistan, the German military has found a way to compensate the relatives of civilian victims. During multiple discussions in recent weeks, almost all of the 102 families identified by the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, agreed to accept a one-off payment of $5,000 (€3,800). The money will be paid into accounts with the Kabul Bank, in an attempt to stop the Taliban from seizing the money from the families.

The new solution follows a long period of negotiations, which also involved lawyers who claimed to be representing the victims. In the end, the Bundeswehr opted for its own solution, which expressly does not include an admission of guilt on the part of German soldiers. Instead, the military is emphasizing that the $5,000 is a so-called ex gratia payment — in other words, a voluntary payment that does not recognize any liability.

The Bundeswehr has been criticized for its handling of the affair. Initially, the army did not take action on the case and — contrary to clear NATO regulations — did nothing to investigate the results of the air strike, which was ordered by German Colonel Georg Klein on Sept. 4, 2009.

Instead, the Bundeswehr behaved for months as if there had been no civilian casualties. When the military was finally confronted by a German-Afghan lawyer over the incident, it did not have a clear overview of the situation.

Most Victims Were Civilians

The new solution reflects the wishes of Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who assumed office in late October 2009, several weeks after the bombing. In May, Guttenberg had made it clear that he wanted a resolution to the case. At the time, SPIEGEL reported on the minister’s plans, which foresaw paying about €4,000 per victim.

In the early hours of Sept. 4, 2009, Colonel Klein ordered US jets to bomb two tankers which had been hijacked in the Taliban-controlled district of Chahar Dara. Up to 142 people died in the attack. It is now known that the victims included many more civilians, who were trying to siphon off fuel from the tankers, than Taliban. Most of the extremists had already left the river bed where the tankers were located, fearing an attack by the fighter jets that were circling the area.

Relying on a Journalist

The case has revealed a woeful lack of local knowledge on the part of the Bundeswehr. Indeed, the German army ultimately had to rely on the help of journalists to determine the number and the names of the civilian victims. The Defense Ministry contacted Christoph Reuter, a reporter for the German newsmagazine Stern who had painstakingly researched the number of civilians killed. He documented his work in a moving photographic exhibition which tells the story of each victim. Defense Minister Guttenberg visited the exhibition personally.

Reuter’s figures are the basis for the current compensation. The Bundeswehr is paying money to the families of 91 dead civilians. A total of 11 seriously injured victims of the bombing are also receiving payments.

The Bundeswehr’s numbers are far lower than those of the Bremen-based lawyer Karim Popal, who has always spoken of 179 civilian victims. The Defense Ministry, however, has serious doubts about Popal’s research, especially after the lawyer demanded a hefty fee of around €200,000 on top of the €7 million compensation he wanted for the victims. It is unclear how Popal will react to the current agreement with the victims. He has threatened several times to file complaints in various courts, as have other lawyers involved in the case.

Bundeswehr lawyers, on the other hand, believe that the German government’s recent reclassification of the mission in Afghanistan as a “non-international armed conflict” — in other words, a war — means that the victims of the bombardment no longer have any legal claims. Nevertheless, the Bundeswehr did not insist that the victims forfeit any future legal claims in return for receiving the ex gratia payments.

‘Relatively Pleased’

So far, the victims’ relatives have apparently reacted with satisfaction to the news. According to a report by Reuter, the families are “relatively pleased and, more than anything, surprised.” “We thought nothing was ever going to happen,” said Abdul Daian, whose son died days after the bombing from his burns, as quoted by Reuter. “It is good that we are now being compensated.” Daian welcomed the idea of placing the money in bank accounts. “Otherwise we would probably not have seen much of the money.” The Defense Ministry is now hoping that the case will be closed once and for all.

The victims’ lawyers, however, have reacted to the Bundeswehr’s action with surprise and annoyance. “The way in which the Bundeswehr went behind our backs and negotiated directly with our clients is strange,” said the Bremen-based lawyer Bernhard Docke, who has been working with Popal on the case. Docke said the compensation was “overdue,” and stressed that, in comparison with other cases, the payment was “a relative pittance.”

The lawyers are now considering how best to proceed. “We assume that our clients will want to lodge further claims against the German armed forces,” Docke said. “If these can not be achieved in further negotiations, then they will want to resolve the issue in court.” On Tuesday, before the announcement of the compensation, the victims’ lawyers had already made an appointment with the Defense Ministry to discuss the issue.

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

Pakistan: The Taliban’s New Target

Losing Faith in Pakistan’s Future

By Gerhard Spörl in Lahore, Pakistan

Long a home to Pakistan’s intellectual elite, the tolerant city of Lahore has become a favorite target of the Taliban. The development is causing the country’s leading writer, Ahmed Rashid, whose books are required reading in the West’s military academies, to lose his optimism that the Islamist militants can be defeated.

The small photo hanging on the wall in his office depicts a serious-looking man with a long, black beard, dressed entirely in white. The man is one of those Afghan warlords who have made life hell for would-be conquerors from the East and West for centuries. Ahmed Rashid, standing next to him, stares at the camera with the same blank expression on his face.

The man in white is Jalaluddin Haqqani, the leader of a clan in eastern Afghanistan. The picture was taken 22 years ago. At the time, Haqqani was still poking fun at the Taliban, who he saw as uneducated hicks, born in Pakistani refugee camps, indoctrinated in Islamic religious schools and led by zealots from Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. At that time, the Taliban still had to learn how to wage war, and it made many mistakes. Its leaders were constantly losing an eye, an arm or a leg.

The Taliban fighters were uneducated and unaware. The history of their Pashtun people was unknown to them, they were unfamiliar with the history of their country, and they had never lived in a real city. Haqqani, on the other hand, was a warlord for his clan and was well-traveled. He once met with former US President Ronald Reagan in Washington. Haqqani, now 60, was a real Afghan. That was the way he saw himself, and it was how Afghanistan saw him.

Rashid chuckles quietly as he rocks back and forth in his desk chair, his hands behind his head. He is a friendly, 62-year-old man with the booming voice of a storyteller. A man without pretentions, the Pakistani intellectual has become the chronicler of this part of the world.

Both men were wrong at the time. The warlord firmly believed that important Afghan warriors had to be like him. His mistake was that he didn’t take the Taliban seriously. And Rashid underestimated the immense power that lies in the simple faith of the Taliban. Its members have no problem with death, and they turn it into a political weapon. They have since learned how to wage war, and waging war has become their life. They are also not the puppets of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, but rather a deadly threat in their own right.

Experiencing History at First Hand

Rashid has made many trips to Afghanistan in the last 30 years. He has acquired an encyclopedic knowledge of this part of the world, and he is a singular figure, because he not only describes history but has also experienced it himself.

Rashid happened to be in Kabul in 1979 when Soviet tanks invaded the country. He was in Kandahar in 1994 when the Taliban captured the city, creating a bloodbath in the process. He became a firsthand witness to a tragedy in this strange, remote part of the world, and he had already written his books by the time it occurred to the rest of the world to turn its attention to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia.

The West first learned about the origins of the jihadists and their mentors from Rashid’s books. And Rashid was the first to write about the things the West now knows about Afghanistan’s warlords — the Haqqanis in the east, the Dostums in the north and the Khans in the west —, and about their conflicting alliances with the Pakistani, Turkish and Iranian intelligence agencies. “Taliban,” his most famous book, is still required reading for officers in British and American military academies.

Rashid wrote it in 1999, two years before the 9/11 attacks. He described who the Taliban were, how they interpreted Islam, who their influences were and what role bin Laden and his Arabs played. It made the Pakistani intellectual into a world-renowned figure. Suddenly he had acquired a monopoly on explaining and interpreting a new phenomenon in world politics. A million and a half copies of “Taliban” were sold in the Anglo-American world alone, and it was translated into 26 languages.

Read in the White House

Rashid has been a sensation since then. After the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the White House ordered 28 copies of his book. Then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld met with him to discuss his opinions, and Rashid was showered with invitations from the likes of neocon luminary Paul Wolfowitz and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. President Barack Obama invited him to dinner before his inauguration, at a time when Obama himself was apparently not very well informed about the situation in Afghanistan.

Hardly any other intellectual enjoys a comparable level of authority. Given his fame, Rashid could almost be forgiven for being conceited.

In Germany, the writer Hans Magnus Enzensberger was similarly influential, but unlike Rashid, Enzensberger wasn’t interested in being an adviser to political leaders. In France, Bernard-Henri Lévy has taken on the role of the public intellectual, a role in which he has both rendered great service and demonstrated his need for admiration. The British prefer serious scholars like Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash.

Tolerance Under Attack

But Rashid doesn’t live in Munich, Paris or London. Instead, he lives in Lahore, Pakistan, a country plagued by constant unrest and danger. The Taliban, a group he has written about extensively, has expanded its efforts beyond what it sees as the national liberation struggle in Afghanistan. It is now in Pakistan, and it is in Lahore, a place filled with many of the things that it hates and wants to destroy.

Lahore is still a beautiful city, a Pakistani jewel, with its Badshahi Mosque, its Shalimar Gardens and its landmark fortress behind imposing walls. The British left behind a large number of schools and universities. It is a city where mopeds overloaded with people dominate street traffic. But it also has its fair share of old-fashioned donkey carts.

On the surface, Lahore, a city of 10 million, is still a refreshing exception among Asia’s big cities, cleaner and less overheated than New Delhi, Karachi or Bangkok. It also seems more open-minded. The city’s most popular talk show host is a transvestite. At the same time, Lahore is a place where open-mindedness has now come under attack…

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

Scottish Government Funding for Pakistan Aid Effort

Aid efforts are attempting to get clean drinking water, food, shelter and healthcare to those affected Scottish-based organisations involved in the rescue effort in flood-hit Pakistan are to be given £900,000 in funding from the Scottish government.

Emergency funding of £500,000 is to support humanitarian aid efforts.

A further £400,000 is to be allocated to projects in Pakistan that aim to tackle extreme poverty.

External Affairs Minister Fiona Hyslop said it was “our moral duty to do whatever is within our power to ease the suffering” of the people affected.

The worst floods in the region for 80 years have killed at least 1,600 people and affected about 12 million others.

The government said the most pressing needs would be for clean drinking water, food, shelter and healthcare.

The money for longer term work has been allocated from the South Asia strand of the Scottish government’s international development programme.

Gerry McLaughlin, Scottish chair of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), said the money would make a real difference and would help save lives.

Islamic Relief’s Habib Malik, who has witnessed first-hand the devastation in Pakistan, said: “I am honoured, and yet at the same time feel a great sense of responsibility that this money has been entrusted on behalf of the Scottish people, to Islamic Relief.

“I promise that I will do my utmost to be an effective guardian of this investment in the people of Pakistan, and am confident that this immense display of generosity will be appreciated.”

           — Hat tip: 4symbols[Return to headlines]

Six German Doctors Killed in Afghanistan

The bullet-riddled bodies of six German and two US doctors have been discovered in dense forest in northern Afghanistan, a police official told AFP Saturday.

Provincial police chief Aqa Noor Kintoz said the foreigners and two Afghan men were believed to have been killed by armed men in a remote area of Badakhshan province, according to the testimony of a sole Afghan survivor.

The group of eight foreigners — all ophthalmologists — and three Afghans had been travelling between Badakhshan and Nuristan provinces and had spent a few nights in the forest, according to “Saifullah” who was released without being hurt.

“On the last day they were confronted by a group of armed men who lined them up and shot them. Their money and belongings were all stolen,” said Kintoz.

He said that according to Saifullah’s testimony he had escaped death by reading verses of the Quran, prompting the men to realise he was a Muslim and release him in neighbouring Nuristan province.

The police chief said local villagers had warned the group not to enter the dangerous forested area, but they has insisted they would be safe because they were doctors, according to Saifullah’s statement.

He said the bodies had been found in Kuran wa Minjan district, an area on the border with Nuristan province, one day’s drive from the provincial capital Faizabad.

A US Embassy spokeswoman said “several” American citizens were believed to be among the dead, found on Friday, but could not give further details.

“(We) are actively working with local authorities and others to learn more about the identities and nationalities of these individuals,” the spokeswoman said.

There was no immediate response from German authorities.

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

Culture Wars

Beware of “Whole Child Education”

Legislators, School Boards, Parents, and Teachers — BEWARE! “Whole Child Education” is here and it is dangerous. In fact, all education that claims to be “child centered” should be avoided. It is toxic to everyone involved. A better name for child centered education would be “Psychological Vandalism.”

What does child centered education mean? It means that to the “educator” the child is a product. The product must be judged according to universal standards. It must learn to adapt to the global environment in which, it is told, it later will have to work and live. The New World Order needs obedient robotic human responders, not self-controlled individuals who have internal standards.

“Whole Child” is a really stupid term. Try to figure out the meaning. What is a half child? What is a third of a child? Dumb!

But the term does make sense to NWO curriculum planners. To them it means taking control of a child’s social and emotional development, spiritual foundation, economic condition, physical and mental health, education and environment from kindergarten through high school. The goal of whole child education is controllable adults, control of the environment, and a community obedient to the demands of the New World Order.

Child centered education turns the classroom into a robot factory for the creation of obedient followers who can’t say no to the behavioral standards of curriculum planners.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Sean O'Brian said...

The police chief said local villagers had warned the group not to enter the dangerous forested area, but they has insisted they would be safe because they were doctors, according to Saifullah’s statement.

This story is a microcosm of the Afghan war. Every Westerner in Afghanistan from the Generals down to the aid workers believes they are there in a humanitarian capacity and their mission is geared towards helping Afghan civillians - and all wonder why the people they're there to help shoot at them. These murdered doctors were especially deluded since they expected even the Taliban to abide by the rules of the game. When we make the assumption all people everywhere are the same we assume they are just like us.

So much confusion. Take the now-famous TIME magazine cover of an Afghan woman who was disfigured by her husband. It's captioned: "What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan". What sort of intervention is being suggested here? Do the authors envision a kind of neoconservative love triangle between an Afghan woman, her husband and the American military? Dennis Mangan wrote: "The problem with the argument is, of course, that we are already there and this sort of thing is happening."