Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100830

Financial Crisis
»Commercial Real Estate Failures Easier to Spot Than Residential Woes
»Andrew G. Bostom: ‘Islamophobia’ And Islamo-Reality
»Attractive Therapy: Magnetic Brain Stimulation Gaining Favor as Treatment for Depression
»Developers of Planned NYC Mosque Form Nonprofit
»Ethiopians Build First Hijrah Mosque in America
»Fake Hate Crimes: An Islamist Weapon
»Feds: Man Smuggled Money to Fund Muslim Fighters
»Frank Gaffney: Friend of the Brotherhood?
»Google Maps Misplaces Lincoln Memorial
»Rights Groups Sue U.S. On Effort to Kill Cleric
»The Man Behind the “Ground Zero” Mosque
Europe and the EU
»“Islam is Europe’s Religion” Says Gheddafi to Meeting in Rome
»As Nationalism Rises, Will the European Union Fall?
»Finland: Minority Ombudsman to Examine Gym Locker Room Prayer Ban
»Italy: Jewish Community Protests Gadaffi Visit
»Italy: Colonel Gaddafi Scores a Three in 500 Success Rate After Holding Another Islam Conversion Party in Rome for Glamorous Models
»UK: Police Pelted With Missiles by Anti-Fascist Protesters During Far-Right Bank Holiday March
»Croatia: UN Prosecutors Accused Three Generals of Ethnic Cleansing
North Africa
»Women ‘Get More Respect’ In Gaddafi’s Libya
Israel and the Palestinians
»Israeli Court Releases Racist Rabbi
»Thomas Friedman Saw a Movie
Middle East
»Abu Dhabi: N.Y. Islamic Center Imam Calls Opponents ‘Small, Vociferous’ Group
»Baghdad Residents Mourn Departure of Former Enemy
»Carla Bruni Branded ‘Prostitute’ By Iran After She Campaigns for Woman Threatened With Stoning
»Millennium Private Equity Invests in International Innovative Technologies Ltd Via First Corporate Sukuk in Europe
»Turkey Seeks Explanation From Iran Over Alleged Genocide Remarks
South Asia
»Angry Pakistanis Pelt Donkeys in Protest at Fixing
»Thailand: New Sectarian Violence Breaks Out in Southern Thailand
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Belief in Witchcraft Widespread in Africa
»Drunk Baboons Plague Cape Town’s Exclusive Suburbs
»German Government Warns Its Citizens About Possible Crisis Situation in SA
Latin America
»Osama Bin Laden ‘Is a Bought and Paid for CIA Agent’ Claims Cuban Leader Fidel Castro
»Italy: Moroccan Woman Assaulted With Acid in Turin
»UK: Babies to Foreign Mothers at Record Levels
»US Census Counted Everyone as Citizens
»Amil Imani & Dr. Wafa Sultan: Islam & the Mental Immune System
»Westerners vs. The World: We Are the Weird Ones

Financial Crisis

Commercial Real Estate Failures Easier to Spot Than Residential Woes

By SHERYL JEAN / The Dallas Morning News

Ann Strain walks Junebug, a Boston terrier, past a ghost town — hundreds of abandoned apartments with broken windows and weeds.

Neighbors think squatters have lived at times at the Signature Pointe apartments on Lovers Lane, just east of North Central Expressway. The Dallas police SWAT team trains there.

The apartments were emptied of tenants at least 2 1/2 years ago to make way for new rental units and retail, but that never happened. Now a bank owns the 13 acres.

“It’s pulling the value of the neighborhood down,” said Strain, a condo owner who has lived across the street for 10 years. “I’ve seen lights at night, but I don’t know if it’s cops or crime.”

Neighbors’ concerns are an invisible consequence of landlords and investors across the country being unable to make their mortgage payments or secure new loans on commercial property that ends up foreclosed or forfeited to a bank.

Skeletons of unfinished buildings, weed-infested vacant lots for projects that never got off the ground and for-sale signs are the more visible remnants of an overextended commercial real estate market caught in the jaws of the biggest financial crisis and economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Debt-related project delays, failures and foreclosures have touched the lives of many North Texans. Contractors have closed, displacing thousands of workers. Unfinished construction and empty lots have created neighborhood blight. Americans with pension funds invested in real estate have seen smaller retirement nest eggs. Lower property values and taxes have meant less revenue for local governments, resulting in cuts to public services such as parks, libraries and law enforcement.

Banks have become unwilling to risk making loans needed to start construction projects. And that limited access to credit has frozen development.

Only five major U.S. metropolitan areas had more distressed commercial real estate than Dallas-Fort Worth’s $4.3 billion through the first half of this year, according to Delta Associates and Real Capital Analytics.

Nationally, distressed loans on office buildings, apartments, retail stores and warehouses totaled $170 billion. Despite recent signs pointing to an improving commercial real estate market, those numbers are expected to increase.

The more than $1.4 trillion in commercial mortgages coming due this year through 2014 will be difficult to refinance and could derail economic recovery.

“It’s the silent thing out there that everyone talks about,” said Dan Busch, president of Structure Tone Southwest in Dallas, one of the area’s biggest general contractors and one with no debt. “We all understand that it’s a big system and we’re all tied to it.”

Ann Saegert, a partner at Haynes and Boone in Dallas who specializes in commercial real estate law, said the greater danger is defaults on loans.

A new wave of defaults could trigger more property vacancies and more bank failures. Commercial mortgage defaults contributed heavily to the nation’s 255 bank failures in the past 20 months, including six in Texas, with more than $37 billion in losses. A congressional panel projects that bank commercial mortgage losses could hit $300 billion.

Lesson learned?

Giddy economic times and easy access to credit in the early 2000s led to a shopping spree, with buyers paying top prices for commercial property before and during the 2006 market peak. Lenders financed 80 percent or more of purchases.

Then in 2007, a home mortgage crisis triggered a recession and led to business failures and high unemployment.

Commercial real estate owners soon found themselves in a situation similar to many homeowners: owing more than their property was worth as values toppled more than 40 percent.

Many landlords couldn’t generate enough cash flow to cover their debt payments as high unemployment weakened demand for office, retail and warehouse space and fewer travelers hurt hotels. Several Dallas developers lost bank financing and big-name tenants they had lined up. Those borrowers defaulted on loans.

In other cases, borrowers couldn’t refinance loans coming due or loans where the value had fallen drastically. They faced foreclosure or forfeited their property to the bank.

“In the ‘80s, we overbuilt the market by a five- to 10-year supply,” said Michael Ablon, principal of PegasusAblon Properties in Dallas. “During the dot-com era, tenants over-leased the market. In this era, we over-financed the market. The question is, can real estate kick the can long enough for the economy to catch back up?”

The health of the commercial real estate sector is crucial to the national economy, even if it’s not as large as the residential market. U.S. commercial properties are worth $4.9 trillion, with $3.3 trillion of debt. The industry supports 9 million jobs.

D-FW commercial foreclosures have increased steadily since 2006, more than doubling to 2,431 last year, according to statistics from Foreclosure Listing Service Inc. in Addison. So far this year, foreclosure postings jumped 51 percent, to 2,541, from the same period a year ago.

Still, regional foreclosure postings aren’t even close to the more than 7,000 at the peak of the late 1980s, said George Roddy, president of Foreclosure Listing Service. He has noticed a shift locally: The biggest surge in foreclosure postings this year is on buildings occupied by small businesses, compared with office and retail properties last year.

So far, the posh Four Seasons Resort and Club in Las Colinas, with $183 million in original debt, ranks as the largest North Texas foreclosure in more than two decades. Lenders bought the property — complete with a golf course, conference center and spa — at a June foreclosure auction for $122 million.

Foreclosure numbers don’t portray a complete picture because they exclude certain properties, such as Far North Dallas’ Valley View Center, whose owner recently handed over the shopping center to its lenders.

Other notable local foreclosures or bank forfeitures include bankrupt Nortel Networks’ building in Richardson, the Park Lane retail and residential development near NorthPark Center in northeast Dallas and the Stoneleigh condominiums in Uptown.

Financial markets

Banks and the commercial mortgage-backed securities market fueled most of the growth in commercial real estate debt in the last several years, but both of those debt sources are anemic today. Commercial mortgage-backed securities are mortgages on commercial property that are bundled and sold to investors.

U.S. commercial mortgage-backed securities plunged to $3 billion in 2009 from a peak of $230 billion in 2007, according to Commercial Mortgage Alert. As of July, $2.4 billion in such securities have been issued this year.

Today, lenders are apt to “extend and pretend” — pushing back a loan’s due date for a year or so to avoid taking a loss and betting that future conditions will improve enough so borrowers can pay down the loan or market prices rise. Since last fall, federal regulators have encouraged banks to do that as well as negotiate loan terms with borrowers and make new loans to help jump-start the economy.

“Lenders have put off construction loans and commercial mortgage foreclosures … because of the gap between market prices for distressed real estate and the value of that real estate on bank books,” said Matthew Anderson, managing director of Foresight Analytics, a real estate market analysis firm. “Some banks are purposefully not foreclosing on or selling commercial real estate on their books so they don’t have to write off the loans as full losses.”

Such short-term fixes can hide the true risks and pile up potential problems in the next few years. It’s estimated that 60 percent of all maturing commercial debt is rolled over each year through 2012, compared with 15 percent in 2008.

Of the more than $1.4 trillion in commercial mortgages coming due through 2014, nearly $900 billion must be paid in the next two years, according to data from Foresight Analytics and Trepp, a real estate research firm. Banks hold 55 percent of that debt, institutional investors and others hold 27 percent, and commercial mortgage-backed securities account for 18 percent.

David Wyss, chief economist for Standard & Poor’s, said fears about commercial real estate debt are overblown.

“There were some people feeling it’s the end of civilization as we know it,” he said. “This is a severe recession for the commercial real estate market, but it’s still not like the residential real estate market.”

The nation’s $10.7 trillion in home mortgages outstanding in the first quarter of this year was three times as much as the $3.3 trillion in commercial mortgages. In addition, nearly $13 billion in commercial mortgages was more than 90 days past due in the first three months of this year, compared with $98.7 billion in residential loans, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp…

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


Andrew G. Bostom: ‘Islamophobia’ And Islamo-Reality

Count me among those daring to rationalize — and echo — the sentiments of 70% of my fellow Americans, who oppose the Ground Zero mosque/Islamic center edifice for ecumenism. But simply expressing legitimate, widespread concerns about this project has unleashed a torrent of obloquies emanating from distressingly ill-informed political and media cultural relativists, decrying “bigotry” and “intolerance.” Contrast this outpouring of self-righteous indignation by these elites about the purported “Islamophobia” of Americans opposing the mosque with their own egregious ignorance of, and/or silence about, the extensive writings, pronouncements, and living, hateful legacy of the late Muslim Pope, Sheik Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi.

For over a thousand years, since its founding in 792 A.D., Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, has served as the academic shrine — much as Mecca is the religious shrine — of the global Muslim community. Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi was Sunni Islam’s “ moderate” papal equivalent, Grand Imam of this Muslim Vatican, Al-Azhar, from 1996 until his recent death on March 10, 2010.

Tantawi was born in 1928 in Selim Al-Sharqiya, Egypt. He graduated from Al-Azhar University’s Faculty of Religious Studies in 1958 and received his Ph.D. in 1966. Tantawi’s Ph.D. thesis, Banu Israil fi al-Quran wa-al-Sunnah (Jews in the Koran and the Traditions), was published in 1968-69 and republished in 1986. Two years after earning his Ph.D., Sheikh Tantawi began teaching at Al-Azhar. In 1980, he became the head of the Tafsir (Koranic Commentary) Department of the University of Medina, Saudi Arabia — a position he held until 1984. Sheikh Tantawi became Grand Mufti of Egypt in 1986, a position he was to hold for a decade before taking on his final post, first assumed in 1996 and serving for fourteen years, as the Grand Imam.

Lengthy extracts translated into English from Tantawi’s 700-page magnum opus Banu Israil fi al-Quran wa-al-Sunnah,are provided in my compendium, The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism. This brief excerpt summarizes, in Tantawi’s own words, the salient features of the Koran’s normative Muslim Jew-hatred:…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Attractive Therapy: Magnetic Brain Stimulation Gaining Favor as Treatment for Depression

More doctors are turning to repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) of their patient’s brains, but fears of possible seizures may be limiting its growth as a therapeutic tool

Treatment of severe depression with magnetic stimulation is moving beyond large mental health centers and into private practices nationwide, following more than two decades of research on the treatment. Yet even as concern about its efficacy fades, one potential side effect—seizures—continues to shadow the technology.

Called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), the noninvasive technique uses electromagnets to create localized electrical currents in the brain. The gentle jolts activate certain neurons, reducing symptoms in some patients. Eight psychiatrists contacted for this article, all of whom use rTMS to treat depression, say it is the most significant development in the field since the advent of antidepressant medications. The prevailing theory is that people with depression do not produce enough of certain neurotransmitters, which include serotonin and dopamine. Electricity (administered in combination with antidepressants) stimulates production of those neurotransmitters.

Scope of the problem

A National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) study released this spring shows that 14 percent of patients with drug-resistant major depressive disorder experience a remission of symptoms after rTMS treatment compared with a control group, which reported a 5 percent rate of remission. Physicians and researchers say those results are similar to the success rate of antidepressants. No notable side effects occurred during the study, according to its authors, who include Mark George, an early rTMS researcher and a professor of psychiatry, radiology and neurosciences at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. They have suggested that higher levels of electrical stimulation might attain better results.

At the heart of this interest in rTMS treatment is the only such device cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In October 2008 the government specified that Neuronetics, Inc.’s NeuroStar could be used to treat major depressive disorder that is resistant to at least one antidepressant medication. Since then, about 200 centers and clinics in the U.S. have purchased the $60,000 system, which resembles a contemporary dentist’s chair with an electronics console.

The treatment joins talk, pharmaceutical and electroconvulsive therapies (the latter of which rTMS is an offshoot) as the only known methods of alleviating the debilitating symptoms of depression. Nearly 7 percent of U.S. adults, or 14.8 million people (predominantly women), are afflicted by major depressive disorder each year, according to the NIMH. In fact, the NIMH says the disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for people aged 15 to 44. George says that about half of all patients suffering from serious depression resist at least one antidepressant…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Developers of Planned NYC Mosque Form Nonprofit

NEW YORK — The developers behind a proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque near ground zero have formed a nonprofit organization, an important step as they move forward with their fundraising efforts.

Meanwhile, New York City officials confirmed Monday the developers owe more than $200,000 in back taxes on the Manhattan building where the Park51 center is slated to open. The developers say they’re challenging the real estate assessment to reduce the property taxes.

The nonprofit Park51 Inc. was incorporated in Delaware on Aug. 23. The papers were then submitted to New York state’s Charities Bureau.

The papers name as directors Sharif El-Gamal, his brother Sammy El-Gamal and Nour Mousa. Their real estate company owns the proposed development site.

Also listed as a director is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

NEW YORK (AP) — The chairwoman of the community board that voted for an Islamic center and mosque near ground zero said she believes adding an interfaith dimension would help unite people, saying a nondenominational chapel built at the Pentagon as part of a Sept. 11 memorial did just that.

Julie Menin, of Manhattan Community Board 1, reiterated Monday that she supports the project going up in the proposed location two blocks north of the World Trade Center site and that it contain a mosque as developers plan.. But she suggested another section of the community center be turned into an interfaith, nondenominational area for people of all religious backgrounds.

“What it could do is it could really get to the heart of the matter of making this project one that brings people together,” she said.

Community Board 1 had voted overwhelmingly in May to support the Islamic center. Opponents argue it’s insensitive to families and memories of Sept. 11 victims to build a mosque so close to where Islamic extremists flew planes into the World Trade Center and killed nearly 2,800 people, while proponents support it as a reflection of religious freedom and diversity.

Menin said that she encouraged the project’s organizers at the time to step back, reach out to Sept. 11 families and even hold a town hall meeting to discuss the issue but they made their own decisions on how to proceed.

Now, she said, “unfortunately what has happened is people’s views have become hardened.”

Menin, who first outlined her idea in an opinion piece in New York’s Daily News newspaper, pointed to the interfaith chapel at the Pentagon, which was built without controversy and is used by people of many faiths.

She acknowledged that there would always be people who opposed the project but that adding the interfaith center could be an opportunity “to try to move beyond dissension and try to bring people together.”

Oz Sultan, who coordinates media relations for the project, called the idea “interesting” but said, “Right now, there are no plans for anything of that nature.”

The project does include a meditation space, and the center’s programs will have a component of interfaith engagement, he said.

The developers have formed a nonprofit organization, an important step required before beginning a capital campaign. It was incorporated in Delaware on Aug. 23, and papers were submitted to the state attorney general’s Charities Bureau.

Meanwhile, the city confirmed Monday that the developers owe $227,570 in back taxes on the building where the Park51 center is slated to open. A spokesman for the developers didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

The incorporation papers name Sharif El-Gamal, his brother Sammy El-Gamal and Nour Mousa as directors. Their real estate investment firm, SoHo Properties Inc., owns the proposed development site through a limited partnership.

Also listed as a director is Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam at the head of the project, who recently said the opposition is closely linked to the November elections.

“There is no doubt that the election season has had a major impact upon the nature of the discourse,” Rauf was quoted by the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National in an interview as part of his Department of State-funded trip in the Persian Gulf region.

He added that he trusted the American people to follow the nation’s constitutional principles.

“The fact of the matter is the local community board recognizes and understands the vision, the politicians in New York understand the vision and there is broad-based support for these objectives,” he said. “As it is, my trust and conviction in the wisdom of the American people and political leadership and the American people at large is that they will act in accordance with the highest principles of our constitution and the fundamental American belief in justice and protection of everybody’s rights.”

He blamed a “tiny, vociferous minority” for the controversy and said “we need to combat the radical voices.”

Department of State spokesman P.J. Crowley said Rauf’s comments are his own.

“I’m not surprised that, during the course of interviews that he might have had, that he was asked about the controversy,” said Crowley, speaking to reporters in Washington. “We certainly understand that helping people understand the genuine debate that is going on in this country, you know, is a legitimate topic of discussion during the course of his tour.”

He said Rauf was now in the United Arab Emirates, the final stop of the speaking tour.

Gov. David Paterson said Monday that some of the criticism of the plans is “absolutely bigoted,” some is “politically motivated” and some is self-promotional, “but I do think there is some criticism coming from a valid source, which are Americans who are chagrined at the continuing controversies that surround the ground zero area.”

He also said that he doesn’t need to apologize to Muslim groups who criticized him and his comments on the philosophy within Islam of those seeking to build the mosque.

Paterson said last week the Sufi philosophy was an “almost Westernized” kind of Islam that’s peaceful. He denied Monday the comment implied Muslims who follow other philosophies weren’t peaceful.

“I wasn’t pointing it out because one was better and one was worse,” Paterson said in response to a reporter’s question. “I was pointing it out simply to allow all of the freethinking people of this country to recognize this is a very unique sect … one that had dedicated itself to the spiritual enhancement of people.”

Associated Press writer Michael Gormley in Albany contributed to this report.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Ethiopians Build First Hijrah Mosque in America

After being denied official construction permission back home, Muslim Ethiopians in the United States built the First Hijrah mosque and community center to commemorate the first immigration in the history of Islam and counter discriminatory practices by the Ethiopian government.

The First Hijrah mosque, literally meaning the mosque of the first immigration, is located in Washington, D.C., almost two miles from the White House.

The name of the mosque refers to the immigration in year 615 of a group of the prophet’s followers, the first to enter Islam, to the northern Ethiopian city of Axum, seeking refuge from the persecution of the Quraish tribe in Mecca.

They lived there under the protection of the Christian Emperor Ashama ibn Abjar, also called al-Najashi, who denied Quraish’s request to hand the refugees.

To commemorate the first immigration in the history of Islam, Muslims in the city of Axum tried to build their own mosque and were denied permission by the Ethiopian authorities.

Only when Christians are allowed to build a church in Mecca would Muslims in Ethiopia, the Ethiopian government is reported to have stated.

Muslim Ethiopians finally got the chance to realize their dream in the United States where they built the First Hijrah mosque.

The mosque serves 20,000 Muslims who live the neighborhood, said Sheikh Naguib Mohamed, 57, head of the Ethiopian community in Washington.

“We used to pay rent for that mosque then we bought it,” he told Al Arabiya.

Muslims in Ethiopia

Mohamed complained of discriminatory practices against Muslims in Ethiopia in general and Axum in particular.

“Not only are we not allowed to build a mosque in the first land that championed the cause of Islam, but we also don’t have a cemetery. When Muslims die we have to walk 15 kilometers outside the city to bury them.”

The mosque’s muzzein, caller for prayers, Moftah Saeid said that he and his fellow Ethiopian Muslims perform their rituals freely unlike in Axum.

“It is extremely ironic that in Washington we are granted our rights while this is not the case in our homeland,” he told Al Arabiya.

Belal al-Habashi, 13, is another member of the Muslim Ethiopian community. He learnt the Quran by heart within one year in the Virginia Islamic Center.

“Based on what I hear about the situation of Muslims there, I don’t think I could have learnt the Quran had I lived in Axum,” he told Al Arabiya.

The First Hijrah mosque consists of two floors, the first for men and the second for women. During the holy month of Ramadan, the mosque organizes banquets so that members of the community can break their fast together and also organizes courses that teach the Quran and the rules of Islam.

The mosque coordinates with several Islamic organizations like the Badr Islamic Association and has a website on the social network Paltalk where it holds cultural and religious dialogues.

It is noteworthy that members of the Ethiopian Muslim speak fluent Arabic. Their recitation of the Quran and call for prayers are not, in fact, different from those in Arab countries.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Fake Hate Crimes: An Islamist Weapon

Over the recent Fourth of July weekend, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR [1]) interviewed [2] attendees of the 47th annual Islamic Society of North America (ISNA [3]) convention about their experiences in dealing with “Islamophobia.” Shortly afterwards, on July 6, CAIR called on the FBI to investigate an act of arson [4] at a Georgia mosque, saying that hate crimes were increasing because of a “vocal minority in our society promoting anti-Muslim bigotry.” The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA [5]) referred [6] to it as one of the “incidents of Islamophobia [that] are on the rise in this country.” However, police later arrested [7] a Muslim suspect.

As Daniel Pipes has documented [8] for years [9], Islamist organizations in the West are quick to label crimes as anti-Muslim hate crimes as part of their effort to make Muslims feel under attack [10] and to paint themselves as Muslims’ protectors. For example, immediately following the Fort Hood shooting [11], CAIR asked [12] Muslims to respond by donating to it. “We need financial help to meet these crises and push back against those who seek to score political points off the Muslim community in the wake of the Fort Hood tragedy,” the fundraising pitch read. To no one’s surprise, an anti-Muslim backlash did not ensue [13]..

Cutting through the propaganda requires understanding the ways in which crimes are misrepresented as hate crimes — and why. There are two main culprits to consider: Muslims who stage fake hate crimes and Islamist organizations that seek to exploit them.

Why would anyone fabricate a hate crime against himself or his mosque? History indicates a pair of common motives.

In some cases, the faker has an obvious political goal of demonstrating the supposed prejudice against Muslims. A classic example occurred in 2008, when a 19-year-old female Muslim student named Safia Z. Jilani [14] at Elmhurst College in Illinois claimed that she had been pistol-whipped in a campus restroom by a male who then wrote “Kill the Muslims” on the mirror. The alleged attack occurred just hours after she spoke at a “demonstration called to denounce the anti-Islamic slurs and swastika she had discovered … in her locker..” A week later, however, authorities determined that none of this had taken place and she was charged with filing a false police report.

Similar incidents recently unfolded overseas. A Muslim community leader in London named Noor Ramjanally [15] reported that he had been kidnapped by members of the quasi-fascist British National Party [16]; he also said that he had received death threats and his home had been firebombed. His claim received widespread attention, causing him to boast, “I have got the whole UK Muslim community behind me now.” Ramjanally later was arrested for faking the crime. Furthermore, last year in Australia, a prominent imam, Taj Din al-Hilali [17], told police that his mosque had been vandalized. When confronted with the security tape, which shows that he is the one who kicked in the door, he insisted that it had been manipulated.

In other cases, individuals are driven to fabricate hate crimes not for political reasons, but to cover up more mundane criminal activity. Take the bizarre story of Musa and Essa Shteiwi [18], Ohio men who received media attention in 2006 after reporting several attacks on their store, the third being with a Molotov cocktail. A fourth “attack” then occurred, when an explosion was set off and badly burned the father and son, injuries from which they later died [19]. CAIR highlighted it as a hate crime. However, investigators found that the two had set off the explosion themselves after they poured gasoline in preparation for another staged incident and one of them foolishly lit a cigarette. The pair had hired [20] a former employee to carry out the previous attacks as part of an insurance fraud scheme [21].

Now let us turn to the motives of groups such as CAIR for exaggerating the prevalence of hate crimes against Muslims.

First and foremost, Islamists try to undermine and delegitimize their opponents by placing blame upon them for hate crimes. For example, a 2008 CAIR report [22] attributes [23] an alleged increase in hate crimes — “alleged” because the claimed increase is wholly contradicted [24] by FBI statistics — to “Islamophobic rhetoric in the 2008 presidential election” and people who are “profiting by smearing Islam.” Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is specifically rebuked for titling a campaign ad [25] “Jihad.”

CAIR’s 2009 report [26] takes aim at the anti-Islamist film Obsession [27], a bête noir among promoters of the hate crime narrative. To cite one example of this approach, on September 26, 2008, law enforcement was notified [28] that a 10-year-old Muslim girl at the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton had been attacked with pepper spray. A member of the board immediately attributed it to advertisements for the documentary. However, the FBI found no trace of chemicals in the mosque or on the alleged victim; the pepper spray was discovered inside [29] the mosque four days later. It concluded that there was no evidence that a hate crime had occurred.

Islamist groups also use the fear created by their publicizing of alleged hate crimes and anti-Muslim sentiment to try to mobilize the community into opposing counterterrorism programs. As Daniel Pipes has noted [9], CAIR started down this path a decade and a half ago, when it described the prosecution of World Trade Center bomb plotter Omar Abdel Rahman [30] and the arrest of Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook [31] as hate crimes.

Similar tactics remain in play. In February 2009, the American Muslim Task Force [32] and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC [33]) condemned the FBI after a story [34] broke about the use of an informant in a mosque. They accused the government of an anti-Muslim conspiracy, saying [35] that the informant was paid to “instigate violent rhetoric in mosques,” and threatened to end outreach efforts with the FBI. Then, in October 2009, a Michigan-based, pro-terrorist imam named Luqman Ameen Abdullah [36], who had been preparing his followers to wage war against the U.S. government, opened fire when the FBI tried to arrest him for criminal activity. Abdullah died in the shootout, but CAIR and the Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA [37]) are attempting [38] to attribute [39] his demise to foul play.

These groups assume the worst of the FBI’s intentions and try to make the Muslim community feel as if it is threatened by its own government committing state-sanctioned hate crimes. True to form, attendees of the ISNA convention this past July were told [40] how the FBI supposedly is targeting Muslims and advised that they should not talk to FBI personnel without a lawyer.

In summary, while real anti-Muslim hate crimes deserve the harshest of condemnation, claims about anti-Muslim hate crimes always should be taken with a grain of salt. CAIR and other Islamist groups thrive off of convincing Muslims that they are under constant assault from roving bigots and an oppressive state. Individual Muslims then feel empowered to fabricate hate crimes in order to paint themselves as victims.

For Islamists, the fear, isolation, and suffering of the Muslim community are nothing more than weapons to enhance their own prestige and pursue their political agenda.

[Footnotes available at link]

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

Feds: Man Smuggled Money to Fund Muslim Fighters

EUGENE, Ore. — Lawyers for the prosecution and defense outlined their cases to the jury in the trial of the founder of the U.S. branch of an Islamic charity.

Pete Seda is accused of tax fraud in an attempt to smuggle $150,000 to Muslim fighters in Chechnya.

Federal prosecutor Chris Cardani said this is not a terrorism case, but that it is a tax case. Cardani said Seda falsified records to avoid a paper trail for the money.

Defense attorney Larry Matasar said they agreed with many facts in the case but that they have a different way of looking at them. He says they will show many of mistakes on tax forms were made by the charity’s accountant and not Seda.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: Friend of the Brotherhood?

A new Pew Center poll says nearly one-in-five Americans think Barack Obama is a Muslim. Perhaps that is because of reports like the one blared on the cover of the September 6 edition of the tabloid, The Globe, replete with photos of Mr. Obama in Muslim garb: It found “shocking proof” in a Nile TV interview given earlier this year by the Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, disclosing that “the American President told me in confidence that he is a Muslim.”

A better explanation is that more Americans are taking note of the accumulating series of statements and actions by the President that display favoritism, or worse, towards Muslims. That would be troubling enough; after all, no chief executive is supposed to support one subset of us over others…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

Google Maps Misplaces Lincoln Memorial

A curious thing has been happening on Google Maps — the Lincoln Memorial is being misplaced in favor of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, which is a good half a mile south of the more famous memorial.

According to the Geographic Travels blog, this “misplacement” has been happening for about two days now. Typing “Lincoln Memorial” into the regular Google search bar brings up a number of listings related to the Lincoln Memorial, yet shows a map of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. (Click on the image to see the map that’s being served up.)

Is this a Google Maps glitch, or could this have anything to do with the fact that conservative radio and TV host Glenn Beck is holding a controversial “non-political” rally at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday?

Beck’s rally, which is called the “Restoring Honor” rally, is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Eastern Time today on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The rally purports to be non-political, and will “pay tribute to America’s service personnel and other upstanding citizens who embody our nation’s founding principles of integrity, truth, and honor,” according to Beck. The Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Glenn Beck, and Sarah Palin are expected to host.

[Return to headlines]

Rights Groups Sue U.S. On Effort to Kill Cleric

WASHINGTON — Two human rights organizations went to court on Monday to challenge the Obama administration’s decision to authorize the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born radical Muslim cleric now hiding in Yemen.

Anwar al-Awlaki, a Muslim cleric who was born in New Mexico, in Yemen in 2008.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington on behalf of Mr. Awlaki’s father, Nasser al-Awlaki, argues that the United State government should not be permitted to kill an American citizen away from the battlefield and without judicial review.

The human rights groups, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, asked the court to prohibit the government from killing Mr. Awlaki until the lawsuit is heard. They also demand that the government disclose the standards it uses to determine who should be singled out for killing.

The lawsuit is the first legal challenge since administration officials disclosed that Mr. Awlaki was the first American citizen to be designated for capture or killing by the Central Intelligence Agency. The authorization, which also applies to the Defense Department, came after intelligence agencies concluded early this year that Mr. Awlaki was actively participating in plotting attacks against the United States, including the failed bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner on Dec. 25.

Since then, Mr. Awlaki has escalated his criticism of the United States in a series of written and recorded statements broadcast by Al Jazeera and posted on the Web. Calling the United States “a nation of evil,” Mr. Awlaki said in a March Web posting that “jihad against America is binding upon myself, just as it is binding on every other able Muslim.”

Obama administration officials have argued that Mr. Awlaki, now believed to be an operative of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen branch of the terrorist network, has essentially joined the enemy in a time of war.. The government does not need a court’s permission to kill an enemy soldier, the officials say.

But some legal experts and human rights activists have noted that the law requires the government to get a court warrant to eavesdrop on Mr. Awlaki or other American citizens. An order to kill him should require at least the same degree of review, the activists say, to meet the Fifth Amendment’s requirement of “due process” before depriving an American of life or liberty.

“The United States cannot simply execute people, including its own citizens, anywhere in the world based on its own say-so,” said Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The lawsuit acknowledges that singling out someone for killing can be lawful “as a last resort to protect against concrete, specific and imminent threats of death or serious physical injury.” But terrorism suspects designated secretly by the government and left on the target list for months or years do not qualify as such an urgent threat, the lawsuit says.

A Justice Department spokesman, Matthew A. Miller, would not comment on the lawsuit. But he noted that Congress authorized the use of force against Al Qaeda after the 2001 terrorist attacks and that international law recognized a right of self-defense.

Anwar al-Awlaki was born in 1971 in New Mexico, where his father was a graduate student, and moved with his family to Yemen at the age of 7. He returned to the United States to attend Colorado State University and later served as an imam in three American mosques before moving to London and back to Yemen in 2004.

His publicly expressed views have grown steadily more militant, and his prolific writings and recordings have been cited as an important influence on suspects in more than a dozen terrorism cases in the United States, Canada and Britain.

The Obama administration has pursued terrorism suspects using missiles fired from drones in Pakistan and from ships and jets in Yemen. Such strikes have killed hundreds of people, but the effort to capture or kill Mr. Awlaki has drawn particular attention because of his citizenship and prominence as a cleric.

In July, the Treasury Department designated Mr. Awlaki as a terrorist, meaning that providing him legal or other services could be a crime. The A.C.L.U. and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed suit earlier this month challenging the Treasury regulations, but the department issued a license to the two groups permitting them to take legal action on Mr. Awlaki’s behalf. The lawsuit challenging the Treasury regulations is still pending.

William C. Banks, an expert on national security law at Syracuse University, said the lawsuit filed Monday faced numerous, probably insurmountable, legal obstacles. He said Nasser al-Awlaki might have difficulty showing that he had been injured by the actions taken against his son or overcoming the secrecy that protected counterterrorism programs.

Even if the elder Mr. Awlaki does have legal standing to sue, the government can cite the Congressional authorization of 2001 to justify its actions, Mr. Banks said. “The arguments in this lawsuit are creative,” he said, “but I think it’s unlikely to succeed.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

The Man Behind the “Ground Zero” Mosque

Scott Pelley Chats with Real Estate Developer Sharif El-Gamal, the Man Responsible for the “Ground Zero” Islamic Center

(CBS) Everyone — the public, media and even the President — has something to say about the controversial proposal to build an Islamic center near Ground Zero.

“It’s very surreal,” said Sharif el-Gamal, the man who came up with the idea for an Islamic center near Ground Zero. “It is a very surreal experience to be in the middle of this storm.”

Sharif el-Gamal, a Manhattan real estate developer, sat down with 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley:

Pelley: Who are you?

El-Gamal: I’m an American, a New Yorker, born in Methodist Hospital Brooklyn, to a Polish Catholic mother and an Egyptian father.

Pelley: Let me make sure I have this straight. You are a Muslim who married a Christian girl. Your mother is Catholic. And you joined the Jewish Community Center on the West Side of Manhattan.

El-Gamal: I did. That’s New York, though. That’s New York.

Pelley: This facility that is being debated all around the world is universally known as the Ground Zero Mosque. What do you call it?

El-Gamal: It should be universally known as a hub of culture, a hub of coexistence, a hub of bringing people together.

The hub he is talking about — an abandoned Burlington Coat Factory store — is two blocks from Ground Zero. You can’t see the World Trade Center site from here. El-Gamal intends to put in a swimming pool, cooking school, meeting hall and an Islamic prayer room.

Pelley: Did it occur to you when you were putting this together that that was two blocks too close to a place that many, many people feel very strongly about?

El-Gamal: Not at all. It did not even cross my mind once.

Pelley: Why not?

El-Gamal: Because I did not hold myself or my faith accountable for that tragedy.

El-Gamal didn’t spring this on the neighborhood. He says it took eight years to negotiate the purchase.

Pelley: You don’t have your choice of putting this anywhere you want to. There aren’t many spots.

El-Gamal: It’s not like you can just walk up — and say, “I want that building or I want that building.” This is one of the most competitive marketplaces in the world.

And over the last year he took the proposal to a community board four times. It was approved every time.

Pelley: The President himself has agreed that you have the right. Some people question the wisdom.

El-Gamal: It matched the needs of my community. It matched the needs of my Muslim brothers and sisters, my Christian brothers and sisters, my Jewish brothers and sisters who live and work in lower Manhattan.

Pelley: Do you intend to go ahead with the project? After all of this?

El-Gamal: 100 percent.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

“Islam is Europe’s Religion” Says Gheddafi to Meeting in Rome

Five hundred women recruited through agency for lecture on Koran. Three converts

ROME — “Islam should become the religion of the whole of Europe”. The message from Libyan leader Muammar Gheddafi was delivered on Sunday afternoon to almost 500 women, recruited for a lecture on the Koran. The Libyan leader, who arrived in Rome in the morning to celebrate the second anniversary of the signing of the Italian-Libyan friendship treaty, distributed copies of the Koran to 487 women to whom he spoke at two sessions. Forty-seven men were also due to hear him but time proved insufficient. Three women, two Italians and a Spaniard, came wearing headscarves because they have converted to Islam, a decision the president marked with a brief ritual of initiation. The three converts were among the last to leave, and did so together, but without making any statements. All were wearing the traditional Islamic headscarf, although their hair was not completely covered. A few minutes later, another woman emerged wearing a Muslim headscarf, this time a black one. According to other attendees, the last woman did not convert for Gheddafi’s visit, having embraced Islam some time earlier. President Gheddafi linked a hypothetical Islamic Europe to Turkey’s entry into the European Union and spoke about Mohammed, the “last prophet”, with Jesus being the second last. The women were able to ask questions but politics and other inappropriate topics were not allowed.

FIVE HUNDRED INVITATIONS — Alessandro Londero, president of the Hostessweb casting agency, which recruited the participants, explained: “The Libyans wanted about five hundred people but they were probably expecting fewer because the hall booked for the meeting couldn’t accommodate them all. That’s why we had to hold two sessions. Even so, eighty or so women were left out”. President Gheddafi wanted to deliver a third lecture to the men only but “we were running late and there wasn’t enough time. He said he was tired and we wound things up”. Mr Londero said that the women were paid expenses of 100 euros for those living in Lazio and 150 for the ones who travelled from other regions. Payment was to be made after the event. A further meeting with more women is scheduled for Monday but “as ever, we’ll know at the last minute”, said Mr Londero.

WOMEN TURNED AWAY — Not all the women who came passed muster with the Libyan staff. Two angry would-be attendees, who refused to explain why they had been rejected, left saying “we’re nobodies”. When asked whether it had been a “bad experience”, they said: “Let’s not go there”. The pair quickly left the building, hiding their faces behind their passports. Tensions were already apparent before anyone had entered the building, when some women and one of the co-ordinators argued loudly. One of the women involved later told journalists “we’re not getting paid”. At previous lectures, each of the participants received a fee of 50 euros. An agency staff member, who was monitoring which women spoke to the press, told journalists: “You’re getting them into trouble. The ones who say anything won’t get paid”.

BINDI: ITALIAN WOMEN HUMILIATED — “Berlusconi is making himself complicit in driving large numbers of desperate people into the Libyan desert and in another humiliating insult to the dignity of Italian women”, said the deputy leader of the Chamber of Deputies, Rosy Bindi. Ms Bindi went on: “Only in Berlusconi’s caricature of Italy, where people laugh at misogynist jokes and the commercialisation of the female body is encouraged, could we witness a such an embarrassing, servile celebration of an individual like Gheddafi. Sadly, there is nothing surprising in this spectacle offered to Italians with the backing of our government. Instead of calling him to account for the conditions of thousands of migrants, the Berlusconi government connives to provide a platform for the propaganda of a man who demands to be surrounded by good-looking women”.

STORACE: INTOLERABLE SPECTACLE — “Somebody remind Gheddafi that Europe is Christian. His faith spectaculars are intolerable”, said Francesco Storace, national secretary of The Right.

OBJECTIONS — “Gheddafi’s request for hundreds of good-looking women on his arrival in Italy sounds very much like instigation to prostitution”, commented Italy of Values (IDV) senator, Stefano Pedica, in whose view Gheddafi is “not satisfied with trampling on human rights by deporting refugees to camps in the deserts, spurning his grave responsibilities in sponsoring international terrorism and cocking a snook at Italians repatriated from Libya, who have yet to receive compensation. Now he is recreating his harem with Italian conference hostesses selected for their looks and willingness to comply. Who better to pander to his desires than the satrap Silvio Berlusconi? It’s an insult to women in Italy, who have struggled to win equality and rights”. When the Northern League senator, Piergiorgio Stiffoni, heard the talk of Islamising Europe, he said: “In 1974, the Algerian president Boumedienne told the UN that victory over the West ‘will come from the wombs of our women’. Now Gheddafi is surrounding himself with an audience of women to send out his messages. Islam does not come in peace. It comes to conquer us”. “The media circus organised to greet the dictator Gheddafi serves to cover up the uncomfortable truths that lie behind the Italy-Libya treaty”, said Mario Staderini, the secretary of the Italian Radicals.

ARRIVAL WITH AMAZONS — Gheddafi touched down at Rome’s Ciampino airport at 1.30 pm after two changes of programme. The ever-unpredictable Libyan leader was wearing traditional dress when he descended the aircraft steps with two of the women from his personal guard, to be met by the Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini, and the Libyan ambassador to Italy, Abdulhafed Gaddur. After the official welcome, the Libyan leader had 24 hours for private meetings and then at 5 pm on Monday there is the first official appointment, the Libyan academy conference on “Relations between Libya and Italy”, followed by a photographic exhibition on Libya’s history. President Gheddafi has brought with him 30 thoroughbred horses with riders. At 9 pm on Monday, they will put on a display at the Salvo D’Acquisto barracks in the presence of the prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. Waiting for President Gheddafi in the gardens of the Libyan embassy was the large Bedouin tent that accompanies him on his travels. It arrived on Saturday.

UNSCHEDULED CITY CENTRE VISIT — There was yet another unscheduled event in the evening when President Gheddafi left the Libyan ambassador’s residence for the city centre. The cavalcade of vehicles following the white presidential limousine headed for Campo de’ Fiori, where the Libyan leader sat down at the Obika bar. A group of people and television cameras soon formed as the smiling president waved to the crowd several times. Meanwhile, the dozens of vehicles in the president’s retinue caused a number of headaches for the security services. Surrounded by a dozen or so of bodyguards, President Gheddafi then set off on foot towards Piazza Navona, where he paused to chat with Arab-speaking street traders and to ask them how they were getting on in Italy. When the president had finished chatting, he told one of Libyan advisers to buy a generous handful of rings from the traders for 300 euros in cash. President Gheddafi then strolled across Piazza Navona accompanied by his bodyguards and a trail of onlookers before pausing for a final drink at Il Passetto in Piazza di Sant’Apollinare. The president sat down at an outside table and the restaurant’s owners brought him a glass of orange as television cameras continued to roll and the photographers snapped away. A few minutes later, the Libyan president got up from the table and returned to the Libyan embassy on the Via Cassia.

English translation by Giles Watson

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

As Nationalism Rises, Will the European Union Fall?

The European Union is dying — not a dramatic or sudden death, but one so slow and steady that we may look across the Atlantic one day soon and realize that the project of European integration that we’ve taken for granted over the past half-century is no more.

Europe’s decline is partly economic. The financial crisis has taken a painful toll on many E.U. members, and high national debts and the uncertain health of the continent’s banks may mean more trouble ahead. But these woes pale in comparison with a more serious malady: From London to Berlin to Warsaw, Europe is experiencing a renationalization of political life, with countries clawing back the sovereignty they once willingly sacrificed in pursuit of a collective ideal.

For many Europeans, that greater good no longer seems to matter. They wonder what the union is delivering for them, and they ask whether it is worth the trouble. If these trends continue, they could compromise one of the most significant and unlikely accomplishments of the 20th century: an integrated Europe, at peace with itself, seeking to project power as a cohesive whole. The result would be individual nations consigned to geopolitical irrelevance — and a United States bereft of a partner willing or able to shoulder global burdens.

The erosion of support for a unified Europe is infecting even Germany, whose obsession with banishing the national rivalries that long subjected the continent to great-power wars once made it the engine of integration…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Finland: Minority Ombudsman to Examine Gym Locker Room Prayer Ban

Espoo fitness centre does not want Muslim women to pray in locker room

Minority Ombudsman Eva Biaudet plans to investigate whether or not the Espoo-based Lady Fitness gym is guilty of discrimination because of its ban on Muslim prayers in its locker room.

Biaudet plans to ask the fitness centre, located in the Entresse shopping complex in the Espoon Keskus district of the city, to explain the reasons for the ban.

Women arriving at the centre on Monday were surprised to see a sign on the wall of the locker room asking people to hold their possible prayers outside the gym.

The sign read “the locker room is a religion and politics-free zone, where everyone can spend their free time in a neutral manner”.

Riding on an exercise bicycle, Agemine Fallenius is not disturbed by Muslim prayers at all.

“I know that the Muslim religion calls for prayers five times a day. I feel that we need to respect the culture and customs of others”, Fallenius says.

The owner of the gym, P-C Nordensved, says that the decision to ban prayers came after years of complaints, dating back to when the gym was in another location nearby.

Large numbers of immigrants live in this area of Espoo, and there are many Muslims among them.

There are dozens of Muslim women who go to the gym.

“Some of them have very weak language skills, and they deal with membership issues through an interpreter. The ones that have lived here longer have adapted to our customs”, Nordensved says.

The shopping mall does not have a meditation room where the Muslims could hold their daily prayers. “Might there be a room in the public library to which they could be guided?” Nordensved ponders.

He plans to take up the matter next Tuesday at a meeting of shop owners at the mall.

Walking in the door in black Muslim attire is Piia Keskinen, who has been a member of the gym for two and a half years.

“I have prayed here once, and I have seen others pray”, she says.

Keskinen feels that the locker room is not an appropriate location for prayers, because it is not quiet. “I also understand that others might feel strange about it.”

She also notes that there is a mosque 500 metres away.

The proprietor of the gym hopes that Keskinen might pass on the message to her own community. “The community might think about the matter among themselves and give guidance on how to behave.”

Minority Ombudsman Biaudet notes that the practice of religion is a human right, which is guaranteed by the Finnish Constitution.

Finland also has a law on equal treatment. “It applies to the offering of private services. It bans discrimination, both direct and indirect, against people of different ethnic origin.”

           — Hat tip: LN[Return to headlines]

Italy: Jewish Community Protests Gadaffi Visit

Rome, 30 August (AKI) — Members of Italy’s Jewish community have strongly criticised Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi’s two-day visit to Italy to mark the second anniversary of a controversial bilateral friendship pact.

“Next time, come and talk with us about the inhumane conditions of immigrants in Italy — and about the Jews thrown out of Libya and killed there in 1967,” said the president of the Union of Young Jews in Italy, Giuseppe Piperno in a statement on Monday.

Under the 2008 friendship pact, Libya and Italy agreed to joint maritime patrols in the Mediterranean. Thousands of migrants have since been sent back to squalid camps in the North African Nation, a policy criticised by the UN refugee agency and the Catholic Church.

“We don’t want our country to become a stage for the Libyan dictator’s fundamentalist sermons,” said a statement on the website of Italy’s Jewish community.

The statement was referring to remarks reportedly made by Gadaffi at a meeting with hundreds of young Italian women when he arrived on Sunday, saying he hoped Islam would become the main religion of Europe.

Gadaffi’s alleged remarks drew a sharp reaction on Monday from European Commission spokeswoman Angela Filotes, who told Adnkronos the 27-member bloc was “an area based on values, not on religion”.

Gaddafi’s visit to Italy — the North African country’s biggest trade partner — is his fourth in two years.

Rights group Amnesty international also wrote to Italy’s prime minister Silvio Berlusconi urging him to put human rights on the agenda during his talks on Monday with Gadaffi, including a moratorium on the death penalty.

Under the 2008 friendship accord, Italy pledged nearly four billion euros in investment in Libyan infrastructure over 20 years, including a new 2,700 km highway, and has provided several coastal patrol boats to intercept vessels transporting illegal immigrants to Italian shores.

A separate agreement provides for Italian defence contracts in Libya and oil and gas concessions for Italian energy companies such as ENI and Enel.

“Up to what point does economics dictate politics?” asked an editorial on Monday on Italy’s Jewish website Moked.

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

Italy: Colonel Gaddafi Scores a Three in 500 Success Rate After Holding Another Islam Conversion Party in Rome for Glamorous Models

And he’s the only man allowed in the room with them

Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi hosted another Islam conversion party attended by 500 glamorous women during the first day of an official visit to Italy.

Gaddafi was the only man at the event — apart from security officers who were kept outside — while the women who were invited to take part were all asked to ‘dress demurely’.

Three women were said to have undergone ‘spontaneous conversions’, while others walked out in disgust saying they could ‘not stand to hear such rubbish’.

The event, at the Libyan Academy in Rome, comes nine months after Gaddafi hosted two similar evenings at the official residence of the Libyan ambassador in Rome Abdulhafad Gaddur.

At those events the women were paid 50 euros, but for last night’s party and another planned for later this evening the women were given 70 euros — on condition that they did not speak to the media.

A fleet of coaches with the curtains drawn had pulled up outside the Academy just hours after Gaddafi had flown in from Tripoli.

Student Sara Perugini, 19, who was at the event, said: ‘Colonel Gaddafi was very pleasant and charming. He spoke to us about Islam and the Koran and he gave all of us a copy.

‘He told us that we should convert to Islam and that Mohammad was the last of the prophets. Three women did go through what he described as a spontaneous conversion.

‘They left wearing the traditional chador. We were paid 70 euros although I haven’t actually seen the money yet, but we were told not to talk to the media so I probably won’t see anything.

‘I know some women did walk out saying they were not prepared to hear such rubbish but as far as I know there were only a couple.

‘They said they didn’t agree with Gaddafi coming to Italy and telling them to convert and marry Muslims.

‘Most women stayed on and there was a buffet provided for us, but there was no meat and there was no alcohol only water and soft drinks.’

Gaddafi also flew in 30 Berber horses which will give a display this evening at a military parade ground in Rome attended by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The two-day visit is to mark the two-year anniversary of a ‘pact of friendship’ signed between Gaddafi and Berlusconi which has promoted extensive Italian business development in Libya.

Gaddafi has also erected a tent for his use while he is in Rome, although this time it is in the grounds of the ambassador’s residence.

During his last visit it was installed in a central Rome park, which sparked complaints from residents.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Pelted With Missiles by Anti-Fascist Protesters During Far-Right Bank Holiday March

The Unite Against Fascism group took to the streets of Brighton, East Sussex, to protest against the march held by the far-right ENA, but ended up pelting police with missiles.

A Sussex Police spokesman said that the 250 protesters and marchers were kept apart by police but members of the UAF clashed with police.

A total of 14 arrests were made for public order offences, assault and to prevent a breach of the peace.

Two police officers sustained minor injuries and received medical attention.

One protester also received injuries, for which they received treatment and for which two people have been arrested, the spokesman said.

The spokesman added: ‘Using powers authorised by the chief constable, police attempted to ensure that both protests took place in a safe location but close enough to one another to enable them to make their points peacefully.

‘Unfortunately a small group from the counter-demonstration resisted this and threw missiles at the police.

‘At no time did either group have the opportunity to physically confront one another, the only disorder being directed towards the police.’

Chief Superintendent Graham Bartlett added: ‘The right to peaceful protest is an important part of Brighton and Hove life.

‘It is our aim to allow protesters the freedom of speech to express their views safely, without causing disruption and disorder to residents, visitors and businesses in the city.

‘I again urge those who wish to hold demonstrations in the city to abide by the law and notify the police of their plans in advance, so we can jointly plan a safe and visible event that respects others’ rights to go about their business free from intimidation and violence.’

The violence followed a far-right march in Bradford, West Yorkshire, in which members of the English Defence League clashed with police on Saturday.

Two men were today charged with offences relating to the riot, during which 14 people were arrested.

In total, 1,000 members of the EDL attended the demonstration and bottles, cans, stones and three smoke bombs were thrown at opponents gathered nearby.

A 37-year-old Bradford man was charged with possessing an offensive weapon and bailed to appear in court on September 8.

A 23-year-old Walsall man was charged with a public order offence and bailed to appear in court on December 6.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Croatia: UN Prosecutors Accused Three Generals of Ethnic Cleansing

The Hague, 30 August (AKI) — UN prosecutors on Monday accused Croatian forces of ethnic cleansing against Serb civilians during a controversial 1995 military operation to seize back land occupied early in the Balkan wars. They were summing up their case against Croatian general Ante Gotovina and two other senior military commanders.

Prosecutors claim 324 Serbs were killed, including female, elderly and disabled villagers — many “executed” with gunshots to the head.

According to Serb sources, close to 2,000 people were killed in the operation.

The case is unusual because prosecutors at the UN’s Hague war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia, insist the generals are guilty despite having issued orders to troops not to commit crimes.

The generals never intended the orders to be followed, and Croatian forces under their command deliberately shelled cities and civilian targets in the self-proclaimed Republic of Srpska Krajina with the aim to expel Serbs from the area during the lightening operation in August 1995, prosecutors said.

Gotovina, who commanded the blitz, known as Operation Storm, and two other Croatian generals, Mladen Markac and Ivan Cermak, have pleaded innocent to all charges.

More than 200,000 Serbs fled the Krajina region, after Croatian forces crushed a Serb rebellion triggered by Croatia’s secession from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

Between 70 and 90 per cent of Serb homes in the region were looted or burned down, the prosecutors said.

“There is only one logical explanation — general Gotovina was deliberately targeting civilians in Knin and other cities, forcing the entire population to run to save their lives,” the prosecutor said.

The prosecution requested 27 year sentence for Gotovina, 23 years for Markac and 17 years for Cermak.

Cermak, 59, and Markac, 53, were indicted in 2004 and voluntarily surrendered to the tribunal.

Gotovina, 53, was indicted in 2001 and was arrested in Spain in 2005, after four years in hiding.

During the trial, prosecution presented 81 witnesses, while 51 witnesses testified in defence of Gotovina, Cermak and Markac.

Prosecutor Alan Tieger told the court that expulsion of Serbs was agreed with wartime Croatian president Franjo Tudjman.

He quoted Tudjman’s words that “Serbs are an alien body, a cancer on soft Croatian tissue”.

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

North Africa

Women ‘Get More Respect’ In Gaddafi’s Libya

Rome, 30 August (AKI) — Women are more respected in Libya than in western countries, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi allegedly told a group of 200 young Italian women in Rome on Monday.

“It was a very intense meeting, and even if it last over two hours, time flew,” said Elena Racoviciano, one of the 200 Italian models who attended the meeting at the Libyan ambassador’s residence in north Rome.

“We talked about many things, and at the end, Colonel Gaddafi gave each of us a copy of the Koran and a book about the Libyan revolution,”she said.

“We talked especially about the role of women in Italy. We found out that even if Italian women are far more free to chose a job, Libyan women also have choices and are not subjugated to men. They are also more respected in Libya.”

Gadaffi told the meeting that while Libyan women could drive trains and work in mines, “we prefer them to do something more suited to their physique,” Racoviciano said.

The girls were allegedly only paid “expenses” to attend the meeting.

Gadaffi held a similar meeting with several hundred young women when he arrived in Rome on Sunday. He reportedly proselytised at the meeting and said he hoped Islam would become Europe’s religion.

Three of the women, filmed on TV wearing Muslim headscarves, said they had converted to Islam.

Gadaffi, famous for his ‘Amazon’ female body guards who accompany him everywhere, hosted a similar event attended by 200 young Italian models during a visit to Rome last year.

The women were all recruited and paid 50 euros by the same modelling agency that recruited the models for Gadaffi’s current visit.

Gadaffi is on a two-day visit to Rome to celebrate the second anniversary of Libya’s so-called friendship pact with Italy — its largest trading partner.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Israeli Court Releases Racist Rabbi

An Israeli court has ordered the release of an extremist rabbi who sparked outrage across the globe for inciting Jews to kill non-Jews, even children. Yossi (Yosef) Elitzur, a resident of the hardline Yitzhar settlement in the north of the occupied West Bank, was arrested on Thursday for incitement to racism and violence, AFP reported. But a court in Rishon LeZion, near Tel Aviv, ordered that the rabbi be released the same day, saying police had failed to call him in first for questioning. The King’s Torah, a controversial book Elitzur co-authored with another rabbi, says Jews are allowed to kill “those who, by speech, weaken our sovereignty,” adding that it is permissible to kill a non-Jew who threatens Israel even if the person is classified as a Righteous Gentile. The book says is okay to kill children if they “stand in the way.” “They stand in the way of rescue in their presence and they are doing this without wanting to.”

“Nonetheless, killing them is allowed because their presence supports murder. There is justification in harming infants if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us. Under such circumstances the blow can be directed at them and not only by targeting adults,” Ha’aretz quoted the book as saying.

Published in November 2009, the book has drawn strong criticism from numerous rabbis who say it contradicts the teachings of Judaism.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Thomas Friedman Saw a Movie

By Andre Moses

Leading US journalist’s important revelation about Gaza

Abstract: Thomas Friedman has seen a documentary. This leading publicist of The New York Times and to some extent of the whole liberal journalism in the United States, writes in his recent article that this movie is a revelation; it taught him something profound about Gaza, about the Israelis and about another obstacle to peace: blind Palestinian hatred. Will this revelation have a lasting impact on Friedman’s and on the liberal media’s views and actions?

For decades Thomas Friedman of the New York Times led the belief that Jewish settlements and settlers were the main obstacles to peace in the Middle East. The demonization of Jewish settlers as if they were the cause of all evil in the Middle East was promoted not only by many Arab and most Palestinian politicians but also by certain Western liberal, intellectual, academic and other circles — all from their own reasons.

But now Thomas Friedman saw this movie titled “Precious life”. For the full presentation of his views you can see his whole article ‘Steal this movie’ . Briefly, a Palestinian baby called Mohammed born in Gaza with a lethal illness, was saved by the compassion of an Israeli, by the money donated by another Israeli and by the medical expertise and devotion of several further Israelis in the Tel Hashomer hospital in Tel Aviv, where the lifesaving bone-marrow treatment of Mohammed took place. To which the baby’s mother, Raida reflected by wishing Mohammed will “grow up to be a suicide bomber to help recover Jerusalem”.

Thomas Friedman abruptly understood something profound about the meeting of the culture of life with the culture of death. “There is something foul in the air” — he writes now — “It is a trend, both deliberate and inadvertent, to delegitimize Israel — to turn it into a pariah state, particularly in the wake of the Gaza war”. Certain people like Oliver Stone say “crazy things” to this effect, says Friedman — as if demonization, the ideological background of all genocides were merely a “crazy thing”. But all in all Friedman firmly condemns these views, he calls them “destructive criticism” and this is a very positive development.

However, Friedman still argues in this article that “Israel’s colonial settlements… are suicidal for Israel”. Now, these settlements may be right or wrong, but definitely are not the suicidal or the main obstacles to peace. It seems the question hasn’t appeared to Friedman yet that, as 1.5 million Arabs can live peacefully in Israel today, with more wealth and more human rights than their Arab brothers in any of the 22 Arab countries, why could not 0.3 million Jews he calls ‘settlers’ live peacefully among Palestinians, whether of wise or unwise, of personal or other reasons? Even if that area would belong to the future Palestinian state, why should this state be “free of Jews” or more authentically: ‘judenrein’?!

So, the main obstacles to peace are not the settlers, but the indoctrination of Raida, and those who indoctrinate the ‘raidas’ to murderous hatred. Friedman starts to understand at least this obstacle. Another major obstacle to peace is the limitless and unconditional Western funding, dedicated, through the UN’s most generous sub-organization UNRWA, solely to the Gaza refugees and to their phenomenal growth, from 250,000 actual refugees to the present 1.4 million sons, grandsons and great-grandsons of those refugees in 60 years. With this type of funding no wonder this challenge is never solved, only inflated without limit.

The slow and painful process of dismantling these and other real obstacles to peace should start now. The question is whether the revelation Thomas Friedman made will have a lasting impact on his views and actions? Or, will his and his friends’ past views, which earned them their reputation, swallow and digest all what they have understood anew? The uphill learning process which started with their recent revelation can lead to a better future through a true peace process, based not on illusions and on the demonization of the Israeli settlers but on the hard reality discovered now. Thomas Friedman and his friends could contribute a lot to this true peace process if they truly want to…

           — Hat tip: AA[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Abu Dhabi: N.Y. Islamic Center Imam Calls Opponents ‘Small, Vociferous’ Group

The leader of the proposed Manhattan Islamic cultural center near the site of the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attacks told a Persian Gulf newspaper that there was no conflict between Islam and America and dismissed the opponents of the Park51 project as being led by “very small, vociferous voices.”

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s interview with the Abu Dhabi-based daily newspaper the National, which was published Monday, provided the first extensive comments he’d made about the controversy over the community center, which will include a prayer room, in the weeks since a New York City planning board gave it final approval.

He’s currently in the Middle East on a U.S. State Department-sponsored tour of Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, where he is speaking to groups of Muslims in an attempt to boost relations between America and Islam.

Last week, several hundred activists protested the placement of the proposed center so close to ground zero as insensitive to the victims. Cable-news channels have been giving the issue extensive coverage, with some guests accusing Abdul Rauf of harboring sympathies for radical Islam. Some worry the heated rhetoric is harming America’s reputation in the Muslim world.

But Abdul Rauf said the clash over the proposed center, formerly called the Cordoba House, is not “between Muslims and non-Muslims, but between moderates of all the faith traditions and the radicals of all the faith traditions.”

He said there were “very small, loud and vociferous voices who are beating the drum for the opposite kind of discourse.”

The scholar attributed part of the opposition to election-year grandstanding over a local issue. “The fact of the matter is the local community board recognizes and understands the vision, the politicians in New York understand the vision, and there is broad-based support for these objectives,” he said.

He said he planned to speak out more about the controversy when he’s back home. “As it is, my trust and conviction in the wisdom of the American people and political leadership and the American people at large is that they will act in accordance with the highest principles of our Constitution and the fundamental American belief in justice and protection of everybody’s rights,” he said.

           — Hat tip: TS[Return to headlines]

Baghdad Residents Mourn Departure of Former Enemy

US combat troops are withdrawing from Iraq, where terrorist attacks are once again part of everyday life. The Iraqi population is suddenly mourning the departure of the once-hated occupiers, as fears of a civil war grow.

The Al Faw Palace in Baghdad is a relic from the reign of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. This Wednesday, it will be the scene of a significant moment in the history of American involvement in the country, when US General Raymond Odierno hands over the command of US forces in Iraq to his successor. The ceremony will mark the penultimate step of the US withdrawal from Iraq.

Only 50,000 US troops will remain in the country, out of a total of over 170,000 soldiers that were in Iraq at the high point of the American deployment. They are staying mainly to support the Iraqi security forces as advisers and trainers, and are also due to return to their homeland at the end of 2011.

The withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq’s urban centers just over a year ago was welcomed euphorically. Fireworks lit up the sky, honking motorcades drove through the streets and men danced with joy. They were celebrating the fact that the occupiers were finally out of sight, but still close enough to intervene should terror once again regain the upper hand.

No one expects much dancing in the streets of Baghdad this Wednesday. The streets are deserted these days. It is not only the infernal heat of up to 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) which keeps people in their homes. It is also the fear of what will happen once the Americans are gone.

Visitors to Baghdad can sense the fear that many people have of a new civil war. That fear is underscored by the daily news reports on television. Last week, at least 56 Iraqis died at the hands of suicide bombers and snipers in around two dozen terrorist attacks. In August, an average of five policemen or soldiers died every day.

‘Not in Iraq’s Interests’

Given the violence that is flaring up again, many Iraqis want their occupiers to stay longer. “They shouldn’t leave. The situation is not stable,” says Mohammed Ali Mohammed, a 55-year-old shopkeeper in the New Baghdad district who sells vegetables and canned goods. Iraq has no government, the politicians are incompetent and the situation on the streets is “brutal,” he says. “The Americans are leaving, but they didn’t ask us.”

Zeinab Ali, a 19-year-old student, agrees with him: “We had hoped that the US would help the Iraqis to end the political chaos. Instead, they surprised us with the decision to withdraw their troops,” says Ali, who is currently in the first semester of a course in Islamic Studies.

His assessment of the situation is not, however, completely correct. It has been clear ever since Washington and Baghdad signed an agreement in late 2008 that the US would withdraw its troops by the end of 2011. Many Iraqis could not, and did not want to, believe that the US government would abide by its agreements, however. It has been decades since Iraq has had a government that keeps its word.

The uncertainty about what will happen now is so far-reaching that it has even affected the former arch-enemies of the US Army. Abu Mujahid lost a leg in 2004 when he fought against the invaders in the battle of Fallujah. Shrapnel fragments are lodged in his head, the legacy of a US missile strike. “Yes, we fought them to the death,” Mujahid, who is a Sunni Muslim, told the news agency Reuters. “We dreamed of the day when they would leave Iraq. But their withdrawal at this time is not in Iraq’s interests.”

Deep-Rooted Fears

On the political level, too, doubts are growing as to whether Iraq can survive on its own. “Withdrawing at this moment is extremely dangerous,” says Shaher Ketab, a political consultant who is close to the secular al-Iraqiya coalition. He has just come from the latest in a series of meetings with Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi. They were discussing the formation of the new Iraqi government — a process that is no further forward today, five-and-a-half months after the election.

It is this political vacuum that is making the Iraqis fearful. The experiences of recent years have shown that chaos reigns wherever there is no strong state in charge. “The US is leaving behind a huge security hole,” complains Ketab. He rejects the suggestion that the hole has in fact been created by his own clients, the politicians who do not want to agree on a compromise for a coalition government.

Mahmoud Othman, a member of parliament within the Kurdish bloc, is hard on his fellow politicians. In the tough negotiations, Othman occupies a position between the Shiite-dominated State of Law coalition of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the nationalist-secular Iraqiya coalition of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. The major parties “are responsible for the fact that Iraq is paralyzed,” rants Othman, speaking in his heavily guarded villa near the Tigris River. “They have betrayed their voters.”

Othman believes the reason for the deadlock in negotiations is the feeling of suspicion that became burned into Iraqis during the dictatorship. “No politician wants to go into opposition,” he says. In the Arab world, a government’s political opponents traditionally ended up in prison, he explains. “It’s impossible to get rid of people’s fears.”

But Othman, too, sees the US as at least partly responsible for the current situation. The US had promised “a responsible reduction in troop levels,” he says. “But is it responsible to now simply run away? No!” he says. “Obama is acting according to the motto: I will leave Iraq to the Iraqis, and the Iraqis to themselves.”

The Kurdish politician argues that the US should have provided better training for local security forces. “After all, it was the Americans that got us into this mess.” There was no al-Qaida in Iraq when Saddam was in power, he points out. “The Americans now have to teach the Iraqis how to deal with the problems that they are leaving behind.”…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Carla Bruni Branded ‘Prostitute’ By Iran After She Campaigns for Woman Threatened With Stoning

France’s First Lady is part of a campaign to save the life of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two.

She is accused of cheating on her husband and then helping to kill him, and is now facing capital punishment for her crimes.

Ms Bruni-Sarkozy, who became President Nicolas Sarkozy’s third wife two years ago, has signed a petition calling for Sakineh’s release.

Last week the former supermodel said: ‘I just can’t see what good could come out of this macabre ceremony, whatever the judicial reasons put forward to justify it.’

Addressing Sakineh directly in an open letter, Ms Bruni-Sarkozy wrote: ‘Why shed your blood and deprive your children of their mother? Because you have lived, because you have loved, because you’re a woman, and because you’re an Iranian? Everything within me refuses to accept this.’

But Kayhan (which means ‘Universe’ in English), the Iranian daily newspaper which acts as a mouthpiece for the country’s ultra conservative Islamic regime, has now accused 42-year-old Ms Bruni-Sarkozy of being a hypocrite.

An editorial in the paper points to her chequered love life, which has included numerous relationships with high-profile celebrities.

Entitled ‘French prostitutes join the human rights protest,’ the article singles out Ms Bruni-Sarkozy and Isabelle Adjani, the French actress and friend of the First Lady who is also calling for Sakineh’s release.

Kayhan aims to ‘defend the ideology of the Islamic Revolution’ and is directly under the supervision of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government.

Iranian state television also attacked Ms Bruni-Sarkozy for her support for Sakineh, saying she was using it to try and justify her own immorality.

The Elysee Palace had no formal reaction to the slurs in the Iranian media, but an insider said Ms Bruni-Sarkozy was ‘deeply shocked’ by the personal attack.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Millennium Private Equity Invests in International Innovative Technologies Ltd Via First Corporate Sukuk in Europe

Millennium Private Equity Ltd (MPE) recently announced an investment in UK based International Innovative Technologies Ltd (IIT), a clean energy technology development company specializing in energy efficiency improvement products and solutions. IIT manufactures a range of high quality, high output mills which are modular in design, cost effective to install and easy to operate.

The company’s product line and process solutions cater to aggregates, construction and recycling businesses among other energy intensive sectors and has a growing list of companies interested in utilizing its products in many varied applications.

IIT’s milling technology ‘m-series’ provides a higher throughput and energy saving of up to 90% when compared to a similar sized conventional ball mill. The m-series technology has capability to mill and mix a wide range of materials of varying hardness to a very fine particle size, without making any change in the mill design. m-series’ modular design enables efficient multi-mill installation possibilities providing an alternative to a conventional ball mill installation.

MPE is a Sharia compliant private equity firm based in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and regulated by Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA). This is MPE’s Energy Fund’s second investment since its investment in Kuwait Energy Company in January 2009.

Rabih Soukarieh, Chief Executive Officer of MPE said, “MPE’s investment into IIT is also the first Islamic bond in the UK and the investment structure is unique in various aspects. MPE was able to structure the investment compliant with Sharia principles, secure convertible rights and provide the investor with synthetic preferred rights and dividends. The transaction provides a framework within which traditional investors looking for preferred returns and rights can structure the investment and still be Sharia compliant”.

He further added that, “efficiency improvement technologies specially targeting energy intensive industries is expected to have greater impact on reducing carbon footprint, and IIT’s products have potentially huge markets in multiple industries worldwide, but of particular interest to us, in the MENA region. IIT’s patented technology addresses the core issue of substantially reducing the carbon footprint of existing processes combined with substantial cost savings for customers.”

“We are very excited to have Millennium Private Equity come on board as a strategic investor and partner” said Tom Wilkinson, Chairman and CEO of IIT. “We welcome MPE’s representatives, Nadeem Lodhi, Vally Khamisani and Nikhil Goel on to the IIT Board. Together, the team brings more than forty years of experience in Energy/Clean Technology and Investment Banking and Finance sectors. MPE as an investor will assist us in developing new markets and provide direction to our global growth plans.”

The transaction was led by Millennium Private Equity as an Arranger. Herbert Smith, Dubai acted as Arranger’s counsel and Michelmores, London acted as corporate counsel. Dar Al Sharia, Dubai acted as the Sharia advisors and Maples and Calder acted as Cayman counsel for the transaction.

IIT was advised by the London office of Norton Rose, with Newcastle based Hay & Kilner providing support on the relevant corporate documentation.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Turkey Seeks Explanation From Iran Over Alleged Genocide Remarks

Alarmed by reports that Iran’s vice president said the events of 1915 constituted a “genocide,” Turkey is seeking high-level explanation from Tehran.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spoke late Friday with his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, who told him that Iran’s position was in line with Turkey’s stance on the issue.

“I asked for an explanation from Mr. Mottaki,” Davutoglu told journalists in the central Anatolian province of Karaman on Friday.

The mass killings and deportation of Armenians during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire constituted “genocide,” according to Iranian Vice President Hamid Baghaei. “A hundred years ago the Ottoman Empire committed genocide against a certain number of Armenians,” he was quoted as saying by Iranian news agency IRNA.

Davutoglu said the Turkish Foreign Ministry immediately contacted both the Iranian Embassy in Ankara and the Turkish Embassy in Tehran.

Turkey’s envoy to Tehran went to the Iranian Foreign Ministry to follow up on the issue. Later in the day, Davutoglu contacted Mottaki.

Soon after the allegations, the Iranian Embassy in Ankara released a statement saying that the Iranian vice president’s statements were not accurately reflected by some media outlets. The embassy stated that Baghaei commented on the subject only as a problem between Turkey and Armenia and that he did not express his opinions about the issue.

During their telephone conversation, Mottaki told Davutoglu that the conference attended by the Iranian vice president was about World War II, not about World War I, while repeating that there was no change in Tehran’s position regarding the events of 1915, the Turkish foreign minister said.

But it appeared Friday that Davutoglu was not satisfied with Mottaki’s assurance. He said he told his Iranian counterpart that Turkey was awaiting an explanation from Baghaei himself.

“Mottaki told me that Baghaei will make an explanation,” Davutoglu said.

The Iranian vice president made the alleged remarks during a conference “Iran, a bridge of success” on Wednesday.

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

South Asia

Angry Pakistanis Pelt Donkeys in Protest at Fixing

KARACHI, Aug 30 (Reuters) — Protesters in the eastern city of Lahore slapped donkeys with shoes and pelted them with rotten tomatoes on Monday to vent their anger at the latest Pakistani cricket fixing scandal.

Protesters led a procession of donkeys with the names of players accused of taking bribes to fix incidents during the fourth test against England stuck on the foreheads of the animals.

“These players have let us and the country down. We are already facing so many problems because of the floods and terrorism and they took away our one source of happiness,” a protester screamed at a television channel.

Television pictures also showed Pakistanis pelting their team bus with rotten vegetables when it arrived at Lord’s in London on Sunday.

The Chairman of the National Assembly standing committee on sports, Iqbal Muhammad Ali, warned that the committee would resign if the government did not change the Pakistan Cricket Board management and recall the accused players.

“They have brought shame to the country and they deserve the worst. We immediately demand the sacking of this board and if this is not done we will resign in protest,” Ali told reporters.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Thailand: New Sectarian Violence Breaks Out in Southern Thailand

Bangkok, 30 August(AKI) — Violence linked to Muslim separatists in southern Thailand has killed at least five people including a baby, according to news reports.

The killings on Sunday occurred in the south’s Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani provinces, scenes of other clashes in a separatist movement that has claimed more than 4,100 lives over the past few years.

Militias and security forces in the region have been accused of widespread abuses by rights groups since the campaign escalated in 2004.

A boy who was shot dead in the Narathiwat province died in an attack that probably targeted his father, a member of a pro-government militia. The Bangkok Post cited a police officer as saying the reasons were unclear for the shooting of a Buddhist middle aged couple as they drove to a market in Pattani province.

On Monday, a bomb hidden under a pick-up truck exploded in Narathiwat province on Monday, wounding three people.

Approximately 80 percent of the three southern provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat are Muslim.

The southern region was an autonomous Malay Muslim sultanate until it was annexed in 1902 by mainly Buddhist Thailand.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Belief in Witchcraft Widespread in Africa

A new Gallup poll found that belief in magic is widespread throughout sub-Saharan Africa, with over half of respondents saying they personally believe in witchcraft. Studies in 18 countries show belief varies widely (ranging from 15 percent in Uganda to 95 percent in the Ivory Coast), but on average 55 percent of people polled believe in witchcraft.

As might be expected, the older and less educated respondents reported higher belief in witchcraft, but interestingly such belief was inversely linked to happiness. Those who believe in witchcraft rated their lives significantly less satisfying than those who did not.

One likely explanation is that those who believe in witchcraft feel they have less control over their own lives. People who believe in witchcraft often feel victimized by supernatural forces, for example, attributing accidents or disease to evil sorcery instead of randomness or naturalistic causes.

A cultural belief in witchcraft has wider implications for Africans as well, from law enforcement to aid donations to public health. In Africa, witch doctors are consulted not only for healing diseases, but also for placing curses on rivals. Magic (or at least the belief in magic) is commonly used for personal, political, and financial gain.

African belief in witchcraft has also led to horrific murders and mutilations in recent years. In 2008, a mob of hundreds of young men killed eight women and three men in two villages in rural western Kenya. The victims were accused of witchcraft — having cast spells that lowered the intelligence of the village’s children. Some of the suspected witches and wizards were hacked to death with machetes, or had their throats slit before their bodies were burned.

In East Africa, at least 50 albinos (people with a rare genetic disorder that leaves the skin, hair and eyes without pigment) were murdered for their body parts in 2009, according to the Red Cross. An albino’s arms, fingers, genitals, ears, and blood are highly prized on the black market, believed to contain magical powers and are used in witchcraft.

In a continent of dark-skinned Africans, albinos are often the subject of fear, hatred, and ridicule. The practice of using body parts for magical ritual or benefit is called muti. Such attacks are particularly brutal, with knives and machetes used to cut and hack off limbs, breasts and other body parts from their screaming victims — including children.

While personal belief in magic and witchcraft may seem harmless, the actions some people take based on those beliefs clearly are not.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Drunk Baboons Plague Cape Town’s Exclusive Suburbs

The sun is setting over South Africa’s oldest vineyard and the last of the wine-tasting tourists are climbing onto their buses. But one large family group has no intention of leaving — and there is little the management can do about it.

Each day, dozens of Cape Baboons gather to strip the ancient vines Photo: AP

Groot Constantia, in the heart of Cape Town’s wine country, can deal with inebriated holidaymakers — but it is invading baboons which have developed a taste for its grapes that the wine makers are struggling with.

Each day, dozens of Cape Baboons gather to strip the ancient vines — the sauvignon blanc grapes are a particular favourite — before heading into the mountains to sleep. A few, who sample fallen fruit that has fermented in the sun, pass out and don’t make it home.

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Whatever next, policemen in pyjamas?”They are not just eating our grapes, they are raiding our kitchens and ripping the thatch off the roofs. They are becoming increasingly bold and destructive,” said Jean Naude, general manager at the vineyard, which is celebrating its 325th birthday this year. Guards banging sticks and waving plastic snakes have been deployed with only limited success, and not even a blast of a vuvuzela, the plastic horn made famous at the World Cup, seems to frighten them.

It is not just the vineyards in South Africa which are under siege, however, but also the exclusive neighbouring suburb of Constantia, home to famous residents including Earl Spencer, Wilbur Smith and Nelson Mandela.

Crisis meetings between animal welfare groups and traumatised locals are struggling to find a workable solution.

“Where there’s a mountain, there’s a baboon,” said Justin O’Riain of the Baboon Research Unit at the University of Cape Town. “As we take up more and more of their land, the conflict increases.”

The baboons lived in the mountains of Cape Town long before humans took up residence, but development has forced the unlikely neighbours into increasingly closer contact.

Before laws afforded baboons a protected status a decade ago, troublesome animals were regularly killed or maimed by home owners and farmers. Now around 20 full-time “baboon monitors” are employed to protect them and guide them away from residential areas. It has proved mission impossible. Last week, a 12 year old boy was left traumatised after confronting a troop who had broken into his family home.

Hearing noises from the kitchen, he went to investigate and found the beasts ransacking cupboards. When the child fled upstairs to find his babysitter, three males gave chase and surrounded him as he made a tearful phone call to his mother, while the animals pelted him with fruit.

“When he called me he was terrified. They had him surrounded,” said the Constantia housewife, who did not wish to be identified.

Chickens, geese, peacocks and even a Great Dane dog have been killed in recent weeks by the marauding baboons — the males have huge and terrifying canine teeth. Roof tiles, electric fences, orchards and vegetables gardens have been trashed.

“Lunch parties in the garden are now just impossible,” a homeowner complained. “It is so unrelaxing. Rather than chatting over our meal, we are looking over our shoulders and bolting the food as quickly as we can before it is stolen. We can’t even leave a window open in summer. We are under siege.”

In a concession to despairing residents, wildlife authorities have begun collaring baboons identified as “troublesome” and imposed a strict “three strikes” policy whereby animals which repeatedly break into homes are humanely destroyed.

Fourteen year-old William, a large male known officially as GOB03, who had terrorised the coastal suburb of Scarborough for as long as anyone can remember, was the first to fall foul of this controversial rule.

His death last month was greeted with outrage and jubilation in equal measure and dominated the letters pages of the local newspapers for weeks.

Meanwhile, For Sale signs are sprouting up in suburbs with baboon populations. Families which have lived in the same house for generations are giving up, moving away to get away from their animal tormentors.

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

German Government Warns Its Citizens About Possible Crisis Situation in SA

Amidst the Civil Service strike in South Africa, the German Government has issued a warning and important notice on the website of their South African Embassy in Pretoria. It urges all its citizens to immediately, but voluntarily, register their details online as a crisis prevention measure. It seems as if the German government is anticipating possible mass evacuations of its citizens in the event of the strikes getting out of hand and erupting into full blown violence. The online registering of German citizens, currently living, working or holidaying in South Africa will ensure that their names are on a list and will speed up possible evacuations. I would like to urge all foreign nationals in South Africa to check the websites of their embassies in South Africa for similar warnings. Please do not take these warnings lightly. This is serious.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Osama Bin Laden ‘Is a Bought and Paid for CIA Agent’ Claims Cuban Leader Fidel Castro

The country’s former president has said that the world’s most wanted terrorist always popped up when former US President George W Bush needed to scare the world, and argued that recently published documents on the internet prove it.

Castro told state media: ‘Any time Bush would stir up fear and make a big speech, bin Laden would appear threatening people with a story about what he was going to do.

‘Bush never lacked for bin Laden’s support. He was a subordinate.’

Castro said documents posted on the controversial WikiLeaks website ‘effectively proved he (Bin Laden) was a CIA agent.’ He did not elaborate further on the claims.

The comments were published today in the Communist party’s daily newspaper, Granma.

They were the latest in a series of bold and provocative statements by Castro, who has emerged from exile to warn the planet is on the brink of a nuclear war.

Bizarrely, Castro even predicted that global conflict would mean cancellation of the final rounds of the World Cup in South Africa. He later apologised.

And last week, the 84-year-old began highlighting the work of Lithuanian investigative journalist Daniel Estulin, who he was meeting with when the Bin Laden comments came to light.

During the meeting, Estulin told Castro that the real voice of bin Laden was last heard in late 2001, not long after the September 11 attacks.

He said the person heard making warnings about terror attacks after that was a ‘bad actor.’

Mr Estulin, is a well-known conspiracy theorist and wrote a trilogy of books highlighting the Bilderberg Club, whose prominent members meet once a year behind closed doors.

The secretive nature of the meetings and prominence of some members — including former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and senior U.S. and European officials have led some to speculate that it operates as a kind of global government, controlling not only international politics and economics, but even culture.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Italy: Moroccan Woman Assaulted With Acid in Turin

Turin, 27 August(AKI) — A 19-year-old Moroccan woman suffered second and third degree burns over 20 percent over her body following an late Thursday in the northern industrial city of Turin when attackers threw acid over her.

According to a police official, at around 9:00 pm Hasna Beniliha was approached from behind by a man who poured the contents of a bottle on her before escaping on foot.

Another three people who were standing near the victim were treated for burns from drops of the acid and released early from hospital.

The police official said investigators are working on the hypothesis of that the attack was a crime of passion.

Moroccans are among Italy’s largest immigrant communities.

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

UK: Babies to Foreign Mothers at Record Levels

The proportion of babies born to foreign mothers is at a record high, with migrants accounting for three quarters of births in some parts of the country.

One in four births in England and Wales last year were to a mother born overseas, according to the Office for National Statistics.

They accounted for 174,174 births, representing 24.7 per cent of the 706,248 new arrivals in 2009.

That was the highest proportion since the nationality of mothers started being recorded in 1969 and has doubled in the last 20 years alone.

The figures demonstrate how immigration can drive up the population beyond just the direct inflow of migrants.

The trend is also likely to continue growing because birth rates are higher among foreign mothers while the actual number of births to British mothers, while still the major proportion, fell by 2,463 last year.

In Newham, east London, foreign-born mothers accounted for 75.7 per cent of births last year, followed closely by Brent, north London, where they made up 73.4 per cent.

Migrant mothers also account for more births the older they get. Of the 1,619 children born to a woman aged 45 or over last year, some 30 per cent was made up by foreign mothers.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: “This is crystal clear evidence of the huge impact of mass immigration on not only the size but the nature of our population.

“It is deeply worrying to a great many people but there is still a reluctance to discuss it, let alone address it.”

The three most common countries of birth of non-UK born mothers were Pakistan, Poland and India, as has been the case since 2007, the figures showed.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

US Census Counted Everyone as Citizens

De Facto “immigration reform.”

The $14.5 billion US Census asked your national origin. But it didn’t ask if you were a US citizen. An estimated 20 million illegal immigrants were counted as citizens.

I was one of the half-million people hired to work on the 2010 Census which cost $14.5 billion, more than three times the 2000 Census. The 2010 census cost about $47 for every man, woman, and child in America.

The Census asked every conceivable question but the obvious one: Are you a citizen?

It asked about everyone who lives in your household, but made no effort to determine citizenship status. (Think of it as don’t ask-don’t tell.)

It asks if your kids are adopted and whether you have a mortgage; and do you identify yourself as Hispanic (and if so, are you Mexican, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban, etc., etc.), but it never asks about citizenship.

Given the fact that there are tens of millions of illegal aliens in the country (plus, of course, many other people here legally, but not citizens), the significance (and real purpose) is to make sure that as many non-citizens as humanly possible are included — and are therefore represented in the apportionment of Congress.

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Amil Imani & Dr. Wafa Sultan: Islam & the Mental Immune System

Our beliefs and ideas make us who we are and the qualities of those beliefs and ideas determine the kind of person we are. We shield and fiercely defend our beliefs and ideas for good reason: without both integrity and internal harmony, the mind becomes disorganized and even dysfunctional. While our inborn immune system fights off viruses and bacteria that aim to kill us, another immune system, the mental immune system—MIS—gradually formed after birth, protects the mind and takes every measure to keep the mind’s ideas and beliefs on the same page. In general we inherit our opinions. We are the heirs of habits and mental customs. Our beliefs, like the fashion of our dresses, depend on where we were born. We are molded and fashioned by our surroundings…

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani[Return to headlines]

Westerners vs. The World: We Are the Weird Ones

The Ultimatum Game works like this: You are given $100 and asked to share it with someone else. You can offer that person any amount and if he accepts the offer, you each get to keep your share. If he rejects your offer, you both walk away empty-handed.

How much would you offer? If it’s close to half the loot, you’re a typical North American. Studies show educated Americans will make an average offer of $48, whether in the interest of fairness or in the knowledge that too low an offer to their counterpart could be rejected as unfair. If you’re on the other side of the table, you’re likely to reject offers right up to $40.

It seems most of humanity would play the game differently. Joseph Henrich of the University of British Columbia took the Ultimatum Game into the Peruvian Amazon as part of his work on understanding human co-operation in the mid-1990s and found that the Machiguenga considered the idea of offering half your money downright weird — and rejecting an insultingly low offer even weirder.

“I was inclined to believe that rejection in the Ultimatum Game would be widespread. With the Machiguenga, they felt rejecting was absurd, which is really what economists think about rejection,” Dr. Henrich says. “It’s completely irrational to turn down free money. Why would you do that?”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]