Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100901

Financial Crisis
»Feds Eyeing Private Money to Finance Deficit?
»Germany: Military Study Warns of a Potentially Drastic Oil Crisis
»Recession Opens Doors for Italy’s Dogs
»Where Are the New Jobs?
»Chicago-Based Tribune Co Settles on Lewisville for Central Business Office
»Imam Rauf: “… In a True Peace, Israel Will, In Our Lifetimes, Become One More Arab Country, With a Jewish Minority”
»Imam: Mosque Fight About Islam
»IRS Under Obama Zooms in on Pro-Israel Groups
»Is This Why Bloomberg Champions Ground Zero Mosque?
»Muslim FDNY Firefighter and EMT Appear in New National Ad Supporting Ground Zero Mosque
»Obama Records ‘Critical’ To ‘Our Republic’
»Sen. Lisa Murkowski Concedes Alaska Republican Primary for Senate
»Time Warner Cable, Disney Expected to Strike Deal Today on ESPN, Other Channels
Europe and the EU
»CBN Shocking Report on Islamization of Paris
»Danish Politicians Call for Election Observers in Sweden
»EU to Discuss Gaddafi’s €5 Billion Demand at Africa Summit, Italy Says
»France: Gaddafi? Rapid EU-Libya Accord Needed
»France: Quick Opens 14 New Halal Restaurants
»Germans Ready to Make Babies
»Italy: Excellent Outlook for Grape Harvest
»Netherlands: Christians on the Defensive
»Netherlands: Man Jailed for Delivering T-Shirt at Town Hall
»UK: Human Rights Are Key to Our Foreign Policy
»UK: The BBC’s Propaganda for Fundamentalist Islam
»UK: Tony Blair: I Did Not Understand Islam at Time of 9/11 Attacks
»UK: Tourists Mystified as Computer Hackers Turn Belvoir Castle Website Into Anti-Israeli Protest
»UK: Was Tony Blair an Alcoholic?
»UK: Wedding Day Tragedy as Guest Dies of Salmonella and Dozens Fall Ill After Kosher Banquet
North Africa
»Libya Overlooks GB Groups in Italy’s Favour
Israel and the Palestinians
»Jews Killed Where Obama Demanded Removal of Checkpoints
»Video: Charlie Crist Adviser Raised Funds for Hamas
Middle East
»Food: Falafel Chain From Saudi Arabia Conquers U.S.
»Holland: Terror Suspects on US Flight Held
»Iranian Sentenced to Death by Stoning for Adultery ‘Subjected to Mock Execution’
»Saudi Arabia: Reduced Authority for Police in Mecca
»USA Basketball: USA Easily Defeats Iran 88-51 at FIBA World Championships
»Has the Lost Treasure of the Tsars Been Found at the Bottom of the World’s Deepest Lake?
»Will Russia’s Bloggers Survive Censorship Push?
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Pox Swap: 30 Years After the End of Smallpox, Monkeypox Cases Are on the Rise
»France: Security; Meeting on Nationality Loss on Friday
»Libya Destinaion More Than Transit State, IOM
»U.S. Files New Suit on Ariz. Immigration Issue
»Would Einstein be Ruined by Twitter?

Financial Crisis

Feds Eyeing Private Money to Finance Deficit?

Fiscal policy appears headed toward policy like Argentina’s

The federal government is refusing to confirm it wants to create new “Retirement Bonds” to be purchased — mandatorily — with the assets in private Individual Retirement Account and 401(k) programs, but it appears to be moving that direction.

Treasury officials declined to rule out the possibility of creating R-Bonds as they confirmed a joint hearing scheduled with Treasury Department and Department of Labor officials in September will explore the “lifetime income option” for Americans using their retirement accounts.

WND reported last week that the U.S. Department of Labor released an agenda for a joint hearing Sept. 14-15 on whether government life-time annuity options funded by U.S. Treasury debt should be required for private retirement accounts including IRAs and 401(k) plans.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Germany: Military Study Warns of a Potentially Drastic Oil Crisis

A study by a German military think tank has analyzed how “peak oil” might change the global economy. The internal draft document — leaked on the Internet — shows for the first time how carefully the German government has considered a potential energy crisis.

The term “peak oil” is used by energy experts to refer to a point in time when global oil reserves pass their zenith and production gradually begins to decline. This would result in a permanent supply crisis — and fear of it can trigger turbulence in commodity markets and on stock exchanges.

The issue is so politically explosive that it’s remarkable when an institution like the Bundeswehr, the German military, uses the term “peak oil” at all. But a military study currently circulating on the German blogosphere goes further.

The study is a product of the Future Analysis department of the Bundeswehr Transformation Center, a think tank tasked with fixing a direction for the German military. The team of authors, led by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Will, uses sometimes-dramatic language to depict the consequences of an irreversible depletion of raw materials. It warns of shifts in the global balance of power, of the formation of new relationships based on interdependency, of a decline in importance of the western industrial nations, of the “total collapse of the markets” and of serious political and economic crises.

The study, whose authenticity was confirmed to SPIEGEL ONLINE by sources in government circles, was not meant for publication. The document is said to be in draft stage and to consist solely of scientific opinion, which has not yet been edited by the Defense Ministry and other government bodies.

The lead author, Will, has declined to comment on the study. It remains doubtful that either the Bundeswehr or the German government would have consented to publish the document in its current form. But the study does show how intensively the German government has engaged with the question of peak oil.

Parallels to activities in the UK

The leak has parallels with recent reports from the UK. Only last week the Guardian newspaper reported that the British Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is keeping documents secret which show the UK government is far more concerned about a supply crisis than it cares to admit.

According to the Guardian, the DECC, the Bank of England and the British Ministry of Defence are working alongside industry representatives to develop a crisis plan to deal with possible shortfalls in energy supply. Inquiries made by Britain’s so-called peak oil workshops to energy experts have been seen by SPIEGEL ONLINE. A DECC spokeswoman sought to play down the process, telling the Guardian the enquiries were “routine” and had no political implications.

The Bundeswehr study may not have immediate political consequences, either, but it shows that the German government fears shortages could quickly arise.

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

Recession Opens Doors for Italy’s Dogs

Number of shopkeepers allowing in mutts up 76% since 2005

(ANSA) — Rome, August 31 — The economic recession might have shut down opportunities for many people but it has at least opened doors for Italy’s dogs and their owners to the nation’s shops.

Hard times seem to have forced Italian shopkeepers to be less picky and take down their No Dogs Allowed signs, according to a survey which said the number of retail outlets admitting man’s best friend has increased 76% since 2005.

The AIDAA animal rights association said that just 694 of 3,500 shops it surveyed barred dogs, compared to 2,600 five years ago.

What’s more, it said almost all of the stores barring the pets were places where food was sold.

It also found that 206 of 500 supermarkets and shopping centres it polled allowed pooches into some areas, while almost all banned them totally in 2005. AIDAA said dogs have the hardest time getting into shops in Rome, Venice and Florence.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Where Are the New Jobs?

Why bigger government isn’t working

by John Stossel

The statisticians at the National Bureau of Economic Research declared the Great Recession over—but tell that to people who can’t find jobs….


The two wings of the establishment offer their usual remedies. Government-oriented types want more tax-financed “stimulus” spending, claiming last year’s nearly trillion-dollar dose wasn’t enough. That’s dubious. As economist Mark Skousen writes, “(P)roduction and investment lead the economy into and out of a recession; retail demand is the most stable component of economic activity.”

Business-oriented types want tax cuts. I’m sympathetic, but cuts should be accompanied by spending cuts, or the deficit will grow even uglier. There’s no free lunch. Deficit spending must be covered by government borrowing, which takes capital that could be used for investment out of the private sector.


The problem today is that the economy is not being left alone. Instead, it is haunted by uncertainty on a hundred fronts. When rules are unintelligible and unpredictable, when new workers are potential threats because of Labor Department regulations, businesses have little confidence to hire. President Obama’s vaunted legislative record not only left entrepreneurs with the burden of bigger government, it also makes it impossible for them to accurately estimate the new burden.

In at least three big areas—health insurance, financial regulation, and taxes—no one can know what will happen…


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


Chicago-Based Tribune Co Settles on Lewisville for Central Business Office

Lewisville (TX) beat out Indianapolis as the location for the company’s new Blue Lynx Media LLC, a central business office operation that will handle accounting and other services for Tribune’s nationwide operations.

The media firm — which owns some of the country’s largest newspapers including The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times — has leased 59,000 square feet of office space in the Convergence business park on State Highway 121, [Lewiston]


Tribune Co. — which has been operating under bankruptcy protection since the end of 2008 — owns almost two dozen broadcast companies, including Dallas’ KDAF-TV.

Tribune is one of two national media companies considering the Dallas area for an office location.

Los Angeles-based Investors Business Daily has also been eyeing North Texas, company officials have confirmed.

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

Imam Rauf: “… In a True Peace, Israel Will, In Our Lifetimes, Become One More Arab Country, With a Jewish Minority”

In the exclusive audio I posted last week exposing Ground Zero mosque Imam Rauf’s radical views, Rauf speaks of the elimination of Israel. Israel — a Jewish state no more. Feisal wants one state, not a Jewish state. I guess 57-odd Muslim countries is not enough. They must destroy the tiny Jewish state.

Today the Wall Street Journal has more on that here. Keep shilling, Bloomberg.

“For my fellow Arabs I have the following special message: Learn from the example of the Prophet Mohammed, your greatest historical personality. After a state of war with the Meccan unbelievers that lasted for many years, he acceded, in the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, to demands that his closest companions considered utterly humiliating. Yet peace turned out to be a most effective weapon against the unbelievers.”


To drive that point home, he added in the same letter that “In a true peace it is impossible that a purely Jewish state of Palestine can endure. . . . In a true peace, Israel will, in our lifetimes, become one more Arab country, with a Jewish minority.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Imam: Mosque Fight About Islam

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The imam leading plans for an Islamic center near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks in New York said the fight is over more than “a piece of real estate” and could shape the future of Muslim relations in America.

On Wednesday, imams from across New York City are expected to gather at City Hall to rally in support of the mosque.

The dispute “has expanded beyond a piece of real estate and expanded to Islam in America and what it means for America,” Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf told a group Tuesday that included professors and policy researchers in Dubai.

Rauf suggested that the fierce challenges to the planned mosque and community center in lower Manhattan could leave many Muslim questioning their place in American political and civic life.

But he avoided questions over whether an alternative site is possible. Instead, he repeatedly stressed the need to embrace the religious and political freedoms in the United States.

“I am happy to be American,” Rauf told about 200 people at the Dubai School of Government think tank.

It was his last scheduled public appearance during a 15-day State Department-funded trip to the Gulf that was intended to promote religious tolerance.

The State Department said that Rauf was returning early to the United States on Wednesday.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the imam was departing the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday, and will return to New York. Toner said Rauf’s early return did not cause the cancellation of any programs on his State Department-funded trip.

He said he became closer to Islam after moving to America, where he had the choice to either follow the faith or drift away.

“Like many of our fellow Muslims, we found our faith in America,” he said.

During his Middle East trip, Rauf generally sidestepped questions over the backlash to the Islamic center location about two blocks from the former site of the World Trade Center towers.

But in an interview published Monday in the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National, he linked the protests to the U.S. elections in November. Many conservatives have joined the opposition to the center, which is being spearheaded by a newly formed nonprofit organization that includes real estate developers and has named Rauf as one of the directors.

“It is important to shift the discussion from a discussion of identity politics,” he said. “We have to elevate the discourse because there is more that bonds us … in terms of mutual responsibility.”

A Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday showed 71 percent of New Yorkers want the developers to voluntarily move the project. A similar percentage also said they wanted New York’s state attorney general to investigate sources of funding for the project in lower Manhattan.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said an investigation would set “a terrible precedent.”

“You don’t want them investigating donations to religious organizations and there’s no reason for the government to do so,” he said.

He also played down the fact that the developers of the building where the center would be established owe over $200,000 in back taxes on the property. “They’re going to be treated like everybody else,” he said. “We enforce the law against everybody, or we protect everybody. And if they owe money, they should pay it. and if they don’t, they don’t.”

The developers have said they are negotiating with the city to pay back the taxes.

Opponents of the center, which could include a swimming pool and a Sept. 11 memorial, have seized on the question of the project’s funding, raising concerns that the money will come from overseas extremists or anti-American sources.

U.S. Rep. Peter King, a Republican who is the ranking minority leader of the Homeland Security Committee, said on Tuesday that he disagreed with the mayor. He said the question of financing is fundamental to assessing the Islamic center project’s backers.

“A number of terror plots have emanated from mosques,” he said, citing the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center as one example.

Arrests of conspirators in the attack that killed six people and injured more than a thousand led FBI to a Brooklyn mosque, where core members of those involved in the 1993 plot worshipped and where Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman sometimes led prayers. Abdel-Rahman was later convicted in the bombing.

King said he would call for churches or synagogues to undergo the same kind of scrutiny of their finances if there was evidence that terrorist plots were originating from them.

Developers of the planned Islamic center have pledged to hire “security consultants” to review potential contributors. A spokesman for the developers didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment Tuesday.

It is common for the finances of religious groups to come under scrutiny either by the Internal Revenue Service, law enforcement or government agencies that protect consumers against fraud.

Religious nonprofits operate under a complex system of IRS rules on compensation, spending and governance. The IRS can revoke the nonprofit status of any group found to be violating the regulations.

Muslim charities have come under especially intense scrutiny under U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Federal prosecutors have brought cases against several American-based Muslim nonprofits, and in a separate case last year, seized U.S. mosques whose property is owned by a foundation federal officials say is secretly controlled by the Iranian government.

           — Hat tip: TB2[Return to headlines]

IRS Under Obama Zooms in on Pro-Israel Groups

WASHINGTON — The administration of President Barack Obama oversees a unit that is examining non-profit groups that support Israel.

A lawsuit filed in U.S. federal district court has disclosed that the InternalRevenue Service was operating a unit assigned to examine the positions and board members of pro-Israeli non-profit groups. The unit was said to have denied tax-exempt status to at least one organization, called Z Street, on grounds that it opposed Obama’s policy toward Israel.

“Z Street was informed explicitly by an IRS Agent on July 19, 2010, that approval of Z Street’s application for tax-exempt status has been at least delayed, and may be denied because of a special IRS policy in place regarding organizations in any way connected with Israel,” the suit, filed in U.S. district court in Philadelphia, said. “And further that the applications of many such Israel-related organizations have been assigned to ‘a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the administration’s public policies.’ “

[Return to headlines]

Is This Why Bloomberg Champions Ground Zero Mosque?

Major Middle East business deals, opening of ‘Islamic finance portal’

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a staunch supporter of the proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero, recently has been expanding his business dealings in the Arab and Muslim world, including opening a new “Islamic finance portal.”

Some critics are questioning whether Bloomberg’s unpopular decision to back the controversial mosque project may be colored by his billion-dollar financial software, news and data company’s decision to build a hub in the United Arab Emirates and North Africa.

The mayor’s privately held company, Bloomberg L.P., has been increasing its revenue in the Middle East while its U.S.-based division has taken hits due to the country’s economic woes.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Muslim FDNY Firefighter and EMT Appear in New National Ad Supporting Ground Zero Mosque

A Muslim-American civil rights group released a national ad campaign Wednesday featuring two Muslim 9/11 first responders, officials said.

An FDNY firefighter and EMT share 9/11 experiences in two television and Internet spots, which end with the slogan “9/11 happened to us all,” according to the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations.

CAIR released a third ad featuring Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders discussing their faiths. The spot ends with the slogan, “We have more in common than we think.”

The group developed the ads “to challenge the growing anti-Muslim bigotry sparked by opposition to the planned Park51 project in Manhattan,” officials said.

An ad campaign against Park51, the planned 13-floor community center and mosque two blocks north of Ground Zero, debuted on MTA subways and buses last month.

The new ads come a day after a poll shows public opinion of Park51 has hit a new low.

The Quinnipiac University poll found 71% of New York voters want developers to move the project somewhere else.

The same number of voters want Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to probe the project’s funding. Cuomo has said little about the project, despite calls from Republicans to investigate.

A July 1 Quinnipiac poll found just 52% of New York City voters were opposed to the project.

Meanwhile, Park51 co-founder Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf wrapped up a 15-day State Department junket yesterday in Dubai, where he said the Park51 dispute “has expanded beyond a piece of real estate and expanded to Islam in America.”

           — Hat tip: TB2[Return to headlines]

Obama Records ‘Critical’ To ‘Our Republic’

McInerney: Eligibility issue ‘of such magnitude that its significance can scarcely be imagined’

A retired lieutenant general from the U.S. Air Force who commanded forces armed with nuclear weapons says the disclosure of Barack Obama’s documentation proving his eligibility to be commander in chief is critical not just to the defense of an officer challenging the president’s status, but to the preservation of the nation itself.

The vehement statements came in an affidavit from retired Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney, a Fox News military analyst, that was disclosed today by an organization generating support for Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin.


“Officers in the United States military service are — and must be — trained that they owe their highest allegiance to the United States Constitution,” he said in the affidavit.

“There can be no question that it is absolutely essential to good order and discipline in the military that there be no break in the unified chain of command, from the lowliest E-1 up to and including the commander in chief who is under the Constitution, the president of the United States. As military officers, we owe our ultimate loyalty not to superior officers or even to the president, but rather, to the Constitution.”

He continued, explaining, “good order and disipline requires not blind obedience to all orders but instead requires officers to judge — sometimes under great adversity — whether an order is illegal. WASHINGTON — JANUARY 08: General Thomas McInerney (USAF ret.) poses on the red carpet upon arrival at a salute to FOX News Channel’s Brit Hume on January 8, 2009 in Washington, DC. Hume was honored for his 35 years in journalism. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

“The president of the United States, as the commander in chief, is the source of all military authority,” he said. “The Constitution requires the president to be a natural born citizen in order to be eligible to hold office. If he is ineligible under the Constitution to serve in that office that creates a break in the chain of command of such magnitude that its significance can scarcely be imagined.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sen. Lisa Murkowski Concedes Alaska Republican Primary for Senate

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska conceded late Tuesday in her Republican primary race to Joe Miller, a lawyer from Fairbanks backed by Tea Party activists, Sarah Palin and other conservatives.

Mr. Miller shocked the political establishment here and in Washington last week when he emerged with a narrow lead, 1,668 votes, after the primary vote, on Aug. 24.

Mr. Miller, who had trailed badly in local polls in the weeks before the election, benefited from a last-minute flood of advertisements, mailings and automated calls casting Ms. Murkowski as a Democrat in disguise. An abortion-related ballot measure also brought conservatives to the polls.

[Return to headlines]

Time Warner Cable, Disney Expected to Strike Deal Today on ESPN, Other Channels

Today could be a big day for television aficionados.

Time Warner Cable Inc. and Walt Disney Co. are expected to agree on new terms for the cable provider to carry ESPN and other Disney-owned channels, and Apple could unveil a new online TV-show rental service.

Time Warner has about 14 million TV and Internet subscribers, including about 2 million in Texas. It’s the second-largest cable TV company, behind Comcast Corp.

While neither side is talking specific numbers, Time Warner will probably end up paying more for the Disney content. The existing agreement expires at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, and if no deal is reached, the affected channels would be turned off for Time Warner subscribers until a new deal is reached.


According to Yankee Group Research Inc., the average monthly pay TV bill in the U.S. is about $65 and increasing 5 percent annually.

“As the relationship between programmers and pay-TV operators strains, there appears to be no end in sight to programming cost increases,” the company said in a report this week.

Those ever-increasing prices could be pushing some subscribers to cancel their cable.

Pay-TV companies in the U.S. lost a net of 216,000 subscribers in the second quarter of 2010, down to 100 million, compared with a net gain of 378,000 in the second quarter of 2009, according to SNL Kagan.

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

Europe and the EU

CBN Shocking Report on Islamization of Paris

My colleague, CBN News Senior Reporter Dale Hurd, has a shocking report today highlighting the Islamization of Paris.

The report features shocking footage of large crowds of Muslims blocking off whole Paris streets—in violation of French law— to pray in a show of force. This is now a regular occurrence.

I encourage you to watch Dale’s piece by clicking the above link.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck[Return to headlines]

Danish Politicians Call for Election Observers in Sweden

A political ad rejected as hate speech by a Swedish TV station has sparked tension between Sweden and neighboring Denmark. Some Danish leaders have cried censorship, and even want to see election observers at Sweden’s upcoming national poll.

Danish politicians are in an uproar over democratic freedoms across the water in Sweden, ever since a Swedish TV station rejected a political ad on Friday because of alleged hate speech.

The ad by the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats (SD) party shows a retiree hobbling forward while Muslim women in burqas charge past to win money from the national budget. “On Sept. 19,” their ad declares, referring to the date of upcoming national elections, “you can choose to cut money from immigration budgets, or from pensions.”

The Swedish commercial television network TV4 decided not to air the spot because of concerns it would break the country’s hate-speech laws. A private radio station banned an audio version of the same ad on Monday.

Now leading politicians in Denmark — where immigration controversies over the last 10 years have sharpened the tone of political debate — are crying censorship. Some prominent Danes even want the Council of Europe to send election observers to Sweden.

“It would be appropriate to send observers to the Swedish elections,” said Michael Aastrup Jensen, foreign affairs spokesman for the center-right Liberal Party, according to the Jyllands-Posten newspaper. The Liberal Party rules in a coalition government with the Conservatives in Copenhagen.

The far-right Danish People’s Party, which formally supports the coalition but doesn’t belong to the government, was happy to raise the temperature. “What is happening in Sweden is more grotesque than in Eastern Europe,” party leader Pia Kjaersgaard told a Danish TV program. “You would think it’s a banana republic.”

Kjaersgaard has made political waves before by complaining about Sweden’s relative tolerance of Muslim immigration. “If they want to turn Stockholm, Gothenburg or Malmö into a Scandinavian Beirut, with clan wars, honor killings and gang rapes, let them do it,” she said in 2005, according to the BBC. “We can always put a barrier on the Oresund Bridge,” she said, referring to the bridge which connects Denmark with Sweden.

‘Free but Not Fair’

Jensen told SPIEGEL ONLINE that he stands behind his call for election observers in Sweden. “Of course I do,” he said. The issue is not just an apparent attempt to keep a new party from entering parliament, he said, but also a tendency at Swedish polling stations to hand out ballots according to party, so a voter can’t help declaring party allegiance in public.

He said these habits would raise an alarm with international observers. But he stopped short of condemning the Swedish system as unfree. “The Swedish election is perhaps free, in our opinion, but it’s not fair,” said Jensen.

This position puts Jensen at odds with his own prime minister, Lars Loekke Rasmussen, also from the Liberal Party. Rasmussen told journalists this week that it was not Denmark’s role to interfere in Swedish elections. “An OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) mission has visited Sweden and expressed its total confidence in the electoral system, and I share that confidence,” he said, according to the news agency AFP.

Incitement to Hatred or Free Speech?

As for the Swedes, a fear of losing democratic freedoms has not become a major domestic issue, and Mona Sahlin, who leads the opposition Social Democrats, said the Danish proposal was “not serious,” according to AFP.

“The difference between freedom of speech and incitement to hatred against an ethnic group must be understood,” she said. “What I saw in (the SD’s) attempt at a TV ad was incitement to hatred against an ethnic group.”

Meanwhile, the Danish newspaper Politiken reports that Swedish production companies declined to produce the ad for the Sweden Democrats, forcing the party to look for help in Denmark. Even there, one of the companies that worked on the film reportedly regretted its role. “It is not our job to take a political standpoint, but if I had known from the beginning what it was about, we would have declined the job,” said Mads Munk, director of the Danish production company Duckling.

The Sweden Democrats were founded in 1988 and hold no seats in the national parliament. The party, which falls into the category of “right-wing conservative,” between traditional Christian conservative parties and far-right extremists, is hoping to break a 4 percent hurdle for seats in the national parliament in the upcoming elections.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU to Discuss Gaddafi’s €5 Billion Demand at Africa Summit, Italy Says

Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini has said the EU will in November discuss a proposal by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi that the 27-nation bloc pay the north African country €5 billion a year to stop immigration.

“The issue of the 5 billion has never been examined or discussed. We will tackle it at the European level and I imagine it will be dealt with at the November Euro-African summit in Libya,” Italian foreign minister was quoted as saying on Tuesday (31 August) by AFP.

Mr Gaddafi suggested Monday during his speech to business representatives in Italy the EU should pay his country “at least €5 billion a year” to stop African migrants crossing the Mediterranean and avoid Europe becoming “black.”

“Gaddafi is thinking what all north African leaders are thinking: they can’t and don’t want to be the keepers of Europe,” Mr Frattini said, adding that: “Europe needs to finally get a migration policy, giving plenty of funds to the migrants’ countries of origin and helping transitory countries face a huge burden.”

While a European Commission spokesman declined on Tuesday to react to the Libyan leader’s comments, France said the immigration issue would be included in a broader accord with Libya, on the negotiating table since November 2008.

According to French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero, France wants to close the deal, which also addresses questions of trade and investment, “swiftly.”

Mr Gaddafi’s visit to Italy has caused outrage by left-leaning opposition and pro-Vatican groups after he was quoted as saying that “Islam should become the religion of Europe.”

Mr Frattini dismissed the critics as “people who know nothing at all, either about foreign policy or Italy’s interests,” the Italian news agency ANSA reported from an evening ceremony commemorating the second anniversary of a friendship treaty between Libya and Italy.

Under the treaty, Italy agreed to pay Libya $5 billion over 25 years, mainly in the form of infrastructure investments, in compensation for the colonial period. In return, Tripoli allows Italy to take part in sea patrols of the country’s coast with scores of Africans attempting to get to Europe from Libya.

Human rights groups have frequently criticised the pact. Human Rights Watch’s Bill Frelick calls it “a dirty deal to enable Italy to dump migrants and asylum seekers on Libya and evade its obligations.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Gaddafi? Rapid EU-Libya Accord Needed

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, AUGUST 31 — France sustains the need to “conclude rapidly” the partnership agreement between Libya and the European Union which includes common strategies for clandestine immigration, and points out that the discussions for the allocation of European funds to fight illegal immigration are already under way. The spokesman for the French Foreign Minister Bernard Valero made the affirmation today, responding to a question on the request made yesterday in Rome by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi for five billion euros a year from the EU to fight illegal immigration.

The Spokesman, without getting into details, pointed out that Paris supports “the joint efforts of the European Commission and Libya for finding a satisfying solution to the problem of immigration in the Mediterranean”.

The EU, which began negotiations with Tripoli in November of 2008, hopes to sign an agreement of cooperation and partnership with Libya within the end of the year.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France: Quick Opens 14 New Halal Restaurants

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, AUGUST 31 — Untroubled by controversy courted last February after the opening of eight restaurants offering exclusively halal food, the Quick group is continuing its expansion of this promising market sector with the opening tomorrow of 14 new restaurants selling hamburgers and chicken in line with Muslim alimentary rules.

For France’s main competitor to the American group McDonald’s, the market laws are more problematic than the accusations of attempts at communitarianism of the Muslim population of France, which is 5-6 million strong.

“After the success of the experiment in the first eight restaurants, we have decided to extend the halal offer in another 14 branches starting on September 1,” said the chair and managing director of Quick, Jacques-Edouard Charret in a press conference. Significantly, the decision to extend the halal network has been taken during the month of Ramadan, which finishes on September 11. Ten of the new restaurants are in an area of Paris with a high proportion of Muslim inhabitants (Seine-Saint-Denis, specifically the areas of Montreuil, La Courneuve and Saint-Ouen).

The group says that halal food now represents 6% of Quick in France and, to avoid accusations of discrimination, the group has decided to add to the menu a traditional hamburger that will not be prepared on site, but only reheated. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Germans Ready to Make Babies

A growing number of Germans want children, intensifying demands for government assistance to improve the balance between work and family, according to a new study from the Family Ministry.

The number of childless Germans who expressed the wish to start a family jumped nine percentage points in just two years, the survey conducted by the Allensbach Institute for Public Opinion and released by the ministry this week found. This year 52 percent of the childless poll participants said they “definitely” planned on at least on baby, up from 43 percent in 2008.

Young men in particular showed an increased will to reproduce, with 48 percent saying they “definitely want children” — up from 37 percent in 2008, the study said.

Just 20 percent of the childless poll participants said they had ruled out the prospect of kids, about the same number as in 2008.

Meanwhile the majority of Germans (78 percent), said that family was the most important thing in their lives, ahead of health, financial security, and friendships.

The family’s central role also revealed itself in parents’ desire to improve the balance between their careers and time spent with children. Eighty-seven percent said that this presented a “very important” or “important” challenge for the future.

Meanwhile 69 percent of the total population and 78 percent of parents said they would like to see the issue be a focal point in German politics.

“How happy families are relies especially on whether they can spend enough time with their children and relatives,” Family Minister Kristina Schröder told daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.

This wish was most pronounced among fathers, with 60 percent admitting they would like to reduce their working hours. Three-quarters of mothers with children younger than 18, on the other hand, said they would prefer to work more than part-time, the study found.

More than 50 percent of mothers also said that they would like full-time child care and working hours that better suit school and day care schedules.

“For this we need more flexible working hours and a business culture that seeks quality work and not just the presence of workers,” Schröder told journalists. “We are still significantly removed from fair chances for mothers and fathers.”

The minister pointed to her Flexible Arbeitszeiten, or “Flexible working hours,” initiative as one step towards this goal. The programme aims to begin helping more parents work part-time beginning in October.

A total of 1,814 people were polled between April 10-23, among them 435 mothers and fathers of children younger than 18. It was the third such poll conducted by the institute for the Family Ministry.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Excellent Outlook for Grape Harvest

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 30 — The grape harvest in Italy, according to estimates by the wine-makers association, will see a yield of 45.5 million hectolitres of wine and must, in line with the 45.4 million seen in 2009. The quality, at an overall good level, is however rather heterogeneous even within the single regions. However, the final verdict will also depend on weather trends in September. As concerns quality, Italy is divided in two. In the North there have been rather homogeneous increases in production, from 5% in the Veneto region and Friuli Venezia Giulia to 10% in Piedmont and Lombardy. Dropping, on the other hand, was production in the central regions (Emilia Romagna -5% and Tuscany -10%) and on the two largest islands (Sicily -20% and Sardinia -15%), while in southern regions there was a 5% increase (Lazio, Abruzzo and Campania) with even 10% being seen in Apulia. The Veneto region (8,585,000 hectolitres) is the most productive for the fourth year in a row, and Veneto, Emilia Romagna, Apulia and Sicily produce an overall 26,650,000 hectolitres, 60% of all Italian wine. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Christians on the Defensive

“If it’d said ‘Allah Akbar’, the council wouldn’t have dared to try and remove it,” says Marianne Bons, a member of the Dutch Reformed Protestant Church. She’s talking about a farm roof on which ‘Jesus saves’ is painted in enormous letters. The council says the text has to go. The farm’s owner, evangelical Christian Joop van Ooijen, is refusing to obey. The affair has united Christians of all persuasions behind the message.

“You’re allowed to believe in anything in this country, as long as it’s nothing to do with Christians or the Church,” says Ms Bos, describing the prevailing Dutch attitude to religion.

Mr Van Ooijen has held out for two years, refusing to remove the message from his roof. Giessenlanden local council is fining him 500 euros a week, but he refuses to pay. He has been fighting the council decision for two years and says he’s willing to go to the European Court if necessary.

Mr Van Ooijen and Ms Bons both live in Alblasserwaard, an area near Rotterdam, in the heart of the Dutch bible belt. The position adopted by Giessenlanden Council has met with disbelief in this predominantly Christian region.

The council argues that it’s pollution of the landscape. Giessenlanden Councillor Berend Buddingh explains that white letters on a red roof is too big a colour contrast. Mr Van Ooijen counters that it is “too big a contrast with the councillor’s own beliefs”.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Man Jailed for Delivering T-Shirt at Town Hall

THE HAGUE, 01/09/10 — A resident of the Rotterdam district of Hillesluis was arrested recently after he sent a t-shirt to the town hall with the text ‘No Jihad in a Rotterdam street’ printed on it.

The t-shirt was a delivery for Hamit Karakus, the Rotterdam Alderman for Integration. The man wanted to draw attention to threats and intimidation that he says he has been experiencing for three years from his Pakistani neighbours. He wants to remain anonymous due to these threats, according to local broadcaster RTV Rijnmond.

Two hours after the man had delivered a plastic bag with the t-shirt in it, a police mini-bus drove up to his home. He was handcuffed and taken to the police station. There he had to spend the night in custody. The next day he was released with the information that he would not be prosecuted. “I did not get any apology,” he stated.

The police say they took action at the request of the town hall’s security officers. “The man was known at the town hall because he had already sought contact on more than one occasion with the alderman. That is why they found his action suspicious.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Human Rights Are Key to Our Foreign Policy

We must harness Britain’s generosity and compassion to help the rest of the world, says William Hague.

The devastating floods in Pakistan have affected more than 20 million people, untold numbers of whom have had their homes and livelihoods obliterated in this unfolding tragedy. In the first 20 days of the charity appeal to help the victims of the floods, 300,000 British people donated £33 million, alongside the £64 million given by Britain as a nation through the Department for International Development. This outpouring of public support — faster and more generous than some governments around the world — should make us proud. It has shown that our ability as a nation to help others rests on real goodwill, generosity and compassion.

It also confirms something fundamental about our society’s attitude to the suffering of others, whether that distress is caused by natural disaster, state oppression, or conflict. It is not in our character as a nation to stand by while others are in need, or to be unmoved when they are denied the hard-won freedoms and protections that we enjoy in Britain as a result of centuries of striving for individual rights within a democratic society.

It is a sad fact that there are scores of countries in the world where human rights are severely curtailed. Somalia, Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo and North Korea are just some of the many countries where people endure war, want or political oppression. There is no single country that has the power to transform this situation alone. In the end, strong institutions and the rule of law are the only lasting guarantee of freedoms, and we all know that these things take a long time to build and must be constantly nurtured.

But this does not diminish the centrality of human rights in the core values of our foreign policy. We cannot have a foreign policy without a conscience. Foreign policy is domestic policy written large. The values we live by at home do not stop at our shores. Human rights are not the only issue that informs the making of foreign policy, but they are indivisible from it, not least because the consequences of foreign policy failure are human. When ceasefires break down or unchecked climate change takes hold, ordinary people suffer. Where there is lawlessness, human rights abuses inevitably follow, affecting our security in the UK as well as affronting our common humanity.

In our first 100 days we have brought the energy of a new government to bear on the promotion of human rights. We have enacted in weeks what the previous government failed to do over several years by announcing an inquiry into whether Britain was implicated in the improper treatment of detainees, and publishing the guidance given to intelligence services personnel in the interviewing of detainees held by other countries.

Foreign Office Ministers have also been energetic in meeting human rights groups and NGOs, and in raising human rights. We have, among other things, spoken up for fair elections in Burma, pressed for access for humanitarian aid to Gaza, campaigned against forced marriage and lobbied the Government of Iran over death penalty cases, women’s rights and religious freedom.

We want to improve how the Foreign Office reports on human rights worldwide.. In addition to an annual report to Parliament, we want to make such information more accessible to the public. British diplomats raise human rights every week on every continent, pressing for the release of political prisoners, urging free and fair elections, rallying other countries to take action in international organisations, and acting as an early warning system alerting us to crises around the world. We will ensure that more of this real-time reporting is available for all to see.

It is no secret that our national resources are under great pressure. But as a Government we are determined not to balance our books on the back of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. We will honour our commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of our national income on overseas aid from 2013, as well as enshrining this in law. We will continue to raise human rights concerns wherever they arise, whether with our oldest and staunchest allies, authoritarian regimes or emerging democracies. We will use the persistent and painstaking mobilisation of our resources and of our diplomacy to make progress on this core value of UK foreign policy. For the right foreign policy for Britain is one that includes ambition for what we can achieve for others as well as ourselves, that seeks to inspire others with our values and that is resolute in its support for those around the world who are striving to free themselves from poverty or political repression.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: The BBC’s Propaganda for Fundamentalist Islam

One of the main conclusions I drew from my Telegraph/Channel 4 Dispatches investigation of the East London Mosque was quite how gullible some parts of the white establishment were in the face of a persuasive PR machine telling them what they wanted to hear. Since we exposed some of what actually goes on inside this mosque, there has been a welcome reduction in the number of politicians and suchlike prepared to visit. But one key part of liberal Britain, the BBC, retains a trusting faith in the mosque’s spin that no amount of contrary evidence appears able to shake.

In March, as I wrote here, the BBC allowed its flagship discussion programme, Any Questions, to be hijacked by the mosque. That could, conceivably, have been carelessness. But last week the Corporation went one step further. Its BBC1 documentary on the East London Mosque, Middle East Enders (available to watch here for another day) was quite simply a licence-fee-funded, half-hour advertorial.

As the narrator put it: “Today, the East London Mosque takes great pride in its open-door policy towards believers and non-believers….While some Muslims publicly burned the Satanic Verses, a new generation of trustees seized the chance to try to live up to the mosque’s founders’ values” of “promoting harmony between faiths.” Then in came the mosque’s director, Dilowar Hussein Khan, to tell us all that “the East London Mosque [has] played an instrumental role in uniting East London Muslims and reaching out to non-Muslims, building bridges… We are also re-engaging now with the wider society. This is something that we want every single mosque in this country to do.” There followed a heart-warming tale about how the mosque had battled through adversity and racism to become a beacon of tolerance, concluding with someone saying that if only the “wonderful relationship” the mosque had with its neighbouring synagogue could become a model for Palestine.

As we reported, and as the BBC must have known, the East London Mosque is in fact controlled by, and is the headquarters of, an Islamic supremacist group called the Islamic Forum of Europe — which, in its own words from one of its own leaflets, is dedicated to changing the “very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed … from ignorance to Islam.” It has been accused by the local Labour MP of infiltrating his party to achieve these ends.

In another leaflet, the IFE says it “strives for the establishment of a global [my italics] society, the Khilafah … comprised of individuals who live by the principles of … the Shari’ah.” The IFE’s “primary work” to create this state, the document goes on, “is in Europe [my italics] because it is this continent, despite all the furore about its achievements, which has a moral and spiritual vacuum.”

“Our goal,” said the leader of the IFE’s youth wing, Mohammed Rabbani, to new recruits in June last year, “is not simply to invite people and give da’wah [call to the faith]. Our goal is to create the True Believer, to then mobilise those believers into an organised force for change who will carry out da’wah, hisbah [enforcement of Islamic law] and jihad [struggle]. This will lead to social change and iqamatud-Deen [an Islamic social, economic and political order].”

Life in the IFE’s Islamic social and political order would be different from the way it is now. “Protect yourselves from all types of haram [forbidden things] … music, TV, and freemixing with women in that which is not necessary,” the IFE recruits were told. “Democracy, if it means at the expense of not implementing the sharia, of course no one agrees with that,” says the IFE’s community affairs coordinator, Azad Ali. In keeping with its spirit of tolerance, bridge-building and harmony between faiths, the East London Mosque has hosted such notably tolerant and harmonious meetings as, for instance, the half-day conference on ‘social ills’ on 9 July last year. One of the “social ills” — with an entire session to itself — was “music,” described by one of the speakers, Haitham al-Haddad, as a “prohibited and fake message of love and peace.”

Then there was the talk, on 26 June 2009, by a certain Bilal Philips — named by the US government as an ‘unindicted co-conspirator’ in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. And if that particular outrage was a little too tolerant and harmonious for the dedicated holy warrior — only six people died — the East London Mosque was also kind enough to host, on 1 January last year, a video address by Anwar al-Awlaki, spiritual leader to two of the 9/11 hijackers. This event was advertised with a notably bridge-building poster showing Manhattan under bombardment.

Or then there was the mosque’s even more tolerant and harmonious event with a man called Murtaza Khan — who told his audience that women who use perfume should be flogged — and the harmonious, tolerant “Spot The Fag” contest run, at the mosque, by an anti-gay preacher called Abdul Karim Hattin. There’s been a big rise in gay-bashing in that part of East London lately — but it can’t have any connection with the tolerant, harmonious views preached at the mosque, of course.In the year to March 2010, the East London Mosque hosted at least 18 hate, fundamentalist and extremist speakers, many more than once. Over the past few years, there have been dozens — all approved, and many explicitly endorsed, by the mosque authorities themselves (in March 2008, for instance, Mr Philips was invited to deliver the Friday sermon).

I describe this at some length so you will know just how much publicly-available evidence the BBC had to ignore. The mosque has huffed and puffed, but hasn’t been able to challenge any of it. The programme-makers’ other error was to accept the mosque’s ridiculous claim that it has “united East London Muslims” behind the bridge-building, harmonious ideology of the IFE. No doubt the mosque would like us to believe that Islam and itself are the same things. But the simplest research would have found that this mosque is viewed with deep suspicion by many East London Muslims, not least because the locals are mostly of Bangladeshi (not “Middle East”) origin and the IFE fought against the very creation of Bangladesh. Not a single one of the mosque’s numerous local Muslim critics was interviewed, with the entire programme consisting of a parade of East London Mosque trustees, employees, associates and supporters. I’m not asking, of course, that the programme-makers share my view of the East London Mosque. But unlike with Any Questions, they must have known of the existence of substantial evidence which contradicted the happy story they set out to tell. Failing even to mention it makes them, to my mind, guilty of propaganda.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Tony Blair: I Did Not Understand Islam at Time of 9/11 Attacks

The September 11 attacks represented the declaration of war by a new type of enemy, Tony Blair says.

He claims that he quickly realised the implications of the suicide bombers crashing aircraft into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, having heard the news while preparing to deliver a speech to the TUC in Brighton. Mr Blair says he understood the new war was ideological, but admits that at the time he did not fully understand the history of Islam. He admits he underestimated the “hold of this extremism”.

Only the future will tell if it would have been better to fight the war using military intervention or “soft power”. But he insists he followed his instinct and convictions, and would not have changed his decisions on Iraq or Afghanistan even if he had known the length of the campaign. “To try to escape conflict would have been a grave mistake, political cowardice.” Mr Blair also discloses that he once came close to authorising the shooting down of a commercial flight heading to London, after it lost radio contact. But after the deadline passed he decided to hold fire, and once the pilot re-established contact he had to sit down and thank the heavens.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Tourists Mystified as Computer Hackers Turn Belvoir Castle Website Into Anti-Israeli Protest

Computer hackers have replaced a stately home’s website with a message protesting about Israeli foreign policy.

Visitors searching for details on historic Belvoir Castle, near Grantham, instead found a black page displaying the Algerian flag and lines of text in Arabic.

A spokesman for the castle, the ancestral home of the Duke of Rutland, said they had no idea why the early 19th century property had been targeted in such a manner.

The spokesman said: ‘We don’t know why they have done this to us.

‘It happened on Friday afternoon and we’ve had our IT chap working to try to fix it.

‘We’ve nothing to do with Israel or the Middle East, I just help to organise the teddy bears’ picnic.’

The number of so-called ‘defacement’ attacks has risen in recent years, with hackers from countries such as Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Morocco hijacking sites.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Was Tony Blair an Alcoholic?

If people are wondering whether Tony Blair was an alcoholic during his years in Number 10, he has only himself to blame. A Journey veers between a sort of boasting about his booze consumption — spirits before dinner, half a bottle of wine during it — and hand-wringing anxiety (“I was definitely at the outer limit”).

Actually, if Mr Blair is being honest about his drinking, he was not even close to alcoholism or what serious boozers would regard as “proper” drinking. I know dozens of heavyish drinkers who wouldn’t even notice a G&T and half a bottle of claret at supper. They might even say to their wives afterwards: “I hope you noticed I wasn’t really drinking this evening, darling.”

I don’t doubt that, as Blair says, alcohol was “becoming a support”. As my GP once told me when I said I was worried about my own drinking: “Its popularity is no accident, you know.” Ever since humans discovered how to ferment alcohol they have used it to reward themselves. (Serious alcoholism, interestingly, did not become a social problem until we learned how to distil spirits: the Gin Craze in 18th-century London was the world’s first epidemic of destructive drinking.)

The fashion among addiction specialists in the last couple of decades has been to use any hint of dependence as evidence of “the disease of addiction”. Dependence isn’t easy to define, however; nor are addiction or alcholism. Heavy dependence on beer, wine or (especially) spirits is a dreadful affliction. But the attempt to turn alcholism or any other compulsion into a disease is controversial. There’s no true diagnostic test for addiction, as there is for cancer, HIV or diabetes. The disease model ultimately reflects our determination to pathologise behaviour.

Tony Blair as Prime Minister poured millions of pounds of our money into that project. His government was so wedded to the disease theory of addiction — beloved of researchers seeking grants — that it invested heavily in the nannyish concept of “safe limits”. Those limits make sense in the field of road safety, but bear little correlation to mortality rates.

I’m sure Blair believed his own civil servants’ advice about what constitutes safe drinking. According to A Journey, he drank half a bottle of wine with food and judged himself to have reached “the outer limit”. What fun he must have been to have dinner with. And how very New Labour.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Wedding Day Tragedy as Guest Dies of Salmonella and Dozens Fall Ill After Kosher Banquet

A wedding guest died and dozens more were left ill after suffering salmonella poisoning at the reception meal.

Rene Kwartz , aged 82, was one of four guests rushed to hospital following the kosher meal at a hotel in Bury, Greater Manchester, but doctors were unable to save her.

Public health officials have now launched an investigation into the contamination.

Fourteen guests are taking legal action against the catering firm that provided food for the traditional Jewish celebration at the Hilton Suite.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Libya Overlooks GB Groups in Italy’s Favour

(ANSAmed) — LONDON, AUGUST 31 — Libya is no country for the British. Or rather, it is not a country in which British companies feel at ease. Despite efforts made over the last few years, business in the country is much better for Italian competitors, who seem to enjoy preferential treatment. So it would be a better idea to look around for other opportunities.

This is the analysis of the Times newspaper. The main factor behind this sentiment is the episode of HSBC — one of the world’s biggest banking groups — and Standard Chartered. Both were in the running for one of two licences that had been put up for grabs by the Libyan government. HSBC seemed to be in a better position than its British competitor, and the other licence seemed destined for the Italian company Unicredit. At the last minute, however, Libya decided to allocate one licence only, and promptly gave it to the Italian company. “A week earlier,” writes today’s Times, “the Libyan Investment Authority bought 2% of Unicredit’s shares taking its stake above 7%”.

Colonel Gaddafi’s visit to Rome provides the latest opportunity to reinforce links between Italy and Libya.

Yet it was Tony Blair who, in 2004, interrupted the diplomatic isolation of the African state and launched a new campaign of economic investments. It appears that such a campaign never materialised. One business manager explained to the newspaper that his company had earned a few contracts immediately following the 2004 change but, despite visits to the country by the management, relations were later broken off. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Jews Killed Where Obama Demanded Removal of Checkpoints

Anti-terror barriers credited with stopping scores of attacks

JERUSALEM — Today’s deadly terror attack that killed four people took place on a road where the Israeli government removed staffed anti-terror checkpoints in line with requests from the Obama administration, WND has learned.

As President Obama was preparing for a Washington summit with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Palestinian terrorists today carried out a shooting attack, killing two Jewish men and two women, one of whom was pregnant.


A spokeperson for the Israel Defense Forces confirmed to WND that in the last year and a half, all roadblocks have been removed from Route 60.

The checkpoints were dismantled in line with demands from the Palestinian Authority that were passed on to Israel by the Obama administration.

George Mitchell, the White House envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, specifically requested that Israel remove roadblocks and checkpoints as a confidence-building gesture to restart talks with the PA, Israeli officials told WND.

Anti-terror roadblocks and checkpoints impede Palestinian movement, but have been credited with stopping scores of attacks.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Video: Charlie Crist Adviser Raised Funds for Hamas

Muslim ally of Florida U.S. Senate candidate hosted Orlando event

A newly posted video shows a Muslim adviser to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist hosting a fundraiser in Orlando for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.

Imam Muhammad Musri — who serves on Crist’s Faith-Based and Community Advisory Council and was appointed by the governor to his 2010 Sunshine Census Committee — was raising money in June 2009 at his Al-Rahman mosque. The cash went to Hamas leadership through Viva Palestina, an organization led by controversial former British parliamentarian George Galloway, reports Patrick S. Poole at

Crist is an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Food: Falafel Chain From Saudi Arabia Conquers U.S.

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 31 — Success announced for ‘Falafoul: after the opening of the first sales point in Riyadh, the chickpeas fried balls — the traditional falafel — are being snapped up, so that the Middle East Franchising had to raise its outlook for the development plan of the fast-food chain which produces the typical Arab food.

A format which became immediately popular, said Fadil Alnassar, manager of the Middle East Franchising, while talking about an “extraordinary success, both among focus groups and customers who appreciate the taste, the packaging and the quality of Falafoul group”. Ten different flavours — included the international ones that follow the Greek, Italian and Mexican traditions — for a vegetarian meal that can be low in calories. The menu in fact also includes “falafel burger and grilled falafel” which represent a healthy alternative to the fried ones” the spokesman Peter Jacobson underlined.

The world of the blogs also expressed positive comments: on the Saudiwoman’s Weblog, even though it is pointed out the lack of space for families which forces women to go for a take-away meal, it is praised the vegetarian range and the fact that the sandwiches respect the traditional Saudi recipe. While waiting for the opening of other points of sale- the goal is 50 in 5 years — the company announced an aggressive development plan in the Middle East and its interest in the global market as well.

However, two of the coming 14 selling points that are to be opened, will be provided with rooms for families, where the women will be able to sit and eat.

“At the moment — Jacobson said — we are looking for a partner that wishes to invest in the Falafoul chain to expand towards the U.S.”. A goal that will be reached thanks to the customers’ attitude that are more and more willing to try exotic food. A study carried out in 2009 in fact showed that middle-eastern tastes have spread everywhere. And this news is not surprising: with only few simple ingredients, the typical falafel — the fried ball made from ground chickpeas or fava beans with onion, garlic and coriander — created in Egypt has conquered the world. A kind of “street food” which competes with hot dogs in New York and which is known and appreciated everywhere, in its many different versions and shapes, from the sandwich to the McFalafel, the Egyptian answer to the famous Big Mac.

If in New York Freddy Zeidaies, also called “The King of Falafel” is among the possible winners of the traditional Vendy Cup, the prize for the best street food which is contended by Mexican tacos, schnitzel and Moroccan typical dishes, falafel also conquered the cinema. The director Ari A. Cohen recently finished Falafelism, a 44-minute-long film which talks about the fried ball, seen as element of cohesion and dialogue everywhere in the world, from Toronto to Montreal, from Paris to Haifa. During the two-year shooting, Cohen met researchers, food critics, restaurant managers and many other personalities like the Lebanese diplomatic, the Israeli comic-strip writer who created the super-hero Falafel Man or the music band Boogie Balagan, with the belief that “if we all love food, why cannot we simply get together?”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Holland: Terror Suspects on US Flight Held

Airport officials became suspicious after finding “mock bombs” in the men’s luggage. One of the suspected terrorists had a mobile phone strapped to a medicine bottle and several watches.

The incident was described as “dry run” for a possible attack. Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al Soofi and Hezam al Murisi were arrested in Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport after flying in from Chicago.

The incident has been compared to the Christmas Day bomb plot last year when Umar Farouk Abdulmuttallab was charged with trying to blow up an Amsterdam to Detroit flight. The two arrested men are both from Detroit. They were carrying $7,000 (£4,500) in cash, but reports they were carrying knives have been denied. A senior police official said: “This was almost certainly a dry run, a test.”

It is claimed that on checking in at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport Soofi put his luggage on a plane bound for Yemen — but did not board the flight. The luggage was later recovered when flight officials found he was not on board. A spokesman for the US Department for Homeland Security said: “Suspicious items were located in checked luggage associated with two passengers on United Flight 908 from Chicago O’Hare to Amsterdam. The items were not deemed to be dangerous in and of themselves, and as we share information with our international partners, Dutch authorities were notified of the suspicious items. This matter continues to be under investigation.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Iranian Sentenced to Death by Stoning for Adultery ‘Subjected to Mock Execution’

An Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning was subjected to a mock execution by hanging.

In preparation for her death, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani wrote her will and embraced her cellmates in Tabriz prison.

But the mother-of-two, who was acquitted of murdering her husband but found guilty of adultery, was not led to the gallows.

Her son told The Guardian: ‘Pressure from the international community has so far stopped them from carrying out the sentence but they’re killing her every day by any means possible.’

The latest development comes after prison authorities denied family and legal visits, falsely telling them Ashtiani was unwilling to see them. In turn, she was told no one had come to see her.

Ashtiani has already received 99 lashes for reportedly having an illicit relationship with two men.

The stoning sentence was suspended pending a judicial review but could still be carried out, an Iranian judiciary official has said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Reduced Authority for Police in Mecca

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 31 — The Saudi religious police will no longer be allowed to enter family restaurants, coffee shops, and residential complexes in the province of the Mecca without the personal permission of the competent emir, Prince Khaled Al Faisal. The news was reported by the Saudi newspaper Al Khaleej, confirming that the prohibition is due to the elimination of the control committee for those places. The committee was made up of the religious police and many government organisations.

The newspaper points out that the on religious police in the province, which includes the cities Jeddah and Taif, won’t be limited to the month of Ramadan but will be in effect every day of the year. The abolition, according to an official statement of the Province, is the consequence of a series of episodes of questionable behaviour by some members of the religious police.

Recently police agents entered an elite restaurant, in the outskirts of Jeddah, impeding the families to leave because, according to the agents, there was a suspect among the customers. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

USA Basketball: USA Easily Defeats Iran 88-51 at FIBA World Championships

by Jarrod Gillis

Team USA easily defeated Iran 88-51 Wednesday to remain a perfect 4-0 in FIBA World Championship play. Kevin Love led the way for Team USA with 13 points and 6 rebounds, while Kevin Durant helped out the cause by adding 12 points and 5 rebounds on the night. Iran (1-3) got 19 points and 5 rebounds from 7’2” center Hamed Haddadi and 14 points and an impressive 5 steals from 6’7” forward Arsalan Kazemi of Rice University (NCAA).

The USA Men’s National Team was clearly the more dominant team physically in this affair forcing the Iranians into a total of 25 turnovers and just 29% (15-52 fgs) shooting on the night. Out-rebounding Iran 39-31, Team USA controlled the paint never allowing Iran to find its way inside.

This was Team USA’s fourth game in five days. Appearing flat and obviously tired early they could only muster a total of 19 points in the first quarter of action. However, things would pick up in the second quarter behind the strong play of Love and Durant.


Unfortunately for the Iranian National Team things did not get much easier in the second half as they were out — scored by Team USA 46 — 23 behind some stellar defense in the back court. Team USA’s length and athleticism proving to be quite an issue for Iran when attempting to run their half court style offense.

If there was a bright spot for Iran it could be the strong play of center Hamed Haddadi. Haddadi, currently a member of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, showed a nice touch not only around the basket but out on the perimeter as well…

Next up for Team USA is Tunisia (0 — 4). The game will air Live on ESPN2 Thursday, September 2nd at 9:30 a.m. ET and re-air later at 12:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2 (USA schedule). You can also watch the game online at ESPN3.

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


Has the Lost Treasure of the Tsars Been Found at the Bottom of the World’s Deepest Lake?

Lost Tsarist gold worth billions of pounds may have been discovered at the bottom of the world’s deepest freshwater lake.

In the past few days the crew of a mini submarine carrying out a mapping exercise in Lake Baikal spotted some ‘shiny metal objects’ some 1,200ft down in the murky depths.

Legend has it that 1,600 tons of gold was lost when White Army commander Admiral Alexander Kolchak’s train derailed and plunged into the Siberian lake.

Another version has it that troops retreating on foot and horsecarriage across Baikal’s icy surface froze to death as temperatures hit -60C (minus 76F) in the winter of 1919-20.

When the spring thaw arrived, they and the sacks of Imperial gold sank to the bottom of the massive lake.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Will Russia’s Bloggers Survive Censorship Push?

With so many of their media sources controlled by the state or government-friendly oligarchs, Russians have turned to their bloggers to keep informed and give voice to their grievances and concerns. But many of those in power are now seeking to impose rigid limits on online freedom.

One sunny June day in California, Rustem Adagamov was rushing without his glasses on when he literally ran into Russia’s president. “I simply didn’t see Dmitry Medvedev,” Russia’s most influential blogger says, “and I bumped right into him.”

Adagamov, 48, uses his blog to report on a range of grievances, including the arrests of opposition members and “unparalleled police brutality.” Each day, his blog gets around 600,000 page views, making it more widely read than many of Moscow’s daily newspapers. Adagamov has even made fun of Medvedev on his blog by posting photographs of cups bearing the portraits of Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the caption “They all lie anyway” printed in bold.

Acts like these make it all the more astonishing that Medvedev agreed to submit to an interview with the Kremlin critic. And that’s not all: The president also invited Adagamov to accompany him to California for a meeting with Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple.

Medvedev, 44, is an avowed fan of the Internet, writes his own blog and uses Twitter. The president, for example, recently wrote an article — entitled “Forward, Russia!” — that garnered global attention for its ruthless analysis of Russia’s economic backwardness. But instead of distributing it via a government newspaper or state-run television, he had it published on, Russia’s best-known online newspaper. And, just last week, Medvedev halted a controversial highway construction project near Moscow via video blog.

Although Medvedev calls for “openness at all levels” from his government and Russian authorities, many among the country’s power elite view this as taking things a bit too far — especially when it comes to the Internet. Medvedev’s own chief of staff, Sergei Naryshkin, recently called a meeting in response to a writer at who had laid into Putin and Medvedev because she was upset about how their motorcades were blocking traffic.

Russia at the IT Crossroads

The FSB, Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, wants to force Internet service providers to remove undesirable websites. A law also requires these providers to install hardware at their own expense that allows the FSB — with a judge’s authorization — to keep track of the websites people visit and the e-mails they write.

Some service providers have even started proactively censoring users themselves. Companies such as Scartel, for example, block portals belonging to Kremlin critics, including former world chess champion Garry Kasparov.

In this battle over the Internet, there are two camps. The issue is about the future course Russia will take and about how much freedom it will allow its 142 million citizens. Some believe Russia should take its cue from the liberal West. But others think it should follow more in the footsteps of authoritarian regimes like China, which is trying as hard as it can to control the Internet — and, with it, its citizens.

For his part, Medvedev sees information technology as the “key to the development of democracy” and the Internet as the “most important resource” in reaching his primary goal: modernizing his massive nation.

Where Google Is Not King

Russia’s Internet companies have been playing a prominent role in this process. They’ve been able to stave off foreign competition so far and, lately, they’ve even started expanding into the West. This April, the investment company Digital Sky Technologies (DST) — owned by start-up investor Yuri Milner and gas and metal magnate Alisher Usmanov — increased its share in Facebook to 10 percent and purchased the ICQ instant-messaging system from the American company AOL for $188 million (€148 million). ICQ has over 40 million active users, many of whom are in the West.

Hammocks and bowls of fresh fruit lend a touch of Silicon Valley to the open-plan offices of Yandex, Russia’s champion among search engines. “We respect Google,” says Yelena Kolmanovskaya, who co-founded the company 13 years ago, “but we’re simply better.” Today, Yandex has more than 2,000 employees and controls around 65 percent of the Russian market. Likewise, no other search engine in the world is growing faster. Google, which controls around 70 percent of the global market, is stagnating in Russia at a meager 22 percent.

Sixty million Russians now regularly surf online, an increase of 15 million over last year. For many, the Internet serves as a release valve, a place where members of this well-educated but overly controlled society can let off some steam. Likewise, nearly 50 percent of Internet users in Moscow have a blog, as do 7.5 million people throughout the country — a figure nearly double what it was a year ago.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Pox Swap: 30 Years After the End of Smallpox, Monkeypox Cases Are on the Rise

The vaccinal eradication of smallpox was a watershed achievement. But with the cessation of regular vaccinations, infection rates from a related poxvirus are increasing in central Africa

The ancient scourge smallpox was relegated to biowaste bin of history more than 30 years ago, the result of the world’s first and only successful disease eradication programs. Since then, however, cases of monkeypox—a serious, although less severe smallpoxlike illness—have substantially increased in central Africa, according to a study published August 30 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The authors stress that better surveillance and a thorough assessment of the public health threat posed by this once-rare viral infection are needed.

“I’m concerned about monkeypox,” says Don Burke director of the Center for Vaccine Research at the University of Pittsburgh, who wasn’t involved in the study. “It isn’t going to emerge as pandemic tomorrow, but could at any time start to increase its transmission. It’s worrisome. This is the type of warning siren we need to take very seriously.”

Although monkeypox was first discovered in laboratory monkeys in 1958, its natural hosts are squirrels and other rodents. People can catch the disease from direct contact with infected animals or humans. Approximately two weeks after exposure an infected person will develop a fever, muscle aches, exhaustion and a rash with raised bumps that last for two to four weeks.

Since its discovery most cases have occurred in western and central Africa, although in 2003 a few cases occurred in the U.S. Midwest after infected animals were imported from Africa. There is no treatment for monkeypox, which is fatal in as many as 10 percent of cases. Because the viruses that cause small and monkeypox are closely related (both belong to the Orthopoxvirus genus), the smallpox vaccine also protects against monkeypox infection.

In the new study University of California, Los Angeles, School of Public Health epidemiologist Anne Rimoin and colleagues surveyed for active human cases of monkeypox between 2006 and 2007 in regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the virus is known to circulate. They documented 760 active cases (approximately 14 per 10,000 people) of the illness during that period, with more than 90 percent occurring in individuals born after routine smallpox vaccination ceased in 1980. Compared with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) estimated incidence of less than one case per 10,000 in the same region between 1981 and 1986, the authors suggest that monkeypox cases have jumped nearly 20-fold in less than 30 years.

“This is no longer a rare, sporadic infection in the rainforests of Africa,” Rimoin says, adding that “the disease has become commonplace in areas where people are highly dependent upon hunting squirrels and other rodent species as primary sources of protein.”

Rimoin adds that the 2003 monkeypox outbreak in the U.S. showed that the virus is “very capable of spreading to species outside central Africa” and has the ability to infect a variety of rodent species. She notes that the American ground squirrel is highly susceptible to monkeypox.

“Monkeypox has probably occurred for millennia in central Africa, but it’s only since the eradication of smallpox that it’s been a disease that actually happens in humans,” Rimoin says. “The consequence of ceasing smallpox vaccination is the world’s population is now sensitive to poxviruses.”

Following a 1997 monkeypox outbreak in the DRC, the WHO reported that the virus appeared to be changing its pattern of infection with much higher rates of person-to-person transmission.

“The rise that we’re finding is way above and beyond what anyone expected to see,” Rimoin says. “It’s not linear, it’s exponential. That suggests that secondary (person-to-person) transmission is going on.”…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


France: Security; Meeting on Nationality Loss on Friday

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, AUGUST 31 — French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called a meeting in the Élysée Palace on Friday to draft the text of the legislative amendments on the loss of citizenship for criminals with foreign origins, after “legal divergences” surfaced between the version that was proposed by Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux and the version of Immigration Minister Eric Besson. The news was announced by Besson in an interview on television channel Lci. It is no “revolution”, Besson explained, pointing out that the current system already includes the possibility to take the French nationality away from a naturalised person if this person commits serious crimes. The amendments, he added, will be “meticulously” limited “to the most serious crimes, the ones that threaten the State, the nation”. The Minister said in particular that he has considered the possibility to put the wilful murder of a member of the public security forces on the same level as terrorism. “There is nothing that upsets me in this question on a moral and political level” Besson concluded. “We must accept the idea that when someone takes the French nationality, he or she morally, and soon formally, signs a republican pact. That person promises to respect the Republic’s laws”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya Destinaion More Than Transit State, IOM

(ANSAmed) — GENEVA, SEPTEMBER 1 — More than just a country of transit towards Europe, Libya is a destination in itself for African migrants, and this was already the case before the deal on expulsions signed with Italy, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). There are currently other transit countries, such as Egypt, an IOM spokesperson said.

Since the agreement between Italy and Libya, the number of arrivals on Italian coasts has fallen “spectacularly, but the fate of illegal immigrants in Libya remains a concern,” said the IOM spokesperson, Jean-Philippe Chauzy, in Geneva yesterday.

According to recent estimates by the IOM, which is present in Libya with a number of programmes, Libya gas around a million illegal immigrants, mainly from sub-Saharan and West Africa. Only a small percentage is attempting to make it to Europe, Chauzy explained. “Migrants are attracted to Libya by the country’s economy, which is stronger than the economy of Mali or Burkina Faso, for example,” the spokesperson explained, pointing out Tripoli’s Pan-African discourse.

Yet the situation of illegal migrants in Libya is worrying. They work illegally and are exposed to abuse, and are at particular risk of not being paid, the spokesperson added.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

U.S. Files New Suit on Ariz. Immigration Issue

The Justice Department filed another lawsuit against immigration practices by Arizona authorities, saying Monday that a network of community colleges acted illegally in requiring noncitizens to provide their green cards before they could be hired for jobs.

The suit against the Phoenix area Maricopa Community Colleges was filed less than two months after the Justice Department sued Arizona and Gov. Jan Brewer (R) over the state’s new immigration law. It also comes as the department is investigating Joe Arpaio, the sheriff in Maricopa County, who is known for tough immigration enforcement.

In Monday’s lawsuit, Justice officials said the colleges discriminated against nearly 250 noncitizen job applicants by mandating that they fill out more documents than required by law to prove their eligibility to work. That violated the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, the department said.

The law’s anti-discrimination provision “makes it unlawful to treat authorized workers differently during the hiring process based on their citizenship status,” said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for Justice’s Civil Rights Division. He said the government “is acting now to remedy this pattern or practice of discrimination.”…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Would Einstein be Ruined by Twitter?

By James Dacey

I must admit that after long days spent in front of the computer screen researching stories, jumping from website to website, checking e-mails, etc, etc, I do sometimes find it hard to settle down in the evening and become fully absorbed in a good book. A real shame because this has always been one of my favourite pastimes and a great way to relax.

This was part of my motivation for going along to a talk last night about how the internet may be changing the way we read and think. The speaker was US writer Nicholas Carr, a long time critic of technological utopianism who caused a stir in 2008 with his article in The Atlantic, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Carr has since developed the arguments into his new book “The Shallows: How the Internet is changing the way we think, read and remember”, which he was describing last night at the Festival of Ideas in Bristol.

Carr’s main argument is that with the ever-increasing presence of the Internet in our daily lives we are losing the ability to think deeply and creatively, and to store things in our long-term memory. He believes that the control imposed by search engines and the constant availability of hyperlinks to whisk us away to other websites mean that the internet is starting to rewire our brains. “We have become obsessed with the medium, and the net is remaking people in its own image,” he argued…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]