Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100927

Financial Crisis
»New Narcissus
»The Big Gov’t Crowd
»Bank Teller Caught Texting Bank Robber Right Before Robbery
»Frank Gaffney: The ‘Peace Through Strength Pledge
»Money Transfers Could Face Anti-Terrorism Scrutiny
»Mosque Man Blinks; Funding Still Hidden and Sharia Law Still Sedition
»New Muslim Comic Book Superhero on the Way
»New Policies Exterminating Teen Mall Rats
»Obama Coddles International Outlaws at the United Nations
»Obamacare Will Dramatically Reduce Choice in Private Insurance
»The J Street Documents
»The Media’s Debacles
»The President’s Power to Negotiate Treaties
»U.S. is Working to Ease Wiretapping on the Internet
»Quebec Abandons Health Care Reform
Europe and the EU
»Italy: Province Convenes Talks on Naples Garbage Clashes
»Italy: ‘No Plans to Quiz Tulliani’
»Italy: Bossi Raises Hackles With Roman ‘Pigs’ Quip
»UK: Anti-Terror Chief Tried to Secure UK Entry for Muslim Preacher
»UK: High-Flying Radio Producer Became ‘Sex Predator in a Football Kit’ After the BBC Sacked Him
»‘Your Apathy Elected the Sweden Democrats’
North Africa
»Egypt’s Pope ‘Sorry’ For Bishop’s Koran Comments
»Sunni Body Slams Egypt Bishop’s Comments on Koran
Israel and the Palestinians
»Palestinian Leader Puts Israel Talks Decision on Hold
Middle East
»Iran: Tehran and Baghdad Jointly Planned Attack on ‘Kurd Rebels’
»Iraq: Scheduled for Next Month, First Post-Saddam Census Already Causing Tensions
»Social, Religious Divide on Display in Attack on Turkish Art Walk
»Turkey’s Referendum Doesn’t Mean Popular Support for a Regime Aligning With Iran
»The “Slaughterhouse” of Dagestan is Not Chechnya
South Asia
»Islamophobia, Cartoon-o-Phobia and Equalityphobia
»Muslim Terrorists Want to Turn Indonesia Into an Islamic State
»Pakistan Anger at NATO-Led Cross-Border Raids Pakistan Has Voiced Anger at Rare NATO-Led Raids at the Weekend Which Crossed Over Its Border From Afghanistan.
»Stuxnet Worm Rampaging Through Iran: It Official
»Taliban ‘Want to Swap Kidnapped British Aid Worker for Pakistani Scientist Jailed in the U.S.’
Australia — Pacific
»Australian Law Confiscates “Unexplained Wealth”
»Finland: Another Anti-Immigrant Group Files for Party Status
»Italy: Immigrants ‘Sent Over €210mln Home in 2009’
»UK: An Open Door to Benefit Tourists: EU Warns Britain it Can’t Stop Thousands More Migrants Claiming Welfare Handouts

Financial Crisis

New Narcissus

America is polarizing into a new two-party state — socialists and non-socialists — that will be devoid of the stabilizing checks-and-balances in the former Republican-Democrat two-party system.

Convinced of this, I believe my offspring will not only never enjoy a tenth of the freedoms I’ve enjoyed, but also will toil their lives away in a futile effort to pay off debts that President Obama is now running up.

With so much at stake, I asked myself: What drives a man to offer ephemeral pleasure and plentitude in the form of insane financial largesse at the expense of so much pain and suffering to future Americans, born and unborn (including those babies lucky enough to evade Obama’s “what-the-hell, don’t-ask-don’t-tell” abortion policies)?

My answer is ego. Only someone with an insatiable ego could charm his way to the world’s most powerful position. But ego is only a component of a psychological package that captivated a majority of voters, especially those whose educations are so paltry as to leave them with little or no powers of discernment, who needed only to hear “hope and change” to be swept off their feet. It is much more than just ego: It is narcissism.

This word’s etymology is rooted in Greek mythology. As the story goes, wherever he went, the beautiful lad Narcissus caused maidens by the score to swoon, as he scorned them and mocked their outpourings of love. Angered by this pretty boy’s arrogance, the goddess Nemesis levied a curse upon him: “May he who loves not others love himself.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Big Gov’t Crowd

Unholy public-sector coalition


…The big-government coalition heavily supported candidate Obama for president, and he has rewarded them. The various stimulus packages of the last year and a half have included hundreds of billions of dollars to preserve state and local government jobs. Much of this aid came with huge strings attached: Local governments that took the money committed to not cutting their program spending or reducing their workforce.

But perhaps the biggest boost to this coalition has been ObamaCare. Public unions heavily lobbied for the plan, even though most of their members already have health coverage. Their leaders know it will be good for the unions’ “business”: As government has increased its involvement in health care through programs like Medicare and Medicaid, politicians have written rules and requirements for these programs that make union organizing easier. That’s one reason why health-care unionization rates remain above the average for the rest of the private economy.

This coalition’s power is unlikely to fade even if the Tea Party movement pushes Congress back toward the center. The real reform battles need to be fought in state capitals and city halls, where this big-government coalition remains powerful and where it gathers the resources that give it so much leverage in Washington. Will the Tea Party aim at this target after November?

NOTE: Steven Malanga of City Journal. See his

“Shakedown: The Continuing Conspiracy Against the American Taxpayer”, due in stores this week.

[Return to headlines]


Bank Teller Caught Texting Bank Robber Right Before Robbery

Criminals generally aren’t known for being all that intelligent. Following a bank robbery in Arlington, Texas, police caught the bank robber, but became suspicious that it was an inside job, after realizing that the first teller who the robber went to had stayed after his shift… and was apparently seen on video furiously text-messaging on his phone immediately prior to the robbery. So they checked his phone and discovered some rather self-incriminating text messages to the bank robber right before the robbery took place. According to the court documents, the teller and the bank robber had a rather revealing conversation:

“Don’t forget yo sunglasses,” court documents quoted Lightner as texting Franklin.

Franklin responded: “Alrite.”

Surveillance photos show the robber was wearing sunglasses.

Later, they talk in code, the FBI said in a criminal complaint against the two…

[Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: The ‘Peace Through Strength Pledge

Last week, Republicans in the House of Representatives unveiled with much fanfare their “Pledge to America.” It is intended by the GOP leadership to serve as both a campaign platform for winning a new majority and as a program for governing should they succeed.

The document transparently is designed to appeal to those Republicans, Tea Party activists, independents and conservative Democrats who are rallying to the defense of the U.S. Constitution at a moment when it is under assault, in the words of the congressional oath of office “from enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Just as the framers saw the need for the immediate amendment of the original Constitution with the Bill of Rights, however, the Pledge to America cries out for a strengthened national security plank. Call it a “Bill of National Security Rights” or, better yet, “the Peace Through Strength Pledge.”

As it stands, the House GOP’s Pledge treats the Constitution’s obligation to “provide common defense” as a kind of afterthought. Just 758 words — a little under two pages of the forty-five in its glossy blueprint for “a governing agenda” — are devoted to mostly hortatory statements about demanding policies, “getting all hands on deck” and passing “clean” troop-funding legislation.

The “Plan for National and Border Security” reads like focus group-tested themes embraced as a sort of issue box-checking exercise. What the times require, though, must be a key element of a defining — and differentiating — platform for a would-be governing party.

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

Money Transfers Could Face Anti-Terrorism Scrutiny

The Obama administration wants to require U.S. banks to report all electronic money transfers into and out of the country, a dramatic expansion in efforts to counter terrorist financing and money laundering. This Story

Officials say the information would help them spot the sort of transfers that helped finance the al-Qaeda hijackers who carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. They say the expanded financial data would allow anti-terrorist agencies to better understand normal money-flow patterns so they can spot abnormal activity.


But critics have called it part of a disturbing trend by government security agencies in the wake of the 2001 attacks to seek more access to personal data without adequately demonstrating its utility. Financial institutions say that they already feel burdened by anti-terrorism rules requiring them to provide data, and that they object to new ones.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Mosque Man Blinks; Funding Still Hidden and Sharia Law Still Sedition

The New York Post reports:

The religious leader behind the proposed mosque near Ground Zero promised yesterday to allow the US government to sign off on anyone who donates to the $100 million project. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf told “60 Minutes” that to reduce fears that terror organizations would contribute to the project, he’ll ask US officials to approve the sources of funding. Rauf added that the mosque and Islamic cultural center will have a board of directors that will include Muslims, Christians and Jews.

Imam Rauf advocates for discriminatory and barbaric sharia law and that is be imposed here in America. Having hand-picked “Muslims, Christians and Jews” on the board winking and nodding their approval of the promotion of that ideology overlooking where sharia-complying Muslims slaughtered 2,752 men, women, and children on 9/11 adds sickening insult to grave injury.

The Investigative Project of Terrorism points out the dismal accounting record of Imam Rauf and wife Daisy Khan:

[F]ederal tax records show the Cordoba Initiative has not listed contributions from at least two charitable foundations that have supported its activities. In another case, a foundation gave money to Cordoba’s sister group, the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), that was supposed to go to Cordoba; that money was also not listed in Cordoba’s tax records. Cordoba has failed to list almost $100,000 in charitable donations since 2007, federal tax records show. Between 2006 and 2008, Cordoba’s charitable tax filings with the IRS show a total of $31,668 in gross receipts. However, tax filings from two charities that have donated to Cordoba or ASMA show more than $130,000 to donations to Cordoba during that time.

Imam Rauf and his fellow investors have refused to open to public scrutiny where the $4.85 million came from to buy the Burlington Coat Factory. Two of those investors remain anonymous. ASMA, which Rauf founded, received $576,312 from Qatar the month before the building was purchased while some there have also financed terrorism. If Park51 is a cultural center and not a religious organization, it must already reveal its donors to New York State; New York has auditing and investigative authority over the Cordoba Initiative yet refuses to look into it.

Three-quarters of the 2,300 mosques and Islamic cultural centers in America were built with and are currently funded by Middle Eastern and Islamic-governed nations. It is their ideology being preached; foreign Islamists are radicalizing Muslims in America and promoting intolerance here against all non-believers. Meanwhile, our State Department continues to get advice from un-indicted co-conspirators (in past terror-financing trials) and sharia-promoting Muslims.

Imam Rauf should blink harder. He should move his sharia recruiting center far, far away from where like-minded Muslims committed genocide and brave American heroes fell.

New York State should audit the Cordoba Initiative back to its inception.

The Obama administration should stop sending Imam Rauf on Muslim-world outreach tours on the taxpayers’ dime. It also should force the Muslim Brotherhood front groups operating here to register as agents of a foreign power under FARA.

The federal government should strip ASMA of the religious status that allows it to hide its donations from federal scrutiny.

The American people should demand an end to the foreign Whahabbi lobby’s billions funding a massive attempt to overthrow our Constitution and end our liberty; there ought to be a law against it.

[Return to headlines]

New Muslim Comic Book Superhero on the Way

NEW YORK (AP) — Comic book fans will soon be getting their first glimpse at an unlikely new superhero — a Muslim boy in a wheelchair with superpowers.

The new superhero is the brainchild of a group of disabled young Americans and Syrians who were brought together last month in Damascus by the Open Hands Intiative, a non-profit organization founded by U.S. philanthropist and businessman Jay T. Snyder.

The superhero’s appearance hasn’t been finalized, but an early sketch shows a Muslim boy who lost his legs in a landmine accident and later becomes the Silver Scorpion after discovering he has the power to control metal with his mind.

Sharad Devarajan, co-founder and CEO of Liquid Comics whose company is now turning the young people’s ideas into pictures and a story line, said the goal is to release the first comic book — launching the disabled Muslim superhero — in early November in both Arabic and English…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

New Policies Exterminating Teen Mall Rats

Shopping Malls Find That Banning Unaccompanied Teens Is Good for Business

Dozens of malls now have what they call a “parental escort policy,” meaning teens under the age of 18 have to be with a parent or guardian who is 21 or over to enter. Most shopping centers have these restrictions only on weekend evenings, but some keep them in place seven days a week.

The Mid Rivers Mall in St. Louis, Mo., started sending away teens at the end of May, and it has resulted in both more customers and sales. After a month, overall mall traffic was up 5 percent on Friday and Saturday nights, and sales were up 3 to 10 percent in all categories, including teen-oriented retailers, according to the property’s management.

The gigantic Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., was the first to ban teens who didn’t have adult supervision, in 1996, according to Tron’s group. By 2007, 39 malls had similar restrictions and by 2010, the number had nearly doubled to 66. The impetus for these regulations isn’t usually a specific incident, like a brawl. Instead it is the generally unruly, horseplay-heavy crowds concentrated in the food court and at the movie theater entrance…

[Return to headlines]

Obama Coddles International Outlaws at the United Nations

President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said that “Normal practices of diplomacy . . . are of no possible use in dealing with international outlaws.” Rather than listen to FDR’s advice, President Barack Obama squandered yet another opportunity to confront today’s international outlaws during his annual visit to the United Nations.

Instead, Obama delivered meaningless platitudes to the United Nations General Assembly during his speech on September 23, 2010 — just like he did last year. He talked in generalities — ignoring the elephants in the room of Islamic-inspired terrorism, Iran’s clear and present danger to world peace and security, and the human rights abuses by the countries running the United Nations Human Rights Council that Obama decided the United States should legitimize by joining.

President Obama’s September 23rd speech to the General Assembly was his second UN speech of the week. It followed his pledge the day before, during the United Nations sponsored summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), to meet commitments to the United Nations for more development aid to fight poverty, disease, sub-standard education, infant and maternal mortality and gender inequality. In other words, Obama is willing transfer many more billions of dollars of wealth from hard-working American taxpayers to developing countries, much of it through the same United Nations that was culpable in the oil-for-food scandal that enriched Saddam Hussein and his buddies.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obamacare Will Dramatically Reduce Choice in Private Insurance

One of the ways in which ObamaCare will reduce individuals’ and businesses’ choices of health insurance is through regulating the medical loss ratio (MLR) — the amount of dollars an insurer spends on medical care divided by the total premiums. For example, if an insurer earns $10 million in premiums and spends $8.5 million on medical claims, its MLR would be 85 percent. Under ObamaCare, policies that cover large businesses will have to achieve an MLR of 85 percent, while those for small businesses and individuals will have to achieve an MLR of 80 percent. That shouldn’t be too hard, should it? asks John R. Graham, director of health care studies at the Pacific Research Institute.

Actually, the MLR can be quite complicated — especially when the government gets involved, says Graham.

Suppose, for example, an insurer invests in information technology that it gives to providers in its network in order to improve coordination of care. Is that a medical cost?

Also, health insurers pay taxes. Although these taxes are obviously not medical costs, is it appropriate for the government to punish an insurer that pays higher taxes, which are revenue to the government?

Suppose two insurers of the same size compete in a region’s large-group market. They earn premiums of $1 million each. They each spend $850,000 on medical claims, thereby achieving an MLR of 85 percent.

Suppose, however, that one insurer is nonprofit and the other is for-profit that earns a profit of 4 percent ($40,000) and pays combined federal and state corporate income tax of 45 percent ($18,000). Its MLR automatically shrinks to 83.5 percent and ObamaCare shuts it down. It should be blindingly obvious to anyone that this makes no sense, except to the sponsors of the poorly worded ObamaCare legislation.

Source: John R. Graham, “

[Return to headlines]

The J Street Documents

The liberal Jewish group J Street took a very serious hit last week over the emergence of documents revealing that — contrary to what many reporters took to be its statements flatly to the contrary — it had depended heavily on the Soros family and on an obscure woman in China to fund its operations for a time.

The apparent cover-up is perhaps worse than the crime, but one outstanding question was where the Washington Times got J Street’s donor list. J Street officials last week appeared to blame the IRS for spilling the beans.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Media’s Debacles

In both the coverage of the Ground Zero Muslim Community Center and Mosque and the coverage of the great demonstration organized in Washington by Glenn Beck attracting in the neighborhood of half a million Americans, the mainstream media once again revealed their bias, blatant selectivity, self induced amnesia, and a rush to judgment to “shame” the audience into guilt over their assumed Islamophobia, the newest charge in the litany of grievances with which the public has been maligned focused on racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia in the past.

How do the media of today working with the most sophisticated electronic equipment compare with the past? How can they be worse when events today are portrayed in “real time?” Both the press and televised news have been guilty of many sins but in the past could always explain that they had to rush into print because “real time events” were so far away. In spite of all the great advances in the technology of communications, what unites irresponsible journalists for more than a hundred years has been selectivity of reporting and the “rush to judgment” in order to out-scoop rivals. Newspaper journalists could always excuse the need to meet deadlines with the explanation that it was not possible to wait and find confirmation in the field because they lacked the technical “eyes and ears” of information gathering that would allow them to check the validity of their sources. They knew however that the readers would expect follow-up reporting to verify and interpret events with careful research and analysis.

The viewers of today’s televised news are of a different order. They have been raised on appreciating visual images as “reality” with the fill-in provided by a reporter. Unlike the previous generations of newspaper readers, they do not dispose of the same leisure time to wade carefully through follow-up reporting. An examination of several historical examples will clarify the difference.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The President’s Power to Negotiate Treaties

Lurking beneath the surface of public debate over the constitutionality of the President’s agenda is concern that Obama and the Democrat controlled Senate might commit the United States to a treaty that would violate Americans’ economic and civil liberties. If, for example, the President were to enter into a treaty, confirmed by two-thirds of the Senate, committing the United States to harmonize the domestic regulation of foods and dietary supplements with the restrictive regime imposed on Europe by adoption of European Food Safety Authority recommendations, would that treaty be constitutional? What if through an act of Congress, the Legislative branch gave the Executive authority to negotiate such a treaty, would it then be constitutional?

In Federalist No. 75, Alexander Hamilton presciently observed that if the President were vested with power not only to negotiate but also to confirm treaties committing the United States, there existed a distinct risk that he would sacrifice Americans’ liberties for personal gain. Consistent with this defense of the Constitution, Article II, Section 2 vests in the President the power to negotiate treaties but reserves to a vote of two-thirds of those present in the Senate the power to adopt a treaty. In a passage that rings true today not only for the President but also for members of Congress and appointed heads of federal agencies, Hamilton wrote:…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

U.S. is Working to Ease Wiretapping on the Internet

Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is “going dark” as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.

Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.

[Return to headlines]


Quebec Abandons Health Care Reform

Quebec Finance Minister Raymond Bachand, acknowledging in his budget speech earlier this year that Quebec’s health care system is in serious financial trouble, proposed two new measures: the $25 user fee for seeing a doctor, and a new health tax applied to all Quebec taxpayers.

User fees are common in the health insurance systems of virtually all other industrialized nations that have universal access to medical services. In fact, Canada is one of only five OECD countries that does not require some form of patient cost-sharing for health care services.

Since Quebecers — and all Canadians — pay for health care through their taxes, there is no incentive to control the amount (and type) of health care services they consume. And the lack of that “price at the point of service” inevitably leads to excessive demands for medical services.

But as government health care spending continues to consume a larger amount of its revenues, the provincial government will eventually be forced to either increase current taxes, introduce new taxes, or cut back the medical services it currently provides, none of which is good for patients and taxpayers generally. Quebec must put a stop to relying on this paying-more-and-getting-less-in-return’ approach to funding health care.

As to Bachand’s second item, according to news reports, the government is moving ahead with the proposed health tax, which will do nothing to tame health care spending, as it is not linked to the cost of care or a person’s past or potential use of medical services. It is also not connected to health care demand and, consequently, will have no effect on current or future costs.

Ontario introduced a similar tax in 2004 called the Ontario Health Premium, which is also not linked to health care consumption and which has done nothing to improve the sustainability of government health care spending. Research shows that health care in Ontario is projected to consume 50 per cent of provincial revenues by 2014.

The primary resistance to cost sharing for medically necessary services in Canada is the belief that low-income individuals would be deterred from using health care services to the detriment of their health. The underlying assumption is that the rich would have access to high-quality health care while the poor would not, and the health of low-income families would suffer as a result.

The results, however, of the RAND Health Insurance Experiment — a seminal study on the effects of cost sharing for medical services on health care utilization and health outcomes — indicates that such criticisms are mostly groundless. Moreover, in many European countries that have cost- sharing mechanisms, low-income individuals are exempt from paying user fees. There is no reason that Quebec, and ultimately other Canadian provinces, could not introduce a health deductible from which low-income individuals or families (determined by means-testing) would be exempt. Likewise, patients with chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes could be excused from paying a user fee.

A health tax is a step backward for Quebec. Real reform and improvement in health care delivery will result from the rational proposal to introduce health user fees…

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Italy: Province Convenes Talks on Naples Garbage Clashes

Naples, 24 Sept. (AKI) — The province of Naples has convened talks on Tuesday after riots broke out in the southern city over uncollected garbage and construction of a new dump. Talks on the crisis will also be held in Rome on Monday chaired by Italy’s civil protection chief Guido Bertolaso.

Authorities in Naples on Friday ordered armed patrols to escort rubbish collection trucks following three nights of clashes between police and residents protesting the construction of a new dumping site.

Meanwhile, hundreds of tonnes of waste have piled up on Naples’ streets, in scenes reminiscent of the 2007-2008 crisis when refuse in the southern port city went uncollected for months.

Several parts of the city have been affected, including the historic centre.

Province of Naples chief Luigi Cesaro said the meeting next Tuesday would focus on the Naples suburb of Terzigno, where the new dumping ground is to be located.

Regional and municipal officials and local contractors will attend the talks, he said.

Late on Thursday, two trucks used to collect and compress refuse were set alight in Terzignano.

Residents say the stench from the existing dump has made living conditions in Terzigno unbearable.

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

Italy: ‘No Plans to Quiz Tulliani’

Only sale price target of ‘scandal’ flat probe

(ANSA) — Rome, September 27 — Rome prosecutors said Monday they have no plans to question Giancarlo Tulliani, the brother of House Speaker Gianfranco Fini’s companion, about a Monte Carlo apartment that has been at the centre of a months-long political row.

“The inquiry is into the price of the flat, not who lives there. We don’t intend to call Tulliani,” a prosecutor said.

Fini has been the subject of a 50-day campaign by media close to Premier Silvio Berlusconi, whose People of Freedom (PdL) party ejected the Speaker in July after tensions between the two PdL founders peaked.

Among other things, the campaign has aimed to prove the flat, bequeathed by a supporter of Fini’s old rightwing party National Alliance (AN) in 1999, was sold for a suspiciously low price in 2008.

Tulliani, who rents the apartment, has denied links to an offshore company said to own the flat even though the justice minister of tax haven St Lucia has said documents prove he is the owner.

The opposition on that Caribbean island has said Minister Rudolph Francis’s statements broke secrecy laws and say it was highly irregular this happened for an individual case. Fini, who has denounced Berlusconi’s attempts at procuring “impunity” from wrongdoing, on Saturday issued his long-awaited version of events in which he said he would stand down as Speaker if Tulliani turned out to be the owner.

The affair, which has seen allegations of smears and dirty tricks slung around in what some observers see as a new low for domestic infighting, appeared to hit a lull Monday ahead of a key platform speech by Berlusconi later this week in which he will try to show he can do without Fini’s Future and Freedom (FLI) group.

But PdL Senate whip Maurizio Gasparri insisted that AN had been “damaged” by the sale of the flat, “which was the property of the party”.

He also said Fini should have called a press conference given the high profile of the case, and not just posted a video message on various websites.

In his message, Fini said he was “furious” when he learned Tulliani was the flat’s tenant and had received repeated assurances that he hadn’t bought it.

He said that, while nothing illegal had occurred, his “political ethics” would force him to quit as Speaker if it turned out he had been “duped” on this.

Meanwhile on Monday FLI House leader Italo Bocchino urged the PdL and its ally the Northern League to involve the Fini loyalists in framing the five-point platform Berlusconi will unveil in the House Wednesday and the Senate Thursday.

Bocchino insisted, despite PdL opposition, that the FLI can be the “third leg” of the government coalition.

Berlusconi is not expected to put his platform to a confidence vote in the House, where the FLI has left him short of a safe majority, but may ask for the confidence of the Senate, where his majority is still solid.

The centre-left opposition claims the polemics over the flat and the government split have highlighted the need for a new start in Italian polemics, preferably under a short-term bipartisan administration charged with taking the country to elections under a new electoral law.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Bossi Raises Hackles With Roman ‘Pigs’ Quip

Mayor asks Berlusconi to rein in minister

(ANSA) — Rome, September 27 — An insult against Rome from Northern League leader Umberto Bossi caused a flap Monday with Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno saying he would ask Premier Silvio Berlusconi to rein in the outspoken federalist leader.

Speaking late Sunday, Reforms Minister Bossi said for many northerners the storied S.P.Q.R Latin motto found all over Rome stood not for Senatus Populusque Romanus (The Senate and Roman People) but for “Sono Porci Questi Romani” (“These Romans Are Pigs”).

Bossi is known for his anti-Roman tirades but this time, Mayor Alemanno said, “he has really gone beyond the pale”.

“Not only has he insulted the Rome of today but also that of the past, dusting off a hackneyed old joke”.

The mayor said he would write to Berlusconi “this very day” to ask him to get Bossi to show the proper respect for Rome.

The centre-left opposition quickly latched onto the latest outrageous comment from Bossi, who has throughout his career traded on a charge of “thieving Rome” and an anti-patriotic stance that prompted him once to say he would use the national flag as toilet paper.

“Bossi’s insults against Rome and its citizens are extremely serious because they come from a government minister,” said Vannino Chiti, Senate deputy whip for the largest opposition group, the Democratic Party (PD).

An MP from the centre-left opposition Italy of Values party, Silvana Mura, said: “Describing the citizens of the Italian capital as ‘pigs’ is inadmissible”.

Nicola Zingaretti, the PD head of the Rome province, said “We’re tired of Bossi’s quips against Rome and the Romans”.

“Instead of playing the comedian he should get on with his job as minister”.

Centrist Catholic opposition leader Pier Ferdinando Casini said: “The League only knows how to insult and launch PR stunts, instead of solving the country’s problems”.

For the government, Youth Minister Giorgia Meloni stressed that “the one-liners that the Northern League leader fires off during his speeches are often annoying but fortunately do not constitute a policy”.

Renata Polverini, the centre-right governor of Lazio, the region around Rome, said “Rome and its citizens deserve more respect”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Anti-Terror Chief Tried to Secure UK Entry for Muslim Preacher

Britain’s counter terrorism chief said he would “put himself on the line” to secure entry to Britain for a radical Muslim preacher, days before he was over-ruled by Theresa May, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Mrs May, the Home Secretary, banned Zakir Naik, an Indian television preacher, from a lecture tour in the UK in mid-June, saying his presence “would not be conducive to the public good”.

Mrs May cited reported comments from Dr Naik such as “every Muslim should be a terrorist” and, on Osama Bin Laden, that “if he is fighting the enemies of Islam, I am for him” when she decided to ban him.

However papers lodged as part of Dr Naik’s High Court challenge to the ban appear to show the extent of support for his entry among top Home Office officials, including Charles Farr, Whitehall’s top security adviser.

They claim that at a meeting on 3 June with Dr Naik’s representatives Mr Farr said he would “put himself on the line” to secure Dr Naik’s entry.

The documents say: “Mr Farr was ‘in favour’ of the claimant coming to the UK and would do ‘all he could’ with the decision makers to encourage it”.

Mr Farr added, according to the papers, that “if necessary [he would] ‘put himself on the line’ as he felt ‘to exclude Dr Naik would be wrong’“.

Mr Farr was appointed director general of the Home Office’s Office for Security and Counter Terrorism in July 2007.

His responsibilities reportedly include examing the security challenges from the 2012 Olympics. He was once tipped to be the next head of MI6.

According to the court papers, filed ahead of the start of a High Court hearing next month, Mr Farr said he felt Dr Naik had “a key role to play” and that he can “reach the people we simply cannot”.

He added “that, whatever his own view, it was the Secretary of State … who was charged with making the final decision”.

The documents claim Dr Naik told Mr Farr and a colleague Sabin Khan on 6 June that he had condemned unequivocably “all and any acts of terrorism” including the attacks of September 11 2001 in America and 7 July 2005 in London.

But, on 16 June, Mrs May banned Dr Naik from the UK, two days before he was due to arrive. She said: “Numerous comments made by Dr Naik are evidence to me of his unacceptable behaviour.

“Coming to the UK is a privilege not a right and I am not wiling to allow those who might not be conducive to the public good to enter the UK.”

Dr Naik’s lawyers claim in the documents that the comments which concerned Mrs May predated the granting of an earlier five-year multi-entry visa by the Home Office in 2008.

The documents added: “Fairness required that the expectations generated by the earlier decisions to admit [Dr Naik] should be respected.”

Dr Naik had been due to arrive in the UK on 18 June, with his wife and three children, to give “presentations on Islamic and religious themes” at the Sheffield Arena, London Wembley Arena and the Birmingham NEC, between 25 and 27 June.

In the documents Dr Naik’s solicitors complained of “the unfairness of revoking the claimant’s open-ended entitlement to enter the UK just one week before he was due to attend events which were the subject of considerable planning and investment”.

Ms Khan, who worked for Mr Farr, was later reportedly suspended after allegedly criticised Mrs May in private for “a huge error of judgment” over the decision.

A Home Office spokesman said: “It would be inappropriate to comment on an ongoing court case.

“The Home Secretary will consider many views in making a decision but will exclude an individual if she considers that their presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good. We will defend this position robustly.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: High-Flying Radio Producer Became ‘Sex Predator in a Football Kit’ After the BBC Sacked Him

A high-flying BBC radio producer who began a double life as a serial sex offender because he was feeling at a ‘low ebb’ after the Corporation sacked him has been spared jail.

Andrew Brennand, 27, was so badly affected by the loss of his contract with BBC Radio Lancashire that he embarked on a bizarre reign of terror while wearing the kit of his Premiership football heroes.

During a 14-week spree he dressed up in Burnley FC’s strip and flashed and groped women in parks and streets around the Lancashire mill town.

Brennand, who got his job at the BBC after hosting a radio talk show in the U.S. state of Illinois, admitted seven counts of exposure and two of sexual assault, between February and May.

Describing him as a ‘sexual predator’ from whom ‘no female in Burnley was safe’, Judge Beverley Lunt sentenced Brennand to a three-year community order with supervision.

He must also attend a sex offender programme and receive psychological treatment.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘Your Apathy Elected the Sweden Democrats’

US-born contributor Naomi Olofsson wonders why supposedly immigrant-friendly Swedes who never bothered to help immigrants adjust to life in Sweden seem so outraged at the success of the far-right Sweden Democrats.

My name is Naomi , I’m 44, and I’m an immigrant.

They say that it’s easier for me because I’m a “white immigrant.” I come from the United States, so I’m not one of them; I have a Swedish last name and a Swedish husband and at least a high school education with some college in the US. But that’s not true, it’s not easier, and being “white” doesn’t make a difference.

The Sweden Democrats (SD) have shaken up Sweden. Many don’t want to admit that they voted for them, others are proud to have voted for them, and in the meantime, the country feigns shock and disgust that it’s happened.

I hate racism. I’ve been subjected to it all my life. I’m female. I’m overweight. My heritage is mixed — I’m half Mexican and half white. I’ve dealt with those prejudices in the United States. Never did I dream that I’d meet up with a different kind of racism and prejudice when I moved to Sweden!

I’m now faced with prejudices of being 44, female, having small children, being an immigrant, and, although my spoken Swedish is fine, I have trouble with my written Swedish.

You who are outraged that the Sweden Democrats won places in Riksdag, you who voted for the Sweden Democrats because you are tired of the way that immigration has been handled here in Sweden, whether it be asylum seekers or otherwise, I have a question for you:

Where were you?

Where were you when I needed a friend to help me get out of the house and integrate into society? Did you even try to get to know me, or did you just sit and fika with your Swedish friends? Did you even LOOK me in the eye and say hejwhen we passed?

Where were you when I needed someone to speak Swedish to so that I could improve my language skills and attempt to integrate into society better? Did you volunteer to do anything with the immigrants in your area, with others and me, or did you stay safely away from us who are different and definitely not Sven Svensson in how we dress or sound or look?

Where were you when I sent application after application in for a job? Did you give me a job or even offer me a praktikplats when I almost begged for the chance to work for you, or did you see that I was female, over 40, with small children and an immigrant and immediately place my CV to the bottom of the pile, regardless of my merits?

For those who claim outrage to SD’s ‘victory,’ where were you? To those who voted SD because you were tired of how things were being handled and the mess that immigration and asylum is here in Sweden today, where were you?

How many of you even attempted to be a part of the solution instead of taking the “easy way out” and voting for a party that has its roots in racism and hatred?

Martin Niemöller was credited with the following verse. Through the years the words have been changed out for whatever the current fear is. Change Communists to Asylum seekers, Unionists to Immigrants, and Jews to Muslims and you have the current situation here in Sweden.

They came first for the Communists,

and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,

and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,

and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me

and by that time no one was left to speak up.

If you don’t do anything, if you don’t speak up, if you’re not a part of the solution, then, when it’s all said and done, who will be left to speak for you?

Where were you? How did you help? If you didn’t help, then don’t shake your head in shock and disbelief, rather, hang your head in shame.

Your apathy helped get SD elected!

By Naomi Olofsson

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt’s Pope ‘Sorry’ For Bishop’s Koran Comments

The leader of Egypt’s Coptic Christians has apologised for “inappropriate” comments by a bishop that cast doubt on the authenticity of some Koran verses.

“I’m very sorry that the feelings of our Muslim brethren have been hurt,” Pope Shenouda III said on state TV.

Earlier, Bishop Bishoy had said that — contrary to Muslim belief — some verses of the Koran may have been inserted after the death of Prophet Muhammad.

Egypt’s al-Azhar Islamic authority said the comments threatened national unity.

“This kind of behaviour is irresponsible and threatens national unity at a time when it is vital to protect it,” said Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayyeb in a statement issued on Saturday by al-Azhar, one of the key centres of religious learning in Sunni Islam.

He was reacting to comments carried in the Egyptian media in which Bishop Bishoy, the Coptic Church’s second highest clergyman, called into question the Koranic verses disputing the divine nature of Jesus Christ.

The bishop reportedly said the verses were inserted after Prophet Muhammad’s death by one of his successors.

‘Deep red line’

Muslims believe that all the verses of the Koran were revealed to the prophet through the Archangel Gabriel and they are the immutable word of God.

“Debating religious beliefs are a red line, a deep red line,” Pope Shenouda said in the television interview on Sunday.

“The simple fact of bringing up the subject was inappropriate, and escalating the matter is inappropriate,” he added.

Although Egypt’s Muslims and Copts generally live in peace, tensions are on the rise over the construction of new churches and reported cases of conversions.

Copts make up six to 10% of the country’s 80 million people and complain of systematic discrimination by the state.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Sunni Body Slams Egypt Bishop’s Comments on Koran

CAIRO — Sunni Islam’s top religious body on Saturday slammed comments by an Egyptian Coptic bishop who cast doubt on the authenticity of some verses of the Koran, saying his remarks threatened national unity.

Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayyeb chaired an extraordinary meeting of the institution’s Islamic Research Centre to discuss statements last week by Bishop Bishoy, who said that some verses were inserted into the holy book after the death of the Prophet Mohammed.

Muslims believe the Koran was handed down to Mohammed verbatim by the Archangel Gabriel over a period of around 23 years of the prophet’s life.

In a statement, Al-Azhar said that Tayyeb was “shocked” by Bishoy’s remarks.

“This kind of behaviour is irresponsible and threatens national unity at a time when it is vital to protect it,” Tayyeb said.

He warned against “the repercussions that these sorts of statements can have among Muslims in Egypt and abroad.”

During a recent meeting with the Egyptian ambassador in Cyprus, attended by some media, Bishoy said certain verses of the Koran contradict the Christian faith and that he believed they were added later by one of Mohammed’s early successors, Caliph Uthman Ibn Affan.

His remarks sparked outrage among both Christian and Muslim leaders, saying they could lead to sectarian tension, and Bishoy told a lecture on Wednesday there had been a misunderstanding.

“My question as to whether some verses of the Koran were inserted after the death of the prophet is not a criticism or accusation,” he said. “It is merely a question about a certain verse that I believe contradicts the Christian faith,” Bishoy told an audience in Fayoum, south of Cairo.

“I don’t understand how that can be turned into an attack on Islam,” Bishoy said, insisting that his remarks had been taken out of context.

Simmering tensions occasionally flare up into violent incidents between Muslims and Christians in Egypt.

Three Egyptian Muslims are currently on trial for gunning down six Copts after they emerged from Christmas services in Nagaa Hammadi in southern Egypt.

Coptic Christians make up around six to 10 percent of the country’s 80-million population and complain of systematic marginalisation and discrimination.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Palestinian Leader Puts Israel Talks Decision on Hold

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is to talk to Arab governments next week before deciding whether to continue talks with Israel.

His spokesman said there would be no official response yet to Israel’s lifting of the ban on building in West Bank settlements.

Limited construction work began on Monday, with bulldozers clearing land on a handful of settlements.

The BBC’s Wyre Davies in Jerusalem says peace negotiations are in the balance.

As the 10-month moratorium came to an end at midnight local time on Sunday (2200 GMT), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the Palestinians to continue peace talks, which recently resumed after a 20-month pause and have the strong backing of US President Barack Obama.

“Israel is ready to pursue continuous contacts in the coming days to find a way to continue peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” he said in a statement.

On Monday morning, Israeli media said bulldozers had started levelling ground for 50 homes in the settlement of Ariel in the northern West Bank.

Similar activity was also reported in the settlements of Adam and Oranit.

However, construction work was expected to be slow because of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

‘Waste of time’

The Palestinian leader, who was due to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday, made no immediate comment on the end of the freeze.

His spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeina, said there would be no official answer until the Palestinian leader had consulted other Arab leaders in Cairo on 4 October.

“During that day President Abbas will consult with the Arab governments and will come back to the Palestinian leadership to take the right decision and the right answer, with all what we have from the Americans and the Israelis,” he said.

He added that there should be an immediate halt to settlement activity.

On Sunday, Mr Abbas warned that the peace talks renewed earlier this month would be a “waste of time” unless the ban continued.

The BBC’s correspondent in Ramallah, Jon Donnison, says Palestinian negotiators are planning to meet there on Wednesday.

If they see that the extent of construction in the West Bank has been limited, that might be enough to keep them at the table, our correspondent says.

In his statement, Mr Netanyahu made no direct mention of the issue of the settlement freeze.

But he maintained that it was possible “to achieve a historic framework accord within a year”.

He had earlier urged settlers “to display restraint and responsibility”.

Some Jewish settlers celebrated the end of the construction ban.

At the settlement of Revava, near the Palestinian town of Deir Itsia, they released balloons and broke ground for a new nursery school before the moratorium expired.

Earlier in the evening, a pregnant Israeli woman and her husband were slightly wounded in a gun attack in the West Bank.

Israeli police said Palestinian gunmen had opened fire on their car south of the city of Hebron. The woman later gave birth in hospital.

Compromise deal

Meanwhile, the US has renewed calls for Israel to maintain the construction freeze, saying its position on the issue remained unchanged and the US state department was staying “in close touch” with all parties.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to Mr Netanyahu and also to Tony Blair, the representative of the Middle East Quartet (the EU, Russia, the UN and US), as the end of the construction freeze neared, a spokesman said.

Israel says the settlements are no bar to continuing direct talks on key issues, and US negotiators have been working intensively to secure a deal.

Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza, is strongly opposed to the talks.

On Saturday, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak told the BBC he would attempt to convince government colleagues of a compromise deal, and said the chances of a deal on the issue were “50/50”.

It is estimated that about 2,000 housing units in the West Bank already have approval and settler leaders say they plan to resume construction as soon as possible.

The partial moratorium on new construction was agreed by Israel in November 2009 under pressure from Washington.

It banned construction in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since the Middle East war of 1967, but never applied to settlements in East Jerusalem.

US President Barack Obama has urged Israel to extend the moratorium, saying it “made a difference on the ground, and improved the atmosphere for talks”.

Nearly half a million Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They are held to be illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran: Tehran and Baghdad Jointly Planned Attack on ‘Kurd Rebels’

Tehran, 27 Sept. (AKI) — Iraq and Iran worked together in a weekend assault on Kurdish rebels that killed more than 30 insurgents in Iraqi territory, according to a news report.

An unnamed Iranian government source told an Iranian journalist about the operation during an interview on Arab-language satellite news channel Al-Arabiya.

“The attack was against a group of rebel Kurds who operate in Iran but find refuge in Iraq,” journalist Amir Moussavi said.

The assault was in response to a bomb attack that killed at least nine people on Wednesday during a military parade in the northwestern Iranian city of Mahabad.

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

Iraq: Scheduled for Next Month, First Post-Saddam Census Already Causing Tensions

The census is set for 24 October, but it could undermine an already shaky balance of power. The provinces of Nineveh, Kirkuk and Anbar want the count postponed. For local authorities, the Kurds are trying to influence the outcome.

Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) — The first nation-wide census in Iraq since 1997, also the first one since the fall of Saddam Hussein, is becoming grounds for further factional and ethnic strife. The authorities have said that the Iraqi population will be counted on 24 October. However, many have called for a postponement or else the process would be boycotted. Under the circumstances, the census could be politicised in a country still waiting for a government seven months after parliamentary elections. Ultimately, the existing shaky balance of power could get even shakier.

The provinces of Nineveh, Kirkuk and Anbar are against the census, unmoved by outgoing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s firm wish to see the census take place in all 18 Iraqi provinces on 24 October. In Nineveh, the northern province with Mosul as capital that is home to Arabs, Kurds and other minorities, the provincial council has postponed the census.

For Governor Athil al-Nujaifi, an Arab nationalist, the Peshmerga, the Kurdish militia that has occupied a number of areas over the past several years, must leave if the census is to go ahead. Kurdish forces from the two main Kurdish parties, the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), must also leave their headquarters.

According to al-Nujaifi, both Peshmerga and Kurdish parties are trying to influence the situation in his province to the benefit of the Kurdish group. Kurds inhabit some areas in province, and the Kurdish regional government would like to annex them at the expense of the central government. One example is the Nineveh Plains, home to an important Christian community, which has been targeted by the Kurds for quite some time. According to Arab authorities in Nineveh, the KDP and the PUK are trying to bring in Kurds from other parts of Iraq in order to add them to the Nineveh voter lists.

In response to Arab claims, Kurds say that Nineveh historically belongs to them, insisting also that the census is a constitutional duty for the whole of Iraq, not just a single province. They point the finger at those who want to boycott the census, and note that Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime pursued a policy of forced “Arabisation” in northern Iraq at the expenses of the non-Arab population.

The situation is even more sensitive in Kirkuk. Here, Arabs and Turkmen have directly called for a boycott. For a long time, Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds have vied for control over the oil-rich multi-ethnic province. The census represents a fundamental step from a Kurdish point of view towards annexation. A population count is required under Article 140 of the constitution as a first step towards a referendum that would decide the status of Kirkuk, either as part of Kurdistan or as a province under the administration of the government in Baghdad.

The interests at stake in the province are huge. This is why no elections have been held in four years. The area’s energy resources are at the root of the problem. Kirkuk has the second biggest oil fields in Iraq and possesses 70 per cent of the country’s natural gas deposits. If a referendum gives the city to the Kurds, the latter might have the means to achieve independence from the rest of the country.

Nineveh and Kirkuk have been joined by the predominantly Sunni Arab province of Anbar, in western Iraq, in calling for a postponement of the census. The local provincial council decided last week to suspend the census until a new government is set up to supervise the process.

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

Social, Religious Divide on Display in Attack on Turkish Art Walk

Local toughs attack an art opening in Istanbul’s Tophane neighborhood, angered by patrons imbibing alcohol. Adding to the tensions are fears of displacement amid ongoing gentrification.

It was meant to be a celebration of high art and the bohemian spirit of a city that has been designated by the European Union as a European Cultural Capital of 2010. Instead, a controversial art exhibit last week turned into a violent neighborhood melee that made national news.

As art lovers drank sangria out of plastic cups and contemplated iconoclastic pieces of art that deconstructed Turkey’s 20th century history, a group of local toughs in the central Istanbul neighborhood of Tophane attacked them with pepper gas and frozen oranges. For an hour, they smashed windows and injured dozens, including visiting foreigners.

None of the artwork was damaged, and the galleries quickly reopened. But the riot remains the talk of the town, and the victims are scheduled to meet Monday with a lawyer to consider possible legal action.

“We were so happy because for the first time an art event was crowded,” said Derya Demir, the 30-year-old owner of the Non Gallery, where the chaos erupted Tuesday. “There was no warning at all.” The gallery was one of several participating in the Tophane Art Work, a weeks-long presentation of new work by underground local artists amid heightened interest in contemporary Middle East art.

The incident highlighted class and social cleavages between Turkey’s European-oriented wealthy urban elite and religious conservatives with strong roots in the country’s rural Anatolia region. It was also a case of urban friction in a rapidly gentrifying district where working-class people are being driven out by wealthier and highly educated arrivals.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose political party is rooted in Turkey’s Islamic movements, weighed in, downplaying the attack. “Such incidents occur everywhere in the world,” he said. “There is no reason to exaggerate those incidents.”

Some residents blamed the gallery owners and guests for drinking alcohol in public in violation of Islamic law. In central Istanbul, pockets of conservative Islam coexist with freewheeling outdoor cafes, bars and dance clubs. But residents complained that the gallery owners were pushing the envelope by allowing patrons to drink outside in a residential area that has long been home to observant Muslim families…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Turkey’s Referendum Doesn’t Mean Popular Support for a Regime Aligning With Iran

By Barry Rubin

It is true that the passage of the referendum in Turkey with 58 percent of the vote can be seen as a victory for the AKP regime. But that point shouldn’t be exaggerated. The bad feature of the reforms—in terms of consolidating the Islamist government’s power—is to strengthen the regime’s control over the courts and to limit further the autonomy of the Turkish army.

At the same time, though, there were many other provisions that the overwhelming majority of Turks wanted, expanding freedoms and civil liberties, reining in the possibility of military coups which those left of center have opposed in the past. Moreover, it was sold as a step toward Turkish entry into the European Union, still a prime goal though something that’s never going to happen.

There are many contradictory aspects. The legal changes strengthen women’s and privacy rights on paper but the regime has appointed hardly any women to high-ranking posts and has increased wire-tapping. To allow officers expelled from the army for Islamist activities to appeal the decision in court certainly seems to protect individual rights, but in practice it means that Islamists can now infiltrate the armed forces, organize politically, and if thrown out by the still-secular high command get it reversed by a regime-appointed judge.

I would bet that if it weren’t for fear of the provisions strengthening the regime—90 percent of Turks would have supported the proposed changes instead of just 58 percent. But that was part of the trick: putting in some key provisions fundamentally transforming the Turkish republic amidst twenty others that mainly referred to historical or abstract issues…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]


The “Slaughterhouse” of Dagestan is Not Chechnya

Suicide attacks on police and institutions are now a daily reality in the Caucasus republic. But it is not over independent: social frustration and Islamic fundamentalism, the factors that threaten to detonate a ticking time bomb. Russia faces important challenge of modernizing the region.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — The North Caucasus is still ablaze. Within the region, the republic of Dagestan is where Moscow is focusing its major anti-insurgency efforts. The attack last Sept. 24 in the capital Makhachkala, where a suicide bomber wounded 42 people including policemen and civilians, is just the latest episode that has bloodied the turbulent area. Russian security forces intensified the hunt for terrorists after the Moscow metro bombings in March, triggering the reprisal of guerrillas and transforming the area into a daily slaughterhouse. But Moscow sees force as the only way of preventing total warfare.

Institutions and police targeted

Dagestan, the largest republic in the North Caucasus, is the epicentre of violence as rebels move their operations from Chechnya to neighbouring areas. Bombings are their favoured means of attack and local authority officials and police their main targets. On the night of Sept. 24 a suicide bomber blew himself up in Makhachkala, in an area surrounded by police agents, where earlier there had been a shoot out with guerrillas. On the same day, an armed commando killed the headmaster of a school and there were 12 deaths in a series of shootings. On 4 September, it was the turn of the Minister for National Policy, Foreign Relations and Information of Dagestan, Bekmurza Bekmurzaiev, who was injured following an attack that instead killed his driver. On September 2, a local leader of the Russian secret service (FSB), Colonel Akhmed Abdullaiev, was killed by a bomb placed under his car.

The violence in the Caucasus republic has greatly increased since last Aug. 23 when a series of attacks killed a border guard, while the deputy mayor of Kizlyar, Vasily Naumochkin was hit by a hail of bullets fired by armed men waiting for him outside the Town Hall.

On 6 September, the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs arrived in the North Caucasus to admit that the situation “is deteriorating.”

A Guerrillas lair

Dagestan has become the preferred hideout for Islamic fighters fleeing the more controlled Chechnya. Last August 21 Magomedali Vagabov, considered the mastermind of the twin bombings on Moscow’s underground, was killed. Along with him four other rebels were also eliminated. Russian anti-terrorism forces unearthed them near the village of Gunib in the Dagestan mountains. But often in counter-insurgency operations it is the civilians who lose out. In the raids made by the Russians in the Caucasus villages in search of terrorists innocent citizens end up being arrested and tortured, as long denounced by NGOs and activists for human rights in the Caucasus.

But Dagestan is not Chechnya

It is vital for Moscow not to allow the situation to further deteriorate. Dagestan is a region of great strategic and economic importance for Russia: it borders with eternal enemy Georgia and the gas fields of Azerbaijan. Makhachkala is also one of the few Russian ports free of ice year-round.

However, understanding the underlying causes that have transformed the republic into a ticking time bomb is not easy. The same media in Russia are limited to reporting the clashes and attacks, but mainstream debate hardly examines the real reasons for the violence was the case with Chechnya. The fact is that Dagestan is more complex. In the ‘90s, there were clearly defined enemies in Chechnya: the separatists. Their actions, their ideology was well known and studied. But in Dagestan, neither then nor now has there ever been a genuine separatist movement: it was the only republic in the North Caucasus not to demand independence after the collapse of the USSR and the Party of Independence in the country is relegated to a marginal role .

Neither is ethnic diversity a factor that may explain instability in Dagestan: in the ‘90s represented a threat to the unity of the republic, with periods of violence and terrorism. But it was the same government that prevented the country’s transformation into a second Chechnya.

The factor which, however, is playing an increasing role in the Caucasus and republic is Islam. Those who promote the “rebirth of Islam” (present on the ground in the Salafist movement, ed), belong to different ethnic groups united by faith in Salafist Islam. This finds converts among the people, promoting social justice and fighting corruption. It offers a new alternative to a society disillusioned by its Soviet experience and the democratic post-Soviet era.

Unlike Chechnya, the activities of rebellion and dissent against Moscow are found in diverse environments: ethnic, religious, business and the same local government. In any given attack the motive may be the “privatization” of state property, while in another Islamic extremism. Among the ranks of Islamic fighters are not just religious fanatics, but also citizens who are victims of corruption or the tyranny of the authorities.

The main challenge facing Moscow — according to the renowned Russian Caucasus expert, Enver Kisriev — is to ensure an equitable development throughout the North Caucasus and Dagestan. In a context where institutions and justice are in the hands of corrupt oligarchy, people are forced to resort to violence as a means to solve even the most trivial matters.

Young people also have no future: there is no mechanism to ensure a just social mobility through education and so “young people end up being easy prey for jihadists.”

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

South Asia

Islamophobia, Cartoon-o-Phobia and Equalityphobia

Prime Minister Haji Abdul Razak of Malaysia has offered to help Obama overcome “Islamophobia” by sending “experts in Islamic studies” to America in order to correct misconceptions about Islam. Malaysia’s Deputy Education Minister, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, stated, “We qualify to send our experts as we have the experience of administering a country which is multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi-religious like the US.”

Of course by multi-religious, he means Malaysia is an Islamic state which pervasively discriminates against non-Muslims. Malays are automatically treated as Muslims and subject to Sharia law. They are not allowed to become members of another faith, without applying to an Islamic Sharia court. And without official recognition, the law forbids them from marrying Christians or Buddhists. The Lina Joy case is an example of how non-Muslims can remain in limbo under a legal system which is based on Islamic law, and denies equal rights to non-Muslims.

And then there’s the case of Revathi Massosai, a true example of what Muslim tolerance holds for the kind of “multi-religious” society that those “experts in Islamic studies” would love to inflict on us.

Revathi Massosai, a Hindu whose parents had converted to Islam, was considered a Muslim under Malaysian law, despite the fact that she had been raised and was a Hindu. When she tried to get the government to recognize that fact, the Islamic authorities put her into an “Islamic Re-education Camp”. There she was forced to wear a burqa, read Muslim prayers and eat beef. Since then she has been prevented from living with her husband and her daughter has no birth certificate. Nor is her case unique. Families have been broken up, children have been seized, even bodies have been dragged out of funeral homes because of Malaysia’s Islamic law.


But while Malaysia, like the rest of the Muslim world, may fail horribly at interacting with non-Muslims—they do have one last hope, space aliens.

The United Nations has just appointed the former head of Malaysia’s space program to head its Office for Outer Space Affairs, which would be in charge of talking any little green men who happen to land on our planet. Mazlan Othman had formerly been in charge of such vital issues as figuring out how to practice Islam in space (spin counterclockwise before beheading the individual to the left, then rotate and turn to complete the maneuver) will now be the person to represent the human race in the event a UFO shows up on the White House lawn.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Muslim Terrorists Want to Turn Indonesia Into an Islamic State

Recent attacks against the police seek to delegitimize authorities to create chaos and guerrilla warfare in cities. Confirmed the armed forces in internal security operations for the first time since the fall of the Suharto military regime.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — The creation of an Islamic state in Indonesia (Negara Islam Indonesia — NII), the myth of radical Muslim groups since 1959, is once again the prime objective of Islamic terrorists, it has been asserted by Gen. Bamabang Hendarso Danuri, head of the Indonesian police force.

Yesterday, at a press conference, he stressed that terrorists seek to create chaos in cities to undermine authorities, as demonstrated by recent attacks against the police, various attempts to attacks stopped by the police and the continued search for new recruits among young people.

In order to respond to the threat against the security of the country, the police chief has confirmed the use of special anti-terrorist army forces, which will help the police in the hunt for extremist groups. This is the first time that the army has intervened in national security operations since the fall of the Suharto military regime in 1998.

Danuri also sounded the alarm in various districts of the country for the risk of attacks by radical groups, especially in North Sumatra.

The police have arrested 15 people in the region in recent days suspected of terrorism and currently they are hunting for four other extremists accused of robbing a bank in Medan (North Sumatra) in August.

Police believe the groups active in the area have close links with al-Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia and Jamaah Anshorut Tauhid (Jat), a radical group legally recognized, but which has always denied any connection with Islamic terrorism.

Since 2000, terror groups have claimed more than 298 lives and wounded 838. 19 police officers were also among those killed.

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

Pakistan Anger at NATO-Led Cross-Border Raids Pakistan Has Voiced Anger at Rare NATO-Led Raids at the Weekend Which Crossed Over Its Border From Afghanistan.

Apache helicopters are said to have taken part in the operations which killed more than 50 insurgents.

Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs said the raids, launched from the Khost region of Afghanistan, were a violation of its sovereignty.

Nato has again insisted that it was operating within its mandate and troops had a right to defend themselves.

The BBC’s Adam Mynott in Islamabad says Pakistan’s comments were mainly aimed at a domestic audience, among which US military activity is often unpopular.

The International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said it had crossed over the border into Pakistan after coming under fire in the Khost region of Afghanistan. It said 49 insurgents had been killed.

Two Apache helicopters again crossed the border on Saturday, killing four to six insurgents, after coming under small-arms fire from the same area, it said.

Isaf has said the raids followed its rules of engagement in the region and that it has the right to enter Pakistan’s airspace while pursuing a target.

“Isaf forces must and will retain the authority, within their mandate, to defend themselves in carrying out their mission,” a Nato official told the AFP news agency.


But in a statement, Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs said the incidents had been “a clear violation and breach of the UN mandate under which Isaf operates”.

It said Isaf’s mandate ended at the Afghan border and there were “no agreed ‘hot pursuit’ rules” allowing Isaf troops to cross into Pakistan.

“Any impression to the contrary is not factually correct. Such violations are unacceptable.

The raids were reported to have involved the use of Apache helicopters “In the absence of immediate corrective measures, Pakistan will be constrained to consider response options.”

Islamabad backs much of the military action taking place against insurgents operating around the border region in Afghanistan, says our correspondent.

So the strong statement is largely directed at a domestic audience in Pakistan, he adds, among whom anti-American sentiment has been fuelled by the escalating numbers of unmanned drone attacks on targets in the country.

Isaf has not revealed the location of the raid operation or which country’s forces were involved. It said no civilians were killed in the operation, but this has not been independently confirmed.

Isaf’s force was established by the UN in late 2001 with a stated mission of promoting security and development. It is also training Afghan soldiers and police.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Stuxnet Worm Rampaging Through Iran: It Official

TEHRAN (AFP) — The Stuxnet worm is mutating and wreaking further havoc on computerised industrial equipment in Iran where about 30,000 IP addresses have already been infected, IRNA news agency reported on Monday.

“The attack is still ongoing and new versions of this virus are spreading,” Hamid Alipour, deputy head of Iran’s Information Technology Company, was quoted as saying by IRNA, Iran’s official news agency.

Stuxnet, which was publicly identified in June, was tailored for Siemens supervisory control and data acquisition, or SCADA, systems commonly used to manage water supplies, oil rigs, power plants and other industrial facilities.

The self-replicating malware has been found lurking on Siemens systems mostly in India, Indonesia and Pakistan, but the heaviest infiltration appears to be in Iran, according to researchers.

The hackers, who enjoyed “huge investments” from a series of foreign countries or organisations, designed the worm to exploit five different security vulnerabilities, Alipour said while insisting that Stuxnet was not a “normal” worm.

He said his company had begun the cleanup process at Iran’s “sensitive centres and organisations,” the report said.

Analysts say Stuxnet may have been designed to target Iran’s nuclear facilities. But Iranian officials have denied the Islamic republic’s first nuclear plant at Bushehr was among the addresses penetrated by the worm.

“This virus has not caused any damage to the main systems of the Bushehr power plant,” Bushehr project manager Mahmoud Jafari said on Sunday.

He, however, added the worm had infected some “personal computers of the plant’s personnel.”

Alipour, whose company is tasked with planning and developing networks in Iran, said personal computers were also being targeted by the malware.

“Although the main objective of the Stuxnet virus is to destroy industrial systems, its threat to home computer users is serious,” Alipour said.

The worm is able to recognise a specific facility’s control network and then destroy it, according to German computer security researcher Ralph Langner, who has been analysing the malicious software.

Langner said he suspected Stuxnet was targeting Bushehr nuclear power plant, where unspecified problems have been blamed for delays in getting the facility fully operational.

Iran’s nuclear ambitions are at the heart of a conflict between Tehran and the West, which suspects the Islamic republic is seeking to develop atomic weapons under the cover of a civilian drive.

Tehran denies the allegation and has pressed on with its enrichment programme — the most controversial aspect of its nuclear activities — despite four sets of UN Security Council sanctions.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Taliban ‘Want to Swap Kidnapped British Aid Worker for Pakistani Scientist Jailed in the U.S.’

Militants claiming to have kidnapped a female British aid worker are believed to be demanding an exchange for the jailed Pakistani scientist Aafia Siddiqui.

The doctor, who was working for a charity, was travelling with three Afghan men in a two-vehicle convoy when they were ambushed yesterday morning.

At first the Taliban said it was not responsible for the adbuction, but a local commander named as Mohammed Osman, today claimed he had taken the group.

Osman told the Afghan Islamic Press: ‘We are lucky that we abducted this British woman so soon after the ruthless ruling by an American court on Aafia Siddiqui.

‘We will demand the release of Siddqui in exchange for her.’

Siddiqui, a 38-year-old mother-of-three neuroscientist, was jailed for 86 years last week by a New York court for the attempted murder of U.S. agents and soldiers who were trying to interrogate her in Afghanistan

The British embassy in Kabul would not discuss the report.

Meanwhile, an extensive search is being carried out for the unnamed Scottish woman who was led away on foot by her captors despite a firefight with local police.

The attack comes barely a month after British doctor Dr Karen Woo, 36, was shot dead in an ambush in which eight foreign aid workers and two Afghans were killed.

The motive for the latest kidnapping is not clear but insurgent involvement is likely as the Taliban usually take foreigners alive.

It is believed that the doctor worked for a U.S. charity, Development Alternatives International (DAI), which implements agricultural projects on behalf of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

She is believed to be in her 30s and has spent several years working in Afghanistan.

The group were attacked as they travelled from Kunar province to Jalalabad, a rugged region close to the border with Pakistan which is a known Taliban stronghold.

It is understood the woman and her travel companions — two drivers and a guard — were on their way to an opening ceremony for a canal rehabilitation project in the Narang district of Kunar. Police chief in Kunar, General Abdul Saboor Allahyar, said gunmen intercepted the woman’s convoy at around 11am.

A major search operation was under way with the assistance of tribal elders.

DAI spokesman Steven O’Connor confirmed the organisation was treating the incident as a ‘suspected abduction’ and resolving it was their ‘absolute first priority’.

‘The evidence does not point towards them getting lost,’ he said.

‘The woman who appears to have been kidnapped is one of our veterans. She is a complete professional and has many years of experience.’

The Foreign Office confirmed last night that a British national was missing in Afghanistan.

A spokesman said: ‘We are working with other international agencies to investigate these reports urgently.’

A Taliban spokesman said he was unaware of the kidnapping.

Kunar is an area held by the Taliban where a number of foreign nationals have been kidnapped in recent years.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for Dr Woo’s death, saying she had been ‘preaching Christianity’ — a claim dismissed by family and friends who say she was not religious.

However there are suspicions that bandits may have been responsible, as the victims had been robbed when their bodies were found.

Two French journalists were seized last December to the north-east of Kabul, but were later released.

A top NATO commander in Afghanistan said today there should be no rush to withdraw alliance forces in 2011 because once they are gone, it would be much harder to send them back if necessary.

Lieutenant-General Nick Parker, second-in-command of the International Security Assistance Force behind U.S. General David Petraeus, also said the significance of a July 2011 U.S. withdrawal date had been overemphasised.

‘What we must not do is pull back and go blind, because it then becomes extremely difficult to re-intervene, if you need to,’ Parker told reporters in London through a satellite link from Afghanistan.

‘What we’ve got to do is to thin back and then reinvest some of that dividend into other areas so there is a sense of continuing commitment. It’s not a sort of rush for the exit,’ he added.

Almost 150,000 foreign troops, mostly American, are fighting a now nine-year NATO-led war against Taliban insurgents.

This year has been the deadliest for foreign forces, and pressure in participating countries has mounted for troops to be withdrawn.

‘It is entirely reasonable for there to be some drawdown of some sort, although I suggest that all the indicators I’ve heard is that this is not as significant as some people choose to make it out to be,’ Parker said.

‘I suspect … some domestic politics in certain countries where it’s being overstated,’ he later added.

Parker said he had no knowledge of the scale of a possible U.S. drawdown next year, but said media reports had cited about 2,000, a figure he said was ‘not a subject of strategic significance.’

For British troops, Parker said he was confident that by July, more Afghan forces would be sufficiently capable to take over on the front line and for more British troops to act as a ‘reactive’ enabling force or be redeployed where needed.

He declined to comment on the prospect of withdrawal.

‘Is this July 2011 deadline an over-optimistic target to have capable Afghan forces taking over the front line from the coalition? This is a personal assessment; I don’t think it is,’ he added.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australian Law Confiscates “Unexplained Wealth”

Memo to criminals and everyone else: keep those receipts. Last week the state’s “unexplained wealth” law came into effect, to the outrage of civil libertarians and the horror of crooks and their accountants.

Until now the state could confiscate your assets only if it could prove they had been obtained criminally.

This led to horse-trading as authorities demanded a certain amount of assets and crooks agreed to hand over a proportion if there was no further action.

But now the onus of proof has been reversed and cops will be pouncing on real estate, cash, flash cars and bikes, jewellery, spa baths and anything else that catches their eye.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Finland: Another Anti-Immigrant Group Files for Party Status

A right-wing group calling itself Vapauspuolue or “the Freedom Party” has applied to become a registered political party.

The organization describes itself as being critical of immigration — and of the True Finns Party, which it accuses of “selling out” opponents of immigration.

The Freedom Party was set up as an association in Tampere about a year and a half ago. On Monday it delivered the 5,000 supporter cards required to file for official party status to the Ministry of Justice.

According to a statement on the group’s Finnish-only website, “the Freedom Party does not accept that the country be populated with immigrants without the free consent of Finns. This free consent will is unlikely to ever come about, since a majority of Finns oppose immigration. Examples from other European countries show that minorities artificially created through immigration do not adapt and integrate into the mainstream.”

Last summer another anti-immigration group, the Change 2011 movement, filed to join the party registry. Both organisations hope to field candidates in next spring’s parliamentary elections.

Meanwhile the True Finns — who are in comparison relatively moderate on immigration issues — are expected to significantly increase their current total of five seats in the 200-seat Parliament.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Italy: Immigrants ‘Sent Over €210mln Home in 2009’

Rome, 27 Sept. (AKI) — Immigrants in Italy sent remittances back to their home countries last year worth 210 million euros, and on average had nearly 8 percent more cash in their bank accounts than in 2007, Italy’s banking association ABI reported on Monday.

Italian banks in 2009 handled 92,020 remittances from immigrants worth 210.05 million euros, ABI said.

The average value of transactions was 1,543 euros, a figure more than seven times higher than the average value of remittances worldwide (around 223 euros), according to ABI.

“Immigrants are relying on Italian banks to send sizeable sums of money back to their home countries, generally over 1,000 euros,” said the report.

Morocco, Romania, Moldova, Brasil and Albania are the countries to which immigrants are sending the most money.

Despite the economic downturn in Italy which saw its economy shrink 5.1 percent last year, the average immigrant squirrelled away more money than at the time of the last report in 2007, according to the report.

The average immigrant’s bank balance rose 7.9 percent to 1,514 euros in 2009, from 1,404 euros in 2007, the report said.

Small businesses owned by immigrants with less than 10 employees and sales of 2 million euros annually or less were the fastest-growing group of bank account holders — 22,422 compared with 13,812 in 2007.

“Immigrants have faced a precarious employment situation and have incurred personal financial risk by setting up small businesses,” said the report.

Almost 53,000 migrant entrepreneurs had an Italian bank account last year, representing 3.5 percent of bank accounts held by immigrants.

One-fifth of these entrepreneurs had held a bank account in Italy for more than five years.

One in three immigrants had taken out some kind of loan with their Italian bank, and in the case of enterpreneurs, the figure rose to 47 percent, the report said.

Over a quarter of loans taken out by immigrants from their banks (28 percent) were mortages to purchase property

The number of legal immigrants rose by 32.4 percent between 2007 and 2009 to 3.9 million, although the proportion of immigrants with a bank account decreased from 67 percent to 61 percent over the same period, the report said.

“It should be noted that the tendency to open a bank accounts is closely linked to the length of time an immigrant has been living in Italy,” it stated.

It takes immigrants five years on average to acquire the necessary financial and job stability to be allowed to open an Italian bank account, the report noted.

The ABI report was based on a survey of over three-fifths of Italian banks and the 21 most numerous immigrant nationalities in Italy. They represented an overwhelming majority (88 percent) of legal immigrants in Italy last year.

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

UK: An Open Door to Benefit Tourists: EU Warns Britain it Can’t Stop Thousands More Migrants Claiming Welfare Handouts

Benefits tourists are set to get the green light to come to Britain and immediately claim handouts totalling £2.5billion a year.

According to documents leaked to the Mail, ministers have been warned that restrictions on claims by immigrants are against the law and must be scrapped.

The European Commission’s ruling threatens to open the door to tens of thousands who are currently deterred from coming to Britain.

At the moment, a ‘habitual residency test’ is used to establish whether migrants from the EU are eligible for benefits.

To qualify for jobseeker’s allowance, employment support allowance, pension credit and income support, they must demonstrate that they either have worked or have a good opportunity to get a job.

But after receiving a complaint that the rules infringed the human rights of EU citizens, the Commission began to examine them.

In a letter seen by the Mail, it warns that the restrictions are ‘not compatible’ with EU law.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


goethechosemercy said...

Earlier, Bishop Bishoy had said that — contrary to Muslim belief — some verses of the Koran may have been inserted after the death of Prophet Muhammad.
end quote.

A speculation by an outsider is not an insult.

goethechosemercy said...

In a context where institutions and justice are in the hands of corrupt oligarchy, people are forced to resort to violence as a means to solve even the most trivial matters.
end quote.

I see the future.

goethechosemercy said...

Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, stated, “We qualify to send our experts as we have the experience of administering a country which is multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi-religious like the US.”

And Americans don't?
I'm sure the multicultural idiots will happily accpt Abdullah's well-meaning, imperialistic help.
We mean to help-- the age-old cry of the IMPERIALIST.