Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100929

Financial Crisis
»Italy: Wealthy Northwest Hardest Hit by 2009 Recession
»Italy: Farmers Bring Sheep to Rome
»Vatican: IOR Closes 13 Lay Accounts in Transparency Operation
»Army Judge Tells Officer: Shut up and be Punished!
»Barack Obama Claims Fox News is ‘Ultimately Destructive’ For U.S. As He Takes Aim at Critics
»Be Glad Your School District Isn’t Doing This…Yet
»CSI Miami Show Smears Tea Party
»Distrust in Media Hits Record High
»Muslim Disneyland Employee Agrees to Wear a Beret Over Her Hijab After Theme Park Objected to Her Head Scarf
Europe and the EU
»Alert Over Wanted Al-Qaeda Suspect Who May be Heading to Britain
»Audio: ‘The Mushrooming of Urban Jihad’
»Bossi Ridicules Rome GP — “Let Them Race Chariots”
»British Elderly to Pay for “Free” Medical Care
»Danish MP Meets Muslims Over Cartoons
»Europe’s Antiterror Message to US: Sure Sucks to be You
»French Atheist Defends Catholicism
»Germany: 9/11 Mosque Continued to Produce Jihadis
»Germany Puts Versailles Behind it With Final Reparation Payment
»Public Peeing OK if No One is Offended: Swedish Court
»Spain Arrests American Terror Suspect
»Sweden Democrats Slam Unions Over Freeze Out
»Terror Plot Against Britain Thwarted by Drone Strike
»UK: ‘Please Come Back Home’: Children’s Plea to British Mother Who Abandoned Them to Marry Penniless Tunisian Lover
»UK: Autistic Boy, 12, Died After Two Teenagers ‘Deliberately Torched House While His Mother Was at Work’
»UK: Criminals Must Stop Dodging the Blame: Sentamu Wants Tougher Prisons — and No Cable TV
»UK: David is Off; Ed Will Go it Alone
»UK: Harrow Council Urges Schools to Consider Non-Halal Meat Option
»UK: Hi-Tech Crime Police Quiz 19 People Over Internet Bank Scam That Netted Hackers Up to £20m From British Accounts
»UK: Lady Warsi Blames Lack of Tory Majority on Electoral Fraud
»UK: NHS Apologises to Family of Baby Left Blind in One Eye and Brain-Damaged After Forceps Delivery Went Wrong
»UK: Patient Pronounced Dead and Taken to Morgue Makes Full Recovery After Undertaker Spots Him Breathing
»UK: Supermarket Bosses Order Boy Aged Two to Take Down Hood ‘For Security Reasons’
Israel and the Palestinians
»Arafat ‘Called for Military Operations’ Amid Failing Talks
»Irish Nobel Laureate Denied Entry Into Israel
»Is the U.S. Government and West Generally Starting to Comprehend the Real Issues and Problems in the Middle East?
Middle East
»Al-Jazeera World Cup Broadcasts Were Jammed From Jordan
»Iranian ‘Blogfather’ Gets 19 Years in Prison
»Iraq: Basra Pullout Was a Defeat for Britain in Iraq, Say Generals
»Radical Yemeni Terror Preacher Calls for More Attacks on the West in New Internet Video
»The Battle Against Cyber-Jihad
»Sacked by the Kremlin, Dismissed Moscow Mayor May Flee to London
South Asia
»Emergence of a New Antibiotic Resistance Mechanism in India, Pakistan, And the UK
»Gay Film Festival Attacked by Masked Islamic Protesters
»Indonesia: Muslim Fundamentalists Against Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Jakarta
»Indonesia: Rising Intolerance Among Muslims
»Thailand, Islamic Rebels Disguised as Policemen Fire on Crowd: 5 Dead and 3 Injured
»Czech Women Who Married Illegal Immigrants for Cash Are Jailed for Sham Wedding Racket
»European Commission Launches Legal Action Against France Over Expulsion of 1,000 Roma Gypsies
»Roma Ultimatum Given to France by EU: Allow Free Movement or Face Court
Culture Wars
»Australia Ex-PM Howard Attacks ‘Multiculturalism’
»Free World Must Hold Firm on Cultural Identity in Battle Against Terrorism, John Howard Warns
»Obama Again Omits ‘Creator’ When Speaking of ‘Inalienable Rights’ Cited in Declaration of Independence
»Scotland: Police Pledge Swifter Response to Racism and Homophobia Than ‘Ordinary’ Crime
»One Third of ‘Extinct’ Animals Turn Up Again

Financial Crisis

Italy: Wealthy Northwest Hardest Hit by 2009 Recession

Rome, 28 Sept. (AKI) — Italy’s wealthy northwest was the hardest hit by last year’s recession which caused economic output in the country’s industrial hub to fall 6 percent, compared with 5.1 percent nationwide, according to a report released Tuesday by national statistics agency Istat.

Only government incentives for automobiles kept Turin-based Fiat’s car sales afloat in 2009, while the worst recession in more than six decades caused consumers and businesses to cut back on spending for many goods.

The 2009 gross domestic product of Piedmont — where Turin is the capital — fell 6.2 percent, the third steepest decline of Italy’s 21 regions. Abruzzo — struck by a devastating earthquake — had the most pronounced economic contraction with output falling 6.9 percent.

The Italian economy has since emerged from recession but the economy remains fragile. Unemployment stood at 8.5 percent during the second quarter of this year, the highest level since 2003.

Economic output last year in Italy’s northeast fell 5.6 percent, the economy in central Italy contracted 3.9 percent and is shrank 4.3 percent in the south, Istat said.

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

Italy: Farmers Bring Sheep to Rome

Protest at falling milk prices, disappearing farms

(ANSA) — Rome, September 29 — Sheep farmers from all over Italy brought their flock to Rome Wednesday to press the government to help the struggling sector.

More than a thousand farmers from Sardinia, Lazio, Tuscany, Umbria, Sicily and other regions brought their sheep, some “at risk of extinction”, to the ministry.

Holding up lambs, the farmers protested at the agriculture ministry against low milk prices and dwindling earnings that are threatening their livelihoods.

“Almost one in three sheep farms has disappeared over the last ten years,” said Coldiretti, a farm association that helped organise the protest.

“The ongoing crisis risks decimating the 70,000 farms that have survived”.

Later, the government unveiled proposals to stave off the crisis, but the Sardinian regional government walked out of the talks, saying “no concrete or strong initiative to support the sector has been advanced in the last month”.

Milk prices are 25% down on two years ago while wool and lamb meat prices have also tumbled, farmers say.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Vatican: IOR Closes 13 Lay Accounts in Transparency Operation

Account holders not named. Some observers claim this represents a reduction in such accounts, not their abolition

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican secretary of state and the Holy See’s spokesman have both averred their “faith” and “esteem” in the banker chosen a year ago by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope’s closest collaborator, to undertake the transparency operation at IOR, the Vatican bank still labouring under the shadow of the less than crystalline Marcinkus era. It is fair to assume that yesterday’s signal, the esteem for Gotti expressed by Benedict XVI himself, was aimed more inside the walls of the Vatican than out for there has been no lack of resistance in recent months.

Slogans apart, the transparency operation has a number of aims, some already in place and others on their way. The most significant, and widely feared, of those to come regards the numbered current accounts held by lay persons, in the sense of non-clerics. Top-level Vatican sources mention 13 lay accounts that would simply be closed under the new policy, which would also rule out any more lay accounts being opened. The matter has been discussed but so far no action has been taken. And the fact that the Vatican sources use the term “reduction”, not “abolition”, is highly significant…

Gian Guido Vecchi

English translation by Giles Watson

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


Army Judge Tells Officer: Shut up and be Punished!

Defense counsel warns ‘fair trial’ impossible under military rulings

FORT MEADE, Md. — An Army judge has made it “impossible” for a career medical officer to get a fair hearing on charges he refused to deploy to Afghanistan because of concern that obeying orders in the chain of command under an ineligible commander in chief would be illegal, his attorney says.

The rulings came today from Col. Denise Lind, who, in effect, told Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin to pound sand. Rocks actually. He faces up to four years at hard labor if convicted in his case.

“We got absolutely slammed today,” said Paul R. Jensen, lead counsel for the defense. “It’s impossible for us to have a fair trial under these rulings.”

Jensen continued, “The judge did what she thought was right, but the result is to deprive us of any opportunity to have a defense.”


“The highest law in this country is not the order of the Supreme Court of the U.S., not the order of the commander in chief, or any subordinate officer,” Moore said.

Instead, it is the Constitution, Moore explained, which in Lakin’s case demands that the president be a “natural born citizen.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Barack Obama Claims Fox News is ‘Ultimately Destructive’ For U.S. As He Takes Aim at Critics

President goes on the offensive in Rolling Stone as he bids to shore up dwindling Democratic vote ahead of mid-terms

Barack Obama has begun the fightback against his critics in the U.S. with a hard-hitting interview in Rolling Stone magazine.

The U.S. President singles out Fox News for criticism as he tackles the banking crisis, U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the strength of the Tea Part movement, global warming and his decision to sack General Stanley McChrystal in the wide-ranging article.

But it was Rupert Murdoch’s television network that came in for the most blistering attack as Obama labelled it ‘ultimately destructive for the long-term growth’ of the U.S.

He said: ‘It is part of the tradition that has a very clear, undeniable point of view.

‘It’s a point of view that I disagree with. It’s a point of view that I think is ultimately destructive for the long-term growth of a country that has a vibrant middle class and is competitive in the world.

‘But as an economic enterprise, it’s been wildly successful. And I suspect that if you ask Mr Murdoch what his number-one concern is, it’s that Fox is very successful.’

Obama is clearly aiming to bolster his party image with the appearance in the pop culture bible ahead of the mid-term elections in November.

The magazine — which has a circulation of 1.4million in the U.S. — goes on sale on Friday as the Obama administration attempts to avoid a Republican takeover in the House of Representatives.

It comes out after a poll run by Fox News stated the majority of Americans turn to the network to get trusted political coverage.

In the article, the President reveals he turns to his music collection to help him get through the ‘difficult days’.

He revealed his iPod has around 2,000 songs, including tracks by Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan and rapper Lil Wayne.

Obama said his daughters, 12-year-old Malia and 9-year-old Sasha, are getting old enough to start sharing their taste in music with their dad.

‘Malia and Sasha are now getting old enough to where they start hipping me to things.

‘Music is still a great source of joy and occasional solace in the midst of what can be some difficult days,’ he adds.

Obama has been trying to fire up Democratic voters through a flurry of interviews and lightning campaign stops across the U.S.

He was in New Mexico and Wisconsin yesterday trying to appeal to young voters and independents who backed him when he swept into the White House in the 2008 presidential election.

Today he will head to the birthplace of his political triumph — Iowa — and will finish with a meeting with voters in Richmond, Virginia.

With the U.S. economy struggling to recover and unemployment still near 10 per cent, Republicans are expected to make big gains in the mid-term elections.

All 435 seats in the House and 37 of 100 Senate seats are at stake in what is known as a midterm election, so-called because it falls half way through the four-year presidential term.

Obama took office in January 2009 with a huge Democratic majority in the House and an effective 10 seat edge in the Senate, counting two political independents who vote with the Democrats.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Be Glad Your School District Isn’t Doing This…Yet

Furlough Days — Días de cierre laboral

Parents and SJUSD Community,

San Jose Unified School District’s school sites and business offices will be closed during the week of October 4-8. All regularly scheduled hours will resume on Monday, October 11, 2010, throughout the District.

This furlough is being done to capture a cost savings to the District of approximately 5 million dollars. All employees have agreed to the furlough. It is evidence of the commitment of the District to maintaining fiscal solvency as well as strong collaboration with labor groups.

There will not be instruction or other regular programs during this week except for high school athletics. There will be no teachers or staff on site. There will be no supervision for students. Please make arrangements for your students now for the week of October 4-8. Under no circumstances should students be sent to school during the furlough week.


Dr. Vincent Matthews

Superintendent of Schools

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

CSI Miami Show Smears Tea Party

The Sept. 23 season premiere plot of CBS’s hit drama “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” involved guest star Justin Bieber attending “right-wing” political events before being targeted as a suspect in bombings of a Las Vegas Police Department funeral.

Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times wrote on Sept. 24 that Bieber played a “domestic terrorist with Tea Party leanings.” Even though the episode made no direct reference to the Tea Party, the “right-wing” protest depicted resembled a Tea Party protest, at least according to some viewers who have commented on, a conservative blog.

BigHollywood and BigGovernment publisher Andrew Breitbart said the show’s producers are undoubtedly using the program as a propaganda mechanism and he finds it particularly disturbing that an episode like this popped up so close to the upcoming midterm elections.

“This is predictable behavior from Hollywood,” Breitbart told The Daily Caller in a phone interview. “Over the past year and a half, the Democratic Party, left-wing media and, now, Hollywood, have done anything they can to portray the Tea Party movement as a violent Timothy McVeigh-esque or as a racist movement.”

[Return to headlines]

Distrust in Media Hits Record High

The percentage of Americans who distrust the media has been steadily climbing since the mid 1990s, when distrusts in the news media rated hovered around 45 percent.

Perhaps one of the leading factors for American distrust in the media is the high percentage who believe that reporting tilts too far in one ideological direction or the other.

Forty-eight percent believe the media is too liberal while only 15 percent of find that it tilts too conservative. Just 33 percent believe coverage is “just about right.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Muslim Disneyland Employee Agrees to Wear a Beret Over Her Hijab After Theme Park Objected to Her Head Scarf

A Muslim woman employed by Disney has agreed to wear a beret over her hijab while at work.

Noor Abdallah, 22, was locked in a face off with Disneyland after her employers objected to her religious head scarf.

She works as a vacation planner at a Disneyland Resort Esplanade ticket booth in Anaheim, California.

She refused to take another job away from the public, the Council on American-Islamic relations said yesterday.

So the park and Abdallah reached a compromise.

Now she wears a blue scarf partialy covered by a beret.

‘Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has a long history of accommodating a variety of religious requests from cast members of all faiths — with more than 200 accommodations made over the last three years and this instance was no different,’ Disney spokesman Suzi Brown said in a statement.

Brown said the case is separate from that of another Muslim Disney worker who refused to accept a costume headpiece and filed a federal discrimination complaint.

Imane Boudlal, 26, claimed in August that when she wore the hijab to work, her supervisors told her to remove it, work where customers couldn’t see her, or go home.

Boudlal, who wore the scarf in observance of Ramadan, went home. When she showed up for work the next two days, she was told the same thing, she said.

‘Miss Boudlal has effectively understood that they’re not interested in accommodating her request either in timing or good faith,’ said Ameena Qazi, an attorney from the Council on American-Islamic Relations who is consulting with Boudlal.

At the time, Brown said Disney has a policy not to discriminate.

The resort offered Boudlal a chance to work with the head covering away from customers while Disneyland tries to find a compromise.

‘Typically, somebody in an on-stage position like hers wouldn’t wear something like that, that’s not part of the costume,’ Brown said.

‘We were trying to accommodate her with a backstage position that would allow her to work.

‘We gave her a couple of different options and she chose not to take those and to go home.’

Boudlal, who is from Morocco, has worked at the Storyteller restaurant at the hotel for two years.

However she only realized she could wear her hijab to work after studying for her U.S. citizenship exam in June, Qazi said.

She asked her supervisors if she could wear the scarf and was told they would consult with the corporate office, Qazi said.

Boudlal didn’t hear anything for two months and was then told she could wear a head scarf, but it had to be designed by Disneyland’s costume department to comply with the Disney look, Qazi said.

She was fitted for a Disney-supplied head scarf — but Disney never told her when it would be finished.

Boudlal wore her own hijab to work for the first time Sunday.

‘After these two months and this complicated process, she decided to come forward,’ Qazi said.

‘She really wanted to be able to wear it on Ramadan.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Alert Over Wanted Al-Qaeda Suspect Who May be Heading to Britain

An international alert has been issued warning that one of Britain’s most wanted al-Qaeda suspects has been trying to secure a passport and may be trying to return to Britain.

Passport photographs of Ibrahim Adam, 23, who has been on the run for three years, have been discovered after British intelligence began unraveling one of the biggest terrorist networks discovered since September 11.

Security sources told the Daily Telegraph they believe Adam is currently in Pakistan but is trying to get a passport. They fear that he may be trying to travel to the West in order to plan attacks.

One source said: “There are concerns about his desire to return to Britain and engage in terrorist activity.”

Another said: “We have been aware of his involvement in terrorist circles. One of the possibilities we are looking at is that he wants to return to Britain, although he may be seeking to travel elsewhere.”

The photographs, which show Adam with four different hairstyles and clothing have been circulated to law enforcement agencies across the world as part of an international alert.

Adam, 23, is the younger brother of Anthony Garcia, one of the men arrested for plotting to blow up the Ministry of Sound night club or the Bluewater Shopping Centre with a fertiliser bomb in 2004.

Garcia, 27, who changed his name from Abdulrahman Adam, was convicted of conspiracy to cause explosions three weeks before his two brothers went on the run and is serving a minimum of 17 and a half years in jail.

Ibrahim disappeared along with his older brother Lamine, 29, in May 2007 despite being electronically tagged and put under a control order.

Lamine, who had a job as a tube driver had allegedly wanted to carry out an attack on a nightclub in Britain.

Garcia attended an al-Qaeda training camp in Pakistan with other members of the fertiliser gang as well as two of the July 7 bombers.

While in Pakistan he wrote a letter to Ibrahim which was later found at the family home in Ilford, East London, telling him: “You have been gifted OK with the people you know but never think you are OK, always think you are nothing.

“Only when you believe this will you be able to sell your life….We will meet either in this life or the hereafter.

“Study hard in Islamic matters, don’t let them know you have future plans, better that they think you are a fool than someone good.”

The Adam brothers’ father, Elias, told the Daily Telegraph: “I am heartbroken. I am worried that I will never see them again. I just want them to come back home.”

The terrorist network was revealed following work by British and US intelligence services to uncover plots hatched by Rashid Rauf, a British al-Qaeda commander behind plans to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners in coordinated suicide bomb attacks using home made liquid bombs.

British and US intelligence services worked on a “painstaking” operation to identify Rauf’s contacts after he escaped from Pakistani custody at the end of 2007 and returned to the country’s lawless tribal areas.

The first cell, led by a woman called Malika el-Aroud, was arrested in Belgium in December 2008, accused of planning suicide attacks during a European summit in Brussels, although their targets were never positively identified.

The second involved the arrest of 12 Pakistani students in Manchester last April, thought to be targeting Easter shoppers.

The arrests were sparked by an intercepted email from Abid Naseer that referred to an impending “wedding,” thought to have been code for an attack.

In the US, Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan-born US citizen, and two former school friends were arrested after allegedly buying bomb making chemicals to blow up the New York subway.

A fourth cell, allegedly led by Mikael Davud, a 39-year-old Chinese Uighur with Norwegian citizenship, was arrested in Norway in July, accused of plotting to blow up unknown targets using July 7-style explosives.

Adam’s passport photographs were discovered in an apartment in Oslo after undercover Norwegian security service officers broke into the flat.

Members of all four cells were in Pakistan at the end of 2008 and there are fears that there could be other sleeper cells that remain unaccounted for.

The network was developed by Rauf, a British al-Qaeda commander thought to be involved in the July 7, July 21 and trans-Atlantic airlines plots.

Rauf was killed by a missile from an unmanned drone in November 2008 but the cells were still able to return to the West.

He was working alongside Saleh al-Somali, al-Qaeda’s head of external operations who was also killed by a US drone last December, and with a third senior figure in al-Qaeda, Adnan el-Shukrijumah, who remains at large.

All the groups except the Belgian cell communicated with a more junior commander, who calls himself Sohaib, Ahmad or Zahid and is now in Pakistani custody, according to security sources.

It remains unclear what his real name is or if he will ever be brought before a Pakistani court.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Audio: ‘The Mushrooming of Urban Jihad’

Walid Phares: Thwarted strikes in Europe show need for global cooperation

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Bossi Ridicules Rome GP — “Let Them Race Chariots”

Bossi: “SPQR stands for ‘sono porci questi romani’ [these Romans are pigs]”. Protests from Rome-based politicians. Totti: “Come and say that at the Colosseum”

MILAN — Umberto Bossi has dusted off some old jokes about Rome. Taking his cue from Asterix and Obelix, who turned the acronym SPQR [“Senatus Populusque Romanus”; the Senate and people of Rome] into “sono pazzi questi romani” [these Romans are crazy], the Northern League leader came up with his own version: “sono porci questi romani” [these Romans are pigs]. The jibe immediately provoked angry reactions in the capital, where the Democratic Party (PD) announced a no-confidence motion against the minister for reform. Mr Bossi subsequently pointed out: “It was just a joke but the reactions I’ve seen in the past few hours seem to suggest that people in Rome have a guilty conscience”.

FEDERALISM AND SPQR — Mr Bossi was speaking on Telepadania TV at a selection round for the Miss Padania beauty contest in Lazzate. The municipality, on the border of the provinces of Monza and Como, was in the news a few years ago when Cesarino Monti, the mayor of the day and now a senator, put in place “Padanian selection procedures” that awarded higher points to local residents in selection competitions for public-sector jobs. Mr Bossi, who did not speak to other journalists, explained to the Northern League-friendly broadcaster: “After federalism, we’ll devolve the ministries. They can’t all be in Rome, where you find SPQR, Senatus Populusque Romanus, written all over the place. Here in the north, they say it stands for ‘sono porci questi romani’“. Mr Bossi added: “Federalism is a done deal. It’s in the bag because it won’t go to the Chamber. It stays in the Council of Ministers, where the Northern League counts. Then there’ll be the next step, devolution”.

GRAND PRIX — Mr Bossi went on to discuss Formula One racing and the possible move of the Italian Grand Prix from Monza to Rome, where a project is under way to create an urban track in the EUR district: “Monza stays. Let them race chariots in Rome”. His remarks were greeted by a wave of indignation.

POLITICIANS UP IN ARMS — “Bossi should be performing his duties as a minster, not doing stand-up”, said the president of the Rome provincial authority, Nicola Zingaretti. Rome’s mayor, Gianni Alemanno, appealed to Silvio Berlusconi: “Step in to ensure that ministers maintain institutional and political behaviour appropriate to their role, more respectful of Rome the capital and the dignity of Romans”. The president of the Lazio regional authority, Renata Polverini, added: “The citizens of Rome and Lazio deserve respect”. According to government minister Giorgia Meloni, “Bossi’s comments during his speeches are getting increasingly irritating but they do not constitute a political position”. For Christian Democrat UDC leader Pier Ferdinando Casini: “The Northern League only knows how to be offensive and do propaganda commercials”. Alliance for Italy’s (API) Francesco Rutelli even called for Mr Bossi to resign as minister. On the opposition front, the PD announced a no-confidence motion against the minister for reform. Antonio Di Pietro for Italy of Values (IDV) pointed the finger at the director of TG1 news Augusto Minzolini, whom he accused of failing to report the controversy stirred up by Mr Bossi’s comments.

“COME AND SAY THAT ON THE TERRACES” — It wasn’t just politicians who reacted. “I admire Bossi for his personality”, said the AS Roma captain, Francesco Totti, who felt offended by the Northern League leader’s comments. “I hope he proves he’s got guts by saying all these things about Rome and the Romans in front of the Colosseum, or on the terraces at the stadium”.

English translation by Giles Watson

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

British Elderly to Pay for “Free” Medical Care

NHS has forced elderly people and group of patients to pay for medical care, the new chairman of the House of Commons health committee says.

Additional to elderly, dementia patients, stroke victims and those with Parkinson’s disease are included in the list of the patients who have to pay for medical treatment they receive.

Stephen Dorrell, who was health secretary towards the end of John Major’s time as prime minister, said that despite the ageing population the number of places has fallen by nearly 80% in the UK over the past 20 years.

He also said that this pushed people into the social care systems where they were often charged for treatment. Dorrell believes the NHS has turned his back on a group of patients.

“People are being charged for care that they would have got free from the NHS 20 or 30 years ago…

“Unfortunately, it has been ignored because both politically and financially it is tricky for politicians to face up to it. But because it has not been done in a planned way there is great unfairness in the system. We see examples of cost shunting and bureaucracy that cause individuals problems.”

[Return to headlines]

Danish MP Meets Muslims Over Cartoons

Denmark’s foreign minister on Wednesday met ambassadors of 17 Muslim countries ahead of the publication of a book on controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, the ministry said.

The meeting came five years after they were first published in a Danish daily.

Lene Espersen’s meeting with the ambassadors took place in a bid to defuse tensions with Muslim countries, a day before the fifth anniversary of the Jylland-Posten newspaper’s publication of the cartoons that sparked outrage across the Muslim world.

“It can no longer come as a surprise that there are people in Denmark and around the world who will be hurt when they hear that the drawings will be published again,” Espersen said in a statement.

“In light of our experiences from the past five years, I have taken a number of steps to avoid new confrontations, which do nobody any good,” she added.

The meeting was aimed at preventing new protests against Denmark and Danish interests over the publication on Thursday of the book written by Flemming Rose, who was Jyllands-Posten’s cultural editor when it published the 12 cartoons on September 30, 2005.

The book, called The Tyranny of Silence, will not reprint the drawings separately but will feature a photograph inside of the front page of the paper showing all 12 cartoon.

The minister met ambassadors from 17 Muslim countries, including Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Iran, Klavs Holm, the Danish ambassador for public diplomacy, said.

“It was a good meeting, a good atmosphere,” he said.

Espersen had stressed that “freedom of speech in Denmark is the cornerstone of our democracy and that people therefore have the right to print books as long as it is within the law,” he said.

At the same time, she emphasised in the statement that “Denmark wants to maintain strong and good and friendly relations with the Muslim world. A constructive dialogue is the way forward.”

“The Danish government respects all creeds and religious communities, including Isla … and all peoples’ religious sensibilities,” she added.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Europe’s Antiterror Message to US: Sure Sucks to be You

As the threat of major terror attacks rises, the European Commission has chosen to take action. Of a sort. It’s about to violate its existing antiterror agreement with the United States — and in a way that will make the current threat worse.


One way to keep these terrorists out of the country is to heighten border scrutiny of Europeans and Americans who’ve traveled to Pakistan and spent months there without visible means of support. To do that, of course, border authorities need to know who’s been traveling in and out of Pakistan. Then they can use that information to flag visitors for additional questioning.

So how is the European Commission helping the US get the information it needs to protect itself from European terrorists trained in Pakistan?

It’s not. In fact, it’s campaigning to make sure we never get it.

The European Commission has announced that it will negotiate deals to prevent countries like Pakistan from providing travel data to the United States…

           — Hat tip: EMBW[Return to headlines]

French Atheist Defends Catholicism

One of France’s leading intellectuals, Bernard-Henri Lévy, has come to the defense of the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict.

In an interview with the Spanish newspaper ABC, last week, the Jewish writer said that Catholicism is “the most attacked religion in Europe”. He said it was unfortunate that so many injustices were being committed against the Holy Father.

Levy said: “The Pope’s voice is extremely important, and we are very unjust to this Pope. I am not Catholic, but I think there is prejudice and especially major anti-clericalism that is taking on enormous proportions in Europe.”

“In France there is much talk about the desecrations of Jewish and Muslim cemeteries, but nobody knows that the tombs of Catholics are continually desecrated. There is a sort of anti-clericalism in France that is not healthy at all.” He added: “We have the right to criticize religions” but he said the scale of the criticism was “out of proportion.”

Dr Levy hasin the past voiced his support for the construction of the mosque at Ground Zero in New York, but has publicly objected to the full face veil or burkha.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Germany: 9/11 Mosque Continued to Produce Jihadis

Some of the German-speaking militants who have been training for attacks on Western targets in Pakistani training camps may have come from the same Hamburg mosque where Mohammed Atta and other 9/11 hijackers gathered.

US and European officials said Tuesday they had detected a plot to carry out a major, coordinated series of commando-style terror attacks in Britain, France, Germany and possibly the United States by jihadis carrying European passports — a threat they say they learned of from a captured German-speaking terror suspect.

Guido Steinberg, a counter-terrorism analyst at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said German jihadis have been recruited from mosques in Berlin, Bonn and Hamburg, including the former Al Quds mosque, where Ramzi Binalshibh, Atta, hijacker Marwan al-Shehhi and other conspirators joined forces.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Germany Puts Versailles Behind it With Final Reparation Payment

Ninety-two years after the end of the First World War, Germany will finally put the spectre of the Treaty of Versailles behind it this Sunday with its last payment stemming from reparations.

Germany is to pay €69.9 million this Sunday — which coincides with the 20th anniversary of German reunification — as a final payment on the massive debt it owed to the Allied countries after the war ended in 1918.

The payment, which covers interest on bonds issued by the German government, will bring to an end the country’s financial obligations covering the destruction wrought by WWI, the Federal Office for Central Services and Unresolved Property Issues told news magazine news magazine Der Spiegel on Tuesday.

Under the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, the victorious allies ordered Germany to pay 132 billion Reichsmarks — a little under €300 billion in today’s money — a sum that crippled the already battered nation. Anger among Germans over the size of the reparations payments and the allies’ insistence that Germany take sole responsibility for the First World War helped pave the way for the Nazis’ rise to power.

Germany stopped making the payments in 1931 to cope with the Global Depression and when Adolf Hitler’s Nazis came to power in 1933, they refused to resume the payments.

Ursula Rombeck-Jaschinski, a historian who has written a book on the London Agreement, told The Local that this last payment was “in principle … the end of World War I.”

“The London debt settlement (of 1953) was an absolute milestone. It was the key to getting back into the western world because Germany showed that she is a reliable debtor — and paying her debts was the basis for the future.

“So in principle it is the end of World War I, now that these funding bonds are fully paid.”

Whether it would make the average German feel any different was another matter, however.

“I don’t think many people actually knew about it,” she said.

Sunday’s sum is the final payment on interest accrued between 1945 and 1952 on foreign bonds the German government had issued between the two world wars to raise capital for Treaty of Versailles payments.

The money Germany pays on Sunday will therefore actually go to private investors who own these bonds.

The actual reparations payments themselves were finished in 1983. Under the London Agreement on German External Debts, signed by then Chancellor Konrad Adenauer in 1953, Germany was excused from paying off the €125 million in interest on the bonds until after the country was reunified.

This last payment will come exactly 20 years after East and West Germany were formally reunited following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War.

The Local/dw

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

Public Peeing OK if No One is Offended: Swedish Court

A Swedish man charged with public urination has been acquitted by a Stockholm court, opening the door for thousands of others to avoid fines for heeding the call of nature in public.

Charges were originally filed against the 45-year-old resident of Nacka, a suburb of Stockholm, following a late-night emergency back in March of this year, the Metro newspaper reports.

While waiting for a bus, the 45-year-old realized he wouldn’t be able to hold it in any longer and went behind a bus shelter to relieve himself, taking care to keep his back toward the sidewalk.

The man was by no means alone in failing to obey Sweden’s statues against public urination. In 2009, 5,000 Swedes were slapped with a fine of 800 kronor ($120) for peeing in public, Metro reports.

Those who refuse to accept the fine, like the 45-year-old, can then contest their case in court against charges of offensive behaviour.

And if the 45-year-old’s case is any guide, more full-bladdered Swedes may find it worth their while to take their public urination fines to court.

In throwing out the charges against the 45-year-old, the Nacka District Court cited a previous appeals court ruling in which a man was acquitted because he didn’t intend to offend anyone when he unzipped his trousers.

“There is a ruling with legal force where a man was acquitted for the same reason after having peed behind a container. The court of appeal found then, just as we have, that the intent to offend or offensiveness in and of itself, was lacking,” Annika Johansson, a judge with the district court in Nacka, told Metro.

Specifically, the court found that the 45-year-old had taken sufficient measures to not offend or upset any passersby.

But prosecutor Silvia Ingolfsdottir still may appeal the Nacka ruling, claiming that intent or the presence of an offended witness shouldn’t matter in adjudicating a case of public urination.

In the mean time, Swedes who can’t make it to the toilet would be well served to at least do their best to find a secluded place to relieve themselves, if they want to have a have a chance at winning their case in court.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Spain Arrests American Terror Suspect

Spanish police have arrested a United States citizen of Algerian origin who was suspected of financing al-Qaeda’s North African affiliate, the Spanish Interior Ministry said Wednesday.

Mohamed Omar Debhi, 43, was arrested Tuesday in the town of Esplugues de Llobregat near Barcelona. His arrest is not connected to terrorism alerts this week in France and Britain and is just a coincidence, a ministry official said on condition of anonymity in line with ministry rules.

A ministry statement said Debhi was “linked to crimes of financing terrorism in the Sahel for al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb,” referring to the vast stretch of sub-Saharan territory where the terror organization has kidnapped several Europeans and other Westerners in recent years.

The Interior Ministry official said Debhi at one point lived in Texas. The ministry had no immediate information on when Debhi obtained American citizenship, the official said.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Jeffrey Galvin said he had no immediate comment on the arrest.

           — Hat tip: GF[Return to headlines]

Sweden Democrats Slam Unions Over Freeze Out

Active Sweden Democrats will not be allowed to be members in one of Sweden’s main healthcare professionals unions, the chair of the labour group said on Wednesday, prompting claims from the party that they are “politically corrupt.”

“To be a nurse or a midwife is based on protecting people’s rights and equal value. You have to reflect on the fact that perhaps not everyone fulfills those guidelines,” Anna-Karin Eklund, chair of the Swedish Association of Health Professionals (Vårdförbundet) to the TT news agency.

According to a report in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper, several labour groups are exploring various ways to shut Sweden Democrats out of their activities.

Eklund emphasizes that the ban only encompasses active Sweden Democrats who represented the party during the recent general elections.

“They can join a union, but not in the Swedish Association of Health Professionals. Not everyone can be a part of us,” said Eklund.

An elected member of the IF Metall industrial union is set to have his membership in the union put under review after he ran as a Sweden Democrat and won a seat on a municipal council.

“The Sweden Democrats’ ideas stand in conflict with everything we stand for, but you can’t just throw them out automatically,” said IF Metall’s vice chair Anders Ferbe to DN.

The Swedish Transport Workers Union (TransPort), which is part of LO, Sweden’s largest trade union confederation, has also given Sweden Democrats the cold shoulder.

“We exclude active Sweden Democrats from membership. Their ideas aren’t compatible with our statutes and the fact that they’ve gotten some kind of legitimacy by getting elected to the Riksdag and local councils doesn’t matter,” said TransPort’s third vice-chair Martin Viredius to DN.

SKTF, a union representing salaried employees in the public sector, has previously made it clear that active Sweden Democrats cannot hold elected leadership positions within the union.

Akademikerförbundet SSR, which represents university graduates with social science degrees, ruled out union membership for an active Sweden Democrat back in 2006. The labour group now investigates active Sweden Democrats if another union member requests it, with an ultimate ruling on continued membership being decided on a case-by-case basis.

Anne Ramberg, secretary general of the Swedish Bar Association (Advokatsamfundet), wasn’t able to speak specifically about cases involving the health workers’ union and nurses, but said that excluding Sweden Democrats from being union members may violate Sweden’s constitution.

“We sometimes get an analogous question. ‘Can an attorney be a Nazi and a member of the Bar Association?’ And yes, he can,” Ramberg told TT. “It’s the other side of democracy that people have freedom of religion, speech, and opinion.”

She added that the association lacked “legal support” for excluding a member of the bar based on that person being a member of the Sweden Democrats, explaining that it could open the door for other forms of exclusion.

She made a comparison with a “distasteful” discussion in the United States, where Republicans argue that lawyers the US president wants to hire ought to be disqualified if they at one time represented prisoners held captive at the US military’s base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Erik Almqvist, the Sweden Democrats’ press secretary and newly elected parliamentarian, is critical of the unions’ move.

“It lets down the employees represented by unions that they do not put their interests ahead of their own political interests,” he said.

In response to a question as to why the unions have decided on this course of action Almqvist replied, “The leadership in many union have become somewhat corrupted by too many years of involvement with social democracy.”

When asked why it was okay for the Sweden Democrats to exclude those who do not share their value system and not the unions, Almqvist replied, “But we are a political party. Our interest is to change society according to certain political ideas, while the purpose of unions is to safeguard the interests of workers in the labour market.”

Those who are excluded from a union have the alternative of pursuing the matter through legal channels, often through an arbitration procedure.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Terror Plot Against Britain Thwarted by Drone Strike

An al-Qaeda plot to attack Britain in a Mumbai-style attack has been thwarted by a drone strike in Pakistan.

British Muslims training with al-Qaeda were planning an armed rampage through London as part of a terrorist spectacular aimed at European capitals, sources told the Daily Telegraph.

It is thought that the group was in the final stages of its preparations for co-ordinated attacks, thought to be on the capital cities of Britain, France and Germany.

The plot was foiled after Western intelligence agencies, including MI6 and GCHQ, uncovered the plans by senior al-Qaeda operatives in the lawless tribal areas.

The CIA launched a series of attacks against militants in the area using unmanned Predator drones armed with Hellfire missiles.

A senior al-Qaeda commander from Egypt, was killed in North Waziristan, disrupting the planned attacks.

Britain has remained on a heightened state of alert since January and Jonathan Evans, the director general of MI5, warned two weeks ago “the fact that there are real plots uncovered on a fairly regular basis demonstrates that there is a persistent intent on the part of Al Qaida and its associates to attack the UK.”

British counter-terrorism officials have been warning about the threat of a Mumbai style attack on major cities for two years. An estimated 173 people died and 300 were injured in the terrorist attacks on the Indian city.

Janet Napolitano, the US Secretary for Homeland Security, warned last week that there was “increased activity by a more diverse set of groups and a more diverse set of threats” that was “directed at the West generally” and included the use of firearms.

She is expected to discuss the latest threat with European counterparts at a UN aviation security meeting this week in Montreal.

In France, the Eiffel Tower was evacuated for the second time in a month on Tuesday following a bomb alert.

The French national police chief, Frederic Pechenard, warned last week that tip-offs from “friendly” intelligence services had put the country on high alert and there was “serious evidence coming from reliable intelligence sources telling us that there is a risk of a major attack.”

Mr Pechenard said he feared two scenarios — the attempted assassination of a public figure or an attempted strike on a crowded public area like a metro train or department store.

The US military detained a resident from Hamburg, Germany in Afghanistan in July who allegedly revealed details of planned attacks on targets in Germany and Europe and is said to have been a “major source” of information on future attacks.

The man, identified in Germany as “Ahmad S”, aged 36, was said to be a member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which is closely associated with al-Qaeda.

Some of his group from Hamburg are known to have attended a terrorist training camp where they learned how to use firearms and explosives.

The US has fired at least 21 missiles so far this month in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the highest monthly total in the past six years.

On Saturday, Sheikh Fateh a senior al-Qaeda commander from Egypt, was killed in North Waziristan.

Fateh, also known as Abdul Razzaq, was said to have taken over operational command of al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

He was reportedly killed in a Datsun pickup truck accompanied by three local people, two of whom were identified as Haji Niaz and Naimatullah.

Shortly after Saturday’s attack, Pakistani officials reported that four militants were killed in a strike on a vehicle in Datta Khel, a village area near the town of Miranshah, in North Waziristan but did not release their identities.

On Tuesday, another US drone killed four more militants, destroying a rebel compound in Zeba village close to the Afghan border in the district of South Waziristan, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Please Come Back Home’: Children’s Plea to British Mother Who Abandoned Them to Marry Penniless Tunisian Lover

A mother-of-two has abandoned her young children to marry the penniless Tunisian lover she met on the internet.

Wendy Paduch told her children, Dylan, five, and Natasha, eight, that she was going away for a week’s holiday — but three months later she has failed to return home.

They have begged for her to come back in time to celebrate Dylan’s birthday next week.

But the 26-year-old recently responded with a message on her Facebook page: ‘We are in love so f*** u all.’

Miss Paduch, from Grimsby, Lincolnshire, had started a relationship with unemployed Wajdi Jouini on the social networking site.

She flew out to meet him in Tunisia with a friend after packing just a few things for a seven-day trip.


She has since posted pictures on Facebook of her wedding to Mr Jouini and has attempted to defend her actions, claiming she is ‘not a bad mom’.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Autistic Boy, 12, Died After Two Teenagers ‘Deliberately Torched House While His Mother Was at Work’

A 12-year-old autistic boy died when two teenagers deliberately set fire to his home, a court has heard.

Damian Clough, who was left alone by his mother while she was at work, was killed by poisonous fumes from the deadly blaze in Keighley, West Yorkshire on April 4 last year.

He was asleep in his bedroom with no means of escape when the fire began.

Nasir Khan, 18, and a 17-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had allegedly gone to the family home after sharing almost three litres of vodka-based WKD with friends.

Prosecutor Julian Goose QC told Bradford Crown Court that the youths let themselves into the house at around 9.15pm through the back door and made themselves at home, smoking cigarettes, helping themselves to cans of Vimto and using the computer.

Damian’s mother Julie Clough, a part-time barmaid, had gone to work after giving her son his medication and putting him to bed, believing his older sister would soon be home to look after him.

But while Damian was asleep upstairs, two fires were started in the house, one to an armchair in the corner of the lounge and a smaller fire in the washing basket in the kitchen, the court heard.

Mr Goose said: ‘It is clear that these fires were deliberately set with two separate flames, one in the kitchen and the other in the lounge.’

Shortly afterwards, the defendants met up with their three friends again, each blaming the other for the fire, the court was told.

Devastatingly, flames engulfed the rented end-of-terrace property before anyone could save Damian, who died of smoke inhalation.

Shirley Crossley, who was babysitting her grandchildren next door, had noticed a smell of smoke and called the fire service who arrived just after 11.30pm.

Mr Goose said: ‘Fire officers gained entry to the house when they arrived and found it to be filled with black smoke and very high temperatures, so hot the fuse box melted.

‘The fire within the lounge had burned through the ceiling above into the bedroom upstairs.’

Mrs Clough’s bedroom, which was above the fire, was heavily damaged by the flames.

Fire officers discovered Damian dead in his bed, and the family dog laid dead outside the closed door of his bedroom.

Damian was severely autistic, with learning difficulties, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and suffered from extreme convulsions.

His ‘highly obsessive’ behaviour including shredding his mattress and wallpaper.

He couldn’t be left to sleep with his door open and he had broken off the internal handle. Mr Goose said his condition meant he was unable to react to any danger.

His mother, who was his main carer, never usually left him in the house alone, but she said had expected her daughter back soon.

Forensic examination concluded the fire was caused by a naked flame applied to the combustible material of the armchair.

The jury were shown footage of the fire damaged property which revealed the blackened rooms and smoke-stained walls of the devastated home.

Khan was arrested the day after the fire and his 17-year-old friend a day later. Both denied starting the blaze and blamed each other.

Mr Goose said: ‘With the support of the local authority, Julie Clough was trying to cope the best she could in an extremely difficult situation.

‘The fact remains, however, that when the defendants and their friends entered the house, Damian was asleep and alone in his room from which he had no means of escape.

‘The prosecution say that both these defendants caused the death of Damian Clough by acting together in setting a fire or fires inside the house and then escaping.

‘These two defendants were alone in the house when the fire started, and they left shortly one after the other.

‘The evidence will show that the fire was started deliberately. It burned slowly and created dense black smoke and poisonous gases which were left to accumulate for over an hour-and-a-half before the emergency services arrived, by which time Damian Clough had died.’

Mr Goose said it didn’t matter whether Khan and the other defendant knew that Damian was upstairs when the fire started, because it would have been obvious that a fire could cause harm to people.

The trial continues.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Criminals Must Stop Dodging the Blame: Sentamu Wants Tougher Prisons — and No Cable TV

Criminals should not make excuses for their wrongdoing, the Archbishop of York said last night.

Instead of blaming their background, poverty, drink or drugs, they should face up to the cost of their crimes, Dr John Sentamu, the Church of England’s second most senior figure said.

In a tough speech on crime and society, the archbishop said prisons were necessary and condemned the way some offenders are rewarded in jail by being given cable TV and computer games.

But he called for more education in prisons, the jailing of fewer women and lesser criminals, and greater use of ‘restorative’ justice in which the offender gets a chance to make up for his or her crime.

Dr Sentamu acknowledged that some might be more likely to go to jail because of their neighbourhood, poverty, joblessness, drugs or alcohol. But he said: ‘We cannot simply blame society for the rising numbers we see going to prison each year.

‘We are accountable for what we do and what we are — in spite of all aids or hindrances from outside.

‘We are all too prone to find fault with the circumstances in which we find ourselves and this becomes our ready and familiar excuse when our conduct is found wanting.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: David is Off; Ed Will Go it Alone

David Miliband will make a statement on his intentions tomorrow afternoon, possibly at his home to which he returned this evening after leaving Manchester. As he travelled south ITV broadcast the footage it grabbed of the former Foreign Secretary’s clenched teeth exchange with Harriet Harman about Iraq, while his brother was speaking. The final twist in this weird, gothic saga seals what everyone now takes to be a certainty: David Miliband will not stay on to serve in Ed’s shadow cabinet. His time in politics must be over, and he will now move on, possibly to the United States where his friend Hillary, it is said, can be counted on to help land him a job.

At one level, David’s decision will bring relief to Ed, to those at the top and to the party. Even those who will deeply regret his loss to Labour’s frontbench line-up acknowledge that the prospect of an institutionalied soap-opera filled them with dread. Whatever advantages it might have brought to have David in the tent, not least a certain Blairite credibility, were overshadowed by precisely what happened this evening: every word and raised eyebrow would have been analysed to bits. And with Ed declaring that new Labour is dead, that it is time for a new generation, and that all that went before is to be renounced, was — in some ways — a renunciation of his brother. Maybe it’s what Ruthless Ed wanted. The decks have been cleared, and we can focus our full attention on him.

A final point: David hasn’t made his statement yet, though arrangements have been laid for him to make it. But already the speculation has moved on to who might take the shadow chancellor job instead. One name doing the rounds is Jim Murphy, the shadow scottish secretary, hard-nosed, modern, young (enough). But who knows.

[JP note: Watch out America — another washed-up, loony lefty heading your way.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Harrow Council Urges Schools to Consider Non-Halal Meat Option

HARROW Council has urged all headteachers in the borough to consider a non-Halal meat option in schools.

Angry parents and religious leaders have accused schools of ignoring the rights of non-Muslim parents and their children by making Halal the only meat option in secondary schools.

The council, as the education authority, has soaked up much of the criticism despite saying it has no power over what schools serve at lunch.

Heather Clements, director for schools and children’s development, said: “It is clear that the use of Halal meat in schools is concerning a number of our residents and we recently met with Harrow’s Interfaith Council to make sure we fully understood the issues.

“While it is ultimately a decision for schools to choose their catering contractor, Councillor Brian Gate, responsible for schools and colleges, has written to all headteachers in Harrow and urged them, as key community leaders, to respect and recognise the views of the whole community.

“That means giving serious consideration to offering an alternative menu with non-Halal meat, which offers choice to all faith and interest groups.

“This will help schools focus on ensuring that all children across Harrow have access to healthy and nutritious school meals.”

Harrow Interfaith Council took a stand against the policy in September, warning that some mothers and fathers were even considering taking their children out of schools.

Sikh representative Paramjit Singh Kohli announced the launch of a petition over the policy last week, and said he will try to collect as many as 2m signatures from across the UK.

Schools also provide vegetarian and fish options but those who oppose the scheme say this is not enough.

Mr Kohli told the Harrow Times in September: “Fish and vegetarian dishes are not the alternative, the alternative is non-halal meat. Those dishes are for the people who are vegetarian and vegan.”

Harrow Central Mosque did not back the decision, saying it was grateful for the Halal option but other faith groups should be considered as well.

Ghulam Rabbani said he was concerned people might think the council was doing favours for the Muslim community.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Hi-Tech Crime Police Quiz 19 People Over Internet Bank Scam That Netted Hackers Up to £20m From British Accounts

A multi-million pound internet banking fraud which drained thousands of pounds from the UK accounts of innocent victims was cracked by police yesterday.

A gang of Eastern Europeans made £2 million a month from online accounts by stealing victims log-in details using sophisticated software which can be bought for just £300 over the internet.

They made £6 million in just three months and detectives believe they could have reaped as much as £20 million in the highly organised scam.

The mastermind, who detectives believe is an adept IT expert, was among 19 arrested yesterday in a series of dawn raids across London.

He and his team targeted hundreds of victims who had weak security on their computers and accessed their user names and passwords despite tight security systems put in place by the banks on their internet sites.

Police were alerted by high street banks who were alarmed a sudden surge in fraud. Investigators from Scotland Yard’s e-Crime Unit discovered that the gang were hitting vulnerable computers using software which is described in the industry as a ‘Trojan horse’ because it infiltrates the computer without the user realising.

The system called ‘Zeus’ or ‘Zbot’ infects victims’ personal computers, waits for them to log onto a list of specifically targeted banks and financial institutions and then steals their personal credentials, forwarding the data to a server controlled by criminals.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Lady Warsi Blames Lack of Tory Majority on Electoral Fraud

Tory chair says ‘at least three seats’ were lost due to alleged on electoral fraud and predominantly blames Asian community

Lady Warsi has blamed electoral fraud for the Tories’ failure to secure an overall majority at this May’s election — and claimed that Labour “absolutely” benefited from the alleged fraud.

The Tory chairman told tomorrow’s New Statesman: “[There were] at least three seats where we lost, where we didn’t gain the seat, based on electoral fraud. Now, could we have planned for that in the campaign? Absolutely not … “It is predominantly within the Asian community. I have to look back and say we didn’t do well in those communities, but was there something over and above that we could have done? Well, actually not, if there is going to be voter fraud.”

Asked to reveal which seats she felt the Tories had lost due to alleged fraud, she said: “I think it would be wrong to start identifying them.”

She said she had written to Nick Clegg, who is overseeing the coalition government’s electoral reforms, to discuss fraud and voter disenfranchisement.

A Labour spokesperson said: “These are unsubstantiated allegations from a Tory party which last year had six activists sent to jail for election fraud. The Labour party takes the strongest possible action against any member convicted of election fraud. If Baroness Warsi has any evidence for her claims she should share it with the authorities.”

Warsi also launched an attack on the “anti-Islamic sentiment” of the British press, which she compared to the anti-semitism of the early 20th century.

The minister without portfolio, the first Muslim woman to serve in the British cabinet, told the New Statesman: “If you go back historically — [and] I was looking at some [London] Evening Standard headlines, where there were things written about the British Jewish community less than 100 years ago — they have kind of replaced one with the other.”

Warsi referred to the conservative columnist Peter Oborne, who has said that anti-Islamic sentiment is the last socially acceptable form of bigotry in the UK, saying: “That’s absolutely true …. If you have a pop at the British Muslim community in the media, then first of all it will sell a few papers; second, it doesn’t really matter; and third, it’s fair game.”

She added that Labour’s approach towards ethnic minorities was “so patronising”, saying: “The party behaved as if the British Raj was still happening and I was quite appalled at the way BME [black and minority ethnic] communities would respond to that.”

She denied she faced discrimination from the Tory party “as an Asian woman”, but said: “I think as an Asian, Muslim woman there were blocs, not within the Conservative party, but within the wider Conservative thinking, that had question marks about who I was and what I represented.”

Warsi also launched a strong defence of Andy Coulson, David Cameron’s director of communications, who has been named in phone-hacking allegations in the Guardian and New York Times. “I have a huge amount of time for Andy,” Warsi said of the former News of the World editor. “My judgment of Andy is going to be based on my experience of him. I know that when I went through quite a traumatic divorce, and the media fallout from it when my ex-husband went to the papers, Andy was there for me. I am a deeply loyal person and I honestly believe that you judge people on how you find them. I can only judge Andy on what I have found from him and I have always found him to be a really supportive person.”

Warsi also said the Tories were prepared for losses in next May’s local elections. “I think we are going to have to temper expectations, purely because, politics aside, from a numbers perspective these elections are the ones that four years ago we did extremely well in. And so 2011 is the year we would expect to lose some seats. It is the first year of government and we will have to make some difficult decisions.”

She said that “right now” the plan was for the party to stand in every council seat. “As party chairman, right now, you are asking me this question and my answer is: yes.”

Asked about the views of Tory party members about the decision to form a coalition with the Lib Dems, Warsi said she “challenged” the members and told them “we didn’t win the last general election … so that means we are compromising all the time”.

She added: “First of all, we need to acknowledge how big the deal was that we needed to seal. It was a huge mountain that we needed to climb … and we won more seats at this election than we gained since the 1930s.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: NHS Apologises to Family of Baby Left Blind in One Eye and Brain-Damaged After Forceps Delivery Went Wrong

An NHS trust apologised to a family today after a baby was left blind in one eye and brain-damaged when hospital medical staff made a catalogue of errors during a routine birth.

Xavier Cutillo’s eyeball was detached from its socket and his skull fractured by the misuse of forceps during his delivery at S

horpe General Hospital in December last year.

The youngster will never get his sight back in his left eye and his parents, 22-year-old Emma Portogallo and Daniel Cutillo, 23, will have to wait years to see what effect the damage done to his brain will have on his development, according to the family’s lawyers, Russell Jones and Walker.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Patient Pronounced Dead and Taken to Morgue Makes Full Recovery After Undertaker Spots Him Breathing

A man was pronounced dead by ambulance crews — but later found to be breathing by an undertaker, it has emerged.

The unnamed patient was seen by paramedics who ran a series of checks before saying he was dead and the body taken to a morgue.

But when he was seen by an undertaker he discovered the man was still breathing — and he later made a full recovery.

The bizarre incident in 2007 was published in a three year report by the South Western Ambulance Service and released under the Freedom of Information Act.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Supermarket Bosses Order Boy Aged Two to Take Down Hood ‘For Security Reasons’

The parents of a two-year-old boy have accused their local Co-op store of a ‘total lack of common sense and flexibility’ after being asked by a member of staff to take their son’s anorak hood down inside the shop.

Corey Read’s family were faced with the bizarre security demand — said to be a policy for all Co-op customers — when they visited the store in Norwich.

The boy’s grandfather Alan Barker, 41, said today: ‘I’m so angry at the Co-op’s attitude, especially as the weather is getting worse and Corey has to stay warm to avoid getting ear infections.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Arafat ‘Called for Military Operations’ Amid Failing Talks

Gaza City, 29 Sept. (AKI) — The late Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat had instructed Hamas to launch terror attacks against Israel when he realized that peace talks were faltering, Mahmoud Zahar, one of the Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip, said according to a report in Arab-language newspaper al-Hayat.

“President Arafat instructed Hamas to carry out a number of military operations in the heart of the Jewish state after he felt that his negotiations with the Israeli government then had failed,” Zahar told students and lecturers at the Islamic University in Gaza City.

This was the first time that a senior Hamas official disclosed that some of the Hamas suicide bombings during the second intifada were ordered by Arafat.

Zahr didn’t specify when Arafat gave the attack orders but it is believed to he was referring to the failed Camp David summit in 2000.

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

Irish Nobel Laureate Denied Entry Into Israel

Jerusalem (CNN) — An Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate was refused entry into Israel on Tuesday because of her participation in an aid flotilla to Gaza in June, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry said.

Mairead Maguire was detained at Ben Gurion Airport as she arrived with a delegation of other high-level women’s rights activists from around the world.

“Mairead was refused to enter Israel this morning and was supposed to be deported this afternoon,” said Fatmeh El-Ajou, an attorney with Adalah, the legal center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, which is representing Maguire. “She was told the reason to refuse her entry was her participation in the flotilla to Gaza in June.”

Maguire, along with fellow Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams and founders of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, was set to lead a delegation to Israel and the Palestinian territory over the next seven days. The delegation planned to travel to Jerusalem, Haifa, Nazareth, Ramallah, Hebron and Bil’in to learn from and highlight the work of female peace builders.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor confirmed Maguire had been denied entry.

“She had been on two or three flotillas to Gaza and, as is the case with participants in flotillas, she had been deported with all the other participants, and the law is that once you are deported you are denied an entry visa,” Palmor said.

Maguire was on the MV Rachel Corrie, an Irish cargo ship that set sail for Gaza in early June loaded with humanitarian supplies in spite of an Israeli naval blockade. It was seized by the Israeli navy before it reached Palestinian-controlled Gaza, and its passengers were deported. The Rachel Corrie’s mission came just five days after Israeli commandos raided a similar flotilla in an incident that left nine passengers aboard the Mavi Marmara dead.

“I don’t know what she was thinking when she took that plane to Israel but I can guarantee you that she knew very well that she does not have an entry visa and her entry will be denied after having provoked Israeli authorities time and again,” Palmor said. “I believe it was a deliberate action of confrontation.”

But Maguire’s attorney challenged Palmor’s statements, saying no charges were filed against her when she was last deported in June.

El-Ajou said that Israeli authorities told Maguire at the time that the Rachel Corrie incident would “not prevent her from coming back to Israel.”

“What the Israeli authorities told her today is that she won’t be allowed to enter Israel for 10 years from now,” El-Ajou said.

Asked about the status of Maguire, El-Ajou said, “She is in a good situation. She is a peaceful, brilliant, interesting person, and she is very keen on challenging the decision.”

El-Ajou was working to get a judicial order to prevent Maguire’s deportation, she said.

“(Maguire) believes that there is no reason for preventing her entry to Israel due to the fact that all her activities are peaceful and non-violent and are human-rights oriented,” El-Ajou said.

Rachel Vincent, a spokeswoman for the Nobel Women’s Initiative, said the rest of the delegation will continue on with the planned trip at Maguire’s request.

Maguire was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her efforts to end sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Is the U.S. Government and West Generally Starting to Comprehend the Real Issues and Problems in the Middle East?

By Barry Rubin

After acceding to U.S. requests for nine months by freezing construction on existing Jewish settlements in the West Bank and also not building over the pre-1967 frontier in Jerusalem, Israel got nothing.

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed willing to continue it in some form, pressures from within his coalition made that impossible.Therefore, the freeze is coming to an end, though Israel is still ready to discuss limits on new construction. Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas is threatening to walk out of the once-every-two-weeks direct talks.

So what has been the reaction?…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Al-Jazeera World Cup Broadcasts Were Jammed From Jordan

Exclusive: Guardian sees evidence interference came from Middle East state, possibly due to deal with station going sour

Mysterious jamming of TV broadcasts of the summer’s World Cup by the Arabic satellite channel al-Jazeera has been traced to Jordan, which appears to have retaliated angrily after the collapse of a deal that would have allowed football fans there free access to the matches.

Millions of al-Jazeera Sports subscribers across the Middle East and North Africa cried foul on 12 June when the opening game between South Africa and Mexico was hit by interference which produced blank screens, pixelated images and commentary in the wrong languages. It occurred seven more times during the tournament’s biggest games.

Al-Jazeera protested that the jamming of the Nilesat and Arabsat satellites was an act of “sabotage”. There was speculation that Egypt or Saudi Arabia, both hostile to the channel, were involved, though the network has never named any suspects or gone public with the results of its own investigation.

But secret documents seen exclusively by the Guardian trace five episodes of jamming definitively to a location near as-Salt in Jordan, north-east of the capital, Amman, confirmed by technical teams using geolocation technology.

The co-ordinates identified were 32.125N 35.766E. It is accurate to within a range of 3-5km (1-3 miles).

Experts say the jamming was unlikely to have been done without the knowledge of the Jordanian authorities. “It was a very sophisticated case,” said one. Jamming involves the transmission of radio or TV signals that disrupt the original signal to prevent reception on the ground. It is illegal under international treaties.

A Jordanian diplomat declined to comment today, saying there had not been enough time to study the details.

Al-Jazeera had exclusive pay-TV rights to broadcast World Cup matches to all Arab and North African countries, and to Iran, and charged up to £100 for one-month subscription packages or cards to see the feed.

It may face legal action as a result of the jamming. In one case, angry fans ran riot at a cinema in Dubai, when poor reception ruined a match. English-speaking viewers had to cope with audio in Arabic or French…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Iranian ‘Blogfather’ Gets 19 Years in Prison

An Iranian court has sentenced a pioneering Iranian blogger to more than 19 years in prison, according to a human-rights activist.

Iranian-Canadian Hossein Derakhshan, 35, nicknamed “the Blogfather” and credited with launching a blogging revolution in Iran, has been held in prison in the Islamic state since 2008 on what the media has said are suspicions of spying for Israel.

“We were surprised that Derakhshan has been sentenced to more than 19 years in prison for co-operating with hostile countries, spreading propaganda and insulting religious figures,” said the human rights activist, who asked not be named.

The semi-official Fars news agency quoted “an informed judiciary source” as saying the sentence issued for Mr Derakhshan was not final and he could still make an appeal. Judiciary officials were not available for comment.

Mr Derakhshan was a journalist in Tehran before moving to Toronto in 2000. He made his name by publishing instructions on how to use blogging software to publish blogs in Farsi, sparking an explosion of blogging in the Iranian language.

Mr Derakhshan, who was critical of the Tehran government in the past, visited Israel in 2006. Iran does not recognise Israel and Iranians are banned from travelling there.

Israel and Iran have been locked in a long-running war of words as Tehran presses ahead with its nuclear programme in defiance of United Nations sanctions.

Opposition websites also reported on Tuesday that prominent journalist Issa Saharkhiz had been sentenced to three years in jail for “insulting Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and spreading propaganda against the Islamic system”.

Fars said he could make an appeal.

Mr Saharkhiz, arrested last year, was an aide to reformist leader Mehdi Karoubi, who lost to hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a disputed June 2009 election.

Iran’s opposition says the vote was rigged to secure the re-election of Ahmadinejad, but authorities deny the charge.

The vote was followed by the worst unrest since the Islamic republic was founded in 1979 and street protests were put down violently by security forces. Mass detentions and trials followed. Two people were hanged and scores of detainees remain in jail.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Iraq: Basra Pullout Was a Defeat for Britain in Iraq, Say Generals

Britain’s withdrawal from Basra was a ‘defeat’ which left the city ‘terrorised’ by militias, according to a damning verdict by British and American generals.

Military chiefs involved in the pullout to an airbase outside Iraq’s second city in 2007 said Gordon Brown’s government made a ‘political’ decision which put the Armed Forces in an impossible position.

In a new documentary on the Iraq war, Lieutenant General Sir Rob Fry — one of the most senior UK officers to serve in Iraq — said: ‘The Americans decided to win. We decided to leave.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Radical Yemeni Terror Preacher Calls for More Attacks on the West in New Internet Video

A radical Yemeni cleric who is connected to numerous terror plots including the September 11 attrocity has made a new video promising to launch more attacks against the West.

Anwar al-Awlaki, whose radical sermons have been cited by terrorists involved in four U.S. bomb plots, has survived a series of American drone attacks to re-emerge with a new video that is expected to be posted on the internet soon.

Radical Islamic websites with known ties to Al Qaeda have announced the planned release of the video featuring Al-Awlaki.

Barrack Obama approved the targeted killing of Al-Awlaki in April, but a series of drone attacks have proved unsuccessful and he has re-emerged to prove he is still a threat.

U.S. officials are applying pressure the government of Yemen to help track down the preacher, who holds U.S. citizenship.

Al-Awlaki was in the U.S. before the Sepetember 11 attacks and is believed to have preached to some of the hijackers.

Some officials have alleged the preacher was part of a support network here in the U.S. for those terrorists.

After the attacks, Al-Awlaki went to Yemen were he became increasingly radicalized calling for bombings and killings of non-Muslims.

Officials now believe he is playing an active role in organizing and inspiring specific terror plots on U.S. targets.

In a March 2010 sermon, he said, ‘I eventually came to the conclusion that jihad against America is binding upon myself just as it is binding upon every other able Muslim.’

U.S. authorities consider Al-Awalki a recruiter for al Qaeda.

He is known to have met with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab — the man who tried to set off a bomb on a plane bound for Detroit on Christmas Day.

He also exchanged more than a dozen emails with Nidal Malki Hassan, who later went on the shooting rampage at Fort Hood.

Times Square bomber Faisal Shaizad and the Fort Dix terror suspects also said he they were followers of Al-Awalki’s sermons.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

The Battle Against Cyber-Jihad

New research suggests closing down extremist Islamic websites is no substitute for directly challenging their religious ideology

Three religious concepts form “the backbone of all jihadist activity”, according to new research by the anti-extremism thinktank Quilliam. The concepts — used to justify a very broad range of violent activities — are “self-supporting and mutually reinforcing”, and highly resistant to being challenged from outside. But to effectively combat jihadism it is essential to start with addressing these doctrines, Quilliam says.

Its conclusions are based on an 18-month study of Arabic-language websites that eventually focused on 20 discussion forums. This showed that jihadists draw their ideas from a very limited range of Islamic thought — mostly the Wahhabi and Salafi interpretations of Islam. It is very rare to find opinions from what, historically, have been the main schools of Sunni jurisprudence.

Wahhabism is the ultra-strict brand of Islam that originated in Saudi Arabia and jihadists see Wahhabis as “possibly the only group of scholars with the necessary integrity to be worthy of being followed” — which brings us to the first of the key concepts: the idea of “the saved sect”.

The saved sect is basically the idea — found, too, in other religions — that “we” are right while everyone else is wrong and will go to hell. At best, this means that others, whether unbelievers or fellow Muslims, are misguided and in need of re-education but it can also be used as a pretext for violence against them.

The second concept is taghut, which roughly translates as idolatry. This is a familiar idea in mainstream Islam but, in the hands of Wahhabis and Salafi-jihadists, it is extended to include almost anything beyond what God is believed to have decreed: constitutions, democracy, “man-made” laws, etc. “For Salafi-Jihadists this can mean fighting physically against states which do not impose their preferred version of the sharia as state law or against individuals who support such states or facilitate their functioning,” Quilliam’s report says.

The third concept is al-wala’ wal bara’ — allegiance to Muslims and rejection of non-Muslims. This idea, “which aims to divide humanity physically, mentally and socially into Muslim and non-Muslims blocs, is central to Wahhabi thinking,” the report says. In practical terms, it can mean declaring other Muslims to be apostates if they cooperate with “non-Muslim” authorities such as the police and security forces: “Even where this does not directly lead to attacks, it can make Muslims more reluctant to join such organisations.”

The problem is how to challenge these ideas, and Quilliam acknowledges that there isn’t a simple solution. When people believe that God has shown them the way and all other ways are wrong, it’s very difficult to dislodge them from that position.

Quilliam notes that jihadists see their version of Islam as overlapping with the views of prominent Wahhabis and wonders if there might be scope for de-radicalising them into more traditional Wahhabis. But the trouble with that, it says, is that popularising Wahhabism also risks enlarging the pool of people who are potentially receptive to jihadism. It may not be the Saudi government’s fault that the teachings of its official sect are manipulated to support jihadist arguments, but it clearly needs to give some thought to why they are capable of being used in this way. However, getting Saudi scholars to denounce terrorism is unlikely to cut much ice with convince jihadists: they will simply regard them as having sold out to the authorities.

Possibly a more fruitful strategy is to focus on the fringes where people are drifting towards jihadism but not yet committed. Among other things, Quilliam suggests using the internet to directly challenging extremist ideology “through exposing the fallacies, contradictions and harmful effects of jihadist concepts and actions, while also helping to expose ordinary Muslims to counter-jihadist messages and to mainstream theological readings of Islam, both in order to inoculate them against extremism and to give them the tools to challenge extremism themselves.”

This, too, presents some difficulties. It needs people who are familiar enough with the religious arguments to debate them effectively, and who have the time and persistence to do so. Such people are not very numerous. And since most jihadist websites require users to register before they can post comments, unwelcome interventions from critics are easily blocked.

Closing down websites has been tried but it doesn’t really work. They usually pop up again somewhere else and even if they are permanently closed the ideas they promote will not go away. In the long run, suppressing them is no substitute for directly challenging their ideology.

Without an obvious silver bullet against jihadism, all this points to trying a combination of methods until it become clearer which of them are working and which are not. The key, though, is to confront them on their own ground by addressing their religious arguments.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Sacked by the Kremlin, Dismissed Moscow Mayor May Flee to London

A Kremlim power battle was under way last night after the populist mayor of Moscow was sacked by Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.

Yuri Luzhkov’s dismissal could usher in a new era of bloody political infighting ahead of the 2012 presidential election.

The summary dismissal of the third most powerful political figure in Russia was ordered by Mr Medvedev — but only belatedly backed by prime minister Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin has also threatened to unleash corruption allegations against Mr Luzhkov and his billionaire wife Elena Baturina — one of the richest women in the world. They both trenuously deny the claims.

Should the Kremlin opt to do so Mr Luzhkov, 74, would have no option but to flee into exile to a £10million Holland Park, mansion which is reputed to have pure mink carpets.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Emergence of a New Antibiotic Resistance Mechanism in India, Pakistan, And the UK

A molecular, biological, and epidemiological study


We identified 44 isolates with NDM-1 in Chennai, 26 in Haryana, 37 in the UK, and 73 in other sites in India and Pakistan. NDM-1 was mostly found among Escherichia coli (36) and Klebsiella pneumoniae (111), which were highly resistant to all antibiotics except to tigecycline and colistin. K pneumoniae isolates from Haryana were clonal but NDM-1 producers from the UK and Chennai were clonally diverse. Most isolates carried the NDM-1 gene on plasmids: those from UK and Chennai were readily transferable whereas those from Haryana were not conjugative. Many of the UK NDM-1 positive patients had travelled to India or Pakistan within the past year, or had links with these countries.


The potential of NDM-1 to be a worldwide public health problem is great, and co-ordinated international surveillance is needed.


European Union, Wellcome Trust, and Wyeth.

[Return to headlines]

Gay Film Festival Attacked by Masked Islamic Protesters

Members of the Islamic Defenders Front threaten to burn down Jakarta venue if screenings continue

An international film festival celebrating gay cinema was yesterday targeted by masked Islamic hardliners in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

The protesters, members of the Islamic Defenders Front, chanted homophobic slogans and accused organisers of the Q! film festival, now in its ninth year, of blasphemy, threatening to burn down a venue if screenings did not halt. The event, which is being held at foreign cultural centres in Jakarta, opened last week and was scheduled to run until Wednesday night. It aims to raise awareness of gay issues.

Festival co-founder and director John Badalu told the Jakarta Post he and his team were committed to running the festival according to schedule. “We’re still going to go on,” he said. However, organisers admitted last night that they had been forced to cancel some screenings.

Showings at the Goethe Institute German cultural centre, which was being guarded by police, would continue, said Dinyah Latuconsina, the centre’s programme assistant. But staff at the French cultural centre and the Japan Foundation said they would not be showing any further films.

In the past, the Islamic Defenders Front has smashed bars, attacked transvestites and targeted other groups it considers blasphemous with bamboo clubs and stones. Indonesia, a secular country of 237 million people, has more Muslims than any other country in the world. Though most are moderate and oppose violence, a small extremist fringe has become more vocal in recent years.

Badalu said previous incarnations of the festival had attracted little in the way of protest, but suggested that increased publicity surrounding this year’s event might have fostered the unwanted attention.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Muslim Fundamentalists Against Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Jakarta

Islamic Defender Front threatens to set fire to one of the venues of the festival. Opening day is cancelled.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — A gay and lesbian film festival might be cancelled because of threats made by radical Islamic groups. The Q! Film Festival was scheduled to end on 30 September, but its director, John Badalu, called off the festival’s opening day (25 September). At least 100 members of the Islamic Defender Front (FPI) protested against the event, which is at its ninth edition, in front of Germany’s Goethe-Institut, one of the venues.

According to a FPI field coordinator, Habib Salim Alatas, “These places should be protected from any obscenity. I will let these places be burned down (by our members) because they promote obscenity”.

In addition to Goethe Haus, the programme includes screening at the Centre culturel français (CCF), the Dutch Cultural Center ‘Erasmus Huis’, the Japan Foundation, and Jakarta-based Kineforum, a film-fans club in Central Jakarta.

The FPI is an Islamic fundamentalist group that was founded in 2001 by Noegroho Djajoesman, a former Jakarta chief of police, and is chaired today by Habib Rizieq Shihab.

Since it was created, the group has led the fight against religious minorities. On its website, it claims that the film festival is a tool to convert Indonesian youth to homosexuality.

The Q! Film Festival organising committee urged film aficionados and critics to be careful of possible attacks by fundamentalists.

Police is also on alert to ensure that protests by radical Muslims remain “polite”.

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

Indonesia: Rising Intolerance Among Muslims

JAKARTA — INDONESIA’S Muslim majority has become less tolerant over the past decade and the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is turning a blind eye to the problem, researchers said on Wednesday.

A new survey by the Centre for the Study of Islam and Society found ‘a worrying increase’ in religious intolerance among Muslims in 2010 compared to 2001.

Centre chief Jajat Burhanudin said certain ministers in Mr Yudhoyono’s cabinet actively encouraged intolerance, while the police too often failed to protect minority groups.

‘If this continues, the process of democracy in this country will be disrupted as people will justify their acts in the name of Islam,’ he said.

Of 1,200 adult Muslim men and women surveyed nationwide, 57.8 per cent said they were against the construction of churches and other non-Muslim places of worship, the highest rate the study centre has recorded since 2001.

More than a quarter, or 27.6 per cent, said they minded if non-Muslims taught their children, up from 21.4 per cent in 2008. — AFP

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Thailand, Islamic Rebels Disguised as Policemen Fire on Crowd: 5 Dead and 3 Injured

The attack took place yesterday evening in a village in Pattani province with a Muslim majority. Two children are also among the dead.

Bangkok (AsiaNews / Agencies) — A group of Islamic rebels triggered a shootout last night in a village in Pattani province, killing five people including two children.

According to initial police reports, the militants presented themselves in the village market dressed as police officers and began firing on people without distinguishing between Muslims and Buddhists.

The attack left five dead, three people were injured and at the moment are in a critical condition. Among them a girl of 10.

Before disappearing the attackers set fire to some vehicles.

In Thailand, approximately 85% of the population is Buddhist. The southern provinces of Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani are home to a Muslim majority and were once an independent Malaysian sultanate . The current tensions began in 2004 because of a separatist revolt in Muslim-majority areas. In six years more than 4300 people were killed in attacks and summary killings. In the long series of deaths, the most frequent target of Islamic rebels are teachers. Muslims see state schools as an attempt to impose Buddhist culture. Since 2008 153 teachers have been killed.

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


Czech Women Who Married Illegal Immigrants for Cash Are Jailed for Sham Wedding Racket

Petra Cinova, 26, and Monika Lakatasova, 30, were part of a seven-strong gang who bigamously wedded men, sometimes pocketing £10,000 a time, in a plot that spanned three counties.

The pair lived in Wavertree, where immigration investigators focused their attention, along with Bolton and Manchester.

Vladimir Murko, 37, was ringleader of the gang that set up bogus weddings in the North West, giving Nigerian, Pakistani and Syrian men permits to remain in the UK.

The accomplices were all in relationships with each other, but each bigamously married up to two other people and posed as witnesses.

Cinova, of Galloway Street, Wavertree, married a man in October 2006 at Bolton Register Officer before bigamously marrying another, 18 months later, at St John Evangelist Church in Cheetham Hill.

And Monika Lakatosova, arrested at a different address on the same Wavertree street, married two men within a week, firstly at Bolton Register Office and then at St Chryostom’s church in Victoria Park.

After the service the newlyweds would part, while the Eastern European women merely answered post to confirm their spouses’ right to stay in the UK.

Gang boss Murko was said to have amassed £60,000 in the scam.

The gang preyed upon the naivety of unsuspecting vicars or staff in registry offices to further their scheme.

Some of the women switched their home addresses between Liverpool and Manchester to add to the confusion.

Investigators told the Liverpool Echo the Czechs were responsible for a ‘wholesale abuse of the registry system’.

The Eastern Europeans were caught after erratic marriage records were spotted by immigration officers.

When interviewed the newlyweds were always apart and would struggle to explain accounts of relationships with their husbands.

Murko was jailed for five years and two months for assisting unlawful immigration and possession of a forged document.

His younger brother, Roman, 32, was jailed for 26 months for assisting unlawful immigration and bigamy.

Cinova was jailed for 16 months for assisting unlawful immigration and bigamy.

Lakatosova, 30, of Wavertree, who married three men in Sheffield, Bolton and Manchester was jailed for 16 months for assisting unlawful immigration and bigamy.

Aneta Belova, 26, and Nela Ginova, 23, were jailed for 16 months and Pavel More, 43, was jailed for 26 months for assisting unlawful immigration.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

European Commission Launches Legal Action Against France Over Expulsion of 1,000 Roma Gypsies

The European Union has decided to launch unprecedented legal action against France over the expulsion of thousands of Romanian and Bulgarian migrants to poorer EU nations.

European Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde said the commission believes France has not applied EU rules allowing free movement of EU citizens.

In a further blow to beleaguered French President Nicolas Sarkozy , Ahrenkilde said the commission have decided ‘to send an official notification letter to France’ asking it to apply the EU rules.

The commission is also asking France for more details about the expulsions of hundreds of Roma.

These steps could eventually lead to a court case against France.

France has defended the expulsions, saying they are part of an overall crackdown on illegal immigrants and crime. Critics say France is unfairly targeting an ethnic minority.

Mr Sarkozy had launched the crackdown on 100 illegal, makeshift camps and offered them £250 per person to return to their country of origin — and an extra £2,500 for anyone able to produce a viable business plan.

Worried by poor ratings in the opinion polls, Mr Sarkozy has deliberately linked his campaign on the Roma migrants to a general drive on security.

But the expulsions have caused outrage and look to have made him even more unpopular and looking even more desperate.

The policy led to animosity between Brussels, where the EU are based, and Paris. A senior European Commissioner compared the the enforced exodus to events during World War II.

Before this afternoon’s ruling, the belief was that France has not done enough to write EU legal guarantees for the free movement of people into its own laws, though several other EU countries have also not.

As a result of that, the EU were expected to dilute their punishment and simply warn Mr Sarkozy to alter his legislation within a certain number of weeks, using France as an example and also extending the warning to the other countries who need to update their laws.

But that the EU have decided to sue for discrimination under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights has taken Paris by surprise.

This course of action is the last thing President Sarkozy would want as he campaigns for re-election in 2012.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Roma Ultimatum Given to France by EU: Allow Free Movement or Face Court

France was warned by the European authorities today that it would face disciplinary proceedings and possible court action if EU freedom of movement is not enshrined in French law by next month.

The ultimatum from Brussels, in a letter to the French government from the European commission, upped the ante in the ferocious row over France’s treatment of immigrant Gypsies, a dispute that hijacked a recent EU summit and saw insults traded over the second world war.

All 27 European commissioners decided todayto set France a deadline of 15 October to remedy the member state’s failure to observe European law, namely a directive from 2004 giving all EU citizens freedom of movement across the union.

“France is not applying European law as it should,” said Viviane Reding, the commissioner for justice and fundamental rights who sparked one of the worst rows in the EU for years this month by calling French treatment of Roma immigrants from Romania “a disgrace” and “appalling”, reminiscent of the persecution they suffered in Vichy France during the war.

President Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to boycott an EU summit unless she retracted. An EU summit a fortnight ago descended into a slanging match. Sarkozy said Reding apologised. She denied it. She was criticised by fellow commissioners and European leaders for inappropriate language. But the commission, despite the huge pressure from Paris, insisted it would referee in the Roma row as the guardian of the European treaties and the arbiter of EU law.

Yesterday’s decision singled out France for censure, although several other EU member states have not converted the 2004 directive into their national laws.

Some saw the commission’s move as a minor rebuke to the Élysée Palace as it failed to rule on the more serious charge — whether the Sarkozy administration was in breach of fundamental EU rights by targeting the Roma for ethnic discrimination.

French immigration minister Eric Besson told MPs: “We should all be happy. France is emerging with its head high from its exchange with the commission. It’s good news for everyone.”

José Manuel Barroso, the commission president, said he did not want to go into the “very sensitive legal issues”, suggesting he was keen to avoid re-igniting the row with Sarkozy. But his officials insisted there was no climbdown.

A senior EU official said: “The French have until 15 October. They will never do it by then. There will be an infringement procedure.” This could end up in France being hauled before the European Court of Justice.

Since the end of July when Sarkozy ordered a clampdown against Roma or Gypsy immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria, more than 1,000 have been expelled and more than 100 camps have been demolished, a policy that has been condemned by the Vatican, the UN, the European Commission, human rights groups and the French opposition.

The argument for targeted discrimination rested on a French interior ministry paper ordering priority action specifically against the Roma. It was in circulation for five weeks until being withdrawn after being leaked to the French press.

Commission officials said that the onus was on Paris to prove that it was not targeting Gypsies as an ethnic group. Reding said: “If France has affirmed that its laws do not discriminate against certain ethnic groups compared to others, we need the proof to assure of us of that. We are asking that France supply the documents, the details of the expulsions which have taken place.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Australia Ex-PM Howard Attacks ‘Multiculturalism’

WASHINGTON — Australia’s former prime minister John Howard has attacked “multiculturalism” in English-speaking nations, saying that some sectors have gone too far in accommodating Muslim minorities.

The blunt-talking conservative, who led Australia for 11 years before losing 2007 elections, said Tuesday on a visit to Washington that the “Anglosphere” needed to take greater pride in its values and achievements.

“This is a time not to apologize for our particular identity but rather to firmly and respectfully and robustly reassert it,” Howard said at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank.

“I think one of the errors that some sections of the English-speaking world have made in the last few decades has been to confuse multiracialism and multiculturalism,” Howard said.

Howard pointed in particular to Britain, whose Muslim community came under a spotlight after the 2005 bombings on the London transport system.

“I am a passionate believer in multiracialism. I believe that societies are enriched if they draw, as my country has done, from all parts of the world on a non-discriminatory basis and contribute, as the United States has done, to the building of a great society,” he said.

“But when a nation draws people from other parts of the world, it draws them because of the magnetism of its own culture and its own way of life,” Howard said.

“People want to live in the United States not because of some futuristic ideal of multiculturalism, but because of what they regard as the American way of life and American values,” he said.

While in office, Howard faced criticism from his opponents that he aggravated anti-Islamic sentiment through tough anti-terrorism laws and tighter immigration controls, including a test on “Australian values.”

Howard said he welcomed Australian Muslims and hailed the recent election of Ed Husic, the son of Bosnian migrants, as his country’s first Muslim member of parliament.

But Howard, who enthusiastically supported former US president George W. Bush’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, warned that Islamic radicalism posed a real threat.

He criticized those who would make cultural identity “mushy and unclear and undistinct,” rejecting the “assumption that the way to win favor from extremism is to make yourself a little more attractive to that extremism.”

Howard hailed what he called the values of political freedom and rule of law of five “Anglosphere” nations — Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

Howard said that India shared some characteristics with the group. He also called for greater cooperation with Indonesia — which he hailed as an emerging model for moderate young Muslims — and Japan.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Free World Must Hold Firm on Cultural Identity in Battle Against Terrorism, John Howard Warns

JOHN Howard has warned that Australia and other countries in the free world must hold firm to their cultural identities in the battle against terrorism, and not appease the values of Islamic fanatics as a way of winning their support.

The former prime minister said today that he believed one of the mistakes of some English-speaking countries over the past few decades had been to confuse multiracialism and multiculturalism.

In an address to the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based conservative think tank, Mr Howard declared himself as a passionate supporter of multiracialism in which migrants accepted the values of the country they adopted as their home.

He said that the continuing battle against terrorism required countries with a free press, incorruptible judiciary and robust parliamentary system to stand up for their cultural beliefs.

“There is a tendency to see a response to terrorism in terms of placating alternative philosophies in the hope that they will accommodate you and abandon their aggressive designs on your society,” Mr Howard said.

But he declared that there was nothing fanatical movements and Islamic extremists despised more than “weakness and lack of self-belief in the ideologies that they attack”.

He said all English-speaking nations and the broader free world should not apologise for their particular identities but firmly reassert them.

“I think one of the errors that some sections of English speaking world have made in the last few decades has been to confuse multiracialism and multiculturalism,” he said.

“I am a passionate believer in mulitiracialism. I believe that societies are enriched if they draw, as my country has done, from all parts of the world on a non-discriminiatory basis and contribute, as the United States has done, to the building of a great society.

“But when a nation draws people from other parts of the world, it draws them because of the magnetism of its own culture, and its own way of life.

“The ideal in my opinion is to draw people from the four corners of the earth and unite them behind the common values of the country which has made them welcome, and I think some of the difficulties that the United Kingdom is experiencing, and some of the difficulties that other countries have experienced has been to confuse those two concepts.”

Mr Howard was giving the seventh Margaret Thatcher Freedom Lecture, based on convictions that had guided him through life.

He made special reference to the unique nature of “Anglosphere” nations that spoke English. The reach of the language was becoming more apparent all the time, especially through the internet, he said.

           — Hat tip: Anne-Kit[Return to headlines]

Obama Again Omits ‘Creator’ When Speaking of ‘Inalienable Rights’ Cited in Declaration of Independence

Just seven days after he sparked controversy by omitting the word “Creator” when he closely paraphrased the passage from the Declaration of Independence that says all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,” President Barack Obama again omitted the Creator when speaking about the “inalienable rights” that “everybody is endowed with.”

This time the president was speaking at a Sept. 22 fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City, and his reference to “inalienable rights” was not as close a paraphrasing of the Declaration as it had been the week before.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Scotland: Police Pledge Swifter Response to Racism and Homophobia Than ‘Ordinary’ Crime

POLICE are looking to drive up reporting of hate crime by promising minorities will see a swifter and tougher response to offenders, than other victims.

The new hate-crime guidance manual is aimed at instigating a cultural change in policing and, as a result, throughout Scotland.

Police will stress to officers that victims from minorities suffer more when a crime is motivated by prejudice than a member of the general public would from the same offence.

Assistant Chief Constable Mike McCormick, of Lothian and Borders Police, said: “We wanted to make sure our own staff were aware of the impact hate crime has.

“If you punch me in the nose because you don’t like me because of the colour of my skin, race, sexuality or whatever, that has a longer effect because I’m thinking that not only does this person not like me, but lots of other people won’t like me either….

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]


One Third of ‘Extinct’ Animals Turn Up Again

Conservationists are overestimating the number of species that have been driven to extinction, scientists have said.

A study has found that a third of all mammal species declared extinct in the past few centuries have turned up alive and well.

Some of the more reclusive creatures managed to hide from sight for 80 years only to reappear within four years of being officially named extinct in the wild.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]