Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20101028

Financial Crisis
»Britain is Going to Pay a High Price for Globalisation
»Employers in U.S. Start Bracing for Higher Tax Withholding
»Grim Proving Ground for Obama’s Housing Policy
»‘There is a Dangerous Economic Imbalance in Europe’
»UK: Cameron Can’t Halt Rise in Euro Budget: PM Admits Jump of at Least £430m is Out of His Hands
»US Foreclosure Crisis Becomes More Widespread
»23% of NPR Budget is From Taxpayers
»A Referendum on the Redeemer
»An Open Letter to Rush Limbaugh and His Listeners — With Notes on the Democrat Civil War Already in Progress
»D.C. Suburb OKs Saudi Madrassa — Again
»FDA Rejects Diet Pill in Setback for Obesity Drug Development
»Juan Williams’ Firing Might Produce Desired Results
»Needing Students, Maine School Hunts in China
»Nuns Selling Rare Honus Wagner Card
»Republicans Plan Budget Cuts as Early Act if They Take Power
»Space Science: The Telescope That Ate Astronomy
»Trifkovic Packs the House at Liberty University
»Unindicted Coconspirators
»Washington Terror Plotter Has British Wife
»Why the Park51 Debate Remains Unresolved
Europe and the EU
»Al-Qaida Said to be Planning European Hostage-Takings
»Anti-Islam Praise From Wilders Provokes Merkel
»Bin Laden Threatens French Attacks
»Denmark: Second Shooting at Jutland School
»Germany: School Offers Music Classes for Babies
»Italy: Nazi Victims Ask EU to Probe Vatican on Looted Assets
»Italy: Berlusconi Anchor Fede Denies ‘Prostitution Probe’
»Merkel and Sarkozy Risk Embarrassing Defeat
»Religious Demands Rise in French State Schools: Study
»Space: EU Won’t Go Into Lift-Off
»Swedish Police: ‘No Connection to Serial Shootings’
»UK: Benefits Cheat Who Stole £50,000 Escapes Jail — and is Given 106 Years to Pay Back the Money
»UK: Health Bosses Refuse to Pay Pregnancy Benefit for Woman Whose Premature Baby Was ‘Born Too Early’
»UK: Hate Preacher is Freed From Jail and Immediately Tells Britons Not to Wear Remembrance Day Poppies
»UK: Left Like This for a Fiver: Boy, 15, Has Jaw Broken by Thugs Who Beat Him Unconscious
»UK: Rebel Mayor Thanks Ken Livingstone for Tower Hamlets Help as Labour Fumes
»UK: Shocking Video Shows Stab Victim Being Repeatedly Punched by Police Sent Out to Help Him
Israel and the Palestinians
»Hamas Official: Another Gaza War Would Cost Israel Dearly
»Palestinian Reformist: The Islamization of the Palestinian Cause is an Obstacle to Its Resolution
Middle East
»Bahrain Opens Coup Plot Trial Against Shia Activists
»Hamas’s Iranian Puppeteer
»Iraq: $8 Billion Spent, No Records Kept
»Islamic Fundamentalist Mass Media Targets Egyptian Coptic Church
»More Hands Amputated in Iran
»Muscovites Uneasy Over Plan for New Mosque
South Asia
»Hopes Fade for Indonesian Tsunami Survivors
»Maldives Police to Probe Foul-Mouthed Wedding Ceremony
»Uzbekistan: Christian Man Fined the Equivalent of Seven Years of Salary for Possessing Jesus Movie
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Islamist Group With Ties to Al Qaeda Executes Two Teenage Girls in Somalia by Firing Squad
»Giving German Schools an ‘F’ For Integration
»Pope Benedict Says Migrants Have Duty to Integrate
Culture Wars
»Sweden: $3,000 Fine Announced for Homeschooling
»Wolves or Sheep?

Financial Crisis

Britain is Going to Pay a High Price for Globalisation

When I told an inquiring American business friend that the French shutdown was about raising their retirement age to 62, his scornful response was: ‘India and China will eat these people alive.’

You have to admit that he has a point. No European country is going to survive in an era of globalisation with this sort of attitude.

The soft retirement age is just a symptom. Many a British businessman has returned badly scarred from trying to run a business in France with its ridiculous labour laws, including the 35-hour week.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Employers in U.S. Start Bracing for Higher Tax Withholding

Employers in the U.S. are starting to warn their workers to prepare for slimmer paychecks if Congress fails to vote on an extension of Bush-era tax cuts.

“I’ve been doing payroll for probably close to 30 years now, and never have we seen something like this where it gets that down to the wire,” said Dennis Danilewicz, who manages payroll services for about 14,000 employees at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. “That’s what’s got a lot of people nervous. All we can do is start preparing communications with a couple of different scenarios.”

Lawmakers won’t start debating whether to extend the cuts, which expire Dec. 31, until after the Nov. 2 elections. Because it takes weeks to prepare withholding schedules, the Internal Revenue Service will probably have to assume the cuts will expire and direct employers to increase payroll deductions starting Jan. 1, experts say.

“We’re kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place,” said Ron Moser, head of human resources for the school district of Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda, New York, which pays about 1,900 teachers, custodians and aides each month. In upstate New York, where winter heating costs are among the highest in the country, many school employees earn between $20,000 and $40,000 a year, he said, and losing $50 in a paycheck is “a significant dollar amount.”

[Return to headlines]

Grim Proving Ground for Obama’s Housing Policy

The squat brick buildings of Grove Parc Plaza, in a dense neighborhood that Barack Obama represented for eight years as a state senator, hold 504 apartments subsidized by the federal government for people who can’t afford to live anywhere else.

But it’s not safe to live here.

About 99 of the units are vacant, many rendered uninhabitable by unfixed problems, such as collapsed roofs and fire damage. Mice scamper through the halls. Battered mailboxes hang open. Sewage backs up into kitchen sinks. In 2006, federal inspectors graded the condition of the complex an 11 on a 100-point scale — a score so bad the buildings now face demolition.


As a state senator, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee coauthored an Illinois law creating a new pool of tax credits for developers. As a US senator…

…And as a presidential candidate, he has campaigned on a promise to create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund that could give developers an estimated $500 million a year.

But a Globe review found that thousands of apartments across Chicago that had been built with local, state, and federal subsidies — including several hundred in Obama’s former district — deteriorated so completely that they were no longer habitable…

[See video evidence at URL]


[Return to headlines]

‘There is a Dangerous Economic Imbalance in Europe’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended the Franco-German plan to push for a change to the Lisbon Treaty ahead of this week’s summit. German editorialists back the need for reform but some are uneasy about the way Berlin is flexing its muscles.

Tensions are mounting ahead of a crucial meeting of European leaders this week, with Germany and France at loggerheads with both the EU executive and many other member states over their calls for further changes to the European Treaty.

On Wednesday the European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding slammed a deal hashed out between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to push for changes to the EU law to allow for the suspension of the voting rights of member states who violate strict budget deficit rules.

“Coming up with illusions of new treaties looks completely irresponsible to me,” Reding said in an interview with German daily Die Welt published on Wednesday. “Haven’t they both understood that it took us 10 years to wrap up the Lisbon Treaty?”

Germany has threatened to block a package of reform proposals, to be presented by European Council President Herman van Rompuy at the summit this Thursday and Friday, if it doesn’t get its way on alterations to the Lisbon Treaty. The irony is that Berlin supports the bulk of the reforms, with include plans to improve EU budget discipline and widen provisions for financial and political sanctions.

Speaking to the German lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, on Wednesday Merkel reiterated her position. She said that a “new, robust crisis mechanism for emergencies” was required to secure stability in the euro zone. “That will only succeed with a change to the European Treaty. The chancellor also defended her pact with Sarkozy ahead of this week’s summit. “It is true that a German- French agreement is not everything in Europe,” she told the Bundestag. “However, it is also true that without German-French agreement a lot of things don’t happen.”

Berlin has long been trying to find a crisis mechanism that would prevent the more stable states, such as Germany, from having to take on responsibility for the debts of member states that got themselves into trouble. Merkel wants a new type of emergency fund set up to replace the ad-hoc rescue fund for Greece and the rest of the euro zone that ends in 2013.

The plan to suspend the voting rights for those who flout the EU’s rules has met with fierce resistance from many other member states. EU Economics and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday that this would “not necessarily be in line with the idea of an ever-closer Union.” He said that the European Union would prefer a permanent mechanism for crisis resolution that did not necessitate changing the EU law.

Germany argues that any changes could easily be incorporated when Croatia becomes the 28th member state. However, others warn that the prospect of trying to get all the member states to ratify any fundamental changes to the treaty would be an uphill battle, particularly as some countries would be forced to hold a referendum on the issue.

Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn warned that “there is a risk that we will be plunged back into months and years of navel-gazing.”

The German press on Wednesday is largely supportive of the need to change the treaty but many papers warn against Berlin imposing its will on the rest of the union.

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“Even if the rest of Europe cries out in indignation, the chancellor will get her treaty change, because there is no other choice. It is unavoidable, and in the coming days presumably the EU foreign minister and members of the European Parliament will recognize the fact.”

“While the arguments are difficult to deny, what about the political style? There is a perception in the majority of EU states that the Franco-German directorate is striking once again. Or that Germany is acting here almost as a European hegemonic power, the export champion, the giant of growth, one that is far too powerful.”

“Europe has fallen into a dangerous economic imbalance. This is not a question of East against West or North against South. It is about a center that is increasingly setting itself apart from the periphery. It is about Germany that has developed a magnetic force — at the cost of its neighbors. If next to its economic invincibility, the country cultivates a political claim to dogmatism, then this will provoke antagonism.”

The conservative Die Welt writes:

“The European Union of today has become a union of savings and cuts. … Mutual mistrust reigns on the European stage. Since the Greece crisis it is rumoured that Germany, doesn’t give a damn about the other member states — apart from France — that it is selfish and no longer shows solidarity with the rest of the EU. This claim is misguided because the other EU states, particularly those troubled states in the south, have consistently pursued their own national interests. And it was not anti-European, but wise and clear-sighted for Angela Merkel to want to have clear conditions linked to the rescue package.”

“Nevertheless, it is true that the European project is faltering. Germany was not able to prevent the legitimate interest in protecting its taxpayers from pouring money into a bottomless EU pit from seeming like national insularity.”

The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

“The no bailout rule doesn’t leave much room for interpretation. Article 125 is unusually clear by European standards. No matter how one tries to read it, there is only one possible interpretation: The EU and its member states will not guarantee the debts of other member states.”

“Diplomats in Brussels may claim they have found a legal way around this. Yet one need not wonder, in the face of this kind of bobbing and weaving, why the people have lost their trust in the EU. It is possible that the creation of a European rescue fund has already broken the rules. What is certain is that a long-term solution requires a change to the European Treaty.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Cameron Can’t Halt Rise in Euro Budget: PM Admits Jump of at Least £430m is Out of His Hands

David Cameron has phoned several European leaders this morning in a last ditch attempt to stop a multimillion-pound hike in the EU budget.

The Prime Minister is powerless to prevent the budget soaring by at least 2.9 per cent — equivalent to an extra £429million from the UK — unless he gains the unlikely support of other EU members.

The rise could even be as high as 6 per cent, at a time when public services in Britain are being slashed in a bid to cut the deficit.

This morning Mr Cameron spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy to argue for the ‘lowest possible’ increase.

But Mr Cameron is also coming under fresh pressure to hold a referendum on the EU after France and Germany demanded embarrassing changes to the infamous Lisbon Treaty — barely a year after it was finally approved.

Mrs Merkel said changes are needed to tighten rules on bailing out any member states which may face a Greek-style economic meltdown and to toughen sanctions against those who breach EU single currency debt and deficit rules.

Mr Cameron — who will travel to Brussels today to sign up to the budget deal — has been keen to deflect attention away from the treaty changes by focusing on EU spending.

But British Eurosceptics clamouring for a referendum on the EU are demanding any changes be put to UK voters and have accused Mr Cameron of ‘making schoolboy promises on Europe he knows he cannot keep’.

Nigel Farage from the UK Independence Party said: ‘Britain will continue to fund the megalomaniacal ambitions of the European Union, and this government like the last will wriggle out of its promises for a referendum. Yet again you cannot trust the Conservatives on Europe’, he said.

A significant change to the Lisbon treaty would trigger fierce resistance from the Tory right and stretch already strained relations within the coalition.

Tory MP Bob Stewart warned today that Conservative backbenchers were strongly opposed to any increase in the EU budget and urged Mr Cameron to press for a lower rise than the 2.9 per cent agreed by the Council of Ministers.

‘I hope he will be pushing for lower than that. Personally I would like to see it not just stay static, I would like to see a reduction,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One.

‘Why should our people here in the United Kingdom take such swingeing cuts while the European Union has the nerve to ask for more money? We are in such a dire financial state in this country and we have got to balance our books here.’

Agreeing to a 2.9 per cent increase in the budget — which is likely to cost the UK another £435 million a year — will also anger Tory eurosceptics who want a freeze or a cut.

Downing Street sources have indicated Mr Cameron would consider trading Britain’s agreement to a Franco-German plan for a treaty amendment in return for a budget cap.

But he will only agree as long as the amended treaty did not apply to the UK as this would break an election pledge that new treaties should be subject to a referendum.

After the signing last year, then prime minister Gordon Brown said there should be no more EU treaty changes for at least a decade and president of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso said it was time to end ‘institutional navel-gazing’ in Europe.

Now, to their embarrassment, many EU leaders face pressure from Berlin and Paris to agree to reopen the treaty in the wake of the economic crisis.

Although Britain is not affected by sanctions against eurozone countries, a helpless British government official said that ‘treaty change is not where we would want to be at this time’.

‘We would not go along with any changes which would amount to a transfer of more powers to Brussels, but eurozone economic sanctions do not apply to us.

‘On the other hand, 40 per cent of our exports are to the eurozone member states and it is important to us that there is economic stability in the eurozone so we support whatever measures are necessary (to maintain stability)’, the official added.

EU and national lawyers are at odds over whether Mrs Merkel’s planned changes can be agreed without reopening the treaty or the need for referendums in member states.

If not, MEPs would certainly demand a new ‘convention’ to give them a voice in any changes, and the procedural in-fighting which has blighted the Union for years would continue.

Minister for Europe David Liddington played down the prospect of any treaty change.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘It’s very far from clear there is a consensus even with the eurozone countries for a treaty change.

‘We are not going to sign up to any treaty change that transfers powers from the United Kingdom to Brussels institutions.’

In an interview with the Mail last week, Mr Cameron described a 6 per cent rise in the EU budget as ‘completely irresponsible and unacceptable’.

‘We need an alliance to block increases,’ he said. ‘I think the French will also be keen on budget restraint and we should push this extremely hard.’

But Downing Street has admitted there was little or no chance of persuading other countries to agree to a freeze or a cut for 2011.

Mr Cameron is still pushing for a lower increase, and is demanding a cut or a freeze after 2014, when the next long-term spending review begins.

He told MPs it was ‘completely unacceptable’ for EU spending to relentlessly rise when individual countries are slashing their own budgets.

But when he travels to Brussels today he will be forced to sign up to a deal which will see the UK’s contributions increasing dramatically in 2011.

All EU finance ministers, including Britain’s, had agreed in August the budget rise would be 2.9 per cent. This was later overturned by the European Parliament, which demanded a 5.9 per cent increase.

Mr Cameron spoke to EU leaders including the German Chancellor to try to win support.

He already has the backing of Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic — who all agree the rise should be far less than 6 per cent. The leaders will be meeting at the summit in Brussels over new budget rules to prevent another Greek-style crisis in the Eurozone.

During Prime Minister’s questions yesterday, Mr Cameron said: ‘The greatest priority for Britain should be to fight very hard to get the EU budget under control. It is completely unacceptable at a time when we are making tough budget decisions here we are seeing spending rise consistently in the European Union.

‘I think that is wrong, and I am going to be doing everything I can to try and sort out the budget for next year.’

As the Prime Minister was yesterday pledging to fight the rise, it emerged the EU is to spend £10million to lease a grand new headquarters in Brussels for its new diplomatic corps, the European External Action Service.

Some 7,000 civil servants are to move into the Triangle building to run the department, which will have a budget of £5.8billion a year. Labour backbencher Kate Hoey said the British public did not want to see a ‘single penny more’ given to the EU when they were facing cuts at home. ‘Will you promise if they demand this money, ultimately we just say, “Sorry, we are not paying”,’ she asked.

Mr Cameron declined to do so, admitting he could not get any lower than the 2.9 per cent agreed in August. ‘The European Parliament has insisted on a higher budget, so the first thing we have to do is to say that is not acceptable, and build a majority on the Council to get it down again,’ he said.

Mr Cameron will also use the summit to demand changes to European budgets from 2014 to 2020, which will be thrashed out in the coming months.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mark Hoban said ministers had ‘serious concerns’ about the proposed size of the 2011 EU budget. ‘We will fight this hard,’ he said.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

US Foreclosure Crisis Becomes More Widespread

The foreclosure crisis in the US has spread across a wider area of the country, according to RealtyTrac, which monitors repossession activity.

The organisation said foreclosure notices increased across a majority of large metropolitan areas, including Chicago and Seattle.

Previously, these cities had seen relatively low levels of activity.

Separately, Wells Fargo said it would refile documents on 55,000 foreclosures after admitting technical mistakes.

Crisis spreading

RealtyTrac’s report said that California, Nevada, Florida and Arizona remained the worst affected areas.

They accounted for 19 of the top 20 metropolitan areas with the highest foreclosure rates between July and September.

The trend is the latest sign that the US foreclosure crisis is worsening as homeowners — facing high unemployment, slow job growth and uncertainty about house prices — continue to fall behind on their mortgage payments.

The controversy over whether banks mishandled eviction documents was not a factor over the July-to-September quarter monitored, said RealtyTrac.

Earlier in the week, data from rating agency Standard and Poor’s showed that US house prices also began falling again in August, mainly in response to the expired tax credit.

Meanwhile, the announcement from Wells Fargo that it would refile thousands of foreclosure documents is the first admission from the bank of possible problems in the way it repossesses homes.

In a statement released on Thursday, the bank said it had identified “instances where a final step in its processes relating to the execution of the foreclosure affidavits… did not strictly adhere to the required procedures”.

It added that it has no plans to halt its foreclosure process but said the refiling might cause some delays.

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


23% of NPR Budget is From Taxpayers

According to information available from the NPR website, local radio station money comes from the following sources:

32.1% Individual contributions

21.1% Business contributions

13.6% University funds

10.1% Corporation for Public Broadcasting funds

9.6% Foundation money

5.6% Federal, state, and local government funds

7.6% Other

At first glance, this distribution of funds seems to confirm that public radio’s support does not come in large amounts from the direct allocation of tax moneys. After all, 5.6% is not a gigantic portion of the budget, is it? But let’s look more closely. That 10.1% that comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is 99% provided by — you guessed it — the federal government. Those university funds, whenever they are provided by a public university, represent taxpayer-provided dollars. We can safely assert that three out of four university-supported stations are publicly funded, which means that more than 10% (three-quarters of that 13.6%) is taken from the taxpayer’s pockets.

So far, we find that NPR member stations count on direct or indirect taxpayer money for some 25% of their funds — and that’s before we consider some of the largest portions of their budgets.

[Return to headlines]

A Referendum on the Redeemer

by Shelby Steele

Barack Obama put the Democrats in the position of forever redeeming a fallen nation rather than leading a great one.


How is it that Barack Obama could step into the presidency with an air of inevitability and then, in less than two years, find himself unwelcome at the campaign rallies of many of his fellow Democrats?

The first answer is well-known: His policymaking has been grandiose, thoughtless and bullying. His health-care bill was ambitious to the point of destructiveness and, finally, so chaotic that today no citizen knows where they stand in relation to it. His financial-reform bill seems little more than a short-sighted scapegoating of Wall Street. In foreign policy he has failed to articulate a role for America in the world. We don’t know why we do what we do in foreign affairs. George W. Bush at least made a valiant stab at an American rationale—democratization—but with Mr. Obama there is nothing.


…But there is also a deeper disjunction. There is an “otherness” about Mr. Obama, the sense that he is somehow not truly American. “Birthers” doubt that he was born on American soil. Others believe that he is secretly a Muslim, or in quiet simpatico with his old friends, Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, now icons of American radicalism.

Barack Obama is not an “other” so much as he is a child of the 1960s. His coming of age paralleled exactly the unfolding of a new “counterculture” American identity. And this new American identity—and the post-1960s liberalism it spawned—is grounded in a remarkable irony: bad faith in America as virtue itself, bad faith in the classic American identity of constitutional freedom and capitalism as the way to a better America. So Mr. Obama is very definitely an American, and he has a broad American constituency. He is simply the first president we have seen grounded in this counterculture American identity. When he bows to foreign leaders, he is not displaying “otherness” but the counterculture Americanism of honorable self-effacement in which America acknowledges its own capacity for evil as prelude to engagement…


[Return to headlines]

An Open Letter to Rush Limbaugh and His Listeners — With Notes on the Democrat Civil War Already in Progress

Dear Rush,

It’s my great hope that some of your listeners find a way to get this letter to you, or that it makes it to “Snerdley” and finds its way into your hands. I don’t think even you understand just how much damage Obama has done to the Democrat Party — to the point where formerly lifelong Democrats like myself, and everyone here at, are actively working to expose the party and literally burn it to the ground for the good of the country.

None of this is being reported in the media, but a Civil War in the Democrat ranks has been raging since May 31st, 2008…a date every Hillary Clinton supporter knows well, because that was the date of the Democrat Rules & Bylaws Committee Meeting where Howard Dean (then-DNC Chair), Donna Brazile, and scores of other Kool-Aid slurping Obama flunkies took off their masks and revealed the full extent of the Leftist coup that had taken over the party. This was the day when the DNC took delegates Hillary Clinton won in Michigan away from her and handed them to Obama (despite the fact he wasn’t even on the primary ballot in that state, because he removed his name when his campaign realized he’d come in third in that race).

May 31st, 2008 was a day when Hillary “babes” (as you call us sometimes) like us flew to Washington in large numbers to stand outside the Marriott near the National Zoo, where this Rules & Bylaws Committee Meeting was held, to shout for the DNC to count all the votes and operate the nominating process fairly — but they refused. The anger over that day has never abated. In fact, it’s grown considerably since then.

This was the determining factor in millions of us leaving the Democrat Party for good. This was the day when the P.U.M.A. movement began — in response to Donna Brazile’s calls for “party unity” following the Rules & Bylaws Committee Meeting, we “Hillary babes” said “Party Unity My A$$” (or People United Means Action, depending on how you want to phrase it). Exit polls showed 8 million PUMA voted Republican for the first time in our lives in the fall of 2008…casting ballots for McCain/Palin (and in truth, mainly for Palin, whom we support, and not to a small degree because she receives many of the same attacks lobbed at Hillary Clinton all these years).


This is also when most of us stopped using the term “Democratic Party”, since there’s nothing “democratic” about these people. They are the “Democrat Party”, [I’ve done this for years —D] and even that is hard to acknowledge because they really and truly have proved themselves to be enemies of real democracy.

After it beat me to a pulp, called me a racist, berated and insulted me, and used Alinsky Rules to hit me with everything it had. Not just me, but all Hillary supporters.

This is the part I don’t think you understand because I don’t know if you and your listeners paid much attention to what the Obama campaign and DNC did to malign and assault Hillary Clinton’s supporters during the 2008 campaign. None of this has been forgotten by any of us.

…In Iowa, I watched Obama’s ACORN and SEIU goons push and shove old people, bully them, and intimidate them when they wanted to vote for Hillary Clinton. I saw scores of Illinois license plates fill the parking lots outside caucus locations, with Chicagoland Obama supporters illegally entering the Caucus sites to vote for Obama and game Iowa for him. Having planned ahead, Obama supporters actually RAN those caucus sites, and held the doors open for all these fraudulent voters to walk right in, without being asked for IDs, where they then took control of the caucuses and bullied the Iowa residents into supporting Obama — lest they be called RAAACISTS! out in the open in front of their friends and neighbors in those open-air caucuses…

The media has never talked about this. I don’t remember ever hearing you talk about it. But one of the biggest reasons the Democrats are in the trouble they’re in right now is because of how frequently the Left and the media (one and the same, really) called anyone who opposed Obama a RAAACIST.


For almost a year, the Obama zealots and the Left waged all-out-war not just on Hillary Clinton, but on lifelong, loyal, dyed-in-the-wool Democrat voters like me. This came straight from the top, from Obama himself. Both he and his wife Michelle called the Clintons racists. Obama’s surrogates like James Clyburne, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, John Lewis, and others called Geraldine Ferraro, Madeline Albright, and others racists. The Obamas toxified the South Carolina primary, in particular, with foul race-baiting and turned North Carolina and Indiana into racial powder kegs by ramping up accusations that anyone not supporting Obama was a vile racist that needed to be pounded into the ground.


[NOTE:There are well over 450 comments (and counting) on that very long, detailed “Open Letter”, as of tonight. This will resonate through the blogosphere but the Left probably won’t touch it…YET]

           — Hat tip: no2liberals[Return to headlines]

D.C. Suburb OKs Saudi Madrassa — Again

Watchdog challenges county officials to reveal funding sources

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in Virginia has approved, on a close 6-4 vote, the extension of a lease for the Islamic Saudi Academy, a Saudi Embassy-owned school described by local law enforcement as a “breeding ground for terrorists.”

The academy, located in a 148,000-square-foot former public high school in Alexandria, Va., has graduated several terrorists, including a valedictorian-turned-al-Qaida agent recently sentenced to life in prison for plotting to assassinate President Bush.

The hearing preceding the vote last week was contentious, with some 100 people turning out to protest the school. Ten of them — including Nina Shea of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom — testified that teachers and textbooks there promote violence and teach anti-American ideology.


“Connolly was busy cashing checks and shilling for the Saudis, but we didn’t find out about it until after the vote was taken and after he had called the citizen opposition ‘bigots,’ “ Lafferty said, referring to the last vote on the Saudi academy’s lease.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

FDA Rejects Diet Pill in Setback for Obesity Drug Development

The Food and Drug Administration rejected another new diet pill on Thursday, a decision that sharply diminished the already scarce number of options available to overweight Americans amid the nation’s obesity epidemic.

The rejected drug, called Qnexa, is the third weight loss drug to suffer a significant setback this month because of concerns about safety, as federal regulators seem to have heightened their scrutiny of diet pills that could pose risks to the heart or other organs.

[Return to headlines]

Juan Williams’ Firing Might Produce Desired Results

[…] I don’t believe Williams’ comments caused his firing. His words only granted cover for his firing, a move long-desired by NPR’s leadership in light of Williams’ too-often straying from the leftwing party line. Whatever the reason, it is NPR’s method that is especially deplorable. One would be more inclined to understand the executives’ decision if only they would have considered their actions in relation to the dignity that their employees deserve. Pope Leo XIII, writing in his 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum, provided a perfect vaccine against NPR’s current public relations debacle.

Leo wrote: “Should it happen that either a master or a workman believes himself injured, nothing would be more desirable than that a committee should be appointed, composed of reliable and capable members of the association, whose duty would be, conformably with the rules of the association, to settle the dispute.” In other words, Leo called for employers to demonstrate a basic level of respect for the people who comprise their company. Dismissing Williams out-of-hand without following such simple advice has left NPR open for legitimate negative criticism.

It has also raised the issue of cutting government subsidies for the entire Corporation for Public Broadcasting enterprise. And it’s about time…


[Return to headlines]

Needing Students, Maine School Hunts in China

MILLINOCKET, Me. — Faced with dropping enrollment and revenue, the high school in this remote Maine town has fixed on an unlikely source of salvation: Chinese teenagers.

Never mind that Millinocket is an hour’s drive from the nearest mall or movie theater, or that it gets an average 93 inches of snow a year. Kenneth Smith, the schools superintendent, is so certain that Chinese students will eventually arrive by the dozen — paying $27,000 a year in tuition, room and board — that he is scouting vacant properties to convert to dormitories.

“We are going full-bore,” Dr. Smith said last week in his office at the school, Stearns High, where the Chinese words for “hello” and “welcome” were displayed on the dry-erase board and a Lonely Planet China travel guide sat on the conference table. “You’ve got to move if you’ve got something you believe is the right thing to do.”

On Friday, Dr. Smith left for China, where he is spending a week pitching Stearns High to school officials, parents and students in Beijing, Shanghai and two other cities. He has hired a consultant to help him make connections in China, lobbied Millinocket’s elected officials and business owners to embrace the plan and even directed the school’s cafeteria workers to add Chinese food to the menu.

“We get some commodity pasta, and it makes a great lo mein,” said Kathy Civiello, the school’s nutrition director, one of the many staff members who appeared equally excited and bemused by the plan.

With China’s emergence as an economic juggernaut, colleges, universities and private secondary schools have tried to recruit students from China and have even opened campuses there. But Millinocket’s plan may be unprecedented among public schools, even as they scramble for new sources of revenue.

“This is the first we’ve even heard of it,” said Alexis Rice, a spokeswoman for the National School Boards Association.

There is one hitch. Under State Department rules, foreign students can attend public high school in the United States for only a year, a system that Dr. Smith considers unfair, given that they can attend private high schools for four years. He is pressing Maine’s Congressional delegation to seek a change, but in the meantime, he intends to recruit a handful of Chinese students to attend Stearns next year.

They would come to Millinocket for a year, Dr. Smith said, then perhaps transfer to a private school or enroll in an American college or university…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Nuns Selling Rare Honus Wagner Card

Thanks to an unexpected donation, one of the century-old [Honus Wagner] baseball cards belongs to…the Baltimore-based School Sisters of Notre Dame.

The Roman Catholic nuns are auctioning off the card, which despite its poor condition is expected to fetch between $150,000 and $200,000. The proceeds will go to their ministries in 35 countries around the world.

The card is part of the T206 series, produced between 1909 and 1911. About 60 Wagner cards are known to exist.

The card was unknown to the sports-memorabilia marketplace because the nuns’ benefactor had owned it since 1936.


Wagner, nicknamed “The Flying Dutchman,” played for 21 seasons, 18 of them with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He compiled a .328 career batting average and was one of the five original inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame.


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

Republicans Plan Budget Cuts as Early Act if They Take Power

by Patrick O’Connor


A Republican House takeover would thrust new committee heads, such as Representative Dave Camp on the Ways and Means panel, into the spotlight within weeks — or days — of seizing their gavels in early January. They would confront quick political tests that could alienate independent voters and Tea Party activists alike, analysts said.

“The major issues are going to be fiscal, and fiscal issues are always contentious,” said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California.

Carrying out spending cuts that Republicans have pledged to seek — which would amount to 21 percent of the government’s so-called discretionary money pot — could prove politically difficult. Reducing funds for programs such as college loans for low-income students or medical research at the National Institutes of Health is harder than promising to do that on the campaign trail…


One of the few Republicans offering concrete proposals for cutting federal spending has been Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who would take the helm of the Budget Committee.

His “Roadmap for America’s Future” would establish a voucher system for Medicare, scrap the current tax exemptions for employer-sponsored health benefits in favor of individual tax credits, and let workers under the age of 55 steer a portion of their Social Security taxes into private accounts.

The plan elevated Ryan, 40, from an up-and-comer to a full-fledged political star. It also became a punching bag for Democrats, and some Republicans distanced themselves from its proposals, concerned they would be viewed as too extreme by independent voters. How vigorously Ryan promotes his ideas in committee should provide early clues of how much sway the Tea Party push for significantly limited government has gained.


           — Hat tip: Behind the Black[Return to headlines]

Space Science: The Telescope That Ate Astronomy

NASA’s next-generation space observatory promises to open new windows on the Universe — but its cost could close many more.

It has to work — for astronomers, there is no plan B. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), scheduled to launch in 2014, is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope and the key to almost every big question that astronomers hope to answer in the coming decades. Its promised ability to peer back through space and time to the formation of the first galaxies made it the top priority in the 2001 astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey, one of a series of authoritative, ten-year plans drafted by the US astronomy community. And now, the stakes are even higher. Without the JWST, the bulk of the science goals listed in the 2010 decadal survey, released this August, will be unattainable.

“We took it as a given that the JWST would be launched and would be a big success,” says Michael Turner, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago, Illinois, and a member of the committee for the past two decadal surveys. “Things are built around it.”

Hence the astronomers’ anxiety: the risks are also astronomical. The JWST’s 6.5-metre primary mirror, nearly three times the diameter of Hubble’s, will be the largest ever launched into space. The telescope will rely on a host of untried technologies, ranging from its sensitive light-detecting instrumentation to the cooling system that will keep the huge spacecraft below 50 kelvin. And it will have to operate perfectly on the first try, some 1.5 million kilometres from Earth — four times farther than the Moon and beyond the reach of any repair mission. If the JWST — named after the administrator who guided NASA through the development of the Apollo missions — fails, the progress of astronomy could be set back by a generation.

And yet, as critical as it is for them, astronomers’ feelings about the JWST are mixed. To support a price tag that now stands at roughly US$5 billion, the JWST has devoured resources meant for other major projects, none of which can begin serious development until the binge is over. Missions such as the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope, designed to study the Universe’s dark energy and designated the top-priority space-astronomy project in the most recent decadal survey, will have to wait until after the JWST has launched. “Until then, we’re not projecting being able to afford large investments” in new missions, says Jon Morse, director of NASA’s astrophysics division. And all the space telescopes currently operated by NASA and the European Space Agency will reach the end of their planned lifetimes in the next few years.

Worse, the JWST’s costs keep growing. In 2009, NASA required an extra $95 million to cover cost overruns on the telescope. In 2010 it needed a further $20 million. And for 2011 it has requested another $60 million — even as rumours are swirling that still more cash infusions will be required (see ‘Cost curve’).

Senator Barbara Mikulski (Democrat, Maryland), chairwoman of the government subcommittee that oversees NASA’s budget, responded to these requests in June by calling for an independent panel to investigate the causes of the JWST’s spiralling cost and delays, and to find a way to bring them to resolution. “Building the JWST is an awesome technical challenge,” Mikulski says. “But we’re not in the business of cost overruns.”

John Casani, chairman of Mikulski’s investigative panel and a former project manager for NASA’s Voyager, Galileo and Cassini missions, emphasizes that the panel is making suggestions, not decisions. Those will be up to NASA, which is expected to announce a budgetary plan incorporating the panel’s suggestions on 2 November. But in considering potential solutions for the JWST’s woes, Casani says that “everything will be on the table” — including, conceivably, scrapping instruments or otherwise downgrading the programme.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Trifkovic Packs the House at Liberty University

By Taylor Rose

At the school of the Moral Majority, Srda Trifkovic, invited by Liberty University YWC, spoke to a packed lecture hall Monday on the new wave of jihad in the West. Accompanied by several patriotic and anti-jihad LU professors, Trifkovic was able to deliver a fiery and passionate message about the rise of Islam in the West and how the Left is facilitating the reemergence of the Islam against the West. Just as exciting as Trifkovic’s speech was the number of students there to hear it. Though the room reserved for the event only had a capacity of 100 people, approximately 150 showed up, filling the hallway and lining the walls just to hear the speech.

This event was a major victory for our chapter of YWC. This was our first official public event due to complications with the school bureaucracy.

We thank Mr. Trifkovic for the rousing, thought-provoking speech and can’t wait to have similar events in the future in order to promote discussion on issues of vital importance to the West.

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

Unindicted Coconspirators

Much has been made of an appeals-court decision to expunge references to several U.S. Muslim groups from a list of unindicted co-conspirators in a terrorism-financing case. Too much, in fact.

It was never about the list. It was about what evidence unmistakably tells us: The Muslim Brotherhood and its American satellites are working to undermine the United States from within and to destroy Israel by any possible means, including terrorism. The Brotherhood can hide the list. After all, we should never have seen it in the first place. They can’t hide the evidence — no matter how much help they get from their friends in and out of government. That bell can’t be unrung.

That is the main takeaway from a federal appeals-court ruling last week that has caused plenty of confusion. Sympathizers of various Islamist groups were quick to claim, falsely, that a Fifth Circuit panel had ordered the expunging of all references to those organizations as “unindicted coconspirators” in an important terrorism-financing case. The label had first been applied to them by the Justice Department, which had placed the groups — including CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations), ISNA (the Islamic Society of North America), and NAIT (the North American Islamic Trust) — on a list of unindicted coconspirators provided to the judge and defense counsel prior to a 2007 trial.

The inaccurate reports about the appeals-court ruling prompted consternation from commentators who, for years, had been citing the Justice Department designation. Though it was useful for attacking the groups — a worthy end — the commentators had obviously done that without really understanding what the list was and, more significant, what the Islamist organizations had done to merit being listed. The label “unindicted coconspirator” had always been good enough for them — but what to say now that it has been purged?

Everyone ought to relax. The ruling didn’t actually expunge anything, and the list — however useful it may have been — was never important. In fact, its contents should never have been disclosed in the first place; CAIR & Co. are actually right about that. But it is the only thing they and their apologists have been right about and, despite what they’d have you think, it is nearly irrelevant at this stage of the game.

A little background is in order. As its charter brays, the terrorist organization Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Like the Brotherhood, Hamas denies Israel’s right to exist and considers the Jewish state’s destruction to be a divine calling. The Brotherhood is a global organization that — with Saudi financial backing — has spent over half a century building an Islamist infrastructure in the United States. Once Hamas was created in 1989, at the start of the Intifada, support for its jihad against Israel became a top Brotherhood priority. Consequently, it mobilized its tentacles in the United States to back Hamas financially and in the court of public opinion.

To make a long story short, the Brotherhood set up an ostensible Muslim charity in Indiana, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), to funnel money to Hamas, primarily in Gaza. Over the years, HLF duly channeled millions of dollars. Finally, the Bush Justice Department indicted top HLF officials for a massive conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Washington Terror Plotter Has British Wife

Farooque Ahmed is alleged to have planned an attack modelled on the July 7 bombings in which he hoped to kills dozens of commuters.

He was arrested on Wednesday shortly after leaving the home he shares with his British wife Sahar Mirza.

Mirza, who comes from Birmingham, West Midlands, is the co-organiser of a self help group for Muslims called Hip Muslim Mums.

On her profile on the social networking site she describes the group as a gathering of “today’s mom’s nurturing tomorrow’s ummah” [Muslim nation].

Neighbours said she always wore a full hijab and has young son. She was not arrested during the FBI raid which followed a sting operation in which agents posed as fellow extremists.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Why the Park51 Debate Remains Unresolved

With all the discussion, debate and conjecture surrounding plans to construct a $100m Islamic cultural centre in lower Manhattan — benignly named Park51 after its street address but controversially dubbed the “Ground Zero Mosque” by opponents — the focus of attention and criticism has landed squarely on the project’s chief proponent, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf.

As founder and chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, the organisation behind the plans for Park51, Imam Rauf proposed the centre as a “platform for multi-faith dialogue” promoting “inter-community peace”, a place for healing which includes a “9/11 victims memorial”. Despite purporting to speak as a voice of moderate Islam, Imam Rauf’s words ring hollow to many and his efforts have struck a raw nerve nationwide, with 68% of Americans and 71% of New Yorkers polled opposing the project — amid a controversy that caused even President Barack Obama to lend his voice to the dialogue.


Yet, there remains something about Imam Rauf’s presentation that feels disingenuous, making people uncomfortable but unable to articulate why, forcing them back on the argument that proximity to Ground Zero is “insensitive”. Timothy Garton Ash’s recent piece in the Guardian articulated some other denunciations of Park 51, including Newt Gingrich’s comparison that “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington.”


In his many public remarks Imam Rauf’s words seem conciliatory, yet on closer examination, he seems to say nothing substantive. In an interview he gave to CNN’s Soledad O’Brien on 8 September 2010, Imam Rauf was again equivocal on terrorism. O’Brien referred tot a previous interview in which Rauf was asked whether the state department was correct in designating Hamas a terrorist group. O’Brien accused Rauf of having ducked the issue — that he “went on a long time… but there was really sort of no answer to it”. So she posed the question to him again, offering him the opportunity to clarify his view.

Imam Rauf answered, “I condemn everyone and anyone who commits acts of terrorism. And Hamas has committed acts of terrorism.” At first glance, that appears as though he answered the question, but re-read, Rauf does not actually allow that Hamas is a terrorist organisation. This is exactly the kind of equivocation that creates confusion and makes people distrustful of his claims of moderation.

There are certainly those who would, out of prejudice, dismiss any gesture by Imam Rauf and the Muslim community in New York. What most New Yorkers, and most Americans, are looking for, though, is an absolutely unambiguous acknowledgment by moderate Muslim leaders, specifically Imam Rauf, stating that Muslims did, indeed, perpetrate the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in the name of Islam, even if it is a version of Islam they themselves abhor.

One may think this has already been said, but in Rauf’s case, the statements on the subject are not unambiguous. This may seem like nothing more than a matter of parsing words, but words matter here; and actions are even more so. No matter where it is located, near Ground Zero or elsewhere, Park51 will never be able to realise its ambition as a place of conciliation until Imam Rauf clears up any doubt about his position regarding Islamist terrorism, affirms the Muslim identity of the 9/11 perpetrators, and takes the proper steps to address the legitimate concerns of New Yorkers.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Al-Qaida Said to be Planning European Hostage-Takings

Security agencies suspect that al-Qaida is planning new attacks in Europe. Details of a possible ‘Euro Plot’ remain unclear, but ex-jihadist Noman Benotman, a former trainer in terror camps, believes that al-Qaida wants to take hostages here to force the release of 9/11 terror mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Experts say the theory is plausible.

Berlin — On Sept 17, 1974, in the evening, four terrorists with the Japanese Red Army (JRA) boarded an aircraft made available by the French government at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport and ordered Dutch pilot Pim Siericks to take off — the destination was initially unknown.

The flight of the Boeing 707 marked the end of a successful terrorist operation. Three JRA members had occupied the French embassy in The Hague for four days and had held the staff hostage. The French government gave in to their demand to hand over a fourth JRA man, Yutuka Furuya, who had been in prison in France, in return for the hostages.

Top terrorist Carlos the Jackal had helped JRA by supplying the M26 grenades with which they were armed in The Hague. One day after they took the hostages, Carlos himself used one of the grenades to cause a bloodbath in a Paris café in order to press home JRA’s demands.

Some 15 years later, thousands of miles away, a group of young militants studied this cooperation between JRA and Carlos, and came to the conclusion that it could be a model for freeing their own prisoners one day. Noman Benotman, a Libyan national who was one of the leaders of a Libyan jihadist contingent aligned with al-Qaida and a trainer in terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, was present at those discussions.

More than 30 years later, that scenario from 1974 seems noteworthy again. “I have information that I consider to be reliable, according to which al-Qaida in Waziristan is training how to carry out multiple parallel hostage takings in order to enforce the release of a prisoner,” Benotman says.

Benotman believes that the alleged plans for attacks on European targets that authorities have been warning about in recent weeks are real. He says the plan consists of storming buildings in Germany, France and Britain at the same time and holding the people inside hostage with the aim of forcing the release of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind 9/11 who is now sitting in jail in the United States awaiting trial for the attacks.

Benotman lives in London today — a destination he first reached after a long personal journey. After the 9/11 attacks, he turned his back on terrorism. He has since become one of the world’s leading experts on al-Qaida. He works with the London-based Quilliam Foundation, which runs programs aimed at deradicalizing young Islamists. The 43-year-old, who is sitting in a café located between London’s Paddington Station and the Edgware Road underground station where a suicide bomber detonated himself on July 7, 2005, recalls his days in Afghanistan. “At the start of the 1990s we even trained for such a scenario,” he says.

Will Al-Qaida Seek to Force Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s Release?

The idea that al-Qaida is revisiting this scenario, Benotman emphasizes, is more than just speculation. He says that he cannot name his sources, in order to protect them, but he vouches for their credibility. Berlin based terror expert Guido Steinberg, with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, sees little reason to cast doubt on them, either. “Benotman knows the jihadist scene and their leadership better than most,” he says. “It is entirely possible that he obtained information on terror plots. In the past all of his information proved to be right.”

The Libyan also refers to two events that add credence to his claim. Last fall, he points out, al-Qaida named Germany as a target for an attack, a threat he considers to be still valid. He also refers to an audio message from Osama bin Laden in June 2010, in which he warned the United States that al-Qaida would kill American prisoners if the US executes Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. “The day America makes that decision (to execute Mohammed) will be the day it has issued a death sentence for any one of you that is taken captive.”

“I know Osama bin Laden personally,” says Benotman. “It’s very important to him that, after every operation, he can claim: Why are you surprised? It was exactly as I had announced.”

Can al-Qaida really be planning to take hostages in Europe to force the United States to release Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? The calculation, says Benotman, is simple. Even if the US didn’t fulfil al-Qaida’s demand — which is the more probable scenario — the terrorists could still manage to achieve two goals. The global media would spend days focusing entirely on al-Qaida and its demands. And they would drive a wedge between the US and Europe, if innocent people were to die here because Washington didn’t want to release Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Anti-Islam Praise From Wilders Provokes Merkel

The Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders on Wednesday angered German Chancellor Angela Merkel by provocatively praising her recent attack on multiculturalism.

Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) had taken “leadership in the area of Islam criticism,” Wilders told the Dutch parliament.

“Mrs Merkel — she is right,” he added as he gave the opening address on behalf of his Freedom Party (PVV), which recently agreed to support a minority right-wing coalition government in the Netherlands.

Merkel added fuel to an already heated immigration debate in Germany when she said in a speech to her party’s youth wing earlier this month that multiculturalism had “failed utterly.” However she also made a point of adding that “Islam belongs to Germany” — a fact that Wilders left out of his address.

Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, angrily replied to Wilders’ speech by saying that that the Chancellor had in no way expressed “criticism of Islam.”

“That is not true. You cannot interpret the Chancellor as a critic of Islam because she naturally has respect for an important world religion,” Seibert said in Berlin.

Wilders praised Merkel’s speech as well as similar remarks by Horst Seehofer, head of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union.

“When the Chancellor herself says that the multicultural society has utterly failed, then that is saying something,” he said.

During a debate about the minority government programme put forward by the coalition of Dutch Christian Democrats, pro-business Liberals, the anti-Islam populist added: “The most important politician in the Christian Democrats in the most important country in Europe breaks a taboo and says it how it is. And she said what millions of people think.”

Spokesman Seibert replied: “The Chancellor expresses her convictions independent of who agrees or disagrees with her here or abroad. Certainly she makes no statements to get applause from that corner.”

Wilders, while ignoring Merkel’s acceptance of Islam in Germany, referred to similar remarks by German President Christian Wulff.

“In Germany, meanwhile, two thirds of the people say, ‘Islam does not belong to our country,’“ Wilders said.

Only a few weeks ago during a visit to Berlin, the 47-year-old Dutchman slammed Merkel and Germany’s established parties for supposedly accepting the “Islamisation” of Germany.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Bin Laden Threatens French Attacks

Osama bin Laden has threatened France with terror attacks for passing a law that bans Muslim-style face veils. A newly released audio tape of the al Qaida leader appears to be authentic, the French foreign ministry said. The voice on the audio tape threatens to kill French citizens to avenge their country’s support for the war in Afghanistan and in revenge for the veil ban. The tape was obtained by the Al-Jazeera television station. The foreign ministry said the tape’s “authenticity can be considered established based on initial verifications”. The message “only confirms that reality of the terror threat,” a foreign ministry spokesman said. A series of terror warnings has put France and other European countries on high alert in recent weeks. Speculation on the source of a potential terror threat in France has focused on a group called al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. That group, an offshoot of bin Laden’s network, has claimed responsibility for the abduction of five French citizens in Niger and is believed to have taken them to neighbouring Mali. The French hostages, as well as a Togolese and a Madagascar national, were kidnapped on September 16 while they slept in their villas in the uranium mining town of Arlit. About 4,000 French troops are deployed in and near Afghanistan.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Second Shooting at Jutland School

Just 10 days after a six-year-old was injured, school reports new pellet gun incident

Several young students at Vestervang School in the Jutland town of Viborg were able to provide witness accounts of a man they say shot an airsoft pistol toward the school building today, reports Viborg Folkeblad newspaper.

The incident is the second in two weeks were shots were fired at the school from a local path that goes through the school grounds. On 17 October, a six-year-old at the school was shot in the knee and had to have the pellet surgically removed.

This time, however, several students got a good look at the man, according to officer John Andersen of Viborg Police.

‘The kids are only 6 to 9 years old, but they gave very detailed descriptions of the shooter,’ he said.

Andersen said the suspect is likely a thin, young man who today was wearing a black hooded-sweatshirt with a white logo on the front. The hood was pulled tightly around the man’s head, however, so the children could not clearly see his face.

The students added the suspect wore blue jeans, had a blue and yellow wristband and wore white sneakers.

School authorities said they were closely monitoring the grounds and advised students to take extra care when coming to and leaving the school.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: School Offers Music Classes for Babies

A music school in Koblenz has become one of Germany’s first to offer music courses for babies in hopes of harnessing their developing cognitive skills and curiosity to make learning an instrument easier later in life.

The Rappelkiste music school in the Rhineland-Palatinate city opened one year ago to a crush of interest from local parents. It currently hosts a class of 30 babies aged 6 to 16 months and their doting parents for interactive music activities.

“We begin the process of a musical education earlier than the usual age of three,” says music school director Gerd Wagner, adding that he is convinced infants are particularly impressionable to music, and this supports their early development.

Each 30-minute session keeps to a tight schedule, beginning with an opening “greeting song” incorporating the name of each child, dancing and clapping. The lesson then moves onto simple rhythm instruments and songs with simple syllables that are easy to pronounce.

As the children are still too young to play instruments themselves, the course focuses less on formal classical music education and more on using the abilities of babies to pick up information quickly by imitating adults.

Wagner argues that the course uses babies’ receptivity combined with the enthusiasm of the parents themselves to help drum up a passion for music in their offspring, such as when child sees its mother moving to music.

“Music should be a permanent and vital part of any young child’s development,” says music teacher Stella Tscherkasow, who designed the course program. “Babies are curious and easy to inspire.”

Ideally the children will learn to speak as they learn to sing, she says.

The school has designed the course content so that the exercises help the children develop speech rhythms while moving along to a musical beat, as well as small movements that will aid them when they begin to walk, she adds.

Tscherkasow hopes that participation in the course will also strengthen the bond between the parents and their children.

But even director Wagner doesn’t believe that a special appreciation or even a serious talent for music can be detected quite so early.

The parents who take part tend to agree.

“I’m certainly not doing it because I yearn to bring up a miniature Mozart,” says one mother in the course. Far more important is enhancing the communication between mother and child, she says.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Nazi Victims Ask EU to Probe Vatican on Looted Assets

Rome, 26 Oct. (AKI/Bloomberg) — Holocaust survivors from the former Yugoslavia have accused the Vatican of helping Nazi allies launder their stolen valuables and have asked the European Commission to investigate their claims.

“We are requesting the commission open an inquiry into allegations of money laundering of Holocaust victim assets by financial organs associated with or which are agencies of the Vatican City State,” Jonathan Levy, a Washington-based attorney for the survivors and their heirs, wrote in a letter dated 20 October to the European Union’s economic and monetary affairs commissioner Olli Rehn.

Levy supplied the letter to Bloomberg.

The request follows a decade-long lawsuit in US courts on behalf of Holocaust survivors and their heirs from the former Yugoslavia and Ukraine.

That case, basing its claims on a U.S. State Department report on the fate of Nazi plunder, alleged that the Vatican Bank laundered assets stolen from thousands of Jews, gypsies and Serbs killed or captured by the Ustasha, the Nazi-backed regime of wartime Croatia. The Vatican repeatedly denied the charges and the findings of the 1998 US report.

Amadeu Altafaj, Rehn’s spokesman, said in Brussels on Tuesday that the commission has yet to receive Levy’s letter.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi declined to comment on Levy’s request to the commission.

The US case, which sought as much as 2 billion dollars in restitution, was dismissed last December by a US appeals court in San Francisco on the grounds that the Vatican Bank enjoyed immunity under the 1976 Foreign Service Immunities Act, which may prevent foreign governments from facing lawsuits in the US.

The commission should have the authority to probe the Institute for Religious Works, or IOR, as the Vatican Bank is called, according to Levy’s letter.

It cites a monetary accord signed on 17 December last year. Under the agreement the Vatican, which uses the euro and issues euro coins, pledged to implement EU laws against money laundering, counterfeiting and fraud.

Rome prosecutors have also sought to show that the Vatican bank is answerable under European law. Last month they seized 23 million euros (32 million dollars) from an Italian account held at IOR as they opened a probe into alleged violations of money-laundering laws by the Vatican Bank.

“We looked at all the places where the Vatican may have surrendered sovereignty,” Levy said in a telephone interview.

“The only place we could find was with the euro, where they placed themselves under the jurisdiction of either the European Central Bank or the European Commission.”

Levy initially contacted the legal office of the Frankfurt- based ECB and was told to take the claim to the commission, he said. An ECB spokeswoman confirmed that after being contacted by Levy, the central bank advised him to go directly to the EU’s executive arm.

The US lawsuit was first filed in 1999, one year after an official Swiss commission concluded that Switzerland received three times more gold taken from Nazi victims than previously estimated by the US government.

The same year, UBS AG and Credit Suisse AG, the biggest Swiss banks, agreed to pay 1.25 billion dollars in compensation to Holocaust survivors and their heirs.

In his letter, Levy said “gold and other valuables” stolen in the “genocidal” murder of 500,000 Serbs, Jews and gypsies “were deposited at the Vatican in 1946,” according to “contemporaneous documents authored by Allied investigators” and “the sworn testimony of former US special agent William Gowen.”

He interviewed and investigated the Ustasha involved in transferring the loot while stationed in Rome after the war.

Under its agreement with the commission, Vatican City State, a sovereign nation outside the EU, may issue a maximum of 2.3 million euros in coins in 2010 through the Italian mint, not including a further variable amount.

The Vatican also pledged under the accord to implement EU legislation against money laundering by the end of 2010.

Rehn said the Vatican has submitted its first draft laws “on the prevention of money laundering and the fight against fraud and counterfeiting” and the commission is analysing them, according to his reply to a question from a member of the European Parliament, posted to its web on 9 September.

Lombardi on 23 October declined to say whether the Vatican intends to meet the Dec. 31 deadline for implementing the EU legislation.

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

Italy: Berlusconi Anchor Fede Denies ‘Prostitution Probe’

‘Media garbage’, premier brands ‘Moroccan party girl’ press reports

(ANSA) — Rome, October 28 — A veteran news anchor on one of Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s TV channels on Thursday denied involvement in a reported prostitution probe stemming from the May arrest of a 17-year-old Moroccan girl who said she attended parties at the premier’s Milan villa.

“I haven’t been told I’m under investigation for any crime,” Emilio Fede, 79, told ANSA, “I read it in the newspapers this morning.

“Nothing is further from my mind than the idea of inciting or exploiting prostitution,” said Fede, a close personal friend of the premier and famously one of his biggest fans.

Fede said he “might have seen” the girl, Ruby, at Berlusconi’s home.

Ruby, who reportedly ran away from her foster family in Sicily and illegally got a Milan night-club dancing job, was questioned by prosecutors for several hours Wednesday.

So far there has been no official confirmation that Fede or two others named in the press, Berlusconi’s ex-dental hygienist Nicole Moretti, now a Lombardy regional councillor, and sleaze-tainted celebrity agent Lele Mora, are under investigation.

Judicial sources themselves have described Ruby’s statements as “controversial”.

According to the press, Ruby told police of “erotic” games at the parties but stressed she did not have sex with the premier, who last year was dogged for months by a scandal over an escort who recorded an apparent sexual encounter at his Rome residence.

Fede told ANSA: “I never once saw those dinners (in Milan) end in any way that could be described as transgressive”.

“I have nothing to do with prostitution, nor has anyone else,” he said.

“The dinners I attended at Berlusconi’s house were just dinners. Then, it’s well known that Berlusconi is wont to give his guests books, scarves, etc…But if someone wants to see in that an incitement to prostitution…” As well as Puglian escort Patrizia D’Addario, Berlusconi in 2009 also faced a scandal, denounced first by his now-estranged wife, over then 17-year-old aspiring Neapolitan showgirl Noemi Letizia who told the media she had frequent platonic meetings with the premier.

Berlusconi, who has always denied any impropriety and said he has never paid for sex in his life, said through his lawyers Wednesday that Ruby’s claims were “completely unfounded”.

Minetti, the former dental technician whose election as a regional councillor also caused controversy, admitted she knew Ruby but would not comment further.


Berlusconi branded the reports as “media garbage” but appeared to indirectly confirm that his office had telephoned the Milan police station in May to have the girl released after accusations of theft by an acquaintance of hers.

“I’m a kindhearted person. I get moving to help people who are in need,” he replied when asked about the supposed call.

“But I’m here to talk of real trash,” he said at a press conference on the Naples refuse emergency, declining to answer any further questions.

Italian dailies reported that police released Ruby after a phone call from the premier’s office which allegedly claimed she was the daughter of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Merkel and Sarkozy Risk Embarrassing Defeat

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have ruffled feathers ahead of this week’s EU summit by hashing out a deal on their plans for reforming the Stability Pact. The proposal to remove voting rights has met with fierce opposition across Europe — the stage is set for open confrontation.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has raised the stakes ahead of this week’s European Union summit. She and French President Nicolas Sarkozy want countries that break the strict budget deficit rules to be punished by having their voting rights suspended. However, this would require a change to the Lisbon Treaty — something that has met with fierce resistance within the 27-member bloc. The stage is set for confrontation this Thursday in Brussels and it is far from clear if Merkel and Sarkozy will prevail.

Despite all of the diplomatic efforts ahead of the two-day summit, the other EU leaders have not yet agreed to the plan presented by Berlin and Paris. Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker came out firmly against the Franco-German plan on Wednesday. He said that the EU already had a mechanism for withdrawing voting rights in another area: “That is the case, when a country violates human rights,” Juncker told the German broadcaster ZDF. “Human rights violations and violations of budget rules are two very different things.”

Martin Schulz, a member of Germany’s center-left Social Democrats and head of the Socialist group in the European Parliament, expects the chancellor to fail to push through her agenda at the summit. “Merkel has simply not reflected enough,” he told the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper. “I doubt that countries like Germany and France would subject themselves to such a suspension of voting rights it they had high deficits,” he said.

On Wednesday Merkel defended the pact that she made with Sarkozy ahead of the summit in a speech to the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament. That so-called “Deuville Deal” included plans to make bond holders, such as banks and hedge funds, share some of the costs of risky lending by sharing responsibility for coming to the rescue of EU states on the brink of insolvency. Another issue is whether states that break the deficit rules are automatically punished by the European Commission, the EU’s executive, or whether the agreement of the European Council of ministers would be required.

Germany has yielded to France’s desire for more leniency on this issue in exchange for Paris backing its plans for a permanent crisis resolution mechanism. An emergency safety net was established to come to the rescue of Greece and other floundering EU member states, but this runs out in 2013. Merkel has come under public pressure back home not to simply extend the fund, to which Germany is the largest contributor, with taxpayers balking at having to pay to cover the excesses of less fiscally prudent nations.

‘No Mutiny’

Although Juncker rejects some of the proposals from Berlin and Paris, he agrees with Merkel’s suggestion that the Lisbon Treaty needs to be altered to include a permanent crisis mechanism. “I am of the opinion that we have to consider a small change to the treaty in order to achieve that. There is no fundamental dissent on that,” Juncker said.

Manfred Weber, deputy floor leader of the European People’s Party, the conservative Christian Democratic group in the European Parliament, backs Merkel’s proposal to have private creditors involved in the rescue packages. Weber, a member of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), told the Tagesspiegel newspaper that the priority, however, is making sure that states do not face insolvency in the first place. He said that the Deauville Deal had given the impression that German had retreated “on the issue of how the euro can be kept stable.” Weber wants to see the EU executive given greater powers. “In order to ensure budget discipline in the EU member states we need a strong European Commission, one that can automatically impose sanctions without any political influence.”

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has pronounced himself optimistic that the strengthening of the EU Stability Pact can be achieved. “Following numerous discussions with my European counterparts I am certain that we can reach a solution that will strengthen Europe, protect the euro and do justice to the legitimate interests of the taxpayers,” he told the Bild newspaper. “We need tough rules which ensure that in future the imposition of sanctions is as devoid of political influence as possible.”

As for the criticism of the calls from France and Germany for a change to the Lisbon Treaty, Westerwelle said that there was no “mutiny” within the EU, because “France and Germany are not the captains of Europe, but rather part of a community of states on equal terms.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Religious Demands Rise in French State Schools: Study

(Reuters) — Muslim pupils and parents in France are increasingly making religious demands on the state school system that teachers should rebuff by explaining the country’s secular principles, according to an official report.

The High Council for Integration (HCI) reported growing problems with pupils of immigrant backgrounds who object to courses about the Holocaust, the Crusades or evolution, demand halal meals and “reject French culture and its values.”

“It is becoming difficult for teachers to resist religious pressures,” said the report, published in draft form by the newspaper Journal du Dimanche over the weekend. The final report will be presented to the government next month.

“We should now reaffirm secularism and train teachers how to deal with specific problems linked to the respect for this principle,” it said.

France’s strict separation of church and state relegates religion to the private sphere, an approach challenged by a growing Islamic identity among some of the five million Muslims in the country’s 65 million population.

HCI President Patrick Gaubert told the newspaper his agency decided to study how pupils from immigrant backgrounds adapted to the state school system because “this is at the heart of the challenges that French society must face.”

The report, which studied a wide range of issues faced by pupils of immigrant backgrounds, gave no figures for the extent of problems linked to religion but said they came up so often in the hearings the HCI conducted that they merited attention.


Teachers often faced objections when they taught courses about world religions, the Holocaust or France’s war in Algeria, or discussed events related to Israel and the Palestinians or American military actions in Muslim countries, the study said.

“Teachers regularly find that Muslim parents refuse to have their children learn about Christianity,” it said. “Some think it amounts to evangelization.”

“Anti-Semitism … surfaces during courses about the Holocaust, such as inappropriate jokes and refusals to watch films” about Nazi concentration camps, it said. “Tensions often come from pupils who identify themselves as Muslims.”

Teachers found they could discuss the transatlantic slave trade but met criticism from pupils when they brought up the history of slavery within Africa or in the Middle East.

Reflecting the promotion of anti-Darwinist thinking in Muslim countries, “evolution is challenged by pupils who posit divine or creationist action without any argument for it.”

In some areas with large immigrant populations, many pupils shun school cafeterias for religious reasons, even though most offer alternative dishes when pork is on the menu.

“Demand for halal menus is strong, even for the very young in public creches,” it said. “In some cities, there are petitions for halal — and sometimes kosher — meals.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Space: EU Won’t Go Into Lift-Off

Brussels has shelved its space policy, reports Les Echos. “What was to be a major priority for the European Commission, now that the Lisbon Treaty has granted it new prerogatives in the field of space policy, has discreetly been sidelined.” In the current context of budgetary restrictions, the Commission wants “to avoid exposing the European Union to risks inherent in high-profile financing of major space projects” like Galileo. As the daily explains, the space industry has responded with disbelief to the news that the Commission has set aside the implementation of a programme for which it had assumed political responsibility. However, at least Germany “will be pleased that the European Space Policy has been shelved,” continues Les Echos. “Many will remember the staunch opposition in Berlin to a policy that would enable the European Union to sideline the European Space Agency (ESA).”

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

Swedish Police: ‘No Connection to Serial Shootings’

Malmö police have confirmed that the man arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of attempted murder for a shooting which took place in the city on October 20th, in not connected to the spate of racist shootings in the city.

The news that a man had been arrested the shooting caused shockwaves across the Swedish and Scandinavian media on Thursday, as the city of Malmö remained on edge following a spate of up to 20 shootings directed at people with immigrant backgrounds.

At a press conference on Wednesday morning Malmö police however confirmed that there was no connection to the wave of shootings, and was instead an isolated incident of attempted murder.

“It concerns two incidents of attempted murder. We have a feasible motive,” said Ulf Sempert at Malmö police.

The 24-year-old man was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of attempted murder for shootings which took place in the Lindhagen district of the city on October 20th.

Two people were injured in connection with the shootings.

Furthermore it was explained that the news of the 24-year-old’s arrest was released to underline that the police continue to work with other incidents of gun crime, despite the allocation of massive resources to the serial shootings case.

The police underlined that the investigation into the spate of shootings was ongoing, but wasn’t expected to be concluded anytime soon.

Malmö police also commented the news that criminal gangs had become involved in the search for the gunman that has kept the city’s multi-ethnic population on edge.

“This is nothing that we like. Those who act risk committing crimes. The risk is that those who form groups do not have the same requirements on proof that we have. It is completely unacceptable with some form of vigilance committee,” said Börje Sjöholm at Skåne police.

The Malmö shootings have been widely covered in the international press since the link was made to the Laser Man attacks of the early 1990s last week and police confirmed that they were investigating a racist motive.

The news on Thursday of the arrest of the 24-year-old was reported with the same coverage, with Danish newspapers for example quick on the uptake.

“I am conscious that the information which was initially sent out could have been clearer,” said Lars Mahler at Malmö police.

Laser Man was the nickname given to John Ausonius, who shot 11 people of immigrant origin, killing one, in and around Stockholm from August 1991 to January 1992.

Ausonius, who in many of the attacks used a rifle equipped with a laser sight, was sentenced to life behind bars in 1994 and remains in prison.

Just as with the Laser Man case, the recent shootings in Malmö come at a time when an openly anti-immigration party has just entered the Swedish parliament.

This year, the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats won 20 seats in parliament in the September 19th election with a particularly strong showing in the south of Sweden.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Benefits Cheat Who Stole £50,000 Escapes Jail — and is Given 106 Years to Pay Back the Money

A benefits fraudster who cheated taxpayers out of almost £50,000 has been spared a jail sentence — and been given a staggering 106 years to pay back the money.

Mother of three Lee-Anne Jennings, 42, claimed income support as a single parent for almost five years, even though her husband had moved back in with her after a temporary separation.

She is now paying the stolen benefit payments back voluntarily at a rate of £9 a week, which will take 106 years.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Health Bosses Refuse to Pay Pregnancy Benefit for Woman Whose Premature Baby Was ‘Born Too Early’

A mother struggling to pay the rail fare to see her baby in hospital has been told she won’t get a pregnancy grant because her daughter is too premature.

Michelle Ellis gave birth to tiny Chernice at 24 weeks. She weighed just 1lb 12oz and is fighting for her life in intensive care.

But the government pays a flat-rate £190 Health in Pregnancy grant to all women in their 25th week so Michelle doesn’t qualify.

Baby Chernice has fluid on her lungs and is seriously ill at The Royal London Hospital. She’s now three weeks old and weighs 3lb.

Michelle, 38, a part-time cleaner and her husband Lee, who is unemployed, are struggling to pay the train fares from their home in Basildon, Essex, almost 30 miles away.

‘I really need this money to help with the fares,’ said Michelle.

‘It seems to me they are saying “before 25 weeks your baby could die so it’s not worth paying you”.

‘The end result is the same — I’ve had a baby — and she is fighting for her life. How can they say we are not entitled? It just seems ridiculous to not help families most in need.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Hate Preacher is Freed From Jail and Immediately Tells Britons Not to Wear Remembrance Day Poppies

A hate preacher told Britons they should not wear poppies this Remembrance Day because they show support for ‘murder and illegal war’ as he was released from jail.

Omar Brooks — who is really called Trevor — climbed 9ft up the outer wall of Pentonville prison as followers chanted his name.

The unrepentant 34-year-old firebrand accused British troops in Afghanistan of torture and rape as the crowd chanted his name and shouted ‘Allahu Akhbar’.

Brooks, also known as Abu Izzadeen, was jailed in April 2008 for inciting terrorism abroad and terrorist fundraising.

He said Britons should not buy poppies because the money goes to troops who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The cleric, whose Christian family is originally from Jamaica, shot to notoriety when he confronted John Reid during the then-home secretary’s first speech to a Muslim audience.

After his release he jumped from the Pentonville wall into his crowd of followers and then climbed back up to deliver his speech.

He said: ‘I want to talk to you about many of the atrocities in Afghanistan. Mosques are being destroyed.

‘Muslims are being murdered and tortured by the forces. I don’t believe anybody, even non-Muslims, should buy a poppy because they should not endorse this illegal war.

‘And if you look at how the poppy campaign has gone this year it was talking a lot about the people who have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, that is the main drive of the campaign this year.

‘Brooks was asked if he was willing to condemn the 9/11 and 7/7 terror attacks, but refused to do so.

He said: ‘People talk about these things, at the 7/7 inquest the other day someone said afterwards it was like the Thriller video, with everyone covered in soot. ‘But that happens every day in Iraq and Afghanistan.’

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Left Like This for a Fiver: Boy, 15, Has Jaw Broken by Thugs Who Beat Him Unconscious

[WARNING: Graphic content.]

These shocking pictures show the terrible wounds inflicted on a boy who was brutally beaten by hoodie thugs — for just £5 and his mobile phone.

Bobby Bedwell, 15, was knocked unconscious and suffered horrific head injuries, including a broken jaw and shattered cheekbone, in the savage attack.

His outraged family have now released pictures of his shocking injuries in an attempt to catch the five-strong gang of teenage cowards who put him in hospital.

The traumatised schoolboy said today: ‘I’m still very scared and I don’t feel comfortable going out any more. I just want them caught because what they’ve done has affected my whole life.’

Bobby, of Barking, Essex, was walking home from an evening out with five friends when they were set upon by the thugs with baseball bats and a lump of wood. His friends managed to escape but GCSE student Bobby was knocked unconscious and robbed in the completely unprovoked attack.

The youngster was rushed to hospital with serious head injuries. Doctors spent three days working to repair his broken jaw and cheekbone. The teenager also suffered a two-inch gash to the back of his head and smashed teeth.

He has lost some vision in his left eye as a result of the assault, and fragments of his jawbone remain embedded in his gums.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Rebel Mayor Thanks Ken Livingstone for Tower Hamlets Help as Labour Fumes

The new mayor of Tower Hamlets today deepened Labour’s woe over his victory by declaring he was “grateful” for Ken Livingstone’s backing.

Lutfur Rahman swept to power with more than half of the vote, giving Ed Miliband his first taste of defeat as party leader.

His victory last week came after Labour sacked him as its candidate over his alleged links with the Islamic Forum of Europe and concern at alleged vote-rigging.

Mr Livingstone, an ex-London Mayor and GLC leader, campaigned openly alongside the independent candidate.

Mr Rahman, speaking for the first time since his triumph, said today: “Ken Livingstone is a great politician. I’m grateful to him for coming here to support justice. I’m very happy to have his support.”

He also attacked Labour Party members who he claims are trying to “discredit” him using “innuendo, hearsay and untruth”.

During the campaign, Mr Livingstone angered Labour activists by suggesting the party’s candidate Helal Abbas was not “credible or competent” and was forced to state he was only recommending voters give their second preferences to Mr Rahman.

But several Labour MPs are furious at his conduct and frustrated that Mr Miliband has not reprimanded him.

Just a month before the election, Mr Rahman was deselected after Mr Abbas submitted a dossier to the National Executive Committee,

attacking his rival’s record as council leader and claiming he had been “brainwashed by extremists”.

Mr Abbas, backed by Bethnal Green and Bow MP Rushanara Ali, was installed in his place. The campaign was marred by bitter personal attacks. On Monday Labour councillors met at Westminster and voted to ban party members from joining Mr Rahman’s cabinet or acting for him as paid advisers.

Mr Rahman said: “I had extended my hand to the Labour Party councillors asking them to work with me and be part of my administration.

“I’d hoped they would see sense. When I heard the meeting was held in Parliament and some members have refused to work in my administration, it saddened me. I hope they will reconsider. All I want is to work for the people of Tower Hamlets.” He had hoped to have announced a cabinet but said he will not be able to do so for another two weeks.

Mr Rahman added: “Labour members voted for me by an overwhelming majority to be the Labour candidate and I still believe I am.

“They voted to deselect me based on a dossier by Councillor Abbas to which I was never given the chance to respond. It was based on innuendo, hearsay and untruth.

“Certain people did this to discredit me as a politician. I fought my campaign on my policies and what I stood for. My team and I were not involved with any underhand tactics. There is no evidence to prove otherwise.

“And I have no links to the Islamic Forum of Europe. As leader of the council, I worked with people of all faiths. For anyone to assert that anyone outside has undue influence on me is rubbish.

“I know of the IFE. During my time as council leader I’ve been to two meetings for the IFE that two other councillors were invited to.”

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Shocking Video Shows Stab Victim Being Repeatedly Punched by Police Sent Out to Help Him

This is the shocking moment police began beating a restrained man who had been stabbed in the head as he lay bleeding in a park.

Darren Grace had staggered into Liverpool’s Stanley Park in the early hours of Sunday, August 1 when three officers at first came to his aid.

However footage shows that as Mr Grace seems to try to resist treatment, one officer rains down a volley of eight punches onto his injured head while a female officer puts her hand on his arm.

Five minutes later, just before 8am, both she and the other officer appear to punch Mr Grace in the head and back as he lies face down on the ground.

The 31-year-old was later charged with two counts of assaulting a police officer — charges which were eventually dropped when Crown Prosecution Service lawyers saw the tape and realised there wasn’t enough evidence ‘to provide a realistic prospect of a conviction’.

After receiving basic treatment, Mr Grace was held in a cell for 11 hours.

Today Merseyside Police accused the Anfield joiner of being violent towards the officers adding ‘CCTV images can never show the whole story’.

After being shown the tape by the Liverpool Echo, the force voluntarily referred the incident to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Hamas Official: Another Gaza War Would Cost Israel Dearly

A Gaza-based high-ranking Islamic Hamas movement leader on Thursday warned Israel against launching a large- scale offensive on the Gaza Strip similar to the late 2008 Gaza war, also known as Operation Cast Lead.

“We seriously consider Israel’s threats to launch another war on Gaza, but we frankly say if Israel tries to enter Gaza, it will cost it a lot and it won’t be able to achieve its goals,” said Mahmoud al- Zahar during a workshop in Gaza.

Israel had accused Hamas movement, which has been ruling the Gaza Strip since June 2007, of trying to get more arms and weapons to the salient to use in carrying out attacks against Israeli territory.

“It is the right of Hamas to have all kinds of weapons to defend itself,” Zahar said. “If Israel carries out another war in the future, it should think thousand of times before carrying out a war.”

He said that Israel “exaggerates that armed organizations have various kinds of weapons to find an excuse to strike again on the Gaza Strip.”

Meanwhile, Zahar affirmed that there are contacts between his movement and Western countries “due to the growth of Islam. We speak with the west using the same honest language that we use with everyone.”

He denied that his movement had held direct contacts or talks with officials in the U.S. administration, “but we speak to non-official American and Western figures, and we welcome anyone who wants to speak to us.”

Earlier Thursday, Zahar told Reuters the West was floundering in immorality and had no right to criticize Hamas over the way it the Gaza Strip, saying the West should be “ashamed of supporting Israel, You cannot support the foundation of Israel. Don’t you care about the assassination of people here?”

Zahar told Reuters in an interview that Islamic traditions deserved respect and he accused Europe of promoting promiscuity and political hypocrisy.

“We have the right to control our life according to our religion, not according to your religion. You have no religion. You are secular,” said Zahar, who is one of the group’s most influential and respected voices.

“You do not live like human beings. You do not [even] live like animals. You accept homosexuality. And now you criticize us?” he said earlier this week, speaking from his apartment building in the densely populated, Mediterranean city.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Palestinian Reformist: The Islamization of the Palestinian Cause is an Obstacle to Its Resolution

“In an interview posted on the liberal Arab website Aafaq on October 4, 2010, Palestinian reformist Zainab Rashid said that the Arab dictatorial regimes exploit the Palestinian cause in order to divert attention from their own domestic problems and suppress initiatives of democratization and reform. She also opposed the Islamization of the Palestinian cause, saying the Palestinian issue will never be resolved as long as it is construed as a religious struggle destined to continue until Judgment Day.

She argued that violence and extremism in the Arab and Islamic world stem from Islam’s religious and legal texts, and called upon Arab intellectuals to renounce such texts, and to struggle for one supreme goal: “the secularization of the state and of society — which is to say, complete separation of religion and state.”

           — Hat tip: RB[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Bahrain Opens Coup Plot Trial Against Shia Activists

The trial of 25 Shia Muslim opposition activists has opened in Bahrain, five days after a tense general election.

The activists have pleaded not guilty to charges of plotting to overthrow the Sunni-led government and to supporting “terror cells” in the Gulf kingdom.

Some of the accused have told the court that they were tortured behind bars.

Rights groups have criticised the government for arresting dissidents and curtailing media freedoms in the run-up to last Saturday’s poll.

The election came amid rising tension between the dominant Sunni Muslim community and Shia Muslims, who make up most of the population but complain that they have been treated as “second-class” citizens for years.

Bahrain’s main Shia opposition group, al-Wifaq, held on to their 18 seats in the 40-seat lower house of parliament, but they are not expected to gain enough allies to form a majority in a run-off vote on Saturday.

‘Beaten all over’ Security was tight for Thursday’s court hearing in the Bahraini capital, Manama.

The men were charged with forming an illegal organisation, resorting to terrorism, financing terrorist activities and spreading false information, according to the indictment.

The authorities in Bahrain accuse Shia activists of links to Iran and of wanting to end the Sunni monopoly over political power in the Gulf state.

Among those on trial is British citizen Jaffar al-Hasabi, a 38-year-old London minicab driver.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Hamas’s Iranian Puppeteer

For those who so naively believe that the way to defuse the Islamist threat to the world is first to solve the Israel/Palestinian conflict, further evidence — not that anyone who has eyes to see actually needs it — of the way in which the Palestinians are themselves being controlled by the forces of the jihad. For the third time, Iranian arms destined for Hamas in Gaza to attack Israel have been intercepted, this time in Nigeria. Ha’aretz reports:

Nigeria’s secret service said on Tuesday it had intercepted 13 containers of weapons from Iran in what Israeli defense sources believe may be part of a new smuggling route from Iran to Hamas in Gaza. Rocket launchers, grenades and other explosives camouflaged as building material were seized in the Nigerian port of Lagos after being unloaded from an Iranian ship.


“If we want this struggle to end, we must stop Islamizing the [Palestinian] cause by interpreting [current] affairs according to what is written in religious texts… How can we resolve this struggle while people, relying on the holy texts, still believe in the depths of their hearts that it will continue until Judgment Day, when the trees and rocks will call on the Muslim to come kill the Jews hiding behind them?”

In other words — as I have said before — those who think resolving the Israel/Palestinian issue will help defeat radical Islam have got it precisely the wrong way round. The Israel/Palestinian issue will only be resolved if radical Islam is first defeated.

Even more important is what Zeinab Rashid goes on to say:

“Today, nine years after the terrorist crime of 9/11, the number of condemnations against this crime from the Muslim world has yet to reach the number of condemnations which the entire world voiced against the Reverend Terry Jones’s intentions to burn the Koran. Reverend Terry Jones’s initiative revealed the difference between the diffident and embarrassed tone of the Muslim condemnation [of 9/11]… and the harsh condemnation voiced by the entire world [against Terry Jones’s intentions]…

“Up till now, no important and widely-followed Muslim leader has dared to declare that the head of the terrorists, Osama bin Laden, or the perpetrators of this crime, are heretics. The reason for this is that they carried out jihad al-talab [holy war against infidels on their own soil], which is considered an obligation incumbent upon all [Muslims], [but] which, if carried out by some, exempts the rest… [In other words,] the crime of 9/11 was carried out by [people who acted as] representatives of all Muslims.

In another sense, according to shari’a, those who carried out the 9/11 crime were immeasurably better Muslims than the so-called moderate sheikhs. The problem lies in the fact that in Islam there is no moderation versus extremism. [My emphasis] [Moreover,] in reality, one who calls himself a moderate has no power, money, or equipment with which to carry out what can be carried out by an extremist, who does have some power, as well as plenty of money…

…”Violence is at the foundation of Islam. Any attempt to claim that violence has no roots in Islam, and that [Islam] was spread by pleasant and tolerant means, is an attempt to turn religious texts upside down…”

I hope this woman has personal protection. What courage.

She undoubtedly puts herself in danger by speaking such home-truths. How shameful that, in the land of the free, our spoiled and frivolous liberals are quite incapable even of hearing them.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Iraq: $8 Billion Spent, No Records Kept

Inspector general’s report raises alarms about funds inside Defense Department

The U.S. Department of Defense got more than $9 billion from the sale of Iraqi oil and other revenue streams to be used for reconstruction inside the war-damaged nation and spent it but now cannot document where $8.7 billion of those funds went, according to an inspector general’s report published online.

The military’s response in the report noted that the records probably exist, it’s just that they’re probably archived, and it might take a long time to track them down.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Islamic Fundamentalist Mass Media Targets Egyptian Coptic Church

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — The majority of Coptic Christians and liberal Muslims in Egypt believe that Fundamentalist sheikhs and their mass media have played a vital role in the latest wave of incitement against the Coptic Church, orchestrated by Egyptian State Security.

The Salafi (one who follows the ways of the first Muslims) television channels, airing their programs from Egypt, supported by their affiliated fundamentalist journalists and mosque imams, have engaged in a coordinated smear campaign against the Coptic Church and its Pope, designed to terrorize the Copts.

Newspapers and TV channels in Arab countries gave a wide platform for Islamists to join in the campaign. It was on Al-Jezeerah TV Channel on September 15 that the Islamist and ex-secretary general of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, Dr. Selim Al-Awah, accused the Pope of running “a State within the Egyptian State” and the church of having its own militia and of hiding weapons and ammunition obtained from Israel in monasteries and churches, preparing for a war “against the Muslims,” to divide Egypt and establish a so-called Coptic State.

Al-Awah also accused the church of abducting and torturing Christian converts to Islam in monasteries, to brainwash them back to Christianity. He warned that if the status of the Church remains as such, the “country will burn” and called on Muslims to go out in demonstrations as the “only answer left to counteract the strength of the Church.” (

Pope Shenouda expressed his concern about the smear campaign, he said in interviews with Egyptian state-owned channels end September “it is easy to incite the naive simple citizen, but the effects of these incitements are quite serious.” He blamed the media and the instigators, who have an effect on the masses, causing hatred between Muslims and Christians and between the Church and the State.

Salafi Sheikh Wagdy Ghoneim openly attacked the Pope, alleging the presence of weapons in monasteries and the Copts for fighting against the application of Sharia law in Egypt, calling on them to leave if they do not like it. He also attacked the Copts in the diaspora for siding with the Jews in the flotilla incident and for believing that should anything happen, the United States will come to save the Copts. He said “I swear by God, you will not have time stay alive until America and the West arrive, this is for your own good, if you understand. Do you think the Muslims inside Egypt will say thank you and may Allah give you health? No, by God.” (Video dated 9/14/2010

Coptic political analyst Magdi Khalil said “No one cannot deny the effect of the Salafi mass media as they have a wide audience amounting to millions.” He blamed them for fabricating events to incite Muslims against the Coptic Church. “They fabricated the alleged conversion to Islam of the priest’s wife Camilia Shehata, which, despite her denial of ever wanting to convert to Islam and Al-Azhar’s negation that she ever went there, ( still draws demonstrations in front of mosques every Friday.” The last demonstrations took place in Cairo and Alexandria simultaneously on Friday October 22, calling for Camilia’s freedom from the prisons of the Church as well as other “Muslim sisters,” calling for the boycott of Coptic businesses and insulting the Pope. The next and eleventh of these weekly demonstrations is scheduled for Friday October 28.

Joining in the campaign against the church from London, is sheikh Haney el-Sebay, a convicted terrorist who sought political asylum in the UK and who runs the Almaqreze Center for Historical Studies there. He threatened the Copts in his speech and talked about the Coptic militias and the priest’s wife Camilia Shehata. He added that Mubarak must have become a Christian as he acts against Muslim interests.

On October 19, Egypt’s main satellite operator Nilesat temporarily suspended 12 Islamic channels, and warned 20 others, on grounds of violating their licenses. The reasons given were mainly for promoting religious hatred, inciting sectarianism, violence, quack medicine and sorcery. “This decision was taken after extensive study that indicated a near doubling of these channels over the past year and a recent spike of extremist religious discourse,” information minister Anas Al-Feki said in a statement. Before these measures were taken, there were 94 Islamic private television channels airing from Arab countries.

Nine of the twelve suspended channels were funded by Saudi Arabia. “There is no doubt that Saudi Arabia is playing a destructive and ruinous role in Egypt,” commented Magdi Khalil.

Analysts said that the suspension decision seemed to be mainly aimed at stopping the spread of strict Islamic Salafi/Wahabbi teaching that might boost support for the Muslim Brotherhood, prompted by the forthcoming crucial parliamentary elections in November.

Several angry Islamists came out attacking the government over this decision, and exposing the complicity of State Security with the satellite operators.

Sheikh Safwat Hegazi, a preacher in El-Nass, one of the suspended salafi TV channels and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, told State Security that if the channel is not opened soon, they will air from outside Egypt. He added, “then Egyptian security will not have any control over us or be able to guide us.” He pointed out that in the coming period the suspended channels will re-open and will be owned by the sheikh.

Mamdouh Ismail, a lawyer for Islamist groups, said that the closure of the religious satellite channels was a gift to the church to ensure its support in the elections. He said that Security imposes on the preachers conditions in case they appear on the satellite channels, such as not to criticize the policy of the state, otherwise they could face expulsion from the channel.

Khalil disagrees that anything was done for the sake of the church, “When they were attacking the Copts, no one moved. However, when some of the channels became a political threat and crossed the red line drawn by State Security, which is not to attack the government, they were suspended.” He added that some of the sheikhs in the suspended channels started calling on Muslims not to vote for Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party “as they hand over your Muslim sisters to the church”.

According to Khalil extremist on these channels have been calling for years for the murder of Copts, issued fatwas for the permissibility of Muslims purloining Coptic property and money, accusing them of treason and being agents of foreign powers, and of being unbelievers and idolaters, ridiculing their Holy Books and their beliefs, calling for their Islamization either peacefully, by deception or by humiliation, inciting the State against them, calling for the torching of their churches and inciting against their women.

It was reported that one of the most fundamentalist of the suspended TV channels, “Al-Hekma,” owned by Sheikh Mohamad Hassan, will appear soon on Lebanese-owned “Nour Sat” after changing its name to “El Rodah.”

Commenting on the ongoing smear campaign and demonstrations against the Church, Coptic activist Mark Ebeid said “These allegations are extremely serious. They run on the same lines used by the Ottoman Empire as an excuse for the 1915-1923 Armenian and Assyrian Genocide in Turkey.”

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

More Hands Amputated in Iran

Seven people lost a hand to set an “example” for other convicts. This comes a year after the Iranian parliament announced it would eliminate stoning and amputation sentences.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) — More and more people are getting their hands chopped off in Iran. In the last few months, seven have had a hand amputated by the state to serve as an “example” for others, this despite the fact that Ali Shahrokhi, head of the Majlis judiciary committee, announced a year ago that the Iranian parliament (Majlis) would pass a bill to eliminate stoning and amputation sentences.

The numbers cited by the Mehr news agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Propaganda Organisation, are alarming.

A thief’s hand was amputated at a prison in Yazd in accordance with a trial court order upheld by the Supreme Court. Mehr reported that the “professional thief’s” hand was amputated after the Yazd judiciary announced plans to implemented “harsher and firmer punishments” for crimes such as theft. The thief’s appeal was unsuccessful.

Akbar Biglari, chief prosecutor in Hamedan province, defended the judiciary decision to have hands chopped off inside prison. “The Shiite nation has always been subjected to oppression in history. Global imperialism will abuse the execution of this punishment and claim that Iran does not respect human rights.”

Last week, a 21-year-old man’s hand was amputated after he stole items from a bakery.

Two weeks ago, the Mashhad judiciary announced that the hand of a prisoner convicted of theft was amputated in prison and in front of other prisoners, as a future “warning”.

About three months ago, five men in their mid-20s lost their hands to the axe after they were convicted on several counts of theft involving cattle and cars.

Earlier this year, an Iranian daily reported that a thief was publicly executed in the city of Mahshahr, whilst his co-conspirator’s hand and foot were amputated in prison.

The two men had been charged with removing transportation trucks from the Imam port, stealing their cargo, and abandoning the trucks.

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


Muscovites Uneasy Over Plan for New Mosque

When Moscow’s Muslims celebrated the end of Ramadan on September 10, the media published photos of multitudes of people praying on the street outside the city’s Grand Mosque, which was packed with worshippers.

A local magazine noted that the image was a reminder to Muscovites that they were living in a “Muslim city”. In reality, Muslims make up only about one-fifth of the Russian capital’s 10.5 million inhabitants.

There is a shortage of places of worship — there are four mosques in the entire city — for Moscow’s estimated two million Muslims. So the community is planning to build a new mosque to hold 3,000 people in the city’s southeastern Tekstilshchiki district.

Construction is scheduled for November, but the decision has sparked opposition from locals, who have petitioned to scrap the project.

More than 1,000 people from the district added their signatures against the plan, arguing that it would affect parking and inconvenience local dog owners, who would lose a local park.

They also complain that the mosque would be in the district’s only “green zone”, an area that is supposed to be reserved for such parks. Others express more xenophobic sentiments, saying they fear an influx of Chechens and other people from the Caucasus.

Early in September, hundreds of protesters gathered on Volzhsky Boulevard, where the mosque is scheduled to be built. One woman said that while she was opposed to the building of the mosque, she was also opposed to those who were trying to stir up ethnic and religious tension over the issue.

“The people who have come here are not against Muslims; not against their religion. They are against anything being built here,” she said.

The Russian Orthodox Church, meanwhile, has refrained from openly backing the mosque’s opponents. A spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate told the Interfax news agency on that the church did not oppose the mosque, but criticised the city authorities for not allowing an Orthodox church to be built on the same site.

Nafigulla Ashirov, co-chairman of the Russian Muftis Council in Moscow, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Tatar-Bashkir service that he was dismayed by the controversy.

“When there are almost 900 churches for Christians and just four mosques for two million Muslims,” he said, “people, if they are smart and friendly — whoever they are, Christians or the Moscow city authorities — should admit that this is not enough.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Hopes Fade for Indonesian Tsunami Survivors

Hopes are fading for more than 300 people still registered missing after Monday’s tsunami in Indonesia, as the death toll climbs to 394.

Disaster official Ade Edward says the 3m (10ft) surge is likely to have carried many of the missing out to sea, or buried them in the sand.

The first major aid ships reached the worst-hit Mentawai Islands on Thursday.

The government has pledged millions of dollars for the relief effort, but activists say more needs to be done.

Aid agencies said people on the islands still urgently needed to food and shelter, three days after a 7.7-magnitude undersea earthquake triggered the tsunami.

Indonesia is also struggling with the devastation caused by this week’s eruption of Mount Merapi in central Java, which killed more than 30 people.

As the scale of the tsunami disaster became clear on Thursday, Mr Edward painted a bleak picture of the chances of finding more survivors.

“Of those missing people we think two-thirds of them are probably dead, either swept out to sea or buried in the sand,” he told the AFP news agency.

“When we flew over the area yesterday we saw many bodies. Heads and legs were sticking out of the sand, some of them were in the trees.”

He estimated that a further 200 people may have been killed.

Indonesia’s state-run news agency Antara reported that 468 houses had been completely destroyed by the wave.

Village chief Tasmin Saogo told the BBC’s Indonesian service that the islanders have begun to bury their dead.

“In the village of Sadegugung, there aren’t any body bags. In the end we just lifted them and we buried 95 people today,” he said.

“There are still may bodies lying about, underneath coconut trees and in other places.”…

[Return to headlines]

Maldives Police to Probe Foul-Mouthed Wedding Ceremony

People in the Maldives were reported to be furious at the possible damage to their reputation

Police in the Maldives are to launch an investigation after a foreign couple who thought they were renewing marriage vows were in fact being subjected to a torrent of abuse.

A video has emerged of the unidentified Western couple taking part in the ceremony at the Vilu Reef resort.

Instead of words of blessing, the celebrant calls the couple “swine” and “infidels” in the local language.

The hotel has apologised for the “unforgivable conduct” of its staff.

“The management of the resort is deeply saddened by this humiliating event,” the hotel said in a statement.

The Maldives’ Deputy Tourism Minister, Ismail Yasir, told the BBC the government was “very concerned” by the incident.

“We have asked the resort to inform us what action they have taken. We have also requested a formal inquiry into the matter from the police,” he said.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed said the incident could damage the country’s reputation as a tourist haven.

The amateur film of the ceremony, posted on the video sharing website Youtube a few days ago, shows the couple sitting in a makeshift shelter on the beach, surrounded by local people.

The bride is wearing a white dress and carrying a bouquet, while incense, official looking documents and wedding rings lie on the table in front of them.

‘Frequent fornication’

The celebrant explains the ceremony in English before everyone stands and holds their hands up to pray.

But instead of words of blessing, the celebrant uses the intonating style of prayers to unleash a torrent of abuse about the couple in the Dhivehi language.

“Your marriage is not a valid one. You are not the kind of people who can have a valid marriage. One of you is an infidel. The other, too, is an infidel — and we have reason to believe — an atheist, who does not even believe in an infidel religion,” the Minivan newspaper quotes him as saying.

“You fornicate and make a lot of children. You drink and you eat pork. Most of the children that you have are marked with spots and blemishes. These children that you have are bastards.”

The camera focuses on the paperwork in front of him, which local media say was not a marriage document but employment contracts — he then begins to read from these.

The celebrant also makes references to bestiality, sexual diseases and “frequent fornication by homosexuals”.

Local outrage

After the ceremony, the couple are taken to plant a coconut tree together, during which various comments are made about the bride’s breasts.

Mr Yasir told the BBC most people in the Maldives were furious about what had taken place and he hoped the couple would be given compensation.

“We are embarrassed as well, and very outraged,” he said of the tourism ministry.

He said tourism was vital for the country and denied that the incident was a symptom of antagonism between local people and tourists.

“I am sure almost all Maldivians are aware that tourism is the main industry in the Maldives and is very important.”

Mr Yasir said wedding and vow renewal ceremonies were held successfully all the time and that he was sure the incident at Vilu Reef had been a one-off.

“We would like to assure everyone who would like to come to Maldives that we will take such incidents seriously and we will take action.

“We don’t want for such incidents to be characterised as normal in the Maldives and I am sure it is not so.”

Vilu Reef hotel, run by Sun Hotels and Resorts, charges $1,300 (£820) for the ceremony, which it says offers couples the chance to “mark a milestone in your amazing journey together”.

The company says the celebrant has been suspended and it is taking disciplinary action against staff.

Manager Mohamed Rasheed told the AFP news agency: “The man had used filthy language. Otherwise the ceremony was OK.”

He said the couple had received an apology.

           — Hat tip: Russkiy[Return to headlines]

Uzbekistan: Christian Man Fined the Equivalent of Seven Years of Salary for Possessing Jesus Movie

A Tashkent courthouse fines the Protestant man for owning a movie on Jesus Christ on the grounds that it could be used for proselytising. He now must pay 3.1 million soms (US$ 1,900), which amounts to seven years of salary.

Tashkent (AsiaNews/Agencies) — A court in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent convicted Murat Jalalov, a Protestant, for possessing a copy of a movie about Jesus. Although he avoided a 15-day prison sentence, he was slapped with a 3.1 million Soms (US$ 1,900) fine. In a country that has high levels of poverty, and where the average monthly salary hovers around US$ 23, the fine represents seven years of salary. Jalalov, who said he did not have the money to pay such a huge fine, also lost his passport, seized by the authorities who told him that he could get it back only when he paid the fine.

Fining people involved in “illegal” religious activities is commonplace in Uzbekistan. In a country where the secret police, the National Security Service (NSS), is everywhere, people have been fined in the streets just for handing out religious material.

For instance, one man, a non-believer, was fined for refusing to tell police where his son lived. They wanted the latter for his involvement in religious activities.

Jehovah’s Witnesses told Forum18, a human rights organisation, that more than a hundred fines have been inflicted on their members this year.

Whilst claiming that it protects human rights, Uzbekistan cracks down on any religious activity that is not sanctioned by the state. Five members of a Baptist congregation is Samarkand found that out the hard way, with heavy fines.

In Jalalov’s case, five police officers burst into his house on 29 September, seizing 75 DVDs and CDs. One of them was a movie in Uzbek on the life of Jesus produced by the Campus Crusade for Christ. Everything that was removed from the premises was sent for examination to the Religious Affairs Committee, which responded on the same day, saying that the Jesus film “could be used among local ethnicities for missionary purposes” and was therefore not allowed for import and distribution in Uzbekistan.

Under Article 216(2) of the Uzbek Criminal Code, “attracting believers of one faith to another and other missionary activity” are banned. Anyone convicted under this law can get three years in prison.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Islamist Group With Ties to Al Qaeda Executes Two Teenage Girls in Somalia by Firing Squad

An Islamic group which controls southern Somalia executed two girls by firing squad and forced hundreds of people to watch.

Sheik Mohamed Ibrahim sentenced the girls to death in the town of Belet Weyne for spying for government soldiers fighting the Islamist group al-Shabab.

Al-Shabab is linked to al Qaeda and has carried out several whippings, amputations and executions to enforce its own strict interpretation of Islam.

Abdiwali Aden, a witness, said that al-Shabab militamen had walked through the western Somalia town, informing residents about the pending executions by loudspeaker and ordering everyone to attend.

Ayan Mohamed Jama, 18, and Huriyo Ibrahim, 15, were brought before hundreds of resident.

Ten masked men then opened fire yesterday on the girls, who were blindfolded, after they were sentenced.

As the girls were shot, they shouted ‘there is no God but Allah’, according to witnesses. One woman fainted as they were killed.

Sheik Yusuf Ali Ugas, an al-Shabab official, said the girls had confessed to spying.

He also warned people against using their mobile phones or cameras to document the execution and threatened them with amputation.

Human Rights Watch said in a report in April that al-Shabab imposed ‘unrelenting repression and brutality’.

The Islamist group controls large parts of southern Somalia and much of the capital, Mogadishu.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Giving German Schools an ‘F’ For Integration

When children of immigrants do worse at school than their German peers, it provides fodder to xenophobes. But as David Wroe reports, it’s also an opportunity that the country can no longer afford to forgo.

Even before he was 10 years old, Joshua Lupemba’s German teachers had written him off. They told him he was good at sport but no good at maths.

“So I accepted that … and I became really rebellious,” Lupemba, now 23, said. “I declared war on my teachers.”

His father, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, left the family when Lupemba was four months old. His mother, who came to Berlin from Ghana in her late teens, was left to raise Lupemba and his older sister on her own.

“She did the best she could and she did it well,” Lupemba said. “She worked as a cleaner and she’d take us with her so we could learn the value of work. But my schooling was a different issue because my mum was not very well-educated.

“I understood education was something you had to do but I never saw the purpose of it. I didn’t have a role model.”

Lupemba’s story is common in Germany’s immigrant communities. Language difficulties, social and cultural upheaval, or as in Lupemba’s case, low expectations and a lack of role models, are holding many children back.

In 2008, according to the federal government’s latest integration report, 13.3 percent of immigrant children aged 15 to 19 left school without any kind of qualification — twice the rate of youngsters from ethnic German families. Worryingly, the immigrant drop-out rate actually rose compared with 2007, when it was 10 percent.

Some 43 percent of immigrant children graduate with only a Hauptschule certificate — the lowest type in Germany’s multi-tiered secondary school system — compared with 31 percent of German children.

At the other end of the scale, just one in 10 immigrant children graduate from an elite, university-track secondary school, or Gymnasium, compared with one third of German children, according to a July report from social research group the Paritätische Wohlfahrtsverband.

The education failures cause problems in adulthood, particularly in Germany’s large Turkish population, which has higher unemployment and crime rates than the rest of the country. All of this has been fodder for anti-immigration advocates like Thilo Sarrazin, the statistics-loving former central banker who sparked a sometimes constructive, sometimes poisonous debate about integration this summer.

Yet it also represents a massive missed opportunity, as The Economist magazine wrote earlier this year, pointing out that a country in demographic decline like Germany “cannot afford such waste” of its human capital.

Living down to low expectations

So how has it come to this? In a sense it’s not surprising: the immigrant groups that do conspicuously badly in school, such as Turks, largely came to Germany as low-skilled “guest workers” decades ago. Their parents are poorer, often don’t speak German well, and have lower expectations of their children’s education.

Most experts agree bad German is the biggest hindrance to getting ahead in life.

“It’s obvious that language is the main problem,” said Stefan Fuchs, a researcher at the Institute for Demography, General Welfare and Family in Sankt Augustin near Bonn. “Other countries have colonial histories but for Germany, which doesn’t have this, people don’t have that language background. If one searched for a single solution, that would be it. You can’t teach boys who don’t have enough language skills.”

Without strict discipline from parents regarding their education, children can often get on a downward spiral once they start to struggle at school, he added.

“In school, they have too little experience of success and so they search for success in other ways — they go online, they watch television, play computer games. It’s a spiral downwards.”

Mona Kheir El Din, a Berlin-based education consultant who was born in Egypt but whose mother is German, said many parents from Turkish and Arab backgrounds would let their children idly spend their time watching television unsupervised, thinking it would help with their German language.

“I have worked with children aged 12 to 14 and they told me they were watching films that were not okay,” she said. “I wouldn’t let my children watch them.”

Indeed, parental expectations are a big issue, said Daniel Faas a German sociology lecturer currently based at Trinity College, Dublin. Parents who came to Germany as unskilled workers from poor areas of Anatolya in Turkey may have low education expectations of their children. By contrast, Chinese, Vietnamese and Indian parents put very high demands on their children, who accordingly do very well.

Equally worrying is that fact that these differences are in danger of becoming ingrained in communities, he said.

“I’m not such a fan of those generation arguments — saying ‘Let’s just wait and over time … the generations will remove all these things,’“ Faas said. “If anything, the third generation is actually worse again than the second.”

Heading in different directions

While initiatives such as integration courses introduced in 2005 and closer assessment of children’s language skills have helped, the single solution experts consistently mention isn’t a government programme but rather a change to the schooling system. At present, children in most states are channelled at the age of just 10 into Hauptschulen, Realschulen and the elite Gymnasien.

Immigrant children, who often get off to a poor start in primary school, often get put into the lower Hauptschule. In high-immigration areas of cities such as Berlin and Hamburg, that means they may have little contact after the age of 10 with better-performing children, including German children who have superior language skills.

“The German school system decides too early which path children will take … Right away children from immigrant backgrounds are disadvantaged here, because many achievement problems depend on language deficits in the schools,” said Klaus Bade, head of the Advisory Council of the German Foundation for Integration and Migration.

What’s more, the system can compound the damage wrought by the school system’s own low expectations of immigrant children, Bade said.

“Teachers often don’t give even well-qualified children from immigrant backgrounds a recommendation to attend Gymnasium because they don’t think the child has any chance at a Gymnasium without parents who support their education,” he said.

Allotting school spots later would mean the under-achieving immigrant children would have more exposure — and positive influence — from better-performing students. There have been some steps towards Gesamtschulen (comprehensive schools) or at least mergers of the lower two tiers. But the politics are tricky, because German parents of high-achievers don’t want their children held back.

This was demonstrated in Hamburg this year when voters rejected a referendum to extend primary school, in which all students are kept together, from four to six years, meaning they would not be assigned to schools until age 12. That referendum result has all but killed the idea of reform in many parts of the country.

A model for success

Whether it is other students, parents or teachers, underachieving immigrant children urgently need better role models, experts agree. One option is more immigrant teachers, said Daniel Faas. While nearly one in five students has a foreign background, barely one in 10 teachers does.

“There is a huge imbalance between mono-cultural staff and the highly diverse student populations,” he said. “You see much more diversity in the teachers’ common rooms … in London than you do in Stuttgart. If you have no role model in the schools, it’s very difficult.”

Education consultant Mona Kheir El Din adds: “There are discriminating features such as teachers not being able to work with a headscarf. That’s a wrong signal. It is a must to have teachers like that because for a young girl, they are a role model. This is something that has to change.”

After plenty of wake-up calls — including an appearance before a judge who told him he was going to wind up in jail unless he changed his ways — Joshua Lupemba scraped through school with a Hauptschule qualification.

Fortunately, he also had enough self-confidence to overcome life’s setbacks and take on new challenges. Lupemba played football with the now-professional Boateng brothers, with whom he shares Ghanaian heritage, and has started businesses in the arts and entertainment. Now, he has a Bible-studies degree from a US college and has been ordained as an Evangelical pastor.

He uses his various roles to act as a mentor to children who are on the wayward path he once found himself on, including visiting schools to encourage immigrant children to study.

“I’ve done okay without a good school education,” he said. “But I don’t want other children to think they can do without school. They need an education.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Pope Benedict Says Migrants Have Duty to Integrate

Pope Benedict has called on immigrants to respect the laws and national identity of their host countries.

He said that every country had the right to regulate the flow of migration and immigrants had a duty to integrate.

The Vatican traditionally identifies with migrants and refugees and recently criticised France for deporting 1,000 Roma (gypsies) to Romania and Bulgaria.

During the summer, about 200 camps were dismantled.

The policy aroused a sharp response from the EU and prompted the Pope to tell French pilgrims they should “accept legitimate human diversity”.


[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Sweden: $3,000 Fine Announced for Homeschooling

Officials tell parents they don’t even get a court hearing on dispute

Officials in Sweden announced a $3,000 fine for a couple homeschooling their son then barred them from a court hearing on the dispute.

Word of the latest attack on parents dissatisfied with government-run public schools in the free world who choose to educate their own children comes from the Home School Legal Defense Association.

This week’s report is about Joakim and Karin Ravens’ dispute with their local municipality, Partille, in southwestern Sweden.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Wolves or Sheep?

WHICH Muslims should Western governments engage with, and which should they shun? Since the bombings in New York and Washington on September 11th 2001, and the later attacks in Madrid and London, few questions have been so urgent or have generated such fevered debate. Some experts and government officials—Lorenzo Vidino, in the first of these books, calls them the optimists—argue for dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement born in Egypt in the 1920s which now has a worldwide network of followers and institutions. A countervailing school —the pessimists, to whom Mr Vidino is closer—suggests that the Brothers are wolves in sheep’s clothing, sharing much of the militants’ agenda but hiding behind a mask of doublespeak.

Mr Vidino, who recently joined the RAND Corporation, a research outfit in Washington, DC, has in the past prophesied, in sometimes strident tones, that the Brotherhood’s ultimate goal is to extend Islamic law throughout Europe and America. He has berated those who fail to see the danger as hopelessly naive. His book is more restrained. He allows the “optimists” their say and acknowledges that the West faces a genuine dilemma in forming a judgment about such a big, baggy movement which speaks with many voices.

Though he remains a sceptic, he provides a wealth of information to let the rest of us make up our minds. He explains how in the 1950s a small, tightly knit band of Brothers successfully transplanted the movement to Europe. Led by Said Ramadan, the son-in-law of the Brotherhood’s Egyptian founder, these pioneers turned Geneva and Munich into the hubs of a network of mosques and institutions lubricated with Saudi funding.

A similar process was at work in the United States, and here Mr Vidino’s charge-sheet may give even optimists pause. He makes extensive use of court documents from the trial of the Holy Land Foundation, a Texas-based Muslim charity convicted in 2008 of channelling money to the Palestinian group, Hamas. Mr Vidino believes the documents reveal the existence of a wide and hitherto secret Brotherhood network with links to two of America’s best-known Muslim organisations, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North America. Both groups deny having such links, and have long condemned terrorism in unequivocal terms.

As for his bolder claim—that the movement aims at nothing less than the spread of Islamic law through Europe and America—Alison Pargeter, a Cambridge scholar and author of the second of these books, considers this scaremongering. Her book is shorter and more measured than Mr Vidino’s, and she has a surer grasp of the political dynamics of the Middle East, the soil from which the Brotherhood sprang. As her subtitle suggests, she regards it as an essentially reactionary movement unable to break with its past. Its hallmarks are pragmatism, opportunism and an ambivalent attitude towards the uses of violence.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]