Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20101031

Financial Crisis
»California Pensions Cost HOW MUCH?
»Why is Indiana Putting Armed Security Guards Into 36 Unemployment Offices Across the State?
»An American Child May Hold Secrets to Aging
»Ashburn Man Arrested for Planning Bombing of Metro Stations
»Factbox — Recent Attempted Attacks on the United States
»Man Fatally Shot on Street in Downtown Seattle
»Man Fatally Shot in Downtown Seattle, Suspect in Custody
»Officials Say Relationship Between FBI, Metro Detroit Muslims Must Remain Strong in Aftermath of Abdullah Shooting
»Our Latest Interview With the White House Insider Reveals a Democratic Party Civil War, With Growing Opposition to the Obama White House.
»Proposed Mosque Finds Opposition in Oshkosh
»Some Depression Might Have Roots in Immune-Generated Inflammation
Europe and the EU
»Italy: ‘No One Can Change My Lifestyle’, Berlusconi Says
»Prominent Dutch Jihadist Recants and Denounces Terrorism
»Sweden: Gothenburg Police Remain on Their Guard
»Sweden: Police Declare End to Gothenburg Bomb Threat
»Swedish Police Arrest 2 on Terror Charges
»Turkish Government: Premier Rutte Discriminatory
Israel and the Palestinians
»Fire Blamed on Jews Was Accidental, Police Say
»Gaza: Israel Authorises Car Imports, Hamas Worried
»UNESCO Recognizes Rachel’s Tomb as Mosque
Middle East
»22 Injured in Turkey Explosion
»Al-Qaida Fishes for Turks Seeking Jihad
»At Least 7 Worshipers, 7 Iraqi Troops Die in Takeover of Baghdad Church
»Dubai Bomb Was Flown on Passenger Planes
»Guard Led 3 Americans Across Iran Border, Released Hiker Says
»Ink Bomb Intelligence Came From the Middle East
»Jonathan Spyer: Fire From the Mountain
»NY UNRWA: Time for Arab Nations to Absorb ‘Refugees’
»Saudi Man Beheaded for Killing Bangladeshi
»Syria: All Sections of Baath Government Party Disbanded
»Syria: Counterfeiting is Killing Off Aleppo Soap
»Wanted Cleric Has Lived in UK and Evaded CIA
South Asia
»For Sale: Afghanistan’s Government
»Pakistan: Muslim Tortures, Accuses Christian Who Refused Slavery
»The Parade of “Muslim Sensitivities”: Where is it Taking Us?
Far East
»China Unveils the Fastest Supercomputer in the World. Should We Panic?
Australia — Pacific
»A Former Muslim School Director Seeks $4m From School
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Nigerian Weapons Haul Shows Lengths Iran Will Go to Supply Hamas
»White Farmer Shot in the Head in Chegutu Area, Zimbabwe
»Amara Lakhous: The New Face of Italian Fiction
Culture Wars
»Libya: Lesbian to Request Asylum in France
»Swedes Happy to be Kept Men: Study
»This is Tolerance… This is Open-Mindedness…
»How to Plug in a Brain
»Want to Mine the Solar System? Start With the Moon
»What’s the Model for Our Lifetimes: World War or Cold War?

Financial Crisis

California Pensions Cost HOW MUCH?

Inquiring minds are looking at an article from the CBS Los Angeles showing just how much the lavish public employee pensions are costing each Californian.


The Milken Institute, an independent think tank, said California’s pension obligations to retired state workers already cost each Californian $3,000 every year. By 2014, that cost could go up to $10,000 a year, the group’s report said.

“If we stopped everything today, we would be 500 billion dollars in the hole, of what we owe people that we’ve promised already,” said Marcia Fritz, a pension reform activist with [the website]


           — Hat tip: Bobbo[Return to headlines]

Why is Indiana Putting Armed Security Guards Into 36 Unemployment Offices Across the State?

Did you ever think that things in America would get so bad that we would need to put armed guards into our unemployment offices? Well, that is exactly what is happening in Indiana. Armed security guards will now be posted at all 36 full-service unemployment offices in the state of Indiana. So why is this happening now? Well, Indiana Department of Workforce Development spokesman Marc Lotter says that the agency is bringing in the extra security in anticipation of an upcoming deadline when thousands upon thousands of Indiana residents could have their unemployment benefits cut off. But it is not just the state of Indiana that could have a problem. In fact, one recent study found that approximately 2 million Americans will lose their unemployment insurance benefits during this upcoming holiday season unless Congress authorizes another emergency extension of benefits by the end of November. At this point, however, that is looking less and less likely.

So perhaps all the states will have to start putting armed security guards in their unemployment offices. The truth is that frustration among unemployed Americans is growing by the day.

Could we soon see economic riots similar to what we have seen in Greece and France?

Let’s hope not.

The following is a video news report about the armed guards that are going into Indiana unemployment offices….

[Return to headlines]


An American Child May Hold Secrets to Aging

Brooke Greenberg is almost 18, but she has remained mentally and physically at the level of a toddler. An American physician is trying to uncover the child’s secret, because he wants to give mankind the gift of eternal life.

It is possible that the key to immortality is hidden in this delicate girl, who is only about 76 centimeters (2 feet, 6 inches) tall and weighs seven kilograms (15.4 pounds). Her arms and legs are as fragile as the branches of a young tree. Her laugh sounds like the whimper of a puppy; she has hazel eyes. And when Brooke Greenberg wants her mother she stretches out her tiny arms, shakes her head slowly, and twists her face into a lopsided moue.

“Come here, Brooke, yes, you are a pretty girl.” Melanie Greenberg, 49, picks up the fragile looking child and gently strokes her back. “She loves being held,” says Greenberg, a mother of four. Brooke’s sisters are named Emily, Caitlin and Carly. Brooke is the second youngest. She will be 18 in January.

Other girls her age are driving, going out dancing and sleeping with their first boyfriends. But for Brooke it’s as if time had stood still. Mentally and physically, the girl remains at the level of an 11-month-old baby.

“Brooke is a miracle,” says her father, Howard Greenberg. “Brooke is a mystery,” says Lawrence Pakula, her pediatrician. “Brooke is an opportunity,” says Richard Walker, a geneticist with the University of South Florida College of Medicine. They all mean the girl from Reisterstown, a small town in the US state of Maryland, who may hold the answer to a human mystery. At issue is nothing less than immortality: Brooke Greenberg apparently isn’t aging.

She has no hormonal problems, and her chromosomes seem normal. But her development is proceeding “extremely slowly,” says Walker. If scientists can figure out what is causing the disorder, it might be possible to unlock the mysteries of aging itself. “Then we’ve got the golden ring,” says Walker.

He hopes to simply eliminate age-related diseases like cancer, dementia and diabetes. People who no longer age will no longer get sick, he reasons. But he also thinks eternal life is conceivable. “Biological immortality is possible,” says Walker. “If you don’t get hit by a car or by lightning, you could live at least 1,000 years.”

An Unprecedented Case

Brooke Greenberg was born prematurely on Jan. 8, 1983 at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. She weighed only 1,800 grams (about four pounds) at birth. It soon became clear that she wasn’t normal. Almost all of her organ systems were altered. Her hips were dislocated, so that her legs pointed awkwardly toward her shoulders. She’d hardly been born before she was placed in a cast.

The first six years were torture for Brooke and her parents. On one occasion, seven holes in the child’s abdominal wall had to be repaired. Because food kept entering her windpipe instead of her stomach, a gastric feeding tube had to be inserted. She fell into a 14-day coma when she was four. Then doctors diagnosed a brain tumor (the diagnosis later proved to be incorrect). “The Greenbergs had gone out already and made the preparations, buying a coffin and talking to the rabbi,” pediatrician Pakula recalls.

Pakula practices in a medical building near the Greenbergs’ house. He wears a tie adorned with cartoonish hippopotamuses. A tall stack of paper — Brooke’s file — sits on his desk. “This can’t be lost,” says the doctor, placing his hand on the documents. He knows what a treasure the file represents.

The most surprising thing about Brooke is that she hardly ages at all. Her body stopped growing when she was two years old. She hasn’t grown a centimeter or gained a pound. Pakula injected the girl with growth hormones, but nothing happened. He studied the medical literature and consulted specialists worldwide. “She was presented to everybody who was anybody in the medical world at the time,” says the 77-year-old pediatrician, “but she didn’t match anything any physician had seen before.”

The Greenbergs waited and hoped — one year, two years, 10 years — but nothing happened. Their daughter’s facial features have remained unchanged. There are no signs of puberty. “Brooke’s nurses, her teachers, even her father can’t consistently sort photos of her chronologically,” says Pakula. Only the girl’s hair and fingernails are growing normally…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ashburn Man Arrested for Planning Bombing of Metro Stations

An Ashburn man was arrested today on federal charges of plotting with people he believed to be members of al-Qaeda to bomb multiple Metrorail stations in the Washington, DC, area.

Farooque Ahmed, 34, is accused of meeting with federal agents he believed to be members of the terrorist organization between April 18 and Oct. 25 to plan for the bombing of Arlington Metro stations, allegedly participating in surveillance of the stations, as well as setting up meetings with the “terrorists.” He was indicted by a federal grand jury in Alexandria Tuesday on three counts: attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organizations, collecting information to assist in planning a terrorist attack on a transit facility, and attempting to provide material support to terrorists. If convicted he faces a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison.

Ahmed is a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Pakistan.

“It’s chilling that a man from Ashburn is accused of casing rail stations with the goal of killing as many Metro riders as possible through simultaneous bomb attacks,” U.S. Attorney Neil H. McBride said in a statement after the arrest. “[The] arrest highlights the terrorism threat that exists in Northern Virginia and our ability to find those seeking to harm U.S. citizens and neutralize them before they can act.”

Federal agencies and representatives made it clear there was never any threat to commuters or the Metrorail stations, and there was no credible threat to the general public. The FBI was aware of Ahmed’s activities before the planning of the alleged bombing attempt began and he was closely monitored until his arrest. “…a coordinated law enforcement and intelligence effort was able to thwart his plans,” David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security, stated.

According to the indictment, many of Ahmed’s alleged activities took place in Loudoun. The indictment states that April 18, he allegedly drove to a Dulles hotel and met with a courier he believed to be affiliated with the terrorist organization. That “courier” provided Ahmed with potential locations for future meetings. After allegedly conducting surveillance and video recordings at the Arlington Cemetery Metro station to determine the busiest times, went to a hotel in Sterling in July and turned over a memory stick containing video of the stations, and agreed to assess two other Arlington: Courthouse and Pentagon City.

Then, late last month, Ahmed went to a hotel in Herndon and handed over another USB drive containing surveillance video of those two stations. He also provided the man he believed to associated with al-Qaeda diagrams of all three stations, and provided suggestions about where the bombs should be placed on trains to kill the most people. The attacks were being planned for 2011.

The indictment states that Ahmed told the man he believed to be associated with Al-qaeda that he “might be ready to travel overseas to conduct jihad in January 2011,” as well as saying he wanted to donated $10,000 to “support their brothers overseas” even if that meant collecting donations “in the name of another cause.” He allegedly said he would send the money in $1,000 increments so not to raise suspicions, and suggested using rolling suitcases instead of backpacks for the bombs.

Ahmed allegedly suggested the Crystal City Metro station should be the target of a bombing as well, and just days before his arrest conducted surveillance of that station. That same day, Oct. 21, he allegedly sent an e-mail telling those he believed to be associated with al-Qaeda he could meet with a courier to deliver the results between Oct. 27 and Oct. 29.

“Just as we ask the public to remain vigilant about possible terrorist among us, the FBI remains committed to rooting out and dismantling those groups and organizations who seek to cause harm to U.S. citizens,” Acting FBI Assistant Director in Charge John G. Perren said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Factbox — Recent Attempted Attacks on the United States

REUTERS — Governments, airlines and aviation authorities around the world are reviewing security after two parcel bombs sent from Yemen were intercepted on planes in Dubai and Britain last week. U.S. officials say the bombs had all the hallmarks of al Qaeda. A Saudi bombmaker believed to be working with al Qaeda’s Yemen-based wing is a key suspect, a U.S. official said on Sunday.

Following are recent attempted attacks on the United States tied to, or believed to have links to, anti-American militant groups like al Qaeda or the Taliban.

October 2010: After U.S. officials received a tip from Saudi Arabia, two packages containing explosive materials destined for Jewish centers in Chicago were intercepted by authorities in England and Dubai. The explosives were tentatively identified as PETN, a strong explosive that has been used in the past by the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP. Two women in Yemen are in custody who are believed to have delivered the packages to the UPS and FedEx offices for shipping.

May 2010: A Pakistani-born U.S. citizen, Faisal Shahzad, drove a sport utility vehicle packed with a crude bomb into the heart of Times Square in New York on a crowded Saturday evening. The bomb failed to go off and was discovered by passersby. He was caught days later as he tried to fly to Dubai.. Shahzad admitted to receiving bomb-making training and funding from Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced this month to life in a U.S. prison.

December 2010: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, originally from Nigeria, boarded a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day and allegedly tried to detonate a bomb sewn into his underwear. The explosives, PETN, failed to fully detonate and passengers and crew subdued him. Abdulmutallab began cooperating with U.S. authorities. Officials say he told them he had received the bomb and training from AQAP in Yemen. He is facing trial in a U.S. court in 2011, but he suggested during a recent court hearing that he could plead guilty to some of the charges.

November 2010: U.S. Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a Muslim born in the United States, is accused of killing 13 and injuring 32 during a shooting rampage at the U.S. Army installation in Fort Hood, Texas. U.S. authorities later learned he had been communicating with the Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is an American but left the country soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and has since encouraged attacks against his homeland. Al-Awlaki is believed to be hiding in Yemen. Hasan is facing trial in a military court.

September 2009: Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan-born man who is a permanent U..S. resident and was living in Colorado, plotted a suicide bomb attack on the New York subway system. He received training from al Qaeda in the remote Waziristan region of Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan. He drove to New York in preparation for the attack but discarded bomb-making materials after learning he was under surveillance from a local imam. He was later arrested in Colorado and pleaded guilty to the plot in February. His sentencing has been postponed until June 2011 and he has been cooperating with authorities

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Man Fatally Shot on Street in Downtown Seattle

A 31-year-old man died after he was shot Tuesday afternoon at Second Avenue and Pike Street in downtown Seattle, police say.

A 31-year-old man was fatally shot Tuesday afternoon at Second Avenue and Pike Street in downtown Seattle, police say. The man was pronounced dead at Harborview Medical Center. A witness said he had been shot in the head.

Police arrested a suspect — a 27-year-old Lynnwood man — a short time after the shooting, according to Seattle police spokesman Jeff Kappel.

The suspect was under the supervision of the state Department of Corrections for second-degree assault, first-degree burglary and three counts of unlawful imprisonment, according to Chad Lewis, spokesman for the DOC. The suspect was due to report in again next Wednesday.

A hot-dog vendor, who gave his name only as Jacob W., said he was working at the Gourmet Dog Japon stand when he heard “a noise and some scuffling.” He turned to see a man walk past another man and shoot him.

The victim fell forward as the gunman ran off, he said.

At 4:41 p.m., police responded to a 911 call reporting shots fired and a man down at the intersection. They began a search of the area, Kappel said. Officers located the suspect in the 100 block of Pine Street, about a block from the shooting scene. He said officers also recovered a handgun.

Shaher Abuelkhair, the owner of Zaina, a nearby restaurant, said the suspect was arrested inside his business.

Abuelkhair said he was nearby at Nordstrom Rack when the shooting occurred. He said police began swarming the area and wouldn’t let him cross the street back to his restaurant.

One of Abuelkhair’s employees was inside chopping onions and didn’t seem to know what was going on outside, so Abuelkhair started waving his arms at him.

“What the hell are you doing?” he said an officer asked him.

“I’m trying to get my guy out,” he said. “I think the guy you’re looking for is inside my bathroom.”

Abuelkhair said it had been “just a hunch.”…

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo[Return to headlines]

Man Fatally Shot in Downtown Seattle, Suspect in Custody

SEATTLE — A man was fatally shot in the head in downtown Seattle late Tuesday afternoon.

The incident unfolded at the northwest corner of Second Avenue and Pike Street at approximately 4:41 p.m.

It is not known what prompted the shooting, but police spokesman Jeff Kappel said the 31-year-old man was found lying on the sidewalk with a gunshot wound. He was taken to Harborview Medical Center where he later died from his injuries.

Police have detained Tomas Afeworki, 27, who is suspected in the shooting. They’ve also recovered a handgun at the scene.

Witness Lloyd Hogan said he was inside a nearby chocolate shop when the incident occurred.

“The gunman was seen running up the alley. He went into Shaher’s gyro shop at First and Pine, and he was hiding in the bathroom,” he said.

The owner of that gyro shop, Shaher Abuerkheir, said he was at Nordstrom Rack when shots broke out.

“By the time I got out, I saw a guy running on Second Avenue …. with a gun in his hand,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo[Return to headlines]

Officials Say Relationship Between FBI, Metro Detroit Muslims Must Remain Strong in Aftermath of Abdullah Shooting

Badger Club debates Muslims’ patriotism

By Michelle Dupler, Herald staff writer

KENNEWICK — The Columbia Basin Badger Club varied from its usual spirited debate format Friday and instead offered a platform for Imam Kaleem Ullah of the Tri-Cities Islamic Center to talk about Muslims in America.

The club invited Ullah to answer the question, “Are Muslims patriotic Americans?”

“It’s a very interesting question,” Ullah told the audience, which overflowed the tables in a banquet room at the Kennewick Red Lion.

“The question, as it is worded is very tricky,” he said. “It is a rhetorical question in nature. How can I become a patriot of America? How can a test of patriotism be engineered so we have a litmus test for everyone and say, ‘Now you are patriotic and you are not patriotic?’ It is a subjective question, and now I have to try to answer it objectively.”

Ullah talked about his own history, and his memory of becoming an American citizen about 30 years ago. He is a native of India who also lived in Pakistan before moving to the United States at age 24.

“I took the oath, and the judge turned to us and said, ‘Now you are United States citizens,’ “ Ullah said. “Most of you have not gone through this kind of feeling. I swore all of my allegiance. … This is my home. This is the home of my children by birth.”

When Islamic extremists turned jets into bombs on Sept. 11, 2001, Ullah said he was shocked and grief-stricken as everyone else in the country.

“Those thugs, those criminals — they came and attacked my country,” he said. “I condemned this. I condemned it before. Now you be the witness that I condemn it as the worst crime against humanity.”

He said extremists do not represent Islam or the teachings of the Quran.

“These self-declared evangelists … misused the Quran and its teachings for their own political benefit,” Ullah said. “I have been teaching the Quran for years. I have never found a justification for terrorism or suicide bombings.

“The people who are doing this are misusing the scriptures. They are enemies of Islam. They don’t have religion. They don’t have principles. They don’t have a value of life.”

He said in response to an audience question that Islamic nations that oppress women also are misrepresenting the religion’s tenets.

“(My wife) will be testimony to the fact that Islam gives tremendous freedom to women,” Ullah said. “Probably you would be surprised.. Fourteen hundred years ago, Islam made men and women equal — socially equal, intellectually equal, in the sight of God equal. … I really get surprised when I see the cultural treatment of women in Pakistan.”

He said the only criteria God uses to judge people is the measure of their deeds, not their gender or race or ancestry.

“Who gets closer to God? … The criteria is good deeds,” he said. “Those who perform evil deeds better watch out what happens to you in the hereafter.”

Ullah also was asked why American Muslims haven’t been more outspoken against extremists and terrorists if they condemn their actions.

He replied that they have, but those statements are not being covered by the media.

“It’s a no-win situation,” he said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Our Latest Interview With the White House Insider Reveals a Democratic Party Civil War, With Growing Opposition to the Obama White House.

Author’s Note: This interview took place for nearly two hours over the weekend at the office of the White House Insider. We wish to extend our gratitude for their making time to meet with us despite an extremely demanding schedule. The information contained in this interview is among the most in depth and fascinating to date, and due to the extent of information, will come in two installments. Here is installment one:

Previously you stated that Obama could be re-elected in 2012, and that if he improved himself on the job — that if he took a more active and responsible role as President, that you would support him. Do you still feel that way? Is that what I said? (shakes head) Well…(pauses) Ok, I’ll just come out and say what is already underway, and to hell with the possible consequences to me. I will not support Barack Obama in 2012. That possibility has left the table for me. Based on what I know, what I have been told, what I have seen in recent weeks…no, I cannot support the President for a second term. My concern for the party, for the country…my conscience does not allow me that option any longer. Obama is not fit to be president. He simply does not possess the inclinations necessary to lead the country. And I don’t like saying that. I helped the man get elected. I was in the trenches day after day from city to city helping things get done in 2008…I take no pleasure in say ing I was a part of that. And I take no pleasure in saying Obama should not be re-elected in 2012.

That is a very strong statement — anything recent that causes you to now say you will not support Obama in 2012? (Long pause — question is repeated) There is much I have been told, some I know, some more that will probably develop in the coming weeks and months. But you want specifics, right? I understand that…I’ll give you an example of why President Obama is not right for America. He sure as hell has not been right for the party. Not long ago, the president took a meeting. He’s late, which apparently is becoming more and more common with him. The meeting was almost cancelled. In strolls the president, joking with an aide. He plops down on a sofa, leans over and claps another guy on the back asking how he’s been. Apologizes for being late, says he was “held up”. He laughs some more. The meeting begins. After just ten minutes, during which time the president appears to almost totally withdraw into himself, an aide walks in and whispers something to the president, who then nods and quickly stands up, shakes a few hands and tells another aide to update him later on the rest of the meeting. As the president is walking out he is laughing at something yet again. He asked no questions of those at the meeting — not one. He left after just ten minutes, coming in laughing and leaving laughing. His behavior during that brief time he was there was described as “borderline manic”.

But you don’t want to see Obama re-elected? I apologize if I’m repeating myself here, but I just want to clarify because in the past you still seemed hopeful that Obama could evolve and become a stronger leader, but that hope seems to have left you. If Barack Obama is the Democratic Party nominee, I will not participate in any way in his election. It will be the first time in some 20 years that I will have removed myself totally from the process of helping elect the Democratic Party candidate for President. (Leans toward me) I do not know if the country can survive another four years of Barack Obama, and frankly, I want nothing to do with helping us find out. The man is an incompetent. The man is a tool of the extreme far left that has utterly corrupted the Democratic Party. The man and those now closest to him in the administration appear to abhor America’s history. They detest anyone who does not fully subscribe to their positions. They are corrupt, they are increasingly paranoid, and they are taking this country down a path by which we may never recover.

[Return to headlines]

Proposed Mosque Finds Opposition in Oshkosh

City Plan Commission To Review Application

Neighboring property owners have filed a petition opposing an Islamic group’s request to convert a former funeral home into a mosque in Oshkosh.

The Oshkosh Northwestern reported that the city Plan Commission will review the application from the Ahmadiyya Muslim group at its meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Neighbors Forrest and Beverly Ware submitted a petition saying the mosque and community center wasn’t appropriate for the residential neighborhood.

Group leader Khurram Ahmad said his group will be accommodating to the neighbors, but if they are too concerned his group will withdraw its application.

A report from city staff indicates that a high school and Lutheran church now in the neighborhood shows the mosque can be compatible there.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Some Depression Might Have Roots in Immune-Generated Inflammation

NEW YORK—The immune system works hard to keep us well physically, but might it also be partly to blame for some mental illnesses?

“The immune system may play a significant role in the development of depression,” Andrew Miller, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, said Tuesday at a symposium on neuroscience and immunology at the New York Academy of Sciences. Evidence for this link has been mounting in recent years, and he described this research, which falls in the jauntily named field of psychoneuroimmunology, one of the most exciting recent developments in psychiatry.

Research has shown that depressed or stressed-out people tend to be more susceptible to medical ailments, such as infectious diseases and perhaps even cancer. But the correlation might also work in the opposite direction, Miller explained. People who are critically ill have about five to 10 times higher rates of depression, and that might not just be due to battling their illness, he noted. It could be stemming from underlying inflammation—a common bodily response to illness or injury…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Italy: ‘No One Can Change My Lifestyle’, Berlusconi Says

‘I love life and women,’ PM says, denying Moroccan girl claims

(ANSA) — Brussels, October 29 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Friday defended himself from suggestions of impropriety over a 17-year-old runaway Moroccan belly dancer he reportedly helped out of a scrape and said his flamboyant lifestyle would continue.

“No one can get me to change my lifestyle, which I’m proud of,” the 74-year-old Berlusconi told reporters at a European Union summit here.

“I’m a fun-loving guy, I love life and I love women”.

The premier said his famously lavish parties helped him get some much-needed R&R from his political exertions.

“I have a wretched life, pushing on with superhuman effort, working until two thirty in the morning and getting up at seven.

Every now and then I need a relaxing evening”.

The Moroccan girl, Ruby, has reportedly told police she attended parties at the premier’s Milan residence, one of which allegedly ended in an “erotic ritual” involving several women.

Berlusconi denied this, saying: “I know what happens in my house, I don’t have anything to clear up because only people who behave themselves get in”. The premier also denied pressuring Milan police to release Ruby when she was arrested in May after being accused of theft by an acquaintance.

“It’s all made up, I never influenced anyone,” said Berlusconi of the reported phone call from his office allegedly asking officers to make an exception in the case.

Berlusconi said he “knew the rules” and quipped “in Italy, the prime minister has no power”.

The centre-left opposition has claimed that if true, the incident would mean that Berlusconi had broken the law might be open to a no-confidence vote.

The premier did admit that he sent a political protegee’, former model and dental hygienist Nicole Minetti, to pick Ruby up.

But he said this was to make sure the Moroccan girl “didn’t wind up in jail or a shelter, which isn’t a nice thing, but that she should be sent to a foster family”.

“It was a tragic picture, so I helped her,” denying reports that he had earlier given her expensive gifts.

Berlusconi ended his remarks on the subject by telling reporters: “I wish you all serenity, the same serenity I feel when I look into the mirror, an extraordinary serenity”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Prominent Dutch Jihadist Recants and Denounces Terrorism

A key figure in one militant Islamic European network has joined the ranks of a small but important number of jihadists to have a change of heart, calling on their brethren to abandon violence.

The imprisoned Dutch terrorism suspect Jason Walters said in an open letter that he has renounced Islamic radicalism.

“The ideals that I once honored have been lost and I have come to realize that they are morally bankrupt,” Walters said in what he called a “review document” written from the maximum-security prison in Vught. It was published recently in the Dutch daily De Volkskrant.

Walters is a leading member of the jihadist Hofstadgroep, made up of Islamists primarily of Moroccan origin. The group was led by Mohammed Bouyeri, who is serving a life sentence for killing controversial Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh in 2004.

Observers said Walters’ letter offered a window into the mind of a man who had dedicated his life to propagating militant Islam through violence. It helped to understand why some adopt terrorism and what prompts them to reconsider.

Walters’ review could also inform the increasingly partisan immigration debate in Germany and other European nations about how to prevent the radicalization of immigrant youth and help them become functioning members of society.

A different denunciation

Walters was accused of plotting to kill controversial Dutch parliamentarians Geert Wilders and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. He resisted his arrest in 2004 in a 14-hour siege during which he threw a grenade at police, injuring four policemen. He has now served four years of his 15-year sentence.

Born in the Netherlands to an African-American soldier and a Dutch mother, Walters converted to Islam at age 16 after the divorce of his parents and his father’s subsequent conversion. In 2003, he made his way to Pakistan for training with jihadist groups. He boasted on his return to the Netherlands that he could “disassemble a Kalashnikov blindfolded and put it back together again.”

Walters’ denunciation is more political and philosophical than that of other jihadist ideologues which employed Islamic theology to explain their change of heart, such as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) or Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, one of the early associates of Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s second-in-command. Walters, on the other hand, takes issue in his letter with the basic tenant of his former worldview.

“The image that the world only exists of believers and infidels, in which the latter are motivated only to destroy the former, is a childish and coarse simplification of reality,” Walters said. “It ignores the complexity and many nuances of which reality is rich.”

Analysts and counter-terrorism authorities say Walters’ letter is likely to spark debate in militant Islamist circles and serve as an important tool in efforts to counter jihadists in Europe. In a statement, the Dutch National Coordinator for Counterterrorism (NCTb) described it as “a remarkable document” not seen before in the Netherlands.

Dutch terrorism analyst Edwin Bakker from the Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael said the letter would serve as “a good tool in the ideological fight against terrorists and Islamists.”

A sincere document

Walters’ lawyer, Bart Nooitgedagt, rejected allegations that his client had written the letter in an effort to influence his appeal hearing. An Amsterdam court is set to determine whether the throwing of the grenade was a criminal or a terrorist act and whether the Hofstadgroep was a terrorist organization.

The appeals court had ordered new proceedings in response to objections by the public prosecutor to the initial conviction of Walters and his associates on criminal charges only. Of the seven defendants in the original case, Walters is the only one still incarcerated.

Nooitgedagt said Walters had written his letter some time ago, even though he only published it last week.

“Jason anticipated the criticism, but assertions that the letter was inspired by dishonest motives are incorrect,” Nooitgedagt said. “The content of the letter is too fundamental for that.”

Walters initially signaled his change of heart during the appeals court hearing in July, where he was the only defendant to appear in court in person.

“I was passive and uncooperative in the (lower) court in The Hague,” Walters told the court in a reference to his earlier rejection of the Dutch justice system. “But now I will actively defend myself. I have confidence in the competence and the integrity of this court and in the Dutch system.”

A warning to youth

Nooitgedagt said Walters’ change of heart was sparked by his reading of history books, as well as writings on the theory of evolution and the works of philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Karl Popper. In his letter, he explained his recantation with the fact that those nations who were liberated by Islamists ultimately rejected the Islamist worldview.

“This has forced me to reconsider my views critically, and has led to the realization that they are untenable,” Walters said in the letter.

Walters expressed his disappointment with a utopian movement that has fallen short of its ideals.

“I have watched with horror how a once lofty ‘struggle for freedom’ that should have been the go-ahead signal for a new, just world — especially in Iraq — has turned into a bloody escalation of violence, sectarianism and religious mania,” he wrote. “Unheard of cruelty and crimes have been committed in the process.”

He said the random killing by Islamists of innocent Muslims had rendered the struggle for Islamic rule “a total failure.”

The 25-year-old said he hoped his letter would serve “to warn youth not to be misguided by false promises and ideals.” He called on Islamists “to put down their weapons and employ other, productive methods” in order to bring about reforms instead of blaming the United States and the West.

Lessons learned

Dutch commentator and De Volkskrant columnist Pieter Hilhorst noted that Walters, like other recanting Islamists, explained his change of heart in analytical rather than personal terms.

“He doesn’t write that he regrets throwing a grenade at the police,” Hilhorst said. “He doesn’t write that he is ashamed of having glorified the murder of Theo van Gogh. Jason acts as if he was an observer, not a perpetrator.”

The lesson from recantations like that of Walters, Hilhorst said, is that appealing to Islamists’ compassion in an effort to change their wayward means was meaningless as they “express no empathy with their non-Muslim victims.”

“They are only concerned about the nature of the true Muslim and the consequences for Muslims,” he said. “This last point is every jihadist’s real Achilles Heel. The best way to draw him away from his violent belief is to ask him what he really wants to achieve. That’s when facts become more important than divine inclination.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Gothenburg Police Remain on Their Guard

Swedish police maintained a raised level of readiness following the bomb threat in Gothenburg, while two people remained in custody.

Others detained in connection with the investigation into the bomb threat who were released on Saturday remain of interest.

Ulf Edberg, a press spokesperson in the county of Västra Götaland, explained that the police readiness extends to among other things an special unit to be called in if needed.

“There are however additional police officers deployed in central Gothenburg,” he said without going in to how many and where in the centre of the city they are stationed.

Gothenburg police have also desisted from releasing concrete details over those who remain in custody, those who were released, and the bomb threat itself. Broadcaster TV 4 has reported that three men were detained in the district of Angered.

Edberg confirmed that the cautious approach has been decided upon “with respect to the investigation”.

Police were neither willing to detail any possible motives behind the threat and where in Gothenburg the bomb was said to be located.

The raised threat level was in place during the whole of Saturday, with nothing to indicate whether it remained in place during Sunday, with Edberg unwilling to comment.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Police Declare End to Gothenburg Bomb Threat

Swedish police have released the two men detained on suspicion of preparing a terrorist crime in Gothenburg and have declared the bomb threat to be over.

The Security Service (Säpo) will now take over the investigation.

“They have not yet been ruled out of the investigation, but it is the prosecutor’s view that the suspicions regarding them are not sufficient for them to be charged,” said Gothenburg police in a statement.

“The police think that there is no longer a threat of attack against the centre of Gothenburg,” police said.

Police had arrested four men Saturday morning in one of the city’s suburbs on suspicion of preparing a “terrorist crime”, releasing two of them later the same day.

A report in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, citing anonymous sources, said all four suspects were married men who were members of the same family and of Syrian origin.

The paper suggested that the suspects had been questioned in connection with the controversy over the 2005 publication by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten of 12 caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. That incident sparked violent protests in the Muslim world the following year.

Swedish police said Friday they had been tipped off “by a credible source” about plans for a bomb attack in central Gothenburg, but security patrols there found nothing.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Swedish Police Arrest 2 on Terror Charges

Swedish police arrested two individuals Saturday suspected of preparing terrorist crimes, they said.

They were responding to information that a bomb could go off in central Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest city, on Saturday, they said.

The information was “vague and not confirmed” but police said late Friday they “could not rule out” that it was planned to explode somewhere near Nordstan, the central shopping mall.

Heavily armed police conducted a raid early Saturday morning and took a number of individuals into custody, CNN’s Swedish affiliate TV4 reported.

“Overnight we managed to narrow down the investigation to a few suspects and this morning we were able to get them all,” Bjor Blixter, police spokesman told TV4.

In the afternoon the prosecutor decided to formally arrest two of them on suspicion of terrorism offenses.

The others were released but are still under investigation, according to the police statement.

The Swedish Security Police, who helped local police with the investigation, could not say whether the incident was connected with Sweden raising its terror alert recently, according to TV4.

Police found out about the plot on Friday after a “credible source” contacted police, Swedish daily Aftonbladet reported.

Police increased the number of officers patrolling central Gothenburg on Saturday and the increased police presence will continue Sunday, but police did not have information to indicate that the threat would still remain on Sunday, they said.

Further arrests are likely, according to TV4.

No information was available on whether any explosives were ever found.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Turkish Government: Premier Rutte Discriminatory

ISTANBUL, 30/10/10 — The Turkish government considers that Premier Mark Rutte has made “discriminatory’ statements in the Lower House about Turks in the Netherlands.

Rutte said Wednesday in the debate on the government policy statement that the combined Dutch and Swedish nationality of State Secretary Veldhuijzen van Zanten is no problem, but that it would have been a point for debate if she had had a Turkish passport. The premier said the difference lies in the fact that Turkey exercises influence on citizens abroad via its constitution and Sweden does not.

Turkish Minister Faruk Celik, responsible for Turks abroad, says he “cannot see how such a discriminatory statement contributes to the integration of foreigners in the Netherlands.” The right to be elected is a fundamental human right, according to the minister, who apparently did not understand that Van Zanten has not been elected but appointed as a state secretary.

The Turkish government also considers that an end should be made to the Netherlands integration requirement for Turks. Ankara sees an unjust infringement of the rights of Turks in this requirement.

District courts in Rotterdam and Roermond have found in favour of the Turks. The judges ruled that the integration requirement for Turks is in violation of the association accord between Turkey and the EU. The Dutch state has appealed against these rulings.

If the state loses the appeal, the new cabinet will try to get the treaty amended so that Turks do come under the integration requirement again. But the Turkish government has already indicated now that it will oppose such an amendment of the treaty.

According to lawyers, this opposition will likely make the amendment impossible, because the unanimous agreement of the treaty partners is necessary.

“Turkish citizens are not required to take the courses, based on the treaty,” says Celik’s spokesman. “We will hold the Netherlands to this. (…) These people are and will always remain Turks.”

According to the spokesman, Ankara does support the integration of Turkish immigrants with Dutch society. “But Turkey is against the immigrants being completely absorbed by this society.”

Celik made a visit to the Netherlands last weekend. He did not meet with Home Affairs Minister Piet Hein Donner, but he did meet with Turkish lobby organisations and visited the Islamic University of Rotterdam. ‘We are concerned about the growing xenophobia and Islamophobia in the Netherlands’, said the spokesman for Celik.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Fire Blamed on Jews Was Accidental, Police Say

An initial investigation into a fire at a Jerusalem church has revealed that the fire appears to have been accidental, police said Sunday. Palestinian Authority leaders and church officials had blamed the fire on “extremist Israeli settlers.”

The fire took place in the Alliance Church on Haneviim Street in central Jerusalem on Friday night. Thirteen people were lightly injured by smoke inhalation due to the blaze.

Witnesses at the nearby Bikur Cholim hospital had said that they believed the fire to be accidental. The most likely explanation appears to be that one of the church’s own candles fell and ignited its surroundings.

Church leader Zakariyya Al-Mashriqi said Saturday that evidence pointed to “settlers” in the case. He accused Jewish groups of seeking to drive Arabs out of the area.

Hamas issued a statement on the same day condemning “the extremist Jewish settlers’ assault” at the church, as did the Israel-based Islamic Movement.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu-Rudeinah slammed Israel over the alleged arson. “The repeated attacks of settlers against Muslim and Christian holy sites indicate barbarity and terrorist behavior,” he said.

Senior PA official Riyyad Al-Maliki referred to the fire Saturday in a meeting with Canadian MP Bob Rae. He suggested that Jews who oppose Israel-PA talks were behind the fire at the church and similar fires in two Judea and Samaria mosques. As of yet, there is no evidence linking Jews to the mosque fires either.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Gaza: Israel Authorises Car Imports, Hamas Worried

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, OCTOBER 26 — Initially they breathed a sigh of relief, but the sensation quickly turned into worries. When last month Israel authorised the introduction of brand new automobiles into the Gaza Strip, people were very happy. But now the Hamas Interior Minister warned that those vehicles could be an updated version of the Trojan Horse. According to unconfirmed news, a bug installed by Israel secret services was found in one of the cars. It was enough for a spokesperson for the Interior Ministry to immediately issue a warning to the military heads of Hamas to not travel in any of the cars that have arrived from Israel. Before the vehicles can be used, the vehicles will have to undergo a thorough inspection by Hamas security experts. Sources in the press added that Israel has allowed for 240 cars per month to enter into the Strip, including various models (but not all-terrain vehicles). For now Hyundais and Volkswagen-Golfs can be seen on the streets of the Gaza Strip. Several residents have already reserved new luxury BMW models. The used car market immediately reacted to these developments and in the last month, prices have abruptly been cut in half. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UNESCO Recognizes Rachel’s Tomb as Mosque

The Palestinian Authority and the Jewish Holy Sites in the West Bank: Rachel’s Tomb as a Test Case * Rachel’s Tomb lies on the northern outskirts of Bethlehem, about 460 meters (about 500 yards) south of the Jerusalem municipal border, and for more than 1,700 years has been identified as the tomb of the matriarch Rachel. * According to the armistice agreement signed on April 3, 1949, Jordan was to allow Israel “free access to the Holy Places and cultural institutions and use of the cemetery on the Mount of Olives.” In practice, Jordan did not allow Jews free access…

[Return to headlines]

Middle East

22 Injured in Turkey Explosion

Istanbul, Turkey (CNN) — At least 22 people were wounded in an apparent suicide bombing in the center of Istanbul on Sunday, police said.

Ten police officers and 12 civilians were wounded in the attack in Taksim Square, police said.

Two of the wounded police officers are in critical condition, Istanbul Police Chief Huseyin Capkin said.

The bustling square houses a commercial district and a major transportation network that includes buses, metro systems and taxis. Visitors throng the area, which is typically patrolled by lots of officers.

The suicide bomber struck when the city was marking National Day, which celebrates the declaration of independence for the Turkish republic. The parade was originally scheduled for Friday, but was postponed because of the weather.

Capkin said it appeared that a male suicide bomber caused the explosion. A second unexploded bomb was found near the body of the bomber.

The suspected bomber tried to board a police bus parked in the square, but the explosion happened before he could enter, Capkin said.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Al-Qaida Fishes for Turks Seeking Jihad

Turks have been bit part players in al-Qaida’s global jihad, but a recent security scare in Europe pointed to a small but growing number in Germany and Turkey who have joined militant ranks in Pakistan.

Muslims from many parts of the Islamic World went to Pakistan during the jihad to end the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. There may be nothing new about Turks taking that path, but recent obituaries on jihadi websites and tales of the exploits of Turkish jihadis have been eye-catching.

“Turkey serves as a gateway for al-Qaida, through which it channels both funds and recruits for operations abroad,” said Tim Williams of Stirling Assynt, a political and terrorist risk consultancy in London. “The growing number of Turks appearing in the Af-Pak theatre . . . (is) evidence of that.”

Turks returning from Afghanistan were involved in the November 2003 bombings that killed 57 people in Istanbul and wounded hundreds more in a series of attacks that targeted the British consulate, an HSBC bank and two synagogues.


“I am concerned about increased radicalisation among Turkish youth — not just in Turkey but also in Europe,” said Zeyno Baran, a scholar at Washington’s Hudson Institute.

An more critical focus on Israel and the West by some sections of the media has hardened attitudes in a society that is becoming more conservative, more Islamic, according to Baran.

“That propaganda has a powerful impact on the youth, some of whom seem to be joining the militant ranks in Af-Pak region.”

Surveys by Washington’s Pew Research Center show Turks share similar levels of antipathy toward the United States as Egyptians, Pakistanis and Palestinians.

Gareth Jenkins, an Istanbul based security analyst noted a proliferation of jihadi websites with Turkish language pages over the past couple of years.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

At Least 7 Worshipers, 7 Iraqi Troops Die in Takeover of Baghdad Church

BAGHDAD — At least seven Iraqi Christian worshipers and seven Iraqi security forces were killed Sunday night after commandos stormed a church in Baghdad where a band of suicide bombers had been holding parishioners hostage, Iraqi and U.S. military officials said.

As Iraqi troops stormed the Our Lady of Salvation Church in the upscale Karradah neighborhood shortly after 9 p.m., some of the assailants detonated suicide vests, said Lt. Col. Eric Bloom, a U.S. military spokesman.

The mayhem underscored how dangerous the Iraqi capital remains as a deepening political crisis continues. Iraqi lawmakers remain at an impasse over who is entitled to lead the next government after the March 7 parliamentary election. Many Iraqis fear that the impasse could sow instability and violence as the U.S. military mission here winds down.

Between 20 to 30 people were wounded in the attack and subsequent rescue operation to free the approximately 120 hostages attending evening Mass, Bloom said. He said all the attackers were gunned down, but an Iraqi official said some were in custody.

Bloom, who got the casualty numbers from the Iraqi army, said the death toll could rise. An Iraqi security official said at least 21 civilians and troops were killed.

The assailants, armed with grenades, rifles and at least one car bomb, turned a relatively secure neighborhood into a battleground. The operation was apparently carried out in a failed effort to secure the release of prisoners in Iraqi custody who belong to the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq…

[Return to headlines]

Dubai Bomb Was Flown on Passenger Planes

One of the two bombs posted from Yemen last week was transported on two passenger planes before being seized in Dubai, Qatar Airways has said.

The device was carried on an Airbus A320 from Sanaa to Doha. It was then flown on another aircraft to Dubai.

It contained the powerful explosive PETN, which is difficult to detect.

Yemen has meanwhile granted conditional release to a woman who was arrested on suspicion of mailing the devices, her family and officials said.

Her lawyer, Abdel Rahman Burman, told the Reuters news agency she was a “quiet student and there was no knowledge of her having involvement in any religious or political groups”.

Ms Samawi’s mobile number was reportedly left with one of the two US cargo firms, UPS and FedEx, who were told to ship the packages containing the printer cartridge bombs to synagogues in the US city of Chicago.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Guard Led 3 Americans Across Iran Border, Released Hiker Says

The three American hikers accused of espionage by Iran stepped off an unmarked dirt road — inadvertently crossing from Iraq into the Islamic republic — only because a border guard of unknown nationality gestured for them to approach, the lone hiker to be released said Sunday.

Sarah E. Shourd, a teacher freed in September after nearly 14 months in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, contacted The New York Times to give her fullest public account yet of the capture of the three in July 2009.

Ms. Shourd, 32, said she wanted to correct the gathering false impression, fueled by a classified United States military report made public last week by WikiLeaks, as well as earlier American and British news reports, that the hikers were detained inside Iraq and forced across the border. Her comments came just days before her two fellow hikers, her fiancé, Shane M. Bauer, and their friend Joshua F. Fattal, both 28, are scheduled to go on trial in Iran on Saturday.

On the fateful day, when they approached the armed border guard who had gestured to them, “He pointed to the ground and said ‘Iran’ and pointed to the trail we had been on before he waved to us, then said ‘Iraq,’ “ Ms. Shourd said by telephone from her home in Oakland, Calif. “We did not actually enter Iran until he gestured to us. We were confused and worried and wanted to go back.”

Instead what seemed like a casual encounter mushroomed into a lengthy incarceration and an extended cause of tension in Iranian-American relations.

Besides stating that the three hikers were captured in Iraq, the American military report, by an anonymous official, also said, “The lack of coordination on the part of these hikers, particularly after being forewarned, indicates an intent to agitate and create publicity regarding international policies on Iran.”

Ms. Shourd said that she was mystified by that conclusion. The three had no idea they were near the border and had not been warned about anything, she said. “Those claims are illogical and unsubstantiated. It is ridiculous to claim that mountain climbers would be agitating along a border.”

The United States State Department has never suggested the version published by WikiLeaks, she said, always maintaining that it did not know how their arrest happened.

The State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley, confirmed that on Sunday. “We don’t know whether they had two feet on one side or the other or one foot on each,” he said. “All we know is Iran has held them far too long.”

Ms. Shourd described what began as a relaxed overnight camping trip, undertaken by three reunited friends from Berkeley happy to escape to the fresh, green Kurdish mountains from the sweltering Syrian plains.

She had been teaching English in Damascus, Syria, where Mr. Bauer was working as a freelance journalist while both studied Arabic. Mr. Fattal came to visit, and they set off to Kurdistan after reading on a Web site that it was safe and listening to a friend rave about the place.

Various Kurds suggested they visit Ahmed Awa, a spectacular mountain waterfall where local people camp overnight. The hikers had no idea it abutted Iran, Ms. Shourd said, and twice encountered Kurdish pesh merga soldiers who greeted them warmly. The music and laughter around scores of campfires at the waterfall gave no sense of imminent danger.

The next day, they trekked up a dirt road past the waterfall. After a lunchtime nap, a soldier with a gun appeared on a ridge above them and gestured for them to keep climbing. He was the first person they saw on the mountain, Ms. Shourd said.

About 500 yards farther up, with no sign to indicate the border, a guard standing by a stone hut gestured for them to approach. A news report that a shot had been fired over their heads was wrong, she said.

At a second, larger structure, according to Ms. Shourd, more guards repeating in Persian, “Mushkil nadereh,” or “no problem,” blocked their attempt to run away and ignored their pleas to return to Iraq. Four days and several moves later they ended up in Evin prison, where Mr. Bauer and Mr.. Fattal remain.

“I think we were extremely unlucky,” said Ms. Shourd, concluding that their one mistake was hiking too far. “I guess I never believed there would be so many hundreds of people close to a border.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Ink Bomb Intelligence Came From the Middle East

Intelligence that helped cracked the ink bomb plot may have come from a leading member of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular who turned himself in..

Jabir Jubran al-Fayfi surrendered to Saudi authorities last month in the latest twist which has seen him change sides at least twice.

He was first recruited by al-Qaeda at a mosque in Saudi Arabia after reading a newspaper article that urged Muslims to join the jihad in Afghanistan.

He did so because he felt he was not a faithful Muslim due to drug use, smoking and lack of prayer, he later told interrogators.

Al-Fayfi traveled first to Pakistan and then Afghanistan where he received two weeks of weapons training at the al-Farouq camp before moving to Bagram where he waited to be sent to the front lines in the fight against the Northern Alliance.

After September 11 he fled to Osama bin Laden’s Tora Bora hide-out between November and December 2001 and then fled to Pakistan.

He was handed over to US forces after the fall of the Taliban and sent to Guantanamo Bay where he eventually recanted his views, telling interrogators he wanted to go back home to Saudi Arabia to take care of his parents and resume his job as a taxi driver, US documents say.

Al-Fayfi was transferred to Saudi Arabia in December 2006 and sent to a Saudi rehabilitation center which has been held up as a model for de-radicalisation efforts, using a combination of religious arguments and financial incentives.

However al-Fayfi was one of at least three former residents who traveled across the desert border to Yemen after their release to join al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular.

Following reports of his arrest, the Saudi Interior Ministry said on October 16 that he had contacted them from Yemen to express his regret and readiness to surrender and that they had arranged for his return.

The origins of the information about the ink jet bomb plot remain vague. British intelligence sources are guarded about their role, although MI6 in known to have been involved.

In the end, one of the key pieces of the jigsaw was the exact consignment numbers which allowed the authorities in Britain and Dubai to find devices that were almost impossible to detect.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Jonathan Spyer: Fire From the Mountain

Our PKK contact and driver arrived at the appointed time outside the hotel in Erbil. We had been told he would identify himself using an agreed term. We hadn’t quite been ready for the fact that this single word would be the sole communication possible between us. The diminutive, scrawny youth who turned up at six that morning knew neither English nor Arabic.

Only Kurdish. That was how we began our journey from the Iraqi Kurdish capital toward the Qandil mountains, in the remote border area between Iraq, Turkey and Iran.

It is in these mountains that the guerrillas of the Parti Karkeren Kurdistan (PKK) live and wage their 26- year-old war against Turkey. They offer ideal terrain for guerrilla fighters. Accessible only through a network of narrow, near impenetrable passes, the mountains serve as a launching ground for the PKK and the allied Iranian Kurdish PEJAK into their respective areas of operation.

The writ of the Iraqi Kurdish regional government has little purchase in the Qandil area. The PKK is the de facto ruling authority.

Our contact from the Kurdish regional government in Erbil cheerfully wished us luck on the eve of our departure — and told us not to bother calling him if we got into trouble. There was, he said with a broad smile, “absolutely nothing he could do” in such a situation.

The PKK is waging a struggle in these mountains for autonomy and recognition for the Turkish Kurds. The Qandil area has become a little known but crucial window into the complex strategic arrangements that dominate today’s Middle East…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

NY UNRWA: Time for Arab Nations to Absorb ‘Refugees’

The outgoing director of the New York office of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency has angered Jordan after stating it is time for Arab nations to absorb their brethren who are “refugees” from the 1948 war

Andrew Whitley stated that Palestinian refugees must not live in the illusion of achieving the “right to return” and that the Arab countries must search for a place for them in their lands to resettle there.

When UNRWA began its operations providing aid and services to the Arabs living in Israel in 1949, there were approximately 700,000 who qualified as “refugees.” Today, according to the latest statistics, that number has ballooned to nearly five million.

“We recognize, as I think most do, although it’s not a position that we publicly articulate, that the right of return is unlikely to be exercised to the territory of Israel to any significant or meaningful extent,” Whitley told a conference at the National Council for US-Arab Relations.

“It’s not a politically palatable issue, it’s not one that UNRWA publicly advocates, but nevertheless it’s a known contour to the issue,” he said.

Taking the proverbial bull by the horns, Whitley then went on to add that instead of continuing to promote that “cruel illusion,” it would be best if Palestinian Authority Arabs began to consider “their own role in the societies where they are, rather than being left in a state of limbo, where they are helpless.”

The Hamas terrorist organization immediately demanded Whitley’s dismissal: a moot point, however, since he was already leaving the agency.

Wajih Azaizeh, director general of the Palestinian Affairs Department, meanwhile, told the Petra news agency Thursday that Jordan expressed its condemnation in a letter sent to UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi.

The letter bluntly reminded Grandi that his agency was established to offer humanitarian and social help and support to the Palestinian refugees, said Azaizeh, until their cause is resolved according to international legitimacy resolutions.

“We have asked the UNRWA Commissioner-General to clarify the U.N. Organization’s official position on such dangerous remarks and procedures taken against this man who held important posts in the agency,” Azaizeh said.

Political commentator Ben S. Cohen noted last week in a post on Harry’s Place, however, that of the 50 million people who lost their homes due to war and military conflict in the 20th century, “practically none of the original displaced returned to their homes, never mind their descendants. The historical record shows the refugees — like those 17,000 displaced Jews administered to by UNRWA back in 1950 — are invariably absorbed by host countries.”

The difference, Cohen pointed out, was that the surrounding Arab nations in this case have deliberately positioned the Palestinian refugee issue and the so-called “right of return” as an ongoing obstacle to a final settlement of the conflict with Israel.

“Accepting that the refugees will not go home, that they will live free of the apartheid conditions imposed on them in states like Lebanon and Syria, and that they might even receive some financial compensation on top, is the height of political incorrectness in the Middle East,” he observed.

“It means accepting not only that Israel has the right to exist, but also the right to define itself as the democratic state of the Jewish people..”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Saudi Man Beheaded for Killing Bangladeshi

A Saudi man has been beheaded by the sword after being sentenced to death for killing a Bangladeshi taxi-driver and armed robbery, the interior ministry said.

Yahia Majrashi was convicted of stabbing the victim to death and committing at least 14 armed robberies in which several people suffered injuries, the ministry said in a statement cited by the official SPA news agency.

His beheading on Friday in the Saudi capital Riyadh brings to 22 the number of executions reported this year in the Gulf kingdom.

In 2009, 67 executions were reported in Saudi Arabia, compared with 102 in 2008.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under the kingdom’s strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Syria: All Sections of Baath Government Party Disbanded

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 26 — The national leadership of the Syrian Baath government party yesterday decided to disband all the sections of the party in the cities of the Country. The report was made by semi-official daily newspaper Al Watan, which added that the decision provides for the creation of temporary committees to handle party affairs and supervise elections. The paper stated that the move is aimed at preparing the execution of the party’s national assembly, scheduled for the next months.

But according to German press agency DPa which cites well informed sources, again reported by Al Watan, the disbandment of the sections is the result of cases of corruption and abuse of power such as in the case of the Hama province. Local newspapers offered ample coverage of such cases, but certain analysts believe that the party is carrying out a ‘maquillage’ operation because public opinion is on the brink.

During his visit in Latin America Syrian president Bashar Assad had already hinted at the possibility of summoning the eleventh national assembly of the party before the end of the year. on that occasion the president had stated that the date of the assembly was not important, the important thing was for the assembly to give the people what they expected. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Counterfeiting is Killing Off Aleppo Soap

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 25 — The ‘green gold’ of Aleppo, the centuries old name of the soap made still today with ancient techniques in the Syrian city, could be destroyed, like other products, by counterfeiting activities which include the subtle use of reminiscent names (when not exactly the same) to sell to consumers a product which in truth has nothing in common with the original one. Today the industry is still holding on despite strict restrictions which were imposed fifty years by the Baath party in an attempt to emulate the Soviet system in Syria. But in the last five years, as reported by daily newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, the “bite” of restrictions has been softened by the government and what may possibly be Aleppo’s best known industry is coming back to life, even it if has to confront itself with aggressive and unscrupulous marketing methods. The result is that soap marketed as the real thing sells for two dollars per kilo, while the Aleppo soap sells for 16 dollars per kilo. An example is given by Chinese soap which, imitating the real Aleppo soap, is flooding the markets, European ones in particular.

However there is a certain degree of optimism, at least according to Saffouh Al Diri, who from Lyon channels towards foreign markets most of the manufactured soap. He stated that “Europeans are ready to spend a lot for a quality product. Our customers have the capability of distinguishing the original product from counterfeit ones”.

The real Aleppo soap is exclusively made with natural components such as olive and laurel oil and sodium palmitate.

The final product (cube shaped ‘pieces weighing approximately 250 grams each) is hand cut and left to dry for a period ranging from six months to three years, with prices varying according to the degree of maturation. The Aleppo soap combines the action of olive oil as natural moisturiser and laurel oil as cleaning agent, components which are practically unknown in counterfeit versions which mostly resort to the use of oils made out of animal fats or less pure oils such palm or seed oil. Thanks to the use of natural and organic components the Aleppo soap has a market in Europe, albeit a niche one.

Aleppo was a world scale trade centre on the Silk route and the soap trade was blooming (chronicles before the birth of Christ already spoke about it) until the Baath restrictions forced many of the small companies (almost all of which were family businesses) to shut down and seek their fortunes abroad.

Today the production of Aleppo’s best soap is divided between five families which still work in the old neighbourhoods of the city in an almost anonymous fashion. They have no billboard on their shops advertising their product. These families export most of their products (approximately 600 tonnes per year) and especially their best ones (which has a 16% content of laurel oil) which are sent to Europe, South Korea and Japan. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Wanted Cleric Has Lived in UK and Evaded CIA

ALTHOUGH he has not been seen publicly for three years, Anwar al-Awlaki has been credited with “inspiring” many of those behind a string of chilling terrorist plots in recent years, and his name is again in the frame in connection with the cargo plane plot.

From his hiding place, thought to be in rural Yemen, the 39-year-old US-born Muslim cleric is, through sermons and internet broadcasts, believed to have incited violence and hatred in young Muslims who have gone on to carry out attacks on the West.

According to US officials, these may include Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the young Nigerian man accused of attempting to blow up a passenger jet as it flew into Detroit on Christmas Day last year, while he also met and spoke to a number of the terrorists behind the 11 September attacks — including Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi — while working as an imam — an Islamic worship leader — at a mosque in Colorado in the US.

Awlaki, who is of Yemeni descent, was born in the southern US state of New Mexico, where his father, Nasser, a future Yemeni agriculture minister and university president, was studying agricultural economics.

As a teenager, he moved back to Yemen, where he studied Islam, before returning to the US to attain a degree in engineering from Colorado State University and a master’s in education at San Diego State University.

He spent about two years in the UK, after leaving the US shortly after the 11 September attacks — claiming he felt he had been hounded out.

In Britain, he spoke at the Masjid at-Tawhid mosque in London, among other venues, developing a following among groups of young Muslims. He was also a “distinguished guest” speaker at the UK’s Federation of Student Islamic Societies’ annual dinner in 2003.

He was banned from the UK in 2006, but is believed to have continued his lecture circuit via video. In 2009, he was banned by local authorities in Kensington and Chelsea, London, from speaking at Kensington Town Hall via videolink to a fundraiser dinner for Guantanamo detainees.

Awlaki returned to Yemen in 2004, when he lived in his ancestral village in the southern province of Shabwa with his wife and children. He subsequently became a lecturer at al-Iman University, a Sunni religious school in Sanaa headed by Abdul-Majid al-Zindani.

Al-Zindani, a cleric who has been listed as a “specially designated global terrorist” by the US Treasury Department and the UN for his suspected links to al-Qaeda, but Yemen has taken no steps to freeze his assets.

In August 2006, Awlaki was detained by the Yemeni authorities, reportedly on charges relating to a plot to kidnap a US military attache.

Since his release in December 2007, he has published a number of inciteful texts via his website, his Facebook page and many booklets and CDs, including one titled 44 Ways to Support Jihad.

Almost a year ago, it was believed that Awlaki, the first US citizen to be placed on the US Central Intelligence Agency’s wanted list, could have died in an airstrike on an al-Qaeda base in Yemen, but relatives and friends said he was not harmed.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

South Asia

For Sale: Afghanistan’s Government

Last Sunday, the New York Times described a crude scene that smacked of not exactly petty graft. There was Afghanistan’s presidential plane on the Tehran airport tarmac, waiting for one last passenger before wheels up to Kabul. The missing passenger was Iran’s ambassador to Afghanistan. The ambassador, Feda Hussein Maliki, climbed aboard and took his tardy seat next to Umar Daudzai, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s chief of staff and closest adviser. Maliki then presented Daudzai with a plastic bag bulging with about $1 million in packets of euros.

From Iran with love.

This, the Times reported, was “part of a secret, steady stream of Iranian cash intended to buy the loyalty of Mr. Daudzai and promote Iran’s interest in the presidential palace” in Kabul.

Bad enough, but it gets worse…

[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Muslim Tortures, Accuses Christian Who Refused Slavery

A Muslim land owner in Pakistan this month subjected a 25-year-old Christian to burns and a series of humiliations, including falsely charging him with having sex with his own niece, because the Christian refused to work for him without pay.

Fayaz Masih is in jail with burns on his body after No. 115 Chitraan Wala village head Zafar Iqbal Ghuman and other villagers punished Masih for refusing to work as a slave in his fields, said the Rev. Yaqub Masih, a Pentecostal evangelist. The village is located in Nankana Sahib district, Punjab Province.

Sources said neither Fayaz Masih nor his family had taken any loans from Ghuman, and that they had no obligations to work off any debt for Ghuman as bonded laborers.

Yaqub Masih said the young man’s refusal to work in Ghuman’s fields infuriated the Muslim, who was accustomed to forcing Christians into slavery. He said Ghuman considered Masih’s refusal an act of disobedience by a “choohra,” the pejorative word for Christians in Pakistan.

On Oct. 3 Ghuman and 11 of his men abducted Masih from his home at gun-point and brought him to Ghuman’s farmhouse, according to Yaqub Masih and Yousaf Gill, both of nearby village No. 118 Chour Muslim. Gill is a former councilor of Union Council No. 30, and Yaqub Masih is an ordained pastor waiting for his denomination to assign him a church.

Fayaz Masih’s family members told Yaqub Masih that Ghuman was carrying a pistol, and that the 11 other men were brandishing rifles or carrying clubs, axes and bamboo sticks. They began beating Masih as they carried him away, calling him a choohra, Yaqub Masih said.

Gill said that Ghuman’s farmhands tied Fayaz Masih’s hands and legs and asked him once more if he would work in Ghuman’s fields. When he again refused, Gill said, Ghuman summoned four barbers; three ran away, but he forced one, Muhammad Pervaiz, to shave Masih’s head, eyebrows, half of his mustache and half of his beard.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

The Parade of “Muslim Sensitivities”: Where is it Taking Us?

by Jacqueline Ann Surin

AND so Perkasa has made the news again. And this time by its own doing, not because a media bent on sensationalism tried to cultivate the Malay nationalist group in order to increase readership.

In the latest of Perkasa moves, its Petaling chairperson, Zainal Abidin Ahmad, lodged a police report against a Protestant church in Shah Alam and its pastor for planning to stage a Christian play during Ramadan. “We want the church and pastor to be investigated for sedition and for insulting the Sultan,” Zainal Abidin told The Malaysian Insider on 17 Aug 2010. Zainal Abidin also accused the church of deliberately attempting to preach Christianity to Muslims in Muslim-majority Shah Alam.

We may be lulled into thinking that the issue at hand is limited to a Malay, and hence Muslim, rights group making wild and curious allegations against non-Muslim, non-Malay Malaysians. If only that were the case. Unfortunately, much more is involved. Indeed, what is really at stake is the control of public space and what it means for all of us.

My space, not anyone else’s

What Perkasa’s actions boil down to in Shah Alam is this. It’s saying that because it’s Ramadan and because Shah Alam is a Muslim-majority suburb, no other faith group is allowed to practise freedom of religion, expression or association. If they do, they can be cited for sedition, insulting the Malay ruler, and the crime of proselytising to Muslims.

I suspect that the citations of sedition etc are just a means of asserting control and power. By making out non-Malay non-Muslims to be criminals of the highest order, it becomes that much easier for lesser-thinking members of the public to believe that non-Muslims deserve to have their constitutional rights denied.

We may dismiss Zainal Abidin, and even Perkasa as a whole, as lunatic. That would be a mistake. Because Zainal Abidin and Perkasa are not the only ones who want complete control of public space, and who use a particular version of Islam to exert that control. Additionally, they are not the only players in town who do this at the expense of the rights and freedoms of other citizens.

Let us remember that before Perkasa started making the headlines, the national censors in 2005 banned the movie Babe because it starred a pig, considered haram in Islam, as the lead character. Following that, anecdotes from parents tell us that in some schools, non-Muslims children are told what they can and cannot pack in their lunch boxes in deference to Muslim sensitivities.

A Malaysian columnist once also told me that the word “pigmentation” was censored from a documentary he had watched presumably because the first syllable was “pig”. And in 2007, I discovered that Guardian pharmacy did not offer Piglet as part of its Winnie the Pooh gift redemption promotion.

Over in Section 6, Petaling Jaya, the local mosque has no qualms blaring the terawih prayers till late at night at decibels that are inconsiderate to the neighbourhood.

And let us also remember PAS’s own moves to define what can and cannot be done in the public domain. Everytime PAS Youth calls for a concert ban, what it’s effectively doing is telling all those — Muslims and non-Muslims — whose faith would not be threatened by attending a live concert, that they cannot because PAS says so. Similarly, when Selangor PAS tried to ban the sale of beer in Muslim-majority areas in the state, what the party is saying is that the lifestyle of all non-Muslims must be subservient to those of some Muslims.

And so the proscriptions on public spaces don’t just include what a Protestant church is allowed to do during Ramadan. It also affects the food our children are allowed to consume in schools, the drinks non-Muslims can buy in their neighbourhood, the movies and concerts and words we are allowed to watch and hear, the gifts we can redeem at a pharmacy, and the airwaves in our neighbourhood.

What do these events tell us? They tell us that there is a creeping, even if not concerted, effort by state and non-state players, to determine what is publicly kosher and what is not. It doesn’t matter if nothing in Islam actually prohibits non-Muslims from staging a Christian play during Ramadan, drinking alcohol, eating pork and watching a pig character in the movies.

The bottomline? Public space is no longer everyone’s space. It’s theirs — those Malay Muslims who believe that their imagined sensitivities alone give them the right to deny others access and use of public spaces.

The biggie

The biggie of all proscriptions in the current Malaysian context is of course, the Barisan Nasional (BN) government’s ban of the words “Allah”, “solat”, “Kaabah” and “Baitullah” among non-Muslims.

Even though Muslims don’t own copyright to these Arabic words, the BN government is asserting that these words belong to Muslims, and Muslims alone. Particularly Malaysian Muslims who apparently are prone to being confused should another faith community use the same words.

The ban on “Allah” and the three other words is no different from what Perkasa is doing in Shah Alam. A publicly-used word, like publicly-shared spaces, only belongs to Muslims. It’s as if these Muslim state and non-state actors are declaring, “Our space, not anyone else’s. Our word, not anyone else’s.”

And because their demands have no historical, cultural or legal legitimacy, they resort to demonising non-Muslims, accusing them of crimes and ill-intentions. And they use the powers of the state to impose and enforce ownership over “our space” and “our word”.

And so the biggie isn’t that our political landscape is littered more and more with irrational demands and wild allegations from certain Malay Muslim quarters. The biggie is that increasingly, there are more and more concerted attempts by these forces, which include the Umno-led federal government, to take over shared public spaces.

What’s the limit?

After the story on Perkasa’s police report was published, someone on Twitter commented that we can next expect police reports to be lodged against non-Muslims for eating during Ramadan. Indeed, I believe that’s not too far-fetched a scenario if we continue to allow those who try to control the public domain for their own narrow vested and bigoted interests, to continue doing what they do.

Already, non-Muslims are constantly being told to defer to the sensitivities of some Muslims. At the rate Muslim “sensitivities” are paraded about, one would think Muslims lived their lives like exposed nipples, ever excitable. When the truth is, we know that Muslims are thinking, rational human beings who belonged to one of the most historically advanced civilisations.

To be certain, there is a need to be respectful of different customs and belief systems. But “Muslim sensitivities” cannot and must not be the measure by which a non-Muslim citizen is denied the right to eat pork, watch a movie or use “Allah”. If we allowed that to happen, we would be a nation where behaving like an exposed nipple trumps constitutional rights to freedom of religion, assembly, association and expression. — TNG

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Far East

China Unveils the Fastest Supercomputer in the World. Should We Panic?

This week China unveiled a new supercomputer that’s pretty darn quick.

The Tianhe-1A machine housed at the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin reportedly works at the rate of 2.5 petaflops (a petaflop being about a thousand trillion operations per second), and reportedly will take the top spot in the rankings of world supercomputers when the people who attend to this list release the new version next month. That will bump the top U.S. machine down to number 2.

Personally, I’m not going to panic until China leapfrogs the United States on the Princeton Review list of top party countries or People Magazine’s sexiest countries in the world. But the announcement brought talk of American unease about being bested by China, and American alarm over China’s growing technological expertise. So is the vague, festering worry about the Chinese supercomputer justified? Let’s look at both sides of the argument.


Putting aside the issue of our wounded national pride, some experts say the real concern is whether the United States has the organization to match what China has done. CNET interviewed Jack Dongarra of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, keeper of the former fastest supercomputer, who called China’s achievement a “wake-up call.”



Tianhe-1A may be of Chinese design, but it is not completely of Chinese origin.


           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

A Former Muslim School Director Seeks $4m From School

A former Muslim school director convicted last week of rorting $752,000 from the State and Federal governments has claimed $4.1 million in unpaid wages and rent from the company behind the struggling school.

Anwar Sayed’s claim is the biggest against Muslimlink Australia Ltd, which was placed in administration in June and owes almost $480,000 to the Federal Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

Administrator Graeme Lean refuses to accept Sayed is owed that much and approved him as a creditor for a nominal $100,000, claiming the school had no formal lease.

Sayed, 51, was found guilty after a four-week District Court trial of two counts of fraud by inflating student enrolment numbers to claim extra government payments. In 2006, he claimed for 186 students at Kenwick’s Muslim Ladies College when there were fewer than 100.

He is in custody to be sentenced this month but continues to press his claim against Muslimlink.

Documents obtained by _The West Australian _show Sayed, who started the school and owns the land, is desperate for the company to avoid liquidation and wants a deed of company arrangement so creditors can accept a settlement.

But Mr Lean told a creditors meeting, which Sayed attended during his trial, that big creditors such as the Australian Taxation Office and DEEWR were likely to object to a deed arrangement.

Other creditors include the Perth Indonesian Muslim Society ($257,000), school co-founder Zubair Sayed ($16,500) and Mohamed Mandour ($12,000).

Anwar Sayed, who also claims to have loaned cash to the company, was due to present his proposed deed this week. He also faces losing his three Kenwick properties, including the school, which were frozen last year under Federal proceeds of crime laws.

At his trial, the jury was told senior teacher Karen Suhot unearthed the fraud and took the school register after stumbling across it.

Ms Suhot handed it to fellow teacher Gadija Bruce, who eventually gave it to Anne Aly, a senior lecturer in terrorism, international security and radicalisation at Edith Cowan University, who passed it to police.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigerian Weapons Haul Shows Lengths Iran Will Go to Supply Hamas

The capture in Nigeria late last week of over a dozen containers filled with weapons highlights the lengths to which Iran is taking to supply its Hamas ally in the Gaza Strip, but leaves a question mark over how successful the arms conduit has been, analysts say.

The containers, unloaded in Lagos, the country’s largest port, came from a cargo ship originating in Iran, the company that owned the ship said in a statement. While their ultimate destination has not been confirmed, analysts believe the containers were bound for Gaza, ruled by the Muslim group Hamas.

“It’s getting harder to obtain the weapons so they’re using all types of funny places,” Martin van Creveld, a retired professor of military history at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, told The Media Line. “They find a place that is so messy they can get through, and Nigeria apparently wasn’t messy enough.”

As Hamas’ main weapons supplier, Iran’s success in delivering missiles and other arms into Gaza will be a key factor in any future conflict with Israel. In its last confrontation with Hamas 14 months ago, Israel sustained almost no casualties, but if the Islamic group succeeds in obtaining more sophisticated weaponry it could put Israeli cities in rocket-range and jeopardize Israel’s control of the skies.

The shipping company, French-based CMA CGM, said it had been duped by Iranian trader who arranged the shipment. The shipper had listed the materials inside the containers as, “packages of glass wool and pallets of stone,” but when Nigerian security service personnel opened the containers, they found rockets, bullets, mortars and other weapons under a thin layer of floor tiles.

In the past, Hamas and Iran have sought to bring weapons into Gaza through smuggling routes that wind along the east coast of Africa from the Sudan, north into Egypt. From there, they arrive in Gaza through tunnels under the border with Egypt. But, these routes have grown more difficult as Israel and Egypt crack down on weapons shipments.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

White Farmer Shot in the Head in Chegutu Area, Zimbabwe

Harare, Zimbabwe-2010, October 29

A 67 year old white farmer, Kobus Joubert was shot (on Monday 25 October 2010) at his Scotsdale farm in Chegutu, west of Harare. The farmer heard his wife screaming in the bathroom, as he go to investigate he was shot by a man right in the head.

The murderers got away with Cell phones and $10 000 but failed to get a Laptop which they demanded. This was not the first incident the Jouberts suffered government persecutions. In 2008 Joubert was attacked by a mob of ZANU PF militias who needed his farm. ZANU PF government of President Robert Mugabe has declared that white farmers are “enemies of the people.” Therefore many farmers have been targeted, beaten, tortured and murdered by war veterans, militias and hired assassins.

The Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) state’s, “The shooting at point blank range of another white farmer in the Selous district (near Chegutu) of Zimbabwe again highlights the deteriorating situation currently being faced in the rural farming areas. This is a symptom of the flagrant disregard for the rule of law in these areas over the last ten years and the Commercial Farmers’ Union of Zimbabwe urgently requests that the authorities take immediate action.”

[Return to headlines]


Amara Lakhous: The New Face of Italian Fiction

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 28 — There is an Algerian fiction writer on the new literary scene in Italy and his name is Amara Lakhous — author of the well-known ‘Clash of Civilisations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio’ (published by E/O, 2006) — whose style and linguistic innovation has changed the face of Italian literature. Sandro Ferri, the founder of the publishing house E/O, spoke about the writer last night at the Biblioteca Guglielmo Marconi in Rome at the presentation of Lakhous’ latest novel, ‘Divorzio all’islamica a viale Marconi’ (Islamic Divorce on Viale Marconi), which came out a few weeks ago in Italian bookstores and is already a candidate for great success. Set once again in Rome, where Lakhous has lived for several years, ‘Divorzio all’Islamica’ takes place in 2005 in the crowded and diverse Viale Marconi neighbourhood, in the 15th District of Rome where the largest Muslim community in the capital resides and where the writer lived for 4 years from 2002 to 2006.

The two main characters in the story are Christian — a young Sicilian who speaks perfect Tunisian Arabic and is contacted by the Italian secret services to infiltrate a potential terrorist cell — and Sofia, or Sufia (her name in Arabic), a woman of Egyptian origin who has come to Rome to follow her husband, Said, alias Felice, an architect who now works as a pizza-maker.

The story draws the reader into the experiences and problems of Arab immigrants, into Muslim scenarios and taboos, and exposes the profound crisis through which Italian society is going and which “represents Italy today”, said E/O Sandro Ferri.

After graduating with a degree in philosophy in Algiers and writing a doctoral thesis dedicated to Muslim immigration to Italy from which the idea for this novel was born, Lakhous portrays the situations and characters with great irony in both Arabic and Italian, deliberately transposing elements and expressions from one language into another. The Arabic version of ‘Divorzio all’islamica’ was published in July by a company in Beirut, with the title “Little Cairo” (al-Qahira as-saghira), after the call centre where part of the story takes place. The choice to publish the book in Lebanon was no coincidence. “Lebanon is the cultural centre of the Arab world,” said Lakhous to ANSAmed, while departing for Algiers, where he will take part in the book fair, which will conclude on November 6. “It is a country where writers from the south shore,” he continued, “find cutting-edge publishers which are more inclined to work with controversial authors who are often too bold for a reserved public like the Arab world. “Lebanese publishers,” explained the 40-year-old writer and journalist, “print truly excellent books, unlike other Arab publishing houses, and have a very good distribution network.” After “Clash of Civilisations on an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio”, which was adapted into the film that bears the same name, directed by Isotta Toso, and ‘Divorzio all’islamica’, Lakhous says, “my next novel will be set in another Italian city”. And it will probably expose other important contradictions in our society. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Libya: Lesbian to Request Asylum in France

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, OCTOBER 25 — Nessma Faraj, a Libyan girl who was arrested, raped and returned to her family which tried to force her into marriage after she announced on the internet that she is gay, has arrived in Metz travelling via Italy on a Schengen visa. France has authorised her to request asylum in the country. In fact she should have asked for asylum in Italy, the first country where she arrived. She only stayed in Italy for a few hours however, because France had decided to resolve the case using the sovereignty clause in the Dublin convention which regulates asylum requests since 1990.

Nessma’s request is supported by 126 associations and around twenty local people. According to Lesbian Coordination France (CLF), the woman has presented document of the Libyan police to the French authorities which show that she had been arrested because of her homosexuality, a crime in Libya for which people can be convicted to three to five years in prison.

A recent report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees claims that it has become difficult for Libyans to request asylum in Italy after the signing of the Italian-Libyan agreement on the return of refugees to Libya. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Swedes Happy to be Kept Men: Study

Swedish men are prepared to take a step back in their careers in favour of their partners, with more than a quarter prepared to be financed by their wives, a new survey has shown.

The latest Work Life survey of 8,000 Swedes indicates that as many as 62 percent of men are prepared to give up their careers for a couple of years in favour of their partners, while only 39 percent of women could consider doing the same.

Among those born in the 1940s and 1950s, as many as 70 percent could consider easing off at work to support their partners, the survey commissioned by staffing firm Manpower Sweden showed.

“The survey indicates a new attitude among Swedish men which will probably affect equality in the labour market in a positive manner,” said Peter Lundahl, Manpower Sweden CEO.

A recent survey by the website Familjeliv received attention for suggesting that Swedish mums would like to spend more time with their kids, with half of respondents expressing a belief that other women would rather be housewives if they could.

The Familjeliv survey was reported in some media to indicate a new “housewife wave”, and the new survey by Manpower has been taken to indicate that Swedish men are of a similar mind.

Men born in the 1960s and 1970s dominate those prepared to accept being financed by a partner — with 28 percent prepared to allow someone else to foot the bill. Among women the figures are lower — with only 10 percent of women born in the 1940s and 1950s, for example, prepared to give up their own incomes.

Among younger people the difference between women and men are less pronounced.

The survey indicated however that a majority of Swedes are prepared to work extra to meet higher demand and almost as many are prepared to educate themselves in their free time in order to get ahead in their careers.

Every other Swedish man is prepared to be available on their holidays and more men that women are prepared to move in order to find work.

When it comes to having children, 34 percent of women and 40 percent of men are prepared to wait in order to advance in their careers. There are meanwhile few parents who would be prepared to spend less time with their children in order to focus on their careers.

The Manpower Work Life survey is Sweden’s largest labour market panel which continually reports Swedish attitudes to work, pay, and all that is important in life. The panel consists of some 20,000 people made up of a cross-section of Swedish society.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

This is Tolerance… This is Open-Mindedness…

[This is hard core liberalism from the man who was once the Bishop of the Diocese of Newark in the Episcopal Church USA]:

I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility…


I will no longer temper my understanding of truth in order to pretend that I have even a tiny smidgen of respect for the appalling negativity that continues to emanate from religious circles where the church has for centuries conveniently perfumed its ongoing prejudices against blacks, Jews, women and homosexual persons with what it assumes is “high-sounding, pious rhetoric.”


I will no longer seek to slow down the witness to inclusiveness by pretending that there is some middle ground between prejudice and oppression. There isn’t. Justice postponed is justice denied. That can be a resting place no longer for anyone. An old civil rights song proclaimed that the only choice awaiting those who cannot adjust to a new understanding was to “Roll on over or we’ll roll on over you!” Time waits for no one.

I will particularly ignore those members of my own Episcopal Church who seek to break away from this body to form a “new church,” claiming that this new and bigoted instrument alone now represents the Anglican Communion. Such a new ecclesiastical body is designed to allow these pathetic human beings, who are so deeply locked into a world that no longer exists, to form a community in which they can continue to hate gay people, distort gay people with their hopeless rhetoric and to be part of a religious fellowship in which they can continue to feel justified in their homophobic prejudices for the rest of their tortured lives.


I will no longer act as if the Papal office is to be respected if the present occupant of that office is either not willing or not able to inform and educate himself on public issues on which he dares to speak with embarrassing ineptitude…

—by John Shelby Spong

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Spong is still ALIVE??]

[Return to headlines]


How to Plug in a Brain

Researchers are finding better ways for our neurons to talk directly to our computers.

For tens of thousands of people suffering from paralysis or neurodegenerative disease, a direct connection to a computer could soon restore speech and even mobility. Neurologist Leigh Hochberg of the VA Medical Center in Providence, Rhode Island, is leading the second clinical trial of a brain-computer link called BrainGate. The system uses a sensor implanted into the motor cortex. Previous studies have shown that BrainGate can allow paralyzed people to perform simple tasks such as moving a computer cursor. The current trial will evaluate its safety outside the lab. Two people are already testing BrainGate at home, using the device to manipulate objects on a computer, and Hochberg hopes to recruit 13 more participants.

Although implants can be placed right next to the relevant neurons in the brain, they have drawbacks. Implants can inflame the surrounding tissue, and scarring can disrupt the connection between neurons and electrodes. A sensor developed by University of Pennsylvania neurologist Brian Litt could address those problems. It consists of electrodes embedded in a flexible plastic mesh that molds to the brain’s surface (but it does not penetrate the gray matter). Litt and his colleagues were able to record neural signals from cats’ brains for a few weeks without causing inflammation. Neuroscientist Gerwin Schalk of the New York State Department of Health has found that test sensors placed on the outside of human brains pick up signals that can identify spoken or imagined words. “The surface is a sweet spot,” he says.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Want to Mine the Solar System? Start With the Moon

The first extraterrestrial mining operation in human history will likely start up on the moon, thanks to its ample and relatively accessible stores of water ice, experts say. That was the majority view of a panel of scientists and engineers asked to consider where, beyond Earth, humanity should go first to extract resources.

The moon won out over asteroids and Mars, chiefly because it’s so close to Earth and has so much water, as well as other resources like methane and ammonia. “I think the moon is clearly the answer,” said Greg Baiden, chief technology officer of Penguin Automated Systems, a robotic technology firm. “I could easily make a business case for going to the moon.”

Baiden spoke during a session here yesterday (Oct. 29) at a conference called Space Manufacturing 14: Critical Technologies for Space Settlement. The meeting is organized by the non-profit Space Studies Institute. Private enterprise, Baiden and others said, will likely lead the way to mining the moon because there’s so much money to be made, but it will probably need government to prime the pump.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

What’s the Model for Our Lifetimes: World War or Cold War?

By Barry Rubin

It has become fashionable to compare the current situation in the world with the experiences of Nazism and World War Two. There are some parallels, of course, worth exploring. But a more likely model for the next period in world history is more likely to be that of the Soviet Union and the Cold War.

The future of the confrontation between Islamism and the governments of Muslim-majority states as well as Israel and the West is more likely not going to be some terrible but relatively brief shooting war for several reasons.

Iran, the closest thing to a leader of revolutionary Islamism, is far less strong and bold than Nazi Germany. It is unlikely to offer the West an occasion for direct, conventional war. It is very strong in the elements of ideology, client groups, and ideological appeal. As in the USSR’s case, Iran will more likely use nuclear weapons as a shield rather than a vehicle for attack. And also, as in the Cold War, there will be many independent or semi-independent revolutionary groups in dozens of countries stirring up trouble.

In contrast to the Cold War era, however, the West has no taste for such a confrontation and would avoid waging this struggle as much as possible. Equally, the revolutionary forces are diverse, including even anti-Iran Islamists, and conditions vary in each country.

The key year here, then, is not 1939, when Germany launched war, but the far less-well-known year of 1946, when most of the West had not yet awoken to face the challenge and was riddled with apologists and would-be appeasers. America and Western Europe were exhausted from too many battles, the former faced with a potential retreat from world leadership, the latter preoccupied with economic troubles.

Fortunately, the United Kingdom has a great leader named Winston Churchill, who had just left office, and the United States has a tough, feisty Democrat named Harry S. Truman as president. You can do the comparisons to today without my help.

In his famous Fulton, Missouri, speech in front of Truman, Churchill sounded the challenge for both countries:…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]