Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20101106

Financial Crisis
»Fed’s “War on Wealth” And the Risk of Default
»Organized Crime’s Involvement in Government Health Care
»Personal Genomics Tests Prompt Lifestyle Changes
Europe and the EU
»Al-Qaeda Leader’s Tour of Britain ‘Radicalised a Generation of Young Muslims’
»France: I’ve Got a New Girlfriend, Mum. She’s Eight Years Older Than You… Her Name’s Madonna
»Germany: Psychedelic Berlin Art Show Hosts Live Reindeer, Canaries and Mice
»Italy: “I’ve Insulted Her, But I Didn’t Beat Her”
»Italy: Berlusconi ‘Worried Country Needs Him’
»Italy: Varese is Home to the First 3-D Porn Star
»Italy’s Influence on Pre-Raphaelites Charted
»Italy: Boar-Hunt Infiltrators Let Down by Accents
»Netherlands: Jewish Lobby: Palestine Lobby Hijacks Holocaust Memorial
»Scandinavia: US Embassy Under Suspicion
»Swedish Justice Minister Confirms US Surveillance
»UK: Ofsted Praises Islamic Schools Which Oppose Western Lifestyle
»UK: Top Charities Give £200,000 to Group Which Supported Al-Qaeda Cleric
Middle East
»Christians ‘On Verge of Extinction’ In Iraq, Muslim Leader Warns
»Iraq: Disgusting Silence on Church Bloodbath
»Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses Refuse Blood Transfusions: 18 People Die
South Asia
»India: Bomb-Proof Tunnel With Air Conditioning: Obama’s Security Go to Extraordinary Measures for His Tour of the Gandhi Museum
»Murderous Tactics Are Fueling Terrorist Propaganda
»Obama to Use Teleprompter for Hindi Speech
»Swedish Aid Agency Boosts Afghanistan Funds
»Women in Fear: Rape Cases Soar Across Pakistan
»Swedish Minister ‘Tired’ of Refugees From Greece
Culture Wars
»Blacks Struggle With 72 Percent Unwed Mothers Rate
»Human Origins: It Began in Africa
»Lost Art of Critical Thinking

Financial Crisis

Fed’s “War on Wealth” And the Risk of Default

Charles Ortel, managing director of Newport Value Partners, tells Accuracy in Media in an exclusive interview that the Federal Reserve plan to buy $600 billion of U.S. Government securities “borders on the criminal” because the impact will be the devaluation of the dollar by 20 percent and the destruction of $10 trillion of household net worth.

“Any potential benefit to GDP and incomes [from the Fed’s action] pales in comparison to the wealth loss (in real terms) and to the damage done to foreign investor confidence,” Ortel says.

Ortel, who has been critical of U.S. economic and monetary policy under President Obama, fears that “investors will run faster from the dollar and we may soon experience the sizeable pain that comes when foreign capital rushes for the door.

Ortel has publicly warned that the Obama Administration has been pursuing what amounts to “destructive” policies that endanger the American capitalist system through rising levels of government debt and spending. On CNBC, he first warned in May 2009 that the administration seems to be waging a “war on capitalism.” In February of this year he warned that there is a very real risk of a U.S. default on a total debt of over $50 trillion.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Organized Crime’s Involvement in Government Health Care

During the intense debate regarding passage of ObamaCare by Democrat lawmakers, very little if any mention was made of the potential for organized crime to infiltrate the medical services industry and those companies involved with hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other enterprises ripe for crime groups to milk.

Even when the topic of health care fraud is addressed, most examples given are fraud and abuse cases perpetrated by individual health care workers, patients or government employees. Yet, for a number of years law enforcement officials experienced an upsurge in medical fraud cases involving crime syndicates.

For example, 73 suspects, including a number of alleged members and associates of an Armenian-American organized crime enterprise, were charged in indictments Wednesday in five judicial districts with various health care fraud-related crimes involving more than $163 million in fraudulent billing, according to a report obtained by the Organized Crime Committee of the National Association of Chiefs of Police.

In this national, multi-agency investigation, 52 suspects were nabbed by FBI agents in the largest Medicare fraud scheme ever perpetrated by a single criminal enterprise. The suspects were immediately charged by the Department of Justice.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Personal Genomics Tests Prompt Lifestyle Changes

Could a small dose of genetic information cure complacency about weight loss and exercise? That’s the suggestion made by a new study of how information from “personal genomics” companies has influenced their customers.

David Kaufman of the Genetics and Public Policy Center in Washington DC quizzed 1048 customers who had ordered genome scans from Decode Genetics of Reykjavik, Iceland, 23andMe of Mountain View, California, or Navigenics, based in Foster City, California.

Asked about changes in their behaviour between two and six months after receiving the results, 34 per cent of respondents said they were being more careful about their diet, 14 per cent said they were doing more exercise, and 16 per cent had changed their medications or dietary supplements.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Al-Qaeda Leader’s Tour of Britain ‘Radicalised a Generation of Young Muslims’

Anwar al-Awlaki, the American born leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) that launched the recent parcel bomb attacks last week, had reportedly radicalised a generation of young Muslims during a “grand tour” of Britain.

According to the Telegraph, al-Awlaki was invited to speak to a number of groups across the country despite being a suspect in the September 11 attacks.

Security sources are concerned that Awlaki’s teachings became so widely acceptable that there are a number of Muslim disciples prepared to follow his advice and launch attacks in Britain.

Awlaki reportedly lectured for the Muslim Association of Britain, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), and the Islamic Forum Europe (IFE) based at East London Mosque.

He began a “grand tour” of Britain from London to Aberdeen as part of a campaign by the Muslim Association of Britain, in which one lecture was held in conjunction with the London School of Economics, Imperial College, King’s College and the School of Oriental and African Studies, all part of the University of London, the paper said.

Al-Awlaki was also a keynote speaker at the “ExpoIslamia” event held by the Islamic Forum Europe and appeared at an event at East London Mosque called “Stop Police Terror” in which he told his audience: “A Muslim is a brother of a Muslim, he does not oppress him, he does not betray him and he does not hand him over… You don’t hand over a Muslim to the enemies.”

During his stay in Britain, Awlaki was also reportedly working on ‘Constants in the Path of Jihad’, which he produced in 2005, a few months after being banned from the country.

Roshonara Choudhry, who was jailed for 15 years this week after trying to stab the MP Stephen Timms to death for his support of the Iraq war, had earlier admitted Awlaki’s preaching on YouTube influenced her to take such a step.

The paper quoted Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, an expert on Awlaki at the Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College in London, as saying: “It would be no exaggeration to say that his reception was unprecedented — to this day almost no other foreign-based preacher has compared.”

He also said: “the official line, from many prominent individuals and organisations, was that Awlaki’s radicalisation had been an insidious process that had caught them unawares,” and added his views on violent jihad “would have been obvious to any regular consumer of his output.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

France: I’ve Got a New Girlfriend, Mum. She’s Eight Years Older Than You… Her Name’s Madonna

Frenchwoman Patricia Vidal said she received a phone call from her 24-year-old son Brahim Zaibat, a dancer working in New York.

‘I’ve got a new girlfriend,’ he said.

The mother of four was unperturbed when he mentioned an age gap of eight years.

‘You’ve always been mature for your age — it will be good to spend some time with a girl who’s a bit older than you,’ she said.

‘No,’ Zaibat replied. ‘She’s eight years older than you, Mum — and her name is Madonna.’

‘My mouth fell open when I realised that my son was Madonna’s new boyfriend,’ said 44-year-old Miss Vidal at her ninth-floor flat on a dingy council estate in Lyon. ‘It’s something I’m still trying to come to terms with.

‘Madonna was already a big star when I was a schoolgirl, let alone when Brahim was growing up. The whole situation is very strange indeed — surreal even.’

Zaibat met 52-year-old Madonna in September when he was dancing at the launch of her new line of clothes at Macy’s department store in New York. She invited him out and observers say it was love at first sight.

They have become regulars at the Sullivan Room, a dance club where they sit in the VIP area sharing bottles of Fiji mineral water. On a recent trip to London they were seen kissing and cuddling in a nightclub.

However the relationship is not without its obstacles. Zaibat’s English is far from fluent while Madonna does not speak a word of French. And, like his mother, Zaibat does not even like Madonna’s music very much.

Most importantly, he is a devout Muslim who — according to his mother — prays to Allah a number of times a day and shuns alcohol and cigarettes.

Those religious views contrast sharply with the hedonistic lifestyle personified by the Material Girl. Moreover, Madonna is a high-profile follower of Kabbalah, a variation of Judaism.

Miss Vidal — whose Algerian husband left her and their four children when Zaibat was still a young boy — explained: ‘This is certainly not the kind of thing Brahim was brought up to involve himself with.

‘Things didn’t work out between me and my husband, but Brahim was raised as a good Muslim. Brahim’s faith is hugely important to him, and has got him through some very difficult times.’

She continued: ‘I certainly wouldn’t say we’re overjoyed by Brahim’s relationship with a non-Muslim, and the fact that she’s Madonna doesn’t make things any easier.

‘The only other thing I’m prepared to say about all this is that I think it was Madonna who moved in on Brahim rather than the other way round. I think she’s very well known for this kind of thing.’

Madonna’s initial topic of conversation with Zaibat was apparently that she is a Leo — born in August 1958 — while he — born in September 1986 — is a Virgo. She said the two star signs were naturally suited.

He is said to get on well with Madonna’s precocious daughter, Lourdes, who at 13 is already a regular on the celebrity circuit. Zaibat is already calling her Lola — the nickname she prefers.

Miss Vidal said: ‘Brahim has younger siblings so he feels very happy in the company of younger people, including kids. I’m sure Madonna will appreciate this if Brahim is spending time with her children.’

Before Zaibat, Madonna dated another 24-year-old — Brazilian Jesus Luz.

Zaibat is aware of the relative financial security Luz gained from his relationship with Madonna, propelling himself from an impoverished wannabe to a £20,000-a-night DJ and Dolce & Gabbana model.

However he has told friends and family he has no interest in exploiting his relationship with the star.

He says his ultimate aim in life is to help children from similar underprivileged backgrounds. ‘I just want to get on with my life — for everything to be normal,’ he told the Daily Mail.

The phone calls home have continued despite his high-profile romance. Zaibat even spent a night back at the Lyon flat late last month.

‘He hadn’t changed a bit,’ his mother said, pointing proudly to the fact that Brahim slept in his childhood bed and watched TV with everybody, as he always did as a boy.

‘Nothing has changed him at all — as far as he is concerned he’s just got a new girlfriend and wants to enjoy himself.

‘He’s always been very shy when he’s not dancing, and will definitely not try to take advantage of his new status.

‘On the contrary, Brahim will do everything he can to keep a low profile, and to carry on working hard.’

It seems he is not planning to bring his new girlfriend home to meet his family in the near future.

‘No, I can’t see Madonna arriving here any time soon,’ added Miss Vidal. ‘She has given us quite a few surprises recently, but that really would be one too far.’

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Germany: Psychedelic Berlin Art Show Hosts Live Reindeer, Canaries and Mice

A fantastical exhibition by renowned artist Carsten Höller featuring live reindeer, canaries, mice and flies opened Friday at Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof contemporary art museum. “Soma” also offers the chance for a limited number of guests to overnight in a bed suspended above the animals for €1,000.

Höller’s exhibition directs the real-life quest to rediscover the ingredient of a mythical drink into the realm of art, the museum says.

The artist was inspired by a verse in the ancient Hindu text, the Rigveda, which reads: “We have drunk of the soma; we have become immortal, we have seen the light; we have found the Gods.”

In the 20th century, philologists, ethnologists and botanists have tried to identify the main ingredient of the enlightening beverage, the ingredients of which were lost over the years, the museum said in a statement.

But in 1968, American banker and hobby mycologist Gordon R. Wasson made the highly-disputed suggestion that the red and white poisonous fly Amanita mushroom may have been the ingredient, and that it may have been absorbed through the urine of reindeer, which eat the plant as part of their natural diet.

With this in mind, Belgian-born Höller, who studied agricultural sciences, has created a massive dual-sided “experiment.” Here 12 reindeer and other animals exist in two halves of the museum’s large hall — one side reflective of the “normal world,” and the other a scene from the psychedelic “realm of soma.”

“It’s about pondering,” he said on Wednesday.

The reindeer, brought to Berlin from Brandenburg’s Uckermark region, are reportedly relaxed and accustomed to human contact.

Other parts of the exhibition include mushroom sculptures and the limited possibility for visitors to spend the night alone in the museum with the live animals. Almost all of the available nights have already been purchased, the museum reported.

Each week the museum will hold a lottery drawing for one free overnight stay, though.

Stockholm-based Höller was born in 1961 in Brussels. He is best known for his 2006 work “Test Site” at London’s Tate Modern.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: “I’ve Insulted Her, But I Didn’t Beat Her”

A man has been charged with aggression against a thirteen-year-old girl at Dante Alighieri middle school. He has admitted having offended her for the colour of her skin, but he has denied slapping her and answers back: she kicked me in the groin.

“Can you see me? I’m a big guy, aren’t I?” The man stands up to show the way he looks. “Can you see these hands, they are big, aren’t they? I agree, they must belong to a hard worker.

“The report says that the young girl has got no days of recovery, doesn’t it? If I had slapped her for real, consequences would have been different, wouldn’t they?” Well, I don’t know. “It’s like I say, I haven’t beaten that girl.”

This is the beginning of the story told by Mr. Antonio, 45, the man who has been accused of beating a thirteen-year-old girl at the exit of Dante Alighieri middle school last Thursday. The man has been tracked down, the police headquarters have notified him of a warning, and the proceedings are in progress. He has agreed to tell his story to VareseNews.

Short biography of Mr. Antonio. He is 45, he was born in Enna but he has lived in Varese since he was 4, he is a truck driver, he wakes up every morning at 3 and he goes to work. A small complaint about threatening was lodged against him, but he swears he does not know anything about it. Three months ago, he bought a grey Kia Sportage, a really nice car that is not put in his name, though. Everything starts from there, from that car.

What happened that day?

“I arrived to school at 1:45pm, I parked the car in Via Morselli (in a no parking spot) facing the exit. Later on, four guys arrived and they stopped in front of me. They were kissing and cuddling in couples and they were scratching their backpacks on the bonnet of my car, the 30-thousand-euro car that I bought only three months ago. My wife told the guys to move from there.”

And then what?

“My daughter came out and I started the car. They heard me, they looked at me, but they wouldn’t get out of the way. Only later they moved on the side and the girl stood on our right side.”

Did you run her over or not?

“Well, I was a few inches from her. If I had run her over, she would have fallen down, but she was standing.”

You touched her with the bonnet though…

“I don’t know whether I touched her or not.”

Did the girl react?

“Yes, she told my wife ‘what the hell do you want?’.”

Well, she is a young girl, isn’t she?

“I got out of the car and I told her ‘would you move out of the way?’ and she kicked me in the b…”

Are you sure?

“Of course I am, she kicked me, at that point I pushed her, but with mychest, I had my hands in my pockets, I swear, she insulted me and she told me ‘f… old man, bastard’. Then I told her ‘f… nigger, go back to where you came from’.”

Why did you do it, Mr. Antonio. She is just a young girl, she is weaker, and then, why did you tell her those words?

“I don’t know how harmless a young girl can be…but I said those words because that is what I think. I can’t bear immigrants, even though I’m from the south. You can’t even imagine how many times I was told to leave. But, at least, I am Italian and I stay in my country, I don’t even go to Switzerland or to Germany.”

What do you mean? Not even for vacation?

“No, not even for vacation. It’s better to stay in our country where we have nice places.”

Why do you have it in for foreign people?

“Because they are ruining Italy. In my job, the foreign drivers are paid half of a regular wage, they sleep in the trucks and I earn 1300 euros instead of 2500 because of them.”

Are you racist?

“No, why would I be racist? I work with Pakistani and Senegalese people, too; we get along, as long as we keep a certain distance.”

All right, let’s forget about racism. You must agree with the fact that an adult that hits a little girl is not normal, right?

“I acted that way because of the big pain I felt between my legs after the kick.”

You said that your daughter was sitting in the car during the argument; don’t you think that you could have embarrassed her?

(He stops, he silently thinks over it) “I think so…”

Even if you did not slap her and you did not make her fall, as you affirm, don’t you think that probably you exaggerated a bit?

“Yeah, and what if they ruined my car?”

Maybe what happened is more serious, don’t you think?

“I don’t know. Anyway, I tell the truth, I always tell things the way they are.”

What did your wife say about it?

“She said that I was wrong, but she wasn’t kicked in the b…”

Translated by Federica Corio (Reviewed by Prof. Rob Clarke)

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

Italy: Berlusconi ‘Worried Country Needs Him’

Rome, 1 Nov. (AKI) — Italy’s prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is worried Italy would suffer should he retire from from politics, according to interviews in a new book due to be published on Friday.

“It would cause serious harm to the centre-right and the whole country,” Berlusconi said in the book by Bruno Vespa, the host of Italy’s most-watched political talk show, ‘Porta Porta’.

“I am making a huge sacrifice, sometimes the effort this requires is inhuman… but I’m here out of a sense of responsibility,” he said.

“But I believe that if I were to retire now, I’d not be doing my duty and I would lose the esteem of the many Italians who trusted me,” the book quotes Berlusconi as saying.

Many opposition politicians has called for Berlusconi’s resignation over his links to a 17-year-old Moroccan girl and suspected thief whose release from police custody he personally ordered in May.

The girl, who is now 18, is due to be questioned by prosecutors in Milan who are probing a possible prostitution racket. Berlusconi’s relationship with the girl is unclear.

She was cited by several Italian newspapers as claiming she attended parties at Berlusconi’s villa in Arcore near Milan and took part in a sex game he called ‘Bunga Bunga’.

Last month, Berlusconi vowed to run in any snap election as his ruling coalition has come under mounting pressure from a series of scandals surrounding him and other politicians in his party. The coalition has also been weakened by Berlusconi’s split with a key political ally in July, the votes of whose faction he needs to command a parliamentary majority.

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

Italy: Varese is Home to the First 3-D Porn Star

Interview with Fiamma Monti, the 19-year-old star in the first Avatar-like hardcore film, coming out next winter. As a result of her decision, she had to leave the convent school where she was studying.

“I do porn, because I like it, and because I’ve chosen to do it.” Fiamma Monti is 19 years old, and she is from Varese; she refuses to say what her real name is, she prefers to use her stage name, for the time being. “This is an interview for a film, my private life is something else, it involves other people too.” The film in question is Casino 45, it is her first test as an actress; it is a hardcore porn film, the first 3-D porn film in Italy. Her performance has led to her being expelled from the convent school, where she was studying.

But let’s start at the beginning. The film is being produced by Pink’o, a well-established production company, one of the biggest in Europe in the porn sector, which supplies most of the specialised satellite channels. Casino 45 is a porn film with a historical setting, it is expensive, particularly because of the 3-D filming, like Avatar, for which a film camera that can cost as much as €20,000 an hour to hire. And Fiamma Monti, the new recent infatuation of Vittorio Sgarbi, is the leading actress, alongside Vittoria Risi.

Fiamma came to the editorial office for the interview, dressed entirely in dark colours, nothing exposed. “I always go around like this, there’s no need to show off,” she says, determined, but also somewhat bewildered. “I’m doing lots of interviews, everything has changed since the summer. This film has turned my life upside down.”

How did you get the leading role in Casino 45?

“I was talking to my boyfriend, last June, and we decided that I would have a go in this business. I produced a book, and then I sent it to a number of Internet sites, until one of them put me in contact with Pink’o. The filming was done in the summer. It’s now in the preparation stage, and should be ready in the winter.”

Did you expect to end up immediately in a large porn production?

“I didn’t want to make any front-room, amateur films. I was lucky. But no one told me what would happen, if I would be good. We were all surprised by the reaction; we didn’t think this film would be the atomic bomb it’s turning out to be. They’re talking about it everywhere, and the 6-minute trailer we presented in Berlin was a success.”

Because of this choice, you’ve been expelled from school …

“They didn’t expel me. The headmistress received an anonymous phone call, and then she called me into her office. She asked me if I was Fiamma Monti, and I said I was. They sent me away because of the ‘school’s moral ethics’. There was no fight over it, I respect the rules. If going around dressed in green is forbidden, so be it. I knew it would happen, it was a Catholic school, after all.”

Have you put an end to your studies?

“No, I’m studying privately. I want to get my high school diploma and then go to university.”

In which field?

“I don’t know yet. But maybe I’ll go after a break. I also want to work.”

In porn?

“Yes, this is my business now. I’ve already got an exclusive contract with Pink’o.”

But why does a 19-year-old girl choose to be a porn actress?

“The question is not why, but what I wanted to do. A lot of people my age have got no idea. But I had, I’d thought about it. I wanted to do this because it’s an area in which I can really be myself. Everyone’s got their talent, I wanted to be a porn actress. I didn’t try something else and then not succeed; I didn’t want to be a model or a cinema actress. This isn’t my second choice. I repeat, it’s what I wanted.”

Since when?

“Not since I was a little girl, I’m not crazy. I was curious. I now feel good in this role.”

What does it take to be a porn actress?

“You don’t have to be a size 38, or have a D cup. You need character. What you have to look forward to out there is a world of doubts. They want to see you break down at any time. If you’re convinced of what you’re doing and you like it, go ahead; that’s what I’m doing.”

Have you had any criticisms?

“Lots, but I’m not interested.”

Do your parents know about this work?

“There’ve been problems at home, they think this is a world of prostitutes, drugs and alcohol, but it’s not. And I’m proving it to them; I don’t take drugs, and I don’t have orgies. There’s that too, but just as there is in lots of other areas of work. What’s important is being able to separate, knowing where to stop.”

How does this situation make you feel?

“I don’t like it. My parents are the same as all the others. They let themselves be influenced. But I’ll always keep up a dialogue with them, I’ve got nothing to hide. I’ll wait for them, that’s all. I hope they’ll understand.”

And what about your friends?

“My real friends are still around. There are to girls and one boy who are really close friends; they don’t say, they do. They help me in everything and they support me without any fuss. And I’m very grateful to them for this.”

Was Casino 45 the first time you had sex in front of a film camera?

“Yes. But it was my first time in front of a film camera.”

What was it like?

“I didn’t have any experience of life on the set. There was a lot of anxiety; they explained to me that it was also because of the 3-D, no one had ever done it before. Then, when you do a sex scene, you don’t think about the camera or about the people around you.”

Were you embarrassed?

“I’m usually more embarrassed talking about the scene than doing it.”

Have you seen yourself again since the filming?

“I still haven’t seen the film, I only saw the trailer in Berlin. I was very embarrassed before seeing it, but when I did, I thought I was very beautiful. It’s not vulgar; even though it’s fiction, it looks very natural.”

What do you expect now?

“I didn’t even expect what’s happened over these months. I haven’t got any particular dreams, I just wanted to be a porn star. Now I’ve got hundreds of invitations to evening events, but I still haven’t answered any, I don’t want to burn out.”

Before leaving, Fiamma asks when the article will be published, she is curious. And she is determined to put her profile on Facebook again. “They’ve already closed it down twice because they received reports. But I’m hardly going to put porn pictures up. There’s just me in a bra and pants, like so many other girls on Facebook.”


Translated by Prof. Rolf

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

Italy’s Influence on Pre-Raphaelites Charted

Ruskin, Rossetti, Hunt, Burne-Jones in Oxford show

(ANSA) — Oxford, November 1 — The impact of Italy, its culture and history on Britain’s influential 19th-century Pre-Raphaelite movement is explored in a new exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in the English city of Oxford. ‘The Pre-Raphaelites and Italy’, on display in the museum’s brand-new exhibition centre, brings together 140 artworks by John Ruskin, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and Edward Burne-Jones among others. Developed in collaboration with the Ravenna Art Museum, the exhibition seeks to cast light on how the movement’s leading artists were inspired by Italy.

The Mediterranean country’s art, landscape, architecture and history all played a critical role in their efforts to encourage British painting in a more personal and emotional direction.

Perhaps surprisingly, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the son of an Italian scholar, never visited the country, despite his family background. He grew up speaking Italian however, and was particularly inspired by Dante’s writings, for which he completed a series of exquisite watercolours and paintings illustrating key episodes of the Divine Comedy.

For Rossetti, Italy remained a fantastical land, evoked through the words of Dante and the art of giants such as Giotto, Fra Angelico and Giorgione with whom he was fascinated. Edward Burne-Jones was another leading light in the movement, who never visited Italy but who was entranced by its history, particularly the struggle between Florence’s Guelph and Ghibelline factions, and created an intricately detailed representation of the wedding that sparked the conflict. John Ruskin, on the other hand, was a regular and committed visitor to the country. Shocked by the number of monuments and buildings falling into decay there, he encouraged his followers to catalogue Italy’s artistic beauties in as much detail as possible before they vanished permanently. Founded in the second half of the 1800s, the Pre-Raphaelites sought to break with the artistic convention of their day, urging a revival of spontaneity and passion for nature, which they believed had been lost during the Mannerist revolution sparked by High Renaissance artists like Raphael and Michelangelo.

The Pre-Raphaelites were fascinated by the brilliant colours, attention to natural detail, extreme simplicity and intensity of expression in Italian medieval art.

During its early years, the movement focused on medieval and pre-Renaissance styles but by the end of the 1850s, Pre-Raphaelite interest had expanded to include 15th-century paintings, particularly the work of Venetian artists.

The exhibition, which arrives in Oxford after a successful run in Ravenna, includes a number of the movement’s most popular works.

Among these are Rossetti’s idealization of female beauty in Monna Vanna (1866) on loan from the Tate, Burne-Jones’s richly coloured Music (1877), part of the Ashmolean’s own collection, and Holman Hunt’s almost magical depiction of Florence’s Ponte Vecchio bridge (1867), on loan from the Victoria & Albert Museum. The Pre-Raphaelites And Italy runs at the Ashmolean until December 5.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Boar-Hunt Infiltrators Let Down by Accents

Northerners in Tuscany betrayed by ‘weird’ speech

(ANSA) — Trento, October 27 — Hunters from the German-speaking region of Trentino were betrayed by their heavily accented Italian after two years of illegally shooting boar in Tuscany, a local newspaper reported Wednesday.

The 48 hunters were each fined 2,000 euros for breaking a law that limits hunting to the region of residence, the Il Trentino daily said.

The northerners had been joining hunting parties in the Maremma game parks of southern Tuscany since 2008 when local hunters finally noticed their “weird” accents, the daily said.

The Tuscans reported the intruders to the Maremma wildlife rangers who examined their licences and brought them to book.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Jewish Lobby: Palestine Lobby Hijacks Holocaust Memorial

AMSTERDAM, 06/11/10 — The Central Jewish Consulting body (CJO) is revolting against Nederland Bekent Kleur (Netherlands admits colour). This ‘anti-racist organisation’ has hijacked the Holocaust theme to show off dubious political ideas and an anti-Israel lobby, CJO suggests.

Nederland Bekent Kleur regularly organises meetings and demonstrations of leftwing activists. They say they fight against racism, but are seen by some as a pro-Palestinian lobby with anti-Semitic inclinations. During demonstrations of Nederland Bekent Kleur, slogans like “Hamas, gas the Jews” can regularly be heard and sometimes Israeli flags are burned.

Ironically, Nederland Bekent Kleur also holds an annual memorial of Kristallnacht on 9 November 1938, when the Nazis vandalised Jewish shops and more or less started the Holocaust. The CJO says it can no longer accept “the Jewish persecution being misused by organisations and persons for their own political agenda.”

CJO will from next year itself commemorate Kristallnacht annually in Amsterdam, in order to offer a counterbalance to the commemorations that Nederland Bekent Kleur has held since 1992. Up to now, the CJO has only held a commemoration once every five years.

According to CJO, the commemoration of Nederland Bekent Kleur is “politicised to a high degree.” For example, on the website of the International Socialists, an affiliated organisation, an announcement of the commemoration is next to a poster calling on a boycott of Israel.

Nederland Bekent Kleur is led by Rene Danen. He is also a member of the leftwing Greens (GroenLinks). Party leader Femke Halsema last week indicated that she would not be sorry if he would resign from the party.

Halsema also suggested she wanted to get rid of Danen’s fellow-activist Mohamed Rabbae. He resigned from the party himself on Thursday. Rabbae, who is chairman of the National Council of Moroccans, was a GroenLinks MP and co-leader of the party in the 1990s.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Scandinavia: US Embassy Under Suspicion

A US memo shows that American embassies must monitor suspicious people in the vicinity of their properties.

Justice Minister Lars Barfod has been called into Parliamentary Council following reports that a secret American data collection unit has been collating information on suspicious people in Norway, with fears that the same activity may be taking place in Denmark.

The Security Incident Management Analysis System (SIMAS) calls for extensive intelligence gathering on local human and vehicle activities in the vicinity of American properties abroad in order to counter possible or potential threats.

While a State Department official in Washington says that the activity has taken place with the full knowledge of local authorities, that does not appear to be the case in Norway. Both the former and current justice ministers in Norway have said they have been unaware that a 15-20 person Surveillance Detection Unit has been monitoring for SIMAS in the Norwegian capital for a decade.

It remains unclear whether the Norwegian Intelligence Service has been aware of the activity, although two previous heads of security, dating up to 2009, have said they were ‘surprised’ at the disclosures and had been unaware of what was going on.

Following the disclosures in Norway, Danish legal experts tell Politiken that a similar activity in Denmark would be illegal, although it remains unclear as to whether Danish consent has been sought and received and by whom.

“If something like this has taken place at an embassy in Denmark, that would be illegal intelligence activity,” says Criminal Law Professor Jørn Vestergaard, adding that the activity would be a breach of diplomatic rules.

Another legal expert, Professor Jens Vedsted, a former member of the Intelligence and Security Commissions, agrees; “If this has taken place without the consent of the Danish authorities, it is illegal.”

Former Head of the Danish Intelligence and Security Service (PET) Jørgen Bonnichsen says he is amazed.

“I have never heard of SIMAS. And if it’s true then it is clearly illegal intelligence activity in Denmark. PET, and only PET is allowed to operate on Danish soil,” Bonnichsen says.

The current head of PET Jakob Scharf has not wanted to comment on the issue but says in an e-mail that on principle his service does not comment on foreign embassy activities in Denmark, but: “If PET discovers illegal activities, we would of course take action”.

The Justice Ministry has not yet been able to disclose whether the US Embassy has been given permission to register Danish nationals in Denmark. The US Embassy has not wished to comment on the issue.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Swedish Justice Minister Confirms US Surveillance

Sweden’s Justice Minister Beatrice Ask told a press conference in Stockholm on Saturday that the US Embassy in Sweden has undertaken similar surveillance measures such as those that have taken place in Norway in the last 10 years.

“We accept that countries with a higher security risk undertake their own measures to reduce the risk of attacks,” said Ask.

She noted that this type of monitoring, such as photographing, has occurred in Norway and Sweden. However, she did not know whether this kind of surveillance was illegal under Swedish law, saying that it is something that must be examined by prosecutors.

“I assume that the US authorities will provide assistance about the activities that were carried out,” said Ask.

She added that Sweden’s Department of Justice was not previously aware of the surveillance and that she did not know the extent of it, adding that she has not been in contact with the US embassy because the issue is out of her jurisdction.

“This is a question for the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to manage,” she said.

For the past 10 years, the US has monitored Norwegian residents from Norwegian soil. The Surveillance Detection Unit (SDU) group operated from secret premises. Several of those employed to spy on Norwegian residents were former Norwegian security police.

Suspicious individuals were registered and photographed and the data was forwarded to the US embassy in Oslo, which analysed and added them its SIMAS (Security Incident Management Analysis System) database.

According to a news report by Norway’s TV2 on Thursday, hundreds of Norwegians are registered in the database. The report also alleged that there are SDU units containing similar data at all American embassies.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Ofsted Praises Islamic Schools Which Oppose Western Lifestyle

An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has established that the education watchdog has published positive reports praising Muslim schools for their contribution to community cohesion — even in the case of a school which openly states that Muslims “oppose the lifestyle of the West”.

The Ofsted inspector responsible for many of the reports, Michele Messaoudi, has been accused of having links to radical Islamist organisations.

This newspaper can reveal that another recent Ofsted inspector, Akram Khan-Cheema, is the chief executive of a radical Muslim educational foundation, IBERR.

Its website describes Islamic schools as “one of the most important factors which protect Muslim children from the onslaught of Euro-centrism, homosexuality, racism, and secular traditions”.

Ofsted has also passed the inspection of dozens of Muslim schools to a new private “faith schools watchdog”, the Bridge Schools Inspectorate, which is co-controlled by Islamic schools’ own lobbying and trade body, the Association of Muslim Schools.

The Bridge Schools Inspectorate allows Muslim head teachers to inspect each other’s schools.

Among the schools directly inspected by Ofsted was the Madani Girls’ School, a private Islamic school in London’s East End.

Its Ofsted report, written by Mrs Messaoudi, said it made pupils “aware of their future role as proactive young British Muslim women” and left them “well-prepared for life in a multicultural society”.

However, the Madani Girls’ School’s own website openly states: “If we oppose the lifestyle of the West, then it does not seem sensible that the teachers and the system which represents that lifestyle should educate our children.”

It says that under western education “our children will distance themselves from Islam until there is nothing left but their beautiful names”.

Last month, this newspaper revealed how girls at the school were being forced to wear the Islamic veil, a fact that was not mentioned in its 2008 Ofsted report. The Madani School declined to comment last night.

Ofsted also inspected the Tawhid Boys’ School in Hackney, north London. Its Ofsted report, written by Mrs Messaoudi, said the curriculum was “good … broad and balanced in Key Stages 2 and 3”.

However, the school’s prospectus says that the curriculum is kept strictly “within the bounds of Sharia [Islamic law].” Its art syllabus bans pupils from drawing human beings, animals and objects that Islam deems “unlawful”. The school did not return calls.

Mrs Messaoudi also wrote the Ofsted report cited by Ed Balls, the then schools secretary, as “clearing” schools run by supporters of the racist, extremist sect Hizb ut Tahrir.

The schools, the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation establishments in Haringey, north London, and Slough, Berks, received more than £113,000 of public funding and became the subject of national controversy after being exposed inThe Sunday Telegraph.

One of the Foundation’s trustees, Farah Ahmed, who is also headmistress of the Slough school, wrote a chapter in a Hizb ut Tahrir pamphlet attacking the National Curriculum for its “systematic indoctrination” of Muslim children “to build model British citizens”.

She criticised “attempts to integrate Muslim children” into British society as an effort “to produce new generations that reject Islam”.

She described English as “one of the most damaging subjects” a school can teach and attacked fairy tales, saying that these “reflect secular and immoral beliefs that contradict the viewpoint of Islam”.

She also attacked the “obvious dangers” of Shakespeare, including “Romeo and Juliet, which advocates disobeying parents and premarital relations”.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Top Charities Give £200,000 to Group Which Supported Al-Qaeda Cleric

Cageprisoners, a self-styled human rights organisation, has a long association with Anwar al-Awlaki, who was last week accused of being one of the figures behind the terrorist plot to blow up cargo planes which saw a powerful device defused at East Midlands Airport.

The Islamic preacher, based in Yemen, was inThe group has now told its backers that it no longer supports the cleric and that it “disagreed” with him over “the killing of civilians”.

But an examination of the Cageprisoners website last week suggested that its support for the cleric was as strong as ever.

Cageprisoners was set up to lobby on behalf of terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay and those monitored under control orders in the UK.

The Sunday Telegraph can reveal that it is being funded by the Joseph Rowntree Trust, a Quaker-run fund set up by the chocolate-maker and philanthropist a century ago, and The Roddick Foundation, a charity set up by the family of Anita Roddick, the Body Shop founder, after her death three years ago.

The Joseph Rowntree Trust is giving Cageprisoners £170,000 in donations over three years — with the latest payment due this month — and The Roddick Foundation another £25,000.

In its website, recently re-branded with some of the charities’ cash, Cageprisoners carries more than 20 articles about al-Awlaki, describing him as an ‘inspiration’ and casting doubt on the evidence he is involved in terrorism.

Awlaki is believed by Western intelligence services to be an ideological figurehead of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the group blamed for the cargo bombs. Last year he praised the Muslim US soldier who killed 13 colleagues at Fort Hood, Texas.

Yet despite the heads of both MI5 and MI6 saying Awlaki uses the internet to foment terrorism, the Cageprisoners website also contains video messages from the American-born radical.

Cageprisoners — a not for profit company — is headed by Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, and also employs Feroz Ali Abbasi, another detainee freed from the controversial US base.

As recently as last month its website highlighted claims by Yemeni politicians that they had “never been given evidence against [Awlaki]”.

Earlier in the year one leading activist wrote: “Anwar al-Awlaki’s contribution to Cageprisoners has always been positive, particularly when invited to our events he has only spoken from his experiences as a former prisoner.”

Mr Begg, born in Birmingham, was detained by the Americans for nearly three years after being arrested in Pakistan and accused of being an al-Qaeda terrorist.

He has interviewed al-Awlaki, and earlier this year he wrote that it “was evident that he commanded a large following and great respect amongst many Muslims”.

But Mr Begg added that, after Awlaki’s alleged torture while held in Yemen in 2006, “I am told, Anwar’s position on issues pertaining to the US foreign policy had started to become more hostile…

“I wonder if it was terribly surprising if … after suffering abuse I know only too well US agents to be capable of, [he] now allegedly lauds the Fort Hood shootings as deeds of heroism.”

Other articles on the Cageprisoners website raise further questions.

One, on the death of Faraj Hassan, a former control order detainee, said he had died with a smile on his face “similar to the smiles we are used to seeing in videos of those martyred in the way of Allah while fighting in foreign war zones”.

Hassan, a Libyan who was accused of an attempted church bombing in Italy, was killed in a road crash in August. The Cageprisoners article added: ‘His death … may serve as the fertilizer that serves to revive the spirit of jihad in the Muslims of Britain.”

Despite the group’s views, it is still being provided with money by the Joseph Rowntree charity, to help with its “core costs”, and by the Roddick Foundation, which is run by the late businesswoman’s widower Gordon and other members of her family.

Cageprisoners has also received the backing of Amnesty International, which last year faced a public row when one of its staff was forced to quit after calling Amnesty’s links to Cageprisoners “a gross error of judgement”.

Cageprisoners also received a further £131,000 in donations last year from other undisclosed sources. It has used the money to pay for a rapid expansion of its work.

It now has three full-time and one part-time staff members who are paid a total of £64,000 a year.

The group has recently moved to a new office in Camden, north London, which is, it says, “important for our clients who now have a safe place to come in order to feel safe and speak about their problems”.

Last night Stephen Pittman, Secretary of the Joseph Rowntree Trust, defended his charity’s funding of the group. He said: “I’ve recently spoken to Cageprisoners and I have had a commitment that they are completely opposed to any form of the use of terrorism aimed at civilians.

“They are completely committed to the upholding of human rights standards … [and] have distanced themselves from this man [al-Awlaki].

“Cageprisoners has now stated that it is not supportive of anything al-Awlaki is saying relating to the use of violence.

“We have got a Muslim community in Britain which feels highly alienated and the people who in our view are able to build bridges and make links to those young Muslims are people like Moazzam Begg and Cageprisoners.”

The Roddick Foundation could not be contacted for comment.

Last week, Mr Begg said: “Our position is that we campaigned for him when he was a detainee and we now campaign against him being targeted for extra judicial killing — assassination — by the Americans. But we are also strongly against his calls for the targeting of civilians.”

It has also become clear that Awlaki has enjoyed the backing of another prominent British Muslim leader.

As recently as last month, Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, the former head of the Muslim Council of Britain, defended a decision to host Awlaki at the East London Mosque, of which he is chairman, as an act of “fairness and justice.”

In a letter obtained by The Sunday Telegraph, Dr Bari said that claims made about Awlaki at the time had been “misleading,” unsubstantiated and had been “categorically refuted” by the radical preacher.

Awlaki spoke at the mosque — Britain’s largest, which presents itself as a beacon of moderation and tolerance — last year.

The event, a video address and live telephone question-and-answer session, was advertised with a poster showing New York under bombardment.

The mosque claimed at the time that “none of the speakers involved [were] banned from entering the UK or convicted of any hate crimes”.

It later insisted that “there was no credible evidence at the time of the event that Awlaki might be an extremist”.

In fact, Awlaki was reportedly banned from the UK for his extremist links as early as 2006. In October 2008, more than two months before the event at the East London Mosque, Awlaki was described by Charles Allen, the US under-secretary for intelligence, as the “spiritual leader to three of the September 11 hijackers”, an “al-Qaeda supporter” and “an example of al-Qaeda reach into the [US] homeland”.

Dr Bari’s latest comments on Awlaki come in a letter last month to Paul Goodman, the former Conservative MP.

Describing the event, Dr Bari says in his letter that “back then, we were faced with claims from a newspaper that it could not substantiate; categorical refutations from the subject of their attack; and just a few days to consider an external booking of our facilities.”

He says: “Instead of over-reacting and taking the easy way out [cancelling the meeting], we acted out of fairness and justice — British values that the Conservative Party has recently put back on the agenda.”

Dr Bari says that he has now condemned Awlaki after “more evidence of his extremism emerged”. He insists that his mosque firmly bars extremist speakers.

However, his spokesman continued to defend the Awlaki booking this week, saying that some of what has been reported about Awlaki was “not correct.”

Mr Goodman said last night: “Dr Bari’s conduct in this affair is extremely curious. Any reasonable person will conclude that the East London Mosque is either unwilling, or unable, to tackle extremism rigorously.”

The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that British counter-terrorism chiefs believe AQAP will launch another attack against the UK within six months.

The Government has been told that the most likely avenue of attack will be the targeting of airlines from groups based abroad, but a home-grown plot has not be ruled out.

Intelligence sources have told The Sunday Telegraph that AQAP is “vying” to become the most prominent al-Qaeda-affiliated terror group following the foiled attack nine days ago.

Sources have also revealed that Britain would be prepared to send special forces to assist the Yemeni government to hunt down members of the Islamist organisation if requested to do so.

Britain already has a small detachment of military counter-terrorism specialists involved in training members of the Yemeni Army but they are under orders not to get involved in military operations against terrorist groups. vited to address two Cageprisoners’ fundraising dinners via video link, one last year and one in 2008.

[DF — The Joseph Rowntree Foundation giving money to terrorist sympathisers, unbelievable!]

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Christians ‘On Verge of Extinction’ In Iraq, Muslim Leader Warns

A Muslim leader is calling on the Iraqi government and US-led forces to step up their efforts to protect the Christian minority in Iraq from extinction.

Navaid Hamid, Secretary of the South Asian Council for Minorities (SACM) and a Muslim, said the deadly attack last weekend on a church in Baghdad was a heinous crime that should be strongly condemned by the international community.

“With the murderous attack, the safety of Iraq’s Christian minority has become critical and it is the prime responsibility not only of the regime in Baghdad but also that of the allied forces led by [the] US to restore confidence and provide safety because never in the history of Iraq, minorities were so vulnerable [sic],” he said.

Around 58 people are believed to have died when al-Qaeda linked militants stormed the Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad and opened fire on the congregation.

Hamid said Christians in Iraq were “paying a high price” for their faith and living in fear because of the “unprecedented” levels of violence against them.

“It is a fact that they are on the verge of extinction in Iraq,” he said.

An estimated 400,000 Christians have left Iraq and sought asylum in the US and Europe because of the persecution they face in Iraq.

The biggest victims of the US-led invasion of Iraq, Hamid said, were its minorities.

“[They] have become easy target [sic] for terrorist attacks in their own country,” he said.

Earlier this week, Christian and Muslim leaders issued a joint statement condemning the attack on the church in Baghdad. Signatories of the letter included Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal of Jordan and representatives of the World Council of Churches.

They said the attack was an “inhumane” act that “contradicts all religious teachings and Middle Eastern culture that enabled people to coexist for many centuries”.

They called on the UN Security Council and Iraqi officials to put an end to terrorist attacks “aimed at degrading Iraqi people … and defiling Christian and Islamic sacred places”.

The Islamic State of Iraq, the group which claimed responsibility for the attack, has threatened to continue targeting Christians. It says it attacked the church in retaliation for the supposed detention of two women converts to Islam by the Coptic Church in Egypt.

According to the Associated Press, the Church’s head, Pope Shenouda III, said God had turned the attack to good by creating sympathy for his church.

Christians who turned up to St Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo for Wednesday’s service were made to pass through metal detectors before being allowed in. Addressing the congregation, Shenouda said: “God either prevents evil or turns it to good. Affirming that everything turns to good, the message that reached us brought sympathy for us from the Noble Al-Azhar [a revered institution of higher learning in Egypt] and from many writers and journalists and the interior ministry and police.”

In Iraq, armed security guards have been placed outside some churches after last Sunday’s attack.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Iraq: Disgusting Silence on Church Bloodbath

The non-Muslim world is increasingly not surprised and unmoved by the depravity of Muslim jihadis committing outrage, one after another without end in sight, and what can only be explained, unsatisfactorily, as a pathological wish to cause pain to the living by random acts of terrorist violence.

The murderous attack on the church in central Baghdad last Sunday by Muslim terrorists, if we go with the news reports, was merely another not unusual blood-soaked event in the daily cycle of news from Muslim countries.

But if such an atrocity was not just another criminal event in a “normal” day across the Arab-Muslim world, then we should have heard of a special meeting being called at the UN, or in one of the capitals of member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, to express outrage against those who killed innocent worshippers inside Our Lady of Deliverance Syriac Catholic Church in Baghdad.

We then should have heard of Muslim political and religious leaders expressing their grief over the dead and wounded — there were some 120 Iraqi Christians in attendance at the Sunday evening mass when Muslim terrorists attacked the church and left 58 dead with only a dozen escaping unhurt.

Instead, we have deathly silence of the Muslim leadership as non-Muslim minorities inside the Arab-Muslim world are routinely abused, their homes and places of worship under daily duress, and their hearts filled with fear of violent death in the hands of Muslim jihadis.

The silence signifies the abdication of any responsibility by governments of the Arab-Muslim world to protect non-Muslims in their countries, and severely punish those who target them.

Then there is the ignoble silence of Muslims here in Canada, and across the West, over the repeated atrocities committed against non-Muslim minorities in places like Iraq, Iran, Indonesia, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, or Sudan.

This silence of Muslim minorities in the West is even more despicable than that of Arab-Muslim governments. It reveals how little they understand, or respect, the political culture of societies where they have made their homes.

On the contrary, there is shrill denunciation by Muslim governments, and organizations representing Muslim minorities in the West, of the manufactured problem of “Islamophobia.”

Earlier this year the UN human rights council passed a resolution on “combating defamation of religions” with particular reference to Islam.

The resolution, pushed by the OIC members, denounced anti-Muslim discrimination in the West following 9/11. It also expressed deep concerns in respect to Islam “frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violation and terrorism.”

The gap between the resolution lobbied for by the OIC and the silence of its members over atrocities committed against non-Muslim minorities inside the House of Islam (dar al-Islam) illustrate the perversity of Muslim political-religious leaders.

Similar is the perversity of Muslim organizations in Canada and the West remaining silent in the face of outrageous crimes and defamation of religions by jihadis, while condemning Islamophobia where it is more or less non-existent.

The simple truth is Muslims are among the worst perpetrators of crimes against non-Muslims, and penalties based on obsolete jurisprudence of Shariah implemented in Muslim states violate the UN Charter and the Declaration of Human Rights, to which they are signatories.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses Refuse Blood Transfusions: 18 People Die

A Russian newspaper reports that the community opposition to blood transfusions has killed 18 people, including eight children. Two investigations opened in Kogalym and Moscow.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — The refusal of blood transfusions by Jehovah’s Witnesses has killed 18 people, including eight children. This is the accusation against the religious community, for years the object of persecution and discrimination in Russia, that appeared on the pages of Komsomolskaya Pravda. The newspaper, the most widely read in the Federation, tells the story of of these deaths. According to the newspaper, the authorities have already opened investigations into the death of two children: one in Kogalym the other in Moscow.

The mother of the boy who died in Kogalym has declared her innocence. “I just wanted to better care for my son! — she told the Russian newspaper — I told the doctors that blood is not a drug that people get infected by blood. “

The woman could face at most one year in prison, but more likely will be punished by a fine.

After opening the case to Kogalym, the prosecutor’s office has ordered a search of the local community of Jehovah’s Witnesses, during which banned books were confiscated: the organization is accused of being an “extremist sect “having” having an unfriendly attitude towards other churches, “of refusing military service”, although the Constitution allows the alternative civilian service.

For years, Jehovah’s Witnesses report being subject to persecution similar to that of Stalin. Several Russian courts have banned many of their publications and outlawed their activities (See, 17/09/2009, “Court in Rostov bans Jehovah’s Witnesses for being religious extremists” and 05/10/2009, “Altai court condemns Jehovah’s Witnesses for “extremism”). Assaults and vandalism against the community are becoming more frequent. The organization is also accused of “the violation of the rights of non-believers” through “attempts to enter their homes to preach and perform intrusive activities of evangelization.”

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

South Asia

India: Bomb-Proof Tunnel With Air Conditioning: Obama’s Security Go to Extraordinary Measures for His Tour of the Gandhi Museum

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle arrived in India’s commercial hub of Mumbai on Saturday, days after voters punished his Democrats in mid-term elections.

Probably not since the days of the Pharaohs or the more ludicrous Roman Emperors has a head of state travelled in such pomp and expensive grandeur as the President of the United States of America.

While lesser mortals — the Pope, Queen Elizabeth and so on — are usually happy to let their hosts handle most of the security and transport arrangements when they venture beyond their home shores, the United States creates a mini-America on the move to ensure that nothing is left to chance.

Obama arrives in India at the start of a ten-day tour of Asia. At the heart of the White House caravan is ‘The Beast’, a gigantic, ‘pimped-up’ General Motors Cadillac which security experts say is, short of an actual battle tank, probably the safest road vehicle on the planet.

But an outlandish car is only the start. Mr Obama will fly, of course, on Air Force One, the presidential private jumbo jet, which, boasting double beds and suites, is fitted out more like a luxury yacht. Some reports suggest it costs around $50,000 (£31,000) an hour to operate.

Of course threats can come from any direction, so a squadron of U.S. naval ships will patrol offshore. Some reports have claimed that 34 ships, including two aircraft carriers, will be involved (not far off the size of the Royal Navy’s entire Surface Fleet) but the White House has denied this.

On land, as well as The Beast, Mr Obama’s entourage will travel in a fleet of 45 U.S.-built armoured limousines, half of which will be decoys. He will also travel with 30 elite sniffer dogs, mostly German Shepherds.

The White House has, according to some reports, booked the entire Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, the city’s most luxurious. It is not uncommon for the grander heads of state to reserve a floor or two, but a whole hotel is unprecedented. This hotel was the main target of the 2008 attacks by Pakistani militants which left 166 dead.

As to the cost of all this, the White House will not reveal details — which has allowed Mr Obama’s political foes to bandy about sums including a widely-quoted $200million (£123million) a day. Whatever the figure, it makes the costs associated with the Royal Train and the late Royal Yacht Britannia seem like small change.

It is also reported that a bomb-proof tunnel will be erected for Mr Obama ahead of his visit to Mani Bhavan — the Gandhi museum — on Saturday.

According to Daily News & Analysis, U.S. secret service agents visited the museum on Monday to plan Mr Obama’s security during his tour.

They were accompanied by Mumbai Police officers and civic officials of the D ward where Mani Bhavan is located.

While they were inspecting the route and the buildings lining the path to the museum, U.S. security officers noticed a nearby skyscraper in the highly populated area that could pose a threat.

To the amazement of the Indians accompanying the U.S. agents, it was apparently decided to erect a bomb-proof over-ground tunnel, which will be installed by U.S. military engineers in just an hour.

The kilometre-long tunnel will measure 12ft by 12ft and will have air-conditioning, close-circuit television cameras, and will be heavily guarded at every point.

It’s being built so it is large enough for Mr Obama’s cavalcade to pass through and will be manned at its entry and exit points.

The material that the tunnel would be made of has not been released but officials said that the structure would be dismantled immediately after Mr Obama and his party leaves the area.

Meanwhile the furore over reports that his Asia trip is going to cost taxpayers $200million a day has been dismissed by the Obama administration who called the figure ‘wildly inflated’.

Last week an Indian government source told the NDTV channel: ‘The huge amount of around $200million would be spent on security, stay and other aspects of the Presidential visit.’

The claim was immediately seized upon by talk show hosts and rights wing politicians who relished the opportunity to rub salt into Mr Obama’s wounds saying the trip was a waste of government funds during the country’s recession.

But the White House have refused to reveal the true cost of the three-day trip to Mumbai and Delhi.

‘The numbers reported in this article have no basis in reality’, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

He added: ‘Due to security concerns, we are unable to outline details associated with security procedures and costs, but it’s safe to say these numbers are wildly inflated’.

The White House have said these claims are exaggerated but with any presidential trip, Mr Obama travels with a large number of staff and security detail includes his own aircraft and fleet of secure vehicles.

There will also be tens of thousands of Indian police and members of the military protecting the US delegation.

Secret Service agents travelled to India last week to address security concerns at locations the president is likely to visit.

Mr Obama will visit India, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan and China as part of a 10-day state tour of Asia.

The trip has sparked some criticism in the U.S., which is battling high unemployment and stagnant economic growth.

Mr Obama will spend three days in India, and will also visit New Delhi.

The White House will be hoping to secure more than $10 billion in new business for American firms in what is the biggest trade mission in US history.

Mr Obama is bringing 250 U.S. executives including GE chief Jeffrey Immelt and Honeywell’s David Cote, which the U.S. India Business Council says is the largest such delegation to ever accompany a president on a foreign visit.

The presidents of six universities, including Georgetown and Duke, are also set to come.

Last fiscal year, India’s $11 billion worth of investments in the U.S. matched U.S. investments in India for the first time ever, according to the U.S. India Business Council.

Bilateral trade, on track to hit $50 billion this fiscal year ending March, has more than doubled since 2004.

But sentiment has frayed since the two countries signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement in 2008.

Then-President George W. Bush pushed through that deal, which allowed nuclear trade with India despite its weapons programme and seemed to herald a new era of cross-continental commerce.

It hasn’t been that simple.

The job creating power of India’s big, fast-growing market is hampered by its restrictions on foreign access to key sectors like retail, finance, education and insurance.

Multinationals are wary of the shape-shifting rules that seem to govern things like taxes and environmental permits in India.

And the large defence contracts that headline the wish list of deals for Obama’s visit come burdened with offsets and foreign investment caps.

Preparations: A billboard welcoming Mr Obama is seen in Mumbai. The U.S. President will hope to cement improving relations with India during his three-day visit

The Americans who accepted outsourcing of IT and back office functions in boom times as a way to free up capital for job creation at home seem less certain of the strategy’s benefits during a bust.

With U.S. unemployment at 9.6 pe rcent, India’s putative role as a driver of job insecurity has leaked into campaign rhetoric — Barbara Boxer’s attacks on Carly Fiorina for sending Hewlett-Packard jobs to India and China helped her win the California Senate race — and popular culture alike.

NBC’s new sitcom, ‘Outsourced’, tells the story of a Kansas City company that sends most of its jobs to India.

Indian companies keep insisting, quietly, that they’re not really the problem: If you don’t like jobs getting sent overseas, better to direct your anger at major U.S. corporations whose race for low cost competitiveness drives India’s $50 billion software services sector.

‘We strongly believe the global delivery model is beneficial to customers,’ said Infosys chief executive S. Gopalakrishnan.

‘It increases their competitiveness. It reduces costs. It gives them access to a scalable high quality

talent pool and to emerging markets. That’s why it’s growing.’

The U.S. Congress seemed to disagree, hiking visa fees for Indian outsourcing companies by about $2000 per worker in August, provoking howls of discontent here.

‘It’s tens of millions of dollars,’ said Tata Consultancy Services chief executive N. Chandrasekaran.

The law pinches Indian outsourcers where it hurts, at the heart of the industry’s hopes for future growth in its most important global market.

The companies have been trying to diversify into health care and government work and move up the delivery chain to higher value areas like consulting. All require workers, with visas or U.S. passports, in the United States.

Many here fear the backlash will get worse by the 2012 elections, barring a turnaround in the U.S. labour market.

Indian outsourcers — and their clients in corporate America — are happy to move jobs to the U.S. as long as it doesn’t disrupt their low-cost business model.

That translates into very few jobs.

Lobby group Nasscom says India’s software services exporters have created 35,000 high-paying U.S. jobs in the last five years.

Industry leader Tata Consultancy Services is looking to hire 1,000 Americans this fiscal year. Less than one per cent of its global work force are American, according to company data.

Infosys is also looking to hire 1,000 Americans. Its 1,600 permanent U.S. employees — not counting an additional 600 or so who work for two U.S. subsidiaries — make up 1.3 per cent of the company’s global work force.

‘We can’t replace all the people from here with people from the United States and have the same value proposition,’ said Chandrasekaran.

From the U.S. side, perhaps most disillusioning is a law passed by India’s parliament that extends liability to the suppliers of nuclear plants, making it difficult for private companies to compete against their state owned French and Russian peers in India’s multibillion dollar nuclear reactor build-out.

‘There has been a reality check,’said Stephen Cohen, a South Asia security expert at the Brookings Institution.

Backers of the civil nuclear deal in Washington, he said, ‘made believe India was a true ally and would never let us down’.

U.S. India Business Council president Ron Somers said India’s signing last week of an International Atomic Energy Agency convention on liability is a step forward and will require Indian laws to conform to international norms, which do not make private companies liable unless there is malfeasance.

Even India’s purchase of 10 Boeing C-17 transport aircraft, expected to be finalised during Obama’s visit, will probably be worth less than the anticipated $5.8 billion because of fewer add-ons, said Guy Anderson, lead analyst at Jane’s Defence Industry.

India is second only to China in ramping up military procurement, making it an attractive market for U.S. defense companies.

But the bureaucracy is so inefficient the government doesn’t manage to spend the money earmarked for military procurement each year, and Russia still dominates sales in a country where some, especially in the older generation, continue to regard U.S. intentions with skepticism.

Somers says naysayers are too impatient and points out that from 2007 to 2009, the U.S. sold India $4.3 billion worth of defense equipment — a huge jump from the $342 million sold from 2001 to 2006.

‘We’ve come a long way,’ he said.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Murderous Tactics Are Fueling Terrorist Propaganda

Even among the ranks of al-Qaida and other Islamic terror groups, leaders frequently debate how useful it is to kill unarmed Muslim civilians, as their fighters so often do.

For them, “it simply does not look good to systematically and deliberately target Muslim civilians,” said Risa Brooks, a political scientist at Marquette University who specializes in this issue. But the military documents WikiLeaks just made public showed that at least 66,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq since the war began, most of them at the hands of Muslim militants.

A few years ago, the U.S. military seized documents from an Iraqi al-Qaida base and found a 13-page letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian who is Osama bin Laden’s deputy commander. In it, Zawahiri advises his compatriots to stop killing Muslim civilians because all of the deaths are “being displayed in the news media, and the Muslim people do not understand the reasons for excessive violence seen in the media,” according to a U.S. military translation.

Of course, al-Qaida in Iraq paid no attention. The slaughter continued.

Well, in Pakistan right now, the Taliban are carrying out a raging campaign of carnage, killing thousands of unarmed civilians, seemingly heedless of what anyone thinks. After a brief pause because of the devastating floods that struck Pakistan this fall, bombings and attacks have picked up again. Two recent bombings killed seven civilians and wounded 92 others. A study by a private group, the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, estimates that “2,300 civilians were killed in terror attacks alone with many more injured” in the last year.

In Iraq, killing thousands of civilians had an obvious aim: to stoke sectarian violence that, the militants hoped, would drive out the American troops and bring down the Iraqi government. But what do the Pakistani Taliban hope to accomplish?

They are blaming the United States, their hated enemy, for their own murderous acts, and these claims are widely believed. For the Taliban, that is a marvelous achievement. Last summer, for example, Taliban killers perpetrated one of their most heinous attacks: They stormed into a hospital in Lahore, where they shot and killed 12 people, including at least eight badly wounded patients lying in their beds. These people were survivors (barely) of earlier villainous attacks on worshipers in two mosques that killed 93 people. How on earth could the Taliban explain that?

Oh, they were ready. Taliban spokesmen blamed Blackwater, the former name for the American private security firm that got into so much trouble for heedlessly killing civilians in Iraq. In the Islamic world, Blackwater has become the moniker for American evil, which is why the company recently changed its name, to Xe Services.

For months the Taliban have been putting out stories of a roving band of armed Western mercenaries, secret employees of Blackwater, who are killing people so that the peace-loving Taliban would take the blame.

They first took up this tactic last year, when Taliban militants attacked a Pakistani Army base and a cricket match — then blamed Blackwater. Since then the story has taken off, now fervently believed by millions of Pakistanis, which leaves Taliban leaders smiling.

The problem has grown so acute that Tasneem Qureshi, Pakistan’s interior minister, asked for an audience before a parliamentary committee last month, where he “categorically rejected the existence of Blackwater” in Pakistan, despite reports of “armed foreigners traveling in tinted-glass vehicles,” the Pakistan Business Recorder newspaper reported.

But a week later, Mufti Kifayatullah, leader of a fundamentalist Islamic political party, was still blaming Blackwater for the state’s endemic violence, saying its aim is to defame the Taliban, who, he averred, “are patriotic; they are not fighting against the country.”

The trouble is, in Pakistan nefarious rumors tend to spread even faster than wildfires and are too easily believed — particularly when they reflect poorly on the United States.

America is supplying billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan and its people — including $1.7 billion for flood victims this fall. Still, in a recent national public-opinion poll, only about 17 percent of Pakistanis said they held a favorable view of the U.S. Almost as many viewed the Taliban favorably. The survey, by the Pew Research Center, showed that al-Qaida is slightly more popular than the U.S.

So, despite Zawahiri’s admonition, the Taliban have found that killing thousands of their own people is proving to be quite useful. But I can’t think of a more contemptible, misanthropic strategy in use anywhere else in the world.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Obama to Use Teleprompter for Hindi Speech

Namaste India! In all likelihood that will be silver-tongued Barack Obama’s opening line when he addresses the Indian parliament next week. But to help him pronounce Hindi words correctly will be a teleprompter which the US president uses ever so often for his hypnotising speeches.

According to parliament sources, a technical team from the US has helped the Lok Sabha secretariat install textbook-sized panes of glass around the podium that will give cues to Obama on his prepared remarks to 780 Indian MPs on the evening of Nov 8.

It will be a 20-minute speech at Parliament House’s Central Hall that has been witness to some historic events, including first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s “tryst with destiny” speech when India became independent.

Obama will make history for more than one reason during the Nov 6-9 visit. This will be the first time a teleprompter will be used in the nearly 100-feet high dome-shaped hall that has portraits of eminent national leaders adorning its walls.

Indian politicians are known for making impromptu long speeches and perhaps that is why some parliament officials, who did not wish to be named, sounded rather surprised with the idea of a teleprompter for Obama.

“We thought Obama is a trained orator and skilled in the art of mass address with his continuous eye contact,” an official, who did not wish to be identified because of security restrictions, said.

Obama is known to captivate audiences with his one-liners that sound like extempore and his deep gaze. But few in India know that the US president always carries the teleprompter with him wherever he speaks.

Teleprompters, also called autocue or telescript, are mostly used by TV anchors to read out texts scrolling on a screen and attached to a camera in front of them.

Parliament officials have had a busy week preparing for a red carpet welcome for Obama and his wife Michelle. Parliament House these days looks fresh with a new coat of paint, new carpeting and new green plants in mud vases decorating the corridors.

Sources said the Obamas will pose for a photograph with Indian leaders at one of the three well laid-out courtyards that have lush green lawns and fountains.

On the dais in the Central Hall will be Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The sources said the event will be an hour-long affair and will start with Ansari’s welcome address and end with a vote of thanks by Meira Kumar after the US president’s address.

The Obamas would sign the Golden Book, the visitor’s diary in parliament, before leaving the eight-decade old building.

“Thank god they won’t eat anything or have tea or coffee from our canteen. We would have to go through a tough security drill otherwise,” quipped an employee.

Security managers in parliament also had a tough job for the high profile visit even as the house is already highly protected following a terrorist attack in 2001.

A team of US security officials, including from the CIA, were in the Indian capital and visited the complex to review security measures to be taken during the parliament event.

Parliament security officials have decided that barring special invitees and former MPs, no visitor would be allowed inside when Obama addresses the MPs.

Only journalists who have permanent radio-frequency passes would be allowed inside the Central Hall to cover the event.

[Return to headlines]

Swedish Aid Agency Boosts Afghanistan Funds

A Swedish aid agency will invest 90 million kronor ($13.65 million) in a project to support Afghanistan’s efforts to reduce poverty by establishing self-governing village councils.

The programme is focused on getting women to participate in decision making.

“Through the village councils, local people will have the opportunity to discuss and decide on important investments that can improve their living conditions,” wrote Eva Johansson, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency’s (Styrelsen för Internationaellt Utvecklingssamarbete, Sida) Afghanistan director, in a statement.

Sweden has supported the project since 2006 and contributed to the establishment of 23,000 village councils.

The programme is coordinated by the Ministry of Rural Development and covers all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. To date, the programme has initiated 42,000 projects.

“They have dealt with improved roads, wells and school buildings,” wrote Johansson.

The programme has gradually increased its focus on female participation in the decision-making processes at the local and national levels. Part of the aid money will be earmarked to projects that prioritise appointing women on village councils.

This announcement follows the disclosure last month that Sida would contribute 80 million kronor for private sector development in northern Afghanistan, as well as 12 million to the Indian charity Hand in Hand’s work in the region.

Hand in Hand was founded by Swedish business executive Percy Barnevik, who remains a major donor to the organisation. The charity has engaged in work in Afghanistan since 2006 following an invitation from Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The contribution represents the first investments that Sweden has granted for private sector development in the country, which is a new area of cooperation strategy for Afghanistan and was adopted in summer 2009.

The program will cover the whole country, but Sida’s aid will mainly go to the northern provinces, where Sweden is responsible for security under the UN’s mandate.

The investment is in line with the Afghan government’s first programme for the private sector and will be managed by the World Bank’s development fund for the country.

Sweden’s aid to Afghanistan last year amounted to 588 million kronor. The main focus of the aid was on education, democracy, human rights and equality, but also included humanitarian aid. Private sector development and the northern provinces were also priority areas in the new country strategies.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Women in Fear: Rape Cases Soar Across Pakistan

Every morning when I leave for work, I feel uncomfortable. The constant nagging of recent (and increasing) news items of rapes in Pakistan makes me feel insecure. I fear for the vulnerability of my sisters in different parts of the city, attending lectures in college halls, making rounds in hospital wards, traveling in school vans, waiting at the bus stop or spending an evening with an aunt or uncle.

And my fear is not just confined to my sisters. It expands its ugly claws for every woman, all over the country. It takes the shape of a pitying monster whenever I wonder about the fate of the victims and the consequences that they will have to live with, and in most cases, die for.

Though the annual number of women raped in Pakistan is far greater than the statistics given in different survey reports by various organizations, the settings in which these rapes have started taking place is frightening. The old notion that perpetrators are only found in certain sections of society and that they are far away from our day to day lives, no longer holds true. It seems as if they are everywhere, plotting to get their target, as and when they wish.

Women are therefore safe nowhere. Whether in hospital wards or girls’ colleges, there are abductions or gang-rapes in the name of ‘honour.’ It is a wild, wild world out there, pregnant with silence and dampened with indifference.

Sadly, those who are responsible for providing safety to citizens are themselves involved in this heinous act. The recent confession of Constable Javed Bhatti in Lahore for having rapped a handicapped woman by taking her three children hostage is just one example of the larger picture. A similar fate was met by an 18-year old resident of Bahawal Nagar, who was raped in police custody. Another mother of a three-year old was held hostage for two days while she was repeatedly gang-raped in police custody. Once considered safe, even homes are no longer so for women in the country today. The rise in reported cases of incest which is still believed to be far less than the real number, is alarming.

Rape is a grossly unreported and legally distorted human rights issue in Pakistan and given the nature of our social structure, combined with the status of women in society, the above examples should not be very astonishing. What should concern us more is the ugly culture of silence and shame that confronts us.

Women are assaulted in the name of ‘honour’, often paying the prize for disgrace brought about by male member(s) of the family; a punishment mostly inflicted by panchayats or through brutal force. Yet, our very own ministers take pride in the ‘cultural norm’ or make insensitive statements. Take for example, former President Pervez Musharraf’s statement:

“A lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped.”

Even more shocking are reports of recorded videos of the victims, used to blackmail the victim’s parents either in a bid to discourage the woman’s family from prosecution or to earn extra money by posting it on the internet.

And the injustice just does not end here. The future of these ill-fated women hangs in the balance. They become social outcasts by none other than their own families, judged, thrown out and most often, domestically abused, for bringing a “bad name” to the family/biradari. This patriarchal mind set, which has ruled our society since time immemorial, castigates women into further oppression, from where they never seem to return. In Sindh alone, more than 100,000 students, who make up over 70 per cent of the total number of female students, have stopped attending schools, colleges and coaching centres across five districts this year, following a shocking gang-rape incident in Khipro town, in which a student of class XI was allegedly drugged, criminally assaulted and filmed, whose video was shared online.

Where does the solution lie? Does it come with speedy justice or the quick implementation of law? If yes, who decides which law is correct? Unfortunately, the issue of women rights in Pakistan has often been underestimated and not given its due importance. Ours is a nation where the concept and understanding of sexuality is highly distorted, which combined with weaker status of woman strengthens false beliefs and claims.

This situation worsened thanks to Zia’s Hudood Ordinance, which required a woman alleging rape to provide four adult male witnesses of good standing to prove that she has been a victim. In case she failed, she was liable to be prosecuted for adultery, for which the maximum punishment is stoning to death. However, contrary to the morals of Islam, the Hudood Ordinance further deteriorated the status of women in society, where most of the victims were routinely jailed for adultery on flimsy evidence. It led to thousands of women being imprisoned without being proven guilty. According to a report by the Pakistan National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) “an estimated 80 per cent of women” in jail in 2003 were there because “they had failed to prove rape charges and were consequently convicted of adultery.”

Though the Hudood Ordinance was revised with the Women’s Protection Bill in 2006, the fate of the implementation of the law loiters in the cobwebs of our deeply divided society. It has become a source of contention between politicians, human rights activists and Islamic scholars. Each has their own version, which fails to go beyond a single point of view. Deeply entrenched in the Shariah law vs. civil law debate, the status of the reforms is not very encouraging.

While the developed world today is engaged in a highly controversial debate about legalising prostitution to ensure the well-being of sex workers, the eradication of STDs, controlling human trafficking and bringing brothels under the umbrella of taxation, we are still faced with a dilemma based on our distorted beliefs and ugly prejudice. We need to come to terms with the concept of basic human rights and the protection of our women in our society.

And while we continue chanting slogans against Dr Aafia’s sentence, ashamed for not being able to protect our ‘Muslim sister’ from the clutches of the ‘evil west’, the humiliation that our women have to face at the hands of our own people is nothing short of barbaric. While I cannot comprehend the pain that assaulted women have to live with, I wonder why dignity in Pakistan is confined to one gender only. I am reminded more of it every evening as I return from work, where on the bus stop I pray for every wish to be a horse to keep me away from preening vultures.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Swedish Minister ‘Tired’ of Refugees From Greece

Swedish Migration Minister Tobias Billström is ‘tired’ of Greece and its problems in dealing with asylum seekers.

He finds it remarkable that the Greeks cannot even control its border with “hereditary enemy” Turkey.

“The conditions in Greece are very alarming,” said Billström after a consultation with the Swedish parliament Riksdag’s EU committee ahead of next week’s EU ministerial meetings.

Billström asserted that Greece has for many years ignored the problems and failed to ask for help from the rest of Europe.

As a consequence, a number of EU countries, including Sweden, are ignoring the European Union’s much-criticised Dublin II regulation, under which illegal immigrants must be sent back to the country where they entered the EU.

In addition, the EU has been forced to activate its special border guard corps for the first time.

This week, the EU’s border control agency Frontex sent helicopters, police cars and special vehicles with night vision, plus 175 officials from 26 countries, to a border section between Greece and Turkey that had been entirely unmonitored.

The question also plagues Swedish European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström, who once again rushed to Greece for inspections and meetings on Friday.

In Sweden, the immigration courts have long held different opinions about whether asylum seekers who entered the EU in Greece should be sent back. EU rules say that the asylum seeker’s grounds for a residence permit should be considered in the EU country where they first set foot.

As a result, the Swedish National Migration Board (Migrationsverket) had demanded the Migration Supreme Court set a precedent. However, the agency decided on Tuesday to no longer wait any longer for a court verdict and will not send asylum seekers back to Greece for the time being.

Instead, the asylum seekers may be sent to countries that they passed through on their way from Greece to Sweden, according to Billström.

“The people who cannot be sent back to Greece will perhaps be sent to other EU states if they admit that they have come from these countries to Sweden,” he said.

“We will not stop the asylum process. What is needed now is a discussion on whether these cases should be tried in Sweden or not. It is a process the Migration Board has ahead of it,” he added.

He also said the Greeks are to a large degree responsible for the current developments in the situation.

“They do not even have a minister who handles these issues,” said Billström.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Blacks Struggle With 72 Percent Unwed Mothers Rate

HOUSTON (AP) — One recent day at Dr. Natalie Carroll’s OB-GYN practice, located inside a low-income apartment complex tucked between a gas station and a freeway, 12 pregnant black women come for consultations. Some bring their children or their mothers. Only one brings a husband.

Things move slowly here. Women sit shoulder-to-shoulder in the narrow waiting room, sometimes for more than an hour. Carroll does not rush her mothers in and out. She wants her babies born as healthy as possible, so Carroll spends time talking to the mothers about how they should care for themselves, what she expects them to do—and why they need to get married.

Seventy-two percent of black babies are born to unmarried mothers today, according to government statistics. This number is inseparable from the work of Carroll, an obstetrician who has dedicated her 40-year career to helping black women.

“The girls don’t think they have to get married. I tell them children deserve a mama and a daddy. They really do,” Carroll says from behind the desk of her office, which has cushioned pink-and-green armchairs, bars on the windows, and a wooden “LOVE” carving between two African figurines. Diamonds circle Carroll’s ring finger.

As the issue of black unwed parenthood inches into public discourse, Carroll is among the few speaking boldly about it. And as a black woman who has brought thousands of babies into the world, who has sacrificed income to serve Houston’s poor, Carroll is among the few whom black women will actually listen to.

“A mama can’t give it all. And neither can a daddy, not by themselves,” Carroll says. “Part of the reason is because you can only give that which you have. A mother cannot give all that a man can give. A truly involved father figure offers more fullness to a child’s life.”

Statistics show just what that fullness means. Children of unmarried mothers of any race are more likely to perform poorly in school, go to prison, use drugs, be poor as adults, and have their own children out of wedlock.

The black community’s 72 percent rate eclipses that of most other groups: 17 percent of Asians, 29 percent of whites, 53 percent of Hispanics and 66 percent of Native Americans were born to unwed mothers in 2008, the most recent year for which government figures are available. The rate for the overall U.S. population was 41 percent.

This issue entered the public consciousness in 1965, when a now famous government report by future senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan described a “tangle of pathology” among blacks that fed a 24 percent black “illegitimacy” rate. The white rate then was 4 percent.

Many accused Moynihan, who was white, of “blaming the victim:” of saying that black behavior, not racism, was the main cause of black problems. That dynamic persists. Most talk about the 72 percent has come from conservative circles; when influential blacks like Bill Cosby have spoken out about it, they have been all but shouted down by liberals saying that a lack of equal education and opportunity are the true root of the problem.

Even in black churches, “nobody talks about it,” Carroll says. “It’s like some big secret.” But there are signs of change, of discussion and debate within and outside the black community on how to address the growing problem.

Research has increased into links between behavior and poverty, scholars say. Historically black Hampton University recently launched a National Center on African American Marriages and Parenting. There is a Marry Your Baby Daddy Day, founded by a black woman who was left at the altar, and a Black Marriage Day, which aims “to make healthy marriages the norm rather than the exception.”

In September, Princeton University and the liberal Brookings Institution released a collection of “Fragile Families” reports on unwed parents. And an online movement called “No Wedding No Womb” ignited a fierce debate that included strong opposition from many black women.

“There are a lot of sides to this,” Carroll says. “Part of our community has lost its way.”

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


Human Origins: It Began in Africa

A mountain of evidence has accumulated showing that our ancestors emerged in Africa. What is less clear-cut is what spurred their evolution. The answer lies in the environments in which our predecessors lived, and the influence of technology, which hugely expanded their ecological niche. Hominids are frustratingly rare in the fossil record, but at some time around 2.6 million years ago they began to leave calling cards, in the form of stone artefacts.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Lost Art of Critical Thinking

Part 4, PC Peace Bait

Having lived in the Middle East, and having traveled to a number of countries with sizable Muslim communities—e.g., Bahrain, China, Djibouti, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates—I am intrigued by the study of Islam, and have been since 1971.

For this reason, recent comments by a self-described liberal Christian piqued my interest. By all accounts, this woman is both brilliant and churched; and I was curious to know what she had to say about a book I’d recently read— namely, How Islam plans to Change the World by Dr. William Wagner.[1]

Her take on Islam didn’t necessarily surprise, but it did unnerve me. “This particular book,” she complains, “breeds continued lack of acceptance of other religions and exacerbates a sense of Christianity by hate.” To hate is to dislike somebody or something so intensely as to evoke feelings of anger, hostility, or animosity. Hatred is synonymous with abhorrence, detestation, odium, revulsion, loathing, and the like.

These are uncharacteristically strong words for author Dr. Wagner, a mild-mannered, highly reasoned man who has devoted decades of his life to missions. I’m honored to have met him personally. For a bright, accomplished Christian woman to associate him with “Christianity by hate” inspired a closer look.

My intent isn’t to promote a book or its author, nor is it to disparage their critic. Rather, it’s to explore by this example the essentials of critical thinking without which we miss the mark, often with grave consequences following.[2]


A Critical Thinker Differentiates between Western Mentality and Eastern Thought

Perhaps unknown to our critic, the Qur’an to which she alludes was actually written in two cities on two separate occasions. 92 surahs (sections) written in Mecca advocate non-harm to “People of the Book” (Jews and Christians), but 24 sections written in Medina do not.

A Westerner might conclude that the vote’s in: non-harm, 92; harm, 24. The majority wins out. But not so fast, there’s no Arabic word for “democracy,” nor is there any functioning democracy in the Islamic world. Your vote and mine don’t count.

Instead, under dar-al-Islam, majority rule bows to the Islamic Doctrine of Abrogation, which elevates later doctrine (specifically, the Medina sections) over earlier ones (Mecca sections). That is to say, “harm” to non-Muslims trumps “non-harm.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]