Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20101110

Financial Crisis
»Auditors Criticise EU Spending for 16th Year in a Row
»EU Accounts Are Rejected for the Sixteenth Year in a Row
»Recession Shadows America’s Middle Class
»Alert for Terror Suspect at Border
»Bloomberg Cuomo New York’s Disgrace
»Cargo Plane Bomb Found in Britain Was Primed to Blow Up Over US
»Ethnic Friction Marks Session on Field, Land
»Leftist Icon Calls for Violent Socialist War Against Tea Partiers …Update: Ted Rall Writes in — Lashes Out at Conservatives
»Missile Launch Off Los Angeles
»Muslim Leader Recruits Americans for Jihad
Europe and the EU
»Books: Ban on Usury in All Three Monotheistic Religions
»Danish News Channel in Arabic Proposed
»EU President Issues Stark Warning Against Nationalism
»Europe Looking Towards Billionaire Halal Market
»Foiled at the 11th Hour, ‘Islamic Terrorist’ Plot to Assassinate France’s Leading Muslim Cleric
»France: Sarkozy Draws Ire Over Media Spying Claims
»Iraq: Three Christians Killed and 26 Wounded. Appeal of Al Maliki
»Italy: Amanda Knox Indicted for Slandering Police
»Italy: Culture Minister to Report on Pompeii Wednesday
»Italy: Marriage Annulled After Wife ‘Thought of Straying’
»Italy: Berlusconi Promises Flood Aid to Veneto
»Italy Rejects EU Patent ‘Blackmail’
»Minister Guttenberg Says Economy is Part of National Security
»Nation States Are Dead: EU Chief Says the Belief That Countries Can Stand Alone is a ‘Lie and an Illusion’
»Netherlands: Rapper Aquitted of Threatening Wilders
»Prominent Saudi Preacher: Europe Will Become an Islamic Continent
»Sweden: Multicultural Football Team Unites Malmö
»Turkish Ambassador in Vienna Sparks Diplomatic Row
»UK: ‘Perverse’ Defence Cuts Leave Oil-Rich Falkland Islands Open to Attack, Ex-Admirals Warn
»UK: Arrest Over Website That Encouraged Muslim to Attack MPs
»UK: Lutfur Rahman Will Not be Readmitted to Labour
»UK: Mother-of-Two Lives in Britain’s Most Expensive Council House (Valued at £2.5m) For Two Years… Rent Free
»UK: Student Tuition Fee Protest Turns Violent as Tory Headquarters Evacuated
»UK: Violence at Tory HQ Overshadows Student Fees Protest
»Van Rompuy: More Dangerous Than He Looks
»Serbia: US Defense Department Donates Equipment to MMA
Mediterranean Union
»Library for N. African Children in Mazara Del Vallo
North Africa
»Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Warns of ‘People’s Wrath’ if Polls Rigged
Israel and the Palestinians
»Obama Enhancing Palestinian Positions Worldwide
Middle East
»Baghdad Christian Attacks: ‘Strategically Defeated’ Al-Qaida Return
»Bombs Kill Six Baghdad Christians, Sow Panic
»Iraq’s Christians Terrorized by New Wave of Bombings
»Turkey to Set Up Trade Zone With Syria, Lebanon, Jordan
»Vatican Appeals to Iraqi Govt to Protect Christians
»Why Do Christians Remain Silent About the Persecution of Christians in Muslim-Majority Societies?
South Asia
»A Smiling Obama Returns to Bloody Jakarta
»Indonesia: First Lady’s Handshake Uncovers Muslim Male Chauvinist
»Muslim Minister Claims He Was ‘Forced’ To Shake Hands With Michelle Obama on Indonesian Visit
»Obama Hails Indonesia as Example for World
»Obama Vows to End ‘Years of Mistrust’ Between West and Muslim World as He Impresses Indonesians With Local Language
»Singapore Airlines is Forced to Change Rolls-Royce Engines on Three Superjumbos
»Tajikistan Recalls Students From Cairo, Fearing Fundamentalist Influence
»‘Touching’ Event for First Lady
Australia — Pacific
»New Retreat From Global Warming Data by Australian Gov Bureau
»Teen in Coma After Bridge Plunge Attack
»UK: £1,500 Bribes to Send Foreign Inmates Home: Tories Adopt Policy They Called ‘Outrageous’
»UK: Foreign Criminals to be Paid £1,500 to Go Home
Culture Wars
»UN Facilitates Christian Persecution Worldwide
»Cricket Balls: Tiny Insect Named as Animal With the World’s Biggest Testicles
»Is Being a Goody Two-Shoes in Your Genes?

Financial Crisis

Auditors Criticise EU Spending for 16th Year in a Row

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — The EU’s cohesion policy, accounting for one third of the total budget, continues to be the most prone to errors and fraud, although the situation is improving in comparison to previous years, the European Court of Auditors has said.

Over a third of the €35.5 billion allocated by the EU in 2009 for regional infrastructure projects were affected by errors, either unintentional, as EU funding rules are often too complex for regional authorities and small contractors to cope with, or as a sign of fraud, the annual report of the Court of Auditors says.

EU money spent on regional projects is often misused (Photo: Marfis75)


Comment article

The blame goes mostly to governments and local administrations, who are in charge of the projects and fail to double-check that all invoices and claims submitted to the European Commission are genuine.

“The Court estimates that almost a third of the errors found on the interim and final payments tested could have been detected and corrected by member states before certifying expenditure to the commission, as the audit shows they had the information to do so,” EU chief auditor Vitor Caldeira told MEPs on Tuesday (9 November).

In a rush to “absorb EU funds” by all means, member states often allow other fake or erroneous bills to replace those detected as “ineligible,” he added.

This is the 16th year in a row when the Court of Auditors, based on sample checks in all EU expenditure and revenue areas, is not able to give a clean bill of health to the overall budget.

However, the rate of errors has decreased in the regional policy field, falling from 54 percent in 2007 to 36 percent last year. According to the Court’s rules, errors need to be below three percent to get a clean bill of health.

“We have to ask ourselves if we can continue to allocate more and more money to the EU commission, if year after year it is uncapable of managing the funds efficiently,” said German Liberal MEP Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, responsible with drafting the Parliament position on this report.

The report is likely to fuel discussions about a planned increase in next year’s EU budget, as well as the future of regional policy from 2013 on.

Poland is the main beneficiary of cohesion funding — a policy aimed at helping more backward regions catch up with the economic leaders of the bloc, mostly capital regions — and is pressing for it to be maintained at least at current levels.

But net payers to the EU budget, such as Germany, the Netherlands and Britain, which are also under pressure at home to cut national budgets — are now increasingly wary of the efficiency of this policy. Even recession-hit Spain, a long-time beneficiary of cohesion policy, is in favour of less national money flowing to the EU coffers in 2011.

Spain, Greece, Italy and the UK were also the four countries who had to pay the most money back in 2009, for erroneusly allocated funds.

But Poland has come under criticism as well, apparently for having misused EU regional funds to the tune of €10 million to have British tea producer Twinings shift its production site to Poland.

Twinings denied the accusations, claiming that its business decision was “not based on receiving any external funding.” “We applied to the Polish ministry for a grant. The Polish authorities are satisfied we meet the eligibility criteria and have approved the grant,” a spokesperson for the tea company was quoted as saying by Warsaw Business Journal.

In EU new member state Romania, journalists have uncovered that two cross-border centres funded with over €840,000 are actually being used by regional authorities for private parties and weddings.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU Accounts Are Rejected for the Sixteenth Year in a Row

Billions of pounds of EU funds were spent wrongly, they concluded, such as farmers being paid for crops that were never grown, or sheep being double counted to get extra grants.

Details of the scandalous waste emerged only weeks after David Cameron pledged to restrict the increase in the EU budget next year.

And it coincides with a rebellion on the Tory backbenches, expected tonight, over controversial changes to the Lisbon Treaty — signed up to by Mr Cameron.

The European Court of Auditors yesterday challenged the EU to get a grip on its spending after finding ‘material errors’ in last year’s £88billion budget.

Its president, Vitor Manuel da Silva Caldeira, said about 5 per cent of the budget — some £4billion — was spent wrongly.

The biggest examples of waste were in agriculture, development aid and fisheries.

Auditors found that EU farm subsidies had been handed over to subsidise crops without any proof they were being grown. They visited farmland and found no evidence of cultivation at all.

Stephen Booth, analyst at the Open Europe think tank, said: ‘This is a hugely embarrassing annual tradition and it remains absolutely unacceptable.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Recession Shadows America’s Middle Class

American society is breaking apart. Millions of people have lost their jobs and fallen into poverty. Among them, for the first time, are many middle-class families. Meet Pam Brown from New York, whose life changed overnight.

The crisis caught her unprepared. “It was horrible,” Pam Brown remembers. “Overnight I found myself on the wrong side of the fence. It never occurred to me that something like this could happen to me. I got very depressed.”

Brown sits in a cheap diner on West 14th Street in Manhattan, stirring her $1.35 coffee. That’s all she orders — it’s too late for breakfast and too early for lunch.

She also needs to save money. Until early 2009, Brown worked as an executive assistant on Wall Street, earning more than $80,000 a year, living in a six-bedroom house with her three sons. Today, she’s long-term unemployed and has to make do with a tiny one-bedroom in the Bronx. It’s only luck that she’s not homeless outright.

“One thing came after another — boom, boom, boom,” Brown recalls. “I kept getting up and dusting myself off, but I could never get ahead again. I spiraled further and further into the abyss.” Her voice is trembling now. “I’ve done everything America told me to do. I went to school. I’ve never been to jail. I’ve kept my nose clean. My kids are great kids.”

She laughs a sarcastic laugh. “And now?”

Wall Street Up, Incomes Down

Pam Brown is one of millions of Americans who, during the recession, tumbled from their idyllic middle-class existence to near-poverty — or beyond. For many, like Brown, the downfall is a Kafkaesque odyssey, a humiliation hard to comprehend. Help is not in sight: their government and their society have abandoned them.

Wall Street is preoccupied with chasing new profits again. Yet for large sections of the nation, that old myth of working your way up, of bootstrap success and its ultimate prize, homeownership, has evaporated. The middle class, the America’s backbone, is crumbling. The American Dream has turned into a nightmare.

Last year the US poverty rate reached 14.3 percent, 1.1 percent higher than in 2008. Almost five million Americans skidded below the poverty line ($22,050 annual income for a family of four), many from hitherto sheltered circles, where poverty was a foreign word. The number of long-term unemployed keeps rising. Worst off are families with children. Every fifth child in the US lives in poverty today.

“The situation was bad before, don’t get me wrong,” Bich Ha Pham, research director with the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA), a welfare organization in New York City, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “But this time, it could happen to anybody.”

And nobody seems to care. Poverty wasn’t an issue during the midterm elections — and it won’t be an issue now that the spendthrift deficit hawks of the Republican Party have reclaimed the House of Representatives.

“Nothing’s going to happen,” Curtis Skinner, head of Family Economic Security at the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), told SPIEGEL ONLINE. The political swing to the right, Skinner fears, is “extremely hurtful” and “absolutely disastrous” to the interest of the weakest. Indeed, what Washington is debating now is not more help for the poor — but extending the former President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the rich.

It wasn’t long ago that Pam Brown, too, rarely worried about those who fell through the social safety net — or even feared that fate for herself. “I wish I had been more engaged,” she says now. “Wall Street gives you such a comfort with its bonuses. In didn’t understand the stringency of your life not being your own anymore, of losing control like that.”

How this could have happened is a cautionary tale about the dark side of the affluent society. That’s where Brown lived happily for a long time — until the floor fell out from under her feet…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Alert for Terror Suspect at Border

A be-on-the-lookout alert has been issued by the Department of Homeland Security to Border Patrol agents for a Muslim convert and U.S. military deserter who landed in Guadalajara, Mexico, Oct. 18 and is expected to attempt entry into the U.S.

The alert was sent Monday afternoon about Masood Kahn, also known as Masood Ahmad Kahn Mohammad or Ahmad Mohammad.

Kahn, 29, was reportedly born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and is a naturalized U.S. citizen and carries a U.S. passport.

The alert says he was asking how to damage armored vehicles before he deserted the military.

The FBI has requested assistance from the Border Patrol in its search for Kahn.

The report is a reminder of the continuing terrorist threat posed by the unsecured border with Mexico.

A 2006 congressional report on border threats, titled “A Line in the Sand: Confronting the Threat at the Southwest Border” and prepared by the House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Investigations, indicated that 1.2 million illegal aliens were apprehended in 2005 alone, and 165,000 of those were from countries other than Mexico. Approximately 650 were from “special interest countries,” or nations the Border Patrol defines as “designated by the intelligence community as countries that could export individuals that could bring harm to our country in the way of terrorism.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Bloomberg Cuomo New York’s Disgrace

Mayor Bloomberg you are an elitist disgrace and sicken me with your arrogant ways. Above all you are a liar. On the steps of the Winter Garden after months of me and my men repairing the damage that was done to it after the 911 attacks we all listened to you Pataki and Guliani all talk about building the Twin Towers back to her former glory even more glorious than before. Well almost a decade has passed and we still have nothing but the sparce foundations in the pit of death yet you and your cronies celebrate each others achievments for planting a couple of trees down there as a forensic team discovers more and more DNA samples every day.

It’s amazing how the media doesn’t even report about it. Maybe because it brings back the true horrors of that awful day. Especially now as we are embroiled in this bitter Ground Zero debate over the building of a Victory Mosque. How hurtful it was to hear Former disgrace Bill Clinton tell a audience in Cairo, Egypt that the Ground Zero Mosque should be dedicated to the 60 Muslims who perished in the attacks. How sweet. I wonder did that include the hijackers? How very wonderful it must be for you Mayor to have Andrew Cuomo as your Governor. Here is a man that is business partners with Andrew L.Farkas. An owner of financial institutions in Dubai that does business with Al Qeda and Bin Laden himself! Yes this is true. He also made millions with Farkas through his Sharia financing deals. By intriducing Sharia into our system of finance you have opened up a house of horrors that threatens the very fabric of our most cherished freedoms.

Hopefully the media will call these Super-Megalomaniacs to explain their actions and share with us how they can go to sleep at night knowing that they are doing business with the very forces that have spilled the blood of innocents and continue to murder our brave soldiers today. May God have mercy on your wretched souls.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Cargo Plane Bomb Found in Britain Was Primed to Blow Up Over US

The shocking reality of the terrorist printer bomb plot emerged today when Scotland Yard revealed that the device taken from a plane in Britain was timed to explode in mid-air over the eastern United States.

The bomb was found by police on board a cargo plane at East Midlands airport last month after detailed information was passed through intelligence channels to the UK and US from Saudi Arabia.

The Guardian understands that an alarm clock on a mobile phone attached to the printer bomb was set to go off at 10.30am BST. Tests revealed that if the cargo plane’s journey had gone to schedule, the device — in a package addressed to a synagogue in Chicago — would have gone off in midair over the eastern seaboard of the US.

The device found in the UK was one of two discovered after a Saudi tip off. The other was at Dubai airport. Both were capable of bringing down an aircraft.

The bombs are believed by western intelligence to have been sent by the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and sparked fears that a new vulnerability in aviation security has been discovered by the terrorists.

Both bombs contained at least 300 grammes of the explosive pentaerythritol tetranitrate, or PETN. The device found in Dubai had travelled on two passenger planes without being detected.

The bomb found on board a UPS plane at East Midlands was so sophisticated that it was initially cleared by military and police explosives experts. When the plane landed at 2.13am after arriving from Cologne, police were waiting for it. Saudi intelligence told them which package to look for and it was taken off the plane.

At 4.20am the plane was allowed to continue on its journey as examination of a large device containing a printer cartridge continued. It emerged yesterday that the bomb was made safe inadvertently by bomb experts. At 7.40am they had not determined that the package was a bomb and stopped it from exploding by removing the “printer cartridge from the printer”, police said. The bomb was due to explode just three hours later.

By mid-morning safety cordons at East Midlands were taken down, but when UK authorities were alerted about the Dubai bomb, experts reexamined the East Midlands device. A senior counter terrorism official told The Guardian the device was “one of the most sophisticated we’ve seen. The naked eye won’t pick it up, experienced bomb officers did not see it, x-ray screening is highly unlikely to catch it.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Ethnic Friction Marks Session on Field, Land

The naming of a city-owned soccer field 35 years ago and a continuing dispute between a mosque and a Baptist church over which should be allowed to purchase a vacant, city-owned South Street parcel led to ethnic dissension among neighbors during Monday’s meeting of the Lackawanna City Council.

The recriminations started when Franklin Street resident John E. Ingram questioned the propriety of the “Yemen Soccer Field” sign posted inside a cityowned soccer field at 150 Lehigh Ave. that also serves as home field for the Lackawanna Yemen Soccer Club program.

“When I asked about the sign, it was not to disparage the soccer team, which I think is a good program,” Ingram said, “. . . but the sign is inappropriate.”

Angelo J. Iafallo, city recreation director, responded that the site was converted into a soccer field 35 years ago to accommodate the popularity of the sport among the city’s then-growing Yemeni community and was appropriately named.

“The decision was that many of our new residents were Yemenites and their national pastime was soccer and they wanted to play their sport,” Iafallo said, “. . . and I think they wanted to, . . in memory of their country, put a sign up, which no one was opposed to.”

Abdul K. Noman, who is both councilman for the 1st Ward and the longtime director of the Lackawanna Yemen Soccer Club, noted that the soccer club program and the field that it uses are open to all.

However, Ingram, who is black, insisted that it was inappropriate for a cityowned park to be named in honor of one ethnic group in the city.

“Surge” Ahmed, who identified himself as a Lackawanna resident and U. S. military veteran, said he was offended by the call to remove the sign. “I, as an Arab- American, am offended, because there are too many other things going on this community that need to be addressed other than a sign,” Ahmed said.

Meanwhile, other Yemeni-Americans called on city lawmakers to approve the sale of a vacant city-owned South Street property to the Lackawanna Islamic Mosque, at 154 Wilkesbarre St.

The property also is being pursued by First Baptist Church on Ingham Avenue.

           — Hat tip: KS[Return to headlines]

Leftist Icon Calls for Violent Socialist War Against Tea Partiers …Update: Ted Rall Writes in — Lashes Out at Conservatives

Leftist hero, Kennedy Award Winner and Pulitzer finalist Ted Rall is calling for a violent socialist revolution in America. The far left hero wants leftists to take up arms and kill tea partiers.

Verum Serum has video from his appearance on MSNBC last night and posted this from his book calling for violent leftist revolution.

“We are here because the U.S. is going to end soon. There’s going to be an intense, violent, probably haphazard struggle for control. It’s going to come down to us versus them. The question is: What are you going to do about it?…

“A war is coming. At stake: our lives, the planet, freedom, living. The government, the corporations, and the extreme right are prepared to coalesce into an Axis of Evil. Are you going to fight back? Will you do whatever it takes, including taking up arms?…”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Missile Launch Off Los Angeles

As news of the event began to appear in the media, I contacted several well placed and trusted intelligence and military sources in an effort to determine the truth about the incident. These sources, as I was reminded by one during our conversation, are risking their careers to talk to me. And they talk to me not because of my charm or influence, both of which I admittedly lack, but because they care about the current status and future of our great country. And there is no better reason. I was less than reassured from what I learned today. “There was an air of deep concern among the officials”

According to one source within the Pentagon, many of the top brass were in unscheduled, high level meetings throughout the day. Although he was not privy to the information imparted during these meetings, he told me that “there was an air of deep concern among the officials,” and all participants had a DAWT policy (don’t ask because I won’t tell) policy. Surreal was just one of the adjectives amply used by my Pentagon source.

At the very least, according to this source, it was a missile. As to whether it was ours or theirs, he does not know. But he said “they do,” a reference to the brass. The rumors circulating “within the [Pentagon] rings” suggest that it was a deliberate launch of a missile from “Chinese property at sea” intended as a warning to the U.S. Although it was odd that he would not clarify the nature of the “Chinese property,” I can only assume that it did not originate from Catalina Island or U.S. military ships in the area, as we still own those, at least to my knowledge.

A domestic intelligence source speaking to me off the record acknowledged the event by his assurances that it was indeed “some type of large missile” and not an illusion or model rocket. This, according to information from his superiors, who are deeply rooted inside the beltway. He provided a lot of technical speak that amounted simply to this: the air traffic controllers were taken by surprise and clueless, there were no prior warnings of any scheduled military tests issued, and no one from the military has confided to his agency that “the missile” was ours and launched by mistake. In other words, it was not ours and it was no mistake.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Muslim Leader Recruits Americans for Jihad

CNN’s Spitzer to Choudary: ‘You should be arrested, jailed’

In an extraordinary interview, a British Muslim leader admitted on CNN that he is soliciting American Muslims via the Internet to carry out violence against the U.S. — a confession which prompted the anchor interviewing him to call on authorities to arrest him as a “heinous terrorist.”

Anjem Choudary, a radical Muslim activist in London, also contended that Western Muslims — including Muslims in America — secretly want to impose Shariah law, the Islamic legal code that administers cruel and unusual punishments such as stonings, amputations and honor killings.

The 43-year-old Choudary is a vocal critic of Britain’s involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and has praised the 7-7 terrorists who bombed the London subway. He also has praised the 9-11 terrorists as “magnificent martyrs.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Books: Ban on Usury in All Three Monotheistic Religions

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 8 — Why has the Islamic world never felt the need to set aside the prohibition on usury to foster widespread mercantile and commercial development in the Muslim community? Are there analogies on the issue of a prohibition on usury in the three religions of the Book? Attempting to respond to these questions is “Usury in the Religious ‘Word’ “ (DATANEWS, pp. 240, 18 euros) by Chiara Scattone, now in bookshops. Taking as her starting point an analysis of the holy works, the Old and New Testaments and the Koran, and going back over the doctrinal elaborations of the Church Fathers as well as Islamic theologians and jurists from a historical and critical point of view, the author tries to shed light on the connecting thread which binds, unites and creates distance between the three religions, believers’ actions and the varying lifestyles taken on by them within our modern day society. There are, reads the introduction to the book — “clear and unequivocal similarities” between the Christianity, Judaism and Islam: similarities, however, that over the years have grown ever weaker.

It is a prohibition, continued Scattone, which must always be put in direct correlation with the economic development of a country. And so, in order to foster commercial development of the most disadvantaged sections of the populace, the Mounts of Piety were created in Italy in the XV century. This then led to a definitive setting aside of the prohibition on usury in the European world — Catholic, Jewish and Protestant. In its Islamic counterpart, on the other hand, the retaining of the prohibition to the modern day is seen in different types and developments, which have led the entire economic system to an atypical evolution according to European conceptions, which has Christian-Jewish roots. The prohibition on usury, noted the author, was created and sanctioned within the Koran from the VII century to today without any exceptions or limitations.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Danish News Channel in Arabic Proposed

News in foreign languages would strengthen democracy, say Social Liberals

The Social Liberals have proposed creating a news channel reporting Danish news in Arabic, aimed directly at immigrants who do not speak Danish.

Party leader Margrethe Vestager does not think the language barrier should prevent immigrants from orienting themselves about current affairs in Denmark.

“We would like [public broadcaster] DR, as part of its public service commitments, to increase its efforts to report Danish news in some of the main foreign languages such as Arabic, Turkish and English,” she told Politiken newspaper.

The proposal is a reaction to the Danish People’s party initiative to ban satellite dishes in immigrant housing areas in an effort to prevent immigrants from receiving all their news from Arabic news channels.

According to Vestager, such a ban would not prevent parallel societies from emerging. “If we want to improve integration, we need to provide more information, not less, she said.”

She is convinced DR is capable of producing interesting news that can supplement the worldview that immigrants get from news channels such as al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya.

The Liberal Party said DR already provided a similar service with its foreign language news services.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU President Issues Stark Warning Against Nationalism

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy has issued a stark warning against growing nationalism, populism and anti-democratic forces across the EU, suggesting that the threat to peace in Europe remains a key issue.

“We have together to fight the danger of a new euro-scepticism,” he said in a speech in Berlin on Tuesday night (9 November).

“This is no longer the monopoly of a few countries. In every member state, there are people who believe their country can survive alone in the globalised world,” he continued.

“It is more than an illusion: it is a lie!”

The president was speaking in the German capital on the Schicksalstag, or ‘fateful day,’ the anniversary of five pivotal events in the nation’s history: the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the fall of the monarchy in 1918, but also the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, Kristallnacht in 1938 and the execution of a leader of the 1848 revolutions in the German states.

Quoting wartime US president Franklin Roosevelt, he said that the “biggest enemy of Europe today is fear,” and that this ultimately could lead to war.

“Fear leads to egoism, egoism leads to nationalism, and nationalism leads to war,” he said. “Today’s nationalism is often not a positive feeling of pride of one’s own identity, but a negative feeling of apprehension of the others. Fear of ‘enemies’ within our borders and beyond our borders.”

“It is a feeling all over Europe, not of a majority, but everywhere present.”

In a wide-ranging speech, alighting on a range of aspects of the current state of the European Union, he cheered the day when the nations of the former Yugoslavia will join.

“To those who say that war is so far away in our past that peace cannot be a key issue in Europe anymore, that it does not appeal to the younger generations, I answer: just go out there [to the western Balkans] and ask the people there! And ask the young ones too!”

Beyond the EU’s economic and political structures, he said that Europe needed to look to its heritage, in particular, the values and virtues of Ancient Greece.

“To keep such European virtues alive, to transmit their age-old qualities to our children and grandchildren, that will be one of the great challenges for the future,” he said. “We have to be a union of values but also a union of civic virtues.”

He also touched on the current economic crisis, cheering the recent decision of European leaders to move towards common economic governance.

“One cannot maintain a monetary unity without an economic union,” he said, and went on to salute the “courage” of EU leaders in imposing austerity measures over the top of popular opposition.

“I, for one, have really been impressed over the last year by the political courage of our governments. All are taking deeply unpopular measures to reform the economy and their budgets, moreover, at a time of rising populism.

“Some heads of government do this while being confronted with opposition in parliament, with protest in the streets, with strikes on the workplace — or all of this together — and fully knowing they run a big risk of electoral defeat.

“And yet they push ahead. If this is not political courage, what is?”

He also went on to criticise the European Commission’s proposals for EU taxes. In October, the EU executive proposed a list of potential EU fund-raising mechanisms in an attempt to reduce the direct contributions national governments make to fund the workings of the bloc.

“I do not think that redesigning the way the EU get its revenue is a top priority,” he said, adding that the imposition of EU taxation would fall on some countries harder than others and that this would be unfair.

“The current system reflects as a rule the member states’ capacity to pay. Contributions are based on the gross national income and thus seen as fair … I am personally open to new ideas, but since most alternative sources of income would risk to hit member states unequally, this would weaken the fairness of the current system, its built-in solidarity.”

He did not however close the door completely on the idea. “So let’s be prudent, but let’s discuss it,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe Looking Towards Billionaire Halal Market

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 9 — From Malaysia to the United Kingdom, there is great attention to the world of halal, a global market worth 634 billion dollars and an annual rate of growth of 15%. These numbers have drawn in operators, businesses and government agencies, which are attracted by a potentially vast market that is strongly rising. Halal products (goods that correspond to Islamic precepts) do not only attract followers of Islam, but also non-Muslims, and the interest is spreading from the more traditional areas to the heart of Europe. The second edition of the World Halal Forum Europe gets underway in London today, a two-day event focussing on the opportunities offered by the sector, not only in the food industry, but also in cosmetics and tourism, with analysis of newly available products and of appropriate European legislation. Large-scale distribution chains have been aware for some time that halal is an important new trend in the food trade, but fast-food multinationals have also been alive to the fact, as shown by recent initiatives by two giants of the sector, Quick and KFC.

The aim is to meet the needs of consumers who, according to some estimates, are set to grow by 20-25% in the next decade. There are a number of factors behind these results, including the increase in spending power within Europe’s Muslim communities, which is due to “the increase in the level of education and of living standards,” according to Datuk Hussein Haniff, the Malaysian ambassador to the EU, who recently spoke to the International Conference on Halal Food in Brussels.

The “healthy” image enjoyed by halal products also attracts consumers from the traditional circuit, regardless of religious beliefs. Despite this potential, the market is still young and needs a structure if it is to develop fully. A few months ago, an English venture capital company launched plans for the first industrial area reserved exclusively for halal products. Its creators say that the Super Halal Industrial Park (SHIP) in South Wales will offer a number of services, from the selection of meat to the packaging and storing of the product, as well as research and development. The initiative, however, will not be up and running for at least 3-5 years, and will cost 150 million pounds.

With 1.5 million Muslims and a turnover of 5 billion euros, Italy is also making efforts to adapt to new market conditions, by offering an appropriate regulation system. To this end, with support from the Health, Foreign Affairs and Economic Development and Agricultural Policy Ministries, last June saw the creation of “Halal Italia”, the official organ for the certification of halal products. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Foiled at the 11th Hour, ‘Islamic Terrorist’ Plot to Assassinate France’s Leading Muslim Cleric

Five alleged Islamic terrorists arrested in Paris this week were planning to assassinate the city’s leading Muslim cleric, it emerged today.

All of the men, who are French passport holders, are believed to have returned from fighting British and American troops alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The murder plot against Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the French capital’s main mosque, was only foiled at the eleventh hour thanks to a tip-off.

Secret intelligence officers were able to move in on two Frenchmen of Algerian descent as they arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport on Monday night from Egypt.

Armed police arrested three other men from similar backgrounds in flats in the Paris suburbs on Tuesday morning.

‘These were five major arrests,’ said Bernard Squarcini, director of France’s Internal Intelligence agency, the DCRI.

‘All were linked to a major inquiry into jihadists returning from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area and threatening to assassinate the rector of the Paris Mosque, Dalil Boubaker.’

Mr Boubaker has been under armed guard since last month after radicals issued threats following the introduction of a burka ban in France — a measure which many see as overtly anti-Muslim.

Osama Bin Laden, the terrorist mastermind behind atrocities including the 9/11 attacks on America in 2001, also released a recorded video message calling for French people to be killed unless the country withdraw its troops from the war in Afghanistan.

Security has also been stepped up around leading public figures in France, including Carla Bruni, who is seen as an assassination target.

Intelligence chief Mr Squarcini said the five men were seen as important figures in the current ‘global threat’ against France.

All are thought to have been part of a jihad network based in the tribal areas of Pakistan which regularly heads into Afghanistan to fight coalition forces.

Mr Boubaker welcomed the arrests saying : ‘Unfortunately men of peace are threatened all too often.

‘Thanks to our system we can protect freedom of thought and freedom of expression and have the freedom to live together in this dangerous world.’

The foiled plot illustrates the growing rift between Islamic moderates and those prepared to kill and maim in the name of their religion, said Mr Boubaker.

France has been on heightened terrorist alert since the summer, when there were bomb scares at major tourist attractions including the Eiffel Tower.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

France: Sarkozy Draws Ire Over Media Spying Claims

French President Nicolas Sarkozy allegedly ordered France’s domestic intelligence agency to spy on journalists who annoyed him. The opposition is now demanding an investigation. Is French democracy in jeopardy?

Edwy Plenel has been a journalist for over 30 years. He was editor-in-chief of Le Monde , France’s leading daily, he uncovered many scandals during the presidency of François Mitterrand, and he was spied on by the Elysée Palace in the 1980s, but it was always relatively bearable. Plenel, a former Trotskyite, has never found it easy to be a journalist in France. But now he finds it intolerable.

“Our democracy is in serious danger,” says Plenel, who founded the independent news website Mediapart three years ago. “Our republic, its laws and its principles are disintegrating into a big ash heap right in front of our eyes.” Plenel is convinced that French freedom — and, most of all, the freedom of the press — is in serious jeopardy.

A Thorn in Sarkozy’s Side

According to Plenel, the Mediapart journalists who first unearthed the scandal surrounding the billionaire L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt — with its allegations of illegal political contributions and tax evasion — have for months been under surveillance in an operation controlled by the Elysée Palace. Likewise, he claims, agents from France’s domestic intelligence service (DCRI) have even analyzed the mobile-phone records of two of his journalists so as to precisely map out their network of contacts. The service also reportedly put together movement profiles of the two journalists, tracking their whereabouts by using GPS coordinates provided by their mobile phones.

Then, of course, there was the break-in at Mediapart’s editorial offices located on a small Parisian side street in the 12th arrondissement, just behind the Bastille. Plenel refuses to believe it was a random burglary and, instead, attributes it to an operation ordered by Elysée Chief of Staff Claude Guéant.

“You aren’t protecting me at all,” Sarkozy reportedly complained last summer to Frédéric Péchenard, a childhood friend who directs the national police, and Bernard Squarcini, the head of the DCRI. At the time, in mid-July, with their daily expose’s on the Bettencourt affair, Mediapart and Le Monde were a major thorn in Sarkozy’s side. Since then, it has become clear that Péchenard and Squarcini apparently took his laments to heart.

Last spring, at the president’s request, the DCRI looked into a private matter for Sarkozy. He wanted intelligence agents to figure out who had spread rumors about he and his wife, Carla Bruni, having extramarital affairs. The Interior Ministry sought to justify the operation by claiming that there was a suspected foreign plot to discredit the French president in the runup to the G-20 summit. Bruni was also allegedly given access to the police and intelligence reports.

Meanwhile, intelligence chief Squarcini, a Corsican counterterrorism expert whose skills Sarkozy had come to appreciate during his tenure as interior minister, has reportedly also set up a unit tasked with keeping tabs on journalists. The president himself specifies the individuals the group focuses its surveillance activities on, according to a claim made last Wednesday by Claude Angeli, editor-in-chief of the satirical weekly newspaper Le Canard enchaîné, one of France’s few politically and financially independent papers. Angeli says his claims are based on “very reliable informants” within DCRI headquarters.

The story promptly triggered a barrage of denials. It was all “completely fabricated,” according to officials at the Elysée Palace. The intelligence service “is not the Stasi or the KGB,” Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux declared. “I don’t get my orders from Sarko,” Squarcini shot back, “but from my superior, the police chief.”

But Angeli disagrees. “We are convinced that the president is personally involved in everything,” he counters. “Nothing escapes Sarkozy.”

Even in a country like France, this degree of personal intervention by the country’s most powerful politician is unprecedented.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iraq: Three Christians Killed and 26 Wounded. Appeal of Al Maliki

A series of attacks this morning with mortars and homemade bombs. The prime minister pays a visit to the Syrian Catholic Church attacked by al-Qaeda and calls on Christians not to leave the country. Meanwhile the first survivors arrive in France, for receive special treatment.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) — Three dead and 26 injuries is the provisional death toll from a series of attacks against Christian homes this morning in different districts of Baghdad. Between 6 and 8 this morning, two mortar shells and dozens of homemade bombs exploded in front of the homes of the faithful.

Last night in the capital three other Christian houses were hit by bombs, without causing any victims. Despite this, the Prime Minister al Maliki is urging Christians not to abandon the country.

The latest attacks come only 10 days after the October 31 attack on the Syrian Catholic Church of Our Lady of Salvation, and after threats from Al Qaeda to eliminate Christians from the Middle East. The attack on the parish killed 44 faithful, two priests and seven security guards. About 90 people were injured. Of these, the first group (37, to be followed by those remaining) arrived in France on Nov. 8 to receive treatment offered by the European nation, the only one to propose such support.

Yesterday, Prime Minister al-Maliki visited the church of Our Lady of Salvation and urged his fellow Christians not to leave the country. Praising the “noble” gesture of France, al-Maliki said that “it must not be an incentive to emigrate.” He recalled that in his meeting with Benedict XVI, in 2008, had asked the Pope “not to allow the East be emptied of Christians, nor the West of Muslims”.

“We ask — he said — for an end to the emigration of Christians, that the phenomenon does not return, and we will do everything possible so that the array of flowers of Iraq’s communities remain complete and united”.

Al-Maliki also offered his condolences to the families of the victims: “The equality of Christians and other Iraqis — he said — is a sacred duty.”

Eric Besson, the French Minister of Immigration has made it clear that Christians survivors of the attack in Baghdad will benefit political asylum. “This message of support — he added — does not mean that France and Europe, are inviting the Christians of the East and Iraq to leave their countries. Rather it is our responsibility and desire to help them live in security in their countries of origin. “

On 8 November two other believers were killed in front of their homes in the Iraqi capital.

Before the U.S. invasion in 2003, the Christian community in Iraq counted almost a million faithful, that number has now dropped below 500 thousand.

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

Italy: Amanda Knox Indicted for Slandering Police

Trial will start May 17

(ANSA) — Perugia, November 8 — American student Amanda Knox was indicted Monday on charges of slandering police during her trial for the 2007 murder of British flatmate Meredith Kercher.

The new trial will start on May 17 in Perugia.

Knox appeared visibly disappointed when the ruling was read out.

The US student, who has been in jail for three years and was sentenced to 26 years for murder in December, said during her murder trial that seven police officers and an interpreter hit her.

In a statement on Monday, Knox said: “I didn’t mean to offend or slander anybody. I reiterate, I was only trying to defend myself. I was exercising a right”.

The prosecution argued that Knox had “deliberately” described “in a false manner” the conduct of seven policemen and a translator, who she claimed hit her on the head during questioning after Kercher was found dead on November 2, 2007. Knox’s lawyer said “Amanda is very sad and worried” but “ready” for the appeal on the Kercher murder which opens on November 24.

Seattle-born Knox, whose good looks led to her frequently being called ‘foxy Knoxy’ in the British media, was wearing a dark pullover and black pants.

It was her third court appearance since she was sentenced last year to 26 years in jail for Kercher’s murder, along with her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, who was given a 25-year sentence.

Knox was given a year more than Sollecito for having falsely accused a Perugia pub owner, Congo native Patrick Lumumba, of the killing in the early stages of the investigation.

Knox, 23, and Sollecito, 26, both deny murder and are appealing against the jail terms, as is a third convicted murderer, Ivory Coast native Rudy Guede, who was tried in a separate fast-track procedure and is bidding to overturn a 16-year sentence.

DNA evidence that was already hotly contested in Knox’s and Sollecito’s first trial is expected to again be the focus of the appeals.

Knox is continuing her university studies while in jail and is said to have rekindled affections with Sollecito, who is being held in another prison.

Knox recently published a partly ghost-written book about her experience in jail.

Two films about the Perugia murder are in the works, one a made-for-TV US film with rising star Hayden Panettiere as Knox and the other a British movie by Michael Winterbottom with Colin Firth as an investigative reporter.


Leeds University exchange student Kercher, 21, was found with her throat cut on November 2, 2007 in the house she shared with Knox in the central Italian town.

According to the prosecution, Sollecito and Guede held Kercher down as Guede tried to have sex with her and Knox threatened her with a knife, before delivering a fatal blow.

The knife was later found with Knox’s DNA on the handle, though the defence argued the traces were too small to be significant.

They also said the knife was too big to have inflicted the wounds found on Kercher.

No DNA from Knox was found at the crime scene but Guede’s was found there, as well as on the body.

Sollecito’s DNA was only found on the clasp of Kercher’s bra, which had been cut in half, although defence lawyers claimed the crime scene had been contaminated.

Under Italian law convicted criminals are entitled to two appeals.

The verdict against Knox caused a strong reaction in the United States where ‘pro-Amanda’ groups have rallied to support her appeal.

One of the United States’ top lawyers, Ted Simon, president of the National Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers, will flank her Italian defence team.

Guede, now 23, had his sentence commuted from 30 to 16 years in his first appeal and Italy’s Supreme Court will start hearing his final appeal on December 16.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Culture Minister to Report on Pompeii Wednesday

‘I will explain what happened and what is needed,’ Bondi says

(ANSA) — Rome, November 8 — Italian Culture Minister Sandro Bondi will report to parliament on Pompeii Wednesday after Saturday’s collapse of the famous gladiators’ school there earned headlines worldwide and rekindled claims the 2,000-year-old site is not being properly protected.

In a statement, Bondi said he would “explain what happened in Pompeii and what is necessary to do in the future”.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Saturday called the incident a “disgrace” for Italy. In the wake of the collapse, there have been appeals from institutions and art experts worldwide who fear the conservation of the UNESCO World Heritage site is not being adequately funded.

On Monday British author Robert Harris, author of the 2003 global bestseller ‘Pompeii’, published a plea in Rome daily La Repubblica asking for more to be done.

Harris said he was “not surprised” at the collapse and argued that the right of visitors to see the site’s wonders should be balanced with conservation needs, highlighting “the imperative of passing it down to future generations”.

“We are faced with a paradox: the more people visit Pompeii, the more Pompeii is destroyed”.

Bondi has said that water infiltration from recent heavy rains dealt a killer blow to the gladiators’ school, which was precarious because a 1950 restoration “wrongly” put reinforced concrete on the roof, making it “inevitable” that it would buckle under the weight.

The minister also voiced confidence that famous frescoes giving insights into gladiators’ lives may have survived the crash.

Polemics about looting, stray dogs and structural decay have dogged Pompeii in recent years and the government appointed a special commissioner who has been credited with solving some of these problems.

According to conservation groups, Pompeii earns enough from its huge takings to be able to maintain itself but they claim this cash is being misused.

Several groups have appealed to the government, despite the current mood of austerity, to set up a special fund for the unique site.

The centre-left opposition has said the school’s collapse has highlighted an “unacceptable” level of alleged “incompetence” and has even suggested that the upkeep of the site should be taken out of the government’s hands and entrusted fully to international bodies. Every year over two million people visit Pompeii, which was smothered in lava and ash by the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Marriage Annulled After Wife ‘Thought of Straying’

‘No evidence of woman frequenting other men,’ high court says

(ANSA) — Rome, November 8 — Italy’s highest appeals court on Monday confirmed the annulment of a marriage on the grounds that the wife thought of having an affair but never in fact had one.

“We fully support the lower court’s findings even though there was no evidence of the woman frequenting other men,” the Cassation Court said in its ruling, which sets a precedent.

The woman, who was not named, was trying to have the ruling overturned to benefit from no-blame financial arrangements including alimony.

After the high court’s apparently draconian verdict she will be left to look out for herself.

According to judicial sources, both the husband and wife told judges that she had often “theorised” the freethinking idea that a marriage does not necessarily have to be based on sexual fidelity, but “never put the idea into practice”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Promises Flood Aid to Veneto

Premier tours northeast region

(ANSA) — Rome, November 9 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday toured the flood-stricken northeast region of Veneto and promised “substantial and immediate” aid.

“Aid from the state for the flooded areas of Veneto will be immediately placed in the budget,” the premier said while visiting the town of Monteforte d’Alpone, near Verona.

“I did not come before now because I did not want to get in the way of rescue efforts,” the premier told local government officials. “We have already moved to get aid from the European Union and I have spoken several times with the European Commission and on Friday Commissioner (Antonio) Tajani will be here to see for himself what has happened,” he added.

Tajani is Italy’s representative in the EU executive and is responsible for industry and business.

“We are drawing up a detailed list of the damage which has been done and, as you know, the EU is ready to pay for a percentage of the damage,” Berlusconi said. “There is also the possibility of tapping into the EU’s so-called structural funds, which amount to around 450 million euros for the period from 2007 to 2013,” the premier added.

In regard to the State’s response, Berlusconi said “tomorrow in Rome there will be a meeting between civil protection department officials, (Economy) Minister (Giulio) Tremonti and Governor (Luca) Zaia”.

“Here you have already put everything back in place. The people of Veneto are truly a great people and here I have seen their immediate, vigorous and able response,” Berlusconi said.

According to the Coldiretti farmers union, thousands of hectares of farmland remains under water and there are great problems getting feed to the farm animals which survived the floods.

Coldiretti said over 150,000 livestock drowned in the floods while entire crops of tobacco, fruits and vegetables were destroyed, along with numerous greenhouses and mushroom fields.

After visiting Monteforte d’Alpone, Berlusconi moved on to visit Cresole Caldonio, in the province of Vicenza, and from there will go to Padua where he will hold a press conference.

Accompanying the premier on his tour are Reform Minister and Northern League leader Umberto Bossi, Zaia and Piedmont Governor Roberto Cota.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Rejects EU Patent ‘Blackmail’

‘You don’t talk with a gun on the table’, Ronchi says

(ANSA) — Brussels, November 10 — Italy on Wednesday said it would not accept alleged “blackmail” on the contested issue of a single European Union-wide patent.

Italy “is not here to agree to blackmail”, EU Minister Andrea Ronchi said as he arrived at a meeting of ministers in Brussels to discuss the question.

“You don’t negotiate with a gun on the table,” Ronchi said after Britain, Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden and Ireland wrote to the European Commission Tuesday asking it to consider whether a “willing coalition” of states could agree on a restricted version of the patent if Wednesday’s meeting failed to break a 10-year deadlock on the issue.

Italy has repeatedly threatened to use its veto because patents would be registered in only three languages — English, French and German — and not Italian.

“At the risk of standing alone on this question we must say no to this proposal because it would create a Europe which does not want competition and discriminates against Italian goods by not recognising Italian as an official language,” Ronchi said last month.

In September, the minister warned that Italy would veto the measure because it was “unacceptable” and “offensive to Italian history and culture”.

At the time Ronchi said that firms which had trouble with the three proposed languages would be penalised “in terms of competition” while “the efficiency of European Union procedures would also suffer”.

“The regulation in question has to be approved unanimously and we will never give our approval to a proposal that discriminates against our language,” he added.

When Ronchi first threatened to use Italy’s veto powers in July, the European Commission responded by saying that only the patent would be in the three main languages, while applications to use it could be made in all 23 of the EU’s official languages, including Italian.

As for the decision to have the patent itself only in the three languages, the EC pointed out that Italy itself had recently backed a move to “bring down EU administrative costs”.

Successful applicants who pay for translating patents will be able to have those costs reimbursed, the Commission said.

Italy has fought repeatedly to get the EU to use Italian more than it does.

In April it protested about the alleged absence of Italian as one of the three mandatory languages in new European Union staff selection procedures.

In November 2008 the European Court of Justice overturned a decision by the European Commission to publish certain job adverts in English, German and French but not in Italian.

While English, German and French are the three most widely spoken languages in the EU (whether as mother tongue or second languages), Italian comes a close fourth with 16% of the EU population able to use it.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Minister Guttenberg Says Economy is Part of National Security

Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg says that Germany should be prepared to use its military to defend the country’s economic interests. Similar comments cost German President Horst Köhler his job earlier this year. And once again, the opposition in Berlin is up in arms.

Earlier this year, then German President Horst Köhler provoked a storm of controversy when he said that military deployments were necessary to protect German economic interests. His remarks, made during a trip to Afghanistan, triggered consternation and sharp criticism in the media. Ultimately, he resigned as a result.

Now German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has echoed those sentiments.

Speaking at a security conference in Berlin on Tuesday, Guttenberg said that Germany should be prepared to use its military to secure trade routes, for example against piracy. “We in our country must really do something to articulate the relationship between regional security and economic interests without coming to deadlock,” Guttenberg said. Commenting on Köhler’s decision to step down in May, the minister said: “I ask myself to this day what was so audacious about his comments.”

Piracy around the Horn of Africa has posed a threat to the commercial interests of many nations, including Germany. Guttenberg described this as “not just a side note, but a serious challenge to our economic performance, one to be taken seriously.”

Opposition Response

He also referred to the competing demands for raw materials of emerging nations and the industrialized world, which could raise questions of strategic importance for German security. “The securing of trade routes and sources of raw materials have without a doubt to be considered from military and global strategic viewpoints,” he told the conference, which continues on Wednesday. Germany’s export-driven economy is heavily dependent on raw materials from abroad. However, the country is extremely sensitive about the role of the military in the light of Germany’s Nazi past.

Opposition parties were predictably quick to hit out at the defense minister’s statements. “We warn Guttenberg against reinterpreting the Bundeswehr’s defensive mandate as an offensive intervention mandate for implementing German economic interests,” Thomas Opperman of the center-left Social Democrats, told Die Tageszeitung newspaper. “A look at the constitution makes it easier to arrive at the correct interpretation of defense policy: The constitution does not allow economic wars.”

The Green party’s defense expert Omid Nouripour criticized the defense minister’s comments as “absurd,” saying that Guttenberg had to examine “if his focus as defense minister does justice to the responsibilities of his office.” Nouripour added: “Stability cannot be allowed to become a vehicle for economic interests.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Nation States Are Dead: EU Chief Says the Belief That Countries Can Stand Alone is a ‘Lie and an Illusion’

The age of the nation state is over and the idea that countries can stand alone is an ‘illusion’ and a ‘lie’, the EU president believes.

In one of the most open proclamations of the goal of a European superstate since the heyday of Jacques Delors, Herman Van Rompuy went on to denounce Eurosceptism as the greatest threat to peace.

Tory backbenchers condemned the inflammatory comments in the speech made by Mr Van Rompuy to mark the 21st anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

They said it proved that David Cameron would have a battle on his hands if he is to prevent extra powers being handed to Brussels.

Last night 23 Conservative MPs, including former leadership contender David Davis, rebelled in the Commons by demanding a referendum if the Lisbon Treaty is amended — even if ministers argue the changes do not affect the UK. Their call was defeated.

Mr Van Rompuy’s speech in the German capital told his audience that ‘the time of the homogenous nation state is over’.

He added that the ‘danger’ of Euroscepticism was spreading beyond the confines of countries such as Britain and was becoming a stronger force across the whole continent.

‘We have together to fight the danger of a new Euroscepticism,’ he declared. ‘This is no longer the monopoly of a few countries.

‘In every member state, there are people who believe their country can survive alone in the globalised world. It is more than an illusion — it is a lie.’

[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Rapper Aquitted of Threatening Wilders

THE HAGUE, 11/11/10 — The appeal court in The Hague yesterday acquitted a rapper of threatening Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders because it did not consider the text of his song constituted an offence.

The rapper, who calls himself Mosheb, was prosecuted for the track ‘Who is next?’. He sings: Pim Fotuyn talked about Muslims, was shot. Theo van Gogh, talked about Muslims, was shot. Who is next…? (…) Am planning to make an attack on Geert Wilders. And that in WORDS. I find you a creep. You will be strangled. (…) Everyone who talks about Muslims gets killed.”

In the number, the rapper constantly alternates threats with mitigating words. “Geert you would be better to jump off the roof, or would you rather have bullets in your body? I am no terrorist, am an innocent rapper. This is a warning!! Do you want to stay alive? Then you must take back all your statements (…) Listen Geert, this is no joke, last night I dreamed that I had cut off your head.”

Wilders launched proceedings against the song in 2007, after he had heard and seen the clip on the Internet. A lower court convicted Mosheb, but the appeal court arrived at acquittal yesterday.

According to the appeal court, the text is not in itself a punishable offence. The track is punishable however in the way it was to be seen on Internet site YouTube. There, gunshots were also heard.

These shots cannot however be heard on the rapper’s original CD version. The appeal court concludes that it cannot be established whether the shots were added by the rapper or by someone else.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Prominent Saudi Preacher: Europe Will Become an Islamic Continent

Prominent Saudi Preacher: Europe Will Become an Islamic


In a recent interview posted on, prominent Saudi preacher Dr. Aidh Al-Qarni said that 9/11, though a horrific event, was no more horrific than scores of other massacres that take place around the world every year, for instance in Africa, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The only difference, he explained, is that 9/11 has been exploited to promote “the so-called War on Terror.” He therefore recommended using incidents of what he termed Islamophobia — such as the Swiss minaret ban and the French ban on the veil — to promote Islam in the West. He also assessed that Europe is on its way to becoming an Islamic continent.

Following are excerpts from the article:[1]

“Looking at the Events [of 9/11] Objectively, [We Realize that] Humanity Witnesses Scores of Such Grim Events Every Year”

“Looking at the events [of 9/11] objectively, [we realize that] humanity witnesses scores of such grim events every year, for instance in the African Great Lakes region, where millions have been killed in the last decade; in Iraq, where millions have been killed [as well]; and in Afghanistan, where similar things occurred during the Soviet invasion and now under the American occupation, to name but a few examples…

“But 9/11 took place in America, and when America is stung, it is considered a disaster for mankind at large. We do not mean to make light of this matter, with all its ramifications and effects, or to accept or justify it. Not at all! We are saying that this event was exploited to serve an agenda that was waiting for a pretext and a justification. Thus, the whole world was driven into crises and difficulties under [the slogan of] the so-called ‘War on Terror’…

“These movements of political Islam have played a major role in defeating colonialism and in liberating many Islamic countries that were occupied… Even now we find that [while] many Arab governments and secular movements have abandoned the Palestinian cause and sold it cheaply, it is the Islamists [in Gaza] that defend [this cause] and protect its sanctities despite the international siege…

“In this context, we must make a distinction between jihadi liberation movements that are judicious and follow the right path, such as Hamas in Palestine, and violent movements that are based on takfir [accusing other Muslims of heresy]. The latter [movements] use their weapons against Muslims and against countries that, though not Muslim, should not be attacked…”

“Handled Correctly, Examples of Islamophobia… [Can] Have the Opposite Results of What Their Pro-Zionist Perpetrators Intended”

“Handled correctly, examples of Islamophobia — such as the [Swiss] ban on minarets, the banning of the veil [in France], and the burning of the Koran — [can] have the opposite results of what their pro-Zionist perpetrators intended. Today, Westerners are confused people who have unlimited freedom of thought. When people of this kind — who are confused on the one hand and have unlimited freedom of thought on the other — encounter the truths of Islam, which addresses their natural inclinations, [these truths] enter their minds [almost] without their being aware of it. Hence, it is possible to take advantage of those events in order to introduce Islam to people and make them aware of it.”

Dr. Aidh Al-Qarni concluded his interview with the following: “I expect, like many perceptive people living in Europe, that, Allah willing, the European continent will become an Islamic continent.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Multicultural Football Team Unites Malmö

With Malmö’s football club poised to win Sweden’s top-flight Allsvenskan football league, The Local’s Peter Vinthagen Simpson looks at how the team’s multicultural make up has united a city that is so often cited as a negative example of the challenge of integration.

A recent spate of apparently random shootings directed at people with a non-traditionally Swedish appearance, has raised concerns about growing racism in Malmö and across Sweden as a whole.

The shootings, which police continue to investigate, have often been discussed in the context of the difficulties of integration and have tarnished multicultural Malmö’s reputation.

Sporting success this weekend will go some way to shifting that negative focus and highlighting one of Malmö’s most shining examples of the successes of multiculturalism: the city’s only professional football club, Malmö FF.

Malmö FF’s 2010 squad includes players from nine different nations. It also includes a number of key players who represent the myriad of cultures that make up Sweden’s most culturally mixed city, where around 36 percent of the population is registered as having a foreign background.

“It is the team’s success that unites people. One goes along and watches the matches and the team consists of a group of individuals, it is those players that you cheer on,” Marie Holmberg at the city’s tourism office, Malmö Tourism, tells The Local.

“On the pitch (their background) doesn’t mean anything, they are individuals.”

They are all local men with roots in a slew of various countries and cultures, and on Sunday the likes of Agon Mehmeti, Dardan Rexhepi and Guillermo Molins, will line up alongside talismanic captain Daniel Andersson and goalkeeping stalwart Johan Dahlin, united in their goal of bringing Sweden’s Allsvenskan title back to the football-mad city for a record 16th time.

“Malmö has always been a football town, other sports have never meant that much to us. The entire town town revolves around the team, and we have only one where other Swedish cities have numerous,” says loyal Malmö FF supporter Martin Palmer.

Malmö FF leads Sweden’s Allsvenskan, on goal difference ahead of local Skåne rivals Helsingborg. A win on Sunday will secure the “gold” for MFF for a record 16th time (barring a massive win for Helsingborg).

It will also give a welcome boost to the city, which has been in something of a state of shock after the shootings were classified by the police as a having an apparently racist motive.

The tourist office’s Holmberg explains that the success of the women’s football team in winning the national title a fortnight ago, followed by the prospect of a title win for the men’s team on Sunday, is of great benefit to the city, and its image.

“It is naturally very positive for the city for the women to have won the championship and now if the men can bring home the ‘gold’,” she says, adding that football is a unifiying factor for the city.

Martin Palmer agrees that Malmö’s footballing success has helped local people focus on the positive aspects of integration.

“I think the team’s success has definitely helped. There are so many people with different backgrounds within this town. Everyone likes MFF, and everyone likes Zlatan (Ibrahimovic),” he says, referring to the Malmö native son who stars for both Sweden’s national side as well as storied Italian football club AC Milan.

The election of the Sweden Democrats to Sweden’s Riksdag on a platform to dramatically cut immigration and challenge the multicultural society, has been cited by some observers as a causal factor behind the shootings, having allowed anti-immigrant sentiment to be aired more freely.

Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson is a keen supporter of Mjällby FF, Malmö’s opposition on Sunday. Åkesson, who was born in Skåne, has previously described Sweden’s captain Zlatan Ibrahomivic, as a “bought in” player, and has furthermore questioned his “unSwedish” footballing style, despite the Milan star being born and bred in the country.

When Ibrahimovic broke into Sweden’s national team back in 2001, he was surrounded by established names such as Larsson, Andersson, Svensson and Allbäck. He was seen as little more than a joker in a pack of Swedish organization and did not establish himself in the team until the summer of 2004, the same year he signed for Italian giants Juventus.

Ibrahimovic’s success story from the gravel pitches of one of Malmö’s toughest suburbs Rosengård, to the riches of Milan’s San Siro, serves as an inspiration for Malmö youth seeking to get ahead and better themselves.

Malmö FF midfielder and playmaker Guillermo Molins, who arrived in Sweden as a one-year-old with his parents from Uruguay, coined the phrase “Zlatan effect” when talking to the Dagens Nyheter (DN) daily this week.

“Of course there is a Zlatan effect. His achievements have ensured that we all get a chance,” Molins told DN.

“There is a cockiness among players with foreign roots, another belief in themselves. One should believe in yourself and not listen to much to what others say.”

Palmer, who will take his normal seat alongside a packed house at the Swedbank Stadium in central Malmö on Sunday, says that the players’ backgrounds matter little to the average MFF football fan.

“They are very much seen as Malmö players first, immigrants second. Of course there is the foreign element. But there is such a broad variety of backgrounds. In the end people don’t care, they are so fanatical about the football,” he says.

Malmö’s multicultural players have all been schooled in the Swedish footballing system, with a focus on solid technique, teamwork and organisation. Swedish clubs tend to look to Brazil and Latin American countries when seeking to bring a little flair to their teams, and Malmö’s purchase of Wilton Figueiredo is a case in point.

But the rapid globalisation of football in recent decades, and the changing face of Malmö’s diverse population has had its impact on how the proud residents of the city view their “Himmelsblått” (Sky Blues) and, with half of the national side now made up of “new Swedes”, how the nation views its footballing future.

“It works because it has to work, people are working for the same objective, together. It is a lesson for the city as a whole,” Palmer says.

Malmö FF entertain Mjällby FF at the Swedbank Stadium in Malmö on Sunday, while Helsingborg host Kalmar FF. Both games kick off at 4.30pm.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Turkish Ambassador in Vienna Sparks Diplomatic Row

Diplomatic tensions have flared up between Austria and Turkey after the Turkish ambassador in Vienna publically criticized Austria’s stance towards integrating Muslims. The Austrian chancellor is said to be “outraged.”

Austria has protested to Turkey after the Turkish ambassador suggested Turks living in Austria were treated “like a virus” and were denied the chance to integrate.

Ambassdor Kadri Ecved Tezcan also told Die Presse daily newspaper in an interview published on Wednesday that Austrian politicians were not doing enough to counter the rise of the far-right movement.

The row erupted in the wake of elections in the Austrian capital Vienna in October, when the far-right Freedom Party won 26 percent of the vote on a xenophobic and anti-Muslim platform.

The remarks have sparked a diplomatic row between the two countries. Austria’s foreign ministry summoned Tezcan over his comments, whilst the foreign minister Michael Spindelegger called his Turkish counterpart to complain about Tezcan’s remarks.

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said in a statement that he was outraged by Tezcan’s “unacceptable and unprofessional” comments.

Integration issues

Tezcan claimed in the interview that Austrians were only interested in other cultures when they went on holiday. He said they should do more to integrate the Muslim community in Austria, which is largely made up of Turks.

“Turkish people… just don’t want to be treated like a virus,” Tezcan told Die Presse. “Society should integrate them and profit from them.”

In the interview, Tezcan said it was “incredible” that the Austrian Interior Ministry was responsible for integration, and that they should concentrate on visas and security.

He also criticized the hard-line immigration policies of interior minister, Maria Fekter, saying she was “in the wrong party” because she did not represent the values of her center-right party.

“Unacceptable” for a diplomat

A spokesman for the Austrian foreign ministry said they did not think that Tezcan represented Ankara’s views.

“[Tezcan] crossed many red lines,” said spokesman Alexander Schallenberg. “His remarks were unacceptable.”

Schallenberg said Austria wanted to keep up good bilateral relations with Turkey.

The Turkish community numbers some 180,000 people in Austria. It is the third largest migrant community after Serbs and Germans.

Austria is one of several EU countries, including Germany, which are skeptical about the prospect of Turkey joining the European Union.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Perverse’ Defence Cuts Leave Oil-Rich Falkland Islands Open to Attack, Ex-Admirals Warn

A group of former Royal Navy chiefs have urged the Government to reverse its decision to scrap the aircraft carrier Ark Royal and the fleet of Harrier jets.

The commanders said the recently-announced defence cuts would leave the oil-rich Falkland Islands open to a fresh Argentinian attack ‘from which British prestige…might never recover’.

In a strongly worded letter to the Times signatories including former Navy boss Lord West, insisted the David Cameron was badly advised before agreeing to the measures.

‘I am not convinced he had a full and proper briefing about the implications,’ Lord West told the newspaper.


They said: ‘In respect of the newly valuable Falklands and their oilfields, because of these and other cuts, for the next 10 years at least, Argentina is practically invited to attempt to inflict on us a national humiliation on the scale of the loss of Singapore.

‘One from which British prestige, let alone the administration in power at the time, might never recover.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Arrest Over Website That Encouraged Muslim to Attack MPs

The individual is thought to be involved with a website that praised the stabbing of the MP Stephen Timms and published a list of other MPs who voted for the war in Iraq, along with details of where to buy a knife.

West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit arrested the man at 9.30am on Wednesday and conducted a search of his home in the Dunstall area of Wolverhampton. Officers seized computer and electronic equipment, police said.

The man was being questioned under section one of the Terrorism Act 2006 on suspicion of encouraging an act of terrorism.

Detective Chief Inspector John Denley said: “We are treating the contents and implications of this blog very seriously, and have taken action this morning to progress our investigation.”

The website, Revolution Muslim, was hosted in Bellevue, Washington, and was taken down by the Americans at the request of the Home Office.

The website praised Roshonara Choudhry, who tried to stab Mr Timms to death during a constituency surgery in Beckton, East London.

Choudhry, 21, who was jailed for life last week, is thought to have radicalised herself over the internet.

She told police she had visited the Revolution Muslim website and watched videos on Youtube by Anwar al-Awlaki, one of the leaders of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular.

“We ask Allah to keep her safe and secure, to hasten her release and to reward this heroine immensely,” it said.

“We ask Allah for her action to inspire Muslims to raise the knife of jihad against those who voted for the countless rapes, murders, pillages, and torture of Muslim civilians as a direct consequence of their vote.”

The statement added: “If you want to track an MP, you can find out their personal website after typing their name in this website.

“In their personal website, you can usually find the time and location of their surgeries where you can encounter them in person.”

The site then listed the 139 Conservative MPs that voted for the war and the 244 Labour MPs.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Lutfur Rahman Will Not be Readmitted to Labour

There is “no chance” that the extremist-backed mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, will be readmitted to the Labour Party, sources close to the London regional party have said. A move by Ken Livingstone to propose Lutfur’s readmission at the 30 November meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee has also been blocked, the sources said. Livingstone, radical Islam’s single most important supporter in British politics, has been pressing for Lutfur’s rehabilitation after he openly campaigned for him during his election, against the official Labour candidate.

“The message has been passed to Ken very clearly from Ed Miliband that Lutfur will not be allowed back in to the party,” a senior Labour source said. “He has been told to shut up.” Livingstone himself was indeed notably back-peddling in today’s Evening Standard, now saying merely that “there is a lot to be said for letting all this calm down and seeing how Lutfur performs.” Livingstone also said he could not “put a timescale” on Lutfur’s readmission.

Two Labour councillors in Tower Hamlets, Shahed Ali and Kabir Ahmed, tonight pledged their “support for working with” Lutfur Rahman, though it’s not quite clear what this actually means. Mr Ali sent an email about 30 minutes ago to Labour members insisting that he has “not resigned from either the Labour Group [on the council], or the Labour Party.” I think that if you take a job with Lutfur, that’s exactly what you have done, Shahed!

I can quite understand why Mr Ali is a little confused by the matter of party allegiance. Like several of Lutfur’s other councillor defectors, this will be the third party identity he has enjoyed in less than four years. He was first elected for Respect, then defected to Labour (around the time that Lutfur became leader if my memory serves me right) and has now re-defected to the Independent camp around Lutfur. Party allegiances in Tower Hamlets are delightfully fluid — a year or two ago, one councillor defected straight from Respect to the Tories!

Over the last two weeks, Lutfur’s been waving around job offers to literally everyone in sight (even the Lib Dems and the Tories). The opportunity to receive lucrative special responsibility payments, er sorry the opportunity to bring all communities together in One Tower Hamlets, was bound in the end to net a few — though tonight’s two are not especially credible catches. As Winston Churchill said, you can rat, but you can’t re-rat.

More interesting are the strong rumours that Marc Francis, Lutfur’s closest supporter in the Labour group, may also announce his defection to Lutfur tomorrow. Mr Francis was a cabinet member and would break the, so far, 100 per cent Bangladeshi make-up of Lutfur’s ruling cabal. Let’s just hope he reads the first two paragraphs of this blog before he makes his decision, shall we?

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Mother-of-Two Lives in Britain’s Most Expensive Council House (Valued at £2.5m) For Two Years… Rent Free

Taxpayer-funded: Ruth Ben-Adir leaves her £2.5m council house in North London, where she has been living rent-free

With its fine gothic architecture and prime location, it is no surprise the charming Victorian lodge is valued at well over £2million.

Grade II-listed, it nestles on the edge of a 29-acre estate and boasts its own statue of Hercules. Neighbours include George Michael and Sting.

But it is, in fact, a council house — the most expensive in Britain — and a single mother has been living there rent-free for two years.

Ruth Ben-Adir, 46, moved into the three-bedroom property with her son Kingsley, 24, after town hall officials decided that the refurbishment of a sports centre next to their home in Kentish Town, north London, would disturb them.

The work finished three months ago, but the family is still living in The Lodge in Waterlow Park, in the Highgate village area in the north of the capital.

Property experts estimate it could fetch up to £2,000 a week if rented out — meaning their stay would have cost £208,000 if they had had to pay.

Council sources have also confirmed that the family has not been asked to pay rent on their original home.

Yesterday Tory councillor Andrew Mennear said: ‘This was a bizarre form of temporary accommodation and it has to come to an end. Did they just forget about them?’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Student Tuition Fee Protest Turns Violent as Tory Headquarters Evacuated

A demonstration against tuition fees by tens of thousands of students and lecturers descended into violence today when a group of protesters smashed their way into the headquarters of the Conservative party.

A number of police officers were injured after they came under attack from youths, some wearing scarves to hide their faces, amid scenes of chaos.

Eight people were taken to hospital with injuries after the violence flared at Millbank Tower, next to the River Thames in central London.

Hundreds of protesters stormed the building after smashing through the windows chanting “die Tory scum”.

Rocks, wooden banners, eggs, rotten fruit and shards of glass were thrown at police officers trying to beat back the crowd with metal batons and riot shields.

Inside the building, windows were kicked in, desks and chairs were overturned and the walls were daubed with anarchist graffiti.

Protesters set off fire extinguishers, overturned filing cabinets and threw office paperwork and business cards from the smashed windows.

Dozens swarmed onto the roof where they hurled fire extinguishers, burning banners, bottles and cans into the crowd.

Several people were knocked unconscious and some were seen with their faces streaming blood after being hit by missiles thrown by protesters

Placards and banners were being burnt, to cheers from the crowd, while protesters inside the building used chairs as they smashed and kicked their way through more of the glass frontage, effectively opening up the whole atrium to the crowd.

A confetti of torn newspaper rained down on the hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Millbank atrium after students gained access to the upper floors of the building.

Water also poured down on them, seemingly from a broken sprinkler system above.

A red flare was let off as the atmosphere within the crowd became increasingly volatile.

The crowd responded to the heavy police presence with loud booing, screaming and chanting.

Students who had got inside the building’s atrium tried to pull down the few remaining huge sheets of glass.

Others hurled stuffed pillows while the chants of “Tory scum” increased in volume.

A Conservative Party spokesman said that all its staff were “safe” but could not confirm whether or not they had been evacuated from the building.

he demonstration, organised by the National Union of Students and the University and College Union, had started peacefully, with up to 50,000 students, lecturers and supporters, marching from Whitehall past Downing Street and Parliament.

NUS president Aaron Porter said a small minority of protesters had “hijacked” the march, describing the violence as “despicable”.

He said the violence was not part of the organisers’ plans, blaming the trouble on a “small minority” he believed had arranged it beforehand.

“We talked about the need to prevent anything like this and how important it was to act in a responsible way. Unfortunately a minority have undermined us.”

An NUS spokesman said: “The trouble makers have let down students.”

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “The actions of a minority should not distract from today’s message. The overwhelming majority of staff and students on the march came here to to send a clear and peaceful message to the politicians. The actions of a minority, out of 50,000 people, is regrettable.”

[Return to headlines]

UK: Violence at Tory HQ Overshadows Student Fees Protest

There have been violent scenes as tens of thousands of people protested against plans to treble tuition fees and cut university funding in England.

Demonstrators stormed a building in Westminster housing the Conservative Party head quarters, smashed windows and got on to the roof.

Outside, a crowd of thousands surged as placards and banners were set on fire and missiles were thrown.

Student leaders condemned the violence as “despicable”.

They say about 50,000 people took part in a march through Westminster earlier.

A stand-off is still taking place between about two dozen demonstrators and the police, with 32 people having been arrested so far.

According to Scotland Yard, 14 people have been injured, including seven police officers. No-one was seriously hurt.

The vast majority of demonstrators had been peaceful, a statement said, but “a small minority” had damaged property.

At one point, a fire extinguisher was reported to have been thrown from the roof.

Embarrassment The police have faced accusations that they did not have enough officers on duty when the clashes erupted.

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said the force should have anticipated the level of violence “better”.

“It’s not acceptable. It’s an embarrassment for London and for us,” he said.

“I am determined to have a thorough investigation into this matter,” he added.

London Mayor Boris Johnson said: “I am appalled that a small minority have today shamefully abused their right to protest.

“This is intolerable and all those involved will be pursued and they will face the full force of the law.

“The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has assured me that there will be a vigorous post-incident investigation.”

BBC News correspondent Mike Sergeant, who is at the scene, said protesters on the roof had thrown liquids down and a female police officer had been injured.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Van Rompuy: More Dangerous Than He Looks

Shabby and secret dealings between member states last year made Herman Van Rompuy president of the European Council. At the time, he was mocked in Britain largely because he was unknown, mouse-like and, well, Belgian.

But last night in Berlin, Van Rompuy showed what he really is. And that is, a dangerous, cynical man who intends that all of Europe should be turned into a vast version of Belgium, an invented country called Europe where the loyal feelings and patriotism of the ancient nations are suppressed — all replaced with a European nationalism.

Last night Van Rompuy gave a speech in which he condemned ‘the danger of a new Euro-scepticism. This is no longer the monopoly of a few countries. In every member state, there are people who believe their country can survive alone in the globalised world. It is more than an illusion. It is a lie!’ [Note, I can’t think of any state in the world outside Burma and North Korea that imagines it can survive alone. What Van R is attacking is any country and any people who imagine they are equipped to run their own state without an undemocratic superstate being in control. Damn shocking, those Swiss.]

‘The biggest enemy of Europe today is fear. Fear leads to egoism, egoism leads to nationalism and nationalism leads to war.’

‘Today’s nationalism is often not a positive feeling of pride in one’s own identity, but a negative feeling of apprehension of others.’

Tripe. And I have to call it tripe, because in Brussels, ‘nationalism’ is not nationalism as we understand it. The word is used instead to mean any expression of rational self-interest by one country. It is used to mean any preference by any citizen for their own homeland or culture or political system over others.

Remember, the European Commission is the institution in which its employees are trained never to mention their own home countries if the word can possible be avoided — British eurocrats are trained not to say Britain but to say only ‘the country I know best.’ This is why the EU has rigged up the idea of dividing Europe into ‘regions’ which ignore, indeed, erase, national boundaries. This is why, under law, we are all called ‘citizens of the EU’ now. It’s not just a gesture, it’s a fact, and cynical creatures such as Van Rompuy means we should all become ‘citizens of the EU’ in every sense.

WE can’t say we weren’t warned. The day after Van Rompuy was appointed, Paul Belien, a Flemish historian and lawyer, warned readers of the Mail that the newly powerful president of the council was a man ‘devoid of patriotism and contemptuous of democracy.’

Belien has known and observed Van Rompuy since the mid-1980s. He called Van Rompuy ‘a shrewd manipulator, he will do all in his power to further EU integration.’

‘Van Rompuy is a product of the debased, corrupt political life of Belgium. Like the EU, it is an artificial construction, the result of political compromise and experiment.’

‘Because of this lack of real nationhood, Belgians despise their own state. But this unpatriotic attitude is precisely the reason why Belgian politicians have been so enthusiastic about the EU, in which they see the mirror image of their own fraudulent, unprincipled country.’

Which is to say, Van Rompuy is precisely the man to lead the Belgianisation of Europe. Make no mistake, the EU is an empire with global ambitions. It was no mere gesture that in his acceptance speech as president of the council, Van Rompuy extolled ‘global governance.’ Pay the man the compliment of believing he means what he says. And then be prepared to treat him as the dangerous, cynical anti-patriot he is.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]


Serbia: US Defense Department Donates Equipment to MMA

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, NOVEMBER 8 — The US Department of Defense will donate 155,000 dollars in equipment for fighting pandemics to the Military Medical Academy (MMA) in Belgrade, the US Embassy in Belgrade announced, reports Tanjug news agency.

The donation protocol was signed at the Serbian Defense Ministry by Military Health Department Chief Jovan Maksic and head of the Office of Defense Cooperation at the US Embassy in Belgrade Lt Col Ryan Fayrweather.

The donation, another form of aid from the US Department of Defense to the MMA, is made up of personal protective equipment specially designed to combat and control pandemics, the Embassy said in the release.

The protective gear will be distributed across Serbia in line with the action plan for pandemic influenza.

“The partnership will boost the Serbian Armed Forces’ capability to handle biological emergencies and offer assistance in natural disasters in the region,” adds the statement.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Library for N. African Children in Mazara Del Vallo

(ANSAmed) — MAZARA DEL VALLO (TRAPANI), NOVEMBER 8 — A multi-cultural library, with books in Italian and Arabic, has opened in the last few days in Mazara del Vallo, which is home to the largest Tunisian community in Italy. The library is destined for local and North African children up to the age of 10, who will be able to listen to fairy tales or read adventure and science books. The initiative is courtesy of a seminary of bishops and is called “L’isola che non c’e”‘ (The Island that doesn’t exist).

The library, which is currently on the first floor of the bishops’ seminary, features a bank of 400 books in Italian and around a hundred in Arabic, part of which were purchased by the seminary of Mazara, with the remainder the result of private donations.

For smaller children, up to the age of 5, there is a “cradle of hugs”, a kind of tent symbolising integration and dialogue between religions in which children can listen to fairy tales in Italian and Arabic thanks to volunteers of mixed nationality. “It is a literary cafe” for North African and Mazarese children,” says the director of the library, Maria Cristina Gallo, where the smaller children are stimulated to enjoy reading and mutual understanding. “L’isola che non c’e”‘ is also a space in which to socialise — over the Christmas period, we hope to organise a puppet theatre in Arabic and Italian”. “L’isola che non c’e”‘ is inspired by the national “Born to read” project, which is promoted by the association of the same name, by the Cultural Association of Pediatricians, the Italian Association of Libraries and the Children’s Health Centre. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Warns of ‘People’s Wrath’ if Polls Rigged

The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Opposition movement, on Tuesday warned the government of the “people’s wrath” if this month’s parliamentary elections were rigged, but ruled out violence by his group.

In a posting at the group’s website, Mohammed Badie said that the time had come to rally all efforts and forces to “safeguard the national ship before the (ruling) National Democratic Party sinks it.”

The Brotherhood is expected to contest 134 of the 508 seats up for grab, with its candidates running as independents to get around a ban on religious parties.

The group, which controls 20 per cent of the seats in the current Parliament, has accused the government of arresting dozens of its members since it announced it would run for election.

Dissident Mohamed ElBaradei, former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has urged Opposition parties to boycott the vote but so far none has responded to his call.

Meanwhile, the Forum of Independent Human Rights Organizations, a coalition of Egyptian rights groups, charged that violations in the poll, “started early for these elections,” and warned that a government crackdown on Opposition candidates would seriously dent the credibility of the parliamentary elections.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Obama Enhancing Palestinian Positions Worldwide

White House ready to blame Jewish construction for failure of talks

The White House is working with the Palestinians to enhance their diplomatic stature in the U.S. and in European countries as a step toward the possible unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state, a senior Palestinian Authority official told WND.

The official also said the White House is considering issuing a declaration in the coming weeks that will largely blame Israel for stalled talks to create a Palestinian state.

The statement, to be issued if talks don’t quickly jumpstart, will declare Israel’s Jewish communities in the West Bank and eastern sections of Jerusalem to be a main impediment to an Israeli-Palestinian deal.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Baghdad Christian Attacks: ‘Strategically Defeated’ Al-Qaida Return

Just over two years ago, the US intelligence community declared al-Qaida in Iraq a spent force. The words “strategically defeated” were invoked by generals and politicians to describe a foe that had the US on the run throughout five years of war. “Now they’re back,” says the head of Iraq’s interior ministry intelligence division, General Hussein Kamal. “It’s like 2004 again.”

As Iraq slides back towards sectarianism, al-Qaida has become a looming beast no one wants to speak of, while blaming everyone else for the rising bloodshed. A chilling picture of the group is taking shape — crystallised by the attacks on Baghdad’s Christians. Four weeks of interviews with the Guardian reveal an organisation that has emerged from a pounding from all sides — and a severe shortage of funds — to once again pose a lethal threat to almost anyone in Iraq. “They are capable and committed now,” said Kamal. “They are pure al-Qaida, not a mixture of groups like before.”

Throughout 2007, the Sunni insurgency was crippled by three factors. First, al-Qaida overplayed its hand in an area that had welcomed its members as guests and was taken on by its hosts, or forced out of town. Operations to clamp down on border crossings also started to work, coinciding with a decision by militant leaders to send jihadis elsewhere, especially Afghanistan and Yemen. The third factor was the US troop surge, which led to the deaths of thousands of al-Qaida loyalists and the detention of tens of thousands more.

Al-Qaida’s resurrection was rooted in its demise. “They used their time in prison to plot, appoint ranks, train and regroup for the mayhem they were always going to cause when they were freed,” said General Ahmed Saadi, commander of the Iraqi army 6th division. “Almost 80% of our arrests now are veterans of Bucca [the defunct US prison camp].” Since July, the group has launched brazen attacks on Iraq’s central bank, Baghdad’s military head-quarters and the city’s largest Catholic cathedral. It has also launched devastating days of bombings, at all points of the country in August and all around Baghdad’s Shia neighbourhoods one week ago.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Bombs Kill Six Baghdad Christians, Sow Panic

A string of anti-Christian bombings has cost six more lives in the wake of the Baghdad church bloodbath, sowing panic in Iraq’s 2,000-year-old minority on Wednesday, many of whom now want to flee.

“Since Tuesday evening, there have been 13 bombs and two mortar attacks on homes and shops of Christians in which a total of six people were killed and 33 injured,” a defence ministry official said. “A church was also damaged.”

An interior ministry official earlier gave a casualty toll of three dead in 12 of the attacks across the Iraqi capital early on Wednesday.

The attacks come less than two weeks after 44 Christian worshippers, two priests and seven security personnel died in the seizure of a Baghdad cathedral by Islamist gunmen and the ensuing shootout when it was stormed by troops.

On November 3, Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the cathedral hostage-taking and warned it would step up attacks on Christians.

As Christian converged on their churches on Wednesday to seek counsel from their religious leaders, a Syriac Catholic archbishop made an emotional appeal for Western countries to come to their rescue.

“It would be criminal on the part of the international community not to take care of the security of the Christians,” Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka said inside the church targeted on October 31 where he tried to console his flock.

“Everybody is scared,” he said. “People are asking who is going to protect them, how are they going to stay on in Iraq. We are trying to encourage them to stay patient.”

The scarred church in the central district of Karrada became a focus of the fears of Christian families.

“For the past two years now my wife has been trying to persuade me to leave the country, but I didn’t agree,” said 42-year-old labourer Raed Wissam from the Dora district of southern Baghdad.

“Today, I feel sure she’s right because I don’t want to feel guilty if something bad happens to one of my children.”

Wissam said he was woken up at 6:00 am (0300 GMT) by an explosion. “I ran up to the roof to see what was going on and I heard three more blasts, with three Christian homes targeted. My two children wept.”

Emmanuel Karim, a 27-year-old IT worker, was about to go to work from his home in Camp Sara, central Baghdad, when a bomb exploded. The apparent target was the car of his uncle, who was among those killed on October 31.

“Fifteen minutes later, a second bomb exploded, killing a neighbour who was trying to put out the fire in the car … He was a Muslim. He was my friend,” said Karim, fighting back the tears.

He said devotees were gathering at churches to try to join the Christian exodus which has been picking up pace since the US-led invasion of 2003 of now violence-plagued Iraq, where their community’s roots date back two millennia…

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Iraq’s Christians Terrorized by New Wave of Bombings

BAGHDAD — Suspected Sunni militants took aim again at Baghdad’s dwindling Christian community, setting off a dozen roadside bombs Wednesday and sending terrified families into hiding behind a church where walls are still stained from blood from an attack nearly two weeks ago.

Five people were killed and 20 were wounded in the bombings and mortar attacks that targeted Christians across the city, police and hospital officials said. Iraqi Christians are already reeling after the earlier attack on a Sunday Mass service left 68 people dead, and many are now wondering whether it’s time to leave their homeland.

At a house on the grounds of Our Lady of Salvation Church, Karim Patros Thomas was under no illusion that the community is under siege.

On Oct. 31, Thomas’ brother-in-law bled to death on the church floor after militants stormed the building, shot congregants in the first row, held others hostage and then set off bombs when Iraqi forces came to the rescue. Then Wednesday morning, two bombs went off in quick succession outside his home.

“We are terrified,” Thomas said, who sought refuge with his family Wednesday at the church. “I cannot go back to my house. They will attack again. They want to kill us.”

A priest at the church, Moukhlis Shash, said four families arrived Wednesday, and he expects more in the coming days. He said some of the families found on their doorsteps a bullet wrapped in paper that read: “Your blood is legitimate for us.”

Security was beefed up around churches in Baghdad after the church massacre, possibly pushing the militants to target the homes as easier targets.

Several police vehicles, equipped with machine-guns, surrounded the church Wednesday. The building’s outside walls were still riddled with bullets. Pictures of two priests, killed in the siege, hung above the main entrance. Pieces of black cloth, each adored with a white crucifix, were tied to the metal fence surrounding the church.

Police said at least 11 roadside bombs went off within an hour Wednesday in three predominantly Christian areas of central Baghdad. Two mortar rounds also struck Christian enclaves of the predominantly Sunni neighbourhood of Dora in south Baghdad. Two bombs planted in deserted Christian homes in western Baghdad destroyed two houses.

The night before, a series of bombs hit three empty houses belonging to Christians but no one was hurt.

“It’s not worth staying in a country where the government is not able to protect you even when you are sitting in your house,” said Juliet Hana, a 33-year-old Christian who lives in one of the neighbourhoods targeted Wednesday. She was having breakfast with her daughter when she heard the bombs go off, and said she plans to leave soon for either Syria or Jordan.

Catholic officials estimate that more than 1 million Christians have fled Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Many went to Syria, which in recent days has seen a greater number of arriving Iraqis than usual.

Sargon Dawod, director of the Assyrian General Conference in Damascus said eight families — 30 people — have immigrated to Syria over the past 10 days. He expects that number to increase.

Fadel Mikha Sam’an, 66, said he went to Syria four days ago after losing three relatives in the church attack.

“The terrorists are killing Christians. They want to empty Iraq of Christians,” he said.

           — Hat tip: CB3[Return to headlines]

Turkey to Set Up Trade Zone With Syria, Lebanon, Jordan

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, NOVEMBER 8 — Turkey and its regional friends Syria, Lebanon and Jordan are planning to formally create a free trade zone in January, and some analysts say in the future it could transform into a pact with political elements. The four countries in June agreed to launch the free trade zone to boost economic cooperation. On the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York in late September, foreign ministers of the four nations met again to confirm their objective to create the trade area. Under current plans, as daily Hurriyet reports, the free trade zone will officially be created in early 2011, most probably in January, when leaders of the quartet meet for a summit in Istanbul.

Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Vatican Appeals to Iraqi Govt to Protect Christians

Six dead, dozens hurt in Baghdad attacks

(ANSA) — Vatican City, November 10 — The Vatican appealed to the Iraqi government to protect Christians after fresh attacks in Baghdad Wednesday left at least six dead and dozens hurt. The bombings of Christians’ homes came after an October 31 suicide bomb attack on a Baghdad church in which 52 people died.

“Iraqi authorities should take into serious consideration” new moves to protect Christians, said Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state.

He said the Vatican was concerned about recent attacks in Iraq and a growing exodus of Christians from Middle Eastern countries.

Bertone also cited attacks on Christians in other parts of the world, like Pakistan.


Italy condemned the attacks and said it would urge the European Union to take up the issue.

The Italian foreign ministry “strongly condemns the attacks against Christians in Iraq,” said spokesman Maurizio Massari.

He voiced “strong concern over the situation for Christians in Iraq and more generally over the treatment of Christian minorities in the Middle Eastern area”.

Massari said Foreign Minister Franco Frattini had requested the issue be discussed at the next European Union foreign ministers’ meeting.

He added that Italy was “in close bilateral liaison” with Iraqi authorities. photo: a bombed-out home in Baghdad

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Why Do Christians Remain Silent About the Persecution of Christians in Muslim-Majority Societies?

By Barry Rubin

Christians in Iraq have been, and not for the first time, deliberately targeted in a major terrorist attack. Indeed, from Indonesia to Pakistan to Iraq, from the Gaza Strip to Egypt to Sudan to Nigeria, Christians are being assaulted, intimidated, and murdered by militant Muslims.

Yet virtually never do Christians in any of these countries-perhaps with some occasional exceptions in India—attack Muslims. In the West, there have been no armed terrorist attacks on Muslims or the deliberate killing of Muslims. There does not exist a single group advocating such behavior.

Have you seen any of this in the Western mass media? Have any Christian church groups-some of which find ample time to criticize Israel-even mentioned this systematic assault? Indeed, on the rare occasions that the emigration of Christians is mentioned, somehow it is blamed on Israel, as one American network news show did recently.

I’m not writing this to complain about double standards, since one takes this problem for granted, but out of sheer puzzlement. Presumably, much of the Western media and intelligentsia-along with a lot of the church leadership, assumes that it is impossible for a non-Western, “non-white” group to ever be prejudiced. There is also a belief that if one dares report the news about pogroms carried about by Muslims against Christians it will trigger pogroms by Christians against Muslims.

The Catholic Church is quiet because it fears that complaints will increase persecution. Indeed, at a recent high-level Synod for the Middle East, leading Catholic clerics from the region blasted Israel and talked about how wonderfully Christians are treated in Muslim-majority countries. Iraq was singled out as a country where there were no problems in Muslim-Christian relations. Apparently, though, appeasement isn’t working.

The al-Qaida terrorists said that all Iraqi Christians would be “exterminated” if two “Muslim women” in Egypt were not freed. Apparently, these were two young women, both married to Coptic Christian priests, unlikely candidates for conversion to Islam. They were in fact kidnapped and forcibly converted.

Thus, aggression against Christians is turned into a rationale to persecute Christians, a pattern we have often seen used elsewhere by Islamists…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

South Asia

A Smiling Obama Returns to Bloody Jakarta

Indonesian genocide in East Timor

[WARNING: Graphic content]

The media narrative is that Barack Hussein Obama is returning to the place where he grew up as part of a diplomatic tour. The truth is that Obama is visiting a genocidal country and paying homage to its regime, even while many of the atrocities continue.

While Obama found time to blast Israel for building housing in Jerusalem, he made no mention of the Indonesian genocide in East Timor. No word about the Indonesian mass murder of between 100,000 to 200,000 people in a country whose population totaled little more than half a million. Shortly after Obama left Jakarta, the Indonesian regime began an occupation that lasted until 1999. An occupation armed and aided by successive US administrations.

But there is a reason you won’t hear about the meat hooks where Indonesian backed militias hung their victims, before mutilating and killing them. You won’t hear about the fields of the dead where the corpses of men, women and children were piled into mass graves. You won’t hear of the machete squads who hacked people to death in full public view and on video. You certainly won’t hear about the ethnic cleansing, the mass deportations, the gang rapes or even the murder of Western reporters. And there’s a simple reason for all that.

Indonesia is a Muslim country. Their victims in East Timor were Christians.

To understand the significance of Obama’s biography — imagine that an American President who grew up in Nazi Germany on the eve of war, wrote only about his idyllic childhood running around the streets of Berlin and learning to read Mein Kampf, and then returned decades later, with no concession that a genocide had occurred here.


You must be raped because you are Chinese and non-Muslim

The Kopassus special forces, Indonesia’s answer to the German SS, are still out and about. In 1998, Kopassus thugs gang raped hundreds of Chinese women in Jakarta. Some were burnt alive. The victims were as young as 10 years old and some were thrown into burning buildings afterward. The attackers proclaimed to their victims, “You must be raped because you are Chinese and non-Muslim.”

And because of that, because the perpetrators were Muslim and the victims non-Muslim, the whole thing was quickly swept under the rug.

This is the real Jakarta, the city of Barack Hussein Obama’s nostalgia. It’s the ugly truth lurking behind his “exotic” biography. During his remarks with the Indonesian President, Obama got laughs when he mentioned how much Jakarta had changed since he was there. Of course one of the reasons for those changes is that the 1998 riots torched many non-Muslim businesses. The ‘joke’ was akin to mentioning how different Berlin looks since Kristalnacht.


Ended a longstanding ban on US cooperation with the Kopassus forces

In July, Robert Gates visited Jakarta, and ended a longstanding ban on US cooperation with the Kopassus forces. This was obviously not done on his own initiative. Such a radical departure from established US policy would have come from the top down. And the top is the self-proclaimed Jakarta street kid, full of nostalgia for his former adopted country. Barack Hussein Obama.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: First Lady’s Handshake Uncovers Muslim Male Chauvinist

There was a recent major culture shock as the First Lady Michelle Obama shook hands with Indonesia’s information minister Tifatul Sembiring. Apparently any touching of women who aren’t family members is strictly forbidden according to Sembiring’s dogmatic male chauvinistic interpretation of Islam.

Now he’s stating that the First Lady made him do it, but that is not indicated in the video of the event. He shook hands with President Obama, no biggie on that one, and then shook hands with Michelle. What was he supposed to do, give her the snub right in front of her husband?

Some people are blaming the First Lady for not being aware of Sembiring’s culture. I don’t believe that this is fair. She is going through a whole line of people shaking their hands. How is she supposed to know which people, if any, are going to get all bent out of shape about it?

This demonstrates an enormous culture and values difference between equal rights-loving America and some religious leaders who are oppressive toward women. Should American’s have tolerance of any man who can’t shake the hand of a woman without feeling ashamed and complaining that she made him do it afterwards? What would John Wayne have said? Well, Prophet Muhammad said: “Women are the twin halves of men.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Muslim Minister Claims He Was ‘Forced’ To Shake Hands With Michelle Obama on Indonesian Visit

An Indonesian politician has come under attack for shaking hands with Michelle Obama, swiftly resorting to Twitter to announce it as forced contact.

Tifatul Sembiring, the country’s information minister, flaunts his conservatism, and as a Muslim he claims to avoid touching women who aren’t related to him.

Indonesia — which has the world’s largest Islamic population, the vast majority moderate — had been debating how to handle encounters between the First Lady and observant Muslim officials far in advance of the Obamas’ arrival in the country.

Sembiring sought to deflect criticism by claiming that Tuesday’s skin-to-skin contact was all Michelle Obama’s fault.

‘I tried to prevent [being touched] with my hands but Mrs. Michelle held her hands too far toward me [so] we touched,’ Sembiring tweeted.

Footage on YouTube shows otherwise, sparking a debate that has lit up Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the blogosphere.

The minister was among the dignitaries in a receiving line that greeted President Barack Obama and his wife as they arrived in Jakarta on Tuesday — a homecoming of sorts for the president who spent part of his childhood here.

Indonesians gathered around television sets across the country to watch the American president touch down. Children at the school he attended practised a song dedicated to him just in case he visited.

In footage of the official welcome, Sembiring appeared to share his countrymen’s enthusiasm. He smiled broadly as he shook the president’s hand and then reached with both hands to grasp Michelle Obama’s. But later he said she forced their contact.

His denial was in a response to tweets from Indonesians who noted the handshake and questioned his long-standing claims that, as a good Muslim, he restricts his contact with women.

Many posts had a ‘gotchya’ quality to them.

One female journalist — who said the minister had refused to shake her hand — gleefully noted that now he would no longer be able to wriggle out of it.

Sembiring has often tweeted controversial comments, including blaming natural disasters on a lack of morality and joking about Aids.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Obama Hails Indonesia as Example for World

US President Barack Obama has held up Indonesia as an example of how a developing nation can embrace democracy and diversity.

He was speaking in Jakarta on a visit to the world’s largest Muslim nation.

Mr Obama said innocent people across the world were still targeted by militants but emphasised that the US was not at war with Islam.

Analysts say it is his biggest attempt to engage the Islamic world since a speech in Cairo last year.

Mr Obama was speaking at the University of Indonesia, before an audience of 6,000 people. ‘Shared values’

In his address, he touched on the four years he spent in the country as a child and emphasised the importance of Indonesia’s example as a growing economy and a majority-Muslim nation that is largely tolerant of other religions.

“Today, I return to Indonesia as a friend, but also as a president who seeks a deep and enduring partnership between our two countries,” he said.

“Because as vast and diverse countries; as neighbours on either side of the Pacific; and above all as democracies — the United States and Indonesia are bound together by shared interests and shared values.”

He also highlighted the role religion had played in Indonesia’s development, praising the country’s spirituality and “rich diversity”.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Vows to End ‘Years of Mistrust’ Between West and Muslim World as He Impresses Indonesians With Local Language

  • Obama describes Indonesia as shining example of tolerance and democracy to other Muslim countries
  • President speaks in Indonesian, telling students ‘I’ve come home to the village’ after returning to country he lived in as a boy
  • He and wife fit in visit to mosque and university before fears Air Force One will be grounded by volcanic ash force them him to fly to South Korea early
  • Former neighbours reveal he was known as ‘chubby Barry’, the naughty ‘boy who runs like a duck’

U.S. President Barack Obama today vowed to try and repair relations between the West and the Muslim world in a bid to end the ‘years of mistrust’.

Mr Obama, who is visiting Indonesia, also said the world’s most populous Muslim country — where he lived as a boy — was a shining example to others.

In a speech peppered with Indonesian phrases, he said: ‘Your achievements demonstrate that democracy and development reinforce one another.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Singapore Airlines is Forced to Change Rolls-Royce Engines on Three Superjumbos

Singapore Airlines is to replace British-built Rolls-Royce engines on three Airbus A380 planes it was announced today.

A superjumbo was flown back to Singapore without passengers after oil was reportedly spotted on one of the giant turbines while at Heathrow airport.

Engines on this airliner and two others in Australia will be replaced with new versions of the same model which exploded on a Qantas jet last week.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Tajikistan Recalls Students From Cairo, Fearing Fundamentalist Influence

Tajik authorities demand the return of more than a thousand students attending the prestigious al-Azhar University. Egypt so far has repatriated 134 students because they did not have a residency permit. Tajikistan fears extremist groups might recruit students. For months, the Tajik military has been fighting armed groups on the border with Afghanistan.

Dushanbe (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Tajikistan is recalling all its students attending Al-Azhar University, considered by most as the greatest place of learning in the Islamic world. For months, Tajik authorities have been trying to get Tajik students to come home fearing they might joint Islamic terror groups.

“On Monday . . . Tajik Airlines returned about 134 young Tajiks to the country from Egypt, where they were studying,” a spokesman for the Tajik Ministry of Religious Affairs said.

About a thousand Tajiks are studying at al-Azhar, and Tajik authorities want all them to come home. However, Egypt has only repatriated those who had entered the country illegally, and had no valid residency permit.

In August, Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon went on television to urge families to stop sending their children to foreign religious schools (pictured madrassah), fearing they might be recruited by Islamic terror groups.

On 4 September, dozens of students and professors on an Iranian plane waiting on the tarmac of Dushanbe International Airport were forced to disembark because they failed to provide the Ministry of Religious Affairs with adequate information about the reasons for their trip to Iran.

Funded by Saudi Arabia, Al-Azhar has tried to distance itself from Islamic fundamentalists. In 2001, it branded the perpetrators of the attacks on the World Trade Centre as heretics. But its alumni include many militants, such as Omar Abdel-Rahman, who is currently serving a life sentence in the United States for his role in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombings; Hassan al Banna, one of the founders of the banned Egyptian group, the Muslim Brotherhood; and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, one of the founders of the Palestinian Hamas.

Tajikistan is the poorest of former Soviet republics. It faces a terrorist threat, the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which claimed responsibility for an ambush on a military convoy in September that killed 28 troops. Tajik authorities also blame terror groups for a suicide car bombing the same month.

Since September, Tajik forces have been engaged in a sweep operation against militants in the Rasht Valley on the border with Afghanistan.

The two countries share a border of about 1,300 kilometres that Tajik troops are unable to fully control.

A civil war in the early 1990s is still fresh in people’s memories. At the time, supporters of President Rakhmon defeated Muslim extremists but at the price of tens of thousands of dead.

An Islamic university and about 20 official madrassah exist in the country. However, thousands of students travel to Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other countries for an education. Unofficially, at least 4,000 students attend religious schools in Pakistan alone.

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

‘Touching’ Event for First Lady

WASHINGTON — Who made the first move?

A conservative Muslim government minister in Indonesia admits he shook hands with First Lady Michelle Obama, but claims it wasn’t his choice.

The minister, Tifatul Sembiring — who avoids physical contact with women outside of his family — said he tried to avoid shaking the first lady’s hand on an official receiving line when the Obamas arrived in Jakarta, but it happened anyway.

“I tried to prevent [being touched] with my hands but Mrs. Michelle held her hands too far toward me [so] we touched,” Tifatul wrote on his Twitter account after the incident. TABOO-BOO! Minister Tifatul Sembiring insists Mrs. Obama made the first move in a forbidden handshake in Jakarta, where she and the president arrived yesterday. Reuters TABOO-BOO! Minister Tifatul Sembiring insists Mrs. Obama made the first move in a forbidden handshake in Jakarta, where she and the president arrived yesterday.

But footage of the handshake on YouTube tells another story: The awestruck minister can be seen eagerly reaching out both of his hands to grasp the first lady’s hand while flashing a huge smile.

That sight prompted a wave of sarcastic comments in the blogosphere from critics who were shocked by the unexpected glad-handing in the euphoria over the Obamas’ visit.

One female journalist who said Tifatul had refused to shake her hand wrote that he would no longer be able to wiggle out of it in the future.

Tifatul, who is married with seven children and has a degree in computer engineering, has attracted attention before for some of his tweets, including one where he made a joke about AIDS.

In a land that has suffered from tsunamis and volcanoes, he has also blamed natural disasters on a lack of morality.

Once active in numerous Islamic organizations, Tifatul has proposed screening the Internet for “negative” content, but his proposal was shelved in early 2010 in the face of widespread opposition. His plan would have created a blacklist of offensive material to be monitored by a special task force.

The minister previously quoted Adolf Hitler on his Twitter page, posting “the union between two children, when both of them complete each other, this is magic — Adolf Hitler.”

The arrival of the first couple is big news on the island nation, the world’s fourth most populous country, which also has the largest population of Muslims.

At a state dinner yesterday, Michelle Obama wore a brown and black designer dress.

But her most vibrant display of the trip occurred while visiting Mumbai, when first lady joined in a festive dance during a Diwali celebration with Indian children, waving her arms and dancing.

She also played hopscotch and joined a drum and tambourine circle with kids.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

New Retreat From Global Warming Data by Australian Gov Bureau

Global warmers is in full retreat as Aussie experts admit growing doubts about their own methods as a new study shows one third of temperatures are not reliable.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) admits it was wrong about urban heating effects as a professional statistical analysis by Andrew Barnham exposes a BOM claim that “since 1960 the mean temperature in Australia has increased by about 0.7°C; the BOM assertion has no empirical scientific basis.

Barnham, who spent 8 years working in emerging South Asian economies building high volume transaction processing systems, applied a high-tech statistical technique very different from an earlier well-publicized probe by fellow Aussie, Ken Stewart on his blog, Ken’s Kingdom.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Teen in Coma After Bridge Plunge Attack

A teenager is in a coma after being thrown off a bridge and beaten by a gang in Sydney’s west.

The 18-year-old man suffered head injuries after plunging into a creek at about 8.20pm (AEDT) on Wednesday.

Police say he had been walking across a bridge from Mawson Street to Cabramatta Avenue at Miller with a 19-year-old friend, when he was approached by a group of five males.

There was an argument and a fight broke out before the victim was thrown over the bridge.

He made his way back up onto the bridge where he was then punched and kicked.

The group of five then fled the area on foot.

The victim was taken to Liverpool Hospital with swelling to his brain and fluid on his lungs.

He was placed in a coma and is in a serious condition.

His friend was not injured.

Police from Green Valley Local Area Command have launched an investigation.

They are attempting to identify and locate the five males, who are described as being of Pacific Islander appearance and aged in their early 20s.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Green Valley Police via Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]


UK: £1,500 Bribes to Send Foreign Inmates Home: Tories Adopt Policy They Called ‘Outrageous’

Foreign rapists and muggers are being offered £1,500 each in cash if they agree to go home part of the way through their sentences.

When they leave they receive a cash card loaded with £500.

A further £1,000 of British taxpayers’ cash will be payable within the first three months of their arrival home.

The card will be programmed to work in ATM machines around the world.

Details of the controversial ‘bribes’ emerged after David Cameron promised to get foreign convicts go home rather than clog Britain’s jails.

The payment is three times the amount of cash that was offered by Labour, which had a similar scheme to send foreign convicts home.

The offer is even available to criminals who have served their entire sentence in Britain — at a cost of £45,000 a year.

They will get a cash payment of £750.

In opposition, the Tories said the scheme was ‘simply outrageous’. Dominic Grieve, then Conservative justice spokesman, said: ‘The lesson is clear: under Labour, crime pays and the taxpayer foots the bill.’

Now the Coalition says the scheme will save money, because it is cheaper than forcibly removing foreign criminals or leaving them in jail.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Foreign Criminals to be Paid £1,500 to Go Home

Foreign murderers, rapists and other criminals are being offered cash bribes of up to £1,500 to return home after serving their sentences.

The Coalition has trebled the amount of money offered to prisoners who go back to their country of origin voluntarily Photo: ALAMY

The Coalition, which wants to ease the pressure on overcrowded jails, has trebled the amount of money offered to prisoners who go back to their country of origin voluntarily.

Those who agree to return with up to nine months left to serve will receive a bigger payout than those who go at the end of their sentence, in an attempt to create more space in prisons.

Hundreds of criminals who have no right to remain in the country are likely to take advantage of the offer each year, costing the taxpayer millions of pounds.

Critics attacked the payouts as “obscene” when law-abiding families and victims were facing higher living costs, falling wages and widespread austerity measures.

The incentives, first offered by the Labour government in 2006 in an attempt to avoid drawn-out deportation battles, were criticised by the Tories when in opposition.

Under Labour, most of the support was made up of benefits in kind to ease resettlement, such as help with setting up a business or obtaining training or education.

The most the criminals were offered in cash was £500. The money is put on a prepaid card which means the criminals can go straight to a bank and withdraw the funds.

They are given £500 as they leave the country and another £1,000 within a month of arriving in their home country.

All they have to do is explain to the International Organisation for Migration, the body which runs the scheme overseas for the Home Office, how they intend to use the cash.

The handout is meant to help freed prisoners pay for such things as accommodation, setting up a business or medical treatment but officials were unable to say if any checks were carried out to see how the money was spent.

Foreign criminals could squander the cash and try to sneak back in to Britain.

The payouts have been tied in to an early release scheme under which foreign prisoners can have up to nine months cut from their jail term if they agree to return home.

Those who go early will be eligible for the full £1,500, while those who go at the end of their sentence will be eligible for £750.

British prisoners are given a £46 grant when they leave jail.

Last year, almost one in three — or 1,660 — of the 5,535 foreign criminals removed from Britain went voluntarily after accepting a handout, including a Malaysian migrant, Agnes Wong, who killed a 17-month-old baby.

If a similar number goes next year the bill for the taxpayer will be almost £2.5 million.

In opposition, Dominic Grieve, now the Attorney General, labelled the scheme “simply outrageous” and meant “crime pays and the taxpayer foots the bill”. Damian Green, who is now the immigration minister, said the then government had abandoned any attempt at removing foreign criminals and was instead “paying them to leave”.

On Tuesday, he said: “Every day that a foreign national is held in prison costs the taxpayer money, that is why I want to see them removed from the UK at the earliest opportunity.

“The Facilitated Returns Scheme is a practical solution that not only saves the taxpayer money in the long run, but also means foreign criminals are removed as soon as possible, denying them the opportunity to reoffend or drag out the removal process with frivolous appeals.”

The Home Office said the move would save money because the overall value of the package had been cut. Under the old system, packages were worth up to £5,000 but the majority was assistance “in kind” which is no longer available.

Lin Homer, the chief executive of the UK Border Agency, told the Commons home affairs select committee the change was “due to the current economic situation”.

Philip Davies, a Conservative backbencher, said: “People say crime does not pay but obviously it does if you are a foreign criminal. It seems quite obscene that criminals are basically being given £1,500 bribes for abusing our hospitality and committing a crime.”

On Tuesday it emerged that just a third of the 1,013 foreign prisoners wrongly released without being considered for deportation have been removed from the country since 2006.

More than 400 have been told they can stay, 121 are still facing deportation, 22 are serving new sentences and 70 are still missing.

           — Hat tip: MarmedukeF[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UN Facilitates Christian Persecution Worldwide

As if the United Nations’ failure to address the persecution of Christians weren’t bad enough, that international body’s resolution called “Defamation of Religions” will lay the legal ground work for a country to legalize persecution of their citizens if they believe in a different religion than the state. Such a resolution would be of great assistance to Muslim, communist and socialist nations who view the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Holy Bible impediments to their political or theological goals.

Few should be surprised that the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), an inter-governmental organization of 57 states with majority or significant Muslim populations, has been working for several years through the United Nations system to justify and advance the Defamation of Religions Resolution. The Resolution, introduced in the UN, seeks to criminalize words or actions that are deemed to be against a particular religion, especially against Islam.

Although proponents justify the “defamation of religion” concept as protecting religious practice and promoting tolerance, opponents say it really promotes intolerance and human rights violations of religious freedom and freedom of speech for religious minorities in these countries.

The Defamation of Religions Resolution has the effect of providing international legitimacy for national laws that punish blasphemy or otherwise ban criticism of a religion.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Cricket Balls: Tiny Insect Named as Animal With the World’s Biggest Testicles

It may only be half the size of a human finger, but this cricket is hiding a big secret: it has the largest testicles in relation to its body weight in the world.

Scientists have discovered that the male Tuberous Bushcricket has testes which are 14 per cent of its whole body mass.

To put this into perspective, a man with the same proportions would have to carry testicles weighing as much as five bags of sugar each.

This beats a species of fruit fly (Drosophila bifurca), thought to be the previous record holder for the biggest testes as a percentage of male body mass, at 10.6 per cent.

But despite this, the bushcricket does not necessarily produce the largest amount of sperm — contrary to traditional thinking — according to the study.

The research, led by biologists at the University of Derby, is published today in Royal Society Journal Biology Letters.

Lead researcher Dr Karim Vahed, Reader in Behavioural Ecology at the university, said: ‘We couldn’t believe the size of these organs; they seemed to fill the entire abdomen.

‘We are also interested in the reason why they are so large.

‘An almost universal evolutionary rule appears to be that such variation in relative testes size is linked to female mating behaviour.

‘Testes tend to be larger in species where females are more promiscuous, as has been demonstrated in various species in fish, birds, insects and mammals.

‘But at least two hypotheses could account for this pattern — sperm competition on the one hand and male mating rate on the other.

‘Yet our study appears to be the first study to show that, in the case of the Tuberous Bushcricket, bigger testes don’t necessarily produce more sperm per ejaculate.’

In the study Dr Vahed, Derby biology graduate Darren Parker, and Dr James Gilbert from the University of Cambridge compared relative testes size across 21 species of bushcricket.

They found testes were proportionately larger in species where females mated with more males — female Tuberous bushcrickets mate with up to 23 different males in their two-month adult life.

But they also found the bushcricket did not produce more sperm — in fact they produced less ejaculate.

They said a traditional assumption was that larger testes produce more sperm per ejaculate, giving males an advantage in sperm competition.

That competition is most intense when a female of a species mates with many males, so the male who produces the most sperm is often assumed to have an advantage, leading to development of larger testes in such species.

But more promiscuous females also increase the number of mating opportunities available for the male.

So it is possible larger testes have evolved in species that mate with more than one partner, allowing more ejaculate to be produced so they can have more successive matings, the scientists said.

‘Traditionally it has been pretty safe to assume that when females are promiscuous, males use monstrously sized testicles to deliver huge numbers of sperm to swamp the competition — even in primates,’ Dr Gilbert said.

‘Our study shows that we have to rethink this assumption.

‘It looks as though the testes may be that big simply to allow males to mate repeatedly without their sperm reserves being exhausted.’

Dr Vahed added: ‘This strongly suggests that extra large testes in bushcrickets allow males to transfer relatively small ejaculates to a greater number of females.

‘Males don’t put all their eggs (or rather sperm!) in one basket.’

The scientists said their findings could give insight into links between endowment, promiscuity and reproduction within insects in the biological world.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Is Being a Goody Two-Shoes in Your Genes?

How likely are you to part with your hard earned cash for the benefit of those who are less well off? As with so many things these days, the answer to that question could be partly down to your genes — at least according to numerous news stories this week.

The reports come from research at the University of Bonn, Germany, led by psychologist Martin Reuter, which suggests that people with a certain variant of a gene called COMPT gave twice as much money to a good cause than those without the variant.

Previous research looking at a genetic basis of altruism has pointed to links between certain genes and altruistic behaviour, but the research relied on self-reported data — in other words, asking respondents how likely they would be to behave altruistically.

To get around this problem, Reuter’s team gave 101 people the opportunity to donate money they won in a computer based task to charity, or keep it for themselves. Participants thought that how much they donated was a secret, but Reuter reports in a press release that the researchers knew how much money was in the cash box beforehand and could therefore calculate the amount donated:…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]