Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20101111

Financial Crisis
»Bickering Likely to Lame G-20 Summit
»Germany Blamed for Irish Debt Soar
»Irish Contagion Hits Wider Eurozone
»Obama’s Debt Commission Recommendations Include $961 Billion in Tax Hikes
»UK: Handing Millions of Jobs to Foreigners While Benefits Bill Soared Was a ‘Sin’, Declares Smith
»Almost Half of US Could be Obese by 2050
»Islamic Extremism Expert Speaks to ROTC Students, Civilians
»Jewish, Muslim Interfaith Group Dying Out
»Muslim Students’ Female-Only Swim at GWU Makes Waves
»NASA’s Next Big Space Telescope to Cost an Extra $1.5 Billion
»New York Meeting Builds Movement Against Grand Jury, FBI Repression of Anti-War Activists
Europe and the EU
»Austria: Ambassador an ‘Arrogant Turkish Nationalist’
»Italy: More Misery in Italy After Fresh Wave of Bad Weather
»Italy: Photos of Premier’s ‘Bunga Bunga’ Parties Exist Claims Paparazzo
»Italy: Berlusconi Eyes ‘Deal’ In Bid to Keep Government Alive
»Opinion: The Brilliantly Honest Pat Condell About ‘Free Speech’ In Europe
»Sweden: Men Locked in Mosque During Terror Raid
»Trial of Dutch Anti-Islam MP to Resume Soon
»Turkey Sets Five Priorities for Council of Europe
»UK is Cocaine Capital of the Western World as Number of Young Britons Using the Drug Shoots Up by 50 Per Cent
»UK: ‘Honour Killing’ Pair Convicted
»UK: Afghanistan Military Secrets Sold for £18.87 on Ebay After Army Officer Dumped Laptop in a Skip
»UK: Halal Meat is Being Served in Schools, Hospitals and Pubs — Even Though Vets Say Islamic Slaughter is Cruelthe Mail Went Undercover at an Abattoir to Find the Truth
»UK: Hague: This Government Will Not Give Any More UK Rights to the European Union
»UK: Lutfur Rahman Puts Fundamentalist Sympathiser in Charge of the Money
»UK: Muslims Cut Bodies for Faith
»UK: Muslims Against Crusaders Protest Group Bares Al-Muhajiroun Hallmarks
»UK: Operation Muslim Vote: Phil Woolas, The Labour Party and Muslim Bloc Voting [Reader Comment]
»UK: Poppy-Burning Muslim Protesters Mar Armistice Day Commemorations as Millions Fall Silent to Remember War Dead
»UK: Tory Councillor Arrested Over Twitter Stoning Post
»UK: Thugs Who Hurled Fire Extinguisher Off Roof on to Police During Student Demo May be Charged With Attempted Murder
»EU: No More Visas From Albania and Bosnia, Council’s OK
»Serbia: Israeli Interested in Agricultural, Metal Industries
North Africa
»Israel Tells Its Citizens to Leave Egypt, Citing Kidnap Plot
»Libya: Magazine and Agency Shut Down,30 Journalists Arrested
Israel and the Palestinians
»Gaza Aid Team Trapped on Greek Boatsix British Volunteers and Mavi Marmara Survivors Israeli Commandos Intercept the Mavi Marmara in May. Two of Those on Board Are Also on the Boat Surrounded by Libyan Warships. Photograph: Kate Geraghty/Getty Images
»Israeli Settlers Burn Church in Jerusalem
»Palestinian Authority Seizes Atheist After He Criticizes Islam on Facebook and Blog
Middle East
»Italy: Saudi Arabia: Female Military Personnel Enter Customs Service
»Shipping: Turkey’s Town Becomes Demolition Center of Europe
South Asia
»Obama ‘Glad’ To Meet Indian Communists
»Obama’s Latest Muslim Outreach Effort Fails to Echo Beyond the Land of His Childhood
»Pakistani Christian Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy: A Campaign Like for Sakineh
»Pakistan: Bomb Levels Building in Largest City
»Pakistani Taliban Claims Responsibility for Karachi Attack
Far East
»Asian Students Suffering for Success
»China Stakes Its Claim as U.S. Rival in Innovation
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Boer Farmers Head for New Home in Georgia
»Canadians Want to Mix Up
»Canadian Immigration: Push for Demographic Morbid Obesity
»Mexican Transgender Asylum Seeker Allowed to Stay in U.S.
»Nancy Pelosi Wants Dream Act Vote
Culture Wars
»Anti-Racism Website Bizarre, Offensive to ‘Real’ Edmontonians
»The ‘American Dream’ Is Actually Swedish: Study
»The NGO Army of George Soros & Maurice Strong
»UK: ‘Christmas Cancelled’: Head Tells Older Pupils ‘No Nativity This Year… You Need to Concentrate on Your Studies’
»UK: Fancy Dress Students Told: You’re Not Coming in University Bar… Your Zombie Make-Up is Racist
»Chocolate Could Become as Rare as Caviar, Experts Warn
»Official Climate Science Ignores Essential and Critical Details Right at the Surface
»Study Reveals Physics of How Cats Drink

Financial Crisis

Bickering Likely to Lame G-20 Summit

The days of close cooperation among the world’s big 20 economic powers may have ended. With the economic recovery, displays of envy and egotism have reared up at this year’s G-20 summit in Seoul. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is on a confrontation course with Washington over trade policy.

The plan concocted by South Korean organizers of the G-20 summit is cunning. Anything negotiators fail to agree on before the start of the actual G-20 summit on Thursday night in Seoul will be left off the table when the world leaders assemble. Anything! But please don’t be upset. This summit, after all, is the first of its kind in an Asian country, and from a South Korean perspective it needs to be a major success.

For now, though, success looks very far off.

The global leaders are expected to finally pave the way for new equity capital rules for banks through the Basel III proposal and the reform of the International Monetary Fund. But the progress in the financial market regulations and the staged harmony won’t be able to cover over the fact that a shadow is hanging over this summit.

At the height of the financial crisis, this club of the most powerful industrialized nations presented itself as a body that would close ranks and react swiftly to distortions in world markets. Now that the economy has recovered in many areas, though, the pressure to cooperate is sinking and egoism seems on the rise. Instead of unity and resolve, the order of the day is distrust and bickering. Disputes over issues like global disparities in trade balances, or alleged currency manipulation, or unfair competitive advantages have marked this year’s summit, and at the heart of the conflict are the United States, China and Germany.

Palpable attempts at verbal disarmament — which US President Barack Obama put in writing, again, in a letter to his summit colleagues — have not amounted to much. Washington has accused governments with large trade surpluses of seeking growth in their own economies at the expense of other nations. The criticism has been directed largely at China and Germany — two nations upon which the US would like to impose export limits and oblige Beijing and Berlin to spur domestic consumption.

Tone from Washington Rubs Merkel Wrong Way

The harsh tone used by US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner recently in making the American case has led to resentment in Berlin and Beijing. For German Chancellor Angela Merkel, such an aggressive negotiating style is a non-starter. She realizes that anyone who declares lofty goals in such a vigorous manner can quickly wind up the loser.

World leaders looking for a fight, though, may find one with Merkel. She dispatched her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, and economics minister, Rainer Brüderle, to argue against the Americans’ demands. Then she personally made clear that Germany would not be yoked to any sort of export quotas at the G-20 summit. Speaking at the Business Summit, a meeting of top executives held on the sidelines of the G-20, Merkel said fixed upper limits for trade surpluses or deficits would be “neither economically justified nor politically appropriate.” Moreover, she said, they “would be irreconcilable with the goal of free global trade.”

Indeed, the summit’s final resolution paper will include no concrete numbers to shape a firm framework to resolve imbalances in world trade. Negotiations over the final formulations are scheduled for Thursday, and the understanding around Seoul is that they’ll be very tough.

Notably, Merkel left Germany with well-rehearsed words of praise for the Chinese. They’ve shown exemplary engagement with Europe, she said, and they’ve proven to be a “good companion for our budgetary policy.” Of course, Berlin would rather stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Washington. But the unspoken message was clear: Drive us into a corner, and we’ll find other powerful allies.

So in Seoul, the Americans appear to be on trial. They haven’t yet brought their economy into line and they still sit on a gigantic state deficit of $1.3 trillion (just under €1 trillion). Washington is a long way from halving its deficit — although that was the goal it announced at last year’s G-20 summit. Last but not least, of course, the US Federal Reserve announced Friday that it would take the controversial step of buying up to $600 billion in American treasury notes. These massive purchases of its own government’s sovereign debt amount to a policy, by the Fed, of printing money.

The Germans were not alone in complaining that Washington wants to artificially depress the value of the dollar with this glut of new cash (in order to grab an unfair advantage in the world export market). And Washington pursued this course right after criticizing Beijing for holding the yuan artificially low…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany Blamed for Irish Debt Soar

Concerns Ireland will require an International Monetary Fund-EU bail-out helped push yields on 10-year Irish Government bonds up to around 9pc, a record, as investors demanded higher returns to shoulder the risk.

Markets worry whether Ireland will be able to pay its debts, given its costly bank bail-out, weak growth and a huge budget deficit of 14.4pc of GDP, the eurozone’s highest.

British taxpayers took a hit as shares in Royal Bank of Scotland fell 2.7pc to 41.02p on fears over the state-backed bank’s exposure to the Irish market through an estimated £50bn of loans. One source said some traders were using the bank as a proxy to short Ireland.

Brian Lenihan, Ireland’s finance minister said the spike in borrowing costs was partly driven by “unintended” German comments proposing bondholders be forced to take losses or “haircuts” if sovereign debt is restructured.

The market nerves pushed the spread between Irish 10-year bond yields and German yields to well over 6 percentage points, a new record. The cost of insuring Irish debt against default also hit a fresh high.

“The bond spreads are very serious and there is international concern throughout the eurozone about that,” said Mr Lenihan, adding he would look for clarification of the German plans. He also tried to reassure that comments from Ireland’s central bank governor — that IMF austerity plans for Ireland would not differ greatly from Dublin’s — were not laying the ground for aid.

Germany has indicated the proposals would not apply to existing debt, but fears over potential losses are high after France said on Wednesday that investors must share in the cost of safeguarding debt.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel argued on Thursday that taxpayers could not keep being told they “have to be on the hook for certain risks, rather than those who make a lot of money taking those risks.”

Although the Irish government is fully funded into the middle of next year, analysts warned politicians’ talk of haircuts risked creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that Ireland and other debt-laden nations will have to restructure.

Irish yields are now well above the levels Greece faced just before it saved from defaulting through a €110bn (£93bn) loan in the spring, according to Capital Economics.

“The most likely outcome now is that Ireland will need to receive assistance from the EU/IMF,” said Gary Jenkins at Evolution, who estimated a funding requirement of around €43bn over two years.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Debt Commission Recommendations Include $961 Billion in Tax Hikes


Obama’s debt commission recommends $961 billion in tax hikes. reported: Nearly $1 trillion. Certainly that’s a big enough tax hike to warrant prominent mention in a broadcast evening news show — especially after an election fueled by anger against government overspending and potential tax hikes.

Yet, only one of the three broadcast evening shows mentioned that number in its report about the debt commission’s preliminary recommendations that shook Washington on Nov. 10. The preliminary report called for tax cuts, tax increases, a rise in the retirement age, some spending cuts, and changes to Social Security and Medicare.

That night, CBS’s Chip Reid was the only reporter to point out that “overall taxes would increase because many popular tax breaks would be slashed.” One of the tax breaks in jeopardy: the home mortgage interest deduction. Reid cited the $961 billion cost estimate (over 10 years) from Americans for Tax Reform in his “Evening News” report.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Handing Millions of Jobs to Foreigners While Benefits Bill Soared Was a ‘Sin’, Declares Smith

Iain Duncan Smith branded worklessness a ‘sin’ yesterday as he unveiled sweeping proposals to combat a benefits culture that is now a ‘national crisis’.

He published long-awaited plans to strip benefits from the workshy for up to three years but ensure that those who take a job will keep at least 35p in every extra pound they earn.

The Work and Pensions Secretary’s plans for a Universal Credit, which will replace dozens of other benefits, is designed to ensure that 700,000 of Britain’s poorest claimants will be better off from 2013.

Mr Duncan Smith announced that the historic change to the welfare state will lift 500,000 adults and 350,000 children out of poverty by 2017 and reduce the number of workless households by 300,000.

The tough measures mean that those who ‘serially and deliberately’ refuse work, decline interviews or turn up drunk or unprepared will lose their benefits, first for a week or two and then for months at a time.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Almost Half of US Could be Obese by 2050

IN 40 years 40 per cent of the US population will be obese, according to a new prediction based on American trends.

Alison Hill’s team at Harvard University developed a statistical model to predict the spread of behaviours through a social network of friends, family and neighbours, together with those behaviours that spontaneously arise without social influence.

The researchers applied their model to data taken over the last 40 years on the spread of obesity in 7500 people living in Boston.

Two per cent of the population became obese each year, with a person’s chance of becoming obese increasing by 0.5 per cent for each contact they had with an obese person. Taking into account recovery rates from obesity and extrapolating to the wider population, Hill’s model predicts obesity levels will plateau in about 40 years, at which time 42 per cent of Americans will be obese.

The prevalence of obesity in the Boston group has historically tracked closely with US levels, so the findings could indeed be valid nationwide, says Hill (PLoS Computational Biology, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000968).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Islamic Extremism Expert Speaks to ROTC Students, Civilians

Michael Knapp feels he has a firm understanding behind Islamic extremist’s attitudes toward the West.

The expert on Muslim extremism gave a presentation titled “Understanding Islam and Its Extremes” to about 130 at Charles V. Park Library Wednesday, which included a mix between ROTC members and civilians.

Knapp graduated from CMU in 1978 and has been in intelligence analysis his entire career. He was brought back as a presenter for the Nolde Lecture Series, which is sponsored by the Military Science and Leadership Department.

“I felt for the type of things we’re trying to accomplish, it is perfect because it covers a broad range of topics,” said Military Science Professor Lt. Col. Aaron Kalloch. “There was a mixture of cadets and regular students, and that is exactly what I wanted to see.”

Knapp began by giving a synopsis of the history of the Islamic faith and a breakdown of the basic sects — Sunnis and Shiites. He also explained sub-sects and their beliefs.

“Islam is still a big part of many of the news stories we are confronted with today,” Knapp said, “it’s very important for Americans to understand other cultures.”

Knapp delved into many aspects of Islam and explained the origins of the ideologies of the extremists, including “the case against the West”.

He also outlined many of the stresses from the outside world on Islamic countries.

“Jihadists, even though they carry out violent attacks, are a small minority of the Muslim population,” Knapp said. “And Jihad does not mean ‘holy war’. It means the struggle in God’s cause, but the radicals have changed the meaning of that.”

Knapp said Muslim and Arab culture are very past-oriented because of their nervousness about the ambiguity of the future and since violence is a recurring theme in Islamic history, radical ideas still resonate with some Muslims.

“I thought it was very interesting to hear the differences between the Sunnis and the Shiites and their religions,” said Allen Park sophomore and ROTC cadet Dominic Monte.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Jewish, Muslim Interfaith Group Dying Out

A New York Jewish-Islamic interfaith group has become all but derailed due to Jewish suspicions of the intentions of the Muslim group, members said.

The national effort on the part of rabbis and the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which operates in cooperation with the Islamic Society of North America, to forge better relations between the two religions’ clergy is going by the wayside because Jewish community members view the interfaith “twinnings” as a deception on the part of radical Muslims, the Buffalo News reported Thursday.

In western New York, two rabbis who participated in a local twinning weekend in 2009 have detached themselves from the effort.

The Muslim group is a controversial national organization that federal prosecutors have linked to an international group accused of fostering Islamic fundamentalism.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Muslim Students’ Female-Only Swim at GWU Makes Waves

Colleges strive to create welcoming, inclusive communities for students from every background. But a new effort at George Washington University has scores of critics and supporters abuzz with heated comments that continue to pour in on various blogs and news articles. At the request of the university’s Muslim Students’ Association, George Washington began offering a once-weekly, female-only swim hour in March. But it only recently turned into an online debate over issues of religious and sexual discrimination and — though not always explicitly — racism, spurred by an article in the student newspaper, The GW Hatchet…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

NASA’s Next Big Space Telescope to Cost an Extra $1.5 Billion

WASHINGTON — NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is expected to cost at least $1.5 billion more than current estimates and its launch will be delayed a minimum of 15 months, according to an independent review panel tapped to investigate escalating costs and management issues with the next-generation flagship astronomy mission.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) called for the independent review in June to identify the root causes of cost growth and schedule delays on the JWST.

“The Webb telescope will now cost $6.5 billion, $1.5 billion more than the estimate included in NASA’s February 2010 budget request, Mikulski wrote in a Nov. 10 letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden after reading the Oct. 29 report. “Its launch will be delayed by over a year, from June 2014 to September 2015.”

Led by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., the James Webb Space Telescope is an infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter foldable mirror and a deployable sunshield the size of a tennis court. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems of Redondo Beach, Calif., is prime contractor. An Ariane 5 rocket provided by the European Space Agency is slated to launch the observatory to the second Lagrange point — a gravitationally stable spot 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. [Future of Giant Space Telescopes]

In her letter, Mikulski said NASA must have a sense of urgency and frugality in correcting the JWST’s management problems and present Congress with a realistic budget for the program.

“We cannot afford to continue with business as usual in this stark fiscal situation,” she wrote.

The panel, led by John Casani, special assistant to the director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., attributed the cost growth and schedule delays to “budgeting and program management, not technical performance,” according to the report, which characterized the JWST’s technical progress as “commendable and often excellent.”

However, the report notes that “there may be a number of low probability threats whose occurrence could cause an additional year delay in launch and a correspondingly higher cost.”

The panel recommends restructuring the JWST project office at Goddard to emphasize cost and schedule ceilings. “The flawed practice by the Project of not adequately accounting for threats in the budgeting process needs immediate correction,” the report states.

However, the report also found that “the JWST Project has invested funds wisely in advancing the necessary technologies and reducing technical risk such that the funds invested to date have not been wasted,” according to the executive summary. “The management approach, however, needs to change to focus on overall life cycle cost and a well-defined launch date.”

Bolden, in a Nov. 10 statement, said he agrees with the panel’s findings and that NASA would overhaul the program’s management structure.

“No one is more concerned about the situation we find ourselves in than I am, and that is why I am reorganizing the JWST Project at Headquarters and the Goddard Space Flight Center, and assigning a new senior manager at Headquarters to lead this important effort,” Bolden said in the statement.

The NASA chief said he is encouraged by the panel’s finding that the JWST is technically sound and that the project continues to meet its milestones.

“However, I am disappointed we have not maintained the level of cost control we strive to achieve — something the American taxpayer deserves in all of our projects,” he said. “NASA is committed to finding a sustainable path forward for the program based on realistic cost and schedule assessments.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

New York Meeting Builds Movement Against Grand Jury, FBI Repression of Anti-War Activists

New York, NY — More than 150 movement leaders and concerned individuals packed a standing room-only hall at Saint Mark’s Church in the Bowery on Nov. 6 for the first national meeting of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression.

The national committee was formed after 14 anti-war, international solidarity and labor activists were served subpoenas in late September to appear before a federal grand jury. Many of the activists’ homes were raided, as were the offices of the Anti-War Committee in the Twin Cities. According to a statement made by the targeted activists, “The subpoenas claim that the grand jury is investigating violations of the 1996 law on the issue of ‘material support’ of ‘designated foreign terrorist organizations.’“ (

The first national meeting was held as activists around the country prepare to mobilize for the anticipated reactivation of three subpoenas for Minneapolis anti-war organizers. The room resolved to hold emergency protests the day after it’s known activists have been called to appear before the Grand Jury and to call for a day of action for the subpoena court dates. The committee will also organize another call-in day to U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s offices.

At the meeting, Bruce Nestor of the National Lawyers Guild explained that the material support laws which are the basis of the investigation against the activists are “an attempt to repress U.S. activists’ involvement in solidarity with liberation struggles” in places like Colombia and Palestine. Nestor said the material support laws prohibit providing any resources to groups unilaterally declared a terrorist organization by the Secretary of State, a designation virtually impossible to challenge.

Several of the targeted activists have participated in solidarity delegations to Colombia and Palestine. The governments of Colombia and Israel are among the top recipients of U.S. foreign and military aid and brutally repress those struggling for their rights and freedom under their rule.

Nestor also explained that the June 2010 Supreme Court decision on Holder vs. Humanitarian Aid was “a test case in which the court said that providing any service to a group designated as a terrorist organization, including training on nonviolent methods of conflict resolution” constitutes material support as it would “free up resources that could be spent by the organization on violent activity.”

First amendment activity such as participating in international solidarity delegations, Nestor explained, can now serve as ‘probable cause’ for investigation by the U.S. government under the definition of ‘material support’ which was broadened by the Supreme Court’s decision. As there “is no effective legal restraint on the government to go after international solidarity work,” Nestor emphasized, “the only effective restraint is political.”

The three activists in Minnesota expected to be re-subpoenaed will likely face the choice of testifying against other activists and the wider movement or detention for contempt of court. Whether the term of civil contempt will be shorter rather than longer, Nestor explained, “will be determined by the strength of the political pushback.”

Chicago activist Hatem Abudayyeh — whose home was raided by a federal task force which confiscated “anything that had ‘Palestine’ written on it” — placed the raids and grand jury proceedings in the context of the decades of “systematic attacks on Palestine solidarity work in the U.S.” These attacks began with the wave of Palestinian immigration to the U.S. following Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967 and has spiked sharply since Sept. 11 2001.

“The government is trying to criminalize our movement’s work to support legitimate struggles for freedom across the world,” Abudayyeh said.

Noor Elashi, daughter of Holy Land Foundation cofounder Ghassan Elashi, spoke at the meeting, describing how “U.S. government prosecutors said that the foundation’s humanitarian aid donations to the Zakat or charitable committees in Palestine constituted material support.” The Holy Land Foundation’s offices were raided in December 2001 and less than three years later, Ghassan Elashi and four others involved with the foundation were arrested. After a short trial that resulted in a deadlocked jury, another jury was convened which gave guilty verdicts and decades-long sentences were issued. “With these material support laws,” Elashi said, “it is possible to prosecute anybody and everybody, and everybody is at risk.”

However, it was clear at the meeting that the government is up against a powerful movement that has organized demonstrations against the raids in more than 62 cities. Thousands have called in to Obama and Holder’s offices, as well as U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and an online petition has resulted in more than 200,000 letters to elected officials (

Anti-War Committee founder and targeted activist Jess Sundin reported on a successful effort in Minnesota to circulate a ‘dear colleague’ letter to Obama through the state legislature. Additionally, representatives Keith Ellison (D-MN) have given a commitment to circulate such a letter calling on the president to end the grand jury proceedings, investigate the FBI and reexamine the material support laws in the U.S. House of Representatives..

Tom Burke of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization said that in addition to these efforts there is now a speakers bureau and groups are encouraged to invite targeted activists to speak to their community. Furthermore, 120 solidarity statements have been posted on and activists are encouraged to create and pass resolutions against the raids and grand jury proceedings in their various organizations. There has also been a lot of significant activity in the labor sector, faith organizations have issued a letter with a sign-on statement against the raids and civil rights organizations have held know-your-rights educational events. A student activist from California also reported that Students for a Democratic Society is coordinating an effort to reach out to prominent academics to sign on to a letter condemning the raids.

The room also passed a proposal for the formation of a national coordination committee that will meet via telephone conference every two weeks or as needed. The Committee to Stop FBI Repression is also setting up offices in the Twin Cities that will take on some of the day-to-day organizing work against the grand jury proceedings.

Sara Flounders, of the International Action Center, reminded the room that serious efforts to raise funds need to be undertaken. Individuals and groups from across the country pledged $5000 during the meeting. Flounders also emphasized that the targeted activists’ immediate response to the raids and subpoenas was a call for the movement as a whole to stand up. “This is our movement’s only protection and defense,” she said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Austria: Ambassador an ‘Arrogant Turkish Nationalist’

The Turkish ambassador in Vienna has been branded an “arrogant nationalist” for claiming Austrians were only interested in other cultures when on holiday.

Freedom Party (FPÖ) leader Heinz-Christian Strache said today (Thurs) Kadri Ecvet Tezcan should be dismissed from his post after he gave interview to Viennese newspaper Die Presse which made headlines across Europe.

Strache, whose party garnered 25.8 per cent in the recent Vienna city parliament election (2005: 14.8 per cent), said Tezcan “seems to be a Turkish nationalist with an arrogant attitude”.

The diplomat, who has been Turkish ambassador in Vienna for around one year, infuriated Strache as well as the government coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s Party (ÖVP) by suggesting Austria should “chase away” all foreigners if the country did not want them to live here.

“The Turks (in Austria) don’t want anything from you. They aren’t happy. They don’t want to be treated like a virus,” Tezcan said yesterday.

The ambassador caused outrage among ÖVP leaders by appealing to the party’s Interior Minister Maria Fekter to “stop interfering” in the integration process. Tezcan claimed it was no surprise there were just “police solutions” to the issue as long as the interior ministry was in charge. The former ambassador in Azerbaijan suggested that the social affairs ministry should take over handling immigration issues which have dominated the political debate over the past few months.

ÖVP General Secretary Fritz Kaltenegger said Tezcan had no right to criticise Fekter. “Ministers like Maria Fekter represent Austria abroad, and are therefore also responsible for the country’s excellent reputation in the world,” he said.

SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann labelled Tezcan’s statements as “unprofessional and unacceptable”.

Josef Bucher, head of the opposition Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ), appealed to European Union (EU) leaders to stop the ongoing accession talks with Turkey.

ÖVP whip Karlheinz Kopf decided to write to Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission (EC), because of the interview. Kopf told Barroso he expected a “clear reply” to the claims made by Tezcan.

Most Austrian political leaders have maintained a hesitant approach to the question of whether Turkey should become a member of the EU at some stage. While ÖVP Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger stressed that the negotiations were “open-ended”, polls have shown that just one out of five Austrians want Turkey to join the EU.

Strache claimed today Tezcan’s “vulgar remarks” confirmed that Turkey was “not ready for Europe”. The right-winger, whose party claimed 17.5 per cent in the 2008 general ballot, said Turkey “lacks Western values”. He added that the EU must stop discussing a possible accession of the country immediately.

The FPÖ boss said: “Austria is not a Turkish colony. If the ambassador has any decency, he will apologise to Austrians and resign.”

Before the 10 October Vienna vote Strache controversially claimed that many immigrants were unwilling to integrate. The right-winger warned of a “growing ‘Islamisation’“ of Europe, and stressed he was considering starting an anti-minaret referendum to ensure no further mosques featuring minarets will be built in Austria. Around 500,000 people living in the country are Muslims, but there are just four mosques with distinctive minarets in Austria.

The FPÖ boss has previously also suggested that more and more foreigners were responsible for crimes, while the bestselling Kronen Zeitung newspaper has been campaigning against “organised crime gangs from Eastern Europe” for years.

The ruling Viennese SPÖ branch has been attacked by the FPÖ for allegedly doing too little for “honest, hard-working Austrians” while excessively subsidising foreigners at the same time.

These claims were made after Statistik Austria research showed that foreigners living in Austria have a higher unemployment rate than Austrians. The agency announced last month that 10.2 per cent (48,300) of foreigners living in the country were out of work, while only 4.1 per cent (156,100) of Austrians were jobless.

Its figures also showed that Turks have the highest unemployment rate among ethnic minorities in Austria with 20 per cent, followed by people who came to Austria from former Yugoslavia (10.5 per cent).

Around 895,000 foreigners are living in Austria which has an overall population of 8.5 million. Most of them are Germans (213,000), while people from Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro are the second-biggest group with 207,000. Turks come third with 183,000, while the Bosnian community has 130,000 members.

The Turkish community in Austria consists of 247,000 people if children born to Turkish families in Austria are also considered. Around one out of two Turks living in Austria are residents of the federal capital Vienna.

Tezcan claimed yesterday that Vienna’s Turks “don’t feel welcome here”.

Asked why immigrants from Croatia seem to do better at school than most Turkish kids, the ambassador said: “Croats are Christians and therefore welcome in the society, while Turks aren’t. They are constantly being pushed to the corners of society.”

Tezcan refused to make any further statements towards Austrian press following the stir his interview caused. Turkish media, however, quote him as saying that he hoped his words would have positive effects after all. The diplomat pointed out that he did not want to insult or accuse anyone, according to Turkish press.

Some Austrian commentators have suggested Tezcan deliberately criticised official Austria and its people over a lack of support for his country’s bid to join the EU. Others, however, ruled out that he agreed with Turkish leaders about attacking the Austrian government amid fears that EU decision-makers call off the accession talks which were started five years ago.

The 61-year-old Turkish diplomat was not just criticised by politicians over his claims.

Rapid Vienna star Yasin Pehlivan stressed his statements were “counter productive”. The 21-year-old Austrian national football team ace, who was born to a Turkish family in Vienna, said: “It’s not a good idea to add fuel to the fire after a Vienna city parliament election campaign which has been full of hatred.”

Pehlivan claimed the coexistence between Austrians and immigrants was “generally functioning well”.

           — Hat tip: AMT[Return to headlines]

Italy: More Misery in Italy After Fresh Wave of Bad Weather

Govt allocates 300 million euros to flood-ravaged Veneto

(ANSA) — Rome, November 10 — The southern province of Salerno was hit hardest as more bad weather brought fresh misery to Italy on Wednesday, when Premier Silvio Berlusconi announced aid for Veneto after it was devastated by flooding last week.

Hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes following heavy rain in the night that caused several rivers to burst their banks and widespread flooding in the Salerno area.

Fire fighters and police went out in rescue boats and dinghies to save people and pets stranded by the deluge, including three people found clinging to a tree trunk near the town of Capaccio.

The weather also caused the breakdown of an aqueduct, leaving 14 municipalities without water supplies, including parts of the city of Salerno itself. The damage is massive, above all to the province’s agriculture sector, with whole crops ruined. Farm animals could be seen roaming in some areas after their shelters were washed out.

An invasion of water and mud onto roads blocked several highways and many trees were knocked down by powerful gusts, causing traffic chaos. Thankfully Veneto was spared the worst of the new bout of torrential rain. After visiting the region on Tuesday, Premier Silvio Berlusconi announced Wednesday that the government had allocated 300 million euros to help Veneto recover from the battering it had taken.

“With this allocation of funding we are following up on the promises we made yesterday when we said there would be an immediate intervention,” Berlusconi told a press conference, adding that more money would be forthcoming soon. According to the Coldiretti farmers union, thousands of hectares of Veneto 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 there while entire crops of tobacco, fruit and vegetables were destroyed, along with numerous greenhouses and mushroom fields.

Berlusconi added that the mortgage payments of people hit by the emergency will be suspended thanks to an agreement with the Italian Banking Association (ABI), which will also help the area with 700 million euros in loans to families and businesses.

“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 said during his visit Tuesday.

“The people of Veneto are truly a great people and here I have seen their immediate, vigorous and able response”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Photos of Premier’s ‘Bunga Bunga’ Parties Exist Claims Paparazzo

Milan, 11 Nov. (AKI) — Photographs exist of the alleged sex parties held by flamboyant Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi at his residence in Arcore near Milan, according to a controversial Italian photo agent. One of the sex games played at the alleged parties was called ‘bunga bunga’ according to a teenage Moroccan bellydancer and reported guest of Berlusconi’s known as Ruby.

“The photographs exist,” said Fabrizio Corona, the former business partner of prominent showbusiness agent Lele Mora, who is among several people currently being probed by prosecutors for abetting prostitution.

“But there’s no newspaper or magazine that would publish them and no agency would offer them,” he said in Milan on Thursday.

Corona was attending his appeal against the three year and eight month prison sentence he received in December 2009 for blackmailing Italian motorcyclist Marco Melandri and champion Brazilian striker Adriano.

“Right now, I couldn’t care less about Mora,” Corona stated.

“I couldn’t care less about Ruby either,” he added, whose alleged relationship with Berlusconi has intensified calls for his resignation.

Opposition politicians called for Berlusconi to step down for alleged ‘abuse of office’ after evidence emerged that he ordered police in Milan to release Ruby, who was then aged 17, from custody. She was detained on suspicion of stealing several thousand euros and jewellery from an acquaintance.

The girl, who uses her stage name, Ruby Rubacuori (Ruby the Heartbreaker), claimed in newspaper reports that she was a guest at the Arcore villa, where after-dinner sex games were played, including ‘bunga bunga’. She also said he gave her cash, a car, jewellery and clothes, according to Italian media reports.

Ruby denies she had sex with Berluconi, who has been embroiled in several previous scandals involving a teenage Naples underwear model as well as prostitutes who claim to have slept with the 74-year-old premier at his residences.

Berlusconi denies having ‘improper’ relations with any woman or ever having paid for sex. He claims he helped Ruby solely out of kindness.

Corona, a photographer, owned a photo agency and was dubbed ‘the king of paparazzi’ for snapping VIPs including Serie A soccer players and other personalities, including Fiat heir and playboy Lapo Elkann.

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

Italy: Berlusconi Eyes ‘Deal’ In Bid to Keep Government Alive

Rome, 11 Nov. (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi will offer to change the national election law if political rival and former ally Gianfranco Fini agrees to keep the government in office with his parliamentary support, newspaper Corriere della Sera reported on Thursday.

A revised election law would allow voters to cast ballots in favour of a single person rather than a bloc of candidates from a single party, the newspaper said. Electors currently must cast one vote for a party list. These lists are closed, so no individual candidates can be chosen.

Italians voted in the last national election in 2008 with the same electoral system used in 2006, based on party-list representation. This electoral systems allow parties to formally define coalitions.

The coalition with the largest number of votes nationwide then obtains an absolute majority of seats in the lower house of parliament. In the upper house or Senate, absolute majorities of seats are awarded regionally.

Fini, who over the weekend launched his own party, was expected to meet Thursday with governing coalition partner Northern League leader Umberto Bossi, who will ask Fini to keep supporting Berlusconi.

Berlusconi is attending the G-20 summit in Seoul which opened on Thursday.

Fabrizio Cicchito, lower house of parliament leader for the ruling People of Freedom party, on Thursday said any deal must allow Berlusconi to continue serving as prime minister.

“After this it is an open discussion,” he said.

Fini on Sunday said he would bring the government down if Berlusconi didn’t resign and unveil a new programme to boost economic growth in Italy’s poorer southern regions, curbing unemployment, and electoral reform.

Top Berlusconi aide Gianni Letta on Wednesday expressed his doubt that the government would serve out its full five-year mandate, which expires in 2013.

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

Opinion: The Brilliantly Honest Pat Condell About ‘Free Speech’ In Europe

While most readers know about the recent free-speech trial involving Geert Wilders, another such trial is coming up in Austria on November 23. Pat Condell speaks about it in his latest video, forcefully defending free speech in contemporary Europe.

While the trial of Dutch MP and Islam-critic Geert Wilders has been creating a furor in the press, another high-profile trial of a critic of Islam in Austria — Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff — has been largely overlooked even though both trials have much in common.

Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, an Austrian citizen who has lived in Iran, Iraq, Libya and Kuwait, will stand trial on November 23 in Vienna, the country’s capital. Similar to Geert Wilders, Mrs Sabaditsch-Wolff is accused of ‘incitement to religious hatred’ during a seminar she gave in 2009.

The interesting fact about the seminar alleged to have been filled with hate-speech is that she mainly quoted verbatim from the Koran (Al Qur’an). However, it is not the text itself that is on trial, though it is filled with hate speech, misogyny and discrimination, but the woman who quoted the text in order to educate and enlighten her audience.

While her detractors accuse her of being a self-declared expert on Islam, she has claimed no such status. However, having lived — as a woman and mother — in four Islamic countries and having read all relevant scripture (Koran, Hadith, Sunnah), she clearly knows what she’s talking about.

A lengthy interview with her about the past accusations and the future trial can be found at Europe News. It is in German but does have English sub-titles.

Patrick Condell (November 23, 1949) is an Irishman and became first known as a comedian. Meanwhile, however, he is appreciated worldwide for the variously sharp and satirical monologues he delivers on sites such as LiveLeak and YouTube. As of October 2010, Condell’s YouTube channel alone had over 134,000 subscribers and over 27 million views.

Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, has said that

“Pat Condell is unique. Nobody can match his extraordinary blend

of suavity and savagery. With his articulate intelligence he

runs rings around the religious wingnuts that are the targets of

his merciless humour. Thank goodness he is on our side.”

On his own website, called Godless Comedy, Condell greets the faithful visitor with the following words:

Hi, I’m Pat Condell. I don’t respect your beliefs and I don’t

care if you’re offended. Cheers. Now that we’ve got the

formalities out of the way, welcome to my website.

A version of this video without the Dutch subtitles can be found on watch it on YouTube.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Men Locked in Mosque During Terror Raid

The Gothenburg police are facing more criticism following revelations that they locked eight men in a mosque when responding to a terror threat on October 30th.

The eight men were reportedly locked in a mosque located at the Römosse school in Gothenburg’s Gårdsten neighbourhood where they were forced to wait for three hours without being given any information, the Göteborgs-Posten (GP) newspaper reports.

One of the men forced to stay in the mosque was elderly and begged police to be allowed to leave because he lacked certain medication, but his request was refused.

Police raided the mosque because one of the four men they planned to arrest had attended the mosque for morning prayers.

Those who were locked in the mosque by the police had no other connection to the terror accusations other than that they happened to be in the mosque when police arrived.

Detective Bertil Claesson, who heads the northeast Gothenburg police unit, regretted the incident.

Ahmed Al-Mofty, chair of the Islamic Information Society (Islamiska informationsföreningen), met recently with Ingemar Johansson, head of the county police in Gothenburg.

During the meeting, Al-Mofty complained about the police’s actions at the mosque.

“The police surely wouldn’t have behaved that way if they were entering a church or a synagogue. What happened is totally insane,” he said.

However, the men who were locked in the mosque have no plans to pursue the matter further.

“No, not for the moment. We’ve received a sincere and acceptable apology from Ingemar Johansson. But the police need to learn more about Muslims and mosques, that’s obvious,” said Al-Mofty.

Speaking about a week after the incident, head prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand explained that there was a bomb threat in Gothenburg at the time of the mosque raid and police were justified in acting quickly. Unfortunately, added Lindstrand, people were arrested who had nothing to do with the threat.

Police conducted their raids against a number of people in connection with the bomb threat in central Gothenburg based on information from witnesses, Lindstrand wrote in a statement on the website of Swedish Prosecution Authority (Åklagarmyndigheten).

According to the witness information, that up to 100 people could die in an attack on a certain part of central Gothenburg on Saturday, October 30th.

Based on the threat, Lindstrand, together with Swedish security service Säpo and the Västra Götaland County police, decided to conduct a quick series of raids which included making arrests and searching properties.

“That the actions affected people whom were quickly revealed to be free of suspicion by the investigation is clearly regrettable,” wrote Lindstrand.

He still believes, however, that the information on which the decision to conduct the raids was based was credible.

The information was also connected with “certain surveillance observations”.

According to Lindstrand, there is still a conceivable threat in connection with suspected terror crime preparations.

Lindstrand is the head of the Public Prosecution Office for Security Cases (Åklagarkammaren för säkerhetsmål). His actions and those of the police are now being reviewed by prosecutor Björn Ericson with the Swedish National Police Crimes Unit (Riksenheten för polismål).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Trial of Dutch Anti-Islam MP to Resume Soon

The trial of Dutch anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders for inciting hatred will resume shortly in Amsterdam with new judges, judicial authorities have said.

Mr Wilders is on trial charged with inciting hatred and discriminating against Muslims. The trial was suspended when the defendant’s lawyer raised objections against the judges. The impartiality of one of the judges was questioned when it turned out he had had a private conversation about the case with a defence witness prior to the trial.

Although the witness in question, Islamologist Hans Jansen, was present in the courtroom when the allegations were made, the court denied Mr Wilders’ attorney Bram Moszkowicz the right to question him about the private meeting with Judge Tom Schalken.

The objections made by the defence were upheld, and the judges have been replaced.

Mr Wilders rejects the charges of hatemongering against Muslims and claims that he is speaking the truth in calling Islam an aggressive ideology which promotes terrorism.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Turkey Sets Five Priorities for Council of Europe

As Turkey takes the reins of one of Europe’s top institutions, the Council of Europe, for a six-month term, representatives outline five main focus areas for their work: reform, reducing workloads, fighting discrimination, empowering institutions and facilitating the EU’s decision to join the European Convention on Human Rights

On taking the chairmanship of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe for six months, Turkey said it has set five priorities to make the 61-year-old European body more visible and more active.

“Turkey’s chairmanship will make every effort to put the Council of Europe back on the international scene as an innovative, more flexible and feasible organization so that it can adapt itself to the changing political landscape,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said during Wednesday’s handover ceremony.

At the ceremony the outgoing Macedonian chair transferred the six-month tenure to Davutoglu at the Palais de Conceil de l’Europe. Turkey last chaired the council in 1992. The passing of the torch to Turkey occurs as another Turk, Mevlüt Çavusoglu, serves as head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, placing two prominent Turkish politicians at the top of one of the oldest international organizations working for European integration.

“The expectations from Turkey are quite high. Turkey is seen as an important actor and that’s why its chairmanship of the council is noteworthy,” Daryal Batibay, Turkey’s permanent representative to the Council of Europe, told a group of visiting Turkish journalists Wednesday. “We are ready to do our best.”

According to diplomats, Turkey’s six-month tenure will be important because it could guide ongoing efforts to diminish anti-discriminatory policies across the continent.

Among Turkey’s priorities are: continuing reforms at the council; actively contributing to reforming the European Court of Human Rights to reduce its burden [that condemned Ankara more than 2,000 times — source HLN]; assisting in a report to the Committee of Ministers next May in Istanbul that will recommend ways to fight growing discrimination, racism and Islamophobia; empowering independent inspection institutions and facilitating an adequate environment for the completion of ongoing negotiations between the EU and the council for the former’s decision to join the European Convention on Human Rights, one of the most fundamental documents of the Strasbourg-based council.

“We are aware this is an ambitious program for the chairmanship,” Davutoglu said. “At a time when the Council of Europe is at a crossroads, we did not have another option.”

“It’s the first time the EU will be answerable to another institution. Our initial plan is to finish talks before our chairmanship expires,” Batibay said. After the EU signs the convention it will be possible for the citizens of 47 countries to file complaints against Brussels on several issues including the Schengen visa regime. “There are so many sovereignty issues that the EU members have transferred to Brussels. One of the most important is the visa regime. In the future, in the case of unfair treatment the citizens of council countries will be able to go to the court,” Batibay said.

Visibility important

For Daniel Holtgen, the council’s director of communications, Turkey’s chairmanship is very important: “I think this chairmanship provides an opportunity for Turkey to strengthen its European profile in European arenas. On the one hand it will help Turkey further align with the EU, while on the other it will help us learn more about contemporary discussions in Turkey.”

Holtgen also said Turkey’s chairmanship would also boost the council’s visibility on the international platform thanks to its experienced and outspoken politicians.

Çavusoglu-Davutoglu duo

“The lack of harmony between the PACE and the Committee of Ministers is no secret in Strasbourg,” an anonymous senior Council of Europe official told a group of Turkish journalists Tuesday. He said two Turks administering the institutions could help push the bodies toward better cooperation. “But Turkey’s influence will be limited because the problem is much more structural.”

“We are going to work together with Foreign Minister Davutoglu,” Çavusoglu told a group of visiting journalists Wednesday. “But I’m more content with how both the Committee of Ministers’ and PACE’s priorities overlap.”

Çavusoglu and Davutoglu will together attend the Steering Committee meetings Thursday in Antalya, where the Turkish foreign minister will inform PACE members on Turkey’s priorities.

Landmark events

During Turkey’s chairmanship the most important event will take place in Istanbul on May 11, when the ministers of the council’s 47 member countries will meet. Another important meeting will take place in Izmir in April when the European court’s reform process will be discussed in detail. Another important meeting will take place in late November, with the participation of justice ministers from member countries.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

UK is Cocaine Capital of the Western World as Number of Young Britons Using the Drug Shoots Up by 50 Per Cent

British youngsters have become the greatest consumers of cocaine in the developed world, according to a major international study.

It found that numbers of young people using the drug in this country have shot up by 50 per cent over five years.

This means Britain has left other countries which face major cocaine problems — in particular the U.S. and Spain — far behind in the league table of those worst-affected.

Cocaine use among teenagers and young adults has rocketed since the 1990s as the popularity of other drugs has fallen off and prices have dropped to the point where a line of coke can be bought for just £2.

But the study by the European Union drugs monitoring agency said that consumption of cannabis, ecstasy and amphetamine in Britain still remain the highest or close to the highest in Europe.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Honour Killing’ Pair Convicted

Two cousins who became the first suspects ever extradited to Britain from Iraq have been jailed for life for the “honour killing” of a 20-year-old woman.

Mohammed Ali and Omar Hussain were found guilty of murdering Banaz Mahmod in January 2006 after she fell in love with a man disapproved of by her family.

Banaz, of Mitcham, Surrey, was subjected to an horrific assault, strangled, and stuffed in a suitcase found buried under a Birmingham patio three months later.

Ali was told he must serve at least 22 years behind bars and Hussain was given a minimum term of 21 years.

In a letter handed to police weeks before she died, Banaz had named Hussain and Ali as men “ready and willing to do the job of killing me”.

Judge Brian Barker, the Common Serjeant of London, told them: “This was a barbaric and callous crime.”

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Afghanistan Military Secrets Sold for £18.87 on Ebay After Army Officer Dumped Laptop in a Skip

An Oxford-educated army officer’s laptop containing military secrets was sold on the internet for £18.87 after he threw it in a skip.

Captain Robert Sugden, 29, was today being investigated by MoD chiefs after the security breach which risked the lives of soldiers in Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan veteran’s scavenged computer, sold on eBay for ‘spares or repair’, could have been used to deadly effect by the Taliban.

Files — none of which required passwords — included troop numbers, patrol details, ammunition stock lists and locations of every police command post in a Helmand town.

The shocked buyer, who handed the laptop to the MoD, also found it contained hundreds of photos, along with names and other details, of locals risking their lives by joined the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army.

Also stored on the Toshiba Satellite A30 laptop was a copy of the Afghan National Police’s tactical handbook, giving details of every aspect of how to take on and defeat the enemy, including how to identify IED roadside bombs.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Halal Meat is Being Served in Schools, Hospitals and Pubs — Even Though Vets Say Islamic Slaughter is Cruelthe Mail Went Undercover at an Abattoir to Find the Truth

A few hours before dawn, and even through the inky blackness it is clear this is no ­ordinary warehouse. Outside the building, gusts of wind send hay and straw flying, and the air is thick with the acrid sent of manure.

Despite the darkness, I can see blood trickling down the gutters and a group of men clutching knives. Every so often, the eerie scene is ­punctured by the sound of lambs bleating.

I am standing outside one of Britain’s abattoirs. To the casual observer, it is no different to any other slaughterhouse, though it’s strange to find one so close to a city centre that it’s within ­walking distance of Birmingham’s branch of ­Harvey Nichols.

I have visited several abattoirs for research purposes over the years, and by their very nature they’re noisy and messy places, with vats of blood and entrails.

The main difference here, though, is that this abattoir produces halal meat, in accordance with strict Islamic guidelines. Put simply, this means the animals killed here are not stunned with an electrical current — as they are at ­conventional slaughterhouses — to render them unconscious before they are dispatched.

Instead, they are fully conscious as their throats are slit by a slaughterman as he utters prayers to Allah to ‘bless’ the animal. The ­creature then bleeds to death in a process that can take more than 30 seconds.

Killing an animal by cutting its throat without stunning is, in fact, ­illegal in this country. ­However, there is a legal loophole allowing this if it is being done for religious reasons — in other words, for the production of halal or kosher meat.

But this is an exemption that the British ­Veterinary Association and the Government’s advisers, the Farm ­Animal Welfare Council, are objecting to, saying this form of slaughter causes ‘intolerable cruelty’. They have repeatedly demanded that it be banned.

Yet recent reports have suggested that it is not just devout Muslims who are consuming halal meat. Two months ago, it was revealed that supermarkets such as Waitrose and Tesco, fast food chains including McDonald’s, schools, ­hospitals, pubs and famous sporting venues such as Ascot and Wembley are serving up halal meat to unwitting customers.

So where does halal meat come from, and what is the truth behind its ­burgeoning use?

According to the World Halal Forum, which ­promotes halal and is holding its European ­conference in London, there are two million ­consumers in Britain.

Until now, it has been difficult to ascertain facts. Halal meat producers have ­consistently rejected requests to show journalists around their British ­abattoirs and factories.

When I applied to be shown around a number of halal slaughterhouses, calls went unreturned and messages unanswered for weeks.

So I decided to go undercover, ­posing as a potential buyer of halal meat for a fictional chain of high-quality ‘bespoke meats’. After four weeks, I finally ­managed to find an abattoir willing to show me the entire production ­process — from ‘squeals to meals’.

Once I had outlined my fictional ­business proposal, a Birmingham-based company called Mr Meats agreed to show me around its abattoir. The owner, Masti Khan, was unfailingly polite and eager to please.

Mr Meats slaughters around 1,000 animals a night, mostly sheep and goats, but occasionally cattle, too.

When I step inside, the first thing that hits me is the overpowering stench — a nasty, fatty smell that sticks in the throat.

And then there’s the noise of ­machinery, interspersed with bleating animals and the slaughtermen ­uttering prayers.

Hundreds of sheep and lambs are penned up in tiny stalls. From time to time, one tries — and fails — to escape by leaping over the bars of its pen. But then the same would be true of any abattoir.

It is only when it comes to the actual slaughter that the differences become apparent. I watch — and secretly film — as the animals are herded onto a ­conveyor belt that leads them to the slaughterman, who is wearing a blue hairnet over his hair and beard in ­accordance with hygiene requirements.

Grabbing one lamb at a time, he pulls back its head and slits the throat with a swift movement from his razor-sharp knife.

Blood gushes everywhere as he recites the Islamic Bismillah prayer in Arabic: ‘In the name of Allah, the most gracious, the most merciful.’

One of the supervisors, who oversees the firm’s 50 or so largely Muslim employees, explains to me the ­religious principle behind this process.

‘Animals that are stunned are not halal. An animal that is unconscious is not going to listen to the prayer.

‘In the Holy Book, it says that the animal should listen to the prayers of Allah. If it’s unconscious, then it won’t be able to do that.’

Lamb after lamb has its throat sliced open while fully conscious. They make pitiful bleating and gurgling sounds as they choke on their own blood. It’s a chilling sound that, once heard, stays with you for days Though the deep incision to the neck cuts through the animal’s windpipe and main arteries, the creatures are still able to cry out.

During my two-hour visit, I watch as lamb after lamb has its throat sliced open while fully conscious. They make pitiful bleating and gurgling sounds as they choke on their own blood. It’s a chilling sound that, once heard, stays with you for days afterwards.

And then there’s the fact that the animals can witness each other being killed as they travel along the ­conveyor belt. Their hooves twitch wildly as they try to break fee.

One lamb cries out for more than 20 seconds before it flops off the end of the conveyor belt and on to a rotating table. From there, it is shackled by its hind legs and hauled up to the ceiling on a hook, where it is left with a dozen others to ‘bleed out’ — another ­important part of the halal process.

Of course, no slaughter of an animal is easy to watch. But it is hard to remain dispassionate as I watch ­dozens of still-conscious animals bleeding to death, the floor covered by an inch of warm, frothy blood.

I find myself siding with the British Veterinary Association in its claim that the process is more inhumane than conventional stunned slaughter. Surely it would cause less suffering for the animals to be stunned first.

That is not to say that conventional abattoirs operate without fault. ­Earlier this year, I investigated an organic slaughterhouse, certified by the Soil Association, that had been secretly filmed by the welfare group Animal Aid.

Inside, the staff were caught beating animals and failing to stun them before cutting their throats.

Steve McGrath, chief executive of the Meat Hygiene Service, later said: ‘I have watched the film and have seen abject cruelty by the slaughtermen to the animals being killed; ­ineffective stunning; animals having their necks dislocated and heads decapitated before being fully bled; pigs being kicked; and shackling before stunning.’

Similar problems were found in every one of the seven slaughterhouses that Animal Aid secretly filmed, despite the presence of ­Government appointed vets. At least in this halal abattoir, I do not witness any deliberate mistreatment.

It is impossible to find out how many animals are killed in halal abattoirs. The last Labour administration ordered the Meat Hygiene Service to stop keeping records.

It was ostensibly a cost-cutting measure, but animal welfare groups fear it was to help disguise the rapid growth of the halal meat industry.

However, the last available figures, from 2004, suggest that 114 million halal animals and 2.1 million kosher ones are killed annually.

However, some halal producers — aware of the controversy that ritual slaughter can provoke — do stun their animals first, causing huge tensions within the Muslim community over the interpretation of what is, and isn’t, halal meat.

Some organisations, such as the Halal Monitoring Committee, post inspectors inside abattoirs, including Mr Meats, to ensure that animals are not stunned before their throats are cut.

Other organisations, however, say that stunning is acceptable. Nizar Boga, an Islamic scholar and former adviser on dietary issues at the ­London Central Mosque, says: ‘The Prophet told us about the need to care for animals, especially during slaughter. It’s absolutely forbidden in Islam for an animal to be aware of death during slaughter.

‘Organisations like the Halal ­Monitoring Committee are frightening decent Muslims for their own ends. They are making money from this.

‘Their interpretation of Islam on this issue is simply wrong. All of the top Muslim scholars around the world agree on this. Muslims have to respect animals.’

Either way, keeping track of what meat has or hasn’t come from stunned animals is hard to monitor, causing huge difficulties for British consumers of all faiths who would prefer to buy meat from animals that have been killed using the more humane method of slaughter.

This is increasingly important now that most leading supermarkets, including Tesco and Asda, sell halal meat. Tesco, for example, launched a halal barbecue range this summer and reported strong sales. So which method of slaughter do the supermarket giants use?

A spokesman for Tesco says: ­’Pre-stunned meat produced to halal standards conforms to all our stringent hygiene and animal ­welfare standards.’

For their part, Morrisons says that ‘all of our fresh meat is 100 per cent British and non-halal. Only our ­frozen New Zealand lamb is halal.’

As for Asda, the supermarket says its policy is ‘that all animals used for Asda brand products, halal or non-halal, are stunned’.

But it turns out that is not quite the full story. I decided to visit five Asda stores in London that have specialist in store butcher’s shops, run as ­independent ­concessions operating under the name Haji Baba.

The stores in Hounslow, Colindale, Walthamstow, Beckton and the Isle of Dogs confirmed to me that the meat they sold was ‘authentically halal’.

‘The animals were not stunned,’ they said.

Though the store workers did not know the precise source of the meat, Masti Khan, the owner of Mr Meats, told me that he has ­supplied lamb to the five Asda stores I visited.

Confronted with my findings, Asda told me: ‘Haji Baba is an independent company. The method of slaughter is a matter for Haji Baba and their customers.

‘All Asda brand products are stunned. The abattoir that the Daily Mail filmed inside is not used for Asda branded products.’

The key point is that wherever the meat comes from, consumers should have a clearly labelled choice.

Yet given that there is no legal requirement to label whether meat comes from stunned or unstunned animals, the chances are you’ve already eaten halal killed in the way I witnessed — or soon will do.

In Europe, pressure is building to standardise slaughtering practices to ensure that the majority of all ­animals are killed without stunning.

In France, for example, 80 per cent of all sheep are killed without ­stunning, and almost all animals in Belgium are bled to death while fully conscious.

And this process is beginning to accelerate in Britain, too. Consumer and animal welfare groups claim this is illegal because the exemption from animal welfare laws granted to Muslims and Jews is being extended across the whole meat industry, purely to cut costs.

‘This is no longer about religion,’ says Peter Stevenson of Compassion In World Farming.

‘The exemption in the law was not granted to the food industry to streamline its production processes and make life easier for itself — but that is what it has become.

‘We are not opposed to halal as long as the animals are stunned before they are killed.’

In June, the European Parliament decided to try to force the food industry to label halal and kosher meat as coming from ‘unstunned animals’.

The legislation faces an uphill struggle, as all EU member states will have to approve the ­legislation before it can become law.

James Paice, minister of state at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, says that, in principle, the Government ­supports labelling.

Last week, he told the House of Commons: ‘This is a highly emotive issue, and I understand the demand for labelling.

‘The Government would like all animals to be properly stunned before they are bled to slaughter. There is a discussion at European level about food information ­regulations, but we do not believe that is the right vehicle.

‘Next year, we will consult on implementation of the European animal welfare regulations, and the labelling issue will certainly be examined as part of that.’

Whatever your beliefs on the rights and wrongs of religious slaughter, surely we should all welcome the choice over whether we buy such meat.

But unless labelling laws are tightened, we may soon lose that choice, just as they have in many European countries.

Support for clear labelling of unstunned halal meat also comes from an unlikely source.

When I confronted Masti Khan, owner of Mr Meats slaughterhouse, after my visit, he said: ‘Consumers should be given the choice. I have nothing to hide.

‘This is a multi-racial country, and people have different religions. It’s wrong for supermarkets not to clearly label meat as coming from animals that have not been pre-stunned.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Hague: This Government Will Not Give Any More UK Rights to the European Union

British sovereignty and Parliament’s power over Brussels could be underlined by a new bill introduced to the Commons by William Hague.

The foreign secretary is listed as the sponsor of the European Union Bill 2010-2011 which commits the Government to holding a referendum on any future European treaty.

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg had angered Conservative ministers by suggesting the repatriation of powers from Brussels would be akin to ‘going backwards’ but the new bill should satisfy the most ardent Eurosceptics in the coalition Government.


Introduced in the House of Commons on Thursday, the bill provides that ‘in future, a referendum would be held before the UK could agree to an amendment of the Treaty on the European Union… or of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union… or before the UK could agree to certain decisions already provided for by TEU and TFEU… if these would transfer power’.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Lutfur Rahman Puts Fundamentalist Sympathiser in Charge of the Money

Lutfur Rahman, the fundamentalist-backed mayor of Tower Hamlets, held the first meeting of his new cabinet today — and it was rather a thin affair. Three weeks on from his election, despite waving around a great deal of money in “special responsibility allowances,” Lutfur has still not been able to persuade anyone of substance on the council to serve with him. It emerged today that he has only been able to fill half the cabinet’s eight slots, plus the deputy mayor’s position (which he announced two weeks ago would go to his supporter Ohid Ahmed.) Only three of a potential 10 cabinet members, including Lutfur himself, attended the meeting today. There were a lot of empty seats around the table.

The four posts Lutfur has filled are all from the ranks of the councillors who defected from Labour to him before the election. They include Alibor Choudhury, a man with even closer links than Lutfur to the Muslim supremacist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe. Alibor has, incredibly, been given the key post of cabinet member for resources — that is, he will be in charge of the money.

Alibor was previously manager of one of the IFE’s front organisations, a drugs project called Nafas. In a tape-recorded interview with my colleague Ted Jeory, the IFE’s own president at the time, Muhammad Habibur Rahman, admitted that Alibor had “associations with” the IFE. Alibor also has a deeply unsavoury past. In 2006, he stood trial in connection with a gang attack. The trial was halted at the committal stage. Alibor says this was because of “abuse of process,” though he has always refused to discuss with me what the “abuse” actually was. Others say it was halted because key witnesses refused to give evidence. More about Alibor on this blog in the days ahead.

The other three members of the cabinet are Oliur Rahman, for children’s services; Rania Khan, for regeneration; and Rabina Khan, for housing. At least one of these also has connections to the IFE — more about them soon, too. Peter Golds, leader of the Tory group, called the new cabinet “some of the weakest councillors in the chamber.” He would say that, of course — but others privately share his opinion.

The cabinet does not only lack experience and competence, but fails to reflect the communities which make up the borough. Like Lutfur’s group of councillors, it is 100 per cent Bangladeshi, though Tower Hamlets is only around 35-40 per cent Bangladeshi. In that respect, it mirrors Lutfur’s first proposed cabinet in his former incarnation (2008- May 2010) as council leader — also entirely Bangladeshi, though on that occasion he was dissuaded from proceeding with a mono-ethnic lineup.

This time Lutfur desperately wants some people from outside the ranks of his supporters in his cabinet. But so far absolutely nobody has taken the bait, not even his main non-Bangladeshi ally under his previous leadership, Marc Francis, who was expected to defect today. Maybe he has left the slots vacant in the hope of future defections. Interestingly, however, Mr Francis’ main specialism, housing, has already been filled.

So far, therefore, it does appear that the decision by the other parties to treat Lutfur as a leper is holding. Here’s a reminder of why that might be.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslims Cut Bodies for Faith

ISLAMIC fanatics are mutilating themselves at a British mosque in a bloody ceremony carried out only yards from a busy high street.

Shia Muslims use a five-bladed chain called a Zanjeer to whip their own backs and make cuts in their foreheads with razor blades in homage to their faith.

Bare-chested men were left bleeding heavily during the ritual known as Matam — self-flagellation — which a witness described as being “like a scene from a horror film”.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslims Against Crusaders Protest Group Bares Al-Muhajiroun Hallmarks

It is a group that appears to be using the same language and pursuing the same agenda as the banned extremist group al-Muhajiroun and its off-shoot Islam4UK.

Anjem Choudary, one of the former leaders of al-Muhajiroun and Islam4UK, confirmed that the men behind Muslims Against Crusaders were his “students.”

Like another website shut down last week, Muslims Against Crusaders also praises the action of the woman who was jailed for life for stabbing MP Stephen Timms.

In a video posted on their website, a preacher called “Abu Ubaidah” says Roshonara Choudhry is “our sister” and adds: “She understands the ummah [Muslim nation] is suffering under the hand of the kuffar [heathen].”

Like al-Muhajiroun, Ubaidah criticises the values of democracy, secularism and liberalism in a six minute video that had to be cut more than a dozen times as he stumbled over his lecture.

Sitting in front of a black flag and pointing his finger, he also attacks the presence of a “Zionist crusader alliance” in Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen — all hotbeds of al-Qaeda activity.

In the video he also claims that British troops are “serial killers” who are “killing, torturing and raping Muslims.”

Islam4UK, which was banned in January after threatening protests around soldiers’ funerals at Wootton Bassett, was characterised by protests against British troops in Luton and elsewhere and that role now seems to be filled by this new group which has already protested in Barking, East London, in June this year.

Al-Muhajiroun was founded in 1983 by Omar Bakri Mohammed and included the Crawley fertiliser bombers among its followers as well as Asif Hanif who carried out a suicide bombing in Israel.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Operation Muslim Vote: Phil Woolas, The Labour Party and Muslim Bloc Voting [Reader Comment]

[Post at Harry’s Place — Livingstone, Lutfur, Again!]

[JP note: Reader comment by mettaculture on 11 November 2010 at 12:31 am]


What worries me about all this is that the Labour party not only needs to discipline Livingstone but recognise the depth of Islamist communalist activism in inner city politics of which Tower Hamlets and Lutfur Rahman is just the tip of the iceberg. I don’t think the Labour party recognises this at all. Any anger seems to be directed at the local situation and Ken rather than the systemic issue.

As evidence for this consider the reaction to the Woolas verdict. This is taken as universally to be an issue of racism and immigration. The issue before the court was whether Woolas misrepresented facts pertaining to the character of watkins. The electoral court made no ruling on racism (this was merely counsel for Watkins case) there has been a unanimity of opinion that Woolas is either a racist or panders to working class racism. The take home message for Labour seems to be that it is all about immigration and the difficulty the Labour party has in dealing with working class racism.

While I am not about to defend the elements of the campaign that were beyond the pale it is pretty clear that the election was one that was highly polarised by the involvement of MPACUK and a clear communalist Islamist campaign to influence the ‘Muslim vote’ seen as a bloc. MPACUK supported the Lib-dem candidate as part of a campaign to mobilise the Muslim vote on anti-Iraq war anti-israeli ticket and to vote against Labour candidates who were seen as pro-Zionist and Islamophobic. Woolas’ defence that he was campaigning against Islamist extremists who sought to further communalise the vote in an increasingly segregated city has not even been given the time of day.

There seems to be no realisation that a far left/Islamist alliance is operating within and against the Labour party that is strategically supporting independent or Lib-Dem candidates with the aim of deselecting, and defeating Labour politicians who do not toe the ‘stopper/islamist/anti-Zionist/anti-Imperialist’ radical agenda for the Labour party that this post socialist ‘militant tendency’ support. We know that Islamism and its apologists and supporters have advanced politically through exploiting and perverting the anti-racist social consensus that has been established by a broad political progressivism.

In a real sense anti-racism is both the great legacy of the Labour party and one of the core principles that has united Old and new Labour. As such it is rather an article of faith that can be ritually chanted even by those who, like Ken Livingstone, are engaged in an Orwellian support for its Islamist antithesis. The fact that the response to Woolas (most particularly in the party leadership) has been an immediate ‘Jade Goody’ response rather than a ‘his campaign was unacceptable but we should read his letter of September and recognise what he was up against in terms of a well organised Islamist political faction’ does not fill me with optimism that the Ken Livingstone/Lutfur Rahman nexus is seen in the broader light of ‘tendency activism’ that is required.

I recognise why Labour will not be supporting Woolas’ defence and accept this but it kind of shows how incapable Labour seems to be in opposing a strategic alliance between the far left, Livingstonites and inner city Islamist communalists. I remember some time ago we debated what the long term political consequence of the Stop the war coalition/Respect/Islamist alliance would be once the coalition predictably fell apart.

My view was that it had set free an Islamist political faction that would hawk a Muslim communalist bloc vote around all major political parties. I think it has and Muslim communalist politics is a real feature of the local and national political landscape. However I did not realise the extent to which Labour’s defeat, together with the wipe out of the far left/stopper/Respect as a party political presence would encourage both entryism into the Labour party and a resurgence of the ‘militant tendency’/Socialist Action/GLC/Livingstone party within a party organising effect.

It seems that Operation Muslim votes real effects ere delayed. By itself Operation Muslim Vote, despite MPACUK’s hopes, will not be an independent political force that can easily or coherently be wielded to deliver a reliable bloc vote (at least not by any one Activist group such as MPACUK, and certainly not respect) but it reflects a powerful new idea together with the emergence of a new Muslim community identity. This Muslim revivalist identity is not a stable formula or homogenous entity that will give a standard or entirely predictable shape .

However what it has achieved is a decoupling of the ‘Muslim vote’ from its long assumed and taken for granted association with the Labour party. The Labour party, then, is most vulnerable electorally to its new manifestation and manipulation by political actors both within and without the party. Machiavellian operators like Livingstone and his hench creatures now have a new constituency to deploy for their own ends, ends which largely, though never exclusively, involve trying to manipulate the party by establishing an independent base nominally within the party but always with the threat of extra party mobilisation.

There is nothing new in Livingstones behaviour he is merely continuing his modus operandi established in his GLC days with his Socialist Action personal guard. Lutfur Rahman, Tower Hamlets and by extension the ‘Muslim voting community’ have merely presented themselves, following the eclipse of Galloway, as ideal ammunition for his long time cause, himself.

Livingstone has always been a smarter operator than Galloway, apparently more of a team player he has always been able to command far more loyalty within (and outside) the Labour party. I am not so sure Livingstone will be so easily defeated and he poses a far greater danger to Labour than that of his own person. He wishes to cement an Islamist faction permanently inside the party machine. Judging by how far beneath the radar this communalist danger lies, so far he stands a reasonable chance of success.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Poppy-Burning Muslim Protesters Mar Armistice Day Commemorations as Millions Fall Silent to Remember War Dead

Islamic protesters sparked fury today after they burned a model of a poppy and deliberately broke the silence at Armistice Day commemorations in central London.

As millions of Britons fell silent to remember those who have died in war, members of a group called Muslims Against Crusades clashed with police during an ‘emergency demonstration’ in Kensington, west London.

As the clock struck 11am, the Islamic protesters burned a model of a poppy and chanted ‘British soldiers burn in hell’.

They held banners which read ‘Islam will dominate’ and ‘Our dead are in paradise, your dead are in hell’.

The Muslims Against Crusades website includes graphic images of children wounded in warfare and the torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib.

The protest, in Exhibition Road, near Hyde Park, involved about 50 people while about another 50 counter-demonstrators had to be kept apart from the group by a line of police.

Three men were arrested at the scene — two for public order offences and one for assaulting a police officer.

Asad Ullah, of Muslims Against Crusades, said: ‘We are demonstrating because this day is a day of remembrance to remember every single fallen soldier, including those killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

‘We find it disgusting that innocent people, innocent children, have been killed in an illegal and unjust war and we are demonstrating against that.

‘We want the Government to pull the troops out from these countries and to stop interfering in our affairs.’

Mr Ullah added: ‘We would like to have a protest closer to the memorial but it is difficult to get access. We want to break the silence and say, “What about the silence for others that have died?’“

Earlier this year, members of the group were involved in violent clashes with far-Right groups during a troop march in Barking, east London.

A series of incendiary comments were posted on a social networking website linked to the English Defence League.

Some members pledged to attend while others showered the Islamic group with abuse and criticised police for allowing the demonstration to take place.

English Defence League protester Clive Donnellan, 49, a construction manager said: ‘The MAC could have chosen a more sensitive day to protest. They are preaching hate and although it’s great to have free speech this shouldn’t be happening today. They can come down any other day and say what they think.’

It is understood the event took place in Kensington because it is outside a protected zone around Parliament where spontaneous protests are banned.

Police were questioning people they suspected were preparing to travel to Kensington after arriving at Victoria Station.

It is thought Muslims Against Crusades is a splinter group of Islam4UK, founded by Anjem Choudary.

Elsewhere as the clock struck 11am, the nation paused to mark the anniversary of Armistice Day, when peace returned to Europe at the end of the First World War.

Wearing their poppies with pride, people joined in the two-minute silence as various commemoration services and events were held around the country.

The agreement between Germany and the Allies after four years of fighting took effect at the ‘eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month’ of 1918.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox and the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams joined war heroes, service personnel, veterans, military associations and schoolchildren for a service of remembrance at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, central London.

The road was closed and crowds lined the street for the poignant ceremony and wreath-laying.

Amid grey skies and damp conditions, there was applause as Victoria and George Cross holders took their places around the monument.

David Cameron marked Remembrance Day by laying a wreath at the site of the British Army’s bloodiest battle since the end of the Second World War.

The 1st Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment, were cut off and surrounded by vastly superior Chinese Communist forces during the Battle of the Imjin River from April 22 to 25, 1951, in the Korean War.

Running short of water and ammunition, the ‘Glorious Glosters’ held their hilltop position through a full day and a night, repelling waves of Chinese attackers.

Some 59 men died in the defence of the hill and 526 were taken prisoner — 180 of them wounded. Another 34 men died in captivity.

But their heroic stand delayed the advance of the Communist troops, preventing them from outflanking the forces of the Republic of Korea and the United Nations.

As a result, the Allied forces were able to take up positions at a defensible line further south and prevent a direct assault on capital Seoul.

Two Victoria Crosses were awarded for valour, including to the Glosters’ commander Lieutenant-Colonel James Carne, who was one of those taken prisoner.

Sombrely dressed in dark coat and tie and sporting a red poppy on his lapel, the Prime Minister was joined by the defence attache at the UK’s Seoul embassy, Brigadier David Greenwood, to lay a wreath of poppies at a memorial to the Glosters.

Mr Cameron — who is in South Korea for a summit of the G20 group of major economies — spent a few moments in silent contemplation at the memorial in what is now known by grateful Koreans as Gloster Valley.

The 29th Brigade, of which the Glosters formed part, suffered 1,091 casualties, dead, wounded or missing during the Imjin River offensive, while the Chinese casualties are thought to have reached around 10,000.

A total of 1,078 UK troops died and 2,674 were wounded during the Korean War from 1950-53.

Mr Cameron later participated in a Remembrance Day ceremony at the Korean National War Memorial in Seoul.

Along with his Canadian and Australian counterparts Stephen Harper and Julia Gillard and French finance minister Christine Lagarde, the Prime Minister laid a wreath at the memorial to United Nations troops who died in the Korean War.

Mr Cameron met around 40 British veterans of the war who had come on a trip organised by the Korean Veterans Association and subsidised by the Seoul government.

Bob Huyton, 79, of Telford, Shropshire, was a 19-year-old on National Service when he served in Korea with the Royal Army Ordnance, helping transport the wounded back from the front line to Seoul.

‘It was a tough war’, he said. ‘We were caught up in two ambushes and I lost one of my best friends. I’m hoping to find his grave in the Pusan war cemetery before I go back.

‘I’ve been meaning to come back for a long time, and it’s been very emotional. You’d hardly recognise it was the same country, it’s changed so much, but all the memories come flooding back.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Tory Councillor Arrested Over Twitter Stoning Post

A Conservative Birmingham City councillor has been arrested over allegations he called on Twitter for a female writer to be stoned to death.

Erdington councillor Gareth Compton made the remark about Yasmin Alibhai-Brown on his Twitter page.

Police said he had been arrested under the Communications Act 2003 and bailed. He has since apologised.

Ms Alibhai-Brown said she found his attitude “loathsome” and that a “flippant apology” was not enough.

She had appeared on Radio 5 Live’s breakfast show on Wednesday discussing human rights in China.

Afterwards, Mr Compton allegedly tweeted: “Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan’t tell Amnesty if you don’t. It would be a blessing, really.”

Later, he wrote on Twitter that he had not called for the stoning of anybody.

He said: “I made an ill-conceived attempt at humour in response to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown on Radio 5. I [apologise] for any offence caused, it was wholly unintentional.”

The Conservative Party has said his membership has been suspended indefinitely pending further investigation.

Ms Alibhai-Brown said she had been upset that somebody felt it “was OK” to say such things.

She said she had not known until the early hours, when she received a call, that anything had been written about her.

“My daughter had seen it earlier and not told me so I realised why she had been upset before she went to bed,” she said.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: “Do you think stoning women is ever a joke?”

“If I, as a Muslim woman, had said about him what he said about me then I would be arrested in these times of the war against terror,” she said.

“He does not have more of a right to say these things about me that I do about him and I think words matter when you are in public life.”

Roger McKenzie, Unison’s West Midlands regional secretary, said he had been inundated with complaints from city council workers outraged at Mr Compton’s comments and he called on Mr Compton to resign from the council.

He said: “Birmingham is a multicultural city and the council’s workforce reflect this.

“It is clear that Councillor Compton is out-of-touch with both his city and the council staff.

“It is wholly unacceptable for a public official to make such racist comments. Councillor Compton must resign his seat immediately.”

A Birmingham City Council spokesman said: “Any complaints that are formally received about the conduct of a city councillor are considered by the Standards Committee to determine if there is any case to answer.”

The Leader of the Commons, Sir George Young, told MPs the comments were unacceptable.

“Stoning to death is a barbarous form of punishment which the government and I am sure every honourable member of this house deplores, and I hope that no elected person will threaten any member of our society with that sort of punishment,” he said.

           — Hat tip: GB[Return to headlines]

UK: Thugs Who Hurled Fire Extinguisher Off Roof on to Police During Student Demo May be Charged With Attempted Murder

Thugs who hijacked the tuition fees protest narrowly avoided seriously injuring or even killing police when they threw a fire extinguisher off the seventh floor roof of the Tory HQ, it emerged today.

The dramatic moment was captured on video footage, showing the extinguisher crashing to the ground just inches from a group of officers desperately battling to regain control in Millbank.

A youth was seen on pictures clutching the missile on top of the building and the film showed it being launched over the edge and falling at speed.

It glanced off the helmet of one territorial support group officer and grazes the knees of another. Had it properly hit any of the thousands of people below, it would almost certainly have left fatal injuries.

Police are tonight urgently trying to identify the suspect and Peter Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said the man ought to be charged with attempted murder.

He said: ‘Clearly that is a very serious offence and we are attempting to bring the person who did that to justice.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


EU: No More Visas From Albania and Bosnia, Council’s OK

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, NOVEMBER 8 — Albanians and Bosnians will be allowed to enter EU countries without visas. The decision was reached unanimously by the European Interior Ministers. Citizens from Albania and Bosnia Herzegovina will, however, need to be in possession of biometric passports. The European Commission, has formally committed itself to monitoring the migratory patterns from the two Balkan countries towards the EU. In case of anomalies, restrictive measures can be requested from the governments of Albania and Bosnia Herzegovina. The liberalisation measure should be in force by the end of December.

The opportunity to enter the Schengen area without visas will be allowed for stays of up to three months.

The decision by the Council of European Interior Ministers was officially taken unanimously yet, it has emerged that some countries, including Germany, France and the Netherlands, expressed doubts on the capabilities of Albania and Bosnia in terms of border control, the safety of biometric passports (documents containing electronic figure that in theory cannot be forged) and the fight against people-trafficking.

In December 2009, a liberalisation of visas similar to that bestowed upon Albania and Bosnia was decided in favour of the citizens of Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro. In the following months, Germany, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands all faced a high influx of migrants from Albanian-language speakers and ethnic Roma asking for political asylum.

In order to prevent a repeat of the phenomenon, the European Commission has promised to monitor migratory patterns, and results could herald a return for Albania and Bosnia on to the so-called “negative list”, the list of countries whose citizens must obtain a visa in order to gain access to the Schengen area.

In light of the discovery of parcel bombs destined for the United States that have been intercepted over the last few days in Great Britain and in Dubai, the agenda of the Council of European Interior Ministers also includes discussions on security measures to be taken over cargo flights coming from Yemen and Greece. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Serbia: Israeli Interested in Agricultural, Metal Industries

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, NOVEMBER 8 — Israeli Ambassador in Belgrade Arthur Koll said in Uzice, central Serbia, that Israeli companies are interested in investing in Serbian agricultural, metal and military industries, reports Tanjug news agency.

Noting the historically close relations between the Serbian and the Jewish peoples, Ambassador Koll said that the recent mutual abolishment of visas will further advance cooperation and contribute to the tourism industry of both countries.

At a reception organized in the ambassador’s honor, Uzice Mayor Jovan Markovic said it is good that Israeli businesses have recognized investment opportunities not only in Belgrade, but in other parts of Serbia as well. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Israel Tells Its Citizens to Leave Egypt, Citing Kidnap Plot

Israel’s National Security Council on Thursday warned Israelis visiting Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula to leave at once as it believed they could be targets of an Islamist militant kidnap plot.

Citing what it called “updated and credible” information, the council said members of the Army of Islam, a group that espouses an Al-Qaeda-like ideology, were in Sinai at present and planning to snatch Israeli tourists.

In a statement published on its website, the council called on “all Israelis present in Sinai to leave immediately and return home. The families of Israelis in Sinai are requested to contact them and update them regarding this travel warning.”

The statement said that the Israeli army’s killing in Gaza last week of Mohammed Jamil al-Nemnem, 27, a senior commander with the Army of Islam, was linked to the intended Sinai attack.

Nemnem was killed last Wednesday when his car exploded outside the Hamas police headquarters in Gaza City.

The Israeli military announced afterwards that he had been targeted in a joint operation along with the Shin Bet internal security service, and a spokeswoman described him as “a ticking bomb” who was planning a major attack on Israeli civilians.

Sinai, which is cheap and close to home, is a popular destination for visitors from neighbouring Israel.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Libya: Magazine and Agency Shut Down,30 Journalists Arrested

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI — NOVEMBER 8 — According to the Al Jazeera television channel, in Libya the weekly magazine Oea and the press agency Libya Press have been shut down and about 30 journalists arrested. Both are part of the Al Ghad (“Tomorrow”) publishing group under Seif Al Islam Gaddafi, the Libyan leader’s son. Another media group, Qurina, reported the news with confirmation coming from a number of Al Ghad journalists contacted by ANSA, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Oea, which a few months ago had seen its frequency reduced to once a week, was shut down on Wednesday and only its online site will remain operative, though in a reduced form. Yesterday the site carried a statement by its director requesting an immediate release of Oea journalists. According to non-official local sources the reason for the closing was an article which had appeared on Wednesday in Oea which was interpreted as a harsh attack on the government of Prime Minister Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi, and an inquiry set in motion by Libya Press into a high-ranking official from the Revolutionary Committees. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza Aid Team Trapped on Greek Boatsix British Volunteers and Mavi Marmara Survivors Israeli Commandos Intercept the Mavi Marmara in May. Two of Those on Board Are Also on the Boat Surrounded by Libyan Warships. Photograph: Kate Geraghty/Getty Images

At least six British members of an aid convoy to Gaza are reportedly trapped aboard a Greek cargo vessel in the Mediterranean which is being pursued by Libyan warships.

The volunteers from the Road to Hope group, a humanitarian group attempting to deliver supplies to Palestinians, are understood to have become caught up in a dispute over money.

British Foreign Office diplomats are liaising with the Libyan and Greek authorities, and have called for a “safe” end to the situation.

The origins of the row are not clear but the Greek ship, the Strofades IV, apparently left the port of Derna, in eastern Libya, abruptly this morning. Ellie Merton, the London liaison for the convoy, said: “As far as I know the boat owner became really aggressive over a payment for something, tried to shut the back end of the boat and moved away from the pier really fast.

“The [vessel] was still attached to the quayside and as he drove he yanked the ropes off, there were bits of concrete flying everywhere. We have lost telephone contact with those who are still on the ship against their will — without any paperwork, passports or authority to leave Libya, possessions or, when we last heard, food or water. We’re extremely concerned.”

Most of the vans in the aid convoy were left behind on the quay at Derna. The Road to Hope group said the ship had headed into international waters before being chased by Libyan navy ships and reportedly overflown by jets and helicopters.

As well as the British volunteers, two Irish, one Algerian and three Libyan officials are on the ship. Among them is Ken O’Keefe, a former US marine, who is a survivor of the Isaeli attack on the Mavi Marmara off Gaza in May this year.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: “We are aware of the incident at Derna port in Libya and have been in close contact with the convoy organisers.

“Our embassy in Tripoli has been urging the Libyan authorities to resolve the situation rapidly and ensure that those caught on the ship are returned to safety. We are in close contact with the Greek authorities. Our priority remains that there should be a safe resolution of this incident.”

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Israeli Settlers Burn Church in Jerusalem

author by Saed Bannoura — IMEMC News Report post

The damage to the church was substantial, with burn damage throughout the first floor of the building.

The church was built in Jerusalem in 1897, and housed the Palestinian Bible College until 1947, when parishioners were pushed out by Jewish armed gangs during the violence accompanying the creation of the state of Israel.

Christians make up 2% of the population of both Israel and the Palestinian Territories — the number used to be around 15%, but many Christians from the Holy Land have emigrated due to the harsh conditions of the Israeli occupation, and discrimination against them by the Israeli state.

This is not the first time that Israeli right-wingers have destroyed churches and church property — a number of Chrisitan churches were destroyed during the second initfada (uprising) that began in 2000, and many more were destroyed by Israeli forces during the 1948 and 67 wars.

In 2006, an Israeli couple tried to firebomb an ancient church in Nazareth, the city where Chrisitans believe that Jesus Christ lived 2000 years ago. An Israeli court which tried the case failed to convict the couple of any charges.

A leader in the church attacked on Friday, Zachariah al-Mashriqi, told reporters that the attack on the church was a clear attempt to provoke Palestinians to respond in anger. He urged Palestinian Christians to respond to the attack with virtue and patience.

Al-Mashriqi urged the Israeli government to act responsibly and condemn the attack, and work on investigating the attack to find out who was involved and actually file charges in the case. He asked the Israeli government to protect holy sites in the city of Jerusalem, as these sites come under increasing attack by Israeli settlers.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Palestinian Authority Seizes Atheist After He Criticizes Islam on Facebook and Blog

A mysterious blogger who set off an uproar in the Arab world by claiming he was God and hurling insults at the Prophet Muhammad is now behind bars — caught in a sting that used Facebook to track him down.

The case of the unlikely apostate, a shy barber from this backwater West Bank town, is highlighting the limits of tolerance in the Western-backed Palestinian Authority — and illustrating a new trend by authorities in the Arab world to mine social media for evidence.

Residents of Qalqiliya say they had no idea that Walid Husayin — the 26-year-old son of a Muslim scholar — was leading a double life.

Known as a quiet man who prayed with his family each Friday and spent his evenings working in his father’s barbershop, Husayin was secretly posting anti-religion rants on the Internet during his free time.

Now, he faces a potential life prison sentence on heresy charges for “insulting the divine essence.” Many in this conservative Muslim town say he should be killed for renouncing Islam, and even family members say he should remain behind bars for life.

“He should be burned to death,” said Abdul-Latif Dahoud, a 35-year-old Qalqiliya resident. The execution should take place in public “to be an example to others,” he added.

Over several years, Husayin is suspected of posting arguments in favour of atheism on English and Arabic blogs, where he described the God of Islam as having the attributes of a “primitive Bedouin.” He called Islam a “blind faith that grows and takes over people’s minds where there is irrationality and ignorance.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Italy: Saudi Arabia: Female Military Personnel Enter Customs Service

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 5 — For the first time in Saudi Arabia, thirty women will work as military personnel for the customs service. The new soldiers will start service — according to Saudi daily Al Riad — on the borders of the south east of the country and more precisely on the borders with Bahrain and Qatar.

The Saudi General Office of Passports has in the past employed other women but they have been exclusively used for civil service for passenger passport control. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Shipping: Turkey’s Town Becomes Demolition Center of Europe

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, NOVEMBER 5 — An Aegean town of Turkey has become the “ship demolition center” of Europe, as Anatolia news agency reports. Izmir’s Aliaga town, which is known as Turkey’s one and only ship breaking yard, have been attracting numerous European firms since last year with its modern ship demolition facilities, officials said on Friday.

A total of 127 ships, mostly coming from European countries, were demolished at the ship breaking yard in Aliaga in 2009 while 187 vessels have been disposed in the region in the first 10 months of 2010, officials said. Adem Simsek, chairman of Ship Recyclers’ Association of Turkey (GEMISANDER), said that ship demolition facilities in Aliaga had been modernized, remarkable activities had been carried out regarding health and safety conditions at work and a 10 million USD investment had been made for protection against pollution. Simsek said European maritime firms preferred Aliaga ship breaking yard thanks to the Aegean town’s environment- friendly facilities. The chairman noted that nearly 1,800 people were employed at Aliaga ship breaking yard, adding 152,757 tons of ships had been demolished in the region in 2008 while such figure had risen to 297,881 tons in 2009. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Obama ‘Glad’ To Meet Indian Communists

At the table with Obama was Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, India’s minister for external affairs.

The Times of India reports Obama asked Mukherjee about the entry of communists in India into the parliamentary system.

Mukherjee reportedly pointed out that Indian communists were part of the mainstream in the country’s political arena, like social democrats.

At the state dinner, Obama also reportedly shook hands with Sitaram Yechury, senior member of the Communist Party of India, or CPI.

According to India’s Economic Times, Obama told Yechury he was “glad” to have met an Indian communist.

[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Latest Muslim Outreach Effort Fails to Echo Beyond the Land of His Childhood

His predecessor’s robust defense of waterboarding as an interrogation tool for Muslim terrorist suspects was hardly the kindest segue into President Barack Obama’s latest effort to persuade the Islamic world that the United States is friend rather than foe.

Neither was Israel’s announcement of plans to build more than 2,000 homes for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, seen as sacrosanct territories by Palestinians in their quest for their own state.

But when Obama addressed Indonesian students at the University of Jakarta on November 10, it was on his own sentiments and record — rather than those of George W. Bush or Binyamin Netanyahu — that he was inviting judgment.

As the president acknowledged, he had vowed to repair the United States’ badly torn relations with a distrusting Muslim world by promising a “new start” in a keynote speech in Cairo in June 2009. Revisiting the issue in Jakarta, Obama implicitly conceded that things hadn’t quite measured up “17 months” after the speech, allowing that “we have much more work to do.”

“Innocent civilians in America and Indonesia and across the world are still targeted by violent extremists. I have made it clear that America is not and never will be at war with Islam.” Obama noted.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Pakistani Christian Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy: A Campaign Like for Sakineh

The Muslim scholar Asghar Ali Engineer accuses the blasphemy law of being un-Islamic and proposes an international campaign. He points his finger at the Pakistani government’s silence and that of many governments around the world. The All Indian Christian Council calls on New Delhi to submit the case to the UN Commission on Human Rights. Among the messages: “Silence is a second death sentence” for Asia Bibi.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) — “We need to save Asia Bibi’s life”, the Pakistani Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy and this is why “it is urgent to launch a campaign sustained by human rights leaders and governments … We must not remain silent “: this is the appeal that Prof. Asghar Ali Engineer, an Indian Muslim scholar launches through AsiaNews. Other messages sent to AsiaNews demand action by the international community to save Asia Bibi with a campaign similar to that launched to save the live of Sakineh, the Iranian woman who is on death row, convicted of adultery.

Asia was sentenced to death last Nov. 7 by a court in Punjab. She was arrested for blasphemy in June 2009, after an argument with some of her colleagues in which she defended her religion. The other women, who are agricultural workers like Asia and her two daughters, were pushing her to renounce Christianity and embrace Islam. Asia Bibi replied by speaking about how Jesus died on the cross for the sins of mankind, and asked other women what Muhammad had done for them. The women then beat her and her daughters and egged on by the local imam and a group of men they accused her of blasphemy. The police took her into custody, saving her from a ferocious crowd. But after more than a year in prison she has been sentenced to death.

“In Pakistan, says the Prof. Asghar, it is becoming increasingly evident, as in the case of Aisa that blasphemy laws have become convenient instruments in the hands of anyone who chooses to target minorities. The Blasphemy Law, is un-Islamic and was introduced to legitimise dictator Gen Ziaul-Haq’s regime, and it makes little effort to ascribe to the evidentiary or doctrinal standards of classical Islamic law”.

“This shameful law — said the Muslim scholar, director of the Centre for Society and Secularism — are used with impunity against minority religious communities by those motivated by personal enmity, by those motivated by monetary material or political gain or even land grabbing Even indirect inferences are drawn and the accused is arrested under Blasphemy Law….there is nothing religious about”.

Asghar Ali Engineer’s plea comes almost simultaneously with the condemnation of the ruling by the All India Christian Council (AICC). In a statement released yesterday by the Secretary-General, the Catholic John Dayal, AICC The Council asked the Indian government to raise the mater with the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Pakistani Government and with other international for a to save the life of the woman”.

Prof. Asghar points his finger at the government: “The government of Pakistan — he tells AsiaNews — is responsible for ensuring the protection of minorities. We can only condemn these cruel acts against humanity. It must be said with sadness when the governments of many respectable nations remain silent, we can only condemn these acts. For this reason it is essential to start an international campaign to stop this. “

Among the several messages that have arrived at AsiaNews there is one that says: “It is only natural to wonder where all those people are who until the other day claimed to be scandalized and offended by the shameful situation of Sakineh , and who now ignore (or pretend to ignore) yet another case of persecution and injustice to a person of Christian faith … The silence and indifference of the world, including many Christians (now accustomed to the persecution of Christians in the world), is a second death sentence”.

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

Pakistan: Bomb Levels Building in Largest City

KARACHI, Pakistan — Militants attacked a police compound in the heart of Pakistan’s largest city on Thursday with a hail of gunfire and a massive car bomb, leveling the building and killing at least 15 people, authorities and witnesses said.

The gang of around six gunmen managed to penetrate a high-security area of Karachi that is home to the U.S Consulate, two luxury hotels and the offices of regional leaders. While no stranger to extremist violence, Karachi has not witnessed this kind of organized assault in recent years.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Pakistani Taliban Claims Responsibility for Karachi Attack

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility, saying they attacked an anti-terrorism police headquarters in revenge for offensives against militants in the north-west of the country Eyewitnesses said the Crime Investigation Department (CID) building was demolished by a blast that left a 10ft wide crater.

The attackers struck in the heavily protected heart of Karachi, close to five-star hotels frequented by Westerners, the US consulate and government offices.

The police compound is used regularly to hold Taliban suspects detained in the city.

Police said five gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons and hand grenades to penetrate a security corden.

“There was an exchange of fire between police and militants. Then it was followed by a truck loaded with explosives,” said Salahuddin Babar Khattak, police chief of Sindh province.

“We don’t know how many people were there, but the exchange of fire lasted for some time.” Karachi, a sprawling port city of 18m people, had so far been spared the worst of this year’s terror attacks.

Members of the Quetta Shura, comprising the leadership of the Afghan Taliban, are believed to regularly travel in and out of the city, a crucial hub for fund-raising and money laundering.

Karachi has huge strategic importance, representing the heart of Pakistan’s fragile economy and a key link in the supply chain serving Nato-led forces in Afghanistan.

Azam Tariq, a Pakistan Taliban spokesman, telephoned news organisations to claim responsibility.

“We will continue such attacks as long as military operations continue against us,” he said.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Far East

Asian Students Suffering for Success

Long admired for raising academic superstars, parents of Asian background are coming under fire from their own community for pushing their children into university programs for which many have no real interest or talent and often quit in distress.

At a recent conference hosted by and for the GTA’s Asian community, Chinese-Canadian educators and professionals warned some 300 parents in Mandarin, Cantonese and English to stop giving their children no other choice than professional courses such as engineering, medicine, accounting or pharmacy — programs for which some are so ill-equipped and uninterested they drop out, fail, get suspended for cheating or suffer depression and acute anxiety.

And this growing Asian presence on campus is sparking concerns about the cultural balance within Canada’s ivory tower, according to a report in Maclean’s magazine’s latest university rankings, released Wednesday.

“There is such extreme pressure from immigrant parents on children, especially east Asian, that many of them collapse under the pressure — it’s shocking,” said conference co-chair Maria Yau, research coordinator with the Toronto District School Board, who moved to Canada in 1995 from Hong Kong. Her son is bucking the trend by studying liberal arts at Niagara College in hopes of becoming a kindergarten teacher.

“The east Asian community needs a wake-up call that we know won’t be popular,” said Yau. “Even though our children always seem to have high enough marks to get into university, the hidden truth is that they don’t always have the independence or social skills to survive once they’re there.”

With a staggering 72 per cent of Toronto’s Chinese-Canadian students applying to university compared to 42 per cent of those born in Canada, some are starting to ask if Canadian universities are becoming “too Asian,” according to the article in Maclean’s 20th annual university guide, on newsstands Thursday.

While acknowledging the topic may seem racist, Maclean’s suggests the growing profile of students of Asian heritage on many campuses is fuelling resentment among some non-Asian students and even concerns among some university administrators about the demographic make-up of their student bodies.

“An ‘Asian’ school has come to mean one that is so academically focused that some students feel they can no longer compete or have fun,” the article says, quoting non-Asian high school students who say they wouldn’t choose the University of Toronto because it’s largely Asian.

U of T provost Cheryl Misak told the Star she finds such comments “rather alarming, and I am heartened they have not surfaced in any substantial way at the U of T.”

The article quotes non-Asian undergraduates complaining their Chinese and Korean classmates don’t mingle with others — a charge conference co-chair Nicole Wong reluctantly admits rings true…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

China Stakes Its Claim as U.S. Rival in Innovation

China’s breathless pursuit of science, technology and innovation can leave other countries looking a bit flat-footed. The world’s second-largest economy became the second most prolific publisher of articles in international science journals a year ago, and it is expected to pass Japan and the United States in the number of patent filings by 2011…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Boer Farmers Head for New Home in Georgia

Facing the threat of land reform, white South Africans are looking to pastures new

South Africa and Georgia have little in common aside from a tradition of wine-making and a turbulent recent history. But a group of white South African farmers say starting a new life in the former Soviet state could be the solution to their troubles at home.

South Africa’s 40,000 white farmers, mainly Boers — descendants from Dutch settlers — say they fear that South Africa’s government is threatening their livelihoods with land-reform policies. When they first came to Africa, the Boer Voortrekkers, or pioneers, left coastal colonies to forge a path to the interior of the country in search of fertile land. Now some of their descendants believe the answer to their problems might lie thousands of miles away in the Caucasus.

In what would be an extraordinary migration, the Georgian government has invited South Africa’s farmers to buy up land in the country for next to nothing in exchange for bringing their expertise and knowledge of modern farming methods.

Papuna Davitaya, Georgia’s State Minister for Diaspora, said: “We are looking for investors in our agricultural sphere, because Georgia historically always used to be an agricultural country but in Soviet times we lost these traditions.”

He welcomed a delegation of South African farmers to the country recently and gave them guarantees about what they could expect if they made the move. “Boers are some of the best farmers in the world,” Mr Davitaya said.

Last week, dozens of farmers attended a union meeting in Pretoria about a potential move to Georgia. A committee from the union plans to lay the groundwork in the coming months, and then co-ordinate a larger migration.

Hendrik Mills, a Boer farmer, told ABN television: “I think there are great prospects for farmers out there. It would be much better to invest money in Georgia than in Africa.”

For many of the Boer farmers, whose ancestors settled in southern Africa 200 years ago, it would be tough to leave their ancestral homeland. But they say their lives are getting harder every month, citing fears of crime, violence, labour costs and land reform.

Piet Kemp, who is keen to emigrate, said: “We will start with 10 or 20 farmers, but I think there could be more than 1,000 farmers who could make a good life in Georgia.”

Georgia’s government hopes that importing farming expertise will boost the country’s agricultural and wine sectors. Georgia has produced wine for centuries, but most of it is semi-sweet and not very popular in Europe. Georgian wines were well-liked in Russia but a political dispute between the two countries led to Moscow banning all imports. Georgians will perhaps be hoping that if the scheme works, they will also benefit from some of the success South African wines enjoy.

But adjusting to Georgia might prove tricky for Boer farmers. The Georgian language is hard to learn. And there are no direct flights to Africa from the country. Not only that, but the climates in the two countries are completely different, as are farming methods.

Yet Mr Kemp insisted that he and others were ready to try it. “I don’t want to come and make a new South Africa in Georgia,” he said. “If I am going, I will be a Georgian.”

The idea has its critics in both countries. Georgian opposition politicians claim that the new arrivals are being sold the best land at knock-down prices while Georgian farmers are neglected. In South Africa, there is also unease at the idea of letting some of the country’s best farmers leave.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Canadians Want to Mix Up

OTTAWA — Forget changing whether we take more family immigrants or skilled workers, a new poll shows Canadians want to shake up the selection of countries from which we select immigrants.

A Leger Marking poll of 1,503 Canadians found that 40% of Canadians say the government should limit immigrants from certain countries in order to change the mix of immigrants coming to Canada.

“Quebec and Ontario are really looking for a different mix,” said Dave Scholz, vice-president of Leger.

Quebecers were most likely to agree with the statement that “Canada should limit immigrants from certain countries to provide a more balanced mix of new immigrants to Canada,” with 35%.

Just 25% of Albertans felt the same way.

In Ontario, 29% agreed with limiting immigrants from some countries in order to balance the mix but Ontarians were most likely to say that “Canada should ban immigrants from some countries that are over-represented in our country to allow other immigrants from other countries a chance to have more access,” with 14% agreeing with the statement.

The most popular option nationally ­ at 39% — was that an immigrant’s country of origin should have no bearing on whether they should be allowed to come to Canada.

Albertans were most likely to agree with this, at 46%, while Quebecers were the least likely to agree, at 33%.

In 2009, close to one-third of all new immigrants to Canada came from just three countries — China (29,049), Phillipines (27,277) and India (26,122).

The fourth-place country was the United States, with just 9,723 people crossing the 49th parallel.

Leger did the polling online from Nov. 1-4, 2010. The company polled 1,503 Canadians 18 or older. A telephone poll of this size would have a margin of error of +/- 2.6%.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Canadian Immigration: Push for Demographic Morbid Obesity

In this compelling interview, you will enjoy Canada’s foremost environmental and immigration voice: Tim Murray. He questions his country’s race toward demographic obesity.

“This “bubble” illustration, done by Sheila Newman, can be my book cover illustration,” said Murray. “We are holding the needle. Somehow we must jab the Growth Lobby in its most vulnerable spot. When their propaganda bubble bursts, the truth about the true cost of growth will break out.”

The Public Voice Is Unheard In the Great Rush to Grow!

There is an unrelenting media campaign to tell Canadians that we must grow our population. We need more babies and more immigrants or very bad things will happen. But there are voices that question this assumption. They are heard on the streets, in the pubs and at the dining room table. But they are seldom heard in the media. Especially not on the airways of the CBC, that vehicle of ‘growthist’ PC propaganda which all taxpayers are forced to endow.

“It has been quite the year,” said Murray. “First the host of CBC radio’s “The Sunday Edition”, Michael Enright, declared on his June 7th program that Canada needs immigration-driven population growth in order to “prosper”. Many of us, like Brishen Hoff, wanted to know what Enright meant by “prosper”. As Hoff then asked, “Does Enright think that prospering means converting hundreds of thousands of hectares of Canadian land from bio-diverse ecosystems into new roads, subdivisions, clear-cuts, malls, parking lots, and open-pit mines to accommodate about 250,000 additional immigrants every year? Does that make life better for the average Canadian? Has real wealth per Canadian increased?”

“Then a week later the print media gave the University of Toronto’s Irvin Studin, editor-in-chief of “Global Brief” a platform to promote his vision of a Canada of 100 million people — the Superpower of the century. No submissions for op-eds of equivalent space that would contest his arguments were permitted. Not one! Not in any major media outlet. Nor were any one of several known letters-to-the-editor critical of his stance published.


“The obvious question is, “At what point in history will the mainstream Canadian media consider the possibility that Canada already has enough people on its hands?” said Murray. “That there is neither law nor reason why any country should feel obligated to “replace” its unsustainable population level? That a ‘youth quake’ of immigrants or newborns will not arrest the aging of our population nor pay for their pension or medical benefits? That the infrastructure costs of servicing a growing population exceed their economic contributions? That great majority of immigrants will lack the skills to pay the kind of taxes it takes to subsidize the provision of the government services they demand? That a country without a population plan that is not properly debated with all options on the table is like a blindfolded man walking toward a cliff?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Mexican Transgender Asylum Seeker Allowed to Stay in U.S.

When Alexandra Reyes’ father caught her wearing her sister’s shoes and clothes, he tied her up and beat her with spiked pieces of a tree.

“It was so horrible, I would scream,” Reyes said in Spanish. “He told me he had a son, not a daughter, and he did not accept me.”

Reyes, 32, was born a boy named Carlos but began living life as a girl at age 8, infuriating her traditional Mayan family in Cenotillo, Mexico. One night, an aunt walked into Reyes’ bedroom and tried to kill her with a machete because she didn’t want Reyes in the family.

The Mexican police wouldn’t arrest Reyes’ abusers. So 10 years ago, she paid a smuggler to get her across the border. She walked four days and four nights through the desert into the U.S. and made it to Colorado, where a friend told her she would be safe.

Now, she gets to stay here.

Last week, an immigration judge granted Reyes a form of asylum that allows her to stay in the U.S. based on the persecution she suffered as a transgender woman in Mexico.

The Board of Immigration Appeals withheld her removal from the U.S. after determining the Mexican government would not protect her from abuse if she was deported.

“It would be physically dangerous for her to walk down the street,” said her attorney, Bryon Large. “She could be sexually assaulted.”

As a condition of her asylum, Reyes must obey the law and can’t leave the U.S. for any reason if she hopes to be allowed back in.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services does not keep statistics on the numbers of transgender immigrants granted asylum. But Large said the relief Reyes got is rare for a Mexican national because some immigration judges think there is tolerance for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Mexico…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Nancy Pelosi Wants Dream Act Vote

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to push for a vote during the lame-duck session on a bill that would legalize young, undocumented immigrants if they attend college or serve in the military, according to Democratic sources familiar with a leadership conference call Wednesday.

A vote on the bill, known as the DREAM Act, could come as early as next week, the sources said. Pelosi asked Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) to assess the mood of the caucus, according to one source.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Anti-Racism Website Bizarre, Offensive to ‘Real’ Edmontonians

Obsession with ‘white privilege’ patronizing, exclusionary

EDMONTON — “What can you do to stop racism?”

That’s the provocative question posed by the City of Edmonton’s new anti-discrimination campaign, Racism-Free Edmonton. It’s a good question, and an important one.

Oh, we sometimes like to think of Canada as a racism-free country, of Edmonton as a post-racial, multicultural utopia.

Those are nice goals to aspire to. But we’re not there yet. Racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia and various and sundry prejudices and social inequalities of all sorts are alive and well in this city. If we want to build a strong, prosperous, and just community, we have to recognize those inequities and tensions — and address them together.

And those are the operative words:

We. Together.

Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell that to the folks who created the Racism-Free Edmonton website.

Sadly, the authors of the site have a remarkably narrow definition of the word “You” — and a remarkably exclusionary, even racist, vision of what it means to be a “real” Edmontonian.

What can you do to stop racism? “Acknowledge your white privilege,” is the website’s answer.

“White privilege refers to all the benefits we get just for being white,” the site continues.

“Most of us have little awareness of our white privilege. We’re so used to having the benefits that come with being white that we don’t even realize we have them.”

“Racial ‘whiteness’ is many things,” the piece continues, “but one of its consistent qualities is power. As people granted unearned privileges by our own whiteness, and as people who have likely harmed non-white people with our own whiteness, it’s our moral and ethical duty to find ways to combat racism.”

The site parrots an 1989 essay by a prominent white American Women’s Studies professor, Peggy McIntosh, who caused a flurry of controversy more than 20 years ago with her theories around white and male privilege.

But do we really need to import the dated diction of America’s 1980s culture wars to understand our uniquely Canadian, uniquely Edmontonian form of multiculturalism? Transposing America’s black/white race rhetoric to a 21st century western Canadian context ignores our very different social history.

But the more bizarre and offensive part of this campaign isn’t its assumption that all “whites” — and only whites — are inherently racist. It’s the explicit assumption that “real” Edmontonians are all white.

Look at the wording here — “you,” “we,” “us” — all used to refer exclusively and specifically to white people, as though they were the only Edmontonians. It is unbelievably patronizing, exclusionary and ahistorical.

It’s true that “white” North Americans have historically been more culpable for the systemic inequities in our society. But racism isn’t something that well-meaning white people can “fix” for people of colour. The site reads as though “racialized groups” are passive victims who must sit back, uncomplainingly, waiting for “whites” to see the light. The site doesn’t empower “people of colour.” It infantilizes them. It mutes their voices, ignores their experience and their efforts.

Racism, says the Racism Free Edmonton website, is “often committed UNCONSCIOUSLY by people WITH GOOD INTENTIONS.”

Exactly. I’m sure there was no malice behind the creation of these web pages, nothing but an honest desire to make this city a better place. But alienating people, pitting them against each other on the basis of skin colour, is no way to fight racism.

Lewis Cardinal is a member of the Racism-Free Edmonton board, and a member of the board of Aboriginal Commission on Human Rights and Justice. He says he can’t understand how the “white privilege” message ended up as the main point of the website. He’d been told McIntosh’s essay would be one of a number of pieces of background material on the site, not its key message.

“I think that it was a huge mistake,” says Cardinal. “I have no idea why they launched it with that sitting on the front page. Obviously, I didn’t approve that. I don’t know how it slipped by, but it definitely didn’t get us off on the right foot.”

“The website,” he says “is going to be changed, right away, absolutely.”

           — Hat tip: Cyrus[Return to headlines]

The ‘American Dream’ Is Actually Swedish: Study

While US voters shunned the Democratic Party’s traditionally redistributive policies in Tuesday’s mid-term elections, most Americans actually prefer a wealth distribution model similar to Sweden’s, writes the AFP’s Andrew Beatty.

Forget the socialist-bashing rhetoric and reverence for the filthy rich, when it comes to wealth distribution, Americans — even Republicans — would really rather live somewhere like Sweden.

According to a soon-to-be published study by researchers at Harvard and Duke universities, Americans believe US society is much more equal than it really is, and want it to be even fairer.

Business school professors Michael Norton and Dan Ariely asked 5,522 Americans about US wealth distribution and how it should look if things could be changed.

“Respondents vastly underestimated the actual level of wealth inequality in the United States, believing that the wealthiest quintile (20 percent) held about 59 percent of the wealth when the actual number is closer to 84 percent.”

Studies show current US wealth inequality is near record highs, with the top one percent of Americans estimated to hold around 50 percent of the nation’s wealth.

According to Norton and Ariely this tops “even the levels seen just before the Great Depression in the 1920s.”

But when asked how they would like the United States to look, respondents picked “wealth distributions that were far more equitable than even their erroneously low estimates of the actual distribution.”

In a blind test, about 92 percent of respondents said they preferred a model closer to Sweden’s wealth distribution to that seen in the United States.

The study’s authors also reported a “surprising level of consensus” among different groups, with 92 percent of Republican voters backing the Swedish model versus 93.5 percent of Democratic voters, with the richest and poorest also voting along similar lines.

“All demographic groups — even those not usually associated with wealth redistribution such as Republicans and the wealthy — desired a more equal distribution of wealth than the status quo.”

On average the top 20 percent of earners were seen as holding just 32 percent of wealth, less than the 84 percent in reality.

But anyone hoping this augurs well for a revolution will be disappointed.

Even if Americans become more aware of the wealth gap that exists, Norton and Ariely suggest they may misplaced faith in the “American Dream” to correct it.

“Just as people have erroneous beliefs about the actual level of wealth inequality, they may also hold overly optimistic beliefs about opportunities for social mobility in the United States — beliefs which in turn may drive support for unequal distributions of wealth.”

Disagreements about the causes of inequality may also drown out the consensus.

The authors also suggest there is a gap between what people would like to see and the policies they are willing to support to get there.

The study is to be published in the journal “Perspectives on Psychological Science”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The NGO Army of George Soros & Maurice Strong

“Be Prepared” must be the two most commonsense words known to humanity.

And in times like these, being prepared is survival.

The NGOs (non-government organizations) already unleashed in France, Germany, England and Greece will soon be taking to the streets in America, [which] George Soros-described as “the biggest obstacle to One World Government”.

NGOs, long fomenting for revolution, and on the payrolls of the One World Order deadly duo George Soros and Maurice Strong, are not the good guys. The political, strategic spawn of Soros and Strong, they are the paid agents of change, looking to Barack Obama to get the job done.

It was Strong who long ago came up with the blueprint for coupling the money from “philanthropists” and business with the objectives of government.

The thousands of private Non-Government Organizations that have attached themselves to the United Nations like leeches are well funded and right on target.

No one describes the NGOs better than Phyllis Schlafly who has watched them for decades: “The NGOs are energetic lobbyists for dramatic changes in the mission and structure of the UN to achieve global governance. Most NGOs are also members of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which originated many of the global environmental polices set forth in the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on Climate Change, and Agenda 21. The most prominent NGOs are the radical environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the feminist and population-control groups such as Planned Parenthood.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Christmas Cancelled’: Head Tells Older Pupils ‘No Nativity This Year… You Need to Concentrate on Your Studies’

Parents have accused a headteacher of ‘cancelling Christmas’ after he banned pupils aged between seven and 11 from taking part in the school nativity.

Head Andy Howe has said that older students at Rochford Primary School in Essex will have to concentrate instead on their studies.

But some parents have branded the decision ‘ridiculous’ and one of them has gone as far as starting a petition against the plan at the 245-pupil school.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Fancy Dress Students Told: You’re Not Coming in University Bar… Your Zombie Make-Up is Racist

Students in fancy dress were turned away from a university bar by bouncers after being told their zombie make-up was racist.

Members of the University of Sheffield Physics Society turned up with face paint on for the zombie-themed pub crawl.

But bouncers at the Population bar told one group they would not be allowed in to the union club because their face paint could be racist, even though others had already been allowed in with their make-up on.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Chocolate Could Become as Rare as Caviar, Experts Warn

Forget those soaring gold prices, because a looming chocolate shortage could spark panic in the streets and bring about the fall of civilization. OK, maybe not. But the notion of peak chocolate looks very real, as farmers abandon their cocoa crops and more of the world gets a taste for delicious chocolate products. That difference between supply and demand has helped double cocoa prices in six years to an all-time high for the past three decades.

African farmers in Ghana and the Ivory Coast get very little money for growing cocoa crops, and so they have been giving up in droves. Their growing techniques have also exhausted much of the soil, industry experts told The Independent. Cocoa is also grown in South America, the Caribbean and Asia, but not in enough quantities to support a global lust for chocolate. Experts foresee chocolate becoming an increasingly expensive treat that could become as rare and out of reach for average people as caviar — all within just 20 years…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Official Climate Science Ignores Essential and Critical Details Right at the Surface

Few people know that skin is an organ; even fewer know it’s the largest organ of the body. It is the contact, called an interface, between two completely different environments; the body and the world. It controls movement of gases, liquids and solids in both directions all the time. The surface of the Earth is similar as the interface between the atmosphere and the underlying surfaces. Accurate measurement and understanding of processes are critical to what is happening in the atmosphere, under ground and in the oceans. Unless we understand the dynamics across the interface we will not know what is going on above and below the surface.

Science divides the world and its atmosphere into layers depending on what they are studying. For example, geophysicists start in the centre of the Earth with the Solid Inner Core extending through the Liquid Outer Core, the Mantle and the crust. Climate science identifies layers (Figure 1) but even at this point we begin seeing the limitations. The layers are based on energy from the Sun. They ignore volumes of geothermal energy that move through the crust, especially under the oceans where the crust is thinner and more perforated.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Study Reveals Physics of How Cats Drink

Cats are better physicists than dogs, according to a new study — at least when it comes to drinking.

A cat lapping milk strikes a delicate balance between gravity and inertia, the research finds. Unlike dogs, which use their tongues to scoop water into their mouths, a cat uses the tip of its tongue to pull water upward, closing its jaws before gravity pulls the column of liquid back toward earth.

The method requires cats to lap at just the right speed to balance the inertial force that keeps the water moving upward with the gravitational force pulling the water back down.

“Perhaps the most intriguing part of what we found was that the cats seemed to know just exactly how rapidly or how fast they should lap,” study researcher Roman Stocker, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told LiveScience. “By lapping at the right time, [cats] take optimal advantage of this balance between inertia and gravity.”

Balancing act

The study started one morning with Stocker’s cat, Cutta Cutta, a rescue from a Boston animal shelter. Stocker was eating breakfast and watching the cat drink when he suddenly wondered, “How does he do that?”

“It occurred to me that there were some interesting biophysics behind that process,” Stocker said.

So he borrowed a high-speed video camera from his lab and taped Cutta Cutta drinking. With several other curious researchers along for the ride, Stocker analyzed those videos, along with video collected from Zoo New England and videos of lions, tigers and other big cats drinking.

“It seems to be that this is the first study in Science that uses YouTube as part of the research,” Stocker said.

The first thing the researchers noticed is that cats and dogs drink very differently. Both animals extend their tongues and curl them back toward their chins as they approach water. But dogs use their bent tongues as a ladle, spooning water into their mouths. The scoop of sorts created by the cats’ tongues stayed empty. Instead, cats touched only the top surface of their tongue to the water.

Once a cats’ tongue touches the surface, it draws it back at a rate of almost four laps per second. The inertia of the movement draws the water upward (think “objects in motion tend to stay in motion”). At the same time, gravity fights to pull the water back down. As these forces lengthen and stretch the water column, the cat snaps its jaws shut at just the right moment, catching a mouthful of liquid before it falls…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]